Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stuff, Stuff & More Stuff…….the Challenges of Staging

I frequently get asked where I keep all the staging stuff for the houses I renovate.  The simple answer - everywhere!
Big Storage Unit

2nd Storage Unit
We have 2 storage facilities that are packed.  And Richard keeps reminding me that I can't add another one!!!  With my shopaholic tendencies and pack rat nature, that makes it hard.  We rented the largest space they had - 10 x 20 - and quickly realized that wasn't enough space.  So we keep overflow in the second unit.   And as we work on each house, they start to fill up fast.  For example:  I try to keep all the light fixtures in there (so they stay safe), until they're ready to be installed.  I also have sinks and other things I've found for great prices.  Not to mention rooms and rooms of furniture.

Rolling Storage Unit!
My car looks like this.

And our guest room isn't habitable at this point.

There are also various things squirreled away in the basement and corners of the dining room.  At this point in the project, Richard just shakes his head in dismay.

We hope to have the Beach Cottage finished soon, so we can empty out the storage units and take inventory of what we really need.  I'm thinking we might need a staging sale after this house is done, just to whittle down all the stuff!

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The No-Pink Girls Room

Doesn't it seem like girls bedrooms are overwhelmingly pink?  I like pink, but wanted to try something different.  So I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if I could create a room for a girl with NO PINK!  Wow, it was much harder than I thought!  But here's the current design plan:

1)  I got a great deal on this Pottery Barn Teen duvet cover - Madison Floral.  I love the combination of gray, blue, and purple.  It's reversible (see it flipped over next to the sheets?) and I haven't decided if I like the gray background or the white one.  Best of all, no pink!
Source:  Pottery Barn Teen

2)  I want to paint the wall under the angle.  I considering either blue or purple.  I need to get a few more accents and do a test patch, before I can make the call.  But I can't wait to see how it will look!

3)  Some dear friends of ours had this light fixture over their kitchen island when they bought their house.  It's a great big formal home and this fixture just looked dinky there.  They took it out about 5 minutes after moving in and offered it to me.  I've had it sitting in the storage facility for awhile - but finally have a place to use it!!!  

I took off the crystals and spray painted it the same blue as in the comforter.  Perfect for a girls room, don't you think?  I just can't decide if the crystals should go back on!

4)  I found this lamp at Target.  Won't it be great on the desk? 

5)  I'm in love with this faux fur beanbag chair from Pottery Barn.  Maybe it's because we've had such a cold winter, but it seems like a fabulous place to curl up and read a book!
Source:  Pottery Barn Teen
 There's still more to do, to pull it all together.  But I'm curious.  Do your girls all have pink rooms?

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Master Suite - First Peek

Now that we have drywall and trim completed, I thought it would be a good time to give you a sneak peek of this space.
View as you enter the room
The bedroom has a real 'wow' factor as you come through the door.  It's a big room and the tall ceilings provide some drama.  This room is flooded with light, thanks to half a dozen windows.  My favorite is the bank of windows above the bed - they provide lots of light, but since they are nice and high, they provide privacy as well.

Just off of the main bedroom is a cozy sitting area.  This would be a great spot for an easy chair, or maybe a desk and bookcase.  Like the rest of the space, the sunlight comes steaming through the windows.  And these include a panoramic view and glimpses of Casco Bay.

The master bath is progressing nicely.  The shower base is in and the laundry closet is framed up.  We hope to start tiling this week.

And last, but not least, is the walk in closet.  Kyle just installed this custom set of built in shelves.  The other side will have lots of hanging space.

Next up is flooring (hardwood for the bedroom, marble tile for the bath) and then final painting, trim and electrical.  The finish line is getting closer!  

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Was a Vinyl Siding Snob

Okay, I admit it.  When we lived inland, I hated vinyl siding.  I thought it was tacky.  But after 10 years of living along the coast, I've changed my tune.  It's starting to seem pretty fabulous to me!

You see, salt water wreaks havoc on wood.  It's a maintenance nightmare.  And while I like the look of real wood, it's a lot of work every few years: scrape, sand, paint, repeat. It's a lot of work, and there are much better things to do with your time!

I know there are options out there.  On our own house, we used something called cementitious siding (weird word, I know).  It's essentially siding that has a cement core (and it weighs a ton!). Supposedly, it doesn't need paint for 15 years, but we've heard from other people that they had to paint their house in half that time.  And once you start painting it, the whole scrape, sand, paint, repeat cycle starts all over again.

