The Study: Old House Renovation Story

Welcome back for the continuation of my old house renovation story. When last week’s chapter ended, I had welcomed you into my home, shown you the Living Room, and we were standing right here in front of these century-old pocket doors. They lead to Renaissance Man’s study. Sometimes I call it his Trophy Room.

 

If you have a problem with hunting wild game, you might want to skip this part of the story… but you’d also miss one of the best renovation decisions we made. Your choice.

 

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The first time I looked behind these doors, I saw a very dark room with a great old light fixture and filthy–once pretty–draperies. You can’t see it in this poor excuse for a picture, but there was wallpaper.

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It, too, was once pretty. Once… before stains and tears took their toll.

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Beneath the wallpaper were concrete walls. Not plaster…  Concrete over lath. Apparently in our part of the country in 1907 when our house was built, concrete was the “upscale” material for walls.


Removing wallpaper from a 16×16 room with 10-foot ceilings is a chore, but it’s a lot easier with concrete walls because it’s virtually impossible to damage them when scraping off stubborn old paper.

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I love the faux finish-style wallpaper I found (on clearance!) for this room, but it wasn’t my favorite renovation decision in the space. No, removing wallpaper and replacing it with another wallpaper is straightforward. A total no-brainer.

 

But if you’ve ever renovated a house–or even a room–you probably had the “one thing leads to another” experience. We certainly did… and I absolutely LOVE when a decision to *improve* something in one room provides the solution to a major problem in another. That’s how it worked for us…

 

When I showed you the Living Room, I told you carpenter ants had done a number on a large section of the floor, leaving a huge hole with a great view of the basement below. I also told you a fantastic floor man worked his magic, and now it’s virtually impossible to tell where the hole was repaired. Now… I’ll tell you our trick.

 

Just imagine the section of open floor behind the chairs with a sickening hole in the century-old heart pine floor.

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Here’s how the decision we made in the Study solved the floor problem in the Living Room…  Watch and learn. If you ever renovate a house, this little trick just might come in handy.

 

When standing at the Study doors, the wall on the left was blank; no windows or doors. It was the perfect place for adding a wall-to-wall bookcase for all of Renaissance Man’s many books. We wanted it to look original to the house – at least at first glance – but we didn’t want to pay for a custom unit. After all, we had a whole house to renovate!

 

Instead…

  • We went to Home Depot and ordered semi-custom cabinets… 12 very basic bookcases.

 

  • We carefully removed the original foot-wide baseboard from the wall and set it aside.

 

  • We carefully removed the wood flooring underneath the area where the bookcases were to be placed. That provided original, matching heart pine flooring to use to repair the rotten floor in the Living Room. There’s the trick.

 

  • Against the wall, we used 2x4s to build a foot-high base on which we stacked the bookcases – 6 over 6.
  • The original baseboard was then installed below the bookcases to conceal the 2×4 platform base and give the appearance of a custom, original built-in.  Almost.

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An original built-in would have had crown moulding. Impressive crown moulding. We had a plan for the same… and it involved a decision we made in the Dining Room. See what I mean about one thing leading to another?

 

I’ll show you the Dining Room next time, but today you need to know that the Dining Room had a plate rail. It was beautiful, and 6″ deep – which translates to 12″ of lost floor space all the way around the room. In spite of all the dish lovin’ that goes on at My Place, I’m not a plate rail person… but I do have a huge respect for original elements in an old house.

 

I had to make the first really hard decision of the renovation:  Remove the plate rail and gain important floor space – or leave it?

 

I am not a purist when it comes to renovating, but I don’t discard history easily. I knew if we removed the plate rail, we would need a plan for using it elsewhere. A really good plan.

 

Fortunately, we had a plan. A perfect plan.

 

  • The chair rail was removed – and became the “original” crown moulding for the new-to-look-old bookcase in the Study.
  • Simple library lights from Lowes were added.

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  • A simple piece of trim moulding was stained and added to the vertical “seams” of the bookcase to give a finished look.
Mission accomplished!

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Right wall – toward the front porch

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Left wall – shared with the Dining Room…

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Step all the way into the Study and make yourself comfy on the couch… and this is your view.  The Living Room – and the gorgeous, hole-less, original heart pine floor. Stay as long as you like. Read a book or two…

 

Next time I’ll show you the Dining Room with its amazing coffered ceiling. If you don’t want to miss it, be sure you’re signed up to get new posts via email.

