Friday, January 29, 2010

Changes during process

We've gotten a few questions about some of the changes we made to our plans throughout the construction process. For example, we mentioned our love of slate floors but didn't use them in the house at all. We apologize if some of our older posts are inconsistent with the current reality of the house; I can see how it could be confusing! Let me try to set the record straight and explain our decisions.

Slate floors
We were initially very excited about either stone or concrete floors because we thought they would provide great thermal mass for our radiant heat system. Slate can also be sourced locally from southern Vermont. When I began calling around for prices, I found that 12x12 slate tiles were affordable. However, we really liked the modern look and feel of rectangular tiles (more like 12x18 or 12x24). Those were VERY expensive and way out of our price range. So we abandoned the idea. We also toyed with a lightweight concrete finish for the first floor but it became too complicated to pour concrete on suspended floors and bolster the subfloor with the additional structural supports required. So after a lot of thought and deliberation, we returned to wood floors. We've always loved the warmth of wood but were concerned about their durability since we co-habit with two large labs. Yet they fit our budget and we liked that we could support a local green business, Planet Hardwood, which guaranteed that the particular floors we chose had been sustainably harvested from a regional forest. So the look, price, and environmental impact were all attractive. The dogs have made their mark on them but it's nothing we can't live with. Overall, we've very happy. We should also say that we originally purchased a nice birch option (from the same mill) and then decided we liked the maple better. Planet Hardwood was wonderful about letting us change our mind!

Radiant heat system
Our original plan was to install an open-direct radiant heat system from Radiantec powered by a high-efficiency water heater rather than a boiler. This set-up seemed practical and more affordable than traditional radiant systems. I actually published a pretty snarky (dare I say cocky?!) post about how plumbers weren't aware of the benefits of such systems and how they often poo-pooed them without really understanding them. I spoke a bit too soon. The more phone calls we made, the more we realized that plumbers didn't just dislike or misunderstand such systems...they categorically refused to install them. We literally contacted every plumber suggested to us by friends and family (more than 7 in all) and NO ONE was willing to work with us. And we did not feel we had the expertise or the time to do the work ourselves. So we began to re-think our decision. Another factor was that we ended our working relationship with our building consultant, Al Rossetto, to work exclusively with Bill Litchfield. Al had been a major proponent of the open-direct system and without him in the picture, we lost some of our confidence in the approach. The plumber we liked best (Mike Lavoie) was someone who had worked with Bill extensively and we ultimately decided that it was more important to hire a plumber we trusted than to continue our advocacy of the open-direct system. Mike had installed many traditional radiant heat systems (with a high-efficiency, 98%, Well-McLain boiler) and we purchased a similar set-up. We are very happy with Mike's work and our radiant floors. We might have saved money with an open-direct system but would still have struggled to find someone willing to do the installation.

Corrugated metal ceiling
Our post about possibly lining our interior ceilings with corrugated metal garnered a lot of attention. We still like the idea a lot but when we changed house plans, we lost the large, two-story great room. It was this room (and the large expanse of drywall it would require) that worried me aesthetically and was the reason I went in search of alternative ceiling materials. But our new plans did not include soaring open space like the original plans. All of our ceilings are painted the same white as the walls and I think it lends coherence to the feel of the house. But thanks for all of your reactions and feedback to the idea! I'm still playing around with possibly using corrugated metal as wainscotting...perhaps in our entry way.

Our builder
We initially worked with a green building consultant, Al Rossetto, and acted as our own general contractors. But in the spring/summer of 2009, we made the difficult decision to cease working with Al and to hire local builder Bill Litchfield of Speciality Design to oversee the construction of our house. Bill essentially stepped into the GC role at that point, agreeing to coordinate and supervise the building process as well as to communicate with our subs. (We had interviewed and chosen all of our subs ourselves prior to that point.) It was a major decision for us but since Ryan and I were both so incredibly busy at work and could not afford the time to be on site ourselves, it made sense to hand the reins over to Bill. We should say, though, that we learned a great deal from Al and many of his ideas are reflected in our final design.

