I can’t believe that another year has flown by in our house on West Main. This is the longest that I have lived anywhere since I was 18 and moving out of my home in Clemson, SC where I grew up. I’ve moved every 2 years since then and sometimes more. But I still love and adore this house, awestruck at the idea that I not only get to live here, but also to care for this place.
Bill has been knocking away at the “mud room” entrance on the side. It might end up being the classiest “room” in the house once he is done. He is such a wood-working perfectionist. 🙂 I love it. Recent pics of his work below.
And me? Well, I’m painting the babe’s pieces, finished two and they are hung. Three more to go and the back to stenciling for me. I’ll show those later when they are all hung. And maybe a tour, yes, I know I still owe you all that at least.
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.
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.
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.
It does feel that way, like we’re always moving in. I continually move some boxes of books from closet to closet and every once in a while, consolidate or unpack one. When we find a new piece of furniture that we like and purchase, we then reorganize whatever room it will reside.
This week, I purchased a small dresser for $25 and loads of books, my shopping weakness. I also found a roll top desk for Bill, which thanks to my parents visit . . . we purchased and moved into the library. Thanks mom and dad. It needs a little work as some of the laminate is peeling, but it is very clean and already usable. Considerably better than the cheap drafting table we had in place for Bill. I’ll get my own roll top soon once we refinish the oak one waiting in the basement. However, it needs a whole season’s worth of overhaul first. With the move of the new desk, Bill reorganized a few tidbits and I shelved books.
The small dresser I found will be repainted and used to store platters and table linens. I might line it with cedar, too. For the time being, it will be a hallway dresser with a little light, creating a nook out of the downstairs hall. I’ll post photos when that project is complete.
Bill also rearranged the basement this week as it is pellet season and we bought four tons for winter heating. That sounds like a lot, but it saves us thousands of dollars in oil which we would otherwise need. The only downside to the pellet stove is the weekly cleaning and fan noise it makes, which isn’t much considering its heat output.
This upcoming week, I’ll be painting in the studio and completing another Peter Rabbit piece for Will’s room. Hopefully by Christmas, I can hang at least three of them, if not all four that I have planned. Bill is working on the mud room right now; posts to come on that project.
No pics for this post, but more to come. . .
Our house was built with servants in mind, evident from the butler’s pantry and kitchen layout and also from the once present servants’ stairs. I wouldn’t mind if these stairs were still in place, in keeping the house as it was originally built. However, the stairs paralleled the family set and their removal opened the hallway to access the basement more easily.
Upstairs, it appears as though one bedroom was for the servant(s) as it is considerably smaller than the others and it has no heat. We believe there was the kitchen chimney that went up through this room which would have kept it toasty, but that entire fireplace/stove had been removed long ago.
Knowing about the presence of servants in our house has peaked my interest in understanding more about how Victorian families kept their homes, considering our home is a Queen Ann Victorian built in 1894.
I’ve read some about the middle class Victorian ladies in London, to learn that it was customary to have one servant, and sometimes two if it could be afforded. Just the daily tasks of keeping a home the size of mine would have required full time help. There were chamber pots to be emptied and cleaned, laundry to be done and ironing, cooking over wood stoves and cleaning without a vacuum or Pledge. Shopping was done daily because of the lack of cooling. Seasons brought different chores, like canning, gardening, soap making or spring cleaning.
So to look at what the cost would be to have a servant in this day and time comparably. . . well, if I eliminated all of the goods that make my life contemporary: phone, car, cable, internet, garbage removal, sewer, pellet stove, washer & dryer, fridge, dishwasher, freezer, air conditioning, insurance, car maintenance, gas, movies, music, computers, cosmetics, salon visits, and all the costs that go with these that I haven’t mentioned, I would save a good chunk of money a month and it might be enough to pay a live in “servant” or “help” as we call it. Honestly, I’d rather not have the help and just keep my internet. 😉
Since the master bedroom saga will be ongoing for a while, I thought I would show you a tour of some of the rooms we haven’t yet shared. Rooms that are way down on the list of getting in order.
The house has four main rooms downstairs and a half bath, and four bedrooms upstairs and a full bath. Out of those ten rooms, we’ve completed three (the library which we haven’t yet revealed) and we’re onto our fourth, the master bedroom.
The hallway, however, is quite large in itself, and very intricately designed with cherry paneling and woodwork all the way through to the second floor. Once the floors are done and the ceiling replastered, it will likely be the most spectacular part of the house. I intend to stencil it quite delicately as well.
The living room is nothing special right now, though completely usable. It’s got an old coal fireplace, which we removed and replaced with a stove for optimum heating. Currently, its painted an odd red color, but in fine enough shape that we live in it comfortably.
We’ve shared the dining room already and the library, or parlor, is yet to come. Lastly, downstairs is the kitchen and butler’s pantry. Though it might be a while before I’ll have new cabinets, its still a comfy working space and brightly lit.
Upstairs, besides the master bedroom, we are using a back bedroom for our own, and there is a second guest room. The smallest bedroom is my studio for now, and I hope to keep it that way.
Bill thinks I should take something larger, but I really like the crowded space for studio work. I’m not one of those people that likes to spread out.
Lastly, the house has a full basement, which is currently Bill’s wood shop and paint storage. It runs a bit damp, and a little too dark for my taste. But, we’ll eventually make it more usuable and even add a wine cellar if we can get that far.
At some point, we’ll have to discuss the garage, too. It has held treasures of its own, considering it has its own attic and is larger than a normal one car. Way off in the distance will we be able to work on it.
The more I write, the more I realize how much there really is to do. 🙂