All posts in: Kingston House

How to Skim Coat Walls with the Best of Them.

Here’s how to skim coat walls with the best of them: hire the best of them? OMG YOU GUYS I FIGURED IT OUT! Are you inspired yet?

I’m the worst.

But here’s the deal: renovating a house involved a LOT of different technical skills, and you don’t have to walk into it with any of them, really. I didn’t! And while I think it’s good to dip your toe into all sorts of things to learn how they work and whether you actually like them, after you’ve done that I think it’s OK to be honest about what you find enjoyable/gratifying and cut yourself some slack on what you don’t. For me, I’ve found that I really enjoy some woodworking/carpentry times, basic electrical, tedious crazy tasks that wouldn’t really make financial sense to hire out (removing and planing down all the original clapboard on my house, for instance!), and plenty of other things like painting and restoring windows that’s neither fun nor un-fun but manageable and fine and kind of satisfying. And then there are other things that I have very little interest in, like plumbing and, you guessed it, skim coating. I love a restored plaster wall. I don’t want to restore all my plaster walls single-handedly. I like parts of it (stripping down the plaster, installing plaster washers), but the actual skim-coating part I’m thrilled to hand over to a pro when I can. I can do it. I don’t want to do it. So for the den-ovation (thanks to Jaime for that delightful word combo that I will shamelessly co-opt), I hired my main man Edwin to take on the bulk of it. Lucky for you this freed up my hands to take some process pics which we will now review. Let’s learn from the best in the hopes that we might someday be the best? Or just be OK with not being the best. Up to you.

THIS GUY. I love him with all my heart. He’s straight, just to clear anything up there. Edwin is my next door neighbor who I hired three years ago to install/mud/tape drywall on my first floor ceilings, and we’ve done a ton of stuff together since. It’s the most significant bromantic relationship of my life. I learn a lot from him and, believe it or not, he learns a lot from me. Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but when Edwin and I work together it kind of is. Except that time I dropped a level on his head. Sorry Papi!

Also, what a stud. He likes to inform me multiple times a day that “in my country, they call me El Pollo.” Of course they do.

SO. Let’s talk skim-coating. I should preface all of this by saying that we’re talking specifically about skim-coating with joint compound, which is a bit more DIY-friendly for someone who’s not used to doing it, but IDEALLY we’d be talking about a plaster veneer. Plaster veneer falls into two camps from what I understand: hydrated lime and gypsum-based. Gypsum based plaster veneers are generally available at big boxes and the like, and are generally what people are talking about when they talk about plaster veneer in the United States. It sets VERY fast, dries VERY hard, and is super beautiful (especially when tinted and left unpainted!), but traditional plasterers typically apprentice literally for YEARS before they’re allowed to start “putting up” plaster on their own. It takes a lot of skill just to get the plaster from hawk to trowel to wall, and a lot of built-up muscle memory to get the application just right.

Hydrated lime plasters are WAY cool, and what I’d like to try next. It’s one of the oldest building materials known to man and remains one of the healthiest to live and work with. It has the ability to handle big swings in humidity and temperature, which is good in old houses that undergo these swings due to a lack of central air and modern ventilation and stuff. Lime plaster is essentially extremely finely ground limestone that’s fired at a temperature of about 1500 degrees to remove any impurities, and then some other stuff is done to it that I don’t pretend to understand, and then it arrives to you pre-mixed in a 5-gallon bucket. Whereas gypsum-based products have a shelf life because the wet varieties dry out and the powdered varieties take on moisture from the air and harden, hydrated lime is actually aged after packaging to achieve superior results. Once the hydrated lime is applied to interior surfaces, it takes CO2 from the air to “cure”—essentially completing the lime cycle and returning to a stone-like state on your walls! How cool is that? Application technique dictates whether your walls are kinda rough and uneven or perfectly smooth and shiny, which is just personal preference. Instead of sanding like with joint compound, you keep working the plaster as it’s curing to smooth out it out to your heart’s content. Cure/working time is similar to the dry time with all purpose joint compound, meaning it’s typically a three-coat process spread out over three separate days, and like gypsum plaster veneer it can be left painted or unpainted depending on taste. Also it dries to a PH of 12, making it naturally mold and mildew proof. This is why you can wet the shit out of an old plaster wall to remove wallpaper and stuff, and the wall is totally fine.

So those are some things I know—huge thank you to the folks at Master of Plaster for teaching me. They sell gorgeous restoration plasters which can be colored to your preference, and I’m so excited to try it out someday soon.

We didn’t do that though. I have zero doubt that Edwin has the skills to pick up plastering quickly from all his years of joint compound work, so we’re gonna learn it together. Then he can start charging an arm and a leg to do real plaster restoration work, so it’s a win-win! As long as he doesn’t try to hit me with those new rates, haha.

SO. I digress. We are talking about joint compound, the inferior but totally fine/normal way to do this.

Once the plaster is stripped down, plaster buttons installed, and cracks scraped out, the next step is applying fiberglass mesh to the cracks. You CAN do the window screening we discussed in the last post over the entire wall (particularly if there’s significant cracking), but mostly the walls in this room were in good shape so we used standard mesh tape just where it was needed.

I do NOT like paper tape. I feel like it doesn’t hold up, particularly on plaster. I don’t trust it.

We always end up using some combo of joint compounds for skim-coating, which is something you mainly just need to get a feel for. The All Purpose pre-mixed joint compound 5-gal bucket is fine, but the dry time is quite long (sometimes more than 24 hours, depending on temperature and humidity levels), and I don’t think it dries to the same hardness as some of the powdered alternatives. When I’m doing it myself, I tend to go for Easy Sand with a 90 minute set time, which for me is enough working time (now, not when I first tried this!), dries harder, and—as the name implies—does sand easily. Because Edwin has better technique than I do, for this we primarily used Durabondalso a joint compound but dries really hard, making it probably a poor choice if you rely on a lot of sanding like I do when doing this myself.

It takes some practice to get a sense of the right powder-to-water ratio, but you can always add a little more water after mixing. We tend to mix maybe a third of the bag at once. You’re going for a thick peanut butter type texture.

There aren’t really right and wrong ways to get it up onto the wall. I’m now OK with a hawk and trowel, but I started with a mudding pan that felt more manageable. You’ll notice that Edwin has a rounded trowel in his right hand (typically used more for plaster than joint compound) and a straight 8 or 10 inch taping knife in the other. He was excited to try the rounded trowel but he’s used to the taping knives. The benefit of the trowel is that the rounded edges make it easier to not leave lines, but personally I find the trowel difficult to get the hang of. Also of note—those dark patches are fiberglass window screening that we used over the upper section of wall where the plaster was more iffy.

