It’s been a minute since we checked in on the old Bluestone Cottage, hasn’t it? This time of year always feels especially warp-speed-ish. I can’t be the only one who feels like this. It’s like October lasted 10-15 minutes, November went on for roughly the blink of an eye, and now it’s basically 2015, which more than likely means another year has gone by and, once again, I failed to make good on any of my resolutions. I have still used my gym membership exactly once, my email inbox remains a total disgrace for which I have yet to devise an effective system, my body has still never been cleansed with juice for multiple days…WHERE did 2014 go? I guess for 2015 I’ll just roll over everything from 2014 and maybe add “avoid attacks by swarms of leeches,” just to feel like I have new and accomplishable goals. Anyway, not the point. Ignore me.
I kind of wish things were moving faster in renovation-land, though.
1. The cottage is still standing.
2. I’m still alive.
3. My house is also still standing.
4. Spoiler: the framing at the cottage is pretty much DONE. And has been for a few weeks.
1. Ideally, the next steps would be running the new HVAC system, roughing in plumbing, diving into the electrical, insulating, and starting the real fun of new walls and fixtures and finishes and all that jazz. Unfortunately, I need gas to do the HVAC, and the gas line running from the main at the street to the house needs to be redone. For reasons that are almost too complicated and definitely too annoying to even really get into, I’ve been trying to get the utility company to do this for about 6 weeks at this point, and I really don’t know when it will happen. It’s mega-annoying. It’s also probably the worst time of year to try to be booking the plumber, since winter usually means burst pipes and emergencies and everyone trying to get their heat systems working at once, and I’m not really an emergency. Anyway. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will see more progress than the last few have!
2. It is COLD outside. And without a heat system, the inside of the cottage is exactly as cold as the outside. Which makes it a very difficult place to work. Hence the lack of progress. I’m trying to muster the strength to go over there for a few hours for a good pre-plumbing-extravaganza-clean-out, but I’m a wimp. I really just need to bundle up and bring a little space heater and completely dissociate from my body and it’ll all be OK. Or I’ll die. One of the two.
3. The exterior of the cottage is close to complete-ish, but not quite there. The windows all still need lots of work, some of which might be above my skill set and necessitate the abilities and tools of a professional. There are still a few things I need to paint, but I’m worried it’s too cold. Maybe we’ll get a warm day when I can bang it out.
4. The stall caused by the HVAC/plumbing stuff at the cottage has forced me back inside my own house, thereby forcing me to confront all the work that I still need to do. Progress seems freakishly, comically slow and drawn-out. There is still no library, no pantry, nary a wall has been painted since the dining room, and I’m getting antsy and impatient. I’ve been chipping away at some stuff, though, so my goal is to check some big items off the list before the cottage consumes me again. If our own house was even a little less under construction, I think I’d feel a lot better, but right now the amount of stuff left to do is kind of overwhelming and the house is a damn mess.
SO. I haven’t really been sure how to blog about all the new framing work. It’s hard to just show pictures of it happening because it won’t make a ton of sense, and the pictures themselves are sort of hard to decipher. I’ll be back in a separate post to talk about the process of it all, but I figured a logical place to kick this thing off would be reviewing the floor plan. We’ve already done a pre-demo tour of the upstairs and the downstairs, but I know that it’s difficult to understand the space as a whole without seeing it all laid out! Hopefully this will help. This post is kind of long so I’ll save the second floor plan for next time.
Sound like a plan? GREAT.
Oh, FYI, my SketchUp skills are really elementary and these renderings were just for my own reference, the building department, and for me to help explain stuff to Edwin as we actually built it. None of the furniture is even remotely what I see in here; it was just helpful to have a sense of how things would fit. So ignore the ugly.
The bottom of the picture is the front of the house, just in case that wasn’t clear!
So—some big changes! Pretty much the only thing I was sure about when I bought the house was that the wall in the front had to go. It created this small, awkward room at the front of the house that just felt like completely wasted space. This house is really just too small to have some sort of entrance space like that, or a sun room different than the living room, or whatever. In the new plan, the wall gets blown out and the space becomes part of the living room.
