The Cool House: June 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Six years and counting

The official date we bought The Cool House passed a little while ago but today marks the sixth moving-in anniversary. I can't believe that it's the second longest The Guy and I have lived anywhere together - and the most complete renovation we have undertaken. Most of the work, roof, windows, bathrooms, exterior maintenance, was completed 2004-2007 but the last six months have almost matched that in terms of the scope of the projects finished and money spent. Of course, it's almost time to redo some of the work we did when we first moved in, such as re-staining the siding and painting the exterior trim and the great room will need a refreshing coat of paint soon but for the moment let's not be daunted by the to-do list but rather celebrate what has been accomplished this past year:

January-June 2010
We finished the laundry - new floor, new cabinets, new countertops and a new paint color - Iced Cube Silver - on the smoothly sanded walls. From start to finish this took us four years but 90% was done in one month-long period in tandem with the Master Suite.
The domino effect of making our bedroom beautiful caused us me to take a long look at the guest bedroom - and it was found wanting. We made it more comfortable with new roman shades that enhance the geometric shapes of the windows.
The great room sectional got its pretty pillows and because the dining room was feeling left out I went ahead and ordered new drapes for it. We also decided the rug we'd originally chosen for Verity's room would be better suited to the dining room - if we removed the old stained carpet and laid hardwood floors - so that's what we did. What? Crazy? Well, we had already decided to put down hardwood in the kitchen so it seemed sensible to just go ahead and run it into the dining room, too. I know, that's not much justification for undertaking another project!

Which brings us to the major update, the renovation we'd been looking forward to since 2004, the ultimate undertaking: the Kitchen. It isn't completely finished yet, although the countertops will be installed in less than two weeks, but so far I love everything about it, including the new energy saving windows (a big bouquet to the new carpenter who spent two days on these fixing the previous guy's mistakes) and mud-room door.
And while we are in the kitchen, let's not forget the final touches we made to the powder room. It got its third makeover in as many years: new wallpaper - just two rolls (that's a double roll if you speak US design) - and a pint of black paint.

June-December 2009
Three outdoor projects were started... and finished:

the re-landscaped side yard

new fencing on the east and south sides

Belgian stone pavers laid in front of the garages

and one interior undertaking: the Great Room makeover including re-upholstering the twelve-piece sectional.

It's been a fun rwelve months but I'm impatient to get the last pieces in place and the furniture back in the first floor rooms so I can finally sit back and enjoy the house.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Less than four years after we replaced the almost new gutters with bigger, newer gutters we found the leaders had failed again. This time we only noticed it when the electrician was updating a switch box and found it rusted out. Then he found a wet patch on the wall - not damp, wet. Outside the siding behind the downspout was saturated. We don't know how long this had been going on but it's good to catch it before it got serious. The good news was that the downspout was split from top to bottom so they replaced it, plus one other that also had a problem, for free.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Andrew Geller News

Renovating the kitchen (and the den) has brought it home to us once again what a great and underrated architect Andrew Geller is. The built-ins in the den that were not part of the original blueprints boxed in the room, making it feel darker and smaller, and the platform cut the flow on the ground (first) floor. Removing them not only makes the space feel much lighter but now we can truly appreciate the architecture. You see immediately that the kitchen is the same shape and size as the great room - a trapezoid - and the den is a rectangle. It all feels much simpler now... and right.

It's a fortuitous coincidence that just as we are finishing updating this uniquely modern Andrew Geller designed house, we hear that the iconic Pearlroth House has been approved for the National Register of Historic Homes. This is great news for all lovers of mid-century architecture - I can't wait to see the restored beach house.

Then we got word that Jake Gorst, grandson of the architect, has embarked on an enormous project: founding the Andrew Geller Architectural Archive Preservation Project to identify, catalogue and preserve Geller's documents, drawings, photographs and memos - and he will film the whole process, including site visits to the architect's commercial and residential buildings, releasing a documentary in the coming year. To support this project visit the Project: Preservation of the Andrew Geller Architectural Archive - it's tax-deductible!

By the way, for those in the Long Island area, Jake Gorst's 2005 documentary, Leisurama the story of Montauk's "swanky" mid-century modular home community, will be played on PBS WLIW21 at 2 AM and 9 PM Saturday June 26. This is not to be missed!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Will this table suit?

