LED Love

Today was a busy day and went by fast.  I was able to get into the studio to paint and frame some new artwork in the morning.  At lunch time I treated myself to a goodie.  I drove up to get everybody in the house some yummy Chipotle for lunch and stopped of at Home Depot for my goodie.  During my crappy week I needed a diversion, and in light of our last electricity bill, I decided to check out light bulbs some more.  Now keep in mind I can spend a half hour in the lighting aisle of Lowes or Home Depot, or easily down a few beers and surf the net looking at LED’s.  The variety is going up and the prices are going down.  The last time I was at the Depot I saw some Philips bulbs that caught my eye.

I find LED’s fascinating because their design goes beyond just commodity item like incandescents.  There’s a lot of technology in an LED bulb, and they also require cooling fins and lenses.  It’s like having an ipod or other high end electronic device in light bulb form.  Who woulda thought, light bulbs that require some real industrial design.  Maybe I can get a job designing light bulbs.  Would be cooler than it sounds. I’ve been looking at bulbs and in my opinion Philips has the nicest looking bulbs, across their entire lineup. The nicest looking bulb is from GE (click to see it). Their 60W equivalent A19 LED bulb is pure light bulb porn, with its sexy cooling fins and old school bulb shape.  It looks like some sort of alien bulb.  It’s really nice.

I had my sites on replacing some of the most used bulbs in our house, this would help save money in the long run, but also I was curious to get my hands on the latest LED technology out there.  One note, for our new house I’m skipping compact fluorescents altogether.  LED’s are better technology and their cost is coming down.  Eventually pretty much everything will be LED in the house so I don’t want to wait twelve years or longer for my CFL’s to burn out.  The two areas I identified that were prime for upgraded bulbs were the Dining Room and my studio. Both use 60W incandescent bulbs now.  My studio you can see the bulbs as their Barn Light Electric fixtures are just raw sockets like you see at….like you see at Chipotle actually.   So in the studio I’d actually want to factor in the aesthetic design of the bulbs…maybe use them as a stylish detail in additional to functional lighting.  Unfortunately I have six sockets in the studio so to save some money my sights turned to the Dining Room.  In there, you might remember, we have the cool pendants from Barn Light Electric that are made from repurposed acetylene tank heads.  With their port holes you can see the bulbs in there too, so bulb style has to be considered again but not to the extent that we have to in the studio.  The Dining Room pendants had one 60W incandescent bulb in each fixture.  The fixtures are dimmable, and we tend to dim them all the time so that’s important.

Home Depot carries Philips light bulbs so that’s where I focused my search.  They have a great set of search tools so I could quickly zero into the bulbs that would work for our application.  I quickly boiled it down to the GE A19 bulb and a 60 watt equivalent dimmable bulb from Philips.  The Philips won out because of it’s warmer 2700K color, 11W energy usage, higher lumen output at 830 lumens.  It was almost as sexy as the GE bulb….actually it’s understated sleekness is probably sexier in a subtle way. Finally the Philips cost about half as much so it was an all around winner. (You know life as you know it is basically washed up when you talk about light bulbs being sexy.)

So for about $25 apiece I replaced the three Dining Room bulbs.  They look great, the light looks great and they dim nicely.  They use a fraction of the electricity compared to the bulbs they replace and should each save $135 over their 22 year lifespan.  Crazy to think my boys will both have graduated college by time I have to replace these light bulbs.  The bulbs have a six year warranty.

Snow Day

Today was the day after Christmas blizzard that wasn’t really a blizzard at all.  It was enough to get me out of work early though so not all was lost. I took advantage of the free time and planted our Christmas tree in the east preservation area.  The tree was in the house for about eight days and was starting to shed needles.  There was a lot of snow falling today but I trudged out with my tree in hand. I uncovered the plywood covering the hole I had previously dug in warmer weather.

tree removed from its pot waiting to be planted.

tree removed from its pot waiting to be planted.

I removed the tree from its pot and took off the plastic I had wrapped the bulb in when we brought it into the house.  Using a utility knife I cut away the fabric covering the bulb and loosened up the roots.

I took my trusty shovel and dug the hole out a little more…the soil was not frozen courtesy of the plywood covering.  I dropped the tree in and adjusted it so it looked fairly upright; the trunk has a slight curve.  I covered up the hole with the soil and even spread out a buck full of mulch around the base.  To help insulate the bulb I also tossed some fresh snow around the base too.  Within a few minutes the trees branches were covered in freshly fallen snow.

