All posts tagged: Millwork

Putting the Bedroom Back Together

So, you might have heard that we had an election here in these United States. And now it’s a month later, and I still don’t know how to compose a sentence to follow that one.

As you can probably imagine, the result of said election was the opposite of what I wanted. Incidentally it was also the opposite of what the majority of voting Americans wanted, but unlike every other modern democracy on earth, we leave the election for the highest office in the land to a severely outmoded system wherein the loser can still win and…well, it sucks. And I’m not going to be ashamed to admit that it’s been really, really tough. There are so many people who are likely to experience much, much more severe ramifications to their lives and rights than I am as a result of this election, but that doesn’t exactly make it easier when those people are my friends, family, and neighbors. Watching the transition unfold over the past few weeks has been horrific, and it’s just the beginning. Is it even the beginning yet? So many people are so afraid. I’m so afraid. The whole thing has cast such a heavy shadow over…everything.

Whichever side of the aisle you fall on, we’re taught to meet this kind of challenge with action instead of resignation. We’re told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and keep fighting for what’s right, and retool the tragedy of our defeat into motivation to be better—better activists, better volunteers, better donors, better Americans. And that’s very useful and pragmatic advice, because shutting down and wallowing doesn’t actually accomplish anything except for maybe providing some passing relief from feeling horrible about everything. Right?

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to shut down and wallow, though. Not all the time, and not for the next four years, and not at the expense of trying to do what I can to affect positive change moving forward, but you know what? Sometimes, you just need to do what you need to do to get yourself through. Sometimes, it’s OK to disconnect, curl up, and—in the words of one commenter on this blog—make yourself into a blanket burrito. This is, at least, what I’ve been telling myself to manage my guilt about my relative lack of action over the past month. When overnight you feel you’ve become a stranger in your own country, when previously-settled battles for your own rights and the rights of those you love are suddenly reignited, and enormous hurdles are erected in front of so many things that had long felt attainable, I think Blanket Burrito Time serves its own kind of function. To reflect, regroup, get your bearings, and gather your strength. To put things in context and perspective. To allow yourself to feel whatever it is you need to feel, because relentlessly trying to push away panic and distress and sadness is also not the most effective strategy for dealing with panic and distress and sadness. Being silent is not the same thing as being silenced.

It might sound like I’m reaching here, but even renovating my own house has taken on a new kind of…vibe. With a long-term, labor-intensive and expensive project like my house, I’ve always found it motivating to keep some kind of picture in my mind of what living here will be like when much of the major work is completed. I don’t really think in elaborate fantasies—they’re more like snapshots. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner in my dining room. Making breakfast on Saturday mornings in my renovated kitchen. Hosting a damn garden party and picking perfect little tomatoes off the vine. Showing a houseguest into a bedroom that I don’t have to apologize for.

I’ve realized that central to all of these someday-snapshots is the presence of other people. Entertaining friends. Hosting family. Welcoming strangers. Right now, though, all I really want is a space for me. I still want those other things, too, but blanket burrito-ing surrounded by construction mess sucks. It feels extra sad. I want a bedroom. I want to go to sleep and wake up in a space that feels safe and clean and warm and cozy and nice, which isn’t really something I’ve ever had in this house and hasn’t before felt like such a huge priority. Now it does. So I’ve been trying to really make it happen!

beforewindowinstall

You might recall that my bedroom looked like THIS a couple of months ago, having gotten pretty torn apart during the whole side-of-house-restoration-project. The plan for this room pretty much started and ended with adding another window, but then I got a little more than I bargained for in losing a whole wall of plaster. I’ve had to focus a lot of time on trying to wrap the exterior project up, but otherwise I’ve been in here as much as possible. My plan, sad as it was, was to just hang some sheetrock and move my furniture back in and keep living in this room as a utilitarian, un-renovated space while I worked in other areas of the house, but that was before having a nice setting for Blanket Burrito Time felt like such a big deal. I kept sort of adding things to the list until—whoops! I’m just renovating the whole room.

patching2

Of course, nothing is ever easy! One thing I didn’t really account for in adding the fourth window is that the panel molding under the windows doesn’t come as far out into the room as the baseboard that used to be on this wall. I’m not sure why this seems like such a hard thing to explain, but basically if I had left the flooring as-is, I would have had a large gap between the end of the floorboards and the window moldings, and that would not be nice.

The easiest solution to this would have been ripping off the ends of the boards in the area in question to create a clean line, and then putting another floor board in perpendicular to the rest of the flooring, just to fill the gap. It would have been fine but it also would have been an obvious patch, and the whole point is to have this window not look like it was added in 2016! Feathering in boards is much more time-consuming, but once these floors are eventually refinished, it should be pretty seamless.

(I also kinda-sorta considered just removing all the flooring, which definitely isn’t original to the house, and going down to the original wide-plank pine subfloor, but that seemed insane? This glimpse of the pine subfloor is beautiful but the wood is also pretty soft, damaged from the second layer of flooring, has wide gaps between the boards that collect dust and crap…the more modern hardwood is one of the few “upgrades” to my house that I’m actually totally thankful for and OK with, even though it all needs to be refinished down the line.)

The span between the outer edges of the window casings is almost four feet, so that’s the area of flooring I had to extend so the boards would run right up to the wall and under the casing. I’ve had to feather in new floorboards in other areas of the house where radiator pipes used to be and stuff, and I think the most effective tool is an oscillating tool fitted with a wood blade (I have this one, highly recommend!). It’s made specifically for plunge cuts, so I start by making the short cut across the board, following a pencil line, and then the longer cut down the length of the board’s edge, cutting through the tongue. From there it’s fairly easy to pry a floorboard up. I particularly like the oscillating saw because the blade is thin enough that the removed board can still be reinstalled—using a circular saw, you’d lose 1/8″ off the width of the board from the saw blade. I just eyeball where the new butt joints should land—the goal is to keep the new cuts looking random and staggered.

patching1

Once I had all my cuts made and boards removed, I took the nails out and lined up all the removed boards in order of height. That way, I could more efficiently re-install them in new locations by selecting the shortest board possible to finish off each run. This way, my only waste was a small pile of off-cuts that were typically a couple inches long or less. With the tongues removed, it’s generally pretty easy to finagle the boards into place and secure them by face-nailing a few 2″ finish nails on each board. Boom! I think I only needed two boards for the longest runs, which I sourced from a bucket in my basement.

casing5

Once the floor was all put back together, I began working on the casing! IT. TOOK. A. LONG. TIME. If you scroll up to the first photo in this post and look at the original casing, you can see that it’s fairly elaborate. To my knowledge exactly none of the components are widely available (although it’s possible I could have found decent matches at a millwork place with a large catalog, but $$$), so I got pretty friendly with my router and table saw!

This isn’t my first rodeo trimming out a window or having to get a little creative to produce a period-style molding, but prior attempts have been in places like the laundry room where I was aiming to get close to the profiles of the remaining original moldings in the adjacent kitchen. In a space like that you can be a little more lenient, but since this new window is in a room with three original windows and three original doors, all with their moldings intact, I was aiming for perfection. Otherwise it would look amateurish and stupid and make me so angry. We’d all be so disappointed and sad and I could never show my face again.

casing1

Here you can get a sense of how the patched in flooring turned out, by the way.

Just to make trying to reverse-engineer a complicated antique molding extra special and fun, the window itself is slightly different than the originals and so is the framing supporting its installation. For instance, the new window sashes slide up and down on a modern balance system, so there aren’t any stop moldings to keep the sashes on track. The stops are pretty integral to the overall look of my moldings, though, so I had to make some purely decorative ones to tack on in front of the plastic balance system.

casing2

That panel part under the window was especially difficult, because there was framing in the way of making the panel as recessed as it’s supposed to be. To compensate, I kind of framed out a miniature wall and used a super thin piece of plywood for the backing, and then had to create some large rabbets in the surrounding molding to fit over the framing but still be appropriately recessed and level and plumb.

casing3

I realize this really neither instructive nor easy to understand what the hell I’m even talking about. I guess my point here is that this kind of thing is a lot of work, but doable! If you think of a normal no-nonsense window, you basically have a sill, an apron below it, and a piece of molding on each side and the top—5 pieces molding total. By my count, this has 30! But with enough head-scratching and patience (and shims), I kinda think I nailed it!

casing4

Check it out! Can you even tell which is the new one?! I’m kidding—of course it needs a lot of primer and patching and caulk and paint, but still! I feel like it looks really legit.

casingsafter

My favorite part is that aside from three lengths of cheap pine lattice boards from Lowe’s, everything else is salvaged! I love the challenge and gratification of finding the right piece of scrap, milling it to size, and giving it a purpose while simultaneously de-cluttering my hoard. I know it’s only fun to me, but this window molding is now kind of like a scrapbook of renovation projects past…there’s leftover material from Olivebridge, the backing of a kitchen cabinet, a bed slat, pieces of molding from the doorways into the now-demoed solarium, the jamb from the (now-demoed) door from the (now-demoed) upstairs kitchen out to the (now-demoed) fire escape…I get a kick out of it, anyway. Cheap thrills! I need more excitement in my life.

Also, drywall! You might be asking yourself why the sheetrock is in so many small pieces, and I have a decent reason! I had this idea, which was maybe a good one and maybe wasn’t, that I’d put up two layers of 1/2″ drywall, one right on top of the other. This first layer in the photo above was—you guessed it—scraps from the living and dining room ceilings (indeed I have been holding onto offcuts of drywall for over two years!), and a second layer with full-sized sheets will go over top. INSANE, RIGHT? The goal here is to achieve a close approximation of the original plaster wall that was here—I find that a normal 1/2″ drywall installation looks too flat and perfect and feels/sounds hollow when compared with a solid plaster wall, so I’m hoping that a full 1″ thickness plus a skim-coat over the entire thing will give me the look/feel I’m going for. I know that seems unbelievably nit-picky and stupid, but hey! That’s never stopped me before.

ADDENDUM: Comments on this post are now closed. Thank you, everybody, for your thoughts, words, input, and respectful conversation! As much as I would like to continue the discussion, this is a sensitive topic for many of us (the 2016 U.S. election, not my walls!) and one that requires a significant amount of time on my part to moderate, respond, and ensure a safe and respectful atmosphere. Therefore, after 5 days, I am choosing to close comments so that I can move on and dedicate my blogging time to writing more posts! 

(For those interested, I can happily report that many interesting and valuable viewpoints have been expressed on both sides, and I think the comments below are worth a read! Out of almost 200 comments, many specifically regarding the election, only a negligible few were moderated due to what I considered to be either flagrant factual inaccuracies or the use of potentially offensive language. Once again I am blown away and exceedingly thankful for the consistently respectful, intelligent, and generous conduct of commenters on Manhattan Nest!)

Replicating Millwork and Stuff in the Laundry Room

Things have been moving right along in the laundry room! So far, smooth sailing. Zero complaints. Looking good. PLUS I got to buy some new tools and try some new stuff and it was fun, which is mainly the subject of this post.

SO. MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS RECAP:

recap

1. The washer and dryer were delivered and they are WONDERFUL. Backing up a bit: we picked out our machines online and ordered them from a sales associate (Frank) at our local Lowe’s store. Frank was truly a delight. Since we’ve never bought a washer and dryer before, Frank really took us through everything we’d need to know about installing and using our new machines, anything additional we needed to buy (dryer vent parts, which dryer plug to use, stainless steel supply lines, that kind of thing), what kind of detergents to use, etc. Since we wanted our dryer to vent out the side instead of the back (so that the machines could sit as close to the wall as possible), Frank also helped us locate the exact part number we needed to order from Lowe’s separately (which, incredibly, was delivered the day after I ordered it over the phone). We scheduled our free home delivery in the store, which was also great. The guys who came to deliver the machines were super nice and very knowledgable. Since we weren’t ready to put the machines in place yet, we opted to leave the shipping bolts in, and the delivery dude showed me where they were and how to remove them and all that. He also advised us to run the dryer empty for an hour to burn off any lingering shipping oils. These guys were excellent is what I’m saying—the whole experience, really. FYI—Lowe’s has not asked me to talk at all about any part of the buying experience or anything like that—I was just legitimately very impressed. Customer service! AND the machines themselves? They work SO WELL. I’m thrilled with them in every way. In case you’re curious, this is the washer and this is the dryer.

2. Both plumbing and electric have been installed. SO EXCITING. This is another one of those things that feels like a really big improvement to our house, and that makes me happy. This house has NEVER had a dryer, and the old plumbing for the washer was tooootttalllly not to code and really old and just no good at all. This also means that the second half of demo-ing the downstairs bathroom went well. Post coming up soon.

3. I started tiling. Then I almost finished tiling. Spoiler: looks great; I’m very good at subway tiling now.

4. I installed the dryer vent. This involved cutting a 4-inch circular hole through the house, which was moderately stressful because I had to go through drywall, plaster, lath, brick, clapboard, styrofoam insulation stuff, and vinyl siding to reach the outdoors. But I did it and then I used some spray-foam insulation around it before closing it back up on the inside with a piece of drywall. Success!

SO. ALL THAT HAPPENED. And that’s not even what I want to talk about.

windowbefore

Remember that little window in the laundry room I talked about in my last post? Basically the deal is that the whole thing—window and surrounding casing—were installed very crooked and it drove me crazy. The rest of the room is surprisingly level, but this window sort of made everything look fun-house-y and sad and strange. The window is fairly small and doesn’t open, which is kind of a drag, but replacing it is just not at all in the budget, and trying to level the window itself seemed like potentially a HUGE project that would involve a lot of opening walls and causing general disaster and despair, and it really just didn’t seem worth it at all.

Back when we painted the room we also patched up and painted the casing, but now that we’re really renovating the room I started to have more ambitious ideas. The casing was obviously nothing special, so what about prying it off and trying to replicate the type of millwork that is original to this part of the house? And if I installed all of that level, maybe it would give the illusion of the window also being level.

Cool. Good Plan.

moldinginspiration

Here is the molding situation I wanted to try to copy. Fancy. From what I can tell, our house has three original different molding profiles, which are basically related to the fanciness of the room. This is the least fancy molding, used in the kitchen, the upstairs office, and adjacent original servant’s quarters which became the upstairs kitchen. It’s still pretty bulky and awesome, but the windows just have simple sills (instead of paneling detail to the floor) and the baseboards are this super simple shape.

Anyway. This door/window molding is basically 3 separate pieces: on the bottom there’s a 1×4 with that innermost detail routed out, then a fancy piece of trim molding, and the whole thing is encased in 1x2s. Seems simple enough.

The one complicating factor is that these moldings were made when lumber was still the actual listed dimensions (so a 1×2 is actually 1″ x 2″, not 3/4″ x 1.5″), so I had to get a little creative with my lumber selections. If I used the modern equivalents of the old lumber dimensions, things would looks sort of wimpy and wrong. Soooo…

1x2cutting

Luckily, Lowe’s sells a 5/4″ x 6″ board (actual dimensions = 1″ x 5.5″), which I could rip down to 2″ strips to make my dimensional 1 x 2. So that’s what I did.

stairtread

Luckily, Lowe’s also sells these long pine stair treads for about $10, which are the perfect thickness for old school window sills, AND have the necessary bullnose edge to match the original one upstairs. Dope. So far so good.

For the innermost piece, it wasn’t so hard to cut one of the 5/4″x6″ pieces of lumber down to an actual 1″ x 4″, but then there was the matter of the fancy routered detail on the inside edge.

I NEEDED NEW TOOLS. NEW TOOOOOLSSSSS!!!

router

BOOM hello router! You are lots and lots of fun and can do so many exciting things, like help me convincingly replicate old molding.

I’ve used a router maybe once or twice in my life, but its really a very easy tool to get the hang of. Along with my router (this one!), I also picked up a plethora of bits (these ones!). I basically just combined two bits to get the shape I needed. The first made the rounded edge, and the second cut a groove. Once it was all done and sanded, it looked pretty legit.

molding2

That little trim piece in the middle was just a stock piece I found at Lowe’s. I wish it was just a little more substantial and interesting, but it’s good enough. I can’t have EVERYTHING.

sillinstal

I’ll spare you all of the nitty gritty, but basically I wanted to install the sill first. This involved cutting down the stair tread, routing out part of the bottom, cutting away the sides, and using my router to chamfer the outer edges. Pretty fancy stuff. Then I installed it very level, using my handy level and lots of shimming magic. Then I installed everything else. It was relatively fun and relatively fast.

windowmolding

And there it is! I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but once it’s caulked up and painted, I think it’s going to be gooooood. I’m so happy with how it came out, and while the window itself is still crooked, the level casing really does completely distract from it in real life.

glamorshot

Glamor shot of the corner, just because it looks so damn profesh.

apron

If you’re very observant, you might note that the apron on this window is quite a bit longer than the one on the original window upstairs. I originally made an apron that small but it looked silly, so I pried it off and just eyeballed the proportions. I chamfered the outer edges with my router, like the original apron, and it looks…really good. It’s the little things!

So woodworking is fun and exciting and the window victory made me feel like I wanted to work more wood. I started to get all ambitious and stuff.

doormoldinginside

Part of the fun of this room is that at some point, the previous owner drywalled right over the original plaster and didn’t remove the door casing—meaning that the edge of this casing was basically flush with the drywall. It wasn’t a great look, but it would be an especially BAD look once I started tiling the walls. Additionally, I had ideas about the doorway. What if we added a door?

door

This door. I found it in the basement. It was covered in spiders. I braved spiders for this door.

I like this door because aside from being free, it has a big glass panel cut-out (no glass, though…so we’ll have to get something cut), which will still allow plenty of light to get through from the laundry room window into the kitchen but will still help the rooms feel like two separate places. The plan is to hang this door to swing in both directions (using this business from House of Antique Hardware).

This door is smaller than the opening between the kitchen and the laundry room. Rather than try to enlarge the door, I decided that the doorway between the two rooms was sort of big anyway and it made more sense to enclose it a little bit, thereby increasing the space for the machines.

Yeah. I made a doorway smaller. I’m so counterculture.

kitchenprogress

To do this, I had to pry off the molding on the inside of the laundry room (salvaged) and on the outside in the kitchen (plain new 1×6, not cute, not old). This was fun and exciting because the kitchen is basically renovated and nice and here I am destroying it again. WHY NOT, RIGHT?

doorwayshrinkage

Then I added some pieces of wood to the inside of the jamb to make it smaller, like so. The right side lost .75″, the top lost 1.5″, and the left side lost 1.75″. Nothing too drastic, but now the door should fit AND the slightly smaller proportions of the doorway fit the kitchen better. I’m happy with it.

Then I just milled myself a TON more wood, just like for the window but on a larger scale. I made door frames. I made baseboards. I made a LOT of sawdust.

doorframe

Here’s basically what the door frame looks like, but I still have to attach that middle piece of fancy trim molding to make it complete. Then patch, caulk, prime, and paint!

baseboards

Here’s the deal with the baseboards. It’s a subtle difference from plain 1×6 boards, but I really think it makes a big difference in this case. The gap between the tile and the baseboard will get caulked and everything will get patched and painted.

Here’s an idea of how it all kind of looks together! I think it was SO SO WORTH IT to take the extra time to really sort out the millwork situation in here before just slapping up the tile. Adding back some architectural detail to this space with moldings that look like part of the house is what’s going to really make it feel special and nice when it’s all done, and it makes me happy to make this room feel like it belongs.

Patching up the kitchen side of the doorway is a little more involved since I’m working around existing cabinets and tile and it entails some creative patchwork, but it’s going to look way better than it did before when it’s all finished.

It’s getting close! Next up is grout, caulk, paint, and some finishing details I’m pretty excited about, but right now we’re just THRILLED to have a working laundry set-up, even in a half-finished room. We’ve basically been washing things non-stop for days and it’s bliss.

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

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