Friday, May 29, 2015

All the Pretty Pictures

I realized I've left out one of the most fun and easiest part of any home project- whether you are building from scratch, remodeling an old home or just updating a room. Heck, this is fun even if you live in your dream home and just want to spend time online doing something more relaxing than paying bills and looking at your neighbor's vacation photos. It's a site called Houzz and it is nothing but photos of beautiful rooms, fantastic ideas, and options for buying the home decor items you like.



This is not possible in our house but isn't lovely to look at? All those BOOKS- and a comfy place to read them. Houzz gives you the price on the light fixture, the rug, and the chaise and let's you see what other work this designer has done.


Getting started is easy- just go to www.houzz.com and create an account. It's free and you don't have to give away any personal info unless you want to. I did put in my location (Seattle) because I was interested in finding professionals in my area. Once you're set up, you can use their search tools to create Ideabooks, meaning every time you see a photo with something you like you can save it in an ideabook to refer to later. Right now, I have 7 books- Kitchen, Outdoor Space, Our New House, My Office, Bedroom, Accessories, and Bathrooms. Even better- if you choose to, you can give other people access to your ideabooks. So, our contractor can see photos and items I am thinking about for our remodel. Here is one of my favorites (be prepared to drool):


Every woman's dream- all your hair supplies and products tucked away- just like at the salon. Unfortunately, it's expensive to do so it will probably remain a dream.



So, while my little photos are fun, Houzz is the place where you go when you need to get away from all the hassles that go with a building/remodeling project. Plus, if you haven't even started yet having hundreds of thousands of photos that you can search by room, style, cost etc. really helps you get a jump on the planning process. Last but not least, the site also allows you to add your own photos, either ones you take yourself or ones you find on other sites. Right now, I'm starting to think about paint so I've gone to various paint company sites and come up with options, which I've added with comments (to remember why I added the photo!). 


I'm thinking about a soft blue like this for the master bedroom


Thanks to houzz even if you're project is making you feel frazzled you can escape for a little while and pretend you're at places like this. At least until your house is finished.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Renovation Realities

There comes a point in every home remodeling project where it feels like it’s not worth it and undergoing surgery without anesthetic would be less  painful. You can probably tell I’m ready to schedule that surgery. I’m not delicate. I love a good project and I’m hyper-organized so I thought renovating would fall right into my sweet spot. But it doesn’t because it doesn’t work that way. For instance, my attention-to-detail is a fine trait but being a control freak is not. Renovation takes a set of personality traits I don’t have, specifically, the let-it-go, trust-the-universe, in-the-moment mindset, which makes me batshit crazy. Honestly, how many people do you know for whom that works all the time? Be honest. NONE. It’s adorable but not bloody likely.

Here are a few of things I've figured out; if you're about to start a home project, hopefully, they'll help. There will be more in the coming weeks.

p.s. Updated house photos at the end so you can skip the words and I'll never know. 

1. Expectations. They’re lovely and everyone has them but unlike the foundation of your home they should not be set in concrete. Unless you have an unlimited budget and no timeframe, in which case I want to party with you. For the rest of us, that’s probably one of the first things that has to be adjusted when doing a renovation. The keyword is compromise. 

2. Make sure YOU understand the process. Construction is a male-dominated realm and whether it is meant to happen or not, there will be a lot of talk that goes over your head. This cannot happen. Even if it makes you queasy (which it does for me) you have to say, “I don’t understand” when you don’t. I let things slide because I didn’t want to seem difficult but, hello, it’s my money so I should be difficult! 

3. Agree upfront on scheduled communications. This kind of ties into 1 and 2 but deserves its own space. It also has a subheading of Pressure for Specifics. This means before the project begins you agree how things will proceed and by what means. Contractors don't like email- they like verbal but guess what? It means things get forgotten and misunderstand and you are left with no ground to stand on. They KNOW how a project works so they should be able to tell you what you need to address when so you are not left driving all over town to find floor tiles in 24 hours. Our house sat untouched for 3 weeks because they didn't have a crew to work on it so if I had known it was an early part of the process I could have been looking back then. 

There is a massive amount of wiggle room and variables in every aspect of construction and renovation but while it may feel like an uphill battle, get as much in writing as early as you can- even just a list of what you need to shop for and when. 

Enough talk. Here's what we found when we went by the house this weekend:


The walls are back up in the kitchen and the new peninsula has been built. Also, the subfloor is down, ready for the new floors.


The guest bath with the walls, tub, and subfloor in place.


The carpet has been pulled up! This is an area that has gone exactly to plan- the floors underneath are in beautiful shape.