 

our christmas tree

our christmas tree

Now as you drive up the driveway, if you look closely out your passenger side window….just over there by the cherry trees, you’ll see a little blue spruce.  The first Christmas tree we ever had in our new home.  Hopefully, long after I’m gone, that tree will be standing there full grown, greeting guests and visitors.  It’s not to far from the birdhouse I cleaned out today as well, so I’m sure it’ll provide some nice refuge for birds through the years.  The tree stands in a pathway I cut out with my trimmer just about 18 months ago.  How far we’ve come in a short time.

 

We also took the opportunity to play in the snow today too.  The pond berm proved to be a most agreeable sledding hill for two wee little boys.  The berm doesn’t offer any real vertical drop but enough for a little orange sled to give them a thrill.

 

sleeding today.

We did have a nice holiday.  I took advantage of a Saturday off to tackle a couple of nagging issues around the house.  The studio door knob’s key hub was super loose and driving me crazy.  Every time one keyed the door it jiggled and the large gap invited ice and rain in my opinion.  So I took it apart to see what was up.  The other exterior knob assemblies didn’t have this problem so I think it was just an install anomaly.

I used a couple of flat head screw drivers and took the back face plate off.  Sure enough there are a couple of screws inside that hold the key hub in place.  And sure enough, neither of them was tight…the one had worked it’s way out about a 1/4″.  I easily tightened them up, making sure not to over tighten them and bend the door knob internal assembly.  One fixed up I re-installed  the rear face plate.

loose lock hub on exterior door knob

loose lock hub on exterior door knob

 

loose screws cause the lock hub to be super loose.

loose screws cause the lock hub to be super loose.

The

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The master bed door inexplicably doesn’t close so I attempted to fix that.  After accessing the situation I figured out the problem. The strike plate doesn’t have any adjustment in it so I’m stuck with where it’s at…..what I would need to do is take it off, somehow fill the screw holes in the frame and then remount it in the proper location.  Alternately I could elongate the strike plate mounting holes so it mounts further out, allowing the door to latch…either way I didn’t feel like dealing with it on my day off.  The wife said “Oh that’s not the door to worry about, I wish you’d fix the bathroom door.”  Apparently she prefers her bathroom door to be able to lock, which it currently doesn’t.  So I took a look.

It’s a pocket door, and we love pocket doors for their space saving properties.  The biggest complaints about our pocket doors are 1) the weight – we shoulda got fake instead of real wood, 2) the hardware – the expensive matching bronze Emtek hardware for the pocket doors totally blows, making it impossible to operate the doors without a lot of effort, and 3) everything has to be spot on else they don’t close….which in our case means every door has an issue.

trim plate removed reveals the issues with the bathroom door.

trim plate removed reveals the issues with the bathroom door.

 

All three issues combined mean that from at least one side of every door it’s impossible to get the door closed all the way….the door pushes out or in and contacts the trim before the strike plate.  The handles give hands nothing to grip or push on, in order to move the super heavy doors.  Well apparently my wife doesn’t like the idea of any one of the men living in her home to be able to open the bathroom door while she’s butt naked or do her whatnot in the bathroom.  Go figure.

I measured a few things and figured the strike plate needed to be moved over about an eighth or quarter inch.  I removed the plate and discovered at one time it was moved over as there were two mounting holes down low.  Cool, I’ll drill a new hole up top.  Well, buried in the frame, right where my other mounting hole needs to go is the remnants of a broken off screw.  Ugh.  I fussed with it a bit and came to the conclusion that I’d have to perform major surgery on the door frame trim…possibly taking out a block of the trim and replacing it with fresh wood…..filler, paint, etc….more than I wanted to do on a Saturday morning. Well the wife’s just gonna have to live with the “freedom” that comes with non-locking bedroom and bathroom doors.  I went 1 for 3 on fixing doors on Saturday.  Good average if I were a baseball player.

That’s about it.  I’m going to play with my toys for the next couple days then get back to work.  I have those studio cabinets to finish installing, then onto my next project.  Also I’m starting to work on maintenance tasks like managing the water system chlorine and filters.  I also have a call into the HVAC guys to check the system and give me the nickel tour on how to maintain the filter systems.  One last thing, I can’t find any LED replacement bulbs for the bathroom vanity lights…it’s a rare T10 60W bulb, like you have in your fridge (though yours is probably 25W or 40W)…..and I’m hesitant to use incandescent bulbs since they use about $7 of energy annually and there are six of them in our bathroom.  I’m thinking CFL’s which I was able to find online.  I guess I should have thought of that before I ordered my fancy Restoration Hardware light fixtures….but I really love those fixtures and their old school Hollywood appeal.  Eventually someone will invent the bulb I need, until then I’ll get some compact fluorescents.

