Thursday, December 6, 2007

A proper meal...

...deserves a proper table. The excuse-du-jour for purchasing new furniture? Hosting the family for Christmas, the old college furniture looks especially tired in our new environment, lights over our table are larger than the table itself...pick one. The overscaled pendant lights were a seed planted months ago...they're the right size for the space but the table that sits beneath is far too small. We chose Room & Board's Portica table in White oak, part of the Parson's typology but in brushed stainless, not black. Choosing chairs was perhaps the hardest part, what's durable enough for everyday kid (ab)use yet still fits with the look of the table and the materials of the house. At the risk of being too matchy-matchy we submitted to the oak ply chairs to match the table top. Problem is, at $89 each the order gets large quickly. What's more???? We get to assemble it, so Christmas arrives early. Throw it in with the Automoblox and LEGO sets I suppose and there will be some tired fingers come January.

Room & Board's Portica, Solid White Oak top; $1419.00

Room & Board's Boxy Chair, in Oak Veneer (cherry shown); $89.99

The other contenders:

Seven feet of table, Crate & Barrel's Big Sur in White Oak, $1699.00

I love the idea of benches but agreed that it's not practical for many guests.

Room & Board's Parson's table, $1299.00...

(we were afraid the black legs would disappear against the dark floor)

Jake by, $89.99

Sundance by, $123.75

Pony Chair, CB2 $119
Laura loved this one, I contended it looked like a laundromat chair

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dressed in winter white

December 4, 2007
Monday's storm is departing now, leaving about 15" over most of the surrounding island and Downeast. We were playing 'sweat lodge' last evening, cranking up our woodstove to a balmy 75 degrees inside. Blogging has taken backseat to life of late. We're unpacking boxes, tending to sick children, and catching up on other parts of life left too long untended.

My post on "10 things I'd do differently" is coming soon, (I'm narrowing the list). I knew going into this that I would treat it as a learning lab of sorts, my wife, however, didn't. Architects are often hyper-critical beasts esp. of their own work. All of this is not to say we're unhappy in our new digs, we love them and there's the companion list of thing's I'd do again that deserves a post too.

I've been fighting with my wardrobe from IKEA lately. Serves me right really. Laura reminded me that the more you spend at IKEA, the more they make you work to assemble it and come up with something good looking. Such is the case with our freestanding PAX wardrobe.

We're using it as a room divider in our master bedroom sectioning off the entry area for use as informal dressing. We knew we'd have to finish the back side of it not only because the backing board is hideous but unfinished and full of VOCs. We're using 1/8" plexiglas, sanding to mimic the translucency of the glass on the front of the wardrobe unit and mounting it on stainless steel studs. This cabinet has taken me the better part of 20 hours to joke...and I'm no tenderfoot when it comes to IKEA pictograms anymore.

Master Bedroom Plan, (wardrobe orients to top of page)

Good luck if you're buying this monstrosity. You're better off purchasing the interior components and fitting them into a well-built plywood cabinet carcass. Maine Coast Lumber is a great source for this kind of thing, all made to order and inexpensive. Dovetailed drawers rec'd within 5 days (living in New England), hard to beat. Many local lumberyards offer this service, keeping things local is another on the 10 items project.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


November 21, 2007
Exactly 5 months from the day the excavator arrived on site and began roughing in the driveway, we have our certificate of occupancy in hand. Funny thing about a certificate of occupancy, it's just embossed gold seal, just "it's okay if you want to live in this" kind of approval. We'll have a list of things to square, a front step, a wall hydrant, a few electrical devices, all very minor items. We were counting on receiving our occupancy permit today as we'll be picking up the U-Haul on Friday morning and moving our existence from Bar Harbor to Mount Desert. I think I convinced one of our electricians today to seek an alternate career, he was the unfortunate recipient of a tirade 5 months in the making. To be fair, he deserved it. More posts and details in the coming weeks as we settle in and skin the interior. The images that follow are somewhat stark, partially because we haven't moved in (or cleaned) and partially because we'll be adding an interior layering of function specific details. And, there's still the grading, loaming, seeding, planting, driveway...and my punchlist.

The amateur photo hour follows...

Kitchen toward living

Living sans contractors

Kitchen (minus the proper electrical devices)

The cleanest our mudroom will ever be...note the flush cocoa matting

Bathroom...with Ikea glass panels installed

Open ensuite master bathroom

Master bathroom...bad spot for the recessed light I suppose

Monday, November 12, 2007


East Gable, almost.

