Thursday, February 27, 2014

House tour - foyer & entryway

Welcome to our foyer and entryway!  When we designed our front entryway, there were a few things that were important to us: lots of natural lighting, a coat closet and a place to house the antique dry sink that came from my grandparents' house in Chicago.

In order to allow lots of natural light to come into the front of the house, our architect added a large dormer window which faces west.  Originally our architect had added a plant shelf under the window, but since I tend to be a clean freak, we did away with the plant shelf (aka: dust collector).  We also wanted the Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant to be the focal point of the entryway space.  

I've decided that it might be helpful for my blog readers if I went through things that I love and things that I would do differently.  

Things that I love about our entryway & foyer:
  1. Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant.  I honestly cannot say enough good things about this light.  It's perfect.  Perfect for the space, perfect for the overall feel of the house and it didn't break the bank.  I have worked with Rejuvenation now for a second time to change out the light over our kitchen table, and they have been wonderful to work with.  Our Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant is on a polished chrome chain designed for vaulted ceilings as there is a slope to the ceiling at the point of installation.  That's one thing you'll need to remember if you order any light for a custom build house.  Is the ceiling flat or vaulted?  The last thing you want is to get your beautiful new light and realize that you forgot to order it to be installed on a sloped ceiling.  
  2. The feeling of light and openness.  Somehow our entryway and foyer turned out to be a really inviting space that doesn't feel too formal or pretentious.  From the very beginning in designing our house, I wanted people to feel welcome in our home.  I've always wanted our home to feel like a place where you can kick your shoes off and feel warm, relaxed and invited.  I think the details of having a dormer window with a 90 degree turn in the staircase as well as the broad opening into the everyday living space really captured that feeling.  Originally our architect had the stairway coming straight down all the way to the ground level.  With that sort of layout, we lost the requisite coat closet.  That's how we ended up with a 90 degree turn in the staircase but I like the way that the turn in the staircase makes the space feel a bit less formal.
  3. The coat closet.  Our entryway coat closet is a great space to put coats, hats, boots, umbrellas and it also houses our wireless access point (thanks Dad!).
Things that I would change about our entryway & foyer
  1. The false treads on our stairs.  You'll see in the picture that the "custom stained" false treads that our builder insisted we order from our millwork supplier leaves much to be desired.  Each tread came with several dings and bare spots in the wood.  It's also not exactly a custom match to our flooring, but that would be extremely hard to tell unless you were looking closely.  One of the biggest suggestions I can give to new home builders is to order your false treads and coordinating stair pieces from your flooring supplier.  In other words, whomever you used for your flooring product should be the same manufacturer that you order your false treads from.  In this case, we should have ordered our false treads from Kentwood to coordinate with the Kentwood Originals Maple Del Rio hardwood flooring.  Some day I'm going to touch up the false treads myself, or bring our painter back to add a deeper stain and finish to the false treads.  
  2. Put a small light in the coat closet.  Thankfully my Dad installed an outlet above the inside of the closet door, so we'll be able to install a light in there eventually.  The last thing you want when guests are tired and waiting to leave your house is to be fishing around in the coat closet looking for your guest's items.  There have also been many days where I'm searching around for a specific hat or pair of gloves before taking our kiddo to school.  Having a light in the closet to illuminate the space would be really helpful.  If you're building a new construction home, don't forget to have your electrician install a small light in closets that aren't illuminated by hallway lighting or adjacent room lighting. 
Now that we've gone through what I like and what I would do differently, let's take a look at our entryway and foyer.  Here's the view of our Rejuvenation Neoclassical pendant light in the foyer.  It gives just enough detail, but not too much to take away from the space.  I took the picture with the light fixture off, so that you can see the detailing on the glass globe.

Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant
Here's the view of our home when you walk in the door.  Like I mentioned above, I think it's a really inviting space that doesn't feel too formal.  While I like the look of the false treads on the stairs, I think in hindsight I might consider closing in the stairs to save money and the hassle of matching false treads to the flooring product.
The entryway view from our front door
Another great way to add natural lighting into your home is to have a front door with small windows.  Our front door puts quite a bit of light into our entryway, but also allows for privacy as we only have windows at the top of the door and side panels.
Looking back towards the Simpson front door
Another suggestion I would make is to put a security alarm control panel adjacent to the front door.  Our panel is literally right next to the front door and is programmed with a panic code in the event that we need the police right away.

