Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's All About Sunlight

When you have a house surrounded by large, mature trees, it's so peaceful.  But sometimes not as bright as I'd like in the summertime, when all the leaves are on the trees.  So we set out to change that by adding more glass to the house.

Let’s start with the front door.  The front door leads into a small vestibule that is frigid in the winter.  I don't think the front door is original, my guess is the vestibule was originally a small front porch, which was enclosed later.

I simply wanted a new front door.  A front door with lots of glass, to let in the morning sun (and see the water views!).

That's when the fun started.  Because once the guys started to replace the front door, they discovered the supports weren't sufficient.  Once they dug into them, they discovered rot.  Once they pulled that out, they discovered the joists holding the vestibule floor up were never nailed in place and were held up by a few tiny nails in the plywood (that's why it was so bouncy!!!).  Once they.... well.... you get the picture.

So now, we suddenly had a giant hole on the front of the house, what looks like a crater below it and my fancy new front door is no where to be seen.

But - I'm trying to look at the bright side!  Because while the previous owner had put nice insulated windows in the vestibule, the floor was open to the cold and sloped at a noticeable angle.  It was cold and drafty in there.  Now we're getting it all structurally sound, with lots of insulation to keep it warm in winter and it will be nice and level for my fancy new tile.

We still need to get it painted, but don't you think it's a huge improvement?  And look at the foyer?  I love seeing that beautiful sunlight streaming in the room.

View from Foyer to Living Room - Before
The other change to gain more sunlight is in the living room.  We added a new french door, right between the existing windows.  Thankfully, this wasn't as big a job as the front door.  But it made just as big an impact.  Suddenly, you have a great link to the yard as well as sunlight that you notice as soon as you come in the front door.

We're incredibly happy with the changes!  Now we just need to get them painted and finished up!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Big City Style – Design Field Trip!

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit NYC, checking out some of the latest trends in home design.  First stop – tile for our latest project.  Close to Union Square you can find some fantastic tile companies and it’s wonderful to see their entire line in a dedicated store.

The selection at Ann Sachs was amazing, but I’m not sure I can justify a $250 a square foot price tag….even if it is a beautiful blend of glass and marble!  Ultimately, the new home owner will probably appreciate nicer appliances rather than really pricey tile.
Beautiful....but worth $250/sq foot???

I saw other beautiful selections at Country Floors, Artistic Tile and others. 

But I keep going back to the selection at Walker Zanger.  This taupe and white tile for the kitchen is a great accent in a neutral colorway, so the future owner can utilize whatever accent color they want. I would use it for an accent above the stove, surrounded by white subway tile.

And I’m considering this beautiful stone mosaic for the vestibule and powder room.  But it might be too feminine for a lot of buyers.  

For the second floor bathrooms, I want to stay with a classic cararra marble.

After a day of tile shopping, I had the opportunity to attend the NY NOW show at Javits Center.  Vendors from all over the world bring their latest products to market for retailers and designers and it was such fun to check them out. 

What were the trends that caught my attention?

Color – it’s all about blue.  Lots and lots of cobalts, navy and indigo 

(with a splash of teal and sea glass blue for coastal themes).

Fur – with cold weather coming, fur seemed to be everywhere.  Pillows.  Throws.  And lots of ottomans.  Mongolian fur seems to be the biggest trend.  And it was really hard to walk by these displays, without reaching out to touch it!

Rustic/Industrial – lots of vendors carried antique look alikes, reclaimed wood items and furniture with simple lines and lots of character.  Oh, and did I mention blue???

Brass/Gold – I’ve seen a lot more brass/gold accents in catalogs and magazines lately.  And it was out in force at the show.  This isn’t the shiny, 1990’s type of brass.  Most of this is ‘antique’ with a lustrous satin finish.  I have to confess, I’m really partial to brass, maybe because it’s the finish that’s usually in the original fixtures in the homes I work on.

Kids – there were a lot of soft, muted colors for kids rooms.  Not your usual baby pink and blue – but instead, shades of gray, gold and aqua.  These patterns seemed more sophisticated than some that I’ve seen in the past.  Very tranquil and dreamy!

How much of this will show up in our next projects?  I’m still working through that (although you might see a couple of these lamps!!).

