turning a corner

i’ve been a little hesitant / overwhelmed when it comes to the basement lately. every time i venture downstairs — laundry, workout, more wine — i’m greeted by a lot of dirt, a lot of painting supplies, and the knowledge that i did this to myself. i’d started to question whether or not a better basement on the cheap is possible, or sane.

but i’m sort of finished with one little corner. i just need to eliminate the last of the furring strips, add a few inches of baseboard, and beautify a few pot lights. oh, and scrub 80 years worth of grime off the floorboards. regardless, i can feel my optimism coming back to me; i just have to do what i’ve done here over another 700 square feet!

here’s a “before” for this little area, taken after the demo began, but before we’d made our way into that back corner with our crow bar:

IMG_2499after all the drywall, studs, furring strips, tiles, and plywood had been ripped away, we were left with a pretty raw space. dangling lights, sagging wires, crumbly brick, and a strong wind coming in around the window. IMG_2546i started by painting the back wall and the studs we’d left in place white. not as simple as it sounds, because these walls aren’t parged and have never been painted. they’re fairly dirty and uneven, which doesn’t make trying to paint too pleasant. i shop-vac’d as much of the loose mortar as possible, and then got busy with primer and spray paint just to stop everything from crumbling under a roller, followed by three coats of white paint.

we found the nike poster in my parents’ basement back when we were still living in our apartment. i don’t know how old it is — ’80s or ’90s — but we’ve always kind of liked it. we found the photos when we were cleaning out some boxes over the holidays. these are all vintage running photos — my dad, pierre’s dad, and lots of pierre with a buzz-cut — that i hung using floor tacks and black binder clips. IMG_2545next, our electrical panel box got a small makeover — the miracle of white paint. i also bought some 4″ black gate hinges to replace the little gold ones, and a lion’s head pull, because why not? i may still spray paint him black.IMG_2539IMG_2543executing a 90° turn, i made an attempt at window trim. i like the trim we have on the main floor, and i did my best to replicate the look around this window, keeping in mind my zero skills and experience. i’m decently pleased with the result. one 10′ piece of knotty pine, some 1½″ woodworking nails, and a little wood glue. primed and painted. the balance is a little off — the bottom piece a lot taller than the top-most piece due to the ceiling joists — but now that everything is white, i don’t think it’s too noticeable. IMG_2538beneath the window, some “built-ins.” this is just more knotty pine, which i had the guy at home depot cut for me. the studs aren’t evenly spaced, but they’re straight, so putting these shelves up was easy. i just used the littlest l-brackets and dabbed some white paint over the screw heads.IMG_2540IMG_2557there are eight shelves and i ragged on some paint. they were pretty much dry to the touch as soon as the paint went on, as i just dipped a rag into the gallon of paint and rubbed it on. i just used paint we already had — colours from painting the shed, the living / dining rooms, and the bathroom.

i found that little pmbc exterior sheathing thing during the demo. i googled the name, and turns out canply (the mark of quality plywood and veneer products…) was known as the plywood manufacturers association of british columbia (pmbc) back in 1950 or so. i thought it was cool the way this little piece was branded. not the way they do things anymore! IMG_2556IMG_2555once i get the floors cleaned up and sealed, we can move my (now vintage) cd player over here. we mostly listen to vinyl or use or iPod dock upstairs, but i don’t want to throw away all our cds. many of them i’ve never bothered to convert digitally, and i hope we’ll be using our basement to just chill out in in a few months, so there’s a chance we might actually listen to them again.

the railroad spike we found walking around the old train tracks by the brick works last spring. pierre put it in his pocket because it’s the kind of thing we might need one day.IMG_2547IMG_2551then, i got to make use of my birthday presents — a bleached antler from a texan barn and two 1952 pillsbury flour sacs, which i didn’t sew or anything, just attached to the clip rings for a really simple curtain.  i bought the flour sacs for $16 at uncommon objects, a store on south congress in austin. i kind of wish i’d cleaned them out — so many uses for faded flour sacs!

the curtain rod is two ½″ pieces of copper pipe, which fell out of the ceiling when we took the tiles down. i bought a straight joiner and two ends to use as finials and twisted two circle hooks into the top of the window frame to hold the rod. not as easy as that — once you attach the joiner pieces to the pipe you can’t get them off without a special tool and i made the mistake of attaching the caps before threading the rod through the hooks. a 90-minute struggle ensued.

a long way to go still, but this corner is good motivation as i inch along this wall. i hope we’ll be mostly set up in the basement by spring, just in time for the bugs’ annual pilgrimage to our house.

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