Masterful Bath

Editor's note: This blog will cover the general outline of a bathroom renovation. Stay tuned to future blogs that will get into specifics for things like reviving claw tubs, installing sinks, updating toilets, and detailing with barn wood.

This fall and winter were spent with a downstairs bathroom renovation that split the old bath off the kitchen in two, moved the laundry area to another part of the first floor, and gave the master bedroom a master bath.

The concept was easy: provide Better Farm's present-and-future-directors with a small master suite, consolidate the downstairs bath, make a cohesive laundry area close to dry racks and clothesline... and do it all in a (mostly) sustainable way featuring reused/reclaimed materials, communal/DIY labor, and continue our mission to expand the space here without sacrificing our ideals.

First step was to take the existing first-floor bathroom and divide it in two. This wasn't so difficult, since the room was already obviously sectioned into a laundry area and bath/sink/shower area. We moved the existing door over about three feet and built a wall between the laundry and bath areas:

Moving the downstairs bath entranceway in order to put half that original bath in the master bedroom.
Next, we took the existing bedroom wall:
The master bedroom wall destined to disappear.
...brought it forward a few feet, and added a doorway:
New wall with doorway.
New walls and eco-friendly insulation were put in, walls and wiring were put in, and leftover flooring from our upstairs bathroom project was added.

Next up was to seek out fixtures and appliances. I scored a claw-footed tub off Craigslist from a dilapidated duplex in Watertown. With the help of some friendly volunteers, we got that tub out of the house, sanded down, and repainted:
Claw tub gets a makeover.
Freshly sanded and painted
For the toilet, we're reusing the existing toilet that was in Steve's bedroom originally. The sink was a hand-me-down from a neighbor (only needed a good scrubbing and two new handles):
Glam shot: vintage sink with designer dog.
We also added a small, built-in shelf utilizing old barn wood cut out of the Art Barn when we added new windows:


We trimmed out an old beam I opted to leave exposed with more old barn wood, and I found a great, old lamp at an antiques shop in New Jersey. An afternoon was spent reappropriating old barn doors into a sliding-track, barn-style bathroom door (tracks and pulley wheels are antiques, bought locally). Deer antlers from my friend Sunny, a Buddhist figurine and peacock feathers from the library, an old vase my pops brought back from Mexico, and various knicknacks (and jewelry) completed the look.

 And, at long last...
View from the master bedroom.
Inside the bathroom.


Fixtures from Elizabethan Classics.





Got a great design idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.

Idea Roundup: Divine farmhouse bedroom designs

The fog over the water this morning was a crystal-clear sign that autumn is fast approaching. So even though the garden's still in full swing and the sun is out, I figured this is as good a time as any to start crafting Better Farm's winter plans. Colder weather around here means a break from outside construction projects and a commencement of interior design work. With that in mind, here's a look at some design ideas I've been kicking around for guest bedrooms:








Lots to think about as we consider new design ideas for the intern room, loft, attic loft, and additional bedrooms in the house...

For information on lodging at Better Farm, click here.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

In the White Room


We celebrated last year when one of Better Farm's guestrooms ditched the blues and got a fresh update that left it sparkly white:


But most of the furniture left along with one of our tenants, and the bareness of the room begged for a little TLC. We recently set in to take care of a few small details, like:
Bamboo room divider from Ikea reappropriated as headboard.
Closet doorway gets matching collage gleaned from found book pages.

Children's overhead fan at left gets a custom paintjob by Jennifer Elizabeth Crone.
Doorway gains some blue trim while a bare wall gets birds in flight and collaged wall piece by Jennifer Elizabeth Crone.
And, for the finished look:


Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Guest Room Gets Gussied Up


This spare guest room had a bad case of the blahs, from uninspired details to drab walls to cobbed-together curtain rods. Finally getting to enjoy the afterglow of Better Farm's distinctly unglamorous first round of renovations (insulation, sheet rock and dry wall, dumpster hauls, rewiring, wood stove installation, etc.), I can at last begin the significantly more fun job of interior design.

While we've had great success with reappropriating certain items for updates around the Farm, this room was going to require a few new things—albeit with really good deals—namely:


That put us well-within budget, with the whole overhaul running us less than $250. Here are a few more before shots:


And now, drum roll please...
Curtains and black-and-white print courtesy of Laura Caldwell; paper-cutting of Better Farm grass courtesy of Mira Elwell; vases courtesy of Laura Caldwell; lights left by previous tenant and stocked with eco-friendly, energy-efficient bulbs.

Cabinet reclaimed from dumpster; nest chair left by previous tenants.
Steamer trunk courtesy of Laura Caldwell; elephant art courtesy of Bob Bowser; nest chair left by previous tenants.

For information about lodging at Better Farm, click here .

Inspiration Station: Intern barracks

While waiting at the vet's office in Watertown to get Kobayashi Maru and Han Solo their annual checkups, I flipped through a recent issue of Country Living and found these amazing photos of a ski dorm. The concept is a perfect solution for how best to accommodate our ever-growing summer stable of interns at Better Farm.

Here are some crucial elements from space pictured above:
  • Four sets of wooden bunk beds that have elements of privacy, thanks to floor-to-ceiling drapes that can be drawn when it's time for lights-out
  • Four of the bunks have individual portal windows with outside views
  • Several trees that came down for construction were reintegrated as sculptural elements
  • Movable upholstered cubes and drop-leaf table can be reconfigured as needed for group activities, reading, or "family" card or board games
Neutral tones and streamlined lines make this simple space dramatic and cozy. The few lighting elements could easily be run off a small solar panel or wind turbine (or could conversely even be small lanterns or wall sconces).

