The Chamber of Secrets Reveal: Part One

Once, a very long time ago (six months, to be exact), I shared the gruesome underbelly of our house with you–the Chamber of Secrets.

chamber-of-secrets-signToday, I ask you to once again push that door open to see that the Chamber of Secrets has transformed into… well, the Chamber of Secrets (the name has stuck, but now we say it in less sepulchral tones).  Go ahead, take a peek inside.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneOkay, okay.  So it might have a been a little preemptive to call this a reveal post.  Because we haven’t finished the cabinet doors.  And the top of the shelving still needs trim.  And there’s one more trim piece to add to the floors.  But it’s hard for me to even feel that bad about misleading you because when we started this project there was this whole crappy carpet/exposed insulation/puny ceiling fan/random plywood squares/unholy mess of boxes situation.   Here, let me remind you.

from-door-2Then scrub your eyeballs with this:

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

It’s a trick of perspective making that post on the corner shelves look bent – in real life that thing is straight as an arrow!

I mean sure, it couldn’t really have gotten worse, but it is so, so much better.  Today I thought I’d give some details on the main elements we added to the room: the floors, the closet, and the shelving.


Our house was built in 1930, and the downstairs floors are fir. Our entire upstairs though (excluding the bathroom, thank goodness), is a patchwork of poorly-fitted industrial carpet over subfloor.  No gorgeous wood floors just waiting to be exposed here.  Our plan is to banish the carpet in the next year or two, so we needed to choose flooring that fit in our budget not just for this room, but for the entirety of the upstairs.

We knew we wanted something period-appropriate – a domestic hardwood that would feel right in our old farmhouse.  My initial thought was pine. It would definitely suit our house, and I really love the way it looks. But even though pine is notoriously soft, I was pretty surprised by how soft the sample actually was.  I mean, I could make a groove in it with just my fingernail.  Here’s a little video:

I don’t mind a little patina (shoot, our whole house is patina’d), but Cameron and I both worried that the rolling trundle bed and rolling office chair, and just general living, would leave the floor with deep grooves and scratches.  So we cast our net a little wider and eventually narrowed our choices to hickory and ash.

Samples of ash, hickory, and pine

Samples of ash, hickory, and pine

Tearing out the carpet and removing all the staples was dirty and tedious, but not difficult.  Overall the installation of the floor – we chose pre-finished wood with boards the same width as our downstairs floors – was straightforward.  Our house is sloped and canted and definitely not square, so there was some alchemy (the alchemy of measurements and swearing) required to get the job done.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Cameron replacing part of the subfloor. He could be wearing those headphones to protect his ears from power tools, or maybe to block out the Scottish strains of hundreds of hours of ‘Outlander’ that played incessantly during this project. Try not to be too jealous of our sound system.

In the end we chose hickory for its durability, price and beauty.  The variegation is a little more intense than I pictured when extrapolating out from the four-inch sample, and I admit to some serious second-guessing when the floor was about halfway in.  It’s growing on me though, and I think it’s pretty in this simple, all-white room.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneThe Closet
You may remember that the inspiration for the closet came from this old door (that we think is original) that we found in the storage room of our house.
closet-door-beforeAfter a thorough cleaning, painting, and a quick refreshing of the hardware, it was looking sweet.  But also short.  We didn’t want to hang it so the bottom was flush with the floor, because that would mean ducking down to see inside the closet.  Instead we opted to hang it high, so the baseboard forms a little step.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

I might be a little proud of my drywall work – those small walls represent so many hours of mudding and sanding!

I’m glad we hung it high, because it led to one of my favorite little details in the room – the door trim cut to fit the slope of the eave.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneIt’s a decent-sized closet (I’m so glad we didn’t do a cupboard like we originally planned), and inside we just put a simple shelf and a hanging bar.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneShelf design
The biggest and most complicated part of this project by far was designing and building the cabinets and shelves.  It took a lot of discussing, negotiating and idea-bouncing between Cameron and me, and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out.  Here’s where we started (if you missed the first part of this saga and are wondering why there’s no drywall, you can read about it here):

desk-and-windowsWe’re in a much better place now!

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneWe knew (thankfully) ahead of time that if we built the shelves down in the shop they would be too big to fit up our narrow staircase, so we hauled all the tools upstairs and built them in the room.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneThen we grunted like the weightlifters we aren’t and lifted that thing into place.  The corner shelves were screwed directly into the studs  of the closet.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Not the prettiest stage of the renovation.

A major consideration in the design of the shelves was how to keep everything from being too visually heavy.  This room has really lovely light and a nice view into the treetops that we didn’t want to block, and so Cameron came up with the idea of radiused shelves near the window.  We also left the edge of the corner shelves open.  I like the idea of placing some books with their spines facing out to break things up a little and keep it interesting.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

We’re still finishing up the trim on the top and bottom – those gaps won’t be there when we’re done.

Cameron installed an outlet in the corner, and we wrote lots of secret messages for some future inhabitant to find in the space behind where the two shelves meet.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneI was pretty adamant about having just a single support in the front, which meant adding some wedge supports near the curved ends to keep the shelves from bowing under the weight of books.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part OneWe built the window seat lower so that the cushion will sit flush with the top of the cabinets. I plan to pretty much live in this spot in the coming months.

Red House West || Chamber of Secrets Reveal Part One

Oh man I could go on and on, but this post is getting pretty long so I’ll save some for next time.  I’m so excited to finish up the last few little projects so we can start moving furniture in!   Can’t wait to show you!

15 responses on “The Chamber of Secrets Reveal: Part One

  1. Nina

    Wow. I love those floors. And those shelves are fantastic! Great job, Katie & Cameron. Can’t wait to see the next installment. Whenever it comes, I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

  2. Emily

    I really love the variegated effect on the floor, I think it looks more modern somehow. And THOSE WINDOWS – what I wouldn’t give to have that much light streaming in to a room, so dreamy. Can’t wait to see how you get on with this!

    1. Katie Post author

      Oh I’m glad you love the floors! And I feel really lucky about those windows – hoping to get my desk set up in there this weekend (and hoping my muse will arrive on a shaft of light)!

  3. Carol Bryner

    As usual, I’m in awe of your design and construction skills. The Camber of Secrets now seems so clean and welcoming, but I also love the idea that you’ve hidden messages in your “Corner of Secrets.” I can’t wait to see how you “accessorize” the space. Fantastic job!

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks Diana! Having the projects stretch so long had its pros and cons. We lived in a construction zone for way too long (it’s amazing how impossible it is to keep the chaos of dust and tools confined), but because we were working in the evenings and on weekends (and because we took time to do other things) it didn’t feel too onerous.

  4. Susan Glassow

    I too love the way the chamber is coming into the light. And, hiding some secrets for others to find decades down the timeline of this farmhouse’s life, such a great idea. I like the way you expose the process to us all — the pictures of the work in progress( and dirty, difficult work it is! ) and giving us the room with its inviting palette of possibilities.

  5. Brittany @ white dog vintage

    Absolutely love this! Especially how you don’t even have to go in a giant pipe to get to it (okay, we’ll make that my only bad Harry Potter joke). (Just one more–please call your final reveal “The Chamber of Secrets is Opened.”) Anyhoo, it’s just gorgeous. I love the variation in the floors, and that shelving is FANtastic. I’m going to find my husband immediately and demand to know why I don’t have these. Inspiring work!

  6. emily

    these are stunning! I just love how they fit with the shape of the room, and your careful consideration of all the details…like how they met the window. can’t wait to see this place furnished!

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