By the way, the floorplan featuring the kitchen island and long front hallway is perfect for bike riding.  We have a toddler loving life riding his bike on the hardwood floors, which in most households is probably a hue no no, but surprisingly for me (if you knew me) I don’t really care.  I’m keeping an eye on things and there appears to be no ill effect….except when he says “I am mad at you” because I tell him to slow down.

Christmas deer in our yard.  So cool to see them almost every night right out our window.

Christmas deer in our yard. So cool to see them almost every night right out our window.

 

Photo Update

Today I’ll treat you to a photo update.  There are various and assorted things going on at the ranch.  The painters are cranking away despite me getting them in trouble. They just don’t talk to me anymore. 

We bought out first LED bulb for the house.  It’ll go in a table lamp in the Family Room.  $30 at Lowes.  A bit pricey but I’ll write it off as an experiment. (no, I’m not literally writing it off like a tax thing or anything).  Elsewhere art is starting to hang, mantles are cracking and I even built a shelf.  I’m also enjoying my Garden Weasel, though some rain would be awesome.  Mother nature washed away all our seed, then whatever seed was left over sprouted and is now dying at the hands of a drought.  It’s rained once since the lawn went in.  Our cistern water system lacks the water pressure to sprinkle the lawn much.

By the way, speaking of art, check out these two guys and their great art.  Edward Park paints fantastic landscapes. Paul Fletcher’s encaustic paintings have to be seen to be believed; they’re made from bees wax. We’re fortunate to have original pieces in our new home.

Finally I saw the most awesome medium sized turtle in the backyard the other day, while I was watering the hazelnut trees.  I’m amazed by how many cool animals call our land home.

Cleaning Windows

I’ve been getting progressively more exhausted with each passing day.  Mentally I’m just about shot.  The house building process has gotten the best of me; I thought I was strong, this house proves I probably am not.  Thankfully for my sanity, the windows need cleaning and I’m just the guy to clean them. 

We spent the weekend cleaning up the new house (and cleaning the old one to show it to prospective buyers).  I finished cleaning all the windows last night and spent tonight working on hanging towel bars.  As it stands now, the house is an incredible cocoon, isolating myself from the rest of the world.  Methodically washing each of about thirty windows is the perfect meditation.  Scraping off the labels and overspray.  Wiping the crud out of the crevices.  Spraying a mist of fresh smelling Windex across each glassy plane.  Working alone in silence.  The last time I experienced this degree of peace, solitude and quiet was when I was cutting out foam blocks from my shiny new foundation in the dead of the summer heat.

Now in the dead of winter grey, albeit an unseasonably warm winter, it’s difficult to feel more than a fractal degree of optimism.  But at least in one night’s (or one night and a day’s) washing windows I at least got to be alone with our new home.  That is reward enough for now I suppose.  Best to get this project done, move in and spend our time, at our leisure, fixing all the little idiosyncracies that beg to send me into a fit of whatnot.

I did reflect on the permanence of what we’ve created.  Or at least my hope that there is some degree of permanence to what we’ve done.  Hopefully by documenting this project, someone a hundred years from now will appreciate what we’ve tried to accomplish; reflect on all the details we tried to turn into reality.  What we’ve done in terms of energy efficiency is ahead of its time frankly.  And I say that only because it was so foreign and difficult to execute.  It really should be common practice but alas not a lot of people value things the same way as we do I suppose.  In a fleeting and disposable society, our hope is that we’ve created something that will last for a very long time.  Soon the bank will come out and put a value on the place.  On paper we’ve input a lot more money than we planned. And on the surface the house is not necessarily remarkable or even “worth” all the money that’s been used to construct it.  Even so what is rendered in wood, steel and glass should reflect a value that should appease the bank (at least enough for a loan).  But the house is so much more than the sum of its parts.  Only time will reflect this project’s true value in this world.  Our society’s current methods and models of assigning value to “things” is disappointingly out of touch with the realities of how the world (and universe) truly operate.  What we’ve built will be compared side by side to traditional houses.  Bonuses will not be given to our abode for the fewer number of mountain tops that will need removal to power it.  Just as demerits are not levied against typically built cookie cutter houses that work hard at degrading us and our communities.  And our project is not immune from negative effect.  For example, the amount of waste generated during the course of our project is staggering.   We’ve could have fallen out of bed and found ways to reduce waste.  But alas only so much can be done by so many in so much time.

