Black is the new orange

Decorating trends come and go. I can easily tell when a house was decorated by the color of the walls, rugs, and furniture. In the last few years gray has been popular.  Even though the trend is dying it isn’t unusual to see an entire home interior painted in shades of gray with gray flooring.

I don’t disapprove of gray but not on every surface. I have heard designers talk about colors that will “pop” in a gray room. I guess I don’t expect popping to be going on in my house.

In the last few years, all-black exteriors have become a trend.  The white snow will make the black house “pop” all winter.

In color psychology, black means power and control. Black is intimidating, unfriendly, and unapproachable. Knowing that helps me understand.

An all-black exterior isn’t going to be easy to paint over when white becomes the new black in a few years.

black house with black trim
Forepaughs Mansion on Exchange Street in St. Paul.

Buying a house and making repairs

brick turretMost of the houses I sell are old because St. Paul has mostly old houses and that is mainly where I work. My own house is over 165 years old. I have sold new houses and new construction too.

One mistake old house buyers commonly make is to try and fix and or upgrade everything right away. That isn’t a good idea. A home buyer can end up spending too much money.

The best approach, and this advice is from a Realtor® and an old house owner is to come up with a plan. Prioritize repairs and upgrades and create a budget. Start with a big list and break it down into a 3 or 5 year plan.

Also have an emergency fund. Things wear out in any house. It helps to have funds available to replace major appliances.

It is important to keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be fixed right away.

Owning an old house, or a historic house like mine isn’t for everyone but all houses require maintenance and periodic repairs. Most everything in a house can be upgraded.

Home energy use – is it up or down?

Light bulbAccording to Xcel Energy, we use 7 times more natural gas than our energy-efficient neighbors. When I saw the report I was concerned about a gas leak. I looked back at natural gas usage in prior years and our consumption is about the same. Apparently, we have a lot of neighbors who either stopped heating their homes or are no longer using natural gas.

The report from Xcel Energy also suggested replacing the frig with a more energy-efficient model as a way to use less natural gas. Interesting suggestion considering the refrigerator is electric. 

I think it is safe to ignore the energy consumption reports from Xcel. Besides, there is no point in comparing ourselves with others. I would rather work to beat my personal best. That way we are comparing current energy consumption with past consumption rather than reading a report that is likely comparing our old house to a newer smaller condo.

There are some simple ways to use less electricity. We can turn off lights when we leave a room and turn off office equipment at night. We can program the programmable thermostat and turn the heat down at night and when we are away.

I like to program the dishwasher to run in the middle of the night when energy costs are lower. I do the same with the wash and put it in the dryer as soon as I get up in the morning.

St. Paul storm windows

windowIf you look closely you may see windows covered with plastic. For many of us, insulating window film is a temporary answer to an expensive problem.

I live in a very old house and most of the windows leak. The worst windows were installed in the late 1980’s. Some of the windows are good but they were not installed correctly. We have replaced a few and those windows do not leak cold air into the house.

If you feel a breeze in your old St. Paul house go to your local hardware or home improvement store and pick up some window film. It is fairly easy to install, inexpensive, and can mean a more comfortable winter.

I have heavy construction plastic on my basement windows and window film on two bathroom windows on the West and northwest sides of the house.

Also, consider insulated drapes or shades. They can help keep the house warm on those cold winter nights.

New windows can help too but they are expensive but will pay for themselves after a couple of decades.

Pro homeowner tip: Do not buy cheap replacement windows. They are not worth it.

Pro homebuyer tip: If you are buying an old house in St. Paul expect it to have old windows. If you want new windows buy a new house.

Getting ready for winter

April 15 2018

It is time to put the hoses away and turn off the water to the outdoor spigots. They will freeze if the temperature stays below freezing for a day or two.

Last weekend I put some plastic on a couple of the windows. They need to be repaired or replaced but for now, a little plastic will go a long way. There are window kits at your local hardware store. The plastic can be put on the inside or the outside and it can make a big difference.

This year it snowed before I got the shovels out and the snow brush for the car was in the trunk. Now is the time to gas up the snow blower and test it to see if it works. Gas-powered snow blowers do a great job if they start. If I were to replace mine it would be with a battery-powered unit.

I like those stuffed snakes for stopping drafts under doors or windows.

Boot parks are handy, especially in houses like mine with hardwood floors. I got the boots out and on the boot park by the back door.


Treasures in old houses

Over the years I have had the opportunity to get inside many houses and I find treasures like original woodwork, hardware, stained glass windows, and antique light fixtures. I kind of nerd out over them because I grew up in a historic house and I own one today.

Here is a light fixture I found in an arts and crafts style house built in the 1920s and located in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.  There were several vintage light fixtures and light switches.

Brass light fixture
Light fixture from the 1920s

I have a collection of photographs I have taken over the years of ancient heating plants, a cistern or two, a washing machine-type device from the early 1900s, and lots of stained glass windows and antique light fixtures.

I guess it is an electronic museum of sorts. I can’t resist taking pictures of ancient heating plants. Just when I think I have seen them all I see something I have never seen before.