The Bedroom has a Fourth Window!

bedroomwallbefore

My bedroom has always felt…tricky. It’s a big enough room, but between three doors, three windows, and a radiator, it’s been difficult to land on a layout that feels balanced and comfortable. Two of the four walls are long enough to place a bed, but one option places it sort of uncomfortably snugly between the closet door and the corner, and the other puts it on this wall, above. To center it in the room means it overlaps with the window on the right side, but to throw it off-center still looks unbalanced and…off. Don’t even try to place a bedside table in a way that looks not weird! Forget about it. And this is a full-size bed we’re talking about, mind you, but I have big dreams and aspirations of upgrading to a king because bed is the best place.

I forgot to take any pictures of the room before I moved everything out of it, so just take my word for it. It’s awkward and not in a cute and charming way. My bedroom made me feel inadequate because I couldn’t figure out how to make anything look OK in it. Also probably why I’ve been living with unfinished plaster walls for three years, which look kind of arty in a picture but are really just dusty and derelict in real life.

So anyway, remember how I’m restoring the side of my house? Remember how I’m adding a few windows in the process? Somewhat counter-intuitively, I feel like adding another window to this room already full of windows and doors and other obstructions will actually make the space feel more balanced from both the inside and the outside of the house.

house-thenbrwindowhighlight

Back in 1950, this photo was taken of the outside of my house. That window highlighted in pink isn’t there anymore, and neither is the one directly below it, but having one in that location totally makes the exterior in my opinion. Or at least that side of the house.

After I saw this photo for the first time, I got all excited about these windows, thinking maybe they were just hiding behind some vinyl siding and a sheetrock patch and how cool would it be to find them! So I did the natural thing and made a hole in the living room wall downstairs to see if, perchance, the window itself or any evidence of it were still inside the wall somehow and found…nothing! The whole wall was plaster and lath with no sign of an obvious patch, and behind it was brick and mortar, which is how most of my house is insulated…but really isn’t something that was done past about 1900. This photo is from 1950, so it seemed super unlikely that somebody between 1950 and now would have removed the window, filled the cavity with brick and mortar, nailed up lath, and applied horsehair plaster. Partly because I don’t think anyone would do that given modern methods and materials, let alone the same people who did plenty of other pretty sloppy work on my house during that same period. Added to this was the fact that false windows—where there are shutters on the exterior to balance a facade, but no actual window at all behind them—are actually pretty common here. I didn’t know that until this old photo of my house sauntered into my life and I started paying attention, but once you start looking for them, you really do see them all over the place! It’s a nifty little illusion.

Fast-forward to me planning the whole side-of-house-restoration project, and it occurred to me that making that false window into a real window would actually be really nice in my bedroom for the reasons outlined above, so why not! I’m doing all this other shit, might as well.

ghostwindow

The thing about working with Edwin is that he is a major early bird and I am the total opposite. The man likes to start work around 6:30 in the morning, which is often only a few hours after I’ve gone to bed. Sometimes small things get lost in translation, like when I explained this whole let’s-add-a-window-right-here plan, I didn’t really mean “let’s rip out all of the plaster and lath along this entire wall,” but that’s what happened. Sigh. I think we probably could have framed in the new window while keeping much of the plaster wall still intact, but that ship has now sailed. Spilt milk. Whatcha gonna do.

ANYWAY, when I rolled in at about 9, dude had the wall opened up and had started the brick removal and…what is THAT?! That is unmistakably a window frame, buried in the wall at the location in the old photo, and all of those bricks on the floor had been stuffed into the stud bays. But again…the brick and mortar, the continuous, not-patched plaster and lath, the studs used inside the window jamb matching in size/era to the rest of the framing lumber originally used for the house! IT DON’T MAKE NO SENSE!

It sounds sort of odd, but I still think there was never an actual window here, at least by the time the house had finished construction. Mistakes happen, right? Isn’t it possible that a builder misread the plans, or the architect changed his mind mid-build, or the homeowners came by to check the progress and decided they wanted a little more wall space than all these windows would allow for? It could happen, right? In my head it’s actually a big blow-out fight between the architect (my beautiful, balanced fenestration design!) and the homeowner (where a girl gonna put her chifforobe?!) and ultimately the homeowner won, because that’s how things work, and the architect threw up his hands and left to, I dunno, go smoke opium with a hooker at the local tavern (now my friend John’s house).

I’m sure this is all much more interesting and exciting to me than it is to you since it’s my house and all, but I love this stuff!

bedroomwindowframing

ANYWAY, after Edwin patiently listened to me get all worked up and excited over all this, we went about framing in the new window! I actually decided to move the window over from its original location about 8″, which centers it between the two adjacent windows on the exterior. I thought it would look better both inside and out, but the inside part is going to take a little longer to pay out because I think I’ve hatched a little plan to shift a few walls around upstairs (I know…) which  is a story for a different day. Don’t sweat it.

This was the most deferred gratification part of this process, because we didn’t actually install it until we took the original siding off of this part of the house for the whole clapboard restoration process I made up last year. But this way the rough opening was already prepped and the actual installation was just a matter of placing the window in the hole and attaching the exterior casings, which we now know goes pretty fast.

vinylremoved

Siding removal for this part of the house was an intense day. It started with removing all of the vinyl and the thin layer of foam insulation underneath it. As usual, the original wood siding (which actually looks pretty good in this picture—don’t be fooled!) was in pretty poor condition. With the new window up on top, the new cornerboard at the front, the new false window on the first floor, the condition of the siding, and the desire to install better insulation in the walls, removing it just makes the most sense! Same story, different wall.

sidingremoved

Eek! This is the part where things look so insane and like the house will never be put back together and oh my god, what have I done.

bedroominteriorno-sheathing

Especially from the inside, where my bedroom was feeling a little too bright and airy for my taste.

insulation

We removed all the bricks, installed blocking between the studs, and insulated with 2″ foam. Boom boom boom! As the sun was setting, we started installing sheathing. Edwin was ready to go home but I threw a small tantrum so he stayed and helped me because this is not how I wanted to leave my house overnight. Ha!

sheathing

Once the sheathing is up, it doesn’t look so scary. We’re using 1/4″ plywood as sheathing here—I’ve noted this before, but the original house doesn’t have sheathing at all, so using a standard 1/2″ sheathing would add too much depth to the wall, meaning I’d have to extend the jambs, window casings, and sills for the siding to fit correctly. The sheathing has made the siding process slightly more complicated, but nothing too challenging.

