Queen Anne Victorian House

First Floor
Dining Room
Butler's Pantry
Second Floor
Third Bedroom

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My partner and I recently bought a beautiful Queen Ann Victorian house in the heart of North West Portland, and nestled between two other Victorian houses.

The house, built in 1896, has only had three prior owners in the past 102 years.

Luckily, the house did not suffer from a major renovation during the 1950's, and instead still has much of its original charm. We have started an ambitious multi-year plan to restore and carefully renovate it.

We are currently refinishing the dining room floor and walls, and redoing the pantry.


This is what the foyer original looked like. This picture is taken from the front door, and looks into the dining room, and then the pantry at the very end. The door on the left leads to the library, and on the immediate left is the parlour.

In the future, we are planning on removing the carpet from the floor and tiling this area.

September 1999: Added a telephone jack.

Due to the lack of closet space in the house, we bought an armoir, that neatly tucks underneath the staircase.


This is what the parlour looked like before we moved in, when it was used as a home office. This picture was taken on the other side of the sliding doors that separate the parlour from the library.

The fir floor had been painted three times: a musturd colour, then red, then brown. But, the middle part of the floor was only given a single coat of paint, perhaps because a rug was always intended to cover the floor. Although painted floors were very common during the Victorian era, we decided that we would rather the natural beauty of the floors showing. Although not historically accurate, we decided to use polyeurothane to give the fir floors a tough and easy to maintain finish.

Refinishing the floor

From November 1998 through to March 1999, we redid the floor. We were really reluctant to take a big sanding machine to the soft fir floors, since one wrong move with the sanding could put a big mark in the floor, which could be difficult to hide. So, we instead opted to use a more labor intensive approach.

We first tried to find as many of the rug nails in the floor as possible, and removed them. We then chemically removed as much of the old paint from the floor as possible, using Jasco. In some areas, we had to apply the chemical stripper a second time. Chemically stripping the floors often would reveal more rug nails.

At this point, the floors would still have some paint on it, as the first coat of paint would never completely come out, and some spots might still have the second or even third coats still on. The next step is to sand the floors with as course of a grit as can be found, which usually was a 36 or 40 grit paper. We used a 4in x 24in Porter and Cable belt sander, and a small 5" orbial sander and a detail sander to get close to the walls and right into the corners. This sanding pass should get rid of almost of the remaining paint as well as sand out most of the marks in the floor.

After the 40 grit pass, we removed the old filler between the boards using an exacto knife. We then refill the cracks with new wood filler.

We then do two more sanding passes with 60 and 80 grit paper with the 4in x 24in Porter and Cable belt sander and the 5" orbital sander and detail sander for the walls and corners. These passes should remove any scratch marks from the earlier sanding pass.

We then do a final 100 grit with the detail sander. We then applied an oil-based sealer, sand with 220 grit paper with the orbital sander. Then we apply 2 layers of danish finish, sanding in between with the 220 grit paper. Before the oil-based sealer, we carefully cleaned the room, ending with cleaning it will mineral spirits. Between the coats, we ended the cleaning with a tack cloth.

Furnishing the Parlour

Over the refinished fir floors, we decided that we wanted to have a large rug, one that would occupy most of the floor, just as the Victorians would do. This approach would also help keep the fir floor, which is very soft and prown to damage, in better shape.

The picture on the right shows the floor redone. As can be seen, only the border of the floor is exposed. The picture also shows the rug and the camelback sofa that we bought for the room.


This is room is behind the parlour and connects to it via sliding doors. In an old victorian homes, this room was not part of the formal area of the house where guests and callers were received.

The picture to the left shows how the library looked when we moved in. This picture was taken on the other side of the sliding doors that separate the library from the parlour (a bit of the sliding door is visible on the right had of the picture). The door on the far right leads to the dining room and butler's pantry beyond that is visible. Hidden underneath the rug is the fir floor, with several layers of paint on it, the top coat being brown. Of course, given how expensive paint is, the middle of the floor only has a single coat of light blue paint.

