Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Egg Chair

We've realized early on that our cottage style furniture will look out of place in our new mid-century modern home.  But according to Emily Henderson (my favorite design guru) furnishing a large house costs upwards of $200,000 (gulp!!) and that certainly isn't realistic for our place!  We're too busy buying windows and toilets!!

So, I've started scouting for deals.  I picked up some very cool chairs at a yard sale (yup, that works with my budget).  And I've been scouting outlet stores and clearance sales for serious bargains.

And then I read about a mega Yard Sale that was held to benefit reuniting families that have been separated.  A sale and a cause?  Well that's pretty cool.  So I headed over - making sure I was one of the first people to walk through the door.

That's when I saw this chair.  I'm pretty sure it's a copy of Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair.  Designed in the 50's, it was created for his hotel design of Royal Copenhagen hotel (Architectural Digest recently did a big story on it -  And it is so darned cool!!

There was just one problem.  It's purple.  Not a soft, pretty lavender, but a bright, in your face purple.  And I HATE purple.

But for $195, how could I say no?  So I paid up and loaded it in my mom-van to bring it home.

He likes it!
Normally, my husband Richard is not quite as excited about my bargains as I am.  But in this case, he too was smitten with the uber cool design (and the fact that it was a great deal).  He also really liked the color.

Now I should mention, Richard is color blind.  But for some weird reason, purple is a color he can see pretty well.  And when you're from New Orleans and have a family that is obsessed with LSU, purple is a pretty popular color.  He pointed out that we could get a gold pillow and he could use it to watch LSU football games.

This is not going to happen.....

So I'm looking for help.  The fabric is a beautiful wool mohair, the color just needs to change.  Does anyone have any experience dying upholstery?  I've read articles that say chalk paint is fantastic.  And other articles that say chalk paint is horrible.  I've also read about spray dye made especially for upholstery fabric.  But have any of you experimented?  Any real experience and dos/don'ts would be appreciated!

I figure I don't have anything to lose.  I can try changing the color and if that doesn't work, maybe I'll have to figure out how to re-upholster it.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fast Forward - So Much Progress!!

You may have noticed green leaves on the trees in a lot of the photos I've posted.  That's because we started this project back in July!  So much has happened since then and it's time to bring you up to date on all the work we've done.

As a result of all the issues we found, we ended up replacing the entire electrical system in the house.  That's a lot of wire and a lot of work.  But now everything is updated and we can feel safe and secure.

We filled in the indoor garden to reduce the moisture in the living space.  As we improve the tightness and energy efficiency of the building, this will be critically important.   It was a big job, but really unifies the space and lets us add a staircase from the living room to the kitchen, creating a circular flow on the first floor.

And we updated the bar - it used to be accessed by narrow doorways from the kitchen and dining room.  We widened those doorways and opened up the front wall, so you can 'belly up to the bar' with your order!
See the new staircase on the left?  And check out the big new window in the kitchen!

This is truly an open floor plan - no windows at all!!
Next, we replaced every window, skylight and door in the house - and added a couple of new ones.
How many guys does it take to install a new giant sliding glass door?  Evidently 6 (one inside)!!
Look at that view through all those new glass doors!!!
The new giant front doors (and the window above them) really make a statement!

This new window provides a view of the courtyard from the kitchen.

All the bedroom windows have been replaced with new fire code compliant windows.  They let in more light as well (and we added a skylight in this one!)
As a comparison, look at how much the new window and skylight have changed this room! 

We created transom windows from the living room to the long hallway - bringing some nice sunlight into the space.

We're adding a contemporary gas fireplace to the den - which should make it a cozy spot during our cold winters.  It's hidden behind all that cardboard so the glass front doesn't get broken!

And we have lots of new drywall!  Seriously, how can he stand there on those things???
This was a BIG squirrel infestation area - like new with fresh insulation, electrical and drywall
We also made a lot of energy improvements.  We installed a new high efficiency gas boiler.  We also had the ceiling filled with dense pack cellulose insulation.  And after much consideration, we installed a central air conditioning system.  15 years ago, I would never have dreamed we would need AC in Maine.  But after this recent summer with the wave of heat and humidity. we decided it was now or never!
This is what it looks like when there's a small hole in the  wall when they're blowing in cellulose insulation!  
We also added insulation to the roof and a new rubber membrane roof covering.  Oh, and 5 new skylights!

So while this might look like it went quickly, it's about 5 months of work, 6-7 days a week.  Did it all go smoothly?  No!  Did we have challenges!  Yes!  But like all renovation projects, the key is to figure out how to adapt when things go wrong.  And despite the hiccups, the project has made great strides!

Is there more to do?  You betcha!  But we've come a long way!
Prepping the floor for hardwood

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Renovation Realities and the Too Clever Squirrels

We've renovated many old houses over the years and have a pretty good idea what it entails.  But with a house that was built in the 70's, we assumed it wouldn't have some of the challenges that we usually see.  After all, in comparison with the early 1900's houses we usually tackle, this one is practically new!

