The Cool House: June 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

Kitchen Planning

We've already been through one kitchen remodel in the recent past (2002 in our old home) so we are really aware that the more planning you can do the smoother the process will be. So, although we probably are 18-24 months away from starting the BIG project on this house, we have been designing and refining the design since we moved in here two years ago. We want to stick to the original footprint of the kitchen and all the appliances will stay where they were originally with the exception of the refrigerator that used to be under the stairs. This was not salvageable and had to be replaced when we first moved in and as no one makes a five foot high fridge anymore we had to put the replacement next to where the old fridge was. We knew this was a temporary placement and now we have a plan to have one wall of pantry units with the fridge/freezer and double ovens in the center of it. We feel confident enough of the design that we are now looking at kitchen manufacturers to bring the dream to life.
Last evening we were invited to the opening of the new Poliform showroom. I'm really attracted to the clean lines of the Italian kitchen designers so I was excited to test drive their Varenna kitchens. Despite the complimentary ice cream and white wine I wasn't really feeling that the kitchens were right for us. They were a little too cool for this house which has a lot of warmth from all the stained wood trim, ceiling and floors and I wasn't thrilled with the quality which I felt was only acceptable and not wow. When I looked at the price tags -$75,000-$105,000 for the display kitchens, I was even less impressed and I felt that we wouldn't be being true to the spirit of the house which refelcts Andrew Geller's affordable leisure philosophy.
So we're still looking for a streamlined, modern quality kitchen at a reasonable price. This could take some time.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Two Years On

moving day

Two years ago today we moved in to our dream house. We were so nervous about updating it, knowing that it was designed by a well-respected architect does that to you! No pressure, but it was rumoured that when Andrew Geller learnt that one of his clients had slightly altered his original design while renovating, he was so displeased that he never spoke to them again. We felt totally responsible for continuing the original vision: great practical design, first class but reasonably priced materials, simplicity in everything. Our mantra was "Do no harm". I swear for the first two months we held our breath most of the time.

Gradually, we learnt to relax and we appreciated the house more and more, for example the siting of the house on the property and the placement of the windows keeps it cooler in summer and increases the amount of sunlight in winter. Hardly a week goes by without one or the other of us walking through the door and saying out loud "I love this house".

I searched for a suitable way to celebrate our second Cool House anniversary and hit upon the perfect project. I have been asking nicely at regular intervals for the person with long fingers (pictured above on moving day) to take a kitchen drawer out so we could replace the cup partitions in it with the cutlery holder. I decided that this would be just the thing, it would cost nothing and make my life a ton easier. With two barbecue skewers to push back the pins holding the drawer in place and standing on one leg while balancing the drawer on my raised knee I got the sucker out in fifteen seconds. Twenty seconds to remove the partitions. Putting the drawer back took no time or effort at all and sliding the cutlery divider in was a cinch. Time wasted waiting for someone else to do this job: two years; time spent doing the job myself: two minutes. Amount of satisfaction? Incalculable.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Soaking wet post

One of the best things about living in the US is being able to put your outgoing mail in the mailbox, raise the red flag and have it taken away by the mailman six days a week. No walking miles to find a mailbox or driving around with the bill in the car that you finally unearth from under the dirty tissues and expired coupons five days after it should have been paid. It's a wonderful system and I enjoy walking to the mailbox in the early morning and posting whatever mail I can't deal with online.
This morning I dodged the thunderstorms with letter in hand and two dogs on leashes only to be totally thwarted by an enormous puddle that was much deeper than my trainers and stretched across the road from my property to my neighbor's. The only way I was going to get to the mailbox was in an SUV.
Now we have drains on this part of the road and I know that they aren't blocked because the five home owners on the cul-de-sac had the drain pumped last year and I took a shovel and cleaned the road of all the debris last month. The problem is that these drains are only designed to take an inch of rainwater and can't deal with a basic thunderstorm. God knows what will happen when a hurricane hits.
Anyway there are always solutions to any problem so I turned round and crossed the lawn and approached the mailbox form the back side. I had to walk through a shrubbery and hang on to the post (that supports the mailbox) to avoid falling in the puddle but I achieved my objective and stayed relatively dry. I don't know what the contractors working on the house opposite thought though.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tidying Up

