Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blank Spaces

As I was puttering around the kitchen today a thought came to mind about a design feature that our builder and kitchen designer the woman who ordered our cabinets questioned. (The architect actually designed the layout of the kitchen quite well and we just made a few modifications to the plan. The woman at the cabinet place may think of herself as a designer, but she really did nothing for us and did not do any planning or foresee any potential issues that we ended up having later. In my mind something a skilled kitchen designer should take care of. More on that later...)

Anyway...back to the design issue. I wanted to put all drawers in our kitchen except under the sink where drawers weren't possible. I did not want any lazy susans in the corners though. This raised eyebrows with our builder and cabinet woman and all they saw was wasted space. All I could see was impractical space that was hard to access and ended up being useless to me. We lived in a house with a lazy susan and I had a tendency to overfill it and it seemed difficult to me to access its contents through the standard sized opening. (The best thing about it...we had a timid cat that used it as a place to hide when company came.) I've learned through the years that I need to have simple systems that work for me. Nothing fancy schmancy.

Here is the architect's version. It is very beautiful and I'm sure very functional. As much as I like the drawer pulls, I've also learned over the years that I have a tendency to open drawers with one hand and over time twist the drawers as a result. It's a personal preference, but I also do not like the mix of knobs and pulls.  The lazy susan here looks like one where the door spins with the unit which is better to me than the kind with a door that pulls open and then the unit inside spins. Often those end up with just one handle or knob on the side that opens and that visually drives me crazy.

Here is our version. We chose longer, deeper drawers with one long pull. No lazy susan!!! The drawer space is amazing and I'm quite happy with it. We did buy Omega cabinets that have very nice drawer slides but we actually lived in the house for over a month before we had the pulls so drawers would occasionally twist from us grabbing the side to open them up. I'm glad we went with our experiences and selected a pull we could grab with one hand.

Although there are doors under the sink we also decided we liked how it looked by placing those pulls horizontally instead of vertically. I had seen this in another kitchen while looking around for pull ideas and thought..of course! It actually works quite well, honestly better than if we had placed them vertically.

One *minor* hiccup....The cabinet lady assured Sean despite his concerns and repeated questioning that *everything was fine* with the slide in stove. Everything was *almost fine* except for there is very little clearance between the stove and the drawers.  The stove (sorry for the bad picture example) flares just a touch at the top and we were unable to open and close the top drawer on either side. The cabinet lady should have thought of spacers. Thankfully Sean was able to shave off the slightest bit of the drawer corner to make them work and you couldn't tell unless you knew the story.

So to sum it all up, as I was puttering around, I realized I am not missing that space, the drawers are very functional and I'll have even more space once we get our pantry shelves installed. I'm so glad I didn't get talked into something I didn't want. I've asked different folks what they think of lazy susans and the reviews are mixed. I think it's definitely a personal preference and when you are designing a kitchen it's important to know what you like.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Concrete Countertop - Round 1

I've always loved the look of concrete countertops and we even toyed with the idea of doing our kitchen countertops in concrete. In the end we opted not too, but we had a pantry that needed a countertop and we really didn't want to bust the budget on it.

Sean did a lot of research but the DIY experience posted here on Kelly Moore's blog was the one that we could identify with and referred to the most.

On the original plans the pantry was the laundry room, but I wanted the laundry room upstairs and thought this space would be great as a pantry.

First Sean made a template to help later when making the forms, the sink placement, etc.

As our luck would have it we had higher than normal temperatures the weekend we wanted to pour the countertop so we were up early in the morning to get started before things got too warm.

 Halfway through filling the form we threw in some rebar for good measure.
 Then vibrated out the bubbles.....
We let it sit a day before taking the forms off.

 And finally, sealed with the sink installed.
I'd say this contertop cost us less than $100 and we really like it. Right now it is buried under a pile of odds and ends just waiting for us to get our pantry shelves installed and organized.

We were so pleased with how this countertop turned out that we decided to do Rosie's bathroom in concrete too. More to come on that in another post because it turned out a bit differently for us the second time around!

Pantry color: Sherwin Williams Holiday Turquoise from the 1950s Suburban Modern Collection

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Upstairs Hall / Study...whatever you want to call it...

One of the things I liked about the floorplans for our house was that the upstairs hall area was more like a living area rather than a long narrow hall leading to the bedrooms. It is not a big space but it gets plenty of natural light.

Here is the version from the Healthy Home Plans site:

Here is our version in its developing stages: trim here either. But this is the perfect spot for our beloved secretary desk that has been kept in 2 separate pieces in two separate houses for the past four years since our temporary house did not have high enough ceilings for it. We've also been pulling our favorite books out of storage to fill the shelves.  We eliminated the short wall that maybe was meant to define what the architect had labeled as the *children's study* thinking that it would flow better. I just didn't envision this space as a children's study either.We are happy with the change and think it really opens up the space. We need to get some pictures on the wall and fill the space to make it look lived in, but we are getting there. I'm not a decorator, so things just have to happen naturally over time.
I've been scouring the internet to try to find an electronic copy of this view. I do have a print copy but it is buried in the heaps of boxes I need to unpack and I just can't put my hands on it.  Where we have a railing (very rough and temporary for code purposes only) the architect had walls to the ceiling with a little desk and art glass in the wall overlooking the staircase. We really wanted to open up the whole space so we eliminated the walls in the stairwell all the way down through to the basement.  Eventually we are going to add a windowseat on the landing where the plant stand is now.

