I recently introduced you to our “new” 104 year old home that we moved into 4 weeks ago. We’re still in the process of getting settled and it’s going to take some time yet.
But even before we’ve settled, we’re already starting a new project.
We have several outbuildings on our 8 acre property, all of which were built from trees on this very property. Even our 1912 home was built out of wood milled from this property. More specifically, before the main house was built an huge barn had been built. It was the oldest barn in the county. When that became dilapidated the wood from that barn was used to build the outbuildings. Pretty neat, huh? The outbuildings are sturdily built with “historic wood” and we already have ideas for putting them each to good use, so we want to restore and preserve them.
One of the outbuildings has a small 250 square foot living unit on top that hasn’t been in use since the 70’s. And it’s only even been accessed a couple of times since then because the original staircase rotted off long ago.
We’re converting it into a micro-dwelling.
So here’s the thing: Neither of us have any experience with remodeling. But we’re both tenacious and determined and we’re going to see this project through with our own sweat and elbow grease until it shines.
With the original staircase having rotted off, the only way to access it right now is by ladder.
So we grabbed one and headed up to check it out.
The moment I climbed onto the top of the metal roof leading into the unit, I got excited. When envisioning the potential of this space my first thought was: A deck. A BIG deck!
The support beams are already in place for the entire span of this metal roof, so that part is already taken care of.
I stood up there visualizing a nice, big wooden deck – the railings would have planter boxes hung from them on every side filled with colorful blossoms and herbs. And the peaceful views from this deck….With all the trees surrounding it, it almost feels like you’re in a treehouse.
Rooftop barbecue, anyone?
The plans for a deck and stairs are already well underway. We’re going to need the access of the stairs especially once we start hauling in cabinets, toilet, shower, drywall, etc.
In the meantime, we’ve gotten started on some of the interior work.
The current door is warped and will need to be completely replaced, which is a shame because it’s a very old door with some great character. We’re going to see if there’s any way to salvage it, but it’s bowed and doesn’t close tightly, so it’s not looking promising.
Let’s go inside!
If you have a hard time seeing beyond the here and now, you’d probably take one step in and run the other direction (though really, it could be much worse. And actually, these pictures are of the place after we already cleaned out a bunch of debris). But if you’re able to discern a diamond-in-the-rough you’ll realize, like we have, what a gem this can be.
Not having any prior experience with remodeling, this is going to be a great learning experience for us and we’d like to invite you along for the ride. I’ll be publishing posts as we continue to make progress and I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for how we can set everything up and where to put things!
It’s only 250 square feet but we want to set it up so that we can maximize the living space without overcrowding it. Light, contemporary, and functional while creating as much sense of “space” as possible – that’s what we’re after. The kitchen especially – finding proper fitting new cabinets, small appliances, etc – and the microscopic-sized bathroom, will also require a lot of brainstorming.
Carpet in the bathroom. That’s always my favorite. Yours, too?
Well, it’s gotta come out. Pass the latex gloves and the gas mask…
The shower is teeny-tiny and is directly to the left behind the door when you walk in. The walls are simply cedar with some kind of water-resistant paint and the flooring is an old metal shower pan. We’re currently researching tiny shower options that will create a sense of space where there is none.
The bathroom is so small that you can see where the builder improvised – he cut out part of the wooden frame on the right so the bathroom door handle could fit through when you open it!
One bathroom change will be to rig the door so that it swings OUT into the living room instead of into that tiny bathroom.
There is something really satisfying about taking a pry bar to old cabinets.
If you’ve never tried it I highly recommend it.
Upper cabinets are next.
Behind the built-in closet was a square brick opening going directly into the chimney. It must have been an inlet for a wood stove at some point. Within a minute of exposing that gaping hole a half dozen huge moths flew into the room. We discovered a large moth colony inside.
Mental Note: Eliminate moth colony, patch up the chimney hole on the wall.
Behind the old wood paneling on one of the walls we discovered the old insulation was full of squirrel poop and hazelnut shells. Better than rat poop, I said. Then my brother, who was helping us, had to point out that squirrels are in the rat family. I chose to ignore that and instead console myself with the mental image of cute fluffy squirrels perched on a tree branch gnawing on nuts between those cute tiny hands…
When we first began doing some initial cleaning we heard at least a couple of squirrels from somewhere behind the wall hissing at us. The squirrels were ticked.
After all, this unit had been abandoned since the 70’s, providing luxury housing for squirrels and mice alike. (We found three of the latter behind the kitchen cabinets surrounded by 40+ year old split peas.)
And so we ripped out the squirrel poop-infested insulation.
I never thought I’d use the word “poop” on my blog. I guess that comes with the territory of having branched out to include a Home & Garden section.
Ripping out the toilet was fun but not nearly as much as carrying it down that long, steep ladder – which is why we didn’t. We threw it off the roof and watched it explode at the bottom.
The hole on the floor where the toilet was has like an inch-thick layer of sticky molasses-like substance (I don’t want to hear it) that I stepped in…twice…with the back of my jeans under the heel of my shoes, so they both got a taste of it. Yeeeeah.
We originally thought the sagging was caused by warped ceiling joists. Fortunately that isn’t the case, one wall is just a little “off” which will require some finagling to make it look level when we put in a new ceiling.
It’s really exciting to think about what this place is going to look like when we’re done. We’re already dreaming and scheming what feels like a gazillion steps ahead of ourselves about where to place the furniture, how to decorate, how to maximize the living space without making it feel claustrophobic. But all of that will have to wait. Right now we’re on our hands and knees doing grunt work and there’s lots of elbow grease still ahead.
See you next time for Part II of The Micro-dwelling Project!