Calling Paul Bunyon!

When we talk about the yard at The Duckling, it feels like we’re constantly reminding people that at one time, this house looked like this:

The Duckling circa 2010 - I promise, the house is somewhere behind all of those overgrown trees!

To say that the landscaping was overgrown is a complete understatement. The house was virtually not visible from the street. The investor who bought the house in 2010 made quick work of completely stripping out the landscaping from all around the house and limbing up the trees. When we moved in, we did a little more cleaning up of the landscaping around the house, but pretty much left the backyard alone. That is until now. Now, we’ve begun the work of trying to undo about 20-30 years of letting the backyard run wild.

From the moment we moved in, Patrick had his eye on the backyard and knew that he wanted to take down a bunch of the little trees that rimmed the backyard. He felt that doing so would open up the yard a bit and make things feel larger and more park-like. Here’s a sample of what the yard looked like before the tree project began:

backyard trees 4


photo (6)

With the help of his father, and a high speed, low drag weed wacker with a metal blade on it, they made quick work of the project.

photo (7)

photo (5)

So Patrick found his inner Paul Bunyon and ended up leaving big piles of cut down trees all over our backyard.

tree pile

tree pile 3

tree pile 2

At which point we started to wonder how we were going to get them out of there. Thankfully, we had a big tree, bigger than Patrick and his little weed-wacker-that-could, were able to handle. So our tree guy ended up cutting down both the big tree and hauling away all of the Paul Bunyon remnants.

Needless to say, the yard is starting to take some shape. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re definitely making great progress!

Until next time…



First, a note of apology that it’s been so long since we’ve posted a blog post. We’ve been plugging away at The Duckling on a number of projects, but just hadn’t found the time to sit down and chronicle it all. So we’re hoping that we can catch you up over the next few weeks on what’s been happening here since January. Enjoy!


A good friend of mine often regales the story of the time that she was descending the stairs to the subway in Philadelphia and a woman was squatting in the middle of the stairs relieving herself. The woman looked up and said, oh so matter-of-factly, “Gots to go, girl. Gots to go!”

In the more than 15 years since I first heard that story, I’ve managed to apply “gots to go” in a myriad of situations – sometimes it’s in its original use (the urgency of needing to relieve oneself, not the squatting on a public stairwell part – I’m adventurous, not insane!) and other times for any moment when “gots to go” seems the perfect summation of the situation.

When we moved into The Duckling, it wasn’t long before we looked at the brass doorknobs a-plenty and said, “gots to go.” Despite not being a huge fan of brass anything, we did it give it the old college try with these brass beauties. The original 1950’s varnish was well-worn off most of the knobs, but we thought, let’s try and polish them up. The polishing didn’t really accomplish anything. If we’d managed to remove the varnish, then we might have had more success, but to be honest, most of the knobs were so far gone that no amount of elbow grease would have saved them.

So with that being the case, we made a plan to update all of the doorknobs in the house – first floor first, then on to the other floors. Since the second floor also includes a plan to update the single-panel hollow core doors, we haven’t quite made it upstairs yet. But our efforts on the first floor have paid off immensely. So here’s the recap of what happened.

First, it’s important to note that we had a_lot_of_snow this winter. And as any good snow day (or five) will do to someone, they spurred me into finding ways to fill my time. And I immediately knew what I needed to do – get those knobs out of the picture! So here’s a picture of what the before looked like:


The interesting part of this project was the fact that our beloved two-panel classic 1950’s doors did not have one single hole in which to install the new knob, the way the newer, six-panel doors that the last owner sprinkled around the house did.


This created a unique situation where I needed to drill the large hole to fit the knob. So off to the local hardware store I went to ask for some advice. What they recommended was the hold drill bit attachment for my drill. In addition, they recommended the guide that I could attach to the door to keep the drill from bouncing around and to make sure that my  hole was drilled through completely and evenly.


So off to the races I went with the drill bit and guide. In a matter of hours, I had drilled through the seven doors that needed a new single hole. And out popped the “donut hole” from the door.


After the holes were drilled out, I was able to install the new door knob and the new strike plate. And voila – the brass was gone and our new, classic black door knobs were in place!


We’re thrilled with how they turned out and definitely can’t wait to start moving to the second floor. Before we go there we want to find the two-panel doors that match the original doors in our house. So we’ll get there at some point – hopefully in the next year or two. We’ve got some bigger fish to fry in the meantime.

Coming up soon – tree removal and garage makeover!

Until then…

The Moose is Loose.

What’s white, has an awesome rack, a mischievous smile and always looks like he knows more than he’s letting on? If you’re thinking that sounds an awful lot like you, Carrie, well….   Ok, seriously, people. This_isn’t_about_me (but thank you for thinking I have an awesome rack! ;-).

This riddle has to do with the newest member of our family – Barnaby! WHO? Barnaby the Moose, of course!


As we begin to imagine the finishing touches on our living room, we knew we wanted at least one piece that would be a conversation starter. Unfortunately for Barnaby, the conversation is pretty short – we think he’s fun, he was a major bargain, so we brought him home! End of story.

But what you may not realize that is that although Barnaby looks pretty cool right now – in a few months he’s going to look AWESOME when he’s hanging out with a new dining room chandelier and we compliment his physique with some awesome gray walls.

Until then, we’ll just have to tease you a little with some Barnaby close-ups. What do you think is his best side?



Feeling Moody!

Some of the best ideas in the world aren’t original – they are borrowed and adapted from other ideas. In my work life, I’m a big fan of borrowing good ideas from other cities that I think will work in our community. So why would things be any different when it comes to this blog, right? (Commence head nodding.)

That said, I’ve noticed that a lot of home decor bloggers use a little tool called a “mood board” to help develop and inspire their vision for the eventual re-do of their space. Back in the day (ok, I just revealed my age with that humdinger), we talked about “inspiration boards” – a literal bulletin board where you’d post magazine clippings, phrases or images that inspired you to achieve whatever goal you were working toward. Pinterest has taken the inspiration board to the virtual level – and you know we all LOVE Pinterest! And a mood board basically puts a series of images onto one “board” – showcasing how all of the elements could work together.

So now that I’ve finished your history lesson on mood boards, let’s talk about the one we’ve created for our living room. Here’s the deal – when we moved into The Duckling we knew that our furniture in the living room was a temporary solution. Why you ask? Well, mostly because the fabric was Finley tested when we bought this set 7 years ago and it failed miserably. We promptly relegated the remaining loveseat and chair to our family room on the third floor of our old house, where it barely saw any use. Now that Finley is on it again every day, it’s definitely seeing better days.

Our second reason for an upgrade is that the seating we currently have is a loveseat, a chair, an ottoman and a rocking chair. If we’re lucky and people don’t mind perching on an ottoman, that’s seating for 5 (usually with Finley sandwiched in the middle of the loveseat). Since there are three of us in this family, that means we can only accommodate two other people in our living room – and at that, it’s not exactly comfortable.

The bonus of these challenges is that we get to imagine the possibilities. In addition, we’ve also been imagining what we might want to do in terms of a color scheme in this space. We have a black and white theme in the adjacent dining area, so it needs to be complimentary. Plus, we want wall colors for the space that will make it serene, but not your standard beige.

Lastly, we knew we needed to find another solution for our television and accompanying electronic components. While I didn’t mind the sofa table as a temporary solution, I am not a fan of staring at the electrical cords that hang down behind the table.

So all of that in mind – this is what we’ve got so far for a mood board.

Living Room Mood Board

We’re going to replace our current love seat and chair/ottoman with a couch and chair (recliner, if we can) – something low profile, and fitting the more mid-century modern feel of our house. Our goal is to mindfully mix the mid-century modern that we love with the more classic, mission style feel of some of our other furnishings. I think it’s going to work, but I guess time will tell!

The color scheme will be a light gray on the wall, with a darker gray accent on one wall in the dining area, on the wall above the fireplace and on the back of the bookcases. Accent colors in the decor will be red or yellow – we’re still debating this.

