Category Archives: New House

THE DREADED GREEN SPOT

It’s the end of an era here at String Central.  The sadly mangled, diseased, and ant-ridden street tree, a Norway Maple, in front of our house has been taken.

Here you see him before, in his final sickly days, already bearing The Dreaded Green Spot from the town arborist, marking him for terminal harvest.

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When we moved in Tree was already teetering in health, with an extensive ant colony and other ailments.  We did the best we could by him, and for a while at least, he did look a bit fuller and happier.  But while we were out of the country in India, the utility company did some really horrible pruning, topping him and leaving the severed main trunk to rot.  Although squirrels made their home in the resulting hollow, from that time Tree declined.  Quickly.

Here’s today’s result, pix from Elder Daughter, who was on the spot (so to speak):

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While it’s sad to lose the shade, we really haven’t had any in a couple of years.  Plus Tree was dropping branches, and wobbled with a strong push – not a safe state in which to be.

With luck next year the town will remove the stump, and we will be able to file our request for Son of Tree.

A HECTIC WEEKEND, WITH MORE TO COME

We’re in the final glide path to high school graduation here, plus birthdays.  We spent the weekend cleaning and gardening like crazy – and there’s still a ton to do.

That means removing a frosting of construction dust from every surface of the house; unpacking and placing the remaining kitchen goods (sorting out stuff to save for future spawn-apartments, or for charitable donation); washing all the floors; replacing the rugs stowed away from the chaos; waking up the garden from winter doldrums; building the new bean trellis out of last year’s giant grass canes; planting the beans; attacking the colonizing blanket of unwelcome weeds in the flower beds; staking the peonies; scrubbing down the bathrooms (similarly affected by construction dust); and generally putting everything to order.  We didn’t finish, but we put a huge dent in it all. That means no time spent on detailed photography of the new orderly and in-service kitchen, and precious little time on needlework or knitting (although I did finish the last of my stack of Birthday (and Un-Birthday) socks in time).  Plus the normal weekend regimen of cleaning and cooking for the ensuing week. I am now exhausted just tallying it all up.

Here is what I can report photographically.

The kitchen works!  This is old news already – The Resident Male making short ribs last weekend:

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Younger Daughter and The Denizen got all decked out for the Senior Prom.  The went with a herd of friends, and had a great time.

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Spiffy, no?

And we had an amazing joint birthday cake – home-baked, of course, courtesy of Younger Daughter.  She used the America’s Test Kitchen Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake recipe in her first trial run of the new ovens.  Oh, so good!

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SO CLOSE I CAN ALMOST TASTE IT…

We’re finally closing in on the last leg of the Great Kitchen Rehab.

Cabinets are in.  Appliances are in and working.  Most of the drawer and cabinet pulls are installed.  The protective covers on the tile floor, soapstone counters, and range hood are gone.  All that remain are the missing pulls (the hardware order was short), a minor electrical fix on the overhead fan and its controls, final clean-up plus oiling down the soapstone, and painting.

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Most of the missing pulls are cup-style, as seen on the left, below.  And one detail that wasn’t seen before is the leaded glass panel suspended in front of the transom window.  Apologies for the odd lighting – it’s tough to get a photo of a clear window in the late evening.

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The backsplash extends across the entire wall below the cabinets on the sink side, and behind the rangetop, under the window and up the other side of the window (a skinny strip) on the other side of the room.  The end wall surrounding the door to the dining room is bare.

The soapstone will darken considerably when oiled/waxed.

The painter should start next Monday, possibly earlier if he is available.  It’s just the one room, so it shouldn’t take long.  The walls are a very pale dove grey, with the now-poplar-color window, door and baseboard trim done in an enamel, one click darker.  The ceiling will be white.

After painting we have the next challenge – moving everything back into the kitchen, figuring out where it goes and stowing it all safely away.  I’ve already ordered oilcloth to line the pull-out drawers of the pantry, so with luck we’ll avoid those sticky circles under bottles of oil or molasses, that happen no matter how carefully they are wiped down.

The next post on the kitchen rehab will be the last one, with everything done, plus a before and after set to finally banish the ghosts of the vaguely Colonial style cherry veneer that used to be.

