Thursday, March 21, 2013

This Week's Progress Report: Devil's in the Details

I thought I'd update with a progress report for this week. Sometimes I think we'll get farther than we do in a week. But after I compile these pics, I realize that a lot was actually accomplished! There are simply many things left to be done on our house. Even though we just passed two major inspections (last week)—and we can now begin to drywall the inside—there were a few critical details to take care of first. Such as closing up the kid's shower/bath. This is actually a pretty big shower. I do like the natural light that streams in through the sky lite. Below is a fairly deep and large soaking tub area framed out that will be cast entirely in concrete. The kids will have to use two steps to get up into it—but I have a feeling they will love it. They'll probably try to swim in it.

You can see the cement board and the paper going up. Only one wall will be stone. The rest will be plastered Navajo white like the rest of the house. I also asked for a couple niches to go in--although they are out of view in this photo. 

Wow! The stone went in quickly. Our design plan was to include a little bit of the same Vineto Fieldledge stone on the inside that is already on the exterior of our house.  Not too much so as to become overbearing. Just a wall here and there mixed with the white plaster to create a cohesive look to the whole house. We're hoping it gives it that rustic vacation home vibe that we love so much. And somehow this stone lends a feeling of sturdiness to the house overall. 

Here the wall is getting grouted. It should be done by the end of today. That beam there is one reclaimed from our old attic and stripped down. It will be white-washed later to match the oak door to the water closet in this bathroom.  We just picked this door up from a Craig's lister last Friday. We bought three nice, heavy arched oak doors and we'll use them in several places inside. We'll have to strip them--but the effort will be well worth it. They were only $50 each!

Here's a view of the back of our house. The corbels were sanded and sealed this week. And, the back door got a couple coats of Varithane varnish. We gave these doors several coats of sealer first (last week). And finished them off with the clear varnish this week. We opted to keep the natural color. While we were thinking that taking care of these doors would be one of the last steps, we decided they may get ruined without any protection. As it was, they were on the house for almost a year without any protection. Thank heavens the sanding took care of all of the little blemishes and even some water stains that looked to be set in. Whew!

Here's a look at the two of the French doors in the front of the house. We started sealing them last week and finished sealing and varnishing this week. You can see the difference between the one on the right getting the sealer before the one on the left. I really belabored what color to make these doors—and we opted to go natural. Over time, they will darken slightly. I think it was the right choice. Although it's hard to say just yet. We still need to do a little lime-washing of the brick and the stucco to make these colors appear a little dustier. That will be a very last step to this remodel.

Here's our neighbor and resident door/painting expert Ray Buscemi. He put us on the right path to treating these doors. He walks his dog by our house often and has been watching us make progress on the house over the last year. He decided we needed some help. We're glad he stopped by with some tips! I got really excited when I saw this door getting sealed.

We also sealed and varnished our front bedroom window. Although this shot does not show the varnish coat yet. Our crew also sanded, sealed and varnished the wood corbels here, too. This wall got a little too much overgrouting. We'll have to apply an acid wash to bring back some of the natural stone color to match the rest of the house.

Here's a view of one of our front French doors, sealed and varnished.  We're selling these chairs on Craig's list right now. Let me know if you're interested : )

Here's a shot of our house while the doors were getting another coat of varnish. And, oh yeah, I did get a flat tire this week, hence the tire laying in the driveway. The landscaping here actually belongs to our neighbor Sam's yard. It is so wild and lovely. It gives me the idea that we should continue the theme with some similar plants in our yard. Nothing labor-intensive, of course. And our front yard will be mostly pea gravel. But, I think I love the juxtaposition of the salmon tones of our house with the purple and silvery greens of our neighbor's yard. Very Provence to me. Oh, I should also add, we gave a new treatment to the front door this week. A special mix that Ray applied to make the wood carving on it pop and help make the color of the front door better match the French doors on the front of the house. I'll post better pics of the front door soon.

We also made progress on our bedroom alcove this week. Our two-guy crew put in the insulation, cement board and added all of the stones with grout. Our old sleigh bed will go right under this window and we'll add the two sconces we used to have on each side. You should be able to reach them from our bed, which is essential for nighttime readers like me!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Getting Fired Up About Our New Fireplace!

