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 this has inspired some changes. Here are the revisions I've made so far.

Kitchen lighting redesigned

The original plan was to illuminate 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. See lighting for more details.

Kitchen lighting control moved

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.

Shower window removed

As I was framing 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've since dropped the idea for a number of reasons (for one, I had a glass block wall in a shower several homes ago, and it was a pain to keep clean). Below left: framing for the window is just left of center. Below right: the framing for the window is gone—it's now a solid wall.

Bathtub lighting changed

The soaking tub originally had a single ceiling light, while the toilet alcove had 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 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: two new (blue) boxes for the sconces.

Skylight over the tub added

I've been on the fence about a skylight over the tub since my first drafts of the house plan. What finally settled it for me was taking out the shower window, and the fact that the skylight will admit considerably more light than the glass block wall would have. Changing the lighting also made the decision easier. Plus, a friend made a good argument for it: watching the snow fall while soaking in the tub is a uniquely satisfying experience. It was surprisingly easy to do; I spent more time deciding exactly where to place it than I did reworking the framing. The skylight itself will be installed when the the roof goes on; for the time being, a scrap of clear plastic covers the hole. Below left: a dark corner. Below right: lots of light!

Air duct enclosure in the office altered

The main 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 that starts at desk-height.

Heat pump blower enclosure rebuilt

Since having started construction, heat pump technology has advanced at a swift pace. Perhaps not surprisingly, the system I'd originally chosen was superseded by a better model. The dimensions of the internal blower unit were different, which meant rebuilding the enclosure I'd constructed over the laundry. The old unit was nearly square, and I'd built a relatively deep enclosure with an access door at one end. The new unit is longer and narrower, so the enclosure now runs the full width of the laundry, with an equally wide access door in front of it. Below left: the original enclosure. Below right: the new enclosure. Also, as a consequence of the blower deck enlargement, the laundry area became darker, so I added two new lights.

The biggest problem I had compiling this documentation was going though my photo archive to look for "before" images. Seeing all of the framing and other construction materials in pristine condition was rather depressing (notice the difference between the two images above). But seeing activity once again at long last has helped compensate.

I also fully realize that, had the property sale concluded in a more timely fashion, I might not have thought of, or had an opportunity to make, these revisions. That's perfectly fine; I would have been OK with things the way they were. I made these changes principally because I could.

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