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Posts from the ‘Kitchen’ Category

Meet Joyce

countertop dishwasher

Joyce is a countertop dishwasher that I gifted to my lovely wife for Christmas. We named the blessed machine after our pre-marital counselor because it serves in the same capacity: prevention of marital discord.

Due to my ongoing upper respiratory distress and recent travels, progress on the kitchen has slowed to a crawl. Even so, our dishes have never been cleaner, at least as long as we’ve lived in Hillsborough. Despite her diminutive proportions, Joyce cleans as well as any full-size dishwasher I’ve ever owned.

small dishwasher interior

It’s as if a normal under-counter dishwasher was squashed to 1/3 of its size. Just like a fancy full-size machine, Joyce has a stainless steel interior, separate racks for plates and cups, a silverware carrier, and an automatic detergent dispenser. Perhaps the biggest indicator that it’s not a full-size model (aside from the obvious fact that it holds fewer dishes) is that it must be hooked to the kitchen faucet for water.

dishwasher faucet connection

It’s a minor inconvenience for the automation of a task that’s universally loathed in our household. Now, if I could figure out how to extract my sinuses and run them through Joyce on the pot rinse cycle, we might be able to make tracks to the day when we can wash dishes AND use the sink at the same time.

Our haunted house

We’re told that our house is home to two ghosts. The first is that of Jane Hayes, a young girl who died of consumption in 1850. She’s a typical ghost, ethereal and wispy, able to float through walls. The second specter is odd: a cat’s body with the head of a man. The story goes that the face belongs to William Hayes, a physician who kept his offices in The Ordinary House in the 1920s, and who believed that humans were reincarnated in the form of animals. We’ve not yet had the pleasure to meet either of these apparitions, but I’m soundly convinced that we’re haunted by a third ghost, one who is bound and determined to keep us from having functional heating and air-conditioning. After last year’s boiler breakdown and this month’s furnace failure , I hoped that we might be free of HVAC woes for a few years, at least.

But recently, while doing some remedial framing work in the kitchen, I yanked out a piece of wall insulation and was surprised to feel a sudden whoosh of air. I watched as some sawdust on the floor was sucked into a void in the wall. A bit of poking around with a flashlight was all it took to discover the problem.

When crafting return air ducts, particularly in old houses, HVAC contractors will often “pan” joists. That is, they line the voids between framing members with sheet metal to create boxes that collect return air and direct it back to the furnace. The return for the downstairs HVAC systems begins as a sheet metal box above the floor, transitions to a panned joist cavity in the crawlspace which in turn connects to a duct leading to the furnace.

Our HVAC installation technicians probably didn’t stop to think that there’s nothing normal about the way The Ordinary House was built when panning our joists. In contemporary wood construction, the floor structure ends at a rim joist. The floor cavity is separated from the wall framing by subfloor and a 2×4 wall plate, like this:

normal return

In our new kitchen, the walls are partially “balloon” framed, meaning the wall studs are continuous from the foundation up to the ceiling – there’s no subfloor or wall plate to separate the wall cavity from the floor framing. So, for the past year, our HVAC return air has been pulled from the wall vent in the living room, where it’s supposed to, and from the INSIDE OF THE WALL through filthy fiberglass insulation.  To complicate matters, our siding sits directly on the wall studs rather than on top of plywood sheathing. Tiny gaps in the siding placed under negative pressure would have admitted freezing outside air to the return duct in the winter and hot, muggy air in the summer. This means, of course, that the system was working overtime to heat and cool the air. Fortunately, the filter is located at the furnace, so at the very least, the air was being cleaned.

busted return

I’ve filled the gap between the wall and floor framing with wood blocking and plenty of duct sealing mastic and spray foam so I can be certain that the return air is being pulled only from the living room, not the inside of our walls or through the siding.

As the snowflakes fall outside, I hope that I might have finally exorcised our HVAC ghost.

The human-head cat ghost, on the other hand, is welcome anytime.

