Dec. 21, 2020

Episode #45: Stephen and David: Driven by Curiosity

Episode #45: Stephen and David: Driven by Curiosity

Driven by boundless energy and curiosity, Stephen and David talk about adding character back to their Boston-area Victorian, the One Room Challenge, and beekeeping.

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In Devyn's final episode as co-host, he and Stacy discuss their house goals for 2021. 

Later, they welcome Stephen and David St. Russel, owners of a Boston-area Victorian. Driven by boundless energy and curiosity, Stephen and David talk about adding character back to the shell of a house they bought, the One Room Challenge, and beekeeping. 

Mentioned in this episode: 

  • Please take a moment to fill out our end-of-season survey.
  • Renovation Husbands blog – See photos of the Cowboy Room and the Princess Room.
  • Find Stephen & David on Instagram

Thank you for listening to True Tales From Old Houses.

Until next time,



Stacy Grinsfelder  0:02  
I'm Stacy Grinsfelder, from Blake Hill House.

Devyn Caldwell  0:05  
And I'm Devyn Caldwell from Our Philly Row. We're the hosts of True Tales From Old Houses. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  0:13  
Hello, hello, Devyn.

Devyn Caldwell  0:15  
Hello, how are you?

Stacy Grinsfelder  0:17  
Well, I'm good in that I'm excited that we are wrapping up season four. But I'm also bad because this is our last one together.

Devyn Caldwell  0:27  
I know, I know. It's hard. I'm not gonna lie, it definitely is hard. You know, I'm a, I'm gonna miss it. For sure.

Stacy Grinsfelder  0:35  
Well, I can imagine, you know, when you when you make a commitment to end something and start something else, you reach a point where you're, then of course, ready to end that thing right away and start that new project. Because you're excited about it.

Devyn Caldwell  0:49  
this is true, I'm not going to deny that fact.

Stacy Grinsfelder  0:51  
Yeah. So I would guess that you're really excited about devoting your time more full time to your art. And even though I mean, I know you'll you'll miss the show. And of course, we're gonna miss bunches. But yeah, I mean, it's kind of exciting, right? I mean, everybody likes to start something new.

Devyn Caldwell  1:08  
And you know, I can listen to the show while I'm doing art.

Stacy Grinsfelder  1:11  
Oh, that'll be great. Yeah. I'll have to come up with some sort of secret code, you know, that I can. 

Devyn Caldwell  1:16  
Oh, yeah,

Stacy Grinsfelder  1:17  
to weave into the episodes. I don't know. We're not-- we don't have anything. We're not that tight. We're not that close of friends, right, that we can like read each other's thoughts.

Devyn Caldwell  1:26  
Well, this is true. And you know, our listeners don't actually --well  they may or may not know this, but Stacy and I have never actually met face to face we have met face to face on zoom. And we  chitchatted and talked. You know, we've known each other on the internet for actually several years now. But unfortunately, I was going to go see you this last March, quite literally the week of the shutdown. I was all planning to come and drive up to come see you. And then the shutdown happened and so we haven't met yet.

Stacy Grinsfelder  1:55  
No. And you were you were gonna come and we were gonna make it work. And really until the night before you were supposed to leave, right? And then I think Yeah, kind of realization like, Oh, we this is probably not a very good idea. Which was smart. 

Devyn Caldwell  2:08  
Exactly, So maybe in the new year after all, this is kind of hopefully, you know, blown over a bit. Maybe I'll make a trip up there. And we can do something together for the show.

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:18  
I would love that so much. That would be great. Absolutely. Yeah, I just can't believe we haven't been able to meet each other face to face yet. It's I don't know, just one of those things. I guess we're living the--This weird life on zoom. So you've definitely seen me at my best and at my worst,

Devyn Caldwell  2:35  

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:39  
Alright, well, we better make the most of this last episode together. What do you say?

Devyn Caldwell  2:43  
Yes, I agree.

Stacy Grinsfelder  2:44  
All right. Well, let's start with announcements, then. You can go ahead. Do you want to give the first announcement? 

Devyn Caldwell  2:50  
Sure. So for those who participated in our fall event fundraiser, the last of the tees and hoodies are shipping out this week, we're crossing our fingers that if you ordered them as a holiday gifts, that they arrive on time, so we're doing our best to get them out as quickly as possible.

Stacy Grinsfelder  3:06  
Right. And they all you know, technically the receipt says they should get there in time for holidays. But I don't know the post office--they're going through some things 

Devyn Caldwell  3:14  
They are I'm actually waiting on a package that's been sitting 80 miles away from me in New Jersey for eight days. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  3:21  
Oh, my goodness, yes, yes. Well, it was very fun sending out those packages. My daughter actually helped me with those. So they were packed with love and care by myself and my daughter, and sent your way. And thank you. Thank you so much for ordering tees and hoodies. All right. The only other announcement we have is that if you're willing, we were wondering if you could take just a few minutes to answer our end of season survey. So even if you've already completed the survey in the past, you're welcome to fill it out again. And we will never ever share your information. We only use it to try to make True Tales From Old Houses the best podcast possible.

Devyn Caldwell  3:56  
And where can they find out the about this survey?

Stacy Grinsfelder  3:59  
Oh, that's a really good point. The survey will be-- how am I going to live without you, Devyn? Nobody's going to be here to prompt me. I'm not going to know what to do. But yes, you will find the survey at And I think it's right on the sidebar. Is that correct? Devyn?

Devyn Caldwell  4:17  
I think so? Yes, we'll make sure it is.

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:20  
It's basically the same survey that we've had every year I tweaked some of the questions this year, a little fine tuning here and there. But we love hearing what you think about the show what you change who you'd like us to talk to as our guest on the show. So please do take a few minutes to fill it out. And again, remember, we will not sell or share your information. 

