So I Re-Did the Back of the House (Again).

Here is a shocking bit of information that you have likely already deduced if you have read this blog for any amount of time: I’ve been chasing my tail a bit with my own house renovation. I’m not proud. A couple of years ago, I bit off more than I could chew. I should have known better. I did it anyway. Unsurprisingly, it bit me in the ass.

Let’s talk about it.

I bought a house with an old and truly yucky kitchen. The kitchen was the very first thing I tackled, and ya know? That was a good renovation. The improvements were inexpensive but impactful (new paint, a little subway tile, and VCT floors for the win!), and the kitchen worked fairly well.

It wasn’t the dream kitchen but it was a fine, serviceable space, and one that could have easily lasted several more years. The kitchen took kind of a beating as other renovations unfolded throughout the house, but I’d renovated it with that in mind! It would all get torn out someday but, I figured, when everything else had been done, by which time this kitchen would certainly be falling apart.

Fast forward less than two years, and I found myself single. One night, I also found myself a little drunk (related: pls excuse the quality of these photos). With the contents of my kitchen cabinets now significantly slimmed down as a result of the break-up, I was suddenly overcome with the urge to slim down the cabinets themselves. I didn’t NEED all these cabinets! And if I just took down the upper cabinets, then I could also just rip out the enormous soffits above them, and then my kitchen would be brighter and more open and happier and maybe I’d put up a nice shelf or just a cool piece of art and HOW GREAT WOULD THIS BE?!?!

Don’t drink and demo. Or do, but with supervision so you don’t do anything stupid. Like meeeeeeeeeee.

So I took down the uppers and the soffits. Briefly this felt good.

I had to re-route the electrical for the little over-the-sink light, and drywall the area that had been behind the soffit because the plaster was too far-gone. I just had to do some more patching, sanding, repaint a couple walls and the kitchen would be good as new!

I really should have taken a bath or something that night. I never did patch and sand and repaint. Instead, a few months later I seized the remainder of summer and demolished the rickety old addition off the back of the house.

Boy was that exciting.

This, in turn, prompted replacing the window and vestigial fire escape exit door in the second floor room above the kitchen and insulating and re-siding the back of the house—it was a huge job and one that I wasn’t totally ready for. One of the casualties ended up being the kitchen window, a cute casement that got split up into two casements for the second floor, like so:

So I ripped the kitchen window out, put in a “temporary” vinyl window, still thinking I’d patch up the kitchen and continue to use it for another 5-10 years and this would be good enough for now.

I never did patch up the kitchen. The wall surrounding the new window just remained open to the studs and insulation for the next several months. Elegant!

Then I designed and built an entire house (I. will. show. it. to. you. I. swear.), and at the tail end of that little gig, I circled back to my own. I did this with great excitement because I hadn’t been able to put any real work into my own house for a while, so naturally I took on the biggest and most involved project this house will ever see under my care: the enormous restoration of the side of the house.

This saw the removal of two more additions and the installation of five(!) new windows—two of them in the kitchen, but a different wall than the one from the year before. Round and round we go.

In order to install these new windows, we first had to frame in the openings for them. We probably could have gone about this a couple of more intelligent ways, but instead at that point it just felt like…fuck it. Just gut it. So that’s what we did, and suddenly my kitchen and pantry were reduced to a few remaining cabinets and a sink. Which I then also removed because it felt like they were in the way of completing the next steps, which I was sure I’d be addressing imminently.

So dumbbbbbbbbb, omg Daniel.

But at least I had two windows where I needed them to be…you know, for the kitchen that still has not manifested.

Before I could really even address the kitchen, I had to actually wrap up that whole side-of-the-house-restoration project on the exterior before winter hit. I ran out of time and didn’t totally finish, and shamefully still haven’t, but I finished enough that things have been fine.

I ran out of something else around that time too, though! The money in my bank account! That exterior project was more involved and costly than I’d given it credit for, and it cleaned. me. OUT.

THIS, my friends, was a bit over a year ago, and it was truly a low point. The house was a wreck. What was left of the kitchen (appliances, some cabinetry) had overtaken the dining room. The living room was mostly just exceptionally dirty from the renovations but literally felt unsalvageable at the time, like it might after a flood. The bedroom was missing a wall. The den was missing a wall and a ceiling. I hadn’t managed to get a plumber to come cap a couple of radiator lines and get the boiler going, so I didn’t have a real heat system that winter. I couldn’t figure out how to get hot water running either (turns out the motherboard of the boiler had died!) so I took frigid showers or sponge baths with water from the electric kettle, since I no longer had a stove to heat it. This went on for months.

Guys, it was fucking horrible. In the summer, cold showers and doing my dishes on the front porch had felt kind of quaint and folksy, but now it just felt like I could not be more of a disappointment to myself and to this house. And it was my fault. Decisions I had made myself had led me here. To Grey Gardens, my new home.

We ain’t done.

I guess it was kind of OK to not have the cash to do the kitchen a year ago, in part because there were plenty of low-cost projects to keep me occupied, like the bedroom and the den. You can do a lot with joint compound and paint between bigger projects, so I just focused on that kind of stuff. Besides, there was another huge roadblock in front of really even getting the kitchen renovation started, aside from the money part: re-doing that back wall…again. Already. The one that I already did two years prior, when I thought I wouldn’t have to think about it again for a decade or so. The kitchen design kind of hinged (pun def intended) on moving the location of the exterior door, and replacing the temporary vinyl window, so the chimney could be flanked by two matching windows to the new ones on the other elevation.

I’d hoped, I think, that this would somehow just happen. Like I’d wake up and find windows and doors where my computer renderings had placed them, and then I could move ahead into the rough-ins and the finishing work!

