A Lot Of Little Bits

For the last six weeks I have been wandering from room to room doing small things.

All these small thing appear to have a common theme: Putting the Cross House back together.

And this feel really good.

Nothing I have done is visually dramatic. There are no stunning Before/After images. But the house, I dunno, feels better. It feels less pulled apart. It also functions better.


The metal sill of the huge dining room window had been brutalized. Oh, the horror.


I cut out the damaged metal sill, and had a new computer-crimped sill made. (Computer-crimping: Mmmmmmmmm.)


Today, I finished painting the new sill section. You can barely see that a new section has been added. I am ridiculously proud of this. Squee!!!!!!!!


I found and reinstalled all the trim in the original second-floor bathroom, and…


…ditto in the powder room, and…


…in the kitchen. Oh, and the missing corner block was found!


The main vestibule had numerous holes in the walls and ceiling. This created significant issues as wind freely blows through the outer doors, and then through the open wall cavities. (See the black waste pipe? That was added in 1929 and is for the two bathrooms above, added by Scout Mouse.)


Holes be gone! Squee!!!!!!!!


The vestibule ceiling had more holes.


Holes be gone! Squee!!!!!!!!


I have also been scraping old wallpaper off walls, and installing plaster anchors. I greatly look forward to the after image of this poor wall! (The cracks were all caused by stupid original engineering. This wall, and its mate on the other side of the niche, have no support under. Just floor joists. So, of course, the walls sagged. As they will continue to do. I will be adding support under so the cracks, once repaired, will not return.)


I, at long last, got a ceiling installed in the stairhall niche. No more exposed ceiling joists!


The flooring where the pantry met the kitchen was totally destroyed by termites.


But not anymore. Squee!!!!!!!!


The Aladdin’s Cave in the basement was filled with shelving.


But not anymore. Squee!!!!!!!! (The shelves were filled with original house bits. But, since buying the house, I have been reinstating all these bits. The shelving, thus, was no longer needed.)


I tore out the termite-ravaged flooring in the servant’s hall just after buying the house. So, the room was open to the basement. But not anymore! Squee!!!!!!!!


The door frame to the round bedroom had been brutalized where the strike-plate was. The plate was long gone and the wood behind it was also mostly gone. For two years, I searched for the correct strike-plate but grew weary of being unable to actually close the door and have it stay closed. Thus, my temporary solution. (PLEASE don’t tell anybody I installed such a generic, period-INCORRECT strike plate.)


I also did a temporary solution to the sewing room. (Again, our secret!) It is a thrill to be able to close the door AND HAVE IT STAY DAMN CLOSED!


I had built a huge worktable in the hexagon bedroom. But I had not used it much for two years now. The room was also cluttered with…stuff.


So, I got rid of the table and all the stuff. And see the bits-o-trim leaning against the walls? I reinstalled these.


The counter in the pantry was covered with several layers of contact paper.


But not anymore. Squee!!!!!!!! I then began to wonder: WHAT is under all the white paint on the cabinet?


My question, answered. (As attractive as this is, I am increasingly certain that the pantry was never exposed wood but rather was painted a nutmeg color. I am going to have this analysized and will recreate the original finish.)


A lost section of pantry counter found its way back to the house (left).


A lost door found its way back to the house, too. Squee!!!!!!!! And the adjacent door, which never closed tight, does now.


It is really easy when doing over a big ol’ house to end up with stuff everywhere, with every room filled with lumber and tools and house bits and stuff stuff stuff.

However, I learned long ago that this can be soul destroying. It is not only bad for the owner but is also bad for anybody working on the house. Thus, about twice a year, I go on a scour rampage. I scour the house of stuff stuff stuff and also clean everything, like the floors and mantel tops and window sills.

Today, the Cross House is more organized and stuff-free than it has ever been since I purchased the house almost four years ago. Almost all the rooms are now wholly empty of stuff stuff stuff and I relish walking around the house enjoying its Zen-like emptiness.

Also, I long ago discovered that getting people to work on an old house is HUGELY easier when they are not confronted with stuff stuff stuff everywhere.

In summation, although the south facade of the Cross House is still an utter wreck (the big 2018 project), and most of the rooms still look like bombs have gone off in them, the house feels a lot better than it did six weeks ago.

Ross happy.




  1. Sandra Lee on December 17, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    And Ross should be happy, happy & remarkably happy with the Zen-like emptying of stuff! How wonderful! May your holidays be bright with the cheerful satisfaction of an organized Cross House! Just have a wonderful Christmas at Cross House!! Enjoy all your hard work over this year & preceding 3 years before!! Hope the holidays & the New Year are filled w bright vintage lighting sales as well!!