Obviously we sheathed right over the new opening, which was mainly because there wasn’t enough time to install the window that day. It’s easy enough to cut the sheathing out from the interior with a reciprocating saw, and the sheathing installation is a little easier if you don’t have to make a bunch of complicated cuts on the ground to fit an opening.

sheathingwithhole

Boom! Look! A hole!

windowinstalled

ANNNNNNDDDDD, window! Obviously we’ve jumped ahead a little so you can see the new cornerboard on the left, the false window cased out on the bottom (shutters are waiting patiently in the dining room for their hardware, which should be arriving tomorrow!), and the new bedroom window up top! Isn’t that…satisfying?! Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done, but finally seeing the basic shape of things come together feels so huge! She’s come a long way from this…

before

Almost there, house. Almost there.


144 Comments

  1. ok just about choked on my hummus and crackers when I saw that “eek” picture….holy hell
    but your instincts are perfect…can’t wait to see the bedroom…

  2. My God, when it was all opened up it really did look terrifying! Ahhh!!!! It’s looking great now, tho! So exciting!!!!

  3. Oh my god. Oh my god. It’s starting to look so, so good! As someone who knows NOTHING about architecture, I didn’t initially understand why you were so unhappy with the tumor. Now that it’s shaping up, I get it. I promise to never doubt again.

    • I’m glad to hear that, Ashley! I’m pretty sure everyone just thought I was nuts, but I hope it’s starting to make sense!

      • I totally agree! I knew there was a reason for what you were doing, but in the midst of it, I was in in over my head. Now, I can see how it looks sooooooo much better! I wish I had your eye! Wonderful!

    • 100% agree. My initial thoughts were, “this seems like a lot of time/money/effort for not a lot of payoff.” Now I’m a believer; this looks SO much better. Go, Daniel! Fingers crossed for winter weather holding off as long as possible.

    • Ditto! Comparing those last two pictures is everything. Your house looks amazing, even with all of the mid-project craziness going on. Well done, amigo.

  4. Wow! What a huge difference! The side of the house is so much less congested, it looks so elegant now. Amazing. And thank you for making me look up fenestration. ;)

  5. Looking good!! I know you are working hard to get it ready before winter really sets in. Hope the weather holds out for you a little longer!

  6. The was always beautiful but you are definitely taking it from tired to terrific. When you are done people who don’t know the process will drive by and say “why don’t they build houses like that anymore!”

  7. So those bricks inside your walls are purely for insulation? That seems like a lot of work for a non-structural/non-design element.

    There’s an 1870s 2nd French Empire house in my city with what I believe must be two false windows (shuttered). I think of you/your blog every time I drive by it!

    • Yep, insulation and pest-proofing! I’m sure it WAS a ton of work and effort (removing it is horrible!), but I guess at a time when modern medicine basically didn’t exist and rats and mice were common in cities and thought to spread disease, keeping them out of the house was pretty important! It has almost no value as insulation in the way we think about it today, but I’m sure as a means of blocking drafts it was pretty effective. Given that the house was built even before radiators and without sheathing, keeping warm in the winter would have required considerable effort, so I’m sure having some insulation was better than none!

      Where are you located? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about false windows online but I definitely see them a lot around here, but I don’t know if it’s more of a regional phenomenon or what!

      • Not the previous poster, but I am in New Orleans, and false windows are very common here. But all the surrounding real windows have operable shutters as well. It’s not like your historic pic where the false window is shuttered and none of the real windows have shutters.
        The surrounding shutters make the false window much less obvious, since it essentially just looks like one window with the shutters closed. You have to get up lose to see the lack of hinges to really note the difference.
        But your false window has white shutters (not common here), which helps to distract the eye in a different way.

      • I guess they help with fire suppression, too.

        I am in Springfield, MA. I always thought that the inhabitants of that house were super smart and using their shutters, but then I read your blog :) I’ll take a photo and figure out a way to send a link.

        I also learned about “upping stones” on your blog and see two of them on one street where I walk my dogs. Springfield is VERY Victorian.

      • Thanks, guys! Interesting! Cristy—what you’re describing is definitely how this is supposed to look! My house originally had shutters on all the windows, but by 1950 (remember, it’s around 100 years old already!), only the shutters on the false windows remained. That’s a fairly common thing to see around here…I think maybe we have fewer shutters generally because the weather is so harsh, so they need more maintenance and homeowners tend to just remove and trash them at a certain point. I’d LOVE to put shutters back on the windows someday, but it’s a huge expense any way you cut it.

        And Erica, yes! I forgot fireproofing, ha! Correct! And it sounds like I need to make a little trip to Springfield!

      • Springfield is the best! We used to be known as the City of Homes — great Victorian architecture and lots of history. And lots of shutters. Anytime you want to come, let me know. I’m an airbnb host and I’ll give you the friends/family/favorite bloggers rate :)

      • Sounds great! Maybe I need to plan a weekend soon…getting away for some old-building-inspiration AND R&R sounds like my kind of a time! And I do love a discount!

      • Okay, in my mind, this house was a 2nd French Empire, but in reality, it’s a Victorian mash-up with Italianate, Gothic, and Stick elements. But it does have those mysterious shutters: http://trixieandbosco.tumblr.com/ (prepare to be disarmed by the cute dog photos that the Tumblr is really for!)

