DECEMBER 2004 thru JANUARY 2005

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2004
Excuse me while I pick myself up from the floor!

Now that we're getting to the nitty gritty with the square footage, we're attempting to plug in some numbers for the budget. What was that I've been saying about champagne taste and beer pocketbooks?! I won't be so gauche as to plug in actual numbers here but suffice it to say that our sketchy budget figures had us heading for the tranquilizers. But we're determined to make this all work out somehow. So the first order was to rethink room sizes and scale down where we could. As a result we were able to reduce the overall square footage by about 150 square foot. Every little bit helps. If Greg weren't going to be so heavily involved in this project, the square footage costs could easily soar above $250. We're hoping to keep in nearer the ridiculously low figure of $100 or less. But this is still a hefty chunk of change. I, on the other hand, am a woman possessed and I'm in the same mode as I was when building Kelton. And (within reason - whatever that means!) I'm taking the Field of Dreams Approach...you build it and it will come. So we're taking a big gulp and an even bigger leap of faith.

So, poor Greg. For the last several days he's been putting in marathon hours at the computer putting the finishing (a term used loosely) touches on the plans to give to the building designer. Last night was the meeting.

We asked our designer, Pam, to meet us here at our place so she could see what Greg has created on his computer program. She's obviously knowledgeable and nothing seemed to overwhelm her, although she did say this project will give her lots to think about. It took a full two hours to make our presentation. Although we had a preliminary meeting with her a few weeks ago, we've made major changes since we moved the house to the other side of the lot, not to mention the myriad of details we've included.

One of the major design points is the turret. Getting this to work structurally will take skill on both Pam and Greg's part and a keen understanding of framing, bearing walls and roof design.

She understands that we want to break ground in April which means she'll have to submit those plans to the city by hopefully no later than mid February as it seems to be taking 4-6 weeks to get through plan check...at least these days.

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SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2004
Today was another big day.

In order to get our turret we have to get special permission from the developers and/or the Homeowners Association, because they have a 35' height restriction and our turret comes in at over 40'. So we met this morning at to go over the plans. I can tell they are impressed with what we're trying to accomplish as this is so far and away what "normal" people build and they seem to want to find a way to allow us our creative freedoms. After an hour's meeting, they said they'll get back to us by Monday. So, as with everything else, it's a waiting game.

We also met with an arborist. This is something I've planned to do from the beginning. Our landscaper Jeff is very exuberant, young, and has some wonderful ideas. And if the budget allows, I'm certain he'll give us an exciting environment to enjoy. But we have a disagreement, albeit one that can be worked out, between aesthetics and preserving nature's overall plans.

Our arborist James is a real kick with is rambunctious dog Guy and a head of curly shoulder length hair. He reminds me of an old sea salt. He's an Englishman who dearly loves the woods and trees.

When you build a house, especially one in the woods, there are so many things to think about in order to preserve the environment that it's almost impossible to deal with every situation and at some point you almost have to throw your hands up into the hair and say, "Whatever!" Each trade that works on the property will be at cross purposes and most of those will do damage to the trees and compact the soil. Compacting the soil is deadly to almost any growing thing. In fact, any change you make to the land will affect what's living in, on, or around the area. There will be loses, both of wildlife and flora. Large equipment can damage feeder roots of trees and you won't know you've set off the process of killing a tree for several years. To minimize this situation, we must mark off a protective area of several feet in diameter around each tree that's in harm's way.

It's all very aggravating.

James explained that besides heavy equipment, we must watch how the cement is poured and where the leachfield (or cement run off) goes into the soil. We also must keep an eye on the painter to make sure he doesn't wash any of his paints and other chemicals into the soil. This will all be a great challenge to accomplish.

James helped identify some of the trees for me. I'm already familiar with Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Alder but he helped me identify Grand Fir, Native Willow, and Cherry. Identifying trees take a keen eye because at first glance many trees look exactly alike. At first, most look very similar but Douglas Fir's needles radiate out around the branch while Grand Fir's are flat and also have two white stripes on the underside of each needle. Alder and Cherry bark looks almost exactly alike but the Cherry has white rings every foot or so around the trunk.

Moss and lichens are a familiar sight in any forest. And it's beneficial. So I was happy to learn that the light green lichen hanging from some of my trees wasn't killing them off. But, there are several trees with foliage that looks a bit yellow. James explained that this was most likely due to stress from draught and it was a coin toss whether these trees would survive. But he gave us a clean bill of health when it came to diseases. Otherwise, he explained, there would be large clumps of trees in trouble. He also explained that you must be very careful about any soil amendments you bring in. It seems you can't be certain what anyone is selling you: where they got the material and how it was composted and combined. That means you could unknowingly bring in diseases, chemicals, or noxious plants.

