Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Progress Update: Vintage Colonial

I can't get over how quickly this house is moving forward!!  So much has happened in the last couple of weeks, it seems like a good time to give an update.

When I walked outside the other night, this view stopped me in my tracks.  The light is on in the kitchen - and it lights up the dining room, foyer and the living room.  Before we removed the walls, that would have just been a skinny little glow through one window from the back of the house!

How did we get to this point?  Well, with demo complete, Waterhouse Builders got to work and put in all the structural beams, allowing us to take out the old walls.

And now that the walls are gone, wow, what a difference.  This house now feels so much bigger, more open and somehow 'friendlier'.  No more feeling isolated in the kitchen, because now you can see into each room and feel more connected.
Gutted Kitchen looking into Dining Room and Living Room (the french door leads to the office)
Dining Room - Before
The dining room feels so spacious now that we've opened it to the foyer and kitchen.  I can't wait until we're ready to outfit the kitchen with new cabinets and appliances!
Dining Room - Now

Foyer to Dining Room Before (curtain included!!)
Foyer to Dining Room Now 

Living Room Before
What a great floorplan for entertaining!  It will be the perfect party house J
Living Room After
And there were a lot of changes upstairs as well.  The master suite is taking shape - the two new closets have been framed up (I'm thinking about making a window seat in between them, although the radiator is a bit tall)
and the bathroom is getting changed to become the master bath, with a brand new doorway and we've started moving the fixtures.

The short wall that created a closet (that has a door to the attic) in the front bedroom was removed.  It's amazing how much more sunlight comes in the room with an additional window.  And we've added a real closet (still not sure how the doorway to the attic worked as a closet in the past - maybe just hooks on that board along the wall?).
And the new hall bathroom is getting framed up.  
Hard to tell - but this will be a new hall bath soon!

Next, we had to get the asbestos out of the basement.  And we had a lot of asbestos.

All of the steam pipes were covered with it it. the boiler chambers were full of it and the 9 inch square floor tiles were asbestos as well.  This is a huge project and I'm grateful to New Meadows Abatement for taking care of it.

Following EPA protocols (which includes giving them notice of the project, in case they want to come do an inspection), they vacuumed the entire space with a HEPA vacuum (goodbye spider webs!!!) and then sealed everything in plastic.
Gift wrapping the oil tank
They set up a negative air system with a HEPA filter, to make sure that the air gets 'scrubbed' and then exhausted outside, throughout the process.

Next, they set up a changing room and shower.  You see, they have to change into white, disposable suits while removing the asbestos.  They also wear masks that filter out any particulates.

When they come out of the basement, they have to shower (to ensure there isn't any asbestos on them or brought into the rest of the house) and then get dressed again.
A changing room and shower was built in front of the basement staircase

Once all the prep was done (which took an entire day), they started carefully removing the asbestos.
Signs and warning tape were posted around the project
When that was complete, they had an independent testing agency come in and do an air sampling test - to ensure there weren't any asbestos fibers lingering in the house.  And once those results were available and satisfactory,  we could finally re-enter the house.  It's so nice to have that project behind us!
Asbestos Free!!
Look at that shiny new boiler (and so tiny!!)
Of course, with no boiler, we've been keeping the house warm with a serious electric heater - not easy with the single digit temperatures we've had (not to mention the whirring noise coming from our electric meter).  Thankfully we had the chimney lined the day after they finished and then Dominic was able to  start setting up the new boiler.  Suddenly, we have nice, energy efficient heat throughout the whole house!  And it's so tiny compared to the old boiler - it's looks like a baby!

What's next?  Well the electrical needs to be finished and then the plumbing starts.  After rough-in inspections, we'll be ready for insulation.  And then we get WALLS!! Lots of exciting stuff around here!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Vintage Colonial Needs a New Kitchen After an 80 Year Wait

As we all know, the kitchen is an incredibly important feature for prospective buyers.  And after an 80 year wait for an update, this house deserves an amazing kitchen!  So one of my first tasks was coming up with a plan.

But galley kitchens can be a challenge to plan and this one is no different.  The starting layout is long and narrow (16 x 8.5 foot) with 4 doorways, 2 windows and a steam radiator.  Wow, that's a lot to work around!  The refrigerator is against the wall I want to remove and there is no dishwasher (obviously something that will need to change!).

