Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Input Needed - Kitchen Design

Once again, I've used an antique door for the pantry.  This is an old one - the guess is pre 1900!  I love the big glass panels and the two wood insets below. We'll clean up the glass and add replacements where necessary.  But here's the conundrum.   I can't decide.  Should it stay in its natural state (it's a bit rough)?  Or be painted blue?  Either way, it will be a nice focal point in the kitchen.

Which brings me to the range knobs.  We're installing a Thermador gas range in this kitchen,  Thermador has an option for custom knobs, that come in their trademark blue.  I'm crazy about these knobs (they are an extra cost....I could have bought a cheap range for what they cost...but I had to have them)!!    And I'd really like to paint the door the same color.

What's your vote?  Blue?  or Antique wood?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Mother Would Be Proud.....or How to Upholster a Built in Banquette

I've been gearing up to upholster the built-in banquette for weeks.  At over 10 feet long, it's big, so it was a challenging project. And I bought the last of the fabric at the store....so if I screw it up, I'm back to the drawing board!  A bit intimidating, to say the least.

Subaru - the ultimate New England delivery vehicle!!
Kyle built the to-be-upholstered section for me a few weeks ago and brought it to my house to work on it.  I had planned to do it indoors, but it's so big the driveway made a lot more sense.

My husband thinks we provide a constant source of entertainment to the neighbors. We don't have a garage, so I frequently tackle DIY projects in the driveway. And when I'm working on a long narrow wooden box just before Halloween, well, you can see it might draw a few comments!  

So I dragged out my upholstery tools and got to work.  

First step was to apply the foam to the structure.  The 3M contact cement I used has all kinds of warnings (flammable, health, etc), I was glad I was outside!

PS - have you ever tried to cut foam rubber?  It's tricky!  But to make it easy, just pull out your old electric carving knife. (or you can get one at The Christmas Tree Shop for $7.99!)  It slices right though!

Next was to wrap it in polyester batting, to smooth the harsh edges of the foam.

And then finally, I started to add the fabric.  It's a bit tricky.  We built the banquette in sections and I needed to line up the pattern across the top and the base.  You see, my mother was an amazing seamstress.  She made lots of my clothes when I was growing up (very helpful, because I was so tall, we couldn't find anything to fit!).  And she taught me to sew as well.

One thing that she always emphasized was the need to match patterns.  She always worked hard to make sure that everything matches (and to this day, I'm sometimes shocked to see nice quality clothing, with plaids or stripes, that don't line up).  With that focus, I spent a lot of time making sure the pattern matches up.

Next steps will be to upholster the top and add the brass brads for a little extra style.  I'll do that just before installation.

And when the base was done?  Richard's first comment was 'your mother would be proud'.  Ha ha.  She would indeed.....
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting

Just say 'no' to the boob light!!!
So here's the dirty little truth about lighting.  Lighting designs change every 7-10 years.  That boob light that you installed in the 90's?  Looks ridiculous now.

The Edison bulbs that we're all so crazy about (and I do love them!)?  By 2025, we'll wonder why we wanted them so much!  And nothing dates a house like out of style lighting.

So when I'm choosing lighting for a house, I try to go with something a bit classic - but with a current style.  Because whatever I pick, it will be out of style in 10 years. (Note:  original, classic lighting can be an exception to this rule....but I rarely get lucky enough to have a house full of classic lighting.  More about that later!).

For this house, I've gone a bit overboard on lighting.  Thanks to the original antique fixture in the foyer, I'm going with brass fixtures for this house.  And I quickly learned that nice brass fixtures tend to be higher priced than other finishes.

First up?  The kitchen.  I really, really wanted spherical fixture for over the island and the banquette.  I ordered these lovelies from Wayfair, but even though I like the size and shape, the finish seemed a bit cheap, so they got sent back.

That sent me into a tizzy of fixture hunting.  After weeks of online search (what else is there to do in the evening?), I settled on these Hudson River fixtures that I found through Wayfair.  We have Hudson River lighting in our own house and I love it.  Very high quality and beautiful style.

For the dining room, I found this beautiful Hinkley fixture.  I love that it combines classic traditional style with a modern flair.

And for the living room, we have a high ceiling, so I went with this statement fixture from Ballard Designs.  So I did manage to get a spherical fixture!  Just not in the room I started with!

The bathrooms will also have beautiful lighting.  This Hudson River sconce will go in the hall bath.

And the powder room will sport these great sconces, with Edison bulbs (see, I do love them!).

And for the master bedroom, with its high ceilings?  I fell in love with the Pottery Barn chandelier.  It's iron, with brass elements.

But let's not forget vintage fixtures.  We found this really unusual fixture in the house.  I took it to the local Polishing Shop to clean it up.  And it didn't disappoint!  Can you believe how different it looks? Its a small fixture and will go in the vestibule, right inside the front door.  This is a fixture for the ages, after almost 90 years, it's still perfect in the house!

And there will be more, but isn't this a great start?

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Exterior Before & After - All the Big Changes Aren't on the Inside!

Front door before
While there is still a lot of work to be done inside the house, we've also focused on the exterior.   Tasks that could probably wait awhile in warmer climates, need to be completed before it gets too cold here in Maine.

First up - freshening up the exterior.  We started with a power wash and then got the painting done.  All the trim got a fresh coat of paint and our new doors are now sporting a lovely green.  The shutters have been painted a glossy black and give the house a classic colonial style.

And the custom whale house number from Maine Country Home in Rockland is fantastic!

We started tackling the overgrown landscape early!  


The biggest challenge on this property is creating a yard with outdoor space for living and entertaining.  This is a long, narrow corner lot with over 220 feet of road frontage.  The current 'con' is there isn't a lot of privacy or relaxing spot to enjoy the yard.  But the huge 'pro' is it has a fantastic view of the Rams Head Lighthouse - that really needs to be enjoyed!

So, we set out to focus on those areas!  

First, we added the new door off of the living room.  This provides great access to the yard and feels like an extension of the living space inside.  But we needed a place relax and entertain, so we installed a big interlocking paver patio.   This was a big job, but the guys got it done quickly and suddenly it created a quiet spot for a cup of coffee in the morning or an al fresco dinner.

And we didn't stop there - we wanted to make sure there was a spot to enjoy the lighthouse view, so we installed this  circular patio as well.  With a couple of adirondack chairs, it's the perfect spot to sit savor the view.

Next, we wanted to create a sense of space and privacy.  We started by installing a cedar picket fence around the yard.  This is a quintessential New England style and really enhances the property.  And the new owners can decide if they want to leave it natural (it will weather to a soft gray) or stain it white next spring, once it's had a chance to weather a bit (cedar is one of those woods that shouldn't be painted immediately).


That created a backdrop for landscaping!  We cleared a lot of underbrush and trimmed back some dead wood - suddenly the yard seems so much bigger!  Thanks to the mature trees around the yard, we have lots of shade.  So we focused on plants that like morning sun and afternoon shade.  Rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas are the foundation plants.  And then we added hostas and coral bells for pops of perennial color.  Finally, we planted a climbing hydrangea on the new privacy fence, next to the patio.  This will provide beautiful big white blossoms next summer.

We're trying to get some grass to grow, before the snow flies.  But it's a pretty big change, don't you think??

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Gracious Gambrel: Kitchen Design

Now for the fun stuff!!!  This is the largest kitchen we've ever had to work with and it's been a blast!  

For overall style, this is a rather formal, traditional house.  So we wanted something a bit elegant - with lots of beautiful details.  I've poured over Pinterest and Houzz and lots of magazines to come up with some ideas.  My favorite inspirations:
Shingle Style
I love the white cabinets, light palette on backsplash and counters and the dark island.  Gorgeous!
Walnut and White
This kitchen echoes the long lines of our kitchen.  Again, the light palette and the dramatic pendants and range hood are beautiful.

And from Maine Home & Design, I loved this Kennebunkport kitchen.  The stove and hood centered on the back wall is a dramatic focal point.  And I swoon over that black island!

So after thinking through different ideas, I came up with 3 concepts and tested them at the 'before' Open House that we held in July.  

Option 1 - an updated version of the previous kitchen.  Stay with the previous layout - but replace the peninsula with a freestanding island.  And leave room for a kitchen table and chairs.

Option 2 - Modify the layout and include a built-in banquette in the corner, to provide room for family meals.  I was inspired by this photo from a Better Homes & Gardens Dream Kitchens magazine and have been carrying it around with me for months.

Option 3 - Maximize the cabinets and include a giant island.  This would provide lots of room for casual dining, surrounding the cook.

And the winner is?  Option 2.  While there was interest in the other two options, most people liked the idea of a built in seating space and the seating at the island.  One woman fondly recalled her childhood, when the whole family would sit together at the banquette and talk about their day.  Doesn't that sound wonderful?  With that and the island, it provides a nice combination of seating that works for families and guests.

Just ignore the giant pile of debris in the middle of the room!
With that decided, I had to nail down the rest of the selections.  Kitchen cabinets are a very long lead item and I had to have them defined early.  So while all the crazy demolition was going on, I was in the kitchen looking at cabinet and color samples!

