OCTOBER thru NOVEMBER 2004
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2004
TA DA!!!! Finally, after months of discussions, napkin drawings, domino-effect changes, site restrictions, you name it; the preliminary floorplan for is here!!! I think I've already told you we've decided to go with the two-story design...with a twist. We don't want to be going up and down stairs on a regular basis but we also want to be as high up as possible to capture the best possible views. Hence, the two stories to get the best of both.
The first or "lower" story sits at ground level and has the two-car garage, storage/craft/studio/exercise and office space for Greg, as well as the guest room and guest bath. The configuration of this floor could possibly change depending on where the septic system will go, but this is a rather minor consideration because... the entire living area will be on the second "upper" story...and the front door will bring you directly up to the second floor. This unique idea will be a design challenge for sure. Right now the square footage hovers at around 5,000 BUT don't forget that the main living space is nearly half that. According to Greg's estimates, the addition of the lower story is, for the most part, lumber and drywall, therefore, does not equal the cost of the upper story with design features.
As you enter at the front door, straight ahead will be something of a structural work of art. Greg plans to build a complicated form of a spiral staircase which will lead to what amounts to a third story but is actually an observation turret. A typical spiral staircase is built around a central pole with a very small radius to fit into a small space. Greg will create what is called a "double helix" which has no central pole and looks rather like a ribbon that has been loosely coiled. We'll be using terrazzo for the Entry flooring, the same kind of flooring you see in front of old movie palaces or at airport terminals. It's an "old fashioned" aggregate custom-made using many types of colored stone and glass.
To the left of the Entry is the Great Room which you enter between two large columns. The focal point of this room is a massive fireplace with a raised hearth. One of the problems we're having is finding space to display our collections since we will now have so much window space, especially in this room. Both the Entry and the Great Room will have 14-16 foot ceilings and so a large fireplace will fit within the scale of the room. But such a fireplace will require a rather tall mantle. This creates a little problem that doesn't work for what we would like to display there. Being so high up, small items will not "show well". So, we designed a set of lower mantles on either side of the firebox. Above the mantle will be a large painting concealing the television. Access to the back of the television as well as the stereo system and CDs, tapes, etc. will be behind the fireplace in the hallway which leads to the Master Bedroom.
The Office is to the right of the Entry, the door to which will be at the corner so you enter at an angle. We like angles!
Many of the design ideas from Kelton will be used here again, like the mahogany office that Greg designed for me. I especially loved his idea of adding picture frames to the file cabinet drawers. to see a tour of our old homestead, including the office.
Between the Office and the Dining Room is the Powder Room.
The Dining Room entry will also be at an angle and will also make use of columns. In fact, we've already purchased those at a salvage yard from a dismantled home in Indiana. I'm also working on changing out the clear crystals from our brass chandelier to jewel toned ones. Again, thanks to Google for locating such items.
A door from the Dining Room leads into the Kitchen, described in the previous entry.
I never tired of the color palette I used before and will go with those colors here too. Other than the Entry and Great Room, all the other rooms have 10' ceilings. Standard ceilings measure 8' but after looking at other ceiling heights, the 10' option gives a great feeling of space. Hey, it's only lumber!
Of course, there will most likely be changes and concessions but this is our "wish list" at any rate.
And, finally, here's the completed topographical survey which shows the location of the house.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2004
It's been a month since the last entry and there's been lots going on.
We trekked down to Seattle to go to the Home Show. That's where you see rows and rows of booths with every type of building material and/or design element you can think of. And we came back with lots of ideas.
I found the perfect material for the bathroom counter top and tub decking....onyx. Onyx is a type of marble. This particular example has a mixture of greens and reddish browns which works perfectly with my color scheme involving copper accents. I'll also be using copper touches in the living room and so plan to use this onyx surrounding the fire place opening. In a few weeks I plan to make a trip with our installer to go to the "yard" to pick out the exact pieces of onyx - each one is unique.
We also saw some windows we like made in Germany. The workmanship is excellent and we've already run into a owner-builder in Sequim (an ex-contractor moving here from Hawaii) who's using this brand in his own home and highly recommended them. Not only are these windows extremely secure, they tilt and swivel, facilitating cleaning on the exterior side.
And, we think we've made a decision for the roofing material. Roofs are expensive, and depending on what material you use, the cost can get ridiculous. Roofing material is measured by "squares". An inexpensive roof may cost $50 or less a square. The Rolls Royce versions can go higher than $300 per square. When you figure that an "average" house requires about 50 squares...well you do the math. Our house will probably require about 60 squares. In forested areas, you'd have to be crazy to use shake for your roof. Besides being expensive, it's not such a good idea where fires are a consideration. Composition roofing is one of the more economical choices. While some manufacturers will tell you they have composition roofing that lasts up to 30 years, it ain't necessarily so. Up here in this kind of weather, you're probably talking nearer to a 15 year life expectancy. But...even in just a few years, composition will begin to look very very tired. There are other choices like slate. Slate is definitely in the Rolls Royce category, plus requires beefing up the underlying structure to support the massive weight of the slate. And then there are rubberized and metal roofing. Both have their pluses and minuses. Rubber roofing is definitely an expensive choice, and metal can run the gamut from rather inexpensive to hyperexpensive. Aesthetically, I was hoping to get a roof that had the random look of shake, but that is not possible with these materials. After going round and round, we think we've settled on a metal roof that looks like slate. Hopefully, our budget will allow for it. It's either pay me now or pay me later. You either go very inexpensive with say composition, but you'll be reroofing before you know it. Or you spend big bucks up front but never have to reroof again. We were lucky to see the slate metal roof I like already installed and it looks pretty good. Having Greg install the roof will drastically cut down on the cost.
As I've said before, people here are very helpful and every one you talk to ends up giving you valuable information. One of the high end areas in Sequim is Bell Hill. Just by driving around we've met two owner/builders in the midst of completing their homes. And both were contractors, so Greg was able to "talk shop" with them. One of the owners is the one whose house has the slate metal roof and also the German windows. The other owner happened to be using stucco on his exterior and radiant heating in his floors. Stucco is rare up here and we're trying to go more "English Tudor" with our exterior. This owner explained that local stucco companies gave him exorbitant bids and he ended up bringing his crew from California, at less than half the cost. We spoke to his worker and it looks like we may use him. We've also done some research on heating and almost everyone tells us radiant heating in the floor is the way to go, so that's the plan so far.
We're also trying to come to a decision on what type of system to use in the fireplaces. There are gas systems which are self-contained and therefore don't require a chimney through the roof (which would save money on construction) and are said to be efficient when it comes to heating; but these systems cost about $4500 or more. Or you can go with wood burning or gas logs, which are more or less for aesthetic use only. But these types of fireplaces can require a beefier substructure which adds to the cost. We're not so much concerned about heating efficiency as we think we'll be relying on the radiant floor heating. This system gives a nice overall warmth to the house. But if we go with wood burning or gas logs, that will require a true chimney whereas the self-contained version can just be vented to the outside. So at this point it's a toss up with leanings toward the wood burning types.
We've made several trips to the County Building Departments with questions about some of our design plans. Case in point, the double-helix staircase leading to the third story turret. Turns out, this should be no problem as far as the County is concerned. And, it's one of many projects we plan on completing after we move in, which takes some pressure off what's necessary for a certificate of occupancy.
In order to place the house, the septic system, and the drainage, we needed the survey. Now that Greg and I have completed that, we've made appointments with architects and engineers.
After some long discussions and muddy boots from tramping the land, we've decided to change the placement of the house to another side of the lot. And here I thought we pretty much had the final layout. Well...the best laid plans. But the reconfiguration actually improved the floorplan. Greg spent more than a full week at the computer making changes and then showed me how the new site required turning the living room in a different direction, among other things. With a floorplan, even the slightest changes sets up a domino effect. When we took the plan with us to the lot and started to see how the slope of a nearby ravine would make getting to the front door difficult, I was actually able to contribute to making the new plan work by suggesting we "flip" the plan over, allowing for a more advantageous placement of the front door and better views for the living room, dining room and kitchen.
