Monday, July 30, 2012

It All Started With Tile - It's Time to Choose Colors!

When designing a new space, I always urge people to choose the paint color last.  Start, instead, with your color inspiration for the space.  This can be a piece of artwork, fabric, or furniture.   Or in my case, the glass/stone tile that I'll be using for the backsplash in the kitchen - it's setting the palette for the whole first floor.  With our open floor plan, it's good to have a cohesive color scheme.

After visiting 6 different tile stores (no wonder Richard refuses to come with me), I finally decided on this beautiful horizontal tile.  Don't you love the mix of colored glass and carerra marble?  The shimmery glass will provide a great focal point on the wall behind the stainless steel stove and chimney hood.  And it looks fantastic with the white Martha Stewart kitchen cabinets.  The combination of steel blue/gray, sea glass and light taupe are perfect for creating a neutral palette for the new owners.  Best of all, the colors seem to change depending on the light in the room - adding a great dimension as the sun angle changes during the day.

With the glass tile sample in hand, I started hunting for some fabric, to bring in a little more color and provide some bright accents.  I fell in love with the Braemore fabric (top photo) in the remnant bin at Home Remedies in Portland.  The fabric builds on the light taupe background and adds a rich chocolate brown as well.  Best of all - it has a punch of moss green that will make a great accent.  And this coordinating upholstery fabric has stripes of taupe with chenille dots of the green and blue.  Love the nubby texture of this heavy fabric!

Once I brought all these colors together, it was time to pick the wall color.  I like having lots of choices, so I got out my fan decks from Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams (BTW - if you prefer one brand over the other, they can always mix whatever color you need.  That way you can buy all your paint at one place).   After lots and lots of deliberation, I finally decided on Sedate Gray - which looks more like a light taupe to me.  It's one of the new HGTV colors at Sherwin Williams.  Once we have some of the drywall up and primed, I'll be painting a large sample so we can test it out in the space.  Can't wait to see how it looks!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hazardous Material Testing - Lessons Learned

When we bought the Diamond in the Rough, everyone pointed out the 9" x 9" tiles that covered all the floors on the 2nd floor.  Everyone's conclusion - they're asbestos.  And of course that creates a major problem, since asbestos has been known to cause multiple lung diseases.

We started doing some research.  The University of Minnesota has a fantastic website, with lots of information.  And I found this Inspectapedia website - which includes a large library of asbestos tile photos.  Sure enough, I found some that looked pretty similar to what we have - Armstrong tiles from the 50's.

Now, there's good news and bad news regarding floor tiles.  In general, they're not 'friable', which means they're not likely to break up into tiny fragments that get airborne and can get into your lungs.  And we learned from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, that we could actually remove the tiles ourselves (if we wear respirators and properly dispose of them - of course!), as long as they come up in one clean piece and don't have a felt backing that becomes friable.  But you guessed it, that's the bad news - we have the felt backing.

Soooo..... the recommendation is to leave the tiles in place and cover them up with new, solid flooring.  That way you don't disturb the asbestos and it's encased in a new layer of flooring.  But we could see in the closets that there are beautiful fir floors underneath.  It seemed such a shame to cover them up.  They would be beautiful and much more appropriate in an old house!

So when our electrician, Dan Flynn, pointed out that they didn't look like the asbestos tiles he saw in his hazardous materials training, it got us to thinking.  And we realized we needed to find out for sure.  We went online and found one of the national testing labs.  They gave clear instructions for gathering a sample of our flooring.  We sent it in (and despite having waited 6 weeks to do this, I suddenly had to have the results right away and payed the up charge for a 48 hour turnaround)  with our check for $120 and waited for the results.

What did we find out?  Dan was right!!!  There is no asbestos.  Just think, we almost covered up those beautiful floors!  Lessons learned - for something key like this, that has a real impact on the safety of the home, do the proper testing and learn what you have.  Now we're making plans to have the floors refinished.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Keeping Warm.... Before Winter Gets Here!

Okay, so it's been a really hot summer.  But this is Maine and winter will be here before we know it.  So it's critical that we do everything we can to seal this house up and make it toasty warm for the new owners.

First step:  We've started replacing all the windows.  There were only 5 original windows, but we quickly saw that the replacements that were in the place were already starting to fail.  So we're replacing all of them - a big task!

Next step:  The most important thing is to improve the insulation in the house.  We have some key areas that we need to attend to.  The kitchen walls have been opened up to add the new plumbing and wiring.  And of course the front porch is now interior space and needs to be insulated.  Last but not least, we need to improve the attic insulation.

We looked at several options, but decided that blown in cellulose makes the most sense for our application.  We called the folks from Quality Insulation, Inc and they came out and quickly got to work.

It's a fascinating process to watch.  Here's what they did:

1)  They start by stapling a fabric mesh on all the interior studs.  This creates a cavity that they can fill with the cellulose

2)  Next they take out miles and miles of hose that they can pull all over the house.

3)  They grind up the bales of cellulose (which, by the way is 85% recycled!) with a giant auger in the truck.

4)  And then they insert the hose into slits they've cut into the mesh.  It's a messy job, but the walls quickly start to fill up.  The wall thickness varies in our house, but the wall insulation factor will range from R17- R23.

5)  When they're done, the walls look a bit puffy and provide a lot of sound insulation - as well as thermal benefit!

6)  Finally, they used a long PVC tube to insert the hose all across the attic to fill all the nooks and crannies.  Most areas got 18 inches of insulation, which translates to an R value of 60.  That should make a big difference to the heating bills!

We're ready for winter, even if it is in the 90's now!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Curb Appeal Update - Wow!

While not yet complete, I just had to share the dramatic transformation that's taking place on the front of the house.  I had great expectations for changing the facade of the house, but the reality is better than I had hoped.  Love, love, love the new look!

Initial Design Concepts
What do you think?  Will people want to come see it?  Or is it still a drive by?

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Designing a Coastal Cottage Powder Room

The powder room is always one of my favorite rooms to design.  There's a unique challenge in coming up with a beautiful room in such a small space.  That's no different for our Diamond in the Rough.  The new powder room is roughly 5' x 5'.  And we can do a lot in that space!

We're starting with a tumbled marble floor in a basket weave pattern.  That will provide a hard working surface for the home owners, but with an upscale look.   It's a classic design, but the hints of green and blue give it a more contemporary look.

I'm crazy about this vanity.  It continues the beadboard styling that we're using on the front door of the house and in the kitchen.  But it's in a rich, espresso finish.  And the top is made of tempered glass!  It's got a green/blue backing to it which provides a beautiful look for the space.  Best of all - it provides some much needed storage as well.

We've got an oval mirror for above the vanity, flanked by bright sconces.

And finally, we're going to continue the nod to the house's proximity to the water, by papering the back wall with old nautical charts.  It ties in the taupe, blue and green that we're using in the rest of the house with a one of a kind design (I've been haunting yard sales for old charts for months to get enough for the wall!)

When can we get started?  The drywall goes in this week, so hopefully we can start putting the room together soon!

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Infrastructure is Expensive.....but Necessary. Or Why I Can't Spend More of Our Budget on the Fancy Stuff!

'Congratulations, you win the prize' is what Steve our electrician told me.  Now, you know that can't be good..... and sure enough, it was the prize for the most corroded electrical panel they'd seen in a long, long time.  Water had been running through the thimble, bringing water into the box for years - leaving a rusty mess.  But this week, the power company turned off power and the team from Elldee Associates Electric installed all new service.

Now, would I rather be spending our improvement budget on sexy appliances or exotic plumbing fixtures?  Absolutely, but if we don't get all the stuff that goes behind the walls right, this house won't be safe for its new owners.

So, here's where a big chunk of our budget went:

-  New electrical service and all new wiring for the new kitchen and baths.  And while grounded outlets don't seem exciting, when the new owners go to plug in their 3 prong outlets for their computers and tv, they'll be glad to have them!

-  A french drain in the basement.  We had record breaking rain in June, which quickly resulted in big puddles in the basement - particularly in an odd concrete trench that was in the back of the basement (Which, by the way, we've all stepping in at some point and gotten wet up to our ankles).  The 'crackologists' from Concrete Rx came out and dug a trench around the entire basement. filled it with drainage pipes and crushed stone, installed 'dimple board' on the walls to catch any new water, and put a sump pump in the corner to whisk it all away.  It's a big job and a big budget item.  But it's guaranteed to keep the basement dry for 25 years!

Crackologists at work
Dimple Board is so cool!

-  Plumbing!  Lots and lots of plumbing, because Dominic from Succhinis Plumbing & Heating has replaced virtually every bit of plumbing in the house as he helped create two new bathrooms and moved the laundry from the basement to the 2nd floor.  We're also doing upgrades to the heating system as we try to convert from oil to gas.  That's introducing some logistical challenges that we're trying to work through.
Dominic and Richard Surveying the Heating System

So, all this behind the floors and ceilings work isn't something that a future buyer will notice as they walk in the door, but it will result in a huge improvement to safety and functionality!

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cupola Road Trip

The detached garage at our Diamond in the Rough is quickly becoming my pet project.  Maybe it's because the house is in various stages of demolition and it just seems so nice in comparison.  But now that it's sporting new garage doors, new moldings and bright white trim, I think it's looking pretty good (of course you have to cock your head just the right way, to see around the port-a-potty and the dumpster.  Oh, and I have multiple paint samples painted on the doors.  But with a little imagination, you get the idea).

But it still needs something else to dress it up and I've been searching for a deal on a cupola.  But they're really, really expensive.  So imagine how excited I got when I saw one on Craigslist for $450!  It's a few years old, but has never been used and the owner is tired of having it take up space in his garage.  We agreed on a price (bargaining is part of the fun with Craigslist) and I made arrangements for the two hour drive north to pick it up.

