Reusing a Salvaged Door (Part I)

Alright, time to get crackin’ on this whole “posting about the house” thing. This is the mudroom. Well, this was the mudroom when we moved in to our 1900 house:

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This is the first thing people see when  they come into our sweet little home. And I’ll be honest, it has not been pretty, like, ever. It isn’t particularly old– the man who renovated the home before we bought it added it, the bathroom, and the laundry room onto the back of the house (before that, someone had cut up our beautiful hallway and there was a bathroom there…). It’s a tiny little dark room with no windows, two (probably kind of oversized for the space) sconces, and it had some pretty awful avocado green trim when we moved in. We lived with it that way for two and a half years.

This spring, I finally worked up the energy to at least paint the trim and the bench that Peter had installed for our shoes and other outdoor miscellany. I tried a bunch of different grays and finally settled on a charcoal gray called English Tea Party by Valspar. So, as of Friday, September 19th, 2015, this was the mudroom in our house.

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I love having a mudroom. I love having a place to take off muddy shoes and hang up dripping coats. I love having a place for Dixie to go when she is “hoarking” (as in, about to throw up, and yes, that’s sarcasm). (*Side note: that dog barfs a lot, but I have to give her credit where credit is due- she really tries to make it to the door.)

What I didn’t love was the dark pit of despair that was our mudroom.

Peter and I have gone back and forth on what to do with this room. One option, which we eventually tossed out, was adding a very small window where the sconce is next to the door. Ultimately, we decided cutting one hole in the house per year was probably enough (dining room window, I’m looking at you).

The second, and far more economical, option was putting in a glass-windowed door back there. It would, of course, let in lots of light and possibly look better from the outside than the other one had, anyway. There were some issues with this choice, of course. Our house has lovely, heavy outside doors on it. Four of them, to be exact. So we couldn’t just go buy a newly-made door at Lowe’s and expect it to fit. And we didn’t want to- we try to be as true-to-period as possible with the changes we make on this house. On top of the struggle to find one that would have the quality and style of an old door, the cost of having one custom made at a big box store would have been prohibitive.

This left us with the option of finding a salvaged door at an architectural salvage place. The only problem with that option is that this is kind of a short, squat door. So our odds of finding something made of wood, heavy, the correct thickness, and with at least one window in it were kind of low…

Enter the Heritage Alliance in Jonesborough, TN. According to their website, the Heritage Alliance “is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region and to providing educational experiences related to history and heritage for a wide range of audiences.” They have a warehouse which is open two Saturdays per month in the warmer months; here, they store and sell their collected donations of architectural salvage, including doors, windows, bannisters, signs, you name it. Peter and his students have done volunteer work and internships there for years. Two weeks ago, we went to find out if any of the windowed doors at the H.A. fit our measurements…and you guys, one did.

Pete went to pick it up on two weeks later (and forgot to take pictures of the awesome warehouse for the blog, but maybe someday, I’ll add some here). Isn’t she a beaut?

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Okay, okay, so she had seen better days…but she fit the measurements enough (Peter needed to add two inches to the bottom, since she had been cut down, and take off about a quarter of an inch on the side), she had six windows (okay, so there were a few panes missing and the others had been painted), she was a solid wood, paneled door, and she even had the doorknob (or more importantly, a hole for a doorknob) in the right spot. We think she is probably 50 years old and was the door to a business, given the paint covering the windows. And in her messed up glory, she is allllll ours.

Our first step was to give the door a good scrub down with some bleach water. This was my job. Admittedly, my title when it comes to things like modifying doors to fit our old house is Scrubber of Things. Picker of Paint Color. High Priestess of Keeping the Toddler Away.

Point is, most of this post is about what Pete did to fix the door.

But I definitely did the scrubbing. And the watching of the toddler. AT THE SAME TIME.

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(And I scrubbed down an old headboard Peter made to use in the guest room. Boom! Multitasking!)

Then Pete moved the door to the front porch and worked his Pete magic, which I shall now try to chronicle without accidentally lying about what he did. Many of these photos were taken through the window as I watched The Fantastic Mr. Fox with the Boy for the 14th time this month.

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First, to close the gaps that had developed throughout the years, Pete clamped the pieces together and installed wooden pegs. These were later sawed off and when the door is painted, you’ll never know they were there.

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Next, he installed a piece of wood along the bottom to make the door tall enough to fit our doorframe. He primed and I painted it the paprika color of the other doors on the house, just so it wouldn’t have to be done upside-down-like later.

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The next part of the task was cutting the piece of glass he brought home from the warehouse. He did this by scoring it with a glass cutter and then snapping it off. He got three panes out of it (though he hoped to get four). Whew!

Then, Pete scraped out the old window glazing, placed the new panes in, and reglazed the windows with putty we bought at Lowe’s. It has to sit for a couple of weeks before I can paint the door, but the door was definitely ready to be placed in the door frame.

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Out with the old door…

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…and in with the new! All of this next part was done while the Boy napped in the next room. It’s amazing what kids can sleep through!

Pete had to do some mortising to make room on the new door for the larger (and fewer– it originally had three) hinges that were on the frame from the old door. I employed my considerable skill in holding things up with my foot while he screwed the door into place. Add Supreme Owner of the Foot that Holds Things to my list of titles.

