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...


  1. We only ever found three pieces of wallpaper in the old place ... nothing very exciting or anything I ever wanted to reproduce, but still interesting.

    God, every time I look at your photos, I shudder. I certainly wouldn't have the energy for that anymore. I'm debating about whether I can actually live with all white walls for the rest of my life! LOL

    1. Meanwhile, I can't begin to imagine supervising people while they build my dream house. When it comes to other people my personality vacillates between "get off my lawn" and "you're doing it wrong!"

      In your house at least, white walls fit the Gothic/Tudor aesthetic. Meanwhile, I'm 32 and still making up for not being allowed to paint my bedroom as a kid!

    2. Is that what causes this? Dad should have let me pick my own wallpaper!

    3. I can think of no other logical explanation!

  2. Don't know... I was allowed to start messing with tools when I was 6 (no, make that "start opening walls", I played with plugs, wires and screwdrivers at the age of 4) and I'm still a crazy renovator at 30.

    1. I was my dad's designated tool passer starting at three, but painting was mysteriously off-limits. I think my parents' house now may be the first they've had with any color on the walls.

  3. Interesting find. What would the pocket doors be between? They normally would be between formal dining and lounging areas. Have you ever found the doors in your collection of bits and pieces?

    1. The pocket door would have been between the back stairs, and kitchen hall, and was most likely a space saving measure. We likely have the door, but things on the first floor have been reconfigured so many times it'd be difficult to figure out which one it was. It's a moot point now though, the wall was gone the minute I confirmed the set up wasn't original!

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