Monday, December 31, 2007

Is it possible to have a single remote?

Why, yes it is! My brother and his family gave us a Logitech Harmony 550 Universal Remote, to augment our setup. You can read my review on for details, but the upshot is, after setting it up, it allowed us to dispense with the other remotes and use it exclusively. Initial setup was easy, although I had to do some additional customization before it would operate everything in a logical way.

Having used it for a few days, I still prefer the layout of my TiVo remote, and my consider swapping it for the Harmony 670, which appears to be better suited for heavy DVR/TiVo users. But for now it solves a big problem.

Next up is to get a subwoofer and perhaps replace the center speaker with one designed for the purpose.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Home theatre setup

The home theater is mostly set up. But it took a little bit of doing, and a lot of cursing. So I'll tell you what I did to spare you some trouble if you're looking to do the same thing.

First off, I ordered my TV (a Sony 52KDLXBR4 52 inch LCD TV) from -- I just couldn't resist the name! It was far cheaper than buying it locally. I checked that it was in stock before I ordered (I called them, having been warned in advance that some sites list that the TVs are in stock and they aren't). They upsold me from free shipping (which uses a slow carrier and lands the TV at the curb) to a shipper that specializes in shipping big TVs and will take it to the door. This cost an extra $129, but the total price was still $800-$1000 less than buying it from a local store. The TV arrived about 10 days after I ordered it (or so). The shippers took the TV downstairs, where I turned it on to make sure everything was working okay. And everything was.

Oh, word of warning. When the store verifies your order, they try to upsell you to buy the extended warranty, wall mounts, and other things you might not have researched. Don't bite -- it's just not worth it.

The next step was to get our home theater guy to come hang it on the wall. He also is a dealer for Denon receivers, and we had been planning to get the receiver he recommended: the Denon 2308CI A/V receiver. Craig (Bever Electronics) and his assistant came the next day and installed the wall mount, mounted the TV on the wall, fished the wires through the wall to the outlet below, and set up and configured the receiver. I should have paid more attention to what they did with the receiver, because the Denon manual is unbelievably bad, and the remote control for the receiver is also very hard to use. (Eventually I figured it out... more on that later.)

The one thing that we didn't do during the remodel, which one of the many of us should have noticed, was to put the power outlet high on the wall so the TV power cord would be hidden by the TV. When the electrician comes for the (hopefully) last time to finish up the undercabinet lighting in the kitchen and a few other remaining things, we'll get him to move the outlet so that the TV cord isn't visible.

I moved my two TiVos downstairs, and my Slingbox (which still isn't set up again... and after a couple of weeks of fussing and cursing, I was able to get things set up to mostly use the TiVo remote to control everything. That being said, it's quite clear that I will need to buy a universal remote control (like a Harmony) to control everything the way I want it to.

Here's what I did. First, I borrowed a newer TiVo remote from a friend of mine. This TiVo remote has a 1-2 switch that allows you to tune each TiVo to a different frequency so that you can control each TiVo separately. (I wish I'd known this months ago, because it plagued me when I had them in the same room with the Slingbox.) I was also able to program the TiVo remote to control the volume on the A/V Receiver, and the power on both the A/V receiver and the TV. I set the TV up to operate like an LCD monitor (since we use the built-in speakers, not the TV speakers, and we use the tuners on the other devices, not the TV), and the only time I need the TV remote is if I want to adjust some display property of the TV.

So now, I use the TiVo remote for everything but changing the source input (TiVo 1, TiVo 2, or VHS (like I'm every going to watch a video tape again!)). I use the Denon remote for changing the source input, since I haven't yet figured out if it's possible to set the TiVo remote to do that. It turns out that I still have to use my old TiVo remote to access some functions on the built-in DVDs though. A universal remote would solve that problem. All in all, it's workable, and I think I could even explain to someone how to work it!

It would have been nice to just be able to buy an LCD monitor rather than a TV. Given that we have an A/V receiver, and built-in speakers, a lot of the functionality on the TV we just don't need or use, so we've paid for functionality we're not using.

