I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it...Picasso

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Big Renovation - It Continues

With the floor and walls all painted and fresh it was time to attack the dreaded ceiling - a short review.  One of the things that pushed me over the edge and helped me make the leap into this renovation was that the insulation in between the beams above me was falling in creepy, spidery- feeling clumps onto my head and it just looked like something out of an episode of Hoarders. I could stand it no more!

A couple of years ago, my friend Connie and I visited the home and studio of Russell Wright in Garrison,NY (If you locals have not taken this pilgrimage, I say it is a must see).  Wright has been a design hero of mine since childhood.  In fact, one of the great traumas of my childhood is when we moved from New Jersey to Colorado and my father couldn't get one more thing into the truck.  A few boxes were left behind in the garage of the old house as trash.  The contents?  My mother's entire set of Russell Wright dishes.  A few large serving pieces were saved but sometimes I think what it would be like to have all those glorious dishes.

When we walked into Mr. Wright's studio it was a very clean, spare, mid-century modern space.  Pretty much what you would expect from a designer of his time.  The ceiling caught my eye though.  There was burlap stretched taught from one end of the room to the other and stapled along the beams.  It was so simple and tidy.  I made a mental note - in red Sharpie.

Unlike Russell Wright who worked above ground in a very squared off studio, I work underground where all of the water, sewer and electrics of the house converge and huddle in mounds of nasty pee colored insulation.  Nevertheless, I knew that this burlap thing was a much better and more cost affective way to cover the entire mess

I decided I wanted to do alternating stripes of white and natural colored fabric and I bought two bolts (40 yards) of each color.  I think we figured we needed 77 yards and believe me, in the end, it was not a waste.  My husband  and I measured and measured again before cutting our first piece.

I don't know how many of you have tried to hoist a 15 foot long, 45 inch wide piece of fabric over your head while standing on a step stool and trying to staple it over your head but it is not friggin' easy.  Getting it started was the most stressful part of the operation and I would love to tell you what my "technique" was but I couldn't tell you because it was just one foul language fest after another.  The other aggravating thing we dealt with was that the staple gun kept breaking.  I have never had any love lost over a staple gun anyway.  I think they suck, but I found one at Home Depot that had a softer squeeze than your standard chrome bastard and was easier on my smallish hands.  I didn't have to throw every bit of strength I had into each staple.  It was also kind of cute with red plastic handles.  We made it through about one piece before the gun broke and I also noticed that there was a little smudge of red on the burlap.  I immediately assumed I had cut myself.  Nope.  The dye from the red handles was rubbing off on my skin then onto my cloth ceiling.  Back to Home Depot.  We made 3 trips to the store and went through 4 staple guns.  Don't ask me why because I can't tell you.

We had decided that we would work from the center out and the first piece we put up was so off  center.  We had plenty of excess on one side and the other side did not reach the wall.  Every time we finished one piece and cut another we were sure we had learned the ins and outs and finally had a system.  Alas, every single piece was a reinvention of the wheel.

Though it is a little lumpy in spots and there is only one end of the room with dry wall to attach to, when we were done I was so happy not to see the ratty you-know-what.  And in the end, it was really the right solution to a rather complicated problem.  Access to the house systems is a simple yank of the staples.  We left the water main lever exposed at the opening of the crawl space and the sewer and water pipes over my slop sink remain uncovered.

Next episode I will tell you about my journey into the science and shopping for just the right lighting.  Bill Nye I am not, but I will try to explain it as best I can.

I'll be on vacation in Maine, recovering from all of this and be back online August 28th.  Enjoy the rest of your  summer!  Here's the link to Manitoba, Russell Wright's beautiful property.  http://www.russelwrightcenter.org/redesign/home.html  P.S.  It's a great place to hike.


  1. Another really interesting post, Neely! You do deserve this vacation. But how nice to think that you then have this gorgeous studio to return to - the setting up should be the fun part!

  2. That looks great! What an inventive solution to a difficult ceiling area. I love it.
    I love your style of writing Neely, you make me laugh every time and I can visualize exactly what you're writing about so easily. Can't wait to read your next post about the lighting. Hope you're resting up there in Maine while you gear up for your lighting challenge.