Work continues to progress at the Keys House project, even if somewhat sporadically. Finishes are being peeled back in some rooms, shedding more light on their original appearances. On the exterior, the north and south walls have been relieved of vinyl and are being painted in their original colors. In the process of working on the north gable, new discoveries show that my earlier conclusions about the gable color were flawed; the true color was more of a pale mint green than seafoam.

Winter is fast approaching; it’s already snowed twice. Today was warm and wonderful so we took down the scaffolding and put the ladders away. We’ll resume work on the exterior in the spring, but until then all work will be focused on the interior. Fortunately, there is lots of fun stuff to do inside! Let’s take a look at some recent progress…

Removing 1970’s wood paneling from a wall in the kitchen revealed the mid-century appearance of the room. The perky wallpaper features mantel clocks and kitchen items in pastel hues. A wainscot of what appears to be a linoleum-like product was likely installed in the 1950’s. Probably intended for use in bathrooms, this stuff was glued to earlier wallpaper as an “upgrade” and pretends to be ceramic tile.

The vast number of wallpaper layers we found remains mind-boggling. Jim has painstakingly removed samples of each layer to preserve in order to document the evolution of the kitchen since 1886. The fact that people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries updated so frequently with wallpaper — rather than paint — says a lot about that period of time. What does it say to you? Here Jim is seen dampening a section of wallpaper prior to its removal for the “archives”.

The same kitchen wall after the removal of wallpaper layers. Just below the ceiling you can see the flue hole of the chimney which vented the original cook stove. It is filled with decades of debris.

An ornamental thumb latch in the bathroom was buried in paint. Jim removed it for cleaning.

Just like new! The hardware awaits re-installation.

Removing the drop ceiling revealed the abrupt transition from the original kitchen to the portion which was added around 1905 – 1910 to enlarge the space. The addition originally had a flat roof. Later, it was built up to provide a slope — presumably after leaks began!

The ceiling of the expanded kitchen shows a curious blue-green finish painted on the plaster (which itself was later covered by ceiling paper).

In the back parlor, Jim uses a scraper to remove the bulk of compressed foam carpet backing which had been glued to the floor. Simultaneously we were able to determine that the oak T&G flooring was original to the house — and not an early upgrade as we had believed previously. We’re ecstatic that we can keep this floor! It was never sanded and has a slightly irregular finish beneath the darkened varnish.

Jim restored the floor, one section at a time, over a period of about four weeks.

Cardboard at left protects the newly restored sections of flooring. I couldn’t wait to remove the closet which was built into a corner c. 1960! One of the most interesting discoveries we made was that the casings and baseboards were originally painted in the pale yellow-green you see here. The doors, however, were all faux-grained. We will restore these finishes in the future.

Here, Jim’s newly restored floor gleams as it did when new. I was not keen on restoring the floors before the walls and ceilings, but agree that the psychological lift it provides makes it a smart move. The room feels much larger without the bulky closet.

This door (one half of a bi-fold pair) was originally hung in the opening seen at right (opening into the dining room). We suspect that these doors were ordered with the faux-grain finish already applied as many millwork catalogs of the era offered this option. The design is a bit repetitive, clumsy and loud, but we really like it! This door spent roughy seven decades upside-down in the basement… it is a miracle that it has survived at all! There is definitely damage to the finish, but we will live with it rather than attempt to fix it. We may change our minds down the road, but for now we will focus on more pressing issues. This patterning will serve as a guide for recreating the faux finishes on the other doors.

This is the toilet niche in the bathroom. With the 1990’s toilet removed, we are able to see the outline of the base of the original toilet. Now we know what to look for when shopping for a period replacement! The marble slab has suffered some abuse in the past, but it will clean up and be presentable in the future. Horizontal boards on the back wall at wainscot-height reveal the size and location of the original toilet tank.

Outside, original paint colors begin to replace the hideous white vinyl on the north wall.

The north wall receiving its second coat of original colors. The corner boards will eventually be painted brown (next year) but will remain partially clad with vinyl during the winter months.

The south side of the house is nearly finished at ground level. Next year I will deal with the upper portions which remain white or powder blue (dormers, gable, etc.). The storm windows of the bay will eventually be painted black to match the sash. The pink flags in the yard mark the locations of new trees which will be planted soon. The house needs shade in the summer!

This is the south door. Originally considered the side of the house, this door was used in recent decades as the front door. We painted it like this for the short term when we discovered that this door, like the interior doors, originally featured a faux-grain finish on both sides. Eventually we will re-grain this door. The knob and keyhole cover are original, but the mechanical doorbell is from the early twentieth century.

Note that the returns of the casing’s header were hacked off by the vinyl installers. Jim has replicated many of these and we will be installing them soonish!

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