Thursday, January 30, 2014

There's always something...

Old House
The pups and I spent three weeks with Larry in SC, staying with my in-laws. I was nervous about this at first, but they made it easy. I had a very enjoyable time with them, and I think they feel the same.

New House
While I was there, the roof was completed and completely shingled. All the windows and cinder block walls were furred, and the laundry room window was lowered nine inches, per my request.

The builder noticed the new sunroom windows were lower than the living room holes, so they were raised to equal height. We are buying all matching window units for both rooms, so it is important they are the same height, like hanging multiple pictures on a wall horizontally. If they're not straight, you see it right away. Also, I decided we need two octagonal windows high up on the living room wall to bring in more light and break up what now is a huge solid wall on the gable end. The octagonals will be wide enough to fit inside the existing framework, and add a nice-looking architectural touch.

Body colors
I also decided on all the interior and exterior colors. We are going to cover the body of the house in stucco and learned that the paint color can be added into the material before it is installed, saving us money later by not requiring painting. The gables will have shingles on them and be dark red, complimenting the brick. The body will be a soft gold and the trim will be white.

Talking with the general contractor's son, who was filling in for Bill, our GC while he was sick, we decided to add a propane-fired backup generator as well. We will only need an 8,000 watt unit to maintain heat and air conditioning, the water pump, refrigerator and a couple of electrical outlets. We have a larger unit in RI, and we thank God whenever it kicks on. We also decided having a generator would be a good selling point down the road.

After we left Larry and returned back to RI, the mason closed in the master bedroom window with additional cinder blocks, making it more private and raised the chimney four and a half feet to be above the new roof peak.

We discovered a code glitch that just pissed me off. Because we built the new sunroom in its current location, there is no exterior wall in the master bedroom. The inspector, who also happens to be Bill's friend, told us he doesn't want to make us spend more money, but code is code and we have to have an escape window. Also, the size of the double-hung windows in the small guest bedroom and our new escape window are too narrow, so we have to spend more money for casement windows. This also means buying a third casement window, so the two bedroom windows on the back of the house match. I hate rules! I get why they are required, and wish they could be applied on a "case-by-case" basis as a general "rule of thumb". But...NOOOO!!!

So, Larry has been frantically designing and redesigning the bedrooms and the master bathroom. After seven rounds of designs, we finally have what we like best and what I believe is the best use of space for two of the bedrooms: the back guest bedroom and the master.

For marketing purposes, I think it is important to be able to fit a king-size bed in a bedroom. With our new design, this will be possible in one guest room and the master. The small guest bedroom is what it is, and moving walls to make it bigger just throws everything off. But two twins or a full-size bed fit adequately in there, so that has to be good enough. Our plan is to put covered-wire shelves and a small hanging bar in that closet, so a bureau will not be required.

Back Guest Bedroom
We removed the existing closet in the back guest bedroom and built a new one in a different location. Now with the code change, we had to remove that and put a smaller closet in the opposite corner to the bump-out in that room from the other guest room. Having these two small closet spaces mirror one another, divides the room into two spaces: a dressing area and a bedroom large enough to fit a king bed in two locations with one night stand, or a queen in two locations with two night stands. There would also be plenty of walk-around space in the room.

The master bedroom will now house an escape hallway with a new window.
Master Bath
With Larry's current design, there will be at least three locations for a king bed in there. The master bathroom design will feel bigger with a pocket-door on the escape hallway; the vanity and toilet positioned on the outside wall to the shower at the other end. This change leaves an entire wall for towel racks and maybe a larger mirror to reflect the outside window; making the room feel larger than it is.

We moved the master bedroom closet over several inches as well allowing us to move the linen closet to the front of the hallway, taking up part of that closet space. The linen closet will be narrower, but we will have cabinetry in the laundry room over the washer/dryer/sink where more linens can be stored.

All this just goes to show us, again, that even though you're building something, doesn't mean you can have what you want. Codes and other rules restrict the build in unforeseen ways. While we get angry and frustrated with the process, the upside of the lakehouse renovation is I think a better use of space than we had before.

Larry also measured a space in the new sunroom that will perfectly fit a twin bed for afternoon naps and an additional sleeping area. The sunroom will also nicely fit blow-up beds for large sleepovers.

All in all, we are calming down from the disruption of the latest code glitch. After all of Larry's hard designing work though, will have a better house. I think that, even though it is still a small house, it will be very marketable when we put it up for sale. Fingers crossed. Until that time, we will get lots of enjoyment out of it, and I cannot wait until it's done.

Monday, January 6, 2014

After the Holidays

On Boxing Day, I awoke with the cold Larry brought from SC. It was just the beginnings, so we visited with our friends, the Craig family, in Natick, MA anyway. That night, I really got hit with it. I was miserable all day on Friday: chills, coughing and blowing. You know the drill. I thought I would not be well enough to travel on Saturday and was feeling very stressed about it. I knew Larry really wanted to go because he wanted to be back on the lakehouse construction sight Monday morning. He had been away for almost two weeks.

Saturday came and after sweating the previous two nights, I felt better. I decided to forego taking down the Christmas tree as I had planned on Friday, and thought I'd do some laundry instead. I loaded my washer with clothes and detergent only to discover it wouldn't start. That was "the straw" for me, so I said, "That's it! Let's pack up and get out of here." I told our friend, Nancy in Annapolis who usually hosts us, that I was too sick to visit her, so we stayed in a pet-friendly Red Roof Inn instead in Roanoke, VA. We arrived at my brother-in-law's house mid-Sunday afternoon.

Monday morning, we made our first visit to the lake. My eyes lit up with the progress that had been made during the two months I was gone. I had been following demolition and construction remotely as best I could using the security cameras Larry reinstalled. But, seeing the job in person was so much better.