And interestingly, the National Association of Realtors just published a survey on the Best and Worst Home Remodeling Projects  and vinyl siding was near the top of the list.  Why?  Low maintenance is something that everyone wants!
Houselogic - National Association of Realtors

Individual Cedar Shake Panel
Source:  Certainteed
So, when it came time to look at siding for the Beach Cottage, we decided to use vinyl siding (which is on the bottom half of the house already).  We have no idea when the original siding was put on the house, but it's in such nice shape, we think it's pretty recent. Since it would be impossible to match the color exactly, we're going with a slightly different product on the upper half of the house.  Cedar Impressions is a newer product that looks remarkably like cedar shakes, but is actually vinyl.  It's roughly 2.5X the cost of plain old vinyl, but we think it's worth it.  We had a neighbor stop by while walking her dog this week and she kept asking about the cedar shingles and wouldn't believe they were vinyl until one of the guys from Exterior Alterations showed her a panel!

But before the siding could go on, the guys had to finish the window trim.  We were all really impressed with how nice the wide, white moldings looked around the windows.  See the difference here between the large windows on the left, vs the untrimmed one on the right?  They really make it pop!  We already think it looks pretty great, but they'll be dressed up even more once we install the brackets.

Brackets are painted and ready to be installed

Thanks to Mother Nature, the siding project is going a bit slowly (too cold and it snaps….and if it's not cold, it seems to be snowing!  What a winter!).  But you can already see how nice it's starting to look!  What do you think?  Tacky or low maintenance??

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Milestones and Thank You

It was a little over 2 years ago that I dropped out of the corporate world and started an 'encore career' doing something crazy like buying old houses and renovating them.  As I made the transition, I wanted to stay in touch with friends and family (who obviously thought I was nuts!), so I started a blog to let them follow along with our adventures.

And in that same amount of time, we've renovated 4 houses and have number 5 (and soon 6) underway.  I've had the honor of working with wonderful people - true craftsman in their fields, networked with lots of folks and loved ever minute of it.

This week, we hit a major milestone with 1000 Facebook fans and well over 300,000 page views.  I find those numbers absolutely staggering and can't tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to read along and share our adventures.

There are many days when I come home dirty, tired and a bit discouraged with whatever little crisis the day presented.  But when I share our updates - your support, encouragement and humor has been invaluable.  It's helpful to laugh at the craziness and know that, when we're done, these houses will have a new lease on life and be a wonderful place for the new owners.

Thank you thank you thank you!!!


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Buttoning Up the Interior of the Beach Cottage

It's starting to look like a real house, instead of a mass of lumber!  There's been lots of progress inside the Beach Cottage in the last couple of weeks.  It started with miles and miles of insulation getting installed in all the walls and roof cavities.  To meet code, we need R-19 walls and R-49 ceilings, so it took the guys a couple of days to get it all done.

The insulation makes such an amazing difference.  Of course we're having an extremely cold winter here in Maine, but from the minute we got the walls and ceilings insulated, the house felt so much different!  It's toasty inside and the insulation also absorbs all the noise you could hear from outside and between rooms!

We used a thermal imaging camera to look for areas that needed the insulation beefed up.  The blue areas are the cold areas……see how much it's changed with the 'before and after'?  In the after photo, the only blue (aka cold) areas you see are right along the wooden studs, where you can't fit insulation.

As the walls have gone in, we suddenly realized how much bigger this house is.  See the black areas on the floor?  That was the old 2nd floor footprint - you can even see the outline of the dormer.   The room is now twice as big and you can actually stand upright!

The City had to come out and do an insulation inspection.  Right after that, the drywall guys started their install.  It was a big job, particularly for the tall ceilings in the master bedroom!.  We used regular drywall for most of the walls, but 'green board' - aka moisture resistant - for the bathrooms.

And while we have all new construction upstairs, with all the walls we removed and the upgraded electrical wiring downstairs, there's a lot of work there as well.  But now that those areas are repaired, it's really starting to look great!
Look - the wall openings have all been repaired!

Next step:  the all important taping and mudding job.  I loved watching Dan and Nate on their stilts….and the stilts are pretty high tech these days.  The 'foot' on these allows for a much more natural gait.  But it comes at a price…..a pair of these bionic style stilts is roughly $300.

