Transom Window in the Pantry

transomoutsidebefore

I don’t know what the deal is with whatever’s going on above the pantry door. I’m guessing at some point, there was a slightly wider and much taller door here, and then it got removed for whatever reason, and this weird box got built above the new door to hide the gap. Then there’s the transom window hanging out up there, except the glass (I’m assuming there was once glass to let light into the now-defunct stairwell) is gone and replaced with some very old beadboard. Then later on, a new ceiling went up in the kitchen right over the old ceiling and covered the top of the transom frame behind new sheetrock and that weird trim piece. It’s all really…special.

transomfrominsidebefore

See this weirdness? Here’s how it looked from the inside. I love how totally cobbled together and silly it is. There’s something very comforting with this kind of thing in old houses. So often I’m shaking my head over what somebody else did 30 or 80 or 100 years ago, and then start re-doing it only to realize that in 30 or 80 or 100 years, somebody will be taking it apart again and wondering what the fuck I was smoking.

transomduring

One of the first things I did with the pantry renovation was open that baby up. I didn’t want to try to do anything about the weirdness over the door itself, but I did want to restore the transom and make it fit under the ceiling, so the whole frame would be visible and it would look less sad and strange. I actually liked the bizarre character of that beadboard panel (I salvaged all the beadboard), but I liked the idea of getting a little natural light into the pantry more. It’s also kind of nice as an ambient light source if the kitchen lights are off. Who doesn’t love a transom window? Nobody in their right mind.

Anyway, I carefully removed the beadboard from the back, and gentttllllyyy pried the transom frame out, pulled the nails, and set the pieces aside to reuse later on.

(“aside” is where they remained for several months).

transomprocess

This is the kind of thing I’m talking about, folks. I had two objectives in this pantry:

1. Spend as absolutely little money as possible. This means that nearly every bit of lumber (baseboards, shelving, this whole set-up) came out of the scrap pile. Some of this stuff lived previously as the old moldings around the laundry room door, or the laundry room baseboards, or just whatever pieces of 1-by lumber I had sitting around. I’m nutty about lumber (I won’t toss it unless it’s under about 6″ in length…and even then I feel like I’m doing something wrong) and it was sort of a fun challenge to lighten the load of the scrap pile by throwing a lot of it in here!

2. It doesn’t need to be perfect. This is a tough one for me, not because I’m used to achieving perfection, but more because I typically at least try. But in this space, I kind of wanted it to have that homespun, cobbled-together kind of thing going on, sort of as an homage to the character of the space when I found it. Oh my god, I just used the word “homage” in reference to my pantry…just end my life; I deserve it.

ANYWAY. The way this doorway/pantry are framed in is very strange and impossible to make symmetrical, and so I just went with it. I really don’t have any process pictures because there was no method—only madness. The basic strategy was to just keep nailing pieces of wood to other pieces of wood until it looked OK, would hold glass, and allow the entire frame to be visible from the outside. Sometimes you just have to do things that way. It was actually really fun. Pneumatic nail guns make everything better.

GILA

By the way, that textured glass I put up here? Fake. I was convinced that we’d want some kind of textured glass in the transom, but Max was adamant that we use clear, regular glass. I was semi-on-board with this plan just because regular old window glass is cheap and easy to get. We got our piece cut at Lowe’s and I think it was around $10. Textured glass typically comes from specialty glass places, is much more expensive, and sometimes has to be ordered…not a big deal if that’s what you need, but it seemed like maybe we didn’t need it and I didn’t want to spend the money.

Then I put the glass in the frame, climbed down from the ladder, looked up…and wondered where it was! It literally looked exactly the same as it did without any glass at all. The thing about new glass is that it’s just too perfect—which is nice for certain things, but definitely not for this. So I marched back to Lowe’s and picked up a roll of this “crackled glass” decorative window film, which I actually quite like because it matches the actual textured glass on our upstairs bathroom door. The film comes with application instructions, which are really easy. I put it the film on the side of the glass that faces out to the kitchen.

Then, when I was installing the glass and some moldings, I accidentally broke the glass! Not once, but twice! I felt very dumb and like a huge failure. Then I convinced myself that as long as the glass was stable (yes, it’s fractured, but not shattered), maybe the cracks didn’t matter! Maybe they made it better! So I went with that.

insideafter

I’ll share a wider angle of how this looks when I show the rest of the pantry (aiming to have a few touch-up things done today and then I’m calling this project finished!), but this is how it looks from the inside of the pantry. There are approximately 8,000 different little pieces of wood nailed together to create all this, and I kind of love it! It’s all just very scrappy, but it totally works and looks fine and oddly appropriate for this space by virtue of its oddness. After some generous caulking, I painted all the trim in Bedford Grey (a Martha Stewart color I love), which will also make more sense later on, as it’s used elsewhere in the room. We had the can leftover from something else so this was a good place to put it to work. I used this color on a couple things in the laundry room, too, so it’s nice to kind of tie those spaces together a bit.

transomafterlit

From the outside, it looks about like this! The camera wasn’t able to capture this super well, but you get the idea. The light that comes out of the new transom is really nice! I’m happy with it, and sooooo glad we went the textured glass route. And check it out! The trim pieces that create the frame are all visible and stuff! Fancy.

OK, enough of this. Want to see something really satisfying?

outsidebefore

This lousy picture was from our first walk-through. Poor house. You can see that the transom-window-turned-weird-beadboard-panel was actually situated above an acoustic tile ceiling (the tiles are removed here, but the frame is still in place). I’m still really proud of the fact that we didn’t completely gut this kitchen…just looking at before pictures of it and remembering how bad it was in real life gives me the willies.

outsideafter

Here we are today! I didn’t realize quite how dramatic I’d feel about this before-and-after pairing, but jeez…this place has come a long way. I give myself a hard time a lot about how slow things seem to move around here, but we’re getting there. We really are. Being able to look from one renovated room into two more renovated rooms is so exciting and still such a novelty. There’s so much left to do, but if we just stay right here for a second…it’s a good feeling.


106 Comments

  1. Great job — and a great place for a little window like that. I always have such envy when I read your posts!

  2. I love transoms! My house isn’t tall enough for any, so I am living vicariously through you here! So.Happy.You.Did.This.

  3. Love the transom and the before really shows how far you’ve come since purchasing the house. A whole side of the house looks finished. I just noticed the molding from the stairs there in the corner. I like that you kept it.

    For the little box above the door have you considered trimming it out kind of like how the trim is done below your windows in the library/living room?

    • I was going to say the same thing about the stairs base trim!

      • Julie and Leanna—yes, isn’t that cool? I noticed it the first time we walked through the house with our realtor, and she said I was the first person to point it out, and figure out the whole removed-stairs thing. I love that kind of house archeology. :)

    • I also came here specifically to say how much I love the little piece of stair trim! It feels like it’s telling a little story of days gone by.

    • Add a little fairy door. :)

    • Thanks, elmahl! This side of the house is coming along! There’s still a mudroom in the back off the kitchen that needs to be addressed (demolished, most likely…), a closet in the dining room I’ve barely touched, a weird enclosed porch thing that’s been gutted, and the bay window area in the dining room…and of course the floors need to be refinished…and then I’ll want to renovate the kitchen again (5-10 years down the road, budget permitting!), haha. But yes! It’s worlds away from what it was, and comfortable and livable and all that, which is incredibly exciting!

      I never really thought about doing that, no! I guess I don’t really want to draw more attention to it than necessary? But maybe it needs something…I don’t know.

      • At least it sounds like all those areas are closed off so you can pretend it is all finshed ;)

        If it was mine I would trim it. It would make the transom look like your other windows with the molding below it and I like unexpected details like that (just like the stair trim – love that). Of course I’m basing it on the one photo where I see the living room window in the same view and just thought it would tie it in and make it look intentional instead of some work needed to make the door work.

  4. You say you haven’t made much progress- yet the last picture says otherwise. Love the view into the dining room and living room!

  5. Wow, when I saw the before, I had my doubts……………….but you pulled it off! The view from the kitchen looks fine. To me, the cracks in the window just make it feel like it was there already. The before and after photos really bring home how much work you have put into the house. Good job :)

  6. Looks lovely! I suggest for the little box over the door, you paint on a kitchen appropriate saying. It looks like a little frame to me.

  7. What a wonderful before and after.

  8. omg that before/after is insane!!!

  9. Oh, I love a transom window. I’m trying to figure out a way to make them work with my 8′ ceilings. Good for you for accepting that it doesn’t always have to be perfect. I think it’s looking great. Can’t wait to see the final reveal!

    • That’s a tough one! I guess just don’t force the house to be something it isn’t? We have the ceiling height to have transoms all over the place if we really wanted to, but that’s not how the house was originally and it would entail messing with all our original trim work, re-framing walls, etc. etc. One of the things I have to learn over and over is that I can’t incorporate everything I like into this house! It just needs to be what it wants to be, you know?

  10. 👍👍👍

  11. The harmony you’re creating across your finished and good-to-go-for-now spaces is serene and appealing. If the pantry is now actually in use, is Max a happier kitchen camper?

    • Oh, we both are! We split cooking duties fairly equally and having this space is just AWESOME. It’s efficient, too—I had no idea how many duplicate groceries we had when they were crammed into cabinets. Hopefully having everything plainly visible will help us avoid 2 boxes of confectioner’s sugar (which I swear I don’t even remember ever using!) and a bunch of redundant spice jars!

  12. Now, I think that little pantry is beaming at the rest of the house–in shades of Cree LED? What a marvelous update.

    • Yep, the lights are two 60-W replacement Cree LED bulbs—good memory!! I’m still really happy with them in terms of the type of light they give off. I do wish they dimmed a little bit better, but maybe they’ll improve that with time.

  13. I love the light it lets in, but since I’m fanatic for old paned windows, would one of those fit in there?

    • I’m sure it could if I found one that was the right size (or close enough to cut down), but I think this is likely closer to what was here originally, just because of the way the trim is/was installed. :)

      • That makes sense. I dearly love your renovations and look forward to your posts!

  14. Isn’t the big doorway just the former opening to the stairs? Also, I don’t know what the opening above it could have possibly been, but the molding looks original.

    • I don’t know! I guess it’s possible that there wasn’t a door at all in this frame, which actually makes sense looking at the way the trim around the door is installed? Although that seems a little out of character with the time period, but maybe not! Hmmmm.

      • Great job with the space! I think the reason why you had the taller opening was to accommodate the first stair riser, which was most likely right at the opening. So for people to not hit their heads…maybe! :)

  15. What an amazing transformation–here and throughout the whole house! We’re renters in a somewhat-recently (we’re thinking maybe early 2000s) renovated and duplex’ed 1890’s home, and I would kill to see what went down to get it to where it is today. I mean it’s a few decades off from your house here, but seeing your amazing progress is a little like getting a glimpse into what the history of our house might be like. We have a transom window above our bathroom door (also converted from a defunct stairwell, we think) that I absolutely love. There’s something so charming and almost personifiable about houses with this kind of history and even their renovation history–for example, in that same bathroom, they rebuilt the whole area, but somehow forgot a handle or any type of closing mechanism on the door..? Not ideal for a bathroom, ya know? Anyway, your house is such an inspiration–there’s limited progress we can make as renters on ours, but your seamless mix of modern and traditional/original styling is just perfect!

  16. The before and after view of the three rooms is so lovely. It really is a good feeling. You have added so much “clean and bright” to the situation.

  17. Question: I was just looking at the floor plans from previous posts and noticed there is actually a second staircase between the den and the dining room? Is that right? And I see the now-demolished third staircase in the now-pantry once gave access to the rear bedroom, which now opens off another bedroom. Another question: You don’t think the kitchen could have been added on, do you? Scratching my head over why a nice big bedroom, the one in the rear, would have a staircase leading to the kitchen. Just trying to put it all together. Thanks!

    • Oh, nope! Sorry if the floor plans are unclear…what you’re seeing between the dining room and the den is a chimney cupboard (in the den), a brick chimney inside the wall, and a shallow closet in the dining room. No staircase there—much too narrow anyway.

      I actually do think the kitchen was added on! It’s sort of the big mystery of the early days of the house. There’s a foundation wall underneath the wall dividing the kitchen and the dining room, and that wall seems to be framed as an exterior wall (but, interestingly, does not have brick nogging like the rest of the exterior walls in the house). The kitchen section of the house also doesn’t have an attic, and a completely different cornice design on the exterior. It’s definitely very old and pretty seamlessly done as additions generally go, but I don’t think it’s original-original, no.

      My guess is that the bedroom above the kitchen (which is the same footprint as the kitchen) would have been a maid’s quarters kind of deal, and that the doorway between that room and the adjacent bedroom (the one over the dining room) was added sometime a bit later on—so essentially the only access to that back bedroom over the kitchen would have been by way of those stairs.

      It’s very puzzling! The most concrete evidence we have for the date of our house is an obituary of the first owner, where it states that he built the house 40 years before [his passing in 1905]. I sometimes wonder if the original part of the house was built before that, and maybe he was responsible for a major renovation? That included the kitchen addition? It’s very hard to figure out!

      • Very interesting, Daniel. Thank you for all this information. Maybe the staircase upstairs ended in a little hallway, later removed? In any case, it’s certainly possible your house was built in the 1860s — or earlier. Wonder if the historic society or the library might have an old insurance map dating from those years that would show if there were a house there.

      • Unfortunately the historic society and library have both been pretty unhelpful…the tax assessor’s office, newspaper archives, going through the deeds, and some very savvy readers have really been the most help! The 1865 date is interesting to me because it actually does seem a little late—from my understanding, most houses were not built with post-and-beam construction by then, so that’s part of what makes me wonder if the 1965 date refers to a substantial amount of work, but perhaps not the entire structure.

      • I thought you may have mentioned at one point the house had had another street address early on in the records. I wonder if the 40-year owner re-positioned the front of the house to face the street of the present address. This would imply extensive renovations at that time. I know of a landmark house in my area where the entrance was switched to the opposite side of the house, but not sure there were street names involved as well.

  18. If you want to cover the breakage on the window, you could use a piece of window film (maybe not textured) on the inside, too?

    Love the transom-formation! (I’ll show myself out.)

    • I guess I could, but I’m not really worried about it! We have lots of windows in our house with similar kinds of cracks, where the glass is broken but stable. I’ll replace those as I get to the window restoration effort, of course, but it’s not like it’s going to just spontaneously shatter or anything. :)

  19. That before and after side-by-side is the thing DIY dreams are made up. You have made so much progress and it’s all just beautiful. I am a big fan of the textured glass in this space.

  20. I love following the progress on both your homes (and your Apt. too!). Great work here. I agree with Cate’s comment – originally (I mean really, really originally) the stairs likely didn’t have a door at all and the large opening was just that with a transom above. That would explain the oversized height as well as the bit of diagonal stair trim still there between the pantry door and the doorway into the kitchen. This is why old homes are awesome – for as much headache as they are there is such great character. Looking forward to seeing more!

  21. What a great motivator! It looks like such a nice place to live. Makes it seem like I can do this too. :)

  22. I just looked back at the floor plan, and I agree – in the future, having the pantry space incorporated into your someday kitchen reno would be so great. It would certainly help make sense of the space with all the doorways/traffic flow – and yes to an island! I can see using the laundry room for some pantry storage. For pantry storage in the kitchen itself, I always think of my grandmother’s midcentury modern dream house here in California. She had an entire wall of shallow tall cabinets with no way for anything to be lost in the back. I covet the functionality of that kitchen. Actually, the whole house!

    • Yes, I LOVE the idea of a wall of shallow cabinets or shelves for food and stuff. I hate not being able to see everything! Definitely one of the ideas I’ve been kicking around to compensate for losing the pantry if/when the time comes…

  23. When you used that last picture with your twitter link I was like, “Holy crap, the house looks done.” I know it’s totally not, but yes, you deserve to stand right there and pretend it is all you like.

  24. Every kitchen needs a pantry. And you did a great job carving that out for yourself. Out of curiosity did you ever entertain the idea of putting back the staircase?

    • Thanks, Nadine! I never seriously considered that, no. While in MOST cases I’m all for restoring original features and layouts, in this case a second staircase would have been a huge expense, and fairly pointless functionally…the house really isn’t that big, so the primary staircase is all we need. I just wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the way we (or anyone, really) actually live in this day and age. :)

      (if it were still there, though, I for sure would have left it!)

  25. As meticulous as you are, I can’t believe you’re leaving broken glass in the transom. Or putting privacy film over it.

    It’s disappointing, to be honest.

    • I’m sorry you feel disappointed! I guess I can understand why this particular thing seems a little out of character. As I mentioned in this post, it really came down to cost + time (not wanting to blow a ton of money on a piece of glass I’d have to wait for, or even replace the one I’d just bought the day before), and as I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I’ll most likely end up removing some or all of this down the road when we can afford a full kitchen remodel—i.e., I’m thinking of this as temporary-ish. For what it’s worth, the privacy film really is indistinguishable from the real thing, at least in this application, and if you hate broken glass…well, you’d be appalled at the state of some of my windows.

      I’m sorry if I’m coming off as snarky or dismissive (and I can see that you’ve left previous comments that are kinder in tone than this one), but I do think it’s worthwhile to look at the bigger picture here…which is that I’m pouring my heart and soul into restoring this house to the best of my abilities and within what my budget allows. I don’t claim to be perfect in this endeavor, but I do try my best…and sometimes part of that is having the ability to come back down to reality, use cost-efficient materials, accept that things aren’t flawless, and move on. Would I rather have some gorgeous piece of old, beautiful glass custom-cut to fit this opening? Sure. But do I think what I’ve done here looks worlds better than what was here before, and aesthetically sufficient given the context? Absolutely.

      I don’t expect praise all the time—that’s not at all what this is about. But I do think it serves to treat bloggers like someone welcoming you into their home. Unless we knew each other very, very well, I highly doubt this is something you’d say to my face.

      • Well, I understand your reasoning. It’s the execution that surprises me.

        And yes…. If I were a guest in your home, I’d assume we were friends… and I’d say the same thing.

        I don’t think I was snarky, just being honest. I admire a lot of your solutions to problems in the house. You’ve been very creative and have come up with some really good ideas. This time it seems like you just took the easy way out.

