Yowsa. It’s been busy around here lately. I’ve been flying (literally and figuratively) at work, L is of course back to school, gymnastics and lots of playing, and K is cranking on a bunch of fronts too. We’ve been keeping our feet to the pedals at home in an attempt to finish some big projects. So consider this an interim project report. It’ll be light on the details, but I’ll at least post a few pictures.

And speaking of pictures our trusty camera has been a bit funky lately. For some reason the images aren’t quite up to snuff and are all a bit fuzzy. Chances are the lens is coated in sawdust, like so many of our things, but put it on the list of stuff to figure out.

Patio-building. 

OK, I’ve referenced this one a bunch lately, but Jesse is just about through with his part of this project. He and Scott poured a small retaining wall on Friday which will add a really nice detail to the big courtyard. We’ll now have two levels, about 7 inches apart, separated by a step/garden bed. Awesome.

Scott at work. This is taken from our bedroom. The retaining wall will be a nice step to a lower part of the court, and breaks up the pattern a bit.

Cabinetmaking.

I’ve been cranking away on a stack of storage-related items. The shelves in the kitchen storage posts are built, finished and installed. Big exhale on this one, and we love how much this helps make the room feel finished. I still have a free-standing unit to build that replaces the wire racks we have in place temporarily, but am short a big piece of butcher block. Bummer. Soon enough though…

More shelves to the right of the refrigerator. These hold cups and glasses and most importantly, coffee making equipment.

Panel installing.

In the living room we’ve had two big voids to stare at that are filled with crap, I mean boxes of precious possessions. These are designed to have a 3/4″ thick solid panel of vertical grain fir, that I thought would look best with a 1/8″ reveal between the wood and drywall. The first one went in yesterday with one more to come. On the backside of these panels is deep storage that hold books, art supplies and electronic gadgetry, accessed from our office niche. In the soffit above the panel we’ll eventually install a similar fir panel, this one just a 1/4″ thick.

Another fir panel will eventually sit in the recess above.

Art making.

K plans to write a more detailed post at some point, but she deserves a major hat tip for her various art projects. This weekend I hung her most recent, which she’s typically humble about. I’m not though. It’s amazing. K trolled through our scrap wood pile, finding discarded pieces of fir, cedar, plywood and beech. She then arranged and painted them before installing them to a panel, which now hangs in our dining room. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but especially at night it creates a stunning effect.

Check out the shadows. In person this is quite a piece.

Here we go now, to the southside.

No, I’m not quoting Moby. I’m pointing to the south side of the house where Jesse is cranking away on the patio, deftly moving around 88 pound pavers.

I’ve had barely a minute to think about building this week. Two out of town work trips will do that to a person. But check out this picture. Jesse texted it to me in the middle of a presentation I was giving. Thankfully I waited to respond until I was done talking. While I loved getting the text of his iPhone pic, it really doesn’t do his work, or the house justice. This is meticulous work.

Click for the big view.

 

In person this is downright amazing. And the best part? L has come up with a set of rules for “extreme hopscotch,” that involve jumping between the dark gray pavers. If you’re under 10 years old there are special rules that include throwing stones and sticks. I love this. Up next is building a small retaining wall that will create a lower part of the patio that will die into the meadow. Awesome. I’ll take better pictures this weekend.

Last weekend the Spokane Green + Solar tour was a wild success. We moved our random boxes into the garage, which now looks like a bad episode from the TV show Hoarders. We had about 100 people come through. Thankfully the rest of the place looked great. Well, except for some of the missing trim, cabinets and shelving.

What a great group of people. Really thoughtful questions about how we built our house, what we would have done differently and the materials and systems we put in place. I was a little worried about some of this. Well, not worried, but at least aware that our place, while energy efficient, doesn’t have the geothermal/solar panels/water catchment/recycled everything (including nails) that some homes include. Like I said in a previous post, we have a celedon house. But our visitors were fantastic, understanding and seemed happy to share a beautiful pre-autumn day in the Palisades.

