The Saga of the Garage Bedroom

We’ve had our share of extra time in 2020-2021, so we spent  last February-April gutting the bathroom and getting it 95% finished. Then, in August, Mr. H.C. started on THE LAST ROOM. (It’s not really. We still have the laundry room to do, but it is on a basement level and doesn’t count. And we aren’t doing that room until the washer or dryer blow up…and since we just overhauled and cleaned the ancient washer, we hope we have postponed that inevitability…)

The last room is a long narrow room (10’x20′) that was the first addition to this little cottage as a garage. Uncle Leslie kept his ’53 green Packard in there. (Mr. H.C. disagrees with me; he says there’s no way there was room in there for a big car.) When Joe and Clara started to remodel the cottage in the seventies, they took out the garage door, added sliding glass doors, and covered the whole room with seventies paneling. It had one tiny window on the back wall; it was definitely a man cave. And it’s been affectionately dubbed the Garage Bedroom ever since, though we think the only ones who used it as a bedroom were Clara’s cats.  Now that it’s done it is a three-fer room: an office, a tv-room, and an extra bedroom with a sofa-bed for overnight guests.

It was our junk room from the beginning, holding stuff we would use later, stuff we might need later, and stuff we couldn’t bear to throw out until later. The bathroom vanity and mirror were in there; so were old French doors that we originally bought for the kitchen and decided not to use. There was a boxed up window that hadn’t yet been put in, and leftover wall board, plywood, and lumber leaned up against the wall. The TV was in there, and so was the sleeper couch. If anyone spent the night, we gave them our bedroom, and we crowded in with all the junk. Mostly we just ignored it; we were too busy with everything else. We replaced the sliding glass doors in 2016, but that was for the outside of the house. The new doors looked beautiful but they cut down the light in the room even more.

Fiberglass doors by Milliken Millwork, painted Sherwin Williams Dovetail Gray.

Slowly stuff got used or discarded. Early in 2020, the bathroom vanity and mirror got moved out, and the place started looking a little better. But still there were new windows in boxes leaning up against the wall, and some old interior French doors we’d never used.

By the time this last room came around, we were tired. Neither of us felt like expending a lot of energy on this room. But it had needs: there were only electric outlets on one wall and only one of them worked. We had purchased a window for the long wall and an opening had to be cut out for it to be installed. And what could we do with the ugly seventies paneling? Originally we were just going to paint it. In fact, one half-wall was primed early on just to see how it would look; I stopped there because it was only adequate looking, and I didn’t think I could settle for adequate.

The ceiling was ugly too—just drywall painted with texture paint and dark 1×3 pine boards put up to hide the seams. The floor was plywood over beams over a partially dug out foundation and very cold. The room needed insulation, light, new walls, and electrical outlets every 6 feet…We grew tired just thinking about it.

But then the great Corona Virus Lockdown of 2020 happened and all events, vacations, and contact with the outside world was cancelled. Everyone was doing home renovation projects because we were all stuck at home staring at that unfinished project(s). What else could we do but jump in?

Windows that had been ordered years before were unboxed, a giant rectangular square was cut out of the exterior wall, and two of us lifted the gigantic windows into place. The room was immediately transformed from an ugly dark tomb to a southeast-facing room where light streams in all day. Suddenly not only was the room transformed, but so were our attitudes.

The new windows made the outside of the house look better too.

The next thing to go was the seventies paneling. Underneath one wall of the paneling we discovered cove siding that covers the exterior of the house. “Duh,” we said to each other, “It was the outside of the house before the garage was added.” Mostly in good shape, the contractor husband just had to repair a few boards. Painted creamy white, the wall looked beautiful and gave me inspiration to just paint the whole ceiling.

Contractor husband added some extra trim boards to the ceiling to make it into 4×4 symmetrical panels. While I was painting, Mr. H.C. was rewiring the room–always an adventure in an old house with half a basement and a third of an attic. There are now  working outlets on all walls, as well as an outside light by the door, a dusk-to-dawn spotlight on the far side of the house, and a light in the coat closet that comes on automatically when the door is opened. If only Mr. H.C. could be in charge of updating our lousy internet service…

We also took one closet out and put one closet in by the front doors. And while we were playing hokey pokey with the closets we decided to repurpose the unused French doors for closet doors.

Mini the cat helped.

One fine day in late fall, I dragged out furniture and refreshed it. The sofa went from dingy white wicker to a lovely dark greige; Mom’s antique washstand went from sea green to grey; and Mr. H.C’s childhood desk got an upgrade–sanded, refinished, and new hardware. We used tile that we had originally purchased for the bathroom shower for the entryway, and a beautiful wicker hanging lamp given to us by sister-in-law Rita (that had been stored in that room for ten years). We purchased some trim boards, sheets of dry wall and insulation, blinds, and carpet. Oh, and electrical supplies. Oh, and a new tv. Oh, and a new leather recliner, made in Ohio by Amish artisans that we are still waiting for. In this time of a pandemic, it was clear to me that we had to have a chair that was made in this country. To save shipping, we will be going on a road trip soon to pick it up. In the meantime, here are some photos of the room without the new chair.

As we were pulling up the orange shag carpeting in the Garage Bedroom many years ago, we moved the step that had been carpeted too. Underneath, pencilled on the boards were the words, Joe and Clara started remodeling, March 1, 1974. Delighted, we added our names underneath theirs: Michael and Carol started remodeling, August 11, 2011. And finished the room in March, 2021. Almost a decade later… Patience is a virtue, I’m told.