We’ve already started making some purchases, but we’ll wait to reveal how things are coming together until we’ve got more in place. As is the case with a mood board, this post is meant to inspire and imagine!

What mood is striking you these days? Are you ready to freshen your surroundings?

Decking New Halls.

A lot of things go into picking the right new house – location, room sizes, neighbors, layout, etc. For me and my sister Heather, it’s all about where the Christmas tree will go. According to our theory, if you can walk into a house and instantly know where your tree will go, then it’s the right house. In the case of The Duckling, I knew it would probably go either in the corner of the living room or in front of the living room picture window.

Aside from that critical decision I had no idea how else we’d decorate this house for the holidays. That’s the hard thing about moving into a new place, all of your usual spots for your Christmas decorations aren’t there any longer. But it’s also the fun thing about moving into a new place – opening those boxes and pulling out your decorations is like Christmas itself because you get to look at all of your things through a new lens and with a new perspective on whether you want to use them or not.

So as we pulled the boxes out of the basement and started to think about where we’d put things, we pared down our decorations significantly and did our best to keep things simple. So here’s a photo tour of our holidays at The Duckling 2013.

mantle 1

It all starts with the mantle. The mantle (in my humble opinion) is the face of the holidays. It’s the place in your home that always draws the most attention. In our case, we were particularly challenged by the mantle in this house for three reasons. First, it’s not the most robust mantle – at only about five inches wide, it creates a significant challenge to find things that will fit on the mantle and not fall off. Second, the mantle sits less than a foot from the fire place screen, so there’s no way that we could easily hang all of our stockings. And third, we had yet to find the right piece to hang above the mantle permanently.

mantle 2

roses in vase

We solved these issues by finding the retro mirrored piece at our local HomeGoods – score! We knew exactly what we were looking for and despite scouring online, we weren’t finding anything that was reasonable priced. I wasn’t about to spend $250 on something that was “just ok.” Instead we took a chance at HomeGoods and found this beauty for less than $50! Don’t you just love when that happens? For the rest of the mantle, we used our much beloved faux red berries – they look good and don’t make a mess – best of both worlds! And then our reindeer to match. Finally, we placed a clear vase in the center – it served both the purpose of holding lovely flowers and also kept the berry garland from falling off the narrow mantle. Love when form and function come together for an awesome purpose.

photo (1)

Next on the tour of new holiday decor is the tree. Our tree didn’t change, but in addition to our beloved collection of family ornaments from both sides of our family, we added some shiny, silver, sparkly star garland this year and invested in a new star topper. The tree has been with us for five years (ever since our dog Finley was a puppy and tried to eat the live tree – not such a good plan!). This is probably the last year for this tree as it’s not exactly standing straight in its stand any longer and it’s gotten pretty beat up. But you can’t tell by looking at it – either in person or in photos – so it lives another year!


Since our piddly mantle is not capable of holding our stockings, we improvised with the stockings on the banister this year – which we really like. It was a simple, but tasteful way to continue the holiday decor into our entry hallway. I had contemplated adding a garland of greens, but it would have been to heavy in a relatively small space. So instead we dressed it up a bit with the red and gold ribbon. I’ve already got some thoughts on what else I might do next year to beef it up a bit, but for now, I’m happy with what we’ve got going on.



No matter the house we’re living in, there will always be a couple of staple decorations that I put out each year. The first are the Mr. and Mrs. Claus that were part of my parent’s decor every year. They probably date back to the 60’s and every year they get a little more mangy looking, but they were the very favorite decoration of my childhood, so they stay! The second is the mini tree standing next to them. Patrick made this in college and it’s something that he requires be put out every year and every year it also looks more mangy than the year before, but we fluff it up and bring it back to life. The third is a ceramic Santa statue that my friend Lee gave me one year for Christmas. Each of these is special for different reasons and as such, they will always have a home in our home.



