Designing Olivebridge Cottage 2.0: Part 1!

Perhaps the most stressful period of working on the Olivebridge Cottage project was, paradoxically, the period in which the smallest amount of physical work was taking place. It was almost three months into the nightmarish beginnings of the physical demo and renovation work, our situation was dire, the building department was requiring that the project be evaluated by engineers, the homeowners were increasingly frustrated and anxious, and I was looking for a way to bail on the whole project so they could, in turn, choose to bring in someone better qualified to enact the engineering proposals and turn the situation around for everyone.

So that was fun.

The same day that the building inspector told us we needed engineers, I found engineers at a well-reviewed local firm. I went straight from working on site into their office, covered in dust and debris and looking like a complete mess, and got things set up for a consult later in the week. I was just a *tad* stressed and might have given the impression of being a complete lunatic.

It’s tempting to think that two adult men with decades of experience evaluating structures would be amused by this little project, but they were not.  As it happens, they said  it was the worst house they’d ever seen. Then they told me this cute little story about a house they provided plans for out on Cape Cod, where—if memory serves—essentially an ENTIRE HOUSE was sitting precariously atop a few 4×4 posts, the bottoms of which each rested on a small piece of flagstone sitting right on the ground.  Worse than that. Awesome!

Luckily, they weren’t intimidated. Our problems were solvable. We spent time going through the house and all of the issues I’d already identified, and then they walked around and took a billion photos and thorough measurements and said they’d get to work.

Since I began blogging about this house, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I’d recommend homebuyers avoid falling into a similarly bad situation. That’s the subject of a much longer and much different blog post, but I guess the first part of my answer would be to try to “read” the structure. See that graphic, above? This house is only 1300 square feet, yet it’s comprised of FIVE different structures. #1 is the original cottage (built, evidently, as a little three-season hunting cabin, but in the manner of a garden shed), and 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all additions onto that original structure. 3 and 5 are both enclosed porches, which often aren’t built that well to begin with and then tend not to receive the most sound upgrades during the enclosure process. Of course, it’s also helpful to learn about the housing development history in the area (this kind of thing is actually common where this house is), ask neighbors what they know, and see if there are records for past building permits.

This addition-on-addition approach does not all NECESSARILY add up to structural problems, but I think it’s a good indication that there could be structural problems. It also makes renovation difficult, because each space is constructed differently and to a different standard, and maybe finished (including wired, plumbed, heated, etc.) at different times. #2 and #4, for example, had reasonably solid concrete foundations from what we could tell, but #1 had a few cinderblocks in some places and simple rubble in others. We didn’t know what was under #5, so we had to find out. The house was also on four slightly different levels with steps up and down everywhere, with seven different types of flooring and three different types of heating, which is kind of a recipe for general awkwardness and difficulty when trying to renovate a more flowing, simplified, open space.

This also meant that we had NO IDEA what this would mean from the perspective of our new engineers and how much work they would require us to do. If you have to redo ALL the foundations, at what point does saving any part of the structure at all become ridiculously impractical, particularly when the structure isn’t really worth saving? This isn’t some gorgeous old thing with great bones, mind you. The engineers were understandably hesitant about telling us anything until we got the full plans—I think they didn’t want to be too hasty or misspeak and inspire false hope about our prospects.

It was so stressful and made it incredibly hard to plan our next moves. From my perspective the only thing that made sense was waiting for the engineering report to come in. I was stuck in the middle of trying to keep my cool so the homeowners could keep their cool, while also prodding the engineers to move it along, while also trying to stay in their good graces so they’d be more inclined to really put their thinking caps on instead of throwing their hands up. Finding code-compliant, structurally sound, and as-budget-friendly-as-possible solutions to each issue big and small was a sizable task.

It was tricky.

This is the cottage when I started this job, but what we were really waiting on with the plans was an enhanced version of the cottage, not an exact carbon copy. We were tied to the original footprint due to zoning regulations, but we were all in agreement that the original house—even with our initially planned modifications—was very awkward in a number of ways, particularly the living room set-up. The enclosed front porch attached to the skinny living room space was particularly difficult to work with, since you had to step down to get into it and the living room also functioned as an entryway and the main artery to get anywhere else in the house. Add to this that almost half of it was given over to the wood stove and surrounding stonework, and the room was crazy hard to arrange in a way that didn’t look so stupid.

In our original renovation plan, above, the big changes are obviously to the kitchen and the elimination of the half-bath, but we’d also decided to remove the posts between the living room and the enclosed porch, insert a structural beam, and frame up the floor 6-7 inches to at least level things out. That plan was problematic (still choppy, too-low ceiling height, maybe not possible if the beam would have to be too large, which it probably would be for a 20 foot span…) and never really sat right anyway, so whatever. Adios, old plan.

So knowing that the porch area would need to be rebuilt completely, this became the new basic plan. It’s still kind of weird but I think in an OK way, and makes the living room a real ROOM instead of a big pass-through.

How exactly we should handle that bigger space was never particularly refined at this stage of things, but it felt like there were some good options to do something way cool.