Devyn Caldwell  4:38  
No, we're not like that. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:40  
We're not like that.

Devyn Caldwell  4:46  
So, it's time for some Q & A.

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:48  
would you like to ask the question?

Devyn Caldwell  4:50  
Sure. So with the being at the end of the year, I thought it would be great to find out because actually I don't know what house projects you hope to achieve in 2021.

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:59  
All right, and this is a question for both of us, right?

Devyn Caldwell  5:01  
It is. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:01  
Hmmm. That is a good question. There's lofty goals. And then there are realistic goals. Not sure which ones you want old house owners, you all know what I'm talking about, 

Devyn Caldwell  5:14  
Maybe a little bit of both, 

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:15  
A little bit of both. Okay, so last summer, I worked on the window in my daughter's room, and it's one of the fancy the fanciest patterns here in Blake Hill House. And there are five more of those. So if I were trying to, if I'm giving you my lofty, lofty goal, I would say it'd be wonderful if I could have all of those complicated windows done in 2021. more realistically, I would say probably I could get two to three of them done rather than the five. I mean, they are really time consuming. Yeah, beautiful when they're done, but really, really time consuming. And I can only do them in the nicest months just because of where they're located are very difficult to cover with plywood or plastic or anything like that. It's possible. But I don't want to be working during the fringe seasons on those windows, I want to be working during the nicest time of the year. The other thing I'd like to work on maybe, well, something I have to do absolutely have to do are the piers in my basement, I have brick piers in the basement that need to be actually-- two of them need to be rebuilt. And one of them might be able to be re-pointed. So a lot of the I, I feel like a lot of the things I have next year are not really fun for people to watch. But they're really important to the house, right?

Devyn Caldwell  6:33  
not pretty but very important.

Stacy Grinsfelder  6:35  
Right? Last summer, I did a bunch of foundation work with lime mortar, and I have a bunch of really critical sections to work on again, over the warmer months, at least when it's above 55. Now that I can work on more in spring in full, so that's great. As far as super-duper big, like fun projects. I may be doing my outdoor workshop, which is really kind of an enclosed area, I need to work on the windows in there. The house, it's attached directly to the house and a house has never been painted in there.

Devyn Caldwell  7:08  
Is that the area that used to be like a garage for a model-A?

Stacy Grinsfelder  7:12  
Yes, something like that, for sure. So what happened is my house used to have a wraparound porch. And when they removed that they enclosed that side. And yes, it has bifold doors 

Devyn Caldwell  7:21  
with lots of windows, 

Stacy Grinsfelder  7:23  
lots of windows.

Devyn Caldwell  7:25  
It's like a greenhouse for a car. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  7:27  
It is. I'll put a photo up on the on the website. So but you're exactly right. It's a greenhouse for a car. So that's both a cosmetic update, which is fun to see. There'll be some real visual stunning progress or but it's also kind of one of those projects that's a drag, because there's a lot of cleaning and fixing and repairing. And you know, so we'll see

Devyn Caldwell  7:48  
I have to think that they put all those windows in because they wanted to show off the fact that they had a car.

Stacy Grinsfelder  7:53  
I wonder, I wonder I don't know, up above that's the sleeping porch too. And it needs a ton of work as well. And I just find it so interesting what they--their thought process, you know, let's do this thing. But make it fancy, definitely make it fancy. Yeah. And I might end up working on the main bedroom in our house upstairs. But that still, I'm not sure I haven't made any big decisions on that one. So how about you?

Devyn Caldwell  8:15  
So I'm going to do what I've been trying to do for the last couple of years. Okay, which is two years ago in January. Before all of these things happened in my life that kind of threw me off, I finally picked a color of paint for the parlor. And I started plans for the parlor. And so my first big goal of 2021 is to just get that parlor done. Besides just painting, I have an original 1870s plaster medallion that I need to install. And I have a lot of little things that are going to take me through quite a bit of work but it's all going to be put on the blog and I'm really excited about to finally get to it. Good. And then while that's going on I'm hoping to also be planning the future primary suite for us upstairs-- the bedroom and bathroom. So the bathroom is going to be what's in what's now actually a bedroom so we're putting plumbing in an area of the house that never has had plumbing before. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  9:12  
Oh wow. 

Devyn Caldwell  9:13  
which is exciting because we haven't been sleeping in there you know we're sleeping into the future guests room in the back. We're not sleeping in the main room at all. I'm hoping to get that accomplished this next year. And truth be told that we're gonna hire a good chunk of that out at least all the hard stuff and then I'm gonna come in and do all the finishing work.

Stacy Grinsfelder  9:29  
That makes a lot of sense. So your plumbing-- you live in a brick house. So do you have can you run plumbing through walls? Is it still like a balloon framed or will you have to put it on the outside? How will you do that?

Devyn Caldwell  9:41  
Well, it so happens that directly above or below wherever the the primary bathroom is going to go is the half bath. then below that is the basement. So I'm going to borrow a bit of space from the half bath and run like a chase all the way up to the third floor. So the second and third floor up there has never had plumbing ever. And so we're gonna bring plumbing all the way to the top. And then we'll run a vent stack all the way up and throughout the roof, it's going to be literally designed in so that it won't need to interfere with a brick at all. It'll just run right up on the inside, and then we'll enclose it, so you won't see it. It'll be kind of buried behind the wall.