Sadly this did not come to pass. So at the tail end of this past summer, with the goal of being able to really work on the kitchen this winter, I bit the bullet and Edwin and Edgar and I took a week and did it (followed by a few weeks of me working alone every evening/weekend…). I had a better idea of what I was getting into, so it wasn’t as bad as the first time around, and I had a bit more help. So we took out the door and the vinyl window.

Then we removed the siding from the first floor (again) because it seemed a bit easier than all the patching that would have been required otherwise.

All of this pretty much sucked, by the way.

Once that kitchen wall was framed and the windows installed, we moved on to putting the wall back together.

One thing I never loved about the first revamp of this wall was that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to expand the corner boards. The original corner boards are 4″ on this house, which feels kind of dinky below such a substantial cornice and eaves returns, so we popped off the corner boards and cut another 4″ or so off the ends of the remaining clapboard with a circular saw. Inside the house, we added new nailers so the new ends of the clapboard would be affixed to something stable. The new corner boards are 7.5″ wide on this back kitchen addition, and 11.5″ on earlier parts of the structure. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference! And doesn’t really complicate anything if you’re doing all this work anyway.

Boom! Someday I’ll trim out the tops of the corner boards to really finish it off, but for now they look fine.

MOVING. RIGHT. ALONG! Next came the new exterior door location and the windows for the planned pantry space and the first floor powder room. Just rebuilding every goddamn wall. The new door is off-center to accommodate cabinetry in that room, and I think an exterior wall sconce to the right of the doorway will be a welcome addition and balance things out.

By the way, yeah—that new door is in what was my laundry room. Also gutted to make space for this big ambitious kitchen plan. In case you thought things couldn’t get worse! They got worse. They’re getting better again, though!

I swear all of this is in the service of someday being able to live a normal life in this house and NOT just destroying everything on a biannual basis.

That little crooked window on the left was the laundry room window. That little skinny window on the right was the first floor bathroom window. They were a funny weirdly proportioned pair, and now they are history. Down came the vinyl, down came the clapboard, out came the brick nogging and old windows, and in went some new framing and new insulation and sheathing and windows.

This is definitely the most awkward (and, thankfully, least visible!) elevation of the house, and I think it’s just always going to be something less than gorgeous. I hemmed and hawed a lot on how to make this window arrangement feel natural inside and outside the house, but ultimately the architecture is just weird—it’s always going to look like an addition, and that’s OK! I love to tear off additions, but sometimes you need them. Like, say, when they contain the only bathrooms!

So with these new windows, I aimed to make it look like a slightly more elegantly planned addition than before, like maybe a porch that was enclosed at some point. The windows themselves are the same proportion as most of the other windows on the house, but smaller (larger than what was there, though!), and the top of the windows align with the top of the newly installed adjacent back door. I also chose 2-over-2 windows, which I kinda pulled out of my ass because it just felt right and a 6-over-6 in that size is a bit much with all that lite division.

I can kinda dig hanging something between them and planting some fabulous climbing rose bush or something? That feels like a very distant goal so we have time to brainstorm.

Annnnnnnd, this is as far as I got out there! Clearly there are various things that still need doing, but all the big stuff is done. A little odd, but I’m pleased with it!

Do you like my little deck? It’s fancy. I built it in an afternoon out of scrap wood. The post rests on a piece of bluestone from the yard. Obviously I want to do something better but I had to get rid of that big drop ASAP and “something better” is not in the existing time or money budgets.

So to review, in the space of 4-ish years, we have now gone from this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

Clearly there is some finish work to return to in the spring (we don’t need to start listing it, do we?), but HEY! I know I seem crazy. My neighbors would probably concur on this. But NOW the kitchen/pantry/half-bath work can continue and—good lord willing and the creek don’t rise—I should never have to redo this again for as long as I am alive and kicking.

Let us pray.


  1. Yowza!! It’s perfect!

  2. Daniel, Keep up the good work and I’ll keep up the prayers! House renovation is not for the faint of heart. Sure, I envy (sort of) those who have a turn key operation going on when they buy a home, but I’m not built that way and, it seems, neither are you. I am currently on what I call my “old charming, yet somewhat previoously under-loved and overly neglected old home of clapboard, brick or Lord knows what other kind of material they used in 1912.” You have to have guts if you share this obsession joined with lots and lots of vision and patience! You’ve got the whole deal! Well done! MTS

  3. Along with the neighbors, I found myself wondering if Edwin and Edgar ever think you’re kind of nuts ;) It looks wonderful, SO MUCH better than when you started, and I’m excited for you that you’re finding yourself in a somewhat more livable and less “Grey Gardens” (LOL) habitat!

  4. I love your blog but it gives me so much anxiety. Did you ever see the tv show ‘Green Acres’ in reruns? Wealthy couple moves from NYC to country and lives in a dilapidated house that is falling down around them. Sound familiar? That show gave me anxiety too. Keep up the good work!

  5. That’s a whole lot of work but it looks like it’s starting to pay off. My brain can’t quite keep up with all the changes but your pictures make it easier to follow. It feels like your brain is sort of sorting through things, making it’s way to a final solution. Good luck with the inside work. I think you are truly on your way.

  6. Bless your heart. I really admire you for keeping at it until it’s done right.
    I’d be like, f*ck it, and continue washing dishes on the front porch.

  7. happy window gaps!

  8. Your writing always makes me laugh, thank you for sharing! And good luck with the next steps :)

  9. Nicely done. I got a burr under my saddle a few years ago and pulled out an old pantry and the old tile in my kitchen. I was completely sober BTW. And it’s still the same because I’m saving to pay for it cash. SMH.

    • Yup! The combination of having enough cash and enough time is such a challenge. And learning how to renovate with both limitations in mind when it’s your own house is too. I get it!

  10. Lol, vestigial. That made me smile.

    In all seriousness it looks great, although I’m sure it must have been maddening to live through.