The big disadvantage of kitchen renovation is having to eat out all the time - unless you have this view and glorious mid-summer weather. The Wednesday sunset sailing race across the bay provides the perfect backdrop for strawberry, blue cheese and pecan spinach salad and a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's all over now sixties blue

In anticipation of the arrival of new shades for two bedrooms I stained and sealed the triangular window frame, touched up one bedroom wall and got two coats of Navajo white over the blue wall in the den. I really should have primed the latter first... I'll be painting a third - and hopefully final- coat tomorrow. And when I say final I mean final until we've chosen a paint colour we like for that room because enough with the Navajo White, it's been almost six years of blah and I need something that says I chose this not I was afraid of paint. Maybe something inspired by the sunset last week...

Saturday, June 19, 2010


After all the drama around here recently I'm looking forward to a little peace and quiet. Just a little, mind you. I don't want to settle for a half-finished kitchen and I certainly don't want to be microwaving store-bought soup for the next few months while we wait for the countertops to arrive and den flooring.
But I am enjoying the thought that on Monday morning I won't have to get up early to be ready for the contractors or wonder what new problem will be discovered before lunch. On Friday, for example, I discovered 8 soft-close drawer glides and 6 door bumpers were missing. Did someone count order wrong or were they thrown away by mistake? I don't know but I have to fetch replacements. Then, after lunch, we discovered a hole in the framing of another window that had to be filled and painted before the end of the day. The guys wanted to get it done because we don't know how quickly the fabricator will be installing the counters and exactly when the new wood flooring will arrive. They won't come back until one or other happens so they wanted to make sure the external problems were taken care of and The Cool House was watertight.
It was a bittersweet moment when they packed up all their tools and trash, got into their trucks and headed out of the Village, There may be no noise and no fuss in my immediate future but the house is going to feel empty for a while.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Still no hardwood flooring in sight so work continues on the plumbing in the kitchen and the electrics in the den. The Sub Zero is churning out blocks of ice for the Gin & Tonics, the rough plumbing for the sink and dishwasher is done - and the tap outside the kitchen has been reconnected.
Yesterday I flew to Ikea to pick up the deco strip for the light rail and the drawer fronts to replace the doors on the cooktop cabinet. Unfortunately somewhere between the phone call telling me my order was in and me arriving there they had been misplaced. Five guys, two gals and a person on the end of a telephone tried for 90 minutes to make them reappear. One gal suggested I reorder and they offered to UPS them to me in "t'weeks"! I had an itsy-bitsy snarky Brit hissy fit whereupon a certain Kevin waded in and located them in four minutes flat. YAY DUDE! And in less than one hour after that the pieces were installed in the kitchen and the last handles (nos 50 & 51*) were screwed into place. Now we just waiting on the Caesarstone and we can start to cook again.
*I needed 49 handles but ordered 51 "just in case". This proved fortuitous when I decide I needed double handles on the 36" cooktop cabinet drawers. I also over-ordered cover panels and we ended up using all of them, including the ones I was going to make into a backsplash. Good thing I fell in love with those tiles...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tracks of my tears...

This is the point we got to yesterday when the new team said "you're not going to want to watch this" and suggested I leave while they made the refrigerator fit into that gap

And this is what it looked like when I got back. Sub Zero in place, end cab cut down, two high cabs re-secured straight and true. Four hours to move one appliance 20'.

And this is why we finish a hardwood floor on site rather than installing prefinished flooring in the kitchen.
Double G&Ts and Advil all round!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Finding my happy place

When things get to much; when the last piece of the puzzle won't fit and you find out you have to demolish half the jigsaw - or your high cabinets - to make it fit; when your new carpenter says: you might want to leave for a while, it's good to have an escape, a hideaway on a desert isle to run to... or maybe just the nearest beach.

Tidying Up

A few items on the punch list were taken care of late yesterday:
The inferior hardwood flooring was hauled away
The mud room door was painted to match the Marvin medium bronze windows
The offensive thick trim around the kitchen slider was removed and replaced with square edge trim that matches the rest of the moldings in the house
The kitchen walls and ceiling were smoothed with spackle, mud, joint compound.
The template guy came, discussed the changes I want to make to the island, nixed all backsplashes, measured and templated and told me he'd see if his boss could actually do what I wanted.

Just because I am nuts the carpenter, flooring guy and I examined the old water damage to the triangular window in the bamboo room, decided the window could stay but the trim had to go. So that is being reframed and will be stained to match the other windows.
There will be uniformity in this uniquely modern house even if it costs me my sanity and my retirement fund!

