Monday, September 1, 2014

Reading Nook

Years ago, when Christy and I were sitting around talking about building a house, not even sure of where it would be, we talked in great detail about a reading nook.  Both avid readers, we wanted a place slightly off of the main flow of the house, covered in pillows and textiles, where you could crawl on top of a stack of books and lose yourself for a few hours.  This thought manifested itself in our building plans as a rectangle, jutting off of the main room at an obtuse angle.

We found a lovely wood-framed window at an architectural salvage yard, and built it into our rectangle.  I ran speaker wire through our walls so we could have a stereo receiver in the book case, powering speakers on the shelf about the nook.  We even wired in a reading light.

Our rectangle stayed at this stage for a long time while I hemmed and hawed, unsure of where to start, trying to build the whole thing in my head before starting.  As usual, Christy convinced me to just start building it, and figure it out from there.

By this point our wish-list for the nook included a space big enough to double as a guest bed, a sewing table, a small linen closet, and an insulated fermenting room.

By fermenting room, I mean a place that I can keep my 5-gallon carboys when they're full of wine.  There's no radiant heat underneath the nook, so with a raised floor, the heavily insulated exterior walls, a stack of books and a seat cushion surrounding the room, I figured I could keep everything at a pretty stable temperature.  If I need to keep the wine warm in the winter, a 60 watt bulb will probably do the trick.

I started by building a platform big enough to be a guest bed on top of an area big enough to fit 35 gallons of wine.

The linen closet came next, narrow and deep behind the main book shelf.  The whole shebang was built out of scraps from building the house.  2X4s from interior framing, 2X10s that were once our temporary stairs, cedar siding, and of course the leftover stickers from our bedroom floor.  When it came time build the shelves in front of the linen closet, I decided, against all reasonable judgment, that I could build them using only those leftover stickers (weathered 1X2 spacers of doug fir from a lumber mill) if I used the broad sides vertically, and stacked them horizontally.  This means that the weight is sitting on the 2'' side of the 1X2, making it sturdy enough to stand on, but that I would have to build the whole thing 3/4'' at a time.  I did the math, but now forget the actual number....  I think it ended up taking about 2,000 cuts and 3,000 finish nails.  And at least 10,000 microscopic splinters.  I had sawdust coming out of my nose for a month.

The part I'm most proud of though, is how I ended up incorporating the fermenting room into the book case.  The original plan was for the seat to lift up, revealing a gap behind the book shelf.  The problem with that, is that it would mean lifting and lowering a carboy full of wine, around 50lbs, straight up and down by it's narrow neck.  Dicey, and a real strain on the back.  Instead, I built the book shelf underneath the seat in two stand alone halves, put them both of hidden casters and hinged them on opposing sides.  Thus making a bookshelf door:

It opens and closes with minimal effort, and almost disappears when closed.  Inside right now are 25 gallons of blackberry wine and 5 gallons of mead, happily bubbling away at a steady 65 degrees.

When both of the doors are open, a piece of wood, or an extra door we had laying around, sits across them at a nice height for sliding a chair up to, and can be used as a sewing table.  Christy used it to sew all of the pillows that now are in the nook, and even upholstered the custom-cut chunk of foam that serves as the cushion.

With the dense foam pad, the piles of pillows and the summer breezes off of the Puget Sound wafting through the big open windows, we've each spent quite a few hours enjoying the nook this summer.  As her pregnancy has been making her life more uncomfortable, Christy has taken to spending about half of her nights in the nook, either to avoid waking me up by being closer to the bathroom, or to avoid being woken up by me in my nocturnal rollings and thrashings.  For her to choose to sleep there instead of on our plush, comfy couch is really a testament to how well our vision ended up realizing itself.

It feels good to check another big project off the list before the baby gets here and wonders what the hell we've been doing for the last year or so.