Saturday, November 3, 2012

EKG Bookshelf

The big summer project was finished- sorta. We did finish painting the front and back of the house, and replaced some rotted siding that was a consequence of the suboptimal previous roof structure. Some portions of the exterior still need a new coat of paint, but after mid October it's past the time for exterior painting in Oregon. Also, it's a good excuse to do something that's- to be direct- a lot more fun.  The library still could use more bookshelves. The ledge under the transom windows was easily modified to serve as another shelf area along with serving as an anchor for another ladder rail. The ladder is sufficiently light to move to the opposite wall when necessary
I had seen a metal EKG shaped bookshelf in a book and then seen it again somewhere on-line. None available for purchase, however. So something along those lines at the top shelf for the back wall would be a nice variation from the lower bookshelves.
As I began to sketch it out, the focus drifted from a nice little shelf made of wood rather than metal to an accurately scaled representation (hard to compartmentalize OCD). What I wound up with was way too big- it's about 12 ft long- for the space originally intended. Luckily for me, 1) the dimensions were just right for the area above the clerestory window and 2) I have a wife who humors me.

I shared her concern, though, that I was risking cluttering up the room and offered to put the shelf up in my shop; she kindly declined that option. We both like the spareness of the room as shown in the previous post. At the same time, the books were all crammed together; now, there's more breathing room on the shelves (and another one is on the way). It's also good to have another area where the ladder is needed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pile o' Books and the Houzz Photographer

      The walls and trim were done and the scaffolding and floor coverings removed. The bookshelves are in place. We're ready to bring the furniture back thought my wife.  Not quite, I reminded her- we need to organize our books. Geri grumbled as I reminded her of my notion to gather all of our books in the living room and then organize them. It had been an image that had been a motivation during this project, as the haphazard organization of our books and the clutter of Geri's office and upstairs closet had been a source of irritation to both of us. Admittedly more to me than her. She did not see the need to have the cookbooks from the kitchen area and many of the books from her office in the central pile as those books were likely to stay in their present location. Fair enough, my response; but Geri's office was overstuffed, so the compromise was for her to decide what books she did not have to have in her office and to keep weaning to the new bookshelves until her office was not quite so stuffed. The same applied to her bookshelves upstairs.
       As the books started to pile up in the music/library room, it became clear that we were going to have to keep many of our books in other locations.
     Once we had the books we needed to organize in one place, the next step was to categorize them. The Dewey decimal system is way beyond our organizational needs, so the next step was
photo books, art books, my fiction/nonfiction and Geri's fiction/nonfiction.  The photo may not look all that different, but the shifting around took a few hours.

      As we realized this was going to take way more time than we had allotted, we decided to simplify the process by deciding what was going up on the nosebleed shelf- those books that we did not look at much but could not bring ourselves to part with- 1988 histopathology paperback anyone? Then the photo and art books would go up on the longest and most reachable shelf.  After that were our architecture/shelter/gardening books on the next highest shelf along with books Geri would need access to intermittently.  I put my fiction/nonfiction in our tv room. We designated an area in the bookcases for books we had not read yet, and for our few older/heirloom books (all from Geri's family). We used a deep bookshelf next to our dining table for oversize/overweight books. Upstairs were my medicine reference books, Photoshop manuals (one of these days I'll be able to utilize more than 10% of that program's tools) and more of Geri's books. At the risk of being a master of the obvious- Geri has a lot of books. It made me think of how much more well read I would be if I didn't watch so many basketball games.
      A couple of days later, Geri was showing a friend our progress. Said friend "innocently" asked- how are you going to reach that book?- pointing to one of the books in the nosebleed section. Which brings us to building the ladder. I had lolly-lagged on ordering the necessary hardware as I had been told by Rockler's staff that it could be picked up at the store within a few days of ordering. When I did place the order, the interval was more like 10 days. Ouch, but okay as I was under the impression that Houzz's photographer was coming on Labor day wknd.
A slight inconvenience turned into catecholamine excess when an email from the Houzz staffer confirming her arrival a Sunday before I was expecting her. No ladder, no exterior paint- not at all ready for our closeup. Luckily for us, she very graciously changed her schedule to allow us more time. I'm not the most pleasant individual under these circumstances which caused the wife to ask- why on earth did I tell Houzz about our project. Well, nothing like having a major internet shelter site come take a look at our little ranch house as motivation for competently completing a project- eh?
Back to the task at hand. Nine foot ladder hardware was backordered from Rockler. Not a show stopper as I could work around that as the hardware for an 8ft ladder was in stock; other than that the rest of the hardware was in. I happily went to the store to pick up my hardware. At the store, I find out that only a 6ft length of the rod the ladder slides on had arrived. I had ordered a 12ft length. The staffer much to her credit admitted it was her bad. Luckily, there was the display hardware I could use. They were nice enough to dismantle it and give me a good discount as a demo item. The ladder was easy to make and we were able to paint the front of the house prior to the photographer's arrival. Here is Annie supervising Geri