Anyway, enough of my social tirades.  On to the eye candy.  Enjoy.  We’re almost done.

Sweep Day

After a week out-of-town for work, I was excited to get out to the house today.  Christine and I packed up our cleaning supplies and the boys and headed out to the job site.  Upon arrival I opened the creaky front door to find my brother was busy picking tape off the floor where the painters had masked everything.  Tony was patiently installing all the interior door knobs.  We took a quick around and then went upstairs to start cleaning up.  The carpet we picked out for the second floor was ultra soft underfoot.  It’s green sage color looked really nice and appropriate for the house’s decor.  All over there were new things to discover, as much work transpired in my absence.  Christine set about getting every penny out our Dyson vacuum, as she swept up all the fuzzy carpet pieces that resulted from the carpet installation earlier in the week.  The house is now kid friendly.  Both boys had a blast running around upstairs getting in our way. 

My first order of business was to clean up the windows.  I used a flat head screwdriver to push in the expansion pipes behind the flexible window trim.  You may remember back when the window were installed, I crimped and hit the ends of the pipes with some clear silicone.  The pipes did have a foil balloon attached so that the argon gas inside could expand as the windows traveled over the Rockies….the balloons gave the gas a place to expand into thus keeping the windows from exploding.  Pushing in the wire looking pipes into the trim was tedious and some windows were better than others.  Once behind the trim I employed a razor blade to scrape off all the paint overspray and window stickers.  A wipe down with Windex and a rag finished that task.  I forget how many windows we have but I got ’em all clean upstairs and can finish the rest tomorrow.  The impressive window wall in our studios required the use of a really cool A-frame ladder that the painters had left on site.  I need to get something like that once we move in.  Worked really well for cleaning otherwise unapproachable windows.

Sweeping the new carpet has to be one of the most rewarding jobs during the whole project.  Christine is keeping most of the house cleaning duties to herself as she finds great pleasure and ownership in the various tasks.  We did switch halfway through and I swept up the stairs.  The staircase is incredibly nice.  The guys at Carpet Warehouse did a great job wrapping each tread individually with a 2′ wide swath of the green carpet that was used upstairs.  A lot of the remainders were able to be used which kept the material out of the landfill.  It’s a nice combination: the carpet, maple treads and the white railing.  The white support trim piece under each tread provided the perfect start / stop spot for the carpet wrapping the treads.  I really like the wood flooring on the landings too.  Having landings afford us the opportunity to place additional art or furniture pieces on site, regardless of the square footage of the landings. One unfortunate omission is a light on our lower landing thus making it a bit dark.  Our youngest enjoyed practicing his stair crawling techniques on his new treads; even scooted down backwards a few steps for the first time.

We’ll sweep the master suite tomorrow.  It’s brown shaggy carpet felt wonderful walking across it as well.  Way up top in the attic there’s a light brown “berber” type flat carpet with a subtle dimensional grid pattern.  James had a fantastic time running around in circles and jumping off of window sills.  The attic will be great for writing, reading, and stormy summer camp outs with the boys.

We had a tour earlier in the week.  Our architect brought out his second year architecture class to see the place.  I wish I could have joined them, as I always enjoy showing off Joe’s latest masterpiece.  The report I got back was that the students liked the house and said the attic is “sick”, which I believe is a good thing.

Al, our Italian (I think he’s Italian) mason, whom I can barely understand, stopped out.  I asked him to mortar some of the stone fireplace crevices in an effort to better camouflage the fact our stone is fake cultured stone.  I don’t know Al well but he used to work on our jobs decades ago when my brothers built houses, and I was a good old-fashioned rough carpenter.  Was good to see him again.  I hope that he can do the exterior stone on the house, once we have the funds to make that happen.  He’s a good guy and pretty much the best mason you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.

I’ll leave you with today’s pics and their commentary.

Crazy, but this is starting to look pretty similar to my rendering of the kitchen.

Sub Zero integrated fridge and freezer received their skins this week. In the center is our altar to coffee. The big thing on the floor in the middle is our convection microwave awaiting its day in the sun. I'm not sure if it's the picture but I'm pretty sure the lights don't line up on the wall like they are supposed to. Attention to detail is not the construction industry's stong suit.

