I live in the greatest little town on earth.

Yes I could live without the 2-hour commute to my office in Boston. Sure it’s tough to find a place to eat after 9:30 pm. Entertainment? Forget about it. And yes it would be nice if we weren’t the only gays in the village. (Little Britain reference. And for the record there are more of us.) But our village neighborhood and waterfront, in particular, are like few other places.

Walk the narrow streets where one car still needs to pull over to let another pass and you find houses, like our own, that have been here since the late 1700s, and secret gardens tucked behind picket fences. Or wander down to the town wharves on any night in the warmer months and see people sitting on large pieces of old Mattapoisett granite passing the time or watching boats come in and out of the landing. Or dare to join the group of regulars who show up most nights at dusk with their own folding chairs and take over part of one of the four wharves while they catch up on their day.

As we renovate our storefront (latest progress pic of the facade below), I decided to visit the Mattapoisett Historical Society Museum and meet with their archivist to look at photos of some of the old storefronts in town that resided both in our own house, as well as our neighbors’ here on Water Street and up and down the village’s side streets.

I’m not going to label every photo but here are a few storefronts and businesses that were once the mainstay of Mattapoisett life. Water Street and the village were certainly the commercial center of town life way back when. While much of that has moved up to Rte 6 today, hopefully our future shop will be a nod to Mattapoisett history.

Progress photo of our storefront:























The new storefront calls for a good deal of trim work and recessed paneling.

My job this weekend was to prime all the trim.

I inhaled too much primer. I’m going to lay down…


I know where we’ll be taking a drive to this weekend.


Okay. Okay. I’ve been gone from my still new blog for about 3 months. Does such a young blogger even have the right to take 3 months off? Probably not. But what can I say? It’s the summer. Work has been busy. We took a 2 week vacation to Ptown. And progress on the shop had been slow…up until the last 2 weeks. (We’ve been waiting on windows and door…took 8 weeks!)

Now it’s time for me to get back into the groove.

So alot has happened in the shop. Things that most will never see. We worked on the sub floor and support beams for 3 weeks. Our engineering plans required that we drill into the masonry foundation in the basement on the north side, add steel/rebar, and then build concrete pilasters around the rebar against the stone foundation so that the future shear panels and hurricane tie down bolts won’t cause any damage to the foundation. I mean, come on? The house is a post and beam building built with enormous wooden beams and has been there for over 210 years; but in this new world of hurricane codes, and required architect and engineer stamped plans, these are the things that have to be done. I’ve just accepted it. I can only estimate right now this has probably added¬†an incremental 30% cost to our renovation budget. Sigh.

Glenn the Carpenter has been working his butt off. Over the last two weeks he did all the framing in the shop. First a few old windows on the side of the house and then the entire front wall had to come out. Vince was texting me photos during his lunch break and this immediately caused me to break out in a panic sweat. While I know in a post and beam buidling the weight is on the outside walls and you can do things like remove the front wall and nothing will fall down, I literally had visions of our house falling down. But this is what it looked like.

Then before the front wall could be framed, the plate needed to be laid down and the drilling began. We had to drill two feet through the plate, the sill and into the stone foundation below. The dust needed to be sucked out. Super strong epoxy added. And then these rods needed to go into the stone foundation. This was not easy. It took two days of hard work.

We hired a local mason to help with all things steel and concrete for this renovation. His name is Joe. Here’s Joe sweating his butt off while he takes a break from drilling. It didn’t help that it was in the 90s and the humidity was the highest it had been all summer.

Installation of the header LVL (laminated) beam was hard. Just getting it level took hours. And installation of the share panels was even more of a pain. Glenn the Carpenter had never worked with them. Each one weighs 400 lbs and was tough to move. And once we had them secured in place getting the nuts onto the bolts at the plate required a re-threading of the bolt because the sledge hammer that pounded them into the foundation did some damage. (note to self: be more gentle next time). At the end of the framing, I am pretty confident this part of the house will hold up to almost anything. (knock on wood). Here’s a shot of the section with one of the shear panels.

As I left for work this morning, the house was prepped for the crew arriving to install the new windows and door, and who will then do all the exterior trim and recessed panel detail work.

And as I got home tonight, was happy to see that the front windows and door had been installed. Side windows tomorrow. But already loving the way it looks. And the view from the inside couldn’t be better.