front border
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
I know it doesn't look like much but this bed represents hours of work. From the middle of the photo all the way to the centre of the left edge there used to be a berm - a man-made mound of silt and mud that our landscaper had collected each time it rained. It had washed down our street for years until the village put in a 6" berm on the roadside of our property in 2004.
The amount of stuff that had collected made a pile 15" deep, 12' long and over a foot deep. For the last two years I have been raking, digging and pushing this mound around, I have used the soil to plant new trees and shrubs but I didn't seem to make any impression on the pile. Meanwhile, the ivy and weeds threatened to take over that half of the dell while the other half was a desert.

I was determined to improve the look of the front of the house and I started by adding small, low shrubs to the rockery last fall. These are now a good size and lift the eye up past the wasteland, but obviously more was needed. I moved three big rhododendrons that had been doing nothing under the hemlocks and put the in the bed. Then I planted some hostas between these, but I'll need to plant some more when they have the half-price sale at the nursery.
Last weekend I spent five hours moving earth with a shovel and a rake and got the berm down to level along 4'. I cut down one unwieldy rhodo to about 15" and moved another that I think was once half of a huge bush. The next day I couldn't move. But everyday after that I spent an hour or two chopping at the remaining berm, hoeing and pulling weeds. This weekend Steve did the heavy weeding and removed all the ivy, and I replanted all the pretty vinca we came across.
The berm is gone, the soil that has been revealed is dark and looks nutrient rich, so all that remains is to plant it before it gets covered in weeds again.

Monday, June 12, 2006

More colour

Before putting the house on the market the listing agent made previous owner have the entire house repainted Navajo White. We know that the house was originally painted a bright blue in the dining room and den. The bedrooms were originally funky late 60s oil blue, gold, green and yellow, and pink and purple. We discovered that early on because the painters didn't bother painting the insides of the closets. The mud room, maid's room (now my office) and the hallway and stairs were once wallpapered. We have found some of the original wallpaper behind light switches and when we replaced the thermostat in the foyer. I wish I could have seen the house in all its original glory.
wallpaper remnant
Apart from the Bronzed Beige customised walls, we have decorated the dining room, which we painted with Benjamin Moore Titanium on the walls and Cloud White on the ceiling and baseboards and the master suite with Ralph Lauren Blue Mesa. I also mixed Cabot Wood stains in Ebony and Walnut to get the colour I wanted on the replacement windows. I have touched up around the new windows in the den, Verity's and Fliss' rooms with the Navajo White. Although Navajo White is really not our style I'm not planning to paint there any time soon because the paint is new. The kitchen and foyer have only primer so far, and while it's bright, it's kind of boring, but there doesn't seem much point in painting until the kitchen project gets underway. I'm getting impatient here, can you tell?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Personalizing those custom colors

Checking on my site visitors with StatCounter this morning, I was fascinated to find someone had linked through a Google search on "Bronzed Beige" the Benjamin Moore paint color. I posted a year or so ago that I had bought two gallons of the paint the previous November (2004) and had yet to slap it on the walls. I never did post what happened to them.
Apparently you are supposed to toss paint you haven't used after six months but I abhor waste so that didn't happen. Last October I did open one can, stirred it really well and slapped a coat on the mud room wall that had previously had the wallpaper that looked like mold. Unfortunately on the wall the paint looked like mold too, sandy mold but not something I could live with. I decided something a little brighter would be better and bought a can of BM Yellow Highlighter and mixed a pint of that with a pint of the Bronzed Beige. It was too yellow for the mud room but worked really well on my office walls. I made up another batch of the mix, but this time 75% Bronzed Beige and 25% Yellow Highlighter and used that on the mud room. It's better but eventually I'll repaint it, probably when we do the kitchen. The kitchen project seems to be turning into an entire first floor decorating project!
The remaining gallon or so of Bronzed Beige I mixed with two gallons of Super White and painted the fern bedroom and, after a brief flirtation with an accent wall in Ravishing Red and a replacement from our local dealer who had given me Red Oxide by mistake, Steven's office, too.
Four rooms, three different shades from a couple of gallons of oops paint can't be bad. Of course I still have a gallon of Ravishing Red I need to find a use for before it hardens in the can.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Just another one of those things

Nothing much positive to report houseways (or housewise). The washing machine, a large toploading Whirlpool from 1984, started making an odd whistling sound and depositing about half a cup of water on the laundry room floor. The water wasn't a big deal except that I do the laundry in bare feet or socks so I was getting a little damp every day, but hey, there's a floor drain so no big deal. But the whistling was getting on my nerves and the knocking that periodically accompanied it made me think the bearings were going.
Now, I have zero knowledge of the workings of top-loader washing machines other than they do a great job of swirling the clothes around in dirty water and a pretty poor job of actually cleaning clothes, but I know that I associate that sound with bad news in a front-loader so I figure it's much the same. And given its advanced age I didn't hold out any hope that parts would still be available or it would be worth paying a service engineer to come out and tell me the inevitable. We were planning to replace the appliances when we redid the kitchen so it seemed sensible that we go out and buy a new front-loader and have done with it.
Huh. As other housebloggers have noted there is no such thing as an easy replacement appliance shopping trip. Our road to hell, however, started out promising only good things. A personal invitation to attend a "previous customers only sale" arrived serendipitously from the local appliance store where we bought the elephant in the kitchen. All we had to do was turn up between 5-9 pm, chose a washer, hand over the Visa card and we would get a working, cleaning, more environmentally friendly machine, and a rebate from the local power company. I was so psyched.
On the appointed day we showed up, picked out a Bosch and were just about to fork over shedloads of money when the sales guy uttered that wretched sentence: Are you sure you have the space?
This is where you see the difference between an optimist (my husband) and a realist (me). An optimist yells: We have a huge laundry room, the appliances we have now are monsters, of course it will fit. The realist says: Why are you asking me this? Have other people had problems fitting it in their homes? How big is it anyway? Of course you have all guessed the ending to this sorry story. The space needs to be 56" deep to accommodate the open door. I don't think we have 56".
Although Steve was willing to take a chance rather than have to come back to the store we left empty handed. (He was also willing to consider a bump into the garage if we bought them and they didn't fit, until I did the projected cost of construction versus the inconvenience of going home, taking measurements and returning to the store - not so much an optimist more an irritating cloud cuckoo land dweller!)
Anyway, in order to accurately assess the space I spent the next day disassembling some plastic shelving added by the previous owner and doing a major clean up in there. Then I measured. We have 58" depth. But do I really want it to be that tight? And we would have to swap the position of the washer and dryer because all the machines except one have the washer on the left. That would mean maybe moving the dryer vent, and extra hoses. Even more inconvenience.
Now, guess which machine has the washer door on the right side? Correct mes amis, the most expensive one. And guess where we would have to go to look at one? Yes, Expo hell. A store where they never have what you want, have no idea how to get you what you want, hell, probably don't know what you are talking about, certainly don't know what they are talking about. But that's where the nearest Miele washers were so we made the trip.
Oh god, it was a true Sabena moment (Such A Bad Experience, Never Again). The salesman first tried to tell me that the doors on FL washers could be swapped. So I took him to one, opened it and said "show me how". Then he said they could be swapped on top-loaders 'cos he used to do that for his last job. Great info. Then he couldn't find the Miele catalogue and started whistling for it and blaming other salespeople for moving it. We'd been there only fifteen minutes and I was beginning to freak out. We did eventually look at the Miele washer, which was not a sexy design, and cost $2000. If I'm gonna pay two grand for anything I want it to be HOT and to do a lot more than just get my clothes clean. And it would take a minimum of three weeks to be delivered. For $2000, I'd want it yesterday. Once again home empty handed, but at least the Visa card is still intact.
Two days of extensive research on the web and I've decided that all washing machines suck, that a little water on the floor hurts no one and learnt that Bosch are coming out with a new model in July. Procrastination is today's favourite word, and at least I have a neater, cleaner laundry room to show for my efforts.