   

Glass tile is laid and grouted in the master shower. The tiles vary in size so there is some inconsistency. Also note, if you're doing this yourself, make sure you get good mortar coverage. The tile edges are glass which means you can see the change in light penetration where there isn't any mortar in the corners. Overall the shower looks good.

Ladders and saws are replaced with carpet and vacuum cleaners. Note the pharmacy sconce in the background from Restoration Hardware. I'll need to remount using longer screws or install some blocking, they're a bit shaky.

Boys bath cabinet by Kraftmaid, from Lowes. It's so tight, the door on the right doesn't work. Crappy design and a tight fit = compromise.

We picked out these sinks 8 months ago because that's what we "had to do". Turns out they don't fit the cabinet we picked out 2 months ago. Which is a damn shame cause I like the circle shape of them. There's probably a "restocking fee" so we'll just hold onto them and pick up two new ones at Home Depot. unfortunately "compromise" is very common when building a house, even if you think you have full control.

I need a giant ladder like this in the future to clean these windows. There's a crank to open top window. Have no idea how that will ever get used.

Hall ceiling lights are in. Happiness. Except the electricians need to move one box over staircase to accommodate large diameter lights.

Family room is finally clean and ready to go, except for a couple of appliances in the way.

Edges of the front door hardware are starting to wear, from oil rubbed bronze to shiny bronze / brass color. Very cool. The handles will help keep time as we, and future generations live in the house. If you're restoring this house 100 years from now, keep these door handles please.

Oil rubbed bronze interior knobs are in place.

 

Master closet wall sconces from Restoration Hardware. Kinda industrial, totally cool.

                   

Lapa hugger ceiling fan with light from Barn Light Electric. Now that I look at it, they installed it wrong, should be hugging the ceiling with no down rod. They also couldn't install the $75 wall switches I paid for. Two items that we'll get fixed after we move in. Installation issues aside, the fans look awesome in the bedrooms.

Cement counter in half bath made by our trim carpenter. It has a fair amount of subtle character that should suit the half bath fairly well. Below is the vanity we got from Home Depot. We painted it black. We'll distress it and add four fake knobs, hopefully something eclectic.

Let There Be Light

We’re in the final throes of drama and angst for the project and the new house is fighting as best it can.  But alas, we’re so close that even the house has to admit, it’s going to be done soon.  At this point I have only my neurosis to keep me company as I chart the final items that need to be selected, and overcome the final obstacles to completion. 

I picked up the tile for the boys bathroom shower.  It’s a simple white Daltile ceramic 6″x6″ square tile.  I also need to pick up the bathroom floor tile but it’s chilling out on a truck somewhere in Northeast Ohio.  Who woulda thought, fancy linen striped tile would be so non-aspirational; choosing to hang out on a truck rather than our floor.  Much to my delight Mark over at Carpet Warehouse, after much figurative prodding, actually came up with glass tile for the master shower that should work and be reasonably priced.  Reasonable is a relative term.  I will not disclose the cost as most sane people would scoff at such excess, but hey it’ll look really nice.  Something to enjoy while we’re hanging out naked with our soap and Pert. 

Dropping off the tile tonight I was surprised to find little light switches and outlets wired up throughout the house.  Looking up I saw a few incandescent light bulbs nestled in the recessed ceiling cans. 

Oooooo…….lights.

With a flip of the switch it was neat to see light coming from the house itself.  The basement has had light for some time but now the main house has it;  very cool. Having light allowed me to see the kitchen cabinets for the first time.  These cabinets were all custom-made by my brother.  For now they lack their door fronts so it provides a chance to see their innards.  The frames are painted black.  The doors will be walnut laminate.  You’ll see in a little while.  Hopefully they’ll turn out to be pretty cool looking.  The pantry shelves are in too.  We went with a variety of 16″, 12″ and 10″ shelves.  My brother / master carpenter used 3/4″ plywood for the shelves.  The pantry is a micro sized walk in.  It’s conveniently located in the kitchen which makes access and resupplying a breeze.  We have a larger one in our current house but it’s down the hall so access stinks.  We’ll gladly trade size for convenience.

