The Wreckage: Part 1

Remember that time a few weeks ago when I decided to restore that side of my house? Well. Having figured out the first huge hurdle of finding the right windows to complement the adjacent original windows that I’m keeping, and then ordering said windows, and then bringing them home…it was time to actually start doing stuff. I enlisted the help of my contractor/neighbor/best buddy, Edwin, and we Got. To. Werk.

I think I spent so much time thinking about how to tackle the exterior that I didn’t totally consider the havoc all of this would wreak on the interior of my house. And hollllyyyyy shit. I’m used to tackling most things myself and have never paid for help with demolition on my own house, so the pace with which things have proceeded is a little alarming! It feels good and bad at the same time, and very weird to have this level of destruction three years into living in what I’d come to regard as a fairly comfortable home. It’s a lot to go down within the space of a week or so.

This whole project involves a lot of spaces that I was fairly successfully using as functional rooms. Moving from the back to the front of the house:

  1. The kitchen: remove doorway to solarium-thing, add two windows on that wall.
  2. “Middle bedroom”: remove the bumped-out bay window and replace it with a single window flush with the original exterior wall of the house.
  3. Dining room: restore the missing third side of the bay window and remove the old awkward addition currently extending from it.
  4. My bedroom: add a window where there was once a “false” window.

Want to see how stuff is looking? Let’s start in my kitchen. Well. Used-to-be-my-kitchen.

originalkitchen

This was my kitchen when I bought the house. Yikes! Apparently I never took a photo from this angle again because that doorway out to the solarium-turned-weird-enclosed-skinny-long-leaky-space-thing soon got covered with a ugly curtain and then a big sheet of unfinished drywall in an attempt to insulate the kitchen a little from the frigid solarium-turned-weird-enclosed-skinny-long-leaky-space-thing in the winter. You’ll have to imagine how pretty that was.

fridgewallafter

Then I did kind of a slapdash renovation of the kitchen that you may or may not recall, which was really just a way to make this kitchen cute and functional for a few years. I tried to do everything SUPER cheap and low-impact until a bigger overhaul down the line, since neither the layout nor the finishes in this kitchen were anything worth keeping in the long haul.

It was a pretty good kitchen. It did the job. Whatever. I ain’t crying over it.

kitchendemo1

Then this whole side-of-house restoration plan started getting really real really fast, and part of that involves removing this doorway and placing two new windows on this wall. Remember, the windows will be on the exterior wall of the house because that addition beyond the doorway is going away! So out came the casing and old door jamb with that cute transom window, and down to the basement it all went because I don’t throw shit like that away.

That aspirational box of Swiffer pads. Sigh.

kitchendemo2

One window is going sort of in the region above that radiator, but the other one falls on the wall that divides the kitchen and the pantry, which is what the cabinets in this picture and the fridge are sitting on. The pantry space was at one time a secondary stairwell, converted in the 1930s to two closets (one in the kitchen, one in the dining room), then converted to a single long skinny space for a pantry off the kitchen by me…but the plan has always been to just lose the wall entirely and use the space to create a bigger, better, totally rearranged kitchen that I will never touch again. Until I do.

kitchendemo3

Bye-bye, cabinets. Scoot over, fridge.

pantrybefore

Speaking of the pantry, hello pantry! Good bye, pantry! You’re dead to me.

pantrydemo

That was a pretty great pantry. Don’t worry guys, I’ll make another better pantry. We had a nice 18 months, that pantry and I.

kitchendemo4

Bye bye, wall. Bye bye, sloped part of the ceiling where the stairs used to be. Bye bye, kitchen ceiling (two layers of drywall over furring strips over a very damaged original plaster ceiling).

kitchendemo7

CAN YOU SEE IT NOW? Good lord. What have I done to my life.

kitchendemo8

I know it’s not so easy to tell from photos, but losing that wall and getting a bigger kitchen is going to make a HUGE difference. I think I’m gaining less than three feet, but they’re an important three feet. Trust.

kitchendemo5

Like all of the other walls, this one is filled with brick and mortar insulation that I’ve been removing as I work my way around the house to replace with new insulation. It’s a big heavy dusty hassle but it really does seem like the best thing for the house long term.

kitchendemo6

Annnndddd, window! Hello, window! Welcome to my mess.

kitchenwindows

Anddddddd, second window! Hello, second window! Looking good, guys. I’m having a hard time even imagining how much light the kitchen is going to get once the addition comes down, but I think it’s going to be mildly heavenly even amongst the destruction.

So the NEW kitchen will have a stove situated between these windows with counterspace on either side, maybe a sink somewhere in there…I have a plan, I swear. In the short-term, I’ll just put the old cabinets back and live with some kind of janky-ass mess wherein I can still prepare a semi-decent meal. It’ll be great. Don’t worry. I got this.

By the way, the reason the windows aren’t centered on the wall is that I’m trying to make the existing dormer in the room above this look right, so this is where these landed. If you take the space between these new windows and draw a line up the center, you’ll find yourself at the center of that dormer. I think (hope! pray!) that it all looks natural and not weird, but it’s very hard to judge with the addition still hanging off the side of the house and throwing everything off! Here’s hoping, because now it’s done and I’d like to not redo it.

