Thursday, March 21, 2019

Lofty Bird House Improvements, Part I

Four years ago we met a man we affectionately and respectfully call Magic Mike. He was the one that turned my dream of screening our porch, adding a roof, a reality. He repaired the leak into our living room, and we got that room completely updated, too. And it's hard to believe that was 4 years ago! Ever since then we have been in line, waiting for Mike to be available again. In the meantime we have been tackling repairs and making improvements ourselves, but wishing for good help, and hoping to make some bigger dreams come true. The house has some desperate, urgent needs, like a roof, and paint, and some more fanciful possibilities...

One weekend, in February, Geoff got an email, from Mike... I'm available! See you Wednesday. I am paraphrasing, but it was just about that sudden, and we were both excited and gobsmacked. Knowing that he could do anything, that we had only days to prepare, we did not want to waste a golden opportunity. We had to decide on what to ask him to do, get materials, have plans, be certain, get ready... it was panic and delight!

We went around the house making lists, debating options. Our big-big-big dream is to add on and up to the garage, expanding the workshop space below, and living space above, and the prospect of seeing this done, is thrilling, but it didn't take too much reasoning to realize that we were not prepared. This would take engineering and planning that we were not ready for. So, then we took a long, hard look at our entry, and a lofty idea I've been suggesting and hoping for...

I don't know if I've ever posted, or even taken, any pictures of our entry, and when I took this picture, it dawned on me that it's not just an unfortunate design, but that I really, really do not like it. Here are the problems... the closed and inaccessible window faces the setting sun, and acts like a greenhouse, overheating the upstairs in summer. The high, open ceiling captures all the heat in winter. Our neighbors have a ginormous screen view into our home through a window that is a pain to clean. The railing and opening below makes me uncomfortable. And here is what I have dreamt of as a solution: Create a room above the entry, change the window to something smaller that we can open. I long for the open window, the cross-ventilation, and option for privacy.

Okay... so tentatively we were closing in on ideas. The small window, going upstairs, is sitting in rotted wood, and needs replacing, the stairs were improperly cut to fit carpeting that is disintegrating and awful, the screened porch is hard to keep clean, so adding a low wall would be a boon, and maybe we can turn the entry into small loft, with a window that opens, and hopefully-fingers-crossed we can get the whole outside of the house painted. Plus I was thinking of tacking on another wish... screen the balcony off our room. It's where the original living room ceiling leak originated, and was a wasted space and eye-sore. It was Sunday night and we had a long list of possible projects for Magic Mike, and he was coming Wednesday.

Geoff wasn't sure putting a floor in the entry would be a good idea... it might leave the downstairs, dark and cave-like, it might be too complicated, it might be too low going up the stairs... too many mights.

But Mike said, "Yeah. This could work." And it began... he brought out his laser, and then we were all on board!

February 21...

We're really doing this!

It's like the first snip of a haircut, where you've decided to go really short! All of the second-thoughts and doubts are irrelevant and there's no where to go, except ahead! And the thing is, Mike works so fast, there is no time for doubt. We would go to school, or work, or just to the market and every time we returned our fanciful idea was turning into something real!

February 23...
By the end of Mike's second work day, we had can-lights, a sub-flooring, wiring, and... oh yeah, a whole new room developing!

For the first time, we could stand here and look there. It seemed improbable.

February 24...

It did not take long to see that none of our concerns were issues to worry over... the entry, with lighting and the sidelight windows, still felt bright, and open, the floor above did nothing to interfere with going upstairs. Really, the only challenge was keeping ahead of Mike with materials and new ideas. We had to decide on how to finish the railing, about paint, texturing, mill work, window trim, ordering flooring, and what to do with the new space. Lots of fun, and challenging, too.

February 25...
So funny to have imagined what a room would be like here, and to anticipate the view out the window, but the real surprise was seeing the rest of the house from the new space. We realized that facing the hallway gave a new feeling and look to the entire upstairs space, so we needed to consider all of it as one room, not just the new room.

February 26...
Not even one week since this started... and we were still figuring out our plan, as Mike worked. I honestly, was so relieved to be rid of the carpeting, I would be happy to paint the plywood and call it an upgrade! So, the carpet is out and so are the railings that enclosed the landing. Seeing it open like this, we were intrigued with the idea of keeping it open, even adding stairs, so we could go up directly from the hall or the front door. But how to finish the hall side? And what about paint colors?

New steps. A new rail. And a king to live under the stairs. All in a day's work.

February 28...

The king was William's idea. Under the stairs, deep in his mine, lives a wee king with some treasure. He is a 3D printed time capsule, of sorts.

Long live the king.

We've suspected for a long time that Chango is deaf, and this project confirms it... saws, nail guns, sanders, hammers, drills... nothing of these has phased or rattled our dear old man cat.

And nothing has slowed Mike down. After just one week, Mike is already installing trims and mill work. He was able to re-purpose all of the trims and railings, adjusting and modifying where necessary. We cannot believe how beautifully all of this is coming together.

March 4...

Outside, the screened porch got the lapped siding, which we hope will reduce dampness and dust. Inside, Mike is getting ready for the flooring, and finishing the railing on the landing, with drywall and trims. And everyone wants to know... Natalie, have you decided on the paint?

Cairo, help me choose? Not just colors, but which walls to include for new color, and which walls to keep "white." Only, it's not strictly white, so how are we going to match it?

I was delighted to have Mike take some matters into his own hands. He picked a white, Divine Pleasure. It's brighter than the original white, and looks lovely.

The winner is: Behr Thai Basil for the 3 entry walls, and the same walls upstairs.

And we are still trying on ideas for the purpose and furnishings for the new space.

March 6...
This is the book that I am proud of. It's one of those rare instances when I do the thing that I know I ought to do... like keeping a record of the paint chips we use, the order numbers for flooring, and windows, and ideas, inspiration, lists, and plans. I love the book. I wish I had a book for the rest of my life.

The book, and my Pinterest boards, is where I turned when I needed to make decisions about the balcony. My wish was granted, and the open balcony got screened in. Now we can keep mosquitos out, and cats in, and we can enjoy one more possibility for cooling the house in summer. But there is still potential for improvement here... and so I have to make more paint decisions...

Back to the loft... the flooring arrived, and has had time to sit, so it adjusts to the house's temperature and humidity. Mike is ready to install. And... it doesn't "match," but that's cool. We didn't hope to make a perfect match, so we simply chose the wood we could afford, like, and enjoy. In a sense, that makes it a perfect match, actually.

Customs cuts... Mike made a great finish of our crazy request to have stairs wrap around the landing, requiring mitered cuts to soften the corner. It's looking beautiful!

March 8...

What will the new space be? Answer: a sitting room, a nest, a book nook, a cozy corner.

March 9...

We are waiting on the windows, but not waiting to enjoy the new space. It feels like it was always this way.

No, kitty!

Ok... I did say this was Part I, so if you haven't had enough of our dust and indecisions, already, please come back soon for the big finish!

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