That's when the trouble started.  You see, my husband isn't convinced we really need a cupola.  In the grand scheme of things, he thinks there are better ways to spend money improving the house.  Okay, so that might be true, but I was quick to point out what a screaming deal this is.  A bargain hunters dream - I had to have it.  And it will look sooooo nice up on the garage.  And who cares if it's a couple hour drive north to pick it up.

That's when it got crazier.  He didn't think I should drive up there alone to get it.  He wanted to go with me.

So here's the thing.  Now that we're made this big career change, we're working together 24x7.  That's right, we're together constantly.  Think about that.  Spending every single minute of every day with your spouse.  Kind of daunting isn't it?  So as you can imagine, I was really looking forward to a day trip.  Alone.  I figured we could both use a little alone time.  And now he wants to come with me!  No, no no!

So,  I pressed him on why he wanted to come.

Richard:  Because it might not be safe.

Me:  What?  Not safe?

Richard:  You don't know who this man is and you're going alone to his house.

Me: let me get this straight.  You think this is a pervert trying to lure women to his house with a bargain priced cupola???  A cupola????

Richard:  Yes.

Now, I know I shouldn't have started laughing hysterically, but come on.  How crazy is his logic!  And at this point I'd talked to this guy numerous times - he just wanted to get rid of the cupola before his big fishing trip to Moosehead Lake with his buddies.

But Richard was really serious.  So I tried my best to see it from his point of view.....but quickly gave up on that.  After all, I've traveled all over the globe on my own, without any issues.  A two hour drive just didn't seem like a big deal.  But after many years of marriage, I knew I had to tread carefully.  So I tried to keep it to a low giggle.

And after a lot more discussion (that I won't bore you with), we came up with a compromise.   I'd go alone, but I had to 1) call him when I arrived at the house and let him know if it looked unsafe (seriously, what would that look like?  I'm still trying to figure that one out!) and 2) call him when I got it loaded in the car and was heading home.

I headed north and met Randy, a very nice man who helped me load the cupola in my minivan (the perfect vehicle for Craigslist treasures!).  Randy was very happy to be gaining space in his garage.  I was very happy with my awesome bargain.  And ultimately, I think Richard was happy having a day without me driving him crazy.  Now I just need to persuade him to mount the cupola on the garage.  I'm thinking that might take awhile.....

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Curb Appeal

We've made a lot of progress improving the curb appeal of our Diamond in the Rough in the last couple of weeks.  The team from Waterhouse Builders has been out working their magic.  The old porch has been enclosed into the house, the walls/windows/doors were removed and now there is a wide open feel to the space (ha, but not quite as open as this photo!).

They've installed a brand new front door with beadboard inset and sidelights.  It really dresses up the facade.

But the most exciting change is adding the porch roof.  When I first posted a pic of the house, my friend Jeanette said the house looked like its nose was cut off.  And ever since she said that, I keep thinking the same thing.  The house is just too flat.

Load testing the overhang!
So we decided to add a porch roof.  It helps with aesthetics, but it's also practical, since it keeps people dry when they stand at the front door. We worked out the design to match up with the angles on the house.  And we've made it deep enough to cover the front landing.  So there's lots of space to get out of the rain (or snow - after all, we're in Maine!).

 But as often happens when you're working on an old house, it's created a couple of new challenges.

1) What brackets should we install on the overhang?  The guys are tired of me showing them pictures and asking their opinion.  I finally made up cardboard samples, so we could really look at the overall scale of the bracket and the roof (Richard promptly vetoed this one).  Here's the final selection, which we hope to have on site next week.

2)  The shingles under the vinyl siding look really good.  The dilemma, do they all look good, or will we find a really bad spot if we start ripping off vinyl siding?  And what's the cost differential to go back to shingles vs. keep the siding.  Not sure what we can afford to do, but a shingled cottage would look so nice!

So, we'll continue to agonize over which choice to make in the next couple of weeks.  But for now, we're really pleased with the progress!  What do you think?

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Kitchen Design is Done!

The kitchen design took a lot longer than we originally anticipated, but was worth all the time we spent.  It's going to be fabulous!

Seal Harbor Cabinets
 To get the contemporary cottage style we're looking for, we had to switch out cabinet lines and layout numerous times, for just the right look.  After multiple designs, we were able to achieve all our objectives, including:
-  a peninsula with seating
-  a wall hutch with glass doors & display space
-  ample counter space for multiple cooks
-  more light with bigger windows over the sink

We're going to use Martha Stewart's kitchen cabinets again in this house.  They looked great in our last kitchen (First Project Kitchen Pics) and the Purestyle finish looks like a painted finish - with a much more durable surface.  Best of all, they were having a big sale, so we were able to go with the upgraded Seal Harbor cabinets, for the same price as the cheaper styles! And as usual, Donna at Home Depot was a huge help as we worked through the details.

Here are some of the computer renderings of the design.  It will be much nicer when we have the real thing - but, this does help us visualize the finished product.

 And of course, all the details will really make it beautiful.  The sleek industrial style faucet, drawer pulls and the beehive pendants will  really dress up the space!

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