Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Movin' On Up!


How is your summer going?  Things here have been quite lovely...I turned in the manuscript for my new novel, WEDDING GIRL, which will be released next May, and I'm really happy with it.  The best thing about delivering a new book is the blissful weeks that follow, when your editor has not yet sent rewrite notes, it is as close as a writer gets to summer vacation.  Which is very sweet when it actually coincides with Summer!  Charming Suitor and I took a short break to visit friends in Maine (if you don't have friends in Maine, I seriously recommend you get some) and recharge the batteries.  This involves CS eating his weight daily in various crustaceans, and me taste-testing every grilled cheese sandwich in a forty mile radius, and our jointly depleting the local antique population.

Now that we are home, it is back to construction, and with the basement finished, we are finally on to PHASE 2!  22 months into this renovation, we have shifted up to the second floor!  When you are living in your construction project, phasing becomes essential to your mental well being, because if you don't plan carefully, you end up without basic needs or with all your stuff covered in dust daily and it makes one all stabby.  Since our first priority is to finish this home and live in it TOGETHER for the rest of our natural lives, it was awfully essential that we plan things so that we don't end up crabby and snippy and bickery.  Luckily, our aesthetics are very much in sync, so we don't quibble about design choices, no one is going to the mat over a doorknob or paint color.  But we do need to make sure that our living environment itself is not a constant source of stress, so while it might have made sense to work our way up from the basement floor by floor, since the first floor is where the living room, CS's dressing room/mancave, dining room and kitchen live, we decided to hunker down on the first floor and in the basement, and let the noise and dust shift upstairs to the second floor for this phase so that our lives are minimally disrupted.

To refresh, here was what the second floor used to look like:

And here is what it looks like now...

GACK!  I know, I know, some of you are saying...Um?  Stacey?  That place looked really fine, even quite lovely, WTF???  Why would you turn it into a disaster?

So, here is why we blew up the second floor.  As I mentioned way, way back, this building was never converted to apartments, it was always built as three units.  As such, there was no easy way to "deconvert" to an original floor plan, it is already in it's original floor plan! This meant that as we approached each level, we had to think about how we were planning on using the space.  This second floor started, it should surprise no one, with the dream kitchen.  There will be many much bigger more specific posts about he kitchens, since that is the biggest project of the whole house, and we are full steam ahead in there, but the short version is that in 1907 no one ever heard of an eat-in kitchen, let alone one that is a joy to cook in, and so we needed to blow out some walls to make a 2015 kitchen that would work for us.  Since cooking is literally a big part of my job, not to mention that CS and I entertain with pathological regularity, we needed some real space.  So the new kitchen incorporates what used to be the kitchen, butler's pantry, food pantry, dining room, and the back bedroom of the second level.

In addition to the big kitchen, this level will have two guest bedrooms, a bathroom, a den, and...MY OFFICE.  Oh, Chickens.  You cannot imagine, after all this time of working on the ottoman in the living room, what an office means to me.  I can barely stand it.

Of course, when you open a few walls and ceilings (as one must for things like upgraded electrical, plumbing, HVAC duct runs, insulation etc.) you find some unexpected things.  Like a steel beam smack where you think you are going to send all of that plumbing and ductwork.  Ooops.  Nothing like renovations for some surprises!  After much debate, we finally decided to follow the old adage:  if you can't fix it, feature it.  So we cut holes directly into the original steel beam which is hidden in the ceiling, and then added a new steel beam directly below it to pick up the weight, which we will leave exposed as a design element in the kitchen.

New duct going thru the old beam.

New steel!

Our contractor designed these lovely custom support brackets
so that the exposed steel looks great while holding up the building! 
Our other snafu was the flooring in the kitchen.  We had fully intended to simply refinish the original hardwood floors.  Only one problem.  When a building is 108 years old?  There is some sagging.  (let's be honest, I'm only 45 and there is sagging aplenty, so I can't blame the old girl for the effects of time)  While we are fine with things not exactly being level or square or perfect in most spaces, the kitchen?  Needed a level floor.  Not a good idea to install beautiful custom cabinetry and expensive appliances on a non-level surface.  It is a recipe for disaster down the road.  So, while it broke our hearts a bit (and the budget a bit more), we pulled up the old flooring in the areas of the kitchen where the cabinets and appliances will live, and the boys leveled the crap out of it.  We were able to leave the original flooring in the new Kitchen Library space, so that was good, but the rest of the space will get new flooring that will hopefully be a good match for the rest.  

In addition to the second floor demo, we also have demolished the bathroom on the first floor.  Since the first and second floor baths are stacked right on top of one another and share all the same plumbing, we needed to treat the two bathrooms as if they were one big project.  While we do still have a quarter bath on the first floor, (yes, a QUARTER bath, just a toilet in a closet with no sink), I had no idea how much time I spent in the now-gone bathroom until it was an empty shell.  On the upside, I get a lot more Fitbit steps running downstairs to the bathroom!  

You are now up to date on the next adventure, stay tuned, because we have some really fun and cool design stuff to share...I'm super excited about the two bathrooms, which I think will be lovely, and the kitchen is going to BLOW YOUR MINDS!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, June 29, 2015

A New Addition


Today is a good day! Remember a gajillion years ago, when I told you that as part of our dream house project, Charming Suitor was finally getting his very own Wine Cellar?

Well, the time is finally here.

After months of prepping the space, and working closely with Vinotemp on the complex design for the two-room space, with literally hours and hours of really tedious measuring and re-measuring to be sure that every single area was plotted out to the tiniest variation....

This happened:

 So here are the important bits:

Vinotemp does a truly amazing job of taking your measurements and the layout of your space, and maximizing the useful storage.  I know it is hard to tell, but these racks have been custom designed to hold a variety of sizes and types of bottles...Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Riesling, half bottles and even some spaces for larger format bottles like Magnums and Double Magnums.  The racks were built to order, and then sent to Quality Control to make sure they were all perfect, and then packaged up.  35 crates, each labeled with a code that matched the code on the drawings, with all of the fasteners and trim pieces included.  Key pieces were also individually stamped with the same code, to ensure that installation would be as easy as possible.  Which doesn't mean that it is easy.  While I absolutely believe that regardless of the space you have available for wine storage, that tiny nook under the stairs, or that huge corner of your basement, and everything in between, unless you are a very skilled and confident and patient DIYer, it is very much worth the extra expense to have the cellar professionally installed.  You'll be so glad you did, and if you aren't lucky enough to have a contractor onsite like we do, Vinotemp can help you find a local installer in your area.

As much as we love the racking, and the perfect cool humid environment that Vinotemp has helped us create?  The real magic of this space is 100% credited to our King Konstruction team.  Patrick latched on to Charming Suitor's desire for a space that honored the structural elements of the building, and came up with little details that have made the cellar very very special.  He and Dennis salvaged tons of the lath that had been removed during demolition, and cleaned up every piece and clad the whole ceiling, the soffits, and other odd nooks and crannies with it.  He created wainscoting on the one little bare wall using salvaged wood that used to be the stair risers from the section of staircase we had to demolish, and installed them so you can see the marks of the saws that were used to rip the boards, as well as the signatures of the contractors who installed them back in 1907.  The wainscot and door are trimmed out with wood that was also salvaged from the house, which makes it look finished, but not polished...rough and rugged, just what CS imagined.

It is so gratifying when you work with people who really embrace the feel you are going for, and bring their own creativity and expertise to the table.  We could not have had a more perfect team for this cellar than Vinotemp and King Konstruction!

Today, the wine is being carefully removed from the storage unit, and will be brought to the house, where we can use the Vintotemp drawings to carefully nestle every delicious bottle in a place specifically designed to keep it safe and drinkable.  And yes, I can promise you that tonight?  There will be a little bit of drinking!

In other news, I have just finished my ninth novel, Wedding Girl, which will be out in May 2016.  As such, I'm sure you can understand, my brain is total mush.  So I'll be taking a brief blogcation until after the holiday weekend.  I wish you all a terrific next week, and hope that your celebrations are full of everything delicious, and I will be back after July 6 to give you some more exciting updates as we leave the basement and head up to the second floor!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath