Our House’s Original Owners

One of our favorite posts in our entire archive is this one about hearing from our first house’s original owners. It was so much fun to see photos of their family in our house back in the 60’s, and we studied every inch of each picture and relished every detail that they shared in their letter.

We were also friendly with the people who sold us our second house, so although we never heard from the original owners, it was really great to know the sellers who had lived there for 22 years! So we always hoped to hear from the original owners of our current house. For a while… nothing. And then it happened! We actually met their daughter-in-law Chris at an event here in Richmond a few months back and big hugs ensued. There’s nothing better than hearing how special a house that you love is to another family, and she gave us permission to share some snippets from a letter that she sent us along with some old photos, so here it goes!

The house you are currently in has had a wonderful history of family memories. My husband’s parents bought it when his dad was transferred to Richmond from Cleveland, Ohio over 30 years ago. They had just become “empty nesters” so they searched for the right house in a perfect location for their future grandchildren to come visit. As a matter of fact, the first of their grandchildren was on the way during their move! It was a crazy time for them, buying the house under construction and moving from 500 miles away. They somehow fit in traveling to Texas for the birth of the first grandson, and saw the births of nine more grandchildren, and one great-grandchild while living there! They were dog lovers and brought their beloved dog, Chelsea, an English Foxhound, with them to Richmond. Sometime after she literally disappeared into the woods one day, another dog (Lady) followed my mother-in-law home. She was well loved and stayed with them a long time.

My husband and I lived in Richmond during the births of all four of our children. Before they were born we acquired our first “child,” a dog from the Richmond SPCA. We took her directly to the house to visit “grandma and grandpa” before even taking her to our own home!

All of our children remember the house as a place we celebrated Christmas Eve every year, plus multiple birthdays and other holidays (this photo was taken in the back porch, which you call the converted sunroom, around 20 years ago).

My father-in-law used to put a Christmas tree in almost every room of the house, and they were always decorated to perfection. He used to play a game with our kids, “find the ornament.” He would spy an ornament on the tree, and the kids would see who could be the first to find it. It wasn’t easy! He had hundreds on one tree alone! 

My mother-in-law was a fantastic cook and had us over not only for celebrations but just because she felt like cooking. The kitchen was extremely well used and well loved by all. She would spend days baking cookies to take to Virginia Beach every year, when some years all three of her children and ten grandchildren would also be there.

There was an antique chandelier hanging in the kitchen that was precious to my mother-in-law. It belonged to her grandmother. She loved it, but it hung so low everyone knocked their head into it at least once in their visits there! It was removed before the house was sold.

The outside deck and back porch were added by them after moving in. They used the porch on a daily basis, him reading the newspaper and her doing her needlepoint pillows (this is a photo of my mother-in-law presenting one of her pillows to my daughter in the living room).

The tree in the middle of the deck (that you have removed) was just a small thing when they decided to build the deck around it. They wanted to keep it for the shade it provided. It really got huge!

It is really nice to be able to see what you are doing to make the house your own. I love the hardwood floors you have put in upstairs and really like the stenciling you did on the master bathroom floor. Your daughter’s room is where my mother-in-law slept during her later years. She would be so happy to see new life there, with the fun girly room you have put together! I also really love how you transformed the half bath downstairs. It is so much brighter and clean looking! I’m looking forward to seeing more improvements in the future. I wish you many years of happiness in your home! – Chris

We’re so grateful to Chris for reaching out and sharing those details and photos with us! It was amazing to hear that the tree on the deck was tiny once. Remember how big it was when we had it taken down?

We realize this letter may not be as touching for you guys, but it was so heartwarming to us. To have a better sense of the life this house has lived and how it has been loved by so many people (filled with grandchildren, home cooking, and Christmas trees) makes us feel so grateful to be here. As a total bonus, we also heard from Erin, one of the grandkids who grew up visiting this house. Here’s her letter:

I’m one of the 10 grandchildren of the original owners of your current house. My mom shared your blog and I am blown away. The house looks wonderful! I have so many fond memories from that house. I am so thankful that you two have moved in and have posted pictures of your updates to the house. Thank you for providing a way for me to still feel connected to the house and for bringing new life to its foundation. – Erin

Amazing, right? It really is awesome to hear from others who are essentially strangers, yet you share something so personal with them: the love of a home.

Have you ever heard from your home’s original owners? Or uncovered anything cool in the house (like this stuff that we found buried under the original cabinets in our first house’s kitchen)? I can’t wait to see if we’ll discover anything when we open up some walls and redo the kitchen! So far all that has turned up is an old water bill from ten years ago in the bottom of the trash compactor.



It’s Here! And That’s Back!

Guess what arrived! I’ll give you two hints: this and the photo below. Admittedly, both are very strong hints. Maybe I need to work on being more mysterious.