Naturally, everyone who looked at the wall prior to demo said it didn’t seem to be load-bearing, but as a few readers guessed the first time I mentioned taking the wall out, it was load-bearing! That doesn’t mean that the wall can’t come out, it just means that a beam needs to go in its place to carry the load. I know that sounds like a huge deal but it really wasn’t.
This is just a section cut showing how things look when you take the front wall of the house away, and the effect of removing that first interior wall. I know this living room looks very stupid and ridiculous in the model, but it won’t be in real life! It’s a nice size, but I didn’t want to make it too big…since the ceiling height is so low, I think it would feel really strange if the room was too expansive. Like someone’s finished basement. This feels right for this house, and it’s plenty big for a normal couch, a couple chairs, and a credenza or bookshelves or something. I intentionally designed it so there would be multiple possible/practical furniture layouts, which is sort of a luxury for a relatively small space.
One of the most significant changes to the first floor is shifting the through-traffic to the left side of the house instead of sort of awkwardly cutting through the center. It’s obviously a very simple plan but I think it will work a lot better, especially with furniture. Wouldn’t it be annoying to get from the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen with the old plan? Once you put a dining room table in the middle of the room? I like this much more.
You might notice that a window disappeared in the living room area! I really resisted moving or replacing any windows, and ideally would have done it before the house was painted, but I wasn’t sure about the interior when that was happening and it ended up falling right in the middle of that wall. I’m still considering whether I should put a couple small windows back on that wall…the large windows in the front let in lots of light, and that view on the side isn’t nice, so I’m sort of inclined to just patch in the clapboard outside and call it a day.
I went back and forth on putting a half bath in this house, but it’s one of those modern conveniences that people like, should increase the property value, and shouldn’t cost a ton to do. That small space before it I’m picturing as a small coat/storage closet. I know it’s sort of a strange arrangement to walk through to get to the bathroom, but I think it makes the bathroom feel a little more secluded and out of the way than having a door right in the living room. It also preserves that wall in the living room as a place you could put a couch on or a sideboard or whatever. I think if I buy or build a wardrobe thing with doors, it won’t feel awkward.
The dining room is staying more or less the same, except for the wall to the right of the chimney (elegantly represented here by that square pillar thing). I went back and forth on this, too…pre-renovation, it had been opened up as kind of a pass-through bar thing, which was sort of nice for the amount of light it let into the dining room. I know opening up spaces like that is popular with modern renovations, but I don’t really like seeing it in old houses, so I decided to close the wall back up! I think aligning the doorways and creating a straight shot from the front door to the back of the house will actually make the house seem more open than it was before, even though it’s really more closed up. Anyway, I like the idea of building some kind of storage into that space, like an old china cabinet/hutch situation. Maybe I can find something good salvaged, but if not I wouldn’t mind trying to DIY it. I’ve never built cabinets before!
The “before” rendering of the kitchen is pretty generous since there weren’t actually cabinets or a sink when I bought the house, but I think this is similar to how things might have been set up. In any case, the big decision in here was whether or not to cover over the old basement stairs. Those stairs were originally on the exterior of the structure, but the addition of the kitchen brought them indoors. Maintaining the original stairs would have meant either boxing in the opening with walls, a banister, or devising a clever trap door solution…all of which were not really ideal solutions in my mind. I didn’t want to make the kitchen feel smaller with more walls and the trap door makes the basement sort of lousy as usable space (since access would be a hassle) and means that that area of the kitchen couldn’t really be used for anything else. I asked Edwin for a separate quote to add new basement stairs stacked under the original staircase and it was $800, plus another $400 to frame in the old opening and do some significant repair work to the existing joists under the kitchen floor, some of which had rotted due to water damage. It’s another one of those costs I wish I could have avoided, but that price seemed really reasonable and entirely worth it. The kitchen can be so much nicer as a result! So in the new plan, I have the fridge and some tall pantry-type cabinets on that wall, and a straight run of cabinets (lowers, but no uppers) with the stove and sink opposite. I think the kitchen is going to be great! I love a good kitchen renovation.
I hope that clears up the first floor! I’ll be back with second floor plans ASAP and we can all find out together how many horrendous SketchUp models we can look at before our eyes start to bleed. It’ll be fun!