What will we cook first in our new kitchen?  Hmmm…..

VISUAL PROGRESS!

It’s been a while since the last post.  Progress has been steady all this time, but it’s been incremental, with not that much that was exciting enough to show off.  After all – one wall’s worth of additional baseboards or crown moldings does not make thrilling photos.  But now that it’s all in I can give everyone a peek.

The last is first – the stone countertops have arrived, and the copper sink has been placed (although functional installation is still down the road).  These pix were taken by The Resident Male, and were posted on Facebook yesterday.

We chose soapstone.  Yes, it does scratch more easily than granite, but we liked the look.  Plus, if it’s good enough for lab benches, it should be good enough for us.  The piece we ended up with has a lot of character.  Many people opt for more uniform slabs, but I really wanted the grain and inclusions to show:

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Here is the area on the left side, away from the window, with the sink placed.  The dishwasher will go in the open area to the sink’s immediate right. (Finally!  A sink on the ergonomically correct side for a right-hander!)

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And here’s the main workspace under the windows, where the sink used to be.  The stone is on both sides of the rangetop, also slid in but not functionally installed yet. That’s an ocean of prep space, enough for tag-team cooking and baking.

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There’s another small bit of stone, on the other side of the fridge (which is to the right of the dishwasher).  That’s about 18 inches wide at most, and is a necessary place to plunk cell phones for recharging.

Now that all of the stone is in, the next thing the team did was cover it all up with protective cardboard so additional work would not harm it.  In these dawn-this-morning shots you see all of the cabinetry is now up, along with all of the crown molding, door and window frames, and baseboards. 

Here you see the lineup from the door to the dining room, with the opening for the wall oven and microwave next to it, past the sink and on to the big opening for the fridge (with the tiny counter just peeking out on the other side of the fridge space).

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Yes, the upper cabinets are HIGH.  We’ll keep a stepstool in the kitchen for easier access.

Here’s the other side of the room, showing how the work area near the window flows.  There’s a small counter area to the right of the rangetop, and on the side of the prep area you see the pantry cabinet.  A real pantry with actual usable space and rolling, lipped shelves; instead of the narrow, near unusable bit we had before!

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Finally, here is the view back towards the kitchen door, showing the laundry area, with its folding door reinstalled, and the utility cabinets opposite the entry door.  There will be a hanging bar beneath this, like there was before. While there are upper tier cabinets here, too, they are wood front, without the glass that’s in the main kitchen area.

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The molding surrounds for the windows and doors are simpler than that in the rest of the downstairs, but coordinate with it in size and contour, as do the baseboards and plinths beneath the door surrounds.

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All of the pale poplar woodwork you see (doors, windows and baseboards) will be painted.  It would very difficult to match the color of the cabinets with stain.  Also bring those linear elements forward would bring a heavier look to the room – very ‘70s, in fact.  Instead, when we paint the remaining walls a very pale dove grey, we will paint those trim elements in a very slightly darker, glossier grey, so that they visually recede.

We haven’t decided yet, but we may also paint the radiator cover under the entry way window.  Not sure yet about the folding door.

So that’s the progress for the past eight work days or so.  Remaining work includes the tile backsplashes behind the sink and stove/prep areas, install of the ovens, all supporting final finish electrical and plumbing work including the faucet, disposal, and filtered water tap, some tinkering/reinstall of the room’s radiators, and the lighting fixtures and ceiling fan.  After that comes painting. 

And then we can FINALLY move back into the kitchen, and cook our first celebratory meal.  I am so looking forward to it!

ONE STEP FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

The Great Kitchen Project continues!  More cabinets were delivered and have been installed. 

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Here you see the waay-up cabinets.  Sitting between the top of the standard height cabinets and the 9-foot ceiling, they are too high for access without a stepstool, but they will come in handy for storing those once-a-year things, like cookie tins, the Thanksgiving platter, and the like.  We opted for frosted glass fronts on them instead of the solid wood panel in order to lighten up the look, but still hide whatever is inside.  The arrival and beginning of the install on this set is our step forward.

