Dining Room Closet Demo + Pantry!

before

One of the things that caught my eye the first time we saw the house was this closet door in the dining room. Because so many of the original features of our house are intact—all the interior doors except one, all the moldings, the windows—this door really sticks out. It took me a minute to figure out what went on here, but essentially the current pantry in the kitchen and this closet in the dining room used to house a service stairwell. The stairs ran up from the basement and out a doorway in the kitchen (which looks to have been closed of during the 50s kitchen renovation). The pantry door in the kitchen served as the entrance to the stairwell that led from the kitchen to the room above the kitchen on the second floor, which I’m guessing was the maid’s quarters. I don’t think our house is really big or grand enough to have had a whole big Downton Abbey-style staff, but we do know that there was a live-in maid in the early part of the 20th century and I’m guessing there would have been a couple of employees prior to that, too.

ANYWAY, at some point (maybe 1930s? 40s? 50s?) the stairwell was ripped out, the openings in the floors were patched in, and two closets were put in its place: the small pantry in the kitchen and this closet in the dining room. As we figured out when we took out the dining room ceiling, the dining room was at some point divided into two spaces, so I’m guessing this closet was used for clothing storage and the room inside the dining room was a bedroom.

Now it’s just an extraneous closet (there’s a shallow linen closet on the opposite side of the dining room—there are more images and a floor plan in this post if you really want to follow all of this action). It doesn’t match the room and it isn’t original and it isn’t necessary. Since there are so many doors and windows in this room, this is kind of the only wall to put a credenza on, which I like having in a dining room for storage and serving purposes. And since we ripped out the ceiling anyway and now have to do a bunch of drywall work in this room, we might as well just do it all at once, right?

So there. That is all of the logic that led to me deciding to destroy another thing.

closetbefore

This closet was real scary. Also really hard to photograph. The walls are basically a patched in mix of drywall, plaster, wood paneling, and beaverboard (which is a lightweight fibrous sheathing type of material that’s used in several places in our house, all of which we’ll be replacing…it’s the worst). Clearly there’s been some water damage (from what, I do not know!). Clearly nobody has ever cared even a little bit what this closet looked like.

oldpantry

This is the only remaining photographic evidence of the old pantry. Lest you were confused, in fact that is not fake wood paneling on the wall, but instead wallpaper made to look like fake wood paneling, which evidently pre-dated the stairs being removed, since below it is joint compound used to patch in the damage left behind from removing the stairs. It’s all so fancy!

I think the shelves in the pantry were actually the old treads from the stairs, though. The cleats are scraps of molding. Pretty crafty.

demo

The whole demo process was fairly straightforward and easy since the existing materials were so crappy. I started by taking out the shelves and the extraneous pieces of paneling and breaking the beaverboard off of the walls. The dividing wall between the closet and the pantry was impressively framed out with 2×4 lumber, which was pretty easy to knock out of place after cutting the vertical pieces of framing with my Sawzall.

Taking out the old doorway was pretty self-explanatory, too. I took off the door, then carefully removed the casing (it isn’t anything fancy, but who knows…maybe we’ll find a use for it somewhere!), then used my Sawzall to cut between the studs and the jamb, severing the nails keeping it in place. After that it was pretty easy to just knock out with a hammer intact. I saved it all, just in case.

pantry

OK, clearly this space is impossible to photograph well right now, but here’s how it stands now. Long, super skinny pantry, here we come! The space is very narrow (about 33 inches), so my plan is to run very shallow shelves along the wall on the right and deeper shelves in the back. I actually MUCH prefer very shallow shelves for pantry-type spaces (easy to keep canned goods and jars and stuff organized), so I’m excited about it. The deeper shelves will hold larger items and the microwave. While we’re doing the other electrical work, we’re going to run a new outlet or two to this pantry and an overhead light, which will really help with the dark-and-scary-torture-chamber situation we currently have going on.

As for when this is all going to happen…I’m not sure! While having a pantry would be nice, and I don’t think the project will be very expensive, it just feels sooooo low on the list of priorities right now, what with all the other half-done projects around the house right now. I don’t know. I know we’re still in the pretty early stages of all of this, and I really don’t mind having so many things in flux (the snowball effect of renovating made it a little unavoidable, so I’m not really blaming myself here), but I really want to get something done that will make an appreciable difference in our living situation. I think I need a little morale boost…just something that proves that I can create some good-looking order out of all this chaos and remind myself what the hell I’m doing here.

All I’m really saying is that the pantry isn’t important enough and I really just need/want to finish that office. That would feel amazing.

newframing

To frame in the old doorway opening, I ended up reusing the studs from the little wall that divided the pantry from the old closet. There wasn’t anything wrong with them, so I just spent about 10 minutes taking all the old nails out and then maybe half an hour cutting everything to size and screwing it all together (I used big heavy-duty 3″ wood screws for decking because I had them around and I didn’t want to mess with nailing). Then I just lifted the completed frame into the opening and screwed it into the surrounding studs and header and floor joist. It felt pretty construction-y and exciting.

