Friday, June 26, 2015

And the Kitchen Begins

This may be my last post for a little while. We move on Monday and then it's July 4th but the good news is the house still has lots of work to be done so there will be more photos to come. Yes, the schedule has been pushed out again and now the floors won't be finished until Saturday meaning we can't walk on them until Sunday at the earliest. This messes with our ability to move stuff in throughout the weekend but I'm simply not able to argue anymore.

Yesterday we met with the contractor at the house and got updates. Mostly, what I got was an education, so to add to your glossary of remodeling terms (and make you sound savvy when you next remodel):

Field tile- this is the background tile on a wall, the tile that covers the largest amount of space. The tile we don't have yet.

Schluter- GREAT word, right?! It's so versatile- it can sound either really angry or really happy. What it actually means is the metal strip that goes around the edge of a shower wall to cover the unfinished tile edge. All you see is the thin metal edge. You know, where you can never get the soap scum out. We don't have any yet and it has to be ordered so there is another delay. It looks like this:

Enough education. All of the cabinets have been finished and are being installed. First come the boxes, which are basically the frames. Drawers, shelves, and fronts will come later. Still, this was a happy day for Mr. G because it was so clear to see why custom cabinets can be worth the extra money.

These are the sides of two of the base cabinets. Mr. G said I had to photograph and show you all because the upper piece is an inner face but is still made of solid birch. As he said, "No one will ever see this wood again because it's hidden but I'll know how good it is."  The bottom portion is an outer face and is the coastal fir.

It's starting to take shape! All boxes in place with shelf hardware installed. 

We also met with the granite guy who laid out the templates he'll use to cut the granite to fit in the sinks and faucets. It was interesting to see how he'll take one slab of granite and, much like cutting out a dress pattern, will cut it into various pieces to fit our kitchen.

That's all for now. I'm heading over to the house to meet with the closet person to measure the master bedroom closet. I always thought I'd have a lot of opinions about this but, honestly, I'm so tired of decisions I'm going to trust the experts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Random Updates

Four more days and we move into the house. 

That would be the appropriate response IF we were moving in and the house was finished and I never had to talk to the contractor again. Unfortunately, that is a fantasy that I will not get to live. Instead, the only battle I'm trying to win is to have the old toilet downstairs which has been used by the construction crew during the entire renovation removed and replaced with the new toilet we bought. And I'm not even sure I'm going to win that one. So, to hope that we would have a refrigerator seems foolhardy on my part. Instead, we just throw away all the food we currently have and live at McDonalds until we've been deemed worthy of a fridge of our own.

Sensing a little sarcasm here? I'm not going to harp again about deadlines and the fact that we made ours clear back in January but WE DID. And in his last timeline, our contractor was meeting that deadline (at least for the important stuff). Then yesterday when I went to the house there was no progress and no explanation. All of the rooms should have been painted so the final stain could go on the floors and be dry by the weekend (so we could move over everything we're doing ourselves) and the base cabinets installed in the kitchen so the template for the countertops could be cut. Later I hear from the contractor that the floors won't be stained until Saturday. When pressed for a reason why I got no real answers and how hard do you want to push when you are dependent on these people?

This leaves me in uber-bitch mode and popping Klonopin like it's Pez to try and keep my brain from exploding. Until it does, here are some things that have happened:

These are our interior doors. They're fir and rather than have them stained we're leaving them the natural color, oiling them and then a clear coat. Fir is a wood that darkens in sunlight so within six months they will have deepened to a wonderful reddish-brown.

This is the first coat of stain on the stair to the basement. They are the original stairs and are fir unlike the rest of the floors which are oak but I love the dark look of them.

This is the hallway minus the wall that use to run along the stairs. It cut off the light so we're replacing it with a more modern fir, brushed stainless steel and cable railing.

Woo hoo! Our fun pebble tile is in the master shower. I am so happy with the look. I can't wait to see how the colors pop when they're wet.

If there is progress to report I may be back on Friday. If not, you may not hear from me until after we've moved out of the rental house- which is on Monday. If you've got an in with the housing renovation gods (or any other deity with good taste) please, ask that the rest of this remodel goes as planned, on time, and with no more additional expenses. PLEASE!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Next Step: Paint

This is it. In one week we will be in our new home, whether it is finished or not. Our lease is up and we are more than ready to stop paying rent and a mortgage so it is time to go. Easier said than done and it means the last month has been split between making decisions for the renovation AND trying to organize/pack/discard/move as much stuff as I can to save on the moving costs.

