Friday, September 28, 2012

Live and Learn #2 - The Kitchen

We've wanted a great kitchen for years.  When we started looking at houses in Aurora that was one of the first things we focused on.  The kitchen there was a pretty good kitchen and functioned well, but it was a little tight to work in and had a few quirks that we didn't like so when it came time to design this kitchen we took the parts we liked from that kitchen and carried them over to this one.

Then, it was time to design the actual cabinet fronts.  We didn't want to go traditional with raised panels or arches.  We didn't want the front panels to be too fussy or complicated but we didn't want to go all slab front either as we felt that was too contemporary.  So, we worked with Dave (the owner of the cabinet shop), who totally caught our vision, and came up with something that I think looks really good.  I love the 5-piece cabinet and drawer front design.  I love the soft white color of the cabinets and the soft gray glaze.  I love the care and quality that was taken into building the cabinets and putting them together.

But when I walked in the first day I realized that something was very off and needed to be fixed.

In designing the drawer layout I had seen some images in magazines and online (I love and used it A LOT!) that had a slab front drawer as the top drawer in the stack.  I really liked that look and thought it seemed to be the perfect way to balance out the transitional look we were trying to achieve so asked Dave to include that feature.

When we were drawing up the final kitchen design I was told that the four drawer stack wouldn't really work with the 5-piece front because the drawers were too narrow and it would end up looking funny (kind of like the top of a toaster).  So I agreed that the four drawers would be all slab front.  Then in a stroke of genius I said let's have only the drawers below the cooktop be built with the 5-piece front.  I thought that would set them off and make them look special.  I also said I didn't want the end panel to have the 5-piece design but just wanted to be flat.  In my defense, I was afraid it would make the kitchen look too busy and would save us some money.  Win, Win (in my mind).

Can you see what was bothering me?  It took me a little while to figure out what it was that was throwing me off from totally and completely loving my kitchen cabinets.  Looking at the picture it doesn't look quite as stark as it does in real life.  

The first change that obviously needed to be made was to have the end panel changed out to a 5-piece design.  Tex tried to tell me that and I discounted his opinion.  The style needs to be carried from the wall cabinets through the whole kitchen.  MAYBE if I'd put in a cabinet with doors there instead of the slab front drawers it wouldn't have been soooo obvious, but we'll never know.  Lesson learned.   Listen to the guy who's been doing this for years and years.
Now, on to the second change that needs to happen.

Because I included a three drawer stack right next to the cooktop the difference in the drawer fronts was too stark.  They were the exact same height so there was no visual reason for them to not have the same design on the front drawer panel.  The only way that my concept of having the cooktop drawers "stand out" would have been to have both drawer stacks flanking it be a four drawer stack and I would have needed to pull out the spice cabinet pullouts a couple of inches to really create the sense of a cooking niche.

Well, it was too late to make a new four drawer stack and I wasn't going to pay for that either (and I really wanted the deeper drawers here --- I have an idea that I hope will work just fabulously for these drawers) so I asked Tex to make some new drawer fronts so they would match the lines of the drawers below the cooktop.  Lesson learned.  Don't just assume the design in your head is going to translate well into real life.  Get a drawing of the whole design before you approve it.

And here's another mistake, but luckily this one wasn't my responsibility.  The cabinet shop goofed and made the posts to support the countertop overhang in white instead of stained wood.  They tried to convince me that it would look good and that they have seen it done before so I should just leave them white and be all funky and trendy.  I said, "No! Thank you for the very kind suggestion.  PLEASE make them again in the stained finish."  (In this picture I think it looks a bit like a cartoon)  
Noah was cracking me up - he saw the broom and piles of sawdust and immediately got to work cleaning

Disclaimer - I could have lived with the kitchen the way it was.  It wasn't the end of the world, and we actually slept on it for two nights before we made the final decision to pay for the changes and we waited for the drawer pulls and cabinet knobs to go up to see if that made a difference.  Yes....having the handles put on helped a lot and once the countertops go on that will help even more, but it would have bugged me every single time I walked into the kitchen, so we bit the bullet and asked for those four panels to be remade.    

The funny thing is I'd spent so much time drawing out the function of the kitchen...measuring the distance from here to there, imagining where I was going to store things for easy and appropriate access but I forgot to draw out the form (or actual cabinet and drawer front design) of the entire kitchen.  Form and function are both important to me and I know that, but in my haste to meet a deadline, I skipped a step in the design process.  

