The first night we stayed in this house, 20 years ago last March, we slept on a futon on the floor in a small second-floor bedroom that had a cracked and crumbling plaster wall. And we were smitten.
That wall didn’t bother us much. The whole house was a project, and the crumbling wall seemed the least of it. We were naive, newly married, and thrilled to become owners of an ancient farmhouse with hewn beams, worn pine floors, and a wood stove.
At first, the room remained a spare bedroom with a cracked plaster wall. Eventually, when Hyla came along, we hired a guy who did plaster the old way (with cow hair mixed in) to repair the cracks and make the room fresh for a baby.
The baby grew up. Fine cracks in the plaster grew across the wall, radiating out from the corner by the window.
Seven years later, we picked up the house and moved it away from the road. This old post-and-beam house flexed slightly at its joints as it was settled onto a new squared foundation; we expected to find damage all over the house when we went back inside, but almost everything was intact, except, of course, the plaster in the corner of the spare room.
We converted the room into a bathroom, repairing the wall once again, confident that this time the fix would be permanent.
You can probably guess what happened next.
The cracks came back. The plaster bulged and threatened to crumble into the bathtub below it. M screwed a board onto the wall to support the plaster from the outside. And we lived with that for longer than I’m willing to admit. We kind of got used to it.
Finally, we made an appointment with a carpenter. We talked about possible solutions. We all agreed that we could replaster the wall, and we all knew that the repair wouldn’t last. That corner of the house seemed the pivot point around which the rest of the house danced. As long as we kept covering it with plaster, it would keep cracking as the house expanded and contracted with the seasons.
We gave up on plaster and came up with a new solution: “pickled” cedar boards that lend the room a bit of Scandinavian spa look. I like the way it looks now: smooth, clean, even, and fresh. Like something old starting over. Like something that might last awhile.