Alarm control panel and light switches adjacent to front door
Here's a picture of the coat closet, adjacent to the stairway.  It's a fairly deep closet as it shares a wall adjacent to the wall of the garage.  It houses all of our coats, scarves, hats, gloves, a few pairs of shoes and a large golfing umbrella in the event that we need to dash out the front door on a rainy day.
Entryway coat closet
One thing you'll want to remember to purchase with your hardware package is a door stop for the front door.  This is a simple polished chrome door stop that our finish carpenter installed.  The door stop will prevent your large front door from banging into the millwork and surrounding walls.
Polished chrome door stop for front door

I mentioned that we changed our staircase from a straight shot to a 90 degree turn.  One of the best things about the small alcove created by the turn in the stairway is that it created a perfect space for our family's antique dry sink.  This piece comes from my grandparents' home in Chicago and it's the perfect conversation piece for when people come to our house for the first time.  I get so many compliments and questions on this piece and it truly is one of my favorites.  You'll notice that behind the dry sink is an open railing that goes to the basement.  During the design of our home, my husband was insistent that we keep the basement stairway open.  I had a really difficult time envisioning how that would look, but I can say that I love the look of the open railing.

Antique dry sink
In the following picture, you'll see the latch on the antique dry sink.  It's one of my favorite features, and I even looked at putting this style of latch on some of our kitchen cabinets.
Antique latch on dry sink
I use the dry sink mainly to store kitchen linens, candles and a few fragile glass pieces.  
Antique dry sink
Another piece that I was excited to display in our entryway is this antique brass lamp, also from my grandparents' house in Chicago.  My Dad recently took apart the entire lamp and refurbished it with a new cord, new switch and lots of polish.  It's another great conversation piece with lots of history in our family and it puts off great light in the evenings.
Antique brass lamp
On the top of our dry sink, I like to have a few seasonal items.  Since we're in between Valentines and Easter, I've kept the decor pretty simple.  I have an antique turquoise Ball jar from my aunt's collection and a very small jade plant in a sugar bowl.
Jade plant in a sugar bowl
One of the best features of the dry sink are my dad's initials "MBN," which appear to have been carved into the top.  While he denies ever doing this, I also deny skipping classes in college and trying to smoke cigarettes (don't worry mom & dad, it was only a handful of times and my physician has assured me that I still fall into the "never smoked" category).
Top of antique dry sink
I thought I'd throw in a few pictures of our box newels.  These are a standard size of box newel from our local millwork supplier.  They came with a more detailed trim, which our finish carpenter ripped off and replaced with a more boxy trim as shown in the photo.
Custom box newel trim
The width of the actual newel post put them at just shy of 5".

Custom box newel and false tread stairs
You may have remembered that one of the things I would have done differently is to order the false treads from the flooring manufacturer.  Here's a shot of the false treads "custom stained" by our millwork supplier.  The fact that we can see bare wood is unacceptable for a custom stained product.  Eventually I'd like to either stain the treads myself or hire our painter to give them a bit more depth and color and a semi gloss finish.
False treads with bare wood exposed

As always, thanks for reading!  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the comment section.  




Wednesday, February 19, 2014

House tour - great room

It's been quite a while since I've put up a new blog post.  We have been in our new home for almost a year, and I figured it was way overdue to continue our house tour.

Welcome to our great room!  

Great room fireplace with white built in cabinets and shelving.
I apologize in advance for the poor picture quality.  It was difficult working with the bright sunlight and using an iPhone 4s to take pictures probably doesn't lend itself to the best quality of picture.  With that being said, this blog was never meant to be a professional blog with professional quality photos.  Rather, it was a place for me to chronicle building our dream home and allowing people to search for experiences and products.  

As you can see, our great room has 2 small windows and custom built in bookshelves flanking the fireplace.  This is the room that we do most of our living in.  It's the room where guests congregate during holidays or dinner parties.  It's also the place where we relax at night, kick our feet up on the oversized sectional and curl up with a good book.  