Also! YES, those are original studs now serving as king and jack studs for the new windows—the only new stuff are the headers (they didn’t believe in headers in the mid-1800s…if you wanted a window, you cut a hole!). I know the old wood looks all messed up and rotty but I swear…run it through a planer once and it looks better than brand new. I consider my framing lumber both beautiful and time-tested, so I like to put it right back where it belongs! Even if it’d probably make a sick coffee table or bench.

mekko

From the exterior, we’ve now gone from this, above…

windowframe

To this…

demo1

To this…

kitchenwindowsexteriorview

To this!

Don’t fear, all of that original clapboard was carefully removed, de-nailed, run through a planer, ripped on a table saw, sanded, bad ends cut off, primed on both sides, and I’m in the process of putting it all back up! It’s sort of a process but it’s always so worth it to me when I’m able to reuse as much original material as possible—you really can’t buy this stuff new, it saves a ton of money, and it’s what belongs on the house. Can’t beat that!

I’ve adjusted the process a bit from when I did this to the back of my house last year, including priming the clapboard before putting it up and adding sheathing and weatherwrap between the studs and the siding. The sheathing is a little deceptive—typically you’d use 1/2″ plywood or OSB but I didn’t want to mess with trying to extend the original window casings/sills (which are nailed right to the studs, along with the original clapboard) to compensate for the thickness of sheathing, so I’m using thin 1/4″ ply instead. We also added blocking between the studs which is required by modern code for spans over 8 feet, which should help keep things nice and rigid for years and years to come.

Onward!


124 Comments

  1. Holy moly. Itch scratched, eh?

    It’s going to look amazing when it’s done.

    • Itch is definitely scratched, yes! This is what happens when I don’t work on my house for too long, apparently. Ha!

  2. That extra 3′ or so of space is going to make a HUGE difference, especially in a kitchen where there are lots of moving parts that need clearance and space to walk around. Plus some extra windows with more light! It’s gonna be great!

  3. I’m going through sort of the same thing, only with my 700 sq. ft. house. They’re “only” doing the dining/living room, hall and bathroom, but the whole house is slowly going off-limits to me. The dust! The dirt! The using of heirloom furniture as saw tables! Every night I come home and try to make sense of the wreckage and hide a few more pieces of furniture from the crew. Everybody says it’ll be all right in the end. I have to believe, because there’s no turning back now.

    • Oh man, I know how you feel! I was SO not totally prepared for this (shocker!) and kept having to be like “STOP EVERYTHING, WE GOTTA ROLL UP THIS RUG!”. It’s a little insane. Hopefully after the dust literally settles, all my stuff will just need a thorough wipe-down and everything will be back to normal!

  4. OMG! When are you going to get to working on that damn main floor bathroom as part of this ongoing continual mess? And what the Hell is a “king and jack stud”? That sounds like part of a card game. What are you talking about? Poor Mekko is saying, “there used to be safe places to lay around up in around here now everywhere I lay is someplace Daniel might just up and destroy right around me and what happened to my food and water dish in that kitchen anyway”? Poor doggies. ;-(

    • OH RELAX. The dogs are safe in their temporary accommodations (and always my first priority, you know that!), and the bathroom has new floor joists and a level subfloor and, very soon, new plumbing! I just haven’t blogged about it yet!

      Let me see if I can get this right without sounding dumb…a king stud is a stud that goes from the sill plate or rim joist, depending on the overall framing style, all the way up to the rim joist at the ceiling, and a jack stud is the one directly next to it that supports the header and transfers the load put on the header back down to the foundation. Two jack studs are required for spans over 6 feet, but one is permissible for spans shorter than that, which is what you see here.

      • Okay, that’s a lovely and very helpful technical explanation BUT I really need to integrate “king and jack stud” into my slang somehow. It sounds like a combination of something they would have said in the middle ages and like ’90s skater slang.

      • HA! I’m struggling to come up with something, but if I’ve learned anything…someone reading this probably will!

      • I knew it, mom is secretly obsessed with the corpse-in-tub-bathroom like moi!

        It reminds me of this abandoned house that’s for sale in my neighbourhood (I’ve secretly sneaked in, I’m creapy like that). It’s a 1900’s mansion with this bizarre 1950’s-1960’s MCM addition. It looks like it’s frozen in time… If i had a million euros I would renovate it back to it’s glorious days. I can tell this house has an untold story… LIKE YOUR BATHTUB.

        http://www.immoweb.be/fr/myselect.Estate.cfm?IdBien=6068043&xsavedads=Y

        Sorry, I digress :))

    • Daniel’s Mom,

      Always nice for readers when you check in here. Not to worry: Your smart and talented and funny kiddo will do the thing(s) well while entertaining us all hugely with his tales of reno derring-do and All The Skillz. With obligatory pix of the pups.

      P.S. Glad you asked about the king and jack studs. Inquiring minds do want to know.