But it was so much fun to get a glimpse into the latest trends and styles that are coming our way!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gracious Gambrel - The Floor Plan

The floor plan has been a head scratcher, but after lots of tweaks and changes - we'll have 4 bedrooms, 2 full and 2 half baths.  Plus a man-cave ready (or playroom ready) basement!

Like most of our projects, we started with a floor plan we liked, but as we opened up the house, we found some surprises and some new ideas - that resulted in a lot of tweaks.  At this point I won't declare total victory - but I think we are close to the final design!  But we went through multiple iterations to get here.

As always, we started with a list of must haves:  open floor plan, first floor powder room, lots of storage space, big kitchen, etc.  And each iteration of the plan gets us closer to our goal.

So, let's start with the first floor.   Here's the before floor plan.  It has a pretty typical flow for a center hall colonial.  The foyer is a nice size and the rooms are all generously sized. And of course a wood burning fireplace is always a plus.
The only thing that's a bit unusual is the sunken family room.  With 4 steps down, it feels separate from the rest of the house.  So I really want to change that (and you have to be really tall to open the windows!  I'm almost 6 feet tall and I can barely reach the window locks).  I'm also not a fan of a tile floor in the family room.  We have cold winters in Maine and a wood floor feels much warmer.

With all that in mind, we created the 'to be' floor plan.  We've tried to open up the floor plan as much as possible.  The doorway to the kitchen has more than doubled in size.  We've created a formal dining room and the sunken family room has been raised quite a bit and will only have two steps to the new floor level.  There will be a powder room on the first floor.  And lots of new storage with a big closet and a pantry.

Think the first floor saw a lot of changes?  The second floor saw even more!
Our original plan was to keep the second floor pretty much the same - with just some additions to create a master suite.  But as we got into the planning, our plumber Dominic suggested moving the bathroom so it's over the newly created powder room (much easier from a plumbing standpoint).  That gave us the opportunity to make this a 4 bedroom house!  This could provide a lot of flexibility for future homeowners that might want an extra room for a home office, craft room, etc.  So I dashed over to the City Planning Office and got a second permit, to add a 4th bedroom.  Of course it requires a lot more demolition (and rebuilding), but in the long run, we think it's worth it.
And as we get the walls gutted, we're already pretty thrilled with the changes.  Opening up the wall between the Passageway and the master bedroom (as well as raising the ceiling), is creating a pretty dramatic change to the master bedroom.  Can you believe the difference?

Finished Basement - Before
And last (but not least), we will gut the former finished basement (I know it doesn't look like much, but it will be much nicer with new LED lighting, white walls and ceiling!).
 It's rare to have a dry basement in this area and we really want to make it living space.  So we'll be updating the existing half bath and will do the basics to make it ready for a future owner's needs.  Want a man cave?  It could be perfect.  Need a playroom for the kids?  Want a home office or craft room?  It could work for whatever they want!

Is this the 'final' floor plan?  Who knows?  We may still run into some challenges, or some more great ideas.  But this lets us get moving in a good direction.  Because it's time to start putting this place back together!!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Master Suite Update

So......thanks so much for all the input from my previous post on the master suite plan.  It helped me understand that giant bathrooms are no longer a 'must have' and that closet space is near and dear to many of you!  Your input was invaluable as we wrestled through the design.  We've made a lot of progress on the design and I wanted to share an update.

So this is our starting point.  The master bedroom was an addition that was built in 1987 and is a big room.  To get there, you go through a space I'm calling the Passageway.  In 1930 it was originally a tiny, tiny bedroom (it's roughly 8 x 8 feet).  With the addition, it became a small room you pass through, to get to the master bedroom.  I'm not sure how the previous owners used it, but it's not a very practical space.  We want to change that!
Master Bedroom - Starting point
The Passageway - Before
The actual bedroom is a big space - 22' x 16'.  It has 3 windows and a wall of closets.  
Master Bedroom - Before
And it also has the exterior flue for the fireplace running through it.  Thankfully, it's nice looking brick!

Now that we've really dug into the project, we learned a couple of critical data points for our plan.  1)  The previous owner said we have water views from the front window.  Yippee!!!   I've never been in the house in the winter, but he says you can see Casco Bay and peeks of the Rams Head lighthouse, when the leaves are off the trees.  Hmmm, my 1st draft design had the bathroom utilizing that window.... do we really want to waste that view on the bathroom?  Wouldn't it be nice to lay in bed and see the water? And does it make sense to see the view from the toilet?  Which brings me to 2) the toilet can't go in the originally planned location.  Those pesky plumbing codes require it to be closer to the 'wet wall' - the wall that the plumbing will come from (it's the wall between the master bedroom and the next bedroom).  We are going to hide all the new plumbing in a closet in the room below, so there are some critical plumbing issues we need to manage.

