Master v. Disaster Part III: The Wall.

Did I say the wall was coming down?

Well, a few months later, I was starting to have my doubts. This was, after all, a pretty big deal for me. It meant taking the kind of risks I simply am not used to taking. You know, the bigger kind.

I, like many of my peers, have been spoiled by the relative instant gratification found in the digital world. I’ve read that one of the things that make the Internet so intoxicating is the fact that at any given moment, one feels as though anything is possible. The hyperlinked reality of the web allows our curiosity to run wild, and we’re able to explore all aspects of our world without apparent risk or consequence (except time wasted).

Well, as a web designer, I’m doubly spoiled. I not only explore the web, I create it. It’s where I work. In this realm, I can try one technique to get a desired outcome, and if it doesn’t work, try another. No harm, no foul (except for time wasted!).

As a result, for better or worse, trial and error is how I learn.

The Wall that stood between me and my future.

But back in real world, as I sat in my kitchen with the Wall looming over my back, looking over the designs to transform my physical space ­­– this 1790 Greek-Revival Colonial Home that stands adjacent to Hammertown, THE lifestyle store of the Hudson Valley – trial and error didn’t seem like such a good idea.

And that kind of gummed my decision making process.

And, the wood stove was backordered.

And, it was February.

Another winter, same drafty house.

I finally confronted my indecision one night as I sat alone in my kitchen, contemplating the innumerable possibilities, paralyzed.

In a fit of frustrated rage, I went to my tool closet, grabbed my utility knife, and stepped up to the wall. Refusing to just go away on its own, I stabbed it at about heart level. I hacked away at it for the next 15 minutes or so. I guess the more appropriate verb would be scratched. A utility knife may be great for scoring drywall, but it’s a little delicate for demolition.

What was left of the wall after my fit of rage (simulation)

The rage extinguished, I sat down at the kitchen table with my 1.5 square feet of dislodged drywall. I made my mark. The physical realm had been breeched.

Step 1: take first step (stab the wall).

Step 2: finish step 1 (take it down).

So, in the morning, I put my utility knife away and called Derek.

My buddy Rory (of Amazing Real Live Food Co. fame) had recommended Derek when I first started the project, so I dug up his number (his company is Scheer Quality Craftsmanship, 914-475-8949) and told him the situation. He and Joe were there the next day and took care of it in no time.

What I liked most about Derek from the start, was what a straight shooter he is. Over the course of this project (he also did a great job refinishing the floors), I’ve seen him take on simple and more complex challenges with the same aplomb and willingness to be honest about his thoughts. The little things do matter, and Derek pays attention to them. He never left the work site unswept, nor did he neglect to point out his own flaws, even if no one noticed but him.

In having Derek come in and take out the wall in less than a day, I was able to keep up with my own work, and NOT able to drag out the demolition process longer than necessary. There was forward motion, finally! And it was relatively painless.

The wall after Derek was through with it.

So, thanks Derek. I needed that.

We left the framing in place for the time being, until the support structure could be established. But we had, for the first time, a glimpse at what this space looked like without the wall. Camilla said her drawings, even the perspectives, were to scale, but I guess I didn’t really believe the room would look and feel as big as the drawings depicted. But it did… amazing.

I was re-energized.

I told my mom, “I think we can finish by May.”

“No way.”

Working with Derek made it clear that if I wanted to keep moving forward, I had to break fully from my DIY cyber-sense of reality where I could somehow make this happen on my own. I had to suck it up and pick a pro to help me through all of this.

Derek recommended I give Jason Steed a call. I knew Jason from way way back (8th grade in fact, when we played high school tennis together), but somehow hadn’t thought to call him earlier. So I did and he came over to check out the space.

I told him my plan and my sense of what needed to happen next (support structure for the wall) based on what the other contractors I’d met with had said. He looked at the wall framing that remained with a curious eye. He proceeded to get a chair so he could look at the framing of the floor above. A hole was already cut in the ceiling for the other contractors to look through.

He asked, “Can I pull out a little more of this drywall?” as he was pulling out a little more drywall.

“You’re all set, you don’t need any support structure. It’s already there.”

So, I decided to work with Jason.

Jason looked at the wall and saw that it was not above the apparent location of the support beam in the floor and ceiling. Further inquiry revealed that the wall that was there was not load-bearing, it was simply a partition. Therefore, no additional support was necessary.


  • Rhonda Cayea says:

    Having known you for more years than I care to admit to…and show my age-I am so glad that this project is going forward so beautifully. The floors are absolutely gorgeous and make me want to re-sand all of our old floors. Living in an 1830 farmhouse makes me happy that I am married to my contractor, it gets very expensive, every project turns into an even bigger project! Can’t wait to see the end result and enjoy the upcoming cooking classes! Rhonda

  • Lizzie West says:

    Reading about Mr.Hammertown makes me so happy! Your follow through is an inspiration as I get back to finishing my book while raising baby Louise…

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