      • I mean, I guess it’s your prerogative to be whatever kind of houseguest you want to be, but if someone walked into my home—knowing what an enormous project it is and how much work I’ve put into it—and nit-picked how I handled an area of less than 2 square feet, I would find that rude. And disheartening. I appreciate that you’re just being honest (I never said you weren’t), but I question the utility of that honesty beyond trying to make me feel ashamed of something I’m actually fairly proud of.

      • Wow Daniel, you are BRAVE!

      • And gracious! Really, really gracious. An example to us all in so many ways. Thanks, Daniel!

      • We just finished building our new “old” house that incorporated a ton of vintage doors, a few with transoms sporting thick wavy glass. After spending $175 per window for just the 6 sq ft of glass, I’d say you made a good call on something that may not be permanent. I think what you did is exercise good problem solving skills within the reality of staying on budget. Truly some of the beauty, if not mystery, of old houses remains in the quirks and imperfections you find throughout, not in their presumed flawless restoration.

        That said, just be careful walking under it. For any of our transoms that were located above a swinging door, we had to use tempered glass. If your house starts rocking, you don’t want a crime scene!

      • Personally I loved that you embraced the crack in the glass! I have several of those (non-hazardous) cracks around my 1850s house and the glass is the original old wavy panes so I’ve tried to tell myself I kinda love them as they are (since I can’t do anything about them right now anyway). Knowing you took the same approach made me feel in very good company!

        And in the bigger scheme of things, the ongoing (um, never-ending) DIY renovation of my big old country house is so overwhelming that it’s absolutely necessary to make decisions like you made and MOVE ON. Thank you for sharing your perfectly imperfect fix with us, and thank you for engaging as you do with all your commenters.

    • Interestingly (or not, you decide!), when I saw the crack at first, I thought “Bummer!” but then when it was left in, I thought it was refreshing because that’s reality (in regards to budget, time AND authenticity). If I were doing it for a client I would obviously change the glass, but in my own house I would probably leave it, call it “character” and ignore my princessy friends who are the type to comment on imperfections like my wonky staircases or slightly sloped 108-year-old floor. Because F those guys.

  26. love the before and after and love transoms – also living vicariously …
    its nice to have a project that doesnt HAVE to be perfect

    i too have shattered windows – in this case due to a lazy landlord – two – one HUGE crack in a BIG window and the other a crack like yours in my kitchen sink window… 10 years and counting…

    you really cant see that one in the pantry from below! and you know what – who cares? its your place and life happens.

    love it all the more.
    kinda like the persian rugs with the untied knot.

  27. This is wonderful! The cracks on the window add character and it’s normal for an old house like yours to have it’s quirky traits.

    As always, love your frankness and humor. Wish there was a SNL/HGTV combo, you will be it’s star!

  28. If I am counting correctly, you have five finished rooms in this house. Or is it six? That’s INCREDIBLE. In fact, you’ve probably fixed up the whole place now and are holding out on us, hahhahaaa.

    Only the main parlor to go! And a few bedrooms — and those don’t count anyway. Oh yes and the downstairs BATHROOM, how could I forget.

    (Incidentally, we’re going on five years here and not done, and one thing that is especially irksome is we have broken moldings, plaster, and holes in the walls in the kitchen stemming from a re-do three years ago and I can’t get anyone to fix it.)

    • Hmmm, let’s see: kitchen, laundry room, office, dining room, living room, and pantry? Is the pantry a room? ha. I guess it’s going OK when you think of it that way…I guess it’s just the mountain of other stuff that’s hard to wrap my mind around! Two bathrooms, the foyer/hallway, the big parlor, the old upstairs kitchen, the other bedroom, mekko’s bedroom, our bedroom…plus a ton of exterior work (I hate that vinyl siding!), plus the yard, plus the garage, plus plus plus! I gotta stop or I’ll panic!

      • Yeah, I feel the same way too. (Although we’re not actually doing the construction part ourselves.)

      • SO.MUCH. fun to look forward to!

      • I bow before you for fixing up the house to please yourselves while you’re there to enjoy it. We recently moved from a fixer-upper we lived in for 10 years and thought we’d stay in forever. Once we tackled the big-ticket necessary tasks and paid a little attention to decor, we sat back in fatigue and put off the fun stuff. Years passed… and New England winters finally pushed us out. We had to rush around to finish all the small things we’d left undone and pretty up the place for sale, with no time to enjoy the best parts of our hard work. Not gonna do that with the next house!

  29. Beau travail. Continuez à faire votre maison belle. Sincèrement Linette (Paris-France)

  30. Just a couple of nights ago I dreamt that you were showing me around your house and there was wallpaper with palm trees all over the pantry! I’m kinda hoping you actually did, it kinda looked awesome ;)

    • SPOILER: I DID.

      (I didn’t, but I’m all about that idea.)
      (also I appreciate that you dreamt about my pantry, hahaha.)

