Puttin’ in this window was a crazy deal.
Fall of 2000 I was here; the foundation was put in down below what is now the study, by a couple of local guys while I was workin’ down at the beach house that summer. I framed up this whole (study) wall by myself –built these walls and stood ’em up, cut and put in all the rafters, and then came the window.
There were five or six of us; we had pick-ups parked here with ladders set up in the truck beds. I knew this thing was heavy. It’s all one piece: ten feet long and five feet tall. We had to get it lifted up in the air and into the hole that I had framed. And damn near lost the whole window, almost comin’ back down on top of these guys down there—scared the hell outta me—woulda crushed ’em or cut ’em to pieces. But, it worked.
That’s about the time the square cast iron tub got winched and hauled up the planks into the upstairs bathroom. I salvaged that from York, PA. And then it sat at my friend Dan’s house for about a year or two, waitin’ to get up here. The whole place finally started to become livable in about 2001.
That summer I rented the beach house in Ventnor to some college guys and spent the whole time here at the barn. I now had nine grand to play around with, so I was doin’ all kinds of stuff—wiring, hangin’ sheetrock. That’s when I started putting all the finish-stuff in—all the doors and windows that I had been savin’ and gatherin’ from yard sales and junk shops, stuff salvaged from other job sites, stuff people had just given me. The windows up in the bathroom are actually bank teller counters—big, thick pieces of glass that money was counted on. One house I was workin’ on in Atlantic City had all these roof tiles stacked up in the basement. And the client said just get rid of them. So I hauled them up here not knowing what in the world I was gonna do with them. They are now all my countertops and shower stall walls.
The following summer I sold the beach house. So once again I had some money in my pocket. I rented a little tiny house outside Philadelphia to be close to my kids and also some gigs, continuing to work for Jeff Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, and other freelancin’, doing some nice carpentry. But it kinda all dried up.
I had salvaged all this flooring out of a factory in north Philadelphia. I knew it’d be beautiful ’cause it was maple, but I really had to work it. I used a big, stand-behind drum sander, and I went cross-grain, diagonally, then finally with the grain. I really had to grind it down ’cause it was really rough. But, it looks just the way I thought it would.
I had a feeling it was all gonna gel, and it did. A lot of it was just luck—finding things I liked and then just keepin’ ’em and keepin’ ’em and keepin’ ’em. It was quite rare for me to go to a yard sale or junk shop having a specific installation in mind. I just kept collecting interesting stuff and then built the house accordingly.
In a lot of ways, this barn just told me what to do.