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May 14, 2010

There are times when what becomes the obvious solution isn’t the first one that comes to mind. When you start toward a solution for a problem, it is much easier to continue along in that direction then to start over from the beginning again. It is quite possible that it wasn’t even the right problem in the first place. The momentum of what seems like progress can end up wasting a whole lot of time. That is what happened when we started working on our phased approach to our living space.

We know we can’t build out the entire living space all at once. It would be way outside our budget but we also want the time to allow for the design to evolve. We want to find cool things and incorporate them into the space. We’ve never lived in something so large, so we don’t even really know what kind of spaces we want. There might have been a time in our lives were we would have pitched a tent and moved into the building with very minimal construction. There was this article in the NY Times that interviewed several sturdy New Yorkers that are living without heat or creature comforts. I’m picturing getting dressed for work, to go to a project interview or something, so cold I’m not able to feel my hands and not being able to find a clean place to iron a blouse. As much as I’d like to think I’m tough enough to live that way, I am ready to admit to needing some comforts at this point in my life. We have been working on a way to get into the building with the minimum of construction to provide some contained living space in the midst of the construction. We need to build out a place where we can live, get ready for work and protect our stuff in a way that is dry and clean. We don’t need a lot of space, but at least something that is separated from the construction.

We started with the considering the space on the second floor that was the office but it turns out it isn’t as finished as it looks and, of course, it leaks. The existing unit heaters are, according the mechanical guy, deadly. So, we looked at building bits of what would become final finished space. We started down the path of designing the final guest bath, a combined sleeping and living area that could become the guest room and some sort of temporary laundry and kitchen area. Every option we came up with led to spending money on infrastructure we’d end up ripping out. The layout was awkward. It just wasn’t coming together.

But then, what seemed to be the clear path wasn’t looking like the only one. In talking about the future of what to do with the vast space in the building, we tossed around ideas for spaces for art projects. It makes sense, for example, to have a designated space for pottery, away from something cleaner, like painting. We talked about building a studio apartment on the first floor at some point. We like the idea that friends or family could come for an extended stay and have their own space. It also was intriguing to be able invite ‘visiting artists’ to stay with us for periods of collaboration. I like the idea that we could rent out the space to get some income to help offset the costs of these renovations. (Tom hasn’t warmed to that last idea just yet.)

So, finally after all these months of pondering and sketching, the obvious path bubbled to the surface. Build the apartment first, live there and work on the upstairs and build that right the first time. Duh.

The space we picked is the self-contained back corner on the first floor. We have made up names for the rooms in the building for easy reference. The old printer’s darkroom is the Kodak Room. The space just off the lobby is the Front Room and the room at the back of the first floor off the loading dock is the Red Room. It isn’t painted red. There is nothing red about it. We called it that because the key to that room is red. (It makes sense to us.) The drawings label it the Rest Room. The door has a faint sign on it labeling it the Sitting Room. It also indicates by a faint sign that it was home to Miss Callahan Personnel Assistant at some point. It’s next purpose is to be our home.

Red Room Door

The space is good-sized, 21′-6″x31′-4″, ironically very close to the size of our little house. It is also has 15′-9″ clear height so we can build in a mezzanine to increase the living space. We can end up with the sleeping space and closets on the mezzanine over about half of the space. The kitchen, laundry and bath are under that. That still leaves a large area to take advantage of the tall open space. There are 5 large windows, 4′-6″ wide x 9′ tall, that provide ample natural light. It will be a self-contained space well away from construction. We can easily heat and cool it with a single mechanical unit. And, importantly, it doesn’t leak. We don’t have to have the roof fixed to start on building it because it is on the first floor, away from the worst of the roof leaks. I have no idea why this didn’t occur to us sooner. It might be because we were so excited about moving in to the upstairs that we didn’t think about starting in a different location.

Our future apartment

If nothing else, starting on this little project makes the big project seem more achievable. It made me realize, too, that if a good solution to a problem doesn’t seem to be coming up, reconsider the problem. So that is the path we have chosen to follow. Hopefully this one will lead us to a good place soon!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    May 17, 2010 7:10 am

    This is a fabulous idea! It amazes me that you have a “space” in this building as large as your former home, and so much more. Hopefully this will take off and go quickly; you should be able to celebrate the holidays in your new home!


  1. The Apartment, Today | B. A. B.

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