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Posts from the ‘Products’ Category

For her eyes only

I’m a natural light fanatic. After a few overcast days, I morph into Mr. Grumpy Pants. And this whole daylight savings business is a load of bollocks. Who cares if it’s dark in the morning when you’re groggy anyway? Given my innate craving for natural light, it’s only with great reluctance that I install window coverings in my place of residence. It took nearly two years for me to put blinds in our last house, even though the bedroom was ground level and street-facing.

At the Ordinary House, I’ve spent more time removing window coverings than installing them. But we face a similar visibility problem in our new master suite. It’s upstairs, but nearly every window has a line of sight to the street. This means that we either tuck into a corner to get dressed, or fumble around in the dark in an effort to avoid scandalizing the neighborhood. But, sometimes you want to shuffle around the bedroom in your boxer shorts and Bugs Bunny slippers with complete confidence that the neighbors aren’t watching.

master bedroom

Add in Weezie’s need to catch Z’s during daylight hours after overnight shifts, and it’s clear that our need for privacy and light control wins out over my craving for sunlight. Late this summer, when Louis was rousted by sunrise at 4:00 a.m., sleep deprivation forced the issue.

Our desire for permanent, effective and easily controllable window coverings led us to one obvious solution: shutters. Rather than face the hard sell and inflated prices of local dealers, I decided to order our shutters online from The Shutter Store. I was attracted to the site by reasonable prices and extensive customization options. The day after I submitted the order, a real person called to confirm the details. Then, we waited…

…and waited…

…and waited, and waited, and waited. Nearly ten weeks after clicking “order”, the first pair of shutters arrived. Now, I realize they were probably shipped on the slow boat from Guangdong Province, but two-and-a-half months is insufferably long in the age of streaming video and Amazon Prime. Sadly for us, we only ordered one pair of the five we need so that we could be sure we liked them before committing to the full order.

Fortunately, the shutters were worth the wait. They’re solid poplar, painted a crisp white with chrome hardware. The installation was quick and relatively straight-forward.

shutters unhung

The first step was to assemble a three-sided frame with bowtie-shaped plastic pegs.

corner peg

Then, I lifted the frame into place and screwed it to the window jamb, using nickels to space the frame away from the sash to maintain operability of the window.

frame install

The shutters were affixed to the frame with hinge pins. A few shims here and there to adjust to the old house wonk, and voilà! Beautiful plantation shutters.

hinge pin

The two-and-a-half inch louvers are large, allowing decent views out and plenty of natural light in. When closed, they do a good job of knocking down the light levels. One option that The Shutter Store offered that was important to me was the ability to adjust the height of the mid-rail. Our upstairs windows have unequal sashes – note how the rail aligns with the meeting point of the sashes on the window.

shutters after

With any luck, in just ten more weeks, we’ll be able to turn our room from sun-drenched to somnolent with the flick of a tilt rod.

Better housing through chemistry

While crawling around the house with the painter looking for wood that needs replacing, I spotted one windowsill that was particularly ragged.

Sitting inches from the roof for a few hundred years will do that to a piece of wood. Still, it’s remarkable how solid the remaining material was; old growth wood is amazing stuff.  We could have paid a carpenter untold sums of cash to replace the sill with lesser-quality wood, but I saw a great opportunity to try an epoxy patching system sold by Abatron, a company that’s endorsed  by historic preservation organizations around the country.  The system consists of two steps: the first is to soak the wood with a consolidant that solidifies the dry rotted and damaged material.  This creates a solid base for the second step, that starts with the mixing of a two-part epoxy putty with the consistency of Play-doh.  You stuff the mixture into the void you’re filling, shape it to roughly the final shape of the profile you’re matching, and sit back to let the chemical reaction of the resin and hardener do its magic.  A few hours later, the patch is rock solid.  I sanded this patch with a random orbit sander, gradually carving it to the shape of the original sill.

The cured material is waterproof, flexes with the wood and will never rot.  Reports of its long-term adhesion are good, so I’m optimistic that this is a fix that will help this sill live on for many more decades.  The epoxy system is not cheap.  This patch probably consumed $15-20 worth of material.  But when put up against the carpentry costs of replacing the sill, and knowing that the original material lives on, it’s an absolute bargain.

Got a light?

Our painter won’t start until next week due to weather delays and anticipates being on site for 4-6 weeks (so THAT’S where all that money’s going…).  So even though we won’t have a new paint job until early December, it’s hard not to look forward to a few post-paint projects that will help the exterior of the house shine.

One of those projects is the installation of a new light at the front porch.  The existing fixture is a builder’s special that isn’t special at all.  It’s undersized, throws a harsh light and is generally unremarkable:

To my mind, the size and configuration of the porch demands a hanging lantern that will cast an inviting glow on this quintessentially southern space.  Something traditional, timeless and tasteful.  Here are six options that I’ve dredged up from around he interwebs.  All are relatively affordable, built of durable materials, appropriately sized, and good-lookin’.

We’ve decided on our favorite, but I’m interested to know what everyone else thinks.