So…..I started playing with layouts.  With the decision to remove walls to the living room and dining room, we already had some clarity about the overall space.  But we needed to go to the next step.

The first design was my plumbers suggestion, to try and create an affordable spot for the powder room (per my previous post, we have a big bill for some surprises that we didn’t expect…..and are trying to figure out how to manage our budget).  This design eliminates the original, built-in hutch, closes up the back door (but there is another one just a couple of feet away, that leads out to the screened porch), but provides a powder room just off the garage door.

But as I sat down with my kitchen designer, we both agreed this creates an awful kitchen.  You would end up with all the appliances lined up right next to each other, only a couple upper cabinets and the majority of the base cabinets would only be 15” deep – which doesn’t provide much storage space.  It’s like a bad city apartment kitchen!  And we really can't make the kitchen any deeper, without compromising space for a dining room table.

My next approach is a classic galley design.  It removes the exterior back door (but there is another one just a couple feet away, that leads out to the screen porch).  It has a good number of upper and lower cabinets, providing lots of storage. 

And even though it’s a narrow space, we can install base cabinets on the dining room side, to provide a peninsula and seating space for a couple of stools.  That design also preserves the original built in hutch in the dining room, as well as the steam radiator next to the garage door. And importantly, I can install a set of hooks above the radiator, providing a great spot for coats when you come in from the cold (not to mention a great place to dry your mittens when they're damp from the snow - one of the great features of steam radiators!!).
Galley Kitchen layout
Lots of workspace and cabinet storage

The more we looked at this (and a couple of other designs), the more we liked this one.  With three bedrooms and two full baths upstairs, this will most likely be a family home.  And they’ll want a kitchen that works for them.
Birds Eye View towards Dining Room

View from the new opening in the Living Room wall
Urban Classic Santos Pendant
And as a late breaking update, once we finished demo, we realized there is room for a small pantry next to the basement door.  I've ordered that as well, which will provide a lot of additional storage space.

For the cabinets, I’m going with a classic white, Shaker style door.  I found an amazing light fixture for the dining room and will use a smaller version over the sink in the kitchen.  It's got a great mix of brass and antique nickel, which gives me some nice options for cabinet hardware.  For counters, we’ll go with quartz.  I’m still trying to decide if the peninsula should be wood or quartz…..thankfully I have a bit of time before I have to make the final call on that.

And what about the powder room?  Well, unfortunately that's been taken off of the list.  I know, I know, everyone wants a powder room!!  But we're already adding a second bath upstairs and it's something a future homeowner could do themselves.  Given everything else on our 'must do' list, including lots of safety and energy efficiency items, we just can't include it with our budget already in the 'red' zone.

So that's the plan!  Now we just need to get the work done!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The World's Biggest Home Show - Trends, Products & Ideas!!

What did I want for Christmas?  A trip to the International Builders Show.  That's right, I wanted to join 60,000 builders to see the latest and greatest products from 1500 suppliers. And - it's coupled with the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, which adds another 500 suppliers. (Okay, and it's in Florida which is pretty darned attractive after the brutal cold, snowy weather we've been having!)

And it didn't disappoint!!!  Light fixtures.  Bath fixtures.  Flooring and more.  Lots of what was on display was a bit over-the-top, but that's part of the fun!!!

What were the highlights that I saw?

Well let's start with bathrooms.
Can you say console sink?  Because they were everywhere!!  And with the traditional homes we renovate, they're a fantastic look.  I saw them from almost every supplier - ranging from totally traditional to sleek and modern.  But they carry a steep price tag, all those metal legs add a lot of cost and depending which finish & top you choose, they can be thousands and thousands of dollars.

For faucets, they have some of everything.  I was particularly amused by this $7000 one - made entirely by hand, it is so delicate!  But with that price tag, it's certainly not something you'll see in any of our projects!

I've read a lot of trend reports for 2018 and many are predicting brass finishes will be passé soon.  But judging from the brass tones (ranging from satin to rose to gold), it looks like they're going to be around for awhile.

