Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cozy Cottage: Master Bedroom Plan

For each house we renovate, I create imaginary owners as I start to decorate.  It might seem silly, but it gives me something to go with, as I choose colors, products and décor for each room.  In this house, I’m pretending the new owners will be a young couple with a little boy.  That helps me create each space – especially the bedrooms and bonus space in the basement. (BTW - I've NEVER guessed the future owners correctly!! You'd think I could get it right at least 10% of the time.  But no!  This is why I don't play the lottery!)

Master Bedroom Before
Unlike the rest of the house, we aren’t making big changes to the footprint of the bedrooms.  But we want to make them lighter and brighter and provide some of the character that we're adding to the rest of the house.  As you’ve seen in previous posts, we’ve changed out all the windows.  That was a nice first step.

Ranch (or clamshell) molding
We removed all the old ‘ranch’ molding (sometimes also called clamshell molding).  I wish it was an easy job, but for baseboards, the old school method was to install the molding  first and then the flooring was done over top of it.  That means you have the tedious job of cutting all the baseboard level with the floor and then dig it out.  Ugh!

Ranch molding is the cheapest molding available and was used a lot in the 60’s and 70’s.  I’m not sure why, but I HATE this molding.    It just has no character or architectural interest (although this is a 1960’s rancher, so it's historically appropriate J ) Instead, we’ll add a head casing and trim that’s similar to what you find in other cottages and bungalows in the area.  It’s hard to believe how much difference something this simple can make – but wait till you see it!

I’ve also ordered all new doors. – the old hollow luan doors have been donated to Habitat for Humanity.  And again, taking cues from old homes in the neighborhood, we’re installing simple 2 panel doors.  To make them a bit more special, I’ve ordered these knobs from Nostalgic Warehouse. These are going to really be a wow factor!

For the master bedroom, I reworked this headboard from a previous project and covered it with this tailored navy fabric from Ballard Designs.  To dress it up a bit more, I'll add giant nailheads around the perimeter.   

For bed linens, I’ll be using this West Elm Nomad quilt, shams and throw, to give it a warm, cozy feel.   This needs to be a room you can relax in.
And for the window treatments, we'll use these soft sheers from IKEA - we want to maximize the light coming into the room!  

I’ve agonized over the light fixture.  We don’t have high ceilings, but I want something with some character.  So, I’ve ordered two different lights from Wayfair.  The first is a bit more practical and is flush mount to the ceiling.  

The second is more of a ‘wow’ and I really love it.  But it’s possible it will make the ceiling feel lower – so we’re going to try them them  out, once we get the room finished.  Stay tuned for the decision! 

I'd love to show you a progress photo of the room, but we have so much stuff stored in there - you can't even get in the door!  Hopefully the other rooms will be done soon and we can clean this room out!!

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Interior Update - Lots of Progress Inside!!

So much has happened in the soon-to-be Cozy Cottage, that it seemed like a good time for an update. And the theme for all the changes - 'Let in the Light'.  We've added a lot of light enhancing features, to completely change what was a dark, dreary house.

Of course one of the first steps was to update the electrical in the house.  Soon we will have lots of recessed LED lighting to bathe the living space in light.  Plus a couple of amazing pendants will go over the kitchen peninsula.

But we want natural light as well.  Thanks to the new windows we installed throughout, we’ve changed the feel of the whole house.  There is a lot more light and the 2 over 2 panes give it a cottagey feel.  Best of all, they are a whole lot more energy efficient than the old ones that were held together with packing tape!
The new windows bring in so much more light!
Remember the antique leaded glass window I found at the Brimfield Antique Market?  The guys reframed the opening to fit and it's going to look fantastic!  We've wired the interior for a recessed light and we'll install glass shelves.  It will make the whole thing glow.  

Bathroom - Before
Without any windows, the bathroom was really dark.  I LOVE natural light in a bathroom, but was reluctant to put a window in the shower (always a maintenance issue and a bit awkward to boot!).  I’d seen the VeluxSun Tunnel at a trade show and thought it would be good to try one.  Boy am I glad I did!!!  What a difference!  

Bathroom - gutted, before Velux Sun Tunnel

Before the Sun Tunnel, the bathroom was dark!!

