To Stain or Not to Stain…

As we near the end of the tongue and groove pool house ceiling install, I’m trying to pin down the exact finish.  When new and protected, pine looks bright, but over time, with exposure to sunlight, it darkens and yellows.


That’s never been a wood tone I like, so stain is necessary to over ride those natural undertones.  As is the case with all of our material selections for this space, we want an interior look but need exterior grade finishes due to the splashing and possibility of humidity.

I started searching for an exterior oil based color that had a bit of both brown and gray, but wasn’t too dark.  Something along the lines of this:

Architecture and Interior Design

Sherwin Williams applied two store samples to a board as a starting point.  On the left is Weathered Gray, the center is Banyan Brown.


Weathered Gray was entirely too gray and read very cold, with blue undertones.  Banyan Brown was darker and still too yellow.  Neither were what I wanted, so I checked out Lowe’s and Home Depot.  Lowe’s had an Olympic color, Madrone, that kind of fit the bill.  Compared to the other two samples, shown on the right above, it was more of a blend.  To get a more accurate idea of the color, I selected a variety of scrap pieces to stain, creating a large sample.


Yes, it was better, but still looked a bit too yellow.  I wasn’t sold and neither was Ben, even when I held the pieces up against the ceiling and he viewed from below.

All along, my fall back option was to paint the planks white, while staining the beams.  It’s a simple and classic look, something especially crucial in this situation as this ceiling is completely inaccessible without scaffolding.  We also have painted tongue and groove throughout our home, so we know we like it.  Images like the following have only reaffirmed my belief.

Chappaquiddick Island
Carramore Lane
1800s Farmhouse Remodel

Photo by Bartelt

Most elements planned for this room will be simple and neutral, carrying the slate floors from the kitchen around the pool deck.  A shot of wood tone via the beams will add a tremendous amount of warmth and interest, without the feeling of a lower ceiling.  Add the flood of natural light through the windows, doors, and skylights and I’m picturing a private year-round oasis.

Are We Keeping the Pool?

New-House-Pool-Room April 13 2012

That’s the second question people would ask right after asking when we’d start working on this space.  We knew the pool wasn’t in functioning condition when we bought the house, and hadn’t been for at least a couple of years.  The above photo showed the pool from the best angle, below, you can see the corner where the liner had started to pull away from the wall.


However, neither photo above showed the gross reality lurking just below the frame; several feet of stagnant water that had dripped in from the leaking roof filled the deep end.


Most had been drained, but that moldy green line showed the previous level.  Be thankful you can’t see the giant bugs and dead mice.  The old liner had seen far better days, thus prompting a tear out removal.


The photo above, taken after removing the liner, better shows the condition of the pool structure.  Pools kind of fall into two categories, lined versus unlined.  This pool was designed to have a liner, but the original was a partial version and started two and a half feet from the top, leaving the rest exposed.


At the time of replacement, the previous owners chose a full liner, hence the band with screws along the top edge.  Based on the gaps between the upper panels, it’s safe to assume the structure settled, panels shifted, and were no longer water tight so a full liner was the best option.


Not only are the side panels a problem, the base of the pool has gaps from the wall.


So, are we actually keeping the pool?  It was always our intention to keep the pool, but that hasn’t stopped us from considering alternative uses.  Family and friends also like to toss out suggestions-a theater, home gym, etc.

Ultimately, after nearly five years of consideration, nothing has made more sense than a pool.  Yes, it clearly needs work to get it functioning, but we can justify it for future use.  We’re still figuring out our best route for use and longevity, but a full liner seems to be the best option at this point.  The rest of the room will get finished first-ceiling, walls, floors-to keep the pool clean and safe until work finishes.

DIY Float Mount Frame

As we finished up the basement, I started looking for art I loved.  Boy did I find it at Wolf Jaw Press, with this handsome Bison.


At 20 by 30, he was the perfect size for this small wall right inside the garage entrance.


The screen print has a neat torn edge on the long sides of the print, which I think sets it apart from a digitally printed item.


As usual, I wanted the frame slightly larger to allow a mat.  Because of the torn edge, I really wanted a float mount to show the edges, not hide.  After wrapping the frame backing in a cotton muslin, I mounted the print to a piece of foam core, cut 1 inch smaller.  Helpful tip, 20 by 30 inch pieces of foam core are available at dollar stores, look at craft stores for larger sizes.  


Then, I used strong tape to attach the foam to the muslin backing and popped it all in the frame.


That quarter-inch float adds just a subtle shadow.


It isn’t visible unless you’re literally against the wall, even so, the white foam isn’t obvious against the white print paper.


Going with a float mount was also helpful in this case because the screen print hugged the left side of the paper, leaving a bit more space to the right.


He happily greets guests coming in the front door, and just makes me smile.


