The first gift to the house was this vintage metal sink which Rob and Ellen, the contractors, "had been saving for someplace special." Note artful piping by plumber Mike O'Connor (Perotti's).
cleaning the basement
The quality of a restoration shows up best in the basement, where workmanship goes unconcealed.
There were two existing powder rooms on the first floor. We think the one under the center stairs was added around 1915. The one in the den was put in in the 1930s for John Rudd's grandmother who came for long visits, when she could no longer navigate steps to a second floor bedroom. Both of those powder rooms have been gutted and the contractor was horrified to see that neither of them had any foundations. Beneath the floor in each was only dirt. No wonder the porcelain was always so cold! We've cleaned up the earthen cavity (thanks, Bill!) and added insulation and tucked slim heat registers behind sinks where they'll be unobtrusive but invaluable to visitors on a cold, winter day. Should winter ever come again. Is February the new spring??
This vintage beauty Chris found at Old School Plumbing fits perfectly into a pantry off the kitchen. It's a hefty, working size. With gorgeous gams!
when green restorations are copper
Rob Anderson, the contractor, specializes in "green" restorations that reuse materials that are already onsite. Here, he's turned a kitchen cold pantry into a mudroom/powder room using a sink retrieved from the basement. The sink had originally been used in the kitchen, but when the former owner redid the kitchen in 1972, he moved it into the basement for a dark room. Rob retrieved it and Mike the plumber removed years of photo chemical stains from the porcelain and rigged an artful copper drain below.
master bath gets monster bath
This is an original Mott tub that came with the house. The team needs a moment to recover after moving it. They estimate it weighs about 1000 pounds.
the art of plumbing
One of the hardest parts of renovating an old home is something that doesn't show but is integral to the success of a restoration: laying the pipes. Every fixture has pipes that lead to drains and these have to be pitched properly if fixtures are to work. When plumbing was first introduced into homes, pipes were proudly displayed as a sign of modernity. But today's challenge is hiding the pipes in walls, floors and ceilings. (Or behind bookcases.)
For this job, our contractor will trust only one plumber. Mike is a plumbing mechanic who takes notes on each room and spends time wandering the house before taking up tools, constructing mental layouts before he does "rough-ins." Here, he measures before sneaking in pipes between floor joists in the second floor hall bathroom.
"Few plumbers can get pipes pitch perfect in an old house," Rob says. "Mike's rough-ins are a work of art that nobody sees but people appreciate for years without realizing it."
During the renovation of 1860, rudimentary toilets were installed on the first floor in Holleywood. In 1915, the plumbing was updated. Ironic that this vintage commode in the front hall powder room works better than plenty of models made today.
old school plumbing
Chris did find old sinks, courtesy of Walter who owns a shop called Old School Plumbing, based aptly in an 1870s schoolhouse that he renovated himself. He's the source of rare vintage sinks and fittings. "The faucets in Mark Twain's butler's pantry came from my shop!"
My husband Donald is a bath-taker. Some people, when stressed, turn to drink or to chocolate. Donald prefers a hot soak with good book. Which is why we've decided to move the clawfoot tub into the octagonal tower room next to the master--so he can open the door to the Juliette balcony for views of the lake as he takes the cure.
Relocating the clawfoot (which happily didn't sell in the tag sale, despite a bargain price of $300 affixed to its rim) turns out to be more complicated than it sounds, as is almost every part of a renovation. Unless we want to fill the bathtub by hand, it's got to have plumbing and plumbing requires pipes going down to the basement. However, the walls in the tower are outside walls which means putting pipes in them assures pipes will freeze. Frank and Rob hit on the idea of running the pipes inside, but hiding them behind bookshelves on the first floor.
When Matt the carpenter moves the cabinet, he discovers it to be amazingly solid. And held to the wall expertly by four clever screws. When Matt removes the screws, the cabinet falls cleanly away from the wall. Rob the contractor (who is also a master carpenter) admires the expert mortise and tenon construction. As far from Ikea as bookshelves can get.
who we are
We are a couple of Upper West Siders from NYC who never set out to buy an old mansion in Connecticut. But the moment we walked through its massive front door, we were smitten. The info on this site is earnestly cobbled from a variety of sources, including the web. Please let us know if we've gotten something wrong, or if there's a story about Holleywood you'd like to share.