Monthly Archives: January 2013

Superstructure.

IMG_0718I think the industry needs to rethink what they call the work they do. It seems to me that deconstruction is  a more accurate word to describe taking down walls, obliterating a ceiling here and there, digging out basements full of sand and you know, depositing it elsewhere until sandal season.

My favourite beach is the one in my garage

My favourite beach is the one in my garage.

New-builds can do all the construction they want, but lets call a spade a spade here. When something that used to look like this:

I am ready for my extreme makeover now.

I’m gonna make you lonesome when I go.

comes to look something more like this:

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miss me now?

that’s deconstruction. But its all good, because work on what Frank refers to as the “Superstructure” (foundation, rebuilding the floor upstairs, supporting the attic with beams, supporting other parts of the house with even more beams) is coming along, and should be complete by the end of the week, and this includes lowering the basement!

I am literally beaming.

I am literally beaming.

The foundation specialist started to dig the new floor on one side of the basement and I got to stand on it today. It was IN-credible, just so awesome to look up eight feet to the new ceiling height. The height is (of course) dead space because neither D. nor I are particularly tall and we don’t have any friends in the NBA (yet) but I suspect it will help it it feel less basement-y, which is never a bad thing.  D. and I got so excited after visiting the rubble that is the basement that we made a b-line to our local housewares store to look at flooring samples.

how low can you go?

how low can you go?

The working idea at this point is to lay a durable laminate floor that mimics the look of hardwood. I am attracted to styles that have grey undertones like barn wood, they look like they’ll flow nicely with the grey and white kitchen upstairs.  We’ll need something bright because eight feet or not, its still a basement.

But getting back to this idea of superstructure, if I may, because what’s going on in the house is kind-of super when I think about it. I wonder about how many other houses of our vintage have completely new foundations… as I may have mentioned before, had we known before we purchased it that the house was riddled with structural issues, it just wouldn’t have become our home. Not a chance in  h-e-double hockey sticks. (And yes, we did have a home inspection done). I think a lot of people may have opted to tear ‘er down if they knew the extent of its problems and could afford to build from scratch. I like the thought that we may have saved it from demise, even if it wasn’t our choice.

Across the street from us and up and down the block glorious new builds seem to sprout without fail each spring. Large, modern structures, some of them three stories high with massive, flat-panel windows, a lot of stone, blocky, pretty in their own way I suppose, but not a style D. nor I really appreciate. I just saw another victim come on the market last week. We popped in to assess the situation. The real estate agent was frank about it, “Its a tear-down” she said. Its too bad. But it is what it is.

I am currently in a love-hate relationship with our house, as I suspect many people going through a substantial renovation feel.  Some days I find myself thinking that there is no finished product that could ever compensate for all the stress and anger, all the time that could have been better spent, all of the financial blood-letting, that this stupid thing has caused us.

D and I leave the house after the weekly check-ups, usually grab some lunch somewhere, and over burgers we re-hash the current week’s progress and become re-invigorated by it all, to the point that almost without fail –and even if we are on the opposite end of the city– we will find an excuse to inch back to our ‘hood and have one more look; we’ll approach from a different street this time, a different angle. And one of us will turn to the other and speak the words the other needs to hear: “Its going to be awesome.”

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PFM

The work on the foundation should be complete by the end of the month, including lowering the basement.

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Its hard to believe that just a few days before this area looked like this:

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Yes, those are two gaping holes exposing the basement to the outside, where an eight foot trench was dug around the perimeter of the house in order to facilitate the foundation work. Those stairs will be gone once the new ones are installed on the other side of the kitchen. Below is a picture of the completely exposed second floor ceiling. The guys installed beams that were eighteen feet long(!) up there to support the attic and roof structure. I can’t imagine how they got them in the house, perhaps by what our architect refers to as “PFM.”

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“Pure ______ magic”

Another kind of magic has been happening on the design front. It seems the more time D. and I have imagine how we’ll live in the space, the better and more interesting design decisions we are making. Just this weekend for instance, we became convinced that the stair rail in the kitchen leading down into the basement should be made of…wait for it…glass! When one of the project leads first suggested this about a year ago, I balked. I was loathe to change the character of the old house or turn it into something it wasn’t, and glass screamed “ultra-modern” to me. But that was before I saw some amazing examples on houzz.com of how wood elements combined with glass work together to create a really beautiful partition that would otherwise be pretty utilitarian. We were going to opt for a half-wall with a ledge that would invariably be used to perch things like coffee mugs and books that would (invariably) end up getting knocked over and break on the floor eight feet below. We don’t want things (or people) to fall down the stairs, but why not have them not fall down with this? You can’t balance your coffee on a piece of glass!

There is something about the tension between the solid wood and the airy, almost invisible glass that really appeals to me, and because we are aiming to make the space look even bigger, having that transparency will go a long way for sight lines.

In the photo above it looks like they used a dark wood as a railing, one that matches the finish on the stairs leading to (what I suspect is) the basement. The alternative would look more or less like this:

It really is beautiful in its own right, and makes good use of the space it occupies with the built-in bookcase/cookbook caddy. PLUS they have drawers, but its definitely wider than glass, and space is a precious commodity in the kitchen. I am not sure if either decision will yield results like the ones in the photos, but they are both pretty fine examples to aspire to. I guess I am just hoping for some…magic.

Powder Room Inspiration

I am taking a break from the not-so-fun basement-digging and foundation replacement pictures to focus on inspiration this week. I grabbed all of these photos from houzz.com, a home design and remodelling website that has tens of thousands of photos to browse. I started out looking through magazines and doing a lot of cut and paste before I found houzz.com, and have since been using it as a way of keeping track of my ideas, and of communicating my tastes to the designer. Warning: if you are into this stuff, you could lose hours there.

I’m loving the wallpaper in the photo below, it satisfies my need for something blue in the powder room. And notice the nod to things nautical in that picture above the toilet?  The pedestal sink is simple and classic and clean-looking.

The photo above tempts me in a really bad way to paint all of the wainscotting in the house white, despite a joint decision between me and D to leave it be… I’m loving the pendant light and the shade / blinds combo. The powder room does have a window.

And aren’t we pretty? I almost didn’t notice the camouflaged electrical outlet to the left!

This one’s all 4.0 in her senior year *and* captain of the cheerleading squad *and* still finds twelve hours a week to volunteer-coach little league soccer. But seriously, this is one gorgeous basement bathroom. I don’t think any of these elements on their own would do it for me, but the metal-framed pedestal sink, the picture above the toilet and that fantastic tile all together is…wow!

What I know about the powder room so far is that the dimensions are best suited to a pedestal sink, that the floor tile is almost certainly going to be the variegated taupe, chocolate and light blue that is kind-of shown in the picture below (grabbed from the tile store website; much different in real life). I also know that if it turns out half as pretty as any of the pictures above, I’ll be really happy with it.

taupe