 My future room- the wall to the left used to be a closet but was removed to give the kitchen more space on the other side.


Our first glimpse of the stairs to the basement. We had thought they might be cheap plywood but they are actually fir- the same wood we're using for the doors so with a bit of refinishing they'll be perfect.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Fireplace drama

Earlier I spoke with a great deal of excitement about the most significant change in our house: the narrowing of the fireplace to let light flow through the house from front to back. This is what the original fireplace looked like:




Step one was removing enough of the right-hand side of the fireplace to make it even with the left. Like this:



All is good until we hear from the contractor given how the bricks must be put back together...we don't have enough. It's a bit hard to explain but you can't just stack the ends of the bricks on top of each other. Maybe another photo will help:

This is the original remaining side of the fireplace. You can see how ends of the brick are mixed in with lengthwise bricks- they even wrap around the corner in some instances.

Bottom line? We would need to find more brick in similar shades/color and the layering would be very labor intensive. Basically, almost doubling the projected cost, which is something we can't do. So, after much displeased conversation with the contractor we are opting to cover up the entire fireplace and put a new stone facade over it. Real stone but already assembled into panels so it is less time and labor. Here is what our poor old fireplace looks like right now:

No more sandstone, just a concrete cover.

In the next few days we'll be going to a Eldorado Stone to look at the options in our price range. This is very disappointing but hopefully, when it's finished it will look great. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I'm Floored

I mentioned last week that things are heating up at the house. It would be exciting, if I'd been better prepared for how things progress in a renovation but there doesn't seem to be much logic in it- just a lot of hurry up and then wait. Nothing happened for almost a month so it would have been nice if our contractor had let me know what lay ahead but it didn't happen. I'm very much a to-do list person and would have reveled in getting things checked off but I'm not so good at last minute change. It doesn't help that It's not as easy as going to one store and picking out what you want, as seen by my previous posts. Either what you want doesn't exist or it is out of your price range. Add to that the fact that our lease ends in less than two months and I'm waking up at 5am every morning with a choking feeling of panic and a racing mind.




On that note, the item we were just informed needed to be chosen this week is the flooring for the kitchen and the bathrooms. There are many options in flooring: wood, stone, and tile. Within each of those are many options, almost too many to count. Thankfully, we eliminated wood because while it is easy to clean it can be easily damaged in a kitchen. That leave stone and tile. Plenty of people love marble and travertine--shiny stone floors but it's too fancy for my taste so porcelain tile is the way we're going to go. 


Last weekend we found these options:


 These are two options with some vertical patterning. Looking at them against the wood we're using we decided it looks too busy.



Three more options from a different store. All of these places are happy to give you samples which is great. I know, you're saying, "What's the difference here?" Photography can only handle so much but the one on the left is a lightish green, the one in the middle is a bluish grey and the top right is grey.



This was a very good price but ultimately we decided it was too busy because we're likely to go with a granite countertop and too much patterning can conflict.



On Sunday we found a store with a great deal of selection and even something in our price range. The only problem? Warehouses are not open on weekends so despite choosing Manhattan Mist as the perfect shade of greenish grey neutral to go with our cabinets and potential countertop we could not find out if it was even in-stock.


Yesterday I found out that it is not in stock and would take a week to arrive. So, what I hoped was finished had to start all over- more driving and more stores.


Here is where I was at 11am. This was my third store of the morning and this is just one wall. Choices are not the problem but finding the RIGHT choice is. You think choices are a great thing but at some point, they are not.


And here you have it: Green Mist. The perfect depth and tone while remaining neutral. More importantly, it is in our price range and in-stock. Even this was a close call- they only had 200sf left and we need 192. Less than 3 hours ago we bought it.

Great news, right?! Yes, for this one thing but now it is on to soap dishes- build a tiled niche in the shower or use one that juts out? And the infernal fireplace which has become such a nightmare I wish we had never even touched it. Sorry, but I am now past the point at which remodeling is enjoyable or fun. Hopefully, my sense of humor will be back soon...


Friday, May 15, 2015

Bathrooms: All is Vanity

The rooms are getting framed and the push is on to make decisions fast. Normally, I’m fine with that but in making home decisions there are two problems. Unlike going to a store and looking at shoes, there is no store with a large selection of home options. I know, you’re screaming Home Depot right now and you’re partially right but when it comes to bathroom vanities 90% of their stock is only visible online. And while I can waste time online with the best of them, looking at photos of items costing $1,000+ does not inspire confidence in knowing what youre getting. It’s one thing if a pair of shoes turns out to be cadet blue not navy (this can happen) but if you want a medium brown reddish wood because it needs to go with the tile floor and it shows up and is yellowish brown, you’re stuck. Not to mention having no way to test quality online.


