Chapter 9: Cobwebs
It's alarming how much damage sitting idle for several months has caused my body (let alone my house). I get winded just walking from the cabin to the house, and I can barely lift things I used to handle with virtually no effort. If the property closing really does take place on time—and I keep getting reassurances that it will—then I need to get back in shape, at least to the extent my knee will allow.
Reacquainting myself with the house has been a rather curious experience. The upside of having left it alone for nearly a year (yes, really!) is that it's allowed me to take a critical look at things with a fresh new perspective, and that has inspired some subtle changes. Here are the revisions I've made so far.
Kitchen lighting. The original plan was to light the open counter space and the island with pendant lamps. I went to considerable trouble and expense to accumulate as well as modify (convert from halogen to LED) almost a dozen pendant lamps. Upon seeing them after a time, they took on the effect of a forest of metal icicles, and I wasn't especially keen on the look. Plus, it would have been a mess for whoever would be doing the sheetrock work. Not to mention the fact that I found myself bumping my head on some of the pendants.
So, I tore out all of the electrical fixtures, then installed just two boxes for a pair of track lighting strips, one over the counter and peninsula, and one over the island. A series of inexpensive, compact LED track spots will provide light in a much less intrusive fashion. I'm also thinking about converting some of the pendant lamps for track mounting (a very simple process) to use in select areas for a less-cluttered visual effect; the nice thing about the track is I can experiment and freely move lights around, rather than be stuck with whatever I'd built. Below left: a forest of pendant lamps. Below right: empty space, ready for simple track lighting.
Kitchen lighting control. Originally there was a bank of dimmers in the hallway adjacent to the kitchen to control hall lights as well as all of the kitchen lights. After redesigning the kitchen lighting scheme, I moved the dimmer bank into the kitchen itself, and split the lighting circuits into three: one for the lights over the island, one for the lights over the countertops, and one for the lights over the peninsula. This would afford much more control of how the space would be illuminated. Meanwhile, the hall light control was reduced to two normal switches, since I really didn't need "mood lighting" for the hall. Below left: the dimmer bank in the hall. Below right: the dimmer bank now in the kitchen.
Bathtub lighting. The soaking tub was originally to have a single ceiling light. Meanwhile, the toilet alcove would have a fancy wall sconce. It occurred to me that I'd be spending much more quality time in the tub than on the toilet, so I moved the utilitarian ceiling light over the toilet, and installed fixtures for two nice wall sconces in the soaking tub corner. Below left: the original utilitarian light over the tub. Below right: the two (blue) boxes for the sconces.
Shower window. As I was framing out the shower—seemingly eons ago—it occurred to me that I could bring some natural light into the space by making the wall between the shower and the bedroom a glass block wall. But I dropped the idea for a number of reasons. For one, I had a glass block wall in a shower many homes ago, and it was a pain to keep clean. Also, the glass block would entail added cost and complexity to build. I'm contemplating a skylight over the tub instead, although I'm very much on the fence about that. Below left: the glass block window opening is just left of center. Below right: the framing for the window is gone—it's now a solid wall.
Air duct enclosure in the office. The fresh air return duct forced me to frame out a somewhat awkward bump-out in the corner of the office. I'd originally designed an angled corner that echoed many of the other angled corners in the house. However, as I thought about how I'd arrange things in the office, I realized that the angled corner was right where my computer would go. And I couldn't shift the computer to the left because that would place it right in front of a heating vent. Since the duct runs only partway down the wall, I didn't need to have a full-height bump-out, so I reframed the corner with the smallest square bump-out possible—only 2.5 inches deep—and ended it at the height of the planned built-in desk; this would leave the full depth of the square corner under the desk for the computer. Below left: the original angled corner framing. Below right: a new shallow bump-out starts at desk-height.
The biggest problem I had in compiling this documentation was going though my photo archive to look for "before" images. Seeing all of the framing and other materials in pristine condition left me heartbroken. I worked through some of the grief by creating a series of new sidebars on certain construction details.