Life as I know It

My photo
San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Old Loves

Come on in for a visit.

Drafty, crooked,
Sagging, scratched,
This old house
Just can't be matched.


I guess that is what I love about old houses. They have flaws, but to me that equates to personality plus. Right? And they have distinct personalities. Sometimes the doors of this house won't close, or, on hot, dry days, they won't stay open. I listen to the house creak and crack at night and wonder what stories it is telling.

Both sets of my grandparents lived in old California bungalows, which I think is why I have good feelings when I step into a cozy, vintage home. They may be impractical with their tiny closets, lack of storage, and single pane windows, but no amount of money can buy the charm and the extra touches that are a part of the package called an old house. I love them, right down to the doorbells and the old, time worn steps.

Just ring the doorbell or...

...tap, tap, tap the door knocker.

Clickety clack, let your heels click on the newly restored floor. Out with the brown, wall-to-wall carpet (Mare Betterley, you'll be happy about that) and in with the sander and polish. Nothing like mellow old floors.

Some people don't like the small rooms, but I find them cozy beyond measure. Our friends and family love crowding into this room around the old farm table. Now the floors are patched and refinished, cove ceilings mended, plaster repaired, old chandelier hung (found it at Homestead Antiques in Carpinteria, California), a new coat of linen colored paint. Thank you, Jeff, you are amazing!

Yep, they're single-paned windows, but they have a wavy surface that makes the world look like an Impressionist's watercolor. And think of the families, dramas, sorrows, and joys they've witnessed through the past 83 years.

My grands love to open and close this tiny window (which Jeff just rebuilt) and peep into the courtyard. They feel as though they're in an enchanted castle.

This is L.A. Claycraft heirloom tile from the early 20th century. I urge you (translate–beg you) to save any old tiles surrounding your fireplace. Too many of them have been lost when old houses are sold to unappreciative buyers, or, worse yet, when old houses are demolished and all the goodies are left inside them and reduced to rubble. Save the tiles!

Jeff restored the little fireplace to its original finish and colors, which had been thickly painted over many times. He worked for two years whenever he had a chance, using toothpicks, toothbrushes, and rags to clean it and redo it. I can't believe the patience and dedication it took for him to do this. He made the thick redwood mantel out of an ancient piece of redwood (probably two thousand years old) that I salvaged from a building they were retrofitting in downtown San Luis Obispo. They were throwing this gorgeous piece of wood into a dumpster. I begged for it unabashedly, and they said, "No, it is against company regulations." I said, "Turn around," crawled up onto the dumpster, and slid it out. Then the problem was that it was HEAVY. I had to call Jeff to quickly drive to town to pick me up.

Love these practical little built-in ironing boards. Use it and stow it. So easy. We built a laundry room and traded some windows for this entire cupboard and ironing board. The clothes pin bag belonged to my Grandmother Lovejoy and is filled with vintage clothes pins from the 1930s.

 A little phone niche in the hallway. This was plastered in and covered with wallpaper. Jeff found the arched outline of it, chipped it away, and re-did the plaster. 

No fancy dropped ceilings, big lights, or modern sinks, islands, or gigantic new stove; just plain old-fashioned comfort. Sink from Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley, California. Some of the antique lighting came from Let There Be Light in Stillwater, Minnesota; others came from Trifles in Wiscasset, Maine. 

The cupboard (under the apple sign on the wall) came from the fire damaged Tantamount Theater in Carmel, California (courtesy of Marston House Antiques, Wiscasset, Maine); the giant apple sign came from Timothy Mawson Antiques in Connecticut. Sadly, Timothy passed away.

Jeff designed everything in the kitchen, making sure he kept true to the time the house was built. Out with the 1980's remodel.

Kitchen doorknob.

All the kitchen pulls are true to the time the house was built. I love the old glass pulls.

The old hardware is still on all the doors.

Too much clutter?? Probably, but everything is right at hand. The counter tops are big pieces of maple, but they're not cutting boards. Would I do that again? Uh, maybe not, they're already due for a refinishing. I thought about marble, but it made the room way too cold.

Open shelving doesn't appeal to everyone, but it forces you to be somewhat organized and clean. I love them and have had them in my last two kitchens. 

Photographer Mark Lohman and stylist/producer Sunday Hendrickson are here today and are producing a photo shoot for an article for This Old House magazine. Stay tuned! I cannot write about it now, but will when the article is published. These two are HARD WORKERS. They arrived early and have been working non-stop all day. They didn't even stop to sit down for lunch. Dedication.

Enough for now. I must return to the revisions on my new book to be published by Random House/Delacorte Press. I am so very excited about it. This Underground Railroad research is beyond fascinating, and I love all the letters you've written to me about the UGRR in your own home towns. Lots of information from Ohioans, and I love it.

Thank you for all your e-mails and letters. Also, thanks to you for your words about the inimitable Peter Workman of Workman Publishing. He will be missed more than words can tell.

Oh, before I sign off, the editor of This Old House offered a fabulous copy of their book on kitchens as my new give-away.

Kitchens are where the action happens, where memories are cooked up and reduced down, they are, what my dear friend Susan Branch calls, the heart of the home. Can you hear it? I definitely hear my kitchen's heart beat every time I walk through the door.

Just leave a comment ("Anonymous" comments must begin with "Sharon" to escape the delete button. Sorry. Too much spam) on my blog posting if you would like to enter the drawing for the This Old House Kitchens. If you're a Grimy Hands Girls' Club member and your number is selected, you'll also receive a copy of one of these fine books published by Timber Press. They're both excellent and filled with great information. Take your pick! 

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. After my Grandmother Lovejoy died, my parents bought land and built a new, ranch style home. I did not like leaving the Pasadena area–the old, tree-lined streets, the mountains and hills, the perfect sidewalks for skating and jumping cracks. Our new home never felt like home, but it did provide my mother and me with a built-in network of young families. Mother spent time every day sharing coffee and stories with neighbors. Now, as I spend most days alone, I find that browsing your postings makes me feel like I have my own neighbors, just farther away, and not convenient for sugar borrowing. Most times I make a quick stop-by and leave, sometimes I take time to comment. I love your writings and families. It feels like a good neighborhood. Thank you!


Lorrie said...

I love older homes but have never lived in one. My grandparents had an old home with a wonderfully quirky floorplan, rooms with odd shapes, and those gorgeous glass doorknobs.

How lovely your home is, all sweetly restored. I'd love to read about it in This Old House. So full of character and welcoming charm.

Gail said...

Would love a chance to win the book and Your home is warm, inviting and beautiful.

Julie Marie said...

Oooh sweet cousin Sharon... this post is so beautiful and nostalgic... I just loved it, and am going back to read it all again... your old home certainly does remind me of an enchanted castle!... and I adore all of the little nooks and crannies... so many memories still reside in them from the previous owners through the years I am sure... I had to laugh picturing you telling that man to look away so you could have your giant piece of redwood!... I would have done that too!... love your mantel and fireplace... infact, I love every inch of your home you have shown... so warm and welcoming and inviting... and of course I always love your stories about your grandmother... grandma's are so very special... when I close my eyes, I can picture my grandma's little old house in Santa Fe... right down to the "icebox" on the screened in back porch... I slept in a little "nook" in a wall, making it a teeny little bedroom of sorts... new modern homes today just do NOT have that special feeling you get in an old home... nor the precious "whispers from the past" as I call them from those who once called it home as well... well... talk about writing a book, I have just about done so here... please do not enter me in your generous giveaway, I was the lucky winner of your last one!... and one last thing... (yes, I could talk forever with you!)... your stories about the neighbors and visiting over coffee are so close to my own memories... I have posted before that my mama and her two best friends who were our neighbors started out each day at our home, sipping coffee, chatting, laughing, and catching up on the latest news each had... not a gossip session... just three lovely ladies sharing good times... I feel the same way when I visit you and many of the other lovely blogs... it IS a beautiful neighborhood!... and sooo excited for you being featured in This Old House... I can't wait to hear and see more!... love you dear cousin, xoxo Julie Marie

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Sharon ~ I just love your old California bungalow and all of it's little bits of uniqueness. Jeff did a fantastic job with the fireplace, and I love the little nitch too.

How wonderful that your home is going to be featured in This Old House. People are going to fall in love with your place.

Best wishes with your new book.


Pondside said...

I like being your neighbour, Sharon!
Old houses call me too. The old house of my imagination isn't a California bungalow, but a Maritime salt box or story-and-a-half Cape Cod. That's the house of my childhood and the floor plan is etched on my heart.

Darla said...

Oh,Sharon it's always nice to visit your place. I can't wait for the spread in TOH...such a nice magazine. And it's an honor to be considered your neighbor. Thank you from Ohio and please come back for a visit to do research on your new book.


Pat said...

We are all neighbors thanks to your beautiful blog! Enjoyed seeing all the details of your warm California home - the door and cupboard hardware and the fireplace tiles are just what I envision a traditional West Coast bungalow to look like. Wonderful examples of craftsmanship we don't get too see much anymore.

Thank you for sharing.

Bonnie K said...

Your home is perfect. We used to live in an old Victorian in Lead (remember my efforts to import toads into the moountains?). It was a beautiful old home. I loved it. Still we had a dream of a log cabin in the woods and now that is where we are. It may be new, but we are making our own memories here. Thanks for your tour. I too enjoy visiting my on-line neighbors and I can do it in my pajamas. The only bad part is we don't get to share a bottle of wine, glass of lemonade, or cup of coffee.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Oh Sharon, how beautiful!! My house is a simple farmhouse and the personal touches that you have included could not be more perfect and just 'my style' too!!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

My dear Flower Lady Lorraine,

I've been thinking of you and hoping that each day is easier to face. Sending love.

Wanted to clarify that although both sets of grandparents had wonderful old bungalows, my house is actually a Spanish revival. I've always loved those too.

Hugs to you,


La Table De Nana said...

I love old houses..helped many buy them..never lived in one..
Those two..will make everything even lovelier..:-)

Cro Magnon said...

That kitchen sink is outrageous. I would never live in a modern house, our present home is between 250 and 300 years old. Old stone and old wood give warmth and character; stainless steel, too much glass, and plastics make me shudder.

Joan S Bolton said...

Your "new" old house looks so beautiful. Jeff has done a fabulous job with his painstaking restoration work!

Blondie's Journal said...

So good to hear from you again, Sharon! You've shared so much but I was really touched by your feelings about older homes. I feel so much the same way...the creaking of the floors at all hours, the hum of appliances and the wind seeping in through spaces in the windows. The old trees whispering outside...okay, enough dramatics. I do love my home, built in the 1930's surrounded by walnut trees that make a cool, comforting canopy in the warmer months, and protection from the wind in the winter. This is all I have known in the past 29 years and before this, I grew up in a tiny little home on the prairies of Illinois. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!

Always love seeing one of your posts pop up. I know you are a busy gal yet you have the same love of posting as I do.

Enjoy what's left of spring as we unfold into me each season is well worth the wait!


kj said...

I quite love you, Sharon :-) xo

When I saw the title of this post, old loves, I said 'oh goodie,' Sharon is going to talk about life before Jeff. What will she reveal about her old boyfriends and love life?!! I was so excited....

Instead, you've given me doorknobs and kitchen pulls. What passionate secrets are tucked into that ironing board compartment?

This is a post about character. To not revere the wonderful parts that carry from the past to forever more is a richness that makes me sad for those who do not or cannot appreciate such treasures .

So thank you, ms dearest Sharon. This post is not about steam--oh wait! It does feature an ironing board--but to know the loves that surround you is passionate enough for me

Ps Jeff's chisel work is awesome

Love love

Mim said...