The change in schedule also gave us a chance to tidy up the inside and outside (including a pickup truck's worth of construction debris to the waste site) for the photographer. We enjoyed her stay with us; it was a good way to end this chapter. At this point it's fun to see the 1994 version of this room- here is the SE view
and the NE view
Here is the 2012 SE view
and the NE view
We still have a third of the house exterior left to paint. But the interior is no longer a construction zone and as long as we're inside, we are able to have a sense of 'Entering our house justified".

Addendum- Here's a link to the article and photos on Houzz.

Addendum 2- here is a closer view of the ladder

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


        First off, the inside and just about all of the exterior work is done. Which after call weekend is why I'm doing this instead of working on the project.  Prior to the start of the project we had been visiting with Ger's family where this project and a family member's paella prowess had been among the many topics. Folks were curious about the project and I was way curious about a family member who liked to do paella. So working around summer vacations, etc we arrived at mid August as a good time. Silly us, we thought we would be done by then based on our contractor's estimate and my estimate of time needed to do our part. Of course, we were way off.  We anticipated this probability and were not concerned as the attending members are flexible- worst thing that could happen is being made fun of for being behind schedule.
       Well, the drywall was up for the most part and most of the scaffolding was no longer needed. Since the room being remodeled was empty except for scaffolding and ladders, it was easy to get our two long tables in there and the chairs from the rest of the house gathered.

As I saw Edgar preparing the paella, it was clear that he was not overstating his expertise. He had very capable assistants as well

The other guys after doing the as predicted "slacker-you're not done yet" routine, helped me put up the first bookshelf. At that point, I was getting irritated at myself for working instead of being part of the fun, so I called it Miller-time ( or the wine equivalent ).
Besides, the other bookshelves had been adapted for food prep areas and guest seating.

Great meal, great company and a needed break.

Then back to work as a scary deadline approached- a visit from a Houzz photographer.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Library/Music Room Exterior Shell

It's been more than two weeks since my last entry and much has taken place. Golden Rule has 9/10ths of their job done. Even though I've done maybe 7/10ths of what I have to do and I have 2 more days before I return to work, I'm doing this- why? . I'm tired, it's 102 degrees here which is major heat for this area and the only job that is safe for me to do at this time is scraping chickenshit off of barn siding.
The last entry ended with the living room minus roof and ceiling.  One of the carpenters noted that's when Jack (our contractor) renegotiates. (kidding-).  So far, Golden Rule has been stellar. Their framing crew in particular was amazing. It turns out that the area contractors work with each other as the current economy does not allow them to have the number of employees on salary to do large jobs in short time. Robert Gates, who's the coordinator, noted that crew had easily more than a century of experience in aggregate. Robert is also a prolific photographer and contributed the photos for the exterior portion of the job.
One unforseen detail uncovered with the removal of the ceiling and roof was the lack of a load-bearing East wall. Fortunately we were able to have the engineer specify a laminated beam on short notice. Even more fortunately, Robert was able to find said beam and have it delivered within several hours.
That is the biggest piece of wood I've ever been around.
One exterior detail I signed up for as it would be too expensive for the pro's to do is to use cedar shingle for the top triangle of the addition to match the second story gable.
The roof, which was the "need" part of the project, is almost complete as well. Some of the gutters, drainage for the new design and portions of the flat roof over the carport and shop still need to be finished.
So, this is the interior of the room handed off for us to finish.
One of the tenets of this type of endeavor is that things always take longer than envisioned. Our parents came to the rescue. My 86 year old mom who was visiting from Los Angeles helped me stain/finish the new audio cabinet and bookshelves. Geri's dad has been here for the past several days to help with the barnwood siding we're using for the ceiling. The planks were purchased in "off the barn" condition. His help with going through the material to select usable boards, loading them on his truck, final clean up with alcohol ( I couldn't bring myself to ask him or my wife to scrape off crap and grime) salvaged my schedule. Today he was in charge of cutting the boards to size which allowed me to stay on the scaffolding.

I told Geri that when her dad arrived, it felt like the cavalry had arrived. Here's the room as of 8/4.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Living Room to Music/Library Room

I knew when buying the house that I was going to have to do a lot of work but liked that I was not buying someone else's "improvements.  The ceiling height was a minus from the beginning. When looking at the homes for sale at the time, they fell into 3 categories - which to this day still holds true in Salem.
The bungalow style homes have good ceiling height in the main floor, but many also had basements with claustrophobic ceilings and minimal daylight and the upstairs areas were often choppy and with adequate height only in the middle portions. The newer homes had the McMansion look to them, lots were small, and in general it seemed like I was buying new components that I would be itching to replace in short time.  Then there were the extremes in price and square footage.
So I bought a place with aluminum windows, low ceilings in half of the home and bad carpet. Here is the living room at time of purchase:

The ceiling height of the living room was the most troubling as it would be the most expensive to remedy. So I tried to ignore it and address other easier problems. The first change was to replace the aluminum slider with french doors.
Next was to change the front windows from a boring undivided aluminum front
to an arrangement that could let me use a stain glass window that I purchased from a friend at an exceedingly reasonable price. The windows and the frame for the stained glass piece were DIY as divided wood windows were out of my budget.

A friend and I put in hardwood floors over the living room, kitchen, dining area, breakfast room and halls.
The bricks for the double sided FP had been painted. When I sandblasted the paint off I could understand why- the bricks were narrow and orange. The open area between the living and dining areas was a little too open- kinda no man's land. I also didn't want the kitchen appliances to be visible when sitting in the living room.
We plastered over the bricks and made 2 archways- a small arched window way to maintain contact with the kitchen and a larger one to better define the living and dining areas. It also served to store audio equipment and CD's/DVD's (this was before Netflix and streaming media). The record player was a little cramped in the cabinet and not as easy to use as the shelf for it was a little high and there was not enough space to lift the cover and still provide room for the rest of the equipment.  It was serviceable, though and we kept the arrangement for 12 years.  Flat screens were not an option in 1995, and I wanted a good sized TV to watch movies and basketball games.  At the same time I did not want a TV dominating the room.  My solution was to make a opening through part of the brick structure which enclosed the fireplace. Outdated aesthetics aside, the house was built like a tank. A masonry saw and an inordinant amount of dust was required to make said opening. I had an advantage as a coat closet was on the other side of the wall. That allowed me to route speaker, DVD and receiver cables from the A/V storage area on the other side of the FP through to the TV area by way of the attic. No photos from that era but this allowed the TV to protrude only 6 inches from the wall.
In 2009 we finally entered the flat screen era with the TV moved over to another room. This allowed me to change my record player over to the space which formerly housed the TV. This made the record player much more accessible and launched me on an audio upgrade. My wife was low-grade grumbling about the cost of hi-fi gear until she noticed that our older cat- Ernie- really seemed to like the new audio setup.
Luckily for me, Ernie's an audiophile.
We found ourselves spending more time in the living room reading and listening to music. The marked improvement of computer based audio equipment allowed for much greater variety and quality of stations compared to what we could get on FM- our reception is lousy. Now we can listen to KCRW, KUSC- old friend from my years in LA, and SOMA, WGBH among others. The living room become more, em grown-up when after l8 years I vas able to ditch my Ikea bookcases (particle board was a necessary evil). the DIY cabinet was made with vinyl record storage in mind and the little table to match the cabinet. I used granite tops to get away from too much brown which can happen much as I like wood. As improved as the living room was, my dislike of the low ceiling did not diminish; it only got worse.

