Thursday, December 10, 2009

Down South

I promise more interior shots of the house are coming soon. Until then, I thought these photos of our Thanksgiving trip to Alabama would tide everyone over. It's funny how different southern architecture is from what you see up here in Vermont. Yet as we drove around my hometown of Fairhope, Alabama, I realized I actually drew from some of the houses I saw every day as a kid in designing our own...particularly the scale. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for small, cozy cottages and now, looking across all these photos of homes in Fairhope, I think I know why! I also feel like the wraparound front porch on our new house channels a southern aesthetic. (Granted we'll be drinking hot chocolate on ours rather than sweet tea most of the year but still.)

So which one of these cuties is your favorite?

Now if only the shores of Lake Champlain looked like this...

Monday, November 23, 2009

More progress pics!

Little details are coming together. Here is our lovely porch light from Conant Metal and Light in Burlington. It's a great shop that carries a fantastic line of lights and interior details including some really dynamite original pieces. Thanks to a generous gift certificate for Christmas last year from Ryan's parents, we were able to purchase two of these beauties--one for each porch entrance.

Since we're showing off porch details, I'll point out one of my favorite...the basket weave of our ceiling, which you can somewhat see in the picture above. It's more visible in this second shot, looking north (and you can see the other porch light!) The neat thing is that the design of the ceiling matches the interlocking pattern of the floor boards, as well. Bill and his crew are truly masters when it comes to touches like this. I'm proud to say that my dad helped out with this little project, too.

Now for some fun interior shots. Ryan did a wonderful job painting our entire dining room wall with chalkboard paint. We also hung the barn-inspired light fixture above what will be our dining room table (currently a stack of hardwood flooring and a random assortment of tools).

And speaking of floors, Bill laid them like a mad man last weekend finishing the nursery and starting on the guest bedroom. I think the lightness of the maple will help these small rooms feel more spacious. In addition to looking nice, we're happy with our flooring because it was milled from a sustainably harvested forest just over the border in Canada so it didn't have to travel far. Planet Hardwood in St. George is the place to go if you're looking for locally, sustainably harvested floor products.

Finally, progress on the bathrooms. Tony has done a tremendous job laying tile and we're really excited with the way the flooring and the subway tile around the tubs turned out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Army chic

Sorry for the lack of posts. Now that we're actually doing a lot of work on the house I find that I'm doing less writing about it. Most of the work at this point is of the grunt-variety...lots of painting and staining. I've had white streaks in my hair (from the paint, not stress...although maybe there is a mixture of both at this point) for the past four weeks. It's sort of becoming my new look, I guess. But we're making progress. Accomplishments of this past week include: finishing priming the basement including the drum studio, the largest room in the house (go figure), transforming one wall of our dining room into a large chalkboard with chalkboard paint (love it!), painting almost all of our interior doors, and putting a final coat of stain on the stair treads. Our builders are hard at work laying down the maple floors, installing the kitchen cabinets, and tiling the bathrooms. Our electrician also began putting in fixtures. I will take pictures soon.

Another small triumph of the week was my discovery of our local Army/Navy surplus store in Barre, Vermont. I have been coveting a nice wool army blanket for our new bed for months now. Army chic is definitely on the rise. (Photo credits, in order of apperance: Ace Hotel, House Beautiful, Plastolux, and Apartment Therapy).

I particularly liked the reproduction Swiss army blanket with the red stripe and little white cross. Turns out you can buy one from the dreamy Sundance Catalog...if you want to part with $300. Yes, $300 for a wool blanket.

Lucky for me that the Barre Army/Navy Store sells them for the slightly less shocking price of $19.95. The folks at the store looked at me like I was crazy when I told them how much people were willing to spend for this item. I actually don't think they believed me. But you might want to put your order in for one now as they could raise their prices soon! As of yesterday afternoon, I am a proud owner of one of these beauties. I think it will look stunning on our new iron bed with all white sheets and pillows.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


We debated this question for months. Efficiency Vermont advised us to go with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator) but many homes in this region use an HRV (heat recovery ventilator). We did a lot of reading to make up our mind and spoke with a variety of folks including our electrician, Larry Wyckoff, who installed the system for us. Eventually we, in consultation with Larry, decided to go with an HRV.

