Saturday, May 26, 2012

Indecent proposition: a paint by any other name

Indecent repose

A famous architect once posed the question "ask the brick, what does a brick want to be?" This architect was of course Woody Harrelson and the answer is that a brick wants to be a fighter pilot because being a brick is boring and fighter pilots are casual and cool and invented the windmill hi-five for beach volleyball. Obvious choice.

Being that the bricks in our wall were stuck in their fired clay form we decided to at least make them an arch.  Arches were once the preferred method of spanning brick openings but that was really only from a time before man had invented steel and the structural engineer.  Also, lots of curved things have to go under the curved openings and that gets tricky (read expensive).  Undeterred we drew up a door to fit the arch- paid the 'custom' price and fitted the semi round peg in the semi round hole.... The real challenge has come with the interior trim as I scoffed at the pre manufactured price and have been scratching my head ever since.  It's been at about 90% for about 11 months now.

We will say we are very pleased with the function and the form.

Of note is the paint we chose to use.  We went all-out on the door paint and even hired a pro painter to do the work.  A guy who goes by the name Color Alchemist.  John (the alchemist) has spent a long time in closed quarters with some pretty heavy solvents so when he recommended the intense  finish work I was a little skeptical....  Ultimately it was a two week process of prep and paint with a specialty lacquer paint that turned out with a finish like a new car.  Excellent work by a true craftsman and with luck the paint will outlast the user.

With bricks and owners satisfied we can turn our focus to exterior completion. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Champagne Problems; Building Rome in a day.

The birth of city planning?

As Bob Villa famously said "Rome wasn't built in day"... and with that I too would like to compare the self aggrandizing experience of home renovation with the planning and execution of of a city-state and cultural capital.  I always thought that phrase invited some exaggeratory comparisons but now... I'll gladlypoint out how the challenges of our lives approximate Romulus or Remus  - duh we have a dog already so this narrative writes itself.
wolf mother?
Now as Rome has always been fabled to have been built on a hill our house differs by having been built in a hole - the curiosity of the rear yard was always that it was about 3 feet higher than the first floor - you walked up to the front door and up again to the rear yard.  This combined all the function of first floor access with the light and airiness of basement living.  Always on the to-do list was the excavation of the rear yard to get it below the first floor.  Having wielded spade and pick in the past we were all too anxious to dig deep once again.... into our wallets for professional help (lol puns are critical to understanding the narrative of Rome).  So we found Jose and his crew to handle the digging and retaining of earths. 

All was looking great up to this point until the demands started coming for greater sums of the budget to be paid and claims of completeness were unverified.  And so we were forced to do what any disgruntled owner would do... and fire the help as passive aggressively as possible.

(via text message) 

A month or two of setback and a replacement mason had us back on track at about October of last year just in time for a very important event. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A lever large enough; moving the world one stove at a time.

Teddy Roosevelt once said "I could move the world if I had a big enough stick" (or something like that). During his time the world was surely a simpler place, the tuberculoses had been tamed (through fresh air), the safety bicycle was all the rage and new industrial-age conveniences were making their way to consumers via catalogue order (a catalogue was like the internet 1.0 in that you could buy household goods while still pretending not to get distracted). It is this industrial age that we have to thank for our many modern conveniences of home automation - our dish-washing machines and our pet drying cabinets etc. And so it was with the spirit of industrial age technology that we set out to find the perfect home cooking device - a gas stove.

And so... as has been our way we found a (seemingly) great deal in a (seemingly) nearby town for another leviathan kitchen appliance:
The only byline in the ad that didn't get much attention was the small print of the shipping weight - 674 lbs. Granted, not something one looks at immediately while prematurely celebrating the ebay auction... but probably something I'm keen to look for now. Anyone who has moved anything knows that it's only a matter of how many guys you can call to help out and this one, realistically was a 4 dude proposition. With two dudes on the selling end, Mason and I were off to Hamburg Pennsylvania.
It was February

After a few months of storage, i'd shaved the beard, Mase had ditched the jacket and we heaved this thing into place with the help of Steven.
All while Alli feverishly assembles temporary Ikea cabinets in the background.
the vĂ¥rde rhymes with part-ay

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Backyard unraveled; Pull this thread as I walk away

never more true

We've dabbled in a few of the cardinal sins throughout the renovation process. It can be argued that the act of renovation/ addition is a greedy self serving act, that the care and focus on the work has resulted in an unhealthy pride of place and that the whole act itself stems from an heaving lust brought on by the home design buff-books stashed throughout the house like some teenagers purloined stack of playboys (This may be why Terence Conran is know as the Bob Guccione of the interior design set)...
"at least one of us is honest about selling sex appeal"

...Now i'm proud to add gluttony to the list - for if gluttony be the sin of over-consumption then we have dined once too often at the table of demolition. Backyard circa yesterday:
This is all part of an effort to correct one of the houses quirks that has the rear yard 3' above the first floor. Here's the back of the house the day we bought it some 17 years ago. We like to imagine that during the excavation of the house the extra dirt was just piled in the back yard and graded flat.
So call it gluttony for demolition or abuse or whatever but it is an over consumption of some kind. This house, like the Weezer's sweater, will soon be naked.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back Breaking Labor of Love - the return to familiar ground

Aside from a completely failing HVAC system we consider the contracted work to be complete. While we punch out the last of the list we return to familiar ground once again by taking on the finish work in the house that, for one reason or another, we held out of the base contract. We've been burned by shitty craftsmanship in the past and while we may not be experts we have the luxury of time to get something to fit right, or at least take the time to find good solutions. We've had the benefit in our careers of seeing good craftsmen at work and we know how rare and valueable they are... one day I hope to hire one, in the mean time we make do.

The epic tile journey last month needed completion and so we set the weekend aside again to take on the project. We had originally budgeted for professional installation but he quit after leveling the floor without notice, so it was back to the shed for the old tile saw (insufficient) and then off to the hardware store to rent the right one.
I've learned in the past the benefits of a bigger hammer so i rented the biggest tile cuttingest hammer they had, pinned up the 'construction doc' and set to work.
In keeping with our long tradition of overcomplicating standard home owner choice... the tile we found is an encaustic cement tile. Our research found that encaustic tile originated in France and has fallen out of favor lately but is an old tile making method prized for its pain-in-the-ass weight and challenging installation protocol. We can't mention the grout proceedure without using the F word... or C word so it's best not to ask. These also have the benefit of looking almost exactly like ceramic tile while being twice as thick and puzzlingly more fragile.
I got a scare during the dry layout when i found one of the boxes contained two miss matched tiles... I immediately checked the rest of the patterned boxes (and foolishly only the patterned boxes) in case we didn't have enough to finish. Thankfully, this tile was the only anomaly.
note the extensive use of OSHA approved footwear throughout the project
eat your heart out Lululemon

Day 2 (Sunday) was a 6am to 6pm mad dash. once the patterned runner was down the rest of the work under the stove and cabinets could run a little faster.
This is about when disaster struck. The last box of white tiles was filled with half tiles- why this wasn't discovered sooner when we could have use half tiles to space the job out in hidden places... I'll never know. Call it murphy's law or call it dumb luck, or call it instead par for the course.. but we found ourselves exactly 1 box of tile short from completion, placing me back at the mercy or overnight shipping from upstate new york.
-at least we could put the refrigerator into its final home