Every major supplier is carrying them and many are rolling out whole new lines in brass-gold tones.
Moen's new brushed gold fixtures - to be launched later this year
But the other hot finish is matte black.  And I really liked it.  It's a bit contemporary (and perhaps masculine?) but against a white sink (think about all those porcelain console sinks), it's a great look.  And here on a dark counter it looks nice as well.

Not surprisingly, stand alone bathtubs are still the rage.
Of course they require a lot of space, but they're beautiful.  What do you think of this handmade teak example?
Or this one from Toto that has an amazing waterfall that comes from behind your neck (on a height adjustable pillow, of course!).  That's the ultimate for a spa bathroom!

And toilets?  Well it was all about the skirted toilets.  I love this, both from an aesthetic standpoint, but also from a cleaning perspective.  Who wants to clean all those curves and ledges that can hold dirt and whatever.....these are so sleek!

Every toilet needs a remote control, right???
And a big trend was cleanliness.  Whether it cleaned itself after each flush, or cleaned you after using, with this fancy remote control - notice you can choose front or rear J

Check out this one from Toto (and yes, it did seem like The Jetsons have taken over toilets!!)

For kitchens, you could find any style you want - whether it's still traditional or starkly modern.  I wouldn't say I saw anything really unusual, but lots of beautiful finishes.  And the predictions that white kitchens are dead???  Maybe not, still lots of them on display!

And farmhouse sinks were in almost every booth (again, I heard their popularity was starting to fade, but it was hard to tell that at the show!).

I particularly liked this stand alone version from Kohler - not very practical.  But oh so lovely with its vintage styling!

Where I started to see some changes were in appliances.  The black stainless look is gaining traction (although I've heard that if it scratches, it can't be repaired - something to think about!).  But there were other dark metal finishes as well.  And enamel colors for high end ranges remain very popular.

And for countertops, the quartz-marble look was still obvious everywhere I looked.  But I saw some really nice new quartz options creeping in that are darker, with almost a concrete, textural look that were pretty fabulous.

On the homebuilders side of the show, I saw some great products.  The 'Tiny Home' rage was pretty evident.  It was fun to see a couple in person, although for the life of me, I can't imagine living in one!
Tiny House = Divorce Court???
This pull down scissor staircase was fantastic.  I'm not a fan of the big clunky pull down stairs (just more challenges to seal them tight against heat & moisture leakage into the attic).  We see a fair number of them in houses and they are always loose and awkward.  But this compact model only takes half the space.  Designed in Europe, they've got great weather stripping and its only half the size of what you usually see.

In lighting, I was hearing the oil rubbed bronze is out - but brass is in.  There was certainly a lot to look at in all the booths.  And mid-century influences continue to be strong.

I'm such a fan of skylights and I had a great time checking out all the latest offerings from Velux.  This roof window, that doubles as a balcony and egress exit was really amazing!!  That's got some real potential for some of the New England rooflines we do!
Photo:  Velux

Therma Tru Concept Door
I'm in love with this concept door from Therma True.  Sadly, it's not available yet, but isn't it gorgeous?  The nice folks at Hammond Lumber are going to help me figure out a way to try and create one.

And these new 'Extreme' Post-It notes from 3M were really great.  They're supposed to hold up in any weather (see the guy squirting them with water) and windy conditions.  Now I can leave little 'love notes' for the guys all over the place J

There were lots of product demos - this one of a new adhesive from Advantech guarantees floors won't squeak for 10 years!

And can you believe how beautiful some of these tile options are?  I was swooning over some of the intricate marble patterns.

Finally, there was a dizzying array of home automation systems - from big names like Google and much smaller players.  Frankly, this is an area that's changing so fast, I can't say I'm ready to jump in - but as it gets more streamlined, it's pretty intriguing.  

So now I have to figure out how some of these great ideas might get integrated into our projects.  I don't like to follow 'trends' too closely, since they can change so much.  But where it's good, solid design that fits well in a traditional home - then I'm always interested.    And since many of the products I saw are in the process of getting launched, it might take awhile for them to be available.  But I was pretty inspired by everything I saw.

So what do you think?  Do you have any predictions for 2018 trends?

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