Playing with Fire
Back in June of 2020 I made a post titled "Pegged to the max". I was talking/dealing with the new real estate demands of the market mixed with the home projects we were working on at the time and I was just hella whooped! The year of 2020 real estate market was the prelude to the real estate shitshow that happened this summer of 2021. [Shitshow = understatement] While managing that real estate dance, simultaneously actually, Chas were in the throes of clubhouse "Fort YoYo". ... in typical fashion in our house, that wasn't enough... So while club yoyo was getting down, we were also preparing to do a significant remodel in the living room. Boy I sure know how to stack'em! While revisiting the "pegged to the max" post, it irritatingly dawned on me... I never shared the remodel outcome. I did talk and tease about it... but that's it... here it is legit, 1.5 years later since that post. #lame!! shit!! talk about LONG!!!!!!!!!!! overdue! damn! In our house there were some quiet reservations about me remodeling the living room considering where we came from. For us it was a, been there, done that, got the shitty t-shirt!
What feels like a lifetime ago, cause it was.... when Chas and I had our first house, I got a wild hair up my ass to remodel our living room. I had successfully made a water feature run for no more than 20 minutes, and with that halfass success under my belt... It was my thought to take our blank wall in our living room and make it an entertainment wall. My goal at the time was to make it a modern day wall unit built out of drywall with space for our projection TV along with lights and other knockouts. As I thumbed through these old school pics the date stamp is June of 2006... Avin was 1.5 years old?!
man this shit makes me feel old!! Especially! as I revisit this new build in late June of 2020.... 14 years later!!! Shit ain't right!
Chas asked for a serious picture that day... so that's what she got! :) Man! ... 14 years ago... we had no money for nothing. Still had furniture from our first apartment. Then Avin showed up and we made the best of things as we could barricading things off so the toddler wouldn't take over the house. It really makes me miss the simplicity of that time.
On the back wall, the pictures you see there, those were renderings of what was possible. They would be on that wall for a number of months before work would occur.
Man! Chas was patient with me!! shit! takes moments like this for me to realize how much she put up with my efforts of practicing my craft. Nothing's easier on the stressors when you know its your house that's on the line and not a customers. :) After going through hours of design I was able to measure all our leftover wood in the shop and made a design plan that allowed me to utilize a lot of leftover material. I went as far as ensuring that as little wood would be wasted by predetermining each size of existing wood with another that met its dimensions. Funds were hella tight at that time and I needed to use all that I could... so, that was the plan, and that's what we did. :)
And with a shit load of effort, figuring things out I never knew anything about... There's a book there in front of the tool box... titled "basics of electricity" hahah I was running circuits from the panel, installing switches and outlets... all first timers! We pulled it off though :)
Comparing it to the renderings, the design only needed a few adjustments when reality took place. At the time in my life, this was quite the feat of effort. I think I had only built one or two water features by then. I had a small collection of tools that I was starting to accumulate. I can tell you this much, the love for building started a fire inside me that would ultimately burn hot enough to carry me into the future of other bigger builds. The freedom to do whatever I wanted to on my home was like gas on a fire. Chas and I both really liked the wall unit, but it would later become one of those things that we said we would likely not do again. It was too permanent and within a few short years, projection TV's were working their way out. We ultimately would move away from the home due to poor money management decisions along with just life in general. While in our rental home preparing to move into the home we live in today, we saved up real money and bought our first really nice piece of furniture... which was a wall unit :)
We would have this unit for about 7 years and got a ton of use out of it. As my craftsman skills would grow and my exposure to new designs, the wall unit fire started up again. Random conversations with Chas would happen... gotta sell the idea on bit at a time :) hahah It was always backed with, "I don't want a big ass drywall thing".. agreeing, I said it wouldn't. I also said I would like to get a fireplace that we can use too. Chas ultimately agreed with the idea - which was awesome! With the blessing for intent, I started looking online at fireplaces along with pictures of wall units people had made for them. I vividly remember finding fireplaces on Amazon, it had almost 5000 reviews on it.. thankfully there were also 900 pictures of what other people had done. I would spend hours and hours thumbing through them... not liking one. hahah! I did not want it to be the cliché, flat wall with a fireplace below that ultimately chopped the wall in half. Chas and I would get into playful banters with her telling me to just go with X design and stop fussing so we could actually start this thing.
I couldn't let it go.
Then one day the balance of design hit me... I got it! .... but shit! where would I put the electronics... well, I could just go off to the side and hide them there. yes, I could do that. But then this.. ok, yeah, that's not going to work.. Shit. Ok. then bam! it hit me! .... how about I put all the electronics "behind" the TV... in the empty space behind.... MAN! now you're on to something. I went into overdrive. I could hear the music before I saw it on paper.
