Hatton House Diaries

One day, we decided to buy a 125 year old Victorian House in Des Moines, Iowa…….

I’m in Your Crawlspace January 22, 2013

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 3:51 pm
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Spooky cobweb basement

The conversation when people come to see our house for the first time often goes something like this: “This house is so beautiful….but it must cost a fortune to heat.” Last winter was so mild, our bills never got above $450 or so a month in the winter, but since our summer bills are around $20, I figured that all worked out OK. We keep the heat at about 63 degrees, and it seemed to work OK.

Then I didn’t get the windows fixed this summer like I’d hoped to (not sure where I got the idea that I’d get so much done with the kids home from school). With this winter predicted to be much colder, I met with David Sweet of Bygone Era Consulting to talk about making the heating system more efficient. We have single pipe steam, which is a bit of a lost art. Our system gave nice heat, but it was uneven and was often noisy, and once we got the MidAmerican bill for December and the first week of January, we knew things had to change before our current cold snap.

David checked all the radiators for proper sizing, and fortunately only found one that wasn’t properly sized for the square footage of the room vs. the square footage of the windows. The bad news was, the one problem he found was an undersized radiator on the second floor. So at some point, if we want that room to heat properly, we will have to carry a 500+ pound radiator up the stairs. Sounds like oodles of fun to me. We decided to start with the cheap and easy fixes, and leave the space heaters upstairs for a while longer. Cheap meant about $500 for materials. Easy meant it was something Doug was willing to do.

Step one was insulating the steam pipes in the basement. Our basement was always very warm, with exposed steam pipes everywhere, but leaving the door open to the basement only brought so much heat to our living spaces. We used unfaced insulation and wrapped it around the pipes using heating duct tape. (This isn’t the same thing as plastic duct tape that you can use for every other McGyver thing you do, this is silver tape that’s basically metal with adhesive. It costs about $12 for a large roll). Doug spent the weekend wrapping the pipes that were easy to reach, and the difference was immediate and dramatic.

boiler wrappedWith the pipes wrapped from the boiler to the crawlspace, we suddenly were getting steam upstairs in rooms we’d never gotten heat in the past. Alas, along with it came terrible knocking, banging, and then an ominous gurgling sound. That was Sunday, and I resolved to call David Monday morning.

I wasted no time with that plan, since we woke up to no heat on Monday at 7 AM. David came over, and we figured out that all that steam was teaming up with our quick vents, and causing a massive build up of condensate, which had flooded our single pipe system and left us with steam radiators full of water and unable to take on steam. We quickly purchased Hoffman 40 slow vents for all the radiators, and the result is a quiet, even heat throughout the house. Bliss!! All that remained was insulating the creepy crawly crawlspace.

crawlspaceDoug took on that task this weekend, and completed the wrapping. You’ll notice that he left the paper on the pipes in the crawlspace, which you can do if the paper doesn’t touch the pipes. Now the second floor is toasty, but the first floor, which was once radiant heated through the floor (unintentionally, by way of our warm basement) is now the cooler floor. The plan now is to look at adding insulation to the floor between the first floor and basement, but for now, we’re happy to report that we can generate as much steam as we need with the PSI set about 60% lower than it was, which should result in dramatically lower energy bills without giving up the steam heat we love.

Soundtrack of the weekend goes to the Beastie Boys, with “Crawlspace.” Had it in my head all weekend.


Girl Power! You’re Never to Young to Demo January 4, 2013

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 9:33 am

2012-07-12_18-13-06_812More this is your life, 2012. I found this lovely photo of my then 9 year old daughter, tearing into our back steps demolition. So much more satisfying for both of us than when I taught her to bake cookies!


Operation: Add Counter Space January 3, 2013

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 9:52 am
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imageWe’re starting to get into all those projects we’ve been talking about doing since we moved into the house. in our walk through while considering the house, we commented that while the kitchen was huge, it only had about 3 linear feet of counter space. The Realtor said that she really didn’t understand why the seller had run the cabinets all the way down, but they had run the granite all the way to the wall, so we could always raise the cabinets if we wanted more space. In the six months we lived in the house before closing, we’d purchased a temporary center island from Ikea, and then customized it to fit our decor, but we still didn’t have much counter for big entertaining, and we were really short on counter with electrical outlet access.

After struggling through Thanksgiving for 10 prep, we decided to tear into the cabinet project. My husband, seen here, and his Dad, a retired structural engineer, worked out the details of how to rearrange the trim and edge pieces, and I discovered that the cubes removed from the top row could be re-purposed over the refrigerator. We emptied the cabinets, raised them, and were pleasantly surprised that it worked aesthetically to have the cabinets to the counters on the right and counter space on the left.

