All posts in: Kingston House

Looking Back (and Forward!) on the Bedroom

First off, thank you guys for all of the feedback on my kitchen renovation post last week! I’ve read all the comments but am still working my way through responding, so bear with me if you’re waiting on a response! I love how much people care about this stuff, and I genuinely appreciate having so much helpful feedback as I pull this plan together. It challenges me to keep playing around and refining and trying different options, and that’s very helpful at this stage! I’m sure I’ll be changing things up until the moment I actually do them (and then probably after—let’s be honest here), so we’re totally still in the playing around phase. Fun times!

ANYWAY. I’ve been working on finishing my bedroom. We know this, right? I’m sitting in it right now (what’s a desk?) and there’s still a fairly long hit-list of little things to wrap up, but even now it’s functional and comfortable and I just love it! It’s a wonderful room. But even though I know exactly how it all went down, I’ve still been thinking a lot about what the hell took so long. It feels like I’ve been working forever on this room. Just a few weeks ago I was standing around, surveying the mess, and genuinely wondering if this bedroom would ever be a space I could actually to sleep in. It’s always darkest before the dawn, I guess.

There’s this yet-unnamed phenomenon that I’ve experienced with each room in my house, where it feels like the renovated space betrays the wild and wooly and exceedingly messy process of getting it there. What’s that thing they say, about the start of a relationship being the most exciting part? That’s how I feel about rooms in my house, I think. Every un-renovated space feels like some sexy stranger, like an acquaintance I can’t wait to get to know better. I see all of the good—the possibilities! the potential!—and very little of the bad. But then I really dive in. And if I’ve done my job well, by the time I’m done I’ve spent so long overturning each stone, investigating every flaw, pouring some level of TLC into every single feature, that it all becomes old hat. That old romantic spark gets replaced with familiarity, and by the end it all feels kind of ordinary.

Not to be too self-congratulatory, but I think maybe that’s how it should feel. Despite the many, many hours of work that I’ve put into this space, even forget what it really took when I look around the almost-complete room. I sit there trying to reconstruct the whole long process and all the moving parts in my mind to justify the amount of time I feel I’ve spent on it, because it kind of looks like I just painted the walls, ceiling, and trim and put up a new light fixture, and it’s hard to not feel like something is terribly wrong if it really takes me almost four years to get around to that relatively small amount of work.

But that’s the illusion, not the reality. Cognitively, I know this. I was there! I did the work! And even though that feeling can almost be deflating, I try to look at it as an indicator of success in this mission of restora-vating an old house. The room doesn’t look or feel like it underwent a big renovation—rather, it pretty much just looks how I think it should. It doesn’t look like it endured years of neglect and mistreatment only to be revived and altered by some lunatic blogger guy. It kind of just looks like it’s been nicely maintained over the years, and just got a fresh paint job. When you work really hard on something, I think there’s a natural inclination to want that work to be evident in the final result, but I’ve learned that the best kind of work when it comes to old houses is the kind that you hardly notice when all is said and done.

So what am I going on about? Well, let’s take a trip. Through TIME.

closingpick

It’s May 31, 2013, and I had just done a final walk-through and signed the most daunting set of papers I’ve ever signed because they granted me the legal ownership of an entire fucking house. I’m 23 and have no idea what the hell I’ve just done, but it’s all very exciting. Here’s the bedroom, which at this point is the most bedroom-y room of the second floor apartment. The same second floor apartment that’s had its electrical panel disconnected, so there are no working lights or outlets. The best thing about the second floor is that its attending hot water heater in the basement works, which is more than I can say for the first floor. It still has no working toilet—that doesn’t get fixed until a few days later.

The grainy-ness of this photo isn’t helping my case, but right off the bat the bedroom had some issues beyond a light and easy refresh. The walls had been painted many, many times over possibly multiple layers of old wallpaper, which was now separating from the original plaster beneath, and would fall off in small chips or larger pieces with little provocation. That cheap little sconce next to the closet door was the only light source in the room, the baseboards sustained a tangle of old phone lines and jacks, and I think the entire room had 3 electrical outlets. Which actually isn’t bad, considering some of my other rooms.

caulkmess

Every part of this room needed some attention that wasn’t necessarily immediately obvious from a quick glance, but became more evident upon closer inspection. It looks like the whole wallpaper-separating-from-the-plaster thing had been a long-term problem, “fixed” with generous smearings of caulk and, in many places, some combination of caulk, masking tape, joint compound, and what appears to be cement.

wallstripping1

Oh hi, Max and Mekko! By late October of that year, Max had hosted one of his friends for a weekend and they went rogue and started stripping the paint and wallpaper off the original plaster. I’d been good about just leaving everything alone up until this point, but seeing them making such a big mess armed with only a couple spackle knives immediately weakened my resolve and I joined in the fun. “Don’t start this unless you intend to finish it!” I remember telling him and the friend, which even I can admit is pretty rich coming from me.

corner1

Naturally that friend, that night, and the booze involved with it came and went, and left a little less than half the room stripped down to the plaster. And that’s how it sat for the next several months, because my house-related work was still reserved for more pressing projects and Max was over it.

wallstripping2

By March of 2014, I’d had enough of the half-stripped walls and resolved to make some progress on the bedroom again.