Next up will be cleaning up the scraggly edges of the plaster and patching in a new piece of drywall. I think I’m going to do that stuff myself since it’s going to take lots of shimming and skim-coating and anal-retentiveness to make this enormous patch appear invisible once the room is all painted. As for patching in the baseboard, there isn’t a huge rush (particularly since a large piece of furniture will be on this wall anyway), but I do plan to have the millwork replicated to patch in here and on another wall where we’re missing some in a different room.

Hopefully by the time the office is wrapped up, we’ll have a new ceiling in the dining room and it’ll be time to really tackle it. Aside from patching in this big gaping hole in the wall, this room should be fairly straightforward. I’m so excited! I put together a realllllly bare bones plan with what I’m thinking about right now. Obviously it’s missing a rug and plants and art and stuff, but…whatever.

diningroom

1. Trim will be crisp white. Walls will be grey-ish white. Doors may or may not be black. I go back and forth about black doors for this house, but I think I like the idea.

2. I think I chose ceiling medallions, after tons and tons of anxiety and debate. It’s HARD. This one is 29″ wide and from Machen Supply, and I think it will really complement our moldings without feeling like a huge statement. Even though I love a super ornate ceiling medallion, it just doesn’t feel altogether right for this house. And since it’s repro and made of plastic and all that, I don’t necessarily feel like I want it to be a big feature in the house, you know? I’d much rather have the real, original stuff take the spotlight. I think we’ll use something different on the second floor, but I like these ones for the first floor.

3. I’ve been hoarding this light fixture for a long time—so long that it’s unfortunately discontinued! It was from West Elm and it was called the Long Arm Chandelier and it’s really very nice. I don’t think they made it for very long…I’m surprised it wasn’t more popular! The shades swivel up or down, so I think we’ll probably aim ours upwards so you won’t be able to see the bulbs (meaning we can use more Cree bulbs).

4. Big rosewood credenza that we already own. This’ll be great to use sometimes as a serving surface, to hold our booze, etc. etc.

5. Chairs we already own.

6. The much-debated NORDEN table from IKEA! I’m still looking for a used one (there was one on Craigslist but the seller never responded to my emails…jerks), and I know plenty of people weren’t sold on the idea, but I still like it.


108 Comments

  1. Having a hard time picturing the Norden and credenza coexisting beautifully, but if anyone can make it happen, it’s you. I HAVE FAITH.

  2. Oh, I definitely think you could pull off the black doors in that house–I think it would look very elegant.

  3. I live in Brooklyn and have a Norden table I’d sell — it’s in perfect condition except for one thing which I’m sure you could find a way to fix. I could NOT get one of the stupid Ikea bolts to fit the way it was supposed to (between one leg and the short piece of wood that connects the two legs, so stupidly I put Gorilla Glue in it during a fit of insanity. Let me know if you’re interested!

    • should also mention: it’s in storage right now and partially disassembled so would be ready to travel. I’ve had it for 2 years but it’s been in storage for one of them.

    • I’m DEFINITELY interested, Liza!! There are two sizes–do you recall which one it is? I’m only looking for the largest size, which as you can imagine is sort of hard to find in the NYC area!

  4. For the table, did you see the one that Yellow Brick Home made? It’s similar to the IKEA one. Not sure if the cost of a DIY would be any more or less expensive though.

    I also had a closet with shelving brackets made out of scraps of molding and the shelves were a super cheapo particle board bookcase someone murdered. We recently replaced it all with real wood shelves. Small but awesome project. Worth it!

    Also, the brackets for our garage door are secured to the ceiling through several pieces of scrap molding. It scares me.

    • Yes, somebody brought the YBH table up last time I posted about this table, and while their table is very nice, it’s not really what I’m looking for! I like the IKEA table specifically because it’s such high quality, well-designed, and expandable, and none of those things are really things I can reasonably replicate with a DIY build. Thank you, though!

      • Ah, expandable might be hard to DIY. I do like the IKEA table. It reminds me of a table my mother used to have that belonged to her great-grandmother from the early 1900s, although that one was much smaller. If I had space for it I would have insisted it come live with me.

  5. Hi Daniel,
    The histrory of these two closets is just hilariously cool! The wallpaper! The moldings-turned-cleats,… creative, huh?
    I actually thought about the possibility to make one closet out of these two whe you showed the floor plan of the house in the first place – cool that you now actualyy do this.
    I’m looking forward to see more of it in the making. And of the office, of course, too!

    Greetings from Germany form a long-term reader (I truly love your blog.. And the way you write, it’s great!)

  6. When we bought our seriously mistreated 1860s house and began the seemingly endless demo process, we were perplexed about this big, weird wasted space enclosed in the wall next to a staircase. When we opened up the wall, we found ANOTHER staircase, perpendicular to the other one, just hanging out in there, forgotten for the past 60 or 70 years. We determined that the hidden (and haunted, I’m sure) staircase was the original, but some previous owner didn’t like the direction it faced so they chose to install a new one — and lose 30 sf of living space in the process by ruining but not removing the original. WTF previous owners? (I have said repeatedly for the past 5 years of renovating.)

  7. Thanks for your latest blog, I always look forward to new blogs from you.

    The table, I was one who wasn’t liking that table, but somehow in this photo, it is charming & I love it, so perhaps its charm wasn’t conveyed in the previous photo.

