February 16: The Winter Golds

So first there was the holidays, and then I missed the house’s one-year anniversary, and then there was a bunch of stomping around and muttering about snow and ice, and what with one thing and another it’s just been a really long time.

Nothing dramatic has happened, mind you. Some weeks nothing happened, really. Others, I spent a bunch of time scraping paint.

this is in my future bedroom upstairs. The vaguely map of europe shape is a complete accident, I was just working on what was easy/ready to come loose and this turned out to be it? Weird.

This is a task I find deeply satisfying when I’m doing it horizontally on sawhorses or vertically on a wall, and very painful when I’m doing it on a ladder with my neck bent back to work on the ceiling, but either way isn’t really super photogenic. That said, it’s now been over two months since I last wrote, so let’s try to sum up the interim, hmmm?

(1) I more or less built a kitchen cabinet

This was a very interesting exercise. It definitely came out better than my previous cabinet building attempts, and it’s more or less functional, even. I hired my neighbor to build and install the central drawer stack (in retrospect, if I’d bought a table saw a few weeks earlier, I would’ve just done that myself, but at the time, hiring out made sense.) I still don’t know how to make something perfectly square and level, so everything is just a bit off and I definitely spent an evening crying irrationally about it, but I don’t think it looks much worse than if it had been sitting around in a settling house for a hundred years or so. Here’s a few more pictures with the drawers (minus their fronts) and a visiting poodle:

And also the cool mixer lift! I installed that myself. Passing over in silence the part where I first installed it upside down, it wasn’t actually hard to do, and it’s just pretty awesome.

In that last picture, taken pre-drawers, you can see more or less the new kitchen wall layout. This is how it’s going to stay for at least the next six months. I’m not convinced it’s final — I have accepted I am a tinkerer — but I’m committed to living with it for a while before I make any further decisions. It’s totally functional as it is right now.

(2) The downstairs bedroom closet acquired its built-in shelves.

It’s so hard to see what’s going on. Let’s try an overhead layout.

That purple thing in the middle there shows where I extended the bedroom closet into the area behind the fridge. The shelves are 12″ deep and my other neighbor built them for me. They came out great! I put a couple coats of combined poly-stain on the plywood and also edge-banded them so they look a little bit less like plywood. I still have some finishing work to do in that closet (unbelievable amounts of work have gone into it. It’s a closet. But there are so many angles and odd spots that needed filling) but for now, it’s fine. (Are you sensing a theme?) I put a bunch of my clothing on the shelves and also stacked five or six quilts that we cleaned out of my parents’ house, all of which are eventually headed upstairs when those bedrooms come online, but this is a good place for them for now.

(3) I demoed more of the basement.

When I bought it the whole basement ceiling had been covered in ratty, slightly moldy, very thin ply.

One of the first things we did was pull most of it down, but the part that was above the big ledge was hard to get to; you can kinda see in that photo that they’d built a whole structure for cabinet doors along the ledge. I didn’t really think about it at all until suddenly in December I had to get up there to look the gas line and lo and behold there was a bunch of, well, ratty, slightly moldy thin ply, anchored by assorted ratty, slightly moldy 1×2 that was nailed to the joists and to a…sill plate, I guess? Whatever, a ratty, slightly moldy board that ran across the bottom of the ledge. Once I realized it was there it was grossing me out and it just had to go, so I got my serious demo gear on and pried/sawed it all out at a time that I had a small dumpster in the yard. It was disgusting, but felt great to get it out. Er, right up to the moment when I decided to make one last cut to pull out a bit of wood right near a tangle of piping and wiring under the kitchen sink and naturally went too far and clipped a bit of the PEX pipe.

Fortunately, the water shutoff is also in the basement, so I ran over and turned it off and there wasn’t time for too much water to get everywhere. Then I texted everyone I know and someone eventually was able to come over and fix it. This was necessary both because it was Sunday afternoon and a real plumber would have been cost prohibitive, and because I could not possibly have looked a real plumber in the eye and admitted what I’d done. And fixing this kind of thing is actually not hard at all if you have the correct tools; I don’t or even I could have DIYed it, and I’m definitely scared of plumbing.

(4) I started clearing out and then working on the dining room/de facto woodshop

This is actually the first “new” room I’ve started in the house. The entire first year was occupied with exterior projects and with the mudroom-kitchen-bathroom-bedroom block, all of which I was working on simultaneously. Meanwhile the living room, dining room, and foyer collected miscellaneous supplies, wood, tools, etc, and especially once it got too cold to work outside I set up sawhorses in the dining room for various scraping and painting projects, like shellacking the doors. Oh btw! Eric finally got the doors hung! It took like six weeks even after I finally finished the shellac process because we kept trying to hang them and realizing we weren’t ready — I didn’t have the hardware quite together, I didn’t have a chisel, wood filler wasn’t dry…this went on forever. And as a matter of fact like the kitchen and the closet the doors are still not 100%; I’m missing bits of hardware for three of the four. But WHATEVER, they look fantastic even not quite all the the way there.

So anyway, back to the dining room, I hadn’t touched it. It still had little pawprints under one window from the previous tenant.

So, clearing it out took most of a weekend. Just tons and tons of stuff, including stacks of trim and plywood. But it’s starting to come along now. I had a little labor party for my birthday at the end of January; several friends and I cleaned up a bunch of old beadboard I’d acquired off fb marketplace and Charity installed it. Of course, it’s not enough to get all the way around the room, but it’s gorgeous and I love it, especially that it turned out once the old finish was off to be at least two different kinds of wood. The variation is so cool. There’s no particular rush, so I’m going to keep an eye out for matching vintage stuff to finish the room, but if I don’t find any I’ll mill some new stuff out of oak eventually. It’s a really simple profile, I think even I could do it with a router, but if it turns out I can’t I can hire it out.

Next steps include buying chair rail and picture molding (also trying to source vintage but open to other options) and…choosing wallpaper.

This was the original set of samples I ordered. The birds and flowers (two versions, in white and green) are gorgeous, but they turned out in person to be out of scale for the room. The bees were too country. I still have the other five on the wall, but I’m leaning towards the white one with the delicate spray pattern. It’s got more texture than you can see in the photo, with a cross-hatched background, and I think it’ll be a little easier than the others to work with — less dominant, so more room for other stuff to be happening in the room. But I still might go with the one on the bottom there — the white/silver/gold. There’s part of me that thinks if I’m doing wallpaper at all, I really should just go with a strong pattern, and I think that would go really nicely with the dining room table and chairs I have. I think either will serve my main goal, which is to have something with some shimmer that candles can bounce off of.

The same weekend the beadboard went up, we heaved the built-in into place. This is a salvage piece and it’s a bit rough, but I figured I could work on it later, and for now I needed it out of the living room where it was really starting to get in the way.

(5) I did some planning for what the next few months will look like. Last year was a lot of big house systems. 80% of the electricity, 70% of the plumbing, 100% of the HVAC, the entire roof, the entire foundation…. This year’s projects are all smaller, but important. There are some critical exterior projects (soffit repair and paint, gutters, exterior window repair, storm windows) that have to be done when the weather breaks. Inside, there’s framing to do upstairs, and also, I’m going to have the staircase rebuilt using mostly pieces I salvaged in the fall. Therefore, I kept an eye out on fb marketplace to source what I was missing, and on my way to see my family for Christmas, I took a detour to see a man about a newel post.

My traveling companion was not impressed, but I like it! I’m not sure how much I should worry about it being a different wood/finish than the rest of the staircase. I have two options there — either lean into the difference, or I guess strip the newel post and refinish it to look more like the rest.

And that’s it! Or actually that’s not it, because after I finally edited those photos a few days ago another big project got underway, but this is long enough and I’m just hitting post.

Published by Catherine R. Osborne

Historian, theologian, editor.

2 thoughts on “February 16: The Winter Golds

  1. You’ve been making progress! The beadboard is absolutely gorgeous. Are you planning to slowly find more over time or are you just doing an accent wall? Are you going to keep them bare or wood colored or paint them? “I’m leaning towards the white one with the delicate spray pattern.” Before even reading this statement, I thought this was the best choice. Wallpaper is always a commitment, and while it can be beautiful, I never think it should play the starring role. I think that makes it too easy to become tired of it over time. I think the white with the delicate spray is enough to be noticed and is like “hey, I’m here and I’m pretty” without saying “Look at me!”

    I feel like you should have given the traveling companion in the fur suit and pink sweater more word time. They are gorgeous and we don’t even get a name lol


    1. Her name is Tory 🙂 She belongs to my former housemates, but they couldn’t take her with them for Christmas so I got a week with her. I miss living with her a lot (and our other dog, who died last year) so it was nice to get some time, even though I put her through hell what with having to share a car seat with a newel post, stay with a strange dog and toddler over the holiday, and then humiliate her with photos of her in a drawer, lol.

      The beadboard — so this stuff is vintage, I got it out of someone’s garage, and I really had no idea how much I had until we put it up. Turned out it wasn’t enough to do the two walls I thought was the minimum. I did have some ideas for finishing the other bits of dining room wall if I’d had enough for the first two, but since I don’t, I’m going to source more. I’m not sure if I can get more vintage stuff to match this, but if I can’t, it’s not a complex profile and it can be milled out of white oak pretty easily. It’ll be a low priority though since it doesn’t matter to the functionality of the room, so probably sometime next year before it’s done (unless I find more on fb marketplace in the meantime). I’m trying to do as much as I can this year to get the walls and ceilings of all the rooms pulled together, and then I can circle back around and do these kinds of finishing touches later.


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