Over the last few weeks Jim and I have watched our demoed little mud pit become the framed-out workings of our home again. And yes, after 7 long months our house has a roof. Who knew it would take so long? The kitchen is all framed in as well as the entire house. I have to admit it is kind of exciting to see it all start to come together. There have been some bumps and bruises this last month, old homes have such a mind of their own. Large, unmovable beams pop up in places that mess with design for sure. One such beam stuck out just far enough to make the hallway from the kitchen into the dining room, small enough so that anyone 24 inches wide or wider would struggle to get through. When a 164-year-old home tells you that it was not meant to have a hallway where you wanted it…. you listen and go to plan B. Instead of a hallway to the dining room the pantry will be larger and a door to this larger pantry will start at the same point that the hallway was supposed to. There are just some parts of this historical home that I have to respect and work with.
We did find a hidden gem in the house this past month! Our neighbors (who have lived in their house over 50 years) told us that originally the living room had a wooden ceiling and that a long time ago the owners had plastered over it. Common by the turn of the 20th century, bead-board started out as an inexpensive and easily installed finish. These ceilings were made from scraps of lumber milled with a thin ridge or tongue on one edge and a corresponding groove on the opposite. Depending on the wood species (commonly pine or fir), the choice was made to stain and seal, or prime and paint the ceiling.
After the First World War, European-influenced Romantic Revival house styles were found in the suburbs. Many walls and ceilings were troweled with rough or textured plaster, to give an impression of age.
Although Sam, our contractor, did not think that wood would still be under the plaster, he humored me and went to work taking off the plaster. Much to our happiness the wood not only was still there but in really good shape. It looks like it will be able to be restored back to its original appearance.
Any chance that I can find to preserve a little history is what makes this project worthwhile. We discussed replacing it with new wood, but Sam is confident that he can bring the original back to life.
What makes this ceiling even cooler is its coved shape. Now shape, back in the early days of the 1850’s took precedence over decoration. There was a vogue for coved ceilings for houses in neoclassical, Tudor, and Spanish styles. A concave arc of plaster formed a transition between the wall and the ceiling plane, with no right angle. Decoratively, the cove might be treated as part of the ceiling or as part of the walls—each gave a different effect and altered the perceived height of the room. Now that the plaster has been taken off, our ceiling truly has the coved look that it was meant to have.
So, things are looking up and our dear, sweet home is beginning to feel like one day soon it will be a home we can move into. There is much left to do, and the original late May move-in day seems more like a pipe dream than reality but at least is feels like it will definitely happen one day this summer. HVAC is to be finished this week and plumbing is to be started. The cabinetry order goes in this week and electrical placement is next on our list of things to do. So many things to think about and plan for. It is all exciting but wrapped in a bit of fear. Fear that we will forget something - some switch, some outlet, something that we need. I so want to get this right. I am thankful for ideas and questions from friends. Both are welcomed as Jim and I are so engrossed in all of this, that sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees.
Here’s to a week full of progress and a step toward a summer move in date. My littles can’t wait to get back to the lake.
Link to ceiling historical information - https://www.oldhouseonline.com/interiors-and-decor/decorated-ceiling