Reimagined Entranceway

Before: Old sheet rock sagged away from the ceiling, making for a decidedly undramatic entrance.
We "broke ground" about a month ago on a project that would revamp Better Farm's entranceway and give guests a strong first impression.

At the start, we were up against old sheetrock, visible lines, exposed electrical wiring, inadequate insulation, inefficient storage, and a boring color scheme:
Visible sheet rock lines, electric installed outside the wall, boring light fixture, and plain white walls and ceiling? No thanks.

There were a few elements worth saving: one, the "better be" tag former artist-in-residence Erica Hauser painted a couple of years ago over the entranceway:

And two, a chimney section we discovered when we started taking down the old sheetrock:

Three, the stunning custom staircase Gary Stephenson built back in 2011:

Local contractor North Country YDIY got started reinsulating, replacing sheetrock, and reclaiming old barn wood across the street to use as trim throughout the space.

Here are some photos of the process:

Nate Serafine, a painter and contractor out of Rochester with property and a camp in Rossie (Paintinate), came by to teach me how to mud and tape the sheet rock so it would appear literally seamless.
Though the idea was to simplify and clean up the space, there were certain embellishments added as well. I knew I wanted a bold chandelier to put in the center of the foyer, and found a beautiful one at Lowe's:

I'd thought a lot about putting a bold wallpaper in the immediate entranceway to offset the muted walls throughout the front hall; but when I found this amazing woodblock on Etsy, I had a change of heart:
Giant paisley stamp from DelhiDaze on Etsy.
Paint colors: Benjamin Moore's Sandy Hook Gray and Sherwin Williams' Wild Wild West.

On the ceiling, I decided to install some faux tin in a bronze color to create a formal entranceway. I thought the copper would contrast nicely with the barnwood trim gleaned from this property.

Creating a small alcove in the long hall allowed for visual highlights like the wooden carving and copper backsplash.

All the elements started coming together in a beautiful way:



To finish off the space, we added a holy water font from an old church as a key holder and an antique shelf found at another construction site that I screwed hooks onto for a coatrack:


Here's a side-by-side comparison:

This spring a project will be to make a bench with hinged lid for shoe storage in the front hall. Photos to come on that! If you've got a DIY home project you'd like to share, email us at info@betterfarm.org.
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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.

Reimagined Entryway

Under construction: Better Farm's entranceway is getting a facelift.
We're re-imagining Better Farm's foyer. Our goals? To make the space significantly more energy efficient, organized, and lovely. The farm's entryway has gone through a few incarnations since 2009, with this final project bringing the foyer and front hall to completion.

Our timeline so far:
  • 2009 project to clean up foyer and take a bunch of storage to the dump
  • 2010 project to rip up carpeting on stairs, organize storage, and give a fresh coat of paint
  • 2011 project to rebuild the entire staircase and railing
 Here's a list of the problems we still faced:
  • Front door leaks a lot of warm air through unsealed gaps along its bottom edge
  • Without a storm door, we can't allow for cross-ventilation in the summer or get a great seal around the doorway
  • Outdated insulation in the entranceway means lots of air leaks and energy loss of up to 15 percent in that room alone
  • Sheetrock hung decades ago on the ceiling was the wrong thickness and wasn't strapped; therefore, it's sagging
  • All tape lines on sheetrock in the front hall are visible
  • Cobbed electrical meant mismatched light switches, electrical lines outside the sheetrock, and visible covered wiring
  • The foyer's storage solutions are imperfect. Boots, sneakers, and jackets need a better landing spot.
And—my favorite part—the brainstorming process. Here are some pictures we're working with as inspiration:

Overall look:
     

Storage solutions:
  
Draft barrier:
Lighting:


 

Wallpaper for contrast wall in entranceway:



Thanks to North Country YDIY for taking on this remodeling project.
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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.