Stacy Grinsfelder  10:19  
Mm hmm. That's interesting. I have I'm not going to go back and talk about me again for very long, but I will say that we have sort of one of those projects on the master plan of what we might do to this house someday, depending on how long we stay. And one of those is running plumbing where there's no plumbing. So that's interesting. I'd like to hear about your your project, ours will be slightly complicated. I think we'll have to go through the walls. But I think we'll be able to go through a wall that's already been damaged at one point, you know, so we'll be able to just kind of re use the will be able to fix it, I guess, repair it pretty easily. So

Devyn Caldwell  10:52  
I think our biggest challenge is we're going to put a rather sizable shower, I think like four by five foot shower, in the middle of the house. And so we're going to have to go in and beef up floor Joyce

Stacy Grinsfelder  11:07  
was gonna ask you Yeah, that's kind of a big deal. Because you'll have tile, you'll have water, you'll have maybe glass you'll have a glass door. 

Devyn Caldwell  11:15  
We'll have a glass door, a lot of tile--it'll be tile on three sides.

Stacy Grinsfelder  11:19  
Oh, my gosh, yeah.

Devyn Caldwell  11:20  
Yeah, so we're gonna have to put in some very, like, sister the joists on both sides so that we can handle all that weight, because it's gonna be a lot of weight and already sags right now, it's probably two inches lower in the middle than it is on the outside edges. Interesting.

Stacy Grinsfelder  11:32  
So is that something that you'll just fit in with your contractor? Did you get an engineer to come? And look? Did you get it like a structural engineer to kind of give feedback on how much weight? Because we've had that question before. And I will try to answer it more thoroughly in the future--about you, know, do you consider the weight of more when you're doing modern updates?  And we've never answered that question on air because truthfully, neither you nor I are engineers. So I kept thinking, well, we'll get someone will talk about it,

Devyn Caldwell  11:57  
We did have someone when we bought the house, we had a structural engineer come through, and we did have another area that was sagging lifted up about an inch and a half. And it's actually only about four feet away from where the shower is going. And they went in through the ceiling and they sistered in with LVL beams to strengthen it. And this time, because they're going to pull the floor up to put a new floor and we'll just have them go through the floor and install the beams. But it's essentially going to be sistering on both sides of the joist just to ensure that added strength is there.

Stacy Grinsfelder  12:26  
So interesting. Yeah, I'm looking forward to following that one. I mean, I, I don't know when you're gonna get started. But that'll be a really interesting one. We'll make sure that, of course, your blog will always be available --a link to it will always be available on our show notes, regardless of where those show notes end up. So we'll make sure everybody can find you at or @ourphillyrow on Instagram. 

Devyn Caldwell  12:46  

Stacy Grinsfelder  12:47  
Great. Well, we have some pretty big plans and big goals for 2021 I feel like we should be getting started right now. We should probably just hang up and go.

Devyn Caldwell  12:55  
I'll be very excited to get plumbing on the third floor where my of my art studio because right now I have to run all the way down to the kitchen in the back of the house to wrench things off and then come all the way back up again. [music]

Stacy Grinsfelder  13:14  
Today's guests are a husband and husband DIY team who have been working on their 1893 Boston area Victorian for the past few years. they stumbled on it after had been completely gutted to the studs. But fortunately the house had good bones and many of the original elements managed to survive.

Devyn Caldwell  13:32  
They could see the potential of what it could be and have been taking us along for the ride on Instagram for the past several years.

Stacy Grinsfelder  13:38  
We talked to them a while back as they wrapped up not just one room, but three and Wow, those rooms turned out amazing. 

Devyn Caldwell  13:46  
Oh yes, they did. So we would like to give a big welcome to Stephen and David St. Russell, also known as the Renovation Husbands.

Stephen  13:53  
I am Stephen St. Russell 

David  13:55  
and I am David St. Russell 

Stephen  13:57  
and on Instagram, we are the Renovation Husbands. We have been renovating our Boston Victorian for about three years now. 

David  14:06  
And that's hard to do.

Stacy Grinsfelder  14:11  
It's hard to renovate or it's hard to think of more to say to introduce yourselves?

David  14:14  
Both. Oh, I lost track of what I'm supposed to be doing.

Stacy Grinsfelder  14:19  
No, that's perfect. That's a perfect introduction. It's no problem at all. Well, welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Tales from old houses. It's so nice to have you both here. 

Stephen  14:27  
Thank you for having us. 

David  14:28  
Thank you for having us. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  14:29  
We've been looking forward to this. So it's great to sit down and talk with you. Have you always been lovers of old houses and how did you find your Victorian in Boston?

David  14:38  
I can't say that we always have been we started renovating our first house kind of out of necessity. Because we were living in an apartment in Boston that was just too expensive. It didn't make sense anymore. So we bought our first home. That kind of happened again several years later when we ended up renting in Boston a second time and we were looking for a cheaper apartment. When we drove by this Victorian that we live in now. And within two weeks, we were closing on it. 

Devyn Caldwell  15:06  

Stephen  15:07  
Yeah, we were on our way to lunch someplace local to here not knowing the neighborhood at the time. And we drove by this house that looked kind of derelict and rundown, but it looked like someone was maybe working on it. And like, Oh, that is such a cool house. And then we're sitting at lunch with our friends. And our friend is like, hey, look, it's on Zillow. And so we started looking at it. We saw the pictures of the inside. And like David said, within two weeks, we're closing.

Stacy Grinsfelder  15:36  
Were you just in a quick position to buy or were you just like, we love this house? We want it we need to do it now. Is it kind of both or I mean, it seems like it was quick.

David  15:44  
interesting, because we were in an apartment with another couple. We were all living together, they were moving to California. So we were looking for cheaper rent, we had been looking for ways. And of course, we ended up looking at a house that was at the time, like very expensive. And we didn't really quite know how we would make it work. But that's kind of how we've been going along this entire time. is, you know, figuring out how to make it work 

Stephen  16:14  
being resourceful. Yeah.