  8. So so so good. Such a satisfying post! Thanks for letting us watch the journey

  9. Nicely done! Very balanced and looks great. Finding the upstairs window framing behind what appears to be original plaster is very strange indeed–unless the owner’s elderly uncle did it the original way or some other similar story. Looking forward to how you change the floor plan upstairs so a bed looks good.

  10. This is just the most satisfying update. I always knew it would look good, but it’s better than I ever imagined. You are seriously getting there! Now what about winter? Will you be able to get as far as you were hoping?

    • I’m hoping, Kari! It snowed last week but the weather’s been back to being pretty mild, so I’m hoping it just holds long enough to get everything squared away. Fingers crossed!

  11. Okay, wait. Is the downstairs window staying a false one or becoming a real window?

    • Staying false! That’s the wall where the bookshelves are in my living room, and the wall where the chimney and fireplace are actually falls where this window would be if it were real. So, false window it is! I think it’s cool, though, so I’m kinda excited about it.

  12. It is really good to have an accomplished contractor to work with you! Probably why the side of your house can stay up with half a wall! Love it all.

  13. Awwwwwwww yessssssssssssss I am living for that false window. This is going to look so cool when you get the shutters on. It already looks 1000x better with that terrible vinyl removed. I have such project envy right now, nothing I’m working on will have *this* type of effect.

  14. DANG…looking so good! I love it. Also, I saw this today and thought it would be something you might also be interested in (once you’ve finished insulating all your walls). I plan to do some more research to see if there is something similar in the US, since it would be another argument for me getting to keep my old windows and avoid those tacky vinyl ones…
    http://www.glazeandsave.co.uk/Secondary-glazing

    • Interesting! I spent a while on the website and I’m honestly a little unclear on what the product actually is, but I think it’s very similar to a Portland-based company called Indow Windows, which is actually what I’m hoping to do for my windows! I definitely don’t want to replace my original windows but I loathe my exterior storms, so they seem like a great solution!

    • Hi there!

      I live in an 1840’s house in the UK and secondary glazing is really big here.
      It works so well for both sound and weather proofing and it really blends in as not to detract from the original window features. I can take some photos of it if you like?

      • If you feel so inclined, sure! I’d love to see it. Secondary glazing seems to refer to a few different types of things (ranging from a plexi panel held onto the face of a window casing with magnetic tape to something more like an entire second window), so I’m curious about how this is handled in other countries! It seems like replacement windows are VASTLY less common outside of the United States, which is a good thing!

  15. Love love love it. Except – I am now dying for the false window to be a real one! Any chance of that??

  16. OMG. I bet all your neighbors are saying “he’s insane. Certifiably insane.” But you are raising their property values so they love you to pieces.
    Sweet dreams soon in the new bedroom!!!

    • The best was a couple of guys walking by saying loudly “there must have been something REALLY wrong with that house for them to be doing all that.” Ha! Granted, there were some things structurally unsound with the additions, but it’s not like the whole house was falling down. I just made it look like it was for a couple days!

  17. Man! This is soooooooooo much better already even it’s still in a such state! But that a lots better than hot mess it was! :D

  18. I can see it now :) It’s going to look wonderful when it’s done.

  19. Great post! The house is really coming along. Also the side story (ahem) of the architect going to John’s house (former tavern)!

  20. FYI: when we wanted to upgrade to a king bed without the cost of buying a small island, we went with Brooklyn bedding. It’s my very favorite bed.

    • Thank you for the recommendation! I hadn’t heard of that one! Looks very nice. I was planning on a Leesa but there are so many great affordable options nowadays! Which I’m thrilled about, because mattress shopping was the worsttttt.

      • I love Casper mattresses. We paid through the nose for a Tempurpedic, only to discover Casper 2 years later (at about 1/4 the price). We got the Casper for our weekend home and I think I like it better than the Tempurpedic. We built simple platform beds for both because we couldn’t find any we liked at a reasonable price.

      • Thank you for chiming in! I’ve been wondering about Casper. I have friends with Leesa and Tuft & Needle (same business models) mattresses that are all really happy with them. I actually have a tempurpedic too (about 10 or 12 years old) and I think the Leesa is more comfortable and stays cooler, which is a big deal to me.

      • The main thing i what YOU need in a bed. I need a firm one (history of back pain issues.) I will be needing a new one in the foreseeable future, so I went and tried out a Casper at one of their snooze try outs. I immediately realized it wasn’t firm enough for me. They said they don’t make a firm version – they make one that isn’t firm that fits the most people – that is, not those who like firm beds.

        If you are sleeping on termpurpedic and like the support, I’m guessing you like firm beds, as they are firm. My friends who have really soft beds that hurt my back terribly (but that they like) say they sleep incredibly well on my foam Ikea guest bed, The ikea mattress is not the cheapest of their foam mattresses, and not the most expensive, but possibly the next thickest foam one (the names have changed since I bought it, but they make similar ones still.) None of the new style mail order beds (i guess mail order isn’t the right term anymore) that have only 1 or 2 firmness styles make one that is firm enough for those who like firm beds – you have to go to a store and lie on some to know if they are firm enough for you.

        I’ve got a Simmons Beautyrest mattress (of a line I don’t think they make anymore) without any pillow top that is firm – the major old coil mattress companies make firm ones, and they tend to be their cheaper models they make. Though next time I think I will splurge on something more natural to avoid all the flame retardants they contain.

  21. “(my beautiful, balanced fenestration design!) and the homeowner (where a girl gonna put her chifforobe?!)”

    How is it that I was literally googling where to find an affordable chifforobe when I saw this blog pop up in my email?? (A term, I might add, that I did not know existed until two days ago.)

  22. Daniel-
    You are amazing. Your instinct for design is right on target. I think you should turn this blog into a book. Yours is a tale well told. Can’t wait to see what you accomplish next!

