Let’s talk about the next room in this riveting limited series where we tour every room in my house, 7 years into the renovation. Today—the dining room!
One of the several reasons I fell in love with this house was all of the natural light flooding in from the many large old windows, but the dining room was an exception. A large (old, but heavily altered) addition blocked a lot of light from that window in the photo above, and the same addition had resulted in the loss of one of the three original windows that would have created the bay window (you’ll see in a sec). So I’ve tried to fix all that, and now it’s as light and bright as the rest of the house!
Otherwise, this room experienced a similar renovation to the living room that I talked about last time, with a few added twists and turns. Like the living room, this one had 1960s acoustic tile ceilings on furring strips over the original failing plaster that all got replaced with new sheetrock, exposed radiator lines I had re-routed and buried in walls and ceilings in the course of the work, and some super wild walls!
A bit better, yes? The amount of light that comes in through that window now makes me SO happy. The window itself desperately needs to be restored (broken sash cords, a couple cracked panes, failing glazing—same story, different window), but I’ll get to it!
That door where the hutch is sitting now wasn’t original to the house—added in the 1930s when the house became apartments for the first time. Had I known there would be a hulking piece of furniture there I might have just left it, but I removed and patched over the hole left behind to restore the way the room was originally designed.
Still to do: REAL SHADES. I struggle with window treatments in this house, since the moldings are so beautiful and I don’t like the idea of curtains obscuring them! I also need privacy, and I also will whither and die without natural light, so solar shades have been my answer. Those suckers add up, though, so I’ve bought them rather slowly over time and just…haven’t for this room. So the four windows in here sport temporary paper Redi-Shades and they look very very bad (and actually block more light than the solar shades do).
I mean, how could I not fall in love with this house? Just look at it! This photo always reminds me of how I felt at the time—so smitten, so scared of losing it to somebody who wouldn’t love it like I would, and so overwhelmed by how fucking insane it was to even be considering buying a house given my finances and general place in life. But we all survived!
Like every other room in the house, this one has had its share of iterations but here’s how it looks nowadays! One of the big changes in here was moving the radiator to this wall between the doors (living room on the right, closet on the left). The radiator itself was swapped in from its original location in the hallway. If you look at the before photo, you can see how the baseboard was patched in—I’m pretty sure this indicates a fireplace mantel on this wall originally, which I’m sure was very beautiful!
Still to do: paint that radiator! The existing silver paint is in OK condition, which I guess is why I haven’t done it yet. It’ll happen eventually! The spirit recently moved me to level it out—it always sloped down a little toward the right and bugged me. The thing weighs 10,000 pounds but I somehow managed it myself with a lot of grunting and cursing. A quarter inch makes a huge difference!
Man, the floors have always needed refinishing, but looking at the photos makes me realize how much worse they’ve gotten in the last 7 years. They’ve taken a BEATING during the renovations. The whole room has, really—at various times it’s served as a storage/staging zone for renovating other parts of the house, and it was the temporary kitchen for…a year? Just to illustrate, above is back in 2013; judging by the debris in the living room, right after the vestibule demo.
By 2014, I had things looking like this. It was pretty nice!
Then 2016 blew in with its reign of terror while I tore off the whole side of my house and basically everything went to shit. Those were some really dark days of owning this house and also just being alive. I mean…that is not the home OR job site of somebody who is doing well in the brain. I was, in fact, doing very badly in the brain. I’m much better now, thank you for asking!
Anyway—some redemption? Here we are today. Funny how that stupid bench made its way back onto this wall recently—it was the living room coffee table for several years until a few weeks ago! Going through these old photos is sort of fun (and a tad alarming) to realize how much less stuff I had…but slowly accumulating things to make these spaces feel like home and like ME is, of course, something I like to do.
Still to do: a friend’s dog kind of destroyed the paint job on that door, and it really needs to be repainted. Part of my hang-up is that this was one of the first doors I painted, and it shows—my skills have developed significantly in the intervening years! I think this might be a case where I should really strip it down completely. I don’t think I even primed, so the black paint isn’t very well adhered, and the texture is all lumpy and bad anyhow. That being said, the whole room could really use a paint job. I’m kinda over the white-on-white, and it’s just seen a lot of abuse since I painted it the first time.
Ahhhhh, my beloved bay window. No earthly idea what to really DO with it other than fill it with plants someday, but it sure is pretty!
At some point early on, it hit me that there would have originally been windows on all three sides of the bay. One had been removed and replaced with a door when the addition was built off the side of the house, so putting one back was a big part of the restoration of that side of the house!
I did a really good job of replicating all of the VERY complex millwork on the outside, but inside? NOT SO MUCH. It still looks like this about 4 years after the window went in…my, how time flies. The hold-up is that I really need to have a couple of the molding profiles replicated to do it right, and that just hasn’t been especially high on the priority list.
It occurs to me that I should really throw up some sheetrock and just paint it white in the meantime, but I have a tendency to avoid stop-gap measures because…glutton for punishment? I think I have a little anxiety that if I did something like that, I’d just never circle back to it. But it would improve things significantly. I should definitely just do it. OK fine I’ll do it.
Still to do: what I just said, obviously, but I also haven’t dealt with the bay window area at ALL. I didn’t repaint it when I did the rest of the room, so all of the molding needs some serious TLC and a paint job.
I’m mostly posting this photo because Bungee couldn’t possibly be a more handsome dog, but I’ll pretend to talk about other stuff.
The art over the radiator I found in the trash back in my Brooklyn days. Some of my art is inherited, and a few pieces are kinda fancy, but I have no problem hanging them alongside stuff I pulled out of the literal garbage. It doesn’t matter where it came from if you love it!
I found the light fixture several years ago, but I’ve just been storing it since—ridiculous! So happy to finally have it up. I didn’t buy it for this space, but I really love it in here. It has TWENTY FOUR 10-watt bulbs, so it throws off a ton of light when it isn’t dimmed. Dimmed way down low, it’s super nice ambient light for cozy dinners. I think it may be a Sciolari design, but I’ve never been able to find this particular light anywhere online to confirm. Whatever!
I know “formal” dining rooms are a thing of the past for many people and houses, by the way, but I really love having one. Pretty much nothing in life makes me happier than when this table is full of friends enjoying food and conversation. Sigh. Someday that’ll be OK again.
I still love my big hutch, which I eyed at the now-closed clock repair shop in Uptown Kingston for a year or two before the guy finally sold it to me. It’s probably about the age of the house, holds a lot, and has such nice character! You may note that the inside is QUITE crowded. I blame the fact that the closet across the room is gutted—someday I’ll put up walls and shelves in there and have much better storage for serving ware and such, and then I can display stuff better in here. There’s a lot of good shit behind those glass doors! Soooo…
Still to do: finish out the dining room closet.
The lithographs hanging next to it are by Gregory Gummersall, and were inherited from my grandparents. They hung over the fireplace in the living room until recently, but I feel like they really solved this kinda awkward space created by the off-center hutch. I’ve never felt that wall was working very well, and having just one piece hanging always felt a little…off. So I’m happy with this arrangement!
The table is the now-discontinued NORDEN from IKEA. It expands out to comfortably seat 8-10, and I still think it’s a really nice piece of furniture! I intentionally sought out a used older model than what IKEA was selling at the time and eventually found it on Craigslist. A little thing I picked up at some point: after IKEA introduces a product, they tend to tweak it slightly over the years so that they can keep the price the same while the cost of goods rises, so the quality tends to go downhill over time as a result. This version of the NORDEN is 20+ years old, and that thing is solid as a rock and great quality. The wood and the finish on the later models isn’t as nice.
The chairs are vintage, and they’ve been with me my whole life! As far as I know, my grandparents bought them in the 50s (pretty cutting edge for the 1950s, right??) for the house my dad grew up in, and I think my parents inherited them in the 80s. They were always the dining chairs in our dining room growing up, much to the chagrin of my mother who has hated them the entire time. Sorry Mom! But also thank you for never getting around to replacing them, because I love them SO! MUCH!
Oh, this funny arrangement? IDK. I made the bench. The brass sculpture and the painting are both inherited from the same grandparents. The sculpture is from the 1970s by Nancy Gensburg and Arleen Eichengreen. The painting is by Daniel Lang circa 1970. The lamp is also from IKEA, also now discontinued. Which is a shame, because that thing is NICE! The base is solid cork and the glass is really beautiful in person.
I found the antique rug locally at an auction. I was SO EXCITED when I saw it at the auction preview and was prepared to have to part with some large bills to make it happen, but NOPE. $50! I’ll never forget the guy standing next to me leaning over and asking earnestly “I’m sorry, but why in the world did you buy that??”.
Some people just don’t get it. I simply cannot help them.
Anyway. It’s been in the den for several years but made it down here a few weeks ago. I love having it in this room!
Bungee also approves. Good boy!
What else. I don’t know. Pewter candlesticks are vintage from a thrift store. The wood dough bowl I found at some weird middle-of-nowhere antique mall somewhere in South Carolina, and it’s filled with various antique wooden kitchen tools. Also, an ostrich eggshell from that time i made a whole frittata with an ostrich egg I got at the farmer’s market. I know, WHAT a story.
I think that about does it! There are plenty of things left to do in here like every other room in the house, but especially after looking through the history I feel pretty good about being at this point!
Next up—the kitchen!