Monday, December 21, 2009


After four hours of shovelling, we finally escaped from the Cinderblock Chalet and drove over to see how our house looked in the snow. I think this is the first snow picture I've ever taken of our new house. It looks kind of pretty. All houses look pretty in the snow though, even the cinderblock chalet.

The world's tallest tree "stump" has got to go though. I snidely wagered way back in 2007 that it would probably take at least 6 months before the rest of the tree came down. The bark is falling off. Doug keeps saying he wants to carve it into a clarinet for our front lawn. So elegant. That's right up there with the saxophone lamp he was going to make. I'll be okay with him not getting around to that.

I think I'll focus on what we have actually gotten done during the past month or so, if I can remember, that is. We haven't been there for two days because of the snow and things like that tend to make me forget. I expect it will take a couple hours of shovelling to get back in there to on the house tomorrow.

We spent a lot of time this fall working on the outside of the house. It is totally finished except for two pieces of trim, the screens for the screened-in back porch, the lattice aprons under the front and back porches, and the flagstone veneer over the cinderblock on the bottom level. That stuff can wait since our inspection does not require those things - except for the trim which I'm sure will be much more fun to install in January.

This is our unscreened-in back porch

Inside, Doug put in all the baseboards in the bathrooms so that the plumber can come in and finish his work. We finally installed the brown fan in the upstairs front room. We did several top coats of a super durable finish called Bona Traffic on our kitchen floor so that the refrigerator and dishwasher can be moved back in and hooked up. Doug finally put in all of the toe kicks for the kitchen cabinets that we installed last February. He won't do the moulding at the top of the cabinets until after the inspection at the end of January he said, which is disappointing, but apparently necessary. The kitchen floor looks great. It has a satin finish now. All of the exterior doors now have beautiful door handles and locks. I painted a closet. I'm patiently waiting for more stuff to paint.

In the hopefully near future we'll be putting up the drywall in the basement. I don't think this will be nearly as laborious as it was this time last year doing all of the bathrooms and the laundry room upstairs. We have ten foot ceilings on the top floor and that was a lot of extra work. The basement should be easier and it's about a third as many walls to cover. I'm looking forward to getting that finished because then we can get busy with the finish carpentry. Oh, and painting and staining the stairs.

We still have to get the HVAC guy to come back and put in our heat pump. Unfortunately, due to all of the delays, the air handler up in the attic is designed for R22 refrigerant but now they only make heat pumps that use R410 refrigerant, so we are going to have to get some kind of conversion done to our air handler to make it compatible with the heat pump, since the R22 compatible heat pump didn't get purchased in time. Delays cause problems, that's all there is to it.

We're pretty much ready for the plumber to come back and finish his work, unless there are additional details that I'm not aware of.

We haven't seen the electrician in a while. I don't expect he'll be back until we've finished drywalling the basement although it would be really nice to get the floor heat hooked up sooner rather than later. The two space heaters do a pretty good job of heating our super-insulated house, but they aren't that efficient and it would be more comfortable with the floor heat. Or the regular heat.

That's all I can think of for now. Wish us luck.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Pink House

I found out last week that somebody has painted my house and this time, for a change, it wasn't me! I guess I should clarify and say that somebody painted an absolutely beautiful picture of our house the way it looked long long ago.

As the result of one of those amazing connections that occasionally happen in the world of blogging, an artist named Peter Krebs who grew up in our area discovered this blog as a result of a post I had written on my other, less house oriented blog. He recognized my house as one he had painted a long time ago when he was a student, freshly back from a summer studying art in Arles. I love the Van Gogh/Hopper-esque style that he used in this painting. It really captures the feeling of an earlier time. I miss how beautiful our area was back before they came in and widened the former two lane country road in front of our house. There was a relatively nice balance of suburbs and country out this way at that time.

Please go read Peter's beautiful and loving reminiscences of his time growing up in this area before all of the "progress" started. His perspective as a young boy growing up in this area and his appreciation of all that it did for him is extremely refreshing. And it tells the story behind the painting that he did of our house over 15 years ago.


Our house has been through a lot since that time, in fact it has been through a lot ever since we bought it way back in 1985. We have very few photos now because we lost nearly everything in the fire, but I recently acquired a few faded ones that my parents had taken over the years.

