Hatton House Diaries

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

The Front Door Finishing December 13, 2013

The doors, after sanding to even out the finish, no shellac yet.

The doors, after sanding to even out the finish, no shellac yet.

When we bought the Hatton House, there was a gorgeous door already in place, however it was painted on the exterior, but in a horrifying state of unfinished on the interior. Someone had stained the door with a single layer of stain, but they’d done in haphazardly, so that parts of the door had no stain at all, and parts of the door had stain pooled into corners and left to permanently damage the color of the wood. I stared at this door for two years, trying to sort out how I was going to attack it. I have tried to avoid using heavy duty strippers, and I couldn’t sand away the spots where stain had collected. I decided to try to finesse the coloring in the wood in combination with removing the dark spots where I could.

I started with a light sanding of 200 grit paper to take the dirt and hopefully even out some of the variation in color from the stain job. It didn’t take out all the color variation, especially in the window muntin corners, but it helped, and I hoped would be enough once I blended it with the shellac. Several people I’ve talked to use colorants in their shellac, but I opted for pure shellac and a stain coat from General Finishes Gel Stain in color Java.

This is what we were up against: stain on the face of the muntins, but not the sides, except where it pooled to almost black in the corners.

This is what we were up against: stain on the face of the muntins, but not the sides, except where it pooled to almost black in the corners.

I coated the doors with a thin coat of shellac, followed by a coat of stain in areas that needed to be darkened. It was a bit tricky, feathering in the stain over the areas that got too dark in the previous owner’s coating. Each coat took about 90-120 minutes per door, as it took so much time to coat all the surfaces around the window panes without completely trashing the stained glass. Once I was happy that the color was as balanced as it could be, I alternated coats of shellac with extra fine steel wool until I’d built up a nice sheen. I think there were three cycles of shellac by the end of it.

The end result is pretty great. I love how the shellac pulls out the grain in the wood, and I think the variations in stain are to the point where they look like aging more than mistakes (that’s what I’ll tell myself at least). I used denatured alcohol to lift some of the wax from the trim around the door, and I’m pretty confident that with a little work in the spring, the trim can be brought to look just as great as the door does. Stay tuned….now that I’m getting more confident with wood working projects, it may be time to tear into the endless supply of those projects.

The finished product. Completed doors that look amazing (but don't photograph well) in the daylight.

The finished product. Completed doors that look amazing (but don’t photograph well) in the daylight.


Days 24, 25, 26 – Minimalism Game – I Had No Idea How Much Stuff We Had November 26, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 11:43 pm
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wpid-20131126_165114.jpgIn getting ready for my daughter’s birthday party, we converted the front parlor from summer use to winter use, which in the land of no garage means moving the bikes downstairs, which meant that I could then see the lost treasures of Spring gone by. Under a table, behind the bikes, was a huge box. In fact there were three boxes total that were hiding behind bikes (because like coats, we also have more bikes than people in this house). In two of the boxes, there were lights that I bought at a garage sale to change out some outdated fixtures in our rental house. In the third box, there was a giant pile of stuff. I counted: 76 items, all ready to be donated (and 4 items worthy of selling) that I just never got to the Thrift Store this Spring. JACKPOT!

I now realize that I had nothing to fear in this project. I thought this would be the hardest week. Where was I going to find 20+ things per day to get rid of? Now, I’m panicked because in four days, I’ll officially be done, and I’ve done one corner of the cluster f*%& that is our master bedroom. I haven’t gone through all the lotions and potions I keep in the bathroom but never use. And the attic…full of boxes of mystery, that I haven’t even cracked open. I’m pretty sure I could do Minimalism game for at least one or two more months and not be done. I’ve gotten rid of 351 things, and only in a few corners of my world does this place actually look decluttered. I’m going to have to think about how I want to use my last few precious official days…not at all how I expected to feel at this point.

P.S. That’s Pumpernickel, one of the mousers from Days 22-23 in the background, waiting to mail the silverware and collectibles out from our Ebay sell off. Remember my silverware stash?  It sold for $214.05. Not a bad haul for junk in a box!


Day 22-23 – Minimalism Game – Live Mouse Attack! November 22, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 10:21 pm
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wpid-20131119_215503.jpgWe live in an old house, and we have cats. I have become accustomed to the occasional small bird or mouse delivered to me as a prize. I appreciate this service that my cats provide as a primitive, yet communicative report from my feline exterminators of their chemical free termination of a household pest. I do not, however, want to be part of the process.

When I hear a commotion in the dining room, the last thing I want to see is two cats chasing a mouse around. I know I’m a much bigger threat to the mouse, hypothetically, than the mouse is to me, but I am just not cool with a mouse running through my dining room. I’m also not cool with my cat grabbing this mouse in her mouth with authority, but somehow not killing it.

I know, it’s my fault. I thought “You should take the cat and mouse to the front porch and remove the mouse now.” But I really don’t want to be a mouse killer. I want to draw the line at mouse killer owner, mouse killer enabler. That’s enough, I don’t need literal mouse blood on my hands. How the heck do you kill a mouse? I’m a city girl, and I’d prefer to stay that way. I don’t want to be the sort of practical Iowa woman who knows instantly how to dispatch a mouse ten different ways when faced with one in her dining room.