Stacy Grinsfelder  16:17  
Right. Right. So was it derelict? I mean, how, what kind of shape was it in when you actually closed on it?

Stephen  16:22  
Yeah. So so it was kind of a unique situation. So like I said, someone was, it looked, it appears that it had appeared as if someone was working on the house. And that was the case someone had bought it. And then within a year completely gutted it. So brought it down all the way to the studs, barely any existing detail inside, except for our awesome entry. I'm still remained but no plaster would be seen. And then due to whatever situation they were in, had to then get rid of it. So we bought a shell of a house. And so the first big phase was bringing it to a liveable standard so that we could move into it. 

David  17:03  
One of the reasons we were able to get we didn't, we didn't need inspection, we didn't need anything like everything was exposed. So we had the luxury of a three month overlap between the end of our apartment and moving into this home. So we had three months to get plumbing, electric and walls, possibly plaster, we moved in with a toilet. That's all we have one tiny little sink in our little Oh, yeah. Well, downstairs, if you call it a sink, it was a toilet and a sink. So we did all of our showering at the gym. We probably did that for two months or so. And then we cooked on a grill in the backyard for like, we're five months before we had any working kitchen. So, you know, we just kind of made it work. Yeah,

Devyn Caldwell  17:49  
that's awesome.

Stacy Grinsfelder  17:50  
It's funny that you mentioned the inspection. Yeah. When everything's open, you're like, does it have plumbing? No, it does not. Does it need electrical? Yes, it does.

Stephen  17:58  
We can see them. Yeah. 

David  17:59  
How is the electric? It's fine.

Stacy Grinsfelder  18:05  
Did you do plaster? You said plaster? Did you do drywall or plaster?

David  18:08  
We did plaster through the entire house. Luckily, we found a friend who was a contractor, we'd like to do things ourselves as much as possible. But during that phase just weren't able to do it. So we had a contractor who knew a plaster they came in and they did the entire house. Without the attic. In like a day and a half. It was insane. 

Stephen  18:30  
Yeah, we played the balance of drywall will take a little bit longer. So you're paying for the man hours for that plaster, they can do much, much faster, and it's a nicer finish in the end. So it kind of equals out in the end when you're doing such a large project to start with. As opposed to just one

Stacy Grinsfelder  18:47  
That is shocking to me. I guess I wouldn't have ever thought about it. 

David  18:50  
It was exactly the same price. It just, you know, took a lot less time. 

Stephen  18:53  
Yeah, I mean, with plaster these days, they're basically basically are putting a drywall or like a backer board. So it looks like first and then instead of doing all the joints, you just skim coat. So it's, you can imagine it's a little bit faster in that respect.

Stacy Grinsfelder  19:09  
Okay, that makes sense. So no, no lath. It's just plaster over like a backer board.

David  19:14  
That was all taken out. 

Stephen  19:16  
It has caused a lot of problems with that because now the thickness of the plaster has changed. So our our window jams are now proud of the plaster. So we're constantly now that we're putting all the trim up and window casing, we're constantly playing that battle of Sthow are we going to make up for this, this gap between the trim on the wall?

Stacy Grinsfelder  19:36  
Right, that makes sense.

Devyn Caldwell  19:39  
How did you guys learn construction and design? What's your background around that?

David  19:43  
We don't have any formal background. Stephen did go to school for architecture. So he was in school for design but we started kind of before well during during your schooling, there was an-- we had a Ottoman table in front of our couch that we converted into an ottoman and that was officially our first DIY project, maybe eight years ago. So we started doing little things in our apartment. And then we bought our first house, just south of the city. And that's where we started really gaining all of our skills. 

Stephen  20:17  
Yes, yeah, we within that house we did, obviously wasn't to the skill this house in terms of all the plaster and all the systems and all that, but it was mostly cosmetic, as well as bathrooms and the kitchen. So just learning the lessons from from that house is really what allowed us to like start to level up our skills, and take those lessons learned and put them into this house. 

David  20:39  
I think people forget there is this like period of time that you have to learn, like, what lab is and how you would fix that and how it attaches to a stud and how these studs attaches to the floor. Like, yeah, they're very natural, I think to people who are doing it, but it's, it's quick the curve and that has really, like allowed us the space to learn those skills, 

Stephen  21:05  
I think my education in architecture, and design helps with with design and conceptualizing what we want to do. But it was definitely a hands on work that got us to where we are today.

Stacy Grinsfelder  21:17  
It does really feel like just understanding how things come apart and how they go back together is is so essential, in whatever project that you're doing.

Devyn Caldwell  21:27  
So that brings me to my next question. When you're planning a project, what do you focus on more design or renovation?

Stephen  21:32  
We just went through this with the one room challenge where we have always been focused on things from like an architectural standpoint. So we focus very much on what the room is going to look like with molding, and right, 

David  21:48  
yeah, yeah, molding and like, what the windows and doors will look like, and never really what the design of the room will look

Stephen  21:55  
 like the interiors and decor, right 

David  21:57  
always seems to come second for us. This, you know, one room challenge that we just completed really made us do both at the same time. And, and, and ahead of time, we had to do all this advanced. So it really was the first time that we had, we got to focus on both, and a whole new world. And I kind of liked it.

Devyn Caldwell  22:17  
Yeah. Tell us more about the one room challenge and what your experience was --completing, not just one room, you did three rooms, really three spaces within one area.

