Sunday, November 25, 2007

What a Difference

When you're not on the building site daily, it's sometimes hard to tell how much, if anything much, was done since your last visit. I'm typically at the site on weekends, so I always expect to see noticeable change. There was a stretch of time (some of September and most of October) when little work seemed to be taking place. My builder was tied up with another client who kept adding and asking for changes to work—each guy on the crew had stories to tell. Unfortunately, it put me in the position of becoming the client I didn't want to become: someone who stood over that project breathing down the crew's neck asking a 101 questions about what was being done and when each step of the construction process would be finished. Finally, they pulled out of that project and the full crew reported to my site...and things started moving.

By my calculations, we're now in the 19th week of construction (Thanksgiving weekend) which is pretty amazing, regardless of delays caused by another client. The exterior is almost complete. We're only lacking a few details, porch gutters and shutters. Mark ordered a sample, which was really wise. It was too small. Unfortunately, the wooden and functioning shutters that I had originally wanted were just too expensive, so I had made the decision to go with a vinyl shutter that would be permanently attached. The key to making these faux shutters work will be the size. When shutters become a purely decorative feature, most people make the mistake of slapping up something in a size that would never work on the window if it were real. In other words, my faux shutters have to be (and will be) a size that would completely cover the window if they were functioning and closed. The shutter company we're using has a number of standard sizes...and getting a realistic look for my windows was only a matter of measuring and testing a sample. I'm amazed that more people don't think about the difference the right size shutter makes on a window. I'll posted pictures when they're installed in the next few weeks.

Also outside, they've installed the exterior lighting, which really wakes up the house. In an earlier post, I talked about the decision to find vintage-like lighting to add instant character to the house...and dress up the vinyl siding. The results are great, although I will have to live with the lighting mounts, which sit away from the wall more than I'd like. The doorway lights (front and back) are the great looking lanterns I found in the Shades of Light catalog. I also found there this great outdoor Moravian Star pendant light for the screened side porch. I also had all of these exterior lights installed with dimmers, which will give me wonderful control of nighttime lighting in the summer (in particular). During the warmer months, the porch is going to be an extension of the living room. This past summer, I found a great mix-matched set of wicker chairs that had been painted a dark green. They'll look great and also temper (or age) the new-ness of the house.

Just when you think all of the decisions have been made, there are more. After the front steps were installed. I realized that I needed to come up with a railing, other than the wood railing of the porch, that wouldn't overwhelm the beauty of the (again faux) stone. I also wanted something that felt older. Too much matching sameness is a dead giveaway of new construction. Looking around the area, I noticed that many of the old houses had metal railings on their front steps. So, Eric asked me for a suggestion of what it might look like, and I found this example in Delhi. Many of the houses seemed to have newer railings installed in the 50s or 60s, but I was looking for something that felt more early 20th century. Eric says he has a great (tested) Internet source for something very similar. I just want to make sure it has a look and feel of iron, if not actually iron.

Inside the house, things are moving equally well. The Plain & Fancy kitchen arrived and was installed in the blink of an eye. I'm really pleased with the way it's looking, and the crew was pleased with how well-made it is and how easy it was for them to installed. I chose a very simple cabinet style in a white that was close to the Sherwin-Williams white I had chosen for the interior...but not exactly the same. Again, I didn't want everything (including paint) to be match too perfectly. In the kitchen, the cabinets are just a little more alabaster than the ceiling is and the above counter open shelves will be. I worked with Empire Bath & Kitchen out of Utica, New York to design the Plain & Fancy kitchen. Cindy Miller, the kitchen designer, was terrific to work with. More on the kitchen as the installation progresses. Templates for the counter tops will be made tomorrow. For now, though, I'm really pleased with the way they're looking. And, the "easy close" feature of all the cabinets and drawers is a really pleasant surprise. Nothing slams shut. The drawers and doors, no matter how hard they're closed, have some type of mechanism that kicks in and gently eases them into place. I'm an early riser who can't help fooling around in the kitchen, so guests who like to sleep in will have no idea how much this little (big) feature will mean to them. More on the kitchen in the next couple of weeks.

And, last but not least for this update, I started seasoning my Tulikivi fireplace. Yeah, you don't just build a fire the first time. The fireplace came with a DVD of instructions for operation, but I stopped by Mountain Flame for an in-person explanation. The DVD made it seem a lot more complicated than it is. So, on Thanksgiving morning, I lit a simple kindling fire for the first step in a three day process of progressively bigger fires. Even though the crew is still working on the trim of interior windows and doors (trim that was primed and painted with a first coat off site), that little flame in the fireplace really woke up the house, which is already starting to feel like home. Mark plans to turn the house over to me on December 16, cleaned and ready to move in. A lot will be happening between now and then...and I definitely expect a punch list of things finishing touches to take us into next year. But, it looks like I'll be in residence with a certificate of occupancy before Christmas.

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