Our step back is that our trusty master carpenter, on close inspection of some of the units put in by his team earlier in the week, noticed some flaws in the finish of some of the framing units and some of the doors.  He removed the suspect pieces and sent them back for more attention.  The delay isn’t great, but I am grateful that he knows what to look for, and cares about quality.  You can see cardboard protectors taped onto the front of the lower units, in place of the missing doors. 

No work today because of the cabinet return delay, and the crew needing to finish up another job for the same general contractor, but next week should see the re-install of the missing units, and the rest of the top level; finishing off the small crown molding on top (you can see the “behind” layer that will support it just above the top cabinets); and an attack made on the wood trim around the windows and doors.

Finally, in other news, the appliances have been delivered (but are still packed); and stone for the countertops will be chosen today.  And drawer/cabinet pull hardware has been ordered.  Stay tuned!

FLOOR, AND CABINETS START!

OK, here’s the latest progress on the great kitchen rehab project.  Fernando already these pix of the completed tile floor on Facebook:

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The wandering washing machine has been moved back to its alcove home.  But you can see the floor.

We’ve chosen 18” x 6” tiles, and had them laid out with random overlap (instead of on halves or thirds), with the long dimension aligned with the long dimension of the room.  That makes the room look a bit larger, in both directions.

Here you can see the texture and color – it’s tile, but with a slate-like look.

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Since a nice, clear room, with clean walls and a finished floor should not remain uncluttered for long, we move on:

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Protective cover now down over the new tile for the duration of construction and our cabinets have been delivered!  The whole kitchen is pretty much crammed full of boxes of wood boxes.  And as you can see, they’re beginning to be installed. 

We’ve opted for plain shaker/mission style quarter-sawn oak in a light finish.  Much brighter than the dark cherry stain that was there (before pix provided for comparison).  I didn’t want painted white cabinets – the other option.  I much prefer the look of finished wood.

The layout is changing, too.  Where the useless pantry was before, will now be a microwave and wall oven (the large opening straight ahead).  On the right, where the upper cabinet notch is, will be the sink.  That used to be on the other side of the room, under the window.  I’ll miss looking out the window as I wash up, but moving the sink gives us a much more efficient countertop space allocation.  We’ll have a large prep area next to the stove. 

In the new layout photo above, there’s another cabinet next to the corner unit – then the sink, and a dishwasher ON THE RIGHT – no more twisty-turn to load the thing, and then the fridge.  And what you don’t see is that there is a second course of small cabinets going on top of these, bringing storage right up to the ceiling.  Those will have frosted glass fronts instead of the wood center panels, to make their facade less imposing.  Yes, we will need a stepstool to get into those top cabinets, but they will be a great place to stow stuff we only use once a year. 

Next photo will be more cabinet installs, both above and on the other side of the room.

WALLS!

Fernando beat me to the post, but progress continues on the kitchen.  We now have walls, shown here as blueboard backing:

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And after plastering:

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Today starts the tile floor – grey 6” x 18” tile with a slate-like look, laid the long way (parallel to the floorboards shown), staggered, so that the grouted joints between the tiles don’t line up on the horizontal.  Sort of like this:

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The first step will be another layer on top of these old sub-floor boards, on which the tiles will be set.  The whole install will take several days, so there won’t be all that much other progress to report until it is completed, and we have a floor again.

FRAMED!

Some progress – not very photogenic, but we do march along:

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In these you can see the new supplemental framing, twinned to the older wood.  It’s been put up in order to create a level surface on which to build the walls, the old wood being rather haphazardly even. They’re not quite finished with this step yet, so Friday’s progress will probably be more of the same. 

The other thing that’s happening is more electrical work, placing outlets and wiring where they need to be, while the walls are still open.  Again, not something that pictures well.

The shot on the left is the long wall opposite the window wall seen yesterday.  Next to the door opening (just barely seen) will be a wall oven and microwave combo.  Then as we march back towards the photo’s point of origin – some counter space wrapping around the corner, a sink, a dishwasher, the fridge, and a small bit of counter with bookcases above.

The snap on the right is looking back towards the entry alcove, where the washer/dryer will remain behind their folding door (removed here for the time being).  We had cabinets there – saggy, poorly made, hardware store cabinets, with a hanging bar below.  We are redoing those cabinets to match what is being put in the rest of the kitchen, and retaining a hanging bar, which is just too convenient to lose. Unfortunately, in their zeal to demolish, the team took the old framing that supported the cabinet on the right (near the washer). Here you see the new replacement.