There is no such thing as the perfect lot with the perfect view, and we've had a devil of a time coming to some compromise on these issues. You want the house here, but it doesn't fit, you want it there and some of your favorite trees will be history. And, too, you never know where you're neighbor will build their home and what it will look like - such is the gamble when you buy into a new development. So I try and reassure myself that once we were inside, we're in our own little world (I mean, you don't spend all your time looking out windows! Even though we're hoping to have some magnificent vistas to look at.)
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2004
Armed with new calculations, we spent today plotting out the exact footprint of the house with the help of the survey transit and plenty of wooden stakes and fluorescent tape. By late afternoon, we were able to stand in each room and get a feel for the size and layout. Once we stood "inside", the house didn't seem as monstrously huge as it does on paper...at least to me. Greg on the other hand is ruminating on whether or not we're building too big a house. But then we go over the reasons for our decisions and come back again and again to the same floorplan. Doing this stake out also gave us a chance to figure out some other details including where we'd like to "hide" the propane tank, what adjustments are needed on room size, and what selective pruning we need to do to improve views. But this is all still in the fuzzy stage...the site is a mass of weeds, clumped mud and felled trees making it near impossible to really "see" what we've done. So now we're making plans to have the footprint area graded out. Once that's done, we'll take more pictures.
In the meantime, with the help of a tall pole and the digital camera, we were able to get a glimpse of the mountain views on the southern exposure.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2004
Since our last entry we've been busy. And today marks six months since we began living here on the Peninsula.
We made a trip into Seattle last Friday to purchase materials with the craftsman who will install our bathroom countertops. I've had my heart set on onyx ever since I fell in love with it at the Seattle Home Show. Seattle has an area of town devoted to interior design, much like the Pacific Design Center in L.A. The stoneworks showrooms there are filled with hundreds of choices from granite to marble to onyx. This particular onyx has a very interesting coloration that not only suggests copper but also has shades of green that will work with the copper accents and green palette I'll be working with in the bathroom and living room. We decided to go ahead and buy now because it is quarried (probably from Pakistan) and who knows if there will be a supply problem next year. We bought two slabs to be stored until probably late next summer.
Last Wednesday we did a preliminary excavation of the lot to get a better idea of the space for the house. So down came all the stakes we put in before and Les, the young man with the excavator, went to work. I followed Les around like a puppy, wincing at every tree his excavator grazed and pointing out hidden logs to remove. After two days, we were left with a big pile of logs. Because dumping charges can be very expensive, woodpile burning is a common practice. Although we had material that went to the dump yard, there were enough large logs to build a huge bonfire and Greg and I stayed there stoking the fire and waiting until it died down until 8 p.m. that night.
Les is proving to be a great find. Since he works for the company that sold us our lot, he's in the area clearing out other properties for sale and has turned us on to possible natural building materials. Thinking ahead, we're on the lookout for large boulders and tree stumps to use in the landscaping and logs which may be used in the exterior construction of the house as nonstrctural "plantons" for an English Tudor look. We're getting quite a deal on these items. Tree stumps like this one could easily fetch hundreds of dollars; likewise boulders.
While Les worked, I supervised. All the while watching the pad of the house appear as the debris was cleared. Meanwhile, Greg gathered large rocks which were uncovered as Les worked, for future use. Although you can't tell from this picture, there are rocks of granite as well as a turquoise-colored quartz.
Yesterday our landscaper, Jeff, brought in his smaller excavator. We discussed plans for water features and trails. I'm expecting the worst when it comes to a final tally of the budget and so, while we want to plan ahead for these features, they may have to be altered or eliminated but definitely won't be worked on until after move in. We also made some decisions about taking out some trees. As much as I wanted to avoid that, I ended up losing a large Douglas Fir which would have been smack dab in the middle of our breakfast nook. I actually started to cry when it came down. But Jeff reminds me that you don't want trees too close to the house because winds topple trees all the time and they can do some expensive damage to buildings! And, too, we have hundreds of trees and we need to open things up for the view of the Olympics.