Stephen  22:26  
The one room challenge was just an amazing opportunity that came seemingly out of out of nowhere, and we just kind of latched on to it. We couldn't let the opportunity to go and it made us kind of rearrange our priorities within the house. So when we were approached by by Linda, we, we accepted the offer right away, but didn't really know what space we would do. Because next on our docket was either the parlor, or the dining room or the attic, which we're in now. And it always kind of put our our main bedroom and bathroom to the last of the projects. Because even though it's where we live in sleep, it felt like it wasn't like the public facing rooms. 

David  23:14  
And we were really driven to finish the spaces that people like the common spaces, we still have a dining room that's not finished, we still have a parlor that's not finished. And you know, the master bath and bedroom are also more expensive projects. So we were also prioritizing financially, you know, when are we going to fit this thing in, we want to do well. And that comes with money, unfortunately, a lot of times, so it was the perfect opportunity to sneak this project in and then also force us to finish it within a tight timeline.

Stacy Grinsfelder  23:49  
So let me explain really quick for people who aren't familiar with the one room challenge, because not everybody knows what it is. But it's a challenge that was started by Linda from I believe Calling It Home, was her blog originally. And it started out as a six-week challenge to completely redo a room, whatever that means to you. There are sponsored, I'm sorry, there are featured participants, and then there are guests participants as well. And they have it twice a year it's become this big thing. And if you're a featured participant, then you get a lot of sponsorships for product and other things like that. So that's where you were. You were featured designers. And that opened up the money, which was nice for you to finish this project. And boy, you knocked it out of the park. So I think that was a good enough, hopefully a good enough description of the one room challenge. This year. I think it was or this session, it was eight weeks instead of six weeks, if I remember correctly.

Stephen  24:43  
It was ten-10 weeks.

Stacy Grinsfelder  24:45  
Oh ten weeks-- even better

David  24:47  
It was extended by a full month. 

Devyn Caldwell  24:48  
Oh, because of COVID. 

David  24:50  

Stephen  24:50  

Yeah, it was one of the more unique, unique seasons of the one room challenge because initially it was it kind of started and we actually agreed to do it before Everyone was kind of on lockdown. And it was just interesting how our participation and everyone's participation kind of evolved as everyone else was experiencing this, this mutual experience of of lockdown and self isolation. So it was it was an interesting thing to navigate. But it did extend the timeline somewhat, which definitely helped. In our case, 

David  25:24  
the thing with one challenge is you have to get it done within the timeline. There's like, very little exception. There's a lot of pressure to do it. And those four weeks saved us for sure. That shower took forever.

Devyn Caldwell  25:38  
But that shower is beautiful. I have to say. Your shower. When you --when the reveal happened. I mean, I watched this you did did the work on it. I have been planning my master bathroom for the last couple years. I even bought some of the hardware similar to your hardware last year. We haven't got there yet. I was going to originally do marble like Carerra. And then I thought our house isn't fancy enough for Carrera. And so I started looking into other ideas. But when you had the reveal, and I saw that, I said nope, that's exactly what I'm doing. I went right back to what I thought before because you guys nailed it. So well.

Stephen  26:10  
Yeah, I think Carrara marble is timeless and always will be.

Devyn Caldwell  26:14  
Exactly. It won't be dated in 20 years, because it's Carerra marble.

Unknown Speaker  26:18  
It's like Carerra marble or subway tile was there really are timeless options, right?

Stacy Grinsfelder  26:23  
It's so good. 

Stephen  26:24  
Yeah, it's it's definitely an example of, of what we learned on our first house in our first projects you put into this project. If you look back at our first house, I hope that the first owners aren't or the now winners aren't listening to this, but like the I will get a little bit bigger as they go up the corner. So we took all those and put them into into this shower, especially also knowing that it was going to be large format tile, need to really make sure everything's straight, and level.

Devyn Caldwell  26:54  
Let's take a short break here. [music] Before we say farewell to 2020. And boy do we want to say farewell to 2020. We want to take a moment to express our gratitude to all of you for listening to the show these past four seasons.

Stacy Grinsfelder  27:05  
Yes, thank you for all your support for True Tales From Old Houses. We appreciate every rating and review you leave and every single time that you share the show with the people in your life, in person or on social media. All of that helps new listeners find us

Devyn Caldwell  27:20  
your monetary donations via the link on our website and your participation in the fundraising merchandise event help ensure that True Tales From Old Houses continues to improve and provides the best content for old house lovers just like you.

Stacy Grinsfelder  27:32  
So we can agree that 2020 has been a year like no other. But as we move through these last couple weeks of this upside down year, we want you to know how important you are to us. Thank you for making True Tales From Old Houses a part of your life. [end music]

All right, so let's go to that when you were mentioning before with the one room challenge you said it forced you to sort of do design and decor together, which I imagine was maybe a little stressful if that wasn't something that you normally did. But are either of you particularly good at one thing? Or did you feel like you needed to make all the decisions together?

David  28:14  
Yeah, we're, I don't think we'd actually define ourselves as interior designers. Is that fair?

Stephen  28:20  

Stacy Grinsfelder  28:20  
You're good at it. I mean, you can call yourself whatever you like.

David  28:25  
So this really was actually helpful. It's a salad dressing problem. When you're like decorating a room, there's just like too many options. And you can like scroll through, you know, a nightstand options for like, days and days, when we were forced, or like had the option not really forced, I had the option to work with people who were sponsoring us, it really narrowed our selection down. And let us kind of design both the architectural standpoint and the interior design all together at once. Yeah, which was something we've actually never done. 

Stephen  29:05  
And I mean, in terms of, of architecture, trimwork and kind of general concepts for rooms. That's something that basically for every room in the house, we've taken, like little stabs, over time, just kind of when we're talking about it. And because I have my background in architecture, and using that kind of software, I always kind of mock things up. And so having a it definitely changed but having a bit of a background or a bit of the knowledge of what this room we wanted this room to look like helped us to feel like we could accomplish it. And 

David  29:38  
yes, we've been talking about this room for a long time. So we've been imagining what this room would look like for years. So we had some idea of direction really pulling all those items together was something.