It was helpful that Jeff was able to come to this meeting. It gave me a forum to have both of them explain their philosophies and to learn from one another. And hopefully help me make better decisions.

By the end of our meeting, it was decided that we will halt any more cleanup or tree removal until absolutely necessary and until then let nature take its course.

There is so much to think about.

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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2004
Lots of things have been happening.

We got good news about the turret. So 45 feet it shall be. This is great because it'll give us a fantastic 360 degree view from the Olympic Mountains to Canada.

Even though the plans are with the designer, we're still tweaking things. With all these months of prep, it's still feeling like we're running out of time if we want to break ground in April. Keeping to this schedule is important because we must have the house "enclosed" so we can continue to build when the weather gets cold in the late Fall. That's because the cold weather affects how things like glues and adhesives set up.

We, or should I say Greg, did hours of research and has come up with his best "realistic" guess at a tentative budget. I say "tentative" because I guess that's the nature of a budget, just a guideline. We made a stab at some figures a few weeks ago and pared it down a bit, but when he told me the latest figures, I fell off my chair. This house WILL be built, and built how we want. And somehow we'll cram it into a budget of some sort. We figure Greg's "sweat equity" will defray about $85,000 of the cost. No matter. Changes had to, and will have to be made. I'll willing to make concessions on the exterior so I can have the interior of the house work with my wish list.

So, we've given up on the stucco. There are so few stucco people here and although we had the possibility of bringing in someone from L.A. at much less cost than a local person, it was still something Greg couldn't be involved in (translation: cost is out of his hands, literally). Plus the wood "plantons" were beginning to be a very time-consuming endeavor. So, now the exterior design leans more toward Craftsman. We're still keeping the faux stone on the bottom floor and in place of the stucco we'll be using a product called Hardieplank which looks like wood siding but is actually made of a type of cement. Hardieplank got its start in Australia about 100 years ago and is very popular here because it practically lasts forever and holds paint extremely well. It comes in several styles; we're going with a "staggered" cedar shake design which will give a more hand-crafted look. This alone will save thousands of dollars. As another cost-saving measure, we're continuing the "pop out" in the living room, otherwise known as the Solarium, all the way down to the first floor which eliminates engineering costs.

We also reduced the size of the living room a bit. This computer program Greg works with makes it possible to walk through the rooms. So we recreated pieces of furniture and played around with placement to get an idea of how the change in room size affected traffic flow. Knowing where the furniture and artwork is going helped us make some decisions about the design of the fireplace and window placement. We need to be fairly sure about the windows because it not only affects the designer's plans but it'll let us move forward with ordering.

Last week we took a foray into Seattle and met with the rep of Euroline windows at their showroom. We looked into several window manufacturers (Pella, Anderson, Milgard) but after doing research, Euroline seems like the best value for the money. Windows are expensive and they're not something you want to skimp on for several reasons. Cross ventilation is an important factor to consider and so is cleaning, especially when most of your windows are on the second floor. Euroline offers a "tilt and turn" window which allows you to open the window in two different ways. To let air in but not rain, the window can tilt open from the top. For cleaning, it can be opened from the side and allows you to almost completely turn the exterior surface inside. Ease of operation is one aspect, of course, but even more important is how well they insulate due to the weather. All windows here need to be double paned. I also wanted something that would guard against UV rays as the sun is so damaging to fabrics. There are many ways to do this, including films that are applied, but most remedies also cut down on the visibility by darkening the glass. Euroline seems to have so many aspects well thought out. We also met an owner-builder who used them on his projects and also just installed them in his own home here and he said he wouldn't use anything else. So Euroline it is. But there are a couple more things we wanted to consider. First is upkeep. We're trying to think ahead about this with every aspect of our project. We definitely didn't want wooden frames that required painting. Windows are very expensive to paint because they're time consuming. Almost without exception, all other window manufacturer's products had wood and required painting. And...you know I like color. White, cream, and beige is a dirty word in my household, and having a choice without these colors was almost impossible to find. With Euroline I can get custom (to a point) colors both inside and out.

Here's a comparison of the
"old" and "newest" floorplans.