  5. Woah! I had no idea this is what would have to happen with the kitchen when you detailed your plans in previous posts. It’s so sad to see the pantry go, but terrific for the house long term. This progress is giving me house project fever!

    • It’s funny, because it’s like I KNEW it would happen and I also…didn’t? I was hanging onto some strange hope that it wouldn’t? I don’t know. Weird mental gymnastics in denial.

  6. Daniel, I Love how you Love Your House! I’ve been following your blog from the very beginning, back in NYC with the young woman who was a student and a friend of yours; since you found an end table on the street and rerurbished it; reading how you met Max and cried with many others about the Linus situation and your loving care for him. At any rate, I have thoroughly enjoyed, shrieked, cried, cheered and gasped at your growth over these past few years. I’m so happy you’ve found your Home — the structure as well as the town. I’m so glad you’re stil sharing this with all of us. Grateful for the tips and love the stories (body in the bathtub?!). You really could/should write a book!

    • Aww, Joanne, that’s so nice to hear and thank you for sticking around all this time!! Consider this a virtual hug!

    • I have, too! Daniel, you are just brilliant and a very talented writer. If I ever met you in person, I know we would be fast friends!

  7. Yay! This is exciting!
    We are restoring our 1910 apartment (in NYC and mostly on our own), but this makes me so wish we had a house to work on. I love what you are doing, and can’t wait to see what where this goes.

    • Such a good project, Devyn! You guys are doing a GREAT job! Such a pleasure seeing what you’re up to! :)

      • Thanks Daniel,
        Renovating while living in 800 sq ft has been a challenge, especially keeping everything contained within our apartment. We are lucky to have a great building super (who is quite impressed with collection of power tools).

    • WOW just spent a bit of time on your blog… so gorgeous! am looking forward to the final kitchen reveal! (my first apt was on 109 between Amsterdam and Columbus !)

      • Thanks! We are just a few blocks away from your first place.. I am looking forward to kitchen reveal too!

    • Devyn, I just went to your website, I’m halfway through the story of how you found your apartment and all I can sy is “hello, new friend” :)

  8. Couple questions. 1) Are the new windows shorter or is it just a weird perspective that makes them look that way? 2) What are you doing for heat in the new kitchen now that you removed that radiator? Have you already upgraded to a different system and I just forgot? Was the radiator just decorative?

    Whatever you answer, I’m sure it’s going to be AH-MAZING because that’s just what you do. You’ll just have to live in complete kitchen-chaos for a while (unfortunately). Just remember that beauty requires a little pain along the way!

    • Ha! Here’s hoping your confidence is well-placed! Some days I just don’t know!

      OK so…
      1) They ARE shorter! I matched the header height but they’re not as long because I need space for counters underneath, and the full height of the adjacent original windows wouldn’t allow for that. I’m REALLY hoping it will look OK. The kitchen is actually a verrrrry early addition and I’m trying to make it sorta read as a separate structure from the “main house” with this restoration project. I think window boxes under these windows for herbs and stuff will also help these shorter windows look visually balanced. I think. I hope. I really do not know. It’s so hard to judge this stuff with the addition still hanging out there, blocking my view.
      2) Nope, the whole house is still on hot water radiators! The kitchen radiator is actually getting swapped with the radiator from the room above this, which is bigger. This part of the house is pretty cold in the winter, so I think it will be good to get a bigger radiator in here. I have to re-route some plumbing for that to happen, though, but I have a few months to get that taken care of…for now, the radiator is just out of the way and awaiting its new placement! :)

      • Hi Daniel, over here we have to “think” about detaching radiators because they start to rust pretty quickly on the inside when you detach them from the system. Not sure what exactly you need to do though…

      • I think window boxes will look great! That’s an excellent idea to try to keep the windows looking more balanced, and I think it will help a lot. :)

        Ah, another radiator shuffle. Will we be blessed with another riveting Great Radiator Swap post, this time version 2.0? I guess there was a method to your madness in destroying everything in the dead of summer – that way there is no risk of frostbite in your kitchen like there would be if you waited until winter. Now the pressure is really on to get it done by fall!

        Thanks for the follow-up, I know you have more than enough to juggle right now but I just love following along in the transformation and sometimes I have questions!

      • Simone—I’m sure that’s true, but I’ve never heard of that actually being a problem! Radiators freezing and cracking, yes, but in my experience a cast iron radiator can sit outside disconnected for years and still function perfectly!

        Caitlin—Thanks! And yes, when radiators get shuffled, I’ll let ya know! :)

      • Window boxes to handle the height differences: Brilliant!

  9. Is there a fireplace hiding somewhere under that chimney, plastered over years and years ago? Do you plan to uncover it/expose it?

    • I don’t think so, Jakob! There actually IS a fireplace in the basement at the bottom of this chimney (likely the original kitchen, I think!), but I’m pretty sure that this would have had a wood stove originally (you can kind of see that round cover up there where it would have vented). I DO think I’ll remove the tile and the plaster to expose the brick, though!