So I left the cats to their mouse, but those little suckers let the mouse go! Jerks! The mouse, who was very smart, made a break for the closet, which was a horrifying mess of all the things we’ve ever had to hide on the first floor in the past two years, in addition to a minimum of three coats for every conceivable temperature for each member of our family. Once I pulled everything out of the closet in a desperate yet fruitless attempt to give my killers access to the mouse interloper, I realized I had my day 22 declutter opportunity. Which turned into my day 22 and 23, because you wouldn’t believe how much crap you can cram into a closet, and yet still end up with a full closet of stuff you might actually use at the end, but 45 items later, my closet was a little closer to reasonable, and I may have just found my next remodeling project: sealing the holes in the closet and adding shelves to keep stuff off the floor. The closet will not be a mouse refuge much longer, interlopers!


Day 16 – Minimalism Game – Collectibles November 17, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 7:30 am
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wpid-20131117_003621.jpgI don’t want to collect china, or Maytag miniatures, or any of this stuff. It’s going to Ebay, along with the rest of my cast of clothes. 16 more items out the door.

Check back tomorrow for listings: http://www.ebay.com/usr/djotzke


Day 14 – Minimalism Game – Kids Clothes Are (Not) Taking Over November 14, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 6:19 am
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wpid-20131116_212554.jpgI have the only granddaughter and grandson on both sides of our family. Sure, I’d rather have tons of nieces and nephews, but instead, I have two awesome kids that want for nothing. They have plenty of toys and a great collection of clothing, especially my daughter, who gets hand-me-downs from a friend with excellent taste in clothes. This is a wonderful thing, until they outgrow them. We are still planning to have another child, but it’s taking a little longer than planned to make that plan happen, so what started as a few boxes of extra clothes is now an out of control wild prairie of Rubbermaid boxes across the preserve of our 1000 SF attic. It’s not OK.

So I’m starting slow….a box of my shoes that don’t fit anymore and pants that aren’t at all special cast off by my son, sizes 3-5T. They’re for sale on my Minimalism sale on Facebook. Get these things out of my house folks, right here: https://www.facebook.com/tanyakeith/media_set?set=a.10202251802514841.1073741831.1183778292&type=3

Also, the Ebay page: http://www.ebay.com/usr/djotzke#

Please, buy our stuff.


Day 13 – Minimalism Game – Spice Girl November 13, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 5:59 am
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wpid-20131112_213054.jpgI have a problem. I have cool stuff I could sell, but I seem to get lost in the thought of how complicated it would be to sell it. I will have to find it, clean it, photograph it, list it for sale, meet with the buyer….ugh…it’s all so complicated. I will put it off forever. I will sometimes donate things I know I could sell, just because it’s so much easier. What I’m learning through this minimalism is that inaction can be just as draining as action. Seeing stuff time after time and having to think, “ugh, there’s that X again. Someday I’ll get rid of X” takes energy, energy I was expending over and over again.

Case in point: The spice rack from our first home. We used to have a house with no cabinet space, but a fair amount of counter space, so we moved everything we could out of drawers and into counter based storage solutions, such as this lovely spice rack. I thought it was so cool looking, and I loved the part it played in our first home. Now we have a home with plenty of drawer and cabinet space, but very little free counter space, so I moved the spices into one of the drawers, but couldn’t seem to let go of my little rack when I unpacked the kitchen stuff.

But 12 jars and a rack….that’s 13 items, if I could just force myself to clean it out and list it. So I dumped the several year old spices, cleaned the jars, photographed and posted. In the end, it didn’t take that long, and once it was posted, it didn’t take long for it to sell and the drop off was seamless. The lesson: less stuff and more cash in my pocket is the way to go. I promise you, there will be more to come!


Day 7-12 – Minimalism Game – Company Coming November 7, 2013

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 8:03 pm
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I’m cheating. I worked ahead. We have friends visiting this weekend, and I wanted tasks done, stuff out. Plus, once you get going on decluttering, it gets easier. I enlisted the kids on filling out the numbers for the weekend, but we made it with room to spare, and two huge boxes of clothes, toys, and books are on their way to charity. Have a great weekend, minimalists!


Day 3 – Minimalism Game – Orphaned Mitten Day November 3, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 10:18 pm
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wpid-20131105_090635.jpgIt’s time to let go of mittens with no matches. I’m giving up on ever finding your pairs, my friends. I’m so sorry it didn’t work out. Maybe next time, I’ll post in Craigslist Missed Connections, but today, you’re out the door. I’m going to work my way up to doing the same for your sock brethren. That’s a much bigger bag, I have a couple weeks.


Day 2 – Minimalism Game – Trash It! November 2, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 10:18 pm
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wpid-20131105_090705.jpgDay 2 of minimalism game brought on a big cleanout of the master bedroom and my closet. I set up boxes for sell, donate, trash/recycle, and a pile for putting things away. It was one of those situations that got worse before it got better, but by the end of it, I had two big bags of trash, and lots of organized chaos. Taking out the trash was awesome, going back to the chaos, not so much. 


Minimalism Game November November 1, 2013

Filed under: Family Stuff — hattonhousedsm @ 10:41 pm
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I’m suffering from big house syndrome. Our house is big enough that I don’t have to declutter. I don’t have to get rid of things, I don’t need to be careful about what I bring in. I can have things on top of things, and never run out of space to live. Or do I? All this stuff just creates things on top of things , making me crazy. It’s messy, and it’s ruining my creativity.

Enter the minimalism game. I watched a friend of mine do it last month, posting the one thing that he got rid of on the first, two things on the second, three things on the 3rd, and so on, and so on. He posted how hard it was at first, but then, as he went on, how freeing it was to move so much stuff out of his house. I thought, sign me up. You can read more about Minimalism game on the original blog post here.

So here goes: November 1st, one box of box of things that I’ve kept in my bedroom for probably a year, and never donated because I was still adding stuff to it, supposedly. It’s out of the house, and I have reclaimed three square feet of my house. Bring on the rest of November!