The Keeping Room Project

“Once you have kids the house projects stop,” they said.  “Oh, it’s a good thing you’re doing these projects now because you won’t have time after you have kids,” others said.  “It’s been 12 years since I did a house project…since the kids were born,” a friend commented.  I always smiled and nodded at these comments thinking deep down, “That won’t be us…we’re avid DIYers…we live for this stuff.”  Go ahead and laugh.  I’ll pause for a moment until you compose yourself.

Then Rowan came along.  And the house projects stopped.  And I wished we had completed more projects before the kids.  And I’m hoping we tackle at least something before it’s been 12 years with no projects.  Are you still laughing?

With that in mind, let me introduce you to the keeping room project, a project I started back in November, first with a little walk down memory historical lane.  The keeping room is essentially a living room.  It sports the moniker of “keeping room” since A) that’s how it’s named on the circuit breaker cheat sheet we inherited from our home’s previous owner and B) it’s a historical term for the room in the house with the fireplace.  Back in the day, families would gather in the keeping room, especially during the chilly winter months to “keep” warm.  Our keeping room is an especially interesting space in our home.  It was the first section of our home that was built back in 1781 to replace the original structure that was burned down in a fire after The Royalton Raid, a British-led Indian raid against various towns in our region and part of the American Revolutionary War.  Yes…our house during the Revolutionary War. Oh, the history of our house!  The keeping room was built and finished first until the remainder of the house could be rebuilt.  When they constructed the keeping room, they stacked wood on top of wood as an old-fashioned way of insulating the room.  So imagine this.  The walls of the keeping room are about 6-inches thick of solid wood.  On all four sides.  You should have seen the drill bit Colby had to use to drill through the wall to run a cable!  It’s also the only part of our house that still sits on an old fieldstone foundation.  The rest of the house was jacked in the 1970s with a new, concrete foundation put underneath it.

A circa 1781 white colonial farmhouse in Vermont

The keeping room is the one-story section of our house on the left, tucked behind the overgrown lilac.

Our first summer in this house, the summer of 2015 just after we closed on the #campbellcompound, we first set up and finished the keeping room as a living room.  Here’s how she looked for that first summer (a mish-mash of furniture and decor from our old home that didn’t quite feel right here but it worked):

It was glorious in that room during the scorching summer months.  Between sitting atop a dirt foundation and being a pretty well-shaded room, the room stayed cool during the summer.  We enjoyed many summer evenings in that room sipping iced tea, watching movies late into the night, and enjoying the breeze with the door to the front patio wide open.  Then our first Vermont winter rolled around and suddenly the room, which lacks a heating vent or a chimney for the fireplace, was frigid.  Although definitely pretty during Christmastime with the tree in front of the door.

We tried to make do with electric space heaters but as our electric bill crept higher and higher and as the electric company shamed us with how much more electricity we were using compared to our neighbors (in our defense we have a really old, really large home compared to said neighbors), we knew the living room had to move.  So we turned a different room into what is now our living room and the poor keeping room was neglected.  A picture of our current living room (and at Christmastime…again…because apparently, that’s the only time I take pictures of our house anymore):

Simple Christmas decor in a living room

Last year, we purchased a couch with a pullout bed for the room so it could double as a guest room if need be.  But the room was rarely used and we often closed it off during the winter to save on heating oil.  Random side note: this made for a glorious space to freeze homemade peppermint patties pre and post-chocolate dipping.  The state of the keeping room:

Keeping room with pull out sofa and fireplace

The couch is from Ikea and the coffee table was a freebie brought home from the dump.  We recently attempted to install a pellet stove in the fireplace but alas, we couldn’t open the top to add pellets once it was inserted in the fireplace.

And a picture of the other side of the keeping room complete with overflowing bookcases (and a Merle the dog photo bomb):

Keeping room with overflowing bookcases and record player

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I declared enough was enough with this space.  It had become the room where things we didn’t know what to do with went.  And I hate that.  I believe that rooms should have purpose and intent.  Christmas was coming and being the only room in the house with a fireplace to hang our stockings with care, I wanted to do something with the sad space.  The keeping room shall shine again in time for Christmas, I announced!  Shall I remind you about the opening paragraph of this post?  That house projects move at a snail’s pace?  We’ll be lucky if we finish the room in time for this Christmas!

Before we even started working on the keeping room, Colby and I sat down and thought long and hard about how we wanted to use this space.  We really didn’t have a need for a second living room with essentially the same purpose.  We didn’t need it to have a TV or be a play space for Rowan.  Those purposes are served by our current living room.  We thought about our lifestyle and what would be fun for us.  Needs/wants we did have included a larger bookcase (our book collection has overgrown the old bookcase), a recliner for Colby (a request he’s had forever that I need to buck up and fulfill), a game/puzzle table and chairs (we have a scrabble/cribbage addiction), and a space that could double as a guest room.

The television situation in our current living room:

By the time Christmas rolled around, I had at least painted the keeping room.  I’ll share many more details about the design plan for this space in another post, but I’ve been having a serious love affair with the paint color, Cabin Fever by Benjamin Moore.  I’ve also been drooling over spaces on Pinterest painted all the same, dark color.  I’m talking about the walls, ceiling, and trim all painted the same color.  Since this room never gets great light, the wood windows needed painting and the trim was cheap 70s pine in bad shape (and super thin for some reason), I threw caution to the wind and painted everything that color to bring my Pinterest obsession to life.  It couldn’t hurt to try, right?  Many gallons of paint later and we’re making progress.

Keeping room painting progress

The room is definitely a work in progress and I’ll share more details (many more details) in the following posts.  But until then, here’s a spoiler alert: a ginormous bookcase has been built and a sophisticated looking, leather recliner has been requisitioned.  More to come.


  1. I love that your back and have a new project at hand, but you really need to throw in a picture of Rowan every now and then!!!

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