  11. That is gorgeous!!

  12. thanks so much for the update. your authenticity and impeccability (are those a thing?) make the rear second reno insane but perfectly sensible. it looks great. and drunk demo is a precept i’ll have to keep in mind.

  13. She is such a beaut! You should be so proud!

  14. Clearly, you need a visit from the remodeling fairy. I’m sure she makes house calls. In her absence, however, you are doing a stellar job!

  15. Sometimes you’re like, “I’ll make a big mess and this will force future-me to get off their ass and do this thing!” And then future-you is all, “WTF, past me? Did you realize what a damn mess this was going to be and how long it would take future-me to fix this disaster?” This post is reminding current-me to not destroy the current kitchen tile because I want future-me to suddenly be flush with cash and give me a new kitchen!

    It looks amazing, though. What a lot of work you’ve put in. Hope this year is more measured and steady for you!

    • HAHAHA. This is exactly right, future me cannot quickly accomplish nearly what past me thinks I can! Past me has to learn that a lot. SIGH. Hopefully with practice comes some wisdom.

  16. I love blog updates.

  17. As always, an inspiration for those of us about to despair of every finishing our own renovations.

  18. Hahahaha – I love you and this and I am so excited that the kitchen plan is moving along (practicality be damned!) I love your ideas for the new kitchen and can’t wait to see it come together.

  19. Yesterday the hubs I put together an ikea bed. We were thisclose to divorce by the end of the evening. I don’t know how you stay sane with all your projects, but I LOVE reading about them and seeing the houses being brought back to life. Stay gold.

  20. You are hilarious, talented and all around awesome. I always read your blog posts first. The house is lovely and everything your do and re-do makes it come to life.

  21. You’ve done some righteous work, brother! You’ve destroyed some hideous evidence of human stupidity, along with the mold etc. that always attends it. Don’t let ’em get you down. You’ve got that pink chandelier in the bedroom to soothe the sting, and BTW that bedroom is cooler than what most of us have, especially since it has this great old house and yard attached!

  22. “In case you thought things couldn’t get worse! They got worse. They’re getting better again, though!”

    Those lines right there are the best summary of old home (or really any) renovation I’ve ever seen. And I love that you really give the most accurate depiction of the insane mix of depression and ecstasy that the whole process can really be.

    The new back wall is amazing, I think you did an amazing job with balancing all the windows with such odd elevations and interior spaces to deal with. It’s beautiful. It’s going to be stunning when you’re “done”. (“done” very much in quotes because who living is ever really done?)

    And side note: if you get much sun on that back bathroom wall (at least 6 hours), clematis plants are lovely climbers with gorgeous flowers and they’re fairly fast growing.

  23. I hope you look at that and feel nothing but pride. That was a lot of work (and took a lot of vision) to get something that is done well.

    • Right now I look at it and see all the things left undone, but I think someday the pride part will kick in! Thank you. :) :)

      • You usually get that pride when you put that sucker on the market and see the parade of people ooohing and aaaahing over it. But I have yet to experience that pride while living in the house. All I ever see are the flaws and the to dos and the when i get the time/money/motivations.

        Keep up the good work and the morale. I demo’d the old, cruddy bathroom medicine cabinet one night and lived with a hole in the wall for five years. I know of what you speak.

  24. It looks gorgeous – I know the iterations suck, but I would never have had that vision! You really do have an incredible talent.

  25. Daniel,
    Bravo to getting to this point on the back side of the house. I admire your willingness to share your foibles and how after rethinking things out, ending up with a much better end result. The rear end is looking awesome! I am so happy that you are doing your homework and restoring the house to what it should be.

    I laughed in sympathy at your drunk demolition… Shortly after we took possession of our 1852 rowhouse last year, I was at home alone one night chatting with my BBF on the other coast when after several glasses (bottles?) of wine, I decided to take a hammer to one of the only bits of sheetrock in the house, only to discover extremely serious structural issues requiring almost $20k in repairs. Ultimately it was good that it was found, but it was nonetheless a real shocker.

  26. Jesus christ on a bike, Daniel, you are working your heart out. And as someone who loathes cold showers I cannot imagine a winter full of them, in an unheated house… It gets better with every iteration, as everyone else is telling you. But whew. Sending you strength and good karma.

    • Hear, hear! Never thought I’d be so relieved to have heat and hot water back, yikes. Things are feeling much improved!

  27. Love it!! And making those vertical boards wider was so the right choice.

  28. I went through a divorce a year ago and have also attempted to single handedly renovate my mid century house while working two jobs. Many poor decisions have been made involving a sledgehammer and many months of things sitting around unfinished and totally unlivable. I’ve had a lot of complete breakdowns. So, I salute you, comrade. On the plus side, the back of your house is looking really damned great.

    • It’s rough, friend! But the “rebuilding” process is exciting too, like reclaiming space that felt lost (even if only to past-me’s bad planning). Things were real bleak around here a year ago, and while there’s still a lot to get through, it’s really feeling OK again and that’s really exciting. You’ll get there!

  29. Coming from a land of serious masonry (England) I am amazed by the way in which a timber framed house can be remodelled. Which is to say: I am amazed by the way in which you in particular have remodelled that house in particular.

    I can’t imagine that anyone is going to want to change it again, ever, even if you are no longer around to kick them out of the idea.

    • Adding: apart from the finishing touches needed (those dangling drainpipes are giving me hives but I’m guessing they’re doing the job OK) the one spacial change I would suggest is moving the window wall of the upstairs bathroom back just a little bit: even six inches might make it look more of a cute little bump-out from the original building. (Yes, I am suggesting a whole lot of work in order to make your upstairs bathroom smaller, why do you ask?)

      • I hope nobody messes with it again! Except me, that is. There’s still that pesky upstairs bathroom addition!