I've also been able to make some fairly definite choices in the exterior color scheme. The stone will be golden, the cedar shake will be painted almost a khaki, and the trim a dark green. Dark green is a fairly typical choice for Craftsman. So, of course, the window trim will be dark green. Here's a peak at what the
exterior architectural design looks like. As for the interior window trim, although I have a choice, it has to be "one for all". I loved the stain Greg used for my old office, a dark red mahogany, so any exposed wood inside that isn't going to be painted will use that same stain. And Euroline has a mahogany wood trim.

We also received the drainage plan from the engineer. This was required by our CC&Rs (covenants, codes, and restrictions) of our homeowner's association. It's necessary to insure that rainwater doesn't sheet off the roof and saturate the ground surrounding the house and cause erosion problems.

We're also trying to buy as many big ticket items ahead of time as possible because China, which controls the world's steel supply, is putting the screws on big time. And steel is used in everything including new appliances, window frames, and metal roofing. So we've gone ahead and purchased the appliances which the company will store for us until they're needed, probably in early Fall. To give you an idea of what's in store, General Electric's cost for steel for their appliances went up 92% this past year...and that is passed along to the consumer.

I'm also going ahead and buying some of the "decorator" items that have a possibility of not being available a year from now. I found some exquisite Victorian wall sconces that are just what I want for the living room and an area in the entry/gallery, so I've gone ahead and ordered those through a great catalogue company I found. I've already purchased the colored glass knobs for the kitchen cabinets and I'm about to order colored crystals to replace the clear ones on our old brass chandelier. I'm trying to recreate the look of a similar chandelier I saw that probably costs about $10,000!

On a personal note, Greg has asthma. So far it's nothing serious but it's something we need to consider. Wetter climates tend to exacerbate the condition. And so do airborne particles. Greg went to see the allergist here who suggested that we consider a central vacuum system because it takes all the sucked-up dirt to a central collection area usually located in the garage. These systems cost about $1000...another addition to the budget.

One of the many many woodworking projects Greg will be taking on is building the front door. It's going to be massive; four feet wide and nine feet tall and probably about 4 inches thick. He's found some old weathered cedar planks that should look fantastic and so he's planning on getting those now and working on the door here before we break ground. Using cedar is a great choice because it's practically indestructible and not subject to problems like insect infestation.

Now that we've settled on the color of the inside window trim and realizing that I like the red mahogany stain, it's helped me to tweak some other things. For instance, the columns I had planned to use at the entrance to the living room will now be camera cases to display Greg's massive camera collection. The finish will be a combination of black lacquer, mahogany stain, and touches of copper gilt. We're designing some very interesting ceiling beams for the living room which will have what could best be described as a lacy look. Those will now be stained mahogany. We're having a local award-winning woodcarver create some Man-in-the-Moon medallions to use in various ways and I want to incorporate them in the design of the beams and probably finish the moons with the copper gilt. We'll take the originals and make molds; that way we can cast as many as we need.

But I will be using columns at the entrance to the dining room. A couple of months ago Greg got a lead on a pair from an old house dating from the Civil War era in Virginia. They're covered in layers of old paint. I plan to strip them and apply mahogany stain, then I'll add ornate tops to the columns and add touches of again the black lacquer and copper gilt.

This trio of colors will also play in the bathroom. I already told you we went ahead and purchased the
onyx counter top for the vanity and tub deck. The only color choice I have for the tub is black and so I need to bring in some black elsewhere. For instance, the toilet. And I decided that making the cabinet to the sink all copper will just be too much, so I'm switching to mahogany stain for that and the skirt to the tub. Greg will add some raised paneling for detail and I'll use copper in some way on the insets. Raised paneling looks something like a picture frame, and the inset would be where the picture would go. I'll also use a combination of mahogany, black lacquer, and copper gilt on the crown molding.

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FRIDAY, JANUARY 7,2005
Well, we have the plans in to Pam, our designer and since we gave her such detailed information, she was able to get back to us within a few days with her first attempt at the floorplan. Basically, we know what we want but we need the details tweaked to go to plan check and conform to local codes. Greg was creating the floorplan in an animation program because he was already familiar with it, and learning a specialized architectural program would have taken precious time. Somehow in the translation from one program to another, the total square footage jumped from about 5200 square feet to 6600 square feet! I nearly fainted. But this difference was really just on paper and it gave us a chance to edit the room sizes a bit more.

Meanwhile, we got the estimate back from the Euroline window company. Are you sitting down? Even though we were sketchy on the particulars and could come up with a more accurate window list once the plans are completed, the initial figures were....$46,000!!! Obviously, we won't be doing those windows. And prices on everything are increasing by the minute. So we want to nail down the window order as soon as we can. We're also considering Milgard windows and a couple of others.

In another attempt to nail down prices, we went ahead and ordered our 1000 gallon propane tank. The propane company has a lease to own program with 0% interest and an open ended payoff timetable - a pretty good deal. Plus, when you have such a big tank, you can save money on the price of propane.

We just bought me a reconditioned laptop that I'll be able to take to the jobsite and have all our data at my fingertips and also the ability to get on the internet.

I told you that Greg was able to find some old cedar planks to make our massive front door at a local salvage yard and he
snapped a picture of this momentous event. We're going to design some massive wrought iron straps that will go across the face of the door. Think medieval...

We've also been taking advantage of the proximity of large tree stumps and boulders for future landscaping projects and now the front of the property is a
holding pen for all of our finds.

Earlier this week we took a walk up Maletti Hill, another development by the company that sold us our lot. The weather was so clear that from the top of the Hill we could look down on our development and see at least the two homes that have already been built, plus you can see
Mount Baker in the background. You can see it faintly on the right hand side of the image.

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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19,2005
Decisions, decisions, decisions! With twelve weeks to go to Blast Off, we've got to begin nailing down some of these systems and products. We got another bid back on windows, from Milgard, which is a quality company located in Washington. That's nice to know, especially if there are problems...and there are always problems. And it's really the only company that offers a non-wood, non-vinyl (in other words fiberglass) exterior in the green color I want. The interior is paintable and is less expensive than woodclad - why pay for wood when we'll just paint. I'll do what I did on Kelton and paint the interior window frames the same color as the walls. This bid is workable at approximately $17,000.

Meanwhile, Greg has been tearing his hair out over the heating/ventilation systems. We want to go with radiant floor heating but it's expensive to have installed. Having Greg do the installation makes it much more manageable but he's never worked with this system before. The other day the "bible" of radiant floor installation arrived and he's immersing himself in a crash course. When we're done with this project, we will have an entire library of "how to build your own home" to sell on Ebay, and some lucky person will get the benefit of all of Greg's hours of research. Without getting too technical here, the tubing which carries the water which is what heats the flooring must be set in something to hold the tubing in place. There are systems made for this but after Greg's research they turned out to be mighty pricey. That leaves some type of pourable surface to pump in around and over the tubing. Greg thought he might be able to a) save money and b) get a better result with a light-weight concrete but now that the "bible" has arrived, it's back to "gypcrete" and that goes for about $1.25 square foot.

We've also gone round and round about what type of fireplace system to use: woodburning, or gas, or pellet, or wood stove. We thought we had made the decision to go with woodburning, but now...Wood burning is not an efficient way to heat but we're only interested in aesthetics, so we felt that would do the trick. But I'm the queen of "angles" and like so many other of my quirky decorating ideas, want the fireplace in the corner of the room. This presents a big problem when it comes to the proper installation and innerworkings of the chimney and affects how it "draws". Of course, changing the location of the fireplace is out of the question - it changes everything about the room set up. And Greg just chimed in that we don't want the architect to start tearing her hair out! Sooo, it's gas. Another problem we have here is scale. The room will have at least an 18 foot ceiling and having one of those dinky fireplace openings won't look right, and finding a larger-scale type has been difficult. This weekend we plan to go to a fireplace showroom that has an extensive array and hope to make a decision then.

Oh forgot to mention: when we went to pick up the laptop from the computer guru, it just so happened he had a covered trailer parked in his driveway. Greg's been on the lookout for one to carry all the supplies we'll be picking up from Oregon and Seattle and wherever. We were expecting to pay about $1500. I asked him if he would consider selling and we picked it up for $825. Just like so many other things with this move, another puzzle piece just fell into place. Once the house is built, we'll probably sell it.

While Greg's working on the "bones" (basically, what's inside the walls), I'm working on the "skin" (interior design). Months ago I tore out a picture of a brass and crystal chandelier that must cost thousands. Instead of using clear prism crystals, it was
laden with jewel-toned ones. I was planning on selling the ones I brought from L.A. (which actually belonged to my parents and must be about 30 plus years old) on Ebay. But then I got the idea of making my own version as the centerpiece to the diningroom. Google is a wonderful thing - that's my mantra! I found a great source for the crystals at a great price. Right now I have the chandelier hanging from an A-frame ladder in what was the last open space in our "toy" house livingroom. And as I go, I'm making design decisions. For instance, this chandelier will not only have crystals but will be encrusted with jewel-tone rhinestones. Will post a picture when it's done.

