Part three of a six-part series
Most of us are plagued by at least one deep, dark secret. In the case of my husband, Terry Moore, and me, the dysfunction that floats to the top during a remodel is "packrattery." Not only is this affliction a cool new word, it's really heavy and takes up a lot of space.
To help illuminate our vintage home, we called Jennifer Stever of Stever Design in Grants Pass. Stever gave us specific measurements for placing can lights. (Tip: The inside of the light's trim should be about 18 inches from the kitchen wall — this delivers good light for working at a counter without adding any shadow; we used the same idea to shine a light on living-room art and entertainment areas.)
Dave Paulsen of Paulsen Electric in Eagle Point was our go-to electrician. He made an early appearance, wiring the house for intelligently placed outlets and switches when the walls were down to studs. Then he patiently waited while we sourced fixtures and hemmed over where the under-cabinet and in-cabinet lights should go. Fortunately, Dave stuck with us to the end, installing a whole new exterior service box and taking care of power-company and city inspections.
Plumbing was another highly technical area where we needed not only design help but downright expertise. Todd Lawson of Dependable Plumbing in Central Point was a gift — he figured out how to make our back-to-back bathrooms work, found the perfect, high-efficiency, 50-gallon water heater, sourced a hard-to-find, corner, wall-mount sink for the powder room and spent untold hours in person and on the phone listening as I flip-flopped between faucet designs. (Satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze? A heart-wrenching decision in which the latter won.)
These and other professionals turned our remodel into a joyful learning experience within a perfectly framed, vintage home.
Terry and I discovered our shared dysfunction early in our courtship. His most voluminous offenders? Stereo components (working, repaired and in-need-of-repair), battalions of ancient hardware and stacks of lumber. Mind you, Terry may be pretty handy but he's way more of an engineer than a carpenter!
As for me, it's china and clothing. I confess to owning a few (OK, five) sets of china, two punch bowls, scores of pitchers and trays, and a vast assemblage of vintage teacups and adorably tiny serving pieces. And then there is the army of footwear (all fabulous, of course!) and the suitcases full of out-of-season clothing that get stored half the year.
"Got a problem with that, mister?" I asked Terry when my fetishes could no longer be kept under wraps.
"If you've got room for it, it's not a problem," he wisely replied.
I should also mention our shared compulsion for saving items that seem culturally or sentimentally significant, such as Terry's mountain of video and cassette tapes, several fiber-optic lights in the shape of winged creatures and every hippie tunic he wore in the 1970s. On my end, we've got boxes upon boxes of written material and photographs. "It's our archives, babe," says my hubby. "We only save the good stuff!"
Now that our packrattery has been publicly acknowledged, it's easier to explain why we had to reframe the interior of the 1920 Cape Cod cottage in Jacksonville that we bought last November: There was simply not enough space for all our "good stuff" in the 1,180-square-foot, rectangular house. We needed a lot more hiding places.
We also wanted to create a welcoming, warm and comfortable atmosphere that played up the home's vintage aspects while bringing in some contemporary design elements and convenience.
First, we researched the architecture of Cape Cod houses: For 400 years, this sturdy design has kept its symmetry by featuring a centrally placed front door with windows on either side across the home's face.
So that's where we started. Our front door originally opened up into a large living room, which made some of the interior space near the door generally unusable. By moving the door about 4 feet to the right and building in a 7-foot hall closet, we gained a formal entry as well as valuable storage space for coats, vacuum cleaner and recycling center. The hall closet also provides privacy for the master bedroom that once opened directly into the living room.
Our new hallway was so fetching we wanted to make the most of it, so we redesigned the bathroom that had been accessed through a door at the end of the shorter, original hall. By stealing about 4 square feet from that bathroom, we were able to extend the hall all the way to the back utility/mud room. A fir door with a privacy glass panel closes the hall off from the mudroom so visitors see an expanse of restored fir flooring and beautiful finish work instead of our water heater.
The bath got a major overhaul. We were fortunate to discover a length of 20 square feet that had been walled in between the kitchen and bathroom. What a bonus! That space got earmarked for a separate WC with tiled shower; the little room is attached to the main bath, where we installed a double vanity sink and 5-foot soaking tub.
Terry and I were both nervous about losing a second full bath when we downsized to this cottage. We quelled our anxiety by using the rest of that found square footage for a small powder room off the living area.
Each of the two bedrooms also received some efficient space-planning. Closets for both rooms shared a wall, so we stole the closet from the second bedroom and created a master bedroom run of two, 7-foot closets outfitted with sliding doors. Terry's engineering brain hatched a plan to build a linen closet in the hall across from the main bath; it was framed into the second bedroom, with part of if becoming a small bedroom closet.
Ah, the kitchen. I'll write in depth later about the myriad challenges this most important room presented. Suffice it to say here that we opened one side to the living room and created a U-shaped counter system that added many extra cabinets.
Across the back of the house, a shed addition was completely redesigned so 6-foot-4-inch Terry wouldn't bump his head. The low, flat ceiling was removed, and drywall was installed along the sloped roofline to create a vault. Then we removed all the old windows so the utility room had a blank wall for appliances.
We grabbed 2 feet from the utility room and gave them to the dining/sun room off the kitchen. Two corner windows and a patio door leading out to our future deck make the space inviting. Our first piece of furniture to be placed was a china hutch — found on Craig's List for $95! Finally, much of my china will be in one place.
Once we settled on our new floor plan, we were tickled to discover it wasn't so very different from a centuries-old Cape Cod. Although we changed the "borning room" into a mudroom and the "keeping room" into a dining area, everything else is pretty much where historians say it would be "… except for the psychedelic, fiber-optic butterfly — I'm still not sure where that belongs!
Next month: In part four of her six-part series, Jennifer focuses on the kitchen situation, including the pros and cons of prefab cabinets.