It was a long and arduous process, and we ended up going to bed at three thirty this morning, but it's done.
In 2003, I said this:
In some horrible former life, my house was attacked by the design concept of using mirrors to make the place look bigger. A previous owner decided to mirror in the fireplace and the wall above the fireplace all the way up to the ceiling. I have absolutely no idea what is underneath the mirrors except for some red brick that peeks out between the mirror and the actual fireplace. I'd like to undo the damage and free my fireplace from the disco era.This project scared the hell out of me, but I think ultimately it was worth it, seven years later. It cost us about $450, mostly on the bookshelves, but some on paint, lumber and other incidental hardware costs. It also cost us about 40 hours of our labor. Some frustration, lots of dust in the house, some bruised thumbs, aching hands, and puppy dog concerns were also costs borne. It cost me about three hours of sleep last night. I did not end up having to replaster a wall, though I will have to fix some trim on a baseboard. And I'll have to locate some space somewhere in the house for some art that got displaced.
I'm assuming the worst, and I'm thinking that I'll have to design a new fireplace mantle and probably have to replaster the entire wall, which may mean uncovering some windows that were boarded in. The uncertainty of what is underneath and how much work (and money) is going to be requried to uncover it and redo it is the reason that I (like the previous owners, who apologized profusely for it) haven't gotten around to tackling the fireplace yet. I'm not sure whether the fireplace works or not, and currently, I have candles arranged inside.
To recap, we started here:
Disco fireplace, Christmas, 2009
and in June, we went here:
Naked fireplace, June 24, 2010
Two weeks ago, we went from here:
So the first course of action was to remove the brick from around the rim of the fireplace. This didn't actually take all that long.
Lots of work with a chisel and we were able to get off a lot of cement and brick. But there always seemed to be more.
This middle section turned out to be nearly impossible to get rid of, so Graham came up with the brilliant idea of just building around it. Four hours into the debris removal he came up with this.
The color was called "nightshade" and it went on a much lighter blue than it had appeared on the paint chip.
Graham's carpentry masterpiece. It was made of three pieces of wood, some moulding trim and lots and lots of semi-gloss latex paint.
eventually looking like this
It took nearly an entire quart of paint to finish the fireplace. And it probably would have taken twice as much if I had been painting on raw brick.
with the top on.
Not bad for a two day project.
And that's more or less where we left off. Yesterday, after I got home from work, Graham and I went to Ikea and bought six Billy bookcases and six Billy height extensions. We knew exactly what we needed, and it was our quickest trip to Ikea in some time.
We left the sides undone because the bookcases would eventually cover them.
When we got home, I started moving CDs. I realized at some point during the design stage that my CD towers were going to have to go. I'd been holding on to the CDs for quite some time, but Graham was right that we very rarely listen to them, and the wall that they occupied was the only place that we'd be able to hang the piece of art that was about to be displaced by the bookshelves. All of the CDs fit in various cupboards and side tables in the living room, so while they're a right pain in the ass to get to, they're still around if I need them. The towers are going to the attic, possibly to be summoned again at some point in the future if we ever have room.
In the meantime, Graham started building the first few units. It took a little while to figure out the first one, but after that it wasn't all that hard. Just tedious. Like most IKEA products, there were pegs and screws and a bag full of hardware.
I started moving art around after my CD project was over. One wall hadn't really been touched in years, and it was fun to move and rearrange everything on that wall. Another piece was somewhat precariously placed, and I was a little worried that I'll never be able to replicate its hanging again. And we were able to move the three men fairly easily.
Around the second bookcase, we started to get a little nervous. The measurement from the wall to the edge of the fireplace was exact. The bookcases were supposed to perfectly fit in with no room to spare. But when we put the first two in the space, it looked as if we were off by about an inch for the third. No matter, we'll figure it out.
At some point here, pizza came and we took a break. Watched a House Hunters International episode set in Bologna, Italy and paused for Graham to talk to his dad, who'd called to wish him a happy birthday. I think his dad was a little surprised that Graham was choosing to do a home improvement project for his birthday.