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For those of you who might like it… Here’s a little “something extra”.

 

Our old house was built by Roscoe and Rose Witt in 1907. I’m told Mr. Witt was a traveling salesman and quite the dapper dresser. (More about that another day.) Mrs. Witt was an active member of society and often entertained in her home.


Our home.


Rose Roscoe Witt

 

Someday I’ll tell you the story of how I received this newspaper article, but today some of you will enjoy reading about a reception Mrs. Witt held in her home. When you read about guests being greeted at the door, you can imagine exactly where they’re standing. Good thing the hole wasn’t there in 1927!


Rose Witt Entertains

 

I’ll be joining Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch and Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings–The Heart of Your Home.

 

By the way…  IT’S TIME for the Valentine Project!  Read about it HERE.

Please join me!

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Comments

  1. I am enjoying these posts very much, Susan! What a lot of great ideas you’re sharing! And how fun to have the newspaper story from 1927! It reminds me of the elaborate descriptions published in my grandparents’ small-town Arkansas weekly newspaper. The write-up of my wedding went on and on in that one!

  2. Vicki Daugherty says:

    I loved the paper account, but oh, how times have changed! Can you imagine the burglaries today if vacations were listed in the newspapers? What a trusting time that period must have been. Makes me wonder if we are now in a trusting period also, compared to future times! Great solution to repairing your beautiful floor. So enjoy your pictures and progress. Vicki in Louisville Ky

  3. Oh, my goodness! I LOVED reading that Society Page article!!! SO wild how things were back then! And that name “Gladys Carmichael” seemed like something straight out of a sitcom!!! But this all reminds me of a time when ladies entertained like this in their homes regularly, and I LOVE IT! My Mom used to, and it was always so neat to see the ladies arrive at the appointed hour all powdered and perfumed in their pearls and stylish clothing…always topped off with a marvelous hat! They would dine on foods we NEVER ate as a regular meal, and that’s part of what made it so special. I wonder if my Mom has any clippings like this? I’ll have to ask!

    The pocket doors leading into the study are magnificent! Just magnificent!!! The floors look fabulous, and no…you could never, ever tell there was once a gaping hole there! The scads of books on the cool new/old shelving just make the room look cozier. You said it right: Mission accomplished!!!

  4. What an interesting post, loved reading the bit of history to your house! Your trick with the bookcases was brilliant and my Mister would be utterly jealous of that room! I just love all the molding old houses have, such lovely details.

  5. I just found your blog and I love it congratulations on all the hard work that you and your husband have done on this beautiful home I cannot wait till I have the time and read your blog from the very beginning.

  6. I do not know where to begin with this one. I just loved so many wonderful details about it that it was a treat to read. I love the room in its entirety and would love for the man of this place to have a true study like that. I love the solution for the plate rail/crown molding, and I just flat out LOVE the bookcases, period.

    My favorite part of the whole post, though, was the article. I loved that it calls the house, “a house known for its hospitality”. We’ve just done the verse “show hospitality to one another” with my Bible study class so it really struck a chord with me.

    As an aside, I just love writing in social columns like that. I truly believe that as we lost that art, we lost a gentility to society that we’ll probably never get back. One of my favorite old ladies who passed away a few years ago used to write the society column for our little local newspaper. All of her articles sounded like that. Loved it. She always wrote up the article for the DAR meetings, and I loved the way she did it. It just felt like all was right with the world.

    Anyway, love the study and now need to catch up on the most recent post. (And when I can get my head together, I really WOULD like to have a chat with you. Right now, I’m still trying to collect thoughts., I’ll email for a good time. )

  7. Surprise! I am finally back here to visit. I kept all of the e-mail notifications because I want to experience the whole house. Everyone around here has been having “issues”, and there hasn’t been any time for my “issues”. lol

    I love your study. The bookcase turned wall unit surely does look original. Is your husband a hunter? I have a cousin whose husband travels to different continents to hunt. He would love this room.

    • Beverly, I’m sorry to hear about all the “issues” at your house. I hope they are resolved quickly.

      To answer your question, yes, my husband is a hunter – but he hasn’t had time for that hobby in several years. I think it’s mostly a thing of the past, but he does love his trophy room and the memories that go with it. 🙂