Boy it was a lot of fun! As I was doing the design I kept being taken back to those earlier, more vulnerable years. It would be so cool to have a conversation with me at that time, today. All I could tell myself would be to keep breaking shit! keep taking build risks... keep doing what it is that burns that fire inside. I could feel the foundations of those earlier days while the plan of this one came through. Even down to the tools I own today... humbling.
I was getting excited!
Always got to do a pregame check before you can't go backwards in construction! and enjoy the show with a lap buddy. :)
RIP shop buddy.. we miss you :) Unlike our first wall unit build, we only had Avin. But today, now 14 years later, we have two. One of which he is not short of sharing his thoughts on approach.
Avin still hangs out, but he's got his own interests - which is totally fine. :)
Tristan on the other hand, he wants to get up in it! thankfully with his little hands, makes the process easier on me with certain tasks. :)
And with that willingness comes opportunities to teach.
Which is always really cool! Especially when he gets worked to the bone! lol!
Tristan just laid down in a certain position and faded.. hahah, so much so we could put a tile suction tool on his face and he not even move. :)
With wiring all said and done, it was time to close it all up!
We decided that the finish of the wall unit would be large format tile. 24" x 48".. heavy shit! I wanted the look to be a mixture of modern/industrial with a gentle charm of country farm, all while trying to not be too trendy with the finishes.
I had never seen large format tiles on walls before - so I was super jacked to do something not of the norm. :) Weird for me as I dig into the past seeing the old build pictures of the first wall unit... I'm normally the one taking all the pics and not often are there any action shots of me working. However with the position of the couch for the build, Chas was happy to take a lot of them. I stumbled upon old ones where I was somewhat in the same positions.. just a 14 year difference of time between them I look like a child in these! hahah cool pairing though :)
If I could tell myself one thing today, to myself then, it would be "thank you". Thank you for having the confidence to try something never done before. Although these pictures are of me, it feels more foreign to me seeing myself on the left. I know it's me, but me now is the dude on the right. The older pictures remind me of looking back at older family pictures... like this is how GP looked back in the day - but not my GP of course... I know there's a 14 year difference between the pics, and that kid on the left was a kid. But as I process what I'm seeing, I have a ton of respect for this guy... as if he's older and wiser than me today. It's likely because these were the defining roots of what ignited that lust for construction.. but there's some serious power with these pics for me. Thanks Chas! haha :) Perfect location for all the electronics! :)
I made the frame stick out a little further so I could wrap it with LED lights as a backlight to the TV. The idea was to have indirect lighting for nighttime watching :)
The only two design oversites were that when I designed the unit, I did not have all my components. When it came time to install the sound system receiver the only way i could get it to fit around the framing was to tip it upwards on its side. I felt like such a knob doing so... I suppose though, it's a good design for cooling purposes! lots of breathing room! The other oversight was that the TV blocks the remote controls, so we needed to install a IR extender. When it's all closed up it looks like there's a camera facing you. But it works and works well :) With electronic components ready, we also needed speakers and more lights into the room itself. For the last 7 years all we had was two vertical lights in the corners... so the timing of the light upgrade was perfect! :)
The final bit of detail left was the mantel. I had never worked with wood before other than framing. So this was a new challenge. But I was excited nonetheless. My want in the mantel design was to make it appear as though a beam was splitting the unit in half.
Still to this day.... the mantel is not finished. It will be two years of completion this coming June 2022... I now understand why my GP had so many projects almost done. :) I still need to take it off the wall, beat it down so it looks distressed, then sand and stain. We'll get there!
Boy I tell you though, even not distressed yet, seeing it all come together! oofta! To think this shit came out of my head! I was quite proud of it. It makes sitting down and watching TV that much more enjoyable! :)
Quite the transformation.
At night, the back lighting and fireplace bring a calm to the soul after a hard day's work. The fireplace is amazing. It has no noticeable repeat in the motion of the flame. Looks really organic.
I just love the light show that comes from the back light of the TV. The angles on the ceiling are my favorite.
Although I love sitting on the couch looking at the wall unit, my favorite spot is in the chair next to it. Conversations can be had without needing to watch TV - which is a big deal for me.... also helps that today (not shown) there's a big ass clock. So I can hear the passive ticks behind me. Brings the heartrate down. I like it. Moreover... it allows me to look into the kitchen... which is another remodel project I'm stupid happy about.
But that transformation story will need to wait for another time.
Until then, have a grateful weekend! :)