Monday, March 30, 2009

Place in Proper Receptacles

Jason Lanier and his crew were here this afternoon working on electrical, and they got a lot of the outlet receptacles and light switches installed in the downstairs areas, as well as the recessed cans in the ceilings of the kitchen area. We talked a bit about hooking up the double oven and the cooktop and the island downdraft vent, all of which needs to wait until I get the 3rd of those items delivered.

Funny how some light switches give things that much more of a finished look. And they don't even work yet.

Robert and Kevin worked on tile today, getting the floor tile put down in the southwest bathroom and putting up much of the wall tile in the main second floor shower. I think Pete and I have got it worked out how we'll handle the soap and shampoo placement in these showers...I ordered some high density resin-based inserts that they'll cut into the backing board and seal around. That'll make me much happier than protruding soap dishes that won't match the tile anyway.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cooler Heads Prevailed

After wrangling a slew of websites and marking a range of possible choices for an undercounter beverage cooler for the wetbar area, I finally came to a moment of decision this evening. I like to keep a lot of beer cold and at the ready, plus there needs to be an ample supply of Pepsi products, and it never hurts to have a few bottles of wine chilling. I'm no snob: no need in my mind to have different temps for all those items. Let them all be cold, I say. So I've dropped another cool wad of cash this evening, and in a week or so a glass-front undercounter beverage cooler will arrive here on Spring Street and will find its home in the middle of the cabinets in the wetbar.

Monday Update. unceremoniously canceled this order. Back to the websearch but found another decent deal. I hope there's not an issue with the supply of these units...I found researching was a huge pain in the rumpus and I've already deleted my list of the closest competitors to it, so I'd have to start all over again. That would please me not.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cabinet Meeting

The cabinets arrived Thursday and have now been mostly installed. I like them. Still to do: countertops, hardware, complete island, and then install stuff like the double oven, cooktop, sink, downdraft vent. I have to finish my research on the beverage cooler for the wetbar; never could make up my mind what I'd like best and what best suited my needs. Here are some pics; I'll be glad when we get the lighting hooked up in the addition so that I can feel better about pictures of stuff in there.

It felt very surreal to me to stand in that space with the cabinets installed. This makes it much more real now, after all these months of enjoying the possibility of the kitchen complex... It is going to be such an amazing place to cook and entertain and to just enjoy this great house in a new way.

Choosing cabinets is another one of those things that I'm glad I'm done devoting brain-power to. I'm glad I stumbled onto Kitchen Vision, thanks to a dinner out at Tumeric Indian restaurant next door to it, and that Tim Stevenson was on duty when I first ventured out there. My early investigations led me to a downtown cabinet business, because I do like to work with neighbors and support downtown as much as I can. But they were the pricey folks, for sure! Way out of my league. Tim's been great to work with.

My memory of the cabinets from when I ordered them was that they would be a bit more red, and I'm very glad that they are not. It's a great finish, and the added touches like the light rail underneath and the crown molding on top make them look very, very stylish. We might even say they're classy. They should hold up well over time, too, and not begin to look dated. I splurged and decided to go with both under- and over-cabinet lighting. After five years of working in a dark kitchen with only a standard flush-mount overhead fixture, I can't wait to be able to see what I'm doing no matter where I'm working in there.

It's very cool that my architect thought to suggest outlets above the cabinets, which I've mentioned before. I'm also glad I added in a desk area next to the fireplace, instead of a second door to the courtyard. It just makes sense to have some workspace in there.

Mid-Day Update: Y'know, I got to looking at the placement of the island in relation to the double-oven this morning, and now I'm getting fairly nervous. We wanted to push the island out away from the fridge enough to give good workspace at the cooktop, and now I'm looking at where that brings it into potential conflict with the ovens. This first picture just shows you the island from its "front" side, where I'll stand when I'm cooking viddles.

Now, from the other side, you'll see where the installer built the kneewall that will serve as primary support for the raised bar for seating on the fireplace side of the island. (Raised bar or sunken cooktop...whichever you prefer.) It seems to come mighty close to the ovens, and I'm trying to imagine what it will be like to stand with my back to the island and open the oven doors to peer at the good things baking inside. Not much clearance, I'd say!

Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm Floored

Kevin and Joe got a great start on the hardwood flooring in the kitchen area on Monday before I left town, and when I returned Thursday night, all of the hardwood floors had been installed where they belong (with the exception of the anteroom, where they've still got old plumbing in the way). So...that means the kitchen, back hallway, laundry room, anteroom, butler's pantry, powder room, master bath closet, and the landing of the main upstairs bathroom now have beautiful amber oak true 3/4" prefinished hardwoods down. And it's pretty beautiful. Or beautifully pretty.

