Friday, May 18, 2012

An Instructive Transformation

I've finished the bathroom dormer, which means that it's time for my favorite feature, Before and After.


It's like magic! Decked out in proper Victorian livery, the ornamentation no longer seems arbitrary. Although there are four distinct colors there, the effect is to bring all the elements together as an organic whole.

Perhaps my meaning will be clearer if I show you a street view of the house:

To my eyes, the center dormer now appears to be emerging out of the roof—an integral part of the structure—whereas the two monochromatic dormers appear to be sitting on top of it. Of course, the Victorians had their quite specific reasons for painting homes this way—they were the thinkingest people you ever did meet!—but the simplest way to explain it is that by echoing the design of the large main gables in the small dormer gables, and then by painting the corresponding elements precisely the same way, the dormers are integrated into the house, rather than looking like stuck-on appendages. Imagine how striking the effect will be once we restore the tiny little bargeboard that belongs in the dormer gable!

Prepping and painting this little dormer proved to be a great deal more difficult than I had hoped, in large measure because it was so fatiguing to stand on a surface that was sloping away from it. The fact that the surface was simultaneously sloping towards oblivion didn't help. Moreover, the rear of the sides was just out of my reach, and the peak of the roof was considerably out of range. I tried to access that area from on top, but I found working upside down to be dangerously disorienting at such a height. I thus had to work on this area—sanding, masking and painting—while hanging from the dormer roof by one arm. I'm particularly proud of the fact that I painted the top two courses of shingles freehand while hanging that way, cutting right up to the green of the eave and managing a straight line without masking. Did I say "proud of"? I meant to say "astonished beyond belief by." Really, I don't know how I managed that, given my general lack of equilibrium and my once-again-poor eyesight. Sometimes, very rarely, the Unseen Hand actually seems to help me out. The Unseen Hand has a sporting side, apparently.

I can't rely upon its continued assistance up where the blues begin, however, because the other dormers are considerably larger, and hanging from the roof ain't gonna get it done.

This is the north dormer, the next task on my list, and it's shown here in roughly the same scale as the smaller dormer above. You can infer from this that about 60% of this dormer is out of my reach, but it's actually more than that, because the veranda roof slopes off on the left side.

This is in fact a problem that has troubled me since I started working on the house eight years ago. It's taken me that long to figure out what I'm going to do: use roof jacks to support a scaffold plank, as a roofer would do, and wear a safety harness to guard against the very real possibility of falling. I have the basic materials, but I have yet to figure out the details.

While I'm doing that, there is a lot of work I can get done on the areas I can reach without help. While the bathroom dormer was in such bad shape that the sill and vertical boards had to be replaced, here as you can see the original materials are still present, and will need a lot of the same reconstructive work as I did on the window casings on the south side. 

One difference here is that the vertical boards are unornamented; not only does that greatly simplify restoration, but it also allows me to use Bondo, which is considerably faster and cheaper than WoodEpox, and in this application just as effective.

So there will be lots of new ground to cover, cats and kittens, and I hope you all will find the proceedings to be interesting and informative.

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  1. The newly painted dormer is a vision of loveliness, truly shows what a grand lady she will be fully painted.

  2. What a magnificent Beast! He seems prefectly at ease with all the activity at the Farmhouse.

  3. Random thoughts of a Victorian: The color scheme makes you feel as if your transported to another place. Warm and welcoming to all who come to visit.

  4. Rainy days,the sun peering thru the clouds and looking at the "Farmhouse,"
    sends you back to a quieter time and place...

  5. I missed this post at the time -- what a difference it makes to have the details all colored differently but harmoniously!

    1. It is remarkable, isn't it? It illustrates how the High Victorian paint scheme was an integral part of Queen Anne architecture. These houses were designed with the assumption that the various parts would be picked out in this way.

      I'm constantly amazed by the holistic approach Victorians took with life, and how examined their lives were. For the Victorians, it seems that living well was their avocation. I admire that.

  6. That's lovely! The colors you've selected definitely put a lively personality to your house. The combination of pale green and mild pink will make your bathroom dormer the center piece of your house. Good job! Mmm, I think replacing your old shingles with a darker and bolder color will add up to that lively personality. What do you think?

    1. Thanks for checking in, but we have already chosen the Farm House's shingles with great care, and we're not looking to change them now.

  7. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long commentt but
    after I clicked submit my comment didn't shhow up. Grrrr...
    well I'm nott writing all tyat over again. Regardless, jusxt wanted to say fantastic blog!

    1. Thanks! I'm sorry I don't get to read what you had to say.


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