Refinishing the floor

I started doing this floor in April 1999, and followed the same procedure as with the Parlour floor. In addition, some of the floor boards creaked in this room where one board ended and another started. Most of these joins were accessible from the basement, so we put small pieces of wood between the joists and the boards (and Liquid Nail) to stop this. This floor was finally finished on September 11, 1999.

How it looks now

The pictures to the right show the library with the floor refinished. As with the parlour, the goal was to cover the refinished floor with as large of a rug as possible, in this case an 8x8 rug.

Also shown are two wingback armchairs that really engulf you.

Miscellaneous Projects

September 1998: One of the first projects we did was to raise the height of the lighting fixture. The light came down to about six feet. So, we took out several of the links in the chain holding it up.

September 1999: There is no power outlet between the doors to the foyer and the dining room. I am currently adding one.

Dining Room

The dining room had a coat of pink paint over about four layers of wallpaper. The walls were in rough shape as some of the lath and plaster underneath had cracked; some of the previous wall paper was put ontop of wall paper that had partially fallen off; and some of the previous plaster repairs to the wall were not wall done. Furthermore, there was a pipe from the chimney going into the dining room (from when there was probably a wood/oil heater in the room before central heating) that was hastenily patched over.

Refinishing the floor and walls

In March 1999, we started stripping off the paint off of the fir floors (see
Parlour floor), and in April, we started stripping off the wallpaper. The wall paper is off, and I have been fixing cracks in the lath and plaster. I also removed the pipe going to the chimney and rebricked the hole, and plastered over it.

In the first picture, you can see the floor partially stripped of the old paint. The floor in the lower right has not been touched yet. If you look very carefully, you will see some pieces of blue tape. These indicate nails that seem must either be pulled out or hammer below the planks.

In the second picture you can see part of the wall. Actually, the spot in the upper middle is where a chimney spout used to project into the room, undoubtedly for an old wood heater. I took out the spout, and bricked over the hole, and pastered over the spot. Also visible in the picture are some cracks in the lathe and plaster. Some of the keys holding the plaster to the lathe had broken, making the plaster loose in some places. Rather than rip all of the lathe and plaster out, my approach was to make holes in the paster, and put in enough new plaster to form new keys to hold the plaster to the lathes. This seems to work well.


Here is what the pantry originally looked like. This is a view from the kitchen looking in. The dining room is on off of the pantry on the right hand side. Note the pass-through window at the end of the pantry. This leads to a closet, which was supposedly used so that the kitchen could be better isolated from the dining room during formal meals.

The Butler's pantry was painted a festive shape of yellow, hiding the woodwork. We started this room about January 1999. Most of the old yellow paint scraped off of the woodwork using a heat gun, and some sanding has been done. We will be putting tile on the countertop and installing a ceramic cast-iron sink.


Here is what the kitchen originally looked like. The door on the right behind the old stove leads to the pantry. The stove is no longer part of the house, as we felt it was too large and would unduely dominate the kitchen.

We will soon be updating the kitchen to add modern conveniences, such as a dish washer, a deep sink, more counterspace, and to make room for our side-by-side fridge.

Third Bedroom

Here is what the third bedroom originally looked like.

The floor in this room had been given several coats of paint, including a green and a brown. Furthermore, close to the center of the room, there was a large gash, filled in with newspaper and cover with a piece of tin nailed into the floor, and painted brown, to match the rest of the floor. Given the location of the gash, it was probably caused by the post of the bed during the occupency of the second owner, when she rented out the rooms to streetcar drivers.

Refinishing the floor

As of Febuary 1999, we have sealed the gash with woodfiller, removed the countless number of carpet nails that were pounded into the floor, stripped off the old paint, sanded the floor, and refinished (see Parlour floor). Although it has a nice hard finish on it, the floor certainly has not lost any of its hard-earned charm. Distress marks abound on the floor, which gives it a nice charm.