A little cussing later, and we had a working doorknob, as well. I went with a really simple oil-rubbed bronze handle from Lowe’s. A part of me wanted to buy a reproduction double-cylinder lock set, but they’re pretty wickedly expensive and the whole point of this project was replacing the door on the cheap. Our old doorknob was a mortise doorknob and with the door’s existing hole, we couldn’t use it. So on went the new double-cylinder doorknob…

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…and this is where we stand! There is light in the back of the house!

Next, I’ll be painting the door to match the trim, painting the outside the paprika accent color we chose for the rest of the doors, and finding a curtain solution so we don’t treat our neighbors to awkward moments as we leave the restroom in the evening.

Thanks for checking in with my first actual, real-life, doing things post on this blog! If you have friends who are interested in old homes, historical maintenance, renovation, restoration, do-it-yourself, reading stuff from someone whose husband does the real work and she picks the paint colors, or anything along those lines, feel free to share the blog with them!

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Making Permanent Things in a Disposable World

Ahhhh, my first blog post. I’ll be honest, the computer lacks the “new notebook” smell that I love, but it has the advantage of speed, so I’ll forgive it. Plus, I’ve got my blank notebook in front of me so I can still sniff it every once in a while.

I’m Audrey.

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Ah, hello, creepy photo I took on lunch break at work. Gonna have to up my selfie game. Or not. Maybe this makes me relatable?

At this point, since this blog is new and so few people are reading it, all of you who are looking at it know who I am already. You know I’m from a tiny town in Illinois, that I went to high school in a slightly bigger but nonetheless small-ish town in Illinois, went to school for far too many years, and ended up a librarian at a community college in East Tennessee, where I live with my husband, Pete, my two-year-old (hereafter known as the Boy), and Dixie and Maggie, who are sweet but thoroughly rotten mutts.

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The little one, she is feisty.

My husband is a history and museum studies professor; he teaches students about the current issues facing institutions charged with preserving and interpreting the past for broad audiences. He has a pretty extensive background in working with material culture, those things left to us from previous generations. And, I’m just going to say it, Peter is a truly handy guy. My father once called him “capable,” which is seriously high praise, indeed.

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Moving a giant rock with a thing that came from his brain thoughts.

Now, to the point of this blog. I’ll be honest. I read lots of home decorating blogs. I love them; I obsess over them. You guys who write them, you can thank me for the pageclicks later. I love peeking inside other peoples’ homes and seeing how they live and work in their spaces. The writers of these blogs work really hard, and often have to turn their homes into studios for writing material. They decorate a room, and then redecorate it a year later to provide fodder for their blog. I get it. It’s their livelihood.

That said, I’ve started to think about all the wonderfully creative people I see writing these blogs, but working with disposable materials, partly out of a need to make a space look finished or filled-in. And that’s okay…they can “change it up” or “change it out” for something later. But, I guess, if I’m being honest, I don’t want my house furnished that way. Maybe it’s crazy, but I’m starting to think that I’d really like to learn to fend for myself when it comes to making my home beautiful and functional and, most importantly, comfortable for those I love. When it comes down to it, if it takes me ten times longer to make a space look the way I want it to look because I feel the need to make a lot of what lives there, then I guess, so be it.

Will I be able to make ALL the THINGS? No (“not yet,” she adds while mischievously rubbing her hands together). I get that in a modern world where we all live according to lots of rules and according to our means, some things must be bought. I have a full-time job. My husband has a full-time job. We have the Boy. We have the girls (though the only work they really require is a serious dedication to vacuuming). We buy things that are commercially produced. I won’t be making our dinnerware anytime soon. I just want to live among things that are made with skill, sometimes by me and sometimes not, but hopefully, many of them made by a real person with a real connection to the thing.

In addition, I want to live in a house that’s been respectfully (read: not trendily (word?)) furnished and preserved. Our home was built in 1900, renovated repeatedly, and then lovingly restored by someone else. We don’t agree with all the choices that person made, but we get what he was doing. He wanted to present the home as it once was while making some concessions to modern life. When we renovate or add anything to our house, we want to make sure it looks like it could have been there all along. That R.O. Huffaker, who originally lived in our home, wouldn’t think our changes were bizarre.

I can guarantee that I won’t be presenting “room reveals” in which a perfectly styled room is photographed by a professional. I’m not one and oh, boy, do I make decorating mistakes (maybe someday I’ll talk about painting Frank the Desk blue…which I contend, to this day, was not as bad a decision as Peter thinks it was).

What I’m proposing is this. I’m going to write about making things and learning to value those things in our world which are well conceived, beautifully made, and permanent. The things that don’t just fall off a conveyor belt but actually come from peoples’ hands and are the result of their creativity, skill, and ability to stay still long enough to make them. Along the way, I’ll hopefully learn a whole lot about being a real “maker,” a whole lot about the past, and a whole lot about what’s important and what’s not. We’ve got limitations: budgets, time, the fact that I can’t sew (yeah, I know, that’s at the top of the list). But it’s a journey, right?

Please join, because this place…

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…certainly won’t end up boring.