6 dogs, 600 miles and 6 gallons of chowda’ later…

I’m back from Nantucket, back home in Brooklyn to resume the sawdust saga of the never-ending bedroom reno.

Every year, Karen and I make the trek to Nantucket for the annual Christmas Stroll. And I do mean trek. Door to door, with the five hour drive from Brooklyn to Hyannis at 85KNS (Karen Nominal Speed), the 45 minute wait for the ferry and the 2:15 hour sea voyage, you can almost fly to Moscow as quickly.

And lemme tell you, traveling in a minivan with six dogs — from a 12 year-old French bulldog up to an 18 month-old Newfoundland — is no Sunday drive. Fortunately, the weather was mild enough that I could crack a window. Otherwise, the toxic SBDs emitting from Karen’s English bulldog would have etched the glass.

Nantucket is an island 30 miles south of Hyannis, MA. It’s aggressively clinged to its ambience as a historic fishing village. But it’s a bit like Manhattan’s Soho, which desperately tries to maintain an idealistic, Disneyfied vision of an artistic community even though almost no practicing artists actually live there anymore. Same deal here. Very few fishermen can afford to live on Nantucket either. While I doubt that olden-days Nantucket looked anywhere near as manicured as it does today, or that any bosun’s mate ever paid $11.75 for a hamburger at The Brotherhood, it’s nevertheless a very pretty place.

Karen bought a nice house on Nantucket back in the early 90s when island real estate prices were depressed. The mortgage is low enough that her May-October rental pretty much pays for the place. On the other hand, it means that we can only get to Nantucket off-season, usually when the ice is blowing like shrapnel at 40 knots and 80% of the stores and restaurants are closed. Christmas Stroll is Nantucket’s last outdoor party before the town’s population drops from its summer peak of 70,000 and its 6,000 fulltime islanders hunker down for a nor’easter winter.

The town really tarts itself up for Christmas Stroll but the decorations are traditional, tasteful and original. Nobody actually said you could get arrested for planting a blow-up snowman on your front lawn but they were conspicuously absent.

Here’s Karen leaving one of her favorite stores in town. The wreath decorating the storefront is made with real fruit, as my apple-loving newfie discovered before I did.

Most of the island’s architecture is grey cedar shake with simple, classic trim. There’s not a heckuva lot to it but there’s a quiet elegance about the uniformity which makes you focus on the design and shape of the houses rather than the tinsel and glitter.

Except for a tiny Radio Shack tucked into the basement of a wood frame building outside town, there are no chain stores on Nantucket. Even Nantucket’s commercial districts look like residential neighborhoods. With its signage laws, it’s sometimes tough to tell what a store is selling without walking inside. Or even if it’s a store.

While most of the island is grey shingle, the town of Nantucket offers some spectacular old federals, vics and painted ladies.

But the best part of the island is the quahog chowder. I pretty much live on it when I’m there, then spend the next two months waiting for my heart attack.

This is a commercial electrical supply warehouse.

If you’re into sky watching, you won’t find a darker place than Nantucket at midnight. There’s virtually no light or air pollution. I like to lie down in Karen’s yard with a bottle of wine and watch the meteor showers, until I remember that Nantucket is the Lyme Disease capitol of the world.

Well, vacation over. Back to the construction site.


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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of BrooklynRowHouse.com, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.