Monday, 5 November 2012

Butcher block island

This is what the guts of a 19th century middle-class house look like. I took this shot looking across the back room of the house and out into the “garage”, or the “scab” as we like to call it. That doorway is now drywalled shut, and the scab slated for demolition (if a good stiff wind doesn’t do the job first). This used to be a mud room of sorts, with horrible 1970’s wallpaper and peeling linoleum floors. It’s the first section of the house we have renovated and it is now a bathroom/laundry room. One day I will do a before and after post so you can see how it looks now (and how very talented my husband is at renovating a room with no straight edges in it whatsoever). 

When we first gutted this room, the first thing we noticed (besides all the interesting and worrisome things you find when you gut a 140 year-old room) was how much better it looked with the ceiling opened up. It made the room feel so much bigger, so we decided to keep it that way. The beams you see running across the open space where the ceiling used to be were cut out, but we kept them in hopes of repurposing the fantastic old wood into something new. 

Flash forward a year, and we looked at that pile of antique lumber that had been sitting in the corner of our dining room ever since and decided it was finally time to put together the butcher block island we’d been talking about turning it into. 

Ian cut up the lumber and trimmed it all down to the size we wanted, and then he patiently explained to me how to measure and drill four holes through each piece, which I did, in my slippers I might add, on the kitchen floor. We then threaded four industrial steel rods through each beam and bolted them tightly together. 

This week I’ll sand and finish the whole thing with food-grade sealant. We are thinking of suspending it from the ceiling instead of giving it legs, which has me scratching my head but hubby says he can do it and I trust him. 

I must say that over the last few years, I have developed a love for old things. Not just antiques, but old raw materials too. I love running my hands over this wood, feeling the holes where the handmade iron nails used to be, imagining what my community looked like when this wood was first milled down the street at the pond. I like the sense of stewardship that caring for and repurposing old things gives me- the sense of history and connection. It means that building and crafting things never goes as smoothly as it would with all new materials; things break or surprise you in different ways, parts don’t fit or can’t be replaced, and sometimes it ends up costing you more to retrofit something old than it would have to just buy it new. But when it works, I just love it. There is so much beauty, pride and craftsmanship in my old things that give me a little burst of joy every time I look at them. I strive to craft my home around the saying: “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to by useful or find to be beautiful”. More often than not, I find that the old fits both those bills better than the new. 

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