One of the last decor items that we always put out are our holiday pillows. It’s probably one of the easiest things we do because we simply swap out the pillows that are out already or add pillows where none were. The dutch family pillows came from IKEA last year and were the last four that were in the store and were all display items. So we ended up getting them (including the feather inserts) at a huge discount – instead of spending what would have been $25 per pillow with insert, the awesome guy in the clearance counter made the executive decision to give them to us for $5 a piece. It made the mad dash that we made around the store all worth while! Then the snowman pillow matches our stockings and was purchased at one  of our favorite local stores, Brickhouse Antiques, located in the Village of Bellefonte.


And last – but never least – is the flower of the season. The poinsettia is always in our house, usually courtesy of our Auntie Susie and Cousins Chris and Jeff out in San Diego. And this year was no exception! The plant arrived the weekend before Christmas and has been a gorgeous addition to the center of our table. We’ll do our best to keep it alive and well through the winter, although that can always be a challenge when the heat is kicking!

So that’s the story of how The Duckling has been decked out for the holidays this year! I’m happy with how it turned out this year, but I’ve already got some ideas for next year. So I look forward to seeing how things progress in years to come!

Until then…

Bucket List of Crazy.

Sorry we’ve been MIA for a few weeks – lots going on around here and the blog took a backseat. But we’ve got a lot to update you on, so hopefully you’ll hear more from us in the coming weeks. In the meantime…

It’s that time, folks….time for…..THE LISTS TO END ALL LISTS!!!!!! (Imagine that being said in that booming TV announcer-type voice and it makes it that much more exciting, doesn’t it?).

From the time we moved into The Duckling, we had an every-growing mental to-do list. Then one night we finally transferred that list to paper. And since then we’ve been gradually checking things off. But, now it is time…time to let you in on a little thing we like to call our “Bucket List of Crazy.”

What follows is a room by room list of the things that we will be doing to this house over the next few years. Some of it has already been done (and in the tradition of any to do list is now crossed off, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off!) and some of it is in the works, but most of it is a vision of what’s to come. So let’s get started!


Front of House (50% done)

  1. Put shutters on all front windows
  2. Paint front door
  3. Replace front door light
  4. Re-do the front stoop
  5. Re-grade the front yard
  6. Plant grass seed
  7. Put blue stone down for temporary front path
  8. Rebuild front path
  9. Put in new landscaping
  10. Trim up trees
  11. Remove nasty bushes at bottom of driveway
  12. Replant beds at bottom of driveway
  13. Coat driveway
  14. Install window boxes on all windows
  15. Replace mailbox
  16. Install uplighting along front facade

photo (1)

Driveway Side of House (20% done)

  1. Extend driveway & bump out
  2. Remove bushes at side door
  3. Replant flower bed by the side door
  4. Install new light above garage door
  5. Paint garage door
  6. Replace garage door with carriage doors
  7. Replace light above side door
  8. Replace side door stoop
  9. Add covered entry to side door


Back of House (10% done)

  1. Remove bushes by the back door
  2. Remove bushes along side of the house
  3. Plant new landscaping along back and side of house
  4. Remove dead spruce tree
  5. Replace light at the back door
  6. Install some type of green screen to hide utilities
  7. Install patio at the back door (temporary in case we do the big plan)
  8. Build a great room/dining room/master suite addition (THIS? This, is the big plan 7 years down the road at earliest)
  9. Clean out the underbrush along three sides of the backyard
  10. Install raised garden beds in back corner of the yard

Sunroom - after.

Sunporch (10% done)

  1. Install door between sunporch and garage
  2. Paint walls and ceiling
  3. Replace overhead light
  4. Replace windows
  5. Add curtains to windows
  6. Paint side door
  7. Install new door knob on side door

Dining area - after.

Living room - after.

Living Room / Dining Area (5% done)

  1. Paint walls, trim and ceilings
  2. Install new chandelier in dining room
  3. Fix water damage along the fireplace wall
  4. Paint fireplace
  5. Install new curtains
  6. Purchase new couch and rug

Kitchen - after. LOVE our IKEA pulls on the cabinets - DO NOT buy these pulls anywhere else. They are easy to install and super reasonably priced. LOVE THEM!! (And a big shout out to my Dad for perfecting the installation of the pulls!)