BRIGHTER!

Obviously re-constructing is a slower process than demolition.  But we had a small milestone yesterday – our new, larger window, presented here side-by-side with what was there before.

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You can se that it’s about the same width, but taller, with the extra transom panel on top. 

The kitchen is along the north side of the house.  It has always been dark.  The new window is already bringing in considerably more light.  And being on the north side, it will never be a conduit for the direct blast of the summer sun’s heat.

Not sure what’s on tap today, but it’s fun to come home and see the progress each evening.

STILL BARE AND BARREN

OK.  The kitchen rehab enters the beginning of the “we’ve taken it all away – now we put it back” phase.

As I reported on FaceBook, those remaining walls and ceiling bits had to go.  The previous homeowner, in a typical fit of doing things in the cheapest, and most stupid way, used a low grade of plain old wallboard underneath the skim coat plaster when he ripped out the original lath and plaster during his redo of the room in the early ‘80s.  That means that they were not salvageable.  We had not planned on taking down the parts that were not going to be modded, but we were forced to because the walls were crumbling.  Oh well… There’s no such thing as a renovation of a vintage house that does not involve an Unexpected Surprise.

What’s there right now looks more or less like it did when this picture was taken on Friday.

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All the way back to the studs that used to support the lath and plaster, everywhere (with the previous stage picture provided for comparison.

Monday the crews came back, and removed the last bit of flooring underneath the radiant heater where the sink used to be, the room radiator and washing machine/dryer – disconnecting the water lines to do so.

They also roughed in the main plumbing lines.  We are moving the sink from underneath the window to the other side of the room.  While it’s nice to have the window view, moving the sink gives us a large span of prep counter adjacent to the rangetop, and allows us to put the dishwasher on the right hand side – much more convenient for us right-handed folk.  But to do this, they had to relocate the main water and waste lines, and remove the unused components from the old location.

So progress towards reconstruction has officially started.  From now on in, things should start to appear, rather than disappear.

 

Aside from the continuing drama of living in a construction zone, I did get to peel off this weekend and have some fun.  I went to an SCA event – the Hrim Schola held in Barony Beyond the Mountain, on Saturday.  For my non SCAdian friends, the day was a roster of classes in technique and history, focused on needlework, weaving, knotting, knitting, and allied techniques and tools.  It was held in southern Connecticut.

First of all, I have to thank Needlework Pal Mistress Kathryn Goodwyn (she of “too many centuries, too little time”) for providing me with a suitable dress.  I have been an SCA recluse for many years, and really and truly had nothing to wear.  Since the day is done in historical dress, I could not have gone without her assistance.  Sad to say, although I promised to take a photo of her Anne of Brittany dress and hood, I forgot…  Still, many people admired it and gave me compliments on it, and were delighted to find out that it came from her hand, so many years ago.

Second I want to thank Lady Eadgyth for prodding me to attend, and to Aaradyn, Lady Ysane, and the rest of the Occasional Weekend Sewing Circle for helping me mend the gown and dress me in it (it takes a committee to do this).

I had a ton of fun, learning how to do Elizabethan-era plaited braid stitch in metal thread, seven or eight variants of lucet cord (I lost track of how many we covered), and swinging a hammer to dish out a small copper thimble from a disc of copper.  While I can’t swear to the efficiency of metalworking while wearing a corset, I did produce a result.  The teachers of these classes also deserve copious thanks for making the day worthwhile – respectively, the talented Elaine Howys, Lady Eadgyth, and the very patient Anton Leflamme.  (Apologies if honors or names are mangled).

And one thing made the day even more special.  I finally met my Stealth Apprentice.  This green belt, when finished, will be for her:

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Yes, it’s  more conventional to give an actual green belt rather than a representation of one, but I’ve always been unconventional.  And this way she can choose the style of her belt herself, to match whatever period garb she prefers.

Her name?  Well, she is a Stealth Apprentice, after all.  I’ll let her chime in if she so desires. 🙂