Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Improving Curb Appeal for a 1960's Rancher

Okay.  So look at it.  Would you even slow down as you drove by??  Is this a house you'd want to make an appointment to come see when it goes on the market?  It's kind of bland and blah.....and seems stuck in the 1960's.

We need to improve the curb appeal of this house.  It looks tired, a bit disheveled and is hidden behind the big trees out front (Seriously, tree branches shouldn't be touching the house!).  Since the exterior view is the first thing future buyers will see, we need to jazz it up a bit!

Here's the plan:

With so many ideas, I put together a little mock up, to try the out  (I know I know,  it would have been a good idea to do it on a day when no one was working on the roof....but you get the idea!).

We started working through the list pretty quickly.  The new front porch really gave the front facade some character.

Next, we started putting in the new windows.  I know people usually replace windows to get more energy efficiency (and we certainly need that).  But look at the difference of the new 2 over 2 windows on the right side, compared with the old window on the left.  See how much it changes the look?  And inside, the new windows bring in so much more light!!

New windows make a HUGE difference, compare right to left!
Next, we did some pruning on the trees, to let some more light in.  We are really lucky to have an elm tree in the front yard.  Dutch elm disease nearly wiped out most of the elms in the US.  Our tree guy was so excited to see it and pruned it up into a classical elm 'vase' shape.

This week, Richard and I power washed the house and applied a product called Vinyl Renu - it's pretty amazing.  We got off all the old oxidation and it brings back the color and sheen to the siding.  It's supposed to last 10 years - nice!

Left side with Vinyl Renu - right side without
I just ordered this Pottery Barn mailbox (one of my favorites, you may recognize it from another project).  We'll be adding it and the new light fixtures soon.

But for now?  Well, we think the curb appeal is already improved....but we still have some more work to do!  

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Big City Style - Home Show

We just got back from our annual trip to the New York home show - featuring upcoming trends in home and lifestyle products.  It's always a highlight of my summer, I love getting to check out the latest and greatest in home interiors!!!

Now, from what I've been reading, the trend towards white rooms is fading.  Color is supposed to be the new norm.  With that in mind, I expected to see a lot of new colorful styles.

But I didn't.  What I did see was a lot of natural materials, fibers, and muted color.  There was still a lot of white, but it was complimented with warm wood tones and textures.

You've probably heard this Danish term recently - Hygge.   The Dutch have a different word - gezellig.  There is no direct English translation, but essentially it means a warm, cozy place where you gather with family and friends.  Seriously, don't we all want a gezellig house? 


Last year there was a lot of navy - and I saw it again this year.  Good thing, I LOVE navy!  You'll be seeing a lot of it in our new project house.
Love this silk rug!!!

Oh, and there was a lot of brass.  I guess those predictions of brass going away are a bit premature.  And there were also splashes of blush pink.  Not a lot of color - but it's something!

So where do you think design is moving?  Still lots of white?  Or is color going to make a resurgence?
You'll be seeing this light in one of our projects soon!!

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Basement Update - There's a Lot of Living Space Down There!!!

Wow, thanks so much to all of you for ideas on what we should do with the Cozy Cottage basement.  I really appreciate it and you gave me a lot to think about!

Here's your feedback.  Looks like almost everyone likes the idea of finishing the basement. That certainly goes with my inclination as well.  With a small house, this is valuable square footage that can really be helpful for the new owners.  Here's a breakout of all the input:  

And after working through all the feedback, here are a couple of thoughts:

  • Lots of people suggested putting the laundry upstairs.  While I would love that, there simply isn't a place to put it, without compromising the kitchen or bath space. So we'll just have to make the basement laundry a nice one.
  • A bathroom is a great idea, we just need to determine where all the existing plumbing is under the slab, to see what we can practically tie into
  • Based on all the different ideas to use the space, it seems like final use will depend a lot on the age and interests of the future buyers. So I'll just finish the space generically and they can customize it to suit their needs. 
  • Light!!!  The space needs as much daylight as possible, so I'm trying to find a way to maximize it. 