Stephen  29:47  
wallpaper, finishes, paint.

David  29:50  

Stacy Grinsfelder  29:51  
Yeah. Well, it was interesting because I was looking at your blog and I was doing sort of that the house tour rounds. You know, you've done all these rooms like the princess room and the cowboy room. And I just got a really nice feeling looking at them and decor is not my strong point at all. Like I fix things. I demo, and I fix things. That's, that's who I am. And I struggle, I struggle so much, you know, I think, Oh, this is the perfect thing. And then I put it in the room and like, still doesn't feel right. So I admire when there's someone like the two of you, or anybody, Devyn's really good at it too-- finding that thing, choosing that thing, and it actually being the right thing. Because that's hard.

David  30:32  
It's so hard for me, like, I can't tell you how many times you buy. We don't buy pet pillows, and we do for our rooms, we finish them. And then we're like, this isn't correct. So we do bring a lot of stuff back.

Stacy Grinsfelder  30:46  
Okay, well, that makes me --that's comforting to me.

David  30:49  
Not a natural born talent.

Stacy Grinsfelder  30:52  
Are you the kind of people who will just over time ads that like you'll be out and about and you'll think oh, that would look beautiful in the princess room. And then you'll just pick it up and put it in there whenever

David  31:01  
I was about to say yes. Like you were about to say no, 

Stephen  31:03  
no, no. totally. our princess still needs stuff. So yeah, every every room kind of evolves with time. And then I think for our living room, we feel like it's done. So we don't really look for the anymore.

Stacy Grinsfelder  31:16  
Oh, and to clarify, too. I were talking about these spaces. Sometimes I forget, you know, where were the podcast format, where it's audio, it's not video, but we are we will post on our show notes, and you can go see Steven and David's house in and it's mostly entirety, at least the part you've shown us so far so far. But you'll understand what I mean about the princess room and the cowboy room and and gosh, that, like you said, your living room your part is a parlor Do you call the parlor?

Stephen  31:44  
So the living room--That's the one that you'll see on the website was one of the first rooms we did because it's kind of our Hangout space. And then in traditional Victorian and Boston style, we have a front parlor, which we are still to be done but is the more formal type living room. And that's one of our next projects.

Stacy Grinsfelder  32:03  
And is that the one with the will the The living room is the woodwork? that's outstanding. What gorgeous, gorgeous wood work and the staircase. 

David  32:09  
yeah. Luckily, the only thing that was not gutted in this house we bought it was the staircase, have all the original detail, it also gives us a little bit of insight to what was here Originally, the person who gutted it did keep a lot of the original woodwork in the basement. So we have that as well, for small repairs. And then, you know, we were able to use it throughout we have over the doors, which was really interesting. Also blessing curse because you have the door. So now you have to refinish them. Right. And that's like, right, you know, its own beast. So we're working through those. Right?

Stacy Grinsfelder  32:50  
Are they labeled? Or do you get to play like every day? Like, let's find out where this door goes?

David  32:54  
No idea where they live? Yeah. You can kind of guess like what color they are. But some of the doorways don't exist anymore. So you know, we have all the first floor doors, and once we bought the house, they had already removed all the doorways. So we didn't have any of the original doorways to even match up to so we have more doors than doorways, which I guess is better than the reverse. Yeah, 

Stephen  33:18  
yeah. And the first floor, what we're doing is taking the more ornate doors that are on the were originally on the first floor and bringing them up to the second floor, which are just more of a--were--just a more five panels.

Devyn Caldwell  33:32  
Nice, very nice. How do you keep your momentum going? Because, you know, I know that you I mean, obviously after this one room challenged, certainly was a moment of like, ah, I gotta take a break. But you guys, I'm one of the things I admire about you is you guys seem to have a continuous momentum to keep going forward. And so how do you kind of keep that going? 

Stephen  33:52  
Glad It seems that way. Yeah, but definitely doesn't feel that way. Sometimes, especially after, like you said, the one room challenge now is definitely kind of a heartbreak. 

David  34:03  
Yeah, I think that the Instagram definitely creates an illusion that things are very continuous. But in reality, you know, you only remember what you see posted. And you kind of forget about the gaps. So you know, we might have a few weeks where we're doing real life things and filling it with images that we've already taken. So we're just like anybody else. We have real life things going on, and we have full time jobs. So we do sometimes feel like we're stalling.

Stacy Grinsfelder  34:35  
Do you think you'll do the one room challenge again?

Stephen  34:37  
If we're invited? 

David  34:39  
We will probably do it as a guest participant. That's a good angle. I like that. Yeah, no, it was definitely the community around it was a lot of fun. You know, stuff. Not everybody went to the extent that we did you don't, you certainly don't have to. But there's so many guest participants doing so many cool projects. So just because you're a feature doesn't mean you're Doing something really cool and inspiring. And we got to meet all these--the community, both feature designers and otherwise, and it was a ton of fun. It definitely helped us get that project done. Which is probably the biggest. 

Stephen  35:17  
Yeah, a big push. Yeah. I think we're more apt to do the old and slow challenge.

Stacy Grinsfelder  35:22  
Yeah. Yeah. The Old and Slow Room challenge is something that my friend Kelly and I, It was actually the brainchild of Kelly. And then I said, you know, let me know what I can do. And so we kind of are co-hosting this for, for old house. People for them. I mean, anybody can participate, but we have six months. So this there's good and bad to that, you know, I've got six months. So guess who hasn't started? Yeah, me. Right. So I'm probably going to end up doing my challenge in the last six or eight weeks. And I'm like, oh, okay, so I really just did nothing to help myself. 

