Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Nearing the Finish Line - Sneak Peek Time

There is so much going on, it's hard to keep track of it all.  But some rooms are almost done and I thought it might be fun to share a few sneak peeks.  Once I get each room completed, I'll be sure and share the full 'before & after'.

Have you ever wondered what it's like in the last couple of weeks of a project?  Totally crazy!!!  All of the final trades are at work, doing a synchronized dance to work around one another.  Thankfully these guys have worked together for years and have a good working relationship.  Check out the video below to see the craziness in action!

The kitchen is really coming together.  We love the dark lower cabinets and the light colored ones at the top.  We debated doing panels over the refrigerator and I'm so glad we didn't.  Somehow that extra tall stainless fridge looks very mid-mod in the room!

The guys created the giant butcher block countertop for the island.  The island will seat 6 and is the perfect spot for an informal family meal.

And the bar???  Well Richard loves this bar.  Despite all the chaos around it, he had the 'trophy case' sliding glass doors installed and re-installed the original glass shelf.

Did someone say cocktail time???

Recreated door and window trim to match original
We spent a huge amount of time recreating all the original woodwork, to match the original.  Since we had to replace all the windows and sliding glass doors, this meant redoing everything.  And it was a huge task.  We quickly discovered that new pine trim has a much bigger (and also uglier) grain pattern than the original trim from 50 years ago.  But they had such an opaque stain on the original, we needed to find something with the same opacity so the grain difference wouldn't really matter.

I made more trips to Sherwin Williams than I can count, to come up with a wood stain that would match the original (and even more hours staining all that trim!).

We also matched all the wooden pegs that they used on the original trim.  Such a nice detail!

The cantilever walkway is such a great detail, but at 30" tall, the wood railing didn't meet current building code.  And that was particularly important with the new stairway we added. So we had a new metal handrail custom made, to match the original metal supports.  It's integrated with the new staircase we added, so now we're up to code and it looks fantastic!
New custom code-complaint handrail getting installed
In the den, the gas fireplace has been installed, but we had to wait 4 months to get the propane installed.  Geezzz.....  But they came yesterday and now I can start tiling the surround.  Wait till you see the handmade tile we're using - it's amazing (and yes, it would have been much more logical to install the tile before the floors went in, but given all the schedule challenges, that didn't happen)!

And the guys are custom building bookcases for me - an adaptation of Finn Juhl style.

The flooring was probably the biggest hurdle on the whole job.  My usual installer was able to do a little, but was so overwhelmed with other work, he couldn't support our schedule.  I was able to find someone else to do all the bedrooms, but he didn't have time to do the living spaces.  Finally, Richard and I put on our knee pads and got to work on the dining room and den, to keep things moving along.

Since the living room is so huge, we were glad to have the pros (yes, a 4th installer) come finish it up.  It took almost a week, but looks fantastic!
The living room.....floor install in progress
Lighting is going in - what a difference it makes!!   The support beam runs through the center of the dining room, prohibiting a central light fixture.  So we used the same approach as the original design and installed two smaller fixtures over the dining table.

And the bedrooms and baths?  We have made lots of progress - but I think I'll save that for later!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Project Reveal: Family Bathroom

Once again, the bathroom is the first room to get completed.  How does that always happen?  Well it's a small room that doesn't require furniture, so it comes together quickly.  And since we're always anxious to get rid of the port a potty and get indoor plumbing, it gets priority!!

Before: the mirror in the back makes it look so big!
I'm really thrilled with this room.  It started out as a master closet, but when we moved the master bedroom to the other end of the hallway, we didn't need the walk in closet anymore (there are already 2 large closets in that bedroom).

We kept the skylight opening (but installed a new skylight when we added the new roof and insulation) to bring daylight into the room (but it's covered with snow right now!!!).

For fixtures, I wanted something sleek and contemporary and these really did the trick.  The sink bowl is integrated into the vanity top and is really unusual!  I love the swoop shape.

Since the ceiling is so tall, I thought it would be fun to install a mirror all the way up!  It really draws your eye up and with the skylight it makes the room bright and airy (even though it doesn't have any windows!).

The penny tile has a contemporary flair with a coastal color scheme.  Adding the niche for shampoo bottles took me some time to install, but it's a nice, functional feature.  I paired it with this amazing mid-mod wallpaper to pull the color palette together.

The original bathroom floor had long narrow tile in a stacked pattern.  We stayed with that design, but used a black marble for the new bath.

So now we have indoor plumbing - in a bright cheerful room.  Now it's on to the next room!

Wallpaper - Maine Paint - Mod Geo by Wallquest
Penny Tile - Distinctive Tile & Design
Faucet - Newport Brass Cube 2
Tub - Mirabelle
Toilet - Toto
Vanity - Home Decorator's Collection

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

For the Love of a Bubble Window - But Don't Try This at Home

So I should start by saying that on every one of our houses there is at least one project where the guys think I'm crazy.  Maybe crazy isn't a strong enough word in this case - stark raving mad might be a better phrase :-)

You see, I love the 'bubble' window on the front of the house.  It's such a strong design statement and is a WOW feature you see from the street or as you walk to the front door.

But it's a terrible design from a practical, weather resistant standpoint.

See the black tar paper under the window?  We discovered the sheathing was completely rotted away due to poor flashing and leaks.  The whole space was filled with rotten wood and insulation - and a stream of water would run across the floor after a big storm.  The original window just couldn't be flashed to keep it water tight.  What's the solution?  Our always practical carpenters said we should replace it with a regular window.  Something that could be well flashed and eliminate water penetration.  You want a fancy shape?  How about an octagon they said! 
The sheathing is so rotted, only tar paper and wet dank fiberglass was between us and the exterior siding
My response.  "NO!  Absolutely not.  It would completely spoil the look of the front of the house."