At the same time we began to run out of bookshelf space and began to think of a library room. We then had a particularly nasty storm that exposed a leak over the darkroom/kitty room (see earlier post). That gave us the opportunity to combine a need- re-doing the roof to address a number of problematic areas and a want- higher ceilings and more wall area in our living room. That brings us to the present- no ceiling whatsoever!

To be continued....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Darkroom/Kitty bathroom

For fifteen years and in 4 different cities I either had access to or had my own darkroom. In my scuffling days, I thought that a home darkroom would always be a major component of any structure I called home. . I strayed from that notion after moving to Salem and finding out about Udevelop, a darkroom rental facility in Portland. I liked the convenience and the camaraderie and for a couple of years spent a lot of time there.
When I purchased this house, I was impressed that it had a darkroom, but never entertained keeping it there as it was the wrong use of that space, so I continued using Udevelop.
That tailed off once married, with a more intense call schedule, and more time spent in home improvements and other stuff. Then came the digital age. As mentioned in the "Upstairs" entry, eventually I was very happy with my digital printing results, especially in color. B&W is another story. There is something about a analog B&W print that I don't find in digital prints.
So in 2009, we decided we did not need a 4th bathroom and converted that to a darkroom. As we had 2 cats, it as also a good location for the litter boxes.
I was happy to be able to repurpose the birch wood from the kitchen island countertop to serve as the countertop for the darkroom.
When the space was to be used a a darkroom, the litter boxes could be place elsewhere. As I was getting ready to bring my enlarger out of storage, we had a particularly bad storm which caused a leak on that ceiling. That, together with several other problematic areas of our roof led to this summer's project- a new roof in the one-story portion of the house and raising the ceiling height in the living room.
Except for the living room (next topic),laundry room, the carport and my workshop, that brings the survey of what was done to the house up to the present.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Only a few days before the living room re-do starts. I'm sorta on schedule to complete my survey of house-mending up to now. As can be seen, not much to like about this room to start- small closet, ugly doors and little aluminum windows.
The east/south view
The west/closet side. A functional obsolesence is the small size of the closet:
The main measures taken to mend this room were new paint, new windows, (one of which was DIY), DIY closet doors and window shutters. The shutters let me get away with using a window that had simulated dividers b/w the glass panels. That was what I could afford then. After that we bought carpet which has stood up well for a dozen years. The DIY bed frame and board has 4 drawers under the mattress support which helps to ameliorate the small closet.
In the apple does not fall far from the tree dept, my mom made the quilt as a present to Geri and I.
Another simple solution to lighting and bedtime reading was the shelf behind the headboard.
One of the enjoyable aspects of our home is it's heterogeneity (yes- I had to google that one to spell correctly). I've been accused by, among others, my spouse and my mom, as having a monastic approach to house furnishings. The sunroom and this room are
good manifestations of that bent.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tile Room

AKA TV room, AKA guest quarters. The redeeming feature of this room in 1995 was it's size. If you take away this room and the upstairs suite, this is not a big house. Salem has many houses with very small, chopped up rooms, which is not the case here.
Being a late 60's addition, this is the only portion of the house that has a concrete slab floor. It also had nice beam ceilings which, thankfully, were above 8 ft high. It unfortunately also had a big dry bar area, cheap wood paneling and old carpet.

The fireplace mantel/facing was and remains dated (best euphemism I can find).

For a while it served as my shop (no pix in that configuration) as it was heated and nearer the areas I was working on than what is now my shop. The first thing that went was the carpet, then the bar area. I did keep part of it, which after removing the sorta brown stain, replacing the slat doors and making a countertop for it from walnut and oak, now serves as a a/v cabinet and base for the TV (which came about 12 years later).