Once the sanding is completed, we got a primer coat on all the new drywall, as well as a first coat of paint.  I finally decided on Sherwin Williams 'Rice Grain' for most of the rooms, and others were just a simple white.

The guys have started all the trim work, as well as installing the doors.  It's amazing how much more 'finished' the house looks now.

Don't you love the built in dresser that we recycled from the original second floor?  And they've started working on the window seat that goes under the big window.
Lots of cabinets for the kitchen!

So what's next:  The kitchen cabinets have arrived, but they can't be installed until our new red oak flooring is installed.  Then we can move forward on that big milestone.  Can't wait!!!

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Late Breaking Decision Time - Should we Add a Mudroom??

Since this house has a basement level garage, we assume that will be the entrance the new owners will use the most.  It's pretty easy to just drive into the garage and enter through the basement door - right in the house!  But, it's a pretty ugly entrance - bare concrete walls and an overwhelming amount of drab gray.  So instead of leaving that space as an unfinished basement, we're trying to decide if we should create a mudroom entrance.
The Basement…..not a thing of beauty!

Now that the basement has been waterproofed, it's not a terribly difficult job.  Before drywalling, we could add foam board insulation and strapping to the walls.  Of course we'd have to have our electricians come back out to wire it up. And the trickiest part would be moving some of the heat pipes that criss cross over the ceiling.  Oh, and then we'd need to add a heating unit to keep it toasty warm. And do built-ins to hide the water meter.  And we'd probably want a built-in bench to pull boots on and off.  And a set of hooks for coats.  And maybe a big closet…..

See how my budget always gets out of control?!?!  LOL

But seriously, do you think that would be a good selling feature?  Is that something you would want in your new house?  I'd love your input!

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The 2 Tools No Home Renovator Should Be Without

Okay, so I'm not talking about the usual stuff….hammers, drills, saws, etc.  I'm talking about a couple of tools that we've discovered in the last two years that have made our life MUCH easier.

First, the laser level.  Like lots of other folks, we have levels of different sizes that get used for lots of tasks.  But once we discovered the joy of a laser level, we find we use it a LOT.  

The most obvious place to use a laser level is to install kitchen cabinets.  It quickly helps you determine the high/low point in the room, so you can define where to start placing your cabinets.  And of course it helps you constantly check your level during the installation process.

But I quickly found lots of other uses for it.  One of my all time favorite projects was painting the staircase on our first project (click here for photos).  The laser level let us quickly tape up the steps and get the project moving quickly.  Since then, I've used it for any unique taping project - the nursery in our last project was done in half the time it would have taken with an old fashioned level or plumb bob.

My other favorite use - installing tile.  I love installing bands of special tile.  But it's critical to have these perfectly level.  The laser level lets you do that with ease.  WARNING:  it can let you become a bit obsessive about keeping your line exactly level.  There are times when I know I ripped out a line of tile for a fraction of an inch difference, that no one but me would ever notice!

We have a Bosch Cross Line Leveler.  It works beautifully, but we were cheap and in retrospect, I wish we'd bought the next higher level model which also provides a plumb laser.  This is a fantastic tool when you're doing things like trying to mark the center of the ceiling for a light fixture.

A critical accessory for a laser level is a tripod.  I use an inexpensive Targus tripod that I bought at Target.  Again, in retrospect, it would be nice to have something a little more rugged.  And at some point, I'll need to upgrade.

The other tool that I don't think we could live without at this point is the 'Fein' tool.  Developed in the 60's by the German Fein company, this oscillating tool was used for removing plaster casts when a broken arm or leg had mended.  Its oscillating blade wouldn't cut skin, but would cut right through a cast.  Today, many companies make their own version (ours is a Bosch) and they come with a variety of cutting blades, sanding heads, etc.  
It's the perfect tool to cut off a bit of trim, cut off a broken fastener, or undercut a door frame.  For example, when the granite installers discovered we had a section of 2x4 sticking too far out of the wall, I was able to quickly cut it out of the way, so that they could continue with their installation.  A couple of bolts sticking out of the wall?  Cut them right off!   They have plunge cut blades, scraping blades and grinder blades.  And they all work beautifully.  The only thing I'm not crazy about is the sanding accessory.  I've used it a few times, but haven't found it quite as useful - the sandpaper just seems to vibrate off!  
So, I'm curious.  Are there tools that you've found incredibly helpful in your renovation projects?  I'd love to find some more time savers!!

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