Getting Very Tiled, Too
I can't decide if Pete's been dreading tackling the tile, but he got underway on that this Friday morning, with the main bathroom upstairs as the starting point. This is the bathroom that one enters from the landing on the stairs, so its entry is not level with the rest of the upstairs rooms. My architect Sam Binkley designed in a few stairs to help get the main part of it up high enough to still allow for the 10-ft ceilings in the areas underneath it. While I was away, the crew put hardwood flooring in that small entryway from the stair landing, and they also got in the treadboards and trimmed around this small stairwell. While Pete had told me he hoped to get the Master Bathroom finished early, so we could demolish the old one and get that problematic plumbing out of the way in the anteroom, it seems this new upstairs bathroom may have to come online first. That means I've got to get with my kitchen designer, Tim Stevenson, of Kitchen Vision here in town...we need to figure out the vanities for all the bathrooms. By the time Pete and Robert left mid-afternoon today, this bathroom's floor was almost completely tiled, except for a few tight or intricate spots. I'll add that I'm hopeful that the pace will be picking up again; it seems we've been in a three-week slowdown on the project.

Tabled Motion

While I already have a beautiful dining room table, it has proven to be less accommodating than I had hoped, thanks to its strange legs. With the size of my dining room, I've hoped to have a table that would comfortably seat 12 when needed, and the current table can only squeeze 10 people. That, plus the chairs I now have just aren't very comfortable, although I really like their look.

So, on Monday, before hitting the road for this week's work in Virginia, a lot of money got spent at Boyle's Furniture in Mocksville. I got a Bernhardt Smithsonian Collection dining room table and matching Docent's upholstered chairs (two arm and ten (!) side chairs). They sit mighty nice, and we should all be able to gather 'round the same table at next Thanksgiving's meal time.

Since there's also now this great floor-to-ceiling bay at the far end of the kitchen, I also needed to get a table and chairs there. The one that called out to me most convincingly was this little number from Theodore Alexander (picture also from Boyle's website), known as the Villa Refectory Table (item 5400-021):

Spring Has Sprung

It seems like just days ago that there was a late-winter snow event, and while it made the house look beautiful, I'll take the blooming Bradford pear and the cherry trees any day.

That means it's pretty perfect that Pete and his crew have now finished the renovation of the upstairs porch, about which there's been a previous post. The furniture is all in place, the painting and siding and trim are all done, and the flooring will inspire all comers with confidence. It looks mighty good, and I'm ready to start hanging out up there, if the rain will ever go away.

Another one of those necessary steps is now completed: the foundation drain, required by the local city code. Drain pipe has been laid all 'round the foundation of the addition, and gravel has been shoveled in. I imagine Robert, Kevin, and Trey all slept pretty darned well that night, but waking the next morning can't have been fun.

I think the trim work around windows and doors is looking amazing, and it's not even been stained and finished yet. Pete wanted to make sure we were keeping in the same style as the current interior trim, and I'd say he's nailed it (and glued it, too). This is a shot of the upper trim for the kitchen sink's window.

I've also been working on getting some of the fixtures and such, and this is the kitchen sink (from the manufacturer's website) that arrived within just a few days of my ordering it. I think I'm going to love that big, deep basin. Stylish, too, eh?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Interior Doors

The new interior doors are in and have been hung. I pretty much hate them. When you're in the original part of the house, you get to see all this amazing woodwork and these very cool old doors. Then you pass into the addition, and what I see looks just like the doors that were used in the house I grew up in: a split-foyer suburban dwelling built in the mid-60s and its ubiquitous 6-panel doors. Yuck.

Pete is promising that I'll like the final look of the doors, though. They'll get a very pretty stain, he says, and a good coat of polyurethane to bring out a bright shine in them. I'm looking forward to seeing that, because these doors are an ongoing sore sight to my eyes right now.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Overcrowding in China (Cabinet)

Y'know, I feel like I've been pretty calm throughout this project, taking things as they come and not getting too anxious for the finish line to be reached. I knew it would be involved, that there would be unforeseen complications, that any schedule or agenda is subject to the vagaries of tackling something this big and multi-faceted. But I'm getting a little more antsy about having a kitchen again. Case in point: the china cabinet in the dining room, where the temporary kitchen has been set up.

When I had to clear out the kitchen and butler's pantry over Halloween weekend so that Pete and his crew could start demolition of those areas, I needed to get everything put into a place but also try to make it accessible and workable for the six months of the project. The picture here shows how stuffed the china cabinet got, and I'm really looking forward to the day when I'm not taking everything out of one corner of it so that I can reach that particular pan, or to find the large grater, or to get to the right size storage container. There've been a couple of accidents, too, with that overcrowding. A pile of plates above came tumbling and crashed into the shelf with all my wine and martini glasses; fortunately, and miraculously, only one glass was lost. And putting away the Corningware dishes yesterday, I managed to slam one lid into the other as I maneuvered in the tight space of their resident corner and chipped off a pretty good sliver of the rim.

I'll be excited about the end of April getting here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Side Porch Progress

Quite a while ago, Pete had the fellas demolish the side of the wrap-around porch that one would mount to come up to the front door from the parking area. It was made of wood and had not survived exposure to the elements. In the meantime, it's been a nice place to store the trashcans outside, and the gas can and an old recycling barrel.

Ah, but today, Pete and the crew added a bit of brick and started positioning the pans on which, later, they'll pour, form, and set concrete so that the porch is more durable. I'm excited to see this coming along...all that traipsing through mud in the front yard has been a bit of a pain for keeping the front foyer somewhat clean!