A special thanks to the organizers, and Sarah McGovern in particular who not only helped make our life easy during the tour, but even brought by some of the most delicious croissants I’ve had in a long time. Also, Matt Melcher spent a few hours on Saturday and Sunday helping to get the place ready. This went way above and beyond. Jesse, too, came early to help clean things up, spread fresh gravel over the piles of sawdust I created the day before, madly attempting to finish a set of cabinet drawer fronts. And Scott McSpadden? He spent five hours with me spraying lacquer on Saturday. Thanks!

I wish I had some pictures of our smiling guests during the tour. Sadly, I spent too much time talking.

 

 

K is exceptionally good at motivating people. She’s been excited for the first part of our patio to be completed, so on Friday morning called Jesse to dangle that if he finished, she’d supply a beer or four.

Now Jesse wasn’t running behind on the timeline, but hey, it was Friday, it was hot out, we haven’t had an evening to decompress in quite a while, and really, doesn’t beer make everything better?

Yes, it does.

An impromptu happy hour broke out. Jesse was in of course. Suddenly so was Scott, Matt, two of our neighbors, their kids and La Familia S. Plus two dogs. Tile master Alex F. showed up too, unexpectedly but happily.

And the new courtyard? It rocks. It has rocks. And even though there’s more to do, like plant stuff and bring in a bit of decomposed gravel, what a place. It was 95 degrees when I was riding my bike home up Mount MoFo, as the locals (me) call it. The patio? Maybe 80. Nice.

So here’s a hat tip to Jesse, who over-delivered on one exceptional patio. The North Court is complete. Next up? Let’s go south. In the mean time, check out L playing this weekend.

And here are a few more.

Remember K’s post about Sacha the weimaraner as a WMD?

Well, here’s a small example of what she was referring to. Good thing we have that fancy new washer and dryer. Life in the Meadow House sure is glamorous sometimes! Dogs. They sure add something special to our lives.

 

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Here’s a different take: Insanity is agreeing to be on a home tour where 400 people are expected to visit a house you’ve moved into just two weeks earlier. For perspective, see the below picture. This is the current state of my closet.

K would like a more fully-developed shoe rack, too. While I think this seems quite accessible, I suppose I could come up with something somewhat more refined.

Matt was interested in having us be on the Spokane Green + Solar Tour. We agreed, met the organizer Sarah McGovern and promised we’d have something ready in time for the tour. On September 18! Yep, insanity. By the way, check out Sarah’s company’s website where among other things you might find a pretty awesome rendering of our house. She’s talented and making a go of launching the kind of design business that Spokane desperately needs.

In fairness, everyone knows we’ll have just moved in and isn’t expecting a house in pristine and 100% complete condition. And the next two weeks will see all kinds of refinement. Closets built out and filled up. Kitchen cabinets installed. Patio pavers placed. Even a connection to the information superhighway. And all joking aside, we’re looking forward to being a part of the fun.

About the Green + Solar Tour. It should be pretty awesome. Two of our neighbors are also taking part. One neighbor has a home with just about every whiz bang piece of technology to make it “green” and energy efficient. Rastra blocks? Check. Terrarium? Check? Electric car? Check. Solar array the size of Nebraska? Check. In comparison our house is chartreuse at best.

Our other neighbor has an absolutely beautiful garden entry. Moseying along their front walkway leads to instant relaxation. It’s that inviting. Plus they have a geothermal system, lovely modern house design, and amazing cabinetry and overall design aesthetic. Nice.

If that’s not enough for you, the devastatingly handsome and witty duo of  Matt Melcher and Jesse Oviatt should be on hand to personally walk people through their design and handiwork. With that offer, how can you say no?

So if you’re in Spokane on September 18, pick up a couple of tickets. Should be fun. You can find information here. You can also buy tickets at Sun People Dry Goods.

Flyer (3)

First off, a short apology for last week’s rant/post. While I think the sentiment is right on, at least the part about the random nature of comparables and appraisals in a crappy real estate market, I got a bit too caught up in the moment. The result was a post that was a bit too harsh and possibly pretentious than I meant it to be. So I’ve taken it down.

But life goes on.

Speaking of which, I’m typing this from our new living room. Very cool, and I can’t tell you how incredible it is to see the sunsets, and sunrises and everything wrapped around them. Of course, this weekend anyway those hours were spent moving, and packing, and moving, and sawing, and installing and more. We still have a lot of work to do.

