Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Choosing Light Fixtures - Rules and Helpful Hints

I get questions about this all the time, so thought it might be helpful to share a couple of useful tips for choosing the right light fixture for your home.  Whether you're buying online or in a store (where the tall ceilings can make the fixture seem much smaller than when you get it home!) there are some simple guidelines that can make it easier.  But like anything else, there are exceptions to the rules.

Let's say you're looking for a dining room fixture.  To determine the diameter of the fixture you need, you simply add the length and width of the room in feet - and that gives you the inches for the fixture.

So for example, if your dining room is 12' x 10', you would add 12 + 10 = 22.  So you would look for a fixture approximately 22" in diameter.  This might seem a bit simplistic, but it works surprisingly well.
But there are exceptions.  Let's say you have a dining room like the one in our new project that has a cathedral ceiling - and it's also in a large open floor plan.  In that case, you may want to go with something a bit larger.

In a case like this, I love to do a mock-up of the size fixture I have in mind.  These paper globes are a great way to get a visual representation of the fixture.  I found inexpensive ones at Christmas Tree Shop in multiple sizes and use them as mock ups.

I did the same for the island.   Usually I use 3 light fixtures over an island.  However this time I decided two slightly larger fixtures would work better - but I wanted to do a mock up.  A couple of different sized paper globes let me see which fixtures would work (Answer - smaller and I ordered them.  I can't tell you how much I love these lights!!).

In our own kitchen, I made a mock-up of a sputnik fixture, using a styrofoam ball and paint sticks. My husband and I had a hard time agreeing on something we both liked - but putting this up gave us a way to come to agreement (BTW - this is much larger than what was recommended by the length x width calculation, but because the ceiling is very tall and the fixture is so open, it worked just fine).
Sputnik fixture in completed dining room
And what height do you hang the light?  Well most dining room tables are 30" tall.  In general, I like the bottom of the fixture to be 30-36" above the dining table, so you have room for a centerpiece and so the light fixture doesn't obstruct your view as you've sitting at the table.  But as with any other rule, you should  have your electrician hold the light up and look at it from multiple angles before you do final installation.

Ultimately, these are just guidelines.  Every room has its own special features and you should consider them as you purchase your new light fixture.  Good luck!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Curb Appeal Sneak Peek

I can't resist showing you a sneak peek of the exterior changes at the ranch.  It will take awhile to get it finished, but it's starting to look like a different house!! (full disclosure, there's a dumpster in front of the house, so getting good photo angles is impossible - but you'll get the idea!).

And as a reminder, here's our plan.

First, the guys built our false gable above the new front entrance.  With the old front door removed, this starts to give that part of the house some character.

Of course we had to add a new front door!!  It has lots of glass to keep the mudroom/foyer nice and bright.  We trimmed it out to give it a bit of New England charm.

And the main body of the house got some updates as well.  We removed the old front door and installed a new double window for the master bedroom (and it makes the bedroom so bright and cheerful!).

The siding for the front and side is vinyl - but it has an amazingly realistic look of cedar shingles.  We had a delivery today and the delivery guy didn't believe us until he went up and touched it.

The roofers are coming soon and once that's done, we can finish up the rest of the siding on the front facade.  But isn't it looking great???

What else?  Well it's not curb appeal, but the back of the house is getting some updates as well. (is it rear appeal???)  We added a couple of new windows that are bringing a lot more light into the kitchen and dining room.

Rear Elevation - Before
And we had hoped to do a deck refresh, by just updating the decking.  But we discovered that several of the original joists were broken (how does that happen???) and the footings weren't properly aligned.  So rather than do a lot of piecemeal repairs, we just tore it down and are starting new.
What do you think?  Quite a difference already!  And just wait till we get it done!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

What About the Basement???

I haven't mentioned the basement in awhile and it really has come a long way!!  A lot of this is behind the wall stuff, but it's so important for the future of the house.

And there is so much living space down there, it really deserves some attention.  This is a dry basement, which is a bit unusual in this area.  We have had some major storms recently and haven't seen a drop of water down there.  And as we have peeled back the walls, all of the studs are completely dry.  Such a nice surprise!

Just getting all the stuff out of there has made the basement look better!  And we gutted the space, which made a huge difference in the way it looked - and smelled!! The paneling and pressed board ceiling held a lot of nicotine odors!

