Kate Pearce Vintage | Spring 2020 One Room Challenge | Week 4

It’s week four and we are finally inviting you all in to follow us live from here on out! We started back in February with an attic demolition. We then sistered the floors to make them strong enough to withstand the weight of the renovation, added three dormers and started with a fresh slate from there. I was hoping to cover the top of flooring today, but because we didn’t get quite as far along as I had hoped, I am going to save that topic for next week. So what’s the topic for week four? Well, I took to Instagram to ask all of YOU what you wanted to talk about this week and the topics you all kept coming back to related to the dormers, the heated flooring, and the sourcing of thrift in quarantine.

A view of our progress this week!

I’m going to start with that last topic. If you’ve been following me for a long time, you know that I source my own vintage. I don’t buy from antique shops, I (generally) don’t shop 1stDibs or Chairish, and I don’t have any “pickers” keeping their eyes out for me (though I wish I did all of those things). I am able to keep project costs way down by thrifting at least 50% of my rooms, and I use the savings to put towards higher-end construction details. Luckily, we started this project back in February before quarantine hit us here in New York. I was able to source a lot of the pieces the good ole’ fashioned way: hitting up my local thrift stores and estate sales and spending an inordinate amount of time hunting treasure on Facebook Marketplace. But one question a lot of people ask me is, “how do I go about thrifting for a specific piece or project?”

A view of our Spring 2019 ORC project: our kitchen. I probably spent 20+ hours of my time sourcing these Marcel Breuer-style cantilevered barstools, only to finally find them on my friend, Secondhand Stories, Chairish shop.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that this takes tons of time. If I am looking for something specific, it take endless hours at thrift stores, on FB Marketplace, and at estate sales to finally find that piece. That’s why, if it’s in your budget, it is WAY easier to just search through Chairish or 1stDibs, etc. I think that trying to find that piece on your own will give you a healthy appreciation for what vintage and antique dealers do for a living and will, hopefully, lead to a much better understanding and appreciation for why they charge the prices they do. For example, the lotus chandeliers I will be using in my space I had spent half my life searching for, and finally did find on Facebook Marketplace for $300 for the pair. But, if money grew on trees at my house, I could have easily searched lotus chandeliers on 1stDibs and would not have had a problem at all finding them for, well, just see for yourself…….

But if time is on your side and your bank account is not, make sure to search every estate sale’s photos before heading to the sale, sign on to FB Marketplace at least twice/day, and make a habit of hitting up your thrift stores at least once/week. I was lucky that in quarantine I was still able to use FB Marketplace and do no-contact pick-ups safely. I was also even able to use estate sales as they all turned into either online auctions or online sales, with no-contact pick-ups of the items, too. So, largely, I was able to source vintage in the same way I always do, but I did give Chairish a little love in light of quarantine.

Ok, onto the dormers. I will first say that this project would not have been possible without them. Building codes require that finished attic spaces have a certain percentage of headroom at a certain height (this will vary depending on your local codes), and we never would have had that requisite height without adding dormers. They also probably tripled the amount of useable space in the attic without changing the amount of square footage there was on the floor. The dormers were the one project we did have help with. Again, we started our project before quarantine and the dormers were one of the very first things we did. We had our trusty contractor build them along with Bill (my husband), and so we did not have to have the answers to a lot of those scary questions like, “how do we know where we can cut into our roof?”

In short, I do not think dormers could really be a one-man job. There were even days that our contractor’s son had to come along to offer a third set of hands. Another thing I would like to add is that we absolutely did have an architect draw up plans for us (see below). The plans were really what even our builder relied on, and I would highly recommend having an architect draw up a plan if you intend on installing dormers.

I also had a lot of questions about how much dormers cost. This is a really difficult question to answer flatly because that depends on SO many factors, but when we did research we read to expect the cost to be around $7,000 per dormer for a pretty simple doghouse dormer. To be honest, I haven’t crunched all of the numbers yet, but I can tell you that even having my husband’s labor to help with the work, that number seems like it was pretty close to the mark. I can imagine this would vary widely, too, depending on where you live. I’d also just like to add that adding the dormers were far and away the biggest cost for us to do this project. We bought our home three years ago as the cheapest home in our neighborhood (by a LOT), and made that choice very consciously so that we could have the funds to make this house into exactly the home we want to live in. I don’t want any of you to think we’re sitting on piles of riches over here, and doing nearly all the labor ourselves has obviously cut down MAJORLY on costs. I am hoping my husband and I can serve as an example of a couple who YouTubed a lot of shit and were able to turn a fixer-upper into a pretty cool home by sacrificing little more than a LOT of sleep.

The last question pertaining to the dormers I will answer is, “weren’t we afraid of rain and other elements while having our roof exposed?” Our roof was only exposed for less than 24 hours for each cut we made. This was a big reason to work quickly with dormers, and the cut would be made one day, and the framing would be done the next. But, we did have a large tarp covering the openings, too, which was effective at temporarily protecting the interior of our attic while the cuts were made. We were also careful to only make the cuts when we knew there was no rain in the forecast for a couple of days in a row.

Ok, onto the floors! We are SO excited to be in the midst of finally installing our beautiful Adela Oak floors by LIFECORE, but because we aren’t quite done with the installation I am going to leave that discussion to next week. I will, however, give you a sneak peak!

Installing Adela Oak floors by LIFECORE.

For now, I will tackle the process of getting the floors ready for the installation of the wood floors. As mentioned earlier, we had to sister the boards in the attic before we did anything. Our home was built in 1910 and the attic floors were held up by 2 x 6″ boards, which are not strong enough to withstand the weight of a finished attic space. We then had to take 2 x 10″ boards and place them next to the 2 x 6″ boards (a process called “sistering”) to make them strong enough to hold the weight of the renovation. We then installed plywood subfloors to ready the space for the installation of the heated flooring system.

The original boards in the floor in the foreground. The background shows some of the boards sistered.

We knew from the beginning we wanted to use heated floors for two reasons: 1. to not deal with a clunky radiator system in a tight space and 2. they’re just really, really, really cool. So, what next? Heated floors come in mainly two different types. First is electric and the second is hydronic. From the beginning we had planned to use hydronic as we already have hot water radiators in our house so this would be a minimal update for us. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Electric can be much easier to install as you can simply buy individual electric heating pads to lay under the floor. However, in our research there are many issues with placing electric heating pads under hardwood floors. For us, adding the hydronic heat was a matter of installing an updated boiler system and the additional piping to the new space. Not that this was the easiest feat, but it was an upgrade we were hoping to make anyway, so we figured we would kill two birds with one stone (as I type this I am realizing how brutal that analogy is, but it still feels fitting).

When it comes to hydronic heating there are two ways of installing them. First, you can do a retrofit of an existing space where the pex is stapled up under the existing floor and insulation is added to keep the heat from radiating down. This requires access to the floor from beneath so could easily be done for a first floor if you have an unfinished basement. This is a relatively simple DIY project. The second way is done by running the tubes between the subfloor and the finished floor. This can be done in a new construction or if you have the ability to rip up the existing floors. There are also many companies that sell floor board with pre-routed grooves to make the job simpler. The boards range from just plywood to structural subfloor with and extra layer of metal to help disperse the heat through the floor. The last part of the hydronic system is the layout and pipe size. The size of the pex used will affect the radiant heat capacity of the system, and the layout should be done in a way to make sure the heat is spread evenly throughout the space with the highest output near areas with the largest heat loss (such as an exterior window, etc.).

The last question I will tackle this week is, “what has the most challenging part of the project been for you so far?” I’d like to offer two answers to this question, the first will come from me, and the second answer will come from Bill:

Kate: “Sourcing all of the pieces for the space before having the build-out complete. Many angles, walls, and ceiling heights changed as we did the build, and so it was very difficult to source furniture and materials ahead of time (which was necessary in order to complete the challenge on time).”

Bill: “Kate.”

So, there you have it, folks! Heading into Week 5 with a fire under our asses and a to-do list that looks like this:

Be sure to check out all of the stunning transformations going down by the 19 other Featured Designers for this Spring 2020 One Room Challenge:

A Glass of Bovino | Beginning in the Middle | Beth Diana Smith | Clark + Aldine | Coco & JackDeeply Southern HomeDesign Maze | Dwell by Cheryl | Erika Ward | Home Made by Carmona | House of Hipsters | Hunted Interior | Kandrac & Kole | Kate Pearce | Katrina Blair | Liz Kamarul | Veneer DesignsRambling Renovators | Renovation Husbands | Studio Plumb | Media BH&G

Until next week!


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