      • Oh wow, a fireplace/original kitchen in the basement?!? So interesting!

      • Ohhhh, that would look so good! And I am completely fascinated by the idea of the old kitchen with fireplace being in the basement. Your house is so damn cool and I really look forward to your posts. :D

      • Ok, now i’m confused. You’re talking about the brick chimney on the back wall of the kitchen, right? If the kitchen (and the room above) was an early addition, wouldn’t the original kitchen of the house had to have have been where your dining room is (the early addition not having existed yet)?
        .
        Then, when the early addition was built, I’m curious as to what in the house makes you think the kitchen was in the basement, rather than where your kitchen is. A kitchen in the basement implied servants (to bring the food up and down), which could have been likely, with the back staircase (which I’m assuming is in the early addition part, rather than the original house) leading up to the servants bedroom. What would your kitchen have been in that scenario – a sitting room for the servants, or a room for the owners? Could it have been the kitchen, with the venting hole in the wall being for a kitchen stove, and with the fireplace in the basement being there for for major projects – like smoking meat, doing laundry, etc.?
        .
        Also, I’m curious if there is evidence in the house that the back staircase went down to the basement as well as to the second floor, which would seem necessary if the basement was being used as the kitchen. … Yeah, you can tell I’m very curious about the uses rooms in old houses were put to ….

      • Reading more on old house kitchens, one comes across the concept of summer kitchens – usually in a separate structure out back (which your house could also have had at some point, given the large lot size), but sometimes built in the basement as well – used in the summer for pickling, canning, preserving food including meats, laundry, and summer baking. While having one in the basement wouldn’t keep the house cool in the summer as having one out back would, it would provide space to do the preserving and laundry, which took space in those days. If there wasn’t a staircase from the basement to the first floor, but just an exit to the outside, I’d figure a basement kitchen was a summer kitchen rather than a man kitchen.

      • main kitchen, that was supposed to say at the end…

      • Apparently some houses had dumbwaiters instead of stairs to get the food from the basement to the dining room – if you had a servant to cook and a another to serve, that worked. Is there any evidence – from fancy wallpaper, or wall stenciling in the case of your house – that any other room in the basement was used as a dining room? Apparently some old freestanding houses, (not just city brownstones), had formal dining rooms in the basement with the kitchens. Though that would require stairs to the basement …. though it occurs to me that your main staircase may go the to the basement, which would work for the owner’s family.

  10. phew. I’m exhausted.

  11. I have been following your blog for years and just have to say that I don’t know how you do it. I get wiped out just folding laundry.

  12. Normally I am pretty chill about your alarming tendency to dive into things at full speed and Conquer Everything In Your Way. I have to admit that I got a little light-headed looking at the kitchen this time. And then I read all the way to the end of the post and gave myself a little shake, because of course it will be worth it–I admire your willingness to say “This was a good-enough solution while it lasted” and then move on. Can’t wait to see what you create in its place.

    But, uh, maybe after this you could do something tiny, like paint a chair or create an art print of the fabulous dogs. Just as a breather. I’ll be over here on my fainting couch.

  13. p.s. You rock all the things.

    • Thank you! Ha! Painting a chair sounds like such a soothing thing right around now. Except for when I decide that I first need to strip the chair, then sand the chair, then totally rebuild the chair, then use the parts to make a different chair, then…oh dear.

      • “… then use the parts to make a different chair, then…oh dear.”
        Hilariously accurate! Sending a text to my sister to not just read your post but also the comments – thanks!!

      • Yeah, I snort-laughed out loud. That is totally something you would do. Unrelated, but I feel like I have to tell you because you will understand my outrage: I have been helping a friend with his living room this summer (they’ve been living with a paint colour they didn’t choose or particularly like for TWELVE YEARS) and I have developed a searing hatred for the house’s former owners. They put in floors to sell the house, and they’re nice enough floors, but sloppy. Also, they seem to have done some of their own drywalling and they were not good at it. (WHYYYY does this wall not quite meet the ceiling!?) But the thing that’s really getting to me is the baseboards. They put in the crappiest cheapest most generic baseboards from Big Box Hardware. First I noticed that they didn’t caulk them. On closer inspection, I’m pretty sure they didn’t paint them, just left them with the store-applied primer. And then we had to remove an eight foot length along one wall.
        “THIS BASEBOARD IS LITERALLY HELD ON WITH THREE NAILS” I said.
        “I know.” my friend said.
        “I HATE THEM WITH THE PASSION OF A THOUSAND FIERY SUNS” I said. Just. Augh. Why?

      • Reading the comments is a MUST! :)

  14. That brick wall looks pretty cool, I hope you can keep it exposed!

  15. So, just to make sure I understand, which I probably don’t, that wall with the windows behind the man in the undershirt is going to be knocked down? And the wall with what looks like plywood but I am sure isn’t will be covered with clapboard and be the new outside?

    I could be COMPLETELY WRONG. Ha!

