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Renovation Diary: Indian Village Manor - Demo and Discoveries

It could have been a quick flip...

Last week, we showed you the beginning of a series documenting the restoration of a condo in Indian Village Manor. Today we have part two, which looks at what they discovered in demolition. Commentary, videos, and pictures have been provided by Linda G.

"I remember standing up in 5B by myself right after closing on June 12, 2015. I had just very slowly walked through the dark unit again. I'd been making mental lists: where to start, the order of operations, what materials I needed to get. I thought it might take a couple months; certainly no more than 90 days. I had no idea the scope and magnitude of the project I had taken on.

We could have done a quick flip - "slapped some lipstick on the pig" and called it a day. We could have replaced instead of restored – it would have been faster and much less expensive. We could have taken a lot less time and care.

The unit itself, 5B, influenced our choices. We wanted to "do right" by it. There is a certain grace and elegance to 5B, a lightness and airiness. The opportunity to restore it to beauty inspired us greatly. We evaluated everything for restoration, with a commitment to preserving as many of the original features as possible.

I was always keeping in mind the future residents, too. What needed to be updated, what would they appreciate? From the beginning we knew that we were creating an amazing space for good things to happen for the future owners. I’ve had a mental image of who we have been preparing a home for…

They appreciate history. They value the fine craftsmanship of the past. They love light. They want to live in a historic building. They love this area of Detroit, with the proximity to Belle Isle. They want to simply move in to a fully restored home, and just enjoy living there. They understand the character and personality of historic homes. We can’t wait to meet them!

Bathrooms

When we evaluated the bathrooms for restoration, we were excited to be able to reglaze the classic Standard cast iron tubs. We chose to restore the vintage metal medicine cabinets. The biggest surprise was in the Jack & Jill bathroom. It needed to have new plumbing run, which meant opening up walls and losing the original floor.

In the Maid’s bathroom, the terrazzo floor was in very rough condition.


Doors

It quickly became apparent that every piece of metal hardware in the place had been painted over. All of the doors were pulled, and we painstaking removed every hinge, knob, lock, and plate for cleaning and polishing. Some of the doors were in pretty rough condition, too.


Floors

The hardwood floors had been most recently covered by white carpet. Previous residents had removed walls, and those areas needed to be repaired. We had no idea what was going to be under the platform in the master bedroom, which turned out to be hardwood in good condition.

When we tore up the ceramic tile in the kitchen and kitchen hallway, we discovered hardwood, but it was damaged too much to restore. It would all need to be replaced.

When my flooring guy, Jose, started the repairs in the dining room and solarium he discovered electrical underneath. We had to get our electrician, Mel, in to assess and create the space for the hardwood repairs to be completed.


Kitchen

Walls: It was very important to update the kitchen with modern amenities. The proper circuits needed to be run, and because of the unique construction of Indian Village Manor, that meant lots of holes in the walls. An incredible amount of rough and finish plaster work was done in the kitchen.

Floor: The ceramic tile needed to go, and we got a few surprises during the demo process. We were not expecting to find hardwood underneath where the maid’s bedroom used to be, or in the whole kitchen hallway and closet area. We first had a (relatively) easy time getting the tile up, until we realized the tile had been very securely affixed to the concrete in the kitchen, and Blair went and got the demo hammer. We needed to chisel it up, inch by inch for the remainder of the kitchen.

Youngstown cabinets: We were all committed to keeping the cabinets. Surprises…

  • Getting the doors off the base cabinets took a long time due to rusted/painted screws
  • Discovering that doors were missing rubber bumpers and parts of latches. This turned into a Holy Grail search on the internet for the right parts and moments of pure despair until I finally found pieces. We also were able to salvage some of the metal latches we needed from cabinets that were torn out of another unit
  • Uncovering the beautiful enamel Youngstown logos under layers of paint!
  • Assessing both sink cabinets and finding the metal bottoms were destroyed

We were able to come up with creative and custom solutions to save the cabinets. We resourcefully used the wood from the platforms in the Master Bedroom and solarium in the kitchen!


Solarium

The solarium is such a focal point of the unit – the view, the windows, the plaster work. We had no idea what we were going to find when we removed the platform. The original tile was damaged to the point where it could not be saved. Also, the entire left side of the solarium wall needed work.


Walls

The walls at Indian Village Manor are uniquely constructed. Masonry blocks, covered by about 2 inches of metal mesh and various layers of 1921 plaster… which is more like cement. What this means is that any updating involves lots of holes in the walls.

We discovered yards and yards of cable in the place, and for some reason started balling it up and stuffing it in the fireplace. It turned into and art piece we called "Kill Your Television."

Also, there were an astonishing number of holes in the walls. We joked about it for a while: "What were these people? Spoon collectors?" until we found out. One of the most recent residents was a Tuskegee Airman, and he had displayed his entire life on the walls. Awards, memories, pictures, memorabilia, and special objects from all over the world. His daughter will be setting up a memorial area to honor him when we stage 5B.


Windows

It is very important to me the new owners have windows that work! Anyone who loves old buildings knows how important this is. Additionally, at IVM the co-owners are accountable for the windows, not the association. I was committed to all windows working, with storms and screens. If a window didn’t have ‘em, we had them made.

Fun fact: in the historic French Door and Pulley Windows, there are 268 small panes of glass.

Pulley Windows: These were a mess. There are 9 of them, and they were not functional. They were painted shut, with broken ropes, cracked panes, and painted edges. We worked with Building Hugger to restore them. Amy is always willing to create a plan that works for the customer, and what we worked out is that her team did the mechanics while we did the painting and finishing. The windows had a feature that Amy had never seen before, and when she posted her finding to window restoration forums no one else had seen it, either.

French Door Windows: These were a very intensive labor of love. When we assessed them, we realized that to do the full restoration we would need to remove and replace the bronze weatherstripping. Off to the internet… where the right vintage reproduction material was sourced. Once we found that, we proceeded to pull the windows. Remove hardware, replace panes, fill, sand, paint, sand the edges, clean all of the hardware, reset hardware, replace weatherstripping. Whew! And… they vacuum seal now!"


We'll continue next week with how the condo looked before painting, followed by the big reveal coming up soon.