I'm using Thomasville painted cabinets, that were ordered in a Pearl finish, with a center island in Black (yup, I loved those inspiration photos!).  For countertops, I'm using a quartz that looks like granite, with flecks of black, blue/gray and bits of mica.  The backsplash focal point that will go over the stove is this gorgeous Walker Zanger tile called Tilt.  The banquette will be upholstered in the beautiful taupe and khaki geometric and the paisley will be valances on the windows.

And to really give the stove wall focal point status, I've ordered a custom stove hood in an antique bronze.  It has a 7 week lead time and I can't wait to see what it will look like!  Here's a similar hood that the folks at Copper Kitchen Specialists will be making for us.

Of course it's always hard to tell how it's going to look until everything comes together.  But here are a few illustrations.

I can't wait to see how it all comes together!  We've still got a lot of work to do, before the finished product.  But we're pretty happy with the design!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Project Update - Rebuilding is Complicated

We’ve made lots of progress in the last few weeks, as the talented teams from Waterhouse Builders and Elldee Electric started putting the place back together.  And as usual, there's been good news and bad news.
View across foyer to kitchen - before
Let's start with the first floor and some good news - there are lots of changes!  As you enter the foyer, you see the newly opened floor plan.  We expanded the kitchen doorway, and now you can see across the entire first floor.   What a difference!

View now - open floor plan with clear sight lines from kitchen to living room
Looking from kitchen to dining and living room - before
You don't feel like you're isolated in the kitchen anymore!

1980's kitchen
And the kitchen has gotten a lot of updates.   We eliminated the old kitchen peninsula with the space stealing upper cabinets and the room feels twice as big. 

But we ran into some complications.  As we opened up some of the walls, we discovered why the floor slanted down towards the old refrigerator.  The beam across the ceiling was held up with a 2x4 that landed on a wimpy 1x6 in the basement - no place to transfer the load, hence the sagging floor.  

The guys put new load bearing joists in the basement, to support the load.   And to hide that big beam, we opened up the floor above and inset the new LVL so it will be hidden in the ceiling.  A big job that required tearing out the ceiling and floors – but worth it!

New recessed support LVL 
But structure is just part of the kitchen story.  We’ve completely rewired the kitchen,  putting in all new lighting and outlets as we prepare for the new kitchen design.  Now we’ll have recessed lights, island lights and undercounter lights.  Those 3 layers of lighting will make a big difference!  And knob and tube wiring is a thing of the past, throughout the entire house.

To the left of the foyer, the dining room feels dramatically different.  We opened up the interior 'window' to create a new opening to the living room, which gives the space a much more cohesive feel.  Plus we have a circular flow that will make this a fabulous party house!
Circular floor plan!
And do you see the difference the new exterior door makes?  It helps link everything to the outdoors!

In the living room, we raised the floor and now the room feels so much more connected to the rest of the house.  Plus, now that you're at a higher elevation, you can see out of the windows to enjoy water views from the front window.  We watched a sailboat drift by this afternoon – so lovely! 

Upstairs, we have even more changes.  The new 4 bedroom floorplan is becoming a reality.  Of course we had to take out a lot of the old framing, before we could get started.  Now, it feels like such a big space!
Rewiring in progress!!!
We restructured the landing to add a short hallway to the new bedroom and family bath.  These two bedrooms have a similar layout and at 11 x 11, they’re a nice size.  Bedroom 3 is still the largest of the rooms and we added a nice big closet.
But the room that gets me the most excited is the master bedroom.  You can see the difference as soon as you walk through the door.  The bedroom is a big open space, with plenty of room for a king size bed and more.  The new master bathroom will be amazing - with a large shower, double vanity and the vaulted ceiling. 


Look at those high ceilings!!
Master bedroom before
Master suite during

West Wall - Before
West Wall - During 
Of course we've had our share of drama.  The plumbing has given us some real challenges (which translates into lots of money).  We had to move the washing machine and dryer, to meet building code requirements.  When my plumber cut into the old waste lines, we got a nasty surprise.  Years of accumulated crud had built up in the pipes.  And while he could have just snaked them clean, the rot had already started and would present a problem for the new homeowners in the future.  So instead, they tore out the old lines and replaced them with shiny new PVC.  Most of this will end up behind walls, but it's important for the integrity of the house!

And we've added some new steam radiators.  The 1980's addition had electric heat.  We want to link it to the boiler for the whole house, so Dominic has been busy laying new steam lines.  This requires some old school techniques, that you don't get to see much anymore!

We just passed inspections (woo hoo!) and it's on to  drywall.  I'll have a lot more progress to share soon!

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