But we were wrong.

And the biggest issue?


This property is a squirrel paradise.  The giant oak trees that are all around the house drop thousands of acorns.  Heck, we even have an oak tree growing through the deck, with its trunk going through the porch roof.

Squirrel latrine between the studs
And they obviously see this house as their home.  We have found squirrel nests, squirrel 'highways' full of acorns running across the interior of the house, squirrel damage in many walls and major damage to the electrical system.  We've opened up bay after bay to discover squirrel tunnels in the insulation.  When we pull out all the stinky, wet fiberglass, we find a similar mess.

Case in point, this is an exterior wall of the house.  They've chewed the insulation completely off of the wires,  chewed new openings and left behind piles of acorn husks.  As a result of the damage, we've had to rewire the entire house.  Ugh!!  

And the squirrel urine smell is pervasive.  We've tried a variety of remedies, but have resigned ourselves to having to tear out the walls and sheathing to eliminate the odor.  This was not part of our original scope of work, but it has to be done.
The squirrels chew right through the wall studs
What are we doing to solve the problem?  We started a squirrel relocation program right after we bought the house, but they've proven amazingly hard to trap.  Countless mornings, I'd arrive at the job site to find the trap sprung, the peanut butter gone, but no squirrel.  Seriously, they're the Harry Houdini of the squirrel world (and their friends Chip & Dale the chipmunks are pretty agile as well).

And as luck would have it, we've captured a couple of raccoons (or maybe just one that got caught twice!).  I didn't relocate the raccoon, since he wasn't living in the house.  But now that he's developed a taste for Hannaford peanut butter, he'll come up to the house, flip the traps upside down and then scoop the peanut butter out with his little hands.  Smart!!!  And makes me CRAZY!!!

Hardware cloth across areas that show squirrel penetration
And since we know we can't ever catch all the squirrels (the local news has been full of stories about the explosion of the squirrel population this year), we're trying to squirrel proof the building as much as possible.  That includes lining exterior portions of the building with aluminum flashing and hardware cloth.  We're hoping that will keep them out.

'Don't want to scare you'......never a good start to a text....
Oh, and where there isn't squirrel damage, we have rot.  One day I got this message from my electrician.

We dashed over to the house to see the bad news for ourselves.  He had discovered the top plate, which should be made up of 2 2x4's stacked together, had almost completely rotted away.  In turn, that rot had impacted the rafter tails, resulting in a major structural challenge. (we had noticed the ceiling bowed in that area, but now we understood why!)

Top plate has disappeared and lower plate is seriously compromised
This used to be 2 2x4's stacked on top of one another.  Now it's just sawdust and rotted rafter tails

Here's what the wood looks like when it has dry rot due to water damage.  If you touch it, it disintegrates into dust.  Sobering indeed!

The solution?  Tear out the ceiling and 'sister' new rafters next to the old ones, while jacking up the rafters to add new top plates.
New top plates and 'sistered' rafters (attached to the old rafters, running the length of the roof) to carry the roof load

And that wasn't all.  I dearly love the round 'bubble' window, that gives so much character to the front of the house.  It's a dramatic focal point!  The owners told us they added it, when they discovered you couldn't see cars pulling up in the driveway - it lets you peek around the corner to see who's coming!  But our electrician noticed water coming in through the electrical outlet directly below it during a rainstorm.  When we opened up the wall to investigate it - well, you guessed it, everything was totally rotted away.  The sheathing was gone and only the tar paper was still in place!  (more about the bubble window later - I'm still trying to figure out how to retain it as an architectural feature).
The sheathing has completely rotted away under the bubble window - leaving just the tar paper!

We also called Justin Pizzolato of Maine Green Energy Audit to do a 'blower door' test to see how energy efficient the house was.  To do this, you close up all the doors and windows and put a giant fan (aka blower door) in the front door.  It sounds like an aircraft engine as it starts up and creates a huge vacuum throughout the house.  If the house is really tight, you can build up quite a bit of negative pressure.  If it's leaky, you'll see and feel air movement (cobwebs start blowing around in corners!).  The absolute minimum to do the test is  50 pascals and in our case, we barely reached it with 48.5.  So we obviously have some work to do to seal this place up!  We could see cobwebs moving up in the skylights.  And we could feel lots of air coming in around doors and windows.

We also used an infra red camera, to see where the insulation needs to be improved.  To make this house truly energy efficient, it needs a lot of changes.  So we will be replacing all the windows, doors and skylights, as well as adding insulation throughout the building envelope.  And we will be replacing the original heating system.  This is obviously a huge investment, but we're thankful that Efficiency Maine offers rebates on some of our investment, to encourage us to be more energy efficient!

Add that to all the usual updates - new bathrooms, new kitchen, new roof and this has turned into a major project.  Stay tuned, there's a lot more to come!!

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