Kicking Off Summer at the Delbert Meier House

Kicking Off Summer at This American HouseIt was a long winter with a lot of long absences from the house so this Memorial Day weekend feels like quite a treat. Mother Nature gave us a couple of idyllic days filled with sunshine, warm breezes and bleeding hearts. There was a little rain as well but that just gave us an excuse to impose a day of inside projects.

bleeding hearts

These bleeding hearts are just about my favorite thing this year. At least, I think these are bleeding hearts. I had been calling them court jesters for their similarity to the hats worn from ye olde court jesters. But then The Mister had no idea what I was talking about when I was raving about the gorgeous court jesters in the yard.

Happy summer, folks!

UPDATE: Thanks to Cliff for emailing in with the identify of what we thought might be bleeding hearts. It turns out that we’re growing columbines in our backyard. These wildflowers are self propagating and bloom from late spring through early summer. Thanks for the note, Cliff!

Before & After: The Stenciled Entryway
Throwback Thursday

Before & After: The Stenciled Entryway

We haven’t been making very fast progress at This American House, so I’m digging back into our photo archives and seeing how the city apartment has evolved over the years. First up is my favorite room in the apartment. Which, actually, isn’t a room at all. Even five years after stenciling it, the teeny tiny little entryway still is my favorite space.

Stenciling the Entryway

When we first moved into the apartment I painted everything in cool pastel colors. I don’t know, I guess I was feeling very mellow or something. The entryway got a few coats of pale pink that seemed like a good idea at the time. And then I quickly grew tired of it. So I did a complete 180 and went from pale pink to black and white.


Painting the entryway black was a giant leap of faith. I mean, there’s nothing like taking a space that’s 2 feet by 4 feet and painting it a really dark color. I had a what-have-I-done moment when I stepped back and looked at the black walls before me. Once the stencil started going on, however, I could immediately see that I was doing the right thing. Whereas the black walls made the small space feel dark and claustrophobic, the addition of the white pattern opened it all up and actually makes the space feel bigger.

The Stenciled EntrywayI was able to reuse the existing furniture and accessories in the space. I painted the table and coat rack bright red to allow them to stand out from the patterned walls. (These are the only things that I’ve tired of over the years. I’d like to replace those red accessories with white ones.) I even repurposed the canvas that hangs over the table and hides the electrical box. I applied white fabric over the canvas and then used black paint to apply the stencil, creating a negative effect of what’s on the walls.

Black and White Stenciled Entryway

This little entryway is the first thing that people see when they enter the apartment and it always gets a reaction. Whether it’s a friend dropping by to visit or a delivery driver bringing us food, their eyes usually widen as they look up and down the walls. “That’s really nice wallpaper,” they’ll usually say. “Oh, it’s a stencil actually,” I’ll proudly inform them. “Wow, that must have taken forever,” they’ll reply.

Yes, it did. It was a long, painstaking process that left my arms sore. And it was worth every minute.

Images: This American House

The Mystery of the Drip in the Basement: Solved!

The Mystery of the Drip in the Basement: Solved!

For the past couple of months we’ve been dealing with a slow leak in the basement. Drip, drip, drip, it’s a tiny little leak but it adds up over time. Such as when we’ve been away for a week. And then we return to find an overflowing bucket sitting in the middle of a puddle. In a fit of desperation last weekend, I finally got to the bottom of this drip!

Every time we’ve encountered the drip over the past few months we’ve come up a new theory.

My first thought was that the drip was somehow related to the chimney. Based on the drip’s close proximity to the base of the chimney and the fact that it first made its presence when the snow first started melting this spring I thought that was a logical answer. Perhaps the melting snow and spring rains were making their way down the chimney and then dripping into the basement. We already know that the interior of the chimney is crumbling so that helped add some validity to this theory.

But what if something is dripping from the bathroom on the second floor and making its way all the way to the basement? We ruled that one out when we reasoned that the bathroom plumbing is not in line with the drip location.

What if the house is haunted and these are the tears of ghosts who are stuck in the attic? OK, maybe that one’s a little more far fetched. But, hey, this house IS almost 100 years old! Anything could happen, right?