And another thing we're working on: interior lighting. This is a big task, especially if you want to do it right. Good and well-placed lighting is the icing on the cake. It creates mood and ambiance, work space, and highlights artwork. But we have a problem in the livingroom and entry/gallery: the ceilings are so high, a recessed light that washes the wall to spotlight artwork, will dissipate I'm afraid to the point of being useless. So, right now I have a call in to a friend who works at the Getty to see what big museums with high ceilings do to light wall art. It would be so simple if I just liked those lights that attach to the frame of a painting.... I can't tell you how many times Greg and I have to attempt to reinvent the wheel.

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SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 2005
More and ever more changes. The budget, and time, are the primary considerations.


Our unusual houseplan has the front door on the second floor. Which poses the question, how do you get people up there? Now that the plans are in with the designer, Greg's been focusing on details like this one. All along we had the idea of having a meandering pathway up to the door. Since our front door isn't the only way to access the house, we weren't required to follow the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) which would have required this thing to stretch well over 120' in order to rise the 12' to the front door. After reading the IRC, otherwise known as the International Residential Code, he found out this ramp would still need to be 80' in length with 3 four-foot landings required to accomodate the 12 per cent slope. Well, first of all, that would mean this walkway would have to start waaay back at the cul-du-sac. And the price for this was mounting. Greg figured in the neighborhood of $5,000. So, "conventional" stairs it will be. But we are allowing for an extra-wide staircase that comes into the house from the garage and puts you up at the kitchen area toward the back of the house. That way we can leave room for one of those stair-type elevators that hug the banister. Hopefully, we'll never need such a device, but then again there may be friends or family that require it. So it's something we can add on after we move in.


Greg's practically obsessing on how to shave as much money off the budget as possible. Many times a homeowner who wants to cut costs will get a bid from a trade and then ask if they can work side-by-side thinking this will save money. But if you've already got a bid price, that gets you nowhere. So Greg is investigating the possibility of paying a trade their hourly rate and then work alongside. He's also looking into having a trade come in for a day on a consulting basis so the expert can handhold for a little while until Greg gets the hang of it.

This past Wednesday there were big happenings here in Sequim. Under much protest and editorials in local periodicals, we now have a brand new Home Depot. But from the looks of the parking lot, the majority of people are mighty glad to have it, and it's come just in the nick of time to save Greg and I not only mucho bucks but mucho time from commuting to the nearest one in Silverdale, an hour away from . And we took advantage of the sales big time. Just for this new store, they had a special of 10% off your first purchase up to $2,000 if you opened an instant credit card account. So there's $200 right there. And, in a flyer in the paper, they had a 25% off sale on specific lighting fixtures. We went to the store opening night to pre-apply for our credit cards and then I started pouring over the lighting fixture catalogue. With me I took a list of all the rooms and all the light fixtures I needed, so that I could save some time when we came back to do the actual shopping the next day. I went on Home Depot's website when we got back and saw that the 25% off sale ended the night of the opening. I thought this couldn't possibly be right, but I kept that fact in the back of my mind...and took along the paper ad with me. I was able to pick out several fixtures, at least enough to take maximum benefit from the $200/$2,000 10% coupon. (I'm sorry to say, sorry for me that is, that this barely made a dent in the complete shopping list of chandeliers, ceiling fans, and sconces.) At any rate when I presented my order to the Special Orders desk, there was much discussion and I was told the sale had indeed ended. Well, I explained to them that the ad, which I had here in my hands, showed the sale info but showed no expiration dates. And I politely argued that this was unfair to expect that I would have purchased the items the night before (which was the last day of the sale per the website) because that was opening ceremonies night and they were only open a total of three hours. I'm happy to say, they saw the logic of my argument and I was able to save another $500, making my total savings roughly $700! And, I was able to get the same deal for another couple who would have otherwise been denied the sale price.

Once construction starts, it will be so all-consuming that we've tried and will keep trying to do as much buying ahead of time as humanly possible. The order of the day being: anything that's on sale, anything that may increase in price, or anything that may not be available we buy now. In the next few weeks we'll be renting a storage space (which by the way are very reasonable here - not like Los Angeles where the rent is like that of a small apartment!) to house the items we can't keep here at the rental house. Or, if it's valuable and/or easily carried off, we'll take items from the rental house that aren't and put them in the storage space.

