House Hunters

We’ve been looking at new homes for the last month. It would be nice to downsize a bit and have more funds for travel, paying bills, projects, decorating and generally enjoying life while we’re still alive.

We started out looking at existing homes, and have spent several Sundays as a family visiting open houses in the area. There are some really nice neighborhoods, with really cool old houses, many of these homes were built in the 1920’s. But out of everything we’ve seen so far, there was really only one house that stood out to us. It’s a pretty neat Georgian colonial built during the first quarter of the 20th century. It was the first house we visited. And after several weeks we even went back a second time. It spoke to us in a way, but the reality is it doesn’t save us any money and we’d be in the same spot we are in now. Additionally we wouldn’t have any money to decorate it (it’s a larger house) or to fix up anything. We like its little quirks and it was beautifully decorated currently. Real nice neighborhood too. Great back yard.

So with that house off the list, we switched gears and looked at a couple developments where new homes were being built. Ha! the family of course was universal in our love of new construction. What’s not to love, everything is fresh, smells good and contemporary floor plans have come a long way. Builders are beginning to design home interiors to be more in line with how humans really live: more office space, less focus on wasted space or vaulted ceilings. We actually found a development or two that would work for us, and found a few floor plans, one in particular, that would be perfect for us. One thing I’m noticing is that in smaller floor plans, builders are finally getting rid of formal dining rooms, separate dinettes (and living rooms). Replacing them with offices or omitting them altogether. This is exactly what we did when we built our current house. We use our fancy dining room table EVERY day! The old dinette set actually sits in the basement. Also builders are adding lofts to the second floor that are PERFECT as a game room for the kids. It basically negates the need to finish off the basement of a new home, thus saving money. Or we could use the basement for a home theater someday. Other great features include larger mud rooms and laundry rooms on the second floor. All good stuff.

The thing we hate about new builder homes is the exteriors are awful. The put a ton of value into the interior at the expense of homogenizing the exterior. Builders have turned all these homes into big boxes with a bunch of tacked on details that neither make sense nor add interest. In fact one great neighborhood we looked at, with good floor plans, isn’t even an option because the home exteriors are so grossly fake and boxy, it was too depressing to look past them all. It was like a bunch of building for people waiting for death to rescue them. Depressing as f*ck.

flat box house piceture

Example of box house design trend we’re seeing. It saves cost but the aesthetics are so forced they look fake.

I’m not picking on anyone, but builders need to do better than this. Throw some money at the foundation to get some setbacks within the facade. Don’t build the box over the garage. Have dormers and details that make sense. It’s to the point where maybe get rid of the old colonial facades and if you’re going to build a box, accentuate it all and maybe go modern. We can do better than this as a society.

So I’m going to start doodling at night while we watch tv. We have a floor plan we like. I might tweak it a bit or explore alternatives. And I’ll play with the exterior a bit.  Additionally I’m going to look at vacant lots for sale in our neck part of the state. All we need is a small lot, and a small house. Once we kind of have an idea we can reach out to a builder and get an idea if we can do what we want in our budget. We’ll keep looking at existing homes too just in case.

 

 

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Basement Update – Drywall

The basement has drywall! Happiness.

Once completed this will be our first finished basement as a family. In fact, the wife’s never really ever lived in a house with a finished basement. So getting the drywall installed is a big step towards that goal.

The space actually doesn’t look all that different, or at least not as different as I expected. It does look good though. You can get a feel for the large rooms down there. And as you look at the photos you can see how we left the sheet rock up about 8″ to mitigate against any potential future basement flooding. We’ll cover that gap with replaceable plywood baseboards that can be removed in event of water pooling in the basement as a result of sump pump issues.

I didn’t install the drywall myself, rather we contracted that out. It took about a week for one person to hang, tape, mud and sand. It installed with no problem onto our Superior Walls foundation, and the metal stud partitions I raised.

To a certain extent, installing sheet rock on the foundation walls, along with caulked baseboards, should insulate the basement even more, and make for a tighter envelop on our home. Maybe once the basement is complete, and I do a few other things (all LED light bulbs for example), I will have the house re-evaluated for energy efficiency and see if we’ve improved our HERS score.

Take a look at the photos and captions for more on the drywall.

Next up will be painting all the walls. We’re going to do this next because with the floor being bare cement, we won’t have to worry about paint spills. We can get at least a coat or two on the walls, then touch up later if necessary.