Devyn Caldwell  35:53  
Yeah, but you got a few months to plan that'll help. 

David  35:55  
Is your is your slow challenge. Just going through all the windows in the house? Because if it is, you're nailing it.

Stacy Grinsfelder  36:03  
Well, let me tell ya, if that was the case, then I will be doing windows probably for the next five years. Maybe I'd like if I really stay on it. It's going to take at least that long. It's something.

David  36:13  
It's fun to do the occasional window. But aren't we all of ours were replaced with vinyl, which you know, is not great. I would rather have the original. On the flip side, we don't need to do right now. 

Stephen  36:25  
They were replaced by the previous owners.

Stacy Grinsfelder  36:28  
I wouldn't trade my windows for anything, but they definitely are sometimes a slog to get through and, and I don't always enjoy the work. I really love it when it's done.

Stephen  36:39  
Yeah, the only there was only one window that we had recreated based on the original because when we bought the house there just wasn't a window. It was just air in the attic, actually. And there was the only reference we had was Google streetview. So we looked at the old Google Street views I sketched it up and we brought it to a guy to make and it came out awesome.

Stacy Grinsfelder  37:01  
There's so many houses here. I live in a village with about probably 90% inventory of houses that are old, like really old, either at least 60 years or older. And so many of them have their original attic windows, but then the windows below it have been replaced by vinyls, so I'm always staring at their attic windows thinking, oh.. Those are so much prettier.

Devyn Caldwell  37:22  
Tell us how when and how you got started with beekeeping.

Stephen  37:27  
Oh, that's a David topic. 

David  37:30  
I we were living in an apartment in Boston. So we had no yard space. And what I found with renovating homes is that I actually enjoy my time outside much more than my time inside. So our yard projects I'm much more motivated by anything landscaping, I signed me up, I'll do it. And the beekeeping portion of that was just something that I became interested in and I rode the T every day to work and I bought some books. So every day I was sitting on the T reading my like "how to bee keep" books determined to start beekeeping once we had the yard to do so. So I started this is now my third season, which is kind of wild to think about. But it's, it's a fun hobby.

Devyn Caldwell  38:14  
Is it a big time commitment?

David  38:16  
It's it definitely takes a lot of thinking and timing. But they're, they're wild animals for all intents and purposes. So they don't really need me very much. I need to do things to make sure that they have the best environment possible to survive, but they don't need to be walked right? They don't need their litter changed. I just need to go in there every you know, month or so and check on them look for diseases or what have you. And then really part of the responsibility is getting them through winter, which is one of the hardest things to do. So getting them through the winter is a little bit stressful. But other than that they're actually really easy. I haven't touched them in a while.

Devyn Caldwell  39:02  
How do you get them through winter? It gets pretty cold there.

David  39:04  
Yeah, does they do that primarily themselves. The thing that's tricky is that in the wild, they will build a hive inside of a hollow oak tree right, which is much thicker. And here I'm keeping them in a three quarter of an inch poplar box, which as you can imagine, is not very insulated. So all I do is make sure they have enough food. I insulate their hive a little bit. And I just make sure that they don't have any --or as little mites as possible. So when you hear about people, you know bees dying mites are one of the primary reasons they're in almost every single hive in the United States. So you do a lot to get the mite count down and then their survival goes up based on that. 

Stephen  39:53  
They basically huddle in a little ball and they stay like 98 degrees or something. 

David  39:57  
Yeah, they keep it really warm. So they huddle. They think really compact, you can tell how cold it is by how compact the hive is, even in the autumn, they'll start to cluster a little bit. So they get into a really tight cluster, the Queen sits at the middle, and then they just rotate out, you know, as it's their turn, and they just, you know, buzz their way through winter.

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:19  
That's wild. We have a giant, a giant chestnut tree in our front yard that's full of honeybees. And they live there and they winter there. And I think about three years ago, the hive split, and so they came out and they swarmed the tree, and then we were getting ready to go. So I thought I don't know what to do. Like, I know somebody would probably really enjoy these, but I didn't have anybody to call. I didn't know anybody. So I'm not sure where they went. But that's been fun. So every spring or you know, it starts to get warm. I send one of my kids up the tree to make sure the honeybees are still there.

David  40:50  
Oh, that's adorable. 

Stephen  40:51  

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:53  
And they're there. It's just a big open knot I'm sure I can just imagine what that tree looks like inside I should take a picture of of the tree for you. It's a giant tree. Yeah, we're always really happy when they they're back, you know, every, every summer and I always get nervous. I think oh, maybe they maybe they left or maybe they didn't make it because we're so cold here. But sure enough, just when I am thinking it's been a long time that I'm waiting, they'll come back around.

David  41:16  
If it ever peaks above 35 or 40. They don't use the bathroom in the hive all winter. So they will come out when it reaches like about 40 degrees. They do a little bit of flight and then they go back in. So they'll peek their heads out a couple of times. So I always look for that. But it's it's a fun, exciting thing. The problem is I'm becoming a little bit of like the cat lady of bees. I started with one hive, and I'm up to four, 

Devyn Caldwell  41:44  
Four? I thought it was three.

Stacy Grinsfelder  41:47  
Well, you're processing Honey, you too, right?

David  41:49  
Yeah, I'm clicking honey in the fall. Just whatever I get that year, my primary motive for this is not like money, or profit or selling honey or even the honey at all. I just like really keeping them so we were you know, able last year to give a lot of honey away to or sell a lot of our honey to our followers, which was a lot of fun because people are interested. There's no shortage of honey around.

