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Before tour: the dining room

Our dining room is less notable for what it is (the mostly empty room we pass through on our way from the living room to the kitchen) than for what it will be – a showcase kitchen. When Weezie and I were thinking about buying the house we learned that two of its quirks were deal-breakers for most potential purchasers. The first was its notable lack of central HVAC. We fixed that. But they also pointed to the the tiny, outdated kitchen that’s down a set of steps from the main living level. Aside from the obvious challenges this arrangement presents for anyone with mobility issues, it makes the space feel remote from the living room, where we spend most of our time. We’re gonna fix that, too.

I’m not one to toot horns, but I had the kitchen location problem solved before the end our first viewing. The solution was clear as day – move the kitchen. Duh. To find its new home, I didn’t have to go far. The dining room, just up those aforementioned steps from the existing kitchen is the perfect spot for our kitchen-to-be, just off the living room. And since we do all of our coming and going by way of the existing  kitchen, the room is well situated to transform into a mudroom once it’s no longer needed for cooking microwaving. We’ve just started planning this exciting project and hope to get it under way this summer.

Located in the “new” 1870s portion of the house, the dining room is sizable and well-suited to the large formal gatherings we have – well, never. The room swallows the little round table we dragged from our last house. On the east wall, a large picture window flanked by two skinny double-hung units looks out to the side yard and across Cameron Street.

dining to living

On the north wall is the door to the kitchen and a huge, built-in buffet. Right now, its shelves are home to all of our books. A panel over the kitchen door provides access to an unexpectedly tall interstitial space between the ceiling of the kitchen and the floor of the master bedroom above.

dining buffet

The west wall begs for a window, but is blank except for a fascinating hand-hewn post, whose location and configuration confound everyone who encounters it. The post appears to have accepted a pegged diagonal brace, now absent, but I can’t sort out why that was ever necessary in this location. The joinery is old school craftsmanship at its finest, and it’s a fun conversation piece for visitors interested in the history of the house.

pegged joint

The volume of the ground floor bathroom bumps into the southwest corner of the room. Originally, this bathroom was part of an inset porch that had a back door into the living room, visible in an old photo I included in my post about that room. The entire space is wrapped with an elaborate carved chair rail that was copied from the stair hall trim of a North Carolina plantation house reconstructed in the Winterthur museum in Delaware.

chair rail

Lovely as the dining room is, I’m anxious to see it reborn as the 21st-century heart of The Ordinary House. More on that soon.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Look forward to seeing this transformation of the kitchen to the dining room…My main memory of the dining room as a teen was inviting an older beau for dinner for 2. We were served artichokes…and he, picked up a knife and fork and proceeded to try to cut the thistle. There were several of these rather awarkard moments with my dates. Years later, perhaps in following the ease of Kitty and Bob Murphy, it became second nature; even cooking for Martha Stewart!

    March 27, 2013
    • jrh #

      Hi Zacki – I’m not sure that I’d do a whole lot better in front of an artichoke. I promise we’ll do the kitchen move in the way that ol’ Seven Hearths deserves. As a cook, I’m sure you won’t mind that we’re making a bigger, better kitchen at the heart of the house.

      March 28, 2013
  2. Weezie #

    We don’t always microwave. Sometimes we use the oven to make frozen pizza.

    March 28, 2013
    • Weeie,

      As a personal chef and long time resident of “Seven Hearths,” think I better do food delivery to you two once a week, so you don’t have to make frozen pizza…and you can concentrate on making your dream kitchen…The house is looking so much better on the outside…and the gardens much renewed…Thank you for loving my old home!

      March 28, 2013
    • jrh #

      Once we cooked some pasta, remember?

      March 28, 2013
      • Weezie #

        Twice, actually

        March 29, 2013
  3. Hi Reid,
    I just stumbled on your blog, and wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading the backlog of posts. Having gone through a lot of the same restoration issues in our 1784 house in Connecticut, I can tell what a great job you guys are doing. Keep up the good work!


    March 28, 2013
    • jrh #

      Hi John – thanks for your note. It’s always great to hear from people who are as fanatical about their old house as I am.

      I just spent a few minutes with your blog…what a beauty of a house. I love the cozy low ceilings in New England colonials. My wife spent part of her childhood in Darien, just down the road from you. It’s beautiful up there.

      Stay tuned. We’ve got a long way to go!

      March 28, 2013
      • Small world! We’re about 10 minutes from “downtown” Darien.

        March 28, 2013


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