My Winter Plans?

Most of my time spent on the Cross House involves painting the exterior. If somebody had told me before I purchased the house that I would be doing this I do not think I would have pursued the house.

My painting the exterior was a decision developed in incremental steps. I tried finding a painter; none wanted the job. And I was entirely sympathetic.

I am glad though to be doing the work. For, I am a really good house painter. Also, I love love love getting to know every inch of the exterior on such an intimate level.

But I hope to never paint it again. Please God, let me be able to afford somebody else the next time the house requires painting. (A repaint will be MUCH easier than what I am undertaking.)

What this means is that for most of the year I largely ignore everything else due to a lack of time. Yes, I find time, for example, to get tower finials restored, but somebody else does that work.

Come winter however I am forced off the scaffolding towers and inside. In Kansas I can usually paint through November, December, and January. Just not every day. February and March are inside months.

This means that for the next four months I will get two solid months inside to get some work done, and more days dependent upon the weather.

The interior looks like a bomb has gone off in every room. Every plaster ceiling has holes in it. Some ceilings are missing altogether. All the wall have gaping holes and ominous cracks. And more. So much more. Terrifyingly more.

In the winter of 2014/15 I managed to get the parlor and library looking presentable. Each is close to being ready for decoration, and I was excited to think that this work could be completed this winter.

But…but…methinks my plans are changing.

As I walk though the house of late I am increasingly aware of how much its bomb-damaged state is starting to nag at me.

Fix me! Fix me!

And I hate a nagging house.

Fix me! Fix me!

I don’t have the time or money to magically finish thirteen rooms this winter but what if I fix as much of the bomb damage as possible?

My mind ponders this new idea…




The damage here is an easy fix. Just one hole in the ceiling.





A new ceiling is required. I had been planning to install sheetrock but yearn for plaster on lath. Or plaster skimmed over sheetrock. The problem is a lack of plasterers in Kansas. But maybe the Gods will favor the Cross House and one will descend from the Heavens? Oh, and some work is also needed to the wall, left. I also need to encase the new beam in oak. Its detailing will match detailing on the stair. All this is Priority #4.



The north niche off the stair-hall needs a ceiling. The water damage was caused by a leaking non-original bathroom above. Now gone. This is Priority #3.





When I purchased the house a large AC trunk line was attached to the ceiling, and boxed in with a soffit. Ahhh…no. I was able to brilliantly relocate the trunk line, and now I need to repair the ceiling. This is Priority #5.





New ceiling. This is Priority #6.





The bathroom has been totally gutted. Luckily, I have most everything. I would like to finish the walls, and reinstall the white quartz wainscoting, so that the room once again looks sorta like…



…this, but with…



…peacock wallpaper.





New ceiling. Also, the south exterior wall was entirely rebuilt in 2014 due to water/termite damage. I am really tired of looked through dirty Plexiglass. Particularly as…



…the HUGE double south kitchen window has been mostly restored. I yearn to see it back in place rather then dirty Plexiglass. YEARN. This is Priority #2.





In 2014, right after buying the house, I recreated the large expansive opening to the staircase, which was shrunk by half in 1929. And I have done nothing since. The railings/spindles to the right portion exist and are stored away. I will have to recreate what is missing on the left. This is not a big deal actually. The wall to the left needs repair, as does the lower wall to the right.



The wall needing repair. You can see the remains of a pink bathroom. I will not miss these remains.



I call this the drunk wall. Everything you see is crooked. I HATE THIS WALL. The balustrade droops. I plan to remove it and reinstall it level, along with the recreated portion. The two doors (left to Octagon Bedroom; right to Round Bedroom) both droop to the right. This is not so evident in the image but is so in person. Annoyingly so. I plan to remove each frame and reinstall level. This is Priority #1.



A large portion of the ceiling is covered in quite fabulous 1950s tiles. I will carefully remove these, and reinstall in my house in Strong City.





Ceiling repair. The water leak has been repaired.



Ceiling repair. Whatever water leak caused this was repaired long ago.



