Friday, March 21, 2014

Shelf Esteem

Alas, I was not allowed to add something like this to the house even though it is perfection to me.
(Originally posted on My Porch after I saw the image at Pigtown Design)
As anyone who has ever looked at my regular blog My Porch will know, I love reading and I love books. In fact, I used to do a semi-regular feature called Shelf Esteem where I posted a picture of a home library taken from a design magazine. I would pull out my magnifying glass to try and figure out what books were on the shelf and to see if I could deduce anything about the owner and his or her reading habits. (Including trying to guess if the owner was a he or she.) I would also rank each room by its cozy factor. Was it a room one wanted to get cozy in? For me that mainly had to do with natural light, cushy furniture, and warm tones--often from the use of natural wood.

First comes inspiration
As with everything else related to our project we started with inspiration images that I culled from various magazines over the years.
This is like a smaller, more elegant version of the image at the top of this post.
A wonderful wall of books in warm natural wood tones with natural light.
Clearly the shelves of someone who reads. These are not decorator books.
I think the art and antiques make the shelves feel less messy than they might otherwise.

A guest room I would love to sleep in despite its rather cool palette.
I love that the shelves are sized to fit the owner's paperback collection.
As you will see later in this post, I pursued a similar level of customization when designing my new shelves.

We have been toying with the idea of having the interior of the shelves painted a different color, but I think I am leaning away from that idea. Although these shelves are good for oversize art books, I would not like them for my fiction collection. I like the look of art hung in front of books, but I don't think I could handle it in practice. I would forever be worried about the books hidden behind the art.
I know one of you will tell me the name of this designer hanging on the ladder.
Another example of messy shelves not looking messy.
What bookish person didn't want a library ladder when they were young?
Then comes the space
Inspiration pictures are well and good, but first you need space for your library. The good thing is that shelves can go on almost any wall. They look good in living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, hallways, bedrooms, even bathrooms. If I was single I would probably have shelves in most of those rooms, but I am not, so my shelves are relegated mainly to one room. One of the big selling points when we bought our house in 2010 was that it had a room that was already kitted out as a library.

The room was originally the garage and was converted sometime probably in the 1940s or 1950s.
The wall at the end was once the garage door and let me tell you, it had very little insulation. The fireplace across the room wasn't much help against the drafts.
The shelves weren't thick enough or well-supported enough to hold the amount of books I would end up putting on them, but they certainly got my bookish imagination going when we saw the house the first time.
You can see the library with considerably more books in it. This was on a day when I decided to do a cull and a reorganization. Note the paint color samples on the wall behind the vase on the right. Soon after we bought the house we contemplated what color to paint the library but then we kept putting it off because our house renovation seemed imminent. The result was we lived with paint samples on the walls for almost two years. Then when we officially delayed our project, I decided to just go ahead and paint it the color I had chosen even though we knew the room would be demo'd within a year.

The reality of reality
So even though I actually owned a room that was a dedicated library, it had more than a few challenges.
  • It was cold in the winter. And to a lesser extent too warm in the summer.
  • It was narrow. I don't know how they fit a 1930s cars into a space that small.
  • It didn't get as good natural light as I had hoped. Overall kind of a dark room.
  • The shelves weren't very practical. They were fixed at different heights making it impossible to arrange my fiction in strict alpha order as some books were too tall to fit on the shelf where they should have been.
  • The raised grain wood paneling was pretty awful. It screamed basement rec room. Painting it the dark grey that I had chosen only made it worse.
  • The doorway into the room was a miserly 28" wide. And because it was originally the garage, the door jamb depth was crazy deep. All making it feel a little too 'converted' if you know what I mean.

One view of the library as I was packing it up prior to starting the house project.
Shows the fireplace as well as how the darker color only seems to enhance the basementy feel of the paneling.
The white patch just visible on the right was a spot I painted so I could put more paint samples up. My hope was to come up with a library color now so we wouldn't have to experiment later. We did narrow it down some, but nothing conclusive.

A cozier future?
I certainly hope so. We can't afford natural wood so the new raised paneling and the shelves will all be painted wood. Choosing the right color for this north facing room is going to be a challenge. But the room itself is going to be way more efficient and comfortable in general.

The basic layout of the room remains the same as before.  The only real change is the tall narrow bookcase to the right of the fireplace goes away. Perhaps the best thing about the room is that it will finally be properly insulated and have a radiant heat floor.

The fireplace wall without the little bookcase to the right. The old rec room paneling is replaced by new painted raised panels. The fireplace detail will have to be modified as the no-mantel-flush-with-wall look won't work.

What you will see first when you walk in.

This is the wall at the front of the house where the garage door once was. I have made these shelves deep enough and tall enough to hold oversize art books.

I laid out these shelves so that I could maximize book storage. These are not your typical book shelves. Since this whole wall will be dedicated to fiction and regular sized non-fiction, I didn't need the typical 12 inches of vertical clearance on each shelf. The tallest hardcover fiction is about nine inches, so even at 10.5 inches they will still have some room to breathe. I am also having the shelves made shallower. In this narrow room this will add two inches of floor space but keep the shelves deep enough for the books I want to put there. And the existing doorway will be eight inches wider than its current 28.

