The Cool House: renovation
Showing posts with label renovation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label renovation. Show all posts

Monday, November 03, 2014

Spucing Up

Hard to believe that it's been almost a year since I last posted anything on this blog. It's not that we haven't been tending to The Cool House rather that social media has changed a lot about the way I document my life and that goes for the house too.  I'm more likely to take a thousand word snap of something we've done and post it right there to Facebook or twitter. One click and I've saved all that tedious typing. You could say instagram killed this blog.

But it would be unfair to ask you to search through all the hundreds of photos of sunsets and kittens to find one that shows the renovated pool, or the color we ended up with in the sitting room after several, expensive redoes.  So, here, in no particular order, are the projects we undertook in the first ten months of 2014.

Pool renovation: all the pipes, skimmers and reruns were replaced. This job entailed digging up and replacing half the brick patio but it mbas meant no more leaks. Also the pool light works again and we have a new, quieter energy saving pump. The pool housing is screened off with a nicer replacement for the termite eaten fence and next Spring a gas heater will be installed.

We lost a couple of trees and big rhododendrons to last year's severe winter, which Neal the Landscaper said was an opportunity, especially as the pool guys had to rip through the shrubbery to lay new pipes so hey presto one May weekend we got a new awesome shrubbery. well, almost new, The Guy insisted on keeping a dog wood because it looks spectacular from the master window for one week in May. It will probably come crashing down this winter!

The kitchen patio, front path and steps were re-grouted and broken bluestone slabs were replaced. We also installed four Marvin windows in the den, downstairs bath and basement where the rot or weather had damaged them beyond repair.

While all that was going on we started the BIG PAINT JOB, which kept getting bigger as we progressed form room to room. I'd taken three months to narrow down the fifty odd shades of gray and gold to half a dozen. We used Benjamin Moore Aura paint on all the walls and baseboards, which has no off gases and dries to a tough knock resist finish; the painters replaced moldings as needed. Eventually after much trial and error, we chose Collingwood for the kitchen and second and fourth bedrooms, Moonshine for the great room, stairs, hall and balcony and one bath, Camouflage for the third bedroom & the den. My office ended up Golden Tan, the third bedroom Buena Vista Gold, the laundry Metropolitan and we matched the original dusky pink tiles in the downstairs bath to Peau de Soie. The painters took advantage of the cool, dry summer and stained the house Mission Brown, with doors in Marvin Bronze to match the windows.

Last but certainly most significantly, we converted from oil to gas. This was prompted when our oil guy telling us he couldn't keep the monster burner going much longer coincided with an oil bill that cost more than our first new car. I won't bore you with the details of the 6 month saga of no heat or no hot water, repairs, work-arounds and crossing our fingers it took to get us to October 8 when National Grid finally turned the gas on. It's also not the prettiest project, and it took one guy an entire 8AM-4PM day to get the monster out of the basement but it did finally get done. We worried about an ugly gas meter outside our beautiful house but we managed to hide it behind an estate rhododendron. Can you see it in the photo above? No? Neither can anyone else! More importantly we can take showers without screaming and the air coming out of the vents is toasty so it's probably the project that impacts our comfort level the most.

10 years later

Finally, 10 years after we moved in, thirteen years after the last coat of Navajo white, we summoned up the courage to have the space painted. As this room is open to so many spaces, we envisioned chaos, with scaffolding everywhere and paint-splattered animals leaving tacky trails on the furniture and furnishings.

And the color? I had major issues here. The eastern light and huge windows played havoc with the hues. Each wall looked a different hue, a different color even. I'd love a color on one wall at 9 am and hate it by 1. Another would look great on one wall, be subtle on another and disappear on a third. It became a process of elimination and I know I drove the painters crazy, though they were much to polite to say so, even when I changed my mind in the middle of the night and emailed them with the new choice.

What do you know? Turns out the whole process was drama free. Even though some cats love the no-smell BM Aura paint and snuggled up to it at every opportunity, they managed to keep their paws out of the paint trays. Scaffolding? Not necessary. Three men with rollers accomplished the whole job in two days.