More to come later in the week.

Thinking back to last year when we started this blog, I remember a series of posts counting down to groundbreaking. I remember the feeling of excitement, possibility and yes, a bit of trepidation.

Today I’m counting down something different: The number of days until we move into the house. I type this with excitement, possibility and relief. While we’ll have a lot of work to do in the coming months (years?) moving will be a release.

Yesterday, while adding a third coat of polyurethane to our refrigerator surround K said something to effect of, “No one will ever realize how much work we’ve put into this and how much we’ve done ourselves.” This is true. Then again, few would care. But the people who do–namely us, our close friends and family, will appreciate the journey and what it’s meant to us. While our work is imperfect, it’s still beautiful. Wait a minute, there’s a cheesy metaphor coming about building a life … Don’t worry, I won’t do that to you. Again.

Everything's better with finish.


This past weekend, in preparation for what will happen  six days from now, we had a satisfying weekend of progress. We built out closets and applied finish to a lot of wood. We painted and built more cabinet drawers.

Perhaps the most gratifying, at least for me, was completing (OK, almost completing) the pantry pull out. This was a project of much consternation and  urgency. If you read K’s post last week you’ll know that Sacha the weimaraner is a creature of little self control. Having a secure place to keep food is far beyond a “nice to have.” Were we to leave her alone in the house with boxes of cereal and honey and peanut butter and pancake mix we’d be in for a massive mess, a trip to the animal ER and nothing for breakfast. Yes, life with a dog is exciting at so many levels.

Anyway, we went back and forth about how to design the pantry. After considering individual drawers vs. doors vs. a hybrid, we landed on a design that should work well.

We started by building the guts of the operation–the cabinet carcass that holds the drawers. Unlike the other units we used melamine-covered chipboard in a nice shade of gray. The manufacturer calls it London Fog. I call it dark gray.

After we built and installed the box, I milled some extra fir for the face. This will work well next to the fir door front.

We then assembled and installed the drawers using the excellent Blum Tandembox system. This is bad-ass hardware. I really love the system, and if you’re in the market for something similar, be sure to check out the deal we found over at Rockler. They bought a boatload of a European-only version and are blowing it out for 70% off. This gives you top-of-the-line drawers for less than anything you can buy at Home Depot.

Next up was installing the Blum glides in the cabinet. Rather than use a measuring tape to get the spacing correct and accurate, I cut scrap wood and used these as a guide, temporarily taping them into place. This worked perfectly.


Rather than create individual doors we decided on a solid vertical-grain fir panel that would pull out multiple drawers at once. This made sense for a couple of reasons. Aesthetically, the long panel is beautiful. And functionally because of the cabinet’s location, we’ll access it from the side. So there’s an advantage to being able to see multiple drawers at once.

Clipped in and ready to go.


We only connected the top, middle and lower drawer to the front though. The last two drawers can be pulled out individually. First, this makes it easier to pull the panel away from the cabinet. The Blum system has a fair amount of tension in the glides. This is typically a good thing and is part of what gives it such a substantial and positive feel. But multiply this times five and it could be difficult to pull. Not weight-lifting difficult, but perhaps annoying. And the drawers will be loaded down with pretzels and tomato paste, and having less to move is a good thing. Finally, this makes access easier, in terms of space between the drawers.

All buttoned up. The only way in now is for a dog to chew through the front. Wait a minute...


We’ll let you know how this all works out.

The final phase will be installing a small door over the big pullout. We have the wood cut already, but need to pick up a couple of hinges. Amazing. It will be the only door in the entire kitchen.

Last night, while working away on the house K texted to ask if she should bring up dinner.

Of course!

She arrived with a satchel of goods and while I finished planing some wood, organized our first dinner at the house.

We feasted on bread with prosciutto, brie and grapes. Every once in a while this kind of thing is OK, and definitely tasty. Of course when it came to spreading the cheese we realized we didn’t have a proper kitchen knife. Remember, we haven’t moved in quite yet.

But that’s what Japanese pull saws are for, no?

Simple food. Simple pleasures.