When designing this room, we had 2 objectives.  One: have a wall to house the antique secretary that has been in my family for 3-4 generations.  Two: Have built in cabinets and shelving for hidden and display storage.  I think our architect hit the mark on both (with one small issue, which I'll touch upon in a moment).  

One of my favorite features in this room is the reclaimed wood beam above the fireplace.  If you're a regular reader, you may remember how we decided to style this room around the fireplace in this great room fireplace post.  The fireplace beam adds quite a bit of character and rich color to the room.   
Custom wood fireplace beam style mantle.
One of the things that I love the most about this piece of wood are the imperfections created by the knots and the bug holes.  I didn't want a "perfect" piece of wood - in this case, the more imperfections, the better.  Our finish carpenter did an amazing job listening to our ideas and coming up with a piece of wood to match, custom stained to match our Kentwood Originals Maple Del Rio flooring.
Close up of custom wood fireplace beam with knots and bug holes.
I consider our built in great room bookshelves to be a work in progress.  They're not quite where I want them to be style wise, but I think that a well styled look is something that happens over time.  As you can see, we have quite a few books on this grouping of shelves.  I also have a few antique glass insulators, with turquoise being one of my favorite accent colors throughout the house.
Built in bookshelves styled with turquoise blue accents.
The wooden toolbox you see in the following picture belonged to my great grandfather, a Swedish carpenter.  It used to hold his nails and tools.  The glass floats come from a dear friend's personal collection.  Her husband travels to Alaska and collected these floats on a remote beach.
Antique tool box, glass floats and a small plaque from the region in Sweden where my great grandfather was raised.
While I love thumbing through design catalogs and looking at the pristine, well styled shots, that sort of living just isn't conducive to living with a child.  I decided to dedicate one shelf for all of his books.  The red antique food scale comes from a local salvage store, and it was originally made in my hometown of Chicago.
Built in bookshelves
Antique red food scale

As you can imagine, living by the water provides us with easy access to nautical antique stores.  This lobster buoy comes from a local nautical antique store.  The glass floats are my personal collection, and they were purchased from an independent antique dealer.


Like I had mentioned, one of the requirements in designing our great room was a solid wall to house the antique secretary that has been in my family for 3-4 generations.  This piece was handmade and you can still see some of the imperfect detailing of the wavy leaded glass in this shot.  The wooden bucket next to this piece is a maple sap bucket, also a family heirloom.  

Antique wooden secretary
If you're designing your home from the start, I would strongly recommend putting in an electrical outlet near your built in bookshelves.  An outlet adjacent to your bookshelves might seem strange, but it's nice to have a spot to charge small electronic or plug in tools and extension cords when the need arises.  
Electrical outlet adjacent to built in bookshelves.  The switch is used to control the gas fireplace.


The piece of furniture that gets used the most in our home is our Pottery Barn Comfort Slipcovered 3-Piece L-shaped Sectional.  While I initially was drawn to the coastal look of white slipcovered couches, I realized that it wasn't a practical option for our family.  We settled on the Metal Gray color and have been really happy with the color.  The slipcover has been a different story.  After being in the house for about 3 months, we noticed some pilling of the cushion covers and some wear along the piping.  I thought I was going to be stuck with a defective slipcover, but decided to bring the issue to Pottery Barn's attention.  I was shocked and utterly impressed when Pottery Barn decided to send me a brand new slipcover, at no charge, assuming I would provide them pictures of the defective slipcover.  I can honestly say that after that experience, I will be a lifetime customer of Pottery Barn.  Their customer service was impeccable with regular e-mail updates from their customer service team.  Since the new slipcover was custom made from a new lot of fabric, it did take a while for it to arrive on my doorstep - but the Pottery Barn team kept me well informed every step of the way.

The couch itself is amazing.  The Comfort sectional has a deeper seat cushion.  I would say that it's deep enough to be extremely comfortable without getting stuck in the couch.

