Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Seattle Food: Mkt. (Again!)

This is the second time in less than six months that I've posted about the restaurant Mkt. so it might seem as if there are no other restaurants in Seattle. There are, but this is far and away my favorite so I want to share it again. This time we went for my birthday. We always like to go out somewhere new and different, but given what the last 6 months have been like I didn't want new or different. I wanted something I knew I could count on and once again, Mkt. did not disappoint.

 This is one of the open pantry shelves- how can you go wrong with a restaurant that has a unicorn watching over the kitchen?

 The chef sent out this 'gift' before our meal- yellow watermelon, with sea salt, olive oil and baby pea shoots

 Heirloom tomatoes with grilled peaches and tomatillo salsa. The grilled peaches were so good I almost cried. I want them every night for dessert.

 My entree- seared scallops with grilled summer vegetables

Rookie mistake here- diving face first into dessert before remembering to take photo. If I hadn't devoured this within second of it hitting the table you would have seen a dark chocolate espresso pot de crème (pudding only better) with a dollop of creme fraiche. Sinful and fabulous.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Let There Be Light

It's an oldie but a goodie so how could I resist? As you can see by the reduced number of posts, things are winding down. This is great except that we have moved off our contractor's radar as he's already onto his next project(s). I'm not going to get into this now but at least here in Seattle, there is so much construction going on that contractors can pick and choose their jobs.

What did happen today was that the electrician installed the last of the light fixtures, which is exciting because they are a home item that is both decorative and functional. They set the tone for a room and even for the feel of an entire house. They also tie together elements within in a house. For us, with a midcentury home, we went with fir as the wood because it was so popular at the time but updated it a bit with brushed metals as a contemporary accent. The first place this shows is in the handrail which replaced the half wall.

The tope of the rail is fir, which will get darker as it ages but the posts are brushed stainless steel with cables between them.

It made sense then to pick up some of these elements in the various light fixtures in the living areas. In the dining room we kept it simple so as not to obstruct the view to the fireplace from the kitchen.

Brushed nickel and cables

The kitchen was one area we felt needed a pop of color so even though most of the lighting is recessed we added a pendant light over the sink.

It might have been nice to go a little longer on the cable but with a husband who is 6'3" that's not possible!

Finally, my favorite light in the house. Mr. G picked it out so all the credit goes to him. With the lower ceilings in this house (8') the stairs to the basement is the only place we can have a light with any kind of length and this one is perfect. 

I had to include two photos because no matter what angle you look at it from this light looks amazing. It perfectly suits the time period and style of the house.

*A special thank you to our electrician, DJ, who stood on a ladder leaning over the railing while I decided when it was centered. I don't know how he kept from falling over!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bathrooms: Getting Cleaned Up

Quick update: one more key component completed in the bathrooms- the glass has been installed. This means both guest and master bath are functional and only missing light fixtures (which is all right because we have recessed lights in both rooms).

 All nice and pristine, not yet junked up with countless bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, facial scrubs, etc.

Very happy with this new style of sliding glass door. Only two small knobs for opening and closing and no middle bar so glass appears seamless and tile is the focus.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Kitchen Update

The good news is things continue to move along without anymore mishaps (unless you count Mr. G gouging the paint in his office while moving his desk in- and is it bad that I'm glad he did the first damage, not me?). The wrong grout was removed and the new grout went in and it is EXACTLY what we had envisioned. Standing our ground was not easy but the contractor acknowledged the mistake and had it fixed.

This may not look like much to you but the concentrated color in the accent glass was what we wanted. With the white grout, all I saw was the white. 

Onward to new things. I thought I'd share a little bit of some of the new options that exist for virtually every kitchen problem. For us, we have a very tight U-shape to our kitchen. This means that in the two corners, getting use out of the cabinets is almost impossible. I'm sure you have similar spaces, but here's what I'm talking about in our kitchen.

