Which was true. I may also have mentioned at some point on this blog that I make fun of people who "just can't figure out what to do with" their spaces (how difficult is it to figure out what to put in your living room, really? Start with a couch you like. Proceed from there), and that, as usual, I am punished for my injustice by a watchful universe. Because I hadn't even realized that I didn't know what to do with this space until I came back from the Storage Unit of Doom (my mother's much-burglarized storage unit in the town where I grew up) with an antique library table she had bought, and realized that the (long and skinny) library table would go well in this space, and then realized that nothing goes well in this space and because I hadn't figured out what to do with it, or even noticed I'd neglected it, that it was rapidly becoming full of junk.
In my defense, I will note that this room is 5'6" wide and 20' long. Those are extremely difficult proportions, and, in particular, the 5'6" part is a nightmare. Not that most porches are enormously wide, but that if I'm going to try to decorate it as a room, well, rooms don't have proportions like that. I'd love to make it into an informal dining area with a long table, but even with the skinny library table and two benches, the space would be too narrow to allow anyone to walk past to get to a seat on the end. It just won't work. Obviously, a different concept is required.
So after I got that table in there, I resumed filling the space with garbage (I even painstakingly refinished the very-damaged antique table - and then started piling it with power tools, wood scraps, and sawdust. I am duly ashamed). The porch had the same ugly pink vinyl as the kitchen, and I was planning to rip that out and put in slate when I did the kitchen, as I am sure I've mentioned. And then the kitchen turned out to have those original floors, so the porch floor was next on the list. After which I was going to insulate the two exterior walls (the ones with the windows), and then chip the windows open (some idiot or idiots painted them shut), and then hire a plumber to hook up a radiator at the end there. Which would take it to fully functional. But I still had no idea what I wanted it to look like.
And then I found this ideabook on houzz. With CONSERVATORIES:
And the ideabook pointed out some things that I hadn't realized:
(1) "Conservatories were popular add-ons to the grand homes of the English aristocracy in the 19th century." I don't have a grand home. And there's certainly no aristocracy here. But my house was built in the (very) late nineteenth century, in a style (Victorian) that was drawn from English architecture. So, a conservatory would be appropriate, right?
(2) Conservatories "were originally developed to allow people to cultivate warm-climate plants, such as citrus, in cold climates." I manage to kill off everything I plant at an alarming rate. But I would really, really like to be able to keep a few herbs and vegetables alive, and, though I haven't even allowed myself to dream anything so grandiose (I am not allowed to plant ornamental items until I can keep the edible ones alive), I would love to have some roses and some lilies and some lavender. And I would really like a miniature orange and lemon tree of my own - I even saw a grower featured on This Old House a while back and tucked the idea away. Maybe if my plants lived indoors, I could keep them alive??? (Hasn't worked out for the basil so far, I admit. I just killed another one this past month.)
(3) Conservatories "were often used . . . as a place to collect exotic items gathered during travels." I had actually been tempted to for a sort of far-East motif in the sun porch, but I was thinking that would be a bad idea, because the rest of my house doesn't tend so far in that direction and I didn't want it to look "off." But if proper English manor houses had exotic furniture and taxidermied insects all over their conservatories, then maybe a little deviation from the rest of the house's decor would actually be appropriate. The wheels started turning.
I have some long-loved points of inspiration that will definitely figure into my plan. You all may remember this lovely image:
I had wanted to create a sort of "outdoor room" based on this idea, but that never got off the ground. (Apparently my ability to come up with a concept and execute it is entirely lacking where the outdoors are concerned.) I want to be realistic about what I'm likely to accomplish, after a collapsed trellis, dying outdoor lights, and several other inspirations that went south. I'm not going to come up with an actual outdoor room. But what about an indoor room that looks like one? My library table sort of has the right feel (though it isn't bleached wood):
(I cleaned it.) And I have these extraordinary chairs that I bought on craigslist last year. I've been using them for outside and storing them in the carriage house in the winter, but why couldn't they be on the sun porch instead?
They look like this:
I also have these two allegedly Swedish-style chairs:
They're on the porch already, but they're broken, so they're currently part of the junk. But now I am resolved to fix them. I also have these two gold-painted tables that I'm currently using as night stands in the second bedroom:
They have a sort of exotic feel. I could move them to the porch. And for our anniversary, my DH got me these lovely lanterns:
I have one each in blue, green, yellow, and red. They're already on the porch. They're sort of a smaller version of that lovely Moroccan castle-y thing in the inspiration photo, right? And I decided I also need some brightly-colored throw pillows, and I had a flash of genius: I would buy a pashmina and use it to make covers for some throw pillows. I found this one on sale for $5 this past weekend at A.C. Moore (of all places):
So I have a bit of sewing to do. It's just enough for covers for two 18" x 18" pillows.