Kitchen (60% done)

  1. Paint walls, trim and ceiling
  2. Remove swinging door to dining area
  3. Remove door to front entry
  4. Paint pantry door
  5. Paint basement door
  6. Replace storm door on back door
  7. Install new door sweep on back door
  8. Install hardware on kitchen cabinets
  9. Replace all door knobs
  10. Paint kitchen cabinets (?? – we’re still on the fence on this one).

Love this stairway!

Front Entry (10% done)

  1. Paint hall closet door
  2. Paint spindles on the stairway
  3. Paint walls, ceiling and trim
  4. Replace knob on hall closet door
  5. Install new light fixture

It's small, which is why it's mostly just mine and the boys are using the larger bathroom upstairs.

First Floor Bath / Linen Closet / Hallway (30% done)

  1. Replace accent tiles in bath
  2. Paint walls, trim, ceilings
  3. Paint bathroom vanity
  4. Repair bathroom faucet
  5. Install new knobs on bathroom vanity
  6. Install new hooks for bath towels
  7. Install new toilet paper holder
  8. Line shelves in linen closet
  9. Replace all door knobs


Master Bedroom (30% done)

  1. Paint walls, trim, ceiling
  2. Replace door knobs
  3. Remove mini blinds
  4. Install new curtains
  5. Install California Closets


Gavin’s Room (0% done)

  1. Paint walls, trim, ceiling
  2. Replace door knobs
  3. Install curtains
  4. Remove mini blinds
  5. Paint bed frame and install


Guest Room (0% done)

  1. Paint walls, trim, ceiling
  2. Replace single-panel doors with two-panel doors
  3. Paint dresser drawers
  4. Replace drawer knobs
  5. Replace door knobs
  6. Install new overhead light


Office (0% done)

  1. Paint walls, trim, ceiling
  2. Paint dresser drawers
  3. Replace drawer knobs
  4. Replace single-panel doors with two-panel doors


Upstairs Bathroom (0% done)

  1. Two words….GUT JOB. (Enough said)


Basement (10% done)

  1. Clean up unfinished area
  2. Remove old shelves in unfinished area
  3. Paint floor in unfinished area
  4. Drylock walls in unfinished area
  5. Install granite on the bar
  6. Resurface bar with wainscotting
  7. Replace basement windows
  8. Paint walls, trim, ceiling and doors
  9. Solve the musty odor (sort of done?)

So there you have it! If you managed to get through this list, then you can see how much we have to get done. And not everything we’re doing will be on this list – some of it will be about decor, which of course we’ll keep you posted on as well. In the meantime, pray for us! We’re going to be at this for a while!

Until next time….

Step Right Up & Shutter!

It’s been a busy month at The Duckling! We’ve been working hard to transform this house into a lovely swan, which has been no easy feat! But we’ve made some great progress with a new front step and new shutters.

When we first saw The Duckling, Patrick and I took one look at the front step and said, “that’s got to go!” We knew that we wanted something more in keeping with the Cape Cod feel than the pressure-treated lumber that was plunked down, clearly as a temporary fix. Although utilitarian, it was not exactly aesthetically pleasing.


See what I mean?

So we immediately began exploring our options and soon decided that a nice blue stone landing about six inches below the front door (rather than level like the landing used to be) was the right way to go. We dialed up our go-to guy Paul Renzi of Renzi Masonry and soon got to work on crafting a plan. And Patrick, itching to get started, got right to work demolishing the old front step.


Hubby unexpectedly uncovered the original brick landing – that was crumbling and had a random bristle brush still sitting on it. Weird.


See the brush? It was under the wood decking. WHO DECKS OVER A BRISTLE BRUSH?!

So with the deck demolished well before the work to rebuild was going to start, we were left with a crumbly old brick landing to try and pretty up with a door mat and some urns filled with pumpkins.

Crumbling brick front step be damned - we can still make it presentable!

Crumbling brick front step be damned – we can still make it semi-presentable!

Thankfully the semi-presentable landing didn’t have to stay that way for too long! Our team at Renzi Masonry called within a week and said we’ll be there this week! And so the “real” demo began.