With all that in mind, we got started with the first crucial step - getting a dry basement.  Dave from Concrete Prescriptions has helped us on a lot of basements and this one had the usual challenges.  For example, the original house had a drainage system, but in the last 55 years, the old terra cotta drain pipes had gotten clogged up and the water had no where to go.  So as he broke up the basement slab, it looked like we had a moat around the perimeter.  See all that concrete and dirt?  It's back breaking work, to carry it out, but it's a crucial first step.
Yeah.....that's a lot of water trapped down there!

But once he had the sump pit dug and new drainage lines installed (with lots of gravel, drainage pipe and a fabric membrane, to eliminate clogging in the future), the water level immediately receded.  And within 24 hours, the basement started feeling a whole lot nicer and drier.  What a huge difference it made!
The new drainage makes all the difference.  After a heavy rain, it's still nice and dry!
Dave had uncovered the plumbing lines under the slab, so we could start figuring out where a basement bathroom could go.  It's critical that the drain lines have the appropriate pitch, so we won't have any plumbing issues.  We discovered that locating the bathroom right in the middle of the room made the most sense.  Our plumber added all new drain lines and we got a thumbs up from the city inspector.  Then Dave could close up the floor with new concrete.  

With that key part of the design defined, it let me start planning the rest of the space.  And there were some key elements we had to consider.  The laundry room has similar drainage requirements as the bathroom, so the washer will be close to the bathroom.  The new boiler will need to use the existing chimney, so its location can't change much.  That defines the utility/storage space for the basement (and also houses stuff like the sump pit, water meter, oil tank, etc).

And thanks to all your suggestions and ideas, I realized the 'finished' space should really be a flex space, that the future owners can utilize to meet their needs.  So the rest of the basement will be one large room.  On one side, we'll have the egress exit, so that could be a future 3rd bedroom, if someone wanted it (that includes it's own lighting, thermostat, etc).  Otherwise, they could keep it as a big open room. Lots of flexibility for a family room, home office, playroom, etc!

Dave used a 'wet' chain saw to cut the concrete block
But I still want to get natural light in there.   That will make the space so much nicer!  After looking at the options, we decided to go with 3 different daylight sources.  1)  We increased the window size on one wall, where the exterior grade was lower 2) we're going to use a clear plexiglass type bulkhead egress door (more about that later) that will stream light into the room, and 3) we're adding a window in the stairwell.  All that light should make a difference!
The new window is a lot bigger than the original!
Look at all that light!!!

Next, we set about insulating the space.  While a basement tends to stay at a constant 55 degrees, it's important to insulate the walls to eliminate any condensation - particularly during the humid summer months.  The guys applied 2" rigid foam all around the perimeter.  This is over top of a vapor barrier that drains down into the perimeter drain, ensuring any moisture that comes through the walls is channeled directly to the drain.  This will make for a very comfortable space in any season.  The studs are added in front of the foam, so electrical and plumbing can all be accommodated. And later we'll have closed cell foam blown in at the sills, to really make this warm and tight!

Future laundry room!
We still need electrical, the rest of the plumbing, walls and more.  So it will be awhile before I can show you finished space - but it's already such a huge improvement from our starting point.  And most importantly, we're doing the necessary infrastructure work to make it a bright, comfortable and dry space. Great progress!!  

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kitchen Planning for the Cozy Cottage

So amidst all the chaos of demo/rebuilding, I have to finalize the kitchen design so we can get cabinets ordered, manufactured and delivered in time.  It would be so much easier to wait until we had real walls to visualize everything, but the timing just doesn't work.

So, first step - since we have an open floor plan, we need to think about the whole space, not just the kitchen.  I've been carrying this clipping from last spring's Pottery Barn catalog around with me for weeks now.  I LOVE the white board-and-batten treatment on the peaked wall.  It will be perfect in our new space, to highlight the ceiling height and give the walls some visual interest.  And it also helps transform our bland ranch into a house with some character.