The quality of the display is good, but I can't help thinking how much better it would be with real HD input (this is the danger in buying a new HD TV). So, come the beginning of the year, I'll "trade" one of my TiVos in for an HD TiVo. And later in the year, once the HD DVD formats settle down (if they do), I'll probably buy a separate HD DVD with HDMI outputs that will output true 1080p resolution. Finally, I will need a universal remote. But I will wait on all these things until after the holidays, as the setup I have now is quite workable.

It would be nice, however, to have some place to sit downstairs, so since the upstairs sofa appears to be months off (at which point the sofa upstairs will move downstairs), I will need to figure something else out, as sitting on the floor or in a hard-backed chair just isn't cutting it! Beanbag chairs are my current thought... other ideas?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pods be gone!

Major milestone! We came home and the pods were no longer there. (And yes, we meant to do that.) Slowly but surely, the last vestiges of remodeling are fading away. Next up: clean out the garage and move the remaining furniture back into the house. Maybe we'll try to move the piano back into the living room this week!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Reflections on Living in a New House

We've been "living" in the whole house for a little over a month now. We just finished unpacking the pods today. The library shelves are almost full, and somewhat organized. And we've even bought a few small pieces of furniture. The ripped Ingo Maurer shades have been replaced. We are still waiting for our remaining kitchen cabinet and trim pieces, for the buffet shelves to be fixed and for the undercabinet lighting, but otherwise we're "done". We've had seven "dinner parties" (more than we've had in the previous four years). We ordered a TV. And we've paid our final bills. So now it's time to take stock.

Did we achieve our objectives? Emphatically, yes. (I will have a lot more detail on what the objectives were in another post. Bet ya can't wait!) I love our new house! Although there were a few things that didn't turn out quite like I'd imagined (the inside railing and the fireplace front, for example), the overall house is really pretty incredible and we are using the house in ways we might not have anticipated. Even the aspects that didn't turn out as expected still turned out nice. And the basic objectives of the remodel (fix the floorplan and make the house more open and livable) were more than achieved.

The breakfast nook area is still my favorite area of the house. I thought I'd take use the dining room as the office, but the breakfast nook area serves the function even better. I can listen to the living room stereo and gaze out at the view from my perch in the kitchen, all the while keeping track of who (or what) is coming down the drive.
The dog, on the other hand, loves the downstairs server room the best. It's dark and cozy and she can get away from all the fuss and bother upstairs. It's like her own ten by ten kennel.

The wall of windows in the great room has really enhanced the view tremendously. I always thought we had a good view, but in the new house it's spectacular, primarly because we now have an uninterrupted 180 degree view of the bay and hills. It's the one aspect of the house that people comment on the most.

The floors and ceiling turned out beautifully. The rich tones of the rose river gum floor really compliment and warm up the neutral tones of the surrounding stainless and quartzite. The stone floor is great for sliding on in your stocking feet, and both floors are very easy to clean.

One thing I also really like about the house is that it's very unassuming from the outside. It looks like one of the many ranch-style houses that dot the landscape in Los Altos. But once you step onto the front porch you get an inkling that it isn't an ordinary rancher. The broken-glass front doors and the eerie blue doorbell help set the stage for what's to come.

All in all, the end result was a success in my book (except for perhaps the stress and the pricetag... but those quickly fade).

As we've been unpacking the pods we've been offloading a lot of our old stuff. Is there really a need to keep 30 mismatched coffee mugs? Or a set of 3 (because we broke one) champagne flutes when we don't even drink? We've taken this opportunity to pare things down to only what we really need and what fits with the design of the house. The temptation to chuck everything is strong, but we are trying to strike a balance so that we'll have something to sit on and plates to eat off of.