The wall color we finally landed upon is Benjamin Moore moonshine. On this wall, and only this wall it looks a watery green, That lasts an hour or so when the north eastern light hits the wall. The same color is on the balcony walls, which look off-white and the double height wall that looks gray. Later in the day all the walls fade to the neutral color in the first photo above, which is a very relaxing shade that showcases the art.

When it was all clean and fresh The Guy decided he had to have this bright and vibrant piece by Long Island artist Stanko, which was framed by rockstar framer Cherie Via Rexer of Ripe Art Gallery. It has a mid-century vibe that really sits well in the space. The only regret I have about this room is that we didn't have it painted four years ago when we renovated the kitchen. On the other had the paint color I had in mind for this room wouldn't have worked nearly as well and i would be repainting right about now...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The den: A study in black and brown

I've posted nothing about this room since the sneak peek of the rug last year. I'm still on the fence about that, it's warm and soft which makes it a kind of kitty heaven but that leads to clawing and fur balls so we may end up putting it in Verity's room but for now it stays.

It isn't a completely finished room yet, we'll replace the last huge single glazed window at some point, add some bookshelves or corner cabinets. maybe a game table under the chandelier and give the walls a coat of paint but for now it's a liveable, cosy space.

This is how it used to look before I suffered a renovation breakdown and got rid of the raised dais and built in cabinets.

The northwest side: I ended up placing the Probber cube in the corner behind the Eames Lounge chair, mainly so we had enough light to read in the evenings without waiting for the time-delay spots to come on. I have fantasies about a cowhide rug under the chair...

Before: The same angle with original stained carpet.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Test drive: Modern kitchen reveal

The new kitchen has been up and running for a few months now and it occurred to me that I never posted a product list nor talked about how it functions as a working kitchen. The design challenge for the renovation was to create a space that would fit seamlessly into the mid-century house while utilizing 21st century technology, that would give us as much storage as the original but not feel as cramped. I spent six years researching and compiling wishlists. Remember the inspiration kitchens? The process was fluid, the layout changing right up to the moment the cabinets went in.

Moving the island has enabled me to both cook and wash dishes while spying on the neighbors looking out on the front yard; this is great entertainment, much better than a TV in the kitchen. Having three long and separate counters means a lot of people can be in the kitchen at one time without getting under each other's feet, but I find myself second guessing the Caesarstone, it's easy to maintain but in a battle with a Le Creuset casserole it's a brittle pussy. The previous Corian put up more of a fight. The Guy enthuses about the deep Blanco Super Precision sink, mainly because he can fit so much in it at one go. I like that I can pile dirty stuff in there and it almost disappears. I made a conscious decision not to have multiple dishwashers and I haven't regretted it. The thought of sacrificing a cabinet for something I'd only use once or twice a year strikes me as wasteful, plus the huge sink holds a the equivalent of one full load out of sight until the dishwasher is emptied again.

We both love the induction cooktop-it's a geek's dream come true-and the Cree LED downlights that have made a huge difference to the lighting in the room. These eco-friendly products were something I insisted on and they've more than lived up to expectations. The double convection wall ovens heat evenly but they take longer to reach temperature, even with the rapid preheat, than the old GE model and when I use the timer I can't read the oven clock. The cabinets are fabulous, the soft-close full-extension drawers mean less bending and stretching and yes, there are still a couple of empty drawers. Maybe though, the best part of the kitchen was something I didn't appreciate until I visited a friend who has beautiful Saulsalito tiles on her floor. After standing on them for only an hour I came home with an aching back. That's something that hasn't happened to me since we layed the hardwood floors!

Quick reminder of how it used to look. It was a great kitchen, although the design was not as specified on the original blueprints-in fact it had twice as many cabinets as Andrew Geller had planned. That made for four really tight corners, one of which, 2' between the island and the desk (just seen behind the island in the photo), we had to remove to install the new fridge the week we moved in!