The second problem is just as agita-inducing. Mr. G was put on the spot to get the kitchen appliances picked out in a hurry and it was tough, but all he had to do was pick by size and type because the only finish we wanted was stainless steel. He didn’t have to consider anything else. I have to think about matching the counters, the walls, the floors, the hardware. I have no help with this and as mentioned above- if I’m wrong it’s a much bigger and more permanent mistake than a poor color choice in shoes.

If all this isnt bad enough there is the fact that apparently, home components are like fashionthey go in and out of style and right now what is in style is not a look I like. Lets check it out.


This is THE big look in bathrooms right now. Not just the mahogany vanity but the white quartz countertop and vessel sink. I am not exaggerating to say we saw this in the majority of new homes we looked at. I like the style and shape of the vanity but not the color combo. 


 Another popular look. This one I don't get and I don't like. Grey wood just seems odd and a black countertop? It's all too bleak and who wants to feel drab in the bathroom. I want "serene".


White. Feels boring to me but it is everywhere- in bathrooms and kitchens and especially with a marble countertop for an all-white look. Blah

There you have it- my current dilemma. Despite these looks not working for me they are the popular looks in bathrooms right now.  So, do I settle for something in the style I like but a color I don't? Time is running out.


What kind of look would you like in your dream bathroom?




Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Framed

Now Im just messing with you all with that title! Monday we were stoned and today weve been framed. The good news is that in the world of remodeling its good news. It means the house is being put back together in its new configuration.


Originally this was a full wall and contributed to making the kitchen feel smaller than it is. Now it's more open to the dining room.


This view gives you an idea of how, with the half wall and the smaller fireplace the whole space will feel more open.


This is an accent wall we're adding to give the entry a bit more definition. Beyond it you can see the new doorframe that will become a pocket door for Mr. G's office.


It's a little hard to tell but this is the frame for the new guest bathroom. The tub is already in, on the left.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Stoned

Oops! If you clicked on this link hoping to get information on marijuana then sorry to have misled you. Even though I live in one of the fine states where it is not a crime to smoke it, I can't help you, so best move along now.

Instead, I'm referring to granite. Or quartz. Or marble. Any of the stones that can be used as kitchen and bathroom countertops because that was our homework this weekend. We traipsed off to Pental Granite & Marble and we rapidly overwhelmed and enthralled by a warehouse almost without end filled with granite slabs from around the world in virtually every color you can imagine. Some of these slabs measured over 8' high and 10' long! All are arranged on racks showcasing as much of the surface as possible. This is just one aisle- imagine hundreds more stretching as far as the eye can see:


 These are average sized slabs.


It was funny then to see this sign:

This sign is posted everywhere and is laughable on two levels. One, the odds of me moving one of these slabs are slim to none. Less than none, actually. Two, you know that this sign is only around because some fool (man) did try and move a piece of granite.



 Here are just a few of the many choices we saw:


Heavily patterned with blue and beige


This is not granite but is a bluish soapstone. It had the look of crumpled paper. Cool, but blue is not a color I want for a counter. Soapstone is a great choice for kitchen because it doesn't stain. Unfortunately, it only comes in very dark colors like grey, black, and tobacco.


I cannot even imagine this geode slab as a countertop...or what it must cost.


There was no way to get a photo to do this justice. The slab had these iridescent patches across the top that made it shimmer. One of the most unique pieces of stone I've ever seen.


 This is one of the granite slabs I liked. I'm leaning toward greens as a color family. Note that they do not give you prices at all. Instead the slabs are graded and the grades are the opposite of school grades, i.e. D is best and A is worst.



Another slab I liked. This one is softer than the one above but it may have too much cream/white veins.

There you have it: Granite 101. And that wasn't even the end of the day- next up was heading into another building to look at flooring tiles. More on that later.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Met Gala 2015

Every year The Metropolitan Museum and Vogue magazine host a gala for the elite and by elite I mean anyone who can afford the $25,000 per person donation to the museum. I’ve reviewed previous years and apparently, it’s not an event in my fashion sweet spot because the last time I thought the attendees were well dressed was 2012. Last year, I went so far as to say the dresses made me wish I had plucked out my eyes. How do you come back from a disappointment of that magnitude and WHY did I even pay attention to the event this year? Call me a foolish fashion optimist. Because this year made last year look tasteful and elegant. The theme this year was China: Through the Looking Glass but unless China is populated with strippers and the looking glass refers to a fantastical world of bad taste then fully 95% of the attendees missed the fashion mark. 