Our house stopped being pink only about 3 months before the fire happened. I had finally gotten around to painting the original sections to match the gray siding on the huge new addition that we had put on the back of the house. I remember thinking "This is it, I'm not doing this again. It's ridiculous that I should have to paint the entire outside of my house - twice." I was bitching and moaning because it's not fun to paint when it's not warm and sunny. It was November, but still warm enough to paint, and I was finishing the last bits of it during the two week Thanksgiving break of the tour I used to do.

And after all that work it only lasted for three months thanks to the fire.

The era of the pink house began after we replaced all of the windows in order to save money on heating and so that we could actually open and close them in the summertime. This was our first house and we wanted to make it our own. I wanted to paint it blue or green, but Doug had a thing for pink - he said it reminded him of all the pink houses we saw in Bermuda on our honeymoon.

I tried a few different shades on the back of our house, but they were all rather garish, shall we say. Then I saw a big old house in Rockville that was painted a sort of dusty rose color and I thought that would be an acceptable pink. We got really excited about it and I went up and knocked on the door to ask if they would tell us what color they had used. Apparently it was a secret that they were quite proud of, but on the way back down the sidewalk an oak leaf caught my eye because it had a bit of pink in it. I held it up and the pink in it totally matched the house! From there we found a genius paint mixer named Jens who helped us to achieve exactly the right color.

It was kind of an interesting color, not exactly like the house in Rockville, but close. Apparently people used to use our house as a landmark of sorts. One person told me she used to refer to it as "the raspberry house" and she was sad when I painted it gray. By then the color had faded to a paler pink and wasn't quite as distinctive. The old photo below obviously has some color issues of its own, but it's the only one we have. This was during the time when they were widening the road, so the front yard is kind of beat up.

The picture below was taken by my mother during the time that we were replacing the windows. That's my brother up on the ladder. He was a huge help. Doug is on the back roof, I'm down there working on the back windows, and my Dad is standing there observing all of the activity.

These pictures were taken right after we bought our house and before we started all of the never-ending work. The bottom one is my favorite. The greenery looks very similar to what you see in Peter's painting and my beloved old maple tree is still there. I miss that tree!

If you'd like to read more about the old days of our house you may do so here , here , and here .

Thank you, Peter Krebs, for bringing back these early memories of my old house. It makes me especially glad that we decided to try to keep the spirit of our old house alive in the newer version that we are building now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Finally got my balls installed....

It's so nice to finally have them up where they belong.

They had been waiting to come outside for MONTHS!!!

And now they are finally happy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back Door Before and After

I recently finished painting the back door and the trim that Doug finally put up. He took the door off so that I could do a really good job and he also repaired the deadbolt area where the firemen had broken in. I sure wish I'd thought to leave the door open or unlocked when I was leaving, but who thinks of such things at a time like that? Anyway, on the "before" picture below, you can still see what remains of the CONDEMNED sign that they stuck on the door the next day. Officially, our house is still condemned, although it doesn't look like it should be anymore.

Below is the "after" picture. The medium blue looks nicer with the blue ceiling than the faded dark green did. You can click on the picture to get a closer look. I'm very happy with how the threshold turned out too. I stained it with Cabot solid stain in a color called Spruce Blue. It sort of matches the green slate just inside the door.

This was the first time I had ever stained anything and it was actually pretty fun, especially since it ended up looking so nice. You can see a picture of it on the previous post. Now I'm thinking about staining the porch floor a light blue at some point. I think you are supposed to wait a year before staining pressure treated boards, so I'll wait. We still need to get the baseboard trim done anyway.

Here's a closeup of the trim around the outside of the door frame. Doug is glad that I talked him into putting it on now that he sees how nice it looks, and now that a few of his friends have complimented him on it. He did a great job with the reveal as well.

And in other news, here are the two rooms at the front of the house on the main floor that I recently painted. I'm pretty pleased with the way all of the different colors intersect. I guess I'll be decorating based on wall color rather than the other way around!

The colors are Faded Seafoam for the piano room, Wisteria for the foyer, and Sour Lime for the living room. Wild, huh?
Next up will be the completed front porch, balls and all. Stay tuned.....