It’s tempting for me to think of this as a project that got way too spread out over way too much time, which maybe is the case, but it’s not like I was sitting around in between! This is 10 months into home ownership, and I’d renovated the kitchen, the laundry room, and had just wrapped up work on the little office. We’d had the roof replaced (which ended up being very time-consuming on my part due to the issues with the box gutters—trying to fix them myself and then dealing with 3 or 4 roofing contractors to finally get it resolved), some necessary plumbing/heating work including a boiler replacement, and the two electrical panels upgraded to one large one. We’d worked to restore the original single-family layout of the house, opening up blocked doorways and demolishing non-original walls. I’d demo’d the fixtures and cabinets out of the upstairs kitchen, done some major clean-up work in the backyard, stripped wallpaper from the hallway walls, demo’d out the living room and dining room ceilings, removed a non-original closet from the dining room, moved a bunch of radiators around, built a fence, planted a garden, watched all the asphalt get removed from the backyard and a large shallow pond develop in its stead, done most of the demo in the downstairs bathroom, replaced the countertops from the earlier kitchen renovation, did round 1 of restoration on the front doors, and saw Beyonce in concert. All of this felt like such a slow slog at the time, but going over my photos and writing it down here actually makes me feel pretty good about the pace. We were also splitting time between Brooklyn and Kingston at this point, so it was a pretty busy period in my life.

wallstripping3

ANYWAY. Stripping the walls was basically a two-part process that entailed an initial scraping and then going back with a vinegar-water mixture to get that sticky brown paper underlayment stuff off the plaster. Messy but not particularly difficult.

radiatorpipes

During the great radiator shuffle/exposed pipe removal effort, these exposed heat pipes in the living room—which ran right in front of the window moldings!—got removed and exchanged for new Pex lines that run up the wall that divides the living room from the hall and across along the ceiling joists. The bedroom radiator’s location didn’t change but that’s the kind of “invisible” work that affected more than one space, including the bedroom. This was done while the living room ceiling was completely demo’d.

electrical

Also while the ceilings downstairs were removed, it was a good time to run some new electrical to the bedroom. We added two outlets, a cable jack, a central ceiling fixture with a light switch next to the door (how fancy and modern!), and replaced the wiring that powered the existing outlets, including one line that ran through an unsightly conduit on the exterior of the house from the basement to the second floor. That conduit got removed this past summer, so I’m giving myself a retroactive pat on the back for good planning.

The electrical is actually my biggest regret about the bedroom. This house was built before electricity, but when electrical outlets were originally added, they put them in the baseboards rather than on the walls. I had thought that this no longer satisfied modern electrical code, and I think in some places maybe it doesn’t, but my electrician assured me that it actually was permissible here if it was something I wanted to do for consistency. I opted to go with the modern convention—placing them on the wall, about a foot from the floor—and now I really wish I hadn’t! I love the baseboard outlets in old houses and, as long as I’m legally allowed, would like to stick with that and relocate outlets to the baseboards where possible moving forward. In most cases it’s very easy to do myself, so not a huge deal.

mekko

God, that dog color-coordinated really well into that phase of the bedroom. Maybe I shoulda left it!

Then, once again, the bedroom sat totally on the back burner while other projects both in and out of my own house took over my life. If you’ve ever retrofitted old plaster walls with new electrical, you know it’s difficult/impossible to get the box installed very cleanly without the surrounding plaster sustaining some damage. So there I slept, in this room with the mostly raw plaster walls, portions of it crumbling and creating a small but very noticeably endless supply of dust (terrific for allergies!), one of those small plastic utility lights mounted to the new ceiling box with a single exposed bulb. Talk about a retreat!

So anyway. That went on for about 2 and a half years.

windowframing1

The bedroom still didn’t feel all that pressing until it just got totally blown up this summer, when I up and decided to add an additional window to the room. It’s a decision I stand by, but also one that I didn’t totally appreciate the ramifications of until the room had been reduced to THIS mess:

gutted1

If you’ve been following along in recent weeks and months, you know the rest. I installed the window, sheathed and re-sided that elevation of the house, insulated the wall, put up new drywall, patched in some of the hardwood flooring, replicated the original window casing to trim out the new window, repaired and skim-coated the three remaining walls, restored the original window in the photo above, spent hours prepping all of the original moldings for caulk and paint, and—finally—got to the point of actually PAINTING.

And it’s still not done! But now the list feels much more manageable and less pressing. The doors need to be painted and the hardware restored. Two windows need to be restored. One window just needs paint. The other window just needs a sash lock. The dresser needs new knobs. The bed needs a mattress (hey, a full-size mattress fits on a queen size frame, just not very nicely!). I have to patch and paint the hole in the wall where the sconce was, because now the electric has been completely and safely removed. I need to figure out window treatments and get them ordered and installed, and then spend the next few years moving furniture around and in and out until it stops feeling like a nice thrift store display up in here.

So. Ya know. Still some doing.

And THAT, my friends, is why this shit takes forever! But progress still feels good.

Planning My New Kitchen!

In only a few months, I’ll have owned my house for four years! That’s pretty wild. Which also means it’s been about four years since I started thinking about how I’d like to someday renovate the kitchen…you know, after that time when I kind of already renovated the kitchen. That’s a long time to design a kitchen! Yet somehow I keep changing the plan again and again—waking up one morning certain about something and then going to bed roughly 16 hours later absolutely sure about the exact opposite decision. It’s vicious and at some point very soon I need to just make up my mind once and for all so I can get on with things like roughing in my plumbing and electric.

Granted, the house has changed a lot in those almost four years! I drew the above floor plan on some weird software back when I bought the house. It’s like a different place today!

So yes—I’ve definitely lost some square footage, but that loss is totally outweighed by what I’ve gained in natural light, structural integrity, and—I’d argue—giving this house much more of an architectural identity. Just looking at that 2013 plan makes me feel kind of anxious! But the clarity and simplicity of 2017 makes it feel better.

ANYWAY. The area highlighted in yellow. It’s ALL CHANGING. Bear with me and let’s see if I can stumble through this.

Cool? Just pretend you zoomed in on the bright yellow part, and then changed all the things.

Ah, memories! One thing I always hated about the kitchen was the sink location. If you look back at the first floor plan, you can see how the doorways align—meaning you can be standing in the living room at the front of the house with a perfect view of the kitchen sink! Blech. I also hated the huge soffit overhead and the lack of countertop adjacent to the sink. The sink itself is really not in good shape—the enamel chipped and rusting in some places, and just very worn down overall—and the base cabinet below it basically started disintegrating several months ago. So that was all pretty cute.

Also, the stove location. It sucks! That little kitchen cart was the only thing that made it OK, but still. No prep space and no room to add any. See what I mean? I feel like I made the kitchen as cute and functional as I could without doing anything major, but ultimately there’s only so much you can do to turn a bunch of rotting lemons into something resembling lemonade.

Blam! That grey mass on the left is meant to represent that antique hutch that currently lives in the dining room, by the way. This one:

I’ve always felt like it was more of a kitchen piece, and so I really wanted to work it in. I think it’ll hold the majority of my everyday dishes and stuff, which I’m really excited about!

The original radiator stays, but changes locations to be where the sink used to be. I don’t mind being able to see a nice black radiator from across the house, but not a big sink full of dirty dishes. Of course, the soffit is gone, and both the window and exterior door get replaced with windows that match the ones that got installed on the side of the house this summer. It’ll all feel so uniform you won’t even know what to do with yourself.

Also, I’d like to put a little wood stove in the fireplace! That’s what it’s there for, I love burning things, and can you even imagine how cozy?? This kitchen has historically been VERY VERY cold. Hopefully a lot of that will be resolved with new insulation and less house than there used to be (I think the solarium/”side porch” was a major culprit), but I love the idea of that option for some supplementary heat.

Also, burning things.

Confession: when Max and I broke up, I went a little nuts one night and ripped out the upper cabinets and the soffit in this picture, started work on repairing the wall, and that’s as far as I got. I never repainted and it looked like total shit for about a year. Adorable.

But who cares now because it’s all gonneeee. So you might be wondering…if I remove the exterior door, how am I going to get outside?? Good question. The door moves to the current laundry room, basically right where that funny little window is now.

And no, I can’t actually believe I’m messing with my laundry room. I love that laundry room! BUT, let’s think of it this way: I have a better idea, and basically all the value in that room is the machines themselves, which of course will be saved. The entire rest of the space cost me about $350 and a few weeks of part-time work three years ago, so I can get over it.

Want to talk about that island? It’s a concept I’m digging. As much as I’d really love to just put a nice old table in the middle of the room (which might end up being a short-term solution that ends up lasting a very long time), I think I’m going to want more storage. My biggest anxiety with the kitchen is that I DON’T want it to look super new and…suburban? I grew up in the ‘burbs and got nothing but love for the 90s granite-countered kitchen that raised me, but that’s kind of my biggest fear here. So I like this middle-ground, where the island is still a piece of cabinetry but doesn’t match all the other base cabinets and end up feeling like a huge mass in the middle of the room. Ya dig?

YIKES. I do not miss this.

Now about where that doorway to the solarium used to be, there’s a stove! But not just any stove! A 36″ gas range! I haven’t picked one out yet (omg, so many options, so many reviews, so much money), but I’m really excited. I think it’ll feel like a big upgrade over the 1960s bottom-of-the-line Sears-Kenmore electric stove I’ve been rocking all this time! I’ve given a lot of thought to doing an induction cooktop at the encouragement of several commenters—everyone who has induction seems to love it, and I’ll admit they are very very cool!—but I just can’t see it in here! I can’t! I’ll do induction in the super mod lake house that I’m building (someday, no formal plans).

I know these images look really….blah…but try to imagine this as a real space. The back of the island can hold cookbooks and pretty bowls and whatever, and that shelf over the sink will be styled out all pretty with bowls and cutting boards and shit, and the room will have color and texture and a rug and…ya know. It’ll look like a real space and not a computer drawing.

I couldn’t bring myself to install a range hood in the SketchUp rendering. I know. I know. I know. I’m trying really hard to convince myself that this is something I need or want since I know the rest of the universe has decided they are necessary.

I don’t want one. The thought of drilling a 4″ hole and installing a vent cap outside on the newly restored side of my house is giving me agita.

Have I lost you? Is this making any sense? I feel like I need a focus group for this post.

SO. I wanted badly to sort of isolate the laundry room from the whole kitchen and first floor bathroom renovations, but no. It will not be spared, because I’m moving the laundry! I’m moving the laundry upstairs! I’m PSYCHED. It’s an option I wrote off long ago but then reconsidered just this past weekend and I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner.

This means that the current laundry room, above, becomes a small mudroom kind of space but also an extension of the kitchen. On this wall, I see doing a nice big built-in, with shallow cabinets below and open shelves above. Hey, new pantry! At some point I had to stop obsessing over SketchUp and just put up this dumb post, so use your imagination. It’ll look great.

I’m toying with the idea of widening and heightening the doorway into the current laundry room and adding a transom window above. YES THIS IS THE SAME DOORWAY THAT I NARROWED AND SHORTENED A FEW YEARS AGO TO FIT A DOOR I NEVER INSTALLED. Oy vey.

I can’t stand me either.

New exterior door goes essentially where the window is and that’s how we’ll get to the backyard. Washer and dryer move on up to their new glamorous second floor life. The wall behind the machines gets demo’d. I steal about 3′ of space from the downstairs bathroom.

And that makes enough space for the fridge and a closet! I haven’t really sorted out quite how this build-out will go, so the drawing shows a location but nothing else really.

And yes, I know as a blogger that putting the fridge here might actually get me murdered because people are SUPER INTO their working triangles and stuff, but…well, find me a better spot where I don’t lose countertop, storage, or a window, and I’ll eat all my words and do that. In all seriousness, though, refrigerators are hideous and counter-depth panel-ready ones are WAY out of my price range. THIS WAY, I feel like I can have the huge honker of a fridge (switching to a cute designer-y fridge or under-counter both seem super impractical), but it’s out of sight while still being right there.

You don’t seem convinced. Please calm down it’s going to be OK.

Anyway, the original plan was to stack the washer and dryer and put them in the space next to the fridge, but now that the laundry is going upstairs I have a nice big closet! I usually want to rip closets out much more than I want to put them in, but in this case I’m really excited to have a space to actually store the vacuum cleaner, the mop bucket, I guess even winter coats and boots and stuff, conceivably! The options feel endless.

LASTLY. Downstairs bathroom becomes a powder room.

Toilet and sink locations swap, window moves over and down a little, and that’s basically it. Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

For those of you who were horrified at my plans to reuse that tub-turned-temporary-human-grave, YOU WIN. FOR NOW. I still have the tub and I’d still like to find a home for it, but not here. I decided having a full bath on the main floor kind of felt like a carry-over from the house’s past as a two-family (in fact, this bathroom was installed when the house was split up originally in the 30s), and the whole fridge/closet thing just made so much more sense.

So that’s where I’m at! I know this is not the kitchen that everyone would install, but I’m feeling really good about it! We’ll talk all about specific materials and fixtures and stuff soon, but I just wanted to put the basic strokes out there.

Let’s do this thing, kitchen!

Painting the Bedroom Radiator!

Renovating an old house eats your weekends. Always. I speak for myself, but I think it’s kind of universally true. There’s always a to-do list a mile long and more projects than you can reasonably be expected to complete. Then at the end of the weekend, the to-do list is still a mile long and it’s hard to feel like you’ve made much forward momentum even though somehow you felt so busy the whole time. That’s just how it is.

The big project of this weekend: a reset. Not a mental or physical one, because who has the time, but a house reset. With the bedroom renovation wrapping up and remaining wreckage (YES. STILL.) from the summer/fall exterior project (not quite finished, but the rest will have to wait until the weather improves in the spring), every single space in the house is crying out for some attention. Everything is filthy. Everything is out of order. Tools and supplies are all over the place. Before I dive into anything else, I’ve promised myself that I’ll put everything away, mop the floors, and feel less like a crazy person. It’s honestly possible that this process will go on for weeks—that’s the extent of it! So bad. But it’s starting to feel better.

ANYWAY, I did manage to do one real renovation thing that wasn’t just cleaning and sorting and tossing junk and carrying IKEA bags full of tools and stuff down to the basement.

I painted the bedroom radiator! And it looks so…handsome. Mmmmmm, mmmm.

Going back in time, this picture is from the very first night in the house, coming up on four years ago! Look at that sweet baby. We were all feeling very confused and disoriented, sleeping on an air mattress on the second floor—which had no working electricity or plumbing at the time—in a house where the last major thing to happen was the previous owner dying in the bathroom downstairs. Welcome home! We thought for sure we were all going to get murdered, either by an intruder or a ghost.

This is neither here nor there, but Mekko’s adopt-a-versary was this Saturday! Five whole years of Mekko! Where does the time go? I love that girl so much. She’s been such a champ through all the changes our lives have seen together, including renovating this house. Easy breezy beautiful perfection of a dog.

It wasn’t until I started working in earnest on the bedroom that I ever really paid too much attention to the condition of the radiator, which was less than stellar. I think because the second floor of the house was a separate apartment, the whole floor seems to have gotten a lot more attention than anything downstairs—most of the walls seem to have been sloppily repainted many times over the year, floors were (somewhat poorly) refinished at some point, that kind of thing. Over the course of time, it looks like this radiator has been painted a few different times, but I think they were always using the wall paint which is generally NOT a good plan. Regular wall paint might be OK for a while, but it isn’t made to bond with metal so after some time it all starts flaking.

In this case, much of the paint was not well-adhered and could be pretty easily chipped off with a collection of scrapers and picks and steel wool and the like, right down to the bare case iron! Which is very cool, in theory. I spent several hours over the course of a few days doing just that before I realized that I could probably spend the rest of my life manually scraping this thing. I tried some Peel Away paint remover on one fin as a test, which didn’t work super well and was a mess to clean up, and then I just said…NOPE. Enough of this. Sometimes you have to aim for perfection but then accept something less in the interest of not being stuck on one thing forever.

Enter, Valspar latex enamel*! After I felt confident that I’d scraped off what was clearly lifting and peeling from the original radiator, I used a dryer vent brush to clean between all the fins and stuff and then wiped everything I could down with some TSP substitute. Then, paint time! I LOVE this paint**. I used in on the radiator in the living room too without really knowing how it would perform, and it’s been FLAWLESS. No chipping, no peeling, dries very quickly and very hard, and can frequently be wiped down with a damp cloth to clean off dust. Since it’s interior/exterior, this is also what I plan to begin using on the exterior of my window sashes. It seems to perform very similarly to oil-based paint, but dries WAY faster and is easier to work with and clean up and more environmentally friendly than oil paint and all that good stuff.

*Consulting the can (just now, haha), they recommend this paint over primed metal—oops! Most of the radiator was still painted already so I’m just going to go with calling that the primer. It seems to have adhered perfectly to the bare metal, but it’s only been a couple days so who knows. I’d be really surprised if it peels. In any case, there are specific metal primers that are readily available that couldn’t have hurt.

**I have hot water radiators that never get THAT hot, so I know from past experience that I don’t need paints that are made specifically for high-heat applications. Steam radiators tend to get hotter and some hot water systems heat up more than this one, so if you’re in doubt it’s probably wise to use a high-heat paint. You should be able to find both spray paints and regular canned paints for this. Spray paint is great for radiators, but I’m too sloppy to do the proper prep to avoid overspray on walls/moldings/windows/floors/my body.

(Also I didn’t notice that my iPhone camera lens had some schmutz on it, so forgive the dramatic airbrush effect).

Ugh, this is so hard to photograph, but after my first coat I noticed there were some inner nooks and crannies that I couldn’t seem to really reach with a brush but you could still see when looking at the radiator. Especially going from white to black, this kind of thing can make the whole project look kind of sloppy.

The answer turned out to basically be finger-painting! Fun! For those inner crevices, you don’t have to worry so much about getting perfect coverage—just good enough that the old paint isn’t visible. I used to have this kind of painter’s mitt thing that works well for things like this, but I’m not sure I would have been able to reach the really tight spaces with it.

Then I followed up with a second coat with the brush, and that was pretty much it!

Isn’t that just gorgeous?! You might think that all of the details would get lost in the black paint, but it’s really the opposite. Especially because of the gloss factor, the details are now so beautiful and clear! I also LOVE how the black looks combined with the wall and trim colors. It’s all just making me very happy.

Radiators work best when they’re sitting nice and level, which doesn’t always agree with the floors in an old house! I love vintage glass furniture coasters to prop things like this up. You have to be careful not to break them as you’re putting them in because the weight of the radiator can obviously easily break the edges and stuff, but once they’re in they hold the weight just fine. I tend to find these around junk shops and antique stores, and usually they’re not more than a couple bucks a piece.

That’s it! I need to pick up some escutcheons for where the supply and return pipes go into the floor, but otherwise I’m calling it done! MAYBE someday I’ll be feeling really flush and decide to have the radiators sandblasted and powdercoated, but in the meantime I’m more than satisfied with how this looks and happy that I don’t have to worry about the paint continuing to flake off all over the place.

And look, I remembered I have a big rug! It’s not what I picture in here long-term and the size is a little weird (an 8×10 would be ideal, and this is like 7.5’x12′), but having something down immediately makes the room feel much more complete. Rug hoarding for the win!

Wrapping up the Bedroom Renovation!

It’s getting there! It’s really getting there!

newcasingpried

One of the most gratifying moments of working on my bedroom lately has been finally priming, caulking, and painting the brand-new-but-supposed-to-look-original window casing. I worked hard on that! It was a little difficult to judge how successful I’d been at matching the original moldings when this was a mix of painted, unpainted, and almost entirely reclaimed wood, but now I can confidently say that yeah, I pretty much nailed it. Even though the window itself isn’t a flawless match, it’s very close, and the casing is nearly indistinguishable.

I’m amazing basically is what I’m saying. I’m pretty proud of it. It’s hard to remember that there was just a wall here before! I’ll have to install new base shoe when the floors get refinished. Maybe in year 7? Sure, let’s make that a goal.

I still have to paint the new sashes, but I find that’s easier to do when I can take them out of the jamb. These tilt out and remove easily, but it’s the middle of winter so prob not the best time.

medallion

Once the room was starting to really come together, the prospect of “finishing” it without a ceiling medallion started to make me feel so sad! I put “finishing” in quotation marks because I’d like to eventually remove and restore this bad-drywall-job-over-furring-strips-over-original-plaster ceiling. I know! But it could be better, and I like better. This is on a list with a number of other “hopefully someday” kinds of ideas for this room. But a ceiling medallion is no big thing: there’s a great selection out there online of foam ceiling medallions that, once caulked and painted to match a ceiling, look like the real-deal plaster ones they’re meant to imitate.

Usually I use construction adhesive and a couple screws (which I can spackle over before painting) to install them onto the ceiling, but in this case I used regular latex caulk on the back and secured it with some finishing nails—the idea being that if the whole bedroom ceiling thing ever happens, I might be able to pry the medallion off prior to demo and reuse it. Of course by that point I’ll probably have decided it’s the wrong size and style and want to replace it anyway, but I’m leaving the option open for future-me to be less of a pain in the ass than current-me.

Then it was just a matter of spackling over the little nail holes and caulking around the perimeter. The caulk is by FAR the most important step in making it look authentic. I’ve seen people skip this step, and then it kinda does look like you stuck a piece of foam to your ceiling. So, caulk! Smooth the edges with a wet rag-covered finger to really blend the edges of the caulk so it all looks totally seamless. After a couple coats of ceiling paint, nobody will know you’re faking it. Or your ceiling is, anyway.

lightinstalled

Yesterday I got the light hung up, electrical outlets and covers installed, plus a new dimmer switch!

I know, I know, I’m so boring with my Nelson bubble lamp—I had the same one in my last two apartment bedrooms! Those with freakish memories who have been here a longggg time might remember that I found a bubble lamp years ago for $65 at the Design Within Reach Annex because it was damaged and missing its ceiling canopy, but I fixed it and hung that bad boy up in my Manhattan apartment bedroom and felt like a fucking king. Then I moved to Brooklyn and the bubble lamp traveled to that bedroom, where it remains. At some point, I think shortly after buying the house, I found myself in the exact same situation again at the DWR Annex and scooped up another medium-size saucer bubble lamp—this one at $89, a little less damaged and with its canopy included. I had to! Again I spent some time bending the inner wires back into place-ish and had myself another imperfect-but-close-enough bubble lamp.

Point is…do I have a point? DO I NEED A POINT? I’m a person who loves changing stuff up all the time and wouldn’t normally use the same light fixture over and over again like this, but bubble lights cast SUCH a warm, nicely diffused light that I couldn’t resist its siren call for my bedroom again. I ain’t sorry.

SO THAT’S WHERE WE AT. Definitely in the home stretch, which means I have to think about how I’m gonna make this room pretty!

bedroommoodboard

Here’s a kinda underdeveloped “mood board” because why not!

  1. Paint! Benjamin Moore “Oil Cloth” (matte) on the walls, Benjamin Moore “Simply White” (satin) on trim, and Benjamin Moore “Onyx” (satin) on the doors and, probably, the radiator. Elsewhere I’ve used Simply White on the ceiling as well, but I had a gallon of “White Dove” squirreled away in the basement that saved me the cost of another can of paint. I find that the more stark off-the-shelf ceiling whites look a little too intense in old houses.
  2. This ceiling medallion from Lowe’s, $40.45. It’s smaller and much simpler than what I used downstairs, which seems appropriate.
  3. Nelson Bubble Lamp Saucer, medium size.
  4. CB2 Alchemy Bed in Bronze, Queen size. I decided a king is just too big for this room. They didn’t make beds nearly that big when this house was built! I’ve never owned a bed bigger than a full size, though, so this is about to feel really fancy!
  5. A nice big rug! This is just a rando aspirational one from the internet, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the foreseeable future for a nice 8×10-ish vintage/antique one that won’t break the bank.
  6. I like the look of these bed linens from CB2. I wonder how the quality is but at the price I’d expect them to be pretty nice.
  7. Jens Risom armchair. I have a vintage one that I bought at auction a couple years ago! It needs a new set of straps (which I think are pretty easy to get directly from Knoll) and I’m guessing they’ll be black.
  8. My antique dresser, which needs new knobs (those ones aren’t original and a couple have broken since that picture).

I gotta admit, this room is kind of tough! Four windows, three doors, and a radiator is a lot to take into account for a room that isn’t that big. I’m feeling a little stuck on a few things (window treatments! bedside tables! will I survive without a TV in there?!) but I’ll just feel it out over time. It always takes me a while to really settle into a room after the renovation part. That’s the fun, relaxing stuff though! Let me move furniture and art around all day and I’m a happy camper.

Slowwwww and Steady Bedroom Progress

progress3skimcoating

It’s 2017! I’m a sucker for a new year. In spite of a long-held suspicion that compiling a list of new year’s resolutions is just another way to feel like a failure down the line, I totally do it anyway. I’ve already been successful about remembering to take my anti-depressants everyday and—unpleasant as it may be—have managed to use my Neti Pot* several times, so MAYBE THIS COULD BE THE YEAR?! Not to put the cart before the horse or anything. But I do think/hope/pray that this is a year where intentions will manifest as actions followed by results, and loose ends on a lot of things get wrapped up. I EXPECT this to be the year when large swaths of my house really start coming together, which could not be coming soon enough. I’m sure you’re about as tired of reading about demo and destruction as I am of writing about it. Can we just make stuff pretty again?

*as a chronic allergy-sufferer who’s constantly stuffed-up, it really does seem to make a big difference. I have this one which I like a little better than the more traditional teapot-style ones.

I’d hoped to have my bedroom put back together by the new year, but…well, it didn’t come to pass. I’m trying! If there’s one thing I’ve learned about renovating my house, it’s that it’s good to have goals but bad to get too tied up in super-specific deadlines. I find that if I look at things in much smaller chunks (painting a wall vs. finishing an entire room, that kind of thing), it helps me feel better about the progress I am making rather than deflated about not being able to hasten the process. The process is always so much simpler in your head than when you really get into it!

drywallpt1

Where we left off, I’d installed a fourth bedroom window, insulated the exterior wall, patched in some flooring, and cased out the new window in an attempt to make it match the three original ones. Just that was a lot of work! Aside from getting Edwin’s help with framing/installing the new window, I’m tackling this room 100% solo which of course means slow going.

I touched on it in the last post, but I thought a lot about how to redo the wall that got gutted with the window installation, and this is what I came up with: install two layers of 1/2″ drywall—one on top of the other—tape and mud the seams, and then skim-coat everything. In the past when I’ve had to replace plaster and lath with new drywall, I’ve furred out the wall framing so that the 1/2″ drywall would match the roughly 1″ depth of the original plaster and lath. This has worked out just fine, but I wanted to see if I could get closer to the tactile experience of the original plaster by doubling up the thickness of the sheetrock. If you’ve lived in a house with plaster walls, you might know what I mean. A plastered room looks a bit different than a typical drywalled one, since plaster carries a certain amount of imperfection inherent in anything that’s hand-applied rather than machine-made like drywall is, but it feels different, too. Sound travels differently and reverberates less in a plastered room (and perhaps especially between rooms), and I think that solid quality is part of what makes living in an old house feel different than newer construction.

ANYWAY. Somebody kindly pointed out in the comments that evidently double-boarding wall and ceiling surfaces is super common and often required in much of Europe, and a bit of research seems to indicate that it’s also fairly common practice in the States, although I think more for commercial applications. I thought I was being so inventive and smart! Way to take the wind outta my sails. But if it’s good enough for Europe, it’s good enough for me. They do all kinds of things better there.

So in the picture above I have the first layer of sheetrock up (I used scraps for the first layer, so that’s why there are so many seams), and the second one with full-size sheets went up a day or two later. I used fiberglass mesh tape to tape the seams of the second layer, mudded the seams with joint compound, let that dry, and then came back to apply a thin layer of joint compound over the entire wall to try to mimic the ever-so-slight undulations and imperfections of a real plaster wall. I typically use powdered joint compound with a 90-minute set time because it allows for a working time that I’m comfy with but dries much faster than the pre-mixed all-purpose joint compound you’d buy in the bucket. Then I knocked down bumps and ridges, skim-coated again, then again, then sanded everything.

This sounds so easy and nice when I’m sitting here typing it, but good lord I hate skim-coating. It’s messy, it’s dusty, it’s a lot of work, and I find that it’s difficult to get the kind of results I want even after several applications and a ton of sanding.

progress1

One thing I’ve found a little helpful is throwing a tiny bit of dark paint into the joint compound mix for final patching after your last full skim-coat and sanding. It’s really hard to spot imperfections when everything is that chalky white color and texture, so this way you can see exactly where you need to go back and do a final sanding before you paint. This room had the new drywall, two walls of plaster in very good condition, and one wall (the one to the left in the photo above) of plaster in pretty poor condition, so each received a different level of attention and amount of taping/patching.

Unfortunately I didn’t give it a ton of serious thought until after I was well into the skim-coating process, but next time I’ve resolved to nix the joint compound altogether and try my hand at using hydrated lime plaster. Hydrated lime is very different in a number of ways from gypsum powder-based joint compound (or even gypsum plaster veneer), but it actually sounds like a pretty approachable DIY, it’s better and more authentic for the house, there’s NO SANDING(!!), and it’s sooooo beautiful. Also—real plaster! How badass! The very friendly folks at Master of Plaster based out of South Carolina have been giving me a real education and I’m so excited to give it a try!

progress2skimcoating

But back in the land of joint compound, by this point my walls were looking insane so I was super duper excited to finally break out some paint! I started with two fresh coats on the ceiling, and MY WORD what a difference!

To manage my anxiety, I’m thinking about this as sort of a Phase 1 renovation of this room, because there are two major things about it that I just didn’t have the heart to address right at this moment: the ceiling, and the missing mantel. See where that electrical outlet is in the photo above? The original chimney is behind that, and it appears that originally there was some sort of mantel on this wall. You can kind of see how the baseboard is patched in. This is directly above where I added a fake mantel in my living room to replace the missing original one. I toyed with doing something similar in here, but decided to wait and do it down the road since it’s not as though there isn’t enough to do without adding that into the equation.

As for the ceiling, it’s old drywall over furring strips that are nailed into the original plaster and lath, and it’s in kinda lousy shape. This was done when drywall was nailed up rather than screwed, and I guess the previous owner decided the solution for popping nail heads was to smear a bunch of caulk or something over each individual nail head. It’s not particularly noticeable unless the light is hitting a certain way, but it’s annoying enough that it’s something I’d eventually like to address. Of course, this could be as simple as giving the ceiling a nice skim-coat or new thin layer of sheetrock, but my version of addressing this problem will most likely involve removing all the drywall and the furring strips and either trying to repair or replacing the plaster, so I can get that stupid 2-ish extra inches of ceiling height back.

This is why this house will never be done. Ever.

ALL of this to say that 2 fresh coats of flat ceiling paint (I think it was semi-gloss before, which is almost always a horrible idea with a drywall ceiling, but maybe the worst idea when it comes to one in bad shape) made an enormous difference and I can survive and maybe even thrive with that ceiling a while longer. I even think I’m going to add a medallion because the cost and effort is so minimal and it’ll make the room immediately more complete, even if I don’t think of the ceiling as permanent. Also I already ordered it.

Once the ceiling was done, it was time to start on the walls!

bmoilcloth

WOAH WOAH WOAH! Do not adjust your monitors or call the police: that paint isn’t white! I’m a loose cannon in 2017. Also I think my style is getting progressively more traditional and I just don’t know how it’s all going to play out so bear with me while I navigate these confusing new waters.

cuttinginpaint

For real though, I’m psyched about this color! I know it might look like kind of a non-color, but I swearrrrr it’s not just grey. It’s called Oil Cloth by Benjamin Moore, and it’s one of those delicious blue-green-grey colors that changes all day and probably looks completely different in every space and light. At least here, it definitely reads more as green than blue, but it never looks sage or mint or something like that. If this room ends up being ugly, it’s because I didn’t know what to do with this color, not because the color is bad. It’s so, so nice.

progresspaint

When I took this photo I was hoping you’d be able to get a sense of how this new double-boarded and skim-coated drywall ended up looking, but I don’t think it’s really accomplishing that. Well anyway. It looks really good. I don’t think you’d ever be able to point out that it’s a new wall of drywall.

Oh right, where’s the window? Somewhere in there I decided there was no time like the present to begin restoring my original windows, so these two sashes were my first victims!

windowstripping

Restoring old windows is a whollleeeee process that I want to get better at before I attempt assembling my own tutorial, but here’s a fun and exciting progress shot! I used one of those fast-acting paint strippers and immediately hated myself for it. It all worked out fine, but those quick strippers are always such a gloopy mess! I find that they take so many applications and time spent cleaning and picking away at old layers that they end up being one of the most time-consuming ways to strip paint rather than the speed and efficiency promised on the can.

painted-sash

This window only needed two panes replaced, and I opted to just do spot-repairs to the existing glazing putty on the others rather than removing ALL of the paint and putty and all of the glass and truly refurbishing everything. The old glazing is mostly in solid and stable condition (even if it isn’t the neatest glazing job), and with a couple new coats of paint I’m hopeful it’ll last for many more years. I used Rust-Oleum’s oil-based High Performance Protective Enamel for the exterior of the sashes, but I think in the future I’m going to try an exterior latex enamel because the oil-based took forever to dry and made the entire process take so much longer.

windowinstalled

Aside from tacking the stop back onto the jamb and installing a new sash lock, check it! One down, only 30-something to go! This is the first window in the whole house that I’ve done a full restoration on, so it’s pretty exciting. I think the ultimate goal is to be able to remove the unsightly and inefficient exterior storms altogether in favor of some fancy custom-fitted Indow Windows, but in the meantime the exterior storms do an OK job of protecting the sashes that are in need of repairs until I can get to them.

sample

Now that the walls are painted, I’m a lot closer to having a completed room! I threw up a little trim paint on this little section of molding just to see how the two colors would look together (the trim is BM Simply White), so if you only look at this little section it looks like the room is done, ha! Preparing all the moldings for paint is a big job—even though I don’t strip the paint, I do try to smooth out any lumpy and bumpy areas, scrape out old poorly-applied caulk, fill holes and cracks, and give everything a thorough cleaning before breaking out the paintbrush at all. Look at that molding, though! So worth it.

So I didn’t make New Years, but maybe I can be sleeping in here again by the end of the month? It’s so exciting to be at the point of thinking about furniture and rugs and art and light fixtures, finally!

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