Monday, May 5, 2014

Take a Load Off Fanny

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' about half past dead...

Go ahead, sing it. You know you want to. And this Monday morning although I am no where near Nazereth, I am feeling about a half past dead. We busted it this weekend. Why do you ask? Well, since I am feeling clever and listening to the classics as I type, let's take Carly Simon's advice this time and ask ourselves if the walls are going to come down. 

Yes, yes they are. One big fat load bearing wall and another one that doesn't bear near the weight of that first one. And in order for that to occur, we had to pack and move the living room, dining room, kitchen and office. So my muscles ache, my skin is dry from cardboard boxes, my Dyson has seen its share of dust/fur...BUT, I now have what I like to refer to as "the wall of wonder."

A refrigerator, a washer, a sink, a dryer and a stove. All on one wall. Methinks the amount of productivity on this wall blows my mind. You see, this is my temporary kitchen. 

And the irony is oh so great since it actually has more room and counter-top (read: plastic folding tables) space than my old kitchen. And I die over the exposed bricks. You cannot beat the beauty of an old house with a walk out basement. Thank you West Clover for being the best house ever.

So, phase 3 starts this week. This phase will be huge and the transformation out of control. I know I still haven't filled everyone in on the first 2 phases, but I promise that will come later. Maybe. When it is all said and done, I will have my very first ever "real" kitchen that I actually got to have a say in what went into it. That excites me and makes my armpits sweat at the same time. I will have a mudroom, finally (granted that room won't be finished completely for another few months) and I will have a kitchen/dining/sitting room that actually works and functions. I am so excited I am about to wet my pants. 

But, this is also bittersweet and I know some of you may get our your violins to play a pity song for me as I whine, but hear me out. I love an old house (if you are new here, you can catch up on my love affair of anything old here) and I am absolutely a lunatic when it comes to the architecture. And over the years I have become slightly unstable when it comes to anything "original" to a house. Which is why amongst all of the excitement of this renovation my heart is a bit heavy. Get the violin ready.

This giant wall right here (with the vacuum plugged in)...(view from front door)

(view from screened porch)

(view from back door)

 is about to come down. This is the heart of this house. It has borne the load of the house since the day it was built in 1938. This wall has witnessed everything that has ever happened in this house. The person that drew the plan for this house had this wall in mind. It was a necessity. It had to be there. And here I am, 76 years later making the choice to tear it out. Who do I think I am?

You see my friends, this right here is where my love of an old house rips my heart out. To most people this will sound so silly and trivial, but I firmly believe a house has a soul. It lives and breathes and watches families grow under its roof. It listens as we laugh and cry and love and lose. It protects us from the elements and it guards us from the world. And so I have spent some time mourning the loss of this wall. Completely and certifiably a nut case, I know. Point and laugh as you may, but I have a lump in my throat just typing about it. 

I have had some quiet moments with West Clover and explained that in its place will be a very, very large beam that I fully intend to wrap in reclaimed wood. While not original, it will be old wood coming to live another life in a house full of love. Where the wall stands now will be a massive island that will have 2 hooligan children sitting at it over the years doing homework, helping to cook and telling stories sharing giggles and some tears. There will be no loss of love even though there is no wall. In its place will be the most used area of the house. It will be loved times a thousand. I hope it is convinced. I think deep down this house knows I have good intentions. I think it is so happy to finally have a family here. I *think*. To me, this house is like a child and it amazes me how much more I love it with each and every day.

This wall (with microwave) will also be coming down. It is original as well, but for some reason it doesn't pull my heart strings as bad.

I also don't feel as sad tearing out this kitchen.

While this kitchen was the best possible to function in the space given, it wasn't original. My guess is that it was added at some point by someone who, like me, needed a bit more functionality as the times changed. That was one of the only changes made to this house in the years 1938 to 2012 when we bought it. Which was one of the major reasons I fell so hard for this place. All of the original charm was still there, waiting to be loved and appreciated.

So, by the end of next week those 2 walls will be gone. All of the plaster from them will be shattered and placed in a dumpster, sniff, sniff. The crown, picture molding and baseboards, however will be gently removed and placed in a safe pile to put back up after we tear down the ceilings and add insulation between the floors (yet another necessity that wasn't heard of at the time in 1938). I was adamant about leaving all of the plaster in place if possible, however  I realized that my contractor may commit me if I asked him to re-plaster the ceilings instead of drywall. So, I will be happy with all of the exteriors remaining plaster and difficult to hang photos. :) But I must say, I won't miss this beauty of a crack in ceiling.

So, there are places and things that I can let go of easily and be okay with...but then there are things I have a hard time being the person to say they need to go. Take for example my most fave floors in the house. These old, soft pine boards in the kitchen.

Good heavens I love those floors. But sadly, they are in very bad shape. They have suffered some water damage over the years and are buckling in some places and rotting in others. So, on a day hopefully once I have dried the tears from watching the wall come down these, too, will come out and the worst parts will land in the dumpster. But, have no fear as crazy-lady Amy is right around the corner and will be grabbing the better pieces to save for a piece of furniture down the road. I am thinking either bench for the mudroom or desk top for the mudroom, but probably both. :) I just cannot let all of the pine floor leave this house. Some of it must stay, re-purposed to be loved all over again. All of the other floors will remain and we will have new oak feathered in to match. At the end of the day, most people would never notice, but I will miss those dark, soft boards that sit waiting for bare feet that they can impale with splinters.

Another thing I refuse to part with is windows. All of my windows are original, as are my doors. What this means to most people is inefficiency. What it means to me is beauty. I will never (and I will say never this time) replace a window for energy purposes. As absurd as it sounds, I cannot fathom parting with an old wooden window and its wavy glass. All of my windows leak air. Half of them no longer open since the house has settled over the years and the wood has expanded and the jambs no longer square, and it is quite possible they never were. When the wind blows outside, there is a breeze inside. And when the wind blows like crazy outside, my windows shake in their frames. I love it. Absolutely love it. The only window I have thought about swapping is this one right here.

At one point in West Clover's history a dog had its day with the muntins. I could replace this lower part of the window with the one from the window on the left in this photo, since it will be removed and a pair of antique french doors from a friend's mother's farm house will be in its place.

Or, I could leave it just as it is and love it as part of the history and life of this house. I haven't decided on that just yet.

But, ready or not...phase 3 starts this week. As I have said before, with the exception of painting the exterior, this is the phase that will have the largest impact on our house. I am so ready, so excited and so nervous. It is going to be a fantastic new space within the old, plaster walls. These 2 gargantuan front windows that I love so much

will be right smack dab in the middle of my new kitchen. They look out onto the street that I have come to love just as much as this house itself. The view from standing at my sink on the island will be onto the screen porch and out to the covered back porch we added in Phase 2. This is the view here, but there's that big ole load bearer in the way.

That porch that I was talking about will have those french doors where the middle window is so that I can have my house wide open to the outside just like I like it.

 And the window to the far right in this photo will soon be replaced with the door that is to the left of it so that I can go directly from the porch to the mudroom/pantry.

 This is that window from the inside.

And where this closet is, there will be a door into the new kitchen so that the mudroom and panty all flow together. 

Can you tell I am excited? Can you tell Byron and I spent hours and hours and hours coming up with the best scenario for the space and for us? We did, and we almost drove our architect crazy I am sure, but in the end this is our new space in black and white.

 I cannot hardly wait. While I am removing the old load-bearing heart of the home, here's hoping I am replacing it with a new heart of the home...the central hub. Where life happens.

Cheers West your biggest transformation yet!