We also have to keep in mind that we'll be up on the second floor looking out at our views, so standing on the ground looking around is deceiving. I don't think we'll have a clear idea on how this affects the landscaping until the house is framed and we can get up to the second floor height. But I'm thinking your line of sight will be some distance out from the walls of the building. Once we can take a look from that vantage point, we can make better decisions about trees and views. And if any larger trees impede a view, my first choice would be to use a pruning technique called "windowing" which opens up your line of sight by removing sections of branches but keeps the tree and doesn't destroy its beauty.
There's always something that throws you for a loop no matter how well you think you've thought your ideas through. As we all tramped around in the mud we realized the garages were on the view side, and we would rather not be looking over a driveway to the view. Although having said that, and keeping in mind that we'll be up on the second floor, who knows exactly how much this will come into play. At any rate, that realization sent us back to the drawing boards. Remember my comment about dominoes? One change and the whole plan is in danger. So, we found a way to put the garages on the bedroom side and still have a turnaround area for the cars. This change will mean we'll have a little walk to the dumb waiter when we bring in groceries, but that's a small concession in my book.
Everything takes longer than you think. I thought we'd have the house "restaked" yesterday including tying off the rooms but by the end of the day we had barely begun the task, so we'll go back today to finish that up (hopefully) and then get the engineer started. He has to tell us if the ravine will affect where we've positioned the house, what we have to do to allow for drainage (possibly requiring small ponds), and also help design the trestle that will lead to the front door.
We're keeping our fingers crossed that we can get our plans to the architect/designer right after Thanksgiving.
We've also had the septic system designers finalize the location of the septic field. This requires a large area, approximately 30 ft by 90 ft. We've had to go with a mound system because the soil here does't "percolate" well. It's not a problem, but it's a good thing our lot is over two acres. We'll be putting the field on the north side (actually the side of the lot where we were originally locating the house). Between Greg and the designer, only some small trees will have to be relocated. Septic systems don't allow for any landscaping on top of the mound other than small plants, groundcover, or flowers.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2004
We decided to stay home this morning, fine tune some things on the computer, and then go to the lot to finish up staking out the footprint. We were able to set up an appointment with the engineer to meet at the property this afternoon.
By the time we get to our property it's begun to mist but I'm adamant about finishing this stake out. This process requires using the survey equipment which allows for exact placement of the floorplan. Now that the land has been cleared, we were able to inch the house a little this way and a little that way. But who knows what changes will ultimately have to be made once the architect gets involved. You might wonder that with all the work we've done on the design, why would we need to hire an architect. First, we're not using an architect per se, but a "building designer". It's one way of keeping costs down and should work well for us since Greg is so knowledgeable. But as knowledgeable as Greg is, he doesn't know everything, including local building codes. And it wouldn't hurt to have another professional's perspective on our ideas. Designers charge about $1 per square foot of living space for their work. As a comparison, in Los Angeles an architect (which is a requirement) would charge about 15% of the total construction costs.
Shortly after we arrived the engineer showed up. His fee should be around $1000 and he'll determine how best to deal with rain run off, something we're required to do. He said the fact that we're not clear cutting the land (removing most of the trees) will make this phase easier.
It took a while to complete the survey stake out but when we were done we were able to make some decisions about window placement in preparation for our meeting with the designer. We'll be seeing her late next week. We were going to come back tomorrow to stake out the individual rooms but since all of that will just have to be removed again when we do some final clean up in the next couple of weeks, we decided to use the "virtual reality" of the computer to go room by room working out kinks.
Greg has been using a sophisticated film animation program to design the house. While there are programs made specifically for architectural design, Greg is more fluent in this program, Soft Image, and it's allowed us to put furniture in the rooms, to scale, in order to fine tune architectural elements such as the fireplace and interior design ideas including artwork display.
We have a lot to do between now and when we meet with the designer, and Greg is worried we won't have time to do it all. If we are to keep to our schedule, we must get the designer going on these plans so that she can finish by the end of the year and get them to the city for approval.