Ignorance is bliss

There’s a point in every renovation project when you must face the unexpected. I knew it was too good to be true when the pest control man who inspected the Ordinary House before closing pointed to a few termite-eaten boards in the library and announced, “That’s it.” A 250 year old wood house in the muggy South and that’s it, huh? Dealing with the financial strain of buying the house, I was content to believe the guy, even though my left brain was screaming, “This joker’s on the pipe!”

So, I wasn’t altogether surprised when I demolished the walls of the kitchen-to-be and discovered some suspiciously crumbly wood. Since termites don’t leave telltale signs of their presence on the surface of the timbers they’re eating, I tapped the post a few times, listening for a hollow sound.

Gulp.

I poked the wood with my finger – it plunged right in. Then I grabbed a corner of the post with my fist and watched as it disintegrated into powder. 

Crap. Termites.

A few gentle taps with my hammer was all it took to reduce the post to a pile of dirty cellulose. After a few moments of abject terror, with visions of collapsing houses playing in my mind’s eye, I evaluated the damage. The good news: the infestation is no longer active and was largely isolated to a diagonal brace that was only structurally critical when the existing kitchen was a freestanding structure. The bad news: in addition to the brace, the little buggers got into the back of the siding boards behind it.

termites in siding

I’m not known for my unbridled optimism, but after years of architectural training and practice, I’m conditioned to turning construction’s inevitable lemons into lemonade.

The solution to the termite damage is is to completely remove it and put in a window that’s already on our list of “someday” projects. Though the trio of windows in the kitchen-to-be admit a decent amount of light, they’re east-facing which means the room gets limited light late in the afternoon and into the evening. The termite damage is on the west wall in a spot we’d already identified as window-worthy. In addition to late-day light, an opening in this spot will give us views to the backyard.

backyard window

Didn’t realize our backyard had a Rhode Island sea view, did you? It’ll be a trick to figure out where to locate the window. That white beam in the picture continues across the wall on the other side of the post; it’s actually the ceiling beam of the kitchen, down the stairs on the other side of the door. A transom window above the beam might keep the main window from feeling awkwardly low. Clearly, I’ve got some design studies to do.

The main reason we didn’t include the window in our original plans was that I wanted to pull a building permit quickly so that we could get the kitchen project underway. Since we’re smack in the middle of the Hillsborough historic district, any change that impacts the outside of our house requires the approval of the Historic District Commission, of which I’m now a member (I hear the boos – don’t hate the player, hate the game). HDC approval requires additional documentation to be submitted in advance of a monthly meeting, and approval must be granted before a permit can be issued. Fortunately, with a building permit already in hand, I can continue working on the the kitchen interior while I prepare for the next HDC meeting.

My elementary school art teacher used to say, “mess up, fix up” as a way to encourage us to recognize the hidden opportunities in mistakes we made while working on our noodle art. Who knew I’d be putting that lesson into practice 25 years later while restoring a house?

Happy New Year!

Update: no update

Note to self – get a flu shot next year. Last Thursday, a tickle in my throat in the morning progressed to a feverish fugue by nightfall. It was four days until I felt like half a human being again. I’ve been lucky to dodge the influenza bullet for several years without benefit of a shot, but this was a convincing reminder of how unpleasant an illness it is. Needless to say, the kitchen remains in exactly the same condition I left it week before last. With a few more nights of rest, I hope to tackle demolition of the walls this weekend.

In preparation, I bought a new toy. Meet the unfortunately named VacMaster:

vacmaster

I’ve owned several loud, bulky shop vacuums over the years. Some sucked harder than others (read that however you prefer), but none was particularly satisfactory. They all had a tendency to tip over and dump their contents, and to spit dust into their exhaust, defeating the purpose of vacuuming in the first place. After learning how filthy a very old house can be while I was demolishing the kitchen ceiling, I decided an upgrade was necessary.