Last week’s work was all about anything to do with the floor.

I’ll start this post with showing how the space looks after a week’s worth of work on the floor. After alot of hard work, we have a sub-sub floor down. I took this photo late this afternoon as I was in the shop looking around. (Still keeping windows covered with bad curtains to keep interested townfolks out.)

Glenn The Carpenter (GTC) isn’t afraid to deal with what are to me the most discouraging of problems. Like 200+ years of moisture that has caused some of our beefy floor joists and the a couple areas of some sills to deteriorate. He assures me that while it may look bad, it’s not so bad. (famous last words) In fact, some of the floor joists are still biggers than today’s floor joists just because, well, this place was “overbuilt” as GTC likes to say.

Some areas of the plank floor had to be cut away and replaced with glulams. On Tuesday I came home and found a variety of holes cut open and I could look straight down into the basement.

The area in front of the door was particularly in need of repair. Based on some of the old framing, shading on the floor and overall deterioration of the plank floor, chances are very good that when the house was first built the entry had an exposed vestibule of sorts where the floor immediately in front of the door outside was exposed to the elements. So, what does GTC do? He just cuts it out and patches the floor with some glulams. I came home on Wednesday to GTC yelling, “don’t come in!”, as I opened the shop door….because I would have fallen right into the basement. Or down there:

Different angle view looking through floor into the basement.

Entrance to our basement is usually accessed through a door and then down some stairs via our mud-room. Thankfully, GTC cut a hatch in the floor so he can go up and down without having to drag a mess into the house. We’ve decided we’re going to frame a trap door in the shop for direct access to the basement when all is said and done.

This week’s work was also about finalizing the design for the front of the shop and having a visit from an engineer who our architects insisted we had to involve. There were some concern that with new codes and our need to buy hurricane proof storefront windows, we might also have to frame out the whole storefront in STEEL. Ugh. The dollars just kept adding up in my head and lead to much anxiety. Here’s our architect John talking with the engineer.

We ended up with a different solution which does involves some structural panels being built into the wall…but it appears they will be a fraction of the cost of what the steel would have involved.

We have settled on a revised storefront design based on some of the structural requirements. We’ve also settled on some interior specs. While the majority of the shop’s interior will be left wide open, we are adding a new bathroom and a small kitchenette, and the architects have included what will be likely area for some sort of reception desk for our eventual hobby!

But again, alot of good progress this past week. Next week is all about the basement. We’ve decided since things are still relatively “opened up” we are going to add some support in the basement for the floor joists and likely poor a cement floor. We have a dirt basement floor that we covered with vapor barriers a few years back. But we may poor what is called a “rat-floor”, in the biz. ūüėČ

We’re still at the dirty work phase. In fact, by the looks of things, I think we’re going to be here for some time. Big loud sigh.

I should know better after so many years of projects.

Watching one whole side of the house sway back and forth in an unexpected storm back in 2000 after we’d cut away the sill and jacked up the walls and excavated down to the dirt seems like childs play to me right now.

It’s that old house “well, we won’t really know ’til we open up the walls” line of thinking that always gives me a knot in my stomach, or more accurately — knot in my wallet. This week it happens to be, “well, we won’t really know until we pull up the floor.”

The storefront walls and ceiling are pretty much gutted. And starting this past Monday, Glenn The Carpenter (GTC) started taking the floor apart. The old black and white linoleum tile floor (for the record I love original linoleum…but these had to come out to get to the floor(s) underneath), sits on top of a subfloor, which sits on top of what was probaby a gorgeous tongue & groove wood floor, which sits on top of strapping, which sits on top of the original three inch thick massive plank floor. Add 200 years worth of nails…which GTC reminds me of every time he tells me he’s had to get another new saw blade because the nails ate the last one.¬†It’s not a good thing when he brings home a credit appication from our local hardware store and suggests I open a charge because we’re going to be shopping there often over the next few weeks.

Here are some shots Vince took today of GTC’s floor removal progress.


Add in new concerns about “well, we have everything opened up so let’s put some more support in the basement” and I’m wondering about this can of worms.¬†But then I remember how this place is so much a part of us and I fall back into old-house-steward mindset.

