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Hand Poured Concrete Counter Tops

We are getting closer to the completion of The Franklin House. The finishes are going up. The floors have been put in. We just have to wrap up a few details.  It is so exciting! I can’t wait to share some more of the bits and pieces with everyone.

I love hand poured concrete counter tops. They are durable, earthy, and cool. I have been telling Pete that I want them in our kitchen for years now. Concrete was perfect for this project because the use of natural and man made materials plays into our industrial vibe.

After some research online I found some great forms from Z Counterforms. These forms were pretty easy to use and created a great smooth edge. The white form you see in the picture below was the rigid form and the black you see is the curve form. They just screw into the concrete board and once the concrete has cured they snap right off! We will definitely use these forms again.


Kitchen Counter Top Form

Once the forms were off the counters had to be diamond ground…sanded…and sanded…and sanded…and sanded some more.

Kitchen Counter Top Poured

The sanding exposed the tiny aggregate in the concrete and created and really organic finish. The edges have tiny little voids and holes that show the handmade nature of the product. This is more beautiful to me than any perfection.

Kitchen Counter Sanding

After all the sanding the counters have to be sealed with several coats of concrete sealer to protect them from staining, though I personally like the way the staining and mottling that occurs over time. I can’t wait to have concrete counter tops in my own kitchen!

Kitchen Counter Top Finished

We also poured a trough sink for the master bath. This was a little more labor intensive since there was no easy peasy forms to be had from the internet. Pete had to build a form from melamine from scratch. It took a whole bunch of math and lot of measuring!

Master Sink Form 1

Both the kitchen counter top and the master sink had to have mesh reinforcement in the concrete to prevent cracking.

Master Sink Form 2

Because of the difference in the type of form we used on the sink, it needed far less sanding and therefore did not expose the aggregate in the concrete. The sink is much shallower than a traditional sink.

Master Sink Unmolded

The sink is installed and will have 2 faucets. Perfect for the master bath!

  • Master Sink

Wrapping Up the Exterior

We are so close to wrapping up the exterior of the Franklin House! The front porch needs stained and a little landscaping and that will wrap up the exterior. Whew!

Original Front

New Front

We wanted to really bring back the historic Queen Anne details on this home. It originally had a wood clapboard siding on the exterior. The old paint job had all but peeled away leaving the wood to rot. Peeling paint makes for some very artistic photos but does not protect wood from its arch enemy, water, very well.

Peeling Paint

Because we wanted to preserve the historic look of the home we first looked at wooden siding. We could only find one local supplier for clapboard and the cost was astronomical. It was overwhelming to think that we were looking at least $25,000 for the materials, installation and the cost of painting on top of that!

Pete’s Mom suggested that we look into Hardie board which is a pre-colored concrete board.  (thanks Kathleen!) The material cost was in line with the wood but we saved a ton by not having to paint it. It maintains the historic look but with modern ease of upkeep! Yay for less work!!!

Original Side

Mid Side

Finished Side

We also knew from the very beginning of this project that we wanted to add a modern feel to the addition on the back of this home. We went with a charcoal colored metal barn siding and I love the way it looks! It is a great juxtaposition to the ornate Queen Anne front! The metal siding that we chose has hidden fasteners for a really clean look.

Original Back

Finished Back

This place has really gone through some changes! Now on to the finishes on the interior! Flooring is going down, tile is in, finishes are on their way. I will share some of those pictures soon. Our time with this house is almost over. I can’t wait to meet the next house!

As always guys, THANK YOU for reading!

Burned out… but have to finish strong!

I am sure everyone who has had a small taste of success has felt this way. Anxious, inspired, confused, determined, in your own head constantly, a little insane, positive, struggling, and invested in an idea. I guess they would say there is beauty in the struggle. There is also a realization that it is one thing to have a good idea, and it is another to turn the idea into reality. But, what if that idea was your dream. Not just one of those strange dreams that happen one night after one too many, but one of those reoccurring dreams that sticks with you.

