Closet to Bedroom Transformation

You’ve probably heard lots of stories of people turning a small bedroom into a closet. I’ve already blogged about how we turned a bedroom into a bathroom and another bedroom into his and her closets as part of our master suite. As as result, we “lost” 2 bedrooms.

Our remedy for one of the “lost” bedrooms is to transform the original master bedroom walk-in-closet into a bedroom.  The closet originally had 2 windows but the one facing the rear of the house was blocked by the addition. In the photo you can see where the window was removed and covered in plywood. Along with the shelving and hanging racks, you can also see the  huge pile of boxes. We used the closet both as a closet and to store some of the many boxes we did not unpack from our move in anticipation of the renovation.  The closet still had one nice large window and there is a walk-in-closet within the closet.  Yes you read that right, the closet has a closet! Once the new master bedroom closets were done, we moved out all the clothes and wardrobe boxes, removed the shelves and the drywall was patched and painted. Today I moved in the bedroom suite. I have to note here that one of the greatest inventions ever are furniture sliders. I’ve made improvised sliders from cardboard, old rugs, plastic sheeting, but none of those work as well as the set I bought at Home Depot. I bought them to avoid the inevitable eye rolls from my husband when I want to move furniture around “just to see”. I’ve found I can move just about anything on my own with these magic slippy disks.  The furniture is in, the bed’s made and the room is ready for guests. All the room needs now is decorations. I know I have lots of items to choose from but they’re still packed up in moving boxes that we didn’t unpack in anticipation of the renovation.  Now with the renovations coming to a close, it’s time to get cracking on those boxes!

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Everyone Needs a Good Nook!

I needed a very special nook.  It needed to be big and strong and lighted. We decided to make use of the odd shaped opening beside the existing stone fireplace.  The original living room wall had a half wall of stone beside the fireplace with a recessed planter box.  On the other side of the fireplace was a built in TV cabinet and bookshelf.  Now part of the kitchen, the right is a large pantry with pull out drawers. The left side has been finished with the cabinet material and a very bright mini track light installed in the header.

The lighted nook really shows off our big shiny geodes. I have a thing for rocks. I’ve been picking them up and filling my pockets with them since I was a toddler; but these are, hands down, my two favourites. Just in case you can’t see them well enough, here’s one more picture.

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Showing an old house a little love.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to take many trips to Italy.  My first trip was the summer I turned 7. It was then that I was first introduced to my extended Italian family. My mother was born in Italy but emigrated in the 50s to Canada with her parents. It is her influence that has made mine and my sisters’ connection to our roots possible. Even when money was very tight, she made sure that each of us had a chance to experience Italy as children and encouraged us to return as young adults. This fostered in all of us a better understanding of the world, to be less afraid of things that are foreign and to appreciate our heritage and the richness it adds.

My Mom’s “Millennium Project” was to fix up her childhood home.  The house was standing, mostly because the houses on either side were holding it up and my Zio Maggiorino made sure that the roof was kept repaired.  In Sept 2000, my whole family visited Italy and four generations gathered in the tiny house for big noisy meals. So now we have a home base. A place to go when you need a dose of Italy, to remember the brave relatives who set out to the new world to better their lives and a place to bring the next generation “home”.

I’ve tried to spend as much time there as I can. Not just the week or so of vacation each year, but I’ve extended business trips in Europe whenever possible and hopped on a train or flight (or both)  just to spend an extra weekend here and there. When I’m there I feel like I belong even though my Italian is choppy and juvenile. I’m surrounded by family and I feel part of a community that has been there longer than I can even imagine.

The friends I’ve introduced to the village and valley have been enamored. Most importantly I brought my husband there before we were married and he immediately understood why I kept returning. He fell in love with the tranquil valley and the little villages rich with family history. I’m delighted that it became a shared dream of spending months in Italy when we retire.

You might be thinking that this blog is about my mother’s house, but it’s actually about another house. A second house that has come into the family, inherited by my mother from her cousin Nardo.  I spent a great deal of time in the house last week when I was in Italy. It was sad in that it was the first time I’d been there since Nardo passed away and I miss him very much. He and I were very close. He never married and lived in the same house that he grew up in.  His mother (Zia Vittoria) was my Nonna’s sister. His father (my Zio Maggiorino) was a carpenter and also had a large chicken operation selling the eggs as their primary farm income.

My first visit to Italy in the summer of 1973 I stayed at their house. It was the most modern one in the village and had just been renovated the year before. My earliest memories of Italy are my sister Mimi and I playing  on the street outside their house, hunting giant snails that appeared like magic after a rain. I remember my Zia Vittoria’s garden, filled with exotic plants and beautiful flowers.