(That steward mindset stuck around for about 5 minutes.)

Did I mention there’s the work we’re going to need to do to sure-up some of the massive ceiling timbers/joists before we even begin to think about framing the walls? Three beams/joists will need to be doubled up, or cut back a couple feet, and then we’ll create a “T”, by using some kind of bracket and as equally old looking beams to connect back to the weight bearing sill. I’ve found a blacksmith who is coming to the house on Saturday to take a look at creating some original looking brackets that can be used to make the “T”. If we weren’t exposing the ceiling beams this would not be an issue…but we are…so.

One of the three ceiling beams that will need repair/support is the one pictured below. See the brickwork inside the wall? At one point probably close to when this place was built in 1798, and John Atsatt or some other owner was using the building as a carpenter shop to assist in some part of the whaling ship building process at the shipyards in our backyard, there was a chimney in that wall connected to a fireplace or a stove in this room keeping people warm. And clearly there was some sort of fire based on that beam damage. Glass half full — I’m glad the whole place didn’t burn down.

The way I see it — it’s the same thing as if I was into restoring an old car. Or if Vince was obsessed with collecting something. We’re pretty passionate about bringing this place back to the way it was…and some day soon we’ll make the shop as strong as the rest of the house, and certainly more beautiful than it is today.

Lisa Bengtsson is from Gnosj√∂ in Southern Sweden. Illustrator/designer/graphic powerhouse — she rose to fame in Sweden and internationally with her whimsical line of wallpapers. Her most popular, Familjen (“The Family” — as seen below), features empty picture frames inviting people to fill them in with their own treasures.

I love this design. I can see using it across the whole back wall of the shop. Here’s a room with the same paper.

What REALLY got me going were some other designs I found on her Website. She has a line of kitchen towels with some of her wonderful illustrations. And being a dachshund owner and lover of all things dachshund, these had Vince and I laughing out loud. Love them!

Wasn’t that the name of a show on HGTV sometime ago?

Well, Glenn The Carpenter found this vintage pool ball in the wall as he was finishing up the demolition work on the storefront. I wonder how it got there.

I love the patina…and the #14’s typeface.

Maybe I’ll frame it and hang it in the shop when the project is all said and done.

This past weekend more progress was made. More ceiling came crumbling down. One wall was gutted to show the over two hundred years worth of different approaches to framing. I need to take some photos of the interior to show the progress. One cool thing is we discovered the remains of an old chimney in one wall, and what appears to have been a fire. A fire that chewed through one of the massive timbers. Gotta talk to the architects about that. Glenn The Carpenter scoffs at the idea of needing advice. He may be right. He’s already sourcing some old beams to make the repair. But speaking of architects, we met late last week with our neighbors Peter & Libby from Turowski Architecture and they presented some design ideas for the front of the shop as well as side elevations. In regards to the front, I think I know which one of the 3 designs below we’ll go with. The top design has a double door which feels very New England general store to me. But then the bottom right design is simpler. Hmmm. Well, more progress…and progress is good.

We’re making slowwwwwwww progress down in the storefront, aka “the shop”. Between our busy schedules and the architects busy schedules, we’re waiting on some plans and well, there’s nothing imminent pushing us. But, we’re still making progress so that’s good. “Baby steps” as Vince likes to say.

Glenn The Carpenter spent a few hours this saturday taking down more of the ceiling. It is an incredibly dirty job. There is so much debris. It looks like a bomb went off down there. This shot below is after several dump trips and several barrels worth of debris were taken away.

Vince and I spent a couple hours today just sweeping to try and keep up with the debris and dust. Tons of dust. Tons and tons of dust. Thankfully the shop is detached enough from our residence that we’re able to keep the dust at bay.

What’s going to be really exciting is how we decide to restore the ceiling. The beams are amazing. They’ll need to be cleaned up when the whole ceiling is down, but I can’t imagine covering these up ever again. Of course the realities of having to insulate and run electrical and things like that are important, but I’m certain there’s a solution. I bet we can just insulate in between the beams and then either run beautiful shiplapped boards — or plaster. Something tells me we may go the shiplapped route. We’ll see.

For now, here’s a look at a few more feet of the ceiling gone and the beams hidden above the many layers of debris. They’ll be beautiful when all cleaned up.


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