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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.

Fred in the snow (inside and out)

January 18th, 2013 by

When I woke up this morning and saw the snow on the ground, I did something that would not normally happen: got dressed before I’d finished my coffee (!!!!), got in my little red Miata, and drove on icy roads–fishtailing every once in the while on the way there–to take pictures of Fred with his fresh white topping of snow.  The unexpected benefit was that there’s now heat inside, so when I opened the door to take a few interior shots my glasses steamed up and I said “ahhhhh.”  The morning sunlight is just beautiful out on our land, and it streams through the windows and skylights with utter abandon.

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

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.

let’s give them something to talk about

August 21st, 2012 by

 

It’s really real today!  The earth movers (and shakers?) started tearing out trees and clearing the space for our driveway today.  Fred is being born!

The pains of childbirth are probably worse–I’ll never know about that–but the time it’s taken to get to this day suddenly seems much less now that actual physical evidence of our soon-to-be-house is there to see.

Here are a couple still photos:

wow…for real?

June 15th, 2012 by

We now have construction documents and specs, which gives me a shiver and a thrill at the same time–we’re really doing this!  It’s a HOUSE!  (named Fred)

From said CDs, the overall house plan:

 

 

 

 

 

It’s down to the details, now, like deciding which decking material to use (Trex?  Azek?), whether to substitute the really cool Euro-style sink Alape sinkfor the more mundane Kohler in the powder room, and do we use engineered hardwood flooring or the real stuff?

I’m actually thinking now about the housewarming party we’ll throw about the time I get my graduate degree.  There will be much to celebrate.

getting closer

May 16th, 2012 by
View from the south

How a house named Fred will look from the South

Graphic of front door design for a house named Fred

Pulling up our driveway to the front door

Yesterday we decided not to rush the groundbreaking.  We’ll be going out of town soon for a while (pardon the vagueness but we’re not interested in inviting thieves to come visit while we’re away), and the way things had been looking the construction crew would break ground right before we headed out.  Not wanting to have our vacation made a tense time by worrying that we’d get a phone call while we were away–“Hey, Mr. Fred, when we dug for the well we hit granite instead; where do you want us to put it now?”–we decided to push back the date of actually starting to BUILD this thing to when we get back.

But that’s still big news: we are, finally, that close to beginning to put a hole in the ground.  Then we’ll actually have photos to share of the progress of AHNF, my pet term for a house named Fred.  In the meantime, here are a couple screen grabs from the latest Sketchup.  It’s coming along, folks.  We’re picking tiles and finding new appliances (wall-hung toilets to save room, rather than the floor-standers we had chosen) and looking at Flor for the closet.