We renovated our fireplace two weeks ago (pic to come below), so I thought it fitting to chronicle how far we've come. This shot is of the old fireplace, a very traditional style wood box fireplace with brick trim. It doesn't look too shabby. I did paint those walls turquoise and loved them. People who came to our house called it  "the happy house" because these walls sure were upbeat. I was thinking we might keep this fireplace in tact after all even though it didn't fit with my new Provence or Tuscan theme. But, we had a little glitch that happened early on...

Here's what happened: We added these giant five foot arched wood casement windows on each side of the fireplace. The window on the right had to be moved over to accommodate a structural beam, which meant the fireplace box was no longer symmetrically positioned between the windows. Ah, one of the many retrofitting challenges of renovating a house rather than building one from scratch. 

Here's another view of those arched windows. Messy yes. But this shot reveals how different a room looks and feels when you take out the ceiling and three walls. It opens it all up. 

Here's a shot of the fireplace with the traditional wooden box removed. Somehow we knew we'd have to even this all out to make the fireplace symmetrical to the new windows.

So, we reshaped the new fire box by moving the entire thing over and adding new brick inside.

Another in process shot.

It's not final yet, but you can see the new fireplace taking shape. We had just a tiny bit of the reclaimed french pavers left, so we covered up the old brick with the last few pieces so that this hearth will tie into our kitchen floor, making the two spaces more cohesive. When we finish this great room floor with polished concrete, it will be flush with the hearth. We contemplated putting a nice chunky piece of wood on top of this fireplace for the mantle, but I think we like the clean, modern lines of this one. It will be one of those features that give this house a modern "twist." We'll add smooth white plaster over this and lime wash on the inside so you won't notice the disparate sizes of brick. I imagine an eight foot organic driftwood piece of art above this mantle and already have my eye on one. I'm thinking it will help to keep this fireplace as the focal point of the new giant room, yet also draw your eye up toward the ceiling. There are track lights installed on the ceiling, so I imagine it would create a nice play of light on all of those interesting wood crags and grains, especially at night. We'll see. Mirrors are also nice!

A close up of the french paver hearth. This will clearly establish the color palette for this room.

Just another view that mirrors the first photo in this post. Wow. It's a little scary at this point. Hope we did the right thing!

Here's a nice inspiration photo, which I found on one of my favorite blogs: Velvet & Linen by Brooke Giannetti. This modern plastered fireplace is from a a home called "Arrighi" as seen at I do love the feeling of this clean, modern space juxtaposed with the rustic wood beams. 

Here's another room from the same villa. Another clean plastered fireplace. The combo of the clean plaster and the warm wood tones is so soothing. It's a look that just doesn't feel like it would ever go out of style.

This post wouldn't be complete without a nod to the traditional French limestone fireplace with its lovely curvy lines and substantial vertical size. Now, this is a focal point in a room. No doubt about that. What do you think? When it comes to fireplaces, are you more modern or traditional? And why?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Library Loft Takes Shape

Behind these doors is our old sun room. While a sweet little extra (just off the dining room) in our house with giant windows on the southern and western walls, this room always had issues. Single-paned, un-openable (with some cracked) windows and no insulation meant the temperatures inside could easily reach 120 degrees F in the summer! And get pretty darn cold in the winter. My husband, who used this space as an office, was the only one brave enough to take it on—hence, we usually kept these white folding doors closed at all times. The previous owners had covered this sunroom in dark paneling and thick heavy drapes, which we quickly ripped out and covered in white paint when we first moved in. But I always felt this room had incredible potential that we never fully realized. When our feng shui consultant came to our house, we were aghast to discover that this sad space was housing the "wealth" center of our home. Yikes! Good thing we've finally undertaken it's renovation. 
Here's a view of the sun room from the outside when we started this whole-house reno. If you want to see something scary, just take a close inspection of this space. Woah. When our crew dismantled it, we discovered there was really no foundation. That explains the big crack down the south side. Our reno addressed all of these issues, including digging out and pouring a new foundation. I have to say this was one of those discoveries you hope not to find when you're on a budget. But, we are glad to have fixed it.

Here's a view of the new Kolbe windows installed. They are dual-glazed and very energy efficient. We had to match the ones we bought on Craig's List. They are also French-style casements, so they will open out, allowing fresh air to flow into our sun room!

Here's a view of the plywood installed. Still waiting for a new roof though! 

