Closet space? Not so much.

The closed door that you see here leads to the "Harry Potter closet" underneath the front stairway. It is the only downstairs closet.

The closed door that you see here leads to the “Harry Potter closet” underneath the front stairway. It is the only closet on the ground floor of the Manse. When I was growing up in the house, there was a rack on which coats were hung along the wall beside the stairs, the one at right angles to the back wall where you can see the door. That’s long gone, but may have to be reinstated.

I haven’t written for a while about our renovation plans for the Manse, so perhaps it’s time to get back to that topic. One thing that we will have to think about and deal with is the decided lack of closet space in the house. It seems funny that in a house of that size there is so little space to put the clothes of the people who live there – let alone the coats of visitors who might stop by – but as our friend Elaine Kapusta says, at the time houses like that were built (1888), people didn’t have anything like the amount of clothes that we take for granted these days.

The interior of the Harry Potter closet (before we stuffed it full of stuff). Not overly spacious, as you can see.

Harry Potter closet, interior.

Unless one or more of the originals has been lost in a renovation (which I doubt; not a lot of major renovating got done at the Manse over the years), the house was built with three closets, none of them very big. On the ground floor there is one, which we call the Harry Potter closet because it, like the bedroom Harry was parked in when we first met him at the home of his nasty aunt and uncle Dursley, is under the stairs. It’s not very big, as you can see from this shot of the interior. Now that we’ve stored our cleaning supplies and paper towels and whatnot in there, it’s pretty much full already.

Both the master bedroom and the one we call the girls’ room – because it was where my sister, Melanie, and I slept when we were kids – have closets, and if you were feeling generous you might even call them walk-in closets. But once the rack in each is filled with clothes, there won’t exactly be a lot of space for walking around. And they are minus luxuries like a light or a mirror – or a door.

And those are the sum total of the Manse’s original closets.

In the 1970s when “wood” panelling – the latest and greatest thing at the time, more’s the pity – was installed on the walls of the Manse’s kitchen, the bedroom where my brothers, John and Ken, slept also got the panelling treatment. I think this may have been so that a closet could be constructed out of panelling in one corner of the room. And there it is to this day, in all its “wood”-panelled loveliness. Not exactly something we are dying to keep. But hey, it’s a closet!

Meanwhile, in Montreal Raymond and I have considerably more closet space – and our closets are stuffed. This bodes ill for the storage situation at the Manse.

Not long ago I heard or read something to the effect of: In the first half of your life, you accumulate things; the second half is for getting rid of them. That kind of stuck with me. In recent weeks I’ve been trying to get rid of some things, and the efforts will continue. There is absolutely no need for stuffed closets. I know that if I venture too far into them I will find things that I haven’t worn in decades, and it’s time for that stuff to go.

But even with a big cleanup and cleanout, I know we are going to need more and better closet space at the Manse. To the drawing board!

10 thoughts on “Closet space? Not so much.

  1. It’s true that people had fewer possessions back when. In fact I venture to say, most who lived in the Manse had an everyday outfit and a Sunday, or best outfit. End of story. That’s what removable collars and cuffs were all about; why men wore vests; why women wore sprons to keep their clothing clean (no jeans then to wipe your hands on.)

    I suggest you give serious considertion to antqiue wardrobe buying, the wardrobe being another feature of 19th century life. Things of beauty compared to a hole-in-the-wall closet.
    Not so much Harry Potter as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

    • Oh, now that’s an idea! I even have some old fur coats I could put in one of them! It would be so cool to have something that reminded me of my favourite children’s book – and one of my favourite books, period – ever. Which was first read to me at the Manse. Of course.

      • Me too. All-time favourite. The guy was a genius of the childhood psyche. Maybe it’s why I love wardrobes.

      • And perhaps why I buy Turkish Delight every so often (even though I don’t particularly like it), and imagine what Edmund’s evilly magic Turkish Delight might have tasted like…

      • RealTurkish delight? Because there is something magic about that, although it may be in the texture and powdered sugar coating. Sickeningly sweet. But…

      • Yup, real Turkish Delight, which is pretty readily available in Montreal. And always looks so pretty in its bright colours. So I think of the delicious stuff Edmund was eating in the White Witch’s sleigh, and I drool, and I buy it – and then it sits in the cupboard for months because I actually don’t like it all that much. Better than when I was a kid, though, and I had to eat those fairly awful Big Turk candy bars in order to pretend I was enjoying enchanted Turkish Delight.

      • “…I had to eat those fairly awful Big Turk candy bars in order to pretend I was enjoying enchanted Turkish Delight….”

        Those are awesome…my favourite chocolate bar. Alas, they are not so “big” anymore.

        “…real Turkish Delight, which is pretty readily available in Montreal…”

        Check out the new Bulk Barn in Belleville [near North Front & Belle Bvd]. They have a huge bin full of Turkish Delight, complete with the icing sugar.

  2. Well, you know, the more closet space you have, the more ways you will fill it up. It’s all about perceived limits.

    Architecturally, the Manse is very similar to my house as well as the Cooperus & sadly gone Green houses…understandable since all were built in the same era…in the late 1800s. Perhaps the same craftsmen worked on all of them!

    In these old houses, I particularly like the tall baseboards and wide trim around the doors and windows. Twenty-five years ago, it was almost impossible to get replacement trim but fortunately several styles and widths are readily available at local building supply stores. New post-war houses seem the lack this character.

    We have “fixed” some walls and ceilings by installing drywall right over the deteriorating lath & plaster…tearing it out is a nightmare and simply not worth the effort. Some other walls were covered with your beloved 1970s era “…“wood”-panelled loveliness…” but have since been either painted or wallpapered over. Many of our ceilings have been covered with 1′ x 1′ fiber ceiling tiles but the downstairs bathroom still has the traditional tongue-and-groove ceiling exposed to the world. Having just torn apart the kitchen [just to add some cupboard storage space but one thing led to another…sigh], I have discovered that kitchen also has the same type of woodwork for the ceiling as well as the walls [under the wall-papered panelling]. I also found traces in the ceiling of the rear staircase that accessed the servants’ quarters [where’s Jeeves when I need him? Can’t seem to find the “wench” either]. Even though the first owner, Abe Diamond, was the owner of the hotel [which eventually became McMurray’s Store of our shared childhood] and presumably had money, none of the floors were ever finished as polished hardwood floors…the rough planks remain to this day, albeit in many rooms covered by either carpeting, linoleum, laminate flooring or plywood.

    As for the huge walk-in closets [literally 6′ x 3.5′, big enough as a bedroom for small kids] we have 4 upstairs but NONE downstairs. Alas, these closets are not as useful as they would seem because their doors open inwards, rendering an arc of 30-32″ radius unusable. I plan to replace their doors with bi-folds.

    • Wow, Graham, it sounds like you are in the midst of a great big heap of renovation, and more power to you! I am deeply envious of your four upstairs closets; puts the Manse to shame!

      I did not know that Abraham Diamond, proprietor of the hotel that was later to become McMurray’s General Store, was the first owner of your house. That is most interesting. He would have been able to keep a close eye on the business from across the river at his home; I can almost picture it!

      Re the tall baseboards in the late-Victorian houses in Queensborough, including the Manse: the ones we have here in Montreal are almost as tall, and slightly more detailed than the very simple ones at the Manse. We had a stretch of wall where they’d been removed and we wanted to replicate them, and were able to find a place here that does that, building special knives for the saw to replicate the pattern. It was not cheap, but we were thrilled with the results – and now that they have our pattern on file, any further work will be much less costly. We might even turn their way if we need baseboard work done at the Manse.

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