When the back-ho, fill dirt and mobile dumpster arrive, you know it’s real!


No going back now! The old landing is gone and there’s a big hole!


The sunlight and shadows almost make this mess look romantic….almost.


That’s a whole lotta rubble!

So with all of the demo done, it was time to start building ‘er back up. We were so excited to come home to see what the team had done – it was like Christmas morning every evening at 5:30 at The Duckling!


Starting to look like a real landing!


Some gorgeous blue stone and brick!

Looking good!

And the finished product!

So in the end, the grading of the front yard ended up covering up most of the brick, but we expect there will be some settlement of that dirt and the brick will show up some more.

While all of the landing and grading work was going on, our handyman, Ken Morrison from Home Remedies, did us a major favor and got our new shutters up too. So literally in the course of a week, The Duckling had its frown turned upside down and went from this…



To this…

And after!

And after!

While we still have a way to go – landscaping, front walk, window boxes and some grass! – we’re pretty thrilled with how far things have come! Here are a couple more angles.



So that’s the biggest news here at The Duckling! Coming soon – some landscape demo, repainting the garage door and The Bucket List of Crazy (that oughta keep you guessing!)

Until then…

The Knob’s The Thing.

When you move into a new home, there’s always that_one_thing that drives you a little batty. (Ok, full disclosure there was more than one_thing at The Duckling that made us batty). But for me, the sticky door knob on the sun-porch door was my thing. Most days it would function just fine. Then, there would be that day when I would have the trifecta of complications going on and the knob would stick. Inevitably, it was raining, I was carrying a bunch of stuff out of the car, trying to hustle my favorite three year-old inside so he could make it to the potty in time and that &^*($ door knob would stick!

The knob’s last straw was on a day as described above and I lost my mind. (Instant Replay: “That’s it! I’ve had it! The_knob_goes!”)



So what’s a frustrated momma to do? Well, first I call my Dad. You see, like a good father does, he gave me enough DIY skill to handle the small things, and enough blind self-confidence to think that I could tackle something like installing and re-keying my own door knob. It’s that blind self-confidence which usually gets me into trouble. Dad was coming over later that day and said – “we’ll figure it out, but maybe Home Depot or your local hardware store could re-key it for you!”

Um, noooo…….

Since patience is not my virtue, what do I do? Take things into my own hands of course! Off to our locally-owned hardware store I go to explore my options and to most certainly NOT ask them to re-key the lock for me. I can figure this out on my own! I see lots of knobs – interior, exterior, combo knob and deadbolt, etc. My eyes land on the Kwikset exterior knob that has a self re-key option called Smart Key. SCORE! (I mean, really….when the knob gods hand you a gift, you accept it gratefully!).

Hello, love!

Hello, love!

So I bring the winner home and promptly get to work swapping out the knob. It took all of 10 seconds to unscrew and remove the old knob and strike plate (oh yeah, I sound like I know of what I speak, do I not?)



Then I read the directions for the new knob. I tackled the easy parts first – screwing in the new strike plate was a piece of cake because it literally fit perfectly in the slot for the old strike plate.

So shiny!

So shiny!

Then I had to measure “the basket” – essentially from the center of the hole in the door to the outside edge – to see how long the latch needed to be. At 2 3/4 inches, it meant adjusting the chamber – easy-peasy with the flip of a spring pin. Then I put that into it’s slot and that step was done!

Fits like a glove!

Fits like a glove!

Now it was time to get down to the real business. The way this lock was designed, it was literally fool-proof so long as you followed directions. You put stemmed knob (aka, the side where the key would go) through the latch slots. And then lined the non-stemmed knob (aka, the side of the knob that would go on the inside of the door) up with the stemmed part, twisted it down over the screws, tightened the screws and voila!

Hello, gorgeous!

Hello, gorgeous!

A couple of double checks that the door was opening and closing ok and it was time to re-key the knob. The lockset came with this little pin thing that you use to change the lock set to the key you want to use rather than the one that came with the lock. Since we’d spent a good chunk o’ change re-keying the whole house after we moved in, I figured best to spend a little more and buy the lockset that I could easily re-key myself.