That orange you can detect there on the supporting braces came from a Home of its utility doors that Pete had worked on. That's going to be solid, for sure.
(You do not want to be nearby when these pans are being cut to size. It is some loudness that'll make your left hand slap the manic ringing in your right ear so hard you wake up in Jersey.)
They'll have to wait until after next week's forecast rain to take the next steps of setting up the forms and pouring the concrete.

Update From March 19
We got enough good weather for Pete to call in a delivery of concrete for the side porch, so that's now completed except for some slight finishing and building the railing. We'll let the pictures tell the story:

Since the porch is not aged, I realize the finished product looks a bit industrial. But with the new rail up and a bit of weathering, it's going to fit right in with the rest of the house. The need for a solid floor base on this open and exposed porch outweighed any goals of extending the wood decking from the front portions. This also brings it more in line with the other side of the house; that part of the wrap-around porch is also concrete.

Getting Shed of It

Back in October 2003, I not only bought the amazing Roediger House. I also got the ramshackle shed that was sitting right behind it, a fine place to keep a lawnmower, gas can, fertilizer, hoses, tiki torches, and a weedeater, but not much else. (Oh, in a bag, I still have the shoes left behind by the guy who broke into my house in 2004.) The shed sat out behind the old kitchen, pushed up against the rear retaining wall, and it served (as) many a meal for the carpenter bees that buzzed around each spring.

Yesterday, Pete and the guys demolished it. Now, it's getting easier to picture the area where someday there will be a nice courtyard outside the kitchen.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Got Shown the Door

One of my hopes in the project was to bring forward into the new space some of the historical elements of the old. I mean, after all, there was a lot of beautiful woodwork and craftmanship even in the areas that were deemed worthy of demolition. So General Contractor Pete had his guys carefully remove all doors and door frames, all the trim, all the wainscoting, and so on...they've mostly been stored in the cellar while the project has proceeded.

But Pete's been giving me some stern warnings about whether we'd really be able to get the old doors to work in the new areas we're building, and I think he was going to take it pretty personally if I marred his work with trying to get old and fragile historical elements to fit into the well-planned and well-built new construction. I've gone along with most of the things he's asked us to modify, but doggone it, I really hoped we'd make the doors and some of the old woodwork, well, work.

In a maneuver worthy of Ben Matlock, Pete called me out into the addition late yesterday afternoon (not coincidentally after I came home from a long day of teaching, perhaps!). Lined up along two walls was our collection of salvaged doors, taken from the old bathrooms and closets and kitchen and butler's pantry. As you can see, there is quite a dramatic difference in their sizes, stains/coloring, and condition. Pete's point was well-made, and well-taken. We agreed that new doors will be installed in all the interior areas of the addition while keeping the original doors on a few key transitions from old/original space into new: the coat closet, the main upstairs bathroom, and the master bathroom. Let me confess that, after we worked through that hard discussion, I was sitting in one of the back bedrooms last night watching episodes of the original Star Trek series, and it struck me how beautiful the old door looked that is, for the moment, at the entrance to the newly added guest bathroom for that room. I just hate to see it go...I hate to see us not tie in better with the old house. Part of my thinking was: the doors to the new bathrooms in the guest bedrooms will be mostly observed while one sits in the old/original part of the house...seemed like a good reason to try again to get us to use original doors. I floated that idea this morning with Pete, but it's not a battle I'm going to win. But Pete does promise me that he'll make these new doors look really, really good, and I do believe he will.

But Pete was not through with me yet. He'd also had the guys line up all the trim and molding from the old doorways, all displayed on one of those bright blue tarps he hates so much, so that there it was in all its convincing glory: nothing matched up. Pete is not a careless litigator. Their conditions varied, but all that wonderful old woodwork that looked good to me back when it was in place really didn't measure up. In the end, there could be no question, between all the variation and the aged, fragile condition of it all. First thing this morning, that old trim went into the dumpster, and the old doors went up to the attic for storage. There was also no question about whether any of the old beadboard wainscoting could be used, so it was removed from the front porch and went into the dumpster as well. Does anyone join me in hating to see it all go? Could it be so wrong to hope for a new life for those elements of the original place?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting Trim

Not only did I get a haircut today, but my windows are also getting a trim. Using some really nice pieces of pine board, Pete's merry band of carpenteering experts made good progress in the kitchen and bay area toward trimming around the windows. And the result is a darned fine imitation of the existing trim in the rest of the house, so kudos to their craftsmanship, for sure. Here are a couple of shots of those windows; all that's missing here is the top crown molding, which Pete will be tracking down over the next couple of days. We're also trying to get the right look for the stain that will eventually adorn these trim boards. Right now you see them in the buff.

When I went out tonight to take a shot or two more of the trim, the dusk-timed picture helped capture what's outside the eating nook/bay windows. Maybe I'm alone in thinking it's cool, but here 'tis nonetheless, for your own consideration:

It was another starkly beautiful day today, although still chilly. (Last night's official low was 15 F; tonight should be around 18 F.) The sun did much to melt Sunday night's snow and it was fun to see icicles growing from the front gutters of the house: