Thursday, May 19, 2016

Barn Doors

It was months ago when I put together the Inspiration Wall, trying to decide what ideas I wanted to include in the Cherished Bungalow.  One idea I really wanted to explore was a barn door.  And when we held the 'Before' Open House to solicit input on the house plans, it seemed to resonate with many of you as well.

We've done a barn door before (it's in our store in Willard Square) and have learned first hand some of the limitations that come with them.  For example, I would never use a barn door where you want a real sound barrier (i.e. for a bathroom), because there is a gap between the door and the wall that is required for it to slide.  You also need a wall of equal size next to the door, so there is room to open it fully.  That means you can't have any furniture or artwork on that wall.  When you start putting those parameters in place, it can reduce the places you can install a barn door pretty quickly.

But they also have some real advantages.  For example, they don't swing into the room, so you can place furniture very close to them. And best of all, they look fantastic!!

In our house, the big closet in the master bedroom is a great spot for barn doors.  We can center them on the far wall and of course no sound proofing is required for a closet!

With lots of reclaimed lumber from the big hole we cut in the roof, this seems like a natural application for it.  So last week, we got started building them.

Keith and I started by looking at some of the boards and picking the ones that we thought would look good together.

Once we had the layout, he got to work.  He started by cleaning up the edges, so we could get them good and tight.  Then he added a 'Z' frame, to hold them all together.

He did all the fastening from the back, so you won't see any screws.

Once they were all assembled, we clamped them up and let them dry.

I took on the task of sanding them - a bit tricky since we want to maintain that antique patina, but don't want any splinters or rough surfaces.  Warning:  you will get lots of splinters in your fingers during this step!!!  Next step, I'll seal them.  I had planned on doing an oiled finish, but my test board came out way too dark - and the wood lost some of the subtle shading that I like so much.  I did a test with a new product - Zar Ultra Max (found it at Hammond Lumber).  It's a water based poly with an oil resin - sort of the best of both worlds.  I used a sheen called Antique Flat and it looks fantastic.  Once I get that done, we'll store them away until the end of the project and they're ready for hanging!

Won't they be great?

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Monday, May 16, 2016

And Starts Looking Like a Home!

That moment......when you realize the 3 long months of messy, dirty construction aren't going to last forever..... and you see a glimpse that it's going to be the wonderful home you knew it could be.  We've turned the corner!!!    The transformation is starting to look like a reality and the place is looking great!

With the electrical, plumbing and inspections completed, the drywall guys got to work and we have new walls.  It was a tricky job, thanks to all the angles from the roofline.  Lots of measure twice - cut once!

I do love to see a man on stilts!!  That takes far more coordination than I will ever have!!

After a quick coat of primer, the entire second floor is looking fresh and clean.  And with all the new windows and the skylights, it's such a light, bright space.

The loft at the top of the stairs
Front bedroom 
New dormer bedroom
The first floor didn't have as much drywall work - but there was a lot of wall patching to be done, where the walls were removed.  Now you can see how nicely the rooms flow together.

Before - staircase is in the corner on the right
Don't you love the staircase?  Look at these two photos - they were taken from the same angle! The old staircase was hidden in what looked like a closet in the corner of the dining room.  Now it's open to the whole living space.   What a huge change from when we bought the house!  I think this is the biggest living/dining room that we've ever done on a project.
After - staircase is opened up with walls removed

Staircase now opens into the large living room
The floors have been patched - ready to be refinished.  We'll have them sanded and have a first coat of finish put down, so we can start the kitchen.  The final finish will be just before the Open House.
Kitchen is next room to be done!
Hasn't it come a long way?  Stay tuned - lots of exciting stuff to come!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Buttoning up the Exterior

In our latest installment on how to overspend on a renovation, we focused on the new dormer.  To balance some cost overruns in other areas, we planned to do simple siding and a rolled roof on the low pitch dormer.  Since the house sits up on a hill, we figured you wouldn't really see the dormer or its roof.

But that's where the problem came in.  Because, as we stood on the street looking up at the house, we couldn't stand the thought that we'd offset the beautiful shingled original dormer with basic siding.  And the original dormer has woven shingles on the corners - the most expensive style you can install, due to lots of extra labor that's required for a watertight seal.

Another point: rolled roofing really only has a lifespan of 5 years or so......we want something that will be better for the future homeowner.  Add that to the threat of ice dams in our snowy climate (even though we super insulated the roof and walls) and a metal roof makes a whole lot more sense.

So, you guessed it, we went with the most expensive option for siding and roofing.  Sigh - this is why our profit margin is always so tiny.  

The guys got started by trimming out the windows and fascia.  They did a fantastic job of matching the original trim on the house - but in low maintenance PVC that won't suffer from the elements like wood.  

Then the roofing team from Affordable Roofing and Liberty Roofing came in. The standing seam roofing is a color called dark slate (made in the USA!) that really compliments our shingles - even though you'll never really see it, because the house is so tall.

