If These Walls Could Talk: A Mystery Alcove

My home was built in 1982-83 and I’m the third owner. The house was 8 years old when we moved here and I think the first owners lived here around 4-5 years. The second owner from whom I bought the house, lived here around 2-3 years. I bought it in 1991, so I’ve been here around 22 1/2 years now.

Even though the home was brand new when the first owners purchased it, they made a pretty significant renovation/change right off the bat. I thought today I’d share that big change with you because it drastically changed the house and how it functions. It may even spark an idea for your own home. It also produced a little mystery alcove that was actually perfect for a piece of furniture I had…more on that in a sec.

When first built, my home started out as a 4 (or 5)  bedroom home with a bonus room out over the garage.  Shortly after moving in, I turned the bonus into an upstairs family room/second guest room. The armoire holds a TV and the sofa is a queen-size sofa sleeper.

Upstairs Family Room Furnished with Antique Pine 1

 

The reason I say it started out as a 4-5 bedroom home is because I think the bonus could be considered a 5th bedroom since it has a small closet over in the corner. You can see it there beside the plate rack. It has a hanging rack inside and stretches back a few feet to the left.

Bonus Upstairs Family Room

 

Okay, so going back to that renovation by the first homeowner, if you were standing in the doorway of the upstairs family room looking into the room, you would see this. If you turned completely around…

Create Upstairs Family Room from Bonus Room 2

 

…this is what you would see, minus the wreaths.  (This is just an old pic from when I pulled out the wreaths a few weeks ago to hang them on the front of the house.)

The first room on the left is my office, formerly a bedroom. Across from the office is the guest room. Further down the hall on the left is a bath, then a bit further down on the right is a linen closet I gave a little makeover in THIS post.  If you kept going down the hall, you would come to a set of double doors.

Wreaths-Ready-to-Hang-on-Exterior-Windows_wm

 

If you passed through the double doors you would find yourself in the master bedroom. If you turned left, you would see a doorway leading to the master bath and a fairly large walk-in closet.

If you  looked to your right, you would see the bed and if you turned right and walked forward a few feet and looked to your right…

4 Poster Bed in Master Bedroom

 

…you would see this, another doorway leading into another room.

Secretary in Master Bedroom

 

This room used to be another bedroom that could be accessed from the hallway.  The original homeowner closed off the door from the hallway, cut a big opening into the master bedroom wall and turned the bedroom into a dressing area for the master bedroom.

They added closets with hanging racks and built-in shelving down the right side. The doorway out of that room leading into the hallway used to be about where the first set of closet doors are on the right. Those doors aren’t fully visible in this picture but that closet is the same size as the one just beyond it.

When this room was a bedroom, it was the same size as the guest room and my son’s old room which is now my office. So it was a full size bedroom when the home was first built.

Dressing Area off Master Bedroom

 

The door you see straight ahead in the picture below, is the original walk-in closet for this bedroom. All the bedrooms in this house have small walk-in closets, except the master which has a larger walk-in closet.

When they changed the bedroom into a dressing area, they also built in some nice, deep drawers and a dressing table on the left side of the room. Originally, I used the dressing area as my desk when blogging but it turned out to be way too low and I began having neck pain which led to the creation of the office seen in this post:  Building a Home Office, The Journey

Okay, let’s go back out into the hallway, there’s something out there I want to share. It’s actually what started me thinking about creating this post.

Dressing Area

 

Just outside the double doors leading to the master bedroom, you can see where the original door to the 5th bedroom was. I found out this was once a doorway when I hired a contractor to install an outlet on this wall so I could place a lamp here. He went into the attic to fish the wall and instead found himself staring at a header. I think that’s what he called it. It’s the frame-work above the top of a door. He ended up having to drill down through the header in order to fish the wall for the outlet.