I celebrated the end of the workday with 2 Advil and a very strong G&T

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting a grip

on the kitchen renovation... and my sanity.

Yesterday was not a great day on the house renovation front. Not as bad as the previous week when the contractor ordered the wrong size window, tried to install it anyway and then phoned in drunk the next morning, nor the following two days when he was a no-show, and the subsequent hiring of a new contractor who basically re-did everything the first one had touched.

No, it really wasn't so bad: the hardwood for the den floor turned out to be not so much "select and better" as knotty and mismatched and had to be re-ordered; the window supplier didn't have Marvin aluminum for drip caps (because that's a siding/roofing thing); I discovered the deep shelf I wanted for the kitchen has been discontinued; I found out that the only way to make the kitchen window both watertight and aesthetically pleasing was to trim 2" of redwood siding along its length and we know how obsessed I am about the siding... Still, I avoided a repeat of last Monday evening's total meltdown, rolled with the punches and looked on the bright side:

A roll of flashing the right shade was procured for the drip cap and the window was framed out. It looks better than I could have dreamed - I just hope it's waterproof!

The new full-light fir door was installed in the mud room. There's so much light in there now I keep thinking I've left the door open.

The cabinets now have skinny Linea rail pulls from Atlas homewares. I can open and close the drawers now - and I've tried out every single one just to make sure they work.

11-Year-Old Draws for Gulf Relief

11-Year-Old Draws for Gulf Relief.
Anyone who doubts the impact that ordinary people can have should click the above link to see the interview with Olivia Bouler and her family that aired last night on the Assignment America segment of the CBS news with Katie Couric.

Visit Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations to help too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sustainable Energy vs Fossil Fuels

Just over a year ago I wrote this post about a sustainable beach house in the process of being constructed on Long Island's beautiful south shore. With the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on everybody's mind right now it seemed the most appropriate time to re-visit the project and ask what measures we can take - and by "we" I mean residents, homeowners, architects and designers - to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while continuing to enjoy abundant heat, light and electricity.

Built by Bouler Architecture, the house at Oak Beach received the highest energy rating on Long Island. With its geothermal system, photovoltaic solar panels, white EPDM roofing material and use of passive solar techniques - basically careful placement of windows and roof-lines to shade the sun in summer and heat it in winter - it has been performing at a far more efficient level than predicted. Even in the short, sunless winter days the house was producing electricity.

For the moment these "green" technologies incur a greater initial cost than power derived from carbon but they have irrefutable and overriding benefits. Using renewable energy sources, wind or solar, means less pollution of the air and water, and as we have experienced since April, when a disaster occurs in the extraction of oil or gas, the cost to wildlife and the local economy can be devastating.

For more on this sustainable project click on over to Bouler Design's blog where I guest-blogged today.

To help the wildlife affected by the BP oil spill visit Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Backsplash Options

I can't believe we are thinking about this already. Originally I wanted to panel this whole wall in the same walnut colored oak veneer as the cabinets but it made the room too dark - it seems there is such a thing as too much wood after all - so we started to look at tiles. From left to right:Venis Dados Crema, Firenze Antracita and Trento Moka porcelain wall tiles all via Porcelanosa. A close-up of my two favorites:

Trento Moka - I'd use the silver grout to lighten contrast with the browns.

Firenze Ambar It comes in Nacar, Oceano and Antracita - all glass-look and a couple marble-look options -Carrara Blanco and Negro Marquina. Click to see all at this gorgeous Romanian site.

Similar glass mosaic tile Erin Adams' Facet by Ann Sacks.
Do any scream "gotta have that" at you?

A very important question

Chaos! Piled-up pillows and books everywhere. The paintings are stacked in the bedrooms, cartons of books line the walls of my office and the pretty pillows that decorated the big blue sectional so beautifully for six weeks (or less) are now piled up on the sofa in the master bedroom. All the tables, chairs and sofas from the kitchen, dining room and den are crowded into the great room where they'll be covered in plastic sheeting until the new floors have been sanded and sealed. My biggest problem is: Where do we put the red wine and liquor now that I've removed the bar?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Template Ready

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the double wall oven and island range hood are installed and working

the cabinets are in, the electrics have been upgraded and we are awaiting the template guy to come measure for the Caesarstone countertops. It looks almost like a working kitchen again.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

And then I lost my mind...

