Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A floor plan and commentary

I've gone through several cycles and versions of what I would like my floor plan to be in the house. What I bought was a single family home that was roughly divided into two apartments, maybe fifty years ago. The house is a simple one, is about 98 years old, but has the potential to be just right for me.

I think in this process, you start with your dream plan, then it gets reigned in to become what is possible, then it becomes what you can afford. I always wanted to maintain a sense of character about the house, even though it has little architecture or hints of what it was. But since I am doing a total gut job, I also took liberties to make it what I want it to be, what I find the most useful and appealing layout to be.

A fireplace and chimney had to come down at one point, and when it did, a wall also opened up. A great room was born, with such an open, airy and inviting space, that I knew the wall would not go back up. What became of the space is a rather large chunk of the house, the living/dining area, which is about 410 square feet. The total square footage of the house as it is now is 979 square feet. So we're talking about a serious impact for such a small house. And the room has 5 windows!

I decided to enclose a small part of the front porch in order to add a foyer to the house. It may be a tiny room, but it will serve as a break between the inside and outside, and provide a more formal entry into the house. It will be done as tastefully as possible, with care to remove and reposition one of the front doors' mouldings, including the transom window above. The porch is deep and "L" shaped, so I won't miss the area I'm taking away.

And don't worry, the breezes on the front porch and its view were greatly considered when making the decision to enclose part of the porch for a foyer. It actually will preserve the best features of the front porch while highlighting the front door area with an inset, and will block some unsightly views of the neighboring 3 unit apartment house. I will still have a porch swing, too.
I've shown the floor plan on its side, as it is a narrow house (right click and open the image in another window for easier viewing). The main long interior wall looks rather stepped, but the only major change besides taking down a wall in the big room is moving the wall of the master bedroom out a few feet. Sure it may cramp the kitchen area, but the space will me much more appealing in the master bedroom rather than the small, galley-ish style kitchen (which by the way, the cabinets and appliances are not in the their final places, I just drew them in to get a general idea).

I chose to use existing space as a bedroom/study area, but with an added closet. I hope to find a pair of old glass french doors to put as an entry on the room, making it more open to the main room, but also allowing it to be closed when privacy is needed. A daybed, I'm thinking, a desk, maybe a chest of drawers will complete this little room.

I went ahead and added a full bath in the main part of the house, both for guest's sake, and to increase resell value, should I opt to sell it one day. With the closet in the guest room/study, this can be listed as a 2 bedroom, 2 full bath house. I figured that although a half bath would suffice, why not go ahead and put a tub unit in as well.

The main room will be both a living room and a dining room, flowing into each other and open. Even now, with the house dirty, dingy, and a complete wreck, I tend to stay in this room when visiting the property. It's just a nice room.

Beyond that is the kitchen. I haven't decided yet whether I want the kitchen to open up into the main room, as well. Part of me thinks that it would be a great space, having one whole side of the house open to one another, but another part of me thinks it should be divided and not go on forever. Sometimes kitchens need to be functional, yet not quite so in view (dirty dishes in sink after a get-together). A half wall may be born. Plus I might want to change paint colors. I like color and sometimes you really need a wall as a break.

The back porch is off the kitchen. It will be small and private. It may turn into a sun room of sorts, but I really enjoy screened-in porches, so it may remain that. I am thinking of putting the washer and dryer and hot water heater on the back porch, too. With plenty of porch area left over for maybe a bistro set or wicker love seat.

Back inside we find a surprisingly spacious master bedroom. Enough room for a king sized bed, a set of furniture and plenty of walking room. This room features a double window, and an okay-sized closet. But I made sure there was plenty of room in the bedroom for functional furniture to store clothes. One thing I like about this floor plan is that you think you've seen all the house, and the master bedroom must be tiny, but it winds up being secretly spacious and with an attached master bath!

The attic space will be used for air conditioning duct-work, as there is really no room under the house for it (the house sits on a sloping hill, one side is level with the ground, the other is up on piers about 3 feet high). There will be little to no attic storage, and I find myself left with a shortage of storage area, but that can be solved with thinking smartly about furniture choices, a healthy habit of spring cleaning, and maybe a storage shed in the backyard.

So, this is it. That's my plan and a little explanation. It's open for minor changes, but that is the best use of the space for me, the most economical layout, and I think it flows pretty well, too. I'm always open for suggestions and comments or observations.

Maybe I'll have more news in regards to actual work being done on the house soon. I finished this sketch for a contractor who has me next on his list.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

mummy dearest

Yesterday my father and I met yet another contractor at the house. We had a pretty good visit and were over there for a few hours. He couldn't really give me an estimate yet but will be able to once I get a floor plan to him. I was impressed that he'd done work on the historical theatre here in town that was completely restored a few years ago by the city for millions of dollars. I actually worked in that theatre for a year, so I know first hand the kind of restoration work that went into it.

Some things I really like about this guy were that he immediately expressed interest in keeping the windows, restoring them, and adding storm windows as opposed to buying new windows. I have been struggling with this for a while because the architecture of the house is fairly minimal and the only real character is in the windows. Previous contractors I had spoken with were quick to say I needed to replace the windows AND ORIGINAL WOODEN DOORS because of the labor and time involved. Now I know nothing of restoring a window, but I think I can handle fixing the doors, given instructions. Here's some window eye candy:

My favorites, the double windows. There are three sets of double windows in the house now. There were four, but at some point with a kitchen renovation, one set was removed and replaced with a shorter single window.

Single window. I think there are only two of these in the house.

And this smaller window in a back room, which I'm planning on turning into a master bath. A little privacy film (or frosted glass) and it will be perfect.

So while I was hesitant about this guy at first, the more time I spent with him, the better I liked him. Not only did he thoroughly check the windows to insure that they were worth saving, but he knows how to do it and has done it before. And the door issue... I was beginning to think I was crazy for wanting to save the original solid wooden doors, since contractors met me with skepticism about it. And in just walking through the house, we managed to talk through some floor plan ideas and solve some problems.

Remember the picture rail and original crown remnants I found? Contractor was totally on board with replacing this molding throughout the house, where I want it. And he knew where to get the stuff. But since the baseboard mouldings are nondescript, he said it would be best and cheaper to simply take that out and replace it.


Contractor was looking at the floor in a closet and leaned in to look down a wall... and found something. He pulled out this... lump that looked like a brick or wadded up insulation... I didn't know what it was...

A strange shape. It is about a foot and a half long. The more I looked at it, the more creeped out I got. Because it resembled something... organic. Is that... fur?

He turned it on its side. and... I clearly made out a head. And ears. A snout. A mouth?

oh. Oh. OH! Teeth! WHISKERS! A... claw?

Completely disgusting. And yet morbid curiosity takes over. This, my friends, is what happens when a opossum crawls into a house... can't get out... and settles down for death in an interior wall. This guy is completely mummified. Dry. There is absolutely no telling how long he's been there. Keep in mind the house is 98 years old.


This is just a brief look at how the house is wired. I find this particular bit to be endlessly fascinating, since it is exposed for everyone to see. It's truly a mix of the antique and modern.

Don't worry it's not live. The power's not turned on to this side of the house.

These are the two electrical boxes in the house. Anybody have a guess about how old this is? Contractor said it's definitely not up to code. I'm replacing the wiring and EVERYTHING anyway, but was just curious for guesses.
Here's the box for one apartment.

And here's the panel box for the other apartment. So I know it was done after the house was split into the apartments. But how long has it been apartments?

That's all I have for now. I'm going to try to update more often, but only when I have something to share or say. Hopefully soon I'll actually have a contractor and some real work going on at the house.