 It all looks so sleek and clean, but the edge of the dishwasher meets the corner of the opposing cabinets meaning...

 The cabinet door cannot even be fully opened unless the dishwasher is fully closed. Even then, without inserts, this cabinet would be almost completely unusable as shelves would have to extend back inside out of reach. There was no way around this in designing a kitchen using our available space.

Enter the world of kitchen storage innovation! Not one but two swivel-hinged half-moon shelves. When closed they fit into and use the majority of available space in this odd-shaped cabinet. When pulled out...

Voila! How slick is that? Even better- they hold up to 100 lbs, meaning that the top one can easily handle my mixer and our food processor.

We have two cabinets like this, so we have four of these shelves. The scary part of this is: if you like gadgets and innovation you can fall down a storage rabbit-hole by going to: Rev-A-Shelf. They have the greatest storage tools out there. And not just for kitchens but for every room of the house. If we had been budget-free, I'd still be ordering from them.

What are the tough spots in your kitchen? How do you make them work?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Things

I ended on such a low Friday- thank you for putting up with me. Suffice it to say, renovation is not my thing and not something I'd recommend for anyone with a budget and nowhere else to stay until their house is finished.

Thankfully, I'm adjusting and while the backyard still makes me sad, this weekend was a turning point for the inside of the house. Yes, the backsplash has to be fixed but that has been scheduled: a grout expert (or the contractor's cousin- how would I know the difference?!) will be digging out the existing grout and replacing it with the correct color- with the provision that if any of the tiles are damaged in the process they will be replaced. This is as realistic a solution as possible. Tearing out the tile would mean tearing out the walls and the time and waste would be extreme.

The good news: all of the major interior work has been finished so we were told we could start unpacking. !!!!!!!!!! It may not seem like much, but to finally be able to move into our home is mind-boggling. Let's look at some of the new stuff!

 The hall railing


 The fireplace and hearth- completed

I know, they're just doors, but they're the new doors to the closet in my room. Yah!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Week from Hell Wrap-Up

I'm not burying the lead with that subject line, am I? Honestly, it's just better to get it out there and move on. By Monday, I will (if there is a God) have a new upbeat attitude but for now, this week has been the worst of the renovation mostly due to the tile debacle (click here for the gruesome details). Mostly because it didn't end there.

On Wednesday, after sedating myself to sleep Tuesday night I looked out our patio doors to find that the white-trash vista I'd grown used to 

The rotted, falling down fence. The tree in front of it flowered in the spring and is a nice source of shade for the back of the house.

This is actually prior to the real renovation work so add heaps of concrete, discarded paint cans, wood, and small hazmat ponds of mortar with cigarette butts and empty soda cans floating in them and that's accurate.

All that GONE. As was the massive hydrangea bush and the 60-year-old rose tree (and if you think I'm kidding to call it a tree):

 Part of two of the main trunks, each over 6' ft tall

 This tangled mess is one group of branches. On the left you can see the new growth and on the right is the old branch.

In case you think old age means rot and decreased productivity, this is what I salvaged from the debris. I had cut dozens throughout the spring and summer and they just kept coming. Some of the most fragrant roses I've ever smelled. 

Was I shocked? Yes, but not completely. We knew the plants would have to go in order to have a deck but, once again, communication was non-existent and the outdoor crew showed up and got started at 6am before I could even attempt to save either plant. Granted, it was a long shot with the roses but to see everything gone was visually disorienting. All that was left was the tree you see above with the fence leaning on it. This would be the lovely shade tree for our deck. It had a split trunk and was situated at what would be the edge of the deck so it was decided that the two limbs that hung over the deck would be removed but the trunk could stay. And so it did, right up until 20 minutes later when the men inadvertently cut through the main root causing the tree to lose stability and tip precariously over the yard, necessitating its removal as well. 

The backyard has now been denuded of the main vegetation close to the house- everything that would make a deck inviting in the hot summer months. Did I start to cry? Yes. Did I do so in front of anyone? No. I went to the closet in the basement bedroom, the only place in the house that affords me any privacy and quiet at this time and I cried. And cried. This renovation has officially kicked my ass.

Today, everyone was back and all the important stuff, like installing an extra gas line under the deck so Mr. G could have his gas grill located where he wants it, was completed. And if you think I'm being sarcastic, you're right. We have a deck. A deck in a dirt patch. And that, my dears, sums up my week. I will return next week with my humor restored. 

The deck. And yes, the color of the house is hideous but the budget for repainting it is long gone. Maybe next year.

Side view so you can see that the debris pit still exists but has just been shoved over to what is the space behind my office.

Forget renovations and all that was your week? Was it just me or are the planets misaligned? Share your news!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Between Tile and a Hard Place

Now it’s time for the kind of post you hope you don’t have to write when talking about a home renovation. What happens when the contractor makes a mistake? Not a little ‘forgot to order a light fixture’ kind of mistake but the kind that goes against your specific instructions. We’re there and because I’m trying to document the process honestly I’m going to share. Also, I really want to know how you would respond to such a situation.

Remember when I shared the photos of the choices I made for the kitchen backsplash? I worked with a designer, for the first time, and she was the one to suggest that rather than use plain white grout between the tiles to go with something more updated, a grout that would act as an accent against the white but would blend with the colored glass tiles. I agreed with her and thought this would be a great look so we chose a grout called New Taupe. And yes, there are colors of grout- lots and lots of colors. It’s kind of bizarre and one more thing you have to choose. This is the accent tile I’m talking about: 

There are matte bars and polished glass in red, clear, and shades of brown. A neutral grout would emphasize the glass colors.

And this is how the background tile would look:

Well, instead of all that, the contractor did not read my email instructions carefully and told the tiler to use white grout. So, now we have this.

Now the white pops, not the accent colors, and the background tile is bland.

Because we’re living in the house, I walked in right after it was finished. The look on my face was bad enough that John, the tiler, said, “What’s wrong? Did I do something wrong?” I could not speak but kept shaking my head. I finally said, “This is not what I ordered. This is not how it’s supposed to look.” The poor guy could only say, “This is what I was told to use.” What was I going to say? Take it off? Wash it out? No, it’s grout. It’s set. The only way is to dig it out or to go further and remove the tiles. The first option would be incredibly time consuming and the second would be prohibitively expensive, wasteful AND time consuming. Granted, the expense would not be ours but still.

Look, I get it, this is not a human life or a catastrophe, but the tiling in the house is the second most expensive item we purchased when you add up materials and labor. Glass tiles average $22 a square foot. More importantly, it's a permanent and integral part of the house- we're in the kitchen every day.

I know plenty of people who would have pitched a bloody fit over this and who would have immediately demanded the entire thing be torn out and replaced. While that is what a part of me wants, I am mostly worn down and emotionally exhausted. More than anything I want these people (nice and polite as they are) OUT. OF. MY. HOUSE. I am tired of sitting in the basement, of hauling dishes up and down stairs because we can't use most of the kitchen, of making decisions, dealing with problems. I want it all to go away, but that's not an option. 

I left this until Mr. G got home and waited for his opinion. When he asked me, I said, "I don't love it, it's not what I wanted, but it's OK." His reply, "I hate it and they'll have to fix it. This is important; it's our money and our house." I don't disagree, but how I wish they hadn't screwed up. We are 20 days behind schedule with no hard end-date in sight. 

I have stood my ground before in my life when something is not done right or what I ordered is not correct but never in a situation when my frame of mind was so desperate to get out. It feels like a lose-lose. I want them gone so much that I will settle for sloppy work and mistakes. Not a good place to be.

How about you? Have you had an experience like this with a remodel? Or been in a situation where you'd sacrifice quality just to be finished?

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