The new vac is small, but VERY powerful. It’s relatively quiet, has a long hose and cord, and wheels designed to give it plenty of stability. Most importantly, the tool is fully HEPA rated by the EPA. The entire unit is certified to filter 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns. Translated, this means that the exhaust air of this vacuum is cleaner than normal room air. I can safely vacuum nearly anything, from piles of mouse poo to lead paint chips to plaster dust with confidence that they’re completely contained within the filter bag and won’t be spread any further.  It was a several hundred dollar investment, but one that will pay off in peace of mind as I continue to work on The Ordinary House.

Kitchen progress update #02: Demo, continued

To celebrate Thanksgiving in typical Weezie and Reid fashion, she worked and I worked on the house. In one uninterrupted ten hour span, I pulled down not one, but two existing ceilings.  The first layer was drywall and came down quickly. The second layer was bead board wood. Since tongue and groove planks are nearly impossible to salvage intact, I hesitated to pull it down. But they had to go for a number of reasons:

  • We’re having the plumbing for the upstairs bathrooms, both situated above the kitchen-to-be, replaced with modern pipes that will (hopefully) ensure that we never have to think about them again. We’ve been informed that the existing pipes leaked at least once in the past. I’d prefer no repeat performances above our new kitchen.
  •  While we’re at it, we’re going to pitch those new drain pipes to the other side of the room, where we can conceal a new waste line behind the refrigerator. The beam at the top of the walls is about 8 inches tall and 4 inches thick. When the Ordinary House got its first bathroom, the plumbers were wise enough not to run their pipes through this beam, hence the cast iron drain that snakes down the outside of the house. I couldn’t live with myself if I renovated this house and allowed it to stay.
  • The wood ceiling had already been butchered in several places in order to gain access to leaky plumbing.
  • Past plumbing leaks resulted in a few rotten patches in the wood planks.
  • The ceiling framing is lumpy and droopy and this can’t be corrected without access to the framing.

If you’ve never demolished an old house ceiling, you can’t begin to appreciate the level of filth that lies above it. Of course there’s dust – not normal household dust, mind you, but a fine dark dust with the same consistency and tendency to float as talcum powder. In addition there’s mouse poo, mouse nests, dead insects, paint chips, nails, old wires, chunks of wood, piles of insulation…you get the picture. When you’re pulling these things down from above, there’s no way to avoid them falling directly on top of you.

above ceiling

The ceiling(s) concealed a mishmash of components typical of a very old house: abandoned knob & tube wiring, new Romex wiring, copper water pipes, PEX water pipes, galvanized water pipes, cast iron waste pipes, PVC waste pipes, lead waste pipes, galvanized waste pipes, new plywood subfloor, original tongue and groove wood floors without subfloor, hand hewn beams, sawn beams, and engineered wood beams. It reflects the history of construction for the period that this portion of the house has been standing. The great news is that the structure is sound and should last another hundred years with no trouble.

It was a lousy way to spend the holiday, but I’m very thankful to have one of the kitchen project’s dirtiest and longest days behind me.

Kitchen progress update #01: Demo

The Ordinary House kitchen project is officially underway. Two weeks ago, I had a 15 yard dumpster delivered. Since then, I’ve been doing some minor demolition and architectural reconnaissance to find out what’s behind these old walls.

For the record, I hate – no, loathe – demolition, and I recognize that this puts me in a minority. Watch a few minutes of HGTV and you’re guaranteed to see a sledgehammer-wielding homeowner practically giddy with delight as he pulverizes every intact surface of his home. Cabinets on the wall? Never mind that they’re easily demounted by backing out a couple of screws, Captain D.I.Y. would rather DESTROY them, reducing the boxes to a pile of splintered wood.

