Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Great Wall of MCM

What do you get when you take a little mid-century inspiration and mix it with some very talented carpenters?  A custom built feature wall that provides a real 'wow' factor.

When we purchased the house, it had a huge wall of cedar siding that ran through the living room and kitchen.  The wood accent was great, but it had a couple of challenges.

First, the adjacent hallway was long and dark.  The only lighting is at kneecap height.  Our first plan was to add skylights to the hallway to add daylight, but once we decided to install air conditioning, that ceiling became home to a lot of ductwork.  So to get sunlight into the space, we decided to add transom windows that would lighten and brighten the hallway.  That meant cutting big openings into the wall of cedar siding.

Second, we discovered the wood wall covered up a major squirrel highway.  We found piles of acorns and urine stains all along the wall.  That clinched it, the siding had to go.  The wood was moved out and we started looking for a new option.

As I've been studying lots of mid-century houses, I've noticed a lot of them have big walls of wood paneling.  Not the pressboard stuff you find in the big box stores, but sleek walls of beautiful wood.  I particularly liked this one with the big square panels and alternating wood grain.  But there is nothing square in our house - it's a series of rectangles.
Architectural Digest May 2017

So as this inspiration started to take hold, I drew up a few sketches for our project.  The winner?  This layout with long rectangular panels (with alternating rows of horizontal and vertical wood grain) that incorporate the new transom windows for the long hallway.
And this project gave me a whole new vocabulary.  We decided to create the panels in white oak veneer.  Not just any white oak, but quarter sawn oak -  specifically rift cut quarter sawn white oak (a mouthful, I know).  Once you see the beautiful grain, you understand why we had to have it.  And to give the wall a bit more interest, we alternated each row with horizontal and vertical grain wood.
Source: hardwood distributors

This was a BIG project that took almost a month to complete.  The guys started by creating a grid on the wall that would support the panels.
New transom window openings are in place and MDF panels are getting 'dry fit' in place
Adding adhesive to veneer panel
They dry-fit the MDF panels with custom made french cleats, to get a good, solid hold.  Once that was completed, they pulled each panel off the wall and added a sheet of white oak veneer to the surface.  There were 25 panels, so this was a BIG job!
Bonding adhesive to MDF panel
To ensure each piece fit exactly, without any warping or lippage, they splined each panel together.

Once the oak panels were in place, the guys trimmed out the windows in white oak.

On the weekends, when we could reduce the sawdust in the room, Richard and I would start adding coats of polyurethane to protect and enhance the wood.  It was a LOT of sanding and sealing!
And slowly but surely, it started taking shape.  We alternated vertical and horizontal panels, to give the wall a bit more interest.  That adds so much character!

There are still a few bits to complete, but isn't it amazing!!??

Oh and the long dark hallway?  Well it's pretty amazing too! Look at the light flooding through without any lights on.  What a change!

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  1. I love seeing this transformation, it's just amazing and your best project to date!!

  2. Hi, Laurel -- It looks glorious and you must be thrilled. Question: what are the ports along the top course of panels?

    1. Great question!!! Those are air conditioning vents. While we had the house torn apart, we decided to add A/C.

  3. Absolutely stunning! Love this!

  4. Mid-century Modern - sonot my style——-till done by you! Everything looks fantastic!

  5. Your version of the wall takes the design to a more sophisticated level. Love what you have done to this place! Enjoy it. I think those pesky squirrels ended up a blessing in disguise (says she who doesn't have to pay for it!).

  6. Awesome! Its a brilliant solution!

  7. Thanks so much everyone!!! This was such a big project, we gave it a lot of thought before getting started. But we couldn't be happier with the outcome!


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