We often get asked what it’s like to live on the third floor, how it’s going up here… what it’s like. So, here you go!
Living through a renovation as massive as this is not the easiest thing. People often stop by the house to see what’s going on, and we get asked a lot, “When do you plan to move in?” or, “You guys don’t live here… do you?” Followed by the inevitable looks of pity and horror, that yes, we live amongst the debris and construction. We avoided it as long as we could. We stayed in Jackson Street until we were able to sell, which gave us about 6 months where we could go home to a clean house after a day of renovation. When it looked more and more like we were going to sell, we didn’t really know what to do. Martin Place didn’t have one bathroom that fully functioned, no kitchen, and very little in the way of creature comforts. Financially, moving in was the only option.
I suggested we move into the attic. There are five rooms, plus a bathroom. Doug was on board. We would have plenty of space – a bedroom, living room, office for both of us, and a storage room. Once we got the bathroom running (and hot water running to it, which we didn’t have), we’d be set. I mean, it was two flights down to get to the kitchen, but snacks and drinks were made easier by a dorm fridge (thanks, Caryn!). It really was like college – we moved in very little furniture, and left the heavier antique pieces in storage on the second floor. Since the rooms are compact compared to what we are used to, I was creative where I needed to be. But everything we needed fit, in about 900-1000 square feet of space.
We tried to make changes that were free or cost nothing to make it feel clean and not gross. I could deal with “not pretty,” if it didn’t feel like I was getting a disease every time I stepped foot up there. With a LOT of help from friends, we removed the COMPLETELY nasty carpets, and painted the plywood subfloor brown. I removed some wallpaper borders. The room that was to be our living room had significant water damage, and since the walls were drywall up here, and not plaster, we actually had mold in this space (mold has a much harder time growing on plaster, since there isn’t paper for it to feed on). And this room had completely rotted floors. So, that was a project, and one that we haven’t really finished – we had to move in before we could tape and mud. Let’s just call it rustic.
We built shelves and hung rods in the closets. There are actually REALLY great closets in 4 of the rooms. Doug has the one in his office, and I have the ones in my office and the bedroom. The one in the living room is storage and the mini-fridge.
The bathroom had the most changes, because it was the grossest. I took off the flowery border, and painted the room with two $5 mis-tint gallons from Lowe’s mixed together. It was pink and purple before, so the color of lighting was horrid. There was no mirror, and the room was really dark, so we added a mirror and sconce, which helped a bit. We used leftover peel-and stick vinyl from a previous project at Jackson Street on the floor. We changed out the hardware for the shower and tub, and added some shelving in between the two vanities for storage. We probably spent about $200, and the room at least doesn’t look tragic anymore. Except for the vanities. They are so dated, but with the earth-colors we added, it at least makes them blend a little.
There was no HVAC system in the third floor, but it was wired for baseboard heating, so we installed those. The summer months were somewhat brutal with no air conditioning, but we bought a portable unit that could be moved from room to room as needed – there was no way the windows would handle window units – secretly, that thrilled me because I would have HATED seeing tacky window units outside. Once our kitchen was complete, we put our guest bed on the first floor, so on nights with extreme heat, we could sleep downstairs in the AC. We’re still doing that, well into September.
We both have offices up here – Doug because he works from home, and me, so I can still sew a bit and have a place for schoolwork.
Eventually, we plan on opening up the whole floor, adding spray foam insulation, and making it a great entertaining room, with built-in places to sleep for when we host the band staff and have guests. I’m keeping an eye out for very old arcade games (I want an old skee-ball machine!). We’ll rip out the bathroom and re-configure with vintage fixtures. We’ll add a separate HVAC unit for the third floor, and hopefully even a wood-burning stove. Someday! For now, though, it’s cozy, and keeps us away from the dust and destruction of the other floors. I don’t know how long we’ll be up here, but probably at least until next summer.