So, here is the new plan.  The master bath changed shape a bit, but will have a large shower with glass doors and a double vanity.  The closet in this part of the room got larger and will be a walk-in with additional storage.  But we left the window open, for a view from the bed.  I'm thinking it's a great spot for a window seat!

The closet in the passageway will be 8 feet long, with lots of room for storage.  So with 2 closets, this old house will have far more closet space than you typically find!  

But the most exciting thing about the room?  The space!!!  We tore that old ceiling out and vaulted it, to match the roofline.  When I walked in the room as the guys were framing the new ceiling, I cheered!  Now the room feels enormous - bright and airy!  And yet the footprint hasn't changed a bit.

It's already a dramatic transformation.  What do you think?

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Time Capsule

Circa 1985 - Gambrel as originally designed.  The bushes are so tiny!
The previous owner was kind enough to leave a photo album showing the major renovation they made to the gambrel.  In 1987, they made a large addition with a living room and master bedroom.
1987 Addition
 They also did a dramatic update of the kitchen - which was surely the envy of the neighborhood in the 80's!  A peninsula with cabinets and a soffit above it, ceramic tile countertops and lots of dark wood.  The height of fashion!

The hiding place - under the floor boards
And while all this work was done, the previous owner said his daughters had buried some sort of time capsule, that they would love to see again.   So as the demo guys were finishing up, we pulled up the floorboard between the original house and new addition.  

And sure enough, as we dug around under there, we found these two envelopes.

Adorable?  Don't you think?

I promptly sent a note to the previous owner and he drove up the next day to pick them up (I thought he should be the one to open them!).   And we weren't disappointed.  They really are sweet.  The first envelope contained a letter:  

Page 1
Dear who is reading this.  My name is Emily.  I put this here year 

Page 2  1987.  I HOPE you like living Here.  This is a mystery to Me.  I don’t know you 

Page 3  and you don’t know me.  I won’t know what year it is.  This nook is dusty.  

Page 4  Ah, ah-CHOO!!!! boy!  I have a sister named Ellen.  

Page 5  I’m very tall.  I have short hair and glasses  I like to create stories.  I also like to talk to myself.  


Isn't that cute?  I'm so glad we found it.  The other envelope included a drawings (obviously from little sister Ellen)  A nice bit of history, that will go back to their authors (who are now in their 30's!).  

It makes me think everyone should bury their own time capsule!  What a great idea!

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Demo Day 1 - 2 - 3....

We're off to a roaring start on the Gracious Gambrel.  The guys from Demo Brothers showed up with a big team to get us started.  I love working with them - they make a huge mess and then clean it all up!!

They quickly filled a dumpster the first day, as we opened up walls, pulled out old carpet, underlayment, plaster, etc.

View from foyer to kitchen - before

And wow, what a difference it made!  Look at the change as we start to open the wall between the foyer and the kitchen.

View from foyer to kitchen - wall elimination in progress

And without those dark cabinets, the giant black refrigerator and the sight-line blocking top cabinets, the kitchen seems HUGE!
This wall will come out, once we put in a new support beam
Kitchen before
Kitchen during demo

We also started pulling out the wall between the Jack 'n Jill closet.

And the most exciting change?  Tearing out the ceiling in the master bedroom - in preparation for the cathedral ceiling in there.  What a change!!  The room seems enormous now and yet the footprint hasn't changed at all.
Master bedroom with raised ceiling  
But we did find something interesting in there.   What kind of nest do you think this is?  Squirrel?  It's too big for most birds!  I wasn't brave enough to stick my hand in there, but Brian checked it out.  Empty!

And as we wrapped up demo, we've found a few surprises - including a structural issue that needs to be resolved in the kitchen (at least it solved the mystery of the sloping floor.  And with a little work, we can fix that for good).  We also found some active knob and tube wiring, that will need to be eliminated.  But in general, this is a good, solid house - just waiting for updates!

We're still nailing down the floor plan.  As we work through the details, we're making lots of tweaks.  But more about that later.  Stay tuned!!!

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