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Servant’s Stairwell Opportunities

September 15, 2012
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West side entrance

Future Mud Room Site
door leads to driveway

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post. Lots of reasons and excuses but none more important than enjoying my family. A pretty good runner-up reason is that I’ve not done much project work worthy of a post lately. With Work and course work towards my degree, and the aforementioned enjoyment of my family, blogging has been low-priority.

However, here I am, embarking on a new project I want to at least begin sharing with you all!

Our house was built with house servants in the design. The family that built our home had adequate enough means to afford live-in help. I would assume that occasionally, additional service people were employed for entertaining and possibly some heavier maintainance of the home. Large Victorian-age homes like ours offers many levels of maintainance at a fairly constant pace.  An associate of mine who has lived in large, older homes for much of his life gave me this advice: “Old homes are not owned or simply lived in, they are operated like large, complicated vessels or systems”. He was correct. There’s always something to maintain, clean or improve in an old, large home.

Subfloor above, basement hall below

Subfloor above, mudroom below

One of the very few significant changes that was made to the house on 60 West Main Street sometime before the Berthel’s moved in, was that the servant’s staircase was removed. Karyn and I think similarly about conversation of old homes. We’re easily concerned with moderate to significant changes and when something is removed or discarded, we’re a bit saddened by that however, we’re also realistic and reasonable enough to allow changes that either help in reducing maintenance and preserving the overall integrity and value of the home. The servant’s staircase being removed is a bit sad for us however, it was removed to provide much better access to the basement while removing said access from the kitchen forward in the home to the end of the main, center hall which makes a lot of sense now that servants are not accessing the basement on a daily basis.

The stair well where the staircase was offers some incredible opportunity. First, it must be pointed out that the stairwell goes from the landing between the basement and first floor (so lower than, or “sub” first floor) all the way to the attic level spanning what would equate to a little over 3 stories in modern architectural measurements.

At first-dream, this is where I wanted to install our residential elevator. I said dream… ok? We’re not getting an elevator but this area of the house would accommodate one quite well allowing access from te basement to the attic via an elevator car! That would be pretty cool.

But rather, we are capitalizing on the space to create a spacious “mud room” at entry level, right off the side driveway and at the second floor level, I will build what will turn out to be a very large guitar closet (or a very small music room).  Both areas will be nice to have complete and both will present a few challenges. As you can see here, the sub-floor is already roughed out for the guitar closet. This was one of the first more significant structural challenges.

Plywood shelves

Plywood Shelves Before Removal

Tearing out the make-shift shevles that were in the mud room area was another challenge considering there was no studding between the shelves and the kitchen wall. This was the space that was originally a doorway to the basement. Whomever had taken the stairs out and walled-up the kitchen access simply did so with sheetrock and no studding. They then proceeded to put shelves up over the back of the sheetrock with some paneling and plywood.  This would have been an easy demolition job if we didn’t care about the kitchen wall, but we do.

The other demolition challenge was taking out the false angled stair header. It made the space feel small and tight. Removing it meant creating new paths for some lighting wiring. Not a big deal but required some care and some very dusty work removing old plaster and lathe from above.

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