Chalk it up to Mystery

In this post, I’m hoping to solve a mystery – and I’m sharing a fun little DIY decor project.

And the two are related.

Mysteries and Secrets

Our 1927 cottage has many mysteries and secrets.

For example, if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know that we’re in the middle of a laundry room remodel.  Well recently, while working on the heating system, my husband Chris found a secret chamber under the laundry room.  We’d always assumed the laundry room was set on a concrete slab.  Turns out it has its own little basement.

And this isn’t even the first secret chamber we’ve found.

But today I want to talk about the laundry room’s mystery cupboard.

The Mystery Cupboard

This is how our laundry room looked before we started the remodel.

Note the innocent-looking recessed cupboard above the washing machine.

Although lately, during the remodel, it’s been looking more like this.

Anyway, here is the inside of the cupboard. Pretty rustic.

Can’t see the top?  That’s because there isn’t one.  This cupboard goes all the way up to the unfinished attic.

So is it a laundry chute?  Probably not.  After all, who would want to climb far into the unfinished attic to deposit laundry only to have some of it land on that little shelf at the halfway point.

It also stretches to the left behind the wall for several feet, so it’s larger than it looks.

Its inconvenient location above the washing machine meant that I needed a stepladder to access it.  And since it’s recessed into the wall, I practically had to climb into the cabinet to get anything back out.  So I avoided using it.

My theory is that this is just oddly shaped extra space that the builder wanted to keep accessible in case anyone needed it.

But what do you think?  Do you know what it might be?  Help me solve this mystery!

Going Bye-Bye

Whatever this cupboard is or was, our plans for the laundry room do not include it.  No, it will be covered over in the remodel.  And if we should ever need to access the weird empty space behind the wall, we can still do so from the attic.

But I was sad.  That cupboard door was kind of cute.  It was also a piece of the house’s history – however weird that history might be.  I wanted to repurpose it.  But what should its new role be?

1920s cupboard door soon to become a chalkboard

A DIY Chalkboard

My friend Sandi is a very creative person, and she had a great idea: Turn it into a chalkboard.  At the time, Sandi didn’t even know that I’d been looking for a chalkboard for our kitchen. Perfect!

Cleaning the Hardware

It was a simple project.  We removed all the hardware pieces from the cupboard door and soaked them in acetone to remove the paint.

1920s cupboard door hardware

After that, the hardware pieces were clean but they still had a patina.  I was happy that they didn’t look brand new.

A Chalk Ledge

Chris cut and attached a piece of brick molding to the bottom of the door to serve as a chalk ledge.

Painting the Door

I sanded and cleaned the cupboard door.  I painted the frame, the edges, and the new chalk ledge with the same white trim paint we used for the kitchen.

After the paint dried, I used masking tape to ensure a nice clean profile for the chalkboard paint, which would go in the center panel.

DIY Chalkboard preparing to paint

I’d never worked with chalkboard paint before.  I used FolkArt Multisurface Chalkboard Paint by Plaid¹.  I followed the instructions on the bottle and on the Plaid website.  This included conditioning the chalkboard with chalk – something I will need to re-do from time to time.

To evenly apply the paint – which has a slightly gel-like consistency – I used a paint edger².  Then I back-brushed the paint with a paint brush.  (I have found that paint edgers come in handy for all kinds of paint applications beyond just edging.)

Reattaching the Hardware

Chris reattached the hardware, and the chalkboard was ready.

DIY Chalkboard

Now the hardware is just for character.

DIY Chalkboard

Chalkboard Central

This chalkboard was long overdue.  Since we shop for groceries at several stores and a farmers market, keeping lists of what we needed from each place was cluttery and difficult – especially since these lists often went missing.  Keeping lists on our phones didn’t work either.

But now, as soon as we realize we need something, it’s a few steps to “chalkboard central” to write it down.

DIY Chalkboard

I’ve been trying both chalk and chalk markers to see which I like better, but I’m not completely happy with either.  So I’m thinking of ordering some white chalk pencils I found on Etsy.³

DIY Chalkboard

I have found that wiping the chalkboard with a damp paper towel works better than using a chalk eraser.  We’ll see how all this holds up over time.

I’m happy now.  Not only is the little cupboard door still with us, but it’s serving an even better purpose than it did originally.

Before and After

You know how I love my before and after recaps.

Before (photographed upside-down).


All posts on this blog are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.

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15 Replies to “Chalk it up to Mystery”

  1. What came to mind when I saw the little space behind the “laundry shute”, what a perfect place to hide when you think there are burglars in the house! Or a wonderful place for a child to hide from parents. ha ha

    1. Wendy, I have thought the same thing: A good place to hide. You never know, could come in handy during a zombie invasion. When she was younger, our cat Priscilla loved to take that shortcut from the attic to the laundry room.

  2. Hi, I think I know what the ‘own little basement’ is. What’s the chance it is a cistern for captured rainwater. This would have been connected to a pump—and used for washing —if the room you are using for the laundry was a sort of back porch or utility room. My parents 1853 farmhouse cottage, had a cistern about that size. It actually had a pump and old dry sink above it.

    As far as the ‘hole in the wall’ with the door, seems really strange. Rather than a chute to bring somehting down, perhaps it was a service elevator or pulley system for lifting things up?
    Often attic spaces were used for storage but also as extra guests. We had a 1905 Victorian at one time—had cute little stone arches in the gables. Turns out the original owner raced pigeons, and he raised and bred them. We tried desperately to get rid of the ancestors of those original pigeons. LOL Fun stuff old houses.

  3. Heidi, what a fun repurpose! I love chalkboards made out of old pieces. I have one made from an old window. The chalk ledge is a great addition! Chalk pens are awesome, but just know that they leave a shadow. The best way to remove them is with Magic Eraser. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    1. Ah, Magic Eraser – very good to know Jann, and I’m definitely going to try it since I have noticed a shadow from those chalk pens. Thanks for the tip, for visiting today, and for hosting SYC!

  4. I find the history of old houses so alluring. Don’t you wish the walls could talk and share their secrets!! Love that you were able to repurposed that sweet door into a functional piece of history.
    Thank you for sharing at Create, Bake, grow & Gather this week.

  5. Great that you were able to repurpose an old part of the house. I would ask around the neighborhood to see if anyone else has cubbies like yours. Maybe Prohibition rumrunners used your house for hidden storage?

    1. Kathy, actually an elderly gentleman who lived here a a kid told us the original owners of the house were related to whiskey smugglers during prohibition. So your theory is not out of the realm of possibility!

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