  2. Kerri on December 17, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    One of the MANY things I’ve learned from you is the importance of small things. They are the difference between merely good and truly great. Oh, and ditto everything Sandra said!

    • Sandra Lee on December 17, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Kerri you are such a delight! I love reading what you have to say & especially “ditto what Sandra said.” Haha

      • Kerri on December 18, 2017 at 8:26 am

        Thank you so much Sandra! I love to read your take on things too. Clearly, great minds think alike! Haha.

  3. aBell on December 17, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Readers (followers) happy!

  4. SEB on December 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    I love this! Great post and so insightful. I love watching each fragment resume its rightful place. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Merryl Mouse McRae on December 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    I liked reading this post. I love the small things.

  6. Nikki on December 17, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    It’s easy to get bogged down by minutiae, but seeing you deal with all these big and small restorations is encouraging for us who aren’t there yet. I, too, love the delight you take in each success, big or small. Any idea yet for when you might actually be able to live in it?

  7. Seth Hoffman on December 17, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    It really is the little details that make the whole. Too many people gloss over the details, but not you! I always love reading your stories of details restored, changes seamlessly integrated, and even original awkwardness improved.

  8. Annette on December 17, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Oh wow, I’m sure that feels so much better. All those little things are time consuming but satisfying and they certainly make the house look so much better. It must have been like a giant jigsaw puzzle in the Alladin’s cave. You have been incredibly observant to find the original treasure’s homes. Well done.

  9. Barb Sanford on December 17, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Bit by bit, it all comes together. What a lovely post.

    P.S. What Sandra said. And Kerri said. And everyone said.

  10. Kelly Prentice on December 18, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Your courage and tenacity are commendable . Forge ahead the prize is worth the effort. It has always been that way for those of us who care about the past and who want to preserve it. You’re not alone in your ideals.

  11. Meghan, UK on December 18, 2017 at 6:18 am

    Living in a house (nowhere near as ravaged) with stuff stuff stuff everywhere from the unending filling/sanding/painting et cetera that an old house requires, I feel this pain. Clearing it periodically is happiness-inducing. Well done! Your constant enthusiasm and attention to detail is inspiring.

  12. djd on December 18, 2017 at 7:09 am

    All the little things add up. And for me, function rules for the doors. 🙂

  13. Alison on December 18, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Just a question for you because I am genuinely curious; Why not spend the winter getting a bedroom and/or bathroom ready? Then you could move in and continue working without the need to “go home” every evening.

    Not even remotely criticizing, just curious on your thought process 🙂

    • Ross on December 18, 2017 at 8:54 am

      It is not currently possible to comfortably heat/cool the house. It is still too “porus”. Wind blows freely through many of the windows/doors, and there are many holes in the second-floor ceiling, allowing all the heat to just vanish.

      Until this issue is rectified the house is not really livable.

  14. Nikki on December 18, 2017 at 8:59 am

    It’s easy to forget how much of the house is still needing such serious work when we see the parts you have completed. Your reply to Alison answered my question, too. This house will be the Jewel of Emporium when you finish it.

    • Ross on December 18, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Yes, only one room is fully done (the parlor) and one other room mostly done (the library). All the other rooms really do look like bombs have gone off in them.

  15. San on December 18, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Perhaps when the house is complete, or nearly so . . . a holiday house tour could be scheduled in your town to help recoup funds for the cost of rehabilitation and inspire others to work on older houses in your neighborhood. I’m sure you’ll have volunteers to help decorate for the season. Great job on finding and installing all the small bits. It really adds up. Very inspiring.

  16. JET Texas on December 18, 2017 at 10:25 am

    I imagine many of us appreciate getting small things done. I’m trying to clean my house for our Christmas party. My husband thinks the house looks fine. He doesn’t see that the baseboards and trim need cleaning, as well as the walls (kids and a large dog are hard on a house), the wood furniture needs oiling, the tile floors need scrubbing, refrigerators need cleaning, pantry needs to be organized, light bulbs needs to be changed, lots of …stuff…needs to be put away. The accumulation of small details makes a big impression.

    Side question: where are the lights that you restore? I wish you could live in the Cross house. Merry Christmas to you, and many wishes for a bountiful and productive 2018.

  17. Eric Unhinged on December 19, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Computer-crimping? Why stop there? There must be a way to get Artificial Intelligence to finish your remaining projects! Hmmmm…. Everything really is looking amazing!

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