Roof Garden Installation

When I was younger I heard about the land bank dollar property program and was insistent that I would find an old house and fix it up. Some how at that time I knew what I wanted to do… fix up old houses and build new ones. What are the steps that have to be taken to fulfill this desire? What must one do to achieve a goal? Although we did not buy the Franklin House through the land bank, we bought the property and I was officially living the dream! The dream then turned into reality… design, logistics, expenses, scheduling, hiring, firing, systems, construction, lead time, competition, headaches, questions, alcohol, sobriety, coffee, hard work, Whats Next? “Do, don’t try.” Make a deadline. That will help!

As much as I like to rant, there must be a point to this post… ? … Oh yeah I am feeling a little burned out and I am now able to admit it. I don’t think it is because of the project, or the social implications that I now realize, or the connections that I have made with everyone involved and everyone impacted, or the fact that there is probably going to be zero monetary ROI or possibly a loss… I think it is more the angst from the unknown.

What positive impact will the result have and what opportunities lie ahead. I have a couple potential clients interested in my design capabilities, we are looking for the next house to fix up and a vacant in-fill lot to build on. But is it enough to fill the void after seeing the dream to fruition? Do I have to take time to dream more? Should I go back to school so I can actually call myself an architect? Can I afford that? Will any of this pay off? Does anyone understand? ” Hold it together man…”(slap)

The mind is an amazing piece of the puzzle that we all take for granted at a given point in time. Sometimes we become so self involved that we cut other people off in their journey through life. It is a hard truth about the human condition… but other times we care deeply about an idea, cause, and other people… look now he is a philosopher.

What is a house?

We started the project of the Franklin House strong and I intend to finish it the same way. What ever comes next will happen in due time. I have to tell myself every morning to “Roll with time” it is a saying of patience (the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset, thanks Google). I hope that my work spreads a positive message of sustainability and love. I want people to see beauty in reality… maybe that is the dream?




The interior of the Franklin House is getting close! It has seemed to be a slow progression but I have heard before that the days are long but the years are short. We have almost completely rebuilt this house. Replaced rotten wood, main beams, awkward staircases, all the mechanical elements and we rearranged the floor plan. It is a new old house. It is a historic home with a modern life. We love this old girl and are excited to get her dressed and ready to meet her new family.
Living Space Before

Remember this space? This past January we walked into this sad, neglected, saggy room and we saw the potential. “This could be amazing!” we said. The light…..it was the light that attracted us to this space. The south facing windows let in the most beautiful winter light.  And it was cold in there! Those first few days that we measured and wandered around the crazy chopped up space I have NEVER been so cold. It was 10 degrees out and felt even colder inside.

Living Room Demo

Pete and George demolished the lath and plaster. They took everything down to studs. We really got a good look at changes that various owners had made through out the years. We could see where a single family home had been made into a duplex. We could see where a duplex had been brought back to a single family home. It was a rebirth for this place. And we saw more progression…

Living Room Rebuild

We moved a staircase, removed a staircase and rebuilt a staircase. We cleaned and repaired brick. We installed two HUGE beams. We created an open inviting floor plan that takes advantage of the light. We had good insulation put in. Never again will we freeze inside! We had drywall installed and all of a sudden…..it was a house again!

Living Room Drywall

We are really proud of how this space feels. It is open but cozy. After being a dark unfinished area for so long the reflective light in here now that we have drywall is really cheerful. When writing this post it was pretty crazy to go through all the old pictures to really see the progression of the space.

Keep your eye out for a pieces parts post soon! And as always…..thank you for reading!

The Finished Roof Cresting!

We finally are sharing the finished roof cresting!

Roof Cresting Before

Hi Guys! It has been a while since I have had time to share an update with you! Big things are happening around these parts but that is another post for another day.

Do you remember this roof cresting? I get a little sad when I see these pictures…this amazing detail deserved so much better than this chippy purple paint.  Pete and George worked hard to bring this 130 year old detail back to life. Cresting Repair

It took much sanding to get all the old paint and rust off. This old galvanized metal had worn almost completely away. The guys had to replace the missing bits with new pieces. It worked really well!

Replaced humps

Since the original cresting was missing some of the humps we had a good (and talented) friend make these replacement parts. The only thing that we couldn’t remake were the rosettes. Ah well….

Cresting Primed

After tons of soldering and repairing and attaching we sealed the bottom side for water tightness and primed the whole thing. You can see the repairs when you are up close but when the cresting is on the roof you can’t tell at all!

