Monday, December 20, 2010

You're Gonna Wind Up Where You Started From

I’ve been pondering the east wall in our living room. This is the wall where we took out a closet added by the previous owners. (See the second half of this post from Nov. 2009.)  This is also the wall that originally had a window facing out on the former side porch. That window was closed in by the previous owners when they enclosed the porch to expand the bathroom. But we still have most (all?) of the walnut trim from the original window.  If you go back and read that post from Nov. 2009  notice that at the end I wrote we were "still trying to figure out what to do about baseboard".

Well, this is what the wall currently looks like:

Um, yeah, we're still trying to figure out what to do about baseboard.  Putting baseboard up sounds easy enough, but in reality it’s posing something of a problem. The pictures below are recycled from a post last April.  They show a before and an almost after of some baseboard on the south wall of the living room:

Notice that the paneled area under the window takes the place of the baseboard. Although we saved all of the baseboard we removed from the east wall, because that wall originally had a window (with a full paneled bottom) there is not enough of the original baseboard to now cover the entire length of the wall. Thus the problem.

Despite having access to two woodworking shops, it appears that successfully recreating the profile of the molding at the top of the current baseboard is going to be something of a challenge. And there’s also the problem of what wood to use for the new baseboard. I’m semi-confident that we can match the color of the EH’s existing wood but matching the old lumber's grain is a bit more difficult.

If we put back up the original baseboard I’m worried we will wind up with a piecemeal effect – two short sections of the original walnut and a third newer section (that, for the reasons explained above, I fear would stick out like curly fretwork in a Frank Lloyd Wright house). The other option is to recreate the entire length of baseboard in one piece of new wood – but we would still have to find a way to match the existing baseboard's color, grain and profile before I would be willing to do this.

Now, even though actual work on the house has basically been at a standstill for the last few months, the planning and plotting in my head never stops. And so, after six months of living with a baseboardless wall, I’ve come up with two other options for dealing with this dilemma.

The first possibility occurred to me a couple of months ago when I noticed the picture at right while flipping through This Old House magazine.

Hmmmm…Our wall had a window in it originally. And like I mentioned before, we still have most (all?) of the original trim from that window. What if we put back up the original window trim, bottom panel and all, and simply replace the actual ‘window’ part with a mirror? If we did, then the remaining original pieces of baseboard should be enough to complete the wall. Hmmmmm…….

After pondering this idea for a few months I’m still not sure if I like it or not. I do like the fact that it would put more of the beautiful original walnut back into the room. And it would create a focal point. But I worry that as a focal point it would draw attention to a feature that has obviously been altered from its original appearance. After all, even if we put the trim back up we can not recreate the depth of the original window. And would a single, solid mirror look misplaced next to three other 12-paned windows?

Then while browsing the houseblogs site I noticed this "Faux Fireplace" entry at Petworth Row House. And I thought, "Hmmmmm…..". Using the existing trim pieces from the former window, I suspect that we could make a mantel that would blend perfectly with the rest of the room. Couple that with an electric fireplace insert and we could really dress up that east wall. And with a fireplace eating up a good chunk of the wall space, the original remaining baseboard would be enough to finish the job. I’ve always felt that a fireplace is the one feature that seems to be ‘missing’ from the Einsel House. (And based on how often visitors ask, "So where is the fireplace?" it’s obvious that I’m not alone in my feelings on this matter.)

But, but, but…an electric fireplace insert?!?! Am I in my right mind? In the kitchen I wouldn’t think twice, that room has already been altered way beyond its original condition. But the living room still exudes vintage 1840’s charm. We might be able to create a mantel that would not spoil that authentic feel, but what about the rest of the fireplace? 

I admit, at first blush I was quite smitten with the thought of a mirror-window or of a faux fireplace, but in the end I suspect the best fit for this house will be recreating the original baseboard as best we can and nothing more.  The living room isn't lacking for drama - the remaining three windows and the front door provide plenty of that.  And we're striving for a renovation here, not a remodeling.  So, after a great deal of mental energy, I'm back where I started from.  Still trying to figure out what to do about baseboard. 

1 comment:

  1. I'd found the link below awhile ago, but had forgotten about it. Perhaps this would be $10 well spent -