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how to get a hot tub onto a porch, in ten easy steps.

March 1st, 2013 by

strategy in design

February 20th, 2013 by

Spent the afternoon being part of the process of tiling yesterday (though, as the afternoon wore on, your flu-stricken reporter became less and less a part of anything).

An interesting process to watch, and be part of: the carefully asymmetrical layout of kitchen backsplash tile, starring Nicole Baxter and Nathaniel. It’s going to be quirky and beautiful, like its designer.

tile and snow

February 19th, 2013 by

Weird juxtaposition, but the two things came up on the same day.  Two days after my birthday (we’re no longer counting years, so don’t ask), I went to see Fred and take some new pictures.  It also happened to be the day of the first serious snow of this North Carolina winter, which is also usually the last serious snow of the winter.  (I know there’s a month-old post here that says “snow,” but that one didn’t compare to this one, with flurries all day long that didn’t stick but made the air pretty.)

Fred is getting down to the final stages now, with most of the exterior done (except for zinc and fine details) and the majority of the work happening inside.

Herewith, pictures.

house exterior in snowThe requisite exterior shot, showing plastic over the now-concrete driveway and paint on the Hardie panels and stucco.  The silvery portions that are not covered yet are where the zinc will go.

 

Tile wall in master showerThe master bath tile is just about finished, now, with the cool accent tile (“Palm”) grouted in a lighter color so as to really show it off.  I was worried all that grey would be dark and forboding, even though I liked the tile, but with the big window over where my tub goes it isn’t dark at all.  Even on a grey and snowy day.

 

kitchen interior with cabinetsThe kitchen cabinets look beautiful with the nearly-matching floor.  Countertops go in today and/or tomorrow, and the black accents will set off the light wood nicely, don’t you think?

best Christmas present ever.

December 25th, 2012 by

His first serious project built in the woodworking studio he put together here in order to build wonderful things for our new home: a beautiful small desk for me, of walnut and ash, to set my laptop on and write when I visit his shop.  The only present I can imagine bringing more tears to my eyes (he also put together the gorgeous curved ornament stand on top of this desk) will be next year, when we have Christmas in our new home.  He even covered that with a printout of a SketchUp.  NOW I know where he’s been these long hours…

Graphic of soon-to-be home

Virtual Christmas card for next year.

Beautiful wooden desk

steel, meet wood…at oblique angles

December 10th, 2012 by

So this photo deserves its own single post.  I took this shot just to show how very much is going on in our framing; you see two steel girders here, meeting at the low point of our cantilevered shed roof.  There’s also metal holding the multiple layers of wood framing when the dropped roof continues out onto the deck (where one wall is tapered) and, in the lower right, the corner of a window.

No, we couldn’t do your basic square-shapes-right-angles house.  In the first place, neither of us does anything in a standard way; I mean, an AARP-card-carrying grad student?  A NASCAR-loving Mensa-qualified technogeek woodworker?  You see what I mean.  We’re not normal.  So our house isn’t going to be one of your basic boxes.

And you won’t see this stuff in a couple weeks, when the drywall goes in, so I thought I’d share this now.

joint with steel girder and wood framing

Steel meets wood and gets into a detailed discussion

from the inside out

November 19th, 2012 by

It’s taking shape…to the point that now I find myself taking photos of the inside more than the outside.  Yesterday we stopped by Fred’s site and saw windows; real windows, not the Microsoft kind–JeldWen, to be specific, all packaged up and ready to go into the holes in the walls that are already up.  Very coolest thing was that there’s one in already, where my lovely European bathtub will go, so you can see the view from my tub.

Window view from the inside outWe’re still waiting for the last couple pieces of steel that will hold up Fred’s “bend,” the area in the middle of my sweet husband’s office that has an angle to it where the house goes off in another direction.  (Kind of like our conversations often do.)  So there’s an unintentional atrium where his office will be, the last spot of the house that has no roof now.

Picking door handles and outside materials is still on our agenda; we’re settling on zinc to cover a section of the garage face and the bump-out/extrusion at the entry door.  Our wonderful builder comes up with new ideas, entirely unlike most builders from what I understand, and when we kept waffling on what wood to use there–because neither of us is keen on the idea that we’d have to treat it every year or so or have rotten-looking cedar or some other material at the front of the house, the part everyone sees right away–he said “what about zinc?”  Both of us had thought it was pricey stuff, out of our budget (which is growing every day, unfortunately), but it turns out the cost is about the same as the wood would have been and we both like the look.  Thank you, Leon, for liking new stuff and coming up with ideas that settle our indecisiveness.

So…here are a few more photos of how Fred’s looking these days, from the inside out.KittoLivRmNov18LauraOfficeNov18

 

more structure–and detail

October 28th, 2012 by

Two topics in today’s post: the incredible pace (or so it feels) of the structure of AHNF, as I like to call a house named Fred–though that should be ahnF, I guess.  Also, what it’s like to deal with the details, the picking out of lights/plumbing fixtures/finishes and the surprises and stumbles that come with all that.