South elevation, almost.

November 12, 2007
Seeing our family wandering the house, my parents, Laura, Henning, & Sig is a great thing. I feel like we're laying claim to a space that's been our contractor's for the past 5 months. Moving tools out, pulling up the cardboard that's hidden our floor for a month's time, this past weekend marked the transition phase where our house becomes a home. My parents arrived last Wednesday evening and stayed through the weekend. Their visit proved immensely helpful and equally tiring for them I'm sure. Watching the boys, cleaning, cooking, assembling cabinetry, painting, doing our neglected household chores...did I mention watching the boys?

The big task this weekend was assembling the 1300 different boxes of cabinets, door panels, slides, bumpers, and nibs. If I see another IKEA pictogram I'll put a hammer through my skull. Less than useful at times the IKEA assembly instructions bordered on ridiculous...after taking about a half hour trying to add adjustable legs to the first base cabinet things went more smoothly and by the end of the day Saturday my father & I had assembled all of the cabinetry for the kitchen and pantry area. Thankfully my father's well of patience is much deeper than mine.

Dad, fixing my mistakes

Quality control

Island cabinetry in place

Vent hood + Laura pining for her range

Island palette, gray surround, white cabs, butcherblock

On Sunday Laura & I worked together to grout the mudroom and bathroom which was a smashing success and left us still speaking at the end of the day...remarkable progress. Thanks to Lester our general contractor for encouraging words and some helpful tips regarding sponge-work. Other progress...the woodstove was installed, the island completed and countertop installed, undermount sink today. Most of the doors are in place, drywall base detail is complete, the basement stair is ready for our code inspection, the heating system is functioning properly, dryer hooked up, vent hood installed, recessed cabinetry in place, everything ready for a final coat of paint, the electrical devices and plumbing fixtures. The outside is becoming a career for at least two people. Detail shots when things get more interesting.

Sore knees

Eric...repeating "It only looks like cinder block in photos"

Wash me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Success & failure

November 5, 2007
Time to confess. Not everything has gone perfectly lately.

On Tuesday evening Laura & I installed the so-called ‘self-sticking’ stainless steel backsplash. We planned the sizes, the jointing, templated the outlet locations (by this point we weren’t speaking anymore) and ‘enhanced’ the sticking power of the membrane with some liquid nails. This worked only to reinforce any inconsistencies in the substrate we were sticking it to. We used two different types of adhesive and the better performing one was clearly the DAP Better than Nails tube adhesive. Liquid Nails once spread on the surface cures very fast, turns out much faster than we can lift the panel and align it in place. The photo speaks for itself, not good. Plan B is to construct painted MDF panels that are face mounted to the backsplash to cover the already been lived with look of the stainless sheeting. Work in progress, I’m calling it a failure at this point but I’m fickle. We're speaking again, but not to the backsplash.

With a name like 'Roll-a-lam'...I should've known

This weekend while Hurricane Noel passed by to our east lashing us with strong winds and inches upon inches of rain. We were spared power outages but many of our neighbors were in the dark. A sleepless night found me at our house around 2am early Sunday only minutes later a tree fell a few feet from the car, across our driveway squarely on top of the port-a-potty. Laura and family rescued me later that morning with a breakfast sandwich and chainsaw.
The weekend plan was to complete all of the tile setting. I made it slightly more than half way by Sunday mid-day with the larger bathroom complete leaving the master shower to complete by Tuesday. Things went well, not a professional job but respectable for a virgin tile-setter. It’s markedly more stone-like in person, the photos make it look like…well cinder block. Strike that thought. Now we just have to seal and grout it. Thankfully I masked every square inch of our tub before slinging thinset around, my work with a margin trowel is amateur at best.
And…our heat is on today, starting with a low temp in the tubing to dry things out slowly.

Red = membrane waterproofing (RedGard)

Completed tile work

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The details...

November 1, 2007

One of the advantages of being an architect, free stuff for your house. Not the most exciting stuff mind you, but every little bit helps...and besides we get jazzed about things others might not. My local Leviton rep has agreed to kick in my electrical devices (switches, receptacles, etc.) for free. I originally specified Lutron Diva dimmers everywhere, Leviton makes a look-alike that's half the price and instead of a rocker it's a push pad, fade on/off and can be dimmed from multiple locations.