  31. It is probably strange that I am as excited about your pantry as you are, but I really am. The way you work and describe that you’re doing – and that you DO pour your heart into this blog and to the house – is just so damn inspiring. I can’t help but feel like we’re all on this journey with you, in a non-creepy way. So I hope you’re hearing many voices of cheering about your ingenuity, energy and aesthetic and that they drown out any of the above snark. I really hope you do take a minute and feel proud of the work you have done. All projects require more, but sometimes it’s fun to celebrate little milestones. That before photo is such a great reminder of your tenacity! Can’t wait to see the rest of the pantry. :)

  32. I’d put my money on the no-door-originally theory!

  33. You’ve done such an amazing job!!!!! I love reading your posts, they always make me laugh and leave me totally inspired. I can definitely see a kitchen island working in their, love the pantry but shallow shelves/cupboards for your food and a big island would look amazing. The house is looking beautiful, well done on all the hard work and love you put into this house. Really admirable Daniel!

  34. This transom thing is a pretty unusual detail for a house of its era (they were common circa 1900-1910). Wonder if it could have been fixed, with etched glass originally — or is that too fancy for a kitchen? Or maybe this room wasn’t a kitchen yet!

    • I don’t know about that, either! I will say that we have two other transom windows (one above the front door and one above the downstairs bathroom door, which used to be the back door of the house) that appear to be original. We actually just went to visit a new friend’s 1857 house and their front door/transom set-up is almost exactly the same as ours! Maybe it just happened here earlier?? :)

      • Oh no the transom windows over the entry doors are common, I mean inside the house. BTW, I missed the diagonal stair molding between the kitchen and stair door earlier. The stair couldn’t have been exposed completely, could it, and later the pantry enclosed or….? I’d better stop, my head is hurting.

  35. I actually teared up when I saw the final image. It looks like a home.
    I’m also wondering if maybe the weird part between the door and the transom was a decorative piece at one point, maybe to let air flow through?

  36. I found your blog a little over a year ago when looking for creative temporary flooring. I didn’t find what I was after, but spent the whole day looking through your home improvement adventures. I navigated away from the site at some point and was later devastated that I couldn’t remember the name of it. When I found it again I was quite delighted to catch up. Simply put, I’m a fan. This post was fantastic! I was wondering about that little window. I’m just glad it worked out for you. I think that may have been a louvered window at some point, letting air and light to pass through into the stairwell. I am curious as to how the Bluestone is coming along though, excited for an update.

  37. My theory as to the too high pantry/stair door frame is that perhaps the door was on top of the bottom stair. I have attic stairs that start in my kitchen and the bottom step is immediately inside the door. (I constantly fantasize about swapping the the staircases so we could access the basement from the kitchen and the attic from the bedroom hall.) Depending on the run needed to get to the top floor the bottom step could have protruded into the room.

    I’m another transom lover, but I live in a house not suited to them.

    • I am thinking the same but have a read at my comment too, there’s something else that confusing me too :P

  38. Brilliant renovation!!

    But one thing that constantly confusing me every time you mentioned that this pantry door used to be a door to basement, I think you’re a little bit wrong here, I have looked at old photos and floor plans again. Its look like that pantry door used to have a stairs going UP to second floor and another stairs going down via dining room old closet? (Look at the baseboard outside the pantry door, next to dining room door)

    But one thing still puzzling me that looking at second floor plan, the layout doesn’t really married up if there was a stairs coming up from first floor????

    Also Ryan made a good theory on why door was taller, giving enough head clearance, so no head banging going up and down the stairs?

  39. Hi! Great post! I love that sometimes good enough is really that. If you nitpicked every little thing, progress would be SO slow & as “imperfect” as this may be, it’s a huge improvement & seriously cute. Thanks for the honesty :) I can’t wait to see the finishing details.

  40. Daniel, you literally make the world a more beautiful and better place! :) love how you improvised and recycled materials to rescue the transom window and more. It’s all good!

  41. The kitchen is really looking good! Look at that beautiful door, and the trim, and the moldings.

    The hard work you put in removing all the door knobs and hardware and boiling away the paint. (Thanks for that tip, by the way – we used it in our place as well and found lovely brass under years of sloppy paint jobs!)

    Oddly, the crack in the glass makes it look that much more authentic.

    Bravo! You are going to get so much mileage out of this pantry.

  42. Dan,

    Love where you are going with this place. I know you have A LOT to go on your own home, but having a place to sit/read/watch TV, a place to eat, and place to cook/prep food, and a place to wash clothes, a place to sleep (even if not finished, but cleaned up enough to be functional), and a useable bathroom, along with your little office, you’ve won half the battle here already. That is, giving you and Max a place to function in the day to day while still working on the house – and cottage.