Monday, October 26, 2009

more painting and staining

Today I stained the threshold to the back door and I'm very pleased at how it turned out. I'm so glad I didn't paint it. The wood grain looks kind of wild in this sort of grayish blue-green. I can't wait to reinstall the door. It's going to look so pretty in its new shade of blue.

I spent most of the weekend sanding the walls and doing other prep work for the last two rooms on the main floor that need to be painted. This morning I finished the cut-in painting in the foyer. I'm excited about this color. It's a medium purplish blue called "Wisteria" and I think it will be a nice contrast to the rooms that it is adjacent to. And when the front door is open the combination of the two colors is similar to the colors you see in a hydrangea bush. Hmmm......

I'll post some pictures of the finished rooms withing the next couple of days, I hope.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Possible Mouldings for our Kitchen

While Doug's away, Cyndy will play - with power tools! HaHaHa!!! Usually I avoid these things like the plague because they can be dangerous to your hands and I need my hands. But I decided to save a whole lot of decision-making time by constructing a few mockups of potential moulding for our kitchen cabinets.
We were planning to use a copy of the original crown moulding from our old house to go around the tops of all the cabinets. Doug really want to use it in the kitchen for sentimental reasons. But the other day, he got started putting it up and we realized it didn't look good because the recessed lights cause the moulding to completely cast a shadow upon itself. So we'll just use it somewhere else instead. There are plenty of places it could go.
I remembered the experience with making the vent pipe covering and decided to get things moving by doing a sample of what I had in mind myself. That way when Doug gets back from his trip it won't take as long to get it done because all of the discussions will have already taken place.
My original idea was just to use a piece of half-round. It would look neat and clean and simple. But the sizes I bought were not big enough to look right so I ended up splitting a wooden closet rod in half. That one was so easy to make that I decided to get fancy and play around with the other sizes of half round. The second one I made is a flat trim board with small half-round beads on the top and bottom. Then just for laughs, I made another one that was three pieces of half-round attached to a trim board.
After the glue was dry I cut them with the miter saw and glued the two mitered ends together on each one. I couldn't find the staple gun or the finish nailer so I just used glue to put them together. I primed and painted them last night and this morning I put them up to see how they'd look.






#3 - that's just silly!

#2 on the left, #1 on the right

different angle - #2 on the left, #1 on the right

When I first made #3 I was laughing because I thought it looked like Lincoln Logs, if you're old enough to know what I'm talking about. Then yesterday as I was driving home from my gig, I saw this and it just made me feel like mocking #3 even more.

If you think they all look bad, please don't hesitate to tell me, because the other option is to go with no trim at all. Except that then the stupid outlets for Doug's recessed rope lighting will show.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

tile, fans, and trim

So what have we been up to lately? We finally finished putting up the ceiling in the back porch. That was a job and a half, or more actually. It took forever, but it looks really nice.

The tile people came and did our kitchen backsplash. So all that's left in the kitchen is putting on the Bona Traffic floor protection, the moulding around the tops of the cabinets, and the baseboards.

That's Doug's sink above. He can be as messy as he wants there because I have my very own sink too. The company that makes it named it "Orca" because it's so huge.

I selected all of my knobs and pulls and they all arrived last week. I'll be installing them very soon I hope.
I finally found a fan style that Doug LOVES and which also satisfied my need for a low profile light. I got talked into having a fan with a light, which I have never liked the idea of because I think most of them are ugly for one thing, and nobody would believe how much lower the ceiling would end up feeling until we actually installed a fan last week that the fan store guy had talked us (Doug mostly) into buying. It was completely unacceptable so we meticulously repacked it and took it back.
This is what I found instead and Doug immediately latched onto it and found a couple of new ones on eBay. It's a little more modern than the general style of the rest of our porch, but it's plain enough that I think it will look okay. It looks an awful lot like an airplane propeller but the light at the bottom is great and doesn't stick out at all.