We will probably continue the slow process of re-furnishing the house over the next year, buying things slowly as we need them. Although we're a bit tapped from the remodel, we're less broke than I thought we would be. We have already bought stools, folding chairs, and an outside bench from DWR. The stools were originally supposed to be here in February, but we've already received two of the three so far! How's that for exceeding expectations? (Versus our kitchen, which likely won't be complete until February, over a year after we ordered it!) I also finally bought a dining room table (the Poliform Dolmen), which should be here in a couple of months -- our old one really is showing its age (we've had it since 1982!) and only seats four. We still have to settle on/purchase dining room chairs (we're thinking about the DWR Bottega chairs, to match the stools), and buy the sofa for upstairs (either the Flexform Groundpiece or Molteni & C Reversi, and an entertainment unit for downstairs. (If only the dollar were stronger right now!) But we'll continue to do this slowly over the coming year.

I still have dreams that I can get a company like DWR to do a catalog photo shoot in the house (and perhaps leave a spec of furniture or two behind while they're at it). I'd also really like to get the house featured in a magazine like Dwell. But I can't begin to pursue this until the kitchen is completely done, so I'll probably tackle this in the new year. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy the new house and have dinner parties!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Movin' in

Yesterday we unpacked and stocked up the kitchen with everything I could find. I know we're missing things, because I couldn't find any serving dishes. It's possible those are still at the folks' house.

We moved some furniture in. We moved the bed downstairs but then stopped, as it was very muddy on the side of our house, and mud got tracked into the house. Sigh. But at least the bed is downstairs so if a guest wants to come stay we have a place for them to sleep. We already have a reservation for November. I also tried out the new downstairs bath for the first time, and it was very nice. Love the new faucets! We still need a few accessories but this will all come with time.

We had Kurt's folks over for dinner, so that ensured that we at least had to have a dining room table/chairs and a sofa in the house. It's probably a good thing that we moved the old furniture in, because it's a good template for buying new furniture. I now know that I don't want a sectional sofa upstairs; most likely I'll get two sofas which will face each other.

We also need a rug that's big enough to sit the sofas on so the floor doesn't get damaged. We also hooked up the stereo and tested out the acoustics upstairs. (The speakers and amp were bought in 1976... I think it may be time to upgrade!) The sound was very nice, but I probably need a bit more power. The piano will stay in its practice room for a while while we get everything else sorted out. But it's pretty clear where it's going.

Even when you're done you're not done... there's decorating to do! Slowly but surely, we'll move things into the house. But my prediction is that only half of what we have will make the trip. When you have a new house it's an impetus to clean out all the old mismatched stuff that you could never bear to throw away. If anyone needs coffee cups, glasses, etc. holler!

Monday, October 08, 2007


Yes, folks, two years + in the making, and we have finally passed the final inspection for our house! This does not mean we're completely done, as there are a few items that need to be taken care of. BUT, it does mean that we can move into the new part of the house, including the kitchen! We can officially start stocking the pantry, the inside reefer, and we can move back to using real plates. HUZZAH! A momentous occasion indeed! Plus, the portapotty is gone, adding to the finished look.

No pictures to post today, but I will post once the handrails are sanded, and maybe after I've moved our temporary furniture back into the house.

Time to party!!!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The final piece of the puzzle

The railing guys came yesterday and they finished putting the modified railing on the stairs. It looks much better with the modifications, and I think we are now DONE! Well not completely done -- there are some items that still need to be completed/finished before it's done done, but done to the point where the city can come tomorrow and sign off on the project, and then we can move back in! So with any luck, we'll start moving back in this weekend!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Planning final!

Today, the new head of planning came to inspect our house and do the final signoff. Since we had already had one of the planners come by earlier and remove the requirement for us to plant another tree, we had no problems getting the final signoff. This signoff is a prerequisite for getting the final final building department signoff (after which point we can move in).