We're also about to make an appointment with the president of the development company to get his approval on our plans. Since so few people have begun to build here, he's the majority of the homeowner's association. Not only we will be building one of the few, if not the only, two-story houses, our "third story" turret is planned at 45 ft in height and that requires special approval.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2004
No matter what I write here about plans for this house, it is all subject to change until the finished product.
Today is a momentous day...we are working on the budget. And a budget is the most changeable of all. We can make educated guesses as to cost but the answer is in the final bill. Generally, you can figure your budget will be 30% more than estimated (10 to 20% if you're very very lucky). I'm hoping we're lucky.
Not only will budget precipitate change, so will logistics. Case in point: the cobalt blue glass backsplash I have or should I say had planned for the kitchen.
Greg and I go for long walks in the forest almost daily and that gives us a good hour or two to discuss the house. Yesterday we took an imaginary walk through the house with the goal of finding places for all our display items such as figurines, collections, and wall art. The room with the most items for display is the kitchen. At the Kelton residence, most of the figurines were on the countertop pushed back to the backsplash. In Los Angeles, restaurant meals were the norm and I was usually so busy I had no time to think of meal planning. But here, the opposite is true. And I've designed the kitchen to be much more user friendly as a result. That means the counter space needs to be reserved as a working space. So where to put these figurines?
Now you might say why make such a big deal out of finding places for unnecessary items. And that brings me to a philosophy on "what is a home". Greg and I have been collecting since we've been together. Each item has a story behind it, whether it's a trip we've taken, a day at a flea market, or a genre or artist we enjoy. What enjoyment can we derive from all these things if they end up in boxes? So display is important to us.
So, back to finding places for the kitchen figurines. At Kelton we made use of niches recessed into the walls for display. This not only made a special statement about the particular item, but also made the display unique and out of the way...safe from bumps and earthquakes (and yes, Washington has earthquakes too although not as severe perhaps as California). We liked the idea of displaying the figurines in niches recessed into the backsplash. Not only would the labor involved in creating openings in the glass be expensive and difficult, by the time all the niches were built in, there isn't much uninterrupted backsplash overall. So we have now changed from glass to plexiglass. Having made that decision, the niches can be fabricated by a good plexiglass company and built into the total backsplash as a complete unit. Also, it helped us figure out how best to backlight and rope lighting seems like a good way to go. The plexi gives us the opportunity to create channels for the rope lights. It will also allow us to make the backsplash removable for maintenance.
When we were done with our imaginary walk through, we felt we had found places for the majority of our collectibles.
I've also spoken with a very dear friend from Los Angeles who has been an interior designer for thirty years. I ran by her several of my "out there" design ideas and she was kind enough to give me the benefit of her professional advice. What follows is the reasoning for my choices based upon her professional knowledge.
Regarding my choice in bathtub: I've chosen a fiberglass tub without jets. I was looking for a relatively small tub but one that would accommodate two people comfortably. It was also important to have arm rests on either side for both people as well as some lower back support. I spent hours googling to find a tub that fit those specs and Jacuzzi was the only one I could find. Another consideration from Greg is the weight of the tub. Fiberglass is relatively light but porcelain tubs are very heavy and properly done should include beefing up the supporting structures. And, too, we're on the second floor of our house. So Greg is adamant to stay with fiberglass. According to my friend, the industry is moving away from fiberglass. It is easily scratched and the general feeling is that it does not reflect the "high end" look as does porcelain, and does not maintain temperatures as well. However, after reviewing choices, I'm going to stick with the fiberglass. I had it before at Kelton and since we're very good housekeepers and don't have children, the scratching isn't a major consideration. As for the "look" of porcelain, while my friend is absolutely correct, I'm going to stick with the original choice if for no other reason than it has the design elements I want for comfort. Everything is a compromise.