The renovation layout has meant that more people can fit in there without pinch points, the smallest passage is a roomy 39" and my hips are thankful for fewer bruises. We had twenty-five friends in the kitchen one evening, the sink full of beer and white wine in a bath of ice, the table groaning with desserts and I could still get round to refill drinks and pass hors d'oeuvres. That's when I knew we had a fully functioning space.

Ikea Nexus Brown cabinets, Atlas Homewares Linea Skinny rail pulls, Caesarstone Misty Carrera countertops, Cree LED lighting, Electrolux ICON wall ovens + induction hob, SubZero refrigerator/freezer, Marvel wine fridge, Bosch dishwasher, Blanco SuperPrecision sink, Grohe Ladylux3 faucet, Benjamin Moore Silver Satin paint, Miniwax American Chestnut stain.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I am thankful that I beat my neighbor to the finish in the great ground floor renovation: New kitchen; redone floors; moldings; windows; paint; bathroom for her, laundry room for me - the same upheavals and stress. She started long after me, but her crew is bigger. We were both behind schedule but the last coat of paint dried on our back stairs while her guys were still going strong. November 11 2010 at 4 PM was the exact moment I closed the garage door on the last contractor, which marks the official end of the project. Unless, of course, you count that missing baseboard in the closet...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Good for another 25

Another CFL downlight blew in the kitchen last week. They are supposed to last 5 years but we have averaged 18 months, not really good enough considering the price ranges from 5 to 9 bucks a pop. I was so mad I decided we were going to try the Cree LED lights I posted about here, which come as bulb and housing in one piece. They are reputed to last 25 years - far longer than I expect to be living in the US, let alone this house - and take no more than a few minutes to swap with the old cans. We set out to buy one as an experiment - if the unit was as easy to install as the video promised we'd replace them all. By sheer good fortune, we found out Home Depot is having an eco-friendly sale so those $50 lights were only $35 each. If the trial LED fit, I'd go back and buy the other thirteen.

We watched the video, read the enclosed instructions, turned off the power and went for it. The old housing had a plate we had to take out, and The Guy had to undo the wires to take it off but that was the only scary part of the process. He scewed the new housing on to the old socket, pushed the unit up until it clicked in place. Then we turned on the power and stood by. Unlike the other LED lights I bought for the mudroom the Cree Ecosmart are instant on and have a nice bright light. The best thing is that bulb is enclosed behind a diffuser so that lightbulb isn't noticeable. We were sold.

The most difficult part of the LED downlight changeover? Getting our hands on fourteen light bulbs. It took four trips to three different Home Depots in two counties to garner all thirteen.

I delivered the first nine home and by the time I got back with the final four The Guy had walked the dog and installed all the downlights. All. By. Himself. No drama, no emergency call for help. Who is this chap and what has he done with The Guy?

Twenty minutes later we had three piles of trash - plastic, cardboard and original plates and a kitchen with one-style eco-friendly lighting.

Thanks to Cree Lighting and The Guy we can enjoy a maintenance-free lighting system in the kitchen and see what we are doing without getting overheated... like painting the walls and ceiling!

Friday, October 15, 2010


It took four entire months to convince the carpenter that not having a backsplash was a viable option for the kitchen renovation. That's not four months for the project by the way, that took six months from the moment Contractor 1 mismeasured the windows to last Friday when Contractor 2 finally gave up trying to convince me that a windowsill four inches up the window was the way to go and put in what I'd asked him for on June 15th. To allay his fears over the whole water/wood issue I sent him up to the guest bathroom to see what three years of continuous water have done to the window in the shower - it looks as good as it did the day I finished the polyurethane coat - no damage at all. He still wasn't happy so I showed him my inspiration shots:

image by Caesarstone

image by Caesarstone

Eventually, after going back and forth for months with the countertop fabricator and much muttering under his breath he agreed to trim out what I wanted. And what did he say when he stepped back and looked at the work? "That turned out really well..."

new kitchen window

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hair, Bristle and Profiles

Note to self and other interested parties: Never, ever, leave the State or even the house so the flooring guy can sand and seal the floors and stain the baseboards and trim without getting pet dander in the mix. Not unless you are prepared, upon returning from vacation, to find that he has sealed someone else's hair and a handful of grit into your kitchen floor and stained three hundred feet of baseboard that doesn't match the rest of your uniquely modern house. Be aware that the feeling of nausea and subsequent meltdown when you survey the mess will last much longer than the three weeks it takes for the smell of floor sealer to dissipate from the house.
The kitchen floor has to be redone but with two dogs and four cats this is no easy (or cheap) undertaking. We decided to wait until we were on another trip so the animals would be in kennels anyway. However I'm really unhappy about leaving the guys to correct their mistakes without supervision. My supervision!
Then there's the baseboard. Stain grade baseboard. Roughly twice the price of the pre-primed stuff, more when you add in the time to actually stain it the correct shade. Leaving aside the occasional brush bristle in the finish - after all we don't have to use those pieces (eye roll) - there's the fact that it's 1/4" too narrow and the profile is rounded. It's not as if I wasn't explicit about it matching the rest of the trim in the house. This carpenter had installed the square edge in the master bedroom a few years back, when I also made him replace a piece in the closet that he thought "would do". He knows I am that obsessive.
And he really shouldn't have said that was all that was available in his catalog. Because he know I am going to check. It took an hour on Saturday morning to find two lumber yards - both in this town- that have stain grade baseboard the right size, and both were cheaper than what he told me he paid. I think he should suck it up and reorder the molding. He offered to have the rounded edge routered off - at my cost. Changing the edge isn't going to make it grow an extra quarter inch wider, is it? And the molding can't go on until the floor is redone so we are at an impasse. I guess I'm lucky he didn't get around to the trim.
The great baseboard/molding/flooring debacle is holding up the completion of the renovation and I'm frustrated that something that should have been done by the end of July has dragged on another month with the very real possibility of going through until Fall.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The lights went out

Well, half the undercabinet lights. I haven't even got paint on the walls, let alone a backsplash behind the small appliance counter but now three of the six strip Xenon lights from WAC stubbornly refuse to light up. Ylighting think it's a transformer issue and are sending me a new unit. Until then the lighting will be a little sombre, which suits my mood.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Picking Paint

Various people have been asking what color we have chosen for the kitchen and while I'm tempted to leave up the mix of spackle, old paint and backing paper that's currently adorning the walls, I think it may be more aesthetically pleasing to have coherence in that space. The oppressive heat and humidity that was summer 2010 has abated so we're up to the challenge of picking a paint color. Obviously we aren't undertaking this lightly. Remember this marathon paint ponderation from 2007? That wasn't resolved until 2008 - and after all the drama we went with the color on the dining room walls. I had already used some sample pots left over from the master bedroom to try out four shades of green/gray, Iced Cube Silver, Gray Cashmere, Moonshine and Crystalline but none was really speaking to us. So I got out the paint chips and with some trepidation began the process anew. It turned out to be a really simple process. We had already decided on a gray to pick up on the tones in the Caesarstone Misty Carrera countertop. Most of the chips were too dark, a couple too light and then we had the perfect Goldilocks moment.

We loved Silver Satin, the color I painted the door and trim in the green bathroom many years ago. It works in both the sunny and full shadow areas of the kitchen. Because there is no logical place to stop in this house we'll continue this color through the mud room, up the back stairs, along the balcony, down the front stair, finally finishing by covering the walls in the foyer. Eventually we'll also give the great room a coat of two of this lovely pale grey.

We could use Silver Satin in the den as well but ultimately we decided that Bronzed Beige give this room more definition. Bronzed Beige is the color we used in this room and The Guy's office.