The electricians also came and did everything they needed to do so we could pass our final inspection: installed the remaining outlet in the kitchen (they'll replace it later because it's white, which doesn't really go well with the counters); installed the two new lights in the library (and yes, they look FABulous); installed the second GrafikEye controller; installed the Ingo Maurer weights and ripped shades (replacements are on order...); cleaned up old wiring in the garage; installed the remaining outside light. Kurt's brother would be proud. Although he'd probably laugh at us about picking out the Ingo Maurer lights... I mean they are great in theory, but paper shades are, well, a teensy bit fragile. Live and learn!

Yesterday Ed came to install a fireplace screen/glass doors. He found a set at OSH which is suitably good for the final inspection (but not suitable for the long term as it doesn't have the right look). So we'll keep them on there until we get a permanent one. Then we'll take it back or sell it on

So really, we're ready to go. That's right. The only thing left is to install the stair railing, which could happen tomorrow. We're still questioning who is going to pay for the railing changes. (It's a bit of he said, he said, etc., made all the more confusing, because everyone involved is named "Mike"! But I'm optimistic we'll get it resolved without having to pay more money. I'm not optimistic we'll get it resolved without some hard feelings somewhere. Because ultimately someone will have to eat the cost of it, and we're full. This experience will ultimately go in a lessons learned column somewhere.)

But I'm excited -- we could be done this week! I only have one item left on my list "Install stair railing" so it really seems possible. There are still a few odds and ends that will need to get done, but they don't stand in the way of the final inspection.

So, a cautiously optimistic "hip hip hooray!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Still plugging away

We are almost done. Well, that's what I said last post. I had to go on a short jaunt overseas, and was hoping to arrive home to a finished house. But it was not to be. They did make a lot of progress, including: putting the final coat on the hardwood and sealing the stone floors, which are now finally visible; installing the outside deck railings which turned out very nice indeed; finishing installing most of the recessed lights; and other minor little details like the doorbell and door chime.

The big remaining thing is the inside stair railing. They had installed the railing upstairs, but the bottom of the railing sticks out too far into the stairway, which looked dorky and posed a hazard. It turned out that this was the original design, but it had been modified back in July. The architect sent the change over to the fabrication place, but they claim to have never received it. Although they have taken the railing back to the shop to fix it, there is a big question as to who will pay (answer: not us). The railing should be fixed soon, and then they'll be back to install in a week or two. So we'll final the project in October.

Tomorrow the cleaners come, and hopefully the electricians. Then Friday the alarm folks come to complete their installation. And then we wait for the railing guys to come and we can final! There are still a few odds and ends that will need to be done like finishing the breakfast nook bench upholstery and installing the few missing odds/ends for our cabinets, but once we get the final inspection, we can move back into the rest of the house!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let there be light!

Today the electricians came and installed most of the remaining plugs, some of the remaining lights and did the light test. We now have light in the house! The office is lighted, the living room is lighted, and the downstairs guest bedroom is lighted. (The other rooms are lighted, but the switches aren't turned on yet so we can't yet use the lights.)

The fan also works, and I had it on all evening to lend a cool breeze.

We have to "burn in" the Artemide Ventanas... basically, we have to leave them on for 100 hours before we can dim them. I'm not sure if we're burning in the lights or the bulbs (I suspect the latter). The remaining bulbs arrived today so that the Ventanas now all work.

The oven receptacles turned out to have the wrong configuration, so they'll install some replacements tomorrow. By the evening we should be able to use the oven AND the instant hot water. Just in time for me to leave for Geneva. Oh well, I'll have hot coffee Wednesday morning from our instant hot water dispenser.

The refrigerator was installed on Friday -- I'll try to get a picture of that soon. The AC guys installed the air conditioning compressor today. So really, it's almost almost almost all done.

Tuesday: remaining custom kitchen cabinets will be installed + electricians will come back to complete the lighting (the GrafikEye controllers probably won't be installed until after the final). The painter may come to do some final touch ups, and the alarm installer should be here to finish the alarm install. The home theater installer is coming to install the speakers in the kitchen.

Wednesday: railing guy comes to do final measurements

Thursday: floor guys come to do final coat on hardwood and seal/finish the stone

Next week: railing guy installs railing, and then we FINAL!