What is an HRV? A heat recovery ventilator (or any sort of air exchanger) is critical for a house like ours that is super insulated. Because of the tightness of our walls, windows, and doors, our house will not "breathe" on its own. An HRV provides mechanical lungs for the house by constantly exchanging indoor air with air from outside. This helps maintain a high quality indoor air environment. A "heat" recovery ventilator also ensures that the fresh air coming in from outside is warmed up before entry. Here is a summary of how an HRV works from Popular Mechanics:

A heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) is similar to a balanced ventilation system, except it uses the heat in the outgoing stale air to warm up the fresh air. A typical unit features two fans-one to take out household air and the other to bring in fresh air. What makes an HRV unique is the heat-exchange core. The core transfers heat from the outgoing stream to the incoming stream in the same way that the radiator in your car transfers heat from the engine's coolant to the outside air. It's composed of a series of narrow alternating passages through which incoming and outgoing airstreams flow. As the streams move through, heat is transferred from the warm side of each passage to the cold, while the airstreams never mix.

What is the difference between an HRV and an ERV? According to the experts, HRVs make sense in climates that do more heating than cooling (e.g. northern Vermont). Again, Popular Mechanics:

Although an HRV can be effective in the summer months, when it will take heat from incoming fresh air and transfer it to stale air-conditioned exhaust air, it's most popular in colder climates during the winter. HRVs are ideal for tight, moisture-prone homes because they replace the humid air with dry, fresh air. In climates with excessive outdoor humidity, an energy-recovery ventilator is more suitable. This device is similar to an HRV, but dehumidifies the incoming fresh airstream.

You can read the article from Popular Mechanics here. Another good resource is this article from Eco Home Magazine.

For those of you building super-insulated homes, are you going with an ERV or HRV?

Show me the money!


The bill passed! Woohoo! The deadline for the first-time home buyer tax credit has been extended to April 30th, 2010 and eligibility has been expanded (both in terms of income limits and to non-first-time home buyers). We are *so* thrilled. And congratulations to all of you out there trying to finish up your houses. We can breathe a little easier now!

A colleague told me yesterday that it looks promising that the $8000 federal new home buyer tax credit will be extended until April 30th. Read the story here. That would be a *dream come true* for us. If it is not extended, we'll need to move in by Nov. 30th to qualify. If the credit is extended, however, we pick up a few extra weeks in December since we don't need to move out of our apartment until the end of the month. Here's hoping...

More siding progress

The guys have been working like crazy to get the siding finished and it's looking great. Ryan and I are spending our weekends at the house painting walls and staining the tongue and groove porch ceiling (pictures to follow in a later post) and the stair treads. We are running very low on money even though we promised ourselves we wouldn't be like every other construction project we've heard of and go over budget. I don't know how it always happens but we are one of the sad statistics. To help cut costs, we're trying to pick up as much work ourselves as possible and our personal hero, my dad, drove all the way up from Alabama to help the guys finish the siding. Amazing. I think, as someone who has always loved working with wood, he is enjoying himself although the cold is a bit much for a southerner. Every time I talk to him during the day, his teeth are chattering. I don't have the heart to tell him that it's only going to get worse...much worse.

So here are some progress pics. Enjoy!

Some close-ups of the brackets.

Here is the product of Ryan's hard work...our newly stained maple stair treads. The wood leaning up against the stack of stair treads is a piece of our maple floor. I think they match pretty well!

And here's my dad!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Steve's apple orchard!

So another big accomplishment to note was the planting of our very own apple orchard! Ryan has always had a thing for apple trees and we love the idea of edible landscaping. We got a great deal on three different varieties of apple trees, Macintosh, Liberty, and Sweet Sixteen, from Gardeners' Supply in Burlington (a fantastic gardening supply store, by the way) and put them in the ground last weekend. The feat would not have been possible without the help of my sister, Sara, and father-in-law, Steve. He is a gardener extraordinaire and in honor of the hard work he put into the project, we have officially dubbed it Steve's Apple Orchard. The folks at Gardeners' said to expect fruit in about three years. I love thinking about picking apples from our own backyard and making lots of apple pies in our new kitchen...with our little guy :)

Metal roof, siding, and drywall

There has been a lot of work done on the house since I last posted--very exciting! The silver standing seam metal roof is now on and Scott, Tony, and Nick are beginning to install the Hardiplank siding.

Check out the lap siding. I think it achieves the old school farmhouse feel we were shooting for. Our fabulous builder, Bill, also crafted those great brackets (visible in the third picture) for us. They give the roof line such an authentic look. I'll get more pictures of them once the back wall siding is done. Scott is the master of the scaffolding (although it's a little freaky to see him three stories up...)

In other news, the radiant heat system is totally done and the house is a toasty 67 degrees. Good thing, too, because it was spitting snow yesterday. Who knew that it would get this cold this quickly? Ike (pictured below) from Howard Irish Drywall in St. Albans is doing a masterful job. The walls are so incredibly smooth. After they've sanded them down, we'll be ready for paint!

A couple of interior shots. In order of appearance...the dining room/kitchen area, master bedroom, master bedroom closets, nursery, home office, upstairs guest room, den/tv area in basement, drum studio.