If you're familiar with a traditional dimming circuit, only one switch has the power to dim the other is the slave. Multiple dimming locations means no more deciding which switch takes priority. They have screwless coverplates in many colors, no stainless though, still using the Lutron Claro/Diva combination for those locations.

Tonight, stainless steel backsplash on a budget. Check Outwater Plastics for Roll-a-lam...can be cut with a utility knife, so they say. Peel and stick technology at its best, we'll use some liquid nails on the plywood backer just in case.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

T minus 30 days

October 31st, 2007

I apologize for the lack of updates for those of you still checking in...I've been working and not blogging.

Our chimney is about 18" shy of being code compliant, our refrigerator didn't fit in the framed opening, looks like we're going to run out of siding, the refrigerator door arrived with the hinges on the wrong side, the cabinetry opening in the bathroom is too small to fit our cabinet, door hardware isn't in, not all of our lights have shipped yet and I might have to put handrails and guardrails on my basement stair...everything is...well, what I expected at this stage. Lots of little finicky things to focus on right now, nothing too major, perhaps details I'll miss in another 6 weeks when I put this beast to bed.
It's really a great thing to see the floor in the house and watch the minimal details working in concert. I'm obsessing over the lack of cleanliness on-site both inside and out. Maybe it's a control thing. The bottom of the drywall finishing is taking much longer than anticipated and it's keeping us from finish painting the walls, which is keeping us from installing all of the light fixtures. Who wants to paint around hundreds of receptacles, it's much easier to paint before installing the devices.
The siding crew, Bob & 'H' both think the house looks like its clad in corduroy, vertical seams on the roof, horizontal on the wall.
I love corduroy.

Long-house, short-chimney...please fix.

Access panel removed to install the chimney

Inside photos soon, Laura & I will work together (thanks Sophie) for only the second time during the entire project this Thursday evening, stainless backsplash here we come.
Heat this Friday...we need it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

On the inside...

October 21, 2007
Just days away from the original move-in date...we're not in bad shape, but our boxes are staying put. Our builder offered to split next months rent with us because it's not quite in move-in shape, every little bit helps.

Holding us up...first, the LP gas installer can't make it until November 1st and we really need heat. Second, the floor has taken longer than expected. Be wary of buying things online, a sample doesn't indicate the quality of a full box (or 47) of prefinished floor. They have a good system in place now so we're hopeful by the end of the week we'll have all of the floor in.

The siding install has begun. It's exciting to see the exterior materials coming together. I will say, Hardiplank isn't a replacement for wood siding. You have the option to get the smooth face or the wood-grained face, uh...right, smooth it is. Attaching this siding must be done by blind nailing which leaves the lower edge free to move and expand which means it doesn't always lay totally flat like a true wood siding would. However, it doesn't require any finishing which is wonderful news at this point and a long finish warranty means years of maintenance free use.

On the interior, I've been painting the pocket doors and the pivot doors, love this hardware from Stanley. These will be mounted on jamb-liners to produce a concealed panel look to the doors.

Also, I've been cutting my 16x16 limestone tiles in half to create 8x16s. While I love the look of the 1/2 running bond and the rectangular geometries, it's a huge hassle cutting every tile and the slipped bond makes every cut where it meets the wall different. Day one of tiling I was able to do the prep work, cutting tiles, and the layout and bedding of tiles on one side of the laundry room. Day two, I built the mud base for our shower tray, the walk-off area outside of the shower and bedded the rest of the tiles in the laundry room. I'm thankful I push a pencil around most of the day, tiling makes for sore backs and arms. I'm going to seal the tile as soon as I can and start the waterproofing in the shower and tub/shower areas tonight.

Master shower with deck mud base and walk-off area to the right...

Tile to right side of mudroom, pocket doors on left...

More grainy photography in the mudroom/laundry

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Long-on-house, short-on-time

October 16, 2007
Since we last posted our roof is almost weathertight…the ridge cap is a wee bit small so we’ve ordered another one, in the meantime grace ice & water shield is keeping us dry at the ridge.
The floor installation hasn’t proceeded as smoothly as we would’ve hoped, our contractor contends we’ve purchased a cheap prefinished floor, our wallets think otherwise. After three days of miscommunication and misfires a cork pad mounted to the bottom of the floor nailer solved the problem. Each time they were nailing it was marring the finish. So…up with the damaged boards, down with new, all the while hoping we have enough ‘extra’ to cover the floor. It does call into question the milling tolerances of prefinished flooring. When the tongues and grooves aren’t the same size, you end up with gapping and ultimately more waste and more time picking through the pile of flooring drives up the price. With a fixed price contract that’s okay but in any other agreement it could be more costly than purchasing a higher grade floor.
Cement board underlayment will be installed today at all of the stone tile locations, we’ve been promised a front door today as well. I’ve given up on the bulk of the painting while we wait for our LP gas tanks to arrive and the heating system activated. The exception here are the doors which need paint before our contractor can hang and install the hardware. Slab doors, unprepped for hardware, hinges or locksets…more expensive than prepped doors. Interesting how mass production processes drive the market. We’ll need to install the stone tile before the gas appliances can be delivered, the gas appliances need to be in place before the LP gas line is run on November 1st.
Our trip to IKEA over the weekend was successful. Everything we needed was in stock, only one more trip to replace an incorrectly ordered cabinet…six hours in IKEA is inhumane we were bound to make mistakes. The store in Stoughton, MA is 200,000 square feet of Swedish goodness, and our trip included a full plate of meatballs and a salmon platter. This store is a really a gift to anyone looking to do modern on a budget. Despite your love/hate relationship with IKEA a modest expenditure will outfit your house nicely. We spent more liberally than we thought...thanks to Mom & Dad R. and Dad & Pat G. for your help. Our kitchen will work hard to thank you when you visit.

One of my favorite IKEA picks, AVSIKT doors - frosted glass in aluminum frames

Nights are getting longer and days much shorter, we must be getting close...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Galvalume tastes good

Galvalume roof

It couldn't be intentional, but a seam centered on our door...I'm beaming.

October 10, 2007
This past weekend we were joined by Kim & Patrick and divided kid and house duties accordingly. Kim & Laura were able to corral the kids while Patrick, myself and Metallica (pre-Black album), insulated the first floor system beneath the radiant heat tubing. This was done ‘on the cheap’ as it wasn’t something I was going to initially install. Per strong advice from my heating contractor I decided it was a good thing to change order before the heating season began and the change order paid for itself in fuel expenditures. From an efficiency standpoint it makes perfect sense, but economics are driving most of our decisions right now. The cheap fiberglass insulation is even more toxic than the pink stuff from Dow, if you can believe that. That expended a good part of the day on Saturday. Our builder joined us for part of the day beginning the metal roof installation.

Sunday we were able to get a single coat of paint on all of the ceilings. The sheetrockers left the entire house primed, which was an immense help, so cutting in and painting (for the moment) seemed like an easy task.

Monday I planned on finishing the ceiling painting but with the flooring installation beginning a day early I bounced around picking off odds and ends for most of the day. I started digging the 50’ trench for the LP gas line between the basement and the tank pads, wondering how Maine was ever known for potato farming and thinking Kennebecs are much better suited to this soil than gas lines.

Our move-in date October 31st…21 days from now…not happening, we know. We’ll have running water, a working bathroom and a partially functioning kitchen by then but we’ve extended our lease by another month to allow for some DIY tiling, the rest of the painting, cabinet assembly, oh…and moving of hundreds upon hundreds of boxes across the island to our new home.

IKEA this weekend...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


With the task of painting squarely in front of us we're moving quickly to finalize the color palette that coordinates with our material selections. It's important to gather all of your materials and look at them together, it's best to do this under daylight if possible. Incandescent light especially when used as the primary light source can distort colors quite a bit.

Clockwise from upper left: Taun, white porcelain, stainless steel, Bateig Azul limestone, cocoa matting, 'Swiss Coffee', 'Granite Boulder' (Behr Premium Plus)

We’re relying heavily on the materials for color in our house, the floor, the stone tile, the countertops so our paint colors are meant to complement those materials not take center stage. Here’s the thinking behind the paint selection process. The dark brown wood in the floor will perform the heavy lifting in our color palette. Visual weight is the key here, the floor will ground the rooms nicely and the wall will provide the contrast and background for the floor. Using a color on the walls would change the value and tone of the floor. With a floor this dark adding vibrant wall color can be a difficult exercise without a lot of experimentation which of course equals time and money.