Through one of our new friends, we were turned on to a guy who has a plasma cutter for metal. This machine has a laser that can trace any design, no matter how delicate, and cut it out precisely. So our knowledge of Photoshop is enabling us to custom design the massive decorative straps that will go across our front door. This picture shows a
garage door that's similar to the design we have in mind, both for the door itself and the straps. These straps would cost about $100 each for a standard design in rather thin metal. Ours will allow us to have thicker straps that are more suited to the massive door. As I mentioned before, steel prices are going up up up and this gave us a chance to prebuy the steel and take advantage of present prices. We'll probably keep a "natural" banged up look for the metal but it will still have to be sealed to prevent rust. So we checked in with the local powder coater. They can bake on a permanent finish to metal in a variety of colors and textures.

We made it to the fireplace showroom and picked out two stunning fireplaces. They've come a long long way with "fake" logs. Now, they have glowing embers at the bottom of the pile. Unless you give it a very close look, you'd probably think it was the real deal. Plus, these are "zero clearance" meaning the system doesn't require a chimney (another money saving aspect) and no soot backwashes into the room. The soot happens mostly because "real" fireplaces are incorrectly built and situated in the structure of the house. Plus we won't have to be running outside in the cold and/or rain and/or snow to get firewood. One thing we were worried about was the scale of the fireplace in the livingroom. Heat n'Glo is the brand we went with and they have a large fireplace with a 50" opening. This will work just great. The other fireplace is for our bedroom. Although we looked at a typical "bedroom" type fireplace, we ended up going with one that would normally go into a livingroom, but since our rooms are larger and ceilings higher, the one we went with works better I think. We also decided not to purchase the screen/door to the larger fireplace because we think we can design one we'll like better for less money with either wrought iron components or maybe the plasma cutter. As it is, these fireplaces will cost in the neighborhood of $7,000. I'm starting to hear "Cabaret" in my head! Oh, there goes Joel Grey singing "Money, money, money, money." And so it begins....

Greg leaves in early March, just before we break ground, to go to L.A. and Oregon on a buying trip. And now that new trailer will come in handy. Anything he can pick up in California we can save on shipping. And anything purchased in Oregon comes without sales tax. So, in our myriad of conversations about this project, we keep adding to the list of "things to get". One of the items on the list are the components for the radiant heating system.

Remember the movie, The Graduate, and that famous line, "I have just one word for you....plastics!" Well, just change that to "Google". I cannot stress enough what a tool this is. The world and all it's knowledge, and everything in it, is literally at your fingertips. You can get schematics for devices, reviews of products, search for items to purchase. It has and is proving more and more invaluable to our project. And it's proved very fruitful for the radiant heating project. Greg was able to find and buy that "bible" for the installation, and of course he's used the web to research the pros and cons of heating in the Pacific Northwest and, hence, our decision to go with radiant.

There are several projects we're working on that we want to custom design, including the baluster and railing for the double-helix staircase, the livingroom beams, the livingroom fireplace screen, and the glass in the kitchen cabinet doors. Ahhh, I love the word custom! Without Greg, of course, none of that would be possible. It's his ingenuity and skill that make my crazy ideas possible. We're still working on the design for the beams in the livingroom, that fireplace screen, an idea for the kitchen cabinet doors (which started out with stained glass, then went to a photographic kind of x-ray material which would be less expensive than stained glass and lighter too boot). And now, I'm considering using multi-colored rope lighting which would be very inexpensive...we'll see what application ends up working. With the budget in mind, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the rope lights. And we're also working on the double-helix staircase railing and balusters. This has gone through several permutations. From wood balusters, to wrought iron which were nixed because of cost and weight. Then we mulled over using sheets of metal and/or copper and coming up with a design for the plasma cutter. But the more I think of it, I should stick with KISS - keep it simple stupid! This staircase will be quite a statement in itself. Flowing and sinewy; I don't want to get the eye caught up with an intricate baluster. And we realized that this staircase doesn't have to conform to any codes because the room it goes to is under the square footage requirement for such things. So, as of now, it looks like we're back to wrought iron balusters - but spaced a foot apart. Nothing is for sure until it's installed.

Ahh, Greg just returned from town where he visited the local salvage yard that focuses on recycled building materials. He's just found a treasure trove of new Simpson solid wood doors that sell for at least $700-800 a piece; their price is under $200. So it looks like we've found a few doors we need and will save a few thousand dollars. Every penny we can save we need to pay for all the unexpected costs coming up.

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