First world problems.  I know.  And I feel a little guilty about making a big deal out of these issues, but we are going to live here for a long, long time and I do not want to be focused on "should haves and could haves".  I want to move in and move on.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Live and Learn #1 - Exterior Lights

Designing a house from scratch is fun, challenging, frustrating, rewarding, scary, stressful, interesting and fulfilling.  Rob and I have talked about our vision and our plans for this house ad nauseum (well, almost).

How do we see ourselves living in it, how do we want it to look and how do we want the rooms to flow, how do we want to use the rooms and how do we want the house to feel to our guests?  Of course we've had to make some compromises, adaptations and changes as we've gone along.  Most of them we've been able to catch on paper - before there was any real cost involved.  As we've gotten closer to a finished house we've realized that some of our decisions, although they sounded good in theory or looked good on paper, just didn't work in real life and changes had to be made.

The following four posts are going to detail some of our mistakes, or maybe we should just call them do-overs.

Or as we've taken to saying, "live and learn".

#1 - Exterior Lights
We started out wanting the house to nod at modern / contemporary touches so when it came time to choose the light fixtures for the garage and other exterior doors we focused mainly on lights that had modern lines.  Rob really wanted them to have light sensors so they would automatically go on at dusk and off at dawn.  We found some online, that seemed to meet the criteria but the ORB finish was over $100 each and we needed SEVEN so that was unrealistic.  Then, thanks to Google, I found the exact same light fixture on sale with free shipping.  The problem was they were brushed nickel which would not show up on our house.  I'd seen enough DIY shows and read enough blogs to know that you can spray paint your light fixtures if the existing color doesn't work for you.  So, I jumped the gun and put in the order.

When they came my heart sunk.  They were so much smaller than I expected (even though I have a measuring tape).  And what looked like a cool modern design online didn't really look like much in person.

I SHOULD HAVE sent them back then and there.  But I thought, no we paid for them and once they are painted ORB they will show up better and have a stronger appearance.

So I bought some bronze spray paint, took two of them apart and proceeded to start painting.

The finish was brown (more like tan) but it was still not dark enough to show up on the stucco, but I wasn't ready to give up yet.  So, I went and bought some black spray paint thinking that if they were painted black first and then hit lightly with the bronze that would give me the look we wanted.  Nope.  The bronze spray paint covered the black and made it too light again.

So, did I give up and ship the other lights back?

NO!  That would be too sensible.

Rob and I dismantled all of them, created a spray station and proceeded to paint them all black.  Which was actually lovely until we tried to reassemble them.  We tried and tried and tried to put them back together the same way they came (until Rob cracked one).  Originally there was a ring of silicone at the top and the bottom of the glass.  We weren't sure if it was there to keep water out or just to act as a buffer between the glass and the metal, but no matter how hard we tried we could not get it together with both parts.  Rob finally made an executive decision that the top ring was the most important because that would protect the actual electrical parts from the weather.

So we put them together and took one of them up to the house to look at next to the stucco.  The black worked, but the size hadn't changed at all (hahah they were still barely 11" tall regardless of the color).  They were so small as to almost be inconsequential next to the garage doors.

Our compromise was to use them on the doors coming out of the basement into the backyard and on the man door from the garage.  I went out hunting at Lowe's and Home Depot for a better option.  We didn't have time to look online anymore because the electricians were ready to start installing our lights.

I found two possible options, sent pictures of them to Rob (who was in Orlando working at the time) and we made a decision.  I brought them up to the house and kept my fingers crossed that they would be large enough, that the colors would work and that the style wouldn't distract from the house.  It's not the vision we started out with, but I actually quite like them.  This end result turned out better than planned.

In fact, we may replace the small light fixture by the man door with the smaller matching light from Lowe's since it is in the same line of sight as the light fixtures by our garage doors.  The only thing Rob is disappointed about is that they aren't Dusk to Dawn.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When Rob's Away

Rob is out of town for a few days (he got called at the last minute for an emergency trip to Disney - the bonus is that he's been able to get together with Alaina after she gets off work (at 10:30 pm).  They went out to dinner one night and fit in a quick trip to WalMart the second night.  She usually has to manage her shopping trips on the bus so she is looking forward to being able to stock up)

Lots of changes have happened up at the house while he's been gone, so I'm putting a lot of pictures up today.

