Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dark Side of the Room

A few weeks ago I was telling Janet of The Gardener's Cottage that she was my hero because everything  in her home always seemed to be in perfect order.  When I take pictures for my blog, I said, I have to move all the crap from one side of the room to the other.  Of course, it was a joke...kind of. 

Last week when I showed off the dining room bookcases for the first time, Randy from A.J. Barnes asked to see the other side of the room.

It's time to come clean.

*WARNING*  If you're weak of stomach, be ready to avert your eyes.


Here is the other side.  Welcome to The Dark Side of the Room.

You see, when I first moved into the house, I was confident there was a window hidden behind this wall.  A Greek Revival is all about symmetry and there was one place that didn't seem right to me.

See that window on the side of the house hidden behind the tree?  I thought there should be one right below it. 

There were a few closets where this window should have been.  To the left was a small closet that was accessed from the kitchen.  You can see the tile on the floor.  To the left was a larger coat closet.

Right before I moved in a few years ago, I ripped out the closets in search of my window.

Here is that window all boarded up.  That wasn't the only surprise.

On this wall, just at the left edge of the hole in the wall, you can (barely) see an angle in the wall where we discovered a second staircase once stood.  It was extremely steep and rose up through the floor landing just before the door to the master bedroom.  You can also see evidence of the lathe strips up between the joists (which are much more modern wood) showing that this was finished wall at one time.

In upper right-hand side of the above photo, you can see a joist that's smaller than the others.  It's actually cut at an angle and up above the ceiling we found a little header board covered in wallpaper.  

Here's that board.

Mr. and Mrs. Mastrullo's daughter, from whom I purchased the house, told me there had been a fire in the house before her father bought it and renovated it in 1940.

One end of the header showed some soot and we could smell the smoke when we opened up that area of the wall.

As genius as it was to suspect there was a hidden window, I was an idiot to start this project without a plan for what to do next.  I can't restore the window without a variance from the city.  Since I have other window changes for which I'll need approval, I'll do them all at once when I get to the kitchen.

Once the bookcases were done, I told Sam this other side of the room was going to drive me crazy now I got a call from Sam over the weekend telling me he's being held up waiting for some kitchen cabinets on another project he's working on and he wanted to know if I wanted to get started.

I've been living with this eyesore for over 2 1/2 years.  It usually becomes the dumping ground for tools, paint and other renovation materials.  It's time to bite the bullet and deal with it.

Next time I'll show you the plan for this area.


  1. What a nice find! I'm sure you'll be given permission to restore that window!

    The home I grew up in had a fire before my parents bought it too. My dad discovered it when he went to the attic to add insulation. It was quite shocking to see all the charred wood that wasn't replaced!

    Looking forward the the reveal!

  2. Well, I'm glad you're "keepin' it real". You sound so much like my husband, he knows all abut symmetry and house design, he would have been right there goading you on. I'm anxious to see what you're going to do there.

  3. I love this reality check!! And it gives me an even deeper appreciation of what you are accomplishing. Restoration is all about what you've revealed here. You are MY hero. I love watching your talent at work :).

  4. Well, reality is the process, not the destination!

  5. hi steve,

    well that's the neatest mess i've ever seen.

    you know, if you keep this up you are never gonna be able to retire. so are you excited? i am.


  6. How cool is that to be able to find a hidden window. I'm glad to see you have a dumping ground too for all your tools and misc. stuff. Mine is the kitchen table!

  7. Cannot wait to see what you do. So glad to be along for the ride. :)

  8. Terri here.

    Hmmm....so does this mean you're not going to put in the window? I think it would be neat if it were symmetrical with the other side of the room. Or perhaps a wonderful wall of storage pantry. But your kitchen already has a pantry doesn't it? I am getting confused over your layout - I need to go back and see if you ever posted a floor plan. I am feeling confused. :)

    What is the name of the gray you used on your house? Lovely. We are planning to paint our house and I am totally unsure of colour. I am thinking a nice taupe like everyone else, with white trim and a glossy black door. But I don't like that the Christmas wreath doesn't show up on black.

    Now I am babbling.
    Thanks for the coffee tips on the west coast.

    xo Terri

    P.S. Publishing Anonymous as having trouble logging into blogger from work.