When I started to really reason it out, however, the cause of the drip was pretty obvious. I stood there in the basement, right beside the drip, and thought about what was directly above me. There’s no plumbing up there but there is … a refrigerator. A refrigerator with an ice maker. I sprinted up the stairs, flashlight in hand, and pulled the refrigerator away from the wall. Eureka! A little pool of water had collected near the baseboard and was slowly dripping down into the basement.

drip2Having found the cause of the drip, now I just had to make it stop. I lifted the little lever inside the freezer that stops ice production but that didn’t do the trick. Still, I was confident that it was the ice maker, or at least the water line feeding into it, that was causing the problem. I checked the water line and it seems fine. Finally, I noticed that the refrigerator itself is leaking. But I still wasn’t quite ready to give up on the ice maker theory.

drip3Armed with the flashlight, I was able to follow the path of the tube that connects to the refrigerator tot he main water pipe. (Gotta love an old house with an unfinished basement!) Lo and behold, after I turned off the water supply for the ice maker, the drip stopped. So it is the ice maker that’s causing the issue. Well, we’ll just have to make our own ice for the time being. The refrigerator needs to be replaced sooner than later so I think we’ll survive making ice the old fashioned way in the meantime. I’m just happy that the mystery of the leak has finally been solved!

Images: This American House



American Table: Dinnerware Made in the USA

Dinnerware Made in the USA

The Mister and I have been eating off yellow Fiestaware for well over a decade now. When we bought it all those years ago, it was out of a love of kitschy fun colors and Fiesta’s simple design. Now, as we’re outfitting our home with American-made and vintage wares, I’m realizing that our beloved Fiesta is the perfect dinnerware. Home Laughlin, Fiesta’s maker, is based right here in the United States.

Fiestaware isn’t for everyone, of course. Fortunately, they have company in the American-made dinnerware category. Check out the full list and add any I may have missed in the comments.

  • Home Laughlin China Company has been making Fiestaware in West Virginia since 1936. In addition to offering tours, folks makes the pilgrimage to their Newell, West Virginia factory of their big tent sale and outlet store.
  • Anchor Hocking products are manufactured in Lancaster, Ohio and Monaca, Pennsylvania. You may associate them most with bake and prep pieces, but they also make a line of dinnerware.
  • Pickard China has been manufactured in Antioch, Illinois since the 1930s. Known for making the official White House china service, Pickard is American’s oldest fine china manufacturer.
  • HF Coors’ dinnerware is produced in Tuscon, Arizona. From the simple American White and American Bistro lines to the Frank Lloyd Wright dinnerware, HF Coors has a nice selection of tabletop goods.
  • Lenox also has a wide selection of American made dinnerware, with designs from Kate Spade, holiday patterns and many other options.
  • Bennington Potters produces beautiful stoneware in Vermont. Started in 1948 by David Gil, Bennington makes stoneware pottery intended for everyday use. In addition to dinnerware, they also produce bakeware and serving pieces.
  • Emerson Creek manufactures ceramic dinnerware, as well as a full range of pottery, in  the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
  • Simon Pearce glassware and dinnerware are handmade in the United States. Their operations in Vermont are hydro-powered and include a mill and restaurant overlooking the falls.

Flower Power: Bringing Spring Indoors

Flower Power: Bringing Spring Indoors

After a long, cold and snowy winter, the first spring flowers feel like a gift from Mother Nature. It’s as if she’s saying, “Congratulations! You survived another upper Midwest winter!” And even when those flowers pop up where they’re not supposed to, it’s exciting to see their colorful little buds sprouting up from the ground.

When we pulled up the flower beds that the previous owners had planted around This American House, we relocated many of the plants and flowers. We also pulled up a bunch of bulbs that I threw in a bag with the intention of replanting later. We spread grass seed in the former flower beds and called it a season.

It looks like we missed a few bulbs … and I have to say that I’m not mad at that. When I saw these little yellow and purple flowers standing tall(ish) among the not-quite-green grass, I actually uttered the words, “Well hey there little guys! What are you doing here?” Although I was surprised that we had missed a few bulbs, the sight of the colorful flowers in the grass was delightful nonetheless.

Spring Flowers

Before I left the house to return to the city on Sunday, I pulled the flowers, bulbs and all, from the ground and dropped them into a little vase. They may not survive, I thought, but at least I’ll be able to enjoy the flowers on the drive back to the city.

Much to my surprise, the flowers not only survived the drive, they’re still thriving three days later. I’m not a botanist so I have no idea what these flowers are*. All I know is that I’m gladly accepting this gift from Mother Nature. And now I know that I need to find that bag of bulbs and find a place to plant them so that I can enjoy a little spring treat again next year.

*Thanks to my Instagram followers, I’ve learned that these are crocuses. According to Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Small bulbs like crocus not only provide winter garden color, but they naturalize, meaning that they spread and come back year after year—with minimum care—for an ever-larger display. As a bonus, deer, squirrels, and rabbits rarely bother early little bulbs.” Now I really do need to find a place to replace the bulbs I pulled up last year!

Images: This American House