Painting

We chose to hire painters to spray the trim, ceilings, and prime the walls.  We saved about $2,500 by painting the walls ourselves.  This is an easy thing for homeowners to DIY if they really need to save some money.  The only issue with DIY in a large project that involves a contractor is keeping up with the timeline/schedule and taking some control out of the contractor’s hands.  It’s trickier to coordinate and can upset people, but we pulled it off.  Every weekend I had free time I went and painted.  I had paint parties with friends to help me, and Matt & I would take turns when watching the kids.  Our focus was to first paint the walls that were over hardwoods since the hardwoods were going to be sanded and finished soon.  The next focus was on the bedrooms before carpet was  installed, and bathrooms after the tile was finished.

 

You’ll notice that everything is white…  that’s on purpose.  I wanted the house to feel light, bright, and full of sunshine, BUT warm.  We painted the trim Sherwin Williams Alabaster (a bit creamy) rather than a pure/cooler white.  The walls are the same color in satin sheen, and the ceilings are Alabaster as well in flat.  Flat helps hide imperfections, bumps, scrapes, humps in the drywall, etc. because the light doesn’t bounce off of it much.  Satin is easier to wipe/clean if you smudge it than flat.  Touch-up paint is easier on flat than satin because the light can potentially show where the touch-up starts and stops.  Usually a painter will re-paint an entire wall where a touch up is needed the higher the sheen is.  The white walls are a good base for lots of colorful artwork that will hang, and they carry out the common mid-century style of white  found in Palm Springs architecture as well as Scandinavian.

My daughter wanted a rainbow in her room so I had to make that happen quickly over her spring break. I brought her on a weekday right before carpet went in the next day!  She loved being a part of it even though her help only lasted about an hour before I had to finish it myself.  The rainbow took 3 coats of each color.  Green Frog tape is the key for things like this because it makes a cleaner line than blue tape.  We used small rollers in separate trays for each color.  She has decided to finish the top with a puffy cloud we are making out of white foamcore and sticking up with 3M sticky tape.

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Start of the Finish-Phase

Once insulation and drywall are in, the finish-phase can begin!  This is my favorite part because it’s when all of the things I’ve picked out, designed, specified, and envisioned start to show up in the space.  This includes trim style, cabinetry, lighting, plumbing, tile, countertops, carpet, hardwood flooring, and paint.  I enjoy the framing stage because it’s vital for the pieces that come during this last phase (such as: shampoo niches, incorporated shelving spaces, etc..) but, it’s less obvious to the homeowner and not as exciting.

 

Matt and I installed some of the trim-work ourselves to cut back on the timeline and work load for our contractor.  When you have the right tools, it’s a piece of cake.  Hints the handy dandy nail gun.  Luckily, we did not have any crown molding or intricate trim designs installed in this project.  Crown molding is not for the simple DIY-er or mathematically…we learned the hard way on our old home.  We used all flat 1×4″ for our door/window casings and baseboard.

Up next, painting!

Insulation & Drywall

The latest video showing the spray foam insulation process and drywall phase.  Because our ceiling rafters are 2×6″ (house was built in the 50’s) we had to use spray foam insulation in order to get the updated code R-value in that small of a cavity.  The walls could be batt insulation (cheaper), but there wasn’t much of a savings since most of our insulating was in the ceiling.  It was also faster to have the spray foam guys just spray it all at one time in one day.  Matt (my husband) and our contractor Bruce helped to shave off some of the excess so the drywall would attach to the studs smoothly.  We hired out the drywall (the mudding/sanding is such a mess – who wants to do that themselves for such a large project?)!  It always makes a huge difference to have drywall up.  That’s the turn in my mind from the rough-in phase to the finish-phase.

 

Framing the Addition

 

We went on vacation for a week and a half while the framing was going on at our house.  It’s instant gratification to be gone for so long and come back to a huge difference.  Framing happens faster than other pieces of the process anyway, so that part always feels good to see the walls of your spaces come together so quickly.  It helps for those who don’t visualize space as well to be able to feel the scale and walk through the pathways at that point.  Take a look at this short video of our framing and you’ll notice two things: 1 – That construction is messy (note the piles of scraps and trash), and 2 – apparently I always need a Starbucks drink in my hand when visiting the job site!

Part of the plan was to open up into the garage for a small mudroom.  The electric meter happened to be right in front of that area and it took KCPL 3-4 weeks to finally get over there and re-locate it.  The biggest headache with the framing was that piece since it made the framers get to a stopping point where they couldn’t finish until that was done.  In the meantime, they end up going to other jobs and getting on a multi-million dollar project that they couldn’t leave when we were finally ready for them to come back.  Ugghhh.  So we were set back a bit more having to find another framing crew to finish a project with only a little bit left.  It all worked out in the end.  Just the usual frustrations of a remodeling project.

A (kind of) Concrete Plan… and practicing patience.

As Christmas was approaching, I got to thinking about the practice of patience, the the feeling of anticipation, waiting, and hope.  The season of Advent is all about these things; the anticipation of the birth of Jesus, and the waiting with hope of his second coming.  Children practice patience as they count down the days for Christmas for Santa to come and bring them gifts.  As the days get closer, the anticipation and excitement grows with hope for what’s to come.  We can all relate to how much sweeter it is to experience something good when it required a period of waiting and a bit of heartache to get there.

“Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.  Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting – that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.  Those who do not know how it feels to anxiously struggle with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them… For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait.”   – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Now, while a house project is not an example of life’s deepest questions, it does make me reflect, and has caused me to practice being patient.  I can only dream of how much sweeter this journey and home must taste when we finally get to live in it after a year of anticipation and excitement that has been a struggle (at times) along the way.

Below is our video of the concrete process.  This was back in spring, mind you, when the grass was green and the rain never stopped.  Kansas City had two huge storms with major downpours, flooding, and high-winds while we were trying to get our foundation down!

Framing Fun

Framing started the week before my family went on vacation…and it will almost be finished when we get back 2 weeks later!  This is in huge contrast to the last 2 months for us.

Framing goes up so fast – it’s super gratifying.  We loved our crew.

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This phase also helped legitimize the dimensions of spaces I designed.  When I just saw the slab I wondered if everything was too small.  I knew I was designing modestly in square footage so that the scale goes with the home and the neighborhood, but I questioned it.  Now that walls are up, I feel much better as things seem the way I envisioned.

My neighbor was awesome and sent me photos while we were gone!

The ones above are from the side of the house where the private patio will be.

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Siding started going on and windows are being installed.  Roofing will start in the next week.

The above photos are of the master bathroom skylight over the toilet, and the bedroom.  We kept the vaulted ceilings throughout the house which also required installing 2 new separate mini-split A/C & heating units on the addition that work in unison with the current furnace and A/C.  That way we don’t have exposed ductwork along the vaults inside.
(which is cool, but more of an urban loft look)

The photos above are of the mid-century credenza I bought to use for the master vanity sink, a view of the finished bedroom space, and how I envision the master bathroom…your glimpse into the future!

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The master addition is starting to look like a real, live-able home!  We continued the style of siding that was existing on the rest of the house.  Roof line overhangs and angles on the ends were matched to the original.  My hope is that you won’t be able to tell where the old ends and the new begins.

 

My Concrete-phase Hiatus

I’ve been a bit deflated and irritable during the last 2 months.  I haven’t posted anything on here for a while due to a slow-moving process during that time.  It’s funny how excited you are when the smallest thing is changed when you stop by the house on your way home from work.  Things as little as new tools delivered to the site, dirt scooped back into a hole, or a dumpster delivered make you feel like there is forward movement no matter how small.  Compared to how bummed you can be when you drive by and nothing has been touched.  You feel stagnant.