We’re waffling all the way to the end regarding the half bath fixtures.  We switched our taste for the house hardware from brushed nickel to oil rubbed bronze (ORB).  Early in the project we were forced into making plumbing selections and chose a really nice modern faucet, for the half bath, in a brushed nickel finish.  We were hoping to change the faucet selection to an ORB finish but alas the distributor and Kohler charge a restocking fee of 50%.  So we’ll stick with our original plan.  We can always transfer the vanity, sink and faucet to the basement and refit the half bath down the road.  Let this be a lesson to you, don’t be forced into picking finishes 6 months early.  Select the fixtures in so much as the plumber can rough everything in but don’t select the finishes until the last-minute.  After building several houses I’ve found most contractors, trades and distributors will steer you towards how “it’s always been done” and what’s easy for them.  Deviating from the “norm” is usually met with high prices, and penalties. Unfortunately customer’s wants and needs are sometimes secondary.  This old reality also means you’ll have to do a lot of research because most of the time they just want to sell you the items that “everyone gets”.  That’s fine if you’re fine with that, but if you want to know all your options, you’re most likely going to have to do the research.

Now is the time when we have to make one of the last big selections: carpeting.  The carpet guy dropped off the standard carpet samples off but I don’t think they’ll work.  With the house being so tight we’ll need to make sure the carpet and pad aren’t off gassing any harmful chemicals.  Also our two little boys will be rolling around on the stuff so we want to make sure it’s as benign as possible.  I started researching products on the web and still have a weekend’s worth of research to do.  Mohawk and Shaw both look like they may have some decent products, but I need to look closer.  I’ll check out the Greenguard and other indoor air quality sites as well for information.

All the windows appear to be trimmed out and most of the baseboards are in.  I did notice all the spindles for the stairs were huddled in the garage so their day in the sun should be close at hand as well.  Next week we’ll get the Silestone fabricator out to measure up the project; probably wreak havoc on his nerves with our special needs.  I’m sorry but this project or rather its owners are not “how it’s always been done” kind of folks.  Telling me I can’t do it or it can’t be done is not an option, it is a personal challenge.  You’re better off not testing my neurosis, ego and OCD. 

Here are some pics to enjoy.

Let there be light, and let us turn it on by flipping these rather common, yet surprisingly inexpensive light switches. The one on the left is an outlet. Don't finger that one.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We carved this pantry space out of the floor plan by sliding the half bath down. The plywood shelves range between 10-16" deep. vertical spacing is 14" on center. Pocket door makes entry easy and free's up space.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Awe, cute, some rabid woodland animal left its feces laden paw prints on the plywood that is now in our pantry.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Windows are trimmed out with nearly 8" jamb extensions. The deep window sills are perfect for cats, or impromptu seating for kids and grandma's alike.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Exterior siding is finally complete.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Kitchen cabinets. Space is for range.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Island cabinet, not in right place yet.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Custom made kitchen cabinets.

Decisions, Decisions.

Building a custom home, not surprisingly, involves a lot of decision-making.  As our “ship” is outfitted and readied for her maiden voyage, rapid fire decision-making becomes a must.  Unless everything is planned ahead of time, to the “Nth” degree, all that can be done is making design decisions on the fly at the end of the project.  Our New Year’s weekend was fairly successful in terms of picking things out.  We are to the point where we have to “run with it” and hope for the best. 

3x6 white glass subway tiles for master shower. We fell in love. They cost a small fortune. Debating pros and cons of selling a family member to pay for them. Both boys have been on their best behavior since we started contemplating. The cat on the other hand....

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
All the flooring and tile work is selected except carpet and the master bath tile.  We fell in love with some really cool glass subway tiles.  So much so that they may find a home not only in the shower but also on the Master Bath wall behind the sinks. They cost a fair bit so I’m searching for the best price.  In the meantime we were successful in picking out vanities for the boys bathroom and the half bath from Lowes and Home Depot respectively.  The boys vanity continues the all white theme of the room.  The half bath vanity will be a dark chocolate-brown, vessel stand.  We’ll play up the brown / black wood theme with accent walls at either end of the small space. 
 

Siding going on the garage.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Light fixtures continue to trickle in.  Pretty much all of them are selected and on order.  Still need to pick out a marquee light for the half bath (which we pretty much have picked out; just need to order).  For the track lighting I let the electrician know what we wanted.  He will provide us with a parts list that I can use for ordering components.  Nothing fancy will be required for our track lights.  Simple white track heads will suit us fine.  One can spend a fortune on track lighting fixtures.  We will not. 
 