  9. Terri,
    I will eventually restore the window when I get to the kitchen since I need to get approval for those changes as well. I'll post floor plans in the next post as well.

  10. It made for a really great story though!

  11. Well, this is exciting!

    And I am completely with you, by the way. One of the reasons I don't take more pictures inside my house is that half the time I have to move so much stuff (tools, paint cans, etc.) it hardly seems worth it!

    Can't wait to see the next round of photos, Steve!

  12. I'm fascinated by the idea of the second stairwell. Your house doesn’t seem large enough to require two.

    When I lived in my 120-year-old house I remember stripping off wallpaper to discover more layers of wallpaper. My favorite was a little boy’s cowboy and Indian print from the 40s.

  13. Ah...such is the life in an old house. Some dark secret always.... Mine is that my electricity has quit in the hall bath. No lights...no nothing. I have no idea what could possibly be wrong....so frustrating.

    During this post....I kept thinking - oh...I hope he finds the window. Such suspense. Really surprising that there was a whole other staircase!

  14. I'm totally amazed that you knew the window was there. And I really like the stories you tell about your old house. Actually, I really like the stories IT tells too.

  15. good man that Randy, getting you to show us the "dark side"!! you are so going to love having a window back in that location. I say just cut the hole in the middle of the night and the hysterical committee will be none the wiser;)

    p.s. I think I still see a wee fingerprint on the right hand side of the table;)

  16. The dark side doesn't look to bad. Very neat and orderly. I love your projects and will look forward to seeing what is next.

  17. I love exploring inside the walls of an old house. I found a hidden staircase too behind a wall in my son's closet. Chad thinks there's a secret room on the third floor next to the finished attic...maybe we could post together on the exploration of our hidden stairs. :)

    anyway, you are a trooper..I would have wanted it finished as soon as I moved in. But patience and Sam always pays off for you. Can't wait to see what the plans are!

    and...potatoes in a pot (sorry, I forgot to get back with you)... I don't know how that would work. You really need to keep putting mounds of straw, hay, dirt etc on them as soon as they peek through the dirt. and they take up a lot of room. I'm up to trying though.

  18. Hi Steve,
    I agree with Joan. Take the Sawz-All (reciprocating saw) out, cut out the opening and have Sam install the window. 30 minutes, 45 tops and you're done. They won't even notice. Try to time it when one of your neighbors has a party that all the other neighbors are invited to. Send over a case of Champagne and you're golden!!

  19. I almost fell out of my chair! I KNEW IT! I just knew something was up!

    'Why won't he let me see the rest of that room, there has to be a reason,' I said.

    I just thought it was an emtpy gray wall or perhaps you were still using Aunt Betty's 'I need to replace this' buffet. Never did I think ...!

    I'm smiling for ear to ear! All those perfectly staged photos - The veil is lifted.

    Cha Cha ing up one side of the room while the other is a danger zone - that's so like what I'd do!

    I love it!


  20. You have been killing it with the best blog posts lately.
    Thanks for being brave and showing your dark side, the story was worth it.

  21. What an exciting life you lead, Urban Homesteader finds hidden . . . I love a mystery.

    To update you on my own pioneering efforts, site preparation for the log cabin has become complicated. The site is a small triangular formed by two mountains on two sides and a creek on the front side. Water coming down off the mountains makes its way through the soil to the creek. This means the water table is near the surface making the foundation of the cabin potentially unstable.

    This is where it would be nice if you lived nearby. County regulations say the cabin must be 100 feet from the creek. The site is small and there is just enough room and no more for the 100 foot setback. But, because of the water table we need to move the cabin site 10 feet forward so the footings will be grounded on rock so, (this is just what you would do) we are moving the creek. Yes indeed, today we are cutting a new channel for the creek and covering up the old one!

    Love your house and what you are doing with it. Especially enchanted with your delivery, summing up the problem, presenting possible solutions and then "The Fix". Your approach gives me courage.

    Oh, and my entire living room is the dark side. Ann

  22. Laurie from Lockport. I grew up in Medina, my grandmother worked at the plaza on Transit in Lockport. You're from my old stomping grounds!

    I LOVE this story! I hope you'll start a blog or at least send me some photos. I want to see this wonderful place!