  23. Thanks for the update, Daniel! I guess you took the nogging out downstairs, too? That picture with the show-all bedroom has me scratching my head.

    • Yes, all the nogging is gone from the entire elevation! Hoping the new insulation makes a difference in the ol’ heat bills. :)

  24. Your poor mother. Do you show her these pictures before hand to prepare her? I hope so.

  25. Well, if your house didn’t look like this originally, it should have. Great eye, great job! It is a beauty ad looks oh so much more elegant now.

  26. You really are returning the elegance to this old girl. The balance is so wonderful, and my gawd I truly do see how cheap and aweful that vinyl siding was now. Well done you! (and Edwin too)

  27. Oh this house is gonna be So. Good.

    The photos of the poor thing stripped back to the skeleton are scary, though. Happy Halloween!

  28. Okay I’ve been reading your blog since you did the backyard makeover and I believe your restoration of this charming house should be a coffee table book !! It’s just simply Ah-mazing what you and Edwin have been able to do. Also I have to suggest, make the king bed on a wall facing all those purdy windows including the one you installed and perhaps put a fake, plug in fireplace with lovely beefed up reclaimed wood mantel above it– don’t know what the dimensions are between the windows but that is simply a suggestion.
    Also I really like sinking into my Gelfoambed(dot)com Venus super plush– but if you don’t like sinking, don’t get the Venus one.

  29. I am always amazed at your foresight and insight. And man am I happy that 2nd story pox has been removed! She is the grandest of ladies now!. Congratulations!

  30. Such a nice strong symmetry! I would love to get a wide-angle shot of your street, to see how it looks now with the other little children, sorry, houses! Some major improvements going on here, and you make it look so easy!

  31. It looks amaaaazing! I’m another one of those who are clueless when it comes to architecture, and honestly was never too interested in it (I started reading Manhattan Nest for the interior design, which I do love, and of course the ever-entertaining writing). However, between you and McMansion Hell, my interest in architecture has really been piqued and I want to learn more! Even I can see how much more beautiful and balanced your house looks now. Any recs for a book or website that might explain architectural concepts to a total noob like me?

    • Thanks, Sophie! I’m glad to have been a part of piquing that interest—it’s a good one! Of course I’m struggling a little with how to answer your question because architecture is obviously such a broad topic with a very long history. Honestly an Architecture 101 kind of college textbook might be good, if dry, but would give you a nice foundation (get it?!) for understanding basic concepts and the historical trajectory of things. Then if you’re really interested in a particular style or subject, you have a good baseline knowledge and can seek out sources more specific to whatever that is. Reading about ancient greek temples might not seem all that interesting or relevant to discussing architecture in the 21st century, but it really, really is!

    • Obviously not Daniel here, but for basic architectural concepts I can put in a recommendation for anything written by Francis D.K. Ching. I have “Architecture: Form, Space and Order” and “A Visual Dictionary of Architecture”, which would be my first pick for a layperson, but he has numerous books on construction, graphics, interiors, etc. Your library might have some, or you could look for an older edition because they have been in print for a while and the basics are the same. I also agree with getting something like “Architectural Graphic Standards” used in college classes, but you don’t need to get the newest edition here either. I picked up mine, several editions old, at a library sale for $1, so look around. 1000+ pages of anything you ever needed to know about architecture. Happy researching!

  32. I can finally see it! I’ve been following for a while, and couldn’t quite understand why the addition was so bad, but now I get it. The house is starting to look like a treasure being slowly unearthed after being buried for so long.

  33. I can’t get over how much better the added corner boards between the front part of the house and the kitchen look (I mean, in addition to how much better everything else looks, of course!) It’s those little details…

    The bit about Edwin pulling out all the plaster on that wall made me think – have you ever told us what you’re doing to replace those walls? Just sheetrock, or are you doing new plaster? We ended up doing “Modern Plaster” in our new-looks-old house – and I was amazed at what a difference that makes in making it feel like and old house (vs. just drywall). Modern plaster is basically mixing drywall compound with veneer plaster, and then kind of skim coating the whole thing – it can go over regular old drywall, unlike regular veneer plaster where you’d use the special blueboard (adding the drywall compound to the mix makes it stick to the sheetrock). I don’t think it’s a very well known technique, but it looks just like the old plasters (we got a tour of an old farm house here in central VT where they’d used it to make some new construction match the old walls, and it looked great – that’s what sold us on it). The guy who did ours taught us how to do it, and it’s kind of fun – definitely DIYable, although the walls that he did were a lot nicer than the ones we did! Anyway, let me know if you want more details – could definitely be a way to make those new walls blend in with the rest of the house.

    • Personally, I thought that Alex at Old Town Home’s post about using Master of Plaster made it look a lot easier than drywalling. Then again, I detest sanding.

      • Yes – not having to sand was a huge part of the appeal for us! Also, we liked the white color of the plaster, so we didn’t have to paint either, which ended up being another big cost/time saving for us.

      • I’m intrigued by the master of plaster, but a little scared that I don’t quite have the technique to pull it off! Sanding is kind of my saving grace when it comes to skim-coating. :/

      • Hi guys – I run the design team at Master of Plaster and worked extensively with Alex of Old Town Home on his project. Daniel, these plasters are some of the easiest materials to work with (I’ve taught a mid 60s woman out of MT how to repair and replaster her walls and she did a phenomenal job!) so I have no doubt with how hands on you are that you’d be able to do a fabulous job. Our Restoration Plasters actually bond to underlying substrates without the use of bonding agents that many times fail so they are ideal for the work you have ahead of you. They also bond to raw or fresh board systems such as blue/green/and dryboard. Let me know if you would like any more information – it’s always so great to see the time and care and effort it takes to go into properly restoring these amazing structures so we are more than happy to serve as a resource for you and your process.

      • Thank you for chiming in, Lauren! I’d definitely like to give the master of plaster products a whirl!