All the major food groups were represented, including the Japanese snack group. And you have to dig the cheese knife.

 

L, considering the larger questions life begs of us. Note her plate. Yes, it's a piece of AA cabinet-grade beech plywood.

Everyone loves getting their picture taken with a mouth full of food. Even so, K always looks good.

My wedding ring has lost its sparkle. I just looked down and noticed that the prongs that support the diamond are FULL of gunk that is an equal mixture of caulk, Benjamin Moore’s Iron Mountain exterior paint, wood particulates from sanding window trim and bits of concrete from when I was grinding off snap ties from our board-formed wall.

This is particularly symbolic since our 11th wedding anniversary is this Friday. The truth is, I never would have chosen to jump off the cliff that is this house-building adventure. It is way outside my comfort zone. WAY outside. It seemed scary and messy and so very uncertain. I was happy enough in our old 1912 house with the drafty windows and horsehair insulation and creaky floors. It was nice there! But this meadow opportunity came along, and A just couldn’t pass it up. I never said no, but I sure didn’t embrace it, not for a long time. So, fast-forward several years to today where I am picking sticky bits of construction detritus out of my ring, sitting at my desk at my real job, wishing I could be doing anything at all at the house to get it ready for us to move in. This is what happened in the interim: a whole passel of trust, lots of talking, lots of listening (“Tell me when you’re done texting so I can talk to you!”), hard work and always having the right answer to “We’re going to be all right, aren’t we?”

Early in our relationship, A and I went skydiving. When we reached the correct altitude and the plane door opened, I looked out and thought NO *&@#ING WAY! Thankfully, we each were strapped to a jump instructor who swiftly edged us into the wild blue yonder. I really don’t know if I would have been able to make myself jump.

In both cases – house building and sky diving –there was someone there to push me, and I am so glad for it. I’ll get my wedding ring cleaned and it will be sparkly again, but for now I like it a little dull and dirty. It’s a good reminder of what A and I have been through this past year or so. It’s been scary and messy and very uncertain. But also, absolutely incredible.

I love you. Happy anniversary!

 

 

Heading towards a house that's almost ready for inhabitants.

The other day I was talking with my work partners about this little house project of ours. Now, there are massive differences between home building and the daily fun of running a marketing and pr firm. But, when it comes to deadlines there’s always a push. Because here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how far out the deadline sits. It’s ALWAYS a push. At some point reality dictates that the best laid plans get a bit wonky. Stuff happens that’s out of your control. A critical part of a project drags on unexpectantly or someone gets a cold. Or whatever.

So given my work experience you’d think I’d have a leg up over some when it comes the house. I live and breathe deadlines and adrenaline. Well, not really, but in a sick way I like the focus that comes from deadline pressure.

All of this said, there’s been a lot going on this past month and I’m well past the adrenaline rush phase. We’re working hard to move in by the end of the month. This week we had our bank appraisal (please say a prayer or slay a goat for us, depending on your proclivities) and we should have our final occupancy inspection in about a week.

There’s been little time for things like writing on this blog, so here’s a list of the things we’ve been up to. We’ll get some more detailed posts up soon, but in the meantime here are some short updates and a handful of snapshots.

1. Waxing floors. K knocked it out of the park once again. After a collaborative deep cleaning effort, something I can best describe as “sucky,” the helpful peeps at Bordwell Concrete applied a final seal coat on the concrete floors. Then K went to work, applying, count ’em, three coats of wax. The result? Awesomeness. We now have concrete floors with a glossy shine that shows off the color variation and inconsistencies in a really beautiful way.

Mabe not the best image, but the floors are shiny.

2. Installing cabinets. Yowsa these look good! Our electrician, Mike, thinks we should get into the cabinet business. Unlikely. We’ll for sure update this blog with details another time, but the beech, quartz and Blum Tandembox hardware is a pretty mean combination. So much work. But so much payoff.

Exhale. The cabinets are in. Well, mostly anyway.

The faucet, made by Franke, was one of the best bargains. We found it at a warehouse sale.

3. Door and window trim. It’s funny how a two inch wide piece of wood transforms a room. My dad killed it on the trim installation. While it’s easy to get bogged down and frustrated by how long trim installation can take–at least if you do things the right way–the end result is fantastic. Great stuff.