In the meantime, Kurt is a little upset that Coda has taken over what was supposed to be his office, and that I've co-opted the breakfast nook for my office. And I do think that will be my permanent office now, as it's such a lovely little spot! Well, I'm sure he and Coda will figure out how to share :)

More nighttime pictures are available from Kurt's picture site.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A minor victory in a long campaign

The city planner came this morning, on time, as planned. (I guess that's why he's in planning!) After showing him the yard, and the view of our neighbor's house below from the upper story, he agreed that planting another tree, a stipulation from the planning dept. at the beginning of the project, was unnecessary. Hooray! It's really not that expensive to add another tree, but it is a hassle, and so silly, so I am glad he agreed with us.

The electricians were here first thing this morning, and they finished installing the ceiling lights and a few other electrical odds n' ends. I think they'll be back again tomorrow. Some of the electrical receptacles for the kitchen are still on order (they match the Caesarstone so they're a custom color), but hopefully it won't hold up the final inspection.

Our contractor moved a bunch of his tools out, a clear sign that we're almost done. When they install the house numbers and the mailbox, then we'll really be on the home stretch.

What's left to be done at this point?
  1. Install the reefer -- this had been waiting for decisions on the undercabinet lights and then a wire to be fished out through the drywall.
  2. Finish the alarm install -- alarm guys are supposed to be here tomorrow and the next day to finish
  3. Finish the remaining electrical -- install a few switches, finish remaining recessed lights downstairs, test the system, and connect up and programming the GrafikEye
  4. Install the AC compressor
  5. Install the door hardware on the sliders
  6. Install the railing on the stairs and on the outside decks (this is the biggest remains-to-be-done step)
  7. Install the doorbell and door chime
  8. Install drawerpulls on the downstairs vanity
  9. Install TP holder and hand towel bar in downstairs bath
  10. Add final coat to stone and hardwood floors
  11. Clean!
Piece o' cake.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Watching grass grow

The last little bits of a remodel are like watching grass grow. The house is getting polished, bit by bit, but the changes are small and not as evident. We have also had some trouble getting the electricians out to finish as they're completely booked solid, so the electrical finish work has been moving more slowly than expected.

Last week, the contractors installed the awning between the two floors. This was an expensive piece of decoration required by the city to break up the 22' vertical wall of windows. It's made of stainless and Trex (reconstituted garbage, just like the deck), and it turned out very nice! It did add something to the look of the building, even if the only people who can see it are in our back yard.

Our server room is now fully outfitted with the patch panel, and all the rooms are hooked up with ethernet, telephone and cable. Some of the rooms also have audio. This has come in real handy, as I was finally able to hook up my printer where I wanted it since we have ethernet everywhere in the house. (Two wireless routers as well.)

The office door got installed too. This is a sliding door on an exposed track, so it slides against the wall rather than into a pocket. It's made out of an acrylic by Knoll, and is essentially a piece of fabric pressed between two pieces of acrylic. It looks very nice.. it's very understated, but its opacity allows you to hide the (anticipated) clutter in the office, while its transparency lets natural light from the office into the hall.

Today on Labor Day, two of the electricians came out and worked all day, and now we finally have the track lighting in the living room and the Artemide Ventana lights in the kitchen. Judging from the grunting and swearing, they were every bit as much of a pain to install as well as they were to order correctly.

I spent a couple of hours assembling the track light fixtures, just to have something to do, and to hopefully save some of their very valuable and hard-to-come-by time. There is one more piece of track they need to install (over the stairs) which is going to take a bit of creative scaffolding and nerve to do.

So now, there are really just a few outside lights to install, and lights to test. They have to finish installing the GrafikEye system (I can never misspell it properly), but they might be finished as early as tomorrow. I suspect there will still be a few little things to do after they leave tomorrow.

Tomorrow the city planner comes and I'm hoping to convince him not to have us plant the additional tree we're required to plant before we get the final signoff.

