Our Pueblo Street House


A year after moving to Idaho, we bought a run down little bungalow in Boise's quiet North End neighborhood. The modest house, built in 1900 for a laborer's family back when the town had fewer than 6000 residents and laborers ran the place. The house sits at the corner of two low-traffic streets. We were initially attracted to its large, open living room and subtle architectural features that reminded us of our childhoods in New England and Skagit Valley. There was, however, much that needed fixing. Time, neglect, and a few poor decisions by previous owners had taken a toll on the home and landscaping. Ultimately, we felt we could bring it back to life. So, over the next 4 summers, we got to it. In May of 2015, with the remodel completed, we listed the house with a fantastic realtor, Lysi Bishop. Most of the photos below were taken by her photographer. The staging is likewise by her people.

Because the entire rear face of the house was changed, I sided it in shingles, which I made from exterior sheeting. See my post Shop Made Shingles for the details.

The kitchen was a lot of work, but it came out great. We completely stripped the 13' x 13' space to the studs and started anew. All design decisions were ours. I did all the work myself out of my little shop in back, except for some electrical work at the beginning (we upgraded the electrical panel and moved its location the first summer). Full inset doors and drawers on soft-close hinges and slides (all Blumotion). Top quality birch plywood (A1 Goldply) for the boxes. Sapele slab countertops, oiled bronze hardware. Schoolhouse lights, glass block, all new windows, paneling, ceiling, and trim. I leveled the subfloor - it dropped 1-3/4" from corner to corner - and installed select white oak to match the 100-year old stuff in the living room. Rerouted the sink plumbing, a gas line, and removed 3 doorways: bathroom, basement, and exterior back door. We opened up the space considerably and added the two 24" casement windows on either side of the 5' wide center window over the sink (where the back door used to be).

We stripped the 8' x 12' bathroom down to the studs in May 2015, a month before we had to leave for Alaska. I started by adding a new, flat ceiling, high volume fan unit, and ductwork through to the roof above. I leveled the subfloor, installed new 6" x 24" ceramic tile, rebuilt the vanity, fabricated a 6-foot walnut slab countertop, installed a new undermount sink, mirror, and added new faucet and light fixtures. I had to remove and install the toilet 3 times in the process. Hil built us an outdoor sun shower, which we used for a month. I fabricated and installed the 5-1/2" wide wall paneling on three sides, greenboard on the fourth, along with the crown molding and base trim. Because the door had to open the opposite direction, I had to flip the hinge on the jamb and reverse the 100-year old latch mechanism. We repainted the original door. We removed the original tub and a knee wall along with a the old window. I built a new shower curb, floated out the shower pan, installed the Durock, built a wall cubby, moved the drain plumbing slightly, installed the liner and drain, waterproofed everything 4 times w/ RedGard, and tiled it all in 4" x 12" subway tile and gray penny tile. We had Atkinson install 3/8" frameless glass on two sides, including a 30" wide door. The shower measures about 48" x 36". We reused the Delta fixture.

I built the 12' x 28' redwood deck in 2012 for about $2500. Carter's truck delivered the materials. The next summer, I added the half railing, also in cedar and redwood, along with the cable railing. I had Boise Rigging make up the cables for about $150. I built the arbor gate, seen at left, in 2012 (and an identical one for a neighbor). Hilary made all of the cement pavers from 2x4 forms, wire lath, and bagged cement. There are more than 50 of them. We bedded them in sand and gravel. The french doors replaced the single back door, which was originally located where the large kitchen window was. We also added the exterior door seen at far right (to basement/bathroom).

We wanted a coastal farmhouse feel to the kitchen. We carried the divided light theme from the original wood windows into the new cabinet doors. Frosted glass panes. The doors and drawers are full inset style with a 1/4" bead detail around the openings. I finished the countertops in 7 coats of Waterlox Original in order to make them look good and be easy to repair. I had to rework the heating duct through the toe kick because the new cabinets covered the original vent. The gas range was a lucky Craigslist find. The Bosch dishwasher came with the house. We added the large stainless range hood and vented it through the roof. We first bought a huge fired-clay farmhouse sink, but sold it. We went with an equally large, modern 9"-deep undermount stainless sink instead. We bought a new stainless fridge and installed a Moen Haysfield faucet. Subway tile and a combination of whites on the woodwork (Navajo White and BM base white). Handle pulls are from Home Depot, 1-1/8" oiled bronze knobs from Woodcraft.

The living room is big and has great light. Its the main reason we bought the house. Upon move in, there was pink, pet-stained carpet covering the white oak floors. I tore that out and had to fix a few holes made at some point by drywallers who thought anchoring their scaffolding with nails through the carpet was a good idea. I sanded down and refinished the floor in several coats of Varathane water-based polyurethane for floors. I've done 5 wood floors that way - it works well, goes fast with a 10" pad, and is fairly cheap. The day before we left for Alaska, with everything removed from the house, I refinished all the floors again in about 3 hours. We added the shutters, mantle, new paint, horizontal trim caps on all doors and window, and a few new outlets. I raised and widened the opening to the dining room and moved the access to the bathroom from the kitchen to the living room; Alan and I built a new diagonal hallway and arch, seen at far left. Lucy will miss the fireplace.

I've gotten a lot of nice comments from passers by about this arbor gate. One neighbor asked me to build one for them, so I did. The form is a blend of three styles: Japanese garden, Shaker furniture, and American farmhouse. Cedar and redwood.

Guest bedroom looking into the master bedroom.

Of all the projects we did over 4 years, the mailbox may have been my favorite. It was done in a day.