Last year when Nardo was very ill and in palliative care, Mom stayed in Italy and spent much of her time with him at the hospital.  His prolonged illness, and years of a bachelor living alone has taken a toll on the house. After Nardo passed away last year, Mom and Dad made a herculean effort to get the house clean, taking out mounds of trash and sanitizing the floors and bathrooms.  But the walls are stained with years of smoke (from both wood stove and cigarettes). The walls are not just a little stained, they are literally blackened. Mom and Dad started with the kitchen and after 3 coats of “Netto” a paint specifically designed for covering smoke and grease they finally got the kitchen clean. I had every intention of starting to paint the rest of the house but we discovered that the walls were covered in wallpaper; quite unusual for houses in the area.  I decided to tackle the removal as my holiday project.  I took down everything hanging on the walls and it was pretty obvious that things had hung in the same place for a very long time! Most likely nothing has been moved or changed since Zia Vittoria died in the early 80s. As I started to remove the wallpaper I found brand new plaster walls under it, so the wallpaper was likely installed when the house was renovated in 1972.

It took 3 full days, several buckets of wallpaper stripper and lots of scraping but with help from my sister Christine and Mom I managed to strip the wallpaper from the entry, hall and living room. The ceiling will need to be painted with “Netto” to cover the smoke stains but the walls are actually pretty nice just the way they are.

As I worked away, mostly alone, I imagined that my Zia Vittoria was happy that I was showing the house she was so proud of some love.  I admired the pieces of furniture that my Zio Maggiorino lovingly made for his family as I moved them and covered them up to protect them from the falling wallpaper. I remembered the many times I’d just sat and visited with Nardo and I know in my heart he is happy that I’m “home”.


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Another Hole in the Wall

We’re getting closer and closer to the end of our project. The new window for the guest bedroom was installed today marking the last hole that needed to be cut into the house. This small bedroom had a window that was obstructed by the addition of the two story great room.

Our options for window placement were very constrained.  The only outside wall for the room is over the roof of the music room.  This same wall also has the room’s wall to wall closet. We decided we could shorten the closet leaving a long narrow space to put the window. Fortunately the dimensions were such that one of the long windows from the original living room could be reused as the bedroom window.

Tim our contractor had the hole cut and the new window installed in no time, but the inside finishing and reconfiguring the closet might take a little longer.

I’m not sure who will be the first guest to use the room but one thing is sure; there’s a great view from the new hole in the wall!

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A little time away is good, but coming home to progress is great.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to spend last week in Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip but it was delightful to return to see a few big leaps forward in the home renovation! The glorious summer weather and long weekend made one of the big changes the hands down winner – the DECK!

We made it our first priority on Saturday to liberate the patio furniture from it’s winter confinement in the garage. We had perfect “deck” weather. It sounds goofy, but I had so much fun going in and out of the new doors to the back I willingly did extra beer runs for my dear husband.

The other big change was that the dining room chandelier and mirror were installed and we could set up the dining room furniture. This is a prime “before / after” moment.

BEFORE – A kitchen

AFTER – A dining room

There are still a few electrical things to finish up and of course there’s the decorating to be done but the completion of the dining room means that the house now has the final floor plan and it has the flow that we imagined it could have.

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Another move – master bath is MINE!

Once upon a time there was a bedroom and bathroom….





After what seems like forever, we’re finally moving into the new master bathroom!

A few things left to do; the steam shower to hook up, a piece of trim here, a door knob there … but tomorrow I’ll be using the new shower for the first time.  It might be an extra long one so if I’m not answering the phone you’ll know why!

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Firewood and Lessons from the Woodpile

In my March 15th blog Thank You Tree, I reported on our trees that needed to be removed. I was delighted that it was actually LESS expensive for them to leave the wood than to haul it all away because we were planning to buy firewood to burn in our fireplace and firepit.  They left the large limbs and trunk cut into lengths. They quoted 18″ lengths but they ranged from 12 – 24″ long. The only catch is that the slabs of tree trunk were huge – some over 3 feet in diameter and completely impossible to split by hand. Our axes just bounced off; barely putting a dent in it! The solution to the splitting problem was a gas powered vertical log splitter rented from a local rent-all place. They delivered it and showed me how to use it. It’s pretty simple. Start it, put log under wedge, press lever to use hydraulics to drive wedge into log, log splits, repeat until log is split to size you want.  The challenge for us was the sheer size and number of logs to be split.  Maneuvering logs into place was the back breaking part. The larger logs needed to be split 20 or 30 times and took up to 15 minutes each to split into firewood sized chunks.  It took us 18 hours over a weekend but in the end we were left with 3 heaps of split firewood. We’ve had to wait for some of the outside work to be completed before we could start moving the wood  but this past weekend we started stacking the wood.  Mike moved it with the wheelbarrow and I stacked.