Speaking of the floors, we have tile on order from Lowe’s. We went with a distressed wood look porcelain tile, which is very trendy right now. The 6″ x 36″ tile is called ‘Sequoia Ballpark Tile’, and it is $2.99 a sq. ft. which is a bit pricey. In our search we did come across tiles that are upwards of $10 a sq. ft., so everything is relative. We like the look and will save some cash by installing it ourselves. We’ll cover all 948 square feet of the basement with the tile. This will give us a nice looking floor that will be impervious to any flooding or moisture in the basement. The distressed look, with brown, white and grey tones should be timeless aesthetically, and congruent with the style of the rest of our home.

It’s very exciting to well on our way to finally having a finished basement space for work and play. This will accomplish a major house goal for us. One that has been around for over fifteen years really.

This Rug in Studio: Yea or Nay

We need to know if this rug looks good or not in the wife’s studio, as soon as possibly preferably. (Don’t worry if we don’t like rug it was free and will go in the basement if we don’t use it in the studio).

studio rug 1 studio rug 2 studio rug 3

Studio Decorating and Ottoman Storage Boxes

Today was kind of a waste. Frigid cold outside kept us inside. Being the indecisive twit that I am, I spent most of my Sunday arranging pictures on the wall of my studio. First off I hung up my mounted deer head, much to the chagrin of my wife, but I wanted it up in my studio. It had been sitting in the basement with all the other junk for some time now; in fact even at the old house it had been in storage when my office got turned into the nursery. It looks nice in the reading nook of my studio, and generally speaking only I can see it on any given day; which is to say it is not in plain sight of the general public, ‘less one looks though the porch window.

My deer head finally has a home, three years in storage.

My deer head finally has a home, three years in storage.

I then spent the better part of the day turning the simple task of hanging a collage of pictures on the wall into an act of great labor and internal mental strife.  Just after lunch I had this, which was good except a lot of pictures didn’t make it on the wall:

The studio wall hallway through today.

The studio wall hallway through today.

So I decided “what the hell” and put more pictures up until I arrived at this, which is how it looks now:

The studio wall in its current state with my memorabilia on the wall. There is still more to come or rather not all of it is on the wall.

The studio wall in its current state with my memorabilia on the wall. There is still more to come or rather not all of it is on the wall.

I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I still have more pictures to put up, but not too many.  I also have a mounted fish to hang above the door. I don’t know if guests will be taken aback by it all or not. I probably don’t really care. It’s my studio. I can do what I want, even if it meant to be for public consumption on an invited case by case basis.

This afternoon and evening I made three storage ottomans per the wife’s request. The lids come off so you can store crap inside, and put your feet up when not accessing your crap. I had the sheet of 3/4″ cabinet grade plywood sitting in the garage since July. I was able to cut all three 14″ x 14″ x 16″ units from one sheet, using the guidelines here on the sawdustgirl.com website. A glued, nailed and screwed everything together. I like that “Saw Dust Girl” recommends Spax screws, which I would have used anyway as they are the best wood screws known to mankind. The assembled ottomans look like this, waiting for the spousal unit to put fabric around them:

I made these nifty ottomans today out of a sheet of 3/4" cabinet grade plywood.

I made these nifty ottomans today out of a sheet of 3/4″ cabinet grade plywood.

I also took the time to put the last few pieces of trim and the two missing floor boards down in my office area. Some caulk and paint and the studio will be done, save for the track lighting, rug and my TBD conference table / chair solution.

Well tomorrow starts a new work week. Maybe I’ll start taking my redecorated studio for a test drive…painting, drawing or whatnot.  Hope your week starts off in grand fashion.

 

-Chris

 

Studio Decor And Half Bath Wallpaper

I’ve been steadily moving back into my studio. I’ve filled most of the shelves with my books, magazines and knick knacks.  With the help of the wife, I think we unloaded about a dozen boxes from the basement. While this isn’t much it does start to make a dent. I had been keeping all of my old car magazines, and now I have a fairly complete set of ‘Automobile’ and ‘Car & Driver’ issues form the last two and a half decades. I put a special set of ‘Road & Track’ issues in my reading nook, to look at next time I have some free time.  It was really nice to finally get these out of the box after so many years. I love looking at all of the cars from the 80’s and 90’s as well as the ads. Kind of like a time machine to escape from the realities of contemporary times. Even if it’s just for the turn of a page or two.

The over all look of the studio is cluttered again, not really like the clean orderly rendering, but it’s functional and that’s all one can ask for really.  As time passes I can work on streamlining the organization here and there as I live with the space. The key is boxes are getting unpacked and treasures are seeing the light of day again.  I need to get a rug for my reading space, some track lighting above and hang memorabilia on the wall. As for a meeting space, I think it will be interesting to say the least. The room will probably have more self-indulgent mementos that I would have thought necessary – I abhor going into offices that are temples to their owners – but in fact that’s what my studio will be most likely, if only because I have all this stuff that 1) I hate to throw out, and 2) the artifacts reflect my journey and share the story of who I am after 40 years. While I am not defined by the things around me, I am a visual person; maybe through the viewing of the artifacts we keep around us, one can glean more meaning of who the person is.