So the situation is this – you put the key that came with the lockset into the lock and turn it to the right 90 degrees. You put the pin into the tiny slot and remove the original key still in the 90 degree position. You then put your key of choice into the lock at the 90 degree position, turn it upright and then turn it back to the 90 degree position. If at that point you try to pull the key out and it won’t remove, you’ve succeeded in your re-keying efforts. If it comes out, then it didn’t work and you have to start over with the instructions provided.

Luckily my re-keying attempt was a success the first time out of the gate – so no need to worry about Plan B. And she’s a beauty and functions perfectly! No sticking, and actually I think the door as a whole functions better.



And bonus? When my Dad walked into the house a couple hours later, I was all, “no need to worry about that knob, Dad – your girl’s got some mad DIY skills and I handled it all on my own!” He was stunned and a tad impressed, if I do say so myself!

The two downsides to my shiny new knob? 1) Now I need to repaint the door and the trim – it’s looking rough next to that shiny new knob and it’s time to make it all look as good as that knob! And 2) now my husband has officially nominated me “in charge of all knob replacements going forward.” Umm…..yay?

The moral of the story? The knob’s the thing…..that can open a whole can of worms! Because as we know, painting the door will lead to painting the whole room.

It’s a slippery slope when you start with a knob!

Doors, doors. Everywhere doors.

Every house has it quirks – something you scratch your head about and wonder “what were they thinking!?” The Duckling has many, many quirks, but one of the most obvious is the doors. First of all, there are way more doors in this house than are needed. Like in the kitchen, where, before we started tinkering, there were five doors. FIVE! There were two doors that led to other rooms, a door that led to the basement, a door that led outside and a door to the pantry closet. That’s about two doors too many. So we promptly got to work taking down the two doors that led to other rooms.

The first was the swinging door that kept the dining room separate from the kitchen. While I get how in the 1950’s there was an interest in closing the kitchen off from the house, in this century we’ve come to recognize that an open flow is much better. We’ve also come to realize that a saloon-style aesthetic isn’t really where’s it’s at. So, without hesitation, off with her hinge! But how do you take a swinging door off its pin and hinge? That is a very good question, to which I found the answer here. In a few easy steps she was gone – much better, don’t you think?

Dining area - before.

There’s that saloon door!

Dining area - after.

No more saloon – much better!

Next it was the door that closed the kitchen off from the entry hallway. Again, I think the designers of the 1950’s were thinking that no one should enter a home and have the kitchen be the first thing they see. But again, in this century, we take a lot of pride in our kitchens, particularly if they’ve been upgraded and are show quality. We love The Duckling’s kitchen, so we have no shame in having it seen when you walk in the front door. And for that matter, the door was always standing open anyway, so there was really no need for it to be there. So off she goes!


What we saw every time we walked from the bedrooms to the living areas of the house.


Always open for business.


Closing the door made the hallway feel like a tomb.


Door gone = a wall now available for art!


No more tomb. Let there be light!

Aaah, much better! Now that our kitchen was freed from the chains of too many doors, we focused on the door at the top of the stairs. Again, probably there for functionality – either for heating and cooling purposes or for shutting off the noise from the first floor if someone was trying to sleep on the second floor. But since we weren’t worried about either of these issues, and the door was always standing open, it seemed logical to eliminate the door that literally created a Bermuda Triangle of doors! In this small hallway at the top of the landing were again 5 doors – two to bedrooms, one to the stairs, one to the bathroom and one to the hall closet – so taking off the stair door was quickly a priority. And what a difference!


Not exactly welcoming.


Hello Bermuda Triangle!


That’s one happy, handy hubby!


Bermuda Triangle no more!


Come on up!

Although these doors may seem pretty small in terms of a project, they have dramatically improved the spaces. I feel like I could dance Swan Lake around the upstairs hallway now!