Without further adieu, here is our Pottery Barn Comfort Slipcovered 3-Piece L-shaped sectional in Metal Gray!  It's worth noting that I have yet to put the new slipcover on.  Since Pottery Barn graciously allowed us to keep the defective cover, I'm going to let that one wear out first before putting the new one on.  If you notice any pilling when zooming in on the slipcover, it's because the defective cover is still on the couch.
Pottery Barn sectional in Metal Gray

Pottery Barn Slipcovered Comfort Sectional in Metal Gray
 I mentioned that we had one small design issue with the great room.  Initially, our windows behind the couch were framed at about 30 inches.  Thankfully I noticed that issue right away and had our framers frame the windows high enough to allow for the couch to comfortably fit under them.  You can see that the actual sill sits at about 36 inches and the back of the sofa comes to 31 inches.
Window sill framed to approximately 36 inches.

Back of couch comes to 31 inches.
As always, thanks for reading!  It should be said that Pottery Barn didn't ask me to write a review of our couch or the experience with their customer service department.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

Antique secretary: family heirloom
Maple sap bucket: family heirloom
Couch: Pottery Barn
Small side table: World Market
Small table lamp: Target
Coffee table: Ethan Allen
Rug: Target
Fan: Monte Carlo

Paint colors:
Wall: Benjamin Moore HC-172 Revere Pewter
Bookshelves, cabinets & millwork: Sherwin Williams SW-7008 Alabaster

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

House tour - garden

People are often surprised that I love to garden.  I think my love of gardening was born when watching my grandfather pick fresh tomatoes in his garden, back in Chicago.  To this day, the smell of tomato plants brings me right back to childhood.  

Several years ago, I went to a small space gardening lecture with a dear friend.  Marianne Binetti talked about the ability to have a small space garden that produces the fruits and vegetables that you want.  I'm by no means a master gardener, but I do love to plant things and watch them grow.  Marianne inspired me to take chances in the garden.  Some of the things that I learned:
  • Small flowerbeds are a perfect spot to mix edible flowers and lettuce
  • Dwarf fruit trees are an excellent choice for corner spaces
  • Nasturtium is not only an edible flower, but also helps to keep garden pests at bay
Since this is our first year in the house, I decided to go easy on planting.  I'm not yet familiar with the soil or the sunlight.  I decided to plant 6 fruit trees: self pollinating dwarf cherry, apple, pear and peach. I also put in rhubarb, pumpkins, strawberries, zucchini, cucumber, corn, flat leaf parsley, sweet peas and roses.  

We've been pleasantly surprised as the pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers have taken off.  I've been picking about 1 zucchini a day and have a hard time keeping up with all of the production.  I've pawned off zucchinis on my parents, friends, the neighbors and our fence guy.  I've made zucchini bread and we've been eating a lot of fresh zucchini with dinner.

Fresh picked zucchini and flat leaf parsley - grown in my small garden
Fresh zucchini and carrots

Zucchini pasta


Here's an easy recipe that we made for dinner:

Zucchini Pasta

1 lb pasta
1 sliced zucchini
3 large carrots, matchstick cut
1 tsp pureed garlic
butter
olive oil
salt 
pepper
fresh flat leaf parsley
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to box directions.  In a separate pan, saute zucchini, carrots and garlic in butter and olive oil.  Toss pasta and veggies, season with salt and pepper to taste and top with parsley and Parmesan cheese.  



House tour - home office

Our home office has been a work in progress since we moved in.  Originally we had a small writing desk, which is now in our guest room.  It worked temporarily, but we knew that we needed to get something bigger.  

If you've recently shopped for furniture, you'll know that today's furniture is not nearly as well built as the furniture of the past.  I had been scouring Craigslist for solid wood desks, and even briefly considered buying a desk from Ballard Designs or Ikea to tide us over until we decided what would really work well for this room.  

As it turns out, our office is a difficult room to work with when it comes to arranging furniture.  We have French doors on one side of the room, windows on the second and a bench seat on the third.  The only solid wall is adjacent to the French doors, which made it difficult when it came time to arrange a functional office.  

Let's take a look, shall we?