The devil is definitely going to be in the details in this room. Since we can't afford natural wood which would warm up the room, I am not sure what we are going to do about color. I didn't really like our experiment with a darker color, although I think any color will look better on the new smooth raised panels than it did on the rustic raised grain paneling that was in the room. The right furniture arrangement for the room will also be a challenge. Having both George Smith club chairs seemed a bit much for the room. We may have to find something smaller, and I would love to squeeze in a round library table with at least two chairs.  I doubt I will ever be happy with the natural light. I might end up reading in other parts of the house that get better light--at least during the day. But I can't wait to install my books on the new shelves.

What does Lucy think?
The front window of the library has been one of Lucy's favorite spots. The cabinet height comes right up to the bottom of the window so it is a perfect place for her to perch. The probably is she gets the window dirty and it gives her too much of an opportunity to get worked up about people passing and approaching the house. She just goes nutso. I think we are going to keep stuff on that surface in the future and/or have shutters where we can keep the bottom of the window closed to keep her from not only going up there but also wanting to be up there.

How can we deprive her of her favorite spot? She will just have to content herself with looking out all the French windows at the back of the house. I know the mailman will appreciate her not being in that window.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What is it going to look like? + Progress Report

As I contemplated posting the latest progress pictures, it occurred to me that I haven't really shown what the place is going to look like.  So I decided to post some before and after drawings--that way the progress photos that follow will make a lot more sense.

Existing front elevation

New front elevation
You can see that not much changes from the front. The front door gets slightly wider and gets a transom.
The side porch is returned to its former screened-in glory and gets a new Chippendale style balustrade.

Existing back elevation

New back elevation
This is the elevation that will be most helpful when looking at the photos below.
The three windows to the left are kitchen, the French windows are family room.
The second story addition is our new master bedroom, the little window in the brick is in our new master shower.
Existing southeast elevation

New southeast elevation
The new French doors on the second level at back lead to the new master bedroom.

Existing northwest elevation

New northwest elevation
The new side door leads to a mudroom, one of the features that excites me most.

It is amazing in the early days how progress is measured in leaps and bounds. A bit of framing and suddenly you have the outline of a gable. No doubt progress will be much less dramatic when they start doing plumbing and HVAC and electrical and stuff like that.

So far there have been no big surprises. The contractors have come across some rotten wood here and there that they have replaced and a few interior walls were too shallow for electrical service so more of our original plaster is disappearing, but nothing so far that requires a change order. Phew.

The light green flooring material is the subfloor with grooves in it for the infloor radiant heat.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What a difference two weeks makes

While we were here for ten days...
Well, we were only at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for five nights (the other five in Waikiki). The hotel itself is a wonderful modernist building from the 1960s that is much more elegant in person than it is in pictures. A really lovely place to stay. They have created a really fun microsite for the hotel that starts to get at the groove of the place.
...a lot of stuff happened at the house.

The last time I was at the house was on February 27th. Demo had continued inside in spots and the footings had been poured in the big hole in back.

While we were gone I saw an inspection report that showed the forms for the foundation/basement walls so I knew that things were progressing. But I was a little surprised to see how far they had gotten while we were away. As of this morning, the foundation walls were in place, the framing for the floor, and some of the new structural steel was in place, and there was a pretty big hole in the back of the existing house.

The two deep window wells allow for emergency egress for the bedroom in the new basement.
Basement floor plan for new addition. You can see the egress wells on the left.

New steel header above the old French windows.
The open space to the left used to be the exterior wall of our kitchen.

Plan of the first floor of the addition. The blue arrow shows the general view point of the previous picture.

The masonry under the new steel beam will also be demolished.

New steel framing starts to give a sense of he new space. The place where the beam gets shallower is to accommodate the new decking--so that when you walk out of our new master bedroom you still have a slight step down to the surface of the deck. 
Plan of the second floor. The caption on the previous photo referencing the changing height of the steel beam refers to the narrow area of deck at the end of the master bedroom. The master bath in the lower left corner is where our master is in the existing house.
The thing I find fascinating is that there always seems to be stuff going on inside as well as outside. I guess contractors multitask. Duh.

You can see what that new beam insertion looks like from the inside. The window is our former master bath and is about in the place of the new closets in the master bedroom.

Picture taken slightly to the left of the previous picture. The windows are our soon to be former master bedroom. The door frame at the bottom of the picture is from the old kitchen into the dining room. The double windows are where the shower and toilet in the new master bath will be (see plan above).

Taken from our master bedroom looking into the old kitchen and out to what will be the first floor of the addition.

Slightly different view of the same.
  And then there is the new basement.

Its amazing how small unfinished space looks. A view of the new basement bedroom taken from what will be a new laundry and mechanical room.

I'm glad I don't have to understand what is going on here.