This simple trick would also look beautiful with a pretty textile, an old letter, architectural prints, and old photographs.  I adore the idea of an item with a unique or uneven edge being displayed this way.

Progress in the Pool House

One of the more unique, and infrequently shared, features of our house is the indoor pool.  Nearly five years ago, when we closed on this house, it looked like this:

Looking up, there was fiberglass sheeting on the ceiling, dark wood siding on the walls, and a leaking roof-due to old solar panels on the roof, dripped down.  Looking down, the floors were covered with outdoor grade carpet, covering the damaged tile below, and the pool liner was shot.  We saw potential, but because we didn’t need the pool, finishing it was lowest on the priority list.  That doesn’t mean changes haven’t been made along the way, though.

Before replacing the house siding, we first had to tackle landscaping work, which had been filled in too high, covering the wooden rim joist that rests on the concrete foundation.  Wanting to keep the future back deck all on the same level, we decided to take out the wet bar platform and lower the door and window.  Once the exterior work made it to the pool house, we replaced all the windows and doors.

Which brings us up to speed on past pool house progress, but this space has basically functioned as a personal warehouse of building supplies.  It feels like this space has 3,286 steps to get it done, so it’s bit by bit progress.  First order of business is replacing the ceiling.  Unlike all the other spaces we’ve worked on, it’s not quite that simple.pool-house-ceiling-scaffolding-from-belowHaving a ceiling peak of 15 feet, plus a 9 foot deep hole to work over, we needed scaffolding.  Rather than renting and spending the same or more money, we built a temporary structure to make working easier.  Step 1 of 3,286 complete.  Then, Ben tore off the old sheets, exposing the structure.  Step 2, check!pool-house-ceiling-taken-offThose exposed beams are such a cool structural element, but the leaking roof had streaked and stained both.  A thorough sanding brought them back to life.  Steps 3-9, done!pool-house-beam-sandingOnce the beams were finished, Ben started prep work to install the tongue and groove pine boards.  First, two by 4 boards were secured perpendicular to the trusses followed up by new light boxes to adequately light the entire room.  Steps 10 and 11.  Next, he cut pieces of rigid foam insulation to tuck between the boards for a higher R value and covered with a thin plastic sheeting-12 and 13 are done.pool-house-ceiling-insulation-and-plastic-sheetingBoard by board, we’ve been installing pine planks.  Let’s say that was steps 14 through 20.  Below, the center had just been finished, minus the insides of the skylights.pool-house-ceiling-center-finishedDue to the ceiling trusses dipping down and rising up unevenly, we decided to install the boards perpendicular to the beams.  This makes the unevenness far less noticeable, unlike a long run that accentuates any discrepancies.  It’s hard to see the ceiling from below with the scaffolding in the way, but it’s looking great already.pool-house-ceiling-center-detailThe strips on either side of the beams still need work, the skylights will get boxed in, and trim will go up to cover the gaps, so it’s not a quick process.  It is, however, 20 steps in the right direction.

How to Hang an Artwork Grid

Okay, okay, I know this seems like a really easy and lame topic to cover.  Hanging a gallery wall is easier, once the layout has been determined because the layout is usually more loose.


A grid however, takes precision or it looks wonky and bad. It’s especially difficult when you have cheap frames (intentional choice because these are low and could get knocked down) with uneven hook placement.  After nearly five years of living in this house, I finally landed on art for this stretch of wall between the fireplace and guest bedroom door.


Placing art is was tricky because the thermostat is off centered width wise, but also kind of low.  Also, there’s a covered junction from an old sconce, both of which I wanted to minimize.  To determine my spacing, I measured the thermostat and found five inches to work.  Then, I measured the width of the wall and marked it with a piece of tape, along with two more pieces, each 2.5 inches on either side.  Measuring from the ceiling, I hung the top row of frames without much difficulty.


But, the second row was more ticklish because each frame had to line up within the row, but also the frame above.  Each frame hook was just slightly off from the others, so I labeled the backs with numbers so I couldn’t mix up.


I left the top frame up,  measured five inches from the bottom and placed another piece of tape.  Then, measure the hook distance down and mark on more tape.  Using masking tape handy keeps the walls free of tons of marks.


I found the easiest way to align the frames vertically is with a small level. First, make sure the upper frame is plumb, then mark a piece of tape with a line.  Use this line to mark the distance to the nail hole.


From here, it’s easy to do the rest, just pop a nail in and make sure they’re all level.


Ugh, they’re already a little crooked, but I swear they’re actually even.  Oh, if you’re having a hard time figuring out easy and cheap art, look no further than your houseplants and yard.


I pressed these between paper under heavy books, then backed the frames with cheap newsprint paper before framing.  For a more realistic touch, I just might add ‘labels’ to the bottom corner.


The thermostat is still visible, of course, but it feels a tad more disguised because the art catches more attention.