Yesterday we had the half bath wallpapered. It looks fantastic. The floral pattern makes us feel like grown-ups, or at least I do. We’ve never had wallpaper before, nor have we ever had a finished half bath in all of our years. The paper adds a touch of visual texture, and whimsy; which is a nice surprise in an otherwise subdued contemporary interior.  The only down side is that now my striped painting doesn’t fit in anymore in the front hall. We definitely need a large painting or pair of paintings there, just not stripes that clash with the floral pattern. If anyone wants to buy the stripe painting I’d love to sell it. Otherwise I think it will go in the basement when we finish that off.

Let us know what you think about the wallpaper.

Fuzzy On My Door

Yesterday morning I awoke early to unlock the studio door in preparation for the workers finishing off my studio floor this week. I also needed to take the waste down to the curb so I slipped on my shoes. As I opened the studio door a small fuzzy body fell to my floor.

“What are you doing here?” concern in my voice as I bent over and slipped a car key under her legs. Most likely she was one of our bees and now she clung to the key as I pulled her closer to my eye. Her tired little body was covered in dew. For whatever reason she had spent the night clung to my door. Maybe she had been trying to get a hold of me and spent the night knocking our my door, only it’s virtually impossible to hear a bee when they’re knocking on one’s door I reckon. So there she sat, perched upon my key, near death. Bees need to be in their hive at night, not on my door.

I almost wanted to pet her, to provide some degree of comfort. The right thing to do would have been to put her out of her misery right there and then, but I didn’t have it in me.  So my bee, upon my key, and I took a stroll in the early morning sunlight. Through the garden gate, past the sunflowers, to the hive we went. I placed her worn out body at the hive entrance, transparent yellow rays of sun drying her wings and warming her body. I doubt she made it, and I probably put the greater hive at risk if there really was something wrong with her, but what am I to do. Anymore, I just don’t have it in me to always think with my brain. I let her be. One small part of a greater organism. A system where the individual gives their life for the survival of the hive. Something in me just thinks maybe she’d rather see her home, or at least a bee home, one last time.

Back inside our hive of a home we’ve had workers finishing the cement floor in my art studio. The stared yesterday morning by putting up plastic to keep dust out of the rest of the house, and they used a grinder to take off all the paint, drywall and stains in the floor; essentially removing the top layer of concrete. They then applied a semi-transparent stain from H&C Concrete Products. We selected Espresso color to match the cabinets and the bronze tile elsewhere in the house.

Today they applied a clear coat and tomorrow they will caulk all the expansion joints in the floor. In the end we’ll have a floor that can be cleaned more readily and look great.

Because they’re working in my studio I moved out of my office and relocated to the loft.  I really like it up here.  The view is incredible and the leather chairs are somewhat comfy (though the card table is an ergonomic disaster for my neck).  Much more inspiring up here than down in my hallway office, but that of course translates to more thinking and dreaming instead of working.  No one pays me to think or dream.  It’s pretty awesome up here though. You should be up here when it rains. Talk about not getting any work done; instead just stare out the window.

Only thing I wish we’d done was 1) had the time / money / patience to finish it off with a ceiling fan and bookcases (it was hot yesterday ’cause the windows were open to air out the house from my studio finishing…all the air in the house is meant to escape out the loft, that’s why it exists in the first place). Eventually the space will be a library thus the need for shelves. 2) A spiral staircase would be nice to have. The ship’s ladder worries me with our boys going up and down. My oldest joined me in the temporary “office”. He set up his own desk and the whole nine yards.  So cute. Anyway a spiral staircase would be nice and I think it would fill in the corner of the hallway below better. Not a big deal though.

Well I should get back to work, though it just started raining for the first time in weeks.

Maybe it’s time for a break….

A bee at the entrance to the hive. I found him on my studio door. Right or wrong I took him back home.

A bee at the entrance to the hive. I found him on my studio door. Right or wrong I took him back home.

The hive in the early morning sunshine.

The hive in the early morning sunshine.

The new finish on my studio floor. Espresso to match the cabinets and tile throughout the house.

The new finish on my studio floor. Espresso to match the cabinets and tile throughout the house.

Early morning sunrise casts its rays upon a sunflower in our garden.

Early morning sunrise casts its rays upon a sunflower in our garden.

The view out of my temporary office. Sure beats a parking lot view or no window at all like most well off folks got.

