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Home Sweet Home: New Paint, New Life

Home Sweet Home: New Paint, New Life
Island beauty

Painting and Patience

Seventeen years ago I drove up a gravel drive to behold the house destined to become my new home. Imperfectly perfect, the pioneer beauty imbued an elegant simplicity wrought a century ago, and still stood proud even with the injustices of layered “improvements” that fell short of her grace and dignity.

After I moved in, I knew it would take awhile to paint the house but I had no idea that nearly two decades would pass before this striking muse in a dirty dress would be granted a wardrobe change. As my Seattle fixer taught me, first things first though; electrical, plumbing, foundation, and structural work would have to precede any desire to create my own aesthetic movement and mark on the exterior. Patience became my learned virtue.

Vashon farmhouse the peach palace
The “Peach Palace” in 2004 replete with a tarp-wrapped chimney, and sided with 50s asbestos shingles.

The House and I: Primed for Painting

My esteemed housepainter has begun this epic transformation, and I believe an “Alleluia!” is in order. (Feel free to throw in a couple amens, too!) After I hired an abatement company to remove fifties siding, my friend Jeff and I patched holes, replaced compromised boards, and added new corner trim, which was removed earlier when the asbestos tiles were installed in the fifties. Jeff, the star of this trim-work team, was meticulous and climbed ladders–my kind of skill set! As for me, well, think panda on a pole; I know better. Grounded grunt work is my game with a soupçon of finesse when needed. Oh, and I can fetch a tool like no one’s Golden Retriever.

A Fine Friend Captures a Fine House

Let me share with you some before-painting photos revealing the original presence of form, functionality and beauty hidden behind sheathing for over sixty years. My talented friend Kent Phelan photographed my favorite perch before her big paint job, using his epic large-format Deardorff wood-box camera. His imagery is nothing less than time travel. Thank you Kent!

Northwest side
Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
cold pantry
My cold air pantry, just a screen between the elements and my indoor larder.
Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
farmhouse porch
My summer haunt: breakfast, lunch and dinner on the wicker table; and power naps on the perfect porch sofa.
Photo credit: Kent Phelan Tall Clover Farm Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
West side of house: mudroom and upper floor guarded by my always growing collection of potted plants.
Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
South and weather side of the house. Window repair is also on the list. Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160

House Paint Colors

The hot topic with any house painting is of course house colors. I can assure you I’ve chewed on this decision with the fervor of Buddy on a bone. I’ve changed my mind so many times, I quit answering inquiries with any specificity or conviction, instead mumbling “Ummm, yeah, I’m really close.” I could only handle so many puzzled looks chased by a “ummm, interesting choice.” Which brings us to the timely question now, “So Tom, what color did you choose?” I will say, the answer will come in another post, with before-and-after pictures, but for now I wish to showcase the austere beauty of my sweet pioneer home in a natural pre-paint state. And besides, I may change my mind tomorrow when we actually order and buy the paint. 

Preparation and Anticipation

Here are a few other photographs as we start to prime; and stay tuned for our debutante’s big day and re-introduction post.

house paint primed
Original shiplap siding shines…
The eighteen foot unsupported beam finally bolstered by adding two matching chamfered posts. Matching brackets will be added once made.
Facing north, sporting a new coat of primer…

Thanks for sharing my love of old houses, and I look forward to revealing the painting progress in the weeks to come. And based on Pacific Northwest autumn weather patterns, I may have to extend that estimate of completion. It’s okay; I’m in it for the long haul.


  1. Oho — you devil — leaving us in suspense again. What marvelous photos with the large format camera! A fitting prelude to The Grande Reveale to come. Waiting ….. waiting ….. waiting …..

      • haha. And I think it is a bold move on your part to begin outdoor painting, this time of year. I am about to commence an indoor painting job, delayed until the 10% discounted ‘winter’ rates began on October 1. ( I am quaking in my boots, too, I can tell you, at the promise of 10 days of disruption, though I hope it will be worth it.) I am keeping my fingers crossed for you to have bright, sunny weather all month, so the old girl can settle into rainy winter with a snug new coat of paint.

  2. Tom, always so wonderful to hear from you and quite enjoy the house details! And how is your garden and orchard doing? Thanks for sharing your delight. Ear-scratches to Buddy.

    • Hi Cheryl, the garden was battered by excessive heat and dryness this year, and is now awaiting a long misty Pacific Northwest fall and winter sleep. But just wait until next year! 😉 The orchard also suffered from a hot, dry summer. (Never thought I’d ever say that, here on Puget Sound.) Some trees died, but others prevailed. The orchard is becoming a living laboratory of the survival of the fittest. I’ll be replanting some more adaptable cultivars, once I find out what those are. Take care, and thanks for the visit and kind words.

      • Hey Tom, speaking of orchards ….. yeah, crazily hot summer. 108 for several days here in Bend, where 100 is still rare and summer highs are traditionally in the high 80’s to low 90’s. But our short growing season (90-100 days) got a tremendous boost with the heat wave in late June, when we usually get at least a day or two of frost. In 47 years of Bend gardening, I have never gotten so many ripe-on-the-vine tomatoes, even the big, risky (for us) bid dudes with 70+ day maturity periods. Also melons (in my greenhouse) and HUZZAH: peaches! Yes, indeed. 37 ripe peaches on my tiny Contender peach tree. I’m so proud! How did your peach trees (and others) fare re production?

