Periodically, I have to be reminded that I don’t live in a centuries-old farmhouse. Although I like to imagine our family in a Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn type of place on acres of land, we have chosen to live in Portland for the convenience and the community we have found here. (How we ended up in our 1936 Colonial, rather than an older residence, is another story that involves Mark fretting over uninsulated horsehair plaster walls and “crumbling” foundations.) Still, I am drawn to primitive styling and initially was considering covering the cased beam in our kitchen with rough-hewn reclaimed wood; a new beam, rendered in the same material, was to be installed a few feet away. Unsure of this plan, I pestered designer Vanessa Helmick. “The beams are fine as long as they are not too rustic,” she told me. “The aged reclaimed wood WILL look out of place.”
And so last week, Mark, Ben, and I went in search of salvaged wood we could plane into faux supports that look vintage yet refined. We found some beautiful, nail-holed hemlock boards at Rousseau Reclaimed, owned by John Rousseau, who houses his exhaustive lumber selection in a (unheated!) former oil tank in South Portland. And we contemplated appropriating a pair of hemlock or chestnut barn beams from Portland Architectural Salvage’s new Reclaimed Wood Warehouse.
But something about the old-but-not-too-old look was starting to feel contrived. Then, over the weekend (or the eleventh hour in the scheme of our kitchen renovation), Mark cut into the cased beam and discovered that it is completely hollow inside. Why anyone would install a boxy, painted fake beam for a non-utilitarian purpose, I cannot fathom, but we don’t want to perpetuate the deception. Losing the beams, which were to extend down the kitchen’s western wall, framing a set of open shelves, frees up space for more storage, which we can really use. It also puts us behind schedule, as Ben now has to spend extra time coming up with a plan to integrate upper cabinets with the built-in hutch and open shelving on that wall. Sigh — progress is rarely a straight line, right?