Now check out this dorm-style bathroom, from the same page (could be translated into a structure adjoined or next to the barracks housing; essentially an outhouse on steroids):
Elements I'm attracted to here include:
  • Several shower stalls, each equipped with rainwater shower heads (could be fed by a rainwater catchment system with graywater runoff)
  • Several sink vessels to accommodate multi, simultaneous use
  • Plenty of cubby space for storage
  • Toilet stall
  • Simplistic, industrial lighting
Not sure if this construction project is in the cards for this summer, but it's an inevitability down the road so the interns can have their own private cabin away from home to call their own.

Painting Herself Into a Corner

Artist-in-residence Jennifer Crone yesterday ditched her canvases to paint a mural directly into the corner of a Better Farm bedroom.



God she's good.

For information on betterArts' residency program, click here.

Upstairs Bedroom Ditches the Blues

Once upon a time, there was a young boy who got to design his very own bedroom.
Only problem was, that little boy moved out and left Better Farm his bright blue walls. It was time for a little updating; though the room itself is in very good structural shape. That is, except for the closet:
The first thing we did was put up a wall between the closet and the room next door. Then we reinsulated, and installed a shelf and clothes rack. Many thanks to Fred Ciliberti for getting that sorted!

Next up was the room color. We went with basic white to give the room a clean jump-start. Then we brought in Clayton "Ikea" Carlson, who had a killer furniture collection that is all clean lines and airy patterns. The result? Well, you might not recognize the space...
 
Amazing what a fresh coat of eco-friendly paint can do.

Better Renovations: The library, halfway

The library is one of the most daunting of rooms to revamp, on account of the sheer size of the space and the tedious chore of moving books to compensate for each adjustment so said books stay in alphabetical order. The last time we checked in with this space was in May. Here's where we started:


Here's what we did:

 
Tasks: Consolidation of books (all unused books were donated to individuals and libraries); the construction of additional shelving (utilizing reclaimed barn wood and reused nails); doing away with the dirty old carpet and decades-old couch unsuitable for human inhabitants; touching up the walls with spackle and eco-friendly paint; getting rid of the outdated TV and sound system (replaced with a large flatscreen, surround sound, and entertainment center with turntable); introducing some new houseplants transplanted from Brooklyn, and redecorating with already-owned items.

And here's where we are:




 Special thanks to worker bees Alec Gross, Mike Brown, Nils Horning, Tyler Howe, Dev Doobay, and Josh Babcock for reorganizing the intimidating array of books. Shout-outs to Tom and Beth Marturano for the floral couch; Mike and Lana Babcock for the armchair; Laura Caldwell for the lace curtains (Corinne Weiner for cutting and sewing them to fit); an assortment of wonderful people for the wall art and photographs; Alex Necochea for the Oriental rug; and Camp Tamarack for the "Scout is Reverent" sign.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Farm Does Fall

1 Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Renovations: Koala Room, After

The Koala Room will probably forever go by its former title as the Lilac Room, so called for obvious reasons. This room was pretty structurally sound to start, so it was just a matter of taking care of a few basics. Nils, Cigir, Tyler, and I got in there over Memorial Day for the first coat of paint. From there, it was a matter of tying up some loose ends:



Better Renovations: Sleeping Quarters, Part II

So...

I was outside scrubbing down some more bunk beds with a steel brush, and discovered stickers designating the beds' original stomping ground:




Somehow, this is perfectly fitting.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Renovations: Sleeping Quarters

Green theories: reduce, reuse, recycle.

That's the name of the game at Better Farm, so scouring rural New York's Craigslist is an integral part of renovating this place. The universe is responding to the work going on in Redwood a thousandfold. Why else would we have found not one, not two, but 60 bunkbeds?!:

Bunk Beds for camp, cottage or home. Heavy all steel angle iron construction with head and foot boards and stainless steel springs. Just add a mattress!! $20 single, $35 for set of bunks. 60 available. Very sturdy and durable. Call 315-778-0834, leave message.






The nice guy in charge of all this is holding all requested sets (we actually don't need all 60) until we get up there around Memorial Day for the first round of major house renovations. Soon there will be room for all of us! Let us know if you've got some twin or twin extra-long mattresses we could use...
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Renovations: The Loft, Before

First step in beginning any renovation is assessing your space. Tyler and I headed up to Better Farm over the weekend to do just that, walking the house and property with the trusty Josh Babcock, Sadie the dog, notebook, camera, and about a dozen energy-efficient bulbs (will replace the rest over Memorial Day Weekend).

My favorite room of the house growing up, the loft was built in 1970 by a fellah called TJ who was the only member of the original communards with building know-how. He determined it would make sense to take a little bedroom and connect it with one-half the attic by a little staircase and the removal of the ceiling. The top sleeping quarters were infamously known as "TJ's Love Loft."

Ah, to be young.

The loft is still a wonderful space, even without all the attention of its first incarnation. That said, there are several basic improvements to be had...
  • A few of the steps to the Love Loft are loose. They should be replaced.
  • Fresh coat of paint definitely needed!
  • Mattresses are very old and very mushy. We could probably do two singles spaced apart in the love loft, but that almost seems sacrilegious. So maybe a full or queen on a box spring up there and a bunk bed and single down below? We'll have to measure.
  • Some sort of light treatment to deal with the two exposed bulbs at the top of the stairs
  • Deep clean
  • Ripping up the carpeting
  • Perhaps some kind of wood stain?
  • Removal of clutter




Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.