The only things left to be done before we can final the project besides finishing the electrical are: installing the ever-so-important stair and deck railing and installing the air conditioning compressor. We have a small bit of custom cabinetry to be installed in the kitchen and then undercabinet lights to be installed, but that shouldn't hold up the final signoff (I hope).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The best seat in the house

In my opinion, the best spot in the house is our little breakfast nook. It's got a fabulous view of the bay, and you can see the front yard as well to keep an eye on the yard and make sure no one is using the portapotty who shouldn't be. It's nice and sunny in the afternoon. Now that the counters have been installed in the kitchen, it makes a great work area for me. Using an extension cord from the garage (where there's power), I can sit here with my laptop and work for hours. It's quite the place to be! Only now, at 8 PM, the sunshine is running out, and I'll probably have to return to the bedroom where there's light. Working from bed just isn't as productive...

Painter was here yesterday, and he finished painting the office (yay!). He's still got a bit more painting to do to finish completely, but he got a tremendous amount done yesterday. He does a really nice job and he's super conscientious, which I really appreciate. He primered the chimney (formerly brick, which stood out like a sore thumb), and will paint it the dark color of the trim. So hopefully it will disappear; if not, we'll stucco it at some point so it will blend into the house better.

Cabinet installer came on Friday and cut the requisite holes in the cabinets for the electrician, and installed the third shelf in the pantry. The shelf had been damaged, but they were able to repair it so you'd never know, so we were able to use the shelf just fine.

Monday, Ed can install the office door (another expensive experiment which may or may not turn out). Monday they should install the awning as well. Tuesday, the electrician comes, and we'll probably have a heated discussion about the undercabinet lighting. Hopefully we'll get all the remaining issues resolved and he can finish installing the remaining lights and electrical circuits, which will make us very very happy. Then, the long pole in the tent, so to speak, will be the stair railing. That's all we have left before we can final the project. (Since when did "final" become a verb?)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Are we done yet?

Well, no. But we're getting closer! Today we got plumbing! Each sink has a faucet and a soap dispenser, and the main sink also has nirvana... an instant hot water heater that will work and will stay working! I hope we can try it out soon. (The water was off when we got home tonight.) Our old garbage disposals didn't make it, so we'll have to replace them. But the old cooktop fits fine.

The downstairs bathroom is completely done, except for the attachment of accessories. The plumbing fixtures look really nice, and I'm very happy with the way it turned out. The water's still turned on there, so who knows, maybe I'll try out the shower... or maybe I'll wait until we get final signoff, as the water spots will be a dead giveaway.

And, I am communicating over DSL that is hooked up to the downstairs patch panel!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kitchen Counters

The kitchen counters are nearly done. There is just one more bit of backsplash that has to go beneath the red cabinet. They will finish up tomorrow.

I had to come home from work early today as there was a counter crisis. One of the pieces had a slightly different sheen from the rest, and I had to make a decision as to whether it bothered me enough to make them find another piece or not. I probably wouldn't have noticed if they hadn't pointed it out, so I decided not.

The counter support is a nice compliment to the Caesarstone. I think they turned out pretty nice.

The other big event for today was the low-voltage wiring. Our main patch panel is almost in, and we should move the DSL down to the server room tomorrow (I hope). The cable too! It's very exciting. They'll have to leave the power on to that room because we'll need 24x7 operation, but hopefully that won't be too much of a problem.

Downstairs, they are working on rebuilding the stairs that lead into the deck below. I'm not exactly sure why they're rebuilding them, but I just know that they are. Probably more rotting boards or something. They're going to build the awning on Monday out of Trex, so that should forestall rotting wood in the future.

The paver folks finished rebuilding the pavers today. They definitely look better than before. All in all, it was a very productive day at the house. The electrical and the stair rail are still the long poles in the tent. I am hoping the electrician will be here again soon to finish up.

Tomorrow, the counter folks will come to finish the counters, the low-voltage guys will come to finish the wiring, and the plumber is coming to install all the plumbing.