Sconce from Restoration Hardware. Code requires enclosed lights for closets, even though our lights will be no where near clothing, and the LED bulbs will generate virtually no heat. These industrial looking sconces include glass jars to meet code.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We’re working on selecting the countertop material for the kitchen.  It will be Silestone quartz.  We selected this material because it’s low maintenance and looks nice (obviously).  It’s pricey but in the grand scheme of things it’s not too bad.  To keep things consistent we’ll do the same color counter in the half bath.  Additionally we’d like to run it around the fireplace and inset it into the hardwood floor to act as a hearth.  We need to work out the details with the installer in the coming weeks.  Color wise it’s still up in the air.  Two of the three colors are less expensive; just want to make sure we like what we choose.  Basically trying to get a cement look to everything.
 
 

Countertop colors: Grey Expo (left) or Murango (right)? There's a third color, "Cemento" but we don't have a color chip for that. It looks like an expensive version of Murango.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Work wise, siding is on one side of the garage.  The plumber is migrating back to the work site along with the winter snow.  Our 50 gallon electric hot water tank should be installed tomorrow.  We’re also having the shower hooked up in the basement now, even though we don’t plan on finishing the basement for a while.  No sense the shower stall sitting all by its lonesome in the corner of the basement, unattached to anything.
 
The Jeep is finally back in working order so I drove him (her?) out to the site after work today.  Needed to pick up drywall finish samples for the ceiling.  Two options.
 
Me: “Honey you want ‘STD’ or ‘Spatter’?”
Wife: “Excuse me?  Sounded like you asked me if I want an ‘STD’?”
Me: “Yes, ‘STD’ or ‘Spatter’?”
Wife: “What the hell were you doing? Is this why you’re so late from work? Unbelievable. Well I guess ‘Spatter’ given the choice, you pig. Though frankly if you have an STD….Unbelievable.”
Me: [Sigh]
Me: “No, we need to pick out a finish for the ceilings.  See…”
[I reveal two drywall finish sample boards that I picked up at the house].
Wife: “Oh.  In that case I vote STD.”
Me: “STD it is”
 

For those of you keeping score at home, when you build a house you have to decide all kinds of mundane crack pot stuff. In this horrible picture you can (not) see the difference between "spatter" and "standard" knock down finishes for ceiling drywall.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STD is a standard “knock down” finish for drywall ceilings.  Spatter looks about the same, though maybe a little more “pop corn-y”.  They don’t do the old school mop finish any more like we have in our cookie cutter colonial now.  Frankly, if you’re looking at our ceilings, you’re either passing out from all the booze we gave you or we did a horrific job decorating the joint.  Stop looking at the ceiling and look at our glass tiles already, gheez.
Interesting note, Kitchen gets a flat ceiling texture….oooo….gonna paint it a color.  Oh yeah.
 
Here are miscellaneous other pics of the project. Stay warm folks. (House is freakishly warm by the way….and humid as Brazilian jungle).
 
 

Basement. Latest flooding occurred when sump pump pipe came apart. Squirted water like Old Faithful on New Years Eve. "What's that noise?" "Dunno, I'll go downstairs and check.....woah Nelly, what the f..."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Front door. Architect and brother say we should've used lap siding. Wife and I voted board n batten. You'll see, there's a method to our madness. I promise.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 P.S. Don’t get burned like we did (at least if you’re indecisive like us).  We had to pick all our plumbing fixtures out months ago, so the plumber knew where to run the pipes (I guess). Since then we’re digging “oil rubbed bronze” (ORB) a lot more than “brushed nickel” for the metal in the house.  So much so that our exterior doors have nickel hinges and ORB handles.  We thought about changing the half bath faucet from nickel to ORB but our plumbing supplier would charge us a 50% restocking fee to change faucets.  Let this be a lesson to you. Tell your plumber or supplier, generally what you want but don’t let them buy the actual faucets until the last possible minute.  We shot ourselves in the foot, and our plumbing supplier’s policies only exasperated the situation.  It wouldn’t be bad except some of the fixtures we wanted to change were really pricey.  Now we’re stuck.  With our current house we ran into plumbing selection issues too and butted heads with the builder.  Something about plumbing I guess.  Anyway, learn from our mistakes. Never again.
 

Crown Jewel

View of installed loft window.

