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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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Flirting with HGTV

Out of the blue, a few months ago, I got an email from a production company asking if we'd be interested in approaching HGTV for a show.

Seriously??  Of course we would!  What fun!

That set off a series of phone calls, video taped interviews and follow up discussions.  The production company loved the idea that this is our 'Second Act'.  I started SoPo Cottage as an encore career - after having spent decades working for big corporations.  And even though all the other shows feature much younger hosts, they thought this was a unique angle and was worth taking forward.

Ultimately, after many many weeks, they created a 3 minute video to pitch to the HGTV execs.  That let them see how Richard, Mike from Waterhouse Builders and I interact on camera.

It was a bit unclear when the presentation would happen to HGTV, but  I have to admit, I was on pins and needles to find out how it came out.

I finally got the follow up phone call and the feedback was 1) they loved us, 2) they loved Maine and 3) they loved the old cottages and the work we're doing.  But they have way too many husband and wife shows.  They really want more extended family involvement.

Producer:  Do you think Mike could be your son or nephew?
Me:  Uh, no.  I don't think so.  And I'm not sure our daughters would appreciate suddenly having a brother!!
Producer:  Would either of your daughters want to move to Maine and work with the family business?
Me:  Nope, I don't think that's going to happen!  They are very happy with their own careers in different cities. (truth be told, I took the kids on a tour of our latest projects when they visited a few weeks ago.  Despite growing up with constant renovation projects going on,  they couldn't get out of the houses fast enough!)

So we left it at that.  She said if the kids ever come join SoPo Cottage, to be sure and let her know.  But for now, it looks like we won't have a TV career :-)  Ah well, we have enough going on already!

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Decision Overload....or How to Not Go Crazy During a Major Renovation

At this point in a project, it's always a bit stressful.  The house is torn apart, the walls are just starting to be built - and your electrician wants to know where the light fixtures will go, your plumber wants to know where the kitchen sink and gas line will be and your carpenters want to know how big to frame the doors that you haven't picked out yet.  Argh!!!!

My Pinterest Board for the Gambrel
At the same time, you have an overflowing Pinterest board, a Houzz idea board and a dog eared manilla folder with magazine clippings spilling out of it.  There is no shortage of inspiration, but you need to make the selections (without breaking your budget!).

After numerous renovations, where I felt like I didn't have the right answer at my fingertips, I created this spreadsheet to help me make sure I have the right information at the right time.  And no, you don't have to have every single light fixture picked out at the beginning of the project, but you do need to know if you want a wall sconce vs. ceiling light, because the wiring gets completed very early.

This built in medicine cabinet needs framing done before drywall 
And I need to include a note about long lead items.  Some things take a very, very long time to arrive.  For example, I'm in the process of ordering a custom, copper range hood that has a 7 week lead time.  Fancy tile can take even longer.  The same with kitchen cabinets.  So make sure and understand how long it will take to get these things, so you'll have them when you're ready.

Is it foolproof?  Hardly.  When renovating an old house, things don't usually go according to plan.  You need to be ready to make changes and substitutions, depending on the conditions you find in your house.  But it's not a bad place to start!

Hope you find it helpful!

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's All About Sunlight

When you have a house surrounded by large, mature trees, it's so peaceful.  But sometimes not as bright as I'd like in the summertime, when all the leaves are on the trees.  So we set out to change that by adding more glass to the house.

Let’s start with the front door.  The front door leads into a small vestibule that is frigid in the winter.  I don't think the front door is original, my guess is the vestibule was originally a small front porch, which was enclosed later.

I simply wanted a new front door.  A front door with lots of glass, to let in the morning sun (and see the water views!).

That's when the fun started.  Because once the guys started to replace the front door, they discovered the supports weren't sufficient.  Once they dug into them, they discovered rot.  Once they pulled that out, they discovered the joists holding the vestibule floor up were never nailed in place and were held up by a few tiny nails in the plywood (that's why it was so bouncy!!!).  Once they.... well.... you get the picture.

So now, we suddenly had a giant hole on the front of the house, what looks like a crater below it and my fancy new front door is no where to be seen.

But - I'm trying to look at the bright side!  Because while the previous owner had put nice insulated windows in the vestibule, the floor was open to the cold and sloped at a noticeable angle.  It was cold and drafty in there.  Now we're getting it all structurally sound, with lots of insulation to keep it warm in winter and it will be nice and level for my fancy new tile.

We still need to get it painted, but don't you think it's a huge improvement?  And look at the foyer?  I love seeing that beautiful sunlight streaming in the room.

View from Foyer to Living Room - Before
The other change to gain more sunlight is in the living room.  We added a new french door, right between the existing windows.  Thankfully, this wasn't as big a job as the front door.  But it made just as big an impact.  Suddenly, you have a great link to the yard as well as sunlight that you notice as soon as you come in the front door.

We're incredibly happy with the changes!  Now we just need to get them painted and finished up!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Big City Style – Design Field Trip!

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit NYC, checking out some of the latest trends in home design.  First stop – tile for our latest project.  Close to Union Square you can find some fantastic tile companies and it’s wonderful to see their entire line in a dedicated store.

The selection at Ann Sachs was amazing, but I’m not sure I can justify a $250 a square foot price tag….even if it is a beautiful blend of glass and marble!  Ultimately, the new home owner will probably appreciate nicer appliances rather than really pricey tile.
Beautiful....but worth $250/sq foot???

I saw other beautiful selections at Country Floors, Artistic Tile and others. 

But I keep going back to the selection at Walker Zanger.  This taupe and white tile for the kitchen is a great accent in a neutral colorway, so the future owner can utilize whatever accent color they want. I would use it for an accent above the stove, surrounded by white subway tile.

And I’m considering this beautiful stone mosaic for the vestibule and powder room.  But it might be too feminine for a lot of buyers.  

For the second floor bathrooms, I want to stay with a classic cararra marble.

After a day of tile shopping, I had the opportunity to attend the NY NOW show at Javits Center.  Vendors from all over the world bring their latest products to market for retailers and designers and it was such fun to check them out. 

What were the trends that caught my attention?

Color – it’s all about blue.  Lots and lots of cobalts, navy and indigo 

(with a splash of teal and sea glass blue for coastal themes).

Fur – with cold weather coming, fur seemed to be everywhere.  Pillows.  Throws.  And lots of ottomans.  Mongolian fur seems to be the biggest trend.  And it was really hard to walk by these displays, without reaching out to touch it!

Rustic/Industrial – lots of vendors carried antique look alikes, reclaimed wood items and furniture with simple lines and lots of character.  Oh, and did I mention blue???

Brass/Gold – I’ve seen a lot more brass/gold accents in catalogs and magazines lately.  And it was out in force at the show.  This isn’t the shiny, 1990’s type of brass.  Most of this is ‘antique’ with a lustrous satin finish.  I have to confess, I’m really partial to brass, maybe because it’s the finish that’s usually in the original fixtures in the homes I work on.

Kids – there were a lot of soft, muted colors for kids rooms.  Not your usual baby pink and blue – but instead, shades of gray, gold and aqua.  These patterns seemed more sophisticated than some that I’ve seen in the past.  Very tranquil and dreamy!

How much of this will show up in our next projects?  I’m still working through that (although you might see a couple of these lamps!!).

But it was so much fun to get a glimpse into the latest trends and styles that are coming our way!

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