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.