Despite Sherry’s promises to throw a ticker tape parade when our new outdoor sofa showed up, its arrival was unceremonious. Sherry was on a conference call. A big truck pulled up. I handed off the baby to Sherry and ran outside. A big box came out of said truck. Yada yada. Clara was out with Grammy, but when she arrived home she declared it “perfect!” and said “I love it!” and that was that, as you can see in the video below.

What you can also see in the video below is the last appearance of that old white coffee table, which has been a staple in all of our sunrooms to date.

The table is actually a big thrift-store tabletop that we screwed onto an Ikea Lack table, so it was a temporary solution that has long overstayed its welcome. Keeping it outdoors for nearly a year finally put the last nail in its coffin. So if you ever wondered how Lack tables respond to moisture…

We had been planning to replace it with another table that has been with us through three houses, but were just waiting for the sofa to arrive to get started. It’s the metal + glass thrift store table that anchored our first living room and enjoyed a brief stint outside at our last house.

The time that it spent on our old patio taught us two things – the metal is great outside, but the glass is not. We were constantly cleaning pollen / dust / watermarks off it, so it always looked foggy and dirty. So we decided to make a wood top that might be a bit more durable (and will hopefully hide a lot more dust/dew/etc). We kept the glass in case it ever comes back inside, but for now the metal frame is the only part coming out of storage.

At Lowe’s we found this $19 pre-cut panel that was the exact width (20″) and depth (3/4″) we needed, so we happily accepted the shortcut from having to cut a board to size (although this one did need a little trim on one end).

Our main concern was keeping the board from warping – either in moisture or under the weight of items on the table. If we used something thicker, the top wouldn’t sit flush with the metal frame – so I did my best to reinforce this panel with some x-bracing underneath.

I ripped a 1 x 3″board in half on my table saw (any thicker and it would have poked out below the metal frame) and cut it to length so that it would sit in the X-shape that you see above. To make them nest together in the center, I marked where they crossed and used my table saw – set very low – to notch out a groove on each board. They weren’t perfect, but it worked!

We loved the look of the raw wood against the metal, but in the room it just looked unfinished in combination with the new sofa. Since we knew we’d need to stain and seal it for protection against the elements, we decided to be a bit adventurous.

So yeah, we got blue. Specifically River’s Run Semi-Transparent Stain in Olympic Maximum, which is not only used for outdoor furniture, it can also be used on decks and fences.

Since going with a colored stain was new to us, we did some tests on the spare piece of tabletop that I had trimmed off. After applying some Minwax Prestain Wood Conditioner to the whole piece, we tested out what one coat of River’s Run would look like vs. two coats. And then for kicks, we brushed a quick coat of Dark Walnut stain on the end of each swatch to see if we liked the slightly warmer, more aged look of those two stains in combination.

We decided to go with the simplest option: just the one coat of River’s Run. Two coats felt a bit too intense (almost like it was painted, not stained) and the Dark Walnut overcoat was too brown against the metal table to the point that it sort of looked muddy/dirty when we held it up next to it.

With that decision made, we just followed the staining instructions after applying the same Minwax Prestain Wood Conditioner to the wood (remember when we learned how much of a difference that made back here). You basically just brush it on, and it looks crazy-blue and scares you (see below) but once you let it soak in and dry, it ends up being a nice subdued tone…

… like this:

Oh but after our single coat of stain was applied and had dried (on both sides) we did elect to brush on three coats of Safecoat Acrylacq as a sealer (to the top and bottom of the board). We really want this thing to hold up well outside, and when it rains really hard the table in here does get coated with a fine mist of water, so it felt like nice added insurance.

Going back to the sofa for a minute, we’re really happy with it so far. We love the slight color variation/striping in the wicker and the whole things feels very sturdy while still being comfortable. The cushions are nice and dense, so they don’t feel flat or too floppy (which hopefully bodes well for their durability). If anything, they feel like they need to be broken in a little, but we’re already hard at work on that task. Burger takes his job very seriously.

I was a little wary of how the blue tabletop would work out, but I’m pleasantly surprised at how well it works with everything out there. It brings out some of the blue undertones in the tile while still looking rustic enough to contrast with the metal base. And maybe it’s just the sky reflecting off of it, but even the woven part of the sofa seems to have a hint of blue going on.

It’s pretty exciting to finally have some real furniture out here. We pretty much live out back in the warmer weather, so having a nice shaded place to lounge is well overdue.

The rest of the sunroom is still looking pretty empty (which is why I opted to photograph these so tightly) but we’ve already set a plan in motion for filling things in and adding more function/seating. After all, if we ever plan to reclaim the sofa for ourselves we’ll need to give Burger another alternative.