Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crisp Blue and White Guest Room

We are lucky to have two guest rooms in our house.  One is pretty large with a great view.  But the other guest room is a little on the small side, so I wanted to make it a really cozy space that guests would enjoy.  

The original plan was to have closets on either side of the front window, with a window seat below.  But once we started framing up the room, we decided that would make it too cozy!  So we settled for one closet. That leaves room for this chest with basket storage.

A key design element was to install wainscoting.  I wanted bright white woodwork with bright color above it.  But I was a bit worried that installing narrow bead board would be too busy in this room.  So to give it simpler lines, we did something a little different.  Richard and I installed simple 1x3 strips of wood around the room, added a plate rail above and then painted the entire space a white semi gloss.  It makes the room seem nice and bright – but adds some architectural interest as well.  And it give us a shelf for artwork, to provide pops of color in the room.  

Speaking of color, inspiration for this room started with the multi colored rag rug.  I loved the different hues of blue, green and orange and thought it would make a great starting point for the rest of the design. I found the comforter and shams on sale with their bright green dragonfly motif.  I bought an extra king sized sheet and made the coordinating roman shades for the windows.

The headboard was a bright 80’s style brass, with lots of tarnish spots on the finish.  I picked it up for a song at a second hand furniture store, sanded it down and spray painted it this bright blue.  I love how it pops against the white wainscoting.

The chair in this room started life at IKEA.  And after my DIY upholstery experience, I learned my lesson and hired an upholsterer to recover it for me in this custom green polka dot print.  That cost a lot more than the chair, but I’m pleased with the way it came out!

I added this curved cabinet - one of my favorite pieces!  And it gave me the opportunity to add some colored accents that compliment the rug.

Living in Maine, we get a lot of houseguests.  And I think they really enjoy spending time in this cozy room!

Rug - Crate & Barrel
Chest - Pottery Barn
Chair - IKEA - Ektorp Tullsta 
Curved Cabinet - Ballard Designs - Chilton Cabinet
Pillows:  Company C and HomeGoods
Shams and Comforter - Company C

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Police and Contractors are Never a Good Combination - Especially at 3 am

Granite countertops shouldn't be the most challenging part of a project.  But somehow, that's exactly what happened on our house.

We are big fans of granite countertops.  We've installed them in four of our own kitchens and love the functionality and low maintenance.  We wanted that again for this kitchen, but in keeping with a classic New England style, we wanted a non-shiny finish.  So we decided on a honed finish.  It has that classic satin sheen, but still lets you see the texture of the stone.

As we quickly discovered, granite is usually shipped right to the end fabricator already polished.  So they need to grind that finish off, to create the honed finish we wanted.  Many fabricators won't even attempt this - it's tricky and they don't want to deal with it.

We had used one of the big local granite places on a previous kitchen and ran into some challenges.  So for this kitchen, we wanted to find a different place.  We heard about a small place nearby and went to visit them.  The owner was very enthusiastic and showed us some examples of his work.  We agreed on the plan and set a date for templating the design.

In the course of planning the work, we discovered that the owner wouldn't be doing the work himself, he was sourcing it to his brother - 'the only other person in Maine I trust to do the work'.  Ah huh.

After waiting a couple of weeks, we heard that the brother was ready to do the install.  Oddly, they wanted to do it on a Sunday afternoon.  Since we could only get to the house on weekends anyway, that was fine with us.  We agreed on 3:30 Sunday.  It shouldn't be a big deal - usually the granite install takes 1-2 hours.

3:30 Sunday came and went and no one showed up.  After repeated phone calls, I finally got in touch with the brother's wife around 5:00.  She said they were just packing up and were heading to our place.  6:00 came....no show.  7:00 came....no show.  We kept calling his cell phone and he finally answered and said they decided to stop at Applebee's for dinner, before coming to our house.  So we waited.  And waited.  At 10:00, we decided they weren't coming and started packing up to leave (we were camped out with beach chairs, a cooler and take out Chinese food while we waited).

Just as we were headed out, they showed up.  We suggested that they reschedule, but they said no, this was the only time they could do it.  So, against our better judgement, they got started.  Big mistake.