It cost a bit more than we were planning to spend, especially since we needed two of them. I'd been planning to buy a cheap brown fan for my bass room which would match the ceiling lights, but after we spent all that money on the fancy fans for the back porch I decided to paint a fan that Doug just so happened to have. He bought it twenty years ago, and it was still new in the box. He doesn't remember why he bought it. He's a hoarder so he probably bought it because it might come in handy one day. This time he was right!
This was a very inexpensive project. I had a can of rustoleum that I was going to use to paint some ceiling light trim that happened to be the right color. I also had a can of brown paint that I'd been thinking about using for the window trim in the pass through of the kitchen. It was in the reject section of the paint department at Home Depot and it only cost a dollar. The color is perfect, but I got my money's worth on the paint quality. Behr paint is absolute crap, or at least the paint in this can was. I'm glad I was only using it for fan blades! Anyway that fan is going to look pretty awesome for only a dollar more than the cost of a can of Rustoleum.

This week we've been putting up the trimwork on the back porch which is a very slow and tedious process. Oh, and I've mowed the grass twice in the past two weeks. Nothing new there.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

That's what I'm talking about

We got half of the porch ceiling panels installed today.

Using this contraption which is called a drywall lift.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

porch ceiling and powder room

On Monday we installed the first of the twelve porch ceiling panels. This involved me standing up on a ladder holding the 4x8 sheet of beaded plywood with my head mostly, but using my two hands to balance it against the rafters while Doug screwed it in place from the stepladder. The aqua/faded seafoam color looks really nice against the gray siding. I'll try to get a picture of it sometime soon.

Yesterday we attempted to put the next panel in place and this time I had to try to hold the panel up while standing on a wobbly stepladder. This did not work out, so we've borrowed our friend Buc's drywall lift again (my suggestion) and it should be much easier and more efficient to get the rest of the ceiling attached this way. Those panels are kind of heavy for just the two of us to deal with on a high ceiling that has quite a bit of slope to it.

Meanwhile, Doug saved the day with our powder room lighting problem. I had decided that a shorter version of the pendants in our kitchen would look really cute in the powder room. We've been using a lot of fixtures from this one series from Kichler in an attempt to get some consistency happening in all of the main parts of our house.

The pendants work perfectly over the island in the kitchen because they hang pretty much at eye level. Unfortunately in the bathroom the bulb was visible and the glare was horrible. We tried a bunch of different light bulbs and nothing worked, so I was starting to look into replacing the shade when Doug presented me with a globe that he had rescued from the basement of the old part of our house that we had to tear down. It had been sitting there in the basement the entire time we lived there and I guess the previous owners had removed it when they did their "country colonial" redecorating, probably in the late 1960's. This globe looks like it might be from the early 1900s.
I really like the fact that we now have an especially old piece of our old house incorporated into our new house, and look how cute it looks! It's even more adorable than it was with the scalloped shade. I think it looks kind of like an earring.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What I did on Tuesday instead of selling my bass....

Tuesday was a freakishly productive day. It started off with a call to my luthier in New York to cancel an appointment to put my spare bass on consignment which I had made just the day before. After he heard me playing it one last time on Monday night, Doug told me that I should really keep it and not think about selling it any more. I feel selfish keeping it because we need the money, but we have other things we can sell.

So I didn't drive up to New York. The weather was completely fantastic so I decided to get started painting the porch ceiling panels, a project I was NOT looking forward to at all. I was planning to paint each panel one by one on the porch, which would have taken days, but the weather was so nice that it made sense to do it out in the back yard. And since there was so much more space out there, it made even more sense to paint all 12 of them at once! So I decided to go for it.

First I set up some stuff to elevate them out of the grass slightly, and then I carried them all out there using one of those magic plywood carrying handles. I'm really glad it wasn't windy. It wasn't too bad carrying them that way, but my hands did hurt the next day. They are fine now.

After I finished all of the backpriming and the paint was dry enough, I flipped them all over and began to realize that there really wasn't enough time to finish painting all 768 square feet of paneling by myself by the end of the day. So Doug graciously offered to postpone his annual car vacation by a day in order to help me finish. It doesn't start until Saturday anyway.

So we primed the beaded part and got the finish coat on in just enough time for it to be dry enough to carry back onto the porch. And Doug carried them all back in while I gathered up the rest of the stuff. He's definitely in my good graces right now. And he'll stay there if we can install them on the ceiling as soon as he gets back from his trip!