My approach to demo is methodical and might be better described as deconstruction than demolition. This method minimizes mess and collateral damage to surfaces that will remain, but it slows the process to a snail’s pace. I didn’t have any idea how much of the existing dining room would have to go before I started poking around. The unfortunate answer is: most of it. The first few days of demo have revealed a good amount of work that is best described as jackleg. A good result can only be achieved by stripping away the accumulated layers of shoddy workmanship and beginning anew. All told, the demolition process will take 4-6 weekends to complete.

kitchen demo

The good news is that the underlying structure I’ve uncovered is solid as a brick sh*thouse, with apologies for my French. Records indicate that this wing of the house was added in the 1870s, but the wood posts I revealed are indicative of a much earlier structure.  They range from 4″-6″ wide and look similar to the framing in the 1750s portion of the house.

old studs

Based on this, I’m certain that the dining room wing was a separate, older building moved to the site and tacked onto the back of the original home. The framing in the attic is more like what you’d expect for a home built in the late 1870s: smaller dimension sawn lumber. So it seems that the second floor and roof were added over the dining room. And we know that the kitchen was yet another independent structure. So, between the original house, the library, the dining room, the kitchen and the master suite, our house is actually an amalgamation of FIVE houses, which goes a long way toward explaining its quirky layout.

Other things I’ve learned:

We have a mouse.

We’ve been aware of his presence because of the “leavings” he scatters across our countertops at night. But I didn’t expect him to boldly skitter across the hole that I was examining with my flashlight. I swallowed a girlish scream, but nearly jumped out of my skin and used some four letter words that I won’t repeat here. Later, it became apparent that we’ve HAD mice, because I found several of his ancestors in balls of insulation behind the walls.

mouse skeleton

Time to buy some traps.

The dining room was once green, then purple.

A crumbling plaster wall behind the old built-in buffet reveals the original paint colors.

green purple

The heart pine floors are going to be beautiful.

I’ve never loved the russet-colored stain on the floors, so I couldn’t resist hand sanding a small patch of one old plank to get a look at the underlying honey-colored wood.

sanded heart pine

I don’t need any more color than that.

The dining room was last renovated in 1950.

I discovered strips of newspaper beneath the baseboards that are dated February 24, 1950.

february 24, 1950

In ’50, you could get a “lastex” girdle for $3.99:

girdles

a “super-duper” Gene Autry cowboy shirt for $2.98:

cowboy shirt

and if you suffered from constipation, particularly the “clogging, transient kind”, you could count on Dr. Edwards’ Olive Tablets:

constipation

I look forward to leaving a similar memento for the builder who renovates our kitchen in 60 or 70 years time.

“The people want sexy.” – Weezie

Neighbors, if you ride by our place and find my head impaled on a fence post, my wife put it there, and it’s because of the dishwasher. More precisely, the imaginary future dishwasher that I continue to assure her I’ll put in “soon”. The specificity of that install date is not popular around here, hence the concern for my physical safety.

You see, my honey-do list is more intense than most. Among the usual “change the upstairs light bulb” and “mow the lawn” directives, my list includes things like: “build a kitchen.” I love getting my hands dirty, and there are few things I find more satisfying than building something I’ve designed with my own two hands. The problem is that I’ve only got two of them, rather than the 16 or 18 my list demands.

My main excuse for lack of progress on the kitchen is that I’m embroiled in a battle with an awful client at the moment. He occupies nearly all of my free time because he’s indecisive at best and paralyzed by doubt at worst. He demands that I rework and redraw and reconfigure, never satisfied, always convinced that there’s a better solution that hasn’t been explored yet. His standards are nearly impossible to meet, and I worry that I’ll never make him happy.

My name is Reid Highley, and I’m my own worst client.

Architects working for themselves generally divide into two camps. The first uses self-designed projects as a release valve for pent-up frustrations, a chance to whip out all the harebrained ideas they’ve had rejected by clients (“I can’t believe they didn’t go for the bedroom in a box on wheels!”), and combine them into one orgiastic architectural hodgepodge.

The other camp, the one I fall into, recognizes this impulse and traps themselves in an endless cycle of redesign in an attempt to ensure that the built design is the “right” one, well-edited and just so. I feel tremendous pressure to make this room special. This is our forever kitchen, and our first attempt at a serious interior project at the Ordinary House. I’ve got a blog audience and lots of neighbors watching, in a town where I hope to do plenty of business as an architect. And the first kitchen I designed for myself ended up in a magazine and a book. But seriously, no pressure.