They brought in the first piece of granite, a small rectangle to fit over a 36" cabinet.  It didn't fit.  It was short, by about 4".  Geezzz......not even close!  They would have to cut a new piece.

Next they brought in the big L shaped piece that fit along the back wall.  It was big and extremely heavy.  They had to turn their truck around and back it up to the front porch, so they could use their boom truck to move the piece in.  It was midnight now - and the truck made the big beep beep beep noise as they backed up.  Then there were all kinds of additional machine noises, as they lifted the granite with their boom.

After multiple cans of Red Bull, they tried to slide the big piece into place.  But they couldn't figure out how to get it in.  The angles were admittedly complicated, but we finally had to help them remove a cabinet, in order to get the granite in place.

And that's when we discovered they didn't pre-cut anything.  Typically, a granite installer has already cut the holes for the sink and faucets (and we had 2 sinks and lots of faucet holes).  But these clowns waited until they got on site.  So now they proceeded to get out their high speed drills and saws and make a noisy mess.

That's when the doorbell rang.  Richard was appalled, the couple across the street had just had a baby and he was sure they were coming to complain.  Instead, when he opened the door, he found a petite policewoman on the doorstep.

The policewoman said they had received a phone call that we were being robbed.  Ha, our neighbours were so polite they didn't want to complain about the noise - instead they suggested we had very noisy burglars!!   But she looked around the house, in its state of construction, at our beach chairs and the left over chinese food - and commented there wasn't anything to steal :-)  (seriously, I think only a woman cop would notice this.....true?)  She wrote down everyone's license info and asked us to keep the noise to a minimum.

And they kept on working.  With a few more trips out to the truck to drink a Red Bull and ingest who knows what else.

The installers didn't finish until 3:30 am.  And the other granite pieces didn't fit very well. For example, there was a gap ranging from 1/2 - 3/4 inch along the back wall.  (Thankfully,  I was able to use some tiling tricks to help hide the issues.)  It was obviously not quality work!

The next day, I bought a bottle of wine for each of the neighbors and delivered it with a note of apology.  It was the least I could do after disturbing their sleep!

And we still had to wait another couple of weeks for the final piece to be installed.  They got it right on the second try.  But even after all the craziness, we're still not happy with the granite.  The finish doesn't have the satin texture we were looking for.  It's blotchy in some areas and is a pain to clean.  I called to have the business owner come out and look at it - and big surprise, he never came.

Lessons learned - sometimes it's better to go with the big companies.  They have a trained crew of experts who can handle challenges.  They also have new equipment (the folks I use now have laser systems and don't even do old fashioned templating for a perfect fit), using the latest techniques.

At least we learned our lesson!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sea Glass Blue and Green Guest Room

So, here's my starting point for every guest room.  A queen or full sized bed.  Small chest of drawers for storage (and to leave things for your guests (hand lotion, slippers, etc)), a bedside table with a light, a TV for entertainment (in case they're real nite owls) and a comfortable chair.  I try and incorporate all these elements into every guest room we create!

But this room has an added bonus.  When we planned it, we really didn’t know what the views would be like.  So we were pleasantly surprised to see how good they were from this room.  When we have a house full of guests, they all want this room!  It's nice to see the water and the islands when you wake up in the morning!

Similar to the first floor bath, I wanted to do this room in seaglass colors.  The inspiration was a quilt that I found at Maine Cottage (when they were still in Maine).  It has nautical/island terms embroidered all over it and I absolutely love it. 

While there, I also found some coordinating fabric (on clearance - yea!) and started what I still think of as the ‘great upholstery project’.  I took a class to learn how to do upholstery and over the course of 10 weeks (2.5 hours a week) I hauled this chair back and forth to class and transformed it (and didn’t throw my back out in the process!).  But my lessons learned: hire someone to do it.  Lots and lots of work and I didn’t achieve the quality level of a professional.  And while I have bragging rights that I've learned upholstery skills, given the number of hours that went into it, it would have been worth it to pay someone!

