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….