First, the growth of ahnF.  Here’s how it looks as of yesterday, with the roof framing becoming more and more complete:

Wide shot of a house named Fred as of October 27 2012

The two sections of roof you see in this photo will join as the framing gets further along, for a continuous if bent line from garage to the main part of the house.

You can see the piano bump-out to the far right; a little triangular projection that will house my late mother-in-law’s Steinway and frame it from the inside with windows and a lowered roof.

In fact, that piano bump-out gives me a nice segué into the next topic, because the beautiful light fixture we’d always pictured hanging over it exemplifies some of my own frustrations with this whole home-building process.  More than a year ago, when we started the whole work-with-an-architect home design process, the two of us went through the catalogs and websites of all kinds of companies that make light fixtures, and plumbing fixtures, and other necessary details that go into a house (see earlier posts here and here).  We found, after careful research, what things got the best reviews and recommendations (thank you, Consumer Reports) and narrowed down our choices for such stuff.

This lighting fixture was one of those things with which I just fell in love, and pictured hanging over the piano–over the seat, maybe, but at least over the body of the lovely grand with its shining ebony surface.  Fancy chandelier looking like sailboats floating in airIt’s called a “Crescendo,” which seems especially perfect for a part of the house where music may happen.

But what nobody tells you, especially if your home-building process takes a while and goes through fits and starts at its start, is that things change.

The lowered ceiling over the piano, for instance, means this beautiful light hangs too low to go over the piano; if we leave the lid open–as is the usual practice with grand pianos–the light will hit it, so it has to go back in the bump-out, not where I’d always pictured it.

The other thing that happens is that as time goes by, the companies that make the oven, for instance, that you’d carefully researched, compared with similar models, decided was the best deal with the features you wanted (a popcorn setting on the microwave is absolutely necessary) stops being made.  The company (KitchenAid, thanks a lot) discontinues that oven, and replaces it–maybe, it’s hard to tell–with a couple other similar models, then publishes only a little information on its website so you can’t really tell if the new one that’s similar priced still has a popcorn setting or if you’ll now have to pay $1000 more to get that stupid button.

Do I sound frustrated?  That would be because I am.

One other thing that happens as the process gets into final deadlines of decision-making is that you find out one of the folks you work with put a line item from your budget in a category different from the category the subcontractor or vendor put it into, so that you assume you’re well within your allowance for, say, cabinets, only to find out the allowance in one budget didn’t include that item and you’re now $10,000 over budget.

SO….building a custom house is wonderful as you watch it become real.  And it’s sheer torture as you watch it become real and watch the budget expand.

Fred’s growing up

October 15th, 2012 by

Now it’s getting exciting.  We went out to see our boy/house, Fred, this weekend.  It’s starting to feel like the house we’ve been imagining, with walls that show how the slanted/shed roof will give us a wonderful tall entryway…the outlines of the rooms laid out on the now-framed floor…and a general physical representation of the house that will, pretty soon now (next Spring), become our home.

 

Fred from his NE corner

The view from the woods 

Fred’s dad showing how high the ceiling will be in the entry hallway.

The outlines of Fred’s room layout

Beginning to see Fred’s bone structure

i’m a lumberjack

September 3rd, 2012 by

It was a little warm for flannel shirts. Heck, it was too warm for clothes, period, or even just moving at all.  But my sweetie and his friend Scott hauled the logs left from a big beautiful poplar we had to take down (or else the house might have ended up, after being built, with an unwanted exterior/interior feature that would’ve given us fresh air somewhere between the kitchen and the master bath).

photo of two guys on top of big logs

I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK

Some part of one of these logs will become the desk in my office at some future date.  Meantime Scott will help us by providing his milling services and kiln-drying expertise so a once-beautiful tree will become beautiful, usable hardwood.

keep ‘er footin’

August 31st, 2012 by

That headline is an obscure reference probably only one person still in my life would get–it has to do with a skipper on a racing sailboat, something they called an Ensign back in the day, who used to exhort his crew to “keep ‘er footin'” when they were on an upwind leg. “Footing” referred to the ability to sail faster by dropping a bit off the wind, taking the chance that even though your line to the mark in a race wasn’t as tight as the boat next to you you’d make up the time in faster hull speed.

It almost works here, too.  Our indefatigable builder, Leon, and his superintendent Myron have done a bangup job of keepin’ us footin’.  The house is only 10 days old, as far as construction goes, and we have our footings.  (Another word meaning there–see number 3–but still sort of applicable.)  Which are, for those of us who are ignorant of construction terms, the very basis of the house; the foundation to the foundation, as it were.  The hard parts that dig into the dirt, like your toes would into the sand if you were walking on the beach.