All right, let's ease into this with Rihanna. I don't love this but I understand it. This shade of yellow is the color of the emperor and that combined with the opulence of the fabric makes a powerful statement. Which is what Rihanna does and it works. And that's about the last positive thing I have to say.


Anne Hathaway looking hideous and angry that she looks hideous. This dress looks ill fitting and badly made. Fire your stylist, Anne.


Words fail me. I'm not kidding, this is such a hot mess I have no words.




Hard to believe Beyonce could look worse than she did last year but here we have it. I get you have a bangin' bod, Bey, but this is tacky despite whatever that hand beading cost. This dress would have been exquisite with a nude lining but instead it screams NO CLASS. 


The fact that I'm even including Miley Cyrus AND that she is understated compared to the majority of the other women is a sad reflection on fashion. Or a sign of the apocalypse.



Once again, Helen Mirren saves the day. Age appropriate and classy. Perfect hair and make-up...she gets it. Beyonce, you wish you looked this good.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Debris

I’ve been yammering for a couple of weeks about demolishing much of the main floor of our house and you’ve seen a lot of pictures of things coming down. To keep things in perspective I thought I’d share some photos of the result of a lot of demolition: debris. Lots and lots of debris. It is a little staggering how much space is taken up when you take things down.


This is a great place to start because it shows who did what. Pic 1: me, Pic 2: Jed, and Pic 3: the pros.


These are just the baseboards, add to that door frames and door jambs and this pile tripled in size. p.s. Aren't I clever- using the lawnmower carton to keep everything from spilling all over the garage.


This is ONE wall worth of sheet rock. Even before the pros came in I demoed three others so this baby pile is nothing.


If this doesn't look familiar, it shouldn't. I wanted you to see that we're not the only ones out there creating an all-mighty mess. This photo is compliments of my friend Amy in Atlanta who is also in the midst of a renovation. Thankfully, this is the last of the debris for both of us!

That is it for demolition! I, for one, couldn't be happier. Everything is torn down and now it's time to start putting it back together.






Monday, May 4, 2015

An End to Demolition

Yes, it's fun to write about and even fun to go into your house and see it stripped down to its bones but at some point you want to see it being put back together. We didn't sign off on the plans for our remodel until mid-March so technically we're only a month into the process but, quite honestly, it feels like years. 

I've been a bit of a tease but no more waiting. Here is the last and largest piece of demolition, the point at which you really respect the professionals who do this kind of work.



This are the much viewed original photos of the fireplace. Grand but too much so- it blocks all the light from front to back in the house and in Seattle you need as much light as possible. What to do?


 Remove it. Suddenly there is light throughout the main floor. And there's not much more to say about that.

If you could demolish and change one part of your house, what would it be?




Friday, May 1, 2015

A Diversion: Spring

I know I promised a demolition extravaganza but honestly, I can't muster the energy. To anyone who has renovated a home this will come as no surprise but it is mentally exhausting. To the point that I can't even go into detail today. It's nothing bad, our contractor isn't lying or stealing, but it is a process with a lot of unknowns, a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, not finding what you want, running behind, and, of course, money...money...money. I can cope but we're at the point where spending money on rent AND a mortgage is waking me up at night. Our mortgage is $800 a month less than our rent. Our rent would pay for a custom made bathroom vanity. And yet, without a kitchen we can't move into the house. And the kitchen looks just as it is did in the last photos I posted. So, I'm heading downhill into crazy town and my brakes aren't working.

I know this is normal and that's why I thought we'd go to a happy place today and just look at a few pretty pictures of the flowers in our yard. Boring for those of you who want to see, destruction or plumbing fixtures but I'll be back with that on Monday. Until then have a great weekend and I hope it's sunny in your neck of the woods!

 Aren't these rhododendrons such shy beauties? I would love vases full of them throughout my house. What is best is that their colors vary so much they come in pale pink like this and then...


Brilliant fuschia like these in the front yard. This is in full sun making the color so saturated that it looks like I applied some kind of funky filter to the photo but this is no filter.



 In one of my earlier posts I asked if anyone knew what the rhizomes might be in the backyard but now I know! Isn't this absolutely glorious? It's like looking into a kaleidoscope.



 I walked into the backyard where the concrete slab used to be and as the breeze came up there was the most luscious smell. It came from a trellis of these flaming sunset roses. 


Has spring reached your part of the world? What are your favorite flowers in your garden?




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