ADDED 1/31/10
Staircase design
Thanks to Bob for pointing out this big change I forgot to mention. We initially purchased a rockin' industrial-style stair design from an incredibly talented Vermont architect, Bob Swinburne. His aesthetic is so similar to ours and we loved the balance of natural wood and metal in his stairs (see here). However, when we changed house plans, we went from a straight stair to a stair with a sharp turn and a landing so the original design no longer worked. We considered asking him to design another set of stairs to match our new plans but two things held us, time. We changed plans at literally the last minute (about a month before breaking ground) and had so many other issues to attend to (new SIP layout, new window order, etc.) that the stairs sort of took a back seat. And two, we decided we needed a closed stair because we found out we were pregnant and that this house would soon be home to not only two uncoordinated labs but a little baby. So the stairs of our dreams with the open risers did not seem as practical as a traditional closed design. I still lament our decision in a way...we talk frequently about how much we love Bob's stairs and I find myself returning to pictures of them on our blog from time to time, just to dream. We might add a more industrial looking handrail to our stairs in the future and/or cover the risers with metal (like this house). We do adore our newel post, though...a gorgeous walnut piece our builder pulled from a 150+ year old farmhouse in Cambridge, Vermont. Pretty cool.

Whew. I hope that clears up some of the confusion and responds to some of your questions! Please let me know if you have any more!

And P.S. Thanks for all the great suggestions on our front door color...keep 'em coming! We're going to do some experimenting with Photoshop soon so I'll post pictures when they're ready!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our little farmhouse

A few folks have asked for more exterior photos. These aren't the greatest but they'll have to do! Please excuse the left over Hardiebacker on the porch, the garish trash cans that have yet to find a permanent home (it's hard to figure out where to put stuff like that when you don't have a garage!) and the lack of color contrast between the white house and the white snow. We are looking forward to taking some more pictures in the summer when everything is green and lovely.

We are also fiercely debating what color to paint our front door. Ryan, a graphic designer by trade, is going to Photoshop in some different options. I'm leaning towards bright yellow and Ryan is partial to red. What do you think? Or should we leave it white? (It just looks so washed out against the wintery backdrop...)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Master bedroom and bath

Here are some more interior shots! We tried to bring the same feel to our master bedroom and bath that we did to the living/dining/cooking areas...clean lines (lots o' white), rustic elements, and modern touches. Oh, and splashes of metal. We like our new bed a lot--great find on craigslist. It's a bit high so the dogs tend to put their noses on the edge and whine instead of jumping right on up like with our old bed. But I think their more limited access to our sleeping area isn't a bad thing. Also, speaking of dogs, our master is on the first floor because of them. After reading "Marley and Me," I decided I didn't want our pups to have to venture up/down the stairs to be with us. They struggle as it is just getting down to the basement in one piece. If our bedroom (where they have always slept) was two floors up, I think they'd eventually break something. They're not particularly well coordinated or constructed...labs really aren't known for their stellar joints. So a first-floor master became a must in our design scheme.

Also, I have to point out our uber nifty apple-crates-turned-bedside-stands. The same day I saw a picture of something similar on (I think that's where I saw it), I found two old boxes from a Vermont apple orchard in someone's front yard with a "free" sign attached to them. It was fate. I'm still debating whether they need something in them or if bare is best. Thoughts?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Living/dining room and kitchen

I'm going to try to document each room as it nears pictures will be coming over the next few days/weeks in chunks. Sorry for the wait. We're having the house appraised today (I'm so curious to find out the results!) so several of the rooms are clean enough to photograph :) Enjoy! And if you have any questions, please let me know!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


So as promised, here are some preliminary interior photos. We still have lots of details to work out and not all rooms are in their final state. But at least it's a start! I'll work on getting some more pictures of the rooms not included here (the kitchen, nursery, guest bedroom and bath, and basement) as well as some exterior shots.