The little step-down before heading down the stairs is actually a nice little detail that we like. It leads to our daughter's room and just provides a little architectural detail without being too obvious. It's just something we like without really having to know why.

(The walls and ceiling are Hubbard Squash from Sherwin Williams.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Basement

I've always hated basements. For the most part I've lived in old houses with basements that well...were dirt floors, stone walls, and not a place to go. I've had friends with basements that were usually the place where the old furniture went, they smelled like a basement, and usually weren't finished. If you've ever watched *That 70's Show* you know what I mean. Unfinished walls or floors...dusty...*basementy*...

I also know people that go home and have the *formal* living space upstairs so they go down to the basement to watch tv and relax at night. I've never been able to figure out why? Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I knew it wasn't for me. So initially we didn't plan on finishing the basement right away, but thankfully we had a change of heart. We knew it would be hard to get back to if we didn't do it now. The only promise....that it would truly be a FINISHED basement.  It is still a work in progress...but we've gotten a lot done on the playroom side of the basement.

We have gone from this:

To this:
We put in a subfloor with an insulated backing because we were concerned that the floor would be cold otherwise. I do think it makes a difference and I'm glad Sean did some research there. We decided to use Pergo flooring mostly because it works in basements and we wanted something that could take abuse. We're pleased with how it turned out, especially since we weren't necessarily fans of this type of flooring.

It still needs a little work and some girlie touches on the playroom side. I'd like to maybe add a chalkboard, some wall decals and maybe an artwork *clothesline*. The basement is one open room and the architect designed it structurally so that we didn't have any odd posts in the middle, so there was no good stopping point to change colors. Sean painted the entire room Rookwood Terra Cotta from the Sherwin Williams Victorian Collection.  As you will see as we go along -- we love painted ceilings. We are currently setting up a pool table in the other end of the basement and can't wait to share that progress when we get further along.

The best part:

We thought like kids and finished the space under the stairs for a little hideout for Rose. Sure it would have been a great space to stash Christmas decorations, but this was way more fun. Here she is on a night she decided to camp out under the stairs. Way fun!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fine Art

Years before we became parents, we used to plan our vacations around house museums -- the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, Mark Twain's house in Hartford, Connecticut, Falling Water, Biltmore Estate, the mansions of the Hudson River Valley (Wilderstein is a favorite)....

I remember visiting Henry Clay Frick's mansion, Clayton in Pittsburgh and one of the highlights of the tour was their extensive art collection. As I remember it, we were shown a Monet which was amazing, but hanging right next to it with equal honor was a painting done by one of the Frick children (Childs Frick). I think the tour guide made as big of a fuss over Childs' painting as she did the Monet. I always remembered that and although I know I will never have a real Monet hanging in my house, I will always hang my own child's artwork as if it were! Even though they were very rich and had museum pieces in their house it was very evident that children lived and played there. I loved that.

I have started a mini gallery above the folding table in my laundry room. I buy inexpensive canvases when I think of it or when I see them on sale. We each received an original Rosie as birthday gifts this year and I will treasure them forever. I will keep expanding my collection of fine art as long as I have wall space!

Rosie with Aurora and the Prince 
An Abstract of a King watching a Pink video
A Wood Thrush
Me Watering the Garden (with a witch and a bird in the sky)

I am also a huge fan of the Lil Davinci frames for displaying (and storing!) artwork. (The company Dynamic Frames has no idea who I am. I like their product all on my own...)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Just a Year Ago...

Just a year ago, despite fighting endless snow, we were completely thrilled to see a house taking shape. The first floor exterior walls were just beginning to go up and I *thought* then I could imagine how it would all turn out.

And then.....our first Thanksgiving in a very sunny house. Exactly what we planned for but couldn't even imagine -- how warm and cozy it would feel. Our staircase is not finished yet -- Sean plans to do that himself with a railing design of his own. For now we have what we call the contractor special in order to meet code. We also have not installed trim around the windows since we are doing that ourselves too. We even plan to use wood from trees cut down (only where necessary for the house) or ones that had fallen. We had some sawn into boards and it is being kiln-dried right now.

We chose natural cherry cabinets but really liked the look of white countertops (ours are Caesarstone) and the stainless steel appliances. We have since replaced our mismatched island stools too!

I couldn't get the same angles of the kitchen from the Healthy Home Plans site, but you can still see the changes that we made in the photos below.

Our house is in the middle of a wooded lot unlike the original that had close neighbors, so we were able to eliminate the cupboards and wall hood over the stove in order to have more windows.  Since I am only 5' 1"  tall I tend to find upper cabinets to be useless. We also eliminated the upper cabinets on the left side of the sink. (I hope to have some sort of open shelving there eventually.) I wasn't sure if I liked the shelving at the end of the island so I decided to eliminate that also with the thought that I could add it later if I wanted to. I find that now we tend to pull up a stool there for extra seating so I'm glad we did leave it out.
We thought the light fixtures over the island were too heavy for our personal style so we opted for smaller cobalt blue glass fixtures. We liked the farm sink design and fell in love with a sapphire colored sink to add color and break up the whiteness of the countertops. It was one of the first things we bought for the house and it sat in the box in our living room for months for lack of a better place to store it safely!

**Idea home photos courtesy of Healthy Home Plans.  Feel free to email me or comment with questions about products that we used instead.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

From the ground up....

Happy New Year!!
Click on the slide show below to see our house being built over the past year (and more!)....

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