  3. Tom so good to hear from you.. However I am disappointed in not knowing the final outcome. I loved the pictures of your lady waiting to be dressed in new finery. Your house is so full of charm and character. That is the kind of home I would love to find some year. I do live in a lovely house that is 20 years old but it does not have the quaint character that you find in older homes like yours. I am looking forward to seeing your Grand old lady in her new paint.

    Your friend, Janet

    PS: Teddi sends greetings to Buddy and you.

    • Good Morning Janet, sorry to leave you guessing on paint colors, but in this case I feel a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll show you the her new livery until completion. Thank you for the kind words about my sweet farmhouse. It’s really been a fun process because I not beholden to time pressures. I’m just chipping away at a long to-do list. It gets done when it gets done. I will pass along Teddi’s hello to Buddy once he gets up. With his bed over the furnace register, that may be a while. Take care, and thanks again. Tom

  4. Looking good! I can’t wait to see the final product. Buddy must be pleased. Congratulations on getting to this point. Amen, brother. Amen.

    • Thanks Lisa! Hopefully I’ll have something to show in a couple weeks. Buddy is over the moon, and often asks, “Uh Tom, what took you so long?” 😉

  5. i am dying to see this completed! have you seen my guest house basement project? you talk about a challenge! i won’t be done until spring at the earliest. i started last may. my toilet is back-ordered for 7 more weeks. it’s a challenge but fun at the same time.

    • I have not seen your guest house basement project. I guess I was too busy drooling over your Tuscan Stew recipe post. I’ll have to revisit your blog. Cheers!

  6. Tom and Buddy-the Peach Palace looks great under her previous “skin” and will look even better once she’s painted!! Very impressive work!!
    On your summer heat-isn’t that crazy!!? Here on the Oregon coast, there might’ve been one or two days that topped 80. But the up side of that, we had a huge peach harvest and now trying to deal with an even bigger apple harvest. So strange your area had such a heat wave.
    Thanks for the post-I’m eagerly awaiting your newly painted beauty!

    • Laura, many a friend of mine drove south to the Oregon Coast this summer for windswept, refreshing reprieves. I lived vicariously with a fan, ice chest, and their lovely online photos. Love that you had a great harvest. Peaches and Apples are a such sign of a life well-lived.

  7. The black and white photos are amazing-what a fantastic idea. I hope you let us know what trees were warriors and adapted to these changing times.

    • Perri, I took out a dead Cameo Apple and Chestnut Crabapple. My Hudson’s Golden Gem apple, Melrose apple, and Beni Shogun Fuji apple had good crops during our drought. My beloved York apple was killed by ravenous root-eating voles. Mirabelle plum excelled in the heat as did my Pershore Plum tree. Nanaimo peach adapted to the heat pretty well.

  8. This is a great vicarious experience for me, living in a contemporary home, but loving the character of yours. Tom, your writing is superb!

  9. It’s okay to take your time tom. It took us 2 years to paint the old 120 y.o. Four Square on Soper. Although a bit of a grind, I did enjoy the Power Lift to prep and paint the 35′ East Side of the house, LOL! It is looking marvelous!

  10. Tom, Great post and thanks for sharing. Your home is beautiful indeed. Kind of reminds me of many of the older Southern homes common around here in Georgia. I especially like all the glass which should give you lots of natural light. And you folks in the Pacific NW did suffer thru an incredibly hot heat wave this year. Ready for summer to be over and gone but we will probably have more 80s. Keep us posted! Randy/GA

    • Hi Randy, I grew up in the South, and agree, this house could be a kissing cousin to some of my favorite southern homes. There’s an openness to it, deep windows, and a door on every porch. I’m not sure how I survived those hot summers as a child. As an adult, the Pacific NW suits my sensibilities quite nicely. Give me a sweater and flannel shirt and I’m plenty warm enough in winter. Take care, thanks for the kind words and visit! Tom

  11. Wonderful, Tom. You are doing the place proud, and it’s great fun to read your commentary, and to see the progress. I’ve probably said this before, but I am very pleased, and you are to be congratulated, to see how you are approaching this restoration/revitalization. I’ve worked on too many pre-1930 homes that were butchered by bad remodels, and/or “updating”. Your place is looking fabulous, and I look forward to seeing it in its new color(s).

    • Thanks Michael, I really appreciate that. We had a sunny day and lot of prep work was done. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so I’ll finish some inside projects and repair a basement door, but sun returns Wednesday!

  12. It looks like things are moving along beautifully on your mega paint project Tom! I hope the recent weather doesn’t slow things down too much it’s looking so good. These photos from Kent Phelan are VERY fun to see and well presented; showing film borders, upright verticals and a unique feel to the images only large format film in capable hands can create. Nostalgic and beautiful Kent!!
    Is this an on-going collaboration amigos?

    • Hi Terry, Kent asked to take photos of the process and I gladly agreed! So I believe Kent will be coming back from time to time to check on the progress and capture the old gal’s new frocks.

  13. Buddy,

    Looks like you and Tom have been very busy this summer.

    Looking good so far – good luck on picking the perfect color.

    Missed your blogs over the summer!


    • Thanks Tad, I was a bit scattered this summer and never got to the blog I must say. I hope to change things this fall and winter and post more regularly. So stay tuned, my focus may return. 😉
      Take care, Tom


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