    • I *think* I’m following (oh, the limits of trying to convey all of this with pictures and words online! just come over, I’ll show ya!), and yes! I think you have it right! The wall IS covered in plywood right now (sheathing, which will be covered in weather wrap and then siding on top of that!), and is the original exterior wall of the house. The wall with the three vinyl windows behind the man on the phone (Edwin!) is getting demolished! The space where here’s standing will be part of my yard. Does that help or just make things more confusing? I’m trying!!

  16. Holy is right. I know first hand how exhausting living among the dust, debris and demo death it can all be. It is good to hear from others that it will pass, you are almost there, it will be worth it, and the progress so far is lovely. So, like I said, keep on keepin’ and thank you for sharing!

  17. You had a super cute kitchen! I love it, though — you’re super brave! I can’t wait to see more pics of the new kitchen shaping up :)

  18. Oh Daniel. You are insane in the best possible way. The lengths you go to reuse material just melts my heart. Great work and good luck!!

  19. so the solarium had nogging in the walls as well? I thought that was a later addition? Didn’t they stop using the brinks as insulation 1880 or so? So the old staircase had a window? And did you consider bringing the servant staircase back? I live in an 1880’s italianate whose back staircase went missing sometime during it’s long life and oh how I wish for it back, even in all it’s steep and skinny glory.

    • Both correct! The solarium did have nogging, and was very old—just not original to the house. I talked some more about that in the first post about this project (first link in this post!).

      I’ve fleeeetingggly thought about trying to reconstruct the servant staircase, but it’s one of those things…my house really isn’t *that* big (about 2,000 sq ft), to do it correctly would eat into the basement, kitchen, and small-ish room above the kitchen…and I really have no use for it! In a larger house it’s definitely something I’d consider, I just don’t think it’s the right thing for this one! :)

      • Rubbish, you definitely look like you good use a good servant, look at the state of that kitchen. :) You could call him Garth. That’s definitely what I would want my servant to be called.
        “Garth, be a dear and fetch me some tea would you? Oh and clean up that mess in the kitchen while you’re at it”. I dunno, sounds like a plan to me.

  20. Daniel! Is there a reason you’re holding out on Olivebridge Cottage updates? Is there something legally binding you from finishing the tale? Can you just not get the story the way you want it? It’s the most epic adventure and I am dying for a conclusion! You’ve teased so many times by telling us that things ended up OK, but still there’s nothin’! I just need a promise the story is coming. :)

    • Ha! Nothing legally binding me to silence…I’m actually legally bound TO finish the tale! Honestly, it’s project fatigue—dedicating so much time to that house in my actual life kind of makes it the last thing I want to sit around editing photos of and writing about in my “free” time! Those posts (most posts here) take many hours to select photos, edit photos, write, then have to be approved by the owners which usually involves some back and forth…I’ll get there, it’s just a challenge. I’m just excited about this project and missed documenting my own house!

      • Your excitement is evident in your writing :) The tone of this post is so positive and cheerful!

  21. your replaning and reusing the 100+ year old clapboards almost makes me weep. i hope they keep you warm and protected for another 150 years, with the blessing of the hands that first made them, and now yours.

  22. I’m sad to see your kitchen go… but I guess the good news is, that we can expect more kitchen renovation posts in the future ;-)
    And OMG. I admire your courage (or craziness?) putting yourself through that kind of work and chaos!

    • If it’s any consolation, the kitchen isn’t TOTALLY gone! It still has a couple walls. :)

  23. Is that a brick wall? I would be tempted to leave that as is. Though back in the 1800s they didn’t expose brick walls.
    The windows will make you so happy you won’t even remember the hassle and dust of now. Kind of like childbirth.
    I am jealous of your adorable pantry, not just that you had storage like that, but that it was so well arranged! Can’t wait to see what you do with the space. I can count on you to do something much better.
    I can’t believe it’s been three years since you did your kitchen! It seems like yesterday. I agree with amey judd about reusing the materials. Bravo to you. It’s good for you, good for the house, good for the environment.
    And Mom’s comments are always the best!

    • I’m not sure which picture you’re looking at! If you see bricks in my house, though, it’s the “nogging”—essentially garbage bricks put in between the studs as an early form of insulation, and unfortunately the only real option for insulating the house is to remove it! It can be very pretty and cool looking, and I’ve actually seen a building where it was left exposed. As you point out, though, not really appropriate for this house. And definitely not practical…no idea how they heat the place that left it exposed! It’s a restaurant so I’m guessing the heat of the kitchen + a bunch of bodies + heat system + active fireplace keeps it comfy, but I think my house would turn into an icicle!

  24. Wow Daniel, so cool. Are you expecting a child that you are bursting into such a spurt of hard work? I guess that in your off-hours you live in the livingroom and your guestroom?

    • Ha! I hope not! I think this is mainly a combo of finalllly having some time (and yes, energy!) to work on my own stuff and really wanting to get this project ticked off the list this summer—a window of opportunity that’s rapidly closing! Having done the back side last year, I know it’s time-consuming and I don’t want to get stuck painting clapboard on shoddy scaffolding in December again!