We completely filled the wood rack we bought for the back of the garage (16′ long and 4′ high) and then started on piling it along the fence. Two of the three heaps have been moved but until some more of the outside construction is finished we can’t move the last of the wood to it’s “seasoning” location.  My best estimate is that we have about 3 cords of firewood (a cord being 8′ x 4′ x 4′) which for any normal person would be way too much firewood.  Anyone who’s watched me build fires, tend campfires or my firepit knows that I’m not a normal consumer. I have plenty of patience when it comes to starting and keeping a fire going. I’ve been known to consume rather large quantities of firewood, so I’d say we have a comfortable stock pile for next winter.

I’m glad that I’ve been stacking wood at our cottage for as long as I can remember so I’ve become quite proficient. As I had many hours to think while I stacked I thought about the life lessons in the woodpile. A firm foundation is required. If the bottom is shaky, whatever you put on top is likely to come crashing down – causing pain. It can take a couple tries to find the right spot. Don’t expect that the first place you put a log is the best one, it’s OK to “do over” if it doesn’t feel right.  Sometimes two wrongs make a right. Two odd shaped pieces of wood can complement each other such that the pile can stay straight and strong. Diversity is good.  Having a mix of big, small, square, triangle,and flat not only helps to make a nice tight stack it’s also handy when fetching wood to build a fire.

Our firewood won’t be ready to burn for several months so we bought some wood  so we could have a fire in our new fireplace ($10 for about 10 logs – making us feel like we had a nice fortune stored in the yard). With the weather warming up, we won’t be using the fireplace much but it was great to chase away a cool rainy Saturday night! Nothing like a fire in the hearth to make a house feel like home!

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Bye Bye Ugly Tile

Yesterday was a very big day. Our new kitchen is officially up and running.  We have a range, fridge, microwave, dishwasher and sink all functioning and the cupboards loaded up with pots, pans and dishes.

There’s still a few loose ends: a piece of backsplash to install, the wall oven and warming drawer to hook up, an outlet not working, knobs on glass cabinets, the display case, et cetera. Those aside, it’s now “the kitchen” as the demolition of the old kitchen is underway!

The space from the old kitchen is being converted to a formal dining room so everything must go! Goodbye ugly white floor tiles! The appliances and cabinets are being moved to build a basement kitchen so we’re not letting the good stuff go to waste.

As I’ve reported in previous posts, the kitchen was the biggest reason the house as it was didn’t work for us (small, isolated, dated decor) so I don’t have any regrets as I watch it disappear. It’s hard, messy, dirty work but this is the last of the demolition. From this point on, things are only getting more “done”. I’m really really ready for this to be done!

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Blackout Blinds – Making the “sleep-in” possible – albeit unlikely!

A nice bright bedroom has advantages, like being able to tell your black socks from the navy blue ones, but being able to sleep in isn’t one of them! Today blackout blinds were installed in the two large east facing windows.  The windows are very high, about 5 1/2′ above the floor. Neither of us like the look of cords hanging down so we opted for remote controlled blinds. We now have a plethora of remotes to operate our bedroom, the blinds, ceiling fan, skylight and TV. I would say that I’m looking forward to sleeping in this weekend but we have rented a log splitter to work on the remains of the trees that were cut down (documented in my TREE blog). So the “sleep-in” test will have to wait.

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Moving in Phase 1: A step closer to done!

Friday the carpet was installed in the master bedroom completing the work on the new addition. After 142 days of anticipation, we’re officially occupying our new space! Our weekend was consumed by uncovering, cleaning and moving our great room and bedroom furniture that has been stored in the basement and stacked up in adjoining rooms. It was so dusty and filthy we had to go over everything several times with wet rags, tack cloth, vacuuming and air dusters. All our pictures and accessories are still packed in the moving boxes from Arizona but even so, having our furniture in the rooms immediately made them feel like home. Standing at the not-yet-working new kitchen sink and looking out towards the lake I’m very happy with the way things have come together.

We don’t think all our furniture is ideal, but we want to live in the space for a while before we make any decisions about what to change.
Edgar, the cat, had no trouble settling in to the new bedroom. I barely had the bed made and he was settling in for his first nap in the new room. Edgar will be back “in jail” next week  when the construction resumes but while the builder is away for a family spring break he’s trying out some new sunny nap locations. There’s still a lot of renovation that isn’t done (finish new kitchen, master bathroom and closets, old kitchen demo to make new dining room, new laundry room construction, outside deck) so don’t worry, I’ve still got lots of blog-fodder to keep me going in the coming weeks.

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