Adding a Room

When we bought our house in 2002, there was an illegally installed bathroom in one of the pantries (the door had been moved so it opened into the library, but it was originally a pantry). You have two choices when you buy a house with unpermitted work: you can either try to convince the city to let you bring it up to code and keep it, or you can tear it out. Given that we didn't want to have a bathroom in this particular space, and actually wanted a pantry, we opted for the latter. Of course, we just ripped everything out and closed up the door, leaving an unfinished space that I referred to as the Nazi Room (because getting in there reminded me of stories of Jews hiding from the Nazis) between the kitchen and library, which we intended to get to sooner or later.

This afternoon, in the middle of a discussion about some household priorities and some longterm planning, we decided to just jump in and do it. We'd been planning to get around to re-pantrifying the Nazi Room at some point this summer, but it was really in the cards for closer to September. But our recent work on rearranging stuff and clearing up cluttered spaces inspired us to make a big mess.

The door is entirely framed and ready behind a sheet of drywall that had been fairly clumsily attached in the kitchen, so all we needed to do was cut the openeing. We started by pulling back our countertop unit and clearing up the space where the door is.

Clearing space to cut the door

Then we draped the area in plastic to keep the dust out of the kitchen. This is something we've gotten more careful with of late, because cleaning dust off of everything is really tedious.

Draping it in plastic

This the the view from the other side: you can see the tiny ugly aluminum window that the previous owners put in, having removed a gorgeous 9-ft original window, of course. Where the lath ends is where the door used to be.

In the Nazi Room

All kinds of random stuff was stowed away in that room: here are our two ceiling medallions draped with plastic and waiting for us to find somebody who knows how to restore decorative plaster.

Ceiling medallions

And let us not forget the thoughtful present of a can of pink paint from the previous owners, should we need to do any touch-ups.

Can of Sassy Pink paint

In no time at all, we cut out the drywall:

Sawzall-ing the drywall

And knocked out the framing inside the doorway:

Knocking out the framing

And then there was a doorway.

Doorway at last!

We let the dust settle for half an hour, then came through and cleaned up and took down the plastic. Already the room looked pretty good, even though of course it needed a lot of work.

Plastic down

We then spent about an hour building these wooden protective boxes for the ceiling medallions. The box has a plywood base and three sides (the better to slide the medallion in and out), and is screwed together.

Making a wooden medallion box

Handles would have been useful, and as it happens, this box was just a bit too wide to go through most doorways flat (so one of us had to hold the medallion in place while we moved it), but eventually we got both medallions into boxes and stowed away in the basement, where they will be safe and out of the way for the time being (and if anybody knows of a plaster restorer around Alameda, let me know).

Medallion in the box

The rest of the cleanup was all about moving materials and doors that had been in the pantry and putting them in the basement or elsewhere, then vacuuming the space thoroughly. There's a sizable hump in the floor because the flooring was laid parallel to a beam, and we're planning to level that out a bit before we continue. And of course we found more newspaper stuffed in the walls, which always adds to the ambience.

Pantry stripped down to the studs

We're going to put up some drywall (we won't be taping it because this space is going to be changing massively when we get beyond the Ten Year Plan), then building in a bunch of shelves. Also, the fridge will be moving into this room, quite possibly as early as tomorrow if we are good little worker ants. This is like adding-on to the kitchen, but without actually adding on to the house, so it is very exciting. We are all worked up about moving a bunch of kitchen stuff from the basement, so doing certain things doesn't involve walking around the house and down a ladder to get equipment.

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posted by ayse on 07/12/08


Wow. That's some truly pink paint right there.

And I literally drooled over the ceiling medallion. Literally. I had to stop typing and get a rag.

Why are previous owners so weird? I hope someday that if (God forbid) I become a 'previous owner' I can break the cycle and be a good previous owner who doesn't leave a legacy of oddly placed toilets and bad aluminum windows.

The thing about that can of pink paint is that it's the leftovers from the paint job the previous owners did right before they put the house on the market. One can only wonder what their real estate agent was thinking. Yes, previous owners are weird. Ours were good-intentioned, but just not house people.

As for the medallion, it is a beaut, no doubt. I've never seen one quite like it: the flowers are morning glories. We have another, smaller one from the back parlour and a third upstairs in the front bedroom. Plaster ceilings rarely survive earthquakes (likewise anybody so unlucky to be under them at the time), so we're very lucky.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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