I wanted to use black wood for the furniture.  The bombe’ chest comes from Crate and Barrel.  The headboard - Restoration Hardware Outlet for $99 (but we did look comical driving from Boston with it strapped to the roof of my car!).  The side tables are fashioned from shutters with a milk paint finish.  They came from Dwellings in Falmouth, one of my favorite little shops.

But the piece de resistance?  The striped wall.  I started with the blue in the quilt and tried to combine lots of sea glass colors to create a dramatic statement.  I also used different sheens with each color (eggshell, flat and satin)..  It's tough to see that in the photos, but its adds to the interest of the wall.

First try at artwork for the walls......not successful!
I struggled to find the perfect artwork for the room.  My starting point didn't add enough color or interest to the cream walls.  But while we were in Wiscasset one weekend, browsing through an antique shop, I came across an antique map of our neighborhood.   I had it framed in an antique style black frame and love the way it looks.  The piece above the bed is a canvas print of local artist Catherine Breer’s work.  And I found the small prints at the local SoPo Art in the Park festival that’s held each summer. 

For window treatments, we wanted to keep it simple, so we wouldn’t compete with the view through the windows and door to the balcony.  So we installed simple sailcloth panels.

And the balcony?  Isn't that a great touch?  Well, it's the perfect spot to relax with that first cup of coffee in the morning. And yes, the dogs enjoy it as well!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Really, Really Bad Flip: aka the Little Farm of Horrors

Our kids just bought a flip.  And it's a really, really bad one.  The kind that makes me cringe and want to shout to people - I don't flip houses!  I renovate them.  Because truth be told, that's what most people think about house flipping.

So I have a classification system for house flipping:

1)  Reno Done Right - a full renovation to modernize an older home - leaving antique qualities in place, but providing modern amenities (I'd like to think that's SoPo Cottage!)
2) Fluff and Buff - updating the easy to see elements (say tile work and refinishing floors), but not addressing the infrastructure.  Lots of the TV shows are in this category.
3)  Buyer Beware - as in 'we don't need no stinkin' permits' .  Poor quality - no focus on safety or integrity.

They bought a Buyer Beware

So here are the low points:
-  Furnace vents into the attic (somehow the house inspector didn't catch it....amazing!).

And then the whole vent collapsed into the basement a couple of weeks after they moved in.

-  The shower drain sits higher than the tile.  So you guessed it, there is a constant puddle and due to really lousy tile work and missing grout, it ultimately drains into the basement.

And see what happened the first time they took a shower?  All the water drained into the basement.

-  There are no outlets on the kitchen counters (seriously, no outlets!!!  Why install tile and granite??  Now it's really hard to fix)

Open ground (one of many)

-  Serious electrical issues (for example, they installed an oven outlet for the dryer, open grounds, no junction boxes, etc).  This was all supposed to get fixed before closing by a licensed electrician.  But I don't think they even know a licensed electrician!!!

Why bother with a junction box when you can use electrical tape?
-  Underspanned roofing and they cut through some of the rafters!

-  The refrigerator cabinet was installed so low you can't put a refrigerator under it
-  The air conditioning died a week after they moved in (this is HotLanta folks - 90 degrees in May)

And then there are the poor fit and finish issues:
- Poor tile work - look at that grout job!

-  Poor trim work - light fixtures shouldn't be mounted sideways!

- And the gutters are brand new, but they didn't install enough supports, so they bent and leak right into the basement

Honestly, I'm not making this up!

Move in day - see the 'dry' basement!

The disclosure said 'new kitchen kabnets', no water in the basement (check out photos from the day they moved in), and upgraded electrical.

Why did they buy this?  Particularly with a 2 year old and a very pregnant mom??  And how in the world did we not jump in and say 'are you crazy'?  Well, they live in the Atlanta area - which is too far for my team to travel!  And they wanted something with at least 5 acres to allow them to start a small farm.  That's a tough combination to find.  This met a couple of their criteria - with house quality/safety at the bottom of the list.

Thankfully, our son-in-law Joe is handy.  And we'll pitch in when we visit, to help them get the place ship shape.  But it's going to be a lot of work!

