The Cool House: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Garden gate

As of yesterday we have a new gate. Hurrah. It should last 10-15 years, double hurrah. Unfortunately our handyman thinks the rest of the fence is toast. Boo.I asked him if he would make us a custom fence to replicate what is there now, but he demurred. He thinks we should get a "nice" cedar fence from the local cedar place. Boo hoo. The local cedar fences are only slightly less horrible than the vinyl stuff. (Have you noticed how vinyl fences almost glow in the dark? How do they do that?) I'm not going to worry about it until it actually falls down, even then I might not worry, after all the gate is as solid as a rock.

Monday, November 27, 2006

No turning back now

paper backed tiles?

A four-day weekend, no work or outside obligations, so when would you start the bathroom demolition? Three o'clock on Sunday afternoon? Sounds like a plan.
Actually this wasn't supposed to happen at all. After the plumber came back to fix the downstairs shower (the second time's the charm!) I decided that we could take off the shower doors from the boys' bathroom that we aren't using, to replace the broken ones downstairs. An easy and cheap fix that took ten minutes and most of that was taping up the glass so we can put them out for the garbage.
Then Steven decided to take off the frame as well. The screws came off ok, but we had to use a box-cutter (Stanley knife) to cut through the layers of caulk. Still the frame wouldn't budge. So Steven gave it a good tug and as you can see a good few tiles came too.
We weren't sure whether to do the demo ourselves or get the tilers to do it but I guess that problem has solved itself.

It's a leak, not a drip

The plumber had to come back to fix the shower that was still dripping - it worked fine till I tried to use it! Luckily it was, as I suspected, just a piece of dirt that was stopping the valve from shutting off and I don't know who was happier about that, me or the plumber.
I thought we were done with leaks until I went to wash my hands on Saturday. I couldn't believe my eyes. Water was coming out from the base of the hot faucet. I'd seen water there before but thought we were just splashy washers and wiped it up. It was the first time I'd witnessed this phenomenon. Steven decided that it was just a washer job and he'd fix it while I went out. No big deal.
When I got back several hours later he was very proud that he'd changed the O-ring and all was working again. "I couldn't believe how easy it was" he said, so I trotted off to test drive the tap. I turned it on and the water seeped from the base again, maybe not as fast as before but there was definitely a flow and not just from the spout. Even better, when I turned on the cold tap water flowed from the base of the hot faucet. Like magic.
Steven was not impressed. He took it to bits again and made sure everything was tight but that didn't fix it. By this time the local hardware store was shut, so armed with the Kohler valve we set off for Home Depot. Unfortunately Hopelessly Depressing did not have the correct part for the 40 year old tap so we looked at a new unit. Twenty 8" faucets and not one we liked. What were the odds? We left empty-handed. It's not leaking badly and we'll be renovating that bathroom eventually so we might as well wait and get something we like.
At this moment I'd just like one bathroom that doesn't leak, drip, where the toilet doesn't continually fill or the shower pan isn't cracked. Just one.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I want my recessed ironing board

laundry blueprint
I have spent days pouring over the blueprints for the house, discovering a few interesting things along the way. On the original blueprints the entry way had a flagstone floor. This made perfect modernist sense: the path to the front door was also flagstone so the inside and outside flowed together. I am actually quite glad decided to floor the entry and great room with parquet as it's warmer and is great for working out: put on a pair of socks and glide as if you are on a Nordic trainer.
The carpet in the downstairs powder room should have been ceramic tiles and when we have saved enough money to redo the kitchen it will be tiled at the same time. The windows originally were all 6'x4' units but some were changed to smaller 4'x2' rectangles. The duo square windows in the master were planned as rectangles and we may change them back as it will be $500 cheaper that way. Most notably different was the living room, or as we call it, the den. On the blueprints the floor is level, no raised platform dividing the room into triangles. I really want to talk to Mr Geller to see if this change was incorporated after the first blueprints were drawn up and if there is a structural reason for keeping it. If there isn't, I'm thinking about removing the platform altogether.
Anyway, I thought I'd identified all the differences between the blueprints and the house we live in until today. I asked Atlantic Blueprint to scan the plans onto a CD rom and I spent an hour or so carefully examing them. It was as if I was looking at them with a new eye, things jumped out at me: The kitchen cabinets had been planned differently and the wall of windows became a half wall of windows and a sliding door. But it was when I came to the laundry room that I got really excited. The plans called for a recessed ironing board. How neat is that? I checked out the wall in the laundry room but there is no trace that it ever held such a contraption. I don't iron but I'd love to fit such a thing in the space.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