    • Such a timely question, Rosie, and admittedly not something I thought anybody would care about!! But yes, I LOVE my plaster walls…the way they look, feel, even sound! Standard drywall installations can look so flat and feel/sound so…hollow in an old house. I’m basically planning on doing exactly what you’re describing (because no, I’m not a skilled enough skim-coater to do blueboard and the real deal veneer, and I have no money to hire something like that out). This sounds a little crazy, but I’m actually planning on doing two layers of 1/2″ drywall, one on top of the other and probably glued together, then skim the entire wall…the HOPE being that if you go around knocking on the walls, the thickness of the drywall will give it the same substantial feel of the original plaster. I’ve got high hopes! I actually put up the first layer on that wall in my bedroom last night! I’ll report back, of course. :)

      • Good luck! I will send you an email with our guy’s contact info – I think he sometimes travels for jobs, and he was a really good teacher. Plus he did a really nice job on the ceilings, which were just way beyond our skill level…

        We did 1/2 inch drywall plus the joint compound/plaster combo, and it feels very solid on the exterior walls, which have dense pack cellulose in them – I would say those are indistinguishable from the old plaster walls in our old 1800s apartment. The interior walls (no insulation) do sound a little hollow if you knock on them (they look and feel fine though), just because there isn’t as much substance in between the studs so there’s a little echo. If you find the double sheets of drywall don’t do what you want, you could try sticking mineral wool in the stud bays to absorb the sound.

  34. So lovely to see your vision come to fruition Daniel. The elegant old lady is becoming a new bride again :) Thank you for sharing!

  35. OMG
    What a great post – you never cease to amaze with your hard work and dreams turned into reality! truly an inspiration – hope the weather holds out for the next week or two so you can finish the siding!

    so excited about all the work on that side of the house – the new/old bay looks elegant now., instead of obviously tacked onto the house like a lego extension.

    cant wait to hear about those plans for the second floor… living in a tiny railroad apt EVERY TIME i read this blog i want to drive up to kingston and buy a house!

    btw how are the other two projects going…

  36. Awesome, Daniel. I’m stunned by your progress.

  37. Just a few days ago I found your blog. I started by looking at a few photos…wow, super design! Then I read a couple of the entries from start to finish…oh and he writes well too. So after reading every blog entry you’ve written–think binge watching but on your blog, I was disappointed when there was nothing left to look at or read. Then I started mentioning your blog to friends. At least I could talk about it with them then. I was so excited to see the new post about the bedroom window and I realized why I love you blog: you have just the right amount of wit and information in your posts. I agree with one of your readers who mentioned you writing a book! P.S. I watched To Kill a Mockingbird the other day and, lo and behold, they talk about a chifforobe!

  38. Damn! This is looking incredible. There is no point during all that bedroom-exposed-to-the-world bit that I would not have been rocking and crying. Your dedication to this house is so inspiring. Keep up the good work!!

  39. Wow. That is a bit airy and open :) Have you thought about leaving any of the brick and mortar installation exposed, to have a cool brick wall feature? Just curious, and it’s hard to tell condition from the photos, whether that idea would actually work. I realize it’s all gone in your bedroom now, but that made my heart go pitter patter when I saw ALL THAT BRICK. Obviously my style leans a teensy bit industrial! Love seeing your progress and design choices!

    • It is cool looking, for sure! Honestly I think it would look out of place in my house, just because of the style and era, but I can see it looking really cool in another kind of space. Actually, there’s a restaurant up here that did leave it exposed and it’s great in that context! Alas, there’s not really a way to do it while also insulating the wall, and the brick and mortar has an R-value of less than 1(!), so it’d also mean signing up for one VERY cold house with some VERY high heating bills! I do salvage as many of the full-size bricks (many of them were fragments at the time they were installed, and more have broken over the years) to see how they weather outdoors—most of them turn to mush once it rains, but I’m hoping I can cobble together a pathway or something out of the ones that survive the elements. :)

  40. Wow, the exterior side of the house looks great now! – moving that upstairs window to make them line up equally was worth it.

    While I agree that the upstairs hole-with-framing-but-no-original-window was likely either a mistake, or a change of mind partway through building, another possibility occurs to me from looking at that old photo of your house. In the old photo, the fake windows are perfectly lined up with each other. It appears (though it is hard to tell from photos) that you put the new fake window on the first floor almost exactly where the original one was. Is is possible that the original framing for the window hole on the second floor was cut in the wrong spot – so it didn’t line up with the fake window below? And that the solution to that problem was to close up the second floor window in construction, rather than move it over, as you did, so it the second floor fake window perfectly aligns with the fake window on the first floor, just as you have it? I guess I’m asking if the framing hole for the original second floor never-installed window was not directly in line above the original fake first floor window.

    As to adding shutters to all the windows, I don’t think I would. Original shutters were meant to be used – that is, closed sometimes. The ones that don’t move just look stupid to me. If you were to add new ones with real shutter dogs so that they could close, but would never close them, as modern folk tend not to, even when were go away for awhile (because we don’t want it to look like were are away), or in the winter to keep out drafts (because we like to look out the windows, and have better heating), then what’s the point of adding them at all? I think they’d only be useful if you were boarding up windows because a hurricane was coming – if you had strong shutters, you might not need to put up plywood over the windows – but you are probably a bit too far inland to have to worry about that strength of hurricane winds (knock on wood that global warming won’t cause that, though you never know.)

