One of the most emailed articles from today's New York Times is titled "Avoiding the Misery of Remodeling by Choosing the Right Contractor." Countless times, Donald and I have felt lucky to be working with Anderson Consulting, a local husband-wife team who specializes in old houses. That they are indubitably right for Holleywood was reaffirmed yesterday when subcontractor Bill discovered that the ceiling in a living room closet bore remnants of original Italianate handpainting. Less savvy workers might have admired it momentarily before continuing with the task of preparing the walls and thus it would have been lost forever. Bill, on the other hand, knew what he'd found and soon everyone was gathered, taking turns with the flashlight, marvelling at the discovery, giddy with ideas for preservation.
My husband Donald is a bath-taker. Some people, when stressed, turn to drink or to chocolate. Donald prefers a hot soak with good book. Which is why we've decided to move the clawfoot tub into the octagonal tower room next to the master--so he can open the door to the Juliette balcony for views of the lake as he takes the cure.
Relocating the clawfoot (which happily didn't sell in the tag sale, despite a bargain price of $300 affixed to its rim) turns out to be more complicated than it sounds, as is almost every part of a renovation. Unless we want to fill the bathtub by hand, it's got to have plumbing and plumbing requires pipes going down to the basement. However, the walls in the tower are outside walls which means putting pipes in them assures pipes will freeze. Frank and Rob hit on the idea of running the pipes inside, but hiding them behind bookshelves on the first floor.
When Matt the carpenter moves the cabinet, he discovers it to be amazingly solid. And held to the wall expertly by four clever screws. When Matt removes the screws, the cabinet falls cleanly away from the wall. Rob the contractor (who is also a master carpenter) admires the expert mortise and tenon construction. As far from Ikea as bookshelves can get.
Remember how we worried about the condition of the joists under the flooring in the tower bathroom? It turns out they're perfect. "In most houses floor joists built into brick would be rotten," the contractor marveled. "But in this house, even the battens are all good!"
Chris and I sit at the work station in the living room to discuss options for sinks throughout the house. We'll need sinks for new bathrooms, kitchen areas, laundry room. We decide that we'll use vintage sinks if Chris can find them, to retain the old-fashioned feeling of the house.
Because project involves old paint with lead, special precautions are taken, including thoroughly sealing doorways with plastic sheeting that can be zipped open and closed for easy access.
Matt the carpenter carefully removes floorboards in octagonal Master Bathroom to expose joists underneath. If joists are rotted or sagging, we'll have to replace them which would be quite an expense, as they're probably built into the brick. So far, so good.
We're a long way off from decorating. But. I couldn't resist this handspun Chobi wool carpet from Pakistan that was too big for my friend Max's dining room, but fit perfectly in ours. The painter was horrified when he first saw it, afraid he'd have to work with it underfoot. He was relieved to hear we were storing it upstairs. It took 4 men to move it. It's 14 x 19' and weighs over 200 lbs.
Start with an ancient dark spruce the height of a dinosaur, listing dangerously close to the house.
Sherman's been climbing trees for 17 years.
Fill up chain saw with gasoline. Relax. You're a tree climber. It's not the most dangerous profession. It's the second most dangerous profession. (The first is fishing.)
Put on gloves, hard hat, cleat shoes, earphones and chainsaw. Now, weighed down with all that, go climb a very, very tall ladder.
Tim and Toni Locke, owners of Enchanted Forestry LLC.
Make sure your coworkers stand beneath, spotting you.
Make sure you have trustworthy coworkers.
Rappel up the tree, sawing off branches as you go.
Try to forget that the average chainsaw injury requires 110 stitches.
Every man on the work site was called out to help.
Because the tree stands so close to the house, you can't take it down all at once or it might land on the roof. Tie a rope to the top and saw the top off partway. Then, tell the team holding the end of the rope to pull.
Make sure the treetop falls where you want it. Not so easy when wind threatens to make it (and you) fall backwards.
Keep your work area tidy. Sweep away treetop and fallen branches with a tractor.
Lop off as many branches as possible. When you've denuded the tree, tie a cable to what is now the top of it.
It looks like a giant palm tree, doesn't it?
Secure the cable to truck and tractor.
Congratulations! The tree came down and the house is still standing! Walk the trunk like a conquering hero.
Take away wood to be seasoned and milled. (Miller = 10th most dangerous profession.)
who we are
We are a couple of Upper West Siders from NYC who never set out to buy an old mansion in Connecticut. But the moment we walked through its massive front door, we were smitten. The info on this site is earnestly cobbled from a variety of sources, including the web. Please let us know if we've gotten something wrong, or if there's a story about Holleywood you'd like to share.