Wednesday, January 16, 2019

For the Love of a Bubble Window - But Don't Try This at Home

So I should start by saying that on every one of our houses there is at least one project where the guys think I'm crazy.  Maybe crazy isn't a strong enough word in this case - stark raving mad might be a better phrase :-)

You see, I love the 'bubble' window on the front of the house.  It's such a strong design statement and is a WOW feature you see from the street or as you walk to the front door.

But it's a terrible design from a practical, weather resistant standpoint.

See the black tar paper under the window?  We discovered the sheathing was completely rotted away due to poor flashing and leaks.  The whole space was filled with rotten wood and insulation - and a stream of water would run across the floor after a big storm.  The original window just couldn't be flashed to keep it water tight.  What's the solution?  Our always practical carpenters said we should replace it with a regular window.  Something that could be well flashed and eliminate water penetration.  You want a fancy shape?  How about an octagon they said! 
The sheathing is so rotted, only tar paper and wet dank fiberglass was between us and the exterior siding
My response.  "NO!  Absolutely not.  It would completely spoil the look of the front of the house."

But coming up with a different plan was daunting.  After searching the web, I found a couple of options.  One was a plastic bubble, similar to what we already have.  And it was made in Maine - which was pretty cool.  But it was only a single sheet of plastic, had no insulation value and would have many of the same challenges to insulate and make weathertight.

Option 2 was to take a circular, double dome skylight and hang it vertically.  We already have 6 Velux skylights going into this house, so I've gotten to know their reps pretty well.  They agreed it was feasible....but would NOT be covered by their warranty.  Skylights are not designed to be hung vertically.  Ha ha - no surprise there!! I think they're in the 'she must be crazy' camp!
Photo:  Velux/Wasco 

But of course, we had to figure out how to flash it to eliminate the water issues - and that required one big design concession.  I can't have the original diagonal siding going directly up to the window.  Why?  Well, the diagonal siding creates ridges around the window that can't be cleanly flashed.
4 inch vertical grooved siding
So, we need simpler siding, that's easy to flash for the skylight.  And thankfully, we have simpler siding around the corner on the garage and the back side of the house.  It's plain 4" vertical grooved siding.   We could use a vertical band of this around the bubble window, to give us a smooth surface for weatherproofing.  And from a design standpoint, it's consistent with a product already used on the house!  Easy peasy, right?

The challenge?  While there was probably a lot of this available in 1972, in 2018 it took Jamie, my Hammond Lumber rep a lot of digging to find it.  But he found it!   In all of New England, it was only available from one location in Massachusetts.  So we ordered it and started detailed planning (the siding ended up in a railcar that got derailed and lost for a couple of weeks.....but that's another story.....seriously, renovating old houses isn't for the faint of heart).

With a rough plan in place, the guys got to work.

First step was to remove the old window and the rotted wood.  Then they could start rebuilding
And create a nice, clean new opening

Sure, it looks like an octagon at this point, but it will be circular!
Then they installed new sheathing, to provide a sturdy structure for the new window.

In the same approach that you'd use to mount a skylight on a roof, they created a 'curb' and completely weatherstripped it.  Then they mounted the skylight to the curb.


With the skylight in place, they started installing the vertical siding, to ensure a tight, waterproof seal.
And then it had to be finished on the inside.  Our drywall team did an amazing job of creating 'drywall returns' for a clean, contemporary finish.

Bendable corner bead to create clean, crisp corners
We had a pretty fierce Nor'easter the other week and the new bubble window performed like a champ!!  Hooray, we maintained the original intent, but created a weatherproof window for the future.  And while it's a bit of a change from the original, I love the new look!
Room with a view!!




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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Great Wall of MCM

What do you get when you take a little mid-century inspiration and mix it with some very talented carpenters?  A custom built feature wall that provides a real 'wow' factor.

When we purchased the house, it had a huge wall of cedar siding that ran through the living room and kitchen.  The wood accent was great, but it had a couple of challenges.









First, the adjacent hallway was long and dark.  The only lighting is at kneecap height.  Our first plan was to add skylights to the hallway to add daylight, but once we decided to install air conditioning, that ceiling became home to a lot of ductwork.  So to get sunlight into the space, we decided to add transom windows that would lighten and brighten the hallway.  That meant cutting big openings into the wall of cedar siding.

Second, we discovered the wood wall covered up a major squirrel highway.  We found piles of acorns and urine stains all along the wall.  That clinched it, the siding had to go.  The wood was moved out and we started looking for a new option.




As I've been studying lots of mid-century houses, I've noticed a lot of them have big walls of wood paneling.  Not the pressboard stuff you find in the big box stores, but sleek walls of beautiful wood.  I particularly liked this one with the big square panels and alternating wood grain.  But there is nothing square in our house - it's a series of rectangles.
Architectural Digest May 2017

So as this inspiration started to take hold, I drew up a few sketches for our project.  The winner?  This layout with long rectangular panels (with alternating rows of horizontal and vertical wood grain) that incorporate the new transom windows for the long hallway.
And this project gave me a whole new vocabulary.  We decided to create the panels in white oak veneer.  Not just any white oak, but quarter sawn oak -  specifically rift cut quarter sawn white oak (a mouthful, I know).  Once you see the beautiful grain, you understand why we had to have it.  And to give the wall a bit more interest, we alternated each row with horizontal and vertical grain wood.
Source: hardwood distributors




This was a BIG project that took almost a month to complete.  The guys started by creating a grid on the wall that would support the panels.
New transom window openings are in place and MDF panels are getting 'dry fit' in place
Adding adhesive to veneer panel
They dry-fit the MDF panels with custom made french cleats, to get a good, solid hold.  Once that was completed, they pulled each panel off the wall and added a sheet of white oak veneer to the surface.  There were 25 panels, so this was a BIG job!
Bonding adhesive to MDF panel
To ensure each piece fit exactly, without any warping or lippage, they splined each panel together.

Once the oak panels were in place, the guys trimmed out the windows in white oak.

On the weekends, when we could reduce the sawdust in the room, Richard and I would start adding coats of polyurethane to protect and enhance the wood.  It was a LOT of sanding and sealing!
And slowly but surely, it started taking shape.  We alternated vertical and horizontal panels, to give the wall a bit more interest.  That adds so much character!


There are still a few bits to complete, but isn't it amazing!!??



Oh and the long dark hallway?  Well it's pretty amazing too! Look at the light flooding through without any lights on.  What a change!

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Red Neck Skylight

One of the biggest features of the living room is the giant 8x8 foot skylight.  We love how much light it brings into the space.  But it is made of glass panels siliconed onto wooden supports and it leaks a bit.  Since we're doing so much work, we decided to replace it with a modern skylight now, rather than wait till later.

But it turned out to be a daunting task.  We want to add a little ventilation to the room, so it needs to be a special unit, with an operable center panel.  And 8 feet long is a BIG panel!  The Velux Skylight folks came out to take a look and we discovered it will require one from their commercial line.  There is only one other like this in Maine, so it's an unusual project!

So we got all the measurements, placed our order and thought we would be moving forward quickly.  That's when the not-so-fun started.  

While we initially thought we had ordered a skylight with a lead-time of 5-6 weeks, in actuality, it's 12-14 weeks.  They build it in Sweden and bring it to the US by boat. Yikes!  Our schedule was suddenly a mess.  We had intended to install it in October, now it would be December - you know, winter snow season!!  And by then we should have most of our finishes in place, so it's not a great time to rip a big hole in the roof.

So after agonizing about it for a bit, we decided to go ahead and do the prep work in September and install a temporary skylight while we waited for the slow boat from Sweden.  

It was a big project - the old siliconed glass didn't come out easily and the framing for the new skylight needed to be built with exacting precision.

And with all the work going on in the house, we needed the daylight to keep the project moving forward.  The solution?  A red neck skylight :-)

We had buckets and buckets of tempered glass!
What you ask, is that?  It's a couple of plexiglass panels from Home Depot, mounted over 2x4's in the opening.  Not elegant, but it does let the light in.  We weren't sure how robust it would be to winter weather.  But it won't have to last long and we don't usually get much winter weather until after the first of the year.  Or so we thought....ha ha ha.
Skylight prep

Now that really brings the outdoors in!!!
So the red neck skylight went in and we waited - literally - for the slow boat from Sweden.  October ticked by.  Then November.  And then we got into December.  And as luck would have it, we had numerous nor'easters and a few snow storms.  Yikes!  Thankfully it held up reasonably well with only a couple little leaks.

And finally the big day arrived and the skylight was delivered.  I held my breath as the folks from Hammond Lumber lifted the giant crate up onto the roof.  But it went up without a hitch.
And did I mention it came from Sweden?  Well the guys were not amused with the IKEA-like instructions!!!  No text, just lots of pictures.



 And of course it's winter in Maine, so they had to shovel the snow away from the opening to get started.  It had a lot of pieces, but came together nicely.
See all those wires?  They are for the center section, which opens and closes (and has a very cool weather station, to automatically close if the winds get too high or it starts to rain!)

Best of all, look at the finished product and all that sunlight streaming in!!  It was worth the wait!  No more red neck skylight - hello sleek modern skylight!!