Regarding my choice of general floor covering: I like carpet. I guess you tend to go with what you've had in the past or your comfort zone and maybe the type of flooring you had as a child weighs in there too. I know the world loves hardwood and tile, and it is indeed beautiful plus has many other aesthetic and practical attributes, but still I like carpet. So sue me! And I do like the softness of a "plush" surface as compared to a looped tight weave. I also like nylon. But I learned a big lesson last time we carpeted at Kelton. I thought I was given the same type of carpeting I was replacing but ended up with something that pilled profusely and put so much dust in the air my housekeeper was threatening to quit. Turns out it was cut pile. I'll never make that mistake again, from now on it's continuous filament nylon for me. My friend informed me that there are many beautiful, soft looped type carpets available now more in line with current design aesthetics, especially wool; not only for the quality but for cleanability. I've given this some hard thought and looked at the carpeting she's recommended, but again I will stay with my original choice: a "frieze" which is like a plush but the ends are "frizzy". It gives a nice texture but also doesn't show footprints like plush. As for cleaning, all these manmade fibers have Stainmaster or something like it and if I do say so myself, I am a champ at spot removal. After ten years my light grey carpets looked new except for traffic wear. Carpet cleaning advice: if you ever clean up a spill or try to remove spots on carpeting, NEVER rub, only blot.
Regarding my choice of kitchen flooring: going against everyone else in the world, I like a carpeted kitchen. And not only carpeted, but none of that "outdoor" "kitchen" type of carpeting, but full-on household carpeting. I know, I know, but just as with my other carpeting, my (dark blue) kitchen carpet always looked great. And, it was soft on my bare feet when I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water. As for cost: at 200 sq feet (or 22 square yards) of floor space, the cost of carpet should cost out at approximately $800. The kitchen counters are terrazzo; if I were to continue with that material for kitchen flooring, the cost would jump to $15,000. And tile or vinyl or linoleum (the old fashioned type is making a comeback) are pricey too - although no where near the likes of terrazzo. To each his own.
Regarding our choice for heating: this is a big subject and one that we have spent hours and hours researching. Household heating is an important item here in the colder temperatures of the Pacific Northwest. We narrowed our choices down to two: forced air or radiant heating which involves piping or tubing under the floors flushed with hot water. Forced air uses electricity and is what we had in California. It's very expensive to run and gives "hot spots" near the ducting, but would be the least expensive to install. People here swear by radiant heat. Although it doesn't have the immediacy of forced air (radiant heat takes 2-4 hours to make a noticeable difference), it is noiseless, clean (no dust particles from blowing air), and gives an overall toasty feel that you can maintain at a lower temperature. It runs on gas (propane here) and is more economical to run by far. We visited friends who keep theirs at 62 and I and their guests found it very comfy. Of course there is the possibility that a pipe or tube could leak and then you have any number of repair problems. But with proper installation, this is rare...and that's what insurance is for. However, my friend informs me the industry is now going with low-voltage electric pad heating that gives similar effects of radiant heat. She swears by it and has used it in kitchens and bathrooms and her clients sing her praises. We googled this choice and the literature explains this type is best suited for hard floors; the company even recommends using radiant heat with carpet. We're ballparking the cost of radiant heat at $20,000, forced air would be about than half that figure, but the low-voltage pad would be in the neighborhood of $35,000. As I've said before, compromise is the name of the game when you're building a house, and we're going to go with what is tried and true here and use the radiant heat, provided the bids come in as expected. However, using floor-type heating under carpet requires top of the line carpet pad.
One of my goals with this house is to try to keep housekeeping duties as uncomplicated as possible; our love of "dust catching" collectibles aside.
Greg is a cabinetmaker and stairmaker by trade and so he'll be building the bathroom vanity. As I've said, I'm using copper accents in our home. The two main applications of this will be the living room and bathroom. Since the countertop in the bathroom is the green and "copper" onyx, I've decided to use "copper" for the vanity. One way I could get the look of copper without the upkeep is the use of metal laminates (like Formica). My research lead me to a company that specializes in this type of laminate and I found some faux copper ones that were very promising. My friend suggested in keeping with the the luxury of the onyx that we consider the real thing and that's just what we're going to do. But I want to find a sealer for the copper so I don't have to worry about things like oil from fingerprints. I could go with a verdegris patina but I'd rather have the aged look of plain copper. But that will be a work in progress and something I won't have to make a final decision about for many many months.
Now proceed to the December 2004 thru January 2005 Entries
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