The exterior is SOOO Close to being finished.  We need to have the soffit and fascia finished.  Also, Emily pointed out a couple of areas that seem to be missing either stucco or stone.  It's nice to have a new, fresh set of eyes looking things over, because I hadn't even noticed those spots.

The setting sun really impacts the colors in the picture above.  The picture below (of the garage view) is the most accurate.
(I haven't seen any faces in the rocks, and the two stones that are the same color and same size right next to each other don't bother me now that the whole wall is finished and the grout is on)



We have kitchen cabinets!

The dish cabinet can't be installed until the countertops are finished since it sits right on top of the counter.  Noah immediately claimed it as "his house".

Now these are interesting. I think they are the legs to support the granite overhang.  The question is why are they white and not stained?  Who decided that?  Why was I not asked about this decision?  And, should I let them install it and see how it looks or should I just say right away that this is a mistake and they need to get the brown legs out here before the granite shows up?

Rivermill was also responsible for the fireplace surround.  Tex did a great job bringing my vision to reality and managed to work around an installation mistake that we didn't catch until almost too late.  I'll get a better picture when I have daylight and don't have to use the flash.

The tile guys are finally coming back up tomorrow to start on the shower, so they should be able to get the fireplace and the foyer floor finished too.

The closets are GLARING white!  Good thing our clothes are colorful because the walls in that room really needs to be toned down.

This was a nice surprise to see.  Jesse came up and covered all the outside corners to protect them where cords may get dragged around them or workers may be careless walking past them.  He said he'll get them up around the island and the outer kitchen cabinets too.  When he goes the extra mile like that it just reassures me that he is really trying to give us his best work.

And Last, but not Least.  Fall colors for Alaina (love ya babe)!  This is the mountainside just east of our house.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Paint Progress

The painters finally got their prep work finished.  I told them it seemed like they had the most boring job of everyone, filling paint holes, sanding them down and so on and so on.

They primed on Wednesday, painted the trim on Thursday and started taping off all the trim so they can paint the walls and ceiling.  They must have just painted the trim in the basement this morning because we couldn't stay down there long when we went to check on things.

I sure hope this pink paper is leak proof because there was a huge puddle of paint sitting under the bucket that the air sprayer is in.
You can see in the picture above what our final decision was regarding the sliding door in the great room.

We thought it was odd that all the closets are sealed off, but apparently the walls, shelves and ceilings are all painted the same white as the trim and are left like that.  The advantage is that it will make it easier to keep the pantry clean since it's all semi-gloss.

All our hard work labeling our PEX tubing by zone and loop has been painted.  (It's kind of freaky looking in this room right now, a bit "ghostly").  Rob is very glad that he wrapped all his wires in saran wrap.  I guess we'll go up tomorrow and re-label all the tubes.  It will be important for the plumber to have that information readily available.

Catching up on the exterior

It's been a little frustrating because we haven't seen much progress for the last couple of weeks.  Bits and pieces get done every day, but nothing major. So, it was nice to watch the progress of the stucco going on.

The crew started on the west side and moved around the back of the house to the front.  It was fun to see the color.  I think it's a little darker than I planned.  But, I've realized that it will look nice in the glaring sun and won't get washed out as quickly, so that was fortuitous.  

They actually started by applying the darker trim around the windows and to frame out the planes of the exterior.  Then they taped off the trim and applied the main color.

This side above is finished and ready for the scaffolding to come down and the picture below is the back view all finished.

This is actually a good shot of our property.  If you look very hard, you can see the orange flag, in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.   I've drawn in approximately where our property lines are.  It's tough to create 3D ideas easily and quickly on a 2D picture.  The line actually goes underneath the trees and ends up behind them.  Rob is struggling with this picture and says it looks like the lines are floating in the air. 
When we went up today, the crew was there working on installing our gable molding and corbels.  Hopefully by Monday, all of the exterior will be totally finished and then we can start laying out our sidewalk and final grading.

While the stucco crew was working on the garage wall, these two men were getting a good start on our rock!   It's fascinating watching them because it really requires some artistry.

(umm, does anyone else see the two pieces that are the same size and color right next to each other? and should I care or not?  Rob thinks its funny that I noticed it and said I should just wait till the whole wall is finished before I decide one way or the other....comments???)

And, our neighborhood is really growing.  We won't be the only ones up there in the dark after all.  There are currently six houses in various stages.  One is finished (the parade home at the bottom of the hill).  One is almost finished (a spec home waiting for buyers to choose finishes), one is framed, and two have their foundations poured.  You can't see two of the houses from this view because they are hidden by the hills.

