Starting in the Middle

Some years back – 5… 6… 7… ??? – a comment from a friend started a dream growing in my mind. One end of our family room had what we always called “the nook” – a recessed area which housed the TV that we turn on once every year or two. The area had really started to bother me, as it felt a bit like a shrine to something that we didn’t even hold in high esteem, and the area around our tiny set had turned into a somewhat unsightly storage area for our substantial media library – the largest portion of which was music. I’d been at a loss for many years as to how to store all this modern paraphernalia in a way that wasn’t such a major eyesore in our Victorian home. Enter Norm… While trying to help me decipher what might have been the original architecture in our rather obviously rearranged downstairs, he tapped on the plastic wood wall of the nook and commented that it sounded to him as if we had a lot of good storage space going to waste.

I took that comment and ran with it! In no time, I’d sketched out a concept that removed the much hated paneling and turned the hidden areas into cupboards. Then I added bi-fold doors and more custom built storage in the current nook to my design, and I was giddy with excitement and enthusiasm for the project. Not only would it resolve storage problems and dispose of two big, ugly monsters, but it would be like pulling a cork out of a bottle to help with some other difficult situations in the house. Before long, I’d arranged a loan and had a contractor coming to quote framing in the area for me. Then I got cut off at the pass. DH decided that he was going to do the job. This would save me a lot of money, but it also meant that it was going to be a long time coming.

Eventually I will find the starting date. I know it’s been at least 3 years now, and possibly longer. The project went swimmingly well in the beginning, but then ground to a halt. In fact, it hadn’t been touched for two and a half years – until today…

About two or three weeks ago, DH nearly gave me a heart attack by announcing that he was taking a week off work in May to finish the nook. Despite the fact that this threw a huge monkey wrench in my own rather major plans for May and June, I’m no fool. ;o) However, in the many months since the last happening in there, I started using the space. (In this house, empty space isn’t a luxury I can afford right now.) In order to have enough elbow room to work in the nook at all, some major excavating was required, and we spent quite a few hours over the past few weeks doing just that, only Tuesday night getting to the point that work could start Wednesday – the first day he had off. (Translation – still more digging to do…)

Here’s somewhat of an idea as to what has happened, since the real beginning pix are on the old computer. (Click to enlarge.)

Click to enlarge

When we started, this area was covered in paneling on the front and lining the recessed area, which was just slightly larger than the area you see open in the photo. We resized the opening just a bit to fit the available bi-fold doors. When we removed the paneling, we discovered that this had been a walk through to what is now my sewing room, and there had once been closet shelves on each side of the passage. It’s impossible to know which incarnation of the house that would have actually been, but it was a fascinating discovery.

In addition to reframing the center area, the upper portion has now been built in and floored with half inch plywood, and the old recessed light was removed. I painted as we went, so the ceiling and walls in the top cupboard and all other areas that are now enclosed and inaccessible are properly painted. We got walls up to partition the side cupboards from the center space, and lined everything with wood that will be primed, texturized to match the rest of the room, and painted. Only the areas inside the smaller cupboards are done to that level at this point.

Okay, now we are to day one of this construction period… aka, making lemonade out of lemons. The side cupboards had been designated as storage areas for the audio/visual library. Facing the nook, the left side was great – huge gaping emptiness. The right side made me cry! Although it had sounded hollow, we discovered that in the original house, there had been a wall – most likely an outer wall – that came in and turned a corner, ending hidden behind the paneling. Although open in the back, it comes across about two thirds of the front of the opening and is about 8″ thick.

In the matter of a heartbeat, I lost half of my storage drawers, and I have to say that was pretty devastating. We’ve recouped as much as possible by building in an open shelving area accessible from the main cupboard, and the side cupboard will still be able to hold a few movies on top and either TV trays or folding chairs in the bottom – not the same, but at least not a complete waste. Sadly, the brick wasn’t nice enough to leave exposed, and it would have chewed our knuckles and anything else we tried to slide in there, so today DH did some pretty tricky cutting around all the lumps and bumps of existing construction and old bricks to make a sheath for the old wall. I thoroughly sanded and primed both sides of the two pieces, and he installed it tonight and puttied the screwholes, which will need to be sanded and primed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, while he was out cutting, I realized that if I wanted an easy job of painting the ceiling in that area, I’d be best off doing it before there was woodwork to worry about not splashing, so I forced my poor knees up the ladder and brush-painted a three foot wide swath the full width of the room – an activity I’m paying for dearly tonight! My painting muscles are most definitely out of shape, and I can hardly move! I was most distressed when I put this picture on the computer. Nothing like the good, clear light of a flash to reveal what the incandescent bulb doesn’t. Obviously I have more time on a ladder in my near future. You can compare old and new ceiling if you look at the unpainted area in the lower right hand side of the photo.

The new ceiling paint is actually a nice sage green. Odd as it seems, it looks white once the walls are painted the correct color – a trick I learned from Christopher Lowell and use in all my rooms. It helps the light show evenly throughout the room instead of glaring off the ceiling unnaturally, and it really looks fantastic.

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Published in: on May 22, 2008 at 10:05 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good luck with the Project! I can sympathize with the “doing it himself” syndrome. In our case, it usually means that he will get tied up working on other people’s stuff, while ours goes on hold.

  2. Thanks! Despite my excitement over the possibilities of progress, I need all the sympathy/support I can get! There is no way this will be done in a week’s time, but if I can keep it moving, there’s some hope for “eventually.” Problem here is that it’s not something he really enjoys. Sounds like you have more of the “shoemaker’s children” challenge… Perhaps I should wish you “progress” as well?


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