Monday, September 28, 2015

Renovation Wrap-up: The Kitchen

This is long overdue but rather than waste time on apologizing for why it's taken me so long to post these photos let's get right to it. 

Remember this gem? Oh, I know, cheery yellow, tiled countertops, tiny drawers  and parquet floors were the rage in the late 1950s but with the exception of the appliances nothing in this kitchen had changed since then. 

Let's break it down (which we did- literally):

This one is almost too easy- the transformation. It was a wall with a fridge plugged in, blocking the patio door. Thanks to my generosity, we broke through the wall behind the fridge, eliminating one of the closets in my office and created the space for the fridge, oven, microwave, pantry and storage.

An electric cooktop and minimal hood became Mr. G's dream gas cooktop and a hood vent so strong it will pull the hair off your head. He's happy so I'm happy.

Poor old ratty porcelain sink and rotted countertop. Now we have dual stainless steel sinks with these fabulous removable grids that stand on rubber feet and help protect the sinks from getting overly scratched.

Here's the big news: painted wood is actually more 'in' than natural wood right now. But for us, we wanted a more modern feel so stuck with a midcentury favorite (fir) and kept it natural.

 One of the big pictures- from demo to finish. The space didn't actually increase at all but the use of it did. A better layout, and extending the counter but not the cabinets above it means we have more storage but still have an open feel.

This was our kitchen...

This IS our kitchen! It wasn't an easy trek but we made it to the finish line and now have this great new kitchen to cook in.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Around Seattle: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Before I move back into the land of home renovations I wanted to share the last place my mother and I visited when she was here recently. If you've ever had the chance to see a Chihuly glass sculpture then you know what an amazing visual experience they are. He's from Seattle so there is a permanent exhibit of his work here. Needless to say, it's a magical experience.

You can't talk about a trip to Seattle and not include a photo of the Space Needle! It is in the same center as the museum so I grabbed a quick shot before we went in. We opted not to go to the top- this trip.

One of the first rooms you enter is dark (as is much of the museum to better showcase the glass) and filled with these gorgeous bowls with fluted rims and ethereal combinations of color.

 From the outside the bowl is light greens and yellows but inside it is a sea green. I love that the rim is an almost neon blue ribbon around the top.

Two such different but vibrant colors- the fiery red on the outside but cool lavender inside.

This is a close-up of my favorite bowl. The gradations of blue with the pink white interspersed made me think of the ocean in sunlight. There is a feeling of movement in the colors.

This piece is a stunner, hanging in the corner of a room like a Rorschach test. What is it- a writhing mass of icy snakes? A whirling dervish? It is fierce and fragile at the same time.

Also along the theme of water, this is a massive installation that goes from floor to ceiling but it is the smaller hidden glass pieces that fascinate me.

If you've ever been to Las Vegas you've seen a Chihuly ceiling sculpture at the Bellagio. This one looks as if you're walking under the ocean floor with fantastical sunlight infused creatures floating above you. Magical.

This beautiful flower chain floats in the glass house. It has almost Chinese dragon feel about it.

Up close the feeling turns into one of Chinese fans- all lovely and striated, almost floating on air.

As you can see, I find much of Chihuly's work to be almost meditative. I can easily imagine sitting and looking at a single piece for hours- especially the glass house piece above, the ceiling sculpture and the bowls. Largely, because the play of light changes the eye's perception of shape, color, and meaning. Almost like looking at clouds as they shift from one shape to another.

Have you ever seen any of Dale Chihuly's work? If so, where and what did you think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Around Seattle: Pike Place Market

It’s been almost a month without any updates on the house and for that I’m sorry. For all intents and purposes the renovation is over and we are living in our home but things did not go as planned and it’s taking me longer than I thought to get to a place where I want to write about it. Needless to say, it did not go as we expected it to go, but I promise to get back to all that next week. It’s just been quite overwhelming. Instead, I thought I’d go with a more fun touristy post because my mother was here last week for her first trip to Seattle. We did all the kinds of things you hear about when you hear Seattle. It was a lot of walking but a lot of fun, especially because we had absolutely perfect weather. First stop was the world famous Pike Place Market.

Of course I have to start out with a fish photo because that is what this market is known for. This is the fish counter where the workers throw entire salmon back and forth to each other but we missed that show.

 The rainy climate here has one very definite benefit- lots and lots of gorgeous flowers. We saw stall after stall of bouquets like this and they're only $10 each. At those prices you could have  fresh flowers in your home every week for less than your Starbucks fix.

The rest of this post could be nothing but fresh flowers because they are all so exquisite but I'm going to refrain except for this dahlia. Because really, who can resist such beauty?

And once you get these gorgeous flowers home you can't put them in any old vase. I loved these stained glass holders. Imagine how pretty they'd be in front of a window- the beauty of the flower and the sun shining through the glass.

And if you're allergic to real flowers, these adorable flowers are ceramic! The pots, the 'dirt', everything is sculpted from clay and painted. The detail up close is amazing.

No matter where you turn this time of year, there is color at the market. Flowers, fabrics, fruits, and even peppers.

Do you have a local market you like to visit? If so, what's in season in your neck of the woods and what's your favorite thing to buy?

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!

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