The east wall need major work. The white rectangle is where a door was created to enter a new kitchen built over the reduced stair opening.





On the second floor all the rooms had a 6-inch-high strip of plaster removed just below the ceiling. The previous owner did this to install wiring, mostly to electrical outlets above each window. This was so lights could be installed to illuminate the stained-glass windows every night, a wonderful gift to the neighborhood. I plan to remove all this wiring and repair the walls. And I will install LED strips along the deep interior sills of each stained-glass window, battery operated and with remote control.



Repair ceiling. The water leak has been repaired. (There are now no leaks in the house. Whoee!)





New ceiling.



In 1894 this was a window topped with a stained-glass transom, and leading to an open porch. I reopened the porch, and recreated its lost floor. I now want to recreate the lost stained-glass transom (which matched the one on the opposite wall), and recreate the window. But the window will actually be a door, with hinges on one side. But it will look exactly like the adjacent window. I am excited about this.





This room was originally entered via door off the servant’s stair, which you can see blocked up in the center. The wall needs to be finished.



And more wall repair. This room will be the master bathroom.



And ceiling repair.





I have the door and frame. They need to be moved over to right six inches. Ignore the 2×4 frame. it is just sitting there.



A hole in the ceiling was cut to install a drop-down movie screen, because the previous owner planed to use the Long Bedroom as a media room. I will fill the hole in.



Wall repair.


So, you appreciate the daunting task which bedevils my soul.

Obviously, there is no way I will get everything done. Sigh. But some things will get done this winter, and I will plug away at other things through 2017.

So, let’s meet a year from now and check out the progress? We will have some wine as we walk though the many rooms. Perhaps with some soft music in the background.

And I may need a hug.





  1. Yen on November 26, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Hello Ross, I was wondering if you plan on reopening the servant’s stair door way to the housekeepers room, since you say the wall needs to be finished. I didn’t know if finish meant to be with the doorway or no doorway.

    • Ross on November 26, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      The room has another door (out of camera range) opening to the main hall. I will retain this door. I will not be reopening the 1894 door to the servant’s stair.

  2. Kelly on November 26, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Everyone keeps telling me how long it takes to restore a home. I can count on one hand, maybe a hand and a half, our old house projects we want/need done. How many hands do you need?

    I’ve got to admit, I’m really curious about your plans for the kitchen. 🙂

    • Ross on November 26, 2016 at 9:11 pm

      I, too, am curious about my kitchen plans.

  3. Melody on November 26, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    I think I would thoroughly enjoy sitting in a dedicated sewing room working on a quilting project. In fact, if I had a whole room just for sewing I would set up a full quilting frame, just like Grandma had in her basement.

    I cannot wait to see the peacock bathroom!

    Hope you find a plasterer. That’s a random skill that I would love to have.

  4. Pat on November 27, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Alex at Old Town Home did a tutorial series on plaster repair using the Master of Plaster system. I will probably attempt this on some of mine…

    Link here.

    For the kitchen, I would put in a tin ceiling. I love tin ceilings in old homes.

    • Ross on November 27, 2016 at 7:45 am

      Thanks for the link, Pat!

      Ya’ got me all excited now! I think I will go for repairing everything with plaster!

      Regarding a tin ceiling, I love old tin ceilings in old houses. But I would not install a new tin ceiling in my kitchen. My kitchen would have been quite plain originally, and this spartan look is, to me, really attractive in assuring a true period look in a kitchen.

      • Alex - Old Town Home on December 1, 2016 at 11:34 pm

        Hey Ross, definitely go for plaster! I’ve done the whole joint compound skim coat but real lime plaster is great and 100% the way to go. You can use structolite as the base/scratch and then mix up lime for your top coat. The most important thing with this approach is to take your time, learn the process, and use water to smooth. The Master of Plaster system is great and definitely work looking into. You don’t need to spend any time mixing up from dry, just jump right into the work. It would probably be easier on the ceiling to use blueboard with a plaster top coat, which will be much easier once you get some practice on the walls. If you want any tips once you get into thing, let me know. My blog posts cover most of the things that work well for me, but I’d be glad to weigh in on any questions you might have.