Stacy Grinsfelder  42:13  
And you mentioned community garden, I'd love to hear more about the community garden.

Stephen  42:17  
Yeah, so we are members of we call it our allotment, because it's our favorite British word that we didn't know what it was for the longest time and then realize it's a community garden or your little section a community garden. So it's just down the block from us. And we had walked by it a million times. And then we had been starting to get interested in farming and homesteading. And eventually, David contacted the number that was on the sign. And they happen to have spots available. And they always wanted to have bees. So it was kind of a perfect fit. So we have bees there. And we have a bunch of vegetables, way too many tomatoes and cucumbers. It was a really awesome thing to be part of our neighborhood and part of the community.

Stacy Grinsfelder  42:59  
That's neat.

Devyn Caldwell  43:00  
So tell us what are your thoughts around what makes an old house special versus a new house? Do you have a preference? I mean, you're in an old house, you've been in newer places. What makes the old house special?

Stephen  43:11  
Yeah. So I think what it always comes down to is his character, right, and whatever character means to you, if it's if it's craft, if it's something really old and cool looking. But I think also new houses can have character if you can see that there's time and love put into them. Our first house was a 1910 house. So it was an older house. And we love the character that it had. We then moved to a modern loft in the south end of Boston, which we also loved, and which is where we were living when we bought this house. So I think that we have love for both of them. And in our approach to do old houses, especially in our unique situation where we're starting from nothing right we're not tearing stuff out to replace it. But when we're adding to it, it's always this balance of what will look right here. And what do we like that we want to put here. So like for the for a master suite or the shower is is more of a modern design, but we're using very traditional elements and materials so we always want to put finishes that respect the house but also our what we want to live 

David  44:20  
Yeah, we're always balancing the two and just because we're old we're working on old house right now doesn't mean that we're gonna you know, I don't see myself necessarily as a forever old house person. But I might be if the right house comes along,

Stephen  44:34  
it's not the house not but yeah, necessarily the age I guess. 

David  44:37  
Right now my I'm like thinking ahead a little bit. And I have this really--I really want to figure out systems, modern systems. So I have this like, fantasy of building a farmhouse that is like fully 

Stephen  44:54  
off the grid, 

David  44:55  
I wouldn't say fully off the grid, but yeah, off the grid and you know really figuring out solar panels. And solar energy, geothermal, geothermal and building all of those because those are items, specific items that I haven't done yet. And typically the things that garnish my interest the most are things that I don't get. I just become fascinated with it. And then I just want to, I feel like the only way you can learn it is by doing it. So right now my head is already, sometimes to Stephens dismay. To what's after this. 

Stephen  45:27  
We're open to anything, but we still don't have the dining room or parlor now. So, let's focus on that. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  45:33  
Yeah, you got a couple of things to do. Yeah. I guess I usually just kind of flip it back to you, too. I mean, is there any thing that you would like to tell our listeners that and maybe an answer to a question that we didn't ask you? Is there anything on your minds?

David  45:49  
I think the, the thing that we get a lot, the question we get a lot is around how did we learn what we know? And there's no magic answer to that. It's really up to curiosity, and working on what you have. So really, the biggest project I like I opened with was the Ottoman in our Fenway apartment, and we bought fabric and we tufted it. It was like, you know, something we did in 500 square feet, but it was a learning curve. And it was exciting. And I still use the things I learned from the Ottoman today. So really, you know, there's no secret. It's just picking up whatever project is around you, and then building on what you learn. And that's always my advice when people ask 

Devyn Caldwell  46:39  
good advice. 

Stephen  46:41  
Just go for it.

Stacy Grinsfelder  46:42  
So Stephen, and David, wonderful to have you here on the show today, it was so fun to talk to you about just everything I always get a kick out of getting to know people better. So thank you very much for being on True Tales From Old Houses

Stephen  46:55  
Thank you so much for having us. This has been a lot of fun. 

David  46:57  
Thank you.

Devyn Caldwell  46:58  
I just want to say it was really great to have you on our show today. And we really enjoyed talking with you and learning more about you

David  47:03  
Bye! Thank you so much. 

Stephen  47:04  
Thank you.

Devyn Caldwell  47:05  
Thank you.

Stacy Grinsfelder  47:06  
Thank you. Bye. Well, that is a wrap for season four Special thanks go out to Alex Santantonio, Daniel Kanter, Alicia and Zach from Brew City Foursquare, Lee Ann Wisman, Bill Chapman, John Harrington, Chelsea and Susan from our ghost story episode. Richard Cann, Ward Schraeder, Karolyn Fuller. And today's guest Stephen and David St. Russell. 

Devyn Caldwell  47:28  
And thank you also to Tony and Cat for technical audio editing and composer Jason Shaw from AudionautiX for all of our music.

Stacy Grinsfelder  47:35  
And again, thank you for listening.

Devyn Caldwell  47:38  
For more information about this episode, including show notes and transcripts visit

Stacy Grinsfelder  47:45  
I am going to miss you, Devyn.

Devyn Caldwell  47:48  
Oh, I'm gonna really miss you too Stacy, and I'm gonna miss all of our listeners who have been so supportive over this past couple of years. I'm sure I'll stay in touch with some of you on Instagram least I hope to be back from time to time. I know I will. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  47:59  
 I'm going to need you back sometimes.

Devyn Caldwell  48:02  
I'm sure I'll show up sometime next season. But you know, that's a little bit of a surprise yet. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  48:07  
All right, and speaking of the next season True Tales From Old Houses will be back on February 1. Have a happy and healthy New Year and I'll see you in 2021. Until next time,

Devyn Caldwell  48:19  
Bye for now.