Built-in Bar

You may have missed it in the flurry of posts I’ve been writing recently, but this past year, I was fortunate enough to have some time off from work. During a chunk of that time we undertook a few house projects, most notably adding a breakfast nook, exposing the beams in our living room, and converting an old, closed-off stairway/closet into a bar. Given the title of this post, I bet you can guess which one we’ll be talking about today.

For the first time in one of my house projects, I tried to document as many steps in the process as possible. I failed at that, but I was able to cobble together some images from text messages and emails after the fact. I’ve laid them out here in chronological order, complete with witty commentary, so you’ll have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the final product.

It’s also worth noting that our house is old… 1750’s old. I know that my European teammates are mostly scoffing at this (I’m looking at you, Miguel), but Maine was a different place in the 1750’s (Literally, Massachusetts. Figuratively, the frontier). The fact that it’s even standing is odds-defying. I don’t fault its early owners for the slanting floors or unevenly-spaced wall timbers – when Maine’s winter is on the horizon and you still have to cut down the tree to build the house, you get a free pass. These early construction decisions typically dictate the direction of our projects – mid-project – and working on the house is always a fun glimpse into the past, while trying to create a more comfortable home that does its history justice. In typical Cain fashion, I digress…

Stairway to nowhere. Old owners had closed off the top of this stairway to add space to a baby’s bedroom, and newer D.I.N.K. owners (us), made that baby’s room into a master bathroom, thus it served as an ad-hoc plumbing chase, a “pantry” to keep our booze, a breeding ground for cobwebs, and (on the reverse) a stairway down to our cellar.
We started by removing the door and trim, and converting the small doorway to the living room into a cased opening (read: gaping hole).
This is the process of trying to make it square. I framed a back wall and drop ceiling above (for lighting). I’ve also rough-framed the bar cabinet. Notice that the floors have already been refinished (due to my poor project time estimation) – the rest of the build out had to happen on top of moveable floor covering (so as to not UV burn the floor).
This is normal. We found this child’s shoe and two bones when we exposed the beams in my office. After doing some reading, we learned that it was a colonial superstition to ward off evil spirits, so we’ve been looking for a way to return them to the walls. The picture of Orvis is just a note to future owners… because we’re crazy about our dog.
Drywall. I hate drywall work.
Book shelf installation. I built this as a separate cabinet box to help with the wine storage grid and to make everything square, and then installed with plenty of shims to square it up before trim.
I cut a plywood “counter” to make sure our measurements for the marble would fit. Obviously Meredith couldn’t wait to get the shelves loaded up.
Big sigh of relief when the marble counters and backsplash fit. I templated and installed them myself to get a better price on the cut. We love working with Midcoast Marble and Granite.
I’m putting that WordPress towel to good use as a sanding surface for the new cabinet doors. These are just a basic rail and stile design with a floating plywood center panel. Sadly, this day was particularly hot, and although they were only in the sun for a couple of hours, the right door warped 1/8″ at the bottom – it’ll bug me until the day we leave this house.
The old stairs turned out to be nice set of shelving for our booze (and Orvis’s pills).
Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of the shelf building process, but this is after Meredith worked her styling and photo magic.

Now that you’ve read my entertaining, 800-word step-by-step, you can have what you really came here for – the post full of Meredith’s gorgeous, styled images of the final product over on Map & Menu.

6 thoughts on “Built-in Bar”

  1. /me looks back intensely, then scoffs.

    More seriously, I love the history of the house and the way you’ve been taking care of it.

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