Tag Archives: renovation

since we last talked

IMG_4220 (1)

I didn’t mean to let the silence linger here – I was on a roll, but one of the first things to go when I get busy is that tiny little sliver of early morning time to write. Sometimes I just need to hit the snooze button. In my absence I turned forty-two, in what turned out to be a really lovely, low-key kind of way. The sun came out and the temperatures rose. My garden membership was renewed, the most beautiful flowers arrived at my desk, new books arrived in my lap, and family also donated to We Stories in honor of my day. I met up with M and the girls on Friday afternoon to meet Chelsea Clinton (a real birthday highlight), and then we ate late night tacos across the street to continue the celebration.

I was still riding pretty high on the birthday vibes that weekend, and then we suffered a pretty significant setback on the house project. One week out, and it feels manageable, doable, a bit more hopeful. But in the moment it felt like a suckerpunch. Insurmountable and gut-wrenching.

That pendulum swing can be difficult to navigate – it always is for me. I’m pretty good at giving a challenge all I’ve got, but it’s far more difficult for me to revisit a challenge that I thought was behind me. I move on, I’ve moved on. I’m not always willing (or optimistic) about stepping back a few steps.

I went for a long run on that following Sunday night, and I really turned my thoughts (and myself) over to the idea of revisiting. Linear progressions are much more predictable, which makes emotions (and reactions) easier to modulate. Even a birthday weekend is a linear thing – another year completed, a new one begun. But if I’m honest with myself, and I look at the things in my life that are the most meaningful and long lasting, I have to acknowledge that none of those things turned out exactly as planned or along a predescribed timeline. As M pointed out to me – we have the tools in our toolbelt to handle this – this is what we do. And he’s right. This is what we do.

dust off, dust up, hang up

My living room is super clean this week. I realize this week has barely started, but it’s been clean for four days now, and it’s a really good feeling. On Saturday I set up the ladder and worked my way down from the ceiling – dusting, straightening and shifting all of the books. I brought books down from all over the house and shelved them on the newly clean shelves. It felt really good. 

IMG_3654

The only way we could devote so much time to the planning and drawing and coordinating on the addition project was to let a few a lot of things go. Deep cleaning was one of those things. We weren’t living in filth, but we couldn’t let ourselves get distracted by the piles that inevitably stack up if you don’t attack them on a regular basis. I haven’t filed anything for almost a year. It’s a nice, neat stack, and if I need to find something I can thumb through it. But if I had time to sit and file papers, that was time I needed to spend on the drawings. I just had to let some things go, and ignore the piles. I’m behind on a lot of things like that – photo sorting and printing, closet cleaning, etc. I have stashes of framed artwork and portraits that haven’t been hung on the walls, and there’s trim to be touched up, and a summer front that is almost ready to be installed… and we’ll get to it all, eventually.

The nice thing about forcing myself to let so many of these things go is that they now feel more exciting to tackle – less chore-like and more reward-like. Cleaning the living room felt great. There is nothing better (to me) than relaxing in a freshly cleaned room. I basked in that joy for almost 24 hours before this happened:

IMG_3663

My photo is a little blurry, but if you follow M on Instagram, he has a series of photos / video of the mess on there. M cut a hole in the bookshelves – in the area where we plan to install a fireplace. This one, to be exact:d604b8537048729b692df570f67c78e9He created a tent to contain the dust – and there was a TON of dust.

Then he used a vacuum cleaner to create negative air pressure so that he could take down the tent and the dust wouldn’t immediately fill the room. He cleaned the whole area up and you can’t even tell that he did the work. Now we have a giant hole where our insert will go. The foam core is a to-scale replica of the actual unit, and it conveniently hides the hole. Our early spring was squashed this week by freezing temperatures and snow, and so F keeps pretending to use the “fireplace”.

IMG_3671

I’m rambling a bit here, but I’m trying to circle around to the topic of mudrooms. Our living room is our mudroom – it’s our entry and our drop off space and it always has a zone of items destined for other places. Right now that’s the east wall with a neat line of bags and bins ready for Goodwill.

BUT NOT FOR LONG! My very first mudroom is on its way!

As I mentioned before, it’s not a huge space, but it’s a space. An entry space, half a level down from the main floor, with an adjacent area to stash our stuff. It’s not large enough for lockers or cubbies, but I’m not sure those are really necessary for us. More than anything, I want flexibility. I want a system that is simple and elegant and can adapt to our needs of the moment and of the season. And because this room is pretty open to the new stair, I want it to be an extension of the finishes there.

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but we are working with a general contractor that I’ve had a working relationship with for almost two decades. He’s built several of the projects I’ve worked on professionally, and he’s also done some of the smaller projects around our house for us. (The library shelves and our staircase are some notable ones.) He’s wonderful to work with on a project because he’s truly an artist at his core. He has an amazing studio space and shop – he’s an incredible cabinet maker, and we can’t wait to work with him on our kitchen. When we get further along in the project, I promise to take some photos of his workshop and post them here.

I mentioned in the stair post that we would like to incorporate wood in the stair “link” as a material change between the old house and the new addition. I’m thinking that some of that might also extend into the mudroom, and help create a flexible storage area. If the stair enclosure at the lower level is perforated wood, maybe that same idea extends into the mudroom on the walls and becomes a place to insert dowels for hanging up items or adding shelves. I’m still in love with the pegs in our master bathroom, and I’ve pulled a few of the images I’ve saved over the last year or so along these lines. Think of it as a modern interpretation of the classic pegboard – just weightier for bulkier items.

coathookdiydeas_1

coathookdiydeas_3

coathookdiydeas_4

This last image relates more to the new living unit over the garage, but it has the same lines we’re looking for in the rest of the project. I love the simple shelf for towel storage with a place to hang a few items for a weekend visit. I also love that walnut shelf – it’s almost exactly what I have in my head for the kitchen cabinets and shelves – material and finish. More on that kitchen soon…

web_06

new stair happy dance

I know I’m bouncing back and forth, but I thought I’d show you the stair details for the project. I’m really excited about having this new stair inside the house because the current outdoor stair is a joke.

But, because NOTHING is simple on this project, this stair has required a lot of detailing and finessing. The framing for it is tricky, and so is the railing. I want the finished look to be very crisp and clean, so complicated, yet simple. This could me my life theme. Or maybe simple, yet complicated. I need to mull that over a bit more.

Stair

(Again, sorry these images look blurry, click for a crisper view.) Simple railing, tube steel, (I’d like to paint it white), horizontal cables, a simple wood cap on top. On the dining room side I want a credenza / sideboard at the guardrail, so I had the idea to use the railing as the base for this piece. It would match the finish of the kitchen cabinets, and give us some storage for table linens and vases near the table, plus a place to put flowers or a spread of food.

The railing goes down the center of the stair, switching back at the landing, and on the outer side of the lower run, we can’t put a railing to match for a couple of reasons – it would interfere with the entry door swing unless we widen the stair (and every inch counts here), plus it would overlap the guardrail above, and look really cluttered. So we’re hoping to work with our general contractor (who happens to also be a master cabinet maker) to make some sort of perforated wood panel from the edge of the dining room floor down to the den floor – it will let some light in, and be a cool feature at the entrance, but still screen the direct view down into the den from the entrance. I think we have some neat opportunities there.

And no more outdoor stairs!