But with that much white, I don't want to install white kitchen cabinets.  We need something to add a little more drama and interest.  I considered black, but thought that would be too stark a contrast.  Thomasville has a Blue Slate color that is gorgeous, but when I tried it in the space, it seemed too dark as well.  And then I discovered a brand new color called Oat.  It's a warm beige color that will look great against the white walls and the Carrera marble-like quartz countertops that I like.  The only downside?  Because it's a brand new paint color, it's a lot more expensive.  Gulp.  This is why I have trouble sticking to a budget!
Thomasville's newest kitchen cabinet colors - Blue Slate & Oat
With that decision made, I went looking for fabric for window treatments, because it's important to think through our whole color palette.  Since this is one large room, I want fabric that will work in the entire space.  Luckily, I found this fantastic fabric at one of my favorite local stores.  It has the Oat color and cute little Blood Orange flowers for a pop of color.  I'll mix this with some navy pieces, to tie it all together.

For the backsplash, I wanted something simple.....but with more interest than just a plain subway.  I found this Horus tile called SoHo.  It mixes a narrow plain subway with patterned subway.  A clean, slightly contemporary approach to a classic backsplash!

Next step - the layout.  I really, really wanted a big giant island.  But when my kitchen designer Julie and I sat down and worked through it, we realized it was impractical.  By putting all the appliances on one wall, there really wasn't enough space for cabinets- particularly uppers that are so handy for dishes and glassware.  And when the stools are occupied (or your kids/husband don't push them back in), it's hard to pass by with the busy traffic pattern from the back door.

So...... we came up with a different option.  It means we need to move some of the heating around, but it really makes great use of the space.  And this kitchen will be a dream to cook in.  Plenty of prep space.  An efficient work triangle.  And nice features like a wastebasket that's hidden in a cabinet.

I love the peninsula.  Can't you imagine having a party and everyone can gather around, to chat with the cook (or cooks!)?  I bought some fantastic stools last year and have been dying to use them in the right house - this will be the one!
And thanks to this new layout, there are lots of cabinets to hold everything!  

We will extend the white oak flooring that's in the rest of the house into the kitchen.  Having the same flooring in the space will make it look and feel bigger.  Finally, I laid the whole thing out with blue painters tape and am pretty happy with how it looks.  
Now we just need plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring and the list goes on!!  Geezzz.... still lots to do!  So what do you think, is this a kitchen you'd enjoy cooking in?

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Antique Inspiration - Brimfield, Mass

One of the fun things about starting a new project is coming up with a few inspirational elements to get the design started.  And this bland little ranch really needs some inspiration!  I'd like to add a few antique elements, to help give it a little character.
So, lucky for me, the Brimfield Antique Market season is upon us.   .  Brimfield is the largest antique show in New England and runs 3 times a year, for 5 days at a time.  It's HUGE and always has lots of interesting items.    And despite stormy skies, there was a big crowd.

Looking for gas station signs??  They have a big selection!
I went with a mental list of things to look for, but frankly, you can't be too specific, because you never know what you'll find.  For example, what about these gas station signs.  Or how about a life size hippo head??  Surprisingly, I was able to pass on them :-) 

But it didn't take long to buy something!  10 minutes after arriving I found these well scoops......not sure where I'll use them, but aren't they cool?  I'd like to put succulents in them.

How could I resist?  $30!!
Next, I came across this carved antique.....something.....  Maybe it was the top of a dresser?  Or a bed?  Not really sure, but by taking the wooden backing out and replacing it with mirrors, it can be pretty cool!  I can't wait to figure out where to hang it.

Top Half - thankfully it disassembled to fit in the car!
But the thing I really wanted was a glass cabinet door, to use in this storage cubby above the basement staircase.  It's right across from the front door and isn't very attractive.  But with the right door on it, it can look more like a built in china cabinet, which would be quite nice.

I was getting pretty discouraged (and tired), when I spied this leaded glass window.  Eureka!  It's perfect.  The wide lead sections between each pane really give it a distinctive look (and make it crazy heavy!).  Of course it's not the right size, but we can retrofit the opening to accomodate it.  A tall narrow opening will actually look a lot nicer than the current rectangle.
And with a car full of new treasures, it was time to head back to Maine!  

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