Hatton House Diaries

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

Window Restoration aka 70° November Days Are Insane November 4, 2015


I could have worked on windows all summer long, but why would I do that when I had all the time in the world? I was caring for a new baby so I guess I have some excuse this year.

Our third child turned six months old just as the weather turned cooler. I suddenly thought I needed to rush to make up for all of the time I lost in restoring our windows. It started with finishing the windows that I had pulled a year ago, just before finding out that I was pregnant. Then I started pulling windows from our addition, a space that had new construction wood windows that had never been finished by the previous owner. Now it seems like I’m in a never ending friends eat to beat the clock and the following temperature is to finish every window in the house ( which of course is not going to happen before winter).

I’ll try to post photos of my process work when I have a little more time but for now I’m happy to be back full steam in the neverending restoration.


18th Annual River Bend Home Tour on September 6th and 7th September 1, 2014

Filed under: Things We Love About Des Moines — hattonhousedsm @ 11:39 pm
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1601ArlingtonFinalNo, the Hatton House is not on the tour this year. I can pretty much promise you that we will never be on the tour during a World Cup year, and certainly not the WC year I release a book (you can learn more about my soccer life at this website). But you SHOULD go on the tour. Here’s why:


There are some amazing spaces on the tour this year. The original farmhouse (1510 9th) for the neighborhood, the sister to the Hatton House (1601 Arlington), the home of the former neighborhood president (410 Franklin), 1824 7th which has come a long, long way since this blog post, and so much more. You won’t want to miss a single one.


The hosts on this tour are really fabulous. Some experienced, some not so experienced, but all doing brave, amazing work in turning River Bend around one house at a time. Make sure you talk to the homeowners about their stories of restoration and preservation. You won’t be disappointed by the tales these remarkable people have to tell.


I’ve lived in River Bend for three years, and the transformation I’ve witnessed has been amazing. When you take part in the tour, you financially support the work that’s being done here, but you also become a part of the history of the transformation taking place here. Witness the changes and be a part of what’s happening here. 

So join us. Be a part of this neighborhood, just for a weekend. 

Here’s the Facebook event.

Here’s the event page on the neighborhood website. 

 See you there!


Ease Your Panes – Window Restoration Class Comes to Des Moines April 2, 2014

windowworkshopHatton House is hosting a window restoration class for the Des Moines Rehabbers Club. I’ve wanted to take a class like this since we bought this house, and after a year of planning, it’s finally coming to fruition right in my backyard…er…middle parlor! The class will be taught by David Wadsworth of Decorah, Iowa, and will be a hands on workshop where people will have the chance to work on donated windows and learn the ins and outs of window restoration.

Why did I want this class? Original restored windows with storms have a higher R value than replacement windows, but the cost of hiring someone to restore them would be cost prohibitive for us. $500-700 per window is unrealistic for a house/budget like ours. Learning to restore windows for roughly $40 in materials per window would be pretty easy to recoup a return on investment (especially in a house as drafty as ours!)

There are a few spots left at the class this Spring, so sign up today. Here’s the link: http://renovatedsm.org/class-announcement-restoring-wood-windows-with-david-wadsworth/ See you in a few weeks!


Finished! Let There Be Light…in the Kitchen! April 14, 2013

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 11:05 pm
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The finished product!

You might remember last week’s future project from our favorite things, which was a chandelier that was destined for our kitchen once it had been re-wired. The best thing that came out of the #FavoriteThings blog post for me was a group of virtual friends that will peer pressure me to complete projects in a timely manner. I think it was a day or two after the Favorite Things post that host Victoria Barnes was peer pressuring me via Twitter to post photos of the chandelier. 

So I stayed up until 2 AM, two nights in a row, learning how to rewire my prize, and then struggling through the actual project of shoving wires through S-curves (the secret: start with the sharp curve first). The most time consuming part was figuring out what needed to be done. I start most of my projects at Miller’s Hardware, where they can usually set me in the proper direction on a project right from the start. My first trip there, I was armed with just a photo of the socket, and they had no idea what I needed, and asked me to bring the fixture with me. But when I returned with the fixture, they still couldn’t tell what I needed because they couldn’t see the bottom of the light bulb socket. They advised me to contact Hansen Electric, which was totally unacceptable to me. I wanted to rewire this sucker myself, dammit, and I had all the knowledge of YouTube behind me! What could go wrong? I mean, if I’m doomed to let someone else do it, I’ll screw it up good trying first.