Yesterday, we met our brother-in-law, Ed, at the house and walked him through the renovation. He had not been there for many months, and although he follows this blog, did not "get" how extensive this project is. "Now that's what I call a strong roof," he commented. "I had no idea you were doing this much. It doesn't even look like the same place. It's not a cottage anymore; it's a house!"

The roof is completely covered in plywood now, and walking onto the covered porch into the house is so exciting. The entry porch is large and feels really protective. The entry to our new laundry room is outside off the porch too. I can  just imagine having a couple of Carolina rockers out there for the smokers, or putting the metal glider there that now sits in the yard under the Dogwood and Magnolia trees.

When I walked into the laundry room, though, I noticed that the only window will be up too high. I can barely see out of it because there was a sixteen-inch cinder block "knee wall" built on the concrete floor onto which the framed walls were installed. I was up all night thinking about this high window. We joked about it, but I told Larry first thing this morning that they had to lower that window by a minimum of six inches to a foot for it to be useful to me. As it is, I wouldn't even be able to open it without the use of a step stool. This is unacceptable.

Living Room Looking Into Kitchen
We walked into the living room and it looks so expansive now with it's high ceiling and opening into what I'm now calling the sun room. The kitchen and living room ceilings will be at least twelve feet high.

Living Room
Walking into the sun room was also really amazing. It is a huge room; larger than the living room, and I can just imagine sitting in there, rocking and watching the water and my bird feeder/bath. The way the walls were constructed, I thought I would need more smaller windows installed above the larger window openings, but we really need to keep costs down, so I will let this go. Instead, I'll have Larry build a shelf above each window for pictures, vases and chatzkes. We'll use the same type of tile as the broken-tile mosaic floors in the rest of the house, but keep them whole for the sun room and laundry room floors.

Sun Room
Walking through the rest of the house, the bedrooms look so much smaller with only framing separating them, but perfectly adequate for our needs. The master bedroom will be a little larger and we also created a change for the master bathroom.

Larry suggested raising the outside cinder block wall by two blocks' width, and reducing the large window opening behind the toilet by at least one cinder block length. This window reduction will save money on the size, add a privacy wall, and allow us to buy a smaller sink vanity with a tall, narrow cabinet in the corner for linens. We'll mirror the entire wall behind the sink and install an in-wall medicine cabinet with a mirror for looking outside while seated. The mirrors will also make this small bathroom look much larger.

Master Bath
Over the bedroom area, we will now have a walk-up attic space, tall enough to stand erect. We'll have to move a twin bed when we want to pull down the stairs from the back bedroom ceiling, but that will be a minor inconvenience. I don't imagine having to go up there much anyway. We moved a closet in that room, but we can still fit a full-size and twin bed in there.

The small bedroom across the hall from our master will be more functional because we moved the door to the end of the room, closer to the back bedroom. This will allow flexibility of bed location. We'll install a covered-wire shelf system in its small closet, so a bureau will not be required. The master bedroom is also larger because we removed two closets in there. We could now have our queen-size bed facing the window overlooking the lake through the sun room. We also reworked the wall into the master bath to fit a single door instead of a double door.

I am very excited about the progression of construction at the lakehouse. So far everything is moving quickly. Bill, our GC, said things will slow down once we get to the subcontractor phase. I have chosen all the interior and exterior colors now. I just have to finalize a couple now that I've been to the house and can visualize more. We will be using mostly recessed lighting, but we are having fun researching ceiling fans, a dining area chandelier and mini-pendant lights for over the kitchen sink.

The exposed brick wall in the living and sun rooms will have to be cleaned and finished. The mason was a bit sloppy with mortar. But the brick walls will still be a pretty look. Even though new and old brick lines are obvious, we are convinced the new brick will age over time. Our GC suggested painting them, but I am not a big fan of painted brick.

We decided to cover all the exterior cinder block walls. We were going to save money by just leaving them as is and painting them, but there will be three different materials exposed that way. I think it will be too busy and will not pull the house's look together adequately enough. So, we decided to stucco the entire body of the house instead. We will paint it a goldish color, and install shingles on the gables that will be painted a dark red. We haven't investigated the cost of cement shingles yet, but they are also a distinct possibility since the gables are the only areas to receive them.

Sample Colors
Larry will also cover the entry porch columns in the SC Farmhouse style: narrow at the top, widening down to the ground. There are many styles for these columns, some involving brick half-way down, but I think we'll keep it simple and creamy white. These colors are like those of the gym I go to in RI, but we found a building in Chapin, SC in the same color scheme. Finding this building, cemented my desire to paint our house this way. It will be charming, and only just a little "loud". Like me. Right.

I plan to leave to head back north on Saturday. Larry will stay down here until Valentine's Day. He'll come north for about ten days. Then he'll come back for my spring concert, the third weekend in April. After the concert, we'll all drive back down here and stay for the duration of the project. Move back into our now new house on the lake and just enjoy it. Stay tuned.

P.S. We try to enjoy being in Columbia when we're in town, so on Saturday, we saw the Annie Leibovitz "Pilgrimage" photo exhibit at the Museum of Art. At the museum, we discovered that the City constructed a public ice skating rink in front of it. Lots of families were enjoying it, and I was impressed with how much has been done to bring people back to the once abandoned city center. The South is experiencing the coldest temperatures ever this week, just like the rest of the country.

More and more restaurants and coffee houses are being introduced to the place that drinks iced tea all year long. Sculptures are everywhere and this area in particular is becoming very "artsy fartsy". I love what's happening here, and already so much has changed in the twelve years Larry and I have been married. Amazing.