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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Egg Chair

We've realized early on that our cottage style furniture will look out of place in our new mid-century modern home.  But according to Emily Henderson (my favorite design guru) furnishing a large house costs upwards of $200,000 (gulp!!) and that certainly isn't realistic for our place!  We're too busy buying windows and toilets!!

So, I've started scouting for deals.  I picked up some very cool chairs at a yard sale (yup, that works with my budget).  And I've been scouting outlet stores and clearance sales for serious bargains.

And then I read about a mega Yard Sale that was held to benefit reuniting families that have been separated.  A sale and a cause?  Well that's pretty cool.  So I headed over - making sure I was one of the first people to walk through the door.

That's when I saw this chair.  I'm pretty sure it's a copy of Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair.  Designed in the 50's, it was created for his hotel design of Royal Copenhagen hotel (Architectural Digest recently did a big story on it - https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/the-story-behind-the-iconic-egg-chair).  And it is so darned cool!!

There was just one problem.  It's purple.  Not a soft, pretty lavender, but a bright, in your face purple.  And I HATE purple.

But for $195, how could I say no?  So I paid up and loaded it in my mom-van to bring it home.

He likes it!
Normally, my husband Richard is not quite as excited about my bargains as I am.  But in this case, he too was smitten with the uber cool design (and the fact that it was a great deal).  He also really liked the color.

Now I should mention, Richard is color blind.  But for some weird reason, purple is a color he can see pretty well.  And when you're from New Orleans and have a family that is obsessed with LSU, purple is a pretty popular color.  He pointed out that we could get a gold pillow and he could use it to watch LSU football games.

This is not going to happen.....

So I'm looking for help.  The fabric is a beautiful wool mohair, the color just needs to change.  Does anyone have any experience dying upholstery?  I've read articles that say chalk paint is fantastic.  And other articles that say chalk paint is horrible.  I've also read about spray dye made especially for upholstery fabric.  But have any of you experimented?  Any real experience and dos/don'ts would be appreciated!

I figure I don't have anything to lose.  I can try changing the color and if that doesn't work, maybe I'll have to figure out how to re-upholster it.

Thanks!


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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fast Forward - So Much Progress!!

You may have noticed green leaves on the trees in a lot of the photos I've posted.  That's because we started this project back in July!  So much has happened since then and it's time to bring you up to date on all the work we've done.

As a result of all the issues we found, we ended up replacing the entire electrical system in the house.  That's a lot of wire and a lot of work.  But now everything is updated and we can feel safe and secure.


We filled in the indoor garden to reduce the moisture in the living space.  As we improve the tightness and energy efficiency of the building, this will be critically important.   It was a big job, but really unifies the space and lets us add a staircase from the living room to the kitchen, creating a circular flow on the first floor.

And we updated the bar - it used to be accessed by narrow doorways from the kitchen and dining room.  We widened those doorways and opened up the front wall, so you can 'belly up to the bar' with your order!
See the new staircase on the left?  And check out the big new window in the kitchen!

This is truly an open floor plan - no windows at all!!
Next, we replaced every window, skylight and door in the house - and added a couple of new ones.
How many guys does it take to install a new giant sliding glass door?  Evidently 6 (one inside)!!
Look at that view through all those new glass doors!!!
The new giant front doors (and the window above them) really make a statement!


This new window provides a view of the courtyard from the kitchen.

All the bedroom windows have been replaced with new fire code compliant windows.  They let in more light as well (and we added a skylight in this one!)
As a comparison, look at how much the new window and skylight have changed this room! 

We created transom windows from the living room to the long hallway - bringing some nice sunlight into the space.

We're adding a contemporary gas fireplace to the den - which should make it a cozy spot during our cold winters.  It's hidden behind all that cardboard so the glass front doesn't get broken!





And we have lots of new drywall!  Seriously, how can he stand there on those things???
This was a BIG squirrel infestation area - like new with fresh insulation, electrical and drywall
We also made a lot of energy improvements.  We installed a new high efficiency gas boiler.  We also had the ceiling filled with dense pack cellulose insulation.  And after much consideration, we installed a central air conditioning system.  15 years ago, I would never have dreamed we would need AC in Maine.  But after this recent summer with the wave of heat and humidity. we decided it was now or never!
This is what it looks like when there's a small hole in the  wall when they're blowing in cellulose insulation!  
We also added insulation to the roof and a new rubber membrane roof covering.  Oh, and 5 new skylights!

So while this might look like it went quickly, it's about 5 months of work, 6-7 days a week.  Did it all go smoothly?  No!  Did we have challenges!  Yes!  But like all renovation projects, the key is to figure out how to adapt when things go wrong.  And despite the hiccups, the project has made great strides!

Is there more to do?  You betcha!  But we've come a long way!
Prepping the floor for hardwood


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