Monday, April 22, 2019

Mid Mod Marvel - The Living Room

We've moved into the house and it's starting to feel like home.  It's such an amazing house, we feel lucky to be its new owners.  And as we pull it together, it seemed like a good time to share some photos, so you can start to see the difference in the 'before' and 'after'.
Living Room 'Before'

The living room is one space that has seen some huge changes - and some not so huge.  Our goal was to still have the same soaring space, the fabulous fireplace, the wall of glass doors and the big entry.

Before - Concrete pond and garden area (with no foundation under it)

But we did have to make some changes. The big garden area had to go.  It didn't have any foundation under it and as we tighten up the building to improve energy efficiency, all that dirt, bark and moisture would create a nightmare of humidity issues.  And we discovered that algae started growing in the pond after just a few days, not quite the ambiance we hoped for.
After - pond area leveled with rest of living room, shag carpet replaced with hardwood flooring

We kept the fantastic wall of glass that opens out to the expansive deck.  But we did a major search to find replacement sliding glass doors that matched the original narrow stiles, while maximizing glass sizing.  At the same time, we wanted insulated Low-E/Argon filled glass to improve energy efficiency with the same retro look.  It was a challenge!! These doors from Marvin did the trick and we quickly discovered they were not only more energy efficient, but they also dramatically reduced the amount of street noise.

With all the changes, the thing that upset me the most was having to cut down the giant rubber tree.  It was planted in the corner of the garden area, right where we needed to put the staircase to the kitchen.   I had pruned it a bit and rooted some new stock, so we would still have baby rubber trees.  But the original was such a dominant feature, I couldn't bear to throw it away.

So at the last minute, I transplanted it.  I bought the biggest container I could find, wrapped the roots up, and tended it over the next 7 months.  It hung in there through every single stage of the construction process, often wrapped in clear plastic so it could still get sunlight, but not be subject to drywall dust and paint.

And miraculously, it lived!!!  It's still a 'wow' feature of the room and now that the construction is complete, it seems to be thriving.  It makes me so happy that it's still part of the house!

We also added a new staircase, to better connect the kitchen with the living room.  The guys custom built the paralam beams, to match the original railings.

New Staircase going in
And one of our talented carpenters is also a wiz at metalwork, so he added a new handrail that brings us up to safety code - while looking like it was an original feature.

Custom built handrail, to meet building codes
At the far end of the room, we added a window on the south wall, to bring in additional sunlight. The amazing wall hanging moved to another room, so we could make space for these Angela Adams panels.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the giant skylight.  The original skylight was sheets of safety glass, siliconed to joists across the opening.  The previous owner told us it leaked occasionally, but it dripped down into the pond, so it was no big deal.

Obviously, that wouldn't work with our new wood floors.  So we worked with Velux to find a suitable replacement.  We loved that the skylight was so large, but wanted one that would open, providing some nice airflow in the summertime.  As luck would have it, that's the maximum size for an operable skylight - it had to be made in Denmark and shipped to Maine.  The lead-time was so long, we ended up installing it in December - after chipping the ice and snow off the roof.  But once it was in, we loved it right away.  It provides dramatic sunlight all day long and we can't wait to see how it improves summertime cooling (when summer actually gets to Maine!).

Creating Veneer Panels of White Oak
And finally, we installed what we've referred to as the great wall of MCM (mid-century modern).  It took a month of work, but our fantastic carpenters veneered quatersawn, rift cut white oak to giant panels.  Then they painstakingly installed them across the full wall.  We also added transom windows, to bring more light into the adjacent hallway.  We are so thrilled with the result!

The big changes?  The great wall of MCM, new transom windows to hallway, new stairway and new skylight!
Are we finished now?  Well, sort of.  We're still figuring out furniture placement and overall details, but we are so happy with our new living room!!

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  1. Love it! We need lots and lots more pictures!!!

  2. Spectacular!! (And so glad you saved the tree). Enjoy every beautiful square inch of it!

  3. As a long time reader of your blog, I have loved all you have done to these marvelous old homes. But you have really outdone yourself with your mid-century marvel. And what I keep coming back to, is the handrail--getting that wrong could have destroyed so much and made the whole area heavy again. What artisans you work with, it must be so satisfying.

  4. What a project, so fun to watch what you did with it


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