We will have two big living areas.  The first was the original owner's office.  After clearing the space we gutted it and were able to take the dropped ceiling out.  That suddenly makes it feels so much bigger and brighter (BTW - we will be installing new, slightly larger windows which will help bring in a bit more natural daylight).

The second living area is a mirror of the big room above.  The congested workroom is gone and now it's just a big bonus room that can be used any way the new owners want.

But the biggest change was creating a doorway between the two living areas.  I hated that you had to walk through the utility room to get between the two rooms.    So we needed to cut a doorway through the concrete foundation,  It was a HUGE job!  Dave started by cutting through on one side and then started cutting the rest from the back side. He had to keep water flowing the entire time to cool the saw blade and reduce dust (aka - it was a very messy process).
And then we got to watch him knock out the concrete.  So fun!!!  He had found a huge piece of styrofoam on the beach over the weekend and that turned out to be the perfect way to bounce the giant slab of concrete as it fell.  Watch the short video clip below - it's pretty fun!  And I know, concrete and bounce aren't usually used in the same sentence, but as you'll see, that's what happened!
Don't you love how the two rooms connect now???

Interestingly, houses during this era didn't have footings.  Instead, the basement walls were built in a semi pyramidal shape, to make them much thicker at the bottom.  That gave them the stability they needed. And see the giant aggregate they mixed in?  So different from today!

We are installing lots and lots of recessed lighting, so the rooms will be nice and bright.  And with fresh new drywall, it will feel like a true finished space.  We'll also do LVT (luxury vinyl tile) on the floors.  It's a great new product for basements, because it's extremely durable and won't ever rot or create odor issues like some other flooring materials.  And it really does look like wood!   We used it in a project a few years ago (and in our own basement) and are really happy with it.
Luxury Vinyl Tile in basement of a previous SoPo Cottage project
An added bonus was discovering this giant beam that holds up the floor joists.  We're going to expose it, which will give the room a bit more character!  

What else has happened?  Well, the old boiler is history.  But there was still a big challenge - because the boiler died in February, we had a half full tank of oil that we needed to get rid of.  That's an environmental problem and takes specialized skills to remove properly.  Clean Harbors came and removed the oil tank and had it properly sanitized before disposal (and yes, I think the truck was bigger than the house!!)
How do you get rid of a 1/2 tank of oil?  A GIANT truck!!
And we had even more big equipment on site (seriously, I think the neighbors find this pretty entertaining!!). We've had a gas line run to the house and will soon install a super high efficiency boiler. 

Another big job is updating all of the electrical wiring.  Farewell ungrounded wiring, hello 21st century!  Now you'll be able to plug in a 3 prong outlet.  And we're installing all the low voltage cable/CAT5 you could need! 

We have a whole lot more work ahead of us, but can you start to see a glimmer of nice living space?
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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Ranch Kitchen Design

We're changing so many things in this house  - but the kitchen will see some of the most dramatic updates.  In fact, even though we just have bare studs and plywood floors at the moment, it already looks better!
Kitchen - Before

Dark oak cabinets and the nicotine encrusted light fixture - Gone.  Lack of natural daylight with the walls across the back of the room- Gone.  Now it's open and airy and so much nicer!
Kitchen - Current.  Walls removed, new mudroom/foyer added
So what are our plans?  Well as usual, I started with some inspiration.  I was pretty sure I didn't want to do an all white kitchen, I wanted something a bit more colorful this time.  I starting looking online and through magazines and found a couple of photos that I liked.  This one by Joanna Gaines is great - a bit of color with the island, but it isn't overwhelming.

And this one of Jean Stoffer's shop is similar in color and style.  Again, I love the blue island and the off-white cabinetry for the perimeter of the room.
Photo:  Jean Stoffer Design

With that in mind, we started the design.  It's a good sized room, but with so many doorways and aisle ways, it was a bit of a challenge.  We ended up with a dozen different designs, many of which we laid out on the floor to try and visualize.  And after much discussion, we found a winner.

At the heart of the kitchen is a big island.  This will be a gathering place for the family or for a party (because we know everyone wants to be in the kitchen!!).  We had a lot of debate about whether it should be two levels, with the stools on a taller 42" section, but finally decided having a big open space seemed much more welcoming and useful.  So the entire island will be at standard 36" counter height.
 The stove wall has lots of cabinetry and a big hood as a centerpiece.