But coming up with a different plan was daunting.  After searching the web, I found a couple of options.  One was a plastic bubble, similar to what we already have.  And it was made in Maine - which was pretty cool.  But it was only a single sheet of plastic, had no insulation value and would have many of the same challenges to insulate and make weathertight.

Option 2 was to take a circular, double dome skylight and hang it vertically.  We already have 6 Velux skylights going into this house, so I've gotten to know their reps pretty well.  They agreed it was feasible....but would NOT be covered by their warranty.  Skylights are not designed to be hung vertically.  Ha ha - no surprise there!! I think they're in the 'she must be crazy' camp!
Photo:  Velux/Wasco 

But of course, we had to figure out how to flash it to eliminate the water issues - and that required one big design concession.  I can't have the original diagonal siding going directly up to the window.  Why?  Well, the diagonal siding creates ridges around the window that can't be cleanly flashed.
4 inch vertical grooved siding
So, we need simpler siding, that's easy to flash for the skylight.  And thankfully, we have simpler siding around the corner on the garage and the back side of the house.  It's plain 4" vertical grooved siding.   We could use a vertical band of this around the bubble window, to give us a smooth surface for weatherproofing.  And from a design standpoint, it's consistent with a product already used on the house!  Easy peasy, right?

The challenge?  While there was probably a lot of this available in 1972, in 2018 it took Jamie, my Hammond Lumber rep a lot of digging to find it.  But he found it!   In all of New England, it was only available from one location in Massachusetts.  So we ordered it and started detailed planning (the siding ended up in a railcar that got derailed and lost for a couple of weeks.....but that's another story.....seriously, renovating old houses isn't for the faint of heart).

With a rough plan in place, the guys got to work.

First step was to remove the old window and the rotted wood.  Then they could start rebuilding
And create a nice, clean new opening

Sure, it looks like an octagon at this point, but it will be circular!
Then they installed new sheathing, to provide a sturdy structure for the new window.

In the same approach that you'd use to mount a skylight on a roof, they created a 'curb' and completely weatherstripped it.  Then they mounted the skylight to the curb.

With the skylight in place, they started installing the vertical siding, to ensure a tight, waterproof seal.
And then it had to be finished on the inside.  Our drywall team did an amazing job of creating 'drywall returns' for a clean, contemporary finish.

Bendable corner bead to create clean, crisp corners
We had a pretty fierce Nor'easter the other week and the new bubble window performed like a champ!!  Hooray, we maintained the original intent, but created a weatherproof window for the future.  And while it's a bit of a change from the original, I love the new look!
Room with a view!!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Great Wall of MCM

What do you get when you take a little mid-century inspiration and mix it with some very talented carpenters?  A custom built feature wall that provides a real 'wow' factor.

When we purchased the house, it had a huge wall of cedar siding that ran through the living room and kitchen.  The wood accent was great, but it had a couple of challenges.

First, the adjacent hallway was long and dark.  The only lighting is at kneecap height.  Our first plan was to add skylights to the hallway to add daylight, but once we decided to install air conditioning, that ceiling became home to a lot of ductwork.  So to get sunlight into the space, we decided to add transom windows that would lighten and brighten the hallway.  That meant cutting big openings into the wall of cedar siding.

Second, we discovered the wood wall covered up a major squirrel highway.  We found piles of acorns and urine stains all along the wall.  That clinched it, the siding had to go.  The wood was moved out and we started looking for a new option.

As I've been studying lots of mid-century houses, I've noticed a lot of them have big walls of wood paneling.  Not the pressboard stuff you find in the big box stores, but sleek walls of beautiful wood.  I particularly liked this one with the big square panels and alternating wood grain.  But there is nothing square in our house - it's a series of rectangles.
Architectural Digest May 2017

So as this inspiration started to take hold, I drew up a few sketches for our project.  The winner?  This layout with long rectangular panels (with alternating rows of horizontal and vertical wood grain) that incorporate the new transom windows for the long hallway.
And this project gave me a whole new vocabulary.  We decided to create the panels in white oak veneer.  Not just any white oak, but quarter sawn oak -  specifically rift cut quarter sawn white oak (a mouthful, I know).  Once you see the beautiful grain, you understand why we had to have it.  And to give the wall a bit more interest, we alternated each row with horizontal and vertical grain wood.
Source: hardwood distributors

This was a BIG project that took almost a month to complete.  The guys started by creating a grid on the wall that would support the panels.
New transom window openings are in place and MDF panels are getting 'dry fit' in place
Adding adhesive to veneer panel
They dry-fit the MDF panels with custom made french cleats, to get a good, solid hold.  Once that was completed, they pulled each panel off the wall and added a sheet of white oak veneer to the surface.  There were 25 panels, so this was a BIG job!
Bonding adhesive to MDF panel
To ensure each piece fit exactly, without any warping or lippage, they splined each panel together.

Once the oak panels were in place, the guys trimmed out the windows in white oak.

On the weekends, when we could reduce the sawdust in the room, Richard and I would start adding coats of polyurethane to protect and enhance the wood.  It was a LOT of sanding and sealing!
And slowly but surely, it started taking shape.  We alternated vertical and horizontal panels, to give the wall a bit more interest.  That adds so much character!

There are still a few bits to complete, but isn't it amazing!!??

Oh and the long dark hallway?  Well it's pretty amazing too! Look at the light flooding through without any lights on.  What a change!

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