    • I think Daniel has mentioned before that when he does shutters, they’ll be the real (fully operational) thing. Also, while I agree with you that not many people seem to use their operational shutters in the U.S. (or at least in the various parts of the midwest that I have lived in), there are plenty of people in the world who do use their shutters.
      I’m currently living in Switzerland, and most people I know who have shutters use them all the time. With most new construction they build in this horrific looking roll down exterior metal blinds which serve the same purpose. People don’t seem to use them to batten down the house while they’re gone, necessarily, but to block the sun from coming in the sunniest side of the house in the warmer months (especially while they’re out of the house), or to further insulate windows in rooms that aren’t used daily. Really, they seem to be used more in regards to keeping the house cool than keeping it warm.
      Anyhow, shutters can be energy saving, and they’d look AMAZING on his house. We shouldn’t get down and out about all of the awful, fake vinyl shutters of the world when we could be getting down to…
      uh, turning Taylor Swift lyrics into messages about how awesome shutters can be is more difficult than one might think.

      Anyway, Go Team Shutters!

      • I wouldn’t expect Daniel to use anything but operable shutters. And I’m aware that people in other countries actually use them – I’ve used them when traveling myself. I was just pointing out that here, except in coastal places, they tend not to be used, ever. And while some think they make a house look better, I’m not of a mind that they do – especially if they aren’t ever used.

        If you wanted to keep a house around there cool, you’d be better off to use cloth awnings anyway. That’s what people used to do. Even, say, in old photographs of buildings all over Manhattan.

    • Thanks! OK, so yes—in the old photo, the first and second floor false windows are aligned vertically. I also aligned the new bedroom window and the new first floor false window vertically—but the top one shifted over about 8″ and the first floor one about 6.5″, because the first floor windows are wider and taller than the second. Does that make sense? So the windows are aligned vertically both originally and now. Does that help?

      I know, you’re not a big fan of shutters! I DEFINITELY have no interest in slapping a bunch of vinyl, inoperable and incorrectly sized shutters to this house—don’t fear! There is a middle ground that I see around here a lot, where original shutters may no longer be operable, but are still there and maintain the original look of the house, which I think is nice because—as you point out—they’re rarely used for the same functional purpose that they provided when these houses were built. To be totally honest I don’t foresee using shutters often in the ways they were originally intended, but I LOVE the idea of putting them back on the house, sized correctly to my windows and with the proper hardware to make them operable. But I think what you’re getting at is that they’d be largely aesthetic, and therefore not worth it, which is a much bigger conversation. On one hand—CORRECT…I wouldn’t be doing it for the functional purposes of having shutters, and it’s a large expense. On the other hand…this house was absolutely, without question, built to have shutters! And I bet they looked AMAZING. I want my house to look amazing, of course, but I also want it to look historically accurate for many reasons that I don’t really need to get into (unless you want to! I like talking about it!). So it’s a goal. Not a very immediate or even altogether likely goal (between the shutters themselves and the hardware, we’re talking about $350 per window…and that’s after quite a bit of shopping around, but a goal nonetheless. :)

      • Interesting – so windows aligned originally, and now.

        It isn’t that I don’t like shutters – I think proper working ones look great! It’s just that I know that they are expensive, and that once up, they are purely decorative if not used – unlike other decorative things one can spend a lot on – like good-looking roofs, gutters, front doors, porches, windows, fences etc – all of which provide a functional purpose as well as a decorative one. I totally get why you want the house to look historically accurate – just that without function, they’d be last on my list to spend on – after all the other stuff a house needs. And while certain styles of houses aren’t historically accurate without them, they don’t look terrible, either. Your house looks pretty great now; it will look great with shutters when you add them, too.

  41. Sorry you lost your plaster wall on the inside due to miscommunication, as I far prefer plaster walls.

    Can’t wait to see what you do with taking down that bedroom wall – are you planning to add a wall of closets to the bedroom?

    In my last home, after trying my bed against the other three walls in my bedroom, I eventually moved it to right on the wall with two windows spaced apart like yours, spaced more-or-less (but now quite due to the room dimensions) evenly where it stuck out a bit in front of each window. I had always NOT put my bed up against windows because I lived in such cold and drafty places, and didn’t want be in bed with the drafts right on me. But with the combination of a radiator nearby that put out much more heat than I wanted, and finally springing for lined curtains because I needed to block out intense sunlight in the mornings or I’d be awake by dawn, I was plenty warm enough.

    What I really liked about that bed placement was that when reading in bed in the morning (or any time during the day), if I opened the curtains up I was reading with natural light coming from behind and lighting what I was reading, and that was better than reading in bed anywhere else I’d ever lived.

    I just pulled the bed out a few inches (i have a wood bed with a headboard), and the nightstands I finally got as well, so that the floor length curtains had room to hang and move behind the furniture, and I loved it. Now I’m in a place with a too hot radiator sticking out below my bedroom windows, so I can’t place my bed in front of the windows, but I really do miss the natural light coming in over my shoulders to read by that I had in my last home.

    • I’m sad about the plaster wall! But it really was my own stupid fault (and poor sleep schedule) and I just have to get over it. I’m taking it as an opportunity to figure out how to best imitate plaster with modern day materials, which is something I can continue to do in this house and others…so I guess I can lose a wall.*

      *I really wish I still had my wall. :(

      That’s my favorite bed placement option, actually! Centered on this wall between the windows. I’m too indecisive to even make a decision after many sketchup drafts (I’m a disaster, what can I say), but that’s what I’ve been picturing in my head. I like drafts at night and waking up with a ton of sun, so I think this would make me extremely happy.

  42. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it when you have time to post. Your blog has been my favorite for several years. It makes me so very happy to read your updates! Best of luck…

  43. are you gonna be refurbing the old clapboards? you know i always kvell when you do that. please take lots of pictures.

    • Yes! I’ve done all of them! I’ll write more about it, but about 50% of the wall ended up being salvaged…less than I’d hoped, but there were a few factors. On the upside, I still have a fair amount of rehabbed clapboard in storage and can use on other walls of the house. :)

  44. Okay, I have been reading your blog for so long and I have never ever ever until this moment really believed that this was a Neoclassical house. I mean, I knew it was, intellectually, but now… those proportions! That balance! What a temple.