Former Artist-in-Residence Revisits the Better Farm Canvas

Former betterArts resident Erica Hauser stopped by the farm last week for a visit. Never one to let a blank space go to waste (she did, after all, paint the interior walls of the Birdhouse during her June stay here), it wasn't long before she'd grabbed a bunch of leftover cans of paint and set to work.

Noting that Lizzi Musoke's new rainwater catchment system abutted Erica's former beloved birdhouse bedroom, Erica set right to work giving the rain barrel a beautiful facelift:



The next day she caught me upstairs, where I was touching up some trim on doorways. Asking if she could help, I directed her downstairs to a blank patch of wall over the front entranceway...
 It was less than an hour later that her newest creation was completed:


Many thanks to Erica for donating her time and resources to beautifying Better Farm for all who visit here. To learn more about Erica Hauser's betterArts residency, click here. To commission a painting by Erica or see more of her portfolio, visit her website.

DIY Coat Rack

Here's a very quick and easy project that will leave you with a handsome coat rack small enough for your apartment's entranceway.

Supplies
Sandpaper
Paint
Hooks
One old fencepost, preferably with an ornate top (or you can find a top and attach it)
Wood square for base
Screws
Screwdriver
Wood glue

Instructions
Sand down the fencepost, base, and top, then paint each piece the same color.

Use the wood glue and screws to attach the pieces.

Screw the hooks into the top of the post, and about a foot down from the top.

That's all there is to it! Now just sit back and bask in the no-more-unsightly-piles-of-coats glow.
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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.

Front Entranceway: From clunky to clutter-free

It's a no-brainer that your entranceway should set the tone for the rest of your house. But by its very nature, the entrance to your home is often the receptacle for things like shoes, jackets, keys, junk mail, and anything else you—or your roommates—are too lazy to put away at any given moment.

Better Farm's front hall was mismatched. Without a cohesive color palette or storage setup, it was an easy target for forgotten items.













So, we made a few simple improvements that made a big difference:
  • Giving the walls and ceiling a fresh coat of white, eco-friendly paint
  • Removing gross, musty, old carpeting from the staircase
  • Painting all the wood trim and stairs the same color
  • Creating shelving for items such as shoes
  • Initiating a landing pad for mail, e-mail list sign-ups, and guest book
  • Hanging a mail and notes organizer from the wall (found at an antique shop, it's significantly more lovely than a boring old bulletin board. Old clothespins affix notes and letters to the wire)
  • Hanging reusable shopping bags next to the front door so people on their way into town can avoid paper and plastic
Results after the jump!



















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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.

And it Begins: Barn repair

We have a lot of big ideas for the barn at Better Farm: recording studio, lofted sleeping quarters, shop space on the first floor for potters, welders, carpenters, and the like; car ports, and maybe even a fire pole.

But first things first.

There are a few minor quirks with the barn, such as a door that's been broken for years. There are also broken windows on the first floor, a bullet hole in the roof (still a mystery), a second floor full of hay (some good, some rotten), a first floor full of debris and junk, and a structure that requires sealing, insulation, soundproofing, and more. But hey—the folks at Better Farm have never balked at a challenge.

It seemed appropriate that for our first foray into getting the barn in tip-top shape, we'd tackle the issue with the front door and main entrance. Hunter Ciliberti headed out there yesterday with a hammer, a few reclaimed nails (he hammered some bent nails into straightness, and we found a little container of old nails once used for something else), a beer, and some brut strength; and in about five minutes undid five years of disrepair.





And, behold:

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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: Downstairs Entranceways, Before

The front entranceway of Better Farm gives you views of three sections of the house: the kitchen straight ahead, the alcove dining area to your right, and the upstairs. The floors are nice and we've already swapped out the bulbs for energy efficient onces. Necessary changes here are very basic (except for that staircase, which we'll get to...):
  • Cover for bulb in immediate foreground of photo - currently just an exposed bulb
  • De-cluttering entranceway itself by coming up with better storage for shoes and coats (maybe doing away with small shelves?


The side entranceway, which holds the staircase down to the basement and some storage (and which opens out into the side of the library), is a bit more of a doozy...
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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.