Painted Cresting

We decided to go with black to match the color tones of the new roof. I think the whole neighborhood was happy to see this go back up!

Cresting On Roof

We are so happy to see this up on the new roof! The black looks amazing against the sky. The hard work that it took to keep the cresting was totally worth it!

Keep your eyes out for another blog post later this week. I will be sharing my BIG news! Yay!

A Usonian Home

Last fall Peter and I got married. And the thing to do when one marries an architectural designer in the midwest is honeymoon with Frank LLoyd Wright. We booked two nights at Polymath Park and stayed in The Duncan House.  This is one of the Usonian homes designed by Mr. Wright. Located in the Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania this property is only a hour or so from Fallingwater.

Duncan House
The Duncan House exterior.

This house is only 1 of 7 Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes that you can actually stay overnight in. Built elsewhere, this house was moved to this site and reassembled. Wright designed these usonian homes for the “everyman”. They are chock full of Wright’s architectural philosophies. From the outside this home is nestled into its landscape and takes advantage of its gorgeous surroundings. It has the large hearth that is centrally located in the home and the car port this is indicative to Wright’s designs.

Back of The Duncan House
The back of The Duncan House.

Much of these Usonian homes are made of concrete block. This was an inexpensive building material that could be left as it was or covered with a stone to make it more fancy.  One of the design features of these homes was the horizontal lines throughout that draw the eye around the structure. These houses had large windows in the back to bring the outdoors in and take full advantage of the sun.

Usonian Kitchen
The Kitchen of the fifties!

The homes had a small kitchen with plenty of storage space. Mr. Wright believed that built-in storage was necessary to keeping clutter away. This kitchen had the original red formica counter tops and the push button cooktop! Very space age!

Usonian Dining
The dining room built ins.

This view from the kitchen into the dining room shows the built ins and shelving that is definitely indicative of Frank Lloyd Wright design.  Also notice how the horizontal lines continue throughout the interior of the home as well.

Usonian Fireplace
The massive fireplace!

The centerpiece of any Wright design is the massive fireplace. In his philosophy the hearth is the heart of the home. This beauty is covered in a locally sourced stone ut originally it was left in concrete block. This draw back to this fireplace design is that it is not very efficient.

Usonian Living Room
The living room . The velvet furniture was down filled!

The living room is a large light filled space. The windows give it the indoor/outdoor feel. This is where the family would gather and spend most of their time since the Wrightian idea was that bedrooms were for sleeping and storing one’s clothing.

Usonian Hallway
The hallway was filled with more built ins.

This hallway leads to the three bedrooms and one of the  bathrooms in this home. Mr. Wright didn’t feel that this was a place to spend much time so the hall narrows to “push” you through it. Many more built ins here to store one’s belongings.

Usonian Bedroom
Master bedroom. This bed was one of the most comfortale that I have ever slept in!

This is the master bedroom. Its small size was due to the fact that all you were supposed to do in here was sleep and change your clothes. There is a small bathroom around the other side of the bed. It still had its fifties tiles (with fish!) and accessories. So cool.

We really enjoyed staying on this awesome property. We suggest if you are going to see Fallingwater that you spend a night in Polymath Park too!



The Franklin House Design Inspiration

Pete and I love design. Personally, though we take a lot of risks in our design and make style choices that are very “us”. The Franklin House design inspiration comes from us trying to design a space that functions well and appeals to a wide range of people and life styles. We also had to take cues from this home’s history. Modern Industrial Victorian was just the right combination of all the parts that make the house unique!

Queen Anne


We are keeping all the exterior details that make the Queen Anne style of this place so charming. The cresting and fish scale siding are awesome detailing that we are planning to showcase but we are choosing some great modern colors to keep it from feeling too fussy and “granny”. We are having to replace some of the rotten fret work on the home and are taking that opportunity to add those Victorian details back with a sharper more modern edge.

One of the places on the exterior that we really want to add that cool modern feel is in the addition on the back of the home. We plan on using a metal siding or board and batten that has strong vertical line that will contrast well with the 3 inch slat horizontal siding. We really love the juxtaposition of old/new, modern/historic, and fussy/clean and the exterior of the house is going to be a perfect place to showcase that.