        (and omg the downspouts are also upsetting to me. they’re top of the list.)

        Moving that wall back has DEFINITELY been considered, but I think I have some simpler ideas that will improve that situation up there. I also have to consider that it’s the only full bath, and I have to live through the renovation!

  30. Daniel, you are ambitious in all ways, including your drunken heartbroken fuckups, and I will never shame you for it. (Mine usually involve drastic haircuts but IF I HAD A HOUSE TO DESTROY I WOULD TOTALLY DO THAT.) Thanks for gathering up the thread of all of this and sharing it with us. You are beautiful and your house is beautiful and if I had a gazillion dollars I would give them to you so you could make more beautiful things.

    • Oh man, if I had hair that anything exciting could be done with…at least that grows out with minimal effort though, ha! :)

  31. Did you plan for the gap between the windows on the addition to echo the gap between the kitchen windows or was that just a happy accident? In any case, the new-new back of the house looks fantastic. Mad props to you for getting this done (again).

    I had respect but no first-hand knowledge of the scale of this kind of project until I bought a battered old house six months ago. Your can-do attitude has been with me throughout the renovation process. When I am lighting the candle in my bathroom (oops, no electricity), I think “Daniel would understand and perhaps even agree that it’s vaguely glamorous.” When I realized that it takes an average of 20 hours to restore a single window, I think, “Okay, I see why flippers always replace the windows but also Daniel is right about old windows kicking modern windows’ butts.” You are a goddamn inspiration is what I’m saying.

    • Aw, that’s so nice to read Julia! And very kind. The candle IS vaguely glamorous—coming from the guy who has had a broken lamp draped over the hook on the door and plugged into an extension cord in the hallway since…August? (I HAD TO REROUTE THE WIRES BUT THEN THE WIRES WERE TOO SHORT UGH)

      • See, this is the content I live for.

        Candlelight is very flattering.

        Screw those wires

  32. Wow………………you really jumped in, didn’t you, lol! But I can see light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope you can too. The finished product is always worth the wait. The outside is so much…………cleaner. It just makes much more sense now :) Good job!

  33. Could you set up a go fund me campaign or allow us to donate to your projects in some other way? I would be thrilled to pay for more content!

    • Same! I can’t wait for that new kitchen to go in!!!!

      • That’s really really kind you guys, but I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable with something like that! I’m OK—this is a long, crazy learning experience that I handle with varying success, but ultimately I made the mess and I have most of what I need to get myself out of it! The rest of it’ll come. :)

        (If you feel inclined to donate to somebody’s housing, Habitat for Humanity is a terrific organization doing great work all over the country, including my county!)

  34. Wow, Daniel. A hell of a journey to get to this point, but was it ever worth it. Looks amazing. Can’t wait to see what you do on the inside! I admire your ability to just keep working on things that bother you until they are right. So many times, I will let something go because I am too tired of working on it, but the niggling of doubt in the back of my mind never ends. You are really inspiring, is what I am saying.

  35. Whatever way you got there, it looks wonderful – the way it was always supposed to look.

  36. What a firehose of work! No wonder you didn’t have energy to write! You’re amazing and resilient and I admire your persistence. Im so glad you’re back.

  37. I look at a lot of design blogs but yours is the only one I read and not just scroll through pictures. Being someone that “just had to” totally gut, move everything and rebuild the only bathroom in the house when I was 8 months pregnant and my husband was working in another state, we can all relate to bad, bad, (and so good) decisions on renovation.

  38. You’re giving me a lot of inspiration – to save up before I start touching my hideous kitchen…at least it’s functional and I love eating and cooking. (I totally call two burners and a toaster oven functional for a family of four btw).

    Can’t wait to see the finished product. Green Acres indeed.

    Hold your Happy close when it gets a little Stormy.

    • YES, SAVE UP. I recently actually sat down and budgeted “my kitchen” (amazing how we don’t tend to do those things for ourselves even though we do it for clients all the time?) and it was a rude awakening…suffice to say plans have been scaled back. Sometimes bold moves pay off and sometimes…not. (I don’t have a family of four but sammmeeeee! I also have a dishwasher but no sink except the upstairs bathroom.)

      • As someone who has seen a lot of new kitchens in more-than-100-year-old homes that just weren’t right for the home at all, it seems to me that having to pare back a budget is often a good thing for getting a kitchen that fits well in an older house. The ones I’ve seen that are simple in design and construction seem to work best. With unlimited budgets, people do all sorts of fancy and modern things that make the kitchen not go with the rest of the house. It happens all too often. Many times, having to cut back on plan expenses makes for a better kitchen for the house. I’m thinking it will only work that way for yours, too, and expect that it will look great despite having to pare back.

      • Agreed! Although, what’s amazing is that I don’t think anything I’m planning is especially extravagant or fancy, it just adds up! Stoves and sinks and faucets are expensive and so are cabinets and countertops and all of a sudden it’s a billion dollars!

  39. I. do. not. know. how. you. do. it.

    Yesterday afternoon my husband was making beer and he did what I have five million times asked him to PLEASE EMPTY THE BAG OF GRAIN INTO THE TRASH INSTEAD OF POURING IT DOWN THE SINK and he went and POURED IT DOWN THE SINK which then clogged the drain well below where we could snake it out from, but I’m the handy one in this relationship so I had to take apart the piping, the garbage disposal etc. etc. and I basically declared that if he was going to require us to get a plumber to come out to snake our drains(BECAUSE HE DIDN’T LISTEN AND RESPECT THE FRAGILITY OF PLUMBING IN A VINTAGE HOUSE) that we were also going to replace the plug that the disposal and the dishwasher plug into AND we were going to get a new disposal because the old one sometimes leaked and was irretrievably corroded.
    And after two glasses of wine last night I thought, we should just sell this place tomorrow. Get something new, never speak of these things again. That would be smarter and probably less expensive.

