Category Archives: mid century compatible

New Sputnik and Interior Ceiling Repair

Once we completed putting on our new roof, I was able to move back inside to fix some water damage to our living room ceiling as well add a new sputnik light in the foyer. I was a bit under the gun – the new roof was done in mid April, and I only have about three weeks to get everything else taken care of so that Mary could host a bridal shower for one of her good friends at the house in early May.

Fortunately, repairing the ceiling is a straightforward process – the tile was replaced by my Grandparents in 1995 with Armstrong Grenoble 12×12 tiles. Armstrong still makes that tile, so I picked up a fresh box to have enough to replace the tiles I wanted as well as have some extra on hand for the future. The tile along the chimney had separated from the furring strips over the years from getting wet a few times as well, which is why I decided it was best to replace all of the tile down the line. Here’s what the water leak from the roof did to the ceiling (this was just the worst – there were spots in a few other places but they just got painted over):

The first step is take down the existing tile, which is mostly just carefully tearing them out so as not to damage adjacent tiles. I opened up the top two rows nearest the chimney, then worked backwards to install the replacement tiles and staple them into place. I did have to make a minor adjust to one tile on each row to shorten it just slightly – probably a slight width difference between the 1990s version tiles and the new ones, even though “technically” they are the same:

One installed, they got primed and painted and you wouldn’t know there was ever an issue:

In addition, I took this chance to install a brand new sputnik light fixture. When you walk into the house, there is a small entry vestibule that then opens into the foyer. The foyer has our 18 arm sputnik chandelier, but the vestibule was always a bit dark. I decided to fix this by adding a small 5-arm Sputnik fixture from Practical Props – specifically the CF11-CH model, using starlite bulbs. A few years ago when we moved in, I sent photos of the original 6-light Sputnik fixtures that were in the house to Ian, the owner, to see if he could replicate something similar. It took him awhile, but this was the result. Because I wanted to have it function in conjunction with the foyer light, when the roof was off I ran a new wire from the ceiling box of the chandelier to this new fixture box. It took a few days to get used to it, but the light looks like it always should have been there, and the vestibule is now well lit.


Nice Legs

I like chrome. Shiny, silverly chrome. My motorcycle has a lot of chrome on it, for one. When we moved into the house, the house was generally accented (door knobs, hinges, fixtures) with brass or brushed bronze finish on most things. Early on we replaced the door knobs, hinges, and had light fixtures chromed or (if needed) replaced with chrome versions – as such, the house now has a chrome silver accent color on the interior, instead of brass and bronze.

A lot of projects have been done in the kitchen, such as a new kitchen floor, painting, etc. In the kitchen we have a large, built-in banquette (in place since 1962ish), with a kitchen table. The legs of the table are original – heavy duty steel legs, they were originally powder coated enamel, but after 50 years that enamel was pretty worn and needed to be addressed. After giving it some thought, I came to one conclusion: chrome them.

The nearest place that does this type of work is up in Syracuse (a little over an hour away), called Sandy’s Bumper Mart. They had done a few smaller projects previously for us, cleaning and chroming some light fixtures in the living room. For about $400 and a few hours of my time to haul them back and forth, off they went to be refinished. I built some temporary legs from extra wood I had around to tide us over so we could still use the table in the meantime. A few weeks later we got them back, and the results were spectacular. Here are some pictures showing the change (I will point out it is difficult to get a good picture of table legs):

Hello, Modbox

In the early summer, we supported a Kickstarter project for a really awesome idea: bringing back the “sleek suburban” mailbox. My grandparents had one of those mailboxes (pictures here), so I was pretty excited to have the chance to get one back. It’s a classic mid-century design.

At the end of September, that order came through and we got our brand new Modbox. It took a few days to get everything installed as I had to set the post (truth time: I had to do it more than once as I didn’t account for the effect of the slanted post originally) but, well, it looks awesome. Originally we had planned on getting the red\black combination, but we changed to the grey\black when ordering because the red would have been a very different shade from the brick on the exterior of the house.