It’s not like I think the world revolves around me, or my house.  I understand many have multiple projects that overlap, and heavy rain storms played a big part in our delays.  But some professionals aren’t the best at setting up your expectations accurately through communication.  I’ve learned it is so much better to tell clients something is going to take longer than I think, or cost more with the hopes of being able to out-perform those goals.  Rather than tell them something to keep them happy at the moment such as, “I’ll be there tomorrow to work on it,” and then not show up for another 3 days.  It feels deflating in the end.  It’s almost better to hear bad news letting your head wrap around it and soak it in with time, rather than to have high hopes and expectations based on what you’re told then to have nothing fall in line with those.  It makes you feel less in control, more chaotic, and less trustworthy of others.

The footings were poured first.

The slab form-work was done and plumbing was ran to specific locations.

Re-bar was added and ready for the final pour.

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Concrete was poured into a buggy and taken around back rather than having the large truck with a hose over our house to save us some money.

The slab is poured!

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The kids loved watching the concrete pour.

It’s a weird feeling to have the hopes that the people working on your home care about it as much as you do. Because that’s not realistic.  They have their own homes, own families, own schedules, and life outside of working on your house.  But don’t we all just want people to love and care about it with the intensity and passion that we do?  That’s what makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.  We always want an advocate.  I do have an advocate in my contractor, but it’s hard balancing the extreme yearnings I have with the reality of life.

Last concrete project was the patios.  There is a small patio to the side of the house that will have a fence built for privacy.  In the back, we have two sections designed so we can plant a tree in-between for needed shade around 10-2.  We will later add a flush deck between the concrete pads like drawn below:

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I am well familiar with studying the emotional rollercoaster journey that remodeling (especially an addition) can take homeowners on.  I researched it, saw it first hand for the last 10 years, and am now experiencing it fully.  Any of the slower-moving parts of the process (or moments where bad news is delivered; usually referring to money) are typically where people feel disappointed.  When you see quick changes (such as in demolition, framing, and drywall) you feel a bigger sense of progress happening.  If anything, this experience is teaching me a deeper level of empathy for the emotions my clients go through.  I found a couple of graphics to better demonstrate what I’m talking about.  They vary a bit, but have the same general idea.

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The one below is pretty funny when you take into account the children and dog line:

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Correctly shown in the above images in absolute full bliss is the elation at the end of the project where you want to throw a party!  That spot is higher than all of the other happy points; even higher than when the project began or when you dreamt of it.  This is because you just saw and experienced a dream becoming built-reality.  Not many people get to experience this.  It is euphoric when you have a design and then see it come to life.  Any child that has seen their drawing become a mural, or a long goal of yours finally gets conquered, or the music you worked so hard to create gets played on the radio…

This is the moment it’s all worth the dirty, emotional, crazy.

This is when the open heart surgery becomes life-saving.

This is the moment that I tell clients to keep a hold of when they aren’t sure they ever want to remodel.  The end result is worth it!  Good design makes your life better.

This is why I will probably never be able to stop improving spaces; even my own.  No matter how hard the process is.  That vision I can’t help but see in a sad space, of the potential, the possible, the what could be is way too enticing to ever make me quit.  It motivates me more than most things in life.

I guess I’m right where I should be… (among the crazy)

Empty House

What does a teenager do when they have an empty house with no parents in town?  Throw a party of course!  What do we do when we have an empty house just sitting there waiting to be remodeled? Have pizza parties with multiple sets of friends, and let the kids color all over the walls of course!

Now, hopefully, the kids understood the idea of us repeating “don’t do this at your home!”

I’m trapped in a glass case of eeemooootion!

To quote the uber-intelligent Ron burgundy in Anchor Man above, this process is quite the emotional journey… and we haven’t even broken ground yet!

It’s interesting to be on the client side of things.  I’m not sure I like it.  I mean, I like having my own project to make my own, but I’m so used to DIY in the past where we had complete control that this scale of a project using architects, engineers, and a contractor is totally out of my control.  I collaborate with these people all of the time, but now I depend on them.