Child Craft Changing Table from 1983 12_wm

 

I guess if anyone ever buys this house and doesn’t want a dressing area, they could just put the wall back up in the master bedroom, rip out the built-in drawers, dressing table, and the extra closets, open back up the door to the hall and it would be a bedroom again.

Dressing Area off Master Bedroom

 

I’ve often thought of ripping out the closets that were added, as well as the dressing table and drawers and turning this room into one gigantic walk in closet with hanging space all around the perimeter of the room with an island in the center.

Maybe something like this (found here), except with closet space all the way around on all three walls.  There would be drawer space in the center island.

Closet

 

Here’s another possible example found here. I wonder if the next owner of my home will do something like this?

closet 2

 

The little alcove that the closed off doorway created was such a mystery when we first moved in. We weren’t sure why it was there but I knew exactly how I was going to use it. It was perfect for this piece, which is another little mystery.

Child Craft Changing Table from 1983

 

Can you guess what this piece of furniture is and how it was originally used? Here’s a hint. Hanging above it is a birth sampler I cross-stitched shortly after my son was born.

Child Craft Changing Table from 1983 02_wm

 

Did you guess what it was?

If you guessed a changing table, you’re right! It’s a changing table that converts into a regular piece of furniture once your child is out of diapers. It used to have a large changing pad that was designed in two connected sections so when you were done changing the baby and wanted to access the drawers, you could just fold up the front part. Of course, you could access all the drawers with it open, except the very top one.

It was in Chip’s nursery in our previous home until he outgrew his crib and we bought his bedroom furniture. I can’t remember where we had it in the old house now but once we moved here, it landed in the mystery alcove.

Child Craft Changing Table from 1983

 

I looked inside the top drawer and it was made by, “Child Craft by Smith” out of Salem Indiana. I think Child Craft is still around.

Child Craft Changing Table from 1983

 

I hated to spend money on a changing table that eventually would have no real purpose. It’s still a good storage piece today.

Child Craft Changing Table from 1983 09_wm

 

It’s was perfect for the mystery alcove when we first moved in.

Child Craft Changing Table from 1983 12_wm

 

Do you have a mystery alcove in your home? Ever trip across a previous renovation like I did when I was having the outlet installed? Any changes done to your home that you wish a previous homeowner had not done, or you’re glad they did?




Comments

  1. Your home is just so pretty and that was surprising Iam sure for you to find the hidden wall. The piece of furniture is nice and no one would even know it was a changing table. Salem Indiana is not to far from me. Thanks for sharing your home with us. Merry Christmas.

  2. Nancy B of Lake Stevens says:

    Susan, I admire and envy your house every time I see it. It is so beautiful. Your little alcove blog is perfect timing for me. We have a drop front rock maple desk we inherited from my husband’s family more than 40 years ago. We have been in this house for 2 years and have never found the right place for this desk. I knew I didn’t want to get rid of it. Well, our upstairs has a wall with an outlet just outside the teeny, tiny guest bathroom. Perfect place for this desk and we can use it for linen storage. Thanks once again for the inspiration.

  3. We used to live in a house with a U-shaped staircase. At the bottom of the stairs was an alcove that extended back up under the other section of the stairs. I’m sure it was originally intended to be a coat closet, but was done as a floor to ceiling alcove instead. The people we bought the house from – original owners who actually worked with an architect and designed the house – didn’t use it for anything, which was a shame. For the first few years we were there, we didn’t use it for anything, either. I finally put a coat rack in it, which we never used as a coat rack. And, then one day I found a gorgeous grandfather clock. That’s when I had an aha moment! It was a perfect fit and had a light in it, so was great for lighting up that dark little corner. It completely transformed the whole feel of the foyer, front hallway, and stairwell. It also made a perfect nightlight in the foyer for those middle of the night trips to the kitchen.

    • I love that story Theresa! It’s such a light-bulb moment when you realize you have just the thing for a spot like that. I love the idea of the light it adds to the foyer, too…sounds perfect! It’s those little things to me that really give a home its personality and coziness.

  4. I love a mystery! A header can be for a window or a door. Perhaps they removed a window for privacy or it was for a proposed window that never happened? It could’ve had a window seat too or a plan for one??
    I like how they added that space to the master bedroom. Your vision for it is fabulous. It would add a lot of wow to your home, but I bet it would be very pricey!

  5. That piece is perfect for the alcove. And I love your sampler – I did the same one for my oldest daughter! I enjoy your blog much.

    • Thanks, Kim! How long did it take you to do your sampler? It took me a full six months to create Chip’s, working on it during his nap time. I was so surprised how long it took but the stitching is tiny. Did you do a pink border around the outside? Seems like I remember the border was shown in pink for girls and blue for boys.

      • I don’t remember exactly but I had it made before she was born and so I only had to add the personalized stuff after she was born. Honesty I don’t remember the border color (she has it with her) but now I am curious and need to go check it out again. I have four daughters and did a different one for each of them.

        • Wow, that is amazing Kim! That’s a lot of samplers! Pam just left a comment on this post and said she personally knew the woman who designed the sampler you and I used. She gave her name and sure enough, it written just inside the booklet I used. I also have one more booklet by her of birth samplers. I wonder if it has one of the other sampler designs you used. How wonderful to have 4 daughters…so blessed! XO

          • I am truly blessed. It has been great talking with you. I really enjoy seeing your home. Thank you for the inspiration.

  6. The previous owners of our house did a kitchen remodel about 30 years ago. They moved the doorway into the kitchen at the front of the house over a few feet. I don’t like that you can see into the kitchen from the front door. The other houses in our neighborhood have a wider wall there TNT makes for a great place to put a piece of furniture like a hall table or armoire in the entry. However, with the space that they gained by moving that doorway they were able to put in almost a full wall of cabinets and a place for the refrigerator that is not in a traffic path. I have a floor to ceiling cabinet with pull out shelves as a pantry next to my refrigerator and a desk area with cabinets above. I may envy my neighbors entryway. But she envies all the great storage in my kitchen. There was a small cubby above the stairwell that was designed as the original pantry in this house. The previous owners also closed the opening to the kitchen and opened it into the main hall. I now have a “cleaning closet” that holds mops, brooms, and cleaning supplies. My neighbors don’t have that either. So, in the end the good outweighs the bad in their remodel.

    • Wow, sounds like you def gained a lot of good stuff with that renovation, Jeanne. That sounds like a pretty expensive renovation, too…so I know you’re glad they did it. I would love to gut my kitchen and totally change the footprint/layout. Thanks for sharing that renovation!

  7. Margo Kuhn says:

    Susan, I love the closet idea. I have actually been thinking about someday re-doing my walk-in closet. It’s large enough that I have a large round ottoman for sitting on while dressing in there. It has wire racks, which I hate and a large space between the wire shelf and the ceiling. I was thinking of putting wood shelves and wooden pole with glass doors that slide rather than open out and have lights inside so one can easily see what’s in there that turns on when you slide the door open and turns off when you close it. Don’t know if they make such a thing, but that’s what I would like to do to my walk-in closet.

    • Margo, I know what you mean, I am not a fan of wire racks either. I don’t know why all the builders started using those. I LOVE the idea of the sliding doors and the lights…that sounds amazing! If they don’t make it, you should design it and patent the idea! :)

  8. Will you share where the “book” end table and the rug in your “fifth room” came from? They’re both so cool!

    Alley

    • Thanks, Alley! The book table is actually made from real books. They are old bound newspapers, some dating back to the 1920s. My sister rescued them when she was working as the book keeper for a recycling company and the books were brought in by the newspaper company. They were getting rid of them and she snagged a bunch of them. She took the ones that had newspapers in them dating back to significant times in history and the ones that had newspapers in them for the year I was born and our parents, etc… You can see them up close/opened in this old post: http://betweennapsontheporch.net/old-bound-newspapers-become-end-table-welcome-to-the-17th-metamorphosis-monday/
      The rug is called a tatoo bamboo mat and came from an online store called Wuslu that had a “deal of the day.” I think they changed their name at some point to something else…not sure if they are still in business. If you google “tatoo bamboo mat” you may be able to find one for sale online. I blogged about the rug in this old post and linked to some stores that had it back then: http://betweennapsontheporch.net/bamboo-rug-for-the-upstairs-family-room-welcome-to-the-139th-metamorphosis-monday/
      If you really want one and can’t find it, check with Marian who blogs at Miss Mustard Seed. It was her blog where I first saw it and I know the company where I bought mine used to advertise with her so she may know where you can find one.

  9. OH my, the idea to change that space to a HUGE closet is perfect. I am sure it would be a HUGE selling point if and when you ever moved! I would give anything for more closet space. I love our nw house but the closets are HORRIBLE!!! WAY too small. Very frustrating. I didn’t realize what I had……isn’t that always the truth? Thanks for showing us!

  10. Barbara Hudson (Yankoski) says:

    I love your alcove story. I live in a city townhouse built in 1974. I am the third owner, the first was a carpenter and his wife who stayed six years. He did some “improvements” some good and some, not so much. The second couple a phone company guy and wife did crazy “re-wiring”. We bought in 1990 and still love it to this day. It is huge on two and one half levels and quiet and diverse with all kinds of great folks in the 24 units. The complex has the distinction of being the first one built in this municipality and still looks good after all these years. My alcove is in our huge living room dining room and I have my grandmothers 1930′s art deco buffet in there and we use it as a bar cupboard for liquor, decanters, and the like. The piece is lovely only to me and to that cute guy I married only because I let him keep liquor in it. When we moved here my biggest fear was that the buffet would have to go and the alcove has protected it for all these years.

  11. Susan,
    I never comment on blogs, but the pictures you shared today touched my heart. The woman, Rose Anne Hobbs, who designed the baby sampler was a very dear friend of mine. She passed away several years ago, and the sight of the sampler brought a flood of fond memories. Thank you for sharing all that you do. I love reading your blog, and will continue to do so.
    Pam

    • Pam, oh my gosh, that is so amazing that you knew her. I just went to the little closet in the bonus room and pulled out my old cross stitching notebook where I always kept all my pattern books and I found the booklet. The birth sampler is in the booklet, “Babies Won’t Keep” and just inside the front cover it says, “Copyright 1979–Rose Anne Hobbs.” She did a wonderful job creating that design. I hope to pass the sampler down to my son sometime, they are expecting a baby at the end of February. Thanks for your comment. I would love to hear more about Rose Anne. I’m sorry to hear she has passed away. I guess we are all getting older. My son is 30 now! The years are just flying by!

  12. I do not have any mystery alcoves as we built this house and have not made any structural changes…I LOVE the idea of you making your existing area a new walk in closet area….love the first image (second is not showing)…what a closet of anyone’s dreams!!!

    • Shirley, do me a favor and see if you see it now. I replaced it with a smaller image but maybe you access the post right when I updated it something. The image was initially too big. I hope you can see it now.
      Thanks!

  13. We found a “surprise” in our house (we moved in at the end of March this year) when we were having the electrician replace an old-fashioned ceiling fan in the living room with a ceiling fan with an attached light fixture. He was trying to lead a wire through the wall on which the power switch for the light was in order to connect the fan to the switch as well, and discovered that the wall was solid – no way to lead anything through it. Apparently, the previous owners had moved the front doorway to the left and closed the space of the original doorway solid. :-)

    Working on the interior of the house, I have found a lot of other little and not so little quirks, including kitchen counter tops that were not attached to the base cabinets (just placed on top) and reversed polarity in a couple of power outlets. Who knows what we would find when we start working on the exterior and the sunroom next year…

  14. Our first home had been owned by the “mad scientist” as we called him. His son sold us the home after the father passed on. We would find odd little things…. like the workshop in the basement that had all sorts of quirky little inventions. My favorite was the kitchen light. The previous owner had built it himself from pipes and tubes and all sorts of things, but I really loved what he used to hold the globes – mason jar rings! I hadn’t noticed that until we were playing cards with friends and one of them pointed it out. Then we sort of “dismantled” the piece in our heads, trying to decide what else was used. Sadly, the fixture died and we replaced it with a much more conventional light.

  15. Sandy Whittington says:

    Have you considered giving this to your son to use in his child’s nursery? I love keeping furniture in the family !

    • Yup, I offered it them a few days ago, that’s when I took all these pictures. But we aren’t sure if the wood is dark enough to match the expresso/dark stained baby bed they’ve chosen, so they aren’t sure if they want to use it. I think they may go ahead and get the one that’s on their baby registry that matches the bed since it’s not very expensive, and then when they next come this way, they can see this one in person.

    • Oh, the other thing we were wondering about was how a regular changing pad would work on it, if it would slid around. I don’t think I still have the one that came on this one.

      • The easy-peasy fix to that would be to use some of the foam mesh that is used on drawers and shelves to keep things from sliding around (not sure what it’s called, but it’s often found in stores near the shelf liner materials). A piece could be laid loose under the changing pad or tacked down with something that wouldn’t damage the wood finish, such as Museum Gel.

  16. I love the colour of the walls in your hallway and mystery nook area. I’ve been looking for the right shade of buttery yellow for my home. Could you tell me who makes the paint and what it’s called?

  17. Wow, I got lost in your house! I love your bonus room – we have one very similar but the ‘bump out’ for the dormer is where I have my computer – I get to look out over my garden. I think you draw a blue print of your floor plan so we can see it from ‘over head.’ Love, love your home – very cozy.

  18. I have lived in two new homes that I had built. Both of them had a mystery switch, it didn’t turn anything on or off.

  19. Juanita in OH says:

    The amount of LOVE you have put into your home definitely shows. I LOVE the changing table and you took such great care of it. Your bedroom is out of this world, so roomy and welcoming. I can remember at the tender age of eight sitting in my tiny bedroom imagining how we could break through the wall of our semi-attached house. I am a frustrated interior designer wanna be. Some how I have never been able to own a home. It is sixty years later and I STILL want to own a home even though my crappy health wouldn’t alow me to take care of it. I’d have to win the lottery to hire a gardner, housekeeper, cook etc. lol. I still LOVE my life and with people like you sharing the wonderful things that you do each day helps to keep me on a happy and joyful plane.

  20. Peggy Thal says:

    Love your rooms and alcove. A large closet like you showed would be wonderful. I love enclosed closets. Our Master is open and holds way too many clothes. Need to constantly rearrange. I thought I would like a Cleaner’s movable rack . Just push a button and your clothes go around . I think the photo’s of the ones you like are much more beautiful. – We have an addition to one of our bedrooms that I love . It has the best view over the golf course. It is a craft room with a lot of storage and large work tables.

  21. See…it DOES work out, huh!! I DIE over that closet/princess room/whatever you want to call it!! franki

  22. Yay I guessed that it was a changing table! We built our home in 1980 and I often wonder what it would be like if we were to move and another family moved in. The luxury closets you shared are the stuff dreams are made of!

  23. Susan, My husband is a Class A contractor and he built our house, so there’s no mystery here. But on the
    changing table– I found an article that I kept that shows a wooden changing table and when the baby has outgrown the need for it, then it was used in the bathroom to store towels, etc. You could paint it to match
    your decor or leave as is. You have a beautiful home! Wish I could keep mine as orderly as yours, but with
    9 grandkids who come to visit and leave their stuff here, I just do maintenance. Maybe someday I’ll get there.! Love those closets too!!

  24. Susan, I would so do that dressing room if I had the room, it would be lovely. Your story about the mystery alcove, reminded me of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!! :) Are you sure there are no hidden corridors? :)

  25. pam ~ crumpety cottage says:

    Susan, what a cozy little alcove and the perfect spot for Chip’s former changing table. You’ve got it decorated so sweetly, too. I know as you first walked through that house you were ticking off spaces and places for your things and I just know how excited you got when you envisioned that table in that little spot, lol. I know, because I’m the same way.

    And yes, I did guess it was a changing table, but when I saw it all pulled out for that purpose I thought, “Gee, Chip is still a young man but I bet that style wouldn’t even be allowed for babies today.” (because there is no little rail at the edge.) Things change so fast. I thought we had all the most modern stuff and they couldn’t come up with anything else or with safer designs, but baby things are always changing!

    That’s a sweet story about the sampler. What an amazing coincidence that Rose’s friend reads your blog and actually recognized the pattern! Just like your little alcove / bedroom to closet switcheroo / mystery ~ another mysterious little nugget drops in your lap. :)

  26. Love these great “house discovery” stories. Our little cottage style home was built in the early 1960′s so it’s about 50 years old. The first thing we noticed 18 years ago when we moved in was that certain light switches in several rooms seemed to do nothing; others had to be turned on/off in specific sequences. When we added overhead lighting in our den, the electrician fixed those light switches. Our living room is still a mystery game; and there several 3rd light switches throughout the house that do nothing. The builders of our house were two experienced brothers & they used every square inch of this house for a purpose. It’s amazing how much storage is in this little <2,000 sq ft house. Love our little home so much that we bought it twice…but that's another story.

  27. Dearest Susan,
    Enjoyed your post! Many years ago, I visited a co-worker at her home (which was lovely) and as she was showing me around, her daughters were talking about their secret room. The co-worker explained that tucked inside of the girl’s walk in closet there was a secret panel that once open revealed a 5′x5′ room, this little area extended over the garage. When I first saw it, all I could think was “I wish I had something like this when I was growing up” – it was the cutest little space. It made me wonder what the previous owners had used it for, but regardless, I’m sure those girls had the most fabulous make believe tea parties or trips to the moon in that small little tucked away space.
    Hope your holidays are filled with lots of laughter and joy!
    Lisa

  28. Susan,
    I love how you have used a treasure to make a special corner.
    My wife and I removed an eight foot wide closet in an upstairs hall. The closet blocked daylight and made the hallway a narrow L shape. The space is now almost 6 feet wide and 12 feet long. My Grandma’s curio/secretary now has a perfect place. We even have a slim Christmas tree up there. The tree theme is “twas the night before Christmas” and is covered with old style Santas and vintage Shiny Brite ornaments.
    I think we all make our homes our own and in the process make changes that, hopefully, are improvements for future owners. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Rick

  29. Seven years ago, we moved into a Cape Cod style home built in 1948. True to Cape style, the second floor runs down the center under the peak of the roof, with slanting eave spaces on both sides of the rooms. (The story of its building is a fascinating rabbit trail – it’s one of the government-built alphabet homes at Hanford, which you can read about here http://www.ebchs.org/architecture/Richland/h_letter_house.htm and here http://wcpeace.org/History/Richland/alphabet_houses.htm.)

    When it was built, two upstairs bedrooms had doors into large storage spaces under the eaves, with the ceiling slanting down to the edge of the roof, wonderful play places and great for stashing all kinds of stuff. When our home was being remodeled, my husband looked into a hole in the wall created by removing a furnace duct and saw the under-eave space on the other side of the bedrooms. It was like discovering a secret room, 8′ wide x 24′ long. The builders had signed their names to the roof joists, and the date – January 12, 1948. One worker even outlined his name with nails.

    The contractor put a door into the space, and my husband and son put in insulation, flooring, sheetrock and lights. This is now one of my favorite parts of the house – a large walk-in closet perfect for storing seasonal decorations.

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