Then, we had to go back to the bookcases. The thirt bookcase, indeed, did not fit in the space. So we started chisling at mortar that was sticking out on the fireplace. No go. Then we looked suspiciously at a particular brick in the fireplace that looked to be sticking out too much. Then Graham removed the first layer of moulding at the floor boards. Need another half inch. This was ridiculously frustrating. We could tell at the top that everything was going to fit, but the fireplace and the moulding was conspiring. There was a very tense hour involving most, if not all, tools used to cut things as we wrestled with the second layer of baseboard moulding. Finally, a sawzall, a crowbar, and a very interesting angle from Graham got that part out. The bookshelf closest to the wall was as flush as it was possible to get.
And then we spent another half hour wrestling with the bookshelf on the fireplace. It'd go in three inches and then get stuck. We'd note the place it got stuck and chilsel. Then it'd go in four inches. Stuck. Chisel. Dust all over the place. Frustration. After a couple of rounds of this, finally I said, "kick it." We didn't care if the side got scratched up or torn apart. So long as the bookshelf maintained structural integrity, the cosmetics on the side flush with the fireplace didn't matter. So Graham kicked the bookshelf into place and it worked! All three were even, against the back wall, and the bookshelves were as close to the fireplace as they possibly could be. They looked great.
I'm sure it took us some time to build the next three bookcases, but it didn't seem that long. We got into a rhythm, and with the exception of having to run an extension cord to compensate for an outlet lost to this project, the right side of the fireplace was pretty straightforward.
Throughout the whole project Celosa stayed in the living room with us, ocassionally coming over to one of us to tell us that she a) loved us and b) needed a tummy rub. Sometimes this happened about inopportune moments, but by and large she was a very good girl. Crianza went to bed. She'd come in every few hours to see if we were done yet, but otherwise, she stayed in the bedroom and slept through the whole thing.
After that, we built the height extensions. I constructed, Graham installed. It took us maybe 45 minutes or so to get that part done. The bookshelves weren't quite floor to ceiling, but they were pretty high. Certainly most of the mirror edge was covered, and we masked the rest with speakers.
They fit! It took about two hours to get the shelves on the left in because there was moulding on the floor near the windows and mortar and brick sticking out in odd places on the fireplace. Graham had to kick the final piece into place, but once they were in, they were perfect.
The edges are almost perfectly aligned with the fireplace.
After we finished the height extensions, we got to the fun part: putting stuff in the bookshelves. Graham and I had decided from the start that he got one side and I got the other. Most of his books have been stuck under his desk since we did a rearrangement in the den a few months ago. And he's never liked where we keep the cookbooks, as they tend to get caught up in the pictures that inhabit that part of the dining room. I, on the other hand, was in desperate need of rearrangement of my other shelves. I was running out of room, and my art books, photo albums and other coffee table type books were taking up valuable shelf space. As these were the prettier books, they were immediately moved. So were boxes with photos and negatives, some art, and some random accessories. It was terribly fun to sort and arrange, though by this point, it was nearly three in the morning.
And then we had to clean. There was dust everywhere. And pieces of cardboard and plastic from the IKEA boxes and random things found behind other furniture when it was moved. The living room had to be re-rearranged, and the pieces of art that still hadn't found homes had to be protected. Since our housekeeper was coming today, we didn't want to leave an insane mess for her to clean up. Sweeping, dusting, sorting and putting stuff away. It was exhausting, but necessary.
And at around 3:30 this morning, we declared our project done. I took a quick shower to get the dust and grime off of me, set my alarm for as late as possible to still be able to get to the office on relatively good time, and went to bed.
But they're done!! As "done" as any home improvement job is done. I'm sure we'll be spending the next few weeks tinkering with stuff in and around the bookcases, and we'll rearrange furniture and colors and such. But the hard part is done, and I think we can be pretty excited about this project.
It was 3:30 in the morning. We'd been working since 7:30ish. Seven pieces of art were rehomed. 0ver 1000 CDs were displaced. Dozens of art books found a new location, and Graham's books finally have a place to lie. And the disco fireplace is a mere memory.
You can see a flickr set of the whole project here. I'm sure that I won't need new bookshelves for at least a few more years.