    The medallion is perfect, understated & doesn’t overwhelm.

    Can’t wait as I’m sure you can’t to see this room completely dressed in all its finery.

    • Haha, it’s the same photo! I think it helps to put it in a *little* context with the mood board, but ultimately I think it might be hard for people to envision until it’s in the room and surrounded by other stuff. Of course on its own it looks like an IKEA product shot because it is one, but in real life it really is nice.

      • Well, as the saying was 30 years ago, everything’s relative and/or context.

  8. Love your plans for the room, can’t wait to see it! You DO need something to lift your spirits that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg………… I say go for it, if only for your emotional health!

  9. Personally, I think that table looks like unfinished furniture they sell in parts of Pennsylvania. Cheap and icky. IMHO.

    • …but do you like it?

      • I read the comment and thought “That is just plain rude. No one asked their opinion and who are they to think they can just post something like that.” and then saw it was your Mom and ALL my questions were answered. Mom’s can get away with anything no explanation needed. :)

      • I’m sure my mom would agree with you there. :)

    • No dissing of the Mom’s please. They sometimes have good taste and are ALWAYS right. Just ask my kids!

    • Isn’t Pennsyvania the place where Shaker furnitire comes from?

  10. I used to have this same table and loved it… Sold it when I moved into an apartment with a different layout but I kind of miss it (oh the sh*t I used to spread on there ! TONS of paperwork, really)

  11. I’m with Mom on the table. Looks very much “This is just temporary, until we find something nicer.” Have you seen the one Fish made? Go here and take a look, I’m sure with your mad skills you could do something wonderful. http://crabandfish.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-diy-dining-table-is-done.html I’m still enjoying all your posts and find even your moments of utter despair entertaining and edifying. You have the eye for design and the knack for writing.

  12. I bought that light fixture because of you when you said it was on sale. So thank you for that. I am hoarding it, waiting for the right time to bust it out.

  13. I trust your vision. The room you land on may or may not be exactly my thing, but if it’s not exactly YOUR thing, you have shown over and over again that you have the skills to tweak it until it works for you. Although I can totally imagine how the endless demo is grinding down your will to live, I can also imagine how lovely these spaces will be as you get them together–you and Max inspire me. Hang in there!

  14. I understand all of the reasons for the closet demo (including the credenza reason) but Oh, how I long for a closet in the dining room. A dedicated dish storage closet! With space for champagne flutes!

    Not to knock Ikea (I am an Ikea devotee, for some things) but you could go to an unfinished furniture store, get a table with similar lines but better stability, and finish it yourself more nicely. I finished our kitchen table with tung oil, and it’s so much prettier than lacquer.

    • I mentioned it in the post, but there’s another closet on the other side of the dining room! Perfect for linens and extra dishes and all of that!

      I think a lot of the criticism about this table is coming from assumptions about its (lack of) quality. I PROMISE, it really is a VERY nice piece of furniture–solid wood, finished nicely, and designed to expand in a way that I certainly could not build. I’m certainly not saying that everything from IKEA meets this standard, but I think that’s true of most furniture stores–there’s a range of quality among the products. This has been for a long time one of the nicest pieces IKEA produces, and I don’t think there’s anything unfinished or low-quality-looking about it in person.

  15. Are you planning on using the same color scheme (pale gray, white, black) throughout all the main floor rooms of the house and up the stairs? Second floor too?

    • Well, I kind of hesitate to call it a color scheme since I’m just talking about a few paint colors, but for paint, probably! For myself, I generally stick to shades of black and white for things like walls and trim and doors…but I really like color in other places! I don’t really think much about color schemes or palettes for my own living space (I do for client work, but that’s a very different process)…I just sort of put together the things I like and futz and play until I’m more or less happy. I think my apartment living room and bedroom are pretty representative of what I like…they’re both grounded by neutrals but I think have loads of color/texture/pattern to keep them fun and warm.

      • speaking of colour schemes and light fixtures, whatever happened to the orange glo pendant from the first apaartment?

      • Ha, good memory! It took me a minute to remember…Max broke the white glass shade part when we first started dating, and then I donated it when I moved to Brooklyn and realized there wasn’t a good spot for it in our current apartment. That light was fun, though!

  16. I’ve also been hoarding that light fixture since it went on sale while I was trying to buy a short sale home. That didn’t go through but this winter I finally bought a different home. Now I just need to take down the generic builder grade chandelier and put up this one.

  17. Yay – a scrunchy post from Daniel!

    I hate to lay on more of the table bashing but… I really like the Norden table, I adore the credenza and I like the chairs, but I don’t think they go together. My go-to response would be to stain it black (the table), or to exchange the chairs’ leather for canvas or softer, more natural leather. Something about the combination of colour, mood and proportion is off with the table and those chairs together. The table has that typically IKEA, easy, fun, Scandinavian cottage kinda thing going on, while those chairs seem so much more reserved, precise, put-together, just all together less easy. Know what I’m saying?

    But anyhow, enough of that!