In case you were curious what the sun room looked like with its south wall removed. 

Here's a view from inside the old dining room. Remember those white doors from the first pic. They are gone.

I had to include this photo, too. It demonstrates the extent of this remodel, which has been pretty major. That entire roof was removed board by board and replaced. That's a lot of work.

Here's a view from the old sun room looking into the old dining room. I wish I could blame those diamonds on a previous home owner, but I take full responsibility. When we knew we were going to renovate this house, I decided to get a little crazy with the colors because I knew we wouldn't have to live with them that long. We had a lot of fun in that crazy dining room!
I'm fast-forwarding here. Quite a jump in progress. You can see our entirely new roof peaking out the top here. The new roof actually changed its pitch a little bit more sharply--but it evened out the roof above the sunroom, which was always a little off from the rest of the house. That old piece of wood seen above our windows is a "cosmetic" lintel I asked our crew to add on. Since it's actually part of our old roof, I consider it an homage to our old house. Yet, it adds a bit of character, unifying these two windows. This wall was eventually clad entirely in stone, which gave this lintel a more rustic, but realistic appearance. Looks like it's been there for a 100 years.

Now we're getting to my inspiration photos. Our new sun room has to work double, maybe triple-duty: not only as a sometimes office and family room, where we all hang out and watch movies. But, it also has to be a place where guests can sleep. The room shown here demonstrates a super-efficient use of space when it comes to sleeping quarters and storage.

Another great inspiration photo. Love the muted colors here. And the drawers for storage under each bed. And how about those curtains? Those curtains turn this one room into four private bedrooms. You could host some serious PJ parties here.

Another great use of space. These beds are just tucked right in and out of the way. Again, with curtains.

I'm loving the color palette in this room. And these built-in couches look incredibly easy to make and very comfy. The concept we have for our new sun room is really a library loft. Where books and a bed will be up above, accessed by a kid-friendly ladder. And down below, will be a built-in couch with a huge storage bin beneath it. I already have this space ear-marked for our 1-year-old's toys, which have now taken over the guest house in which we're living. The area opposite the built in couch and loft-bed will be the flat-screen TV and desk, hence, the family room/office/guest bedroom combo.

For anyone who likes books (and I do!), this is a great use of wall space. Go vertical. There is often a lot of vertical space that can be utilized when cool little shelves are added. And hello: more built-in couches. If there is storage under those cushions, this room really rocks!

Ah, back to reality: our space. You can sort of see the loft bed going up. Because our sun room is sunken, the loft bed is about eight feet off the ground, so you don't feel as if you're under a tightly fitted bunk bed. There's quite a bit of space and nothing blocks the window light. Unfortunately, it wasn't a great time to take this photo--hence, some dark shadows.

Here's a better view from on top of the loft bed. Imagine a nice white futon mattress that's about 10 feet long, which is the length of this loft. And lots of pillows. In the vertical space will go lots of books. Our electrician just installed the reading light sconce, which will go on the north wall. I already imagine my 6-year old doing her homework up here. And me reading the book that comes after Game of Thrones in the incredible Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. Martin.

Here, you can see the structure for the built-in couch below the loft bed taking shape. There will be a ton of storage under the couch cushions. We also had an outlet installed on the outside of the couch so that we can plug in those lap tops. This room should be a great work space for everyone in our family.

In closing, I couldn't resist adding this photo. Here's a view from the loft bed looking toward the north wall. We added a square window that looks out into the kitchen. It lines up with the round window of the kitchen that connects to the kid's bathroom. (Don't worry, it's obscure and about 11 feet above the floor.) It's just a cool little view through the house, a little secret view for anyone who dares to climb the ladder to the library loft bed. And it hopefully brings light back and forth between the spaces, depending on the time of day and position of the sun. You can also see a little bit of the brick arch we added to the right. More pics to come of this 9-foot doorway, which replaces those white doors you saw at the very beginning of this post. We have nine-foot arched oak french doors just waiting to be hung on barn door hardware (due to arrive next week). Those doors were another $100 Craig's list find in Ojai, Calif. Yup, we traveled all that way for a couple of awesome doors. We carried them back on the roof of our Jeep Wrangler. People who saw us probably thought we were carrying a couple of surf boards! Extremely heavy surf boards! Quite an adventure, that day.