Essentially you want to load up your trowel or knife, start at the top and smooth it all down (or bottom up, or side to side—whatever the hell makes you happy)—you’re looking for about 1/8″ in coverage or a bit less. Thin! But also thick enough! The key is to apply the right amount of sturdy, even pressure to the knife or trowel to get a smooth, solid skim rather than one with bubbles and other weirdness.

I find this difficult. The Magic Trowel makes this less difficult, but you don’t want to really rely on it—you still have to get a FAIRLY smooth and even coverage with the knife/trowel, because the Magic Trowel is really good for smoothing and filling in tracks left by the knife or air bubbles, that kind of thing, but not for actually getting joint compound up onto the wall.

Obviously, the wall on the left has a coat of compound on it, wall on the right does not. There are knives for finishing both inside and outside wall corners, but Edwin prefers to run a straight taping knife along one side of the corner, wait for that side to dry, and then proceed with the adjoining wall and its side of the corner. Trying to do both at once with this method will lead to some very messy corners.

See how there’s some yellow peeking through the grey joint compound to the left of the door? That’s kinda what you’re going for with a first coat in terms of thickness. I won’t pretend it’s easy.

After the first coat is up and fully dried, go around with your taping knife or spackle knife and knock off any high spots or weird globs. You don’t need to sand at this stage but you do need to get your surface even for the next coat.

Ugh, melt my heart!! Look at him go. This is the second coat going up. The second coat is when things really start feeling covered, much like with paint.

We all know by now that I am kind of a crazy person (if you’re new here, consider this your warning), so even though it’s totally abnormal, I think skim-coating drywall is something worth considering if you’re in an old house and trying to match up plaster surfaces to drywall ones. It’s NOT about adding weird texture or giving the walls some faux-rustic treatment, just about NOT getting those perrrrrrfectllyyyy flat walls that drywall is really designed for. I think this will also lessen the likelihood of the drywall cracking along the seams or screw heads popping over time, which I see with most drywall jobs after a few years. If you can tell where the joints are, it’s not going to look like a plaster wall.

Will anyone EVER notice this? No. It’s a normal wall that looks like a normal wall. That’s the point. But I will know it was treated the same way as its plaster counterparts in the same room, and I will appreciate it.

Same for the ceiling. You’ll notice for both that we mudded and taped as usual for the first coat, and then proceeded to a full skim for the second. It made my heart go all pitter-patter. Skim-coating a ceiling is my personal version of hell, but Edwin was undaunted. Told ya. He’s good at these things so they don’t seem like a big deal at all. Just another surface.

Look at that! The man’s an artist! I do NOT achieve these results pre-sanding. Or even post-sanding. That is why it’s worth it to me to hire out. It’s faster and easier but it’s also BETTER long-term than what I can do. My work is sufficient. His work is excellent. It’s not like this is the kind of thing you ever want to redo.

I’ve increased the contrast on this picture a bunch so you can see that up close, it’s not perfect. Not yet! This is after the second coat, and there are some track lines from the trowels and knives and unevenness. As with the first coat, you want to knock down any high spots and lumps after drying, and depending on how things are looking you might want to do some sanding. With Edwin we can mostly skip the sanding and just save it for the end. I have to sand when I’m going it alone.

Your final finish coat is primarily to fill in any of that weirdness, and Edwin likes to mix a soupy batch (think pancake batter!) and paint it onto the wall with a roller. It’s nice to have two people at this stage—one to mix and roll and the other to smooth.

Once it’s rolled, you work quickly to smooth it down—taking most of it off the wall as you go. Just enough to fill in pesky spots.

I might need to do this final coat a few times over as I continue to spot imperfections, but a more skilled skim coater can do it in one shot.

After that’s all totally dry, you can move on to the sanding! Confession time: right after I bought this house and was operating under the delusion that I’d be doing all the skim coating work myself, I bought myself this super expensive drywall sander that primarily just takes up room in my basement. It’s designed to hook into a running ShopVac to suck most of the dust, but honestly I find it difficult to control and I don’t like using it myself. Edwin is a big fan, though, and I often let him borrow it for jobs he’s doing. When sanding, even on a bright day, it’s good to shine a work light at an angle on the wall you’re working on—it just helps you see whatever needs to be sanded down.

This doesn’t get you entirely out of hand-sanding, though—you need to go back in with a sanding block around moldings and in corners and areas that are missed by first pass. After a first coat of paint, these seams where the wall meets molding get caulked.

The final step for me is typically knocking down the globs that like to accumulate on top of door casings and baseboards. You can’t see the top of the door casings if you’re just in the room, but I like knowing that these spots didn’t just get painted over because someone (who is me) was lazy.

So there it is, skim coating with Edwin! At this point, the room is pretty much ready to paint! Now I can get in there and tackle the moldings, CLEAN, and get some paint on these walls!

Den Renovation: Plaster Repair, Insulation, Drywall!

I think people assume I like demo, but I honestly kind of hate demo. Demo in an old house renovation, specifically. Partially because it’s often tinged with some sadness and guilt if it means disturbing or destroying original parts of the house (like plaster walls and ceilings that are beyond the point of saving, for instance). Partially because it’s hugely messy in a way that can never truly be contained to the space you’re working in. Partially because it typically involves hauling very heavy bags of waste and debris out of the house and then to the dump, and then paying money to get it out of my life…it’s not fun sledgehammer times like it looks on TV.

You know what I kind of secretly love, though? That part after the major demo work is done, when you get the chance to really prep everything for the next steps. It’s so satisfying? I like tedium. So after the ceiling in the soon-to-be upstairs den space was demolished and disposed of, I got to work* on what I really like, which is pulling all those little tiny lath nails, scraping off any stubborn bits of plaster, and ShopVac-ing what was left of the old cellulose insulation off the joists. CLEAN SLATE! It’s stuff like this that makes me immediately feel like I’m ready to go, and not just looking at a big mess I made.

*after several months of semi-successfully ignoring the situation completely

With the joists all cleaned up fancy, it was time to address the walls!

I feel I deserve the smallest amount of credit possible for mostly never really touching these walls until it was really time to deal with them. The entire second floor of my house is like this—the original wallpaper is covered in tons of layers of paint, possibly other wallpaper, masking tape and and caulk and joint compound in some places…and it all gets stripped off. This is not always necessary, but in my case the original wallpaper adhesive is barely holding on so it seems unwise/lazy to try to skim coat over it anyway. It’s just a matter of chip-chip-chipping away with a regular old putty knife and it all scrapes off fairly easily. I figure anything that’s really stuck can stay. The goal is just to create a solid, stable surface for the skim-coat to adhere to.