I figured if I could cut the wires to the chandelier arms, I’d be able to spin the arm wires out and look at the sockets. So I started unscrewing the entire fixture, keeping track of where things went using an egg carton (by the way, my husband was right, just don’t tell him…my life was made easier because of the photos I took prior to dismantling this thing, so I recommend extensive photo documentation IN ADDITION to egg cartons). Once I had the top and bottom unscrewed, I clipped the wires (point of no return!) and voila! Those sockets came out with very little effort, and even better, seemed in good enough shape that I didn’t have to replace them, just the wires. 

Wire, bad. Sockets, good.

Wire, bad. Sockets, good.

I got the wires shoved through with no small amount of convincing, and learned that my blunt force method of wire stripping only serves to break wires. Eventually I got everything capped and taped together, and then stacked back up and screwed back together, and today after several days of “Hey, we should hang that light tonight!” it is finally done and looking amazing in my kitchen. $60 fixture, less than $10 of materials, some glass cleaner, and I have a gorgeous new fixture that’s just what I wanted, aesthetically and in a new skill: restoration rewiring!




Egg carton, good. Photos of how it goes together, better



Refinishing Wood…the David Sweet Way February 8, 2013

This week (month?), I’m continuing the first floor woodwork refinishing, using the David Sweet method. David uses historically appropriate strippers and finishes (read: no poly) and creates finishes that look like they belong in a 125 year old house. The process takes longer than dip stripping and smacking on poly based finish, but the color is so deep and finish so rich, I can’t really argue with it. It’s my forever house, right?

I’m using a heat gun to remove paint when I have to, but my first choice is to find pieces without paint. My least favorite is pieces that have paint over bare wood, because you have to work extremely fast with the heat gun in order to avoid scorching the wood. Wood that’s been stained then painted is easy to work with a heat gun, working from the details out to the flat surfaces. After the heat gun, my biggest expense was the very nice respirator I purchased after working for an hour without one and feeling like I’d just taken a year off my life.

Best case, you start with a piece that looks like the one on the left, and you can scrape off what little paint is on it and not even involve paint removers. Be careful with strippers, as many can permanently damage some wood species. We used a mixture of denatured alcohol and old shellac from previous projects (this reminded me of something like sourdough starter) to remove the shellac and 100 years of wax and dirt buildup. I felt like I was flipping back through stories of maids who were too lazy to strip the previous year’s wax as I was removing all the layers by alternating my denatured alcohol starter and ragging off. That will leave you at the piece that looks like the left center plinth block.

The right center plinth has been coated with shellac. A few more coats of shellac would give it a true historic finish that is deep and rich. We were trying to match the color of our aged wood, as shellac will age into a darker reddish tone from it’s dark golden start with wax and years. You can pigment shellac, or add a stain layer for color. It takes some experimentation to get the exact color, but as you can see, the end result is gorgeous! Now, on to the miles of board I have left!


Guest Working at a River Bend Neighborhood House – Ceiling Demo April 9, 2012

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 7:37 am
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Kitchen Ceiling Before

I had been pestering one of the contractors in the neighborhood to let me help in one of his houses in exchange for advising and helping me with the Hatton House. I figured that I may not really know what I’m doing in remodeling, but I am good at following directions, and if someone could tell me what to do, I’d be able to do it pretty easily. So I could just do some unskilled job somewhere else in exchange for some skilled advice here. After several pestering him several time, he said “Well, I have to tear down a kitchen ceiling, you want to do that?”

I realize this was a trick question. Apparently no one WANTS to tear down a ceiling. But for me, this was the best news ever! I can’t possibly screw up destroying something! No leveling, measuring, detailing….just tear it down! Can do! I wish I had a photo of how I showed up: open toed shoes, safety glasses (but not goggles), no gloves, short sleeves, no breathing mask, I was an accident waiting to happen. I got my hair covered and a white mask and went to town.

Let’s be clear: “plaster” in old homes is a lot closer to concrete than the plaster I’ve used in craft projects. It comes down in huge, unpredictable chunks, and you had better not be in the way when they fall. It took me a while to figure it out, but soon (after going home for work gloves) I was prying down strips of lath, grabbing it with one hand while the other hand tapped a hammer against it to knock out all the concrete-like chunks down that strip. Sometimes, whole chunks of ceiling would crash down, sometimes it was just dust. Sometimes there would be black dust in the ceiling, sometimes 1930s newspapers that were shredded with age. One particularly unfortunate strip pulled down heaps of sawdust.

The whole ceiling came down in an afternoon. As you can see, it was one of the dirtiest jobs I’ve ever done, but the satisfaction was pretty intense. I’m really glad that demolition work isn’t my full time job, but every once in a while, it’s nice to tear something apart! If you want to see what I looked like after this job, you’ll find a photo here. 

Kitchen Ceiling After