Now, it’s as if there is a light on in there all day – it’s really brighter than the rooms with regular windows.  And once we put the diffuser on, it will soften the light a bit, so we don’t get bands of light like you see below.   We’ve also moved some of the plumbing fixtures around, to improve headroom in the basement and provide new built-in storage.

Bathroom with Velux Sun Tunnel
Speaking of windows, we removed the fixed, horizontal window in the back bedroom and have replaced it with a large window that capitalizes on the view of the backyard.  It changes the cave like feel of this room and makes it feel completely different!  I can’t wait to get it painted a lighter color and furnished!

Such a nice view of the giant backyard!!!

The basement is getting closer to being a finished space.  It’s nice and dry with our new perimeter drain and the walls, electrical and plumbing are all in.   I can’t wait to see how this new found space changes the livability of the house!
There is a lot of living space in the basement! The space on the left can be a legal 3rd bedroom.

Since the sills of a basement (the space right above the foundation) can often have lots of air leaks, we decided to have the insulation team install spray foam insulation, to block out any potential cold air.   This will also keep our water pipes nice and warm. 
Foam insulation along the sills of the house, to keep it snug and warm.

Oh, and look at that laundry room (okay, maybe it doesn't look like much at this point, but it will be a thing of beauty soon!). 

With electrical and plumbing done, we completed all our inspections.  That let us complete the insulation.
Living Room

Future kitchen

Now it’s on to drywall!  But can you believe all the progress we've made???  
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Improving Curb Appeal for a 1960's Rancher

Okay.  So look at it.  Would you even slow down as you drove by??  Is this a house you'd want to make an appointment to come see when it goes on the market?  It's kind of bland and blah.....and seems stuck in the 1960's.

We need to improve the curb appeal of this house.  It looks tired, a bit disheveled and is hidden behind the big trees out front (Seriously, tree branches shouldn't be touching the house!).  Since the exterior view is the first thing future buyers will see, we need to jazz it up a bit!

Here's the plan:

With so many ideas, I put together a little mock up, to try the out  (I know I know,  it would have been a good idea to do it on a day when no one was working on the roof....but you get the idea!).

We started working through the list pretty quickly.  The new front porch really gave the front facade some character.

Next, we started putting in the new windows.  I know people usually replace windows to get more energy efficiency (and we certainly need that).  But look at the difference of the new 2 over 2 windows on the right side, compared with the old window on the left.  See how much it changes the look?  And inside, the new windows bring in so much more light!!

New windows make a HUGE difference, compare right to left!
Next, we did some pruning on the trees, to let some more light in.  We are really lucky to have an elm tree in the front yard.  Dutch elm disease nearly wiped out most of the elms in the US.  Our tree guy was so excited to see it and pruned it up into a classical elm 'vase' shape.

This week, Richard and I power washed the house and applied a product called Vinyl Renu - it's pretty amazing.  We got off all the old oxidation and it brings back the color and sheen to the siding.  It's supposed to last 10 years - nice!

Left side with Vinyl Renu - right side without
I just ordered this Pottery Barn mailbox (one of my favorites, you may recognize it from another project).  We'll be adding it and the new light fixtures soon.

But for now?  Well, we think the curb appeal is already improved....but we still have some more work to do!  

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Big City Style - Home Show

We just got back from our annual trip to the New York home show - featuring upcoming trends in home and lifestyle products.  It's always a highlight of my summer, I love getting to check out the latest and greatest in home interiors!!!

Now, from what I've been reading, the trend towards white rooms is fading.  Color is supposed to be the new norm.  With that in mind, I expected to see a lot of new colorful styles.

But I didn't.  What I did see was a lot of natural materials, fibers, and muted color.  There was still a lot of white, but it was complimented with warm wood tones and textures.

You've probably heard this Danish term recently - Hygge.   The Dutch have a different word - gezellig.  There is no direct English translation, but essentially it means a warm, cozy place where you gather with family and friends.  Seriously, don't we all want a gezellig house? 


Last year there was a lot of navy - and I saw it again this year.  Good thing, I LOVE navy!  You'll be seeing a lot of it in our new project house.
Love this silk rug!!!

Oh, and there was a lot of brass.  I guess those predictions of brass going away are a bit premature.  And there were also splashes of blush pink.  Not a lot of color - but it's something!

So where do you think design is moving?  Still lots of white?  Or is color going to make a resurgence?
You'll be seeing this light in one of our projects soon!!