In 1997, I used my vacation time to build the sunroom and make the major changes to this room with the help of my friend Rigoberto, my mom and that summer one of my aunts from Mexico.
The carpet was replaced with tile and the aluminum windows with vinyl. Lath & plaster replaced the paneling.

We partitioned off a corner of the room for a bath and storage area.
The built in cabinets in the bath provide flexibility when guests are here for extended intervals.

The cabinet above the sink used the area between the studs to achieve a shallow profile.

The DIY bookcase serves to break up the room a bit and provide a workarea together with the secretary desk.
As a divider the bookcase has room for books on both sides and also can serve as a standing work surface area.
I was lucky to have bought the stained glass door on the wall where the TV is located. A few years later, that style and vintage of door had become scarce.

The materials chosen were keeping with a mindset of: "time pit" is OK- hey, it's a hobby, but "money pit" is not. As time went by, I've come to regret not getting what I wanted in the first place, particularly with respect to windows, but at the time I needed to pick my battles. The TV is an obvious splurge, but as stated elsewhere, it was self-payment for the work we did on the house for 2008-2009. As a movie buff, it is a great treat to be able to see films in the dimensions and quality that today's technology allows. I tell Geri that in "the good old days", I knew all the movie revival houses in West LA and San Francisco and kept track of what was playing. I do miss the sense of community that the revival houses provide. However, there are no revival houses in Salem (although Salem Cinema is really pretty good at showing just about every worthwhile current release at their two locations), and Netflix sure is convenient and has an incredible selection.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Geri's Office

This is one room that I actually liked in it's existing state at time of purchase. It had window light from 2 walls and had built-in cabinets and a nice long closet wall.

One of the first alterations to the room, once the adjacent sunroom was done was to remove the aluminum window from the common wall and replace with leaded glass. I had 2 glass windows purchased from Hippo Hardware in Portland. I had the third one made from a local craftsperson locally to complete the triptych arrangement. The DIY hardwood frames and molding were then made to conform to the existing rough opening.

Next were removing the built in cabinets (so much for liking said cabinets),and replacing the east aluminum window with a wood clad one with b/w glass dividers . I would have much preferred a full divided (dividers on each surface of the double glass) but finances at that time did not allow for that.

I made a desk for my then fiancee and now wife using purple heart and walnut, one of my favorite combinations of hardwood.
When replacing the closet slat doors. I chose pine panels for the replacement doors due to the price and weight of that wood. As I did not want a ceiling light due to the room's low ceiling, the opaque glass let the closet light serve as lighting for the room.

The bookshelves are a combination of legal bookcases given as a gift from a retired colleague and Ikea hacked bookcases. As illustrated, the available shelves are maxed out.

Geri's non-school relate books will go to the expanded living room bookshelf space which in turn will allow the upstair sewing machine area to decompress.
The daybed serves as seating and storage for mat boards and other paper goods that are too large for the flat files upstairs. The ends also have storage space.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hallway Bathroom

There was nothing I liked about this bathroom.

The lack of daylight and use of flourescent lighting were remedied by a skylight installed by my friend Rigoberto, who also installed the tile floor. I put in a replacement wood window with frosted glass to finish remedying the lighting. As the window doesn't supply much light as it's by a breezeway, we used the stained glass for decorative purposes. When I moved to Oregon, surplus stain/leaded glass windows were in good supply and replacing the frames was simple. Geri did the painting on the wall.

The vanity was replaced by a DIY cedar sinktop that I finished with a marine polyurethane finish. The Cats have worn the finish down as it's their drinking fountain; since cat's claws over a period of time will wear anything down, it been left as is

See what I mean?

The floating countertop, basin and wall mounted faucet help to solve the limited width of the bathroom. The other solution to the dimensions was to build the cabinet between the studs. Fortunately, most bathroom supplies fit in shallow spaces

As with most of our house, there is still work to be done- the tub and shower area are still- em, suboptimal, but overall we're happy with the space as is. It seems that a prevailing trend in houses is fancy or aspirations-to-fancy bathrooms. Not the case in this old ranch house.