Tag Archives: women in trades

The$24Wall-1

My $24 Wall

Just like corporate ladder climbing, my mantra is “Up or Out.”

Any unused stuff in the basement, shed or carriage house must be used, up-cycled, repaired, or hung on the wall this calendar year or it’s going straight out the door.  It’s crazy to be storing things that never see the light of day, or worse, be building new space just to keep up with the never-ending acquisitions.

I also have an amazing assortment of old-growth timber that came off the house during my recent energy retrofit.  This I refuse to part with, even though it occupies the better part of my driveway.  If I wake up in the morning and want a new wall/kitchen cabinets/handmade dining room table, I can pull the materials off the piles and begin.  Whatever I can dream, I can do, and having materials lying around in wait makes a quick start that much more possible.

The choice of a wall as my first reclamation project was primarily practical, focussing on design improvements to our modest family room.  I wanted the wall to delineate the space and improve the flow,  create privacy (no more peeking straight in through the back door),  buffer the room from direct blasts of winter air,  and prep the space for a potential conversion to a main floor, wheelchair-accessible bedroom.

The rickety old carriage house doors – ripe for up cycle – sacrificed their life for the project. First, I gave them a rough scraping before bringing them inside, careful to maintain the layers of old paint and the interesting patina.   Then I angle cut the t&g boards and set them into a a slightly thicker frame, creating a neat reveal.  Finally, I applied a couple of loose coats of paint, allowing sections of old paint and wood to show through.

I purchased the old wood windows three years ago for ten bucks apiece.  My plan was to use them in the retrofit of the shed into my own office/private space, but this project budged to the top of the list.  I wanted to create privacy and allow light to pass between the room and the north-facing back entrance.  The windows satisfied both these needs.  If I ever fully enclose the room, I can modify them into hinged transoms to permit airflow.

I’m thrilled with the finish and the overall design blends brilliantly with the other rustic features of the house.  Not bad value for $24 worth of 2×4’s and a couple of days’ labour.

ATreeRunsThroughIt-1

A Tree Grows in My Bedroom

 “Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” – Walt Whitman

A bitter, alarming storm blew up the river and through the village a few weeks ago. Swaths of trees were felled in an instant, looking like a gaggle of giants had stomped through.  The rain blew horizontally, and with such force, that a small waterfall appeared on the inside of one of my old, unflashed windows.  The phone line dropped and the power went off as lightning and thunder pounded the sky. Three of my kids were on a bus somewhere between school and home.  My eldest and I sat quietly on the main floor and waited and hoped.

A few minutes later the sky returned to blue, the little ones arrived safely, and we walked the neighbourhood to survey the damage.  Fortunately, our enormous birches, maples and evergreens fared well.  Some neighbouring trees, not so much.

This weekend I picked through tree carcasses, looking for an ideal piece to integrate into the master bedroom. I found a fine piece of maple that had a sexy and distinctly feminine curve and form.   I cut the branch to rough size then fiddled with placement, searching for the appropriate alignment.  I toenailed it into place, added one ‘peg’, and tinkered with introducing a third branch to create a tripod for a hand-made birds nest.  I had my heart set on a birch tree (my second favourite species), but I am liking the smooth, greyish bark of the maple.  It will sit ‘as is’ until the next ah-ha! idea reveals itself.  It will be a hanger of sorts, but I’m undecided whether its nature will be utilitarian, aesthetic or a combination of the two.  In my house there is really no such thing as ‘finished,’ only more of what matches my vision.  And I love not knowing exactly what will come next.

Last week I installed a partial wall in the bedroom to break up the awkward, open space and create a modest walk-in closet.  I strapped out the walls and installed cedar t&g that I had sitting around for that purpose.  In the Fall I will build the custom closet spaces.

My drywalling skills have jumped measurably, although I am still slow.  The new wall is immaculate and I am very pleased with my repair of drywall over a large and tricky patch of existing lathe and plaster.  As always I am contemplating what I could have done better.  As always, there are several things on that list.

I’ve wanted to get rid of the furniture in the room and build custom pieces that better fit the needs of the space itself.  The built-in headboard/storage runs the length of the main wall.  I framed it up, correcting for the sloped floor and created purpose-built box inserts from leftover pieces of 2GS plywood.  I used the reclaimed lathe from the Quiet Room walls to face the piece.  I did a temporary install of cedar deck boards on top. What I’m leaning towards, though, is a concrete topper embedded with fossils and small stones we’ve collected on family vacations.  The headboard is a collection of positive and negative spaces and I am creating some interesting pieces to frame and hang on the lathe where the boxes (purposely) don’t exist.

Ceiling work, trim, more closet and fine work yet to come.  If I waited for magazine-perfect completeness, though, I don’t think I’d ever be writing or posting about my building/carpentry work.  But I have the lovely luxury of time and lateral thinking when the house is my own.

I am pleased with the results so far, which is saying a lot.  I anticipate, and embrace, those large, melodious and creative thoughts my new tree is apt to bring.