April 22nd, 2010 §
The past week has focused on finishing the floors, which involved various sandings and then burnishing the Magic Oil into the wood. First coat was a slight white wash, which is hard to discern in these photos, and the second was a natural clear color. The oil/wax really brought out the richness and color in the wood, an effect that will even continue to increase as the finish ages.
I had to take last Friday off work for an emergency meeting involving my builder, the sub who ordered the kitchen cabinets, and my counter installer. The issue was this:
When the cabinets were ordered and installed, they were not centered on the big window directly above. No one noticed this problem until the soapstone went on and the plumber installed my kitchen faucet. Classic domino effect. Anyway, this off-centeredness was not cool with me, and I went through a pretty tense discussion with my builder when he tried to pin the problem on my sub, the counter installer, when the original goofup occurred with his sub, the cabinet guy. It’s a classic contractor maneuver, I’ve learned, to try to dump responsibility on someone else.
To my surprise, though, when we all met in the kitchen for the showdown my builder actually stepped up and admitted he dropped the ball on this one. The resolution of our meeting is that everything just installed in the whole end of the kitchen is getting ripped out, the cabinet man is going to order a custom cabinet to properly fit the space, the counter man is going to redo the slab that holds the sink (and send the bill to my contractor), and I don’t have to pay a dime for the corrections. It will take at least two weeks to get the new cabinet, which puts us right at our targeted date for certificate of occupancy (C.O.) But hey, I will take the delay if it means not having to look at an improperly centered cabinet/sink/faucet! That would have driven me nuts!
Now, for a bit of a tease as I show you some major developments that happened this week on the outside of the house. Who’s paying attention?
April 21st, 2010 §
April 21, 7:28 p.m.
Driving home from town in the fog, after a thunderstorm.
April 18th, 2010 §
April 18, 7:42 p.m.
Driving home from the farm after a beautiful day spent working on the back porch ceiling and doing what I hope is the final trim sanding. The last time I drove home this way, it was on thick ice and this pasture looked like this.
April 14th, 2010 §
Countertops were installed yesterday:
Green crystals! I think the countertops are perfect—in fact the whole kitchen is really looking like my vision…still a long way to go but it’s taking shape.
Things have kicked into high gear with several different trades—plumbers, electricians, carpenters, counter installers—at the house each day. Dad has been meeting my builder each morning to go over the previous day’s work, and then we both spend a couple of hours each evening reviewing and making lists for the next day’s meeting. It’s crazy to me that for each thing “fixed,” a handful more problems arise…and that’s even with reducing my builder’s scope and responsibility (on stuff that requires a lot of finesse) because he can’t seem to do a satisfactory job. It’s nuts. I am grateful, though, that my dad has stepped in to be the taskmaster as I was losing my flipping mind trying to manage my builder.
But I had the most exciting moment I’ve had in a good long while when I walked in my powder room, flipped on the switch, and had light! It was like standing inside a glowing red heart. I almost had a stroke I was so thrilled that maybe, just maybe, this craziness will soon be over.
April 11th, 2010 §
I just realized that there’s been a fairly large development at the farm that I’ve yet to share. Drumroll please…and allow me to introduce…my new trim!
Now, it may not look like too much from these photos, but it’s done a lot to make the house start to feel like it may actually one day be finished. This trim took quite a lot of work to develop—and all the credit goes to my dad, who dad used this project to learn Google Sketchup, and he drew all the trim to scale and dimensioned. Then my builder mocked it up, but it still wasn’t sitting quite right with me. So I started shaving quarter inches off, masking them with blue tape to see the effect, and ended up with this. One more mockup later, and I think it’s perfect.
Some of the highlights include six-inch deep window sills. I am a plant collector and tea-mug rester and like using my windowsills as temporary end tables. These sills are great. And did you notice I now have doors too? These are solid core with a nice heft in the hand and they complement the Craftsman look I’m going for.
I just got home from spending six hours at the house with my parents sanding the edges off all the trim. Knocking off the edges, which was my brother’s suggestion when he visited yesterday, rids the trim of that “new house” look and makes it seem more “old.” Definitely an effect I am going for here. Plus, the paint adheres better and an edge that is not knife-sharp is more resilient against bumps and dings. Anyway, I hate sanding but its done and although I sanding off all my fingerprints in the process, it looks great.
Oh! I forgot to mention in my last post that the man who is fabricating my counters told me, upon visiting the house, that, “It looks like it grew there.” This is probably the highest complement anyone could pay me about the house, as I have worked so hard to respect the original home site in my design and execution.
April 8th, 2010 §
Last week I went to a local stone dealer to pick out the soapstone slab for my counter. Was this place ever cool! The owner, a really nice, almost-eighty year old man who comes from generations of stone merchants, took me through his warehouse where I about flipped my lid at all the beautiful kinds of stone. Is it any wonder, considering my most salient memory of touring the Vatican at age 15 wasn’t of seeing il Papa perform Easter Mass, it was of all the magnificent inlaid marble and mosaics?
As my guide wandered with me amongst slabs of granite and limestone and marble, he was as excited as I, even after spending a lifetime looking at stone. “I love my work,” he said. “It reminds you that Mother Nature is the greatest artist of all.”
He’d just gotten a new shipment of soapstone from Brazil. Now there is one of the country’s great soapstone quarries just south of Charlottesville in Schyler, but in yet another great economic irony, it actually cost more than the Brazilian soapstone.
A nice shop worker operated a neat hydraulic lift that plucked the giant slabs like tissues from a box. I picked out this piece, falling in love with the white veining and vibrant patterning. Originally I had envisioned a “quieter’ stone, more uniformly grey like a chemistry lab counter. But I couldn’t resist the obvious artistry in this stone, which will darken to almost black with repeated applications of mineral oil. In the major white vein near the bottom of the slab, there are actually aquamarine-colored crystals. Sold. A few days later I returned to see the slab all marked up with how it would be cut to fit into my kitchen, backsplashes and all.
“I have a customer who just comes to buy pieces of stone to hang on his wall like artwork,” said my host and tour guide. After a trip to the showroom, it’s easy to see why. I like buying functional art, and even after I roll out a few hundred piecrusts on this counter, I am sure I will still find new facets to appreciate in its beautiful design.