    Just being able to function in the day to day I firmly believe allows all of us dIYers to do what we do, or we are likely to burn out and nothing gets done so good on you for that.

    Sorry you had that one commenter who felt the transom thing was not to her standards, believing your work is very good, which I agree, though in this case, I TOTALLY understand your reasoning, and besides, it adds character to this old place and since you intend to eventually redo it all with a brand new kitchen eventually, it’s more than fine. I also do think many are given false expectations by what is seen on Pinterest with the oh so perfect photos and thus when something doesn’t match up, disappointment ensues.

    Just keep on doing what you are doing and it’ll all be fabulous – as it is already.

    BTW, love that last shot from the kitchen through the living room/den all done and nice, worn floors notwithstanding. It’s such great feeling to see that you’ve made it this far downstairs since you bought the house.

  43. Your house loves you! We can just feel it through the photos — it’s giving you a big hug and saying “thank you for rescuing me!”

  44. I wonder how glue chip glass would look in a transom window. It is not expensive.
    I love everything you are doing to these two houses.

  45. I love that little peak of angled baseboard on the outside of the door. Suggests maybe the door wasn’t even there originally, since the trim was probably continuous all the way down the stair case. A little subtle hint to the history of the space!

  46. Just look at that flight of rooms! I mean, look at it! So finished, so elegant! You knew it could be done, and you did it!

    You should stand in that corner always and just look to the front of the house. Then you should walk to the front parlour and look back towards the kitchen. All the while nursing a whiskey in tastefully textured Finnish glassware.

    It really does look gorgeous. I can’t wait for more updates on all your progress.

  47. HAHAHA _ “Oh my god, I just used the word “homage” in reference to my pantry…just end my life; I deserve it.”___ You make me laugh!
    When I saw the pic of the fake marbled glass film I thought ‘WHAT? NO!!’ But It totally works! In fact I am going to steal that idea from you! The little crack in the glass says ‘dear old house’ to me. I have small cracks like this in MANY of my windows. I think the idea that the kitchen reno might be done 5-10 years down the road is a reasonable thought but knowing you as not entirely reasonable (too much of an artist) I think you’ll be at it in less than 2.
    So there :)

    • Yeah, I’m not gonna count the number of cracks there are in the window panes where I live. Sort of like background noise.

  48. I think you chose the best option by putting glass back in there, it looks much much better than with the board above the door. Especially with the film applied it looks as if it’s meant to be that way and always has been.

    It always surprises me that people actually put up ceilings that low beneath the original ones. Whenever I spot one like these, my first thoughts always are “what would happen if I got rid of that”, so good job getting rid of it! A ceiling needs to be high!

  49. Ambient light coming out of the pantry? Lovely!!!
    I just love your blog and I think all the work you do is so inspiring. So you have that skill set and you’re a terrific writer… Kudos!

  50. I live in a Victorian mansion block in London and all of our doors have these windows above (didn’t know they were called a transom). When we bought the place, we were told that the windows were so that you could see if candles were being burned in the rooms, presumably so if your child was reading after lights out (candles out?), you could stop them wasting such a precious resource!

    However, my boyfriend grew up in ’60s council estate (I think they are similar to ‘the projects’ in the States, so not necessarily fancy architecture) and his place also had these windows…so that kind of puts paid to the romantic story I was told, but I suppose the same could be said about electricity, too.

    • Interesting, I’ve never heard that! I’ve always just thought of transoms as a way for light to pass between spaces and for ventilation, as typically they would open. But the idea of Victorian children mischievously READING is really adorable. What rebels!

    • Daniel is definitely right, although you may be too. For a while there was this idea that illness could be prevented with fresh air and sunlight–things called “miasmatic fumes” wafting from the stench of poverty were what gave you cholera, obvs. Honestly not totally off base, but it meant people would try to deoderise the air instead of sanitising the water or, you know, not letting their literal cespools of human waste leak into their wells in the first place. So people were very into letting light and air pass through their homes. Thats why Victorian radiators are so big–people would leave their windows open a crack all winter! Things called tuberculosis windows (look them up, they were like the original open concept) were retrofitted into a lot of homes, especially in tenements. Transom windows served the same purpose. Here in New York City laws were actually passed about all apartments needing access to sunlight, along with minimum size requirements (400 sq ft for new construction, seems huge compared to my little place!) so that the air could properly circulate.

  51. I know what you mean about seeing consecutive finished rooms. There’s something about getting a good look at all that completion that makes you forget the mess that’s off-camera, haha. Btw, I love me a good transom as well. They’re that quirky little throwback character that can really make a space unique and special. Like us renovators. :)

  52. I think that looks amazing!

  53. Dude, I know I’m not the boss of you, but you need to stop beating yourself up over how slow things are moving there. I’ve had my century-old, busted-ass house for 6 years and it’s been a year and a half since I did anything to it. I don’t have time. And that’s OK! You’re not just here to entertain us, as much as we might like to think so.