We may be the first ones actually moved in, unless the parade home gets sold in the next week or two.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

In other news

Rob loves this little door. He's excited to be able to look through here and see his Audio Video Computer Rack with all the little blinking lights.

I (on the other hand) would love nothing more than to frost a nice big rectangle and leave just a little bit of clear glass around the outside. The lights will still show through the frosted glass, but it will look calmer and quieter.

I will do my best to refrain, but I am making no promises.

I know it's Rob's room, and Rob's rack so therefore it only makes sense that it is Rob's door, but .... ..... .........

This is the water heater (or sometimes it's called the water maker).

The boiler has also been delivered, but not installed.

I know the boiler heats the water so I think this big tank stores the culinary hot water until we need it in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room.

The boiler heats and reheats the water that runs through the PEX tubing for our heat.  That is a closed loop so the water from that system will never enter the water for our culinary needs.

I'm learning, but I still have a bit more to understand.

Noah is so excited that the garage door openers have been installed.  He sees them there and doesn't understand why they don't work.  Every time we go out through the garage he asks to push the button and then is disappointed when nothing happens.

Monday Morning Design Dilemma

The painters have been working at the house, but it's been difficult to show their progress because they've been doing a lot of prep work - filling nail holes, sanding, etc.  So it was nice to see the stair banister and post stained.  The color is just beautiful.

But seeing this actually caused us a little angst.  

We'd been planning on having the slider door painted white to match the window and door trim through the rest of the house, but now we were second guessing our decision and thought maybe we should carry that beautiful stain color over to the slider and really show them off.  They are beautiful doors, made with a really lovely wood.  They were chosen to frame the view and create a sense of room within the great room, so we thought maybe we really should stain them and draw more emphasis to them.

We didn't have much time to make a decision.  We talked about it and I even used my HomeDesigner program to do a quick sketch-up, but that didn't really help.  So Rob ran up to the house quickly this morning and snapped off some pictures so we could look at it from a couple of angles.
This is the view as you enter the great room from the mudroom.  You can see the windows in the dining nook and the slider.
Now we are all the way in the room and you can see the fireplace too. (which still needs to be moved over half an inch so it will be centered on the wall)
Here is the view from the front entry.  You can see the stained stair post and the hand rail in this view.
Turning just a little you can see the slider, the dining nook and the kitchen window all in one shot.

Do we want this broken up?  Do we want to add one more focal point to the room?

We thought maybe yes and then again maybe no.

So I did a very quick sketch-up showing both options using Publisher (I should have used Photoshop, but I'm not good enough).  I just drew in some lines that were the same color as the hand rail and added a box to represent the kitchen island.  Of course, the walls and trim will be painted, the floor will not be covered with pink paper, there will be actual cabinets in the kitchen and eventually, furniture in the room.  But, it still helped to see the basic look.
With the slider stained.
With the slider painted to match the other trim in the house.

Which do you like better?

We stared at it for a while and I'm pleased to say we both came to the same conclusion so there wasn't a lot of extra thinking and discussion needed.  We let Jesse know how to have the painter proceed and moved on with our day.  

All the Leaks are Gone (we hope)

One more leak showed up in the family room ceiling. This one was in the nook area. So it was opened up, repaired, and patched.

We are all holding our breath that all the leaks have shown up and there aren't any areas where the nail is actually stuck in the tubing creating a plug. The water pressure is holding and we haven't seen any more wet spots so we are crossing our fingers and hoping those were the only problem areas.  Jesse said the holes seemed to show up where the loops were cornered a little too tightly and were too close to the subfloor.  This would be a good time to review the videos we made of the finished loops.  It might give us some peace of mind.

After a couple of days, the insulation was all dry and ready to be tucked back up into the joists.  Then the drywall crew came back, they did a good job on the repair.  There was one spot where the mud coat looked a little more like the stamped finish and not the wholly smooth, but Jesse said he'd get up there and knock it down with a little sanding.

In the meantime, we've seen minor progress happening, but it sure feels like these leaks have really slowed down the work.  Well, that and the subs have apparently been working like crazy finishing up a couple of other houses that had a higher priority than ours (the Parade of Homes, for instance).

I know Rob was hoping earlier that we'd be asked to put our house in the Parade, but I think we are both glad now that didn't happen.