Home office French doors - 6 panel tempered glass

Home office French doors.  Polished chrome schoolhouse light by World Imports.  Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter on the walls, Sherwin Williams Alabaster on the millwork.
It's no secret that I love hand me down pieces and family heirlooms.  When my aunt moved to Seattle from Arizona, she brought a slew of pieces that she and my uncle had collected during their life together.  This small chest was built by my uncle's uncle.  The detailing is incredible and it sits on 4 very old casters.  It fits perfectly in the small corner behind the French door, and reminds me of two of my favorite people.
Antique stamp chest

Antique stamp chest
Like I mentioned, I had been searching for a desk that would make the office a more functional space.  I came up dry when I looked on Craigslist, couldn't quite cough up the $1,300 for a zinc top Ballard Designs desk and didn't feel like an Ikea desk would pass the test of time.

Since my Dad has recently retired, we've been having all sorts of fun.  He mentioned that a local Seattle area auction company was auctioning off the remaining items in an import furniture store.  I had been looking for an outdoor teak patio table, and the auction listing showed that they had 6 tables up on auction.  When we arrived at the auction, my Dad brought my attention to a solid wood desk, sitting in the corner.  He mentioned that I might want to bid on it, as it looked like a solid piece.

We ended up waiting for about 4 hours so that I could bid on the desk.  I had called my husband prior to bidding to set a maximum price. We decided that $750 would be the maximum, given that we'd have to rent a U-Haul to get it home and we might need to touch it up or paint it entirely

The desk went up for bidding, and with my hands shaking, I raised #145 and placed a bid of $100.  If you've ever been to an auction, you know that the auctioneers talk fast.  Quite honestly, I think they're incomprehensible.  As I held my number up I said to myself "I don't even know what he's saying."  I focused intently on reading his lips and kept my fingers crossed.  In the end, I got this H. Krug solid wood desk for:

$100

After getting it home and carrying it inside (for the record, it took 4 adults for it to carry it inside), we wiped out the drawers, vacuumed out the back recesses and put it together.  I e-mailed Krug to ask if they could give me any clues as to when the desk was built.  Based on the sticker on the bottom of the center drawer and the wood itself, the people at Krug thought that the desk was about 35 years old.  Krug started making casegoods in the 1970's, so we know it wasn't fabricated prior to the 1970's.  


$100 H. Krug auction desk - made of solid wood

H. Krug antique desk

H. Krug antique desk

H. Krug antique desk hardware
Standing in the doorway, looking into the home office
One of the things that we did to utilize space in the office was have our cabinet maker install built in filing cabinets with a bench seat, under the large window.  Eventually I'd like to make an upholstered cushion for the bench seat, although we're currently housing the printer on the bench seat.  Since the printer is wireless, we will likely move it into the basement.  
Built in filing cabinets and bench
Built in filing cabinets and bench
Looking into the foyer from the desk
The view from the office front window - looking on to the front porch


Saturday, July 6, 2013

House tour - master bath

Our master bath is one of my favorite rooms in the house.  It's a bright, functional space that blends just the right amount of formality with rustic and coastal charm.  

When we designed our master bath, we knew that we wanted to put in a shower with a bench.  Our architect told us that we would be stupid not to (shout out to our awesome architect, if you're reading this!) and he was right.  It's been really nice to have a bench to put my legs on while shaving, and I've also spent a few minutes sitting on it after a long day at work.  The only thing that I would change about the bench, is I would consider lowering it by an inch or two.  Carrara marble is slippery when wet, and if you work 12 hour shifts in a very busy emergency room and come home exhausted, you might find yourself sliding off of said bench if you're not paying attention.  By lowering the bench just an inch or so, I could more comfortably put my feet on the ground.

The tile that we used for our master shower is a 4x12" gloss white subway tile by Pental.  We used Laticrete's Bright White epoxy grout, which I've been pleased with so far.  The tile wipes clean with a damp sponge and the epoxy grout has required minimal scrubbing.  I've even stained the grout with a very pigmented purple shampoo, and it's scrubbed clean with a gentle cleaner and a bit of elbow grease.  

