January 31st, 2010 §
Last week the siding/trim guys installed the tongue and groove ceiling on the front porch. I am so pleased with how it turns out—the seamless transition from flat to arch to flat was a bear to figure out, as was how to apply the material to the barrel of the arch—but all the hard design work payed off in a beautiful execution.
It reminds me of something you’d see on a ship, all beautiful wood lapped tight together around a curve.
And then Friday drywall started going up inside and boy does the house feel different! It feels complicated to me as I forge new paths around unfamiliar barriers. No longer can I walk though walls to get from one room to another!
From the front door. May I present my front hallway—really one of the reasons I reworked the old house, so I could have a proper foyer. After living for the past 12 years in apartments where the door opened directly upon the main area, I lusted for a foyer to serve as a formal transition between outside and in, as a place to stow coats and boots and keys and mail and vases of fresh flowers.
Looking from the corner of the living room into the front hall closet at left and kitchen at right, you get a peek of the new brick fireplace surround in front of the old chimney peeking through the studs. We ripped the old one out a few weeks ago and redid it, as when we razed the old house and rebuilt, the floor ended up higher than it was originally and the firebox was no longer proportional. Plus, its lintel was too low to accommodate a wood stove pipe. I chose a handmade brick from North Carolina that’s very rustic and rough, and I am happy with how it turned out. I may still paint it or not depending upon how it looks when the mantle is installed.
From the library looking into the studio, at left, through what will be glass doors, and into the living room, at right, through pocket doors.
Here’s the front hall looking into the funny little powder room tucked under the stairs. I’d like to do something really fun in this space since it’s so small and odd-shaped. I’m thinking wallpaper? Don’t freak!
And as if that wasn’t enough excitement, we got 10 inches of snow on Saturday, when the temperature failed to rise above 17 degrees. There were still piles lying around from the Dec. 17 storm and here we go again!
January 31st, 2010 §
January 31, 2:34 p.m. Headed up to the farm to check out road conditions after yesterday’s storm. So not impressed with this county’s plowing efforts.
This is one of my favorite views while driving up to the house. It’s the first glimpse you get of the farm—if you look closely, you can see some familiar orange safety fencing midframe and to the right. Even though I don’t live there yet, to me this view already means I’m almost home.
January 30th, 2010 §
Last Saturday, my dad and I pulled into the driveway by the garage just in time to see the largest fox either of us has ever seen come tearing across the back field right at the woodline. The creature was one of the most gorgeous animals I have ever seen—as large as a Labrador retriever and sporting the smartest black stockings. I knew right where he was headed, as I’d discovered his lair while poking about the forest edge, and I’d heard him out singing with his friends during the summer nights.
Just as Mr. Fox ducked home I saw a woman on a beautiful white horse hooting and hollering in the back field. Turns out we had pulled into the middle of a foxhunt. The area around my house is popular foxhunting ground. In fact, hounds are kenneled at the base of the mountains that run behind my house. Horses and riders and their dogs take great liberty with area personal property as they tally ho up and down the fields. I don’t mind seeing them ride, and it was rather thrilling to hear the hounds’ calls come closer and closer until I saw the dogs surge as a pack across my neighbor’s field and on down the road. Three riders came across my land that day, and I didn’t tell any of them that their quarry was tucked up safe and sound right in his burrow in my back yard.
Then Dad and I spent the rest of the day running 14-gauge speaker wire to five rooms in my house. Drywall was due to start the next week, and it was our last shot to get it in the walls before they were sealed up for good. It was actually pretty fun to drill holes in my house, and I got to learn all sorts of tricks such as how to clamp the two spools on a spindle to a sawhorse so that I could easily pull two strands of wire through the house.
All I can say now is the Bonafide Farmhouse is wired for a party…in the studio, in the library, in the kitchen, on the back porch, in the master bedroom, and yes, even in the master bath! Ye-haw!
And then all the way home, we schemed about how to build the mother of all fox-proof chicken coops.
January 18th, 2010 §
One of the things I like best about the farm is that the sun sets behind the woodline at the back of my property, and behind the soft mountains that are beyond the woods. In the winter, the silhouettes of trees—including the gigantic oak right behind the house—throw up a stark background that’s not unlike an expertly lit stage set. I like being out here as the stars wheel into place above me, and I like feeling small under those giant trees.
January 18th, 2010 §
Much has happen in the last two weeks. My builder emerged from the holidays like a house on fire (knock on wood) and there has been a steady stream of tradesmen through the house. The siding guys completed much of the horizontal siding. Taking my cue from the old wood siding on the well house, I went with a 5″reveal on the HardiPlank to approximate the look of an older home. It’s primed and ready for paint, though a neighbor stopped by the other night to tell me how much she loved the color of it as is!
I’ve been kept very busy figuring out my electrical plan, including phone/tv and data cables, the blue and black wires shown above, dangling in the laundry room awaiting eventual hookup. I’ve also plotted out all my light fixtures and exactly where they need to be hung, and walked the house many, many times “practicing” tuning on light switches to make sure their locations make sense.
One of the small joys of building a home is that I get to put things exactly where I want them. In many ways, this house is sized to fit me. From the placement of outlets and switches to the length of the bathtubs to the height of the showers and the head room above the toilet in the master bath—above—I’ve used my own body as a measuring tape.
Insulation went in today, and I was amazed that all the exterior walls and roof were accomplished in one day. The house feels different now—fluffier! I am particularly taken with the shape that’s emerging in the large gable dormer that’s in my upstairs bedroom:
Next week we say goodbye to the studs and hello to real walls as drywall starts on Jan. 25. My builder wrapped the faux beams in the kitchen in preparation.
Other changes include the build-out of the porch. The front porch is getting beefed up with a drop beam, weightier paneled columns, and the tounge and groove floor and ceiling pine is ready and waiting in the garage. I won’t even get into the hours of consternation and drama that went into figuring out how to finish this porch. It was a challenge!
In the meantime, seed catalogs are pouring into my mailbox and the recent warm up has me dreaming of planting time. I can’t wait until next summer when I can come home from work, take off my heels and dress clothes, and walk right out the door to my garden. I have a feeling it’s going to be great.
January 12th, 2010 §
Reading back through this blog, I realize I’ve been awfully flippant about just how this house is getting built. To read my entries one might imagine that the house self-assembles as easily as the words flow onto my computer screen. The truth is anything but. In fact, I realize that I’ve been hiding most of the gritty details of getting this job done—mostly in an effort to avoid further stamping into my mind what already keeps me awake at night. Maybe, I must be reasoning, if I write that things are fine and easy and proceeding smoothly, I can actually make that happen.
Ah. The seductive lure of wishful thinking. The self preservation games we play.
I don’t want to be misleading. Nothing horrible has happened and I don’t anticipate a poor outcome. But what has shocked me about the process of building this house is just how involved I have needed to be. Now that I am about, hopefully, halfway through construction, I can say that the builder I chose doesn’t necessarily share my vision and isn’t quite as quick on the uptake as I might desire. Thus, quality control has fallen to me and my father, and it’s been a round-the-clock job for both of us. For example, I was at the house for six hours in the freezing cold with my dad on Sunday, he sketching out detailing for the front porch and me obsessing about where to hang light fixtures and floodlights and where to install shower mixing valves. Then that night we spent a couple of hours drafting e-mails to my builder to answer all my builder’s questions about how to run wiring, how to pad out porch columns…the list goes on and on. Then Monday I received throughtout the day five long e-mails from my builder requiring thoughts and decisions about structured wiring, sump pumps, water heaters, and god knows what else. After working late at my real job, I came home to a three-hour discussion with my building partner (dad) and drafted e-mail responses to all these questions. And then today several calls from the builder to my office needing answers NOW. Then, after again working late at my real job, I went up to the house to inspect the day’s work in the light of my car’s highbeams and a flashlight. And I should probably get to bed because I have a 7:30 appointment tomorrow morning with my builder at the brickyard, to select bricks for the new fireplace surround. And it has been this way, nonstop, since first engaging the draftsman back in May.
Lots of things have fallen to the wayside through this process. I almost feel as one might when they have a child—all consumed and singularly focused. I’ve had to pass up friends’ invitations to dinners, I’ve been late to important celebrations, my e-mail correspondence has dwindled. Even over New Year’s, when I traveled to meet friends—some of whom had crossed oceans to get together—I was getting 8 a.m. calls from my roofer and reviewing my kitchen cabinet renderings.
You could certainly say I asked for this. To which I’d respond, “You’re right.” I mean, look at my blog header. And I still believe it will be worth it in the end. I cling to the hope that this sustained focus may perhaps teach me just what I am capable of doing in the future. But in the meantime, it’s a slog. Redeemed only by this:
Tonight at the house, 25 degrees outside, I walked into the middle of the front field and turned off my flashlight. The stars snapped into focus, just above my outreached fingertips, and the snow on the ground glowed with their light. In that moment, in the stop-breath cold, I looked up and remembered why I am doing this at all.
January 3rd, 2010 §
January 3, 5:08 p.m. Lenticular cloud over the little mountain in that’s visible out my front door, seen from afar.
January 3rd, 2010 §
You are going to rock!
I returned to the farm today after a wonderful, much-needed trip to a bustling big city to see beloved friends. Much awesome beer, delicious food, and goofing around has me relaxed and ready to power through the second half of getting this house built. I’m going to need all the help I can get to stay focused and not let the stresses get me–and the stresses are flying fast and furious. Planning parties–and returning hosting favors–for next summer also helps keep my eye on the goal.
Work has moved inside, which is good as temperatures are expected to barely get above freezing this week. The plumbers have been setting tubs and running pipes. The electrician has begun to hang boxes for switches and outlets. I pity the siding crew that will be finishing up exterior siding this week. It was so cold at the house today that when I walked on top of the remaining snow, my boots left no tracks. But the birds were singing like crazy in the sun, I fall more in love with the farm each time I visit, and 2010 is going to be my best year yet.