And I'm in love with the refrigerator wall.  It's a cabinet depth fridge, so it doesn't stick out too far.  And we're included an extra tall cabinet on the left that has even more storage.  We'll also have a couple of open shelves to display favorite dishware.

The fancy upper cabinet will have a custom made stained glass insert to give the room a little old world charm.  I'm thinking about something like this one

This wall will also have a big walk in pantry - this was originally the entrance from the garage.  But now it has a whole new life for storing lots of food (and the microwave will be hidden in here).

I ordered the lighting for over the island weeks ago.  I'm pretty excited about how these will look!

And of course it needs to tie into the color scheme for the rest of the open living area.  That meant that the cabinets, flooring and fabrics all need to coordinate.

What else do we need?  How about all new electrical, plumbing and heating - this will be a totally new space when we get it done.  So much to do!!!  I can't wait to see it start coming together!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Design Inspiration for Romancing the Ranch

Photo:  K Lester Interiors
At the start of every project, I go into intense 'planning mode', trying to decide on a style and color scheme for my new project.  It involves searching websites - Pinterest, Houzz, and Instagram - as well as magazines and my folders of clippings that I'm constantly adding to.

But I still hadn't found 'the one'. So I kept searching for the perfect inspiration for Romancing the Ranch. (but I do love this calm blue and white palette).

And then a random flooring catalog showed up in the mail and I found it.  I love this room - light and bright with splashes of blue and natural materials.  That's 'the one'!!  With the wall of windows and light that floods our room, this approach will be perfect in our space.
Photo:  @Florsquares

Next step in my quest?  Finding fabric - which was a bit tricky during a pandemic when fabric stores aren't open.  I found a few I liked online and ordered, but when the fabric arrived it wasn't quite the color that my computer screen indicated.  

But I finally found this one - it has two shades of blue and a crisp white.  That gives me a couple of options for pillows and accessories and will look great with the rest of my furnishings.

That let me start looking for other elements for the design.  The flooring will be oak, to match the rest of the house (we need to install all new oak flooring in the living/dining room and kitchen - the original floors were plywood and stained pine).  But in the mudroom, I'd like a hard wearing tile floor, that can take the abuse of water, snow, sand and mud (we get lots and lots of mud in the spring).  I found this at Paul White in Portland and absolutely loved it!!!  With its mix of faux oak and stone, it will look fantastic and each tile is 2x2 feet, so it will make a statement!

Of course there are many, many more decisions to be made.  But this gives us a good place to start!!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Romancing the Ranch - Progress Update

Opening up the ceiling
Let's talk about progress!!!  With the plans in place, the guys have started making changes.  Thanks to new structural beams, the walls have come out and the space has been opened up.  In a few short weeks, things have changed so much - I just had to share!  So here's a quick tour.

The new front entrance is framed up.  By stealing a bit of space from the oversized garage, we have created a true foyer/mudroom.   It has 10 foot tall ceilings and feels like a bright, welcoming space (well it will soon, those old stud walls are a bit dark!).
The new foyer has 10 foot ceilings, creating a dramatic entrance
Best of all, it gives you your first peek at the living space beyond (and the laundry room, maybe not quite as exciting, but it will be pretty sweet! ).

As you walk up a couple of steps, you step into the new, wide open living space.  Isn't this fantastic???  This may be the biggest, most open living space we've ever done.
But even more surprising is how much it's changed from our starting point.  Can you believe the difference?  We are keeping all the rooms in their original location, but removing walls (and a ceiling) transforms the space.  See the window on the left?  That's the only thing that didn't change (and we will be replacing it with a bigger one soon!).

And look at the ceiling height in the living room!!  I just love this room!
I LOVE tall ceilings!!!
Isn't the wall of windows/sliding doors looking out over the backyard fantastic?  We'll be expanding the deck and it will be a fabulous indoor/outdoor space.  Great for entertaining or just a quiet spot for a cup of coffee (or even better, a glass of wine).

I'll share details of the kitchen design in a later post, but it's going to be a big room with lots of storage.  See the old kitchen on the right??  And the fireplace on the left? Quite the transformation with those walls gone, don't you think?
Living room and kitchen before
Living room and kitchen after walls are removed
Of course we still need plumbing, electrical and we have to even up all those floors (because of course they are all different heights!).  But I'm tickled pink with the progress thus far.  Stay tuned for lots of updates!

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