Metal Siding


On the interior of The Franklin House design inspiration was found mostly on Pinterest (Follow us!). Once we knew that modern Victorian was the feel we wanted a simple search for those terms resulted in a ton of images! Once we had browsed through those a specific color palette and finish style emerged. We were then able to inject some of that “Larsen Dwellings Style” with the industrial touches that feel  “city” to us.

Shelf Bracket



The most important part of the design to us is the way the house functions. After much discussion and gnashing of teeth we landed on a layout that we loved. It had to encompass modern home function like a master suite with bathroom and walk-in closet, second floor laundry, and common bathroom. We wanted to bring in the open floor plan that people love and a great kitchen for entertaining. Trying to put all of these things into a choppy old floor plan was a true test of Pete’s creativity and design chops!

Our color palette needed to be really fresh and clean for this house. We had already found a few great neutral grays when we painted our bathroom in our own home. It is hard to find grays that are not too warm or too cool. The grays allow us to go with black and white as accents. This can become way too cold if you are not careful so we are bringing warmth back in by exposing the FOUR brick chimneys that are in the house. We will be adding some different wood tones to warm it back up too.

Living Room


We had to add that historic charm back in once we had the other bits chosen. This comes in the form of bright white subway tile and adorable little penny tiles. We are reclaiming and reusing as much of what was in the house as we can. We will reuse the awesome French doors that were in the home when we acquired it for the master bath and laundry room. We are going to use some of the old lath as interesting wall treatment. Hopefully we can find a place to reuse some of the old hearth tiles too! The transom windows are another of those old pieces that has to stay with the home as well.



The industrial touches are pretty simple and understated. Mostly the lighting that we chose has this style. The exposed brick also adds to that loft feel. In the kitchen we will have exposed shelving over the stove with an industrial style bracket.

So that is The Franklin House design inspiration. Thanks for following along. Check back soon for more of Pete’s ramblings on changes we made in the layout of this space!

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Front Exterior

The Larsen Dwellings Reno Home “The Franklin House”!


It took quite a while but we found it! The perfect reno home. We looked all over Columbus and the surrounding area. We knew that we wanted a house that had history, great bones and needed lots of love. We also knew that we wanted something in an urban area, no suburbs for this project! We looked for MONTHS. Finally we saw this gem and knew that this was the house that we wanted to save. It had everything we were looking for and a few things we weren’t!

The Franklin house is located in one of Columbus’ historic neighborhoods, Olde Towne East, right outside of downtown.  We love the beautiful homes in this area and the community feel. Just one block over is Historic Bryden Road with many old mansions and gorgeous Victorians. This neighborhood is experiencing an amazing comeback after years of struggles. Mayor Mike Coleman has put a lot of effort into revitalizing downtown Columbus and areas like Olde Towne East. It’s definitely showing! One of the best things to help this effort along was cracking down on absentee landlords. This has helped to save the architectural housing stock in the area and removing the crime element.

 attic damage

Built in 1884 this Queen Anne Victorian has character to spare. From the serpent cresting on the ridgeline of the roof to the fish scale siding on the gables this old girl has CLASS. Unfortunately she has been treated pretty harshly over the years. Over her life she has been split into a duplex and returned to a single family home. The multiple renovations this house has undergone were done VERY badly and involved repositioning of the staircases and walls several times. This has resulted in a really choppy floor plan with some odd spaces and numerous structural issues. Sitting vacant for 6 years has also done a lot of damage. Neglect has created holes in the roof and much water damage. Despite some obvious problems this home has plenty of space  to redesign for modern living and an open floor plan.

Bedroom 2 Hearth

There are many cool Victorian details left after over 130 years of owners. There are 3 fireplaces in the house right now though we don’t think that they are original. These fireplaces have wonderful tile hearths that are all matching but different! We will reuse these tiles elsewhere in the house. We were also left with many old doorknobs and hinges. These types of details are what tells a home’s story and we want to preserve as much of this history as possible. When starting demolition the house also gave up a few more gifts in the form of decorative ceramic tiles and original metal floor grates. I am sure as we continue demoing we find more fun treasures!

Painted Grate

We are so excited to be working on an old home in a really cool neighborhood! We plan on sharing the entire renovation of this property. We have also found some interesting history tidbits to share. Please check back often to see our progress on the Franklin House!