The ceilings and room openings with be freshened up with Simply White.
All colors by Benjamin Moore.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Filling the hole

Also a little marvel: 15" wine refrigerator by Marvel. That completes the appliance selection for the new kitchen, And yes, we had it filled 24 hours after it was installed and no we haven't emptied it again...yet.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Orient the (micro) Wave

The kitchen isn't even finished yet I'm almost certain there will be a minor remodel to the renovation in the future. The microwave is sitting on the counter like the ugly big box it is, reminding me daily that my first wish for the kitchen was a dedicated small appliance area and my second was to stop the breaker tripping every time we used the toaster, coffee maker and microwave simultaneously.
I looked at built-in microwaves and microwaves in a drawer but they were so expensive that when it came time to do the budget I nixed the idea. We decided we could live with the microwave on the counter and had the electrician run four outlets on the wall behind the small appliance area. It transpires that he didn't run a separate 20 amp breaker for the microwave though, so we still can't heat oatmeal, make toast and warm coffee at the same time - a fact we discovered when we had a bunch of people staying all trying to get breakfast together.
So something has to be done. When I ordered the other appliances I talked to the sales guy who told me that built-in microwaves were not worth the money and it would be much cheaper (and fairly easy) to convert a 24" or 30" cabinet to hold the microwave and buy a trim kit that allows steam to vent out the front. It's certainly an option and I do have a few placement possibilities.

I could build an appliance garage on the small appliance wall under the staircase but this would cut into valuable counterspace - and make that wall look cramped - it would also be a pain to run a dedicated line to the microwave here. I could also modify one of the 30" cabinet drawers underneath but it would ruin the look of that cabinet run.

Or I could place it in the island - there is a dedicated 20 amp line here that will only be used occasionally and it would be handy for heating plates etc. but the induction cooktop is so super fast that I wouldn't use the microwave for heating stock or any other cooking process and it's far from the site of primary use - heating oatmeal, boiling water and reheating coffee.

The final place probably has the fewest disadvantages. The cupboard next to the dishwasher houses appliances we use occasionally: coffee bean grinder, ice cream maker, food processor. It would be easy to relocate these to the tall pantry, which, at the moment, is completely empty. We would replace the two tall doors with two 15" doors on the bottom of the cabinet and place the microwave on the shelf up top, then trim it out with the kit. The microwave would be opposite the coffee maker and it would be a cinch to run a new 20 amp line here with no visible holes in the wall. The only problem? I really like the way that run of cabinets looks now. I don't want to mess it up with an ugly microwave. What to do?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Matching panels

A couple of things got crossed off the punch list today. I fixed the brown switchplates under the countertops and they installed the other Caesarstone island panel... at last

This side needs a switchplate cover but of course I didn't have a white one in the house. Next order of business - sanding out the grit & hair on the floor & re-sealing, followed by molding, toekicks and baseboards. Then paint. I seriously cannot wait for the paint, that's when I'll know the kitchen renovation is finally finished.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Black and White in Summer

The dining room, the space I declared finished in January 2006 and that we decided to add to the kitchen renovation, finally got its new clothes thanks to some design help from the Awesome Designer and a shopping trip to Kravet's Bethpage, NY showroom one rainy day back in April.

The drapery fabric Solarte from Kravet Soleil, is a retro-vibe indoor/outdoor fabric that should stand up better to dog affection than the Dupioni silk that hung there before.

Although it looks black & white in the stock image, there is a lot of subtlety in the shading - ebony, stone, mocha and a silvery pewter.

The rug, Cap Ferrat, is, like the Chinese Chippendale now in the den, a design by Windor Smith for Kravet. The seafoam color marries well with the grey-green Benjamin Moore Titanium walls and the dark brown ovals are almost the exact shade of the beams and the mocha shading in the drapes. (Black, seafoam and the sun seem to have been a big part of this recent renovation. I think I'll have to invest in some black and white tea towels for the kitchen!).

All we need now are those pesky baseboards...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Almost there

...apart from moldings, baseboard, toekicks, paint and the left side Caesarstone panel for the island (once again the installer wasn't happy with the fabricator's work). It's frustrating that we still aren't done but at least we have a working kitchen for the first time in more than two months.

I was extremely excited to start cooking again, then I remembered that all the pans and utensils were boxed up in the garage and we had nothing in the pantry.

So I settled for shopping for supplies, opening those boxes and washing every pot in the giant Blanco sink. Very therapeutic it was, too!