    I think, you are super brave to tackle all those demo projects. And I also think it’s super smart! Drywalling creates super fine dust, that goes everywhere, as does the demolition, doesn’t it? Do all the dirty shit now, while it’s dirty anyhow! Clean up nicely and have shit stay clean and not foul it up again and again and again…

    Great to read your stuff, as always. Loved the Brooklyn update as well – more more more please!

  18. Y’know, I love my Norden table SO MUCH that every time I see comments here about how it looks cheap and tacky and temporary and barn-like I feel the need to hijack Daniel’s comments and say you’re all INSANE. I’ve had mine for almost 10 years now, and it’s a gorgeous piece of furniture and just as well-built as anything 10x the price. I expect to have it for the rest of my life, and I have a whole lot of nice furniture. It’s not temporary. I chose it because it’s the right table and it’s built like a TANK. Trust me here. It’s really, really nice. Daniel is not crazy.

    See?
    http://www.doorsixteen.com/2014/01/07/dining-room-storage-lighting-updates/

    OK, I’m done. NORDEN PRIIIIIIIIDE.

    • I was on the fence, but in your photos the finish looks totally different – I’m Team Norden!

  19. I had a doorway to a closet (that I turned into a butler’s pantry – anytime that butler wants to show up, I’m ready) in my dining room and did a similar process so that I could put a sideboard in the room. However, rather than painting, I wallpapered and it REALLY made the amateur and lumpy drywall work disappear. I know you guys hate wallpaper and are clearly much more skilled at construction and drywall than I.

    • I don’t hate wallpaper at all! I’m actually planning to use wallpaper in the office room I referred to in this post! :)

      • Well, if the wall patch is not super-great, wallpaper will make it look so. Have you been following “Dan’s renovation diary” on Apartment Therapy? He just posted about a technique to “burnish” (rather than sand) joint compound to make it look more like old plaster. I’d never heard of it, but it sounds like a good solution for rooms where one is just patching with drywall and trying to get it to blend with the plaster (wallpaper also works there, too — this message from the wallpaper booster society apparently).

      • Yes, I’ve been enjoying watching Dan’s renovation unfold (sometimes he comments over here, too!). It looks like we’re using more or less the same technique with skim-coating. It does still require some sanding, but not as much as with traditional trowel techniques. I’ve been working a lot on the walls in the upstairs office, which required some pretty significant drywall patches that I think are looking really good after the skim coat! The Magic Trowel really is a lifesaver.

      • True story, Magic Trowel changed my life.

  20. Amazing progress! Yes, I know it probably doesn’t feel like it to you!!!
    Old houses have to get MUCH worse (and much more expensive) before they ever start to get better!
    I’m sure you’ve seen this website, but just in case……
    http://the-painted-house.co.uk/about/
    If you ever feel like recreating any of your painted/patterned walls this website is worth a look.

  21. I’m with Anna! I have a Norden which I bought after seeing it in her photos and of course loving it in person as well. It is AWESOME and a total steal. It is solid wood, super functional (it has a leaf that stores right under the table – it’s right there and out of the way at the same time – genius!), and sturdy as hell. It is also, in my opinion, quite beautiful. Simple, minimal – substantial enough to hold its own and clean enough to be quiet. I get tons of compliments on it as well, and people can’t believe it’s Ikea (though I always say, Ikea has truly great things – just not all Ikea things are truly great). I also found mine used for 1/2 price and it’s perfect. Total steal. Love it. (And love the whole dining room plan you’ve envisioned, by the way…)

  22. My century house had a back servants’ stair to the kitchen that ran beside the back of the kitchen and paralleled the main stair. When renovating, we ripped out the wall, pushed the kitchen footprint about six inches into the stairwell, and put in an entire wall of cupboards where the stairwell had been. Would that be a possibility for your second stage kitchen reno, in about ten years or so? You lose a wall in the kitchen to put stuff against, but we have an island in front of the cupboards that contains the dishwasher and thus no counter space is lost.

    • Hmmm, I’m not sure I’m following exactly what you’re saying, but the short answer I think is yes! I think for the *real* kitchen renovation, if/when it actually happens, we might take out this pantry closet thing entirely. We’d gain almost 3 more feet in the kitchen, which would allow us to reorient the whole thing AND have an island, which would be great. I’m actually planning to do a post about some of this *in the far off future* stuff and I’ll include my ideas about what the kitchen might end up like.

      • Great, I thought the same thing (getting rid of the entire pantry altogether) but was hesitant to mention it (the way those beamed ceilings caught on, it was just a thought you know?). That corner of the kitchen looked a bit “small” so that could benefit as well.

      • Sorry I didn’t explain it very well, but yes! I meant taking it out and adding that space to the kitchen — in ours it’s a wall of cupboards. It makes it so much more functional! Good luck with all your renos. I love how you write up both the good and the bad!

  23. Love the light, love the medallion, love the colors, love those chairs. And you’re gonna love checking off more tasks that will lead to entire checked-off rooms. (Such a tease about the office, though.) This really is forward momentum. Glad you have the heat situation taken care of, with these arctic spells.

    • I wish I was being a tease about the office, but really the progress is just sloowwwwwwwwww. Aside from getting side-tracked with all this other stuff, teaching myself to skim-coat has been HARD! I’m still just trying to get the walls in paintable/paper-able condition…which feels kind of pathetic. I think I’m getting the hang of it though, and hopefully the progress after that will be much faster and more exciting!

  24. Are you planning to do anything to the dining table (paint or stain)? I was nodding and smiling at your mood board until I scrolled down to the table. After reading all the comments for and against, I am interested to see how it all comes together. BTW, your blog is one of my favourites and you are an excellent writer!

    • Thanks, Sally! I’m not planning to do anything to the table, really! It’s hard to tell from the photo but the table is actually already finished quite nicely with a clear lacquer…it doesn’t have that rough/unfinished feeling that some IKEA wood pieces do.

  25. I love black doors. If you haven’t seen House of Cards yet the main characters house has them with black trim and it looks just gorgeous. Have a look if you are considering it seriously.

    • Thanks, Arianna! I actually painted the doors in my apartment black almost three years ago now, so I have a pretty good idea of how it would look! I LOVE them there and haven’t regretted the decision once, but I guess I’m a little concerned about how many doors we have and wondering if it would be too busy. I still think I’ll go for it, though…I can always decide halfway through to repaint them all white! :)

      (I tried to get into House of Cards, but I just couldn’t! I have a hard time watching Kevin Spacey…)

  26. The rooms are so beautifully well-proportioned and finished. The house just breathes a wonderful vibe with good ghosts. Old houses have them. Even my 1962 Rancho Atomico has them. It reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s beautiful short story, A Haunted House.
    http://www.bartleby.com/85/1.html

    I think the Petersiks have written fairly eloquently about pacing reno, big fathomless seamless projects and small ones to give yourself some closure and secure at least one clean, finished space. It sounds like you’re getting to that place. Also, kudos on getting the bone$ paid for (gutter boxes and elec) before permitting yourselves pretties.

    Such a pleasure this is. Thank you.

  27. Here is your morale boost! I love how you are taking this beautiful house back to original, yet making it your own! Great job!

  28. Love the medallions you chose!

  29. I’ve been looking for a similar medallion for my living room. So I was looking at the Machen site and see they sell medallions as well as… chicken coops, power tools, and cast iron bakeware. All the essentials!

  30. Having a microwave that deep in a pantry sounds like a pain in the butt!

    • We don’t actually use our microwave very often at all, though, and I’d much rather have it tucked away (and on a new dedicated 20-amp circuit…) than taking up limited counter space! It’s only like 6 feet inside the door—I think it’ll be OK! :)

  31. Demolition is so cathartic! Timed correctly, one can work out all the frustration from any number of situations while achieving a blank slate. I admire your energy and courage. Been there, done that, and still dreading the demolition of the damaged plaster on our living room ceiling.

  32. Morale boost and pat on the shoulder: I’m in awe of your energy and cheer amid all this. And Max’s. My husband would have left me halfway into what you’ve described, and you’re not even done! (then again, with houses, are we ever “done”? Mine wasn’t a fixer-upper and we have still spent the last ten years working slowly on it — I finally mostly-like it now.)

    Hang in there! thanks for the wonderful blog and for sharing your journey. All sorts of good karma, and better weather, from the deserts of southern New Mexico.

  33. oh — and don’t watch House of Cards for Kevin Spacey, who’s just recreating his Kaiser Sose character from The Usual Suspects (though a bit more dangerous this time around). Watch it for Robin Wright and Zoe Mara, who are brilliant.

  34. I’m right with you there ! Do the messy stuff all at once and then you can switch to the fun stuff ! And I’m with you with the table : it wouldn’t be my first choice but, hey, IT’S YOUR HOUSE !! Keep doing a fantastic job ! Take care.

  35. I always get a little bit excited when i see a new post from you ( sad I know but hey!) as i know i am going to be super inspired and in awe of your crazy diy abilities as well as giggle a little because you are just so funny! I have bought this Ikea table on the UK craiglist after seeing it on Anna’s blog. And we love it, it is huge and really well made. The quality is great and I think the tone of the wood is perfect as you don’t want something oppressive and dark when you have such a big table. An even if you were to buy it new in Ikea it would still be much cheaper than anywhere else!

  36. So…I have been stalking your blog and read, like, 984,612,370 of your blog entries and I am completely and utterly blown away and impressed with your handiwork. No joke, everything looks so hard. I’m a Manhattanite and when I finally FINALLY buy something, you have to come over and re-do it all. I will pay you. In wine and sarcasm. That’s legal currency right?

    Also? Give me that Rosewood Credenza. Now. Please and thank you.

  37. When I first moved into my Vic, taking out the back staircase was in my plans. I didn’t get to it, and now that I’ve lived with it for a while, I wouldn’t live without it. It’s nice to shoot straight up to the bedrooms without walking through the entire house. The front stair has several big windows. The back stair is enclosed and perfect for naked midnight runs to the kitchen.

  38. I love that you just look at stuff like this and think, “yep, let’s take a door out today.” I am so impressed!!! that’s going to be a killer pantry… tons of shallow shelving will be AWESOME. totes jeal.

    I also think the abundance of service stairs in old houses is so interesting. my boyfriend used to rent a house in central PA a bit bigger than yours, and the service stairs in that one had been left in place but just closed off so they were basically used as a pantry. definitely a less efficient form of shelving than you’ll have, haha! and apparently no old house is too small… my aunt and uncle live in a pretty small 3 bedroom in St. Paul and they have really cool, tiny, curving service stairs from the kitchen to the second floor. so weird, I don’t know where anyone would even have fit servants in their house :)

  39. If I’m getting this, you are very close to a new dining room, WaHoo! I know you’ll need to wait on the electrician and the ceiling drywalling, but then it’s ON! Meantime, you can finish up the office and this pantry. I was just in a brand new house last week and they had something similar with just 12″ wide shelving, alllll the way around floor to ceiling, and it was awesome!

  40. I’m loving the updates on your architectural detective work. I know this wouldn’t be the most practical thing, but did you ever consider rebuilding those long-lost stairs? What a cool historical feature!!!!

    • Nope! I wouldn’t take them out if they were still here, but our house realllllly isn’t that big, and a second set of stairs is just totally unnecessary. It would also mean cutting a huge hole in the floor of the former-upstairs-kitchen! Even though I have a great deal of interest in restoration, I’m also OK with houses evolving (to an extent!) over time to mesh with modern lifestyles. The space will be much more useful as storage or perhaps as part of the kitchen itself someday.

      • We went back and forth (and back and forth) on our second little hidden staircase. In the end, it made more sense to gain the space on both floors – but it was such a romantic little idea – a secret stair to the back room.

  41. Daniel, here are some Scandinavian/contemporary style of tables at this place: International Design Center, Edina, Minnesota

    http://idcmn.com/diningtables.html

  42. Thank you for sharing so many photos! I can’t imagine how much work it is to maintain this blog. I really appreciate all your hard work :)

  43. You are so right in removing that door, it looks so out of place it’s kind of funny some previous owner even did that, not caring about anything. And the shelves, oh god, how creative people were a century ago to recycle every last bit they had, I’m still stumped when I find such things as well!

    Good luck with the drywall, it’s a heck of a work to get it to blend in invisibly and seamlessly, but it can be done if you have enough patience! Any idea how you’ll repair the baseboard?

  44. Daniel, I’ll echo everyone else here. I appreciate your frequent blog posts, love that you share the good and the bad. You’ve accomplished so much already! I didn’t like the Ikea table either but now that Anna has posted the photos of hers-I changed my mind.
    One of the few fights I had with my man during the renovations of our 1840’s brick farmhouse was his decision to remove the back stairs. I wanted to keep them. He won and I have to admit I like the extra square footage gained. I’ve read all of your blog posts going way back and it is really fun to follow what you are incorporating into the house. PS LOVE your apartment.

  45. I was at Ikea this week and made a point of looking at the Norden since I’m hunting for something to replace a glass and metal table (brrr, too cold to lean on!)….It’s beautiful, solid, well-made, the finish is way better than in the photo. Wish the sizes worked for my space.

  46. Oh my the stairs take me back. I grew up in a very old home with my Grandparents, they were the caretakers of the house (I think).

    There was a kitchen upstairs, never used and was “storage” it had very steep small stairs to the main kitchen. We kids used to sneak down the stairs to get treats and into trouble.

    My Grandfather finally blocked the entrances to the stairs when one of us kids foot went through said stair. He made a pantry out of the weird landing in the main kitchen stair and the upstairs entrance was completely boarded up. Now that I think about it, it solved any thoughts of sneaking out when I was younger. ;)

    The kitchen up stairs was small and looked like midgets would have used it. I am guessing the maid/employees way back when would sleep in that area. A adjoining room to the kitchen upstairs was fairly large and I would think was the nursery.

    What I miss about the house…it had a clawfoot bathtub in a large room with a sink, the next room in the “bathroom” had a shower from the ceiling with a built in hutch and a room for the toilet. Everything had its own room, with a door and a main door to the bathroom. I wish I had taken pictures of the inside when I was a kid.

    What I thought was crazy was there was a door on the landing of the stairs. Maybe to keep the heat upstairs? Many a time I would slam that sucker in anger!

    Now the house is in disrepair and needs loving. :( Thank You for the memories!

    Please note, I am not a descendent of the Nelson Family. Just someone who was lucky to grow up the house.
    Ah, I found it on the web!
    http://www.historicnelsonranch.com/historic-nelson-ranch-photos-front-of-house.html

  47. I’m on Team Norden!! We have one and it’s gorgeous– people constantly ask me where it’s from. Mike had it before we met and he’d already started lightly sanding and oiling it once or twice a year, which he’s continued to do. I’m guessing it’s 6 years old now and it’s really beautiful- the wood is super rich-looking. We have a pair of darker teak-ish cabinets directly behind the table and it’s never really bothered me that much*.

    *Okay, in truth the cabinets aren’t that nice in quality and I reeeeeeeeally want to paint them white, but Mike won’t let me :(

    Lookin’ good, dudes!! xx

  48. Wandered over from AT (you were given a shout out in one of the comments) and just had to comment to defend the Norden.

    My last apartment (just prior to moving to Brooklyn) had an enormous dining room-living room. We had the large Norden table. As others (who actually own it) have noted, it’s stunning. It’s solid birch – not veneer, and it’s finished. It is not an unfinished table. Staining it would be (1) difficult because you’d have to strip all the lacquer and (2) criminal. We had that table for ten years and only recently parted with it (it went to a good loving home) because we seriously down-sized.

    It’s style is actually quite versatile. Of course, it works well in country (you don’t see too much of that in Brooklyn, or NYC for that matter) but it also blends stunningly in urban industrial, MCM, rustic modern, etc.

    Good luck with the rest of your project. Looking forward to future installments.

  49. Adore your mood board, especially the West Elm long-arm to hang from your new medallion. Hope you discover that black doors look smashing in the house — as I visualize them, they do!

    The Great Norden Table Debate has just got to simmer down until the dining room’s in its new mufti and all can see that Daniel’s RIGHT.

  50. Daniel, I just have to laugh out loud every time you ‘Sawzall’ something!

    Great job on the decidedly scary-looking cupboard spaces.

    Love the rosewood credenza, the chairs, the plain and simple ceiling medallion, and the colour scheme. I think the black doors and white trim will look amazing in this house, at least on the ground floor. Upstairs, maybe different.

    Not at all convinced by the Ikea table OR the long arm chandelier.

    Come on, Daniel! You can do better than that, AND YOU KNOW IT! I think you’re chancing your arm because you want to get the space finished and ready to live in. But if you hurry it too much, I think you might regret it . . .

  51. i know you’re super duper on the NORDEN train right now, but have you considered ikea’s STOCKHOLM dining table? we just bought the big one and can’t say enough great things about it… it’s solid and the lines are great. color wise, it may compliment your credenza and floors nicely. i totally respect your opinion either way… just thought i’d throw my 2 cents in!

  52. the millwork in your home…
    I could honestly just look at the pictures for hours…so beautiful!!

  53. I like the table you already have in there now. I think it will look great with the credenza and chairs, and then rugs, art, lighting. Nothing wrong with the IKEA one at all IMO, I think the combo will look rich and collected too. I just like the stories behind the table and credenza you have now better (at least so far, who knows what Ikea story may be in the long run, but I can’t imagine it’s better than the two you have so far…).

  54. I think you’re making great decisions about the direction for the dining space (and your whole house). I do like the Norden dining table and can see it working but have you also checked out Ikea’s Stockholm walnut table? http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/60225723/#/00217702
    The simple form of the trestle base seems like it would really compliment your existing dining chairs and the finish would coordinate rather than compete/contrast with your rosewood credenza. Just another option I thought I’d throw in there with the 2000 other unsolicited opinions. Although it is a bit more expensive than the Norden.

    And yes, your dining ceiling should not be left open with the floor joists exposed & painted out white. That would so go against the integrity of your house.

  55. That is the guilty pleasure of this blog, is it not? Reno-torture-porn. If so, we all enjoyed the image of you, feverish, hanging on to the decaying gutters. Thanks for this.

    What I would do, however, is move your kitchen from its current location to the living room. This would give you a long line of counters all along the back, bounded by a charming fireplace, a kitchen island, and in the front, a place for a kitchen table, which would be the only place anybody would eat, ever. It’s the prettiest room in the house, and it should be the kitchen.

    The current kitchen should become a back bedroom apartment, with the pantry a useful closet.

    There, I’ve had my moment.

    • I can’t imagine anything WORSE than doing what’s been suggested here; that’s not renovation, that’s destruction.

      Daniel, regardless what you put into your dining room in terms of decor (and it is of course your decision, no matter what we, your readers, offer here as opinions) the great asset of your house (as you well know, thankfully) is that it’s more or less intact.

      I’m just so glad (and I’m sure your house is, too) that you appreciate how unusual it is to have a dining room at all, and so brilliantly located, just off the kitchen – the kitchen you did such a fantastic job of renovating, and very sympathetically,too.

      I think the dining room is one of the greatest GEMS your house has to offer, and I look forward to seeing what you do with it!

  56. You will love that new pantry. Shallow shelves are the best – stuff won’t get forgotten!
    I think the Ikea photo of the Norden is it’s own worst problem. When you see it in Anna’s space you can actually see that it’s finished.
    That said, your chairs say “I need a lovely teak or rosewood extendable table” to me, but I also know that the Norden is cheap and practical, and that you’ll rock it no matter what.

  57. Hullo from a long time reader in Minneapolis!

    I love tracking these projects; it gives me confidence to take on my own. I really much like your taste and am always pleased when we have some of the same items (I also have a West Elm light fixture from that series).

    Don’t harsh the Norden folks! I’ve had this exact table (the jumbo size) in my 1908 home for 10 years. It is so stable! The expandable feature means I can have 12 people over at Thanksgiving. It’s smooth top means it’s a great surface for puzzles, rolling out cookies, and as a substitute desk when I work from home. It’s become the hub of house. Sure, maybe you’ll get tired of the wood look…Tablecloth!, My favorite is actually a heavy canvas drop cloth that only cost $20 from the local hardware. Very forgiving of those wine spills :-)

  58. Hi Daniel,

    I notice that your house has a lot of pipes running vertically outside the walls. My own house, built between 1915 and 1925, has those, too. They run water to the radiators on the second floor. I wonder if you know anything about why there’s hanging out outside the walls? I assumed that heating was added after the house was built, and that they were too lazy to break open the walls. I’d love to hear your take on them!

  59. get the table! fight the power daniel!

  60. I wish we had a second staircase area, even one where it was removed, because I want a back staircase so incredibly bad, even though it takes up a ton of room and is impractical in most small homes. I would at least be tempted to install a Webster style dumb waiter just for more impractical fun.

    It’s amazing what a forgotten space will display in past decor and building choices. They’re like the time capsule of old homes. You’re going to be upset in a few years when wood panelling styled wallpaper is all the rage and you’ve gone and torn yours out.

  61. Lo these many years ago, we lived in a townhouse with a minute galley kitchen. The only space for extra shelves, which we needed desperately, was a small space right by the basement stairs. In order not to block the stairs, my father built 4-5 inch wide shelves, just wide enough for one can or whatever. It was great–looked good and so easy to find things.

    And the table will be magnificent.

  62. Make sure to make the deep shelves at the end of the pantry closet tall enough spacing, strong enough and deep enough to hold weird kitchen gadgets that only need to see the light of day a few times a year! (But I’m sure you’ve thought of that) Love the idea of shallow shelves.

  63. You have the best before and after pics the internet has ever seen. For reals. Before – crumbling dining room complete with murder closet turns into After – gorgeous dining room with beautiful pantry. I’m so glad you’re willing to put in the work because I’m super lazy and I LOVE living through you and seeing what you do. P.S. Haters gonna’ hate. That table is fantastic. Make it happen.

  64. First of all: I SO LOVE YOU! (Not like crazy-stalker-love you!) I love your posts and your writing are—off the wall! Second: I think the table and chairs look very art deco-ish :-) That’s not a bad thing, is it? With the right arrangement you could really make it work I think. Having nothing but mid century furniture make for a dull house, wouldn’t you say? Clearly you can make anything work ;-) Anyways, who wants my opinion, ey. Keep up the good work, I can’t wait to see the house finished….someday! I know, I know, I get too excited sometimes. I will have to wait half a century for the last and final reveal, won’t I? Best of Luck to ya! :-)

  65. I had the huge Norden table. I loved it. It’s a solid piece of real wood furniture (shocker coming from IKEA) and it lends itself to a clean aesthetic. I lost it in Hurricane Sandy – it was the only piece of furniture that I actually sat down and allowed myself to cry over. It was the center of our home, we ate there every night, my kids did their homework on it, we played boardgames and had friends over for drinks at it. It was huge, but not wide. The perfect table! It seems silly now, to cry over an IKEA dining table. You’ve made me smile today, thinking about all of those great memories.I hope you find one, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

    • Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear that, Ellen!! So heartbreaking. I hope you and your family are bouncing back OK from what must be an incredibly trying and horrific experience. I just can’t imagine.

      For what it’s worth, if you find yourself with the space/need again, I was actually finally able to get one from Craigslist last week ($250!). I think they recently changed a couple of things with the design (the finish is a bit different and not as nice IMO, the edge is a bit more beveled, and it’s actually about 15″ longer than it used to be), so I’m really happy I bought a used one, not just for the cost savings. As you say, it’s a super nice piece of furniture, so even used and despite some nicks and dings and scratches, it’s held up great over many years of use (from an office to a storage facility to my house).

  66. We’ve elevated and rebuilt and have been home for two months now. Everything is shiny and new, but I miss the character of the “old” house. That’s why I adore your blog, how you are carefully restoring your home to it’s former glory. It’s magical. Thanks for sharing the details with us!

  67. Looking again at the post-demo floor plan, I think that must have been how the house was originally, right? That was one whole room, the parlor, with the fireplace in the middle. The little room you have id’d as an office would be, in fact, the office — or the library/office/sick room/guest room for anyone who can’t make it up the stairs. Your placement of doors looks so right. As for the floors in the mid 19th century when this house was built, wall to wall carpet over the tongue and groove subfloor was the height of fashion. The subfloors weren’t meant to be seen, but we refinished ours and I love them. Here’s a blog post from a friend who has been restoring houses in Albany about the crazy carpet styles, which are still available from a place in Pa. called Family Heirloom Weavers. http://gavinmaloney.com/?p=87

    • Thanks, Cate! Yes, as far as I know, we’re restoring the original layout of the house…the doors were actually already there in the pre-demo floor plan, but were blocked off. We’re lucky!

      I actually found a small scrap of the original wall to wall carpet!! It’s all long gone (mostly replaced with oak hardwood, except one room which has linoleum over Masonite), but fun to see the little peek of what it looked like.

  68. Hello Daniel, I was just catching up on your blog and was delighted to find your link to our store. Thanks for thinking of us! Please let us know if we can be of any help :)

    Maja
    Machen Supply, Oakland CA

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