    Anyway. I don’t know how you do it. Because I would have curled up in a crying ball like two years ago over the kitchen/no heat/hot water/all the things.


    • Oh, there was a little bit of curling in a ball and crying, trust!


  40. Wow! Whatever you do next, I hope you do it soon, because the Internet has been a boring place without your blog posts!

  41. You are truly amazing! And the house looks just fab. That is a huuuuge improvement.
    To get some much needed funds you could set up a Patreon account. Sooo many people say yours is the only blog and certainly the first blog they read. Maybe they’ll be willing to chip in. And/or, as previously mentioned, a go fund me page.

  42. I’m exhausted! I can’t imagine how you feel. So what are you doing for meals? Do you have some sort of make-shift kitchen so you can cook?

    • Yes, I have a make-shift kitchen! I was thinking about doing a blog post about it, because like, why not. It’s kind of nice, honestly? Like not “let’s make this permanent” nice, and it definitely has its limits, but it kinda works…not horribly? A real kitchen will be a relief, though. Soon soon.

  43. Amen.
    I laughed out loud while reading this. Thanks!

    • PS what is that strange box on the second floor?

      • If you are referring to what sits on the roof above the bathroom/pantry addition, that’s the second floor bathroom. Hence Daniel’s comment about not being about to remove all of the awkward-looking additions, as they contain the house’s only bathrooms – this house having been built before houses were built with indoor bathrooms.

        I’m guessing Daniel will do something to the window in the addition upstairs (maybe even adding a window to the back wall of that addition to break up that expanse of wall, while bringing more light (and views) into the bathroom and second floor hallway) to make that bump-out look slightly less awkward, that is, as good as it can look, as he did for the addition downstairs, when he renovates the upstairs bathroom.

      • Yes, NestFan is correct! And yes—I have some ideas about how to make it a bit less box-like!

      • Oh, I hope your plans include a little feature window on the back side of the bathroom – like a little octagonal one or something!

  44. Daniel.
    We do the things we do for a reason…
    Maybe your house just looked like how you were feeling, a bit miserable… Sometimes we need to go through the bad to enjoy the good again. You went through some pretty emotional/rough stuff. Cut yourself some slack.
    Your house will be ready when you’re ready ;).

    Much love from Brussels!

  45. Wow – I need a lie down just reading this. Congratulations on summoning the energy to keep going, and wishing you fortitude on an ongoing basis!

  46. Hallelujah! Can I get an Amen? My brand new tank less hot water heater went out on a Friday and between weekends, warranty approvals and plumber schedules, it was a solid 6 days before I had hot water. Those cold water only sink baths are no joke in an upper Missouri February winter. I can’t even with going for months with no hot water! I’m almost more impressed with that than the back of your house, but being in the middle of a renovation myself, I can fully appreciate the amount of work and time that went into what is shown in a dozen pictures here on the blog. Good job Daniel. The end product is really really good.

  47. Rachel’s comment made me snort my wine.
    I had similar thoughts about the neighbors, but mine were: “Hmm, all it would take to get into this joint is a bottle opener…..but he’s obviously broke, so why bother.”
    I am on the edge of my chair waiting with anticipation for the reveal of the kitchen. I was so vicariously excited by the previous rendition. But I must say, ALL SOFFITS MUST DIE.
    Thank you.

  48. Wow, the back of your house, and the side of that kitchen/pantry/bath addition are really looking great now!!!

    I can picture the really nice deck you’ll have eventually outside that new back door. I remember the rather simple modest deck of your original planning – but now I think it would be really nice to have, in addition to a deck behind the kitchen back wall (to your right as you come out that back door), more continuing deck to your left as you come out of the pantry door (rather than having the end of a deck, or its side railing, or steps going down to ground level, right there next to the door), so that the larger deck also fills in that space there under your new pantry and bathroom windows.

    I don’t know what you are planning to do with your grand living room eventually (which I think of as a sort of ballroom/party room/room-for-dancing, since you already have a cozy living room across the hallway) – in any event, it is a grand room for entertaining, and wouldn’t it be nice to have two french doors that opened to the deck outside (rather than the two windows that are there now) – then you could have circular traffic flow – from the grand living room to the deck into the kitchen and back around). Though the french doors wouldn’t have to open to a deck – they could also open to steps down to a sweet rather formal garden that also had steps up to the deck.

    I’m sure you’ve thought of this when thinking about your deck, though I know it is all way down the line now, as you focus on finishing your kitchen (which should seem to be an easier installation, once you’ve made the final decisions about what to put in there, compared to the massive exterior projects you’ve been doing to the rear and side of your house of late.)

    • Just to be clear, I’m not talking about two french doors that open together (heavens, no, how suburban-modern!), but rather two large separate windows, trimmed out like windows, that go to the floor (like those great brownstones in Clinton Hill and/or Fort Greene, where the front parlor floor windows go all the way down to the floor – those are usually double-hung windows, but function a lot like doors because they are so damn huge, or would if there was anything other than a ledge to step out onto.) Ideally, two of them, directly opposite the front windows in that room (which would also be cool if they went to the floor, if those don’t already (I can’t remember) and opened to the front porch (or not). (I love vicarious house-designing.)

      • Looking at old photos, I see you’ve got those to-the-floor huge double-hung windows in the front of the living room. I guess I’m suggesting the same to-the-floor treatment in the back of the room for the windows, ideally as French doors, for ease of entry and exit to the deck or garden, as well as making it possible to add some sort of pull-screening to keep out mosquitoes, if they plague you up there in Kingston. Though they don’t look as cool as the huge double-hung windows, doors are more practical in modern life. I don’t suppose it is possible to get windows like those huge double-hung ones made today for less than a custom-made fortune anyway. Does it appear as if the rear windows were also to-the-floor when the room was built?