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I tend to describe my job as 1 part designer and 1 part marital counselor.  Usually, I am talking my clients off the ledge when they are tired of delays, expenses, not having a working kitchen for 3 months, or just helping a husband and wife compromise on decisions.  I actually like that part of the job.  I definitely have empathy and the ability to relate with them during the stressful process that remodeling is.  No one ever said it was easy to beautify you home (except HGTV).  But the process of restoration and redemption is always hard, dirty, vulnerable, exposed, raw, and destructive work before it becomes neat, tidy, orderly, awe-inspiring, rejuvenating, and peacefully joyful in carefully designed spaces.  This is not a surprise to me.  I can handle the dirt and grime.  But right now there is no one to talk me off of my cliff.  I am that person. And I cannot talk myself down very well.

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Now that it’s MY money, MY time(line), MY family, MY aesthetic preferences, and MY expectations, which will always fight with one another, clearly I will be going on some emotional rollercoaster rides for a while.  I usually tell clients that these things will always be at odds with one another:

  • Budget
  • Scope (how much you want to do)
  • Quality/Craftsmanship
  • Timeline

Usually, it takes a bit of mental processing time for people to sift through their wants and needs before they can figure out which ones are most important to them, because you can’t have them all.  Period.

You can have high quality work, at a fast speed, for a large project, SURE, if you sacrifice lots of $$$.  You can have a quick turn-around on a tight budget, but usually sacrifice some quality.  Especially, when really talented tradesmen are in high demand and have their own schedules you have to work around.  Sometimes you might need to use a bit lower “attention-to-detail” trades.  Or in my case, I do not want to sacrifice quality or design detail, and I have a very limited budget, so I have to cut back on my scope and time-frame.

We started cutting back on things we could add later, parts we can DIY in the future, choosing some less expensive materials/products, and having to nix some ideas we really loved, but just didn’t fit in the budget.  A few of those things being: a concrete-encased master closet as a tornado shelter, the bar, high triangular angled windows under the roof eave that would’ve required metal structure, not replacing all of the windows now, using a typical water tank rather than tankless, leaving a powder bath unfinished that we can finish later on our own, etc…

I’m totally fine with these decisions.  They just don’t happen quickly or instinctively.  They come as you talk through pros and cons, as you try to imagine yourself living in the space in the future and wonder “what will I regret most?”  They are an up and down emotional process that is unavoidable, and a bit unpleasant.

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To be honest, the biggest emotional hit for me hasn’t been that process of cutting back for sake of budget so far.  The biggest wave was holding on too tight to a time frame.  It’s probably not a good choice to buy a house that needs work done everywhere before you can move in (while living with your parent’s for over 8 months).  I do not recommend that.  It’s much better to live in a space for a while and update it later in pieces, after you’ve stared at it, lived daily life through it, and slowly pondered the possibilities.  That’s when you learn where the sun hits through a window at just the wrong time of day, how air moves through the space inefficiently, or how a certain path you take through an exterior door and again through a screened-in porch door to get to the grill drives you crazy.  We do not have this option.

I longingly wanted the architectural process to be quick, the structural drawings to be fast, and the city to approve our permit in record time so we could get our little family out of my parent’s house and into our own before our Annual Oktoberfest party this year.  But instead, drawings take time and revisions, engineers go on vacations, multiple vacations, and the city doesn’t care how fast you want to start just the order of when your application hits the pile.

Don’t ever plan a finish date for a holiday or party.  I repeat: DON’T EVER PLAN A FINISH DATE FOR A HOLIDAY OR PARTY!

I’ve had so many clients do this and we try our best to accommodate, but it’s not always possible.  Many have wanted to be done to host Thanksgiving, to be done for graduation parties, Christmas, or even pregnant bellies about to pop before baby arrives.  Ok that one, you can’t really do anything about, but it seems to happen often.

 

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I regained happiness and got rid of stress and emotional lows when I finally gave up the idea of Oktoberfest in my brain.  When I let go of trying to hold onto the timeline myself, when I just let go of control!  That’s a hard thing for a designer to do, but I had to.  And now I am joyful, relaxed, and excited for this construction process to happen…

Until the next bump in the road when I go through the wave of emotions all over again!