Our master shower also has a built in shampoo shelf, and two shower heads - one is mounted to the wall and the other is in the ceiling.  We have the Kohler Flipside mounted on an adjustable bar, on the wall.  So far I have no complaints about the Kohler Flipside.  It has plenty of settings to choose from, and has excellent water pressure.  I also love having the detachable head so that I can rinse shave gel off of my legs and rinse cleaning solution from all 4 walls when I'm scrubbing the shower.  

The fixture that you see in the ceiling is a rain shower head by Kohler.  This has also been a great fixture, with excellent water pressure - enough pressure to rinse out shampoo and conditioner with ease.  We installed a diverter valve so that we can have either one or both shower heads functioning at the same time.  


Pental 4x12" glossy subway tiles with Kohler Flipside and Kohler rain head showers.  Carrara marble slab bench and tub deck.
Pental 4x12" gloss white subway tile with Laticrete Spectralock Bright White grout, Carrara marble bench.

You might remember when I professed my love for our master tub.  I still adore our Maax Slimline Oval tub and the Kohler Bancroft tub faucet and hand shower.  No complaints or regrets with either of these products.
Maax Slimline Oval tub with Kohler Bancroft tub faucet and hand shower

Built in bookshelves adjacent to the master bath.  Carrara marble slab tub deck, Maax Slimline Oval tub and Kohler Bancroft tub faucet and hand shower.
Our master bath flooring is my favorite flooring in the house - made by sTile, this is a porcelain floor that is meant to look like wood.  I can honestly say that I adore the sTile Tabula Moka flooring, and we get more compliments on it than any other flooring in the house.  When the tile guys installed the Laticrete Light Pewter expoxy grout, I had a bit of a freakout moment.  I think I had envisioned the grout blending in a bit more with the tile, but our designer assured me that a contrast between the tile and grout was a good thing.  Now that we've been living with the tile/grout combination for about 4 months, I've come to love the look.

The sTile Tabula Moka floor is a dream to clean.  I use a dry Swiffer to sweep debris to the crumb sweeper* and then use a wet Swiffer to clean up the rest.  One of the best things about this flooring is that it hides dirt and hair (two of the things that I hate the most in bathrooms).
sTile Tabula Moka flooring with Laticrete Spectralock grout in Light Pewter.  Walls are Benjamin Moore 1551 La Paloma Gray.
Another part of the bathroom that I love is the dual vanity.  We carried the same Carrara marble slab on to the vanity top, and used a simple undermount sink by Kohler.  The faucets are the Kohler Bancroft monoblock lavatory faucet with ceramic handles.  I love the formality of the marble, contrasted with the old world monoblock faucet.  The blacksplash is a simple 3x6" matte subway tile by Pental, which was leftover from the kitchen.
Carrara marble vanity slab, Kohler undermount sink, Kohler Bancroft monoblock lavatory faucet, 3x6" matte subway tile by Pental with Laticrete Spectralock epoxy grout in Bright White.  Benjamin Moore 1551 La Paloma Gray on the walls.

Benjamin Moore 1551 La Paloma Gray with Pental 3x6" matte white subway tile and Carrara marble slab vanity top
 Despite the protests from our builder, cabinet maker and finish carpenter, one of the best decisions that I made was to install a medicine hutch on top of the dual vanity in the master bath.  I like to call it "Separation of church and state."  Not only does this hutch give us an enormous amount of storage, but is also keeps my side separate from my husband's.  I don't want to look at his toothpaste splatter on the mirror, and this hutch is the perfect divider.  For the record: I love him, but I do not love toothpaste splatter on the mirror.

You may notice a little notch/panel at the very bottom of the cabinetry in the center.  That's the crumb sweeper*.
Dual master bath vanity.  Cabinets are painted Sherwin Williams Alabaster, cabinet knobs and pulls from Overstock, Carrara marble slab top, Kohler Bancroft monoblock lavatory faucets with ceramic handles, 3x6" matte white subway tile backsplash by Pental with Laticrete Spectralock grout in Bright White.
*Shout out to Dr. D.C.!  If you're reading this, thank you for your suggestion to put a crumb sweeper in the bathroom.  Brilliant!  I think of you every time I use it.  Is that weird...?