I also have one other long-standing inspiration photo. A while back I saw a video tour of designer Martyn-Lawrence Bullard's California home (which is done entirely in an exotic/Moroccan style), and I fell in love with his porch/dining room:
(I just love him. And now Million-Dollar Decorators is no longer available on hulu, and I am sad.) But anyway, you see my point, right? I could embrace a little of this look (though tragically not a functional dining area). I've got the carved dark wood on the library table, and a little on the "Swedish" chairs, though not as fancy as his beautiful chairs. I love his ceiling, but I'm not planning to stencil mine (which is beadboard, by the way). I think his floor may be painted, too, though, and that is tempting. Because I started my own hunt for conservatory pictures, and came up with some lovely ideas. Including some that showed Moroccan-style tile on the floors, like this:
Although that is not the look I'm going for - doesn't have enough plants. Lots of plants are key:
And yet I am the death knell of plants. This may be an entirely uphill battle. So anyway...on the floor...I was thinking of maybe making my own stencil of this design:
I think I could execute that. I'm planning to use light gray, dark gray, and white (since those are the colors I have), but if I need something simpler, this colored pattern might work in gray:
Unfortunately, my darling husband for some reason does not want me to paint the floor. Instead, he suggested getting an oriental-style rug for that space. This makes no sense. Finding one in the right shape would be impossible, plus I wouldn't want to damage a real oriental rug in an indoor/outdoor space with all those (hoped-for) plants, plus my Moroccan tile inspiration is brilliant. Why can't he see that a painted rug is just better? I will have to convince him. I'm not going to just sneak a painted rug onto the floor. Probably.
Which returns us to the nitty-gritty. This past weekend, I did nothing productive on my little home improvements (I believe I re-hung my crucifix in the kitchen, using an existing nail hole. Grueling). My in-laws were visiting, and it was my birthday (thank you, thank you). Before they arrived, I had just finished removing the vinyl and luan from the porch, swept it, and cleared out a lot of the unnecessary crap. Here we are today:
You see the problem, I take it. Right here:
When I started removing vinyl and found the green-painted floorboards, I figured I was in business - and returned the last half of my cement backerboard (for the planned slate) to the store. I didn't make my way around to the other half of the floor until the end, at which point I saw that for some reason the porch was missing 40% of its flooring. I have no idea why. But as we have already demonstrated, I can patch missing flooring:
(And this time buying the wrong wood species won't matter, since it's going to be painted.) So this week, I rolled up my sleeves to return to the project. I figured I would measure the floorboards, spend the week finding the best price for the material, pick it up this weekend, and start in on the replacement boards, then move on to framing out and insulating a dummy wall.
There was no way to see this coming, but those floorboards are 2 3/8" wide. (And 13/16" thick, but I am going to pretend they are 3/4" thick because that is just ridiculous.) They are tongue-and-groove, and that's definitely what I'd like to use for the replacement - tongue and groove will shift much less than if I used "square-cut" (normal) lumber. So that's what I looked for - at Home Depot, and then Lowe's, and then Lumber Liquidators. There is nothing in that width. Not even materials I don't want. I called Lumber Liquidators today, and asked whether perhaps they sell strange things not advertised on their website. The nice lady cheerfully told me that all flooring these days is sold in 1/4" increments, and this is a typical problem with old houses, and she has no advice for me. (But she was very nice about it.)
I have just hit my first true "old-house" problem - not something that requires a big work-around (been there, done that), but something I really can't fix. I could rip my own 2 3/8" boards (if I had a table saw, which I would be willing to buy for a good reason), but I cannot realistically mill my own tongue-and-groove flooring. I am on the horns of a dilemma.
I could return to the plan of laying slate tile, in which case my husband may kill me, because he carried all the cement-board back and forth to the car three times and he was not pleased about my poor planning. (For the record, my planning was fine. The change was the floor's fault.) And I just returned to my colleague all the tiling equipment I had borrowed...and not used...for six weeks. Of course, that would also be much more expensive, and it would cover up the original, perfectly good...60% of a floor.
I also realize that if I'm going to paint the floor (whether or not I stencil it, though the stenciling might help conceal this), I could just stick with 60% flooring and 40% plywood (how the floor is right this minute). After all, the floor stenciling idea I originally stole for my stairs from this extremely talented lady was applied directly to plywood subfloor:
But if I do that, do I close all the seams between the floorboards, too? That will permanently hide the original porch floor. And, also, even if I insulate the porch, it will constantly be exposed to outside air, and I suspect that changes in temperature and humidity will crack any filler I put in there in short order.