I still have the wood trim left, and I need to decide between tile back splash or granite, but it’s coming together. And baking for New Year’s Eve with all this counter? It was amazing. Not having to go into the freezing cold breakfast nook and stoop down to make coffee? Pure bliss. I’ll probably get my counter more organized at some point, but for now, it’s appliance central up in here!

after kitchen


A Kitchen with a Refrigerator…Revolutionary! January 1, 2013

Filed under: In the Kitchen,Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 11:50 pm

When we bought the Hatton House, one of the first things we noticed in the kitchen is that there was no refrigerator . Worse than that, there was no space for one anywhere near a reasonable kitchen work triangle. My interior design degree would not let me stand for this. Heck, my desire to be remotely efficient cooking wouldn’t tolerate it. We’ve finally completed the move (if not the surrounding drywall) to add the fridge to the kitchen! And there was great rejoicing in the land! Now, if we could just remember that it’s there and stop walking right by it to get to the place it used to be! To see the other side of this project, check out the “Back Stairs” post.


Back Hall Tear Out

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 10:30 pm
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imageAs referenced in our fridge post,  we needed to switch around our kitchen layout a bit. The house’s back stairs turned where you see the blue steps end and went into the kitchen. In place of this hole, was the refrigerator, which meant a long walk whenever you needed something cold. The cool thing in this demo was tearing into the stair walls, and finding evidence that the stairs used to also turn right and go into what used to be Dr. John Hatton’s office. Once we got the tear out done, we framed the wall behind the new in-kitchen (fancy!) refrigerator, and started the stair build. We’d like to add stair drawers like the ones here, but at least for now, we have usable stair treads. Drywall is up next!


Things We Love About Des Moines: City Bakery

Filed under: Things We Love About Des Moines — hattonhousedsm @ 10:03 pm
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Ever since Baby Boomers closed, we’ve been looking for a new breakfast place. We found City Bakery at 407 East 5th Street,  not for from Baby Boomers’ old spot. There’s French Press coffee, fluffy eggs, and my son’s favorite, brioche….loaded with blueberries in this case. Check them out on Facebook, or in person in the East Village.


Crustless Cheesy Egg Bake

Filed under: In the Kitchen — hattonhousedsm @ 8:51 pm
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imageOur chickens are laying about 9-11 eggs per day now, so to even come close to eating them, I’m interviewing egg recipes left and right. One of my favorites was SimplyRecipes.com’s Cheesy Crustless Quiche, but after a few attempts, I’ve reached my own adaptation of hers that I like even better than the original. I substituted almond milk for the milk because it’s what we had, and I changed the cherry tomatoes for diced garden tomatoes, because the cherries we get this time of year are so sweet, it was throwing it all off. And I cut out one of the bowls, because while I ADORE SimplyRecipes.com, I swear she must own stock in Cascade or something because boy does she go through bowls and pots! So, here you go….my adaptation:


  • 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or a gluten free substitute!)
  • 3/4 cups almond milk (although I suppose cow’s milk would work, just maybe shorten your bake time)
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (I used lowfat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 7 eggs (I bumped it up….she used 5 and it was yummy, but I have eggs to burn and I like it with more!)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (1/3 fat didn’t hurt the flavor or consistency)
  • 6 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 3/4 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • 5 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled (We used turkey bacon, which I know…. Iowa blog, you’re not expecting. We don’t cook pork in our home, and I actually like the flavor of turkey bacon in this….but no judgement if you switch it back to pork. I have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy about bacon outside my home. I’m going to assume it’s turkey bacon….do NOT tell me otherwise).


1  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir in flour; cook, stirring until bubbly. Gradually add the milk; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool, about 15-20 minutes (I used this time to do the rest of the steps).

2 Preheat oven to 350°F.  Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the cream cheese, the cottage cheese mixture and the milk/flour sauce. Add cottage cheese, baking powder, salt and mustard. Once combined, fold in the Swiss and Parmesan cheeses.

3 Pour into a seasoned pie stone (Pampered Chef or similar) or buttered 10″ pie plate. Sprinkle the top with chopped green onions, crumbled bacon and diced tomatoes. Bake at 350°F for 50 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned. A knife inserted into the center of the quiche should come out clean. Let rest for 15 minutes, serve. We never make it through the 15 minutes, but you go ahead and try.

Hope you love it as much as we do, and if you need eggs, shoot me a message, I probably have extra $4 a dozen, $7 for 2 dozen.