Today we installed the last window in the main house.  The largest window in the house punctuates the “crown” of the house, front and center in the attic / loft.  It’s approximately 5’x5′ and understandably it weighs a fair bit.  It took four of us, (myself, brothers and Tony) to install it.  I have to check but it showed up a few inches too wide and tall.  You’ll remember this is the window that was too tall to begin with so we had to re-order it.  Something about it, it just wants to be a really big window no matter how small we try to make it.  How can a window be an overachiever?  I don’t know but this one’s doing a pretty good job.  My brother and Tony carried it up through the staircase to where we prepped it in the second floor gallery.  They removed the handles and remounted them on the inside face.  I crimped and cut the air expansion balloon and capped it with silicone.  Tony and I then went up to the loft and my brothers handed us up the window.  If the window was an inch wider we wouldn’t have gotten it through the ladder opening in the floor.  Once topside my brothers stepped outside onto the sider’s scaffolding.  One interesting note, the wood blocks holding up the scaffolding are lagged into the gutter boards with bolts.  This provides enough support for the scaffolding ladders.  Anyway, my brother’s get the gold star for the day cause the scaffold platform is about 20′ in the air outside the window opening.  No worries, I think it’s 30′ before humans die from falling.  We caulked the window rough opening surround with silicone to give the window a tight seal once in place.  The rough opening was incredibly tight so Tony and I slowly fished out the window to the guys outside.  With a little pounding the window was then inserted into the opening and nails pounded through the aluminum nailing flanges.  The opening was leveled and because it was so tight we had to basically go with it “as is”; no shims or anything to fine tune.  It’s a non operating window so it should be okay.  I’m glad we’ve passed this hurdle. 

Nailing the loft window in place. Note how the window goes floor to ceiling. The glass is tempered to meed code and for safety purposes.

Now the house is basically sealed up except for a couple minor details.  Should be ready for our blower test any day now. The blower test will be used to assure everything is tight as well as the information will be used for our EnergyStar 2.5 rating paperwork.

It was nice to see the house in daylight since I miss it most of the week.  All the drywall is hung, including the garage.  The exterior blue foam is virtually done and the siding is coming along.

One of the things that happened this week before / during drywall installation was the fireplace was removed so that area could be properly insulated with caulk, insulation and fire resistant foil paper.  The folks over at the Fireplace Shoppe then had the unit back in the next day.  We’re definitely looking forward to firing the unit up once we move in.

What I call the "mill" view of the house showing the siding on the studios.

 Christine and I have been frantically spending our weekend selecting lighting and other assorted finishing items.  Due to budget constraints, we’re all over the map in terms of sourcing lighting.  A bulk of the lighting is recessed so we have minimal fixtures.  Many of the lighting fixtures (and ceiling fans) will come from Barn Light Electric in Florida.   Their selection is crazy cool and suits our taste and Joe’s artistic creation extremely well.  It’s an eclectic blend of industrial, rural and vintage lighting. Beyond that we picked up a couple of light fixtures at Home Depot as well as Restoration Hardware out of Columbus, Ohio. Some of the lights we ordered started arriving so it’s kinda cool to see the hardware in person.  We are also picking out the exterior door handles and locksets.  The house will be under lock and key very shortly. It’s crazy to think just a few months ago Corky and I were cutting down trees.  Now here we are this far along in the process.  Very cool, very exciting.

Breezeway between house and garage.

 
This coming week the cistern will go in.  The septic system has been tested and approved by the county / health department.  We’ll also be getting a temporary furnace to get the house up to temperature so the guys can finish drywalling (taping and mudding) the interior.
 
One interesting thing I noticed this morning is the house was very cold.  Which is remarkable  

Fireplace properly insulated. Foil paper is fire resistant just in case.

 because it was very warm outside.  Now that it’s virtually sealed up the house is isolated from the world around it thermally for all intents and purposes.  It was cold cause there’s no heat / furnace but regardless it will hold its internal temperature now. 
 
Take a look at the pics.  The project’s coming along nicely. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Fancy hotel look wall sconces for the Master Bathroom courtesy of Restoration Hardware. I asserted myself and selected these much to the chagrin of the wife. Trust me I say, I'm a trained professional. She reminds me she is too.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Family room. Only about three months from beer, food and game night with friends or family.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Upstairs art gallery wall. Will all be covered in wood, secret doors, and artwork. Ceiling opening is for ladder to attic / loft. Windows up there will route hot air out of the house by way of cyclonic action from the basement all the way up. Think giant helical air flow up stair case, gallery and loft once the windows are opened up.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Downstairs gallery and temp staircase. Located near the studios for clients to traverse between Christine's and my studios.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Front hall. Real fake I-Beam above.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Drywall scaffolding. Eventually the upper wall will be frosted acrylic to get light into the craft room. At some point the attic / loft floor will be frosted glass as well to drive daylight into the gallery.