In the meantime, they've started making it their home.  But it's had a lot of nasty and dangerous surprises - they're nicknamed it the Little Farm of Horrors.  Want to hear more about their adventures rescuing a derelict farm with the worst flip job ever?  Visit Tucker Farm for all their adventures!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Creating a Home Office with a View

So here is a lesson on how to overspend on a renovation, after you've already started the project!!  Because no matter how much planning you do, there are things you will want to change once you see the project begin to take shape from the blueprints.  And in retrospect - we still think it was the right decision.

Our original plan had the 3rd floor of the house as storage space.  The plan had a small landing at the top of the stairs to access the deck - the rest of the space was for storing all our assorted treasures (I have an embarrassingly large collection of holiday decorations).   But as the house was getting framed up, we realized there was a lot of space up there.  So we started thinking about different possibilities that could be a lot more exciting than a storage room.  And while we planned to use the third bedroom as an office/guest room -  a dedicated home office space sounded like pretty good idea!

Just look at these photos - can you see why we thought it was wasted as storage space?
Can you tell where we want to put a window? 
Pretty cool view on a foggy day......don't you agree?

Original Plan
So we started planning.  By moving the knee walls out to be 48" tall, this area is actually quite large.  We had already planned on utilizing blown-in insulation to maximize ceiling height and get a high R value between all the rafters.  This is known as a hot roof and really keeps the space warm in winter and cool in summer.  And by simply adding a wall of windows and a door to capture the view, we would make this room pretty great!

Speaking of windows, there was a funky angled wall beside the deck, near the future bookcase.  Originally we wanted to just close it up.  But when we realized how nice the view was from that angle, we decided to have a custom triangular window made to fit the space.  

We spent a LOT of time planning the staircase.  Since it winds up all the way up from the first floor to the third floor, we wanted it to have an open feel.  We didn't want it to be tight and cramped - and make you feel like you were climbing into an attic.  So, we decided to leave the stairwell open, with just a railing, giving the 3rd floor a more loft-like look.  And it accentuated the bright, open feeling we wanted for the whole house.

Speed forward another couple of months and the office starts to look like a livable space!  The staircase has been installed and provides an M.C. Escher sort of look, before the railings are added.  Oh - and do you see the lovely cherry insets we did on the landing?

The wall of windows and doors are great and capture the beautiful view.  
And the office portion of the room is looking good!  The window at the far end of the room faces south, so it helps the space stay bright all day long. 
Speed forward again and here's how the finished space came out (keep in mind, this is a working office for two people, not a staged house - so lots of real stuff everywhere!! And now that the photos are done, I notice dog toys in lots of them!).   The open stairwell provides lots of light and space.  You can see how the sunlight streams through the windows.  And I love the giant pendant we installed to light the whole stairwell.

Do you like my $10 chair from Habitat for Humanity's ReStore?

By lining the water facing wall with windows and doors, we have a space that is flooded with morning sunlight.  To make it even nicer, we wanted a comfy place to sit and enjoy the view - even when the weather is really terrible outside! There is something fascinating about watching a nor'easter blow through.   And the sofa has the added functionality as a sleeper sofa for overnight guests.

In the office space, we have room for two desks, a file cabinet , a work table and a long row of bookcases and drawers, to try and keep us organized!  There are access panels in the knee walls, to provide storage space for bulky items like suitcases and holiday decorations.
And remember the nautical charts that I used in the bathroom of our 2nd project?  Well I tried it out first in our own house (want to learn how?  click here).  My neighbor gave me a big stack of old charts - complete with his notations and markings, truly authentic!  Don't they make a great accent at the far end of the room?

I hadn't thought about it until I looked at this picture, but we never finished the moulding around the custom shaped window (they had to reorder it multiple times, before the shape was right).  That's a bit embarrassing after all this time!  You also get a peek of the 3rd floor deck - more about that in another post.

Needless to say, we are thrilled with this dual purpose room.  Do we miss the storage space we originally planned for this floor?  No way!!  This office provides fantastic, useful space and the fact that it has a view to distract you from your work is a nice bonus!

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