The dining room ceiling was tricky. A fallen branch had damaged one of the rafters many years ago, so I first had to fix the damaged roofing. Then, I had to rebuild some of the framing structure beneath. I didn't want to remove the old framing, sheathing, and shingles (they were in fine shape for the most part), so I lowered the ceiling 4 inches by building anew just below the old rafterwork, effectively strengthening the structure while maintaining the same (weird) angles. The two panels that comprise the hipped roof each slope in two directions, making for some tricky joinery. But it turned out great in the end. I added new insulation, paneling, trim. Alan and I fished the wire through for the new schoolhouse light fixture, losing patience and some skin in the process.

The master bedroom has doorways that open to the front office, to the living room, and to the guest bedroom. Having multiple ways of moving through the house makes the small footprint live much larger. Thanks to Joan and Hilary for all the great paintjobs throughout.

Bathroom vanity with a walnut slab countertop, undermount sink, and overpriced fixture.

Guest bedroom looking better than ever with staging.

View out the back door at the top of the basement stairway (bathroom). The house came with a nearly new stacking washer-dryer unit, which we didn't want. We sold it, but realized in the week prior to the new owner picking it up that it would not fit through the bathroom door. How did they get this thing in here? So I opened up a new exterior doorway, which has worked out great.

The deck functioned as another room. With Boise's sunny-every-day weather, we spent a lot of time out here.

The fireplace surround was originally green-gray stone common to many homes in Idaho (its quarried here in Idaho, near Preston). I painted it white. However, I wanted some visual contrast to the fireplace - something to stand out against all the white and tan. I added a simple black mantle apron with a 6/4 cherry top. Gloss black on the hearth. If we would have stayed longer, I would have removed the black hearth bricks and replaced them with a granite slab, inset flush to the wood floor. Probably would have added an inlaid wood border around the stone, similar those I made for the dining room and hallway thresholds. And two more outlets to the right of the hearth.

Office looks out to the front yard and Pueblo Street.

We took the fridge with us. The stager's plant is a good idea for the empty space. The 5-slot wine rack above the fridge was not designed. It came to be as a result of the cabinet doors. The width of the fridge and the height of the over-fridge cabinet are both fixed dimensions. This means that the two doors, in order to remain proportional to the others, needed a gap between them. The gap distance worked out well for a simple wine rack.

Google Maps Streetview photo from 2007.

The dragon-like pine tree, a rambling, messy affair, was well known by the neighbors. Loved by some, in fact. June 2011. See that white Jeep Cherokee hiding behind the trees at left? It never moved the entire time we lived here.

Sorry to disappoint the old ladies. We cut down the tree and removed the DirectTV dishes at our first chance. The house really opened up. Maybe a little too much in fact. One of the first chainsaw cuts we made on the dragon tree caused it to collapse into the house and shatter a window. By "we", of course, I mean "Alan". And by "a window", I mean "two windows". Our unicycle-riding CPA neighbor hauled away the boulders from the median strip.

We straightened the beltline on the front of the house, shingled the gables, added cornice trim over the windows, and painted everything. Fairview Taupe and Navajo White from Benjamin Moore. I rebuilt the screen door to match the divided light window pattern of the door behind it (BM Brilliant Red).

Hilary got the grass in shape, reworked the sprinkler system, and added plantings. I worked on the arbor gate. Emma, with injured leg, ensured the grass lay flat.

We cut back the yard about 3' from the sidewalk and created a border with railroad ties. Gravel, grasses, and lavender go in. New gate. I should stain the chimney bricks.

June 2015, the week we listed the house and left Boise. I hope the new owner loves the place as much as we did.

Back of the house on the day we moved in, June 2011. Nothing historic here. Plenty of poorly executed roofwork, though.

We removed the original back door, which exited from the middle of the kitchen. We also removed and upgraded the c. 1950 electrical panel, demolished the lean-to porch roof, removed the siding, and all windows. We ended up reusing the old back door in a new location.

The back door became a pair of french doors leading from the dining room. This gave us a continuous wall for the new sink and 10' of space for kitchen cabinets.

Three new casement windows installed, centered on the new sink. New electrical service panel goes in around the corner. Sheathing and building paper added. Old insulation replaced.

Shingles replace clapboard siding in back. A temporary porch deck is built. The original back door finds a new home at right. Glass blocks, trim, shingles, and paint. We spent a day jackhammering out the steps, but only succeded in reducing its mass by half - just low enough to get the deck framing over top.

New deck goes in (13' x 28') with gravel underneath. We removed the old brick patio soon after. Added the dog door.

I added a cable railing and a couple outdoor outlets. With the old brick patio gone, we added many large cement pavers that Hilary made. Joan's great cushions and a sun shade wing made Boise's hot summers tolerable. We used the deck like another room in the house for about 9 months of the year.

Windows cleaned, deck refinished, and an accessory dryer vent port installed, if needed. June 2015.

The place finally looks respectable and we have to move. The Sunset Magazine-esque screen fence, at right in cedar and steel, with new plantings and gravel, helped enormously with outdoor storage. We felled 5 trees and planted 4 new ones, including 2 japanese maples and 2 fake plums.

Acres of pavers, yards of gravel, bags of seed, buckets of nails, gallons of paint. We tried to maintain a classic look for the back, if not an historic one (sorry history nerds). The house had been remodeled several times over the past 115 years, so nothing truly historic was lost in the work we did (see the first pic in this series). We aimed for useful, efficient, and timeless. Given the constraints of a small house with an old school floorplan, I think we succeeded. We maintained a North End feel. I like that the photographer kept my stuffed pileated woodpecker, nailed to the ponderosa, in the picture.

Now, ceilings fear me.

My life for 4 years.

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