Speaking of plumbing, they did deliver it all today. I now understand why the Dornbracht faucets are so expensive -- they are beefy faucets! In the package of deliveries were a few Delta boxes (for the downstairs bath), which is odd, since I didn't order any. Turns out that there is another job for a Segal (not the spelling of my last name), and the plumbing guy gave it to them by mistake. Good thing we caught it before someone tried to install!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One year anniversary

It's around the one-year anniversary of starting this construction project. It's difficult to know what the true start date was, as we started with more of a whimper than a bang. But we had moved out of the house about a year ago, and the gas was disconnected a year ago. It does feel like pushing the world up a hill at times...

The non-sticking door -- Kurt's objective #3 satisfied!

Our new front door is in! Woo-hoo! We finally have, for the first time since we've lived in this house, door hardware that works and a front door that doesn't stick. Of course, the only bummer is that the glass in the door is completely shattered. Okay, we actually meant to do that. Personally, I think it looks really cool. Depending upon what time of day it is, the sun hits the glass in different ways, making it sparkle. At night, it sparkles too. It will take some getting used to, though, I admit.

The other big thing that happened today, other than the doorstops and mirror cabinet pull being installed (which are big too), was that the counters were installed. Not completely, but they did a big chunk of it. One of the counter pieces must be around ten feet long... it was interesting to watch them carry it in.

Tomorrow they'll come to finish the backsplashes, and then the plumber will come to install the fixtures and hook everything up.

I can't wait to have real running water with a real sink. (Hopefully we can use the sink before the final signoff, as we'd really like to use a real sink for a change.) And instant hot water. Coffee. Yeah. We could be brewing coffee in the kitchen as early as this weekend! I'm ever the optimist.

The other big thing they did today was to work on the pavers out in the driveway. When the waterproofing was done, they removed a number of the pavers so that the deep ditch could be dug. The paver people are back to reinstall the pavers, which will be nice. I'm still not quite sure how they're going to join the pavers to the new front porch, but I'm sure that Mike has figured it out.

More finishing details

The floor is darkening in the sun... it looks beautiful (although a little bit dirty at this point). The workmen are very good about taking their shoes off before they walk on the floors, which is nice. It's sad that we have to put a railing on the descending stairs, as it looks really nice open, and the floor serves as a barrier for the upper part of the stairs where you might hurt yourself if you fell. But I guess we can't be trusted not to fall through the cracks.

Many of the lights are in, but not all. The Leucos Ony B lights have been installed in the upstairs entryway and in the family room downstairs. They look really nice, I think. We installed Blauet Mercurio lights in the library, but unfortunately, the fixture is visible because the ceiling there is so low. It's difficult to discern these details when you're picking from a picture. It's also difficult to find lighting stores that carry these lights, so it's not a surprise that one choice might not work so well. So I am planning to move the lights in the library to the laundry room (where I didn't realize we needed lights), and buy another two lights for downstairs (perhaps Leucos Bisquit, which I really like).

The outdoor lights are in, and they look really nice. All in all, I'm pretty happy with what's been installed so far. What's not been installed are: the Artemide Ventanas (aka "the lights from hell"), the Smedmarks undercabinet lights, and the Lightolier track lights. The Ventanas, which are becoming the lights we love to hate, had their ballasts installed smack dab in the middle of the fixture, obscuring the hole into which the wiring must go. The electrician and architect have figured out how to work around that problem. The Smedmarks look fabulous, but the light is designed such that it has to be taken apart to replace the bulb, which would be difficult to do if the lights are affixed to the bottom of the cabinet. OTOH, there really isn't much of a choice as far as undercabinet lights go. Seems like a really silly design. The track lights were spec'd as aluminum track with black end caps. Apparently the black end caps are quite long and it would be better to have them in black. Hopefully we'll get all of this resolved tomorrow so the electricians can finish the lighting install.

One other surprising thing.. the floor receptacles only come in brass. Nice looking brass, I might add, but we don't have a stick of brass in our house. So we're going to get them plated black later, so they'll disappear into the tile.