Crimping the finished metal roof edge
And finally, the guys installed the primed cedar shakes.  This is exacting work.  Each shingle gets marked and nailed into place.  And at the corners, they hand scribe each shake, to weave the open end with multiple layers - eliminating the possibility of water penetration.

They also trimmed out the new front dormer egress window and repaired the cedar shakes.  It looks better than ever!  And did you notice our new front door?  It's painted a Benjamin Moore color called Sunflower Fields.

It's still a bit to chilly here in Maine to paint the new cedar shakes.  But hopefully as spring really takes hold and the temperatures warm up, we'll get the cedar shakes painted to match the rest of the house.  It really will be a thing of beauty!!
Before and After:  quite a change, don't you think? 

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Big Luxury Bath Design

Typically, when we do a bathroom in one of these old houses, it's a tiny space and we're scratching our heads to figure out how to squeeze in the basic plumbing fixtures.  So I was pretty excited with this house! By old house standards, this is a huge space and we really want to make it special. We want it to have a spa like feel, with a big soaking tub and separate shower.

Ha ha - see the cardboard toilet!!!!
The bathroom is at the back of the house and includes the original hip roofed dormer.  This gives us lots of funky ceiling heights and angles to work with.  The tricky part was figuring out how we could fit 4 bathroom fixtures in there.  While the footprint seems big, the angled ceilings really limit headroom.  We started with cardboard cut outs and kept moving them around, until we came up with a design that worked.

After lots of experimentation, this design really meets all our needs!!
Final bathroom design
Space before - I bumped my head on that beam many times!
Now we can have the freestanding tub, a separate shower, as well as the toilet and vanity. To do that, we reframed a good bit of the room, to provide ample headroom and structural integrity.  The guys installed knee walls to frame up the room and make the spaces useful.

Reframed to add lots of headroom
Drywall installed

I'm so excited about the tub - it will look fantastic sitting in the dormer space!  The perfect spot to relax in a hot bubble bath!
One of the biggest design trends out there are hexagonal tiles - and I just LOVE them!  They're a great take on a classic design.  These will be the perfect look for our bath.  I've ordered the large format for the floor.  I'm thinking about incorporating some of the small ones in the shower.....but am still thinking that through.

The vanity has lots of storage with drawers and a large center cabinet.  I love the marble top and the bun feet!

 For the faucet, I wanted a blend of traditional - with a modern twist.  This American Standard set really fit the bill.  Love the tall cross handles!!!   

And last but not least, we're going to incorporate some of our reclaimed wood on the far wall of the dormer.  With all the 'cold' surfaces - stone, ceramic, marble, porcelain - we need some antique wood to warm it up!  

Can't wait to get it done!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Walkability - a Major Trend in Buyer 'Must Haves'

Talk to any realtor and you'll hear a new buzzword.  'Walkability' is becoming part of the vocabulary for their buyers.  Maybe it's the crazy lives we all lead, or the desire to be more environmentally responsible, but many people want to be able to walk to shops, parks and restaurants. It's certainly high on the buyer's 'must have' list  for a new home.  And it makes a difference in a home's value.  The Brookings Institute finds that it can have a dramatic impact on the price people are willing to pay.

Do you know the Walk Score of your house?   There is a website that will give you a walkability score.  You simply type in your address and it gives you the walk score.  Not surprisingly, New York City tops the list in the US with a score of 88.  But many cities score much, much lower.

So, I was curious how our neighborhood stacked up.  At first glance, when you look at South Portland, you discover it's not very walkable - it has a score of 40.  It's classified as 'car dependent'.  A walkability that low means you need a car to get around.

Spring Point Lighthouse and Fort Preble at the end of Willard Beach
But when I type in the address for our project, the walkability shoots up to 51.  That's 'somewhat walkable' - and they don't even take into account that Spring Point Lighthouse, Bug Light lighthouse and Willard Beach are all less than a 15 minutes walk.  It's also close to the 'Greenbelt' which is a walking and biking path that runs across South Portland and will eventually connect to the Eastern Trail, providing off road routes all the way to Portsmouth, NH.

Willard Beach on a bright, crisp day
Personally, a walkable neighborhood is incredibly important to us. We want to walk to shops, restaurants, the beach.  We see it as an important quality of life element.  Do you want to live in a walkable neighborhood?  And if yes, why is it important to you?

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Curb Appeal - Door Color

I'm not sure if it's spring fever or this sudden burst of warm weather, but I suddenly want a dose of color on the house.  I had originally planned to paint the front door black - but now I think we need a pop of color.

Front door before - dark purple

Dark orange

The new door is on order, but in the meantime, I painted up the old one with two shades of orange.  What's your vote?  Dark or light orange?  I'd love your opinion!

Light orange

Oh - and once spring is really here to stay, the yard will have lots of color!  Here is a picture of the front garden from last year.  Can't wait to see everything blooming!!!

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