Tuesday, January 20, 2015

the butler's pantry

As I mentioned last week, part of what's filling up the trash bags in the entry is the butler's pantry.  While it's not a small space, it has been a cluttered catch all since we've lived here.  First it housed all of our moving boxes and both cats while the house was in its dangerous uninhabitable stage, and it has morphed into storage of our salvaged built-ins, tools, vacuums etc...  Not pretty.  Not useful...

Oddly the only picture I could find -
note the presence of the rad, and the damn boarded window

Now while I would never harm an original space or floor plan, there was abundant evidence that nothing about the space was original.  We know the space itself was added along with the kitchen wing before 1895.  One wall was old plaster board with a skim coat of plaster, and there were shadow marks and cut moldings in both the hallway and kitchen from where doorways used to exist.

It's possible/likely that those two doorways once led to servant's stairs - a theory supported somewhat by framing and the odd seam in the floor, but nothing definitive.  Once the kitchen doorway was decommissioned and closed the space almost certainly housed an icebox - as evidenced by the extensive rot in that section of floor and nowhere else.  After we reopened the doorway there was room for our fridge to sit in the space (although we still need to frame in the back where it protrudes into the pantry).

Before we bought the house.
Note the "inspirational" kitchen photo taped to the built-in.
my nostrils are obviously photoworthy

You can see the original dark green paint revealed after scraping layers of paint and 60's vinyl shelf liner off the walls, on the left you can see the new fridge peeking out.  

The demo stalled after doing what was necessary for fitting in a fridge (two years ago), but the house was so clean and orderly after the holidays, I had to do something to cope!  So I took down the offending hallway wall...


 The demo was straightforward, and I was lucky enough to find these wallpaper fragments in the debris between the walls, dating to when the original plaster in the pantry was demoed.  Please folks, do your own demo, and take the time to go through the debris, it's worth it...

While the doorway was exactly where I expected it to be (on the left), the rest of the framing had me befuddled. 

The walls were doubled, and there were what seemed to be arbitrary pieces of wood tacked on here and there, with some horizontal pieces thrown in for good measure.  The reused framing lumber (identified by the existence of plaster lines where there shouldn't be) further confused the matter.  I did eventually figure it out though, the answer?  Pocket door...  At some point this wall was built with scrap lumber, and a homemade track and stop.  The soft-close stop was what really had me confused - it consisted of a short angled chunk of wood with an old floorboard tacked to it.  The floorboard had just enough length to bend when something hit it.  

Naturally this throws a wrench in my plans, so further work is on hold until we figure out if this monstrosity stays or goes...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

revisiting the basement

Everyone's been posting resolution type posts as of late, and I'm pleased to report we've already fulfilled all of ours.  You see, after the miserable year we had we vowed to begin our year the day we brought Maugrim home.  The day before Thanksgiving seemed as good a day as any to start fresh, and so far, so good.

leave it to the malamute to find the coldest spot in an already cold house...

That said, after several spectacularly fun get-togethers, the restoration ball is once again rolling (or at least picking up speed).  No sooner did the decorations come down and the tree get dragged to the curb than Mount Trashmore was resurrected in it's corner (to the delight of the puppy), made up of equal parts basement and butler's pantry.  The basement has been near impassible for close to a year, so some attention was long overdue.  While there's not much I can do about my ballooning collection of rusty light fixtures until the third floor's finished, much of what was down there were simply things that needed to be sorted into bins after coming home with us from estate sales and demolitions, and their various cardboard boxes thrown away.

and this is only one basement room of four...

We bought some racks to store our salvaged trim, so once I finish demolishing the "keep out" room, those will go up and we'll be in much better shape down there.  Our pile of doors also finally moved under the stairs where they'll be safely out of the way, unblocking an original basement door that has never been accessible since the first time we looked at the house.  There's also a bike, antique sofa and antique fireplace insert that need to be craigslisted.

two sets of salvaged vestibule doors,
just waiting for the magic day we start the porch

It's easy to forget this began as a fully finished basement -
the Bennington doorknobs are a nice reminder however

I'm still finding odds and ends down there, including the veneer face to what I guess was an antique radio, an antique drying rack (after looking for one to buy since starting the laundry room 3 years ago), and one of the original cistern spigots.  The spigot is embarrassing.  We've been wondering where it might have been since buying the house, as it turns out it was in the middle of everything, winterized under a a box stuffed with insulation.

There are a number of other things in the works, so I just need to get back in the habit of writing.  More to come, hope you all had a lovely New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2014


 Given my long absence, today will be a bit of a photo dump.  I noticed that my stats actually went up in the last week, so I'm assuming people were checking in on me, and that a failure to post would result in a search party appearing on my doorstep.

The reason for my disappearance (other than a very needy puppy); the tedium of painting our plaster moldings in the current entry room (future library).  Given that our moldings are quite simple, I was shocked at how impossibly long they took to paint.  The cove seems to have been gilded and wallpapered in its past lives, and currently sports a thick uneven coat of joint compound and white paint.  While I know it should have been fully scraped, I just didn't have it in me, especially given that there is a layer of drywall over the original plaster ceiling.  The drywall was extremely well done, and we'll most likely leave it alone until we're ready to do the final restoration of the room - rebuilding the lost built-ins and wallpapering.  I'm hopeful that the drywall is hiding original wallpaper or stenciling, and as long as I believe that, the drywall doesn't stand a chance of surviving us finishing this space.  For now, several coats of gold paint are in the cove, with a brick red picking out some of the bullnosed sections, and the ceiling has been painted a pale gloss gold.

The scaffolding remained a feature of the room longer than I care to admit as I figured out one unassailable truth - decorating a 10 1/2 foot Christmas tree becomes infinitely easier when one has jolly yellow scaffolding to do it from.

In other news, this is the most perfect tree that has ever been grown, and I don't know that we'll ever find it's equal...  Also, in just a couple of weeks our dear little Maugrim has doubled in size (now 30 pounds, and taller than I'd care to admit).  At this rate of exponential growth I fear for the future of the planet, as such growth must be some sort of Grey Goo scenario.


And for the rest, let me present: Christmas decorations, part of a huge parlor set we recently obtained, the enormous framed antique photo of our house that we've been waiting to hang for almost 3 years, and the finished painted crown (and partially finished woodwork).



And while I had fully intended to take photos of our Hanukkah party (actually HAMukkah, because we just can't find it in ourselves to ever be normal), we had too much fun to bother with pictures.  Our lonely menorah is all that remains...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

another furry assistant

Our dog deficit has now been corrected.

Meet Maugrim (named after the wolf in Narnia, which I think makes me the White Witch around here).  He's a giant woolly malamute, and should serve not only to alleviate my desire for a pony, but should also generate enough warmth that we can turn the thermostat down a few degrees.

We had looked into breed rescues, but no one would consider a household with cats and a smaller dog given mal's high prey drives and size.  The breeder we bought him from coordinates rehoming malamutes, and we had originally fallen in love with one of those dogs - but his owners then decided to keep him.  That left us pretty broken up, and when I saw the breeder had a litter, well, getting a puppy became inevitable.

Maybe obtaining a puppy from such a locale was a poor decision.
 Once I catch up on sleep I promise I'll update you all on house stuff, maybe I'll even throw in something festive for good measure.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

schoolhouse odds and ends

I'm neck deep in stripping woodwork, and since I have nothing revolutionary to add as far as the process goes, I haven't felt much like blogging.  Luckily, as much as I feel like I've dropped the ball productivity wise, our carpenter had a few days to help us out.  On the agenda was installing the water table on the schoolhouse, slating the belltower, and modifying the sills and jambs on the schoolhouse windows.

The water table was made out of 10 x 1 1/2 Azek trim.  We chose the Azek since it will be resting on the concrete piers, pressed up against the 3x14 antique warehouse beams we used as our sill.  This way the sill won't be absorbing any water that could compromise the building.  To build the water table we cut three inches off at 10 degrees, then ran the other edge of the three inch piece through again at 10 degrees (then glued them up together). We went a few steps further, treating the sills and studs with tim-bor, a borate preservative that will protect against rot, carpenter ants and termites, and flashing both the top and bottom of the Azek.  The flashing was a bit of a wasted effort however, since it was only after the fact that I learned you can't use aluminum against concrete (or treated lumber), as it will corrode.  This is where it pays to do your research, as even our carpenter was unaware...

I can forgive the flashing snafu when this was all that was left of the Azek
Only available in very expensive 20 foot lengths, I didn't want to buy a fifth board

On a happier note, the slates on the cupola were almost entirely ones that had been culled from rebuilding our roof.  They had various issues including the beginnings of rot, chips and cracks - but the area is small and steep enough that the rotted slates should still have decades of life, and the chipped sections could be cut off.  This way I don't feel any guilt about using our good slates that we're saving for the front of the kitchen roof.  It looks great, although I can't tell you why I didn't take a picture of the finished roof.