They are blue because it is traditional for porch ceilings on old houses to be blue (like the sky) and that is the look we are after.

Friday, August 21, 2009

flooring and painting and doors, oh my

We've almost made it through the summer! It's actually been okay without AC because of our daily ritual of opening all of the windows for about an hour each night or early morning to get cool air into the house. The foam core panel construction retains most of the coolness until about 4pm or so. If we manage to get in this routine when we actually start living there again we'll be able to save big bucks on airconditioning, hopefully.

Today I'll be putting on a second coat of paint in my blue bass room. Tomorrow I'll be using that room to paint all of the upstairs doors that we installed this week, and then I'll install the flooring, which means that the painting and flooring in the upstairs will be completely finished! Of course we still have to do the baseboards and window and door trim, but whatever.

In preparation for the flooring in the blue room, Doug had to do a little remedial work on the subfloor to make it perfectly level. He used various pieces of wood that we have around right now to accomplish this and then he sanded it all flat. It was a grueling, tedious, and messy job, but he got it done. I love the fact that he used bead board for part of it. So fancy! But it's all going to be covered up in another day or two.

We hung the mirror in the pink bathroom. It goes pretty well with the lights and the faucet handles.

The electrician was here for a couple weeks installing all of the light fixtures and switches.

Early on in the lighting selection process I had no idea what I liked or wanted. My frame of mind was still in the stage where I was resenting the fact that I had to pick out lights at all. Anyway, I found a couple of bargains that didn't work out where I had originally intended for them to go, so we just put them in the various rooms upstairs. They look slightly on the flamboyant side for their locations, but they were cheap and we already had them.

Above is the green bedroom. The color didn't photograph very well - it's a little bit more of a deeper and clearer green than you see here. It looks really fresh and I liked it so much that I painted our closet below the same color. It looks very different during the day in the two rooms because of the natural light, but I really like it in both of them.
I finally figured out what to do with the gigantic tambour unit we got that was the wrong size for the kitchen. We hung it in the middle of the wall in our closet and we're going to hang double closet rods on either side of it. Doug and Cyndy's clothing will be well separated, which is excellent!
I got a chest of drawers from Ikea to slide in underneath which is just the right size, and I'll be able to close those tambour doors to hide the clutter. And the inside is divided down the middle which wouldn't have worked at all in our kitchen, but now we each have our own compartment for stuff. So we are definitely making lemonade from this situation. The color below is a little distorted - the real green is actually about halfway between this photo and the one above. I never thought I'd end up with such a colorful closet - it's pretty ridiculous, but also ridiculously pretty.
Also this week, Doug installed the front porch railings that I had finished painting a while back. But he didn't install the balls. I'm not posting an outside picture of his beautiful railing work until he gets those balls up.
So there!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Help me chimney or yellow chimney?


We had this ugly vent pipe coming up from our microwave/range hood that needed to be covered. Originally we were going to surround it with drywall so it would have been yellow to match the walls. But then I got the bright idea of making a "chimney" for it that could be removed if necessary. I designed it and Doug made out of the beadboard and various mouldings that I had selected. I painted it to match the cabinets and I think it looks nice, but it might look even better if it matched the wall instead. That way there would be a nice horizontal line of color all the way around the tops of the cabinets. What do you think? I can't make up my mind. I guess I could always just paint it and find out. If you feel like it, leave me a comment with your opinion. Thanks!



(awesome photoshopping by Gene )

Speaking of nice even horizontal lines at the tops of the cabinets, the always gracious Kathy Schmick at Smoot Lumber came through for us once again. We installed the replacement cabinet for the too tall one that the cabinet company had sent and it looks so much better with the heights matching all the way around the kitchen. Unfortunately it's kind of hard to tell from this picture because we had to take out the refrigerator in preparation for coating the floor with a fancy super-dooper flooring protector called Bona Traffic. And the room is still kind of a mess because we're not finished with everything yet. But it's coming along.....


Oh, and I noticed that my cabinet color is very similar to Julia Child's kitchen cabinets in Julie and Julia, which I saw today. Isn't that nice? Maybe I'll take up French cooking as my next new hobby after I get tired of homebuilding. Oh wait, that's already happened. The cooking's probably also going to have to wait a couple more months.