Time for Plan B? (What is Plan B?)


Last weekend at the Woodworking in America conference, I realized that quite a lot of people have been following this blog…because they all asked what was going on with the house. So first, many thanks for reading. And second, a whole lotta nothing. (And third, sorry to be remiss in updating.)

So the picture above? That’s my dining room in its current disarrayed state. I had house guests for the conference, so I hung curtains in the dining room doorways and there was an air mattress on the floor. (Ditto in my second floor study/shop). Plus the actual guest room was in use on the second floor, and my intern is still occupying floor three and the bath up there (tub only – and intern only, per our agreement).

I have one shower. (It seems an important enough point for its own paragraph.)

With winter upon us, an uptick in non-violent crime in my neighborhood possibly depressing interest (lots of burglaries lately – though none here, knock on the plenty of wood I have sitting about) and no evident attraction to my house lately, I’m thinking of taking it off the market and deferring my plan for a “proper shop” (the foundation of any new house, natch) until spring.

In the meantime, I could rent some space nearby for a shop – but that seems silly when I have the PWM shop 12 miles up the road and I’m fairly certain Christopher Schwarz would let me use his shop if need be (it’s 6 miles down the same road).

So maybe, just maybe, I should revert to what was my Original Plan: turn the 17′ x 12′ dining room into a shop. I’d have to put up doors, but that’s not a big deal. What would be a big deal is having to get rid of some furniture that I quite like (though the tabletop could stay – it would fit nicely atop my bench in a pinch).

If I did that, I could address some of the “problems” that seem to be keeping my house from selling – a new kitchen (really, a refreshed kitchen – I haven’t the time, energy or cash flow to rip everything out down to the plaster…but I’m not gonna lie: even I hate the countertops). Oh – and a second shower (though I hate plumbing work). That would involve redoing the third floor, however, which means HVAC in addition to plumbing. And drywall (I also hate drywall work).

Then, if I want, I could try again in the spring to sell it (but no doubt the house I desperately – and some have said foolishly – want will by then be long gone). But if I do all or even half of the above, well, I might not want to move after all.

But I really like having a proper dining room (though it gets used properly but twice a year). I’d be sad to give it over to a workbench – and it would make the first floor … weird.

The outside box is the whole of my property...note that the shop (which would be built as a "sunroom" for code reasons) is larger than the kitchen...natch.

The outside box is the whole of my property…note that the shop (which would be built as a “sunroom” for code reasons) is larger than the kitchen…natch.

I’ve also considered adding on off the back of the house a shop and a room (or rooms) above. I’ve even drawn out a sorta plan (but only for the important part – the shop). But that’s A Sorta Fairytale; I don’t think I can afford to do it (I’m also not sure city code would allow it). But if I could somehow swing it, well, I guess I’d trade my cozy backyard garden for a purpose-built shop and new owner’s suite (including shower). But the goal is to get rid of my existing debt, not take on more. A change of that magnitude would, however, obviate the desire to move.

Then there’s doing nothing at all whilst hoping that the stars align and my house sells after all, while my “dream” house remains available. I suspect that’s the route I’ll take – for the short term, anyway.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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9 Responses to Time for Plan B? (What is Plan B?)

  1. texasbelliott says:

    Enjoyed reading the new post. Sorry to hear the house hasn’t sold, yet! Don’t give up hope. 🙂

  2. Dyami says:

    If interest is drying up, I’d say make the temp shop and improve the house over winter. It’s not as exciting as making furniture, but it should pay off in spades come spring.

    Good luck.

  3. Kerry Blue says:

    I’m also in the process of selling a house so I’m speaking from experience albeit downunder! If I could make a suggestion it is that you cease to focus on selling the house and focus on selling the lifestyle. I know you had a mattress on the floor so that would explain the furniture (good taste) pushed to the walls but even with those pieces distributed in a useful way in the room, it would still look somewhat uninviting and buyers might be puzzled as to its best use. These days everyone is an expert on interior design so if you’re going to compete with other homes for sale you have to do better in terms of window-dressing and create the lifestyle to which others aspire. Beg, borrow and hire items to “dress” your house just the way you “dress” sets at the mag for photo shoots. Set up the dining table with your best napkins, dinner set and crystal (or better yet, a friend’s!), etc as if this evening you are entertaining a local celebrity. Hang some pictures on the walls (pretty drab at present) and add some fresh flowers. Do the same in every room, clearly defining the purpose of the room for the market you are targetting. (My study has become a very cute bedroom – hired furniture and linens – as young families are the predominant buyers in the area where I’m selling.) It doesn’t have to cost a lot but requires a lot of effort to set up and maintain till someone falls in love with the lifestyle that owning your house would make possible. When I see (beautiful) hand tools in your magazine, I want to buy them because of my belief that I could make better furniture if I owned them (lifestyle) not because say the blade is superior metal or there is a long warranty!! Same with your house……PS Not trying to teach you to suck eggs but your patience is clearly wearing thin and if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got!

  4. adamwelker says:

    I have been following your blog since it’s debut. Although I was a bit disappointed at first because it was about selling your house instead of woodworking, I have still read every entry (looking up those big/strange words you use as needed… obviate?). I hope you continue it either way. As a fellow homeowner/woodworker I would advise you to go big. It seems like all you REALLY want out of that new home is a dedicated shop. Screw the dining room. You walk through it everyday. You dust it. You clean the floors (sometimes?). You store stuff in it. Turn it into a shop. You will never regret it. I say these things because I know. Every woodworker, whether hobbyist, professional, or in-between, wants a dedicated shop. Not a shop that you share with co-workers (although I bet the PW shop is awesome!). A shop to call your own. Scrap the dinning room. Roll in your bench and tool chest. Put pictures of cats and cat related things on the walls. As Mr. Schwarz would say, “build stuff till you croak.” Put the addition on because you want a bigger shop with a full bathroom (I have one, It’s great!) Just my two pesos.
    BTW. Would love to see a blog about the beautiful wooden smoother you got at WIA.

  5. Mike Siemsen says:

    Most additions are put on because the rooms in the house aren’t working in their present configuration, not because more space is needed. The addition goes on and the the other spaces are unused. Based on your post you use the dining room twice a year, and you store furniture in it that you don’t want to part with. The plumbing is only an issue when you have guests. When you get tired of the kitchen you will rip it out at two in the morning. I would advise handtools in the dining room and power tools at work and patience. Even if the dream house gets away there will be another.

  6. playnoevil says:

    Glad to hear you are taking this approach.

    Why should your dining room only be a workshop OR a dining room?

    This is a great design challenge. You could have a tabletop that slides over your workbench and plenty of cabinets to hold both tools and china.

    Though you may need to stick to handwork instead of power tools! I’m not sure you could hide a table saw.

  7. I quite like this idea of a dining room/hand tool workshop. You could hang some hand tools on the walls above the china cabinet and call it Industrial Victorian. But remind me again why the basement is off limits again? Water? How much would water proofing cost?

    • fitz says:

      The basement is better termed a cellar. Low ceilings, weeping stone walls and no natural light – can’t be waterproofed without a massive expenditure, and it would still be too low a ceiling to be a viable shop. And it smells bad. It would be unpleasant at best to work down there, and my tools would rust.

      • Patrick says:

        Maybe the basement is the first thing that needs to be addressed. To a buyer, weeping stone walls and a smelly basement is a sign of water issues along with mold and mildew problems and that usually means keep looking no matter how much they love the house.

        It’s going to show up in the inspection report when you do get an offer and they will want it fixed or a much lower price. So, you might want to give it some serious thought.

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