No more drips

At last the plumbing saga is over. Twenty-nine months after we moved; four plumbers, two contractors and two frustrated homeowners later we have a new valve installed on the shower in the downstairs bathroom. In fact we have what Greg, the latest and greatest plumber, swears is the last valve of this type on Long Island. As the alternative to finding and fitting this part (an easy 40 minute job) was to
a) remove the tiles to get at the pipe, cut it and fix a new type of valve, or
b) remove the bookcase we had built in the old pantry, cut a whole in the drywall, cut out the old pipe, fit a new valve, patch, spackle and paint the drywall
you can imagine how happy I was. I wouldn't have got so frustrated about the constantly dripping shower had I not had to use this bathroom every day while we wait to start work on the other two leaky bathrooms. Now I can sit in my study without hearing the drip, drip, drip, knowing I should be doing something about solving the problem.
And now we have a plumber we are happy with we can start on the master bathroom renovation, the boys' bathroom remodel and the laundry room redo.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Preserving the work of Andrew Geller

History of the Pearlroth House

The second video about saving the famous "double diamond" beach house on Long Island, better known as The Pearlroth House, is up at YouTube.

Please share it with everyone interested in modern architecture so we can preserve this mid-century icon.


I was fooling around with my new digital camera yesterday and took this shot

These lights are made from umbrella stands the previous owner found on a trip overseas. When I uploaded the photos to my computer, I realized that the copper and bronze tones of the lampshades were the same as the floor tiles I had chosen for the boys' bathroom.

I don't know why this didn't occur to me before. Maybe it was some sort of unconscious inspiration? But it should tie together nicely, at least I hope so.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bathroom decisions

Weeks, more like months really, of visiting bathroom showrooms, tile stores and the hell that is HD Expo:
How much is that countertop?
$2500 per linear foot.
Are you sure you don't mean $250?
Salesperson sighs and shrugs, it costs $800 linear foot to ship and $800 per linear foot to install; plus tax.
Could you check that for me?
Salesperson sighs again, rolls her eyes and says she can't find the literature.
Obviously I wasn't in the market for a countertop at $250 but $2500, that piqued my curiosity.
I finally found a tile I didn't hate at Expo. But the thought of dealing with the with the winning personalities and sales techniques of the people there was more than I could bear so I took the name of the manufacturer, went home and googled them. Turns out the distributor is less than 10 miles from where I live, they have dealers and showrooms in my area and, big plus, on the website I found a video of the nearest showroom's vignettes.
Their porcelain tiles were exactly what I was looking for, modern but warm with a great selection of red/brown tones that will suit a room that is visible, when the door is open, from most of the rest of the house. So we visited the showroom and found that the tiles were cheaper than at the other store. Phyllis the wonderful, patient tile designer at Porcelanosa spent hours with us selecting tiles that will fit within our palette and wasn't in the least offended when I rejected floor tiles yelling, "no, too Tuscan", "I hate the tumbled marble look". We chose two contrasting tiles for the walls and a coppery slate look for the floor. Phyllis is still looking for a shower floor tile that will fit into the design, but we're almost there.
Once we had the tiles sorted the rest of the fixtures fell into place easily. Now I'm waiting for the plumber and the tiler guys and hopefully in the early New Year we will go from this

to something like this

Friday, November 03, 2006

Early Fall 2006

early fall 2006
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
We've had a couple of bonus days here with temperatures in the upper 60s so I've been out taking a few photos of the exterior before the leaves disappear completely from the trees.
We lost very little in the storms last weekend, although the fence that was shaky is very rickety indeed now. I went to look at fencing but everything is so awful -vinyl in colors of mushroom and beige or cedar that looks as if it will last a season or two but no more. So we've decided to ask our handyman (who is building us a gate) if he can rebuild the fence the same as it was before only stronger. The trouble is that he is a superb handyman and very much in demand so I imagine the whole fence will have fallen down before he has time to see to this project. C'est la vie.