This Will be Worth it (Whatever ‘it’ is)

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The living room. The floors are done and covered in paper. New baseboard is on the sawhorses (the existing baseboard is being recycled to another part of the apartment). The fireplace is a disaster-in-waiting and needs replacement.

I’ve restrained from posting about the renovations above our storefront this year because it could take over this blog. And no one (including me) wants that.

A short and sweet update: We are due to move in at the end of the month. Our house has sold in Fort Mitchell. We are in the midst of selling my dad’s house in Charleston, S.C. And I am still wrapping up my father’s estate. So I’ve had my fair share of real estate agents, lawyers, accountants and tax collectors this year.

The good news is that the general contractor I hired isn’t on that list of people who stress me out. I spent a year researching contractors, asking every tradesperson who they like working with, and who has the sensitivity for a historical job.

I picked Bill Kridler of BK Remodeling, who runs a small crew and does quite a bit of work in Covington. If you have a job in Northern Kentucky, I cannot recommend him enough.

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Oh look, at some point the kitchen caught fire. Here they’re patching the damage, which was then toned to match the old floors. Those cabinets are…something else.

The Historical 1980s
My first urge when designing our living quarters was to rip everything out and start from scratch. That might have been cathartic and simpler, but during the last four years, I’ve come to respect the building’s owner during the 1980s, a jazz musician, who did the first remodel. He was on the vanguard of people who took a chance on Covington, then a scruffier place. And the neighbors always recall being awed when visiting his apartment above his bar.

So I decided to retain his floorplan and work with what we had on site. That meant restoring the original pine floors (instead of new oak ones). Plus keeping the bedroom and closet arrangements he set down in the 80s. We’re attempting to live with his kitchen layout for now. This approach is a lot less wasteful. The contractors haven’t had to rent a dumpster and have filled only 10 trash cans with debris (mostly rotted plaster) during the whole project.

Some stuff, however, had to go. The spiral staircase went to the steel recycler. One bathroom had to be re-tiled with a new vanity (and oh look, a secret compartment with drugs left by a former tenant). And the existing windows – all 20 of them – are inexpensive 1980s junk that was installed poorly and have since rotted. New wooden windows arrive next week.

All of this is to say: Please buy more Lost Art Press books! Just kidding. I’ve been saving for this project for years.

When we move in, the place will be rough and still a construction site. That’s OK. Lucy and I have been through this before. But living there will also give me a better feel for the space and the changes I hope to make.

Mostly, and this is the woodworking content, I am desperate to live closer to my shop. The last three years have been agony for me in the evenings with me living in Fort Mitchell and the shop being in Covington. I miss going to the shop at night and doing some fussy detail work. Or machine maintenance. Or just staring at my current project and plotting my next move.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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27 Responses to This Will be Worth it (Whatever ‘it’ is)

  1. looks like it will be very sweet – and great news re contractor – enjoy

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  2. hgordon4 says:

    Congrats on (almost) moving in. Totally get what you’re saying about being near your shop. I have an office in our home, and when I’m having a bad day I just go out in my shop for a little while and work on something, or sharpen, or clean tools. It clears my head and makes the day better. And I couldn’t imagine being cut off from it in the evenings. I’m glad you’ll have that again. Enjoy!

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  3. You mentioned it,.. But one of things that drew me into your writing was ‘Disobey Me’ in ATC.
    I often wondered how you wrote this, and then weren’t able to live it the past few years.
    Congrats, on the pending Move,.. and you get to go back to those things that make you,you.

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  4. Patrick says:

    Find any glitter?😀

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  5. Matthew Holbrook says:

    Congratulations on your soon to be move and home / shop. You are following a model that was practiced in many European towns during the Middle ages and into the the Renaissance.

    No traffic, no commute for you.

    I can see why the kitchen cabinets are “…something else” Call it remodeling mixers style ?

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  6. @TheRainford says:

    My workshop is still largely boxed up and I’ve been going through withdrawal working with my go bag/bins of portable stuff. Tomorrow is my birthday and the forecast is 100 degrees — I’ll be spending much of the day working on some framing out in the barn — the place I most want to be, followed by some fun time with the kids. Good luck with the move. If I was closer I’d help out. Looks like the apartment is shaping up nicely.

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  7. Tyler says:

    I only hope you will share what (some) of the finished house looks like, but would totally understand why you wouldn’t share most of it with us internet weirdos. I am very interested to see how you apply your unique style to a home with so much history.

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  8. I will agree there’s nothing like the freedom of being able to wander downstairs to the shop in your underwear late at night if you want. I would recommend hanging some blinds first though.

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  9. fedster9 says:

    Congrats, and especially, congrats on a good contractor. We are in a different/similar situation (whole house refurb, in Tampere, Finland), and it is a massive PITA, only made tolerable by our contractor, who is a great guy, nice, reliable, and doing good work.

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  10. Go ahead and stain the kitchen floor. But I will always see the shape of a shoulder plane blade where that new wood is.

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  11. lcm7293 says:

    We are looking for a reputable hardwood floor installer. Did BK remodeling install the hardwood flooring on the first floor of your shop? If not , who did?
    Thanks

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  12. Tony Zaffuto says:

    A suggestion, if you’re going to live there throughout the remodel: have AC in one very comfortable room to make a refuge when you’ve had enough of construction, be it for a few hours or a few days. OK, a second suggestion: get Nancy Hiller on the job! ‘Nuff said!

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  13. James says:

    I do miss some of those late nights. Putting my hands on the bench, feeling how solid it felt, and watching the project unpack itself in my brain.

    Somehow that little bit of quiet, and letting all the stuff that’s been in the back of my mind get heard, was incredibly refreshing.

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  14. Joe says:

    It looks to be a fun adventure. How is the neighborhood now?

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  15. Choirboy says:

    You say no one wants your home renovation to take over the blog. Probably true but I for one am an old house junkie and would love regular progress updates! Completely understand if you don’t want to for privacy reasons, but I can’t get enough of watching good restoration work. I’m living in my 1912 foursquare through the restoration so I sympathize with you right now.

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  16. Robin says:

    I have to wonder how it feels as a woodworker to live with factory cabinets in your kitchen. Does it constantly irritate you, or do you just have to let it go?

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  17. John G. says:

    You are an exceptionally busy guy, Chris. And so when on the rare occasion you don’t have an entry on your blog, I get worried! But, with all the stuff going on in your life, seemingly in simultaneity, it’s a wonder that you get anything done! I marvel at that, as I can barely tie my shoes in the morning, and avoid tying them together.

    Thank you for your busy-ness!

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  18. ctrega says:

    Good on you for being dumpster free.
    I ride a bike to work. Easily 50% of the large trucks passing me on the road are hauling trash. It makes me wonder how much energy is spent in our country moving garbage from one spot to another? Construction debris is the worst. It gets shipped to a special facility 60 miles away. The pile has grown so high, there is talk of making it into a recreational ski resort.

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