Because re-doing the kitchen and mud-room wasn't stressful enough I decided to replace the 1970s dining room deep-pile, formerly cream, wool carpet with the same hardwood floor at the same time. And because I have pronounced masochistic tendencies I thought I should also replace the matching carpet in the den - in the interest of cohesiveness (and cleanliness), right? We discussed the issues with the raised platform and how to scribe in to the bar/media centre, worked on a direction to run the wood that wouldn't look odd and ordered two bullnoses for the dais and Pete the flooring guy ripped out the carpet.

And that's when the plan changed. He checked the moisture levels on the sub-floor (because he is a professional) where we'd had an issue when the old window had leaked and luckily there was no elevation. We were good to go for hardwood. Then for the fun of it he checked in random spots across the room... and found we were at least two points damper on the dais and a whopping four over the scary stain that kept reappearing over the years on the carpet. When we discover things like this, not-good things, we investigate. We hunted around the basement. Nothing, We checked the moisture levels on the joists underneath. Normal. We plugged in the fan and ran a dehumidifier for hours. No moisture but the levels were still as high.

So Pete decided to pull up a few pieces of plywood to see what was going on. And.... nothing. No leaks, no mold, no dead animals. Just the support beams for the platform and the sub-floor. And the moisture level on that sub-floor? Normal! We had no explanation except trapped air but we did have a huge exposed floor. And that was when I said "Now that we've opened it up when don't we just take the platform out... and the huge built-in, too".

And so we did.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Escape to another island

There's always a point in a construction or renovation project when you feel yourself snapping - maybe months of backorders have put you over the edge or the carpenter being a no-show six times in two weeks has you raging incoherently about his work ethic. At this time it's good to have friends who call with offers of wine and a shoulder to cry on and others who invite you to take an inspirational break and go see what the pros are doing.

So it was with great joy, after the most frustrating day on the kitchen renovation front, that we packed up and headed to the South Shore for a site visit to three new homes on Captree Island.

Bouler Design Group had been commissioned to build this group of houses for an extended family to enjoy. Stylistically each house is quite different but with their rough-hewn cedar shake roofs and siding they form a cohesive whole. The largest house is a Cape Cod shingle style with a wraparound porch and the signature James Bouler barrel roof - this time with swoop reminiscent of a Dutch girl's bonnet - a nod to the Dutch colonial architecture of a neighboring home.

The centre property has a craftsman feel, its deep porch with double posts on solid pillars invites you to sit and spend long days watching the ducks in the reeds and the boats bobbing in the water.

The third home is the original beach house, now an extended rambler with a simple two-storey addition. It has an organic feel, as if it grew to meet the changing needs of past (or future) occupants.

The three homes have been designed to take advantage of the amazing situation. Although the lot is relatively small, the position of the properties along the waterfront feels spacious and open. From the upper decks the residents will be able to take advantage of glorious views (360 from the roof deck of the Cape Cod style), drinking in spectacular sunrises and beach sunsets, or watching the egrets and plovers on the marsh.
To read more about this unique project and see some great interior shots visit Bouler Design Group's blog. Thanks to James and Nadine's hospitality (and their kids too!) we relaxed immediately and could have stayed on this island forever... in fact The Guy felt so attached to this project that he left a little piece of himself behind...


The carpenter working on the master bath and kitchen renovations has come up with many excuses for his absence/tardiness. I thought they needed to be shared with a wider audience. They usually start with "Unfortunately..."

I forgot I had to go to court
my truck was in the shop
the part didn't come in
the door didn't come in
I'm on a roll at this other job
the other job ran over
I had a doctor's appointment
my mother had a doctor's appointment
it's going to rain
I had to finish that other job
it rained
I got stuck in traffic
my stomach was upset
I just had to stop by the other job
Snow Day!
I had to pick up a few things
I must have eaten something bad
I had to drive my mother to work
I must have picked up that bug that's going round
I woke up early, turned off the alarm and my cell and went back to sleep
I was going to work but I didn't feel better

this one was, until Friday, my favorite

someone cut through the telephone wire and the alarm doesn't work so I have to stay here until the phone company comes to fix it...

but this, this is the killer - the voicemail he left June 4 at 3:24 PM:

"unfortunately a bartender friend of mine last night played a silly trick on me not knowing I was working today and over-served me... certainly that's not a great excuse but it is what it is. I am going to be at your house first thing tomorrow the morning... I'll see you in the morning"

... and no, he didn't turn up "first thing" next morning to finish up the work.