They rebuild the deck downstairs (where there used to be stairs) and did a lovely job at that. We have to figure out a way to connect the stairs adjacent to the garage to the lower deck, but that should be pretty straightforward. We'll have a big job of landscaping to do once this whole project is over.

Rather than continue this post, I'll start a new one with all the work that got done today. (Today was a very busy day in construction land.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More gives way to a house

With the floors done upstairs and downstairs, it's starting to look more like a house and less like a construction zone. Please leave your shoes at the door!

Today I took a pass through the house when I got home trying to figure out what they did today. It took a complete pass through before I realized -- heating vents! They put the vent covers over the heating vents throughout the house, which is just one more way the place is starting to look like a house again.

I think the electrician was here and installed the recessed lighting in the upstairs hallway, but it's possible he did that earlier in the week. Because the external fixtures haven't yet been added, it's difficult to tell or remember. Electrical is the next big piece.

They did some work on rebuilding the deck underneath the office. It's a gaping hole at the moment, but they are working on reconstructing it in such a way that we don't have to pay a lot of money to rebuild the walkway that takes you from the upper part of the yard to the back yard. (Long story.) I think what they have in mind should work just fine.

Monday, August 06, 2007


The second coat of the hardwood floor finish was applied today. Last week they finished sanding the floor down, and gave us a choice (NOT ANOTHER CHOICE!?!?) of whether to use a water-based or oil-based finish. The advantage of the water-based finish is that it's more environmentally friendly (I think), and it requires less work to apply (I think). Quite honestly, I guess I didn't pay much attention when he was explaining it to me. The oil-based finish is richer and results in a darker color. In the picture above you can see my original sample sitting next to the two possibilities, and there is really no question: oil instead of water. We're paying for that decision by breathing in the delicious fumes.

We stayed out of the rest of the house all weekend as they let the first coat dry. It's very susceptible to dust, so they didn't want us to walk around near the open floor lest it get dusty and they have to start all over again. We used the big door to the "kitchen" (the garage door, that is), and tried to stay out of the real kitchen as much as we could. It also meant that we couldn't go downstairs to see the new carpeting, but such is the price of progress!

The first coat was a little bit rough, as the floor needs to soak up all the finish. Once the first coat was done and the finish dried, they came again today to sand down the floors and put the second coat on. It looks very nice and smooth and even. I'm very pleased with the choice of color of the floor; it really is exactly what I was expecting.

The stairs are exposed for the first time since they were put in (several months ago), and they are quite nice as well. They made cute little plugs to cover the screw heads which secure the stair planks to the stairs. I'll try to take some good pics (or have Kurt take them) tomorrow.

Once the current hardwood coat is dry (tomorrow? Wednesday?), the electrican will come in and start installing the finish lighting. And a happy day that will be! It seems that we're so excited to get to the next finishing piece, but no sooner do we get there, then we are wondering why it's taking so long to get to the next step. I guess that's just remodeling, eh?

I had hoped we would be done by my birthday, but it was not to be. Now we'll have to shoot for Kurt's birthday. Actually, if they finish all the lighting by Kurt's birthday we can all do a happy dance.

Let's consider what's left to do: repair the deck beneath the office (I'll write more about that later, because they've actually made great progress on that, and I estimate they'll be done with it this week), install the front door (Chris, the painter, was here this weekend finishing painting it, so the installation will probably happen this week), install the kitchen counters and plumbing (next week at the earliest), install the office door (which is here .. if they're done painting in the office, they should be able to finish this), install the finish plumbing downstairs (can do this any time) and the accessories (can do this any time), install the awning between the first and second floors, and install the railing on the outside deck and inside stairs. The railing will be the very last thing that gets done, guaranteed (well, if you don't count the damaged kitchen cabinet that has to get reinstalled). I figure we have exactly one more laundry date at the in-laws before our washer/dryer is installed. We're getting close to being done!