This has left me in a schizophrenic place. One side of my mind wants to get more and more out of the rental house, to see it empty out and feeling a sense of accomplishment. The other side, is that it now longer feels like a welcoming space. All of our personal touches are gone, nothing is where it is supposed to be, so I have no sense of respite- which is hard. Basically, I am a creature of habit and after almost two years I am used to this beat-up old house and am having odd feelings of dread about moving. Crazy, right? Have you ever felt that, in leaving one situation for another?

Aside from getting out of the old house, I'm still under pressure regarding the renovation. Last week was about choosing paint. In this one area, I would seem to be very prepared:

This is just a small sample of the many materials I have been saving for years for the time when I would be able to paint my house the colors  I want.

It was quite the surprise then to realize, after two rounds of samples gone bad...I. HATE. PICKING. PAINT. Worse, I'm no good at it. It comes down to a fundamental problem: I can't visualize what a color will look like on a wall from a chip. Now, I know few people can but I can't even pick a sample from a chip. They are inevitably too light, too dark, too bright. I am the Goldilocks of the paint world.

This is made worse by the fact that the paint industry feels like a scam. Even designers purchase sample sizes and paint them on a wall to make a choice. That is super and helpful but it adds up! 5 samples and you've spent as much as a gallon (and wasted all that paint) so you are less likely to keep looking and just settle for the one you hate least. 

Having said all that here is where we are so far:

 For the first time in my life, I'm going with grey for the living room, dining room, hallway, and kitchen. It's a soft dove grey but comes off a bit darker in these photos.

These are the two options for the bedroom. The one on the right is my original choice but in person it comes off too bright- like something for a children's room. The one on the left is a soft, blue-grey. Very soothing.

And in case you're wondering how I came up with these two choices? They're both from different rooms in our rental house. I am a creature of habit.

Just to give you a sense as to why I'm interested in subdued, quiet colors in our house. This was the kitchen in our Portland house. Every room was a different bold color. It was well-thought out but I want more neutrals now.

Do you love paint? Are you one of those people who re-paints their house yearly or changes paint color in a room to suit your mood? What kind of colors do you like?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Back to Tiles

On Friday I was a real downer so today it’s time to rally. Yes, the pressure is still on but when it comes to tile the choices have been made and thanks to the help of a was FUN! And in case you're wondering (because I was) a designer is different than a decorator. Yes, they can be the same person but each have very different functions. Basically, a designer works with hard surfaces (cabinets, floors, walls) and generally before a remodel is finished. A decorator often comes into existing homes or after a remodel is finished and specializes in soft surfaces--namely the fabrics found in window coverings, furniture, rugs.

Anyway, I met with one and she was great. She liked the choices we made so far then helped me knock out a whole lot of decisions. Finally, something to show for all the agita.

Final kitchen finishes (from the top): cabinets, accent mosaic and white tile for backsplash, floor tile, and countertop. 

Master bathroom (left to right): pebble shower floor tiles, white shower wall tiles and glass mosaic accent tiles, fir vanity wood, and quartz countertop.

Guest bath (left to right): same vanity, flooring, and countertop as master bath; slate-like porcelain tile for around tub with glass tile accent.


Moral of the story? Unless you have studied home design or decoration or are a design savant I would highly recommend making room in your budget for several hours with a professional. Get recommendations from people you trust and interview a couple. Once you find the right fit, they are invaluable. Kim asked all the right questions, listened, paid attention to my budget, and then using her expertise worked with me to find these looks I really love. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

More Renovation Realities

We’re in the final countdown for moving out of our rental house and despite this having been the date we gave our contractor from day one they’re acting as if it is a complete surprise. Worse, they’re using the fact that they were unable to start on our job for almost three weeks after our drawings were complete to apply pressure on me to make every remaining major decision this week. Which leads me to one of the most important things I would share with anyone considering work on their home:

1. Insist on a list. There is no magic in the way a home is remodeled or built. There are certain steps that occur in the same order every single time. Basics would be: first is demolition to remove what you don’t want. Second, while walls are gone you do any and all work (like plumbing and electrical) that occurs behind those walls. From that point, if you haven’t done a remodel before you may not know what comes next. Floors? Paint? Ordering/buying cabinets? Appliances? Doors? This is supposedly why you hire a contractor. But guess what—they may assume you know what to do when and you may assume they’ll tell you, in a TIMELY manner, what you need. Only one of you will be hurt by this and, big hint…it’s not the contractor. When you sign up with someone one of your must-haves should be a list of what you need to do when. When should you order cabinets? Flooring? When do you need to decide on paint? For every item on your remodel list there should be a time when you need to make a decision. Not a date, because those do shift. Just an order. A list. This is not an unreasonable demand but if you think a contractor will volunteer this info, you’ll end up running around exhausted and angry. Not him.

To be fair, I’m sure I’m stressing our contractor out because its a tough relationship no matter what. As you can tell I’m a bit frazzled and I hate the feeling. For most of my adult life I have been a natural at multi-tasking and remodeling a house is the Everest of multi-tasking—not for the faint of heart or rookies. I believed I was up to the challenge. I am so fortunate not to have an office job but I do maintain a book review blog with three reviews a week and all that entails, as well as contributing to another book related website. More importantly though, and what bothers me the most, is that none of these would be enough to slow me down but my multiple sclerosis does and that is far and away the hardest thing for me to deal with. That my body is letting me down and keeping me from doing what I need to. I hate that my brain can’t process multiple things with the speed it used to. I hate that at some point my mental fatigue will be so great I am unable to make the simplest of decisions or even  verbalize my thoughts. Simply put, my poor old synapses are fried and the usual rules do not apply. It is not possible to power through and suck it up, try harder. No, there are truly black holes in my brain where a thought (a great thought, of course!) rushes in and can’t get back out. There is so much to be done and it's hard not to hate my weakness. 

I also want this blog to be great but am having to accept it's falling by the wayside, which stinks. It feels like one more failure but I'm not giving up. Posts just may come a bit more slowly but, I promise to all the people who have been so supportive about wanting to see this crazy process, I WILL take you all the way through to our finished home. I PROMISE. Until then...

Monday, June 8, 2015

New Week, New Decisions

The house has passed well beyond the tearing down stages and and is now almost constantly moving towards being built back up. I know I’ve shown pictures before but it is such a lovely thing to see- wood floors. Last week the flooring company was here and they filled in with new oak all the spots that needed it either because there was stone there (like the front hall) or a wall (inside the closets). Now there is fresh new wood just waiting for us to pick a stain.

All new wood in the hall and where the old fireplace was. Only problem? They were not supposed to put it all the way to the front door as the plans called for a tiled entry way. This is good news for me because I prefer the look of all wood but if we want to go with the tile the contractor will fix it for no extra cost. What do you think?

This is our new walk-in closet. Which used to be the garage.

They finally removed the carpet in the master bedroom. Isn't the floor gorgeous?! It's even got its original polish. I almost like this color as it is. Beautiful.

Here are the two stains we choose at Home Depot. Mr. G prefers the one on the left and I prefer the one on the red (which is bit more reddish in person). 

Time to weigh in- what kind of color would you prefer on your wood floors? The color options these days are endless- we even saw a navy stain (like this font) that looked kind of cool. Do you like lighter or darker floors?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Falling Behind on Catching Up

I’m sorry to have gone silent for the last little while but it’s a time with a lot going on but little to show for it, in that things have been ordered but are not here yet. We did choose a tile after much running around on my part (I actually got to be the 1950s housewife who shows up at her husband’s office so he can look at home items) and did opt to go with custom made cabinets for the kitchen and bathrooms. I simply could not find anything pre-made that worked  and I get how spoiled that may sound but when we balanced the additional cost versus settling for something we really didn’t like it was worth it.

While I don't have anything finished to show here are samples of what we've chosen so far:

 This is the granite for the kitchen countertops. It comes up grey but the veins are actually a very dark green. The slab we purchased (yes, you buy a slab!) has a beige cloud in one corner which is not my favorite but Mr. G thought it was interesting. Plus, I just could not take looking anymore!

This is our floor tile and the wood being used for our cabinets and bathroom vanities. It's a variety of fir. The floor tile is one I mentioned in an earlier post and is a dark grey-green- not the blue-ish color it looks here.

A better view of the tiles- actually in the master bathroom!

Coming up next week: the old floors will be sanded and then we need to choose a new stain. This should be interesting because Mr. G is thinking a dark color and I'm thinking 'No'.

I'm usually the cynic and a doubter but I am so happy to be proven wrong about what lies beneath carpet in an old home. On the left is the living room floor which did not have carpet and on the right is the hall, which did. Look how lovely the oak on the right is because it was protected. I like the color it is, maybe just a shade darker.

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