The Office

I know you’ve been wondering where I’ve been.  While I’d like to offer some excuse, I’d rather brag blog about our latest home improvement project!

[Insert loud applause]

Thank you, thank you.  Now.  To recap.  My husband & I bought ye olde village manse 10 months ago.  Maaaaaaany people had looked at this house before us, but turned tail & fled when they realized the amount of work it would require to maintain, let alone restore.  My husband & I (dreamers through & through) saw a shining gem of a colonial that with much polishing & SWEAT EQUITY could be Home (capital H).

When we moved in 10 months ago – and that alone is hard to believe, this was our office.

Okay. technically it wasn’t our office yet.  Although it may look spectacular in the photo (if you are standing reeeeeeaaaallly far away and squinting a lot), our office needed HELP (capital H).  For starters, it lacked a real floor.  Also the walls needed finishing and the original paneling and columns framing the fireplace needed attention.  Plus those curtains had to GO.  But you know what?  Once those curtains came down, the light came in even better than it had before.  Sure it made the room look even worse, but that only propelled us to complete our task more quickly.

So fast forward 10 months.  My husband and I – once we’d finished lining the chimney, installing a wood stove, tiling two bathrooms, renovating our dining room and after that, kitchen, cleaning out the basement and tackling the garden outside – we GOT TO WORK!  And lucky for us – we had just the right combination of craziness, vision, and tools necessary to complete the job.  Well, mostly just insanity and a few tools.  But we needed more.  Like flooring.  Good thing we’d invested in stunning, wide white pine from Carlisle wwaaaaaayy back in the fall, before all that OTHER work began.  (B/c we’d run out of money shortly thereafter.)  BUT Those floors were worth every penny! (*wink*)

So where was I?  Oh yes.  Many saner individuals had taken a look at this task and run away.  Whereas my husband & I tightened our belts even further and took that first step towards NEW OFFICE.  And I am so glad!  B/c now I am sitting in my beautiful new office, writing this post, while also reading a book AND simultaneously playing the piano!!  Rather than bore you w/ more details of HOW WE DID IT, I am just going to SHOW YOU.  Before & After pics speak a thousand words, and frankly, I deserve a rest.  Seriously.

And here it is today, June 26th.  Office Sweet Office.

The Birth of a Dining Room

Ask any parent.  Once you have a baby, your life is not your own.  As a mother, I understand this.  And as a homeowner, I understand it all the more.

Five months ago, my husband & I adopted a baby.  His name is The Dole House.  And although 250 years old, he is every bit a clapboard clad toddler w/a perpetually leaky diaper.  He whines, he cries.  He begs to be changed.  And much like our other babies, he has taken everything we’ve had to give and more.  When we first moved in, I felt as if I’d been swallowed whole, and now, five months later, I am still being digested.   Like parenthood, the process of restoring and updating such an old house is time intensive, financially draining, emotionally wrenching and physically demanding.  It has consumed us completely, often to the point of near exhaustion.  But, on occasion, much like parenthood, the moments of gut-busting angst give way to feelings of great accomplishment.  Like now.  As I present our new Dining Room.

August 28th, we adopted The Dole House.  Our (to be) dining room had only partial walls & plywood floors.  We were in equal parts excited and overwhelmed.

Work began in early November.  Down came the old drywall.

Unfortunately, 2 other projects took precedence at this point.  Re-tiling our upstairs bath (so we wouldn’t fall through the floor) and then lining our chimney & installing our wood stove.  Work resumed December 6th, and up went the new drywall.  FINALLY!

Joint compound is applied to cover all the cracks.

Then sand and paint.

My husband had to rebuild all of the casings around the windows.  He took special pains to insulate the walls thoroughly, and after installation, he caulked every gap.

Next we installed a multi-piece chair rail around the perimeter of the room.

We had to rebuild a mantel casing around the fireplace, again using multiple pieces of mill work.

We also at this point installed crown molding.  Which I did NOT document b/c of the agony involved.  Suffice it to say, if you know what coping is, then you KNOW WHAT COPING IS!

Next, we installed a new light fixture.

We painted,

and then painted again.

In between this we ate lots of smiley face sandwiches. B/c encouragement comes in many forms.

Next up, the floor.  In October we’d invested in wide plank flooring from Carlisle.  9 to 17 inches, white pine.  The boards had been stacked and acclimating to the humidity level in the adjacent unfinished room.

Before installation, my husband leveled the plywood floor.  Basically by jacking it up in several spots from the basement below.  In order to know where to nail, we had to mark the beams.  We did this by drilling small holes through the beams as guides, from which we marked chalk lines across the floor.  Then, board by board, we laid our new floor.

We’d purchased reproduction colonial face nails from Carlisle

which I couldn’t help but play with.  NOTE: in addition to great season’s greetings, they also made a superb jingle bell noise when shaken in my pocket.

As well as using the face nails, we also blind nailed the groove side of each board for stability. (Proof I did some work too.)

Finally the floor was IN.

Now onto staining and sealing.  Which we’d decided to do ourselves in order to save $$$.  Here is my husband in his boxers.  You do not get a picture of me in my underwear.

We finished staining and sealing the floor (I kid you not) two days before Christmas.  My family arrived the very next day (Christmas eve) for a 2 week stay.  To say we were stretched beyond our limits would be putting it mildly.  A normal Christmas would see me baking umpteen dozen cookies.  Sending cards.  Wrapping (and buying) elaborate gifts.  This year I baked NOTHING.  Sent zero cards.  And the modest presents I did give were wrapped at the last imaginable minute.  It was a strange holiday. But I am proud to say THAT YES!! We ate Christmas dinner in our NEW DINING ROOM.  All else be damned!

Over holiday break, my husband installed the door casings and then finally the floor base molding.

Which I then had to PAINT (again w/ the painting).  Here is the room today.  January 25, 2010.  D-O-N-E. Thank GOD ALMIGHTY!

This sketch of the house was my Christmas present to my husband.  It was done by an artist we knew in Philly and I actually commissioned it waaay back in August – before we even bought the house.  I found the frame in the attic after we moved in.  The table you see in the photos is a re-purposed work bench we’d previously had in our basement.  I bought the green chairs from an antiques store here in Portland.  And we found the benches on Craigslist.  They’re church pews from a convent in southern Maine that’s being sold.

Isn’t it amazing how pieces just fall into place?

As you can see in this last pic, there are STILL more remaining boards.  That’s b/c have another room to finish.

Up next?  The room across the hall.  Our (soon to be) office.  Stay tuned!