  49. Talk about high anxiety!!! No wonder the posts were few and far between. Thank goodness for Antarctica. Welcome back.

  50. Peak anxiety through this whole post. But… OMG It’s so nice. Great job!

  51. Wow. You are the embodiment of Blood, Sweat, and Tears. I am so impressed!

  52. God bless you. That picture of the drainboard complete with drill and debris is everything. So familiar with that feeling. So, so familiar. I just usually forget on purpose to take pictures. Working for clients is so much easier, n’est ce pas? The only way out is through, you’ll make it…eventually.

  53. The current result is perfect. It looks like it was supposed to be that way – always. Phew. Good for you. Sometimes it’s hard to see the end vision when you have to contend with what other people have done, and what you want to do (including being considerate of your interior plans).
    As for that climbing rose spot, maybe consider a clematis? Put a fan shaped (V shaped) lattice up there, and then a flowering clematis. They have beautiful flowers and don’t need dead-heading or any maintenance really except to lop the top off if you got a version that climbs too high. They flower for ages, if you get the right variety, and if you do have to fight with them, they don’t have thorns (like the roses) so you won’t come out all scratched up.

  54. Hey, at least you got there!

  55. In dealing with you, the renovation didn’t know it was dealing with a staunch character. S-T-A-U-N-C-H. And so much the better for it!! Way to go Daniel, if it feels good for us readers to see your projects “lock into place” it must be 100000% more satisfying for you. I can’t wait to see what you achieve this spring and summer!

  56. I love, love, LOVE reading your posts. Congrats on pushing through – can’t wait to see what the future holds for your home. Good luck!

  57. You need to have a party. A late spring cleaning party. I’m not as handy as I once was, but I can still pick stuff up, sweep mop and dust. Everything looks better if it’s clean.

    And, let me know if you want a free room for the High Point Market.

  58. I love this blog entry. It parallels my life. Like you, I found myself single two years ago and in an emptier house than when I purchased it. After a couple glasses of wine (see: bottle), I tore my kitchen soffits and most of the failing cabinets out as well. Well, I ran dry of money (and wine) and the kitchen has been sitting in its demoed state since the breakup. Reading your account encourages me to get it together. You’ll get it done and hopefully that entry will kick me into gear.

  59. Oh my goodness, this looks so fantastic. I am so impressed with the end result, and the changes from the original to the current are a huge improvement – I think sometimes it takes putting those pictures side by side to really appreciate the difference, because it happens so gradually over time that we don’t seem to notice it. But here it looks so dramatic! It’s great looking!

  60. The backside of the house is looking better than I ever thought it had potential for. The door sits like it has always been there. Great work, and I am glad the curve is on the way up again. I really can relatie to that long time of things being a mess and using up all dark humour to endure. I am 40 now on the second house, we have been renovating since I moved out of college, hard-core renovating of grade II-buildings, so hardly a gypsum board in sight, only reed and lime. With the arrival of our kids a year ago I am sitting on my hands not to tear ugly things down because I will never have the time to fix it up again! It is an obsession driven by a creative energy, vivid imagination and a passion for aestethics. It is a strange addiction but the struglle is real! Looking forward to see the demolition and bare studs on the inside!

  61. Also! I am wainting for tiny bar sink! =)

  62. It looks an awful lot better, I have to say! Very well done! Ever thought about building a wooden deck wrapping around the corner from the door to the small windows in the bathroom and pantry? You could then have steps leading down from there. Just a thought – maybe not your cup of tea or matching the style of the house though. Keep up the good work!

    • I have thought about that, but I don’t know! I’ll be internally debating decks and porches and stuff for the next decade, probably. :)

  63. Wow!
    If I look through all these pics I am amazed, plainly amazed. I love the look of the back of the house!
    Agree with the rambling roses idea….. dreamy :-)
    I’m aware that you still have a zillion things on your to do list, but all you acieved so far is impressive and truely insprational!

  64. Daniel, everyone’s told you the house looks great – and it does – and that you’ve done a huge amount of work (and brilliantly, by the way – like faellie said, coming from a land of serious masonry [in this case, Portugal] I am amazed by the way in which a timber framed house can be remodelled). But can I point out that writing this post must have been a challenge, as well? I’ve been reading your blog for years and so I’ve accompanied every post, but still reading this one reminded me of all the stages your house went through (up to now, at least) and I’m sure you had to go through it all in your mind to put ir down on paper (or on screen). Memory lane can be good, but it can be not so good, at times. So thank you for taking the time and havind the courage to reminisce it all.

    • You CAN point that out, haha! It’s true! This is the type of post I’ll put off and off and off because 1) the project isn’t done, so I feel self-conscious and 2) it’s like, where do I even start?? how do I explain myself?? how do I make this make ANY sense?? So thank you, I try! :) :)

      • Which comes to my point that there’s a book in all this. I know you’re busy, but think of the $$$ that it might generate. All the best to you, Daniel…

  65. Love your honesty about living on a building site! My parent’s started renovating their house when I was 13 and they didn’t finish the kitchen until long after I’d moved out, so I feel your pain. Most parents give their kids chores like vacuuming, but mine had me demo the bathroom, lol. At the time, I hated waking up to the sound of jackhammers and nail guns, but I look back on those memories fondly now. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you look at a finished space and thinking ‘Wow I did that.’ And you have done SOO MUCH in four years! I’ve enjoyed following along so much :) Thank you for showing the mess as well as the pretty afters!

  66. OMG, that is so much going on! Kudos to you for all your ambitious projects. Yes, there are a lot of them, but you do them so well in the end. I can’t wait to see where you go next. I would love to see your makeshift kitchen.