  25. Daniel I love your blog and have been following it for a few years now, and enjoy reading about your house. Having recently visited the US East Coast and seen so many gorgeous character houses falling into rack and ruin, it is lovely to see you saving one with all your hard work.

  26. I don’t understand the point of putting on that “solarium” addition anyway. It added, what, four feet of not really usable space? It required a foundation and floor joists and what I imagine to be a roof flashing situation that just all seems very cumbersome for four feet that just doesn’t seem to function very well. What were they thinking? (You probably ask yourself this question multiple times per day.)

    Anyway, my historic preservationist heart is cheering your progress. I hope all the old ladies at your local historic society have already taken note!

    • I don’t really know, other than to say I think it served some functional benefits—such as growing herbs and stuff, maybe starting seeds in the late winter/early spring—and I think was believed to have health benefits in terms of exposure to sunlight and fresh air. And it was probably just fashionable! The people who owned my house at the time were pretty wealthy and established members of the city, and I think these sorts of additions were kinda what ya did then, you know? But still, I agree—not useful or pleasant or beneficial to me especially in the state it was in when I bought the house! I’d much rather see that pretty house underneath again!

    • I’m guessing that the now-awkward and mostly useless solarium had many specific uses when it was built. Remember that it was built (I think) in an era before electrification of homes (even after homes were electrified, apparently one weak bulb, way less than 60 watts, was often considered enough for one room. So having the solarium area with its wall of windows probably functioned as a space for doing things that required more light than you could get inside in most rooms – not only for starting plants, but likely for hand-sewing and like crafts, reading and writing, whatever you do with task lamps that just weren’t available then. It was likely particularly prized in winter, when you couldn’t just go sit outside.

  27. I can definitely see the “mildly heavenly” taking shape. I think everyone enjoys windows and more light!

    • The difference will be nuts! When I bought the house, the kitchen was like a CAVE—the window over the sink was heavily shaded by the fire escape tacked on the back, the now-exterior door faced into that horrible wood-paneled mudroom addition, the doorway into the solarium brought in some light but surprisingly not a ton…it’ll be like a whole new house!

  28. Duuuuude. Holy crap. I have much confidence that your place is going to look even more incredible when it’s finished but I’m also seriously mourning that awesome pantry. And your “temporary” kitchen that looked better than any kitchen I will ever have. In short: you rock.

    • Ha! You only saw the kitchen all cleaned up and photographed in good light!! Trust, this is for the best! :)

  29. Hey Daniel…obviously can’t wait to see the finished product…but that pantry though….I did covet that pantry.

    • It was a great pantry! I mean it was cute enough, but it really functioned VERY well for me. Nothing that can’t be adapted into something else, though!

  30. That escalated…quickly. Have to admire your willingness to dive in to such a large project. I’ll bet it’s refreshing to be the final say after the months and months playing GC and diplomat at Olivebridge. Also, 3′ in a kitchen is huuuuge. I’m living in a galley at the moment that can’t be three feet *wide*. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

    • Oh Sterling, you have no idea! But you’ve hit the nail on the head…it really does feel very nice and refreshing. I’ve been having so much FUN doing this project, even though my house (and some of my hard work!) is getting torn apart. I sort of forgot how different things feel when it’s truly your own project.

      • I know the feeling. It’s all the fun aspects without the stress of trying to implement someone else’s design vision which they may or may not be able to clearly articulate, knowing the result rests with you, even if you aren’t the one doing the work, so it really rests on whether your subs/friends/prayers/past owners/random turns of fate all worked and work the way they should all the time…which is never. Doing a project for yourself is a vacation compared to that, and you deserve it. Being a middleman is hard.

  31. holy bejeezus…and I’ve been patting myself on the back for finally patching and repainting the 3 holes in the drywall made about, oh, 8 years ago?, when I had a meecy micey mousey issue….
    Dear Daniel…will you please bottle and sell whatever wonderous substance it is that makes you go go go and do do do?
    (maybe it’s just innocent youth?)

    • Hey, patching and repainting drywall holes is not a small (or remotely fun) task! Good for you for getting it done!! That’s exactly the kind of thing I like to put off indefinitely.

  32. Okay- this is awesome/ you are a brave and daring soul.

    I have to also ask- since you updated about Olivebridge saga- what happened to the tiny fliphouse that you were saving? You had some great plans! Did you sell it mid reno?

    I’m sure it’s annoying that we readers are so demanding but but…

    • No, I understand! And I still own it! And am still working on it! It took a longggg hiatus during the whole Olivebridge thing (I really, really, really just could not be doing both at the same time…I tried), but Edwin and I have been back over there getting some big things done. In SOME ways, it’s not the worst thing that ever happened…it gave me time to REALLY plan what I think that house ought to be, figure out some things I wasn’t sure about, not to mention the crash course Olivebridge provided in all phases of construction, and the Kingston property market seems to have improved in the meantime and carrying costs are not so bad, sooooooooooo, anyway. Updates to come on that front, too!

      • Oh wow! Can’t wait. It’s so peculiar and has so much potential. I’m sure that you will have so much to add to it through your Olivebridge learning curve!! Thanks Daniel!