For the walls and ceilings we chose a classic white (Swiss Coffee - Behr) that will complement the browns in the floor, so while it’s ‘white’ it’s not a super-white. We chose Behr Premium Plus Interior paint in an eggshell finish in two colors, one is the primary wall and ceiling color for all exterior walls the other is a deeper accent color used in select locations. With regards to gloss level, the general thinking is that flat paints (while less expensive) show wear and tear much more readily than even one gloss level up. Eggshell (one gloss level above flat) has a light luster, subtly different but it affects wear and won't marr as easily as flat. Satin borders on semi-gloss, not what we're after. People generally reserve flat for ceilings (to hide imperfections) and semi-gloss for trim for cleaning and durability. No trim here though so eggshell it is.

The second part of our paint palette is the accent color reserved for the center block of rooms and the freestanding wall in the master bath. This is a muted warm grey and emphasizes the inward focus of these spaces The grey color we chose (Granite Boulder - Behr) directly references the stone tile and the stainless accents we have in those spaces, but the walls will be a smooth textural counterpoint to the stone and stainless. White plumbing fixtures pop beautifully on the grays.

Special thanks to my colleague, fiber artist and color authority Jennifer Morrow for her consult and advice.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What is it about the dust?

Corner bead at typical window jamb/sill

Monday October 1, 2007
As some of the photos clearly show, sheetrocking is dusty business. It's absolutely everywhere. Friday the hanging crew was able attach all of the sheets, save for two or three, Saturday they hung the rest and installed all of the corner beading (the white plastic edges) for mudding against. No trim in our house means lots of perfect corners, that's the way I'm picturing it at least.. The mudding and taping should begin tomorrow.

Living Space looking toward future kitchen alcove

The bedroom photo below shows the technique we're using to eliminate the need for base trim. We've attached a 7/8" pine strip at the floor temporarily which the drywall rests on. This gives an edge to mud against and will be removed after the primer has been sprayed. This allows us to slip the 3/4" thick flooring + rosin paper beneath it and still maintain expansion space and a small reveal above it. I've always felt trim is an unnecessary element, mostly from an aesthetic point of view but as with many things in this process of trying to accomplish something a little out of the ordinary, one realizes the true value of trim. The trim allows the drywallers to be less fussy with what they do at the base of the wall and it automatically creates a space for the flooring to expand, the joint is covered by the trim. I still dislike trim, I'm hopeful the drywall finishing is precise enough to pull this detail off.

Bedroom One

The terrible photo below is of the pocket door tracks installed. The hardware set is by Johnson, ball bearing carriers, extra heavy duty set. We've thrown out the vertical framing members that came with the kit and substituted 2x LSL (laminated strand lumber). Engineered lumber is much stiffer and will keep the pocket from moving over time...don't plan to use any KD Spruce (regular framing lumber) for this type of job, it will move over time and your door won't open. The wall is also a 2x6 wall, not the more typical 2x4 which allows for beefier framing around the opening.

We should be painting by the weekend...and more insulation for the floor system this time. I'm just itching to do more of that.

Pocket door I-track at door head

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First day of Fall

1/2 of our roof...~44 panels
Galvalume Plus, standing seam roof by Everlast Roofing

It always seems Fall suddenly appears...we look up from our busy lives and realize there are leaves on the roads, the evenings quickly dip into the 40s, color shows on the mountains, kids decide what they're going to be for Halloween. This year it's a reminder of just how soon we'll be packing our things again this time moving into our new home. Many steps left though so our focus is on the next set of tasks.
Saturday and Sunday were full days of finishing installing R38 in the ceilings, installing blocking in the walls, and fitting a vapor barrier over the entire roof assembly. Vapor barrier always goes on toward the warm side of the ceiling...this prevents moisture laden warm air from ever getting to the cold air in the attic and condensing.
The insulating marathon behind us, this week should bring some drastic transformations. The metal roof has arrived on site in two crates, it's fared better than most of the items I've taken delivery of lately. I have particularly poor luck when it comes to shipping porcelain, or for that matter, anything breakable...via FEDEX, UPS, or INSERT NAME OF COMMON CARRIER. I received 47 boxes of prefinished flooring today weighing in around 3300#, all boxes were in pretty good shape, the usual ding or open box but overall fine.
The roof install should take place this week, drywall will be hung on Wednesday. The plan is hang everything in one day and begin mudding & taping the following day. They're throwing in a primer coat, we're certainly up for painting but after two weeks insulating sweat equity has an entirely new meaning.