        • Ross on December 2, 2016 at 8:11 am

          Alex! You are the man!

          I read you blog posts on the subject and was TOTALLY inspired!

          So, yes, I would love to talk with you!

  5. Lea on November 27, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Well Ross, with the amount of repairs/ restoration and research you already did for the Cross House, plus blogging…here’s a big warm hug for you.

    • Ross on November 27, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      Mmmmmmmmmmm, feels good. Thank you!

  6. Bo Sullivan on November 27, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Ross, are those bands of Lincrusta border on the bottom side of the arch openings?

    • Ross on November 27, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      Yes. You have a good eye. As usual!

  7. Bo Sullivan on November 27, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    I used a blue board and plaster veneer treatment in my house and have been very happy with it.



    Only real skill is in mixing the plaster veneer and the shorter open window of working time (I once forgot I had applied a preliminary coat behind an open door and it was too far hardened in unfinished rough surface to save). Essentially, any drywaller who has used the material and is competent for skim coating can do it. Try a non-important room first. It is very physical work.

    The wall surface is very hard and doesn’t feel at all like drywall.

    There is a pre-treatment that can be brushed onto any surface to make it plaster-veneer ready – I used it over a plywood shear wall.

  8. Bo Sullivan on November 27, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Have your doors been cut at angles over the years to accommodate the shifting door frames?

    A straightened frame with a cut door in it can make the problem worse, but no doubt you have run into this already. I just ended up straightening my trim and leaving the frame, picking up the adjustment in the unevenly exposed reveal of the frame at the trim. Not perfect, but the squared trim makes the racked door frame less noticeable.

    • Ross on November 27, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      The Round Bedroom door has been cut, rather dramatically, to accommodate the sagging floor. When I make the frame level, I will add to the top of the door. This will later need a faux wood finish to match the rest of the faux-painted door. As I will need a faux artist in the house at some point for other repairs, this small bit of work should not be a problem.

      Your “simple” solution is quite brilliant (leveling trim rather than frame). I had not thought of it before, although it will not work for this situation as the Round Bedroom frame has sagged a lot (and the cause of the sag has been remedied).

  9. Bo Sullivan on November 27, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I have tried several times now to state in a fair and neutral way my thoughts on the irresistable allure of “Victorian” tin ceilings in kitchens – but find I have to delete each attempt and start over every time. So I’ll just leave it at that. 😉

    • Ross on November 27, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Your comment made me smile.

      At first I thought you loved tin ceilings in kitchens.

      Then I thought: Oh no. Bo SO does not!

      But, I could well be wrong!

      • Bo on November 28, 2016 at 11:13 am

        Such issues all hinge on how one defines what “works” or “doesn’t work” right? – a relative and subjective scale for sure.

        In most cases, I don’t think tin ceilings in residential kitchens “work” by my criteria. They aren’t especially authentic, tend to be over-scaled, over-designed and visually busy, and they can increase noise levels…

        Kitchens were pretty messy places, used mainly by service staff, so the emphasis was on easy to clean and inexpensive – tile or oil-painted plaster. Tin ceilings were primarily a commercial thing, and were as useful for covering damaged and stained older plaster ceilings as for new construction. Still, I believe they did appear in houses on occasion (I’m not sure they would have been considered in good taste).

        There are tons of metal ceiling catalogs on Internet Archive – maybe somebody wants to dig through them and prove me wrong! Here.

        But my criteria are not everyone elses’ for sure. 😉

        • Ross on November 28, 2016 at 12:18 pm

          There is a house near me. I was working on it 20 years ago. A room on the first floor had a sheetrock ceiling. I was curious what was above it, so cut a hole. Two feet above was an ASTONISHING tin ceiling. Clearly original.

          All the other ceilings in the house were wood.

          A block from me is a house with a gorgeous original tin ceiling in the living room.

          I actually own a small house with tin in two rooms. One has very simple patterns on the ceiling AND walls. The living room has three fancy patterns on the walls. I call it the Tin House.

          So, tin ceilings do exist in old houses. But I have never seen one in a kitchen.

          To me, the craze for tin ceilings in kitchens is part of what I call the Hyper Kitchen approach popular for about the last twenty years. More is better.

          • Bo on November 28, 2016 at 12:22 pm

            Love this! Evidence over anecdote! Examples over experiences!

            The fireproof feature of tin is a fact to consider in how they were originally used as well I reckon.

  10. Kristina on November 27, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Hug! Thank you for sharing your progress, it is really inspiring to read.

  11. Lesley on November 27, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Hi Ross,

    I have been following your progress on the Cross House for about a year. I am totally hooked and enjoyed every post. I have read each entry from the beginning. Your blog is one of my favourite reads.

    With today’s posts I finally had to comment. I am in awe of the amount of work you have done so far and what’s left to be done. You are a very brave man for taking this massive project on. Your passion for this house is evident in all your posts. From the smallest of details to the big picture. This house is truly your labour of love.

    I wish you the most success in your attempt to get this beautiful house returned to its rightful state. So I’m sending you a virtual hug from a viewer who is extremely enjoying your journey. Keep up the great work and keep posting.



    • Ross on November 27, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Golly Lesley! You make my bald head blush!

      I appreciate the kind words. And it is nice to meet you at long last!

  12. Connie in Hartwood on November 28, 2016 at 7:15 am

    The plasterer that we hired years ago, on a serial basis as funds permitted, was a third generation master of his craft. He repaired our walls, recreated missing parts, and made everything look incredible, with lime plaster … Except the ceilings. He recommended that we consider regular drywall mud as the media for them. It’s lighter, stickier, easier to work with, and indistinguishable from the plaster walls once it’s painted. This is a suggestion for you to consider, as you ponder repair of your own ceilings.

    • Ross on November 28, 2016 at 7:39 am

      Can I marry your plasterer?

    • Bo on November 28, 2016 at 11:15 am

      I agree completely with this approach.

      • Ross on November 28, 2016 at 12:25 pm

        Do you mean Connie’s first comment?

        Or that I should marry her plasterer?

        • Bo on November 28, 2016 at 12:29 pm

          Having not met the plasterer, I agree with the suggested approach.

  13. Michael Bazikos on November 28, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Ross, try contacting Jeff Dickhaus. He is a plasterer in the St. Louis, Mo. area. He has a video on YouTube titled: Getting Plastered: Restoring a Victorian wall. I spoke to him, this was a few years ago. He was very friendly and was willing to travel(then). The tel.# I have for him is 1-314-448-5628. I hope you guys can work together. I find it a thrill to rub elbows with folks in the restoration trades. And to support them when I can (like when I can afford to pay for their services).

  14. Californianinkansas on November 28, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Mr. Ross,
    I love your peacock wallpaper. I am one of those people who never met a bright color I didn’t like.

    Anywhoodle, this is just for fun:
    I was online visiting my future pasta tile floors. The “Argos” pattern, about halfway down the page, would go perfectly with your peacock wallpaper. The pasta tiles are handmade in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. My understanding is that they retail for .80¢ to 1$ per tile in Mexico, but I’m sure the shipping to the US must cost a fortune.×4%20-%20copia.htm

  15. Jhofffman on November 28, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Can’t wait to see the bathroom transformed with that fabulous peacock paper. It’s going to be amazing with the wainscot.

    Please don’t install tin ceilings. They seem really exaggerated in a residential setting, on par with those big, white-globed outdoor lampposts so many folks seem to install in the front yards of their Victorian homes.

    • Ross on November 28, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Worry not! No tin ceilings will appear inside the house!

      Only plaster, I hope!

  16. Elizabeth su on June 7, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    Which battery operated led strip lights did you end up going with?

    • Ross on June 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm

      None, yet!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will NEVER be made public or shared, and you may use a screen name if you wish.