    Thank you for your blog, it’s always a highlight of my day!

  67. Hey Daniel, I’ve been reading you for aaaages (way back to, I think, the first Manhattan apt) and lurking… I’ve learned a ton from your design sense, your commitment to DIYing w/ reckless abandon, and your reno planning and execution – particularly over the last year as I try to make a tiny Victorian row-house functional, warmer, and (hopefully, eventually) well designed. You (and your house) are a massive inspiration.

    TL:DR de-lurking to say you are awesome, your house is tremendous. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

  68. Daniel- you are a freakin star! Well done sir. I always refer back to your “temp” kitchen as inspiration for my “perm” kitchen since I’ll never have the time, resources or energy to do a real reno. And corner boards! Who knew!?!?!

    Thanks for keeping it all going.

  69. good god daniel. can i live in your brain for a little while? you might call it crazy but i call it brilliant. it looks so fucking good. those 6-over-6 windows in the imaginary kitchen are perfect.

  70. Good things come to those who don’t wait, it seems! The impulse to tear out has served you in the end! The back of the house looks as if it had always been that way, which I think is the highest compliment you can give to an old home :)

  71. Hey Daniel,

    Inspired by you (and Alex and Wendy from Old Town Home), my husband and I purchased a fixer-upper last year in Poughkeepsie. We spent the year restoring the inside and are starting to think about fixing up the outside of the house this year. Currently there is aluminum siding on top of wood clapboard on our house, with no insulation, plaster walls and nogging. We are torn on what to do with the exterior cladding: Hardieboard, try to remove the aluminum and restore the original wood clapboard (probably full of lead paint), or something else. How did you make the decision to restore the clapboard rather than installing a new type of siding? My husband is gunning for better insulation and low-maintenance, while I am championing authentic and restored. He’s worried that the original wood will be problematic; I’m worried that ripping down all the old clapboard will damage our painstakingly restored plaster walls.

    • Oh cool, congrats on the house! Please don’t curse my name when the going gets rough, haha!!

      OK so—your best option is to restore the original clapboard!! Exterior work on my house has been a little extreme in the past because of removing additions and changing window and door locations, which has prompted me to remove the original clapboard, basically strip what I can, and put it back (with the addition of some new boards to make up the difference!). In GENERAL, though, this is wayyyyyy more than you need to do—very often original wood clapboard is actually fairly preserved under the aluminum and can just be scraped and painted, as usual. There may be some light carpentry to replace ends of window sills or drip caps above windows and stuff, as these things often get hacked off when the aluminum was installed.

      Totally re-siding the house should be a last resort, I think, because…
      a) it’s probably overkill except in certain situations, and therefore way more $ and headache
      b) you lose a lot of patina that makes an old house look authentically old, which is a bummer.
      c) could be a can of worms in terms of what you expose and then kinda have to fix, and maybe a little blissful ignorance is OK.
      d) That’s a ton of stuff to a landfill.
      e) yes, the process can damage interior plaster walls, and/or exacerbate existing cracks and fractures.

      All that said, if restoring the clapboard isn’t an option, I actually don’t have super strong feelings one way or the other about wood vs. a new composite material as long as you match the exposure/sizing of the original clapboard. Hardie is a very good product, although I’m partial to the smooth boards since I think the faux wood grain texture is too pronounced and fake-y looking. It’s also pretty affordable! Another product worth considering is LP SmartSide. Hardie definitely dominates this region, but the LP stuff is really better-looking and promises the same low-maintenance as Hardie. The boards are slightly thicker which I think makes a huge difference when you’re dealing with new siding on an old house! It’s a composite wood product, not cement like Hardie. Worth checking out!

      Anyway—listen to the house! Removing aluminum siding is quite easy—if there’s an inconspicuous area you can remove to evaluate the condition of the siding underneath, go for it! Also if you do restore the wood siding, it’s best to give it a few weeks to dry out after exposing it before painting it—aluminum siding will trap moisture in the boards so if you re-paint too quickly, you may get bubbling over time as the moisture tries to escape.

      Best of luck with it all!!

  72. DANIEL! Omg, it’s perfect. So lovely and balanced and please stop beating yourself up this shit takes time. #canigetanamen

    You have done a beautiful job making that addition actually FIT, all while not going insane (well, too insane?) living in there. I personally love seeing how all of your spaces have evolved, and here’s sending good juju your way that the good lord IS willing and your bank account does rise like a phoenix. We’d miss you terribly otherwise.

  73. Be proud. You did real good. The basement egress was under the addition? You must get some ventilation and light down there now!

    • The basement egress is just to the right of where the addition was, but was covered by a big piece of plywood that was covered in roofing! Eventually I’d like to install some nice sturdy cellar doors, but ya know…priorities! It is very nice having that door so accessible now—I use it all the time to carry things between the garage and the basement!

  74. Daniel. I think you are a wonder, a genius wonder. I look forward to your updates like crazy. Beautiful, beautiful work and determination; you’re an inspiration. Your house and projects are treasures – love your aesthetic. After years of following your progress, these compliments are way overdue. Brilliant.

  75. I marvel at your ingenuity, determination, and vision Daniel. I live in Kingston, ON Canada and we have lots of beautiful homes here too, however, they are primarily brick, so dealing with changes to exterior walls is even more challenging. I love what you have done with the back and side elevation!!!

  76. I have the same urge to go big or go home. Almost hammered my kitchen two days before Christmas. My husband stopped me when I headed to the kitchen with a pry bar, and the reason I gave to him was exactly what you said – “we do no have that many dishes anyway”. I still would rather live without upper cabinets than crappy ones though. Slowly manipulating my man to think the same.