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Basement Update - There's a Lot of Living Space Down There!!!

Wow, thanks so much to all of you for ideas on what we should do with the Cozy Cottage basement.  I really appreciate it and you gave me a lot to think about!

Here's your feedback.  Looks like almost everyone likes the idea of finishing the basement. That certainly goes with my inclination as well.  With a small house, this is valuable square footage that can really be helpful for the new owners.  Here's a breakout of all the input:  

And after working through all the feedback, here are a couple of thoughts:

  • Lots of people suggested putting the laundry upstairs.  While I would love that, there simply isn't a place to put it, without compromising the kitchen or bath space. So we'll just have to make the basement laundry a nice one.
  • A bathroom is a great idea, we just need to determine where all the existing plumbing is under the slab, to see what we can practically tie into
  • Based on all the different ideas to use the space, it seems like final use will depend a lot on the age and interests of the future buyers. So I'll just finish the space generically and they can customize it to suit their needs. 
  • Light!!!  The space needs as much daylight as possible, so I'm trying to find a way to maximize it. 

With all that in mind, we got started with the first crucial step - getting a dry basement.  Dave from Concrete Prescriptions has helped us on a lot of basements and this one had the usual challenges.  For example, the original house had a drainage system, but in the last 55 years, the old terra cotta drain pipes had gotten clogged up and the water had no where to go.  So as he broke up the basement slab, it looked like we had a moat around the perimeter.  See all that concrete and dirt?  It's back breaking work, to carry it out, but it's a crucial first step.
Yeah.....that's a lot of water trapped down there!

But once he had the sump pit dug and new drainage lines installed (with lots of gravel, drainage pipe and a fabric membrane, to eliminate clogging in the future), the water level immediately receded.  And within 24 hours, the basement started feeling a whole lot nicer and drier.  What a huge difference it made!
The new drainage makes all the difference.  After a heavy rain, it's still nice and dry!
Dave had uncovered the plumbing lines under the slab, so we could start figuring out where a basement bathroom could go.  It's critical that the drain lines have the appropriate pitch, so we won't have any plumbing issues.  We discovered that locating the bathroom right in the middle of the room made the most sense.  Our plumber added all new drain lines and we got a thumbs up from the city inspector.  Then Dave could close up the floor with new concrete.  

With that key part of the design defined, it let me start planning the rest of the space.  And there were some key elements we had to consider.  The laundry room has similar drainage requirements as the bathroom, so the washer will be close to the bathroom.  The new boiler will need to use the existing chimney, so its location can't change much.  That defines the utility/storage space for the basement (and also houses stuff like the sump pit, water meter, oil tank, etc).

And thanks to all your suggestions and ideas, I realized the 'finished' space should really be a flex space, that the future owners can utilize to meet their needs.  So the rest of the basement will be one large room.  On one side, we'll have the egress exit, so that could be a future 3rd bedroom, if someone wanted it (that includes it's own lighting, thermostat, etc).  Otherwise, they could keep it as a big open room. Lots of flexibility for a family room, home office, playroom, etc!

Dave used a 'wet' chain saw to cut the concrete block
But I still want to get natural light in there.   That will make the space so much nicer!  After looking at the options, we decided to go with 3 different daylight sources.  1)  We increased the window size on one wall, where the exterior grade was lower 2) we're going to use a clear plexiglass type bulkhead egress door (more about that later) that will stream light into the room, and 3) we're adding a window in the stairwell.  All that light should make a difference!
The new window is a lot bigger than the original!
Look at all that light!!!

Next, we set about insulating the space.  While a basement tends to stay at a constant 55 degrees, it's important to insulate the walls to eliminate any condensation - particularly during the humid summer months.  The guys applied 2" rigid foam all around the perimeter.  This is over top of a vapor barrier that drains down into the perimeter drain, ensuring any moisture that comes through the walls is channeled directly to the drain.  This will make for a very comfortable space in any season.  The studs are added in front of the foam, so electrical and plumbing can all be accommodated. And later we'll have closed cell foam blown in at the sills, to really make this warm and tight!

Future laundry room!
We still need electrical, the rest of the plumbing, walls and more.  So it will be awhile before I can show you finished space - but it's already such a huge improvement from our starting point.  And most importantly, we're doing the necessary infrastructure work to make it a bright, comfortable and dry space. Great progress!!  

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