I adore this post, as I am an old house lover also. I don't live in one now for many reasons but yearn after the craft, the wood floors, the odd angles...everything about them. your pictures are beautiful and how lovely to be in "this old house".


Rebecca said...

Hi, Neighbor :)

I am totally charmed by the interior of your cozy bungalow. I so agree about old houses & small rooms...

I shall look forward to the feature in This Old House magazine (it's one of my husband's favorites) and would love to "win" their book on kitchens.

Kudos to Jeff--and I know I don't have to tell you to enjoy every moment you spend in this beautiful place!

Marcie said...

Sharon, Love too many of these details too comment. Our house is under renovation and the sink and stove we are putting in look similar to yours. Is your stove a 1950s Magic Chef? It looks like a great deal of love and gratitude went into making your house a home. What a beautiful place to spend time with family and friends. :)

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Sharon, every word you wrote resonates with me. We have restored several older homes, most of them from the 1920's, and we currently have an 1894 Victorian that , while not restored in the sense of a true restoration (rather is is renovated and changed by previous owners) it still resonates with me in terms of the age of the floors, the door handles, the windows, the small square rooms, etc. And it is FILLED with light. Lots and lots of light. It has transoms over the doors upstairs as well. It has its flaws, but they are charming.

From that first shot of your door handle, you had me handing on every word. I grew up in a quirky Victorian house, and like you, we moved to the suburbs when I was a young teen. So all of my life I have been trying to help save older structures and handing them over to families who are basically still in them as we moved on to a new old house. That's the good part, handing them off to people who love them as much as you do. One of my proudest moments was bringing a tiny Victorian cottage that was ready for the wrecking ball back to life. It was adorable and quirky and had the original farm sink and bathtub with claw feet. It also had original wooden walls... horizontal in the main rooms and bead board in the bath and kitchen area. I had a master carpenter who restored all of that to perfection. It was such a fun project, and it was saved from a cruel fate.



Nellie said...

Oh, Sharon! I love, love, love this post! I, too, love old houses and their character, though the house in which we live is one we built nine years ago, on a little more than an acre of land, giving my husband lots of room for a vegetable garden.

I send along my sympathies at the passing of Peter Workman. I know he will be greatly missed.

It is always such a pleasure to read your blog. There are those who would consider my kitchen to be cluttered, but what I need most often is at my fingertips, and that's how I like it!

Sending wishes across the many miles to you for a blessed Sunday! Also hoping that young grandson is continuing to make excellent progress!

Peace and joy,

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hahahaha, KJ,

Jeff says, "What love life before Jeff?"



Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I love this post and I will definitely be reading the article when it comes out.

I've often gotten a chuckle when people talk about my "old" house and it was only built in the 1960s!

Even though it is a basic ranch style, it was updated with beautiful woodwork by the young couple who lived here before us.

One thing that catches the eye for those who notice such things... every window has a marble shelf. Can you imagine simple homes being built with such finery today?

Your home, however, has all kinds of unique things about it that brings a smile to my face. I'd love to live next door. :)

Elizabeth said...

I think I would kill for that sink! It is beyond beautiful.
Old houses radiant such nice warm feel good vibes; new houses have none.

kj said...


re your comment: hee hee

torchy said...

I pour my heart -- along with time, energy, and money -- into our 125-year-old Victorian-Italianate farm house. Plaster cracks are mere wrinkles that make us love this place even more. Now, we're ready for a kitchen re-do and need ideas. Thank you for letting us peek into your home!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Aisling dear,

The stove is a 1950 O'Keefe & Merritt. My Grandmother Lovejoy had a Magic Chef, my Nonie Clarke had a fabulous Chambers. I wanted one of either or an old Wedgewood would have satisfied too, but I love this old workhorse.



Sharon Lovejoy said...

Bonnie K,

OF COURSE I remember your adventure with the toads. You wrote me right after I did the toad story in Country Living GARDENER magazine. I kept your letter, but since we've moved I can't find it. Jeff and I laughed our socks off after reading it. We read your letter to many of our friends too.

I love your blog, your new garden and home, and I love your sense of humor.


andrea said...

Sharon -- your blog is a joyful place to visit. The house is so loaded with character. I really enjoyed the tour.

Lori said...

Hello Sharon! I always love to peek into the homes of other people. And your home is just like you - warm, real, welcoming and so very friendly. Dorothy was right when she said there is no place like home! Thank you for sharing.Blessings ~ Lori

Vee said...

You mean it's not an enchanted castle? Certainly must qualify as an enchanted cottage! This was better than a magazine spread.

Unknown said...

You are my soul sister Sharon!
Love you, this post, Jeff's amazing makeovers and the comfort of your home and " virtual neighborhood".. Miss you at Dandelion House too! Come by and see me for Spring Rush on my little homestead, and congrats on the article in This Old House...
Oh, I quoted you in my last Beach Blog for MaryJanes'Farm... Travel east, travel west... you know the rest! It was so fitting for our recent trip to Nevada then back home again to New England...

Anonymous said...

Hello Sharon,

I loved seeing the photos of your kitchen. Mine is 63 years old & is stuck in a 70's time warp, advocado stove & mushroom wallpaper. My husband has promised me a do over in the near future so I'd love to win the Easy Upgrades/Kitchens.

I bought your gardening books when I had an in home daycare business. The children & I had fun building the vegetable teepee & doing other fun things. Enjoy the rest of your spring & summer.


Patti said...

Cozy, cozy, cozy! Your kitchen sink is my favorite. Congrats on the TOH article. Thank you for such great inspiration.

Dee Nash said...

Honey, I loved this. I felt like we were strolling your home together. It is so cozy and reminds me of Grandma Nita's home. Those glass pulls! That kitchen sink! She had both. I spent many nights with her in a cozy room sleeping on clean sheets. I still love ironed pillow cases because of my darling grandmother. What a great thing you and Jeff have made for your grandchildren and yourselves. Hugs from across the miles. Love, Dee

jerilanders said...

I love old houses, that is why I live in one as well. Where to begin... the pie safe is great, as are the mismatched chairs in the dining room and every single doorknob. The enormous farmhouse sink is wonderful. ( mine is still up in the barn, waiting for a certain someone to put it in!) But the piece de resistance is the adorable ironing board cabinet, what a treasure! Old houses in and of themselves are treasures, as uncomfortable as they can sometimes be. Freezing cold in the winter and oven hot in the summer. But I wouldn't live in anything else.
As for the Underground Railroad, my great grandfather, Abijah Fitch had a house in Auburn Ny which was a part of the URR. It is now part of a museum tour.

Anonymous said...


Carol said...

I've always loved old houses and have lived in some real gems. Now I live in a very modern manufactured home and I spend my free time and money making it appear to be older and more homey. Great give away and I can't wait to see the article about your home. I've always loved your kitchen!!!

Kat White said...

Sharon I have the tile from my parent's fireplace. Their house (the one I grew up in) was built in the 30's and all the tile was imported from Italy. They moved the house from Hollywood to Bloomington to make way for condos. When they got there a very stupid housing inspector said that the fireplace wasn't reinforced and they would have to do it. Of course once they took the tile off, they found the reinforcement. Too many of the tiles had been broken in the process so they new tile went back up. As a child this old house fascinated me. There was a phone closet, the pull down ironing board as you have, glass knobs on the drawers, etc. And because it was from Hollywood, several of the Rat Pack had attended parties there. If only walls could talk.

The Chipster said...

I always enjoy visiting your home through your blog, and you've given me so many ideas for my own home, which in turn invite me to use my own imagination. I live in a conventional two story subdivision built home, but through the years we've managed to make changes that add a personal touch and give our home its charm, especially in the garden. My kitchen is ready for some rehab, cannot afford a remodel, but then again, perhaps using one's imagination will create something extra special. Keep up the lovely blog Sharon, it is much appreciated. Karen

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Kat White, could you hear me groaning when I read that they discovered the reinforcement behind the tile AFTER they ruined it. Oh my gosh, how heartbreaking.

I loved this glimpse into your Hollywood life. The Rat Pack, Wow!


Lydia said...

Some day your Jeff shall have to meet my Gerry. I expect they should enjoy each other's craftsman ways.

Joanne Steele said...

Sharon, your dear, charming home is so warm and inviting...and the details of your door latch and cupboard pulls are priceless. Everything shouts of all the loving care that you and Jeff have poured into this labor of love. I wish I had some of the glass door knobs that I grew up with (although I did manage to take off the brass door knocker and put it on our home here in Indiana). Now that we have lived here for 44 years (is that possible!!!) in the house that we built, I guess we can begin to call it OUR OLD HOUSE! I know they will show many wonderful ideas in the article and as soon as it comes out, I will grab one and put some of those ideas to work!! I noticed In several pictures that it looks like you have painted walls and ceilings the same color and I love it. I was just this week wondering if that would work. In our bedroom there are slanted ceilings and it is hard to know where to stop. All one color would be the answer. Do you like that effect?? So now, besides being a dear friend, author, cook, gardener, historian,blogger, traveler, can also add interior decorator!! :0) Oh already were one. Oh well, you will think of something else to add to it, I am sure!!
Love and hugs,

Sue and Alicia said...

Hello Dear Sharon,
Love seeing your warm and cozy home! Thanks for inviting us in. Great to be neighbors.

My daughter Alicia and I are slow to set our gardening goals this season. I lost my Mom very recently so our world is upside down. Sadly, I dismantled our gourd teepee and replaced it with a fire ring. We'll enjoy nights under the stars, I hope. I will probably regret not growing our teepee... Mom was always our cheerleader and help in our garden projects. So difficult to imagine a garden without her. We will grow something in her honor...waiting for some inspiration and energy.

Take care! We'll look forward to your UGRR book!!

Sue & Alicia

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Sue and Alicia,

I send heartfelt sympathy to you for the recent loss of your mother. That is one of life's hardest hits. In her honor, I hope that you two can journey into the garden again for more life affirming adventures.

Sending love to you,


Vicki Boster said...

Sharon this beautiful name speaks your name in every photo-- every room-- every corner. This could only be yours-- I feel your spirit in all the little details-- I can see you here amongst the little rooms. This place that you call home is all the more special because of you and Jeff. I've loved the little tour-- I feel that I have tip toed down your halls---

I'm happy that process is coming on your newest book-- I know we all all excited for you--


Cindy Garber Iverson said...

So many divine treasures, Sharon! I love that you are telling the stories behind the pieces. The cupboard from the Tantamount Theater caught my eye immediately and I was thrilled when you identified where it was from. By the way, Ohmega Salvage is one of Hubby and me's favorite places to visit. We're lucky we're close by and can drop in on a whim to poke through all their treasures. That's where our little bathroom cabinet came from. Now I want to go visit again after reading your post. ;-)

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

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Anonymous said...

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Farmgirl Susan said...

It's really all the sweet little details that make a house special, isn't it? And yours has too many to count. I love every single thing about it, all the perfect touches. What a wonderful place to call home, so full of heart. You have exquisite taste - and that fireplace is beyond beautiful! Such a treasure you've restored. Great job, Jeff! :)

Jenny Patterson said...

Sharon, I loved reading about your old house. I also love old homes, and live in an old farmhouse built in 1910. BUT your article also made me sad, it was the sink that did it. Your sink is exactly like the one that was in my grandmothers house. One that I was supposed to go get, because the house was abandoned, but before I could get there it burned down. I will always kick myself for not taking the drive a week earlier!

Keep on writing I love your blog!