The last quirk about the doors in this house is that they don’t all match. Some are the 1950’s two panel original doors, others were new six panel unpainted solid wood, and still others are flat panel hollow core doors. Eventually we will be looking to find the mates to the original two panel doors so we can keep the original character of the home in tact.

Until then, we will live with what we’ve got and be thankful that at least the doors we wanted to keep in place are fully functioning!


I’m a firm believer that the front door of your house is the most important detail on the outside of your house. It is the first thing that people see and it speaks volumes about the people who live behind that door. It’s not so much the style of the door that matters (although let’s be honest, a steel front door on a historic home does seem a bit out of character), but it’s what you do with the front door that counts.

When we bought our last house, the door was the natural wood color. And we probably could have left it that way, but it was a light wood on a medium gray stone house – it didn’t seem to jive with the house or with us. So it was promptly painted red. What did red say about us? On that house, I think it said – classic, but bold; traditional, yet fun – which is also probably a good way to describe us as a family too.

We knew from the start that The Duckling’s front door needed some oomph – and quickly. The white, although utilitarian, didn’t really say anything about who we are as a family. So until we could pick a color, I put a wreath up there to at least signal a feeling of “we’re home!” to the folks in our neighborhood and coming to our front door.


The front door the day we bought the house.


We get by with a little help from a wreath.

The big debate in our house was what color this front door should be. This wasn’t an easy question to answer because we haven’t been exactly sure whether we’ll paint the brick or not….this is still up for debate. So we knew that whatever color we chose, we had to make it something that would go with the brick as is or the brick painted a light to medium tone gray. And we know we are going to put black shutters on the house, so the color needed to look good with black too.

So, what to do, but I start looking on Pinterest – the ultimate resource for when you need some inspiration. Patrick said, what about a nice yellow? Hmmmm…..let’s see. There’s this, this and this. But those just didn’t seem right. But this and this? Oh yeah, that’s The Duckling. Eventually the whole front door will likely be replaced with one just like this so we can have more natural light in our front hallway. But until then, we paint!

So off to the local Sherwin Williams we go to find some paint chips to see which one we like. In classic paint selecting style, what we thought looked good in the store ended up being putrid when we held it up against the brick. So after a half dozen yellows, where did we land? Sherwin William’s Bee. It’s not too bright, not too pale, just the perfect sunny shade of yellow.

But before we could jump into painting the door we had to take care of the hardware. The top lock was a new brass and we weren’t really sure what the metal was of the 60+ year old hardware below it. We knew we didn’t want brass and that we would probably like black fixtures. But again, we’re going to likely replace this door eventually, so why spend the money now on hardware for a door that is not going to be there in another five years. The solution? We paint! We chose Rustoleum’s Gloss Black. We weren’t sure how this would turn out, but we figured it was worth a shot.

Patrick started by lightly sanding the new brass to rough it up a bit for the paint. Then he started to sand the hardware below – and lo and behold, it was brass! And not the new brass, but a really lovely classic 1950’s brass! We hesitated for a second….should we paint it?

The hardware - before.

The hardware – before.

The hardware - post sanding - where the beauty of the brass comes through.

The hardware – post sanding – where the beauty of the brass comes through.

But we knew that brass was going to look awful next to the yellow paint and furthermore, the brass up top and the brass on the bottom were no where near a match in quality or color. So we continued on the painting venture and we’re thrilled – it turned out just like we’d hoped! (But I’ll save the big reveal until the end!)

Next it was on to the front door. Patrick wiped down the door and sanded it up a bit to help the paint adhere. It is Sherwin Williams’ Emerald Gloss paint. It only took two coats and went on beautifully. And boy what a difference!

Now that's a happy front door!

Now that’s a happy front door!

As we suspected, painting our front door added some serious oomph to our curb appeal. Now our front door not only says “we’re home!” but it also says we’re happy to be here!

So now when I pull in the driveway, I look at that door and it just makes me smile! Next on the list will be fixing the front stoop, replacing the pipes connecting our downspouts to the sewer pipes, putting up the shutters, cleaning the gutters and siding and doing some serious landscaping.

And that’s just on the outside….aah, the never-ending work of a homeowner!