  33. This is one of those posts where everyone reading has, I suspect, the same reaction. “WTF! Daniel! Have you gone off your rocker?? Oh wait, no, you’re right, that’s going to be awesome. Carry on.”

    So, ok, you’re right. That is going to be awesome. Carry on.

  34. i am freaked, excited, laughing, crying, and gobsmacked over what you are doing, i live in tn, and just got back from fl, visiting my sick brother for a week and had 214 emails and only saved 4 yours was one xx

  35. Aspirational Swiffers. I die.

  36. Any plans to replace the window over the sink now that you’ve found a window solution? Also when are we going to meet your new boyfriend? You can’t just drop bombshells on Instagram like that and expect us to leave you alone.

    • Yesssssssssss, that window’s days are numbered! I’m hoping to get to it this summer, but it may have to wait. Right now I’m trying to just stay focused on this side of the house before tearing anything else apart! Enough mayhem as it is!

      And…I don’t know! Whenever I damn well feel like it!

  37. Oh wow, you are an amazing human. Your “slapdash/cheap/temporary” kitchen was so much nicer than anything I can picture myself being able to do, haha… but I’m sure it’s going to be WAY MORE AMAZING with the extra light and space! Very exciting!!!

  38. PLANER! PLANER! PLANER! Also, windows and insulation. Undercarriages are important. (I know you already know that.) So exciting! I have to admit, seeing all those studs worried me at first, but you’re right. You got this.
    Also, I’m headed to read the code book about blocking. We just framed the walls for a garage and did not put blocking in. Haven’t had our inspection, don’t want to have to have two! So, thanks for that too.

  39. Totally amazing, thank you for posting so regularly again! I am in awe of your work ethic and vision of what things can become. I am curious, do you need permitting for all of this work? How are you able to be so spontaneous about construction/ deconstruction?

    • It really depends on what the project is and whether the building department requires a permit for it. The basic rule here is that if you’re doing anything structural or changing electric or plumbing, yes, but other places can be MUCH stricter about what needs to be permitted. I’m not really THAT spontaneous, though, haha—I planned to do this project this summer, but some of the specifics of the process became more clear to me as I got into it. My building department doesn’t tend to require much detail when submitting plans, but again—I’m sure that can be very different depending on where you are!

  40. Wow, this is exciting progress! You continue to kill it with your writing too. I literally laughed out loud when I read the pantry bit. Love it all, please keep it coming :)

  41. I starting reading your blog about 4 months ago and was so intrigued that I think I’ve read through all the archives in chronological order since — actually a painful process of getting all the way back and not peeking ahead. And I was very sad when I reached the end of the archives and I couldn’t binge read any more! I love what you do, your style and your writing style.

    Now I’ve become one of THOSE people who check back FAR too often, looking for a new post. And one who thinks that perhaps she too could diy a few things…but really, I’m a cook. I should probably stick to cooking things – and relaunching my blog sometime soon. I feel that kitchens are the heart and soul of a house…so I really can’t wait to see what you do with yours :)

    • That’s a lot of posts to read, I’m flattered! I’ll try to get posts up with more frequency! :)

  42. Good luck!!!! I love getting new posts. :)

  43. There’s something nicely gritty about the bricks lying at the foot of the fridge. Kind of what this is all about – MAKING a HOME. Good luck with the renovations and thanks for the detailed and hilarious updates too. I’m a fascinated and applauding bystander.

  44. Keep up the great work! Everyone already expressed all of my thoughts and chuckles. Know that we appreciate how much additional time it takes to blog for us. It is appreciated and oh so enjoyable.

  45. I still haven’t gotten around to buying the chalk marker you used on your pantry jars, and here you are tearing it out! But, we’re still looking for a place to buy and have no idea where to settle down. That’s my excuse.

    • Ha, you’re not missing much! I found them WAY to smudgy and WAY WAY too hard to write on in a way that didn’t look like a toddler did it! That was Max’s big idea but I was much happier wiping them all off and replacing with those little embossed labels. :)

  46. Holy havoc, you weren’t kidding! I guess it gets worse before it gets better. Love to see the progress!

  47. As I am reading this and looking at the photos….there were certainly “Holy Crap!” moments. I am very excited to see the finished product. Not only are you creative and talented…you are also brave! :)

  48. I was wondering almost instantly whether you already know hör to handle the different heights in your kitchen floor, now that you included the former pantry with its beautiful but veeery sloping floor? Cover up? Or will you dare to rip out the floor of the kitchen and hope for a match?

    On a different Note: I just re-checked the reno of your house’s back and wondered (never mind, I wonder a lot about your renovations, as a longterm fan:-) ), wheter it would be a possibility to get rid of the door, move it to the laundry room (making it a laundry/mudroom) and install another window in the kitchen…? You know, for the sake of balance…?

    Anyway, just a thought. Greetings from Germany!

    • All good questions! I think I have a couple options for leveling out the floor, but I have to spend some time figuring out just how whacky it is…the severe sloping is really just the first few feet of the room and I think maybe it just needs some new framing in the basement under that part, if that makes sense. I’m not worried!