I’ve been talking with Greg Kelly, the guy behind the Modbox, about an add-on: a “paper box” (we get a free local weekly newspaper here, but it can’t be placed in the mailbox itself per law.) He said I’m not the only one to ask, and he’s looking to get one designed to potentially bolt in between the post with the box sitting on top of it. I’m anxious for that, too. Thanks Greg for the work making Modbox a reality!

Here are the progress shots:


Landscaping Addendum: New Outside Railings

Our house has a lot of steps – to get in the front door, it’s two steps up. Same for the kitchen. Going through the garage, it’s three steps down. These aren’t very large steps, but at different points in time it’s been mentioned (when my Grandparents were here) that a railing would be good, especially on the kitchen steps. My grandmother and grandfather bickered about the need for a railing for awhile (she wanted he, he didn’t think it necessary) until one day my Grandfather hired a handyman to stick a wooden railing on the kitchen door.

It wasn’t much to look at, but it did the job:


Given all the work I was doing on the landscaping this summer, though, I wasn’t going to let a wooden railing stand that wasn’t mid-century compatible. It didn’t go with the house at all and it wasn’t exactly super expensive to add a railing that matches the black steel interior railings (and exterior lighting) around the house. One day driving this summer I saw a road sign for a local place, called Hessler Steps and Rails. A quick call and quote later I had railings on order for both the kitchen door and front door. It took about four weeks for Rudy Hessler to get it fabricated and installed (busy time of year), but they do a lot to complete the exterior of the house and tie everything together. I’m thinking next year on the kitchen steps I will resurface the treads so they have a finish similar to the recently parged foundation wall. Originally the bottom step had a concrete landing as well that was asphalted over – that will also be restored eventually too.

One other thing to note: these are welded steel railings. This is not the cheap stuff you can go pick up and bolt together from Home Depot or Lowe’s. I see a lot of those around and they really don’t hold up well at all. It costs a little more (these railings ran about $450 installed), but they will last a lifetime and are very sturdy. They also match our interior railings:

Mid-Century Compatible Bathroom Floor

One project I was wanted to finish before the baby arrived was to replace the floor in the upstairs bathroom. About seven years ago, my grandmother had the original flooring, which was a white and green tile that was coming up in many places, replaced with some relatively inexpensive linoleum sheet flooring. This flooring was not particularly bad (it was unobtrusive visually since it blended) but it definitely was not mid-century compatible, and I wanted to fix that.

Having had some experience doing this before when we replaced the kitchen floor I had a lot of experience checking out and examining options for flooring that would fit in well. In the end, we decided that the best course of action would be to use the same flooring that we used in the kitchen but in another color. That flooring was Armstrong Striations – this time in the color Atmosphere. The rationale for doing this was pretty straightforward: Visually throughout the house, all of the wood flooring have grain going in one direction. With the kitchen flooring, I intentionally aligned the pattern of the tile to follow this grain pattern. The exception is the foyer floor, which is laid on a 45 degree bias. This ties all of the flooring together visually and creates a “hub” that is different in the foyer, which is the natural hub space of the house.

Replacing linoleum is pretty straightforward – you pull up the glued linoleum, carefully peel up the luan underlayment to expose the original subfloor, then patch and level. Around the toilet space there was a dip in the floor that I had to deal with by putting some patch in the low spot. I didn’t get it perfectly level, but it’s much better than it used to be. To ensure the tiles are smooth once laid down, I put more patch (the white spots) on the flooring where there were nail and staple holes.

Once prepared, laying the floor took a single evening. Starting at one end of the room you steadily work your way down the room. In a room this size it’s easiest to just make your cut pieces and fit them in as you go – in a larger room you typically lay all of your whole pieces first, then go back around the edges and put in your cut pieces. Because of the way the tiles fell I had one very difficult cut to make around the pocket door frame. It took 2-3 tries to get it right, but ultimately I was satisfied with the look.

Now that it’s finished and has been given a coat of polish, I’m very happy with the results. While new and modern, the floor fits very well with the mid-century aesthetic of the bathroom since it has all vintage fixtures and hand built cabinetry.

Here are the progress shots: