A place to be – shelter

Living room

The living room is of course the main room of the house. As you can see, it is full of art and my beloved piano.


Before

The walls were covered with dark artificial wood panelling, the ceiling with "acoustic" fiber tile, and the floor with cheap and very soiled carpet. Much to my surprise, the floor underneath was oak strip, in very good condition except for needing refinishing.

Home as gallery

As I spend more time at home with more leisure, my house is becoming crammed with pictures and other artwork. The stairway will give you an idea.

The pictures that are visible or partly visible are, from left to right and top to bottom –

There are another eight paintings and drawings in the stairwell that are not visible at all in this view.

Kitchen

I love my kitchen. It is extremely functional. It is full of light, with a wonderful view out over my rear yard (not shown in this picture).


Before

The kitchen reeked of grease and cigarettes, and every surface was gluey from the accumulation.

Stairway

To have adequate headroom at the top, the stair needed to end up toward the middle of the house, not at the side where the sloped roof descends low. For that configuration to work without an obstructive presence in the center of prime space, it needed to turn. This arrangement took up a little more space than a straight run, but created a dynamic space, and is safe and comfortable with its two landings.

My experience is that architectural spaces often “feel” best if they convey the sense of a convex space, such as a dome or a box. The Oval Office is a noted example. Structural masses that impinge on the space (such as soffits for ducts), or building elements that are convex toward the inside, may create a vague feeling of claustrophobia. Stairways often present masses of basically left-over, haphazard space that is the opposite of "positive." I deliberately created an unnecessary design element at the top of where the “wall” would be, if we chose to enclose the staircase, so that the dining room would give the sense of occupying a rectanguloid space without actually being enclosed on that side. The non-functional arch is another element creating a convex space, here a subordinate one.


Before

The original stair was a straight shot up from the main entry door. At the top, you had to stoop down to avoid bumping the ceiling, since the low roof was sloping in the opposite direction to the stair.

Exterior

The house is in a builder's Italianate design, with its double arched windows and broad eaves. It had a colonnaded front porch, subsequently enclosed. The dormers are later additions, as is the rear ell, partly visible under the rear dormer.


Before

The house was about 110 years old when I bought it, and had suffered from decades of heavy neglect and misuse.

Front entrance

I got around to posts and a rail for my front entry in 2009. Thanksgiving was coming, and I wanted to have my mother for the occasion. She was beginning to have significant difficulty in walking and, even more, with stairs. I recognized that this would probably be the last Thanksgiving that the visit would be possible. For this one, I wanted to be sure that there was a support there for her to hold onto for the climb. (Of course, I could have provided human support, but her ability to accomplish the climb independently would help her maintain her dignity.)

The granite posts were finished stock pieces from a nearby supplier, so presented no difficulty except for the weight of about 300 pounds each. I had fun bending the looped rail from a piece of steel bar.

On Thanksgiving Day, my mother instinctively reached for the curved rail and made it up the steps with no difficulty or hesitation.


Before

The entryway I inherited was a recipe for winter disaster. The porch roof had a sag exactly over the front door, the brick landing sloped back toward the house, and there was no rail. Of course, any water dripping down from the porch roof would pool and freeze right under the front door. In fact I slipped off of it one icy day and broke my ankle.

Garage

I demolished the existing garage and rebuilt it last summer. I ended up simply replacing the previous structure, rather than enlarging it with a separate area for equipment storage, as I would have liked to do. The addition would have triggered the requirement for the structure to have a foundation wall to four feet below grade, an excessively expensive project for the purpose. Instead, I built a separate storage shed in the rear yard. Though of about the same size as the contemplated garage addition, it falls under the size for which building code requirements apply.

Now I keep the the car and a few smaller things in the garage. It works out fairly well.


Before

The previous structure was very poorly built. The sheathing/siding was ¼" Masonite, for instance.

Half bath


The half bath is in about the same location as the first facilities added into the house, underneath the stairs up. It is conveniently but unobstrusively located. I liked the narrow window that was there, which I replaced with a modern version and interior half-shutters for privacy. I bought the old walnut-framed arched mirror for a few dollars at a flea market sale. The mirror itself was broken, but for a few dollars more a local glass company cut me a new mirror to fit.The floor tiles are 12" x 12" vinyl tiles that I cut into 6" squares; the standard tile size seemed much too big for the small room. I like the soft contrast of the deep red against the black.

Rear bedroom

The rear bedroom is a very quiet and peaceful place, overlooking tall Norway spruce and the expanse of my back yard.