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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Construction saga: The final analysis

The construction saga has finally come to an end. I've been in my "little modernist nest" for a couple of months now, the big reveal finally took place yesterday...if somewhat anticlimactically, and all that's left to do is analyze what I did right and what, with the benefit of hindsight, I would do differently. (This may be a lengthy post that only interests people who are about to embark on a construction project. I won't be offended if you don't read it all. Some of you might want to skip right to the close-up shots of some of the things people have mentioned in their comments.)

First of all, I'm pleased with the layout of the apartment. I drew the plans myself, and my contractor was surprised at how accurate my first (and untrained) effort was. The apartment was built on an existing 26 x 26 slab that formerly housed a two-room workshop/storage area and carport with additional storage. Because of existing plumbing, I put all the rooms (bathroom, laundry room and kitchen) that required water on one side of the house. On the other side, I put my bedroom and living room. Very linear, but very efficient. Because the apartment is only 676 sf, I had to get creative with every inch of space.

Kitchen Pros: I put a counter and stools in my kitchen, since I don't have room for a table, and it's just the right height for eating or for use as a desk. The room is about 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) long and 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) wide with 4 feet (1.2 meters) of walking space...not large by any means, but not cramped at all. I had stainless steel appliances in the main house, and I was ready for a change, so I chose black. I also chose black light fixtures, matte black faucet and drawer pulls and a black ceiling fan. I love the effect with the birch cabinets and white walls...a nice contrast that gives a surprisingly airy look. My tile is a slate-look porcelain. The previous owner of the main house installed a similar color real slate (unsealed), and while I loved the color, it hasn't been durable, and it is hard to clean. The tile in my new kitchen solves those problems and still  gives me the look of slate.

Tom Dixon-style light from Menard's, IKEA cabinets,
Target spice rack, Moen Arbor faucet, Pegasus sink,
Crate and Barrel bowl, Wal-Mart planter

Tom Dixon-style lights from Menard's, my daughter's
FabPats prints,stools by Gus*Modern,
 Silestone Night Mist,  Behr White Fur paint,
Style Selection Castle Stone porcelain tile
 in Harvest color from Lowe's

Kitchen Cons: While I love the color of my Silestone countertops (black with just the slightest hint of a brown fleck and white speck), I don't like that the oil from my fingertips leaves a smudge every time I touch them, which I didn't notice on the small sample. Also, if I don't dry them really carefully when I wipe them down, they streak. It's almost as if there's a thin film left during installation that wiping down with Windex isn't removing. I'm sure there's a cleaner that will solve the problem. I just need to do a little more research.

Silestone smudges...not good!

Walk-in Closet/Laundry Room Pros: I take clothes out of the dryer, turn around and hang them up or put them in the chest of drawers. What's not to love about that? It might not work for a family, but it's the best thing since sliced bread for a single person. The room is 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) long and about 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide. The washer and dryer are on one side, along with a closet with double bi-fold doors that houses the hot water heater and air conditioning unit, as well as the vacuum, broom and mop. The other side of the room has a clothes rod and chest of drawers. A shelf above the rod holds out-of-season clothes in plastic containers. A partitioned-off area across from the washer holds laundry baskets for dirty clothes.

Walk-in Closet/Laundry Room Con:  The only thing I plan to do is put built-in shelves in the partitioned area to hold the laundry baskets. I already had a large rolling stainless steel cart that fit perfectly in the spot, and I thought it would hold four laundry baskets, but I haven't been able to find baskets the right size, so building shelves is a quick and inexpensive fix. I'll take them all the way to the ceiling, so the things that are being stored beneath my clothes (sewing machine, luggage, step stool) can come off the floor and make the room look less cluttered. When I get this done, I'll post pictures.

Bathroom Pros: I love my bathroom and wouldn't change a thing. It is 12.5 feet long (3.8 meters) by 7.5 feet wide (2.3 meters) and feels perfectly roomy. The walk-in shower is 7.5 feet long (2.3 meters) by 5 (1.5 meters) feet wide. I used the same tile as in the rest of the house and added a row of trim that is made of 1 inch (2.5 centimeter) slate, white frosted glass and white opaque glass tiles. I decided to go with birch kitchen cabinets instead of bathroom cabinets, which gives me more storage and more counterspace. I used Venetian bronze faucet, shower head and handles, drawer pulls and accessories, with a white vessel sink and smooth-side toilet, which is the only kind I'll ever buy from now easy to keep clean. The medicine cabinet has a plug inside, so my electric toothbrush and rechargeable razor don't have to be in view. I also installed a storage unit that could be built into the wall to keep the plunger, toilet brush and cleaning products out of sight.