  45. I find all these posts so exciting! I realize no man can make this kind of interesting progress AND post constantly, but when I’m in charge of the space-time-continuum, that will change.

    Two questions:

    1) How did you install the corner board on the far left with the utility meter thing in the way?

    2) You and others have mentioned often how terrible the vinyl siding looks and how much better the original wood siding (after it’s been cleaned up) looks. In pictures posted thus far, I can’t tell a difference between the two materials. Do you have close-ups that show the difference between the materials more starkly? What am I missing?

    • Replacing wood siding with vinyl siding is one of my pet peeves, so I’ll jump in here! It’s hard to tell the difference in photos, but in person, there is a difference. One of the most noticeable differences is that vinyl siding overlaps, causing vertical lines, especially when there are longer expanses without windows/doors. In addition, vinyl siding, while easier to maintain, simply doesn’t look the same as the original wood siding. It looks “new”, which some people prefer, but if you’re trying to bring an old house back to its glory, it just looks cheap/fake and doesn’t fit.

    • Thank you, Jill! I had my electrician temporarily remove the meter pan (it just opens up and there are a couple screws in the back—it’s very uncomplicated!) and re-attach it a couple days after we were able to install the cornerboard. Nothing too crazy :) (depending on where you are, this might be something the utility company will do for you for free, FYI!)

      That’s a very good question, and I’ll definitely try to address it better in pictures!! Thank you for bringing it up. My problem with vinyl siding (on old houses, specifically…I care less about new construction where it isn’t compromising original materials, but I still think it’s a bad choice given other options that are comparable in price!) really is two-fold…the first functional and the second aesthetic. The first is that it’s essentially taking something that’s…say, 75? 100? years old and wrapping it in a big thick plastic sheet, behind which is a really uneven surface made of painted wood in poor condition, because usually houses wouldn’t have had vinyl installed until they needed a paint job. Moisture that gets behind there (and it does, because these installations aren’t very weather-tight in the long term) causes mold, and then rot, and can get so severe that it effects essential framing members of a house and still looks kinda fine from the exterior because it’s some fake plastic wood! So that’s issue one. And issue two…because vinyl doesn’t easily make compact curves without careful scribing and cutting that installers very rarely do, they hack off the ends of windowsills and the tops of window casings (sometimes a drip-edge, sometimes a more decorative detail), and plenty of other things (I’m very lucky that my cornice was never wrapped in vinyl or aluminum!) to accommodate a more seamless and easy install. It doesn’t matter if the house has shingle siding, elaborate Victorian patterns, or german lap siding…everything ends up looking the same! What you’re left with is a flat, detail-less house…it loses the proportions and the amount of character a house from its era is supposed to have. I’ll try to demonstrate better with pictures soon! :)

  46. Looking fantastic! I almost hard heart failure when I saw your ‘eek’ photo, but you’re doing an amazing job with your home! I love reading about your home!

  47. Holy cow I am so excited. Between the election on Tuesday and your about-to-be-finished side of the house I can not even. I only wish that I had not known about your blog until a month later so I could see the FINAL “after” of this wall and every step along the way all at once. But I guess life is a never-ending progress itself.
    Keep it up. I am looking up to you.

  48. As always, absolutely worshipping. Just curious, as you mastermind these moments of awesomeness, do you need permits? Cheers to a delayed winter season, I can’t wait to see the next round of photos! xx

    • Thank you, Melissa! Regarding permits, it depends on what aspect of the work you’re talking about and the local rules surrounding those things! Here, the rule is basically that you need a permit if you’re doing structural work or altering plumbing or electric. Cosmetic work generally doesn’t need to be permitted…I think re-siding qualifies as cosmetic, but I’m not even totally sure. There are some grey areas, like I think technically you need a permit to replace a roof, but nobody ever gets one and the local companies don’t even suggest it.

  49. Do you Know How Often I look for your posts? I feel like I won the lottery when I see one. I wish you would have a file of all the house terms, I forgot what nogging is. Also, we could use some line drawings of parts, like what piece rests on the foundation? We are Dying to find out what happened to the other two houses. Please. I’m sure the funny cottage is already done and your other mouse house is right down the street. Sometimes I think I should drive up and drive around looking for that little tiny house.
    You need your own TV show. When are all those old guys on PBS or whatever it is going to retire? This blog is very educational. You should hand out CEU credits with it.

  50. I have been eagerly awaiting more updates! I live in upstate New York as well (further upstate at the foothills of the Catskills), and there are so many beautiful old houses that need someone to fix them up! I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure how the side of the house would look, but it’s looking incredible now! The extra windows help so much!

  51. The house is looking so SO GOOD!
    Daniel, you are such an inspiration for us as we work on our home. Although it’s a baby (1968) compared to your’s, the amount of work feels overwhelming at times then I take a look at your blog and see all the progress you’ve made and I feel better :)
    The thoughtful way you are bringing your home back to life is wonderful to witness. Thank you so much for sharing.
    ps- YES, take a trip to Springfield! West Granby is about a 1/2 hour away-stop by for a meal.
    xxoo

  52. I salute your courage and vision!

  53. Not something you can do from the inside, so not necessarily applicable in this situation, but by far the easiest way to cut out sheathing over a window is with a router, from the outside. Like you said, no cuts to get it up there, and then it’s so quick and clean and perfect to cut it out because the router follows the edge of the framing and won’t cut into it like a Sawzall will.

    Loving the continued house detective work! Doing some myself – cannot wait to take up the 1980’s floor that was installed on top of the original fir to see how the heck my tiny house was laid out originally!

    • Good point! The sawzall thing is something I’ve picked up from Edwin and Edgar who reach for the sawzall in basically any situation (ha!), but the router technique certainly sounds more precise. :)

      (Best wishes for the floor!! Fingers crossed!)

  54. i really really wish i lived across the street & could watch your madness unfold right before my eyes. my neighbors are not nearly as interesting or fascinating. i love love love this.

    • Haha! It’s not all non-stop excitement and improvements…this project has been going on since JULY so they’ve been very patient in looking at my various phases of disaster! They seem to get a kick out of it, though…or at least that’s what I tell myself.

  55. I laughed so hard when you said you felt inadequate in the bedroom. I’m sure your beautiful new window will give you a well-deserved confidence boost! It’s looking fantastic. xx

  56. If I lived closer and had to watch this on a daily basis or he sent me more pictures I’d probably need to engage in some self medicating. I too cannot always recognize the brilliance until near the end and then I’m filled with pride. I do wish Daniel would post more often and I really look forward to a pre-election post. I can’t imagine that he doesn’t have some really strong feelings he’d like to share.

  57. Architect is bouncing up and down in his grave over the beauty of your beautiful second floor fenestration! It looks great (and enviable)!

  58. I cannot wait until you’re finished. It looks amazing!

  59. Do the windows have exterior muntins? I’m in the market for a few on my house renovation. If so, would you be willing to share your source? Thanks!

    • If i understand your question, yes! The new windows are true divided lite, single-glaze, all wood sashes by Brosco. Unless you’re doing a historic restoration and trying to match existing single-glaze windows, I’m guessing this is not the product you’re looking for, but there are many nice simulated divided lite windows out there that have a protruded muntin both on the outside and inside of the window. I wrote a lot about options for new windows here, which I think might help ya out!

      • This is exactly what I was looking for! I can’t believe I missed that previous post. I’m in a historic district renovating a previous duplex back into a single family home and there was a lot of windows and doors removed to create tumors like the one you just removed. First project is opening an enclosed second story front porch! Thanks again!

      • Sounds very cool, Chris! Best of luck with your project!!

  60. YOU are CRAZY in a very, very GOOD way! Very much enjoying the sideline view.
    What do your neighbours think?

    • Meant to add – before your house looked like a cruise liner, now it looks like a house. A magnificent one too.

  61. Great house and great work on it….I just wonder how tired you are of living in a construction site! I lived through a couple and was exhausted by them…have to do two more bathrooms and keep putting it off for that very reason! How are you coping?!

  62. O Daniel, so sorry about how the elections turned out. I woke up to hear that Clinton was losing. It was like waking up in a nightmare. Worse than Brexit actually (I live in Europe). At least we already knew that the British were conservative guilible idiots who still believe a lie when they hear one and think the Great British Empire still exists. My sincere condolences with this. (AARRRGGGHH he will decide on the judges for the supreme court!!!! I cannot believe it. I feel like I’m turning into John Oliver.)

    • Thank you, Simone. It’s been pretty horrific and depressing and upsetting to watch this transition unfold. I still can’t believe it’s real and I have no idea how my country is going to make it through the next several years. Very, very scary.

  63. It looked like very hard work. Im pretty sure that this renovation will be very rewarding in the end!

  64. The more windows, the more options when things really go downhill. A hideous person has been elected to ruin the country who is bringing in even worse, totally evil people to “advise” him. It is mind-boggling. I hope those who voted for this vile person enjoy their revolution. They may be shocked when so many of their benefits are taken away. Such as clean air, water, social security, affordable health insurance, equal rights, the Constitution, ad nauseum. Please start posting again to cheer those of us that are in deep mourning for our country and our planet.

    • Sorry, Barb. I’ve been in deep mourning myself for all the reasons you state and more, and I’ll be honest that posting (or doing anything at all!) has just felt so daunting and difficult. Everything feels so horrible and scary right now. I resolved this weekend that I have to get myself moving and blogging again…so I’m gonna give it my best shot. :)

      • I totally get that, Daniel. Glad you are back now but I so get the feelings you also describe. We can only hope and do our best to fight it somehow.

  65. Are you on vacation???? No updated posts in over a month!!!

    • I went on a short vacation for Thanksgiving, but mostly I’ve just been trying really hard to beat bad weather with house projects…and feeling some pretty severe post-election despair. Watching this unfold in my country has really knocked me off balance and made posting about anything feel so…trivial. Working on getting back to it.

  66. Hi Daniel,
    Just wanted to say I hope you are OK after all that has been going on over there. It’s all just unbelievable and heartbreaking and worrying and shit. Sending you big love from NZ x

    • Thank you, Jemma! I’m OK—alive, lucky to live where I do, and very very scared and sad about everything that’s unfolded since the election. It’s a horrific time to be an American. It helps to know that people around the world are looking upon this with similar outrage and upset as so many of us are over here. *hugs*

  67. I’m thinking that while having your whole house open to the elements is not enough to make you want to go back to bed for a month, maybe having your country elect a fascist who wants to destroy everything you care about is. I am thinking about you, Daniel, and hoping that this weird awful time isn’t making you want to be a blanket burrito (but if it is, go for it, man–I am, and he’s not even my president). I’m so glad to know that your family loves you and has your back, and that your friends and dogs are there for you. When you’re ready to come back to the blog, your readers will be here like we always are. In the meantime: persist. I am rooting for you.

    • Ha! The elements I can totally handle…but the fascist has been like living in an alternate reality nightmare. I actually started writing a post a couple days after the election and couldn’t finish it…now I’m kind of glad I didn’t because, in trying to make sense of the results, I was trying so hard to give him the benefit of the doubt or at least a chance to not be the complete fucking monster he’s obviously, demonstrably turning out to be. These are dark times, to say the least. I’ve definitely turned inward over the past month…socially in real life, not posting here, only a couple of instagrams, and spending a lot of time working alone on my house and doing the bare minimum with everything else just to kinda keep moving. Trying to claw out of that funk, though, because otherwise this is going to be an even longer four years. Or eight. Oh god.

      *blanket burrito time*

  68. Daniel, so many of us (including the 2% margin by which HRC won this damn election) agree with you. Sending support and empathy. Don’t disappear on us, buddy.

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