We were going to accomplish this by keeping half of the existing living room roof up to the ridge (right side in the image above), and then running new rafters down from the ridge to the front wall of the house, matching the slope of the existing roof over the dining room. So outside, the house would go from this:

To more like this:

Which is not winning any architectural awards (and would have been further tweaked (especially the street-facing windows), but the basic strokes worked really nicely with keeping as much of the original house as we could while ALSO fixing what we knew at the time needed fixing and ALSO making big improvements to the layout in the process. It’s easy to change out window sizes and stuff before building, but I needed to give something to the engineers to base their plans off of and this is more or less what they got.

The whole process was pretty fast-paced. I think the hardest part for the homeowners to take were these lulls in the physical work, when the house was just sitting without any visible transformation, so they were very anxious to get things underway. This was coupled with the inconvenient truth that we’d worked through spring and most of summer and were headed into fall…in upstate New York. If we were going to start this project before the following spring—leaving the house vacant and in serious disrepair for another six months during the winter—we were getting to a point where we really had to get moving at least on whatever foundation work would be required.

ANYWAY, since we had to affordably re-side the entire house anyway, I proposed a simple board-and-batten treatment in black, potentially with cedar under the eaves because doesn’t that seem cool and fun? I love a little black house in the woods.

We also scaled back the kitchen quite a bit in an effort to keep costs down. BEFORE YOU FREAK, let’s remember that this is a second home for the clients and a vacation property they intended to rent…which makes a small and simple kitchen sort of preferable, I think. If you’re renting a home and don’t know your way around the kitchen, it’s not as hard to find things or remember where to put them away…anyway, it all made a lot of sense at the time.

Check out that sink location. Drink it in. ;)

SO. Lots of waiting. Lots of feeling sad. Then the engineering report came in. Gulp.

The engineers were great about addressing each issue and figuring out suitable and practical solutions. It was their judgment that areas of the house that were still intact could mostly remain that way, so just the fact that we didn’t have to completely tear down the house and start from scratch was a relief.

I’ve tried to make this as simple as possible to follow. Apologies if it’s all just nonsense! Let’s start at the boots:

The living room foundation needs to be rebuilt completely.

The kitchen and dining room foundation was actually permitted to stay in spite of some issues, but at a minimum we would have to trench all the way around it and add rigid foam insulation (I didn’t even know this was a thing people did, but apparently it is done) to protect it from frost heaves. The section in red between the dining and living rooms would have to be completely built (not even rebuilt!) because whoever put in this foundation relied on the living room “foundation” for that run, which was not smart because the living room foundation was literally a pile of rocks.

The front porch slab would have to be demolished, with the new foundation for the living room making up the footprint.

In the back of the house, the engineers said that the foundation under the master bedroom, bathroom, and hall closet (#4) was fine to remain. Hallelujah.

The sunroom—or the other enclosed porch, #5—would need some investigative work because it was impossible to see what was happening below the floor. Ideally there would be a concrete slab (and we thought there might be because the floor was tiled, and maybe they did it right over a slab?) but we didn’t know what to expect, and we were now required to find out. If there wasn’t a slab, we’d have to put one in.

Similar story with the floor framing. All new in the living room. Modifications to the dining/kitchen to support the new joists on that new section of foundation. Again, #5 is a mystery but we knew we were possibly looking at framing in a new floor in there depending on what we found below the existing floor.

Of course, walls! Again, living room and front-porch-turned-living-room are all new.

Dining and kitchen were OK-ish, not great. There was some substantial rot to some framing and a lot of the sheathing, meaning we’d be stripping down to the studs inside and out. We’d already rebuilt the front and back walls, but the engineers wanted us to add a second jack stud to support our headers for the window openings on those walls. It was frustrating because our original framing was actually permissible according to code, but this was one of those things where we were tied to having to do—at minimum—whatever the engineers said.

In the guest room, we’d already gutted those two highlighted walls while framing in different windows and the sliding doors. All that work was fine, but all the walls are 2×4 framing and—short of spray foam insulating the house, which was not remotely budgeted for—we’d have to fur out those walls two inches to accommodate fiberglass insulation that would meet the minimal R-Value requirements (R-21 for exterior walls).

Annnnd the roofs. Oy vey.

The plan to potentially retain the back half of the living room roof and re-frame the front half was nixed, so the living room is completely new. Foundation to roof, all new.

The problem with that is that we had to find a way to tie into the existing roofs over #4 (shingles) and #5 (EPDM rubber because of the low slope) which were both in fairly poor condition. We weren’t being required to rebuild them but we would likely have to re-roof those sections to get everything water-tight and functioning correctly. On the plus side, the roofing would all match? Oh joy.

In the living/dining area (#2), we had 2×6 rafters sistered into the original 2×4 rafters, but both were under-sized for the span of the rafters. So we’d have to sister in bigger rafters next to those, then cut out the space at the ridge where the rafters met to insert a structural beam across the width of the room, with a built-up post down to the foundation on the exterior wall and another down to the header for the opening between the living and dining room on the interior wall. Then we’d need to tear off the layers of shingles and underlayment, possibly/probably re-seath, re-roof, re-insulate on the interior…OH BOY HOW FUN. OH BOY HOW DUMB.

See where I’m going with this, maybe? The dining/kitchen needed major work to the foundation, floor system, walls, roof, insulation, plumbing, and electric. That’s the entire thing! And that’s when you have to think long and hard about what you’re saving, and whether it’s worth it. All that work would still be less expensive than completely rebuilding that part of the house, but is the cost savings worth it? To go through the exercise of redoing the whole thing and then still potentially have a lot of issues with it down the line, still have walls and rooflines that aren’t level, still have an improved but iffy foundation…it’s not great.

I voiced this to the clients who understood but weren’t entirely convinced, and it wasn’t my call to make, so we all went to our separate corners to think it out a little. Now it’s early September, the homeowners want to start construction in two weeks to beat the winter, and we’re deciding what to do about…oh, half the house. Totes normal.

TIME. IS. A-TICKIN’.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the plans, but they were delivered in the form of a slim 6-page document containing exactly 10 small diagrams, each with a bunch of arrows and a spattering of text. They were minimal. Since we hadn’t yet locked down a contractor (ALL THE PANICS), it seemed very important for me to understand every single thing on those plans. So I set a meeting with the engineers, as one does.

I kept Adriana and Barry, the homeowners, informed of what was going on while this was unfolding. And when I told Adriana about the upcoming meeting with the engineers, she told me she wanted to come. I assured her that it was just a boring meeting about really technical stuff that they included in the report that I wasn’t entirely clear on, and it really wasn’t necessary for her to make the trip, but she insisted on her personal attendance.

“I mean, sure, if that’s what you want to do. It’s your house and your money—I’ll see ya there!”

So we sit down with the engineers and start talking. And we’re going over everything point by point, around which time Adriana interjects.

“Now, while we’re talking about that, Barry and I were thinking. About going up.”

“Up?”

“How hard would it be to add a second floor over the part of the house we’re rebuilding?”

OH. MY. GOD. WOMAN. WHAT. THE. FUCK. The engineer was the first to respond, because I was speechless.

“Not that hard; we’d just have to adjust the foundation specs a little to compensate for the additional load.”

“OK, I think we’ll do that.”

“Sure.”

And I’m just sitting there. LIKE WAIT WHAT JUST HAPPENED. I came to my senses:

“OK, if you’re serious about this then we have to hire an architect who can turn this around quickly.”

“I was thinking you could do it.”

WHAT WOULD GIVE YOU THAT IDEA, YOU PSYCHO? Again, speechless. The engineer turns to me:

“I mean, everything you’ve given us so far is all we’d really need to modify these plans, so that works for us if you’re up for it.”

NO. EVERYONE STOP. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAYING.

Here’s the thing. I write a blog that some people read and that’s all very nice. Heretofore, I’d worked essentially as a decorator which people like to call an “interior designer” but they’re actually different things and I am technically neither. I have little schooling when it comes to this stuff, no architecture or design-related degree, no experience with new construction, no experience managing a project of this scope, had never designed a house, and a week prior to this meeting I was trying to hand over my proverbial letter of resignation.

And now they want me to design a new fucking house.

In two weeks.

Top to bottom.

Soup to nuts.

Back to the drawing board, literally. Time to learn about stairs.

Psssst! Olivebridge Cottage is an ongoing series about a renovation that flew off the rails (and then found its way back on)! For lots of backstory and schadenfreude, check out these past posts!

  1.  New Season, New Project!
  2. Plans for Olivebridge Cottage!
  3. Oh Dear, Here We Go…
  4. Little House of Horrors
  5. From Bad to Worse (And Worse and Worse and Worse)
  6. Blogger is Hired to Renovate, Mistakenly Destroys Ulster County Art Piece “House”
  7. Olivebridge Cottage: 2.0!

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!

Revised Kitchen Plans + Butler’s Pantry Vibes

I feel like I think about my kitchen an inordinate amount. I think about it when I go to sleep almost every night. I think about it when I wake up in the morning. I think about it throughout the day. I blogged about it less than a month ago yet here I am again. Going on and on.

I’m hoping this means that I’m thorough and not just too stupid to figure stuff out faster. This is the first kitchen I’ve ever truly renovated for myself, and I’m super excited. But I also really don’t want to screw it up and hate myself forever. I want to get it right. And I also want it to be very beautiful. And I also want this to be the kitchen that I have, enjoy, use, and live with for a gooooooood long time, because I have absolutely zero plans to sell and move and I never want to renovate it again.

Also! It’s for me! How much fun! I end up designing for other people much more than for myself. I’m used to having the constraints of what a client will go for, or certain expenses that affect how the budget is allocated…it’s working your ideas into someone else’s priorities, basically, and at the end it’s never really all the things you want even if you’re satisfied with the result. Ya know? But here…I’m the client. I’m the future homeowner. I’m the wind beneath my own wings. Too far? Point is, I HAVE TO PLEASE NOBODY EXCEPT MY OWN DAMN SELF. How thrilling. How paralyzing.

To be clear, this is not to say that I don’t care what you think. You guys had a lot of thinks to think on the last kitchen post, and I read every single think and and found them very helpful! You people are smart and kind and important and the best on the whole Internet? We have fun here? We’re nice to each other? We disagree about fridge placement yet we still find common ground over wood stoves? I’m so grateful. Never change, you.

By the way, just to quickly dispel an assumption that came up in a lot of comments: I DO actually cook! I love cooking! I’m not some amazing chef, but this kitchen is by no means decorative. It will be used and abused.

So this was the plan I presented a couple weeks ago:

I still like it but it’s got some problems that some of you picked up on.

  1. The island is too big, unnecessary, I don’t know. It’s shown at 6’x3′, giving a 3′ path on either side. I DO love the idea of having a big work surface, but with the wood stove 3′ isn’t going to be enough to maneuver comfortably without stepping onto the hearth stone (which will get annoying and make the room feel cramped) and/or burning my ass. It needs to be scaled back.
  2. The cabinet return from the corner to the chimney is dumb. Chimney will look better without it, and I do hate corner cabinets.
  3. The pantry mudroom build-out is a mess in these drawings. I should have been more clear about that part of the plans being MUCH more preliminary than the main kitchen part. Everyone freaked out and I was like WAIT CALM DOWN. Oopsie!
  4. The door from the kitchen to the dining room can and should swing the other way, out into the dining room. That’s how it was originally and I think it’s worth restoring.
  5. Everyone and their mother thinks the sink/stove placement is wrong. This isn’t necessarily a problem, just a notation.
  6. There IS a dishwasher to the right of the sink, standard size, completely necessary to my life. I lived without a dishwasher for almost a decade, and in that time I learned that I’m a slob who would rather do almost anything than my own dishes.
  7. Lighting: Aside from the sconces, there will also be a central pendant ceiling light chandelier number. I know recessed lights in the ceiling would be functionally good and there are some pretty inconspicuous options out there, but it’s not happening. Not on my watch, not in my ceilings.

DON’T GET TOO EXCITED. But for the sake of making my indecision that much greater and the voices of disagreement that much stronger, I did some stuff:

  1. Bye bye, island. Hello old table. I do think it helps greatly with the too-cluttered issue, particularly around the wood stove (and in turn making the stove more of a feature in the room) and I think could be really pretty and nice. I’m about it.
  2. Cabinet return to the right of the chimney, eliminated!
  3. I made the sink/stove change. I have so many feelings about it:

When I say I think about my kitchen, I guess I really mean that I visualize my kitchen. Being in it, cooking a meal, laughing with friends…the inside of my brain is an Applebee’s commercial. And I always picture the stove where I had put it before. It just feels more right in my head? So that’s been Option A. And this has been Option B. And I go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Both are equally possible, technically.

I actually think Option B is prettier, for what it’s worth. I’d prefer to look at that kitchen.

I also think Option B has some issues. And that I’d prefer to work in Option A.

  1. I installed those windows for three-ish reasons: trying to balance out that exterior elevation, bringing natural light into the kitchen, and ventilation. The view out that window was not part of it. Telephone pole, street, parking pad, falling down fence, trash receptacles, yellow aluminum (and, out of view, green asbestos)…it’s far from bucolic. I actually would prefer to NOT have the sink under the window in this instance, even though I know that’s a really normal thing that’s perceived as almost a requirement and unanimously understood to be more pleasant than facing a wall. This is a not a new concept to me, but I just think it doesn’t suit every single space! That being said, I don’t wash dishes by hand unless it’s completely unavoidable. It’s not like I’m ever really standing at the sink for a long time and looking at anything other than what I’m doing with my hands. I guess what I’m saying is that the sink/window thing is neither particularly appealing nor entirely unappealing.
  2. The sink feels far from the stove. Like too far. But moving either one closer to the other feels very weird and does not satisfy my urge for symmetry or having things line up with other things. I know I could do a pot-filler to resolve some of the issue there, but it still seems a little…off to me.
  3. Those windows sit pretty low (I wanted them as big as I could while matching the header height of adjacent windows at the top and being above counter height at the bottom), so I feel like I’d be cleaning water spots and stuff off the window panes CONSTANTLY. I also kind of don’t want to see my sink faucet from outside the house? Also if there are window boxes on these windows outside, will reaching over the sink and around the faucet to access them (assuming herbs are growing, which may be a pipe dream anyway) feel good?
  4. If there’s one modern kitchen design thing that I totally do care about and I think will enrich my life, it’s prep space on either side of the stove. In Option A, there’s such an EXPANSE! And in Option B, it’s two feet on either side. It’s enough—I know it’s enough—but it could be MORE and I really think I want more. ESPECIALLY if I’m losing the more spacious island.
  5. A range hood feels more necessary in Option B because you lose having two windows right on either side of the cooktop. Necessary might be a strong word. Advisable. The being said, if I were going to add a range hood down the line, I’d prefer to do it on the wall in Option B than right between the windows in Option A. SEE HOW HARD THIS IS?

By the way, here’s the deal with the range hood. I have to confirm with the building department, but I actually don’t think it is required by code, which is something a lot of commenters brought up, because natural ventilation is provided (amply!) by the windows. I understand the benefits of range hoods. I’ve had them in the past. I don’t feel like I need one, but what I WILL do is rough-in the electric to add one and leave it dead in the wall, just in case. That way it’s really easy to do down the line. I’m just not ready to plan on it because lots of people have (mostly valid) feelings that I should. I’m too stubborn.

SORRY. There are also other venting options that I’m looking into. I’ll keep you in the loop!

SO ANYWAY, I think I’m still in the Option A camp for the stove/sink placement, but with the changes to the cabinet layout and modified island/table included here. I should have done that in SketchUp but seriously, it takes me so long so let’s just imagine.

You don’t seem convinced.

On the other side of the room is where the magic happens. Here’s where we were…

Here’s what I’m thinkingggggg….

SO, I lost the hutch (that grey mass). Which is sort of disappointing but OK. It’s a really large piece that I think would be great in a kitchen, but maybe just not this kitchen. ALSO I think there’s another wall for it in the dining room that will work better than where it is now. I love that piece so I just want to do right by it.

What I gain is…

    1. More shelf. This suits my collection of old and semi-useless but beautiful bowls and pottery greatly.
    2. It’s not in the drawing, but I think I’d like to do some simple shaker-y pegs along the apron beneath the shelf, which can hold aprons and tea towels and…aprons…and…DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. I like how that wall is more flexible now.
    3. A more central and sizable entrance to the mudroom/pantry space. Allow me to explain:

I’ll give you a moment to pin.

Ready now? Try to keep up.

This is an old picture of the old kitchen and the entrance to the now-demolished solarium addition. For reference, that doorway is about where the stove is in Option A. Obviously all this has now changed but you’re insane or just very fresh to my blog if you think I didn’t salvage that little transom and the surrounding trim work.

do want the pantry to feel like a natural extension of the kitchen, but totally opening up that wall is not an option I’m willing to entertain. It doesn’t fit with the house and structurally it’d be tricky. But a larger cased opening with a transom above that matches the header heigh of the windows…that sounds nice, right? This way the entrance would be 44″ wide, so wider than a standard doorway but nothing too crazy and out of place.

The doorway also moves over to the left about three feet, which means there’s a much bigger corner to play with by the wood stove/radiator. Partially, this is in anticipation of storing firewood, but I also think you could sneak a nice chair in into that corner, or a dog bed, or whatever, and it would make the room feel more…rounded?

Here’s the pantry “plan” from a couple of weeks ago:

Here’s what I’m thinking now:

And then what do you get? Butler’s pantry vibes. Ohhh yeah they feel so good.

I moved the exterior door again. I like this better for a number of reasons, inside and outside the house. Groovy. I feel at peace.

We gain a window! This will add some balance to the exterior as well because the powder room will get the same window. Smaller than the kitchen windows but same proportions.

Also, more pantry! More cabinet space! More counter space! The room is very narrow (5’7″) so the base cabinets here are really uppers, just installed as base cabinets. Still, that’s 8 feet of (shallow, albeit) countertop and cabinet space! I’ll take it!

Countertop next to the fridge. This is a big thing people brought up, and I think this plan accomplishes it. It’s all RIGHT THERE. You could wrap the counter but I still want that small closet. I really do need a place to store a vacuum cleaner, a mop bucket, stuff like that, and there’s not really anywhere else in the house that makes more sense than in here.

NOW, I KNOW. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. I could rotate the fridge 90 degrees, cut a fridge-size hole in the kitchen wall, and recess the fridge into it so it faces the kitchen. Many commenters suggested this. My boyfriend suggested this! I know the option exists.

I’m not going to do it. That feels distinctly like a better option for newer construction, maybe? But I can’t picture it looking OK here. I really can’t. The house is too old and the vibe of this kitchen is too old and it’s just so not right. It also seems like the most minor functional difference. We’re literally talking about a few extra steps. I can deal with a few extra steps to build a kitchen that I love with a pleasantly tucked-away fridge. Sorry folks. Fridge niche is not for me.

This is also one of those me being the client things. It’d be so hard to find a client who could be convinced of this plan and I think that’s part of what I like about it? Because normally it would be an idea that would start and end with “if I could do anything I wanted…” but in this case…I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT! Ya know, within reason. This is very exciting to me and I want to take full advantage by making as many unpopular decisions as I want.

Shall we address the elephant in the room? OK YOU GOT ME. I have to confirm that it’s as easy plumbing-wise as I think it is, but I’m enamored with the idea of adding a teeny tiny bar sink in the pantry. Three semi-compelling reasons:

  1. Fancy. My god, how fucking fancy. Two sinks. It’s like I’m the Queen of England!
  2. Coffee station! How nice would it be to keep small appliances like the coffee machine a bit more out of sight and in here, not cluttering up the kitchen countertops? I’m never gonna be the type to brew my coffee in anything more attractive than a regular drip coffeemaker every morning, this much I know. And with a sink right there, it would all be so easy and convenient.
  3. Ice cube trays. I hate filling them but it’s a part of life since I’m not planning to replace my fridge. Too much money, no real reason. I’d rather not walk to and from the main sink to do this because I always spill.

ALSO CAN YOU ALL RELAX BECAUSE THIS SINK IS UNDER A WINDOW? I DID IT FOR YOU. Kinda. Not really.

But THIS window looks out on the backyard, and that’s a very different situation than the other window.

Nobody in my life seems to think tiny bar sink is remotely necessary, but I’m obsessed with it? So, until further notice, consider it the plan.

So that’s kinda where I’m at now! I’m feeling really good about it, and it’s making me so excited to get going.

Improvement? Worse than before? TINY BAR SINK?

I love tiny bar sink.

Olivebridge Cottage: 2.0!

Ladies and gents, do I have a story for you. I think it’s a good one. I built a house. Yeah. I build houses now. It’s just a little thing I picked up.

As some of you may or may not recall, I got hired by this nice couple a little while ago to basically renovate a kitchen and spruce up this little shitbox of a house they bought, which sounded to everyone at the time like a basically fun and quick and relatively inexpensive little project. We called it Olivebridge Cottage. It looked like this:

El diablo. Shudder.

I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. Possibly neither has the nice couple, and hopefully neither has the home inspector who seemed to be under the impression that this house was normal and habitable and not a steaming pile of doo-doo. Not to put too fine a point on it.

It started off with so much light-hearted optimism and excitement. Then I began the work, and it quickly descended into…the opposite of that. Fear, terror, anxiety, serious sads, total dejection. We tried to hang onto some semblance of my original renovation plans, but the issues kept piling up, one on top of the other. We tried chasing our tails, rebuilding one thing only to discover that the adjacent thing also needed to be rebuilt. After a few months, it really felt like living in some kind of practical joke that wasn’t even remotely funny. It made me wonder if I was working on somebody’s art project gone awry instead of an actual house at all, which is sort of funny in retrospect but was just BRUTAL at the time.

Before long, there wasn’t a ton of house left. And what was left was a total nightmare. And everything was terrible.

Here’s the abbreviated list of what we found and then had to figure out a way to address, from the ground up:

  1. Faulty or completely missing foundations. This house was the product of a small original structure and about 5 different additions, and none of them had anything approaching a structurally sound foundation.
  2. Rotted or improperly built framing. Entire walls and floor framing were rotted through and no longer structurally sound. The bulk of the newer framing work had been done with drywall screws(!) rather than nails. Sheathing and siding around the house was rotted. Windows improperly installed without headers or any other means of support. Improper use of pressure-treated lumber. Seriously under-sized framing. So bad.
  3. Faulty roof systems. Basically the house was a heavy snowfall away from collapsing due to a fun combo of rot and improper roof framing. All rafters were undersized for their spans. Ridge beams unsupported. Shingles failing. EPDM on flat roofs improperly installed and leaking. Sheathing rotted.
  4. Old or inoperable utilities. Everything pretty much broken or on its last legs.
  5. Serious pest infestations, including extensive rodent and termite damage.
  6. Significant plumbing issues, including the kitchen sink which drained directly into a hole in the ground right outside, and an overflowing septic system overrun by roots.
  7. Significant electrical issues, including blatant code violations and damage to wiring wrought by aforementioned infestations, necessitating all new electrical throughout the structure.
  8. Lack of insulation, excessively pest-damaged insulation, or insulation that did not meet minimal R-value requirements.
  9. Unsafely installed wood stove.
  10. Serious black mold problem throughout house.
  11. I don’t know, there must be more. It was never-ending.

Truly, I’ve never felt worse about anything—ever—than I did about the first few months of this project. Going there to work every day filled me with so much anxiety and dread. And this wasn’t my house, mind you (THANK GOD), so at the same moment I was having to constantly contact the clients and explain the situation, what it meant budget-wise, why something was necessary…it was Very Bad Times. The number of unexpected issues easily made this the biggest renovation job of my life—much bigger than my house, even though this is half the age and half the size! It didn’t help that I was concurrently trying to run for city council, renovate two other houses, mentor a teenager (long story), get over a long term relationship, not destroy a new relationship (spoiler, it didn’t last!), deal with some health problems, keep this blog even minimally afloat…OY VEY. Do you ever reflect on periods of your life and say confidently that someone couldn’t pay you 5 million dollars to time-hop back there and relive it? Yes. That.

At a certain point, we had to completely change our approach. We’d started with an already slim but workable budget of $25,000, and it was almost spent—just tearing stuff out and trying to rebuild things piece by piece. It got to a point, though, where the issues were just too extensive and I was running out of solutions. I was definitely also starting to feel in over my head, which is usually the time to cut your losses and walk away. Which is more or less what I intended to do.

The turning point eventually came when the building inspector showed up and was somewhat less than pleased about the conditions of the house—not because of anything we were doing to try to improve it, but just being confronted with the sheer magnitude of all these issues within a single structure. The thing about inspectors is that they’re generally not architects or engineers—ours wasn’t—so he couldn’t really tell us what to do, either, except to bring in a team of engineers to provide a roadmap for us. He essentially said that he would enforce the engineers’ plans, but that the scope of our work was beyond what he could individually judge as OK or not OK. Totally fair.

This was both good news and bad news. On the good news front, he did not issue a stop work order and seemed to have some real sympathy for the situation. The engineers’ plans would hopefully provide us what we needed in terms of a very clear set of directives to get it done. On the bad news front…we had NO IDEA what an engineer might say when put in front of this property, and it was their task to not only make things OK and safe, but make things code compliant. This house isn’t that old, but old enough that building codes have steadily changed since its construction or subsequent renovations–which were not permitted and most likely never met code. Once the renovation exceeds 50% the value of the house (which this one certainly would, particularly because that percentage is based on the assessed value of the structure not including the assessed value of the land), you lose the right to have stuff grandfathered in that might otherwise be permissible even if it doesn’t meet modern codes. This is kind of frightening, particularly from a budget perspective. It kind of felt like immediately entering another realm of cost and time and potential heartache that nobody was particularly prepared for.

For example, one of our foundations was essentially a concrete slab, about 4 feet thick, filled mostly with big rocks and chunks of concrete beneath the smooth outer surfaces. But it was sitting right on the ground—no footings at all to keep it stable and in place with frost heaves, that kind of thing. It’s wrong. It is not how you build a foundation. But…the thing was solid. And obviously extremely heavy. Could we have built on it and had everything be fine? Probably, yeah. But it didn’t meet minimal modern code requirements, so it would have to go and be redone properly. Now spread that example across every part of an entire house—even a small one—and suddenly your situation is…sobering.

So I had a few meetings with the engineers, and then we all waited several weeks for them to generate their report. At this point I knew the house and its issues like the back of my hand, so I felt valuable from the standpoint of being able to provide information about the existing conditions and brainstorm possible solutions, but that was about it. You might not think there would be a lot of room for creativity when you’re talking about foundations and 2x8s, but some issues required some unorthodox thinking to find a fix that was structurally sound, code-compliant, and allowed us to maintain as much of the existing structure as we could.

That said, at this point it felt likely that we were looking toward demolishing and rebuilding at least most of the remaining house, and…that’s not what I was hired to do. Need a new sofa? Sure, I can help with that. Want to pick out tile? Funsies. Need to underpin a foundation? Hire a builder and leave me the hell alone.

Then the engineering report came in. We’ll talk more about the contents, but basically it was about what I was expecting—some areas of the house being completely rebuilt, others needing major work in order to salvage.

So. I was prepared to flee. Not literally flee, but at this point we’re like 5 months into a 2 month job, and looking at a really long road ahead. I had my own projects to get back to. And this was totally outside my wheelhouse. It wasn’t just that the going got tough—that I can basically handle—but overseeing all this work I’d never done seemed rife with potential to do more harm than good. I just wanted to be done.

And I felt like the clients, if they knew what was best for them, would also want me to be done. The job had so clearly outgrown the little dog-and-pony show we’d been putting on—wherein a blogger with some interior design experience was tasked with making over a house with the help of a couple contractors (Edwin and Edgar, my dudes) for a few hours here and there. That would have been challenging but OK had things gone according to plan, but this? This felt distinctly like a job for an actual builder, with an actual crew and an actual team of subs, who had actual experience, who could actually get this done without actually losing their fucking mind. That, or inadvertently steering their clients into even more treacherous financial straits.

So I tried to explain this to the clients, Adriana and Barry. And they did not exactly agree.

To the enormous credit of Adriana and Barry, they were always very good about separating the work I was doing from the issues I was finding. In other words, they weren’t blaming me. They understood that the issues with the house pre-dated my involvement, and that so many of them presented major safety concerns that they were relieved to know about them, even when the truth hurt. That was HUGE for me, because uncovering all of this while I basically dismantled this house day in and day out for months had not been kind to my psyche. I knew it wasn’t my fault. I did. I also felt like it was. It was an awful way to feel. And I know I’m talking a lot about my ~feelings~ during this period, but you know what? I think it matters. It’s easy to look at this kind of thing as a set of financial and structural and aesthetic and practical decisions, but it’s all really emotional, too. I felt awful about the house and I felt awful for the clients, and it’s not like that feeling went away when I was off site. It was 24/7. The clients felt awful about the amount of money they were spending, the fact that they still couldn’t enjoy the house they’d bought 9 months prior, and that they pretty much never would because we were going to tear most of it down. That they also had the energy to feel awful for me is pretty remarkable.

The point is, they wanted me to see it through. They felt more confident in me than I did that I could pull it off. Plus, they didn’t want to start over with a new plan and a new contractor they’d never worked with, particularly living two hours away, and they really wanted to move swiftly and get it done so they could actually enjoy their house! I’d been there since Day 1. I knew the house better than anybody. I knew what they wanted out of it. And as many times as I told them I just wasn’t the man for the job, they weren’t having it. And if that was really what they wanted, then walking away began to feel worse than staying around and giving it the old college try. Even though it all seemed…risky.

So I stuck around. And now I’m really glad I did, because what followed was definitely one of the most challenging, educational, and ultimately exciting things I’ve ever done. I built a whole house. Not single-handedly, and not entirely without the usual hiccups, but I did it. And I’m pretty damn proud of that, thankyouverymuch.

Building a house is hard work, and building this house specifically tested everything I’ve got in so many ways! So forgive me for holding out on writing about it. It was one of those things where I was so drained from living it that writing about it as it was happening just felt impossible. And I didn’t want to jinx things, which never felt like such a real and potent risk until I experienced the first go-round of renovating this house.

But now? I have so. much. to. tell. you. This…this is gonna be fun. Let’s build a house!

Psssst! There’s obviously much more to come, but maybe you need a little refresher on Olivebridge Cottage, 1.0? A condensed record of my descent into insanity? Here ya go!

  1.  New Season, New Project!
  2. Plans for Olivebridge Cottage!
  3. Oh Dear, Here We Go…
  4. Little House of Horrors
  5. From Bad to Worse (And Worse and Worse and Worse)
  6. Blogger is Hired to Renovate, Mistakenly Destroys Ulster County Art Piece “House”

New Knobs for My Old Dresser!

Three years ago, I bought a big antique dresser that I put in the bedroom. Then I blogged about it. This one:

I love this dresser! It’s probably from the mid-1800s, which is sort of fun because so is my house! I obviously don’t want a time capsule house, but it’s always fun to pepper pieces around that could have been there originally, I think. It’s something I’d like to do more of as I’m able to find and afford this stuff. I think this dresser is actually intended more for linens, so I can see eventually moving it out of the bedroom and putting it somewhere else in the house, too. Ya know. Versatile unique cool piece that I expect to have for a long ass time.

One thing that’s never been quite right about the dresser (and probably the reason I was able to snag it for $300 in the first place) is the knobs. They’re reproductions, definitely not original or at all old. Whoever installed them did a pretty good job matching the stain, but not amazing, so I’ve always planned to do something about it. Then one broke in half in my hand one day, and another one fell off, so I put on a random knob I had laying around “temporarily,” a solution that lasted a mere two years. Every now and then I’d feel a burst of inspiration to try to find a new set of 8 knobs only to give up and forget it. It was a fun thing to get momentarily fixated on every couple of months.

The problem was that I didn’t feel confident that a new set of wood knobs would be any kind of improvement, but the real complicating factor was the size! The replacement wood knobs were the right size at 2″ in diameter, but typical knobs are between maybe 3/4″ and 1.5″ on the large end and that would look too dinky.

See? Major struggle.

Then a few weeks ago, somebody kindly alerted me in the comments to a lot of 8 Sandwich Glass knobs on eBay that would look good on my dresser! So I dashed to eBay! I found nothing!

Like I said, major struggle. But thank you for trying, kind stranger. This is the kind of help and support that I need.

ANYWAY. I don’t know what the original knobs on this dresser were, but it’s possible they were glass. Brief history corner, here we go! The Sandwich Glass Company operated out of Massachusetts from 1826-1888 and notably made pressed glass knobs among other things. So glass knobs became a big thing, and by the middle of the century were pretty ubiquitous. Fun facts.

Now, glass knobs are very beautiful and there are some AMAZING antique ones out there. But finding a set of 8 is tough, and when they do come up, they are not cheap. In addition, you may be aware that I’m renovating a 150 year old house, so my motivation and available funds to address this very small aspect of my life is low. Like lower on the priority list than changing the dead lightbulb on my garage, but easier because I don’t have to go outside. Point is, I wanted to order a nice thing from the Internet, have it delivered to my home, install, admire, and move on with my mess of a life.

Then I found reproduction Sandwich glass knobs at House of Antique Hardware for $8.29 a pop. They come in 6 colors! They’re 1.75″ across instead of 2″, so I made the lazy courageous decision to let it go and just buy them. Enough hassle. End the madness.

House of Antique Hardware is a GREAT resource, by the way. I’ve ordered a number of things from them over the years and the quality has always been excellent, prices are fair, and there’s a big selection of products. I love them.

In anticipation of my new knobs arriving in the mail, I figured it was a good time to give the dresser a little bit of attention. It’s a little beat up generally and the last few years have not been especially kind to any of my possessions.

Little dings and scratches and discoloration, ya know. These things happen. I think those scratches look suspiciously like Mekko nails. Dogs are so great but they also fuck up your stuff.

I love Restor-A-Finish. What’s not to love? It’s so easy and quick and great for blending in small damage (like what’s all over this piece) without losing the existing patina. The last thing I want is for this to look new or newly refinished. I had a couple different cans in the basement that I mixed together and buffed in with part of an old t-shirt. Easy peesy.

Then I put my new knobs on, and done! I think it looks cute. I am satisfied.

By the way, can we also appreciate that the walls are not crumbling plaster and the moldings are freshly painted and it looks like a real room that someone lives in? I love the wall color with the tones of wood in this piece. It’s working for me! I don’t know what to do up top in terms of art and stuff. I think the fact that I secretly had a 47″ TV on top of it before I renovated the bedroom did not prepare me well for imagining this wall ever being pretty. Now that the room is nice I can’t bear to put the TV back, so I have to try to remember how to be stylish?

(You have to be in some strange positions to ever see that little Sonos speaker tucked underneath the dresser when you’re actually in the room, but I know it looks silly in this photo. Forgive me! I do love my Sonos system, though.)

Good job, new knob. You’re cute.

Of COURSE when I was writing this post I found these Paxton Hardware folks that are selling repro Sandwich Glass knobs in a different pattern in the 2″ diameter I was searching for all along. They’re over $20 a piece though, so I’m kind of glad didn’t know about this earlier. I have put all the shits into this that I can muster for now and I am not doing a thing about it.

Knobs. They’re a good thing.

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