HOUSE: Newburgh


Like the majority of older homes, our house is closet-deficient. With the exception of the kitchen pantry, there are no closets on the first floor, and just a tiny closet in each of the four bedrooms upstairs. We’re lucky enough to have enough space to spare that we were able to turn the smallest of those bedrooms into a dressing room, but it’s difficult to find hidden storage large enough for things like records, winter coats, and Evan’s guitars and amplifiers.

Next to the dressing room, though, is a roughly 3’x6′ space behind a door that has gone to waste for a very long time. The walls were never finished beyond a thin coat of unpainted plaster, there was no ceiling, and as far as we can tell, it has never served as anything other than an access point to the attic (via ladder). After having our contractor install pull-down stairs in the hallway (a job that we knew was well beyond our level of ability/stamina), we’ve gone ahead with the task of converting the wasted space behind the door into—you guessed it—a closet! A huge closet!

Evan and the Closet Fairy (hmmm…a questionable nickname, perhaps, but let’s go with it) built a framework for the ceiling out in the back yard, then carried it upstairs to fasten it to the walls. So much smarter than building it in place! We can thank the Closet Fairy for that bit of genius. (THANK YOU, CLOSET FAIRY!)

It’s really tricky to take photos of this space (especially since opening the door completely blocks off all natural light from the area), but this is a view of the ceiling with the drywall in place. The electrical box is for a light, obviously!

The never-painted plaster walls are in good enough shape that they only needs some screws for stability and a skim-coat of joint compound. We try to preserve the original plaster in the house wherever possible. We’re not fans of using drywall unless absolutely necessary.

Looking down. The floor is covered with very old, nailed-down sheet linoleum that has seen better days. With old linoleum, there is always a strong likelihood that asbestos is nearby (either in the lino itself, the adhesive, or in the backing paper used between the lino and the wood floor underneath), so we’re going to just leave everything in place and put down FLOR tiles on top. (Asbestos doesn’t pose a risk if you leave it undisturbed and undamaged. Better to contain and cover than to risk improper removal!)

We haven’t decided yet if we’re going to keep this charming bit of graffiti that’s scrawled on one of the closet-to-be’s walls. I’m hoping this was written by an adult with bad handwriting rather than a 6-year-old, but you never know. It’s kind of like “an apple a day” for bad neighborhoods.

Here’s hoping we can finish up this little project by the end of June! In the mean time, shut the door and it all disappears.

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  • Reply Adam June 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I never saw this space when you were moving in! What a great idea. I think you should paint a little frame around the “slogan” and leave it there! I should have saved some of my “carpet print” linoleum for you!

  • Reply Valeria June 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    We’ve got a half done tiny closet upstairs we’d like to finish eventually (and one downstairs too actually) so I’m looking forward to seeing the result! Especially since you’re starting from scratch, it will be a drastic change I’m sure!

  • Reply Jorge June 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Great idea! Can’t wait to see the final result! Cheers to Evan and the Closet Fairy!

  • Reply Jeannine @ Small and Chic June 7, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    At least it doesn’t say “smoke crack” or “cook meth” every day. :)

  • Reply sarah June 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I would totally leave the graffiti up (painting around it of course). You don’t see that kind of charm just anywhere!

  • Reply Michelle... June 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Can’t wait to see the finished result! And I LOVE you guys for being plaster savers…too many people these days seem to go the wholesale gut route, and drywall just isn’t the same!

  • Reply cvjn June 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Love the graffiti so much. If it’s not feasible to leave the graffiti where it is, you can always take a picture of it, frame it beautifully and hang it up in rememberence. That kind of charm must be celebrated!

  • Reply Brismod June 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    It’s true – every nook and cranny is precious storage space in an older house. Will be interested to see the final result.

  • Reply Cherry June 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Love the post….and ummm about the graffiti. lol. If there are linoleum floors, they must have used the space for something. That is really strange. Sounds like an episode of “if these walls could talk”

  • Reply Meghan June 7, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I agree with Adam, frame and paint around it. Too hilarious.

  • Reply kellee June 8, 2010 at 4:35 am

    I think that might be a reference from a Dave Chapelle sketch (the full line being “Hey, hey, hey, smoke weed every day”). Somehow it seems slightly yes humourous seeing it scrawled on a wall!

    Great job – looking forward to seeing this one progress. Also, I love your doorframes, with the little circular emblems in the corners. Were they original?

  • Reply Fat Cat June 8, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Sigh, I wish I could just close a door and hide the mess of an ongoing project…

    Coolest closet ever :

    But looking forward to seeing yours. I am sure yours will be even better :-)

  • Reply nath June 8, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    the pairing of the words ‘huge’ and ‘closet’ please me greatly. siigh, oh but to dream of owning such a thing myself one day.

  • Reply Liberty Street June 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    A-mazing. That is so resourceful and ingenious. I can’t wait to see the finished product. How’s your garden and NYC apartment going?

  • Reply Dan June 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Anna, this is like so effing cool. A SECRET ROOM? Holy crap, can’t wait to see how it goes and how you fill your Barbie’s Dreamhouse-sized closet!

  • Reply Stacey June 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I really really hope that is a reference to the Foxx Hole show on sirus radio…if so you are even more of a rock star renovator then I thought before….please do tell?

    This is my first time commenting but i have been a long time reader and really enjoy your blog!

  • Reply mopar June 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Turns out many Victorian New Yorkers did originally use their houses’ small side rooms as “dressing rooms,” or walk-in closets. I can’t remember where I was reading about this, but there is a photo of one in Joseph Byron’s “Photographs of New York Interiors at the Turn of the Century.” (It doesn’t look especially surprising; it has a vanity, a bureau, and some chairs in it, as I recall.) We’re using one of ours this way. It comes in handy because although our house has many closets, many of them are too narrow for hangers (they were originally outfitted with hooks). Still have the roof ladder in the space next to it, though.

  • Reply Ana Carolina Villaça June 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    I am looking forward to seeing your makeover!

  • Reply naomi June 28, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Smoke weed every day – from The Next Episode Snoop Dogg.

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