Daily Archives: March 24, 2013

lucky thirteen: a love story and a studio first / nursery later

We’re currently celebrating our house’s thirteenth birthday (thirteen years with us) and its 128th birthday on this street.  To watch and read about the whole process in those early years (pre-blog), check out our rehab slide shows, nine of them, here.


Onward… to the other attic bedroom.First let’s start on the outside with this lovely little…shed thingy.  These photographs stitched together were taken from the roof of the two story portion of the house – right above the back room on the second floor.  There was this little lean-to on the back of the attic that housed that tiny little stair from the second floor porch up to the attic.  It had been covered with asphalt shingles by a past owner, and it had this little square window in it.  As beautiful as it is, it’s completely hidden from the back yard.  It’s very high up there, and behind the second story part, so unless you are standing on this roof you can’t see it at all.

There’s that beautiful inside shot, with the light coming in from that square window on the left.

Here’s the only original window opening in this room, with the plumbing for the bathroom showing to the left.

And this view is looking back towards that staircase enclosure – that dark wood in the background.  Just in front of the half wall that closed off the staircase was the collection of fabulous things we found up here when we bought the house.  Nasty old mattress anyone?  I’m shocked this didn’t sell immediately on Craigslist.  You can also see the cast iron vent from the old bathrooms below in this shot.

Here’s the view looking down the tiny staircase to the porch below.

You may remember that we did quite a bit of work in 2003-04 on the front nursery and the bathroom.  We did a little work in this back room at the same time – like the insulation and some drywall work – but not much.

We also ordered the wardrobes for this room when we ordered them for E’s room and the bathroom cubbies, so we did install the boxes back here.  (Cute six month old scale model below.)

Here are all the boxes on the platform, but you can see they are just sitting there at odd angles.

We even got ambitious and started priming, but then we moved onto other things for awhile.

A few more years went by and we decided to get serious about turning that room into a studio space.  This is a view from the back room on the second floor looking up at the little stair shed above.  The shingles had been nailed into the wood with these enormous nails that extended through the wall by several inches.  It was crazy dangerous to even work around them without tearing chunks out of your arm, so we stuck a bunch of rigid insulation over the nails temporarily to save our skin.

We removed the stair in the back room after determining that it made for a better layout in that room and the attic studio, and then we installed new wood beams across the house, then joist hangers along the new beams.

Next came floor joists… and for the last day you could communicate between the two rooms before the new subfloor went down.

After the new floor was in place where the stair hole used to be, it was time to start taking down those shed walls (long nails included).

Once they were down, you could walk right out onto the roof and look back into the studio.  We framed new walls here, between the masonry walls.

Then we started to rebuild the bumpout where the old one had been.  This time without nasty wood and giant nails.

This new box bay has six windows – four square ones in the back, and two long ones on each side.  The one on the left is a casement window that you can open and step out through to access the roof beyond.  We checked with the structural engineer before we started any of this work to make sure the original roof framing could support a roof deck in the future if we choose to put one there.  A full sized door wouldn’t work, but we can get out there if we want to – plus it’s our access to that lower roof, and – with an 8′ ladder – our access to the upper roof as well.

We started installing drywall on the inside.  I like this photo because you can see all the sketches we have hanging on the right side of the photograph.

And while we worked on the inside, we also closed up the outside.  I never thought I’d be the one to put vinyl siding on any project of my own, but it was an easy and maintenance free solution for the exterior.  (I was only convinced by the fact that you cannot see it from the ground.)  If we ever do a roof deck out here though, we’ll probably make some changes to the outside of this bump out.  For now it works.

The wardrobes were starting to look like work benches, but things were progressing.  We installed fypon beam covers over the original roof joists in all the upstairs room, with beadboard in between.  Paper went down over the subfloor so we could start to install the hardwood floors we purchased when we first did E’s room.

We installed wood trim and bead board in ridiculous amounts.

And then painted some more white, because we just can’t get enough.

We patched those walls we had put up years back and that were looking a little worse for the wear.  We also started installing the trim – window and door casing, and baseboard.  You can see the supply air grille on the right – one of two in this room from that ductwork hidden under the wardrobes like in the other rooms up here.

Before we closed up this room, we used to get this really nice southern light during the day that would illuminate the open staircase all the way down to the bottom floor.  We really didn’t want to lose that light, so we left an opening in the wall and started looking for ways to keep the light but still have privacy in this studio.  (That’s E’s bedroom door beyond.)

This is the view from the hallway through that window.  It’s too bad the only photo I have of this is at nighttime, so you’ll just have to trust me that it lets light into the stairwell!  You’ll also notice the temporary nature of our stair railing.  I laugh at the word “temporary” there!

And then we painted.  Hello grellow.  Actually, I think it was called Apple Green, but it was certainly a yellowish green.

M found an old french door panel with four or five glass lites – the photo doesn’t really show it, but they have this cool gridded pattern so the light comes through but you can’t see directly into the room.  He cut the door panel down to two lites, and installed it in the opening.  It works great at lighting up a stair hall with no windows, and it has the added bonus of letting us know instantly when F has gotten out of bed and turned her lights on to read or play.

But F was not in the picture at the time, so this was my sunny studio in the treetops.

M made me the desktop out of a salvaged pine board from this very attic, and I started to move all my creative stuff into the room.

We installed an Artemide lamp in this nook, and made plans to move the computer in here.

We bought a sofa from DWR that converts into a large bed for overnight guests.

We installed efla shelving in the nook and set up the computer (an old one now).  I promise we did some serious cord control after this photo was taken!

The room worked great for us for several years – and then this happened.

Which led to this…

…and produced some serious feelings of shock and awe in the house.

We tried to play nice roommates like we did with E, and keep the studio space intact for a bit – but this little one wanted nothing to do with that.  She wanted her own bed, her own space, and her own (very early) bedtime.  So it was time to hand the space over.

We painted the room a lovely shade of gray, and our parents and my sister bought us a gorgeous new bed.  (The one E had was still being used by my nephew.)  In this photo you can still see my magazines and books on the shelves – it took awhile to switch it over to a nursery.

The hardwood floors were fun when a certain big sister wanted to pull you in circles on a blanket…

…but a carpet was a better surface for crawling and playing.  We made sure to choose one that was sturdy enough to support big block towers…

…and to cushion them when they fell.

It was a perfectly fine studio space in the trees, but it makes a much better, and sweeter nursery.

A fair trade indeed.

This room is really 95% complete.  We converted the baby bed to a toddler bed by replacing one side of it with the conversion kit.  In a couple of years we’ll sell the crib (I’ve got a few people in line calling dibs) and we’ll move in E’s old black iron twin bed that’s in storage in the basement.  I should have the new fabric for the curtains in the back bay window soon, and I hope to get those made sometime this summer.  Then we’ll call it done for a good long while.

The desk area was perfect for a standing toddler, and now it works great for her little green chair.  We can continually adjust it upwards as she grows and needs bigger seats.  Sometimes on weekend mornings we’ll hear whispers and little feet upstairs, and find the girls painting or drawing in here together.  And you can sort of see the cool glass pattern in this photo that I described earlier – that’s the interior window that overlooks the stair.

I said that it’s so hard to pick favorites, but the girls’ rooms have really got to be the best rooms in the house.  They provide this really calm background to all the color that is childhood, and the little details are so sweet and personal to each girl.  There are so many ways to play and read and cozy up in these rooms – little nooks and crannies and shelves and cubbies and hideways, piled with treasured quilts and colorful pillows and always, always surrounded with books.  They are the rooms that took the most work and the most imagination, and I love that about them.  I love that we could see things like this…

…so many years before we were lucky enough to fill this home.  Standing in that awful attic, dreaming of sweet little bare toes, and quilt covered window seats and bookshelves.  This is why I love this house.