    And that last picture is gold. You are wonderful, stop apologizing (I know, you used to live in Canada).

    • Haha, I KNOW I KNOW! It’s really, really not about blog content or anything like that…I think it’s just the frustration of living in construction that makes me wish things would move faster. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about what that’s like! Or maybe just the gap between what I know the house can/will be and where it actually is. I FULLY expect to be working on the house for many, many more years (and, more likely than not, at a slower pace than I have for these first couple of years), but I don’t know…documenting things so heavily makes it really easy to beat myself up over the pace because I have time-stamped photographic evidence of, like, everything. I LOVE having that record, but it comes with its negatives, too.

      But anyway, I’ll try to cut it out! :)

  54. Remember the house has evolved and will continue to evolve to serve you and Max and Meeko and Linus. Don’t get too caught up in restoring everything and making it perfect. I love Leonard Cohen song Anthem for reminding me of this ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vKFkUHYk14 ) :
    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack, a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in
    That’s how the light gets in
    That’s how the light gets in

  55. Daniel, your last posts have given me the kick in the butt I needed to get on with our renovation… you just get so used to living in a half-finished house… aaah man the devil’s in the detail, right.
    Anyhow I love everything you’re doing here, your blog is a breath of fresh air, I look forward to every new post!

  56. Hi Daniel; I was cleaning the stairs today, I didn’t have enough time to do it perfectly, I just could vacuum the stairs. I am going to clean it tomorrow. This is my best for now, and that’s OK. Sometimes when I am prodding my daughter she will say: “But I am doing my very best.” That really is how I learnt that (through child abuse hahaha).
    I love seeing the sequence of the spaces and how they all exude this soft gentle spacious feeling. You might enjoy looking at work by Dom. Van Der Laan (google: dom van der laan meubels) he was Dominican (hence the “Dom” but not sure that that is the right translation) monk who designed a few monastries and matching furniture. It has a similar atmosphere. Have a wonderful day!

  57. I’ve been having that exact same thought lately – we bought our house 4 months ago and continue to find new surprises that the previous owners tried (and failed) to do themselves. But every time I cuss them for clearly not knowing what they were doing, I wonder what the next owners will think about everything we’re DIYing. In my head I imagine them blessing my name for the rest of their lives for leaving behind such beautiful work for their family to enjoy for generations to come…or maybe they’ll just burn the place to the ground. Who knows.

  58. Little things like the window can really make a big difference, even if it is temporary. And that last before and after is AMAZING!! I know it probably seems like it’s taken forever for you and that things will never end but you have done a wonderful job and it’s been so great reading about your progress on all of your projects. You even have me obsessively checking real estate in Ulster County and trying to figure out if I could move there and restore a house of my own!

  59. What a remarkable transformation! The before and after photos really show what a difference the restored transom made. And I love that you did this project with so many existing materials and minimal expense. We’ve got a transom window above the door into our rear stairwell. Unfortunately someone boarded up the stairs to make a closet (why???), but we still love the transom. It’s one of
    my favourite features in the house!

  60. I love the stair remnant and I love the little crack in the glass. And who knew that film could be so amazing for such a tiny bit of money?? We’ve built a house and remodeled/renovated 5 times and everyone knows there are lots of compromises to make and we each put our dollars where it means the most to us – like, drive an older car but take fabulous trips, wear bracelets from Baublebar instead of Tiffany but spring for the custom cement floor tiles. I love the radiators and the fireplace and every single thing you’ve done and agonized over. I would walk into this house and clutch you with excitement and envy and cover my mouth with my hands because it’s all just so wonderful and fun to watch. And I love your voice – your familiarity and your humor and your frustration and your enthusiasm and watching you get smarter and braver and happier by the day. I’m just loving, loving you and this house and this blog and I appreciate it – a lot.

    • Awww, Lindley! That’s such a kind, kind comment. Thank you! I appreciate that you appreciate it. <3

  61. Huh. Admire the energy and creativity but a fakey Lowes (Lowes! Lowes! Lowes!) laminate product seems not so much in keeping with your stewardship of authenticity elsewhere in the house. This would seem like a good spot for a more period-appropriate element, like a salvaged vintage window with mullions and muntins (are those the words?) rather than a single pane, which kind of brings it to that 1950s baseline that you’re trying to get out of the house… So this reader’s two cents is live with this fine-for-now placeholder but don’t settle for it.

  62. Daniel,

    Yes, I can’t wait till you’ve finished all this renovating lark, then you can get your first novel written.

    You can dedicate it to me – I don’t mind. Honest.

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