Dining room
-Chalkboard paint on the walls (complete with Scrabble scores from a rousing New Year's eve match with Ryan's little bro)
-Antique farmhouse table and chairs from Five Corners Antiques in Essex Junction
-Light fixture from IKEA

Living room
-Plycraft lounge chair purchased on eBay and reproduction Eames molded plywood lounge chair purchased from online furniture store InMod
-MCM couch from Burlington Furniture that looks like it just walked off the set of Mad Men--love it!
-Rustic wooden trunk bought from a neighbor in Winooski for $5 last year
-Metal tins that hold our collection of Dwell magazines (purchased from Lowe's)
-Sisal rug from Home Depot
-Metal lamp from IKEA

Master bedroom (sorry picture is so dark)
-Iron bed purchased from Craigslist
-Bedside stands are old apple crates found on the side of the road with stacks of books on top
-Bedside lamps from IKEA
-Fan from Lowe's
-Dresser from Slate Barn Antiques (will get a better picture soon)

Master bathroom
-SInks from Architectural Salvage (old Middlebury College dorm sinks from the 1950s)
-Sink fixtures from Home Depot
-Medicine cabinets from Lowe's
-Sign from Homestead General in Fairhope, AL
-Black and white hex tile is American Olean purchased from Best Tile in Williston

And the reason we spend so much time outside our house...a snowy scene on our dirt road.

More pictures to come soon!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

We're in!

So yes, the rumor is true....we are moved in. Our Christmas present this year was a new house. We literally moved in Christmas eve (okay, so Ryan and his entire family moved us in--I sat in the living room shouting directions about where to place things. There are some definite bonuses to being preggo!) I feel guilty for having been here for two weeks without taking pictures and posting them but here is my litany of what I consider to be rather reasonable and understandable no particular order:

1. I'm pregnant and tend to fall asleep at random times during the day and always before 9pm in the evenings. Late evening was my blogging witching hour before the aforementioned my new need for slumber has definitely impinged upon blog time.

2. We did not have internet access at the house until yesterday. (See? That's a really good excuse.)

3. Not all aspects of the house are finished and I don't want to capture them for posterity until they are looking their best.

4. I'm pregnant.

Okay, so maybe I'm overplaying the pregnancy card a bit. But it's true. We've spent so much time getting moved in and situating things that I really haven't found the time or energy to photograph them. But some rooms are nearing completion and I promise to take pictures of them soon! A new post....with the end of the weekend. That's my goal.

What I will say now is that...we love the house, it's incredibly tight and efficient, the light bouncing off the all-white kitchen and living room in the mornings makes me smile, radiant heat is an amazingly luxurious indulgence of which I will never tire, the dogs have already destroyed our gorgeous maple floors (had to throw in a bad to balance the good), I love subway tile, a chalkboard wall is an excellent way to keep track of Scrabble scores, I have a crush on our black Paperstone countertops, the sound of our industrial ceiling fans reminds me of jet fighters taking off, having three floors is exhilarating but exhausting, and we love living in the country and talking long walks in the snowy woods.

Two other quick funny stories about the house...

Now that Ryan has his own drum studio in the basement, I've found that he cannot descend downstairs for any reason without getting distracted by the presence of his drums and playing them for anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours. Every time I consider asking him to run down there for something (e.g. to change over the laundry or track down a screwdriver), I have to factor in the possibility that the task will take all afternoon. But the sound of him playing (which is not too loud on the first floor, I must say) brings me great joy. It's always a happy time when his two great loves--his family and his drums--occupy the same space.

Lily and Gus (pups) are not allowed upstairs because a) that's where the nursery is and b) I'd like to preserve at least some of the floors in their original state. But Lily managed to evade the clever cardboard blocker I erected the other day and scamper up to the second floor. So I hoofed it up the stairs and proceeded to look for her. Now mind you, the second floor is approximately 650 square feet so the search should not have been difficult. But she was nowhere to be found. I finally noticed that the bathroom door was shut, opened it, and found her stuck in the bathtub looking very concerned. It's a deep tub and I guess she couldn't figure out how to get traction to jump out after she jumped in. I still don't know how she shut the door behind herself in the first place. Guess she wanted some privacy. Anyway, it was a very funny moment...wish I had thought to take a picture.

Speaking of pictures...some will be coming soon. Seriously!