Howard Elliott Raphael mirror, CB2 Seam bath accessories,
Delta Lahara faucet, Kohler vessel sink

American Standard Cadet straight side (concealed trapway) toilet,
 Moen Eva tank lever,Sanicare hand-held bidet,
Nate Berkus towels from Target,
original photography by my daughter

Tessera Square Tundra  glass and stone mosaic tile

Hidden behind in the corner behind the door is a Hy-Dit wall
cabinet for plunger,toilet brush and cleaning products
and a CB2 Contact stool for putting on makeup

Bedroom Pros: My bedroom is the one room where I had to sacrifice space, but I was working within the confines of the existing foundation, and I decided that all it really had to do was hold my queen size bed. It is 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) by 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) and opens onto a small garden behind my house by way of a sliding glass door, giving enough light to keep it from looking cramped. I also decided to use a partial wall/room divider between the bedroom and living room, which allows light from the living room windows to come in and gives the room a more open feel too.

Bedroom Cons: One thing I didn't think to do was tell the electrician what exactly where to install the breaker box, which is on the back wall of the bedroom. It's a large box (because, for some reason, when the house was built in 1950, it was set up to control the main house too), and he mounted it high on the wall. I had planned to cover it with a picture, which meant I had to hang the picture higher than I would have liked, since the cost to move it was prohibitive.

Unfashionably high picture

Living Room Pros: The living room is 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) wide and 14 feet (4.3 meters) long, which holds a large sofa, coffee table, two side tables, a credenza and two chairs and ottoman. I love the vintage look of the partial wall/room divider it shares with the bedroom. I did think to have a plug installed high on the wall behind the TV. The rest of the cords are fished through the walls.

Jenn Ski print, Target jute pouf, IKEA sheepskin
 throw,Hip Haven bullet planter,
frosted glass side lites

Beautiful macrame hanger made by the immensely
 talentedPippa of ouch flower holding a fat lava
 pot,Vitra Eames house bird, CB2 Space vases

George Nelson repro clock, vintage Ib Kofod-Larsen chair, Fenton gourd vase,
Crate and Barrel Nalan planter, West German bowl by Scheurich

Allen + Roth Mazon ceiling fan, Lamps Plus tripod lamp, West Elm Branch side table, Ekornes Alpha
recliner and ottoman, Tibetan lamb pelt from, Crate and Barrel and CB2 pillows, vintage
walnut coffee table, CB2 Tornado side table, Tandy cowhide rug, Miro and Rothko prints

Clockwise, from top left: vintage Giovanni de Simone bottles, CB2 Neville House snow globe,
vintage WestGerman fat lava vase by Scheurich, Crate and Barrel Arashi vase, CB2 Jack vase,
vintage West German vaseby Scheurich, vintage handcarved bird, vintage West German pitcher by
Bay, vintage Castor Cooper pewtervase, vintage Alvino Bagni lidded vase, Dansk candleholders,
West Elm rocking bird, old-but-not-vintage(c. 1990) Royal Haeger vases by Larry Laslo,
vintage Danish candlesticks, vintage Aldo Londi cat for Bitossi
(To see close-ups, go to my Pinterest board.)

Living Room Cons: The only thing I wish I had done differently is tell the HVAC installer where I wanted the thermostat. Left to his own devices, he put it in the living room on the wall where my TV is installed. It could just as easily have been on the other side of the wall in the laundry room.

Miscellaneous Cons: All the cons come from my lack of forethought...and the fact that I'm very picky. The remotes for my ceiling fans are an icky off-white plastic, and if I had planned ahead, I would have told the electrician not to mount them on my white walls. I also would have had him install the electrical outlets in my kitchen a little lower on the wall, and I would have put an outlet in the pantry so the electric can opener could be hidden away. I would also have had more electric plugs installed on the exterior of the house, as well as a faucet on the exterior, as it's a little bothersome to have to drag a hose across the yard to water.

All in all, I am thrilled with the way my "little modernist nest" turned out. It's compact but feels very roomy, it's extremely well soundproofed, so even if the grandsons are playing outside, I can hardly hear them. The frosted glass gives me plenty of light, along with plenty of privacy. Best of all, as I expected, its small size makes it extremely easy to keep clean and organized. I can zip through here and have everything dusted, swept, vacuumed, mopped and polished in less than 30 minutes, which is great, because I've found that keeping it neat and tidy makes it seem more spacious.

And is living in such close proximity to family working out? So far, yes. My grandsons come over several times a day, which I love, while my daughter and SIL and I give each other a little more space. From the very beginning, we intended to run our own houses as separate entities, getting together for meals or other activities as we might if we lived across town from each other, rather than in each other's yards. We're a very close knit bunch, but we all enjoy our privacy and alone-time, and having two self-contained homes makes that work out for us much better than living in one house.

Green space behind house


  1. You can tell I have been watching for these posts closely. Your cons are really tiny for sure. It is all those strange details that get left out and good tips for me about the outlets, hose bibs, etc. I went crazy over the color of a fan cover that was installed in our new bathrooms. It was slightly off white on Benjamin Moore Super White walls, and 1 1/2" inches high. What an eyesore. We painted it but it still bugs me. I think you did really well with the design and did good utilizing the existing space as effectively as possible. Quite a puzzle you had to work out and food for thought for me. I think taking the right amount of time to really study and think through a remodel is critical. I bet you took a year or more to plan this project and it shows.

    1. Actually, I sat down and drew the plans for it over the course of a few days last October, and construction began in December. From then on, I worked on/thought about this thing practically 24/7 till it was finished. You could find me in front of the computer looking for everything from hardware to appliances any time of the day or night. I'd highly recommend spreading it out over a year. :)

  2. No matter how meticulously you plan a project, I've always found I've missed some detail that I never expected to crop up. Your plan turned out great and was really well thought out. You can't sweat the small stuff if the overall project turns out this swell! I can't blame you though, I tend to beat myself up from time to time in rehab stuff that I would definetely do differently the next go round... :)

    1. I agree that it's almost impossible to think of everything, no matter how much you plan. Overall, I'm really pleased with the way things turned out. There's not really much I want to change, except for building shelves in the laundry/closet.

  3. It's so lovely Dana. I want to come and have a cuppa on your sofa!!
    Great use of space. I love the colour in the pieces on the wall divider.
    Hindsight is always 20/20, but it looks like a damn near perfect job to me.
    Great place & space to call home. ps Love pippa's hanger with the fat lava orange pot. : )

    1. Donna, you'd be welcome here anytime! I feel like everything came together just fine, and I can be happy here for a long time. Still, if I ever build another one, I'll know how to do it better. :)

  4. I'm reading this on a train to the airport in Amsterdam so I have to thank you for keeping my 2-hour trip more interesting! Kudos to you for a well planned house and that goes for planning your psychological space as well.

    1. I'm a natural planner and organizer, and those traits are fine when confined to your own affairs. They can come off a little controlling when you start planning and organizing things for others, as I sometimes have to stop myself from doing. Just ask my daughter! :)

  5. The details are just beautiful and thanks for pairing the hanger with a WG and Eames...firm friends I see! xx

    1. Your hanger and the bird were meant for each other! :)

  6. Ps if you ever wanted a new banner for the blog, your wall divider display would be perfect!

    1. Hmmmm...I hadn't thought about that. That IS a good idea. My SIL is considering changing the name of the store at some time in the future, so maybe that would be the right time for me to make some changes to my blog.

  7. I have silestone and would not recommend it. It's easily damaged. I have 4 large chips after 2 years of use.

    1. I really hate to hear that, Mat. I almost bought Corian, because I'd had such good luck with it in the past, but my daughter had been equally pleased with the Silestone she put in...years of use with no damage at I thought that would be a safe choice. She had a dark color similar to mine, and it didn't smudge at all. She never had any chips either. I wonder if the quality has slipped considerably since she bought hers.

  8. It all looks so wonderful! I LOVE the room divider and all the potter you have displayed upon it. REALLY, I loved it from the moment you started toying with the idea and I only WISH I had the set up/ room for one in our addition!

    1. I'm so glad you like it, Mick! I don't think my house would have had nearly as much personality without it. I wish you had room for one too. Did you see yesterday's post with the actual reveal photos?

  9. Ready for Atomic Ranch! I know it would be included. Interesting how the shot of the shower wall next to the toilet looks very thin and the front door looks 4 feet wide, must be the camera lens. Noticed the new large Case Study book!
    Do you have a screen on your sliding door or is it always to hot? How about some up lighting along your rear fence, would love to see a shot of that. Time to break out the white gloves when you use the kitchen counter-so 50's.

    1. The Case Study book was a Christmas gift from my daughter and SIL. I love it!!! I've considered putting a screen on the sliding door, but it's too late to use it till fall, so I have some time to do other things first. I do need some subtle lighting in the back, but I hadn't thought about up-lighting. Thanks for the idea. I have a double floodlight that's so intense it keeps the neighborhood up at night. We're going to put new lighting on the patio and in front of the main house, so we might as well put some in my little garden at the same time.

  10. Great design and execution! I was thinking of buying that ceiling fan that you have in the living room Allen & Roth Mazon. Are you still happy with it? I've read some negative reviews about loud humming noise when it's on medium or high.