So without any further ado, and at risk of embarrassing myself, I’m going to show you where I am with the design, beginning with the floor plan. As you may recall, we’re making a big switcheroo, moving the kitchen from it’s current location up to the existing dining room.

kitchen move

This move makes sense for a number of reasons. First, the existing kitchen is down a small flight of steps. Going up and down them gets a bit tedious, especially since we spend most of our time in the living room. Having the kitchen on the same level as the living room, and immediately adjacent to it, will put our primary activity spaces in close proximity. Second, the existing kitchen begs to be a mud room/laundry room. The back door, our main entry and exit point from the house, is there. Plus, the current washer and dryer location underneath the front porch doesn’t inspire frequent laundering.

The kitchen

And, third, since we aren’t frequent formal diners, we feel that the dining space is better utilized as a blank canvas for our shiny new cuisine. A nice bonus to this arrangement is that we won’t be without a kitchen while the renovations are underway.

dining to living

One variable that Weezie and I agreed on early in the process was that we wanted an eat-in kitchen with a big farm table at its center, rather than an island. With that in mind, I began to draw and draw and draw:

kitchen plans

After drafting these schemes and perhaps fifty others, the layout fell into place, organized along two major axes.

kitchen plan

The kitchen sink had to go below the group of windows on the east side of the room. The table and refrigerator are likewise centered on these windows. In the other direction, the door to the living room, the long axis of the table and the range are aligned. There’s good separation between appliances, scads of counter space, and plenty of room to circulate around the table, even if people are sitting there. Full-height pantry cabinets will flank the fridge, and the dead space behind it will conceal some new plumbing.

When you take that plan, make a billion little decisions, and turn it into a computer model, it ends up looking something like this:

kitchen 3d model

kitchen view

There are lots of place holders here, and I know the design will evolve as the room comes together, but this gives you the gist of what we’ll end up with. My wife insists that people want sexy…and that’s how sexy begins.

Little boxes made of ticky-tacky

It wasn’t long ago that all kitchen cabinets were custom. Just a few weeks back, a veteran carpenter and I were shaking our heads at the shoddy build quality of the cabinets he was installing in a high-end kitchen renovation when he began reminiscing about the days when he and his colleagues would set up their saws in the kitchen and show off their craft by building sturdy cabinets on site. Those times are long gone and most mere mortals choose to use modular factory cabinets to keep their kitchen projects on budget.

The number of cabinet companies competing for our business is mind-boggling. I challenged myself to name as many manufacturers as I could in one minute and came up with this list: Diamond, Kraftmaid, Dynasty, Omega, Plain & Fancy, Merillat, Crownpoint, Ikea, Cliq Studios, Schrock and Bulthaup. And those are just a fraction of the companies that are producing cabinets today.

If money were no object for our kitchen project, I’d head straight to the nearest Plain English showroom (London) and hook myself up with a roomful of their lust-worthy, inset door cupboards. Because they’re British, you can call them ‘bespoke’ without coming off as a poseur.

plain english cabinets

But since we can’t afford to drop forty G’s on cabinets, we’re forced to consider more reasonable options. I used Ikea cabinets in our last kitchen and I’m convinced you can’t beat them for value. But their door styles and case sizes are limited and I don’t trust any particle board cabinet to last indefinitely.

In search of a sturdier option, I ran across Barker Cabinets, an Oregon-based cabinet manufacturer after my own heart. They have a niche operation that’s perfect for an over-do-it-yourselfer like me. Their cabinets are shipped flat-packed and ready-to-assemble, and can be customized down to the quarter inch in most dimensions. They have a decent selection of door styles available in a number of different domestic wood species, though their finish options are limited. One feature that stands out is their cabinet boxes, which are made from 3/4″ plywood, a specification that’s becoming rare even on high-end factory cabinets. Best of all, their prices are extremely reasonable, especially given the extensive customization options.