I recently read an online decorating article that gently chided those of us decorating new rooms for:

  1. Using only neutrals and not adding enough color; and
  2. Using left-over furniture that you already have.

Guilty on both points. But I’ll just defend myself a bit here–I wanted a peaceful, quiet room whose focus was on the light coming in the windows. We sit out here all the time now, and if I want to add any color, I will paint the large entry doors. But for now, until I decide, they are staying neutral.

And, we did buy a new chair. We’re excited about it. And Mr. H.C. has already claimed it, even though he hasn’t even sat in it yet… But I’m all about using what you have and repurposing it. Decorating articles are fine for inspiration, but they have to be left at that, I think. After all, the room is your own, and you are the ones who need to love it. And if the style is Early Attic, or Thrift Store Bohemian then I say, Go For It.

Although I will admit that part of the peace we have in sitting in this new room is that the finish line to this little cottage is in sight….


Little Disasters Everywhere…

If 2020 did anything for us, it made us aware of how important home is.

Let’s face it, when we’re spending 24/7 in our rooms, apartments, town homes, cottages, or houses, they need to work and be pleasing more than ever.

Like most of the country world, we’ve had plenty of downtime this year. So in this stay-at-home time, we’ve worked on our home while staying in it. This makes for a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that the last room in the house is getting finished. The bad news is that the room has been emptied of everything that was in there and all that junk is now stashed in every crack and corner of the rest of the house. Every. Single. Thing.

The good news is that in these days of pandemic lockdown, no one will show up to this messy house unannounced. (And if they do, we can keep them outside…) The bad news is that there is barely room to find a place for two tired people to sit down and relax, let alone, eat meals.

The dining room table has become the sewing table.

Shoved behind the couch are assorted lamps, closet lights to be installed, and speakers that are still to be argued about discussed.

The bedroom hasn’t escaped either. The printer is tucked next to my nightstand, couch pillows are on the cedar chest, and an antique quilt hanger that belonged to Clara is just plain in the way while we decide if or how to repurpose it. Not to mention the ironing board that is stashed behind the curtains when not in use.

The sleeper sofa had its sleeper part taken out so it could be spray painted. Which is why the cushions are in the bedroom. The sleeper part is stored in Mr. H. C’s truck. Which has him wondering how he can go get wood for trimming the four doors and two windows… Two closets, an entry door from the outside, an entry doorway from the living room, and these two lovely new windows that were put in this summer:

The spray painted couch is now out on the back porch and the tv is in the living room. Everything is in disarray. Much like the world.

The comment today was “It looks like we are either moving in or moving out.” The good news and the bad news is that Thanksgiving is canceled this year so there’s no deadline to have all this under control.

Some days it’s okay and I’m energized to get stuff done. Some days I would just like to stay in bed with the covers pulled up over my eyes.

Yeah. Kind of like 2020. Is it over yet?

The bathroom project: planned 9 years ago, completed (almost) during quarantine…

It’s a bit ironic; the online articles and posts suggesting that perhaps you should do a home project while you’re quarantined at home. Or the other articles that snidely suggest you’re an overachiever if you even attempt a DIY project now. (The good thing about a quarantine DIY is that no-one is going to show up at your house, when there is junk, tools, and sawdust covering Every. Single. Surface.)

Dueling ladders…

Our bathroom has looked like a third world bathroom for 9 years. When we inherited this little cottage, it was the room we planned to redo first. The smallest, the most-in need, the most bang for our buck… Plus, the kitchen was daunting because, well, it was the kitchen. Truth is, the bathroom has the access into the attic, and it took us a long time to figure out how to get an attic ladder in such a small space. Before, one had to bring in a ladder, and push a piece of plywood away to get up there. Here is how the access door finally turned out:

The attic access door that stopped all progress…

Nine years later, after Covid-19 has relegated us all to our houses, we tackled it. No excuses, nothing else to do. So we’ve actually utilized our time well. Of course, there were times of distress, and interruptions, and arguments, but that’s just routine in DIY projects, and anyone who has ever done a home project knows that to be truth.

It was a great day when this old sink went out for garbage pick up. We put it out a couple of days early, but no one was in the market for a sink and cheap faucets.

When we uncovered the bathroom vanity that we had purchased at a Restore in Pittsburgh, we found a sticky note that had the date of purchase: Sept. 9, 2011. We had gathered supplies in fits and starts since that date.

  • We bought floor tiles for the shower early on right after the vanity and the mirror;
  • a round copper sink that we found in Deep Creek Maryland one summer on vacation before this little cottage was even ours;
  • Mr. H.C. got a pricey toilet for free, and we had it for such a long time, we gave it away to someone else who needed one;
  • we had tile for the top of the vanity for so long that when we got it out, we couldn’t figure out how we had thought we were going to put it on, gave up, and bought a new wooden countertop instead. We went to Burton, Ohio to pick it up, two days before the PA lockdown started;
  • that same weekend we went to a small independent plumbing place to get some pipe and ended up buying a commode from him. He was so grateful, and it made us aware of how much we just shop at the big box stores because it’s easier. Nothing is the same now, and we all need to think carefully about what stores we want to support.
  • Faucet, sink drain, and shower fixtures were purchased a couple of years ago when we thought we were getting ready to do the bathroom. We did the ceiling and some electrical work, and then we ended up doing the back porch instead.
  • the replacement window came in just after the PA lockdown started. We have been grateful that plumbing supply and hardware stores are considered essential…

We still don’t have the shower in, but here are some before, during, and after shots:

THE FLOOR: (tongue and groove yellow pine, still available at fine lumber yards everywhere…)





Here are some close ups:

We still have the shower to do…But we’re taking a short break to recover, and try to remember: how was it we were going to put the shower in, anyway?