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....

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