I ordered a small sample cabinet from Barker to evaluate the build quality and ease of assembly in person.

A box containing the cabinet arrived on our doorstep last week. The contents of the package were carefully packaged with shrink wrap to hold everything together and styrofoam blocks to protect vulnerable corners. First impression: extremely positive. If all of their cabinets are packed this way, it’s a sign that the company truly cares about their product.

box contents

Unwrapping the box’s contents, I noticed that each piece of the cabinet is labeled with a sticker for easy identification. The fasteners are neatly divided into plastic bags, and a clearly illustrated assembly manual is included. The plywood case pieces are finished with a clear varnish that seems reasonably durable. I ordered an unfinished Shaker style door in alder with a maple panel. The door is extremely well built with crisp corners and a smooth face that’s nearly ready for finishing. I haven’t decided yet whether we’d pay up for prefinished doors or try to paint them ourselves. Why I’m even considering the latter option after four months of fence painting is a discussion for another day.

cabinet parts

Assembly was a cinch, and took about twenty minutes including breaks for pictures.

First, you install the hinge plates.

hinge plates

Next, the box is assembled with aggressively-threaded Confirmat screws.

box assembly

The back face of the cabinet slips into a dado groove carved into the case.

cabinet back

The soft-close hinges slip into pre-drilled cups on the door and are affixed with two small screws.

hinge cup

The finished box feels solid, and looks good too.

cabinet box

Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of Barker cabinets based on my initial impressions:

Pros:

  • reasonable prices
  • customizable sizing
  • 3/4″ plywood cases
  • dovetailed drawer boxes
  • nice selection of solid wood doors
  • high-quality Blum hardware

Cons:

  • limited finish options
  • require assembly
  • intimidation factor for the inexperienced consumer
  • website could be more polished
  • approximate one-month lead time

These cabinets aren’t for everyone, but they seem tailor-made for me. I expect to order a room full of them in the coming months.

On the level

Drop a marble anywhere in our house and it’ll roll to the other end of the room, and not necessarily in a straight line.

“Level” is a vague and long-forgotten concept between these walls. As a neighbor describes it, this is the type of house that a carpenter walks into, looks around and announces: “By the hour.”

The massive oak beams that support the floors eat saw blades for breakfast, but the results of their centuries-long battle with gravity are betrayed by their noticeably saggy mid-sections. The droopy joists require us to keep shims handy for quick leveling of off-kilter furniture. It’s all very charming, at least until you’ve had one too many to drink and find yourself wondering whether it’s you or the house that’s leaning.

Wood structures move a lot. Day-to-day and season-to-season, a wood house is growing and shrinking, torquing and turning as it reacts to changes in temperature and humidity. And, although wood is exceptionally strong for its weight, it eventually fatigues when placed under constant load, resulting in that characteristic old house sag. For a particularly impressive example of this effect, check out the wavy roof line of the Fairbanks House, the oldest known wooden house in the United States, built in Dedham, Massachusetts around 1637 (don’t believe the chimney):

fairbanks house

Clearly, the beams in that place are totally tuckered out after 376 years of reliable service.

I’ve always know that our dining room floors were out-of-whack, but in preparation for the kitchen renovation I decided to take some quick measurements to see what I’ll be up against when setting cabinets. I whipped out my trusty laser level to project a level line across the room.

level line

At the living room side of the room, the laser line registers at 33 1/2″ above the floor.

low end

But by the time you reach the opposite end of the space, the same line is 35 1/8″ above the floor.

high end

I’ll save you the trouble: that’s a 1 5/8″ difference across 18 feet.

Gulp.

Truth be told, most of the height change occurs in a short stretch of floor where it slopes abruptly for no discernible reason. And the floor is more or less level in the other direction. The cabinet installation will be challenging, but to the casual observer nothing will seem out of whack, except that the cabinet toe kicks will be taller on one end of the room than the other.

And when the kitchen project is complete, the countertops will be the one truly level surface in the house – at least until the weather changes.

 

 

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.