  77. This post is awesome! Thanks for doing it so we can all get our fix of your blog.
    I have been dreaming of my kitchen renovation for a couple of years now. I still have to fix some things in my half-done reno of a weird multipurpose front room, but then it will be time.
    Like you, I tend to demolish first and panic later. But my goal for the kitchen is to get all the cabinets built first (my dream is to build my own cabinets) before I demolish anything. Maybe reading your blog is teaching me stuff.
    But, I’m so excited to see your kitchen come together. The plans you have posted are so awesome. Your house is looking very beautiful.
    I don’t suppose you want to come to my house in the middle of nowhere and give me some advice?

  78. I wonder what makes us believe our minds when we think up comments like “WON’T IT LOOK GREAT?”
    Those words always start trouble. I love all the big stuff you’ve done-and now you have a cute little deck, too. It’s fun to sit on decks.

  79. No heat or hot water last winter? OMG, no wonder you were so quiet. I hate hate hate cold showers if it’s under 105F outside, and I hate not feeling clean, so just thinking about this is making me criiiiiiiinge. I’m so glad things are better this year.

    One thing I keep meaning to ask– can you tell a big difference in how warm the house is since you added the insulation to those walls? I’m thinking of doing something similar, but was wondering what the payoff was like for the effort.

    The back side of the house looks seriously fantastic now, just so good. And how about an espalier between those two windows? They’re really easy and grow in surprisingly fast! You could use something like a plum that doesn’t need a pollinator and it would look cool even when leafless in the winter.

    P.S. I would totally dig a post about your current makeshift kitchen setup.

    • I wish I could give you a real answer to the insulation question, but it’s SO hard to tell because various spaces (or parts of spaces) are gutted, and a few rooms (including the kitchen) are still unheated, so it’s really hard to say. Give me another year to get some more walls up and hopefully I can give you a better answer! I’d say unless it’s part of a bigger project, it’s probably not worth it, but adding insulation when it makes sense is usually a good idea. Definitely not worth tearing down plaster or exterior cladding in good condition. If blown-in insulation is an option for you (it’s not for me because my wall cavities are already full of brick!), that might be worth exploring!

  80. Amen. ;)

    Also, I think the winter of ’16/17 was shi— the winter to teach us patience and empathy… We purchased a house in summer ’16 that had hidden black mold (SURPRISE!). Winter 16/17 included two adults, one Doberman, and two cats living in one 12×12 room sans kitchen, sans bathroom (yes, we peed in the yard in the middle of the night and I took ho baths in my work bathroom when I knew I’d be alone), and me sick from mold exposure (literally lived with a fever/sinus infection for over a year). I had many moments of, “why did we choose this house?”


    • Oh DEAR, I’m so sorry to hear that!! Well it can only get better from here, right? Yikes. I hope things are improving and you’re feeling better! I can’t imagine being chronically sick on TOP of all that, omg. <3

  81. Hey Daniel,

    Good to have you back! You have gone through a lot of pain to get your house as beautifull as it already is! I completely understand the mixed feelings you had when you decided to rip open the back of your house, again. But I think it will be a decision that you will look back on with proud, for your own persistence (you will forget the cold showers and nights after a couple of years).
    A little DIY question for you, what kind of product do you use for filling al the (screw)holes?


    • Thanks Steven!

      The best product is probably Abatron WoodEpox:

      I use that if I need to do a larger repair or fix rot or something, but for smaller little nail holes and things I either fill them with a bit of caulk or Bondo. Bondo is tricky and not recommended for exterior wood repairs, but I’ve found that small amounts over a PRIMED board results in a solid long-lasting repair, and dry/sanding time is extremely fast whereas Abatron takes several days (sometimes longer) to dry.

  82. The work you are doing on your home continues to AMAZE me! Incredible work, Daniel. The before and after photos of the exterior is awesome. I hope your neighbours appreciate all the gorgeousness you’re bringing back to your street.

  83. This weekend I’ll move. First time ever I’ve had a place of my own. There’s a ton of stuff I want to do before I move in boxes; it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t get done before I move in. Nor will it all get done in the week I took off of work. And I’ve been getting more and more wound round, because there’s no efficient way to get from point A to B.

    I …. thank you for sharing. For the first time, I realize that it’s ok. It’s ok that it’s not a straight line. It’s ok that I’m probably going to have to unpack and repack boxes; shuffle a ton of stuff from one room to the other. It’s ok that I’m probably going to be camping out in one room for a while. That’s fine. It doesn’t have to be efficient, doesn’t have to be perfect, doesn’t have to be the best path forward, it simply has to get done. And that’s the part I need to focus on. The delight that will exist after it’s done, as it’s done.

    Your house is amazing. I am in utter awe. And it serves as a reminder that it’s possible to do the big stuff, the really cool stuff, and that, by comparison, my tiny tweaks are utterly doable; well worth doing.

    • It IS OK! You’re gonna be just fine! Especially if you recognize now that you’re in for a long haul, and it may not always be fun or simple. Best of luck with it all—hope the move went smoothly and you’re settling in, whatever that may look like at this stage! :)

  84. Daniel, it’s somehow so much more inspiring to hear that you go through the same stages of despair and regret about having undertaken a huge project as I do. And then to see how much you have accomplished in such a short time.

    I’m so glad you are back. I missed you.

  85. You have definitely turned a corner.
    Sometimes a door’s gotta go where a door’s gotta go.

  86. Daniel. It looks incredible. The latest rendition is beautiful and flows seamlessly with the rest of the house. And I totally dig the idea of a wild looking trellised rose between those two windows. Or an espaliered plum like Lori said above. That space is an opportunity for another beautiful addition!

  87. I remember seeing your temporary kitchen post & thinking “Oh, I’d stop right there…” So cute!! Of course it didn’t work long-term in context of all the pending action around it. I CANNOT imagine how much better it’s going to be in it’s new iteration.
    Glad you are back in the swing of things. Much love!!!

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