The view out of my temporary office. Sure beats a parking lot view or no window at all like most well off folks got.

Burn Out

The number one rule of being a writer, or even an average blog writer, is writing creatively as often as possible. Well I’m sucking at being a writer because I haven’t written here in over ten days. In my defense we took a well needed vacation and I’ve been busy walking the tight rope between getting things done and going crazy with all the monkeys on my back.  Now all of a sudden Summer has flown by and I don’t know where all the time has gone.

I have been spending a lot of time getting some projects underway or at least planned out. I’ve had several tradesmen out to look at various projects including a small electrical punch list (adding outlets to the porch and finally hooking up the outlet in my studio), a gentleman came out to quote sealing my studio cement floor before we put in the new storage shelves, and I got an estimate on pressure washing the decks in preparation for staining them.  The pressure wash guy looked at washing the grey streaks off our gutters too but we ultimately decided to leave them because they’d just come back most likely. They only bother me and no one else cares so we won’t worry about it now.

For the studio floor there are several options. The company we’re going with uses H&C products, which I think is a division of Sherwin Williams. The finish that looks the best is an “infusion reactive acid” stain, which provides a mottled look. But the process sounded to hazardous for our comfort in our home – 4 day process, have to mask doorway to the rest of the house, and there are carcinogenic materials in the finished product. Instead I decided upon a water based semi-transparent decorative stain that is zero-VOC. We selected “espresso” which will hopefully match the tile found elsewhere in the house.  I just have to clear out everything from the studio so they can come in and prep, stain and seal the floor.  Once sealed I should be able to spill paint on it and have it be easier to clean up with soap and water.

Once the studio floor is done, we’ll start installing the new shelves and finally I’ll be organized in my studio, before I go insane.  Thank you god.

Speaking of organization, we got the laundry room cabinets installed and we love them. They make the room look more finished and now we have a ton of space to organize all of the laundry room essentials. I know all this costs money, and I know we should pitch 90% of what is in our home, but in the meantime it’s nice to have a place for everything. The cabinets should help with resale value as well, if and when the time comes for that. With the cabinets in, we’re waiting on laminate and then the countertop. We also need to select a sink for the laundry room and get that ordered….. So much to do not nearly enough hours in the day. If I win the lottery, the first thing I’m doing is hiring a personal assistant or two.

One other monkey I’m getting off my back is the window crank monkey. When they built the house three cranks went missing so I finally ordered new ones. Can you believe it, the bill is $96 for three sets of window cranks….eeek.  But at least that will be off my bucket list. Serious windows got bought out / went out of business so they’re under the Alpen name now. Regardless my old rep is the same. Something of interest: I had to describe which window cranks I needed to order them. Someone smart realized that they should color code the cranks so you can describe if you need a “right” or a “left”. Take a look at the photos and you’ll see that the “left” ones are silver and the “right” ones are gold.  Good idea.

Outside we’re slowly getting the fabric down in the front bed…still! We did plant the new, real, oak leaf hydrangea and transplanted the impostor ones.  I really like the texture of these new hydrangea; they look great outside the dining room windows. Elsewhere I put together the mail order bat house and mounted it to a 16′ 4×4 post. I just have to mount the other bat house to the other side and then go erect the post with houses attached out in the yard.

We’ve been harvesting a bunch of veggies, and wild blackberries in the yard and garden. And many of the wild flowers are still blooming. Everything looks beautiful. I find great pleasure in looking out my studio window as I work at the drafting board. Such a happy and pleasant view.

Sorry I haven’t been writing much lately. Not sure it will be any different in the coming days. But there is a lot going on project wise, life wise and work wise. I’m wearing many hats…which is how I like it I guess. I even have an art commission and I’m working on some things writing wise beyond this blog. So it’s all good. I’m too neurotic to make any of my endeavor amount to anything but that doesn’t stop me. It’s better to burn out than it is to rust right?

-Chris

A silver left crank on our Serious brand window.

A silver left crank on our Serious brand window.

A "gold" right crank on our Serious brand window.

A “gold” right crank on our Serious brand window.

Assembling one of the bat houses.

Assembling one of the bat houses.

Laundry room cabinets are installed.

Laundry room cabinets are installed.

I mounted the bat houses to a 4x4 post, slipping a 3/4" strip of cedar to mount the bottom of the house to the post even with the top of the house.

I mounted the bat houses to a 4×4 post, slipping a 3/4″ strip of cedar to mount the bottom of the house to the post even with the top of the house.

Oak leaf hydrangeas planted in front bed.

Oak leaf hydrangeas planted in front bed.

Wild flower annuals I planted from seed this year.

Wild flower annuals I planted from seed this year.