4. The bathroom vanities. I’m so happy with the master bathroom in particular. The proportions are amazing. It’s difficult to capture a great picture of this, but the way the counter and legs step back creates a nice asymmetrical tension. In the end we decided to hold the legs off the wall a bit to make the vanity feel like a piece of furniture. Then again, it IS a piece of furniture. A really heavy piece of furniture.

In the powder room we mounted a scrap piece of beech that was leftover on two pieces of aluminum angle iron. Simple, beautiful, and cost about $15.

An awful picture mid-install, but a nice looking vanity.

5. PlumbingFest 2011. Jason Freestone deserves a special nod for going above and beyond. Our original plumber, a.k.a. Lord Voldemort, a.k.a. He Who Shall Not be Named, a.k.a. Mr. Howthehelldidyourworkpassinspection, a.k.a. Ihada Greattimeintheseventies, a.k.a Wavy Gravy, left Jason quite a few messes to deal with. But deal with them he did and with few complaints. My suggestion? If you’re in Spokane and need a pro, call Freestone Plumbing. Jason’s the man. And check out his work in our master shower. As K would say, “Shut the Front Door!”

The shower, looking better thanks to Jason. Up next, a glass door.

6. Drawer fronts. After much debate we landed on using beech plywood drawer fronts, edge banded in 3/16″ solid wood. While my dad is a solid wood kind of guy, and in fact I am too, in the end these made more sense. Many of our drawer fronts are 10 to 12 inches tall. The idea and reality of laying up (gluing together) many pieces of solid wood, then jointing them, then planing them, then cutting them, then sanding and finishing them, didn’t make sense. And of course the plywood fronts look amazing.

Still in need of a coat of finish and hardware, but well along the way.

7. Buying tools. What a surprise. This week’s additions included a new jointer and a 23 gauge pin nailer. Good news is I love both of them. Bad news? I would have preferred not to have to buy them. I need a Porter Cable sponsorship.

Porter Cable are you listening? We would be an excellent family to sponsor.

8. The refrigerator. Let us take a moment and celebrate the shrine-like beauty of our refrigerator surround. I generally regard humility as an essential quality. But damn if this didn’t turn out nicely. More to come on this installation and the design details, but I’m pretty proud of this work.

Fisher Paykel makes a stainless surround for its refrigerators. It relatively inexpensive and looks great. We used a combo of solid and plywood vertical grain fir to complete the surround.

9. Painting. K’s work might be easily overlooked because in a new house you expect to see pristine walls and trim. She’s worked very, very hard to make it this way though and it’s more cumbersome than you’d think. Installing trim generally wreaks havoc on drywall and paint. We mean well, but navigating 15 foot long pieces of wood through long corridors is a recipe for disaster. As usual, K is the most patient and understanding person at the house.

10. Driveway concrete. We splurged a bit on this, opting for an acid sand finish over a more typical broom finish. This is a pretty interesting process and creates a super-cool texture. It’s also labor intensive. A bit of a theme, no? Anyway, not sure how well this is captured in the photo, but it leaves a tactile, sand-like finish on the concrete that’s also pretty bullet-proof. The way this is done is by applying a retardant while the concrete is still wet. This stops the surface of concrete from curing. The next day, Bordwell was back to power wash the surface, revealing a bit of aggregate and creating the cool texture. This then cures for a week–no walking or parking on the surface allowed. Bordwell came back again to apply another coating of acid, then returned a day later for a final seal coat. And we had them saw cut lines to match the garage and rest of the house. Pretty cool.

Sand wash. Fancy.

11. Final electrical. Again, lighting will get another post with more details, but visiting the house in the evening is a thing of beauty. I’m especially taken with the lighting in our bedroom. A shout out to Escent Lighting. Hiroyuki Ono helped us choose some difficult to source pendants for above our bed. It’s so nice to work with people that know what they’re doing and go the extra mile to make sure their customers are happy. We also love our low-cost hallway lights, kitchen fixtures, and the Ikea light in L’s room.

Bedroom lights and fan.

The light in L's room casts crazy shadows.