Wouldn’t it be great if I had the discipline to lay down some plastic sheeting first? When I’m a grown-up, I’m gonna prep like a champ. Until then I’ll just be…living my authentic truth. Or something.

Anyway, it’s a sort of messy process. What isn’t.

So fresh and so clean! Ha. But it is sort of satisfying right, if you ignore the mess on the floor?

Then, plaster washers! Or “plaster buttons,” depending on your mood. These things are amazing, and way more effective than you’d think from looking at them. Essentially it’s a small perforated stainless steel washer—a bit bigger than a quarter—with a hole in the center for a drywall screw. Often over time, the plaster “keys”—formed by the first layer of plaster squeezing through the lath and hardening on the backside, which holds the plaster securely to the lath—will have weakened or failed (or the lath itself has pulled away from the studs a bit), resulting in plaster walls that have some give when you push on them. This is not a good reason to demo the walls, I promise! Plaster washers are the answer! That small maybe 1/8″ gap between the wall and the door casing in the image above is the result of the plaster buttons pulling the whole wall back toward the studs, and now it doesn’t have any give at all.

Some people just use plaster washers around cracks or where it seems necessary, but my attitude about plaster washers is that more is more. Nothing wrong with some added security even for areas that appear to be in good shape.

Luckily, plaster washers are inexpensive and easy to install. If you’re working alone, I recommend inserting the screws on a bunch of washers first to get them prepped for yourself, but if you have a partner it’s nice to have one person install and one person prep each washer. It goes pretty fast.

Plaster washers are most effective if you’re hitting studs (or joists, for a ceiling), but stud-finders are pretty worthless with plaster walls. My wall framing tends to be close to the modern standard of 16″ on center, but it can be pretty irregular and you can’t count on it. That’s why god invented test-drilling! With a small bit (this is 1/8″), drill small holes every inch or so along the wall, and eventually you’ll hit a stud. Mark your location, and then measure out about 16″ and drill around there until you find the next one. When you have your studs marked, use a long level and a pencil to draw vertical lines along the length of each stud.

Test-drilling seems intimidating (how do I know if I’ve really hit a stud if I can’t see it?), but you get a feel for it very quickly. Become one with the drill. Become one with your walls. Use the force. I don’t know. Stop complaining.

Boom, look at all that secure plaster! I just eyeball the spacing but go for one about every foot on the verticals. This means that you need a LOT of washers—they come in packs of 25 but this room took about 250 of them. I know that sounds excessive but…that’s just the kind of guy I am? By the way, these are often hard to find in the hardware store and employees usually don’t know what they are, so ordering online isn’t a bad idea.

Some areas with cracks might need some special attention. Again, feel it out. Many of the cracks in this room appear to have been filled a long time ago with straight up concrete, so I scraped out what was loose or lumpy and left what remained. In general with plaster cracks, you want to scrape out the crack, cover it in fiberglass mesh tape or screening, and then proceed with patching with joint compound. People like to skip the first two steps and then wonder why their plaster cracks again in a year. Don’t do it to yourself.

I like to keep joint compound work contained to one lively stage of work, so even though the walls are now prepped we still gotta put in a ceiling! I added some metal brackets where the joists meet the top plate from that section of Lowe’s where joist hangers and stuff live, just for a little added structural strength. There are joist hangers specifically for this application, but none them fit the thickness of my joists so I improvised. Can’t hurt.

Then, insulation! I used fiberglass batt for this. I think the Olivebridge project forever scarred me against using fiberglass insulation because by the time I dug into those walls, the mice had turned most of it into nests and that shit is nasty (and doesn’t provide insulation value at that point). But assuming you don’t have a horrendous pest problem that persists for years, I guess fiberglass is fine. It’s whatever. Insulation is rated by R-value (higher = better, basically), but you also want to pay attention to the depth of the wall/ceiling where you’re installing. Even though a really thick fiberglass batt can be squeezed in to fit in a shallower wall cavity, this actually reduces the R-value and the insulation itself costs more. These joists are about the size of a modern 2×6, so I used this R-21 that’s ideal for 2×6 walls.

Now, if you’re installing a significant amount of insulation or especially if you’re doing it alone and on a ceiling, get yourself an electric—or, better yet, pneumatic—staple gun! I bought this little pneumatic guy for $50 and it was a total lifesaver, and I’ll get plenty of use out of it for all kinds of stuff. I should have bought one years ago!

FINALLY, DRYWALL!!! YAYYYY!!!! Somehow I transported 12′ sheets of drywall home by myself (we needed 10-footers to span the width of the room, but Lowe’s didn’t have them), and then Edwin and I tag-teamed putting them up. I’ve never installed a drywall ceiling before, but honestly with two people (each armed with their own ladder, drill, and supply of drywall screws), it wasn’t that bad at all. We had the whole thing put up in under an hour. We used 1/2″ drywall primarily because I already had a sheet or two and that saved a little cost/thinned the hoard, but 5/8″ would also be good/fine/maybe better.

You may note that when I had sheetrock ceilings installed three years ago, I was FREAKED OUT by the prospect of my ceilings not being perfectly level and flat, so Edwin and Edgar sistered new, flat 2×4 studs along each joist and then installed the drywall onto those to compensate for any wonkiness in the original joists. At the time I remember being very concerned that the ceiling would appear super wavy, like it would follow the high and low spots of each joist and look a total mess. Here, I didn’t do that. And the ceiling is, in fact, NOT quite level and perfect, but you definitely can’t see the impression of every joist or anything like that. Drywall has some flex but is a very rigid material, so any minor slants and dips happen so gradually over the span that they aren’t at all noticeable—and I think make the ceiling look more like a plaster ceiling and less like a perfectly new drywall one. #NoRegrets but I do feel like we could have skipped the sistering on the first floor and been just as happy if not more so. Live and learn.

Considering it wasn’t that long ago that looking up in this room meant seeing THIS, drywall made a huge and dramatic difference. All of a sudden the room was so bright! And so room-like! Fancy that!

I know, it’s all very exciting. Contain yourself!

Next, I did the thing I pledged I’d do years ago, then didn’t do for the bedroom, then really wish I had done for the bedroom: I hired Edwin to do the skim-coating. Edwin has been doing drywall and skim-coating work for years and years and is SO good at it, and it’s really the one part of renovating a room that I truly loathe, am not good at anyway, and takes me forever. A skilled skim-coater can knock out a room like this in a couple of days, achieve pretty perfect results, and allow you to move on with your life and do stuff you find more stimulating.

I did not do the thing that I also pledged I’d do, which is to use real lime-based plaster rather than joint compound. I talked to Edwin about it and we’re going to do that next time (hopefully from Master of Plaster—an amazing company down in South Carolina who make the real deal!)—he’s so good with a hawk and a trowel that I know he’ll pick it up quickly even though he’s never used it. But here, momentum led us to going with the devil we know that could be picked up from the hardware store a mile away. NEXT TIME, though. Kitchen, I’m looking at you.

The first order of business was essentially rebuilding the top of all the walls, where the multiple layers of ceiling demo had left a lot of crumbly bits and big gaps. My instinct with repairs like this would have been to cut out more of the plaster to create some clean level lines, patch with sheetrock, and then skim-coat, but Edwin just went right to filling these spots with copious amounts of joint compound. We used Durabond for this, which is a powdered joint compound that dries much harder than the pre-mixed All Purpose joint compound or EasySand alternatives. It’s also much more difficult to sand, so this is part of why having someone with skill do it is a huge asset.

I put up fiberglass mesh tape over the drywall seams while Edwin filled major gaps, and then we put up fiberglass mesh over about the top foot of all the walls, which effectively acts as a really wide mesh tape.

For this, we used a tip I picked up from Alex at Old Town Home years ago (along with the plaster washers—thank you, Alex!) and used window screening! It’s cheap, it’s fiberglass mesh, and it comes in rolls of various sizes that you can easily cut to whatever size you need. There’s a product in the drywall section for big applications like this, but it’s WAY more expensive and the window screening seems just as good. The only challenge is that the window screening doesn’t have an adhesive on the back like mesh tape does, so it’s a little tricky to get it into place and embed it in the joint compound. Still pretty easy, though.

With the top of all the walls repaired and the first coat of mud on the ceiling seams and screws, I got to work on the newly-rebuilt exterior wall! With sheetrock, you want to start from the bottom of the wall so you can rest subsequent sheets on the ones below while you install.

YES this looks insane but I used the same strategy that I used in the bedroom, which I’m pretty happy with: two layers of 1/2″ sheetrock, one on top of the other. A plaster wall including the lath is about an inch thick, so this allows the new drywall work to meet the original plaster in the corners and stuff, meaning your baseboards fall where they should to meet the existing baseboards on the adjacent walls. It also helps with the “hollowness” feeling of a single layer of drywall, adds a bit more structural strength to the wall, and has some minor insulation value. The first layer is also a nice way to use up all those little drywall scraps! This is a task for me, because I like being scrappy and using what I’ve got even when it looks insane and takes a while. Like a big puzzle!

The second layer gets much bigger sheets of drywall, primarily to lessen the likelihood of cracks developing along the seams over time. Then it’s just a matter of taping and mudding as normal, paying special attention to the corners where drywall and plaster meet.

CAN YOU SEE IT NOW? It’s almost a room! But not yet! Now the whole thing—plaster and drywall both!—will get skim-coated and sanded smooth, baseboard and window moldings have to go in, and then it’s on to caulking and painting and hanging up a proper light and putting in furniture and fretting about art placement and lounging forever on that massive sofa. Hooray!

Introducing: The Den!

I’ve been working on another room! In my house! Capturing some of the momentum from finishing the renovation work on my bedroom (well, mostly), I started working on one of the other most torn-apart rooms in the house a couple months ago, and have just been chipping away at it when I have time.

(No, I haven’t really started the kitchen renovation. No, I haven’t finished Bluestone Cottage. It’s a long story. We’ll get to it. But I can only do so many things at once, and after a long time of barely doing anything to the interior of my house except further destroy it while I was just a tad busy with some other projects like building an entire house in under a year, I needed to get a few things back in order with my own space to maintain a semblance of sanity. These things happen.)

This is the room, which we’ve rarely discussed here because it’s never really been a space I used! I think maybe the last time we talked about it was when I bought the house? At the time I called it the “middle bedroom” which is how I’ve continued to refer to it until now.

One sort of funny thing (maybe that’s not quite the right word) about renovating this house has been that even though it’s a pretty big house, it’s never felt all that much bigger than, say, my Brooklyn apartment. Much of the house is still unrenovated and not in use at all, aside from maybe storing stuff: the big living room, the downstairs bathroom, now the kitchen, the room above the kitchen, and this space. Some spaces haven’t been renovated but are chugging along in spite of that, performing their very basic and necessary functions. Until very recently that included the bedroom but also the only bathroom (it’s so bad, omg), the nursery, all closets, the hallways and stairs. And then there are the spaces that I have renovated, which can be difficult to maintain while other areas get renovated, such as the smaller living room, the dining room (which also currently houses the kitchen, haha), the laundry room, the little upstairs office, and now (thank goodness!) my bedroom!

A lot of the more recent and money-draining work on the house has been dedicated to exterior projects, which makes a huge difference in the appearance of the house from the outside and affects the interior—especially when we’re talking about adding windows or demolishing additions—but doesn’t tend to immediately improve the inside of the house. In fact, in the case of this room, it turned it from unrenovated-but-serviceable to…ruins.

So anyway. I guess what I’m really saying is three things.

The first is that my life is a mess.

The second is that while recovering from the fun and exciting financial strain of big exterior projects (and trying to save for upcoming things like the kitchen!), getting some simple rooms completed that can be finished on a “paint and joint compound” budget has been a good strategy for me. Even if that means renovating out of order in terms of need—in case you were wondering why this is coming before the kitchen. Kitchens cost a lot of money but rooms like this don’t.

And the third thing is that I’m almost at the four year mark of owning this house, and just starting to feel like I can…spread out a bit. Treating the house more or less like a much smaller apartment has led to things feeling kind of compacted and condensed—like using the bedroom as a place to sleep but also often as a place to watch TV, work, and eat. Increasingly there are separate spaces for doing different stuff, which just feels CRAZY. I used to have this recurring dream when I lived in New York, where I’d open a previously-unnoticed door in my apartment and find a whole other space behind it that I had no idea existed. It’s kind of like that, but in reality!

To orient ourselves a bit, the room we’re discussing is #4 on the floor plan above, highlighted in pink. It’s a decently sized room (about 10’x14′), but it’s kind of tricky—you have to walk through it to get to both the little office (#3) and the room above the kitchen (#5). I thought for a long time that I’d make this room into a guest bedroom, but that’s also the plan for the room above the kitchen, and it’s pretty awkward to have to walk through a bedroom to get to another bedroom. A bed does fit in this room, but doesn’t leave much space to maneuver around it (which you have to do to get to the other two rooms off of it, of course), so I realized that a guest bedroom in here might be a poor use of space.

Then it occurred to me: cozy den, please. One of my friends and fellow old-house-dwellers has a room on the second floor of his house that I like to refer to as the opium den. While the living room on the first floor is well-used but more formal, this secondary den space is where the TV lives, a big comfy sofa, a big upholstered ottoman, walls painted almost-black and covered in art and curiosities…it’s inevitably where the party ends up at the end of the night (not coincidentally, it’s also the room in the house where you’re allowed to smoke pot), and just a super cozy space to curl up, watch a movie, and eat chinese food.

Gimme dat.

SO. Like every other space, this one has marched through some changes as the rest of the house has gotten some updating around it. The room-by-room strategy to renovating is a myth because of this kind of thing. First off was addressing this radiator, which had this situation going on when I bought the house. That vertical pipe was a remnant of an older heating system and could be removed, and the radiator supply and return pipes that once ran up the corner of the dining room were removed and buried in the wall. I like to re-route radiator lines through walls and ceilings where possible—this house was built before radiator heating (or indoor plumbing, for that matter), so even though the radiators themselves aren’t going anywhere, it’s nice not to not see the pipes all over the place.

While the plumbers worked on re-running the lines, I patched in the floor! This is the only radiator in the house installed this way—over a painted panel instead of the flooring running below it, and I kind of wanted to center it on the wall (now I kind of wish I hadn’t), so anyway. The plumbers were sort of amazed to find that the whole subfloor had been cut out, too! And that the whole thing hadn’t ever come crashing through the dining room ceiling, since—newsflash—radiators are reallllllly heavy.

Anyway—I installed ledger boards on the joists below, patched in a new piece of subfloor, and then feathered in floorboards over that. I used boards from the downstairs bathroom, which look totally different but are the same size and species of wood (douglas fir), and should look the same once the floors are eventually refinished. Someday. I didn’t worry about the two boards closest to the wall being feathered because the radiator sits completely over the seam, and I was rushing to get done before the plumbers had to put the radiator back!

The room also got some electrical upgrades as parts of other projects, and then it sat for a couple of years. More or less untouched. Sad times.

Then toward the end of last summer, some big things happened. Like this bay window going away.

I know. I know. At first glance, you’re like—holy smokes, that’s awesome! What a fun feature of this room!

I also had that thought. Slowly, over time, that thought was replaced by other thoughts—not the least of which being that the whole thing was constructed on top of the collapsing solarium, and that was probably bad should the solarium ever decide to give way. Also it wasn’t original to the house. Also it was in very poor condition—missing the windows on each side, a terrible drywall job to cover up water damage from the leaking roof above it, some creative use of 1x lumber, noticeable settling…this was all done before I bought the house, and none of it was good. It also just felt…strange. I think because it wasn’t original to the house, this room isn’t really big enough to handle it. It felt proportionally totally off. And looked like a tumor on the exterior.

BYE.

So we cut it off. Kind of. It was slightly more complex than that. You can read about it here.

Then we framed in the new window. I tried to do as much of the exterior work from inside the house as possible so that I could minimize the amount of time that anything would be exposed to the elements or looking a damn mess for the neighborhood.

But look! I like this view because—really—it’s how the house is supposed to be. The way this new window lines up perfectly with the adjacent one in the little office feels emblematic of the organized way that a neoclassical house is designed and constructed. It looks right from the outside and feels right on the inside.

Once that wall was taken care of (structurally at least—clearly there is still work to be done!), we got a little demo-happy and ripped down the ceiling. I hate demo’ing plaster because it’s a horrendous mess but also because plaster and lath walls are better than new material options in a number of ways, and once it’s gone it’s gone. Unfortunately this ceiling had furring strips nailed into it and acoustic tiles installed onto those (likely installed in the 60s, when the original ceiling was probably showing signs of failure), and pulling down the furring strips tends to take a ton of plaster with them, at least in my experience. Of course, there’s blown-in cellulose insulation between the second floor ceilings and the attic floors, which is only really a bad thing when you have to rip out a ceiling and you don’t want all of it to come down with the ceiling. So the solution Edwin and I came up with was to take up the attic floorboards over this room, shovel out as much of the cellulose as we could into big contractor bags (BOY WAS THAT FUN), spray it all down with a garden sprayer to contain some of the dust, and then demo the ceiling as normal from below.

The worst.

Also, it was kind of nuts to be able to see the underside of my roof at this phase.

After some major clean-up, we put down new 3/4″ plywood subfloor in this section of the attic. The original boards are all varying widths and some cracked or splintered during removal, so re-laying the original floor is a project for another time. Also because I’m crazy I can’t guarantee this will be the last time I have to remove sections of the attic floor, and I’d rather be messing up new plywood than precious 150 year old pine planks.

This was all happening during the side-of-house restoration project, so the name of the game was doing just enough in here to make things OK, but all real energy and funds went toward getting the exterior buttoned up before winter hit. And that left…

This! Which I know looks like a sad, sad state of affairs but really represents a huge amount of progress! Framing is done, new attic subfloor is in, new electrical is run, and the reconstructed exterior wall is insulated (ceiling insulation comes next!)—so now the fun work begins! This room has a little bit of everything: carpentry around the new window and patching in the baseboard, new drywall work, plaster repair and skim-coating on the remaining three walls, and of course painting and furnishing and all that child’s play.

So here’s an idea of what I’m thinking! That’s the wall color in the upper left hand corner, followed by the trim and door color. I think I’m even going to try to paint the ceiling the wall color too and see how that goes! I’ve tried a couple times in the past—unsuccessfully—to paint a ceiling super dark and it’s never looked good, but I think this room will turn that streak around. Then we have another new medallion and another black radiator. The light is just something I dragged off the internet and then turned pink in Photoshop, but I do have a vintage light fixture with pink glass shades that I’m so excited to use! The sofa is also a Photoshopped version of this sofa from Roger and Chris, which is just sort of similar to the sofa I’m getting from…the Brinson’s! I’ve recently become friends with fellow bloggers and upstate NY dwellers Susan and Will, and they’re getting rid of their big boxy super-stuffed leather gigantic mass of a sofa, and something tells me that Mekko is never going to leave it. Then my little bright blue Eames rocker (which hasn’t been used since I moved from Brooklyn! I missed it!) and a side table I’ve hoarded for a few years from JC Penney, which was part of the Terence Conran collection and I bought when it went on sale, even though I didn’t know what I’d do with it! Sometimes you just gotta! Then there’s the Rise Floor Lamp and Balla Sheepskin from Article (this post isn’t sponsored, but they did provide those two products for an upcoming post that will be), and another old oriental rug because that’s how I do.

Yay, opium den! Let’s do it!

The Bedroom is…a Bedroom!

For the past couple of months, my bedroom has been in that “almost done” state, which is where that last 5-10% of finishing work often goes to die. Once the walls were painted and a bed was assembled, I was honestly kind of sick of working on it…and so…I didn’t. I got distracted with something else. Sometimes you gotta move on to something that feels exciting, and then circle back when the spirit moves you.

I’ve also been traveling a bit so time at my house has been stretched thin, but last week I finally circled back around to the bedroom! Over the course of a few hours, I used Rejuvenate on the beat-up and heavily scratched floors (I don’t know what to expect in terms of longevity, but at least for now it’s made a HUGE difference! It’s also extremely easy to use and dries quickly! I’ll refinish the floors for real someday, but not today), sanded a couple little patch jobs, touched up paint, hung stuff on the walls, and…now it actually feels like a room! There’s still work to do on a few important things, and lots I’d like to change, but that’s how I roll. When it comes to my own spaces, it usually takes me a year or two after the renovation part is done to feel good about the decorating part. I’ll keep ya posted.

For some reason I seem to have neglected to take much in the way of real “before” photos of this room, which makes me want to go back in time and kick myself! Obviously this is poor blogger form, but I think at the time it felt like the room wasn’t likely to look very different after renovation than it did before renovation.

Then shit got real.

We’ve been through this, but all the walls got stripped down to bare plaster, then that wall to the right in the photo above got demo’d out entirely, then a new window got installed as part of restoring the side of the house (a project that I can finally finish now that the weather is getting nice!), plumbing and electric and insulation got upgraded, and then it was a matter of drywalling, skim-coating the plaster, and trying to replicate the original moldings for the new window!

Of course then there was a ton of scraping and prepping and patching and caulking and priming and finally painting and cleaning (what a concept!) and then I was pooped.

SEE?! It’s a room! A real room!

I love this picture because if you had shown me this four years ago when I was in the process of buying this house…I don’t even know. I would have cried? I would have run? This room seemed like such a straightforward renovation, but the decision to add a fourth window made it a significantly larger undertaking.

But a few months later and it’s hard to even remember that crazy day when you could walk through my wall and plummet to the ground outside. YAY!

The new window sashes still need the interiors painted (and the exteriors cleaned up—I painted them but didn’t scrape the paint off the top sash before it got too cold to remove the sashes and deal with it!), but this fourth window! It changes the room SO MUCH and I’m so glad I did it. It might be hard to appreciate in photos, but it just adds so much balance to a room that felt nice before, but awkward to arrange furniture in. When I’ve had the bed on this wall before, it looked so strange because you wouldn’t really want it overlapping the window on one side to get it more centered in the room, but shoving it over looked weird too and left this space on the side of the bed really narrow. And that was a full bed, which as a grown-ass man I’m happy to leave behind for a larger queen size. Since this is the nicest bedroom in the house, the fact that it can now even gracefully accept a king-sized bed feels like a huge deal. Now, it’s a master.

Speaking of beds, I got the alchemy bronze queen bed from CB2! I loved this glamfabulous thing as soon as it was introduced, and now it’s mine. My thinking was that it would work well with this situation, where the best placement for a bed overlaps the windows a bit—it’s there, but light and transparent enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s dominating or covering up all my hard work. I…think? It’s tricky and I’m not sure I made the right call, but I do really love the bed and I’ll figure it out! I will say that the quality of the bed is really great—I was worried that it might be a little flimsy, but the metal is thick and weighty and the construction is super sturdy. Assembly was really easy—two people are suggested but I got by on my own no problem.

I’m NOT showing off the bed very well because…I don’t have a mattress yet! This is my old full-size mattress which I plopped on there in the meantime. LIKE I SAID, GLAMFABULOUS. I’ll very likely go with one of those newfangled mattress-in-a-box-Internet-miracle companies. I know I love a Leesa, but I’ve never tried any of the others and now there are so many options that it almost defeats the purpose of making mattress shopping simple! Traditional mattress shopping is the actual worst thing in the world, though, so…not complaining.

As for what I don’t love…

  1. I’ve tried to love this rug for years after I bought it off Craigslist back when I lived in Brooklyn, and I just…don’t. I love old oriental rugs, but this particular style has never been my favorite. So I’ll be keeping my eye out for a good 8×10-ish perfectly old rug for the foreseeable future!
  2. I love Bubble lamps but the right light fixture could easy persuade me to swap this out and move it elsewhere. That’s always a fun game.
  3. I like that IKEA floor lamp (discontinued now, sorry!) but not here. Also once I figure out my bedside lighting situation, I won’t need a lamp there. But I will need a plant. I killed mine.
  4. Speaking of bedside lighting, I’d like some.
  5. And they need something to sit on top of, so I need bedside tables. I bought these little Scandinavian numbers a few years ago from a lady on Craigslist and threw them in here for now, but I’m a person who likes to have a drawer or two next to the bed. And also a person who’s never felt good about a mismatched set of end tables—I like a pair. Incidentally good nightstands, at the right size, with storage, and within my price range is potentially impossible? We shall see.
  6. Shades! This one I actually already figured out—I hope! I ended up ordering simple solar shades (I’m predictable!) from Blindsmax.com in a color called “bone,” which is sort of a warm off-white, a bit darker than the trim. Blindsmax seems to be the least expensive option around for simple, customizable solar shades (along with a ton of other window treatment options!). At about $120 per window (for my sizes + custom options—it varies a lot depending!) they certainly add up, but considering most everywhere else seems to be about double that, it’s OK. I currently have some very busted IKEA shades (the predecessors to these, I believe, but mine appear to be discontinued to which I say GOOD RIDDANCE) on two of the four windows, so I’m excited for those leave the premises. I love IKEA but those shades are such garbage.

Back to what I do love…my dresser with its new set of matching repro glass knobs! Also the little concrete and brass table lamp by Menu, which I also loved at first sight and then received from my mommy for my birthday. Thank you, Mommy! The brass knob dims the light up and down, and it lets off such a nice warm glow. I live in terror of breaking it.  It might end up living somewhere else in the house, but ya know. Having something there is nice.

I still have to paint all three of the doors in this room, which I’ll get around to…at some point. It’s not like it’s a huge deal to paint a door, but I like to take them down and strip down the hinges and knobs and stuff, and these all hang a little funny so getting them to open all the way and actually close ends up making it kind of an ordeal.

Also, my mirror! You might recognize this mirror from my old kitchen—I bought it at a junk shop shortly after buying the house, and it’s still one of my favorite things. I have such a problem with old mirrors. It goes without saying, but AS IF this room needed more natural light (it can get VERY bright in here!), it bounces light around nicely. And now it’s hung at a normal height, so it also reflects my face back to me when I look at it! Isn’t that something.

Over the newly-painted radiator (which is holding up perfectly!), I hung a print from my friend Anna‘s Society 6 shop, K is for Black! This is the “Watermelon” print which I just love, in a simple RIBBA frame from IKEA. The print itself has that white border, so you don’t even need to mat it. The paper/print quality of Society 6 stuff is really excellent and I’m so pleased to FINALLY have one of Anna’s pieces hanging up in my house!

That’s kinda it! Even though this room underwent a big renovation, doing the vast majority of the work myself and using stuff I already had kept costs really low. If you discount the cost of the new window ($350) and the installation (maybe another $300, since Edwin helped me with that part—but I’d factor those costs into the exterior renovation), there’s basically no money in here! The insulation and drywall was leftover from other projects, all of the wood used for the window casing was salvage, I bought exactly one gallon of paint for the walls (Benjamin Moore Oil Cloth—matte!) but already had ceiling and trim paint…there’s maybe $100 dollars or so of materials here, purchased specifically of this room? Something like that! Like I always say, hoard with purpose and it pays off. I find that I need to break up bigger and more expensive projects (like the exterior restoration, or the upcoming kitchen) with getting rooms like this out of the way…and I’m so glad the bedroom is finally out of the way!

My Favorite Hardware Store is…My Basement.

On Saturday, this blog turned 7 years old. SEVEN! That’s so old! I celebrated by thrifting most of the day and buying a few things that I did not need but wanted and didn’t have the self-restraint to leave behind. Some things never change!

But other things do change. A lot has changed, actually. In particular, everything?

When I started this blog, I was a freshman in college who tried—mostly in vain—to make my dorm room cute and nice until I could get the hell out and move to an apartment. In service of this goal, one of the most important things I brought with me to college was a clear plastic “men’s shoebox” from the Container Store, onto which I had adhered a label reading, simply, “tools.” In my possession, I think I had a hammer, a selection of nails and picture hooks, a small spackle knife, a pair of vice-grips, a tape measure, and a manual screwdriver with a bunch of interchangeable bits.

I was the only person on the floor to bring anything like this to college (this was New York City, after all), so my little teeny tool kit ended up being a valuable piece of social currency. I wasn’t just that guy in room 218, I was that guy with a hammer. Try not to be too jealous. It was a long time ago and I’m not nearly that cool anymore.

When I did rent that first apartment, my supplies got upgraded to an entire drawer, which I remember thinking was SO legit. I mean, I didn’t have any friends with a set of clamps and multiple sheets of sandpaper. I could pretty much do anything!

As time passed and the projects got more numerous and more involved, I started to accumulate more. More and more and more. I started having to buy actual power tools on an as-needed basis, fill out the selection of manual tools, and figure out when keeping the last dregs of a can of wood stain just wasn’t worth the storage space. After a year I moved to Brooklyn to an apartment that needed more work than I’d done on the first one, and I was also designing and building stuff for clients, and so the collection continued to grow.

And then I bought the house. And it’s been almost four years since then, so maybe you can imagine. If you’ve ever renovated, you know how many tools and supplies are involved, and how many trips to the hardware store you end up making over the course of a single project. You acquire a TON of stuff, especially if you’re anything like me and end up keeping and storing anything that might still be remotely useful to some future task. You stop returning small extra purchases to the hardware store because you’ll use them at some point anyway, and start to think you could practically build an additional house with all the supplies you have to renovate the first one. It seems crazy, but also not crazy?

Of course, just HAVING all that stuff doesn’t necessarily equate to using all that stuff, because you have to be able to find it all! This is harder than it sounds, because when you’re mid-project and you need to something, you want to be able to grab it quickly. If you can’t, you might think you actually don’t have the thing you thought you had, so you end up buying it again. So you gotta keep it organized. Organized-ish. Organized enough. Because THEN, this magical thing happens. You’re doing a project and you actually have everything you need and it feels so badass you can’t even stand yourself. And since you’re not buying much stuff anymore because you’ve already effectively transported a small hardware store into your own home, you can delude yourself into thinking that renovating is cheap! It’s all very satisfying. Hoarding, but with purpose.

This is why I’m SO GLAD that I put some real effort into my basement a while ago, even though I haven’t really discussed it here! The basement was TERRIFYING when I bought the house, primarily because it was so dark. I think there were three lights in the entire space, all activated either by pull-chains or tightening the lightbulb until it turned on. Picture lots of groping in the dark for lights and running into cobwebs and tripping on the uneven floor and just being generally spooked.

Now, this basement is what it is. It’s never going to be a finished living space or anything like that, but I’ve tried to make it nicer and, someday, might make a few more improvements just to polish it up a little. By the way, the beams and steel supports were here before I was, which I always think is kind of remarkable. Somebody did some major work on this house back in the day! There was a family who owned the house between 1962-1973, and I think they’re responsible for this among other improvements. I’d love to find them and thank them for taking care of her! Unfortunately google hasn’t turned up anything helpful for me regarding their whereabouts. I’d guess at least the kids are still out there but I don’t know where.

ANYWAY. The first and most important thing I did? LIGHTING. IT CHANGED EVERYTHING. Now there are 16(!) lights, all on a single switch at the top of the basement stairs. Wiring a simple circuit like this is somewhat time-consuming (what isn’t, really?) but not technically difficult. I think it took me a couple of days. It’s the kind of project that’s good practice if you want to get comfortable with simple home wiring tasks. A lot of electrical work is very straightforward and approachable for homeowners, even though it seems kind of scary. If you’re thinking about it, read up! There are a lot of good books out there like this one, and big box home improvement stores always have similar books for purchase. Also check to make sure it’s legal for you to undertake your own wiring work—it is for homeowners here as long as it meets code and passes inspection.

With the basement all lit up and gorgeous, I turned my attention to storage! The house came with these old and VERY cobbled-together shelves, which I sort of loved in a way because they were just so scrappy. But they were not functional so rather than try to modify them, I just ripped them out.

Look how crazy! These must have been here for a long time because the concrete floor was poured around them.

Bam! Shelves! Fancy! I bought these simple utility shelves (similar to these), which are cheap and very sturdy. The shelves themselves are a fairly thin particleboard that does bend and bow over time (particularly on the shelves with heavier items), so maybe someday I’ll swap them for some thicker plywood or something. For now they’re fine. It’s hard to care about stuff like that when you don’t have a kitchen.

When it comes to how things are organized, I’m not convinced there’s anything that makes this easy. I’m certainly not dutifully putting each thing away right after I use it, but I try to spend a little time every couple of weeks (more or less, depending on how much I’m working on) resetting and putting everything back where it belongs. Otherwise I end up with 7 packed IKEA bags full of tools and supplies on the floor.

I won’t claim it’s a flawless system, but it works for me! I don’t have a pegboard or a nice big rolling tool chest with a bunch of shallow drawers (have you ever looked at the prices on those bad boys??). Instead, it’s basically just a huge version of what I’ve been doing since I brought that little plastic container with me to college! I like keeping things in clear plastic bins, I guess.

Here’s what we have going on with these shelves, from left to right:

  1. Wood stains and poly. A Dremel. A jigsaw. Antique plumbing escutcheons. A crock pot for stripping hardware. All the screws, washers, nails, that kind of stuff. Manual sanding tools, the finish nailer and nails, clamps, rags, the staple gun and staples, velcro, weatherstripping, leftover subway tile, tiling supplies, and window repair supplies.
  2. Safety equipment like respirators and gloves, batteries, soldering supplies, anchors, door and cabinet hardware, assorted old house bits and bobs, wrenches and pliers, sandpaper, the mouse sander, the oscillating saw and blades, manual screwdrivers, rubber mallets, hammers, pry bars, sawzall blades, levels, manual saws, tin snips, pain scrapers, framing squares, pens and pencils, plug-in drills, drill bits, empty plastic containers, chisels, box cutters, pens, pencils, and the requisite container of random IKEA hardware.
  3. Paint sprayer, router, pneumatic siding nailer, hand planer, various cleaners and sealants, orbital sander, aluminum flashing, construction adhesive, wood glues, various solvents and chemicals, spray paint, leftover VCT flooring and mastic, wallpaper removal supplies, shelving brackets, L-brackets and mending strips, concrete binding adhesive, and what I think might be an original plaster ceiling medallion which was down here when I bought the house.

And on the other side, more shelves! These nicer metro-style shelves were secondhand and are great. From left to right we’ve got…

  1. Assorted crap that I’m saving for an upcoming project!
  2. All paints, spackle compounds (I have a few varieties, but always go back to Ready Patch), my Kreg Jig and Kreg Crown Pro, siding nails, and framing nails for the pneumatic guns. All that paint is leftovers from past projects (I KNOW) but will get used up shortly and save a lot of money in the process. Full gallons can be re-tinted, too, as long as the formulas are compatible!
  3. More paint! Cans of spray foam, different types of primer, Bondo (my one true love!), caulks, paint brushes, adhesives, hole saws, supplies for drywall and plaster repair, painting supplies, and Shop Vac accessories.

Then over here, there’s…

  1. Grout, leftover tile from Anna’s bathroom floor, a pneumatic flooring nailer, a garden sprayer.
  2. 6 mil plastic, lightbulbs, an old pot also for stripping hardware, cork contact paper.
  3. Assortment of NM electrical cable, power strips, light switches, outlets, switch plate covers.
  4. Electrical boxes, utility light fixtures, supplies for small re-wiring and lamp-making projects, drop cloths, and other electrical supplies like clamp connectors, electrical tape, breakers, wire nuts, staples, and conduit straps.
  5. Pex fittings, other assorted plumbing supplies, and a belt sander.

Here’s my nice stockpile of light fixtures. There are more but they didn’t fit on the shelves.

I feel shame.

The furniture/old sink hoard has been worse in the past but this is just the basement. There’s more. There’s lots more. It’s just elsewhere.

We also have in attendance a pile of old framing lumber and a pile of moldings that have been removed during demo in various parts of the house. And some old wide-plank pine tongue-and-groove subfloor. And a bigger pile of narrower old pine tongue-and-groove subfloor which you can’t really see. I got 99 problems but having enough old lumber ain’t one.

Oh yeah and then there’s this area, which is where I keep…this stuff? Old doors, old window sashes, a tabletop, a billion chair bases, and some other random things.

My favorite part of the basement, though, is the room right under the kitchen. I actually think this room could be fixed up a little and turn into more of a workshop space one day. Until then, it’s where the lumber goes.*

*BECAUSE THE GARAGE IS ALREADY COMPLETELY FULL OF LUMBER. I don’t know if you’re ready for the garage. Let’s see how this goes first.

We’ve got some leftover Pex pipes, various trim pieces, beadboard from the solarium, beadboard from the mudroom, beadboard from the downstairs bathroom…I love beadboard and am so excited to repurpose this material for some upcoming stuff! There’s also more framing lumber, yellow pine flooring, fir flooring, and a totally absurd amount of lath.

I struggle with the lath. I recognize this is ridiculous. I feel like I have to do something cool with it, but I haven’t figured out what! I think it comes down to the fact that I’m not sure I actually like stuff that’s made out of lath (unless Ariele Alasko makes it, but I think she’s mostly moved on from that). I mean, now that I can buy a big fake lath piece of “wall art” at Target, it just seems sort of played out. And I don’t want to toss it because it’s part of my house, but maybe I just have to accept that it really isn’t anymore? And be OK with that? And use it for something practical, like firewood? Or give it to someone who is more inclined to do something crafty with it than I am?

LOL. That all makes way too much sense. It can’t be right. I’ll just store it indefinitely. Forget I said anything.

OH, and by the way, isn’t it fun how you can see the outline of where the stairs used to come down from the kitchen? Those stairs were removed nearly 100 years ago, but I love that there’s no mystery about where they were.

SO ANYWAY. There it is. My basement.

And since I started this post with blog-i-versary talk, I’ll end it by just saying a big, sincere thank you. This blog has been such a strange and fun and unexpected experience, and has fundamentally affected my life in so many ways. It’s a big part of who I am that I owe to you—the people who read, comment, share, and make this still fun after 7 years. I’ll try to make year 8 the best one yet!

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