      And yes, you clever thing! That’s actually exactly the plan (as hesitant as I am to bring this destruction into my laundry room, too! But I think I can do it without major upset). So yes, door moves to laundry room and then two new windows matching the ones I just installed go on either side of the chimney. Boom!

  49. Daniel,
    Oh the excitement and the energy with which you work! What a transformation you have underway. I too love that you take such care of the original materials of the home, for ALL the reasons. And that you use specific language “king and jack stud” and explain it too! Your blog is such a resource and a pleasure to read. This is a ton of work and it’s going to continue to be incredible because you are doing it! Hope you are taking time for some rest and relaxation – stay as charged as you are focused and determined. Good luck and keep enjoying!
    Kaet

    • Thanks, Kaet! Working on the R + R thing…sometimes my brain won’t stop! I was up until like 5 AM mentally designing my kitchen. But I did take the weekend off, and that was nice. :)

  50. Woah.

  51. I have absolute trust that the end result will be nothing short of amazing. Glad to see you have Edwin’s help, and are motoring through the destruction/reconstruction. Now we can look forward to the big kitchen reveal (the sequel). Thanks for the Saturday morning read!

    • Make that Saturday afternoon now … Just spent way too long stalking you/the dogs/olivebridge cottage on Instagram (just in case the post is still a while away, but no pressure). What an incredible transformation! I had to draw the line at stalking Edwin…. Must get back to real life.

  52. So… this post has been up long enough that perhaps someone has already mentioned it… But, that doorframe with the transom you removed looks to be a serious upgrade over your current exterior kitchen door. As long as the destruction is going on, now may be the time to cut another hole (assuming the frame has a door to go along with it).

    • Unfortunately, no door! It’s actually pretty wide and kind of looks like it’s possible it was a set of very slim french doors or something, but whatever was there is long gone, sadly! That’s OK, though—the exterior door IS going to be moved but I actually like the door itself!

  53. WHEW. i just caught up from back-reading your entire blog because i read one post months & months ago & immediately knew i had to start from the beginning. i think you’re my new favorite human. i’m pretty sure my husband is sick of hearing about the guy in new york with the super old house that isn’t afraid to say god dammit on his blog. ha!

    anyway, i fucking love what you do & i’m so grateful to read a blog that sounds more realistic & genuine than any other I’ve found. I’ve lived the past 7 years in a 1937 house that I really haven’t appreciated & you completely changed my mind on pretty much everything I’ve thought all this time. i never thought that i’d be thankful to live in this old house that has so many continuous problems that i can never afford to keep up with but i am. and i think a lot of that has been because of you. so thanks.

    ps. I’m so jealous of all of that light you’re gaining!!

    • Wow, that’s a lot of reading! I’m so flattered!

      And what you’re saying about now loving your old house…it absolutely made my day! I screen-capped your comment and sent it to a few people close to me like “LOOK HOW NICE THIS IS!!” and we all agreed. So nice. Thank you thank you. :)

  54. Wow! I am sure it will be very nice! Will you let the chimney exposed? And while you are this, do you plan to open the wall between the kitchen and the dining room? I am a longterm fan and I like your writing and your renos. Your blog really worth the effort of reading in my third language.
    cheers from Quebec city :)

    • Aw, thanks, Chloe! I think I will expose the brick but probbbablllyyy paint it…I don’t really love unpainted brick inside houses, personally. But we’ll see how it cleans up.

      Nope, wall between the kitchen and dining room remains as-is! I really love the first floor layout of my house (which as far as I can tell, has remained almost completely intact for 150 years!). No reason to mess with it!

  55. Daniel, you are so nutty in the best possible way. I love your blog and your house – and the comments from your Mom! :)

  56. I just pictured some very drunk person confusing your house for his home, and when his keys didn’t work on the door, breaking a window in the solarium and climbing through with great, drunk difficulty…only to discover that he’s still somehow outside the house.

    I’m am sleep-deprived, and the thought made me laugh A LOT.

  57. Daniel!!! I HAVE AN UPDATE ON NEW INSULATION IN OLD WALLS AND MOLD/ROT!! I had asked you sometime ago about moisture issues when adding insulation between old beams (which are untreated). What? Out of your thousands of followers, you don’t remember me? Don’t worry, I’ll cut across the river… THIS TIME.

    In May, sold 1920s foursquare and bought 1930s bungalow. Cue me being sick for two summer months – my only nemesis is mold, mmm kay? Went through everything: attic, crawlspace, HVAC, nada. FINALLY FOUND IT: at one time, plaster was removed in the kitchen when the “updated” kitchen was installed (guessing late 90s/early 00s) and insulation was inserted between the beams behind the lower cupboards. WHY?!? Fiancé had to dremel through the back of the cupboards and rip out moldy fiberglass insulation panels. Thankfully, the rot had only just begun, so the beams are ok. But, we’ve doused it with bleach and my sinuses/lungs are still not 100%.

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