The Dickson home is a work in progress.
Constantly in progress.
Three years ago, Gerald Dickson tore down the entire house - except for two bathrooms - and rebuilt it. Two weeks ago, he started on his latest project, refurbishing some storage space to create a computer room on the second story of the home in Columbia County's Halifax North.
"I don't like to waste space," he said with a grin, standing in the new room with its sloping ceiling, fresh-paint scent and bits of carpeting.
The house, on Hunterdale Road, was a 1,500-square-foot ranch home when Mr. Dickson and his wife, Carolyn, bought it in 1991. The reconstruction almost doubled the size and opened up space for an airy, inclusive great room that flows smoothly into the kitchen, Mrs. Dickson's favorite area.
"In the house before, when I was in the kitchen, everybody was in another part of the house," she said, leaning against one of the chairs pulled up to the counter on the living room side. "Now, even when I'm in here, I'm still involved with the activity that's going on."
Mr. Dickson redesigned and rebuilt the house after realizing that a termite infestation was a lot worse than initially thought. He razed the house and the connected garage, leaving only two bathrooms and a few perimeter walls. The family lived in a 2,000-square-foot barn behind the house that he had built earlier and that now contains a workshop, a two-car garage and an upstairs office and game room.
"We had to run over here to use the bathroom," Mrs. Dickson said, "and it didn't have a roof. We'd have to come over here to take a shower, and it would be raining ..."
"There was plastic," Mr. Dickson protested.
"There were holes in the plastic," she said with a laugh.
Mr. Dickson enlisted the help of his father, Alvin Dickson, and some friends to help him rebuild the house, in an effort reminiscent of a barn-raising. Mrs. Dickson provided food and more food, using a friendly neighbor's kitchen when her makeshift setup in the barn - two electric eyes and a toaster oven - proved inadequate.
The kitchen she finally got in the refurbished house makes up for the 10 months of improvisation. As a primary example of the detail Mr. Dickson put into the house, the room contains cabinets and drawers made of unstained cherry wood that are deep, wide and long, specially designed to hold trashcans or cups or a hidden spice rack. Wide double windows let in light on two sides of the room, over a small bar and at the stove.
Mr. Dickson used cherry because he liked the way it looked and because he was able to get a good price on it from a friend in Pennsylvania. He hauled back rough-cut boards and built the cabinets, arches, trim, pillars and window casements himself. He used Tung oil to seal the wood, preferring the natural look to gloss or stains. The blinds on the windows are wood as well, eliminating the need for curtains.
The stairs that lead up to the second story are mortise-and-tendon, put together without any nails. Other changes included moving 10-year-old son Jerry's bedroom upstairs so the space could be used to expand the master bedroom suite, which now includes two walk-in closets and a shoe closet, along with one of the original bathrooms.
Mr. Dickson, who also made much of the furniture in the house, has custom-created a bed with storage space underneath the mattresses and in the head section, and he still intends to build a headboard. He used to be in environmental science, but he has started a general contracting business to see if he can get paid for doing the kind of work he did on his home.
"I've been in construction and landscaping before, and I've done some good-size jobs," he said. "But this was the biggest one I've ever done."
Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.