Sunday, January 22, 2012

Something Old, Something New

You remember the story of our English Tudor, right?  This historic bay area home had not been touched for generations.  While the details were stunning, the cramped rooms just didn't work for the way families now live.  We did a careful restoration of the period details, opened up some spaces, and added a kitchen/family room, master suite, guest bedroom, and garage.  What a difference!
The original kitchen was tiny and isolated, a place for the help, not the family.  The new kitchen/family room addition makes food prep and family time one in the same.  In place of an island, the central kitchen table is a place for Legos and lunches and feels lighter than a built-in.  
To keep the kitchen clutter-free, a section of the old porch was converted into a pantry, used for storing food, wine, and bulky countertop appliances.  We saved one of the original wood swing doors and re-purposed it as a pocket door.  The holes from the old hardware are still visible to tell the tale!
The two-toned kitchen cabinets and simple white subway tile create a very vintage vibe without feeling fussy.
In an extraordinary feat of seamless remodeling, we replaced the middle set of French doors that were rotten.  The only visible difference between the new and the old is the sheen of fresh varnish.
The dining room was kept mostly intact.  We restored the gorgeous gum woodwork common in the 1910s, and added the punchy red grasscloth from Villa Nova Fabrics to make the room come alive.  Read this post about how we removed a bay window when the new kitchen was added.
Check out the amazing built-in hutch!  The shapes in this
hutch are repeated in trim and fixtures throughout the house.  I love this piece!
This historic restoration was a really fun blend of the past and the present.  I hope you like!  More to come on the exterior and the second floor.  Also, I'll update the Completed Projects Tab over the coming weeks with a full list of finishes and colors used in the spaces. 

Need help with something on your own home renovation?  Leave a comment below and this construction nerd will do her best!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Little Blue Cottage Featured in Better Homes and Gardens

Hi there remodeling friends, great news!  Our very first project documented from start to finish here at TPC is featured in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  The snappy design of the Little Blue Cottage won over countless readers and we couldn't be more flattered that it also caught the attention of the pros over at BHG.
For those of you who fell for the little cottage that could, pick up November's Better Homes while you're stuck in the Denver airport next week, flip to page 66, and read the back story of the family that turned their starter home into their dream home.
*Special bonus - there are way better photos than I ever took, and more rooms that I didn't show you!
**Extra special bonus - The Little Blue Cottage is also being published in the BHG's new decorating book, aptly titled New Decorating Book, available here and at fine local booksellers in your neighborhood.  Pick up a copy for that shelter-loving love in your life, or add it to your own wishlist!
***Double extra super special bonus - Yours truly will be appearing at the world famous Builders Booksource in Berkeley, CA on Friday, December 2 from 7-9pm to sign your copy and answer all your burning questions about how this house came to be so awesome.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Residential Aluminum Windows - Locally Made in California

Metal windows are unique in that they are equally at home in residential and commercial architecture, modern structures and old-world historic buildings.  They have a timeless minimalist profile, derived from the strength of the frames, which affords narrow sight lines even in very large windows. 

In the Rustic Modern house, we installed the Bonelli windows you see below.  These are black anodized aluminum frames with satin nickel hardware.  The durable anodized frames require no maintenance, look great, and are locally made to boot!
Keep in mind that aluminum and steel windows work best in temperate climates, like here in the San Francisco Bay Area, because the metal frames do not have a thermal break.  Metals are great conductors, making these windows transfer heat and cool from outside into the house, rendering all that insulation less effective.  In areas where it gets very cold, condensation can also be an issue, particularly if you don't have heat vents near the windows.
For steel windows and doors, look to Hope's Steel Windows and Doors out of Jamestown, NY, Torrence Steel Window Company out of Torrance, CA, or Crittall Windows Ltd.  You'll need to go through a local distributor.

For aluminum windows and doors, you can order directly from the manufacturer.  Blomberg Window Systems out of Sacramento, CA has great shop drawings and customer service.  Bonelli Windows and Doors made the lovely units you see on this post.  They're out of South San Francisco.  They don't do shop drawings, but offer very competitive pricing, have a library of standard details, and will build to alignments you submit.  Although I haven't used them, I've heard nothing but good things about  Fleetwood Windows and Doors in Corona, CA.  They have been serving contractors and homeowners since 1962.  What other manufacturers do you guys like?  If you have a local vendor you love, send them a shout out!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Board Formed Concrete Fail

So much has happened since I last wrote, I know it's been a while.  I had a post all lined up to boast to you about how we formed the huge concrete wall using panels constructed by affixing HardiPlank siding of varying heights to sheets of plywood. 
I was going to tell you how this best-of-both-worlds approach proposed by our concrete subcontractor would take advantage of the flatness of plywood and the wood grain texture of siding to give us the look of perfectly uniform board formed concrete.
It was going to be so great!  But, here's the rub.  It didn't work.  Like really really didn't work.  You see, HardiPlank is a product made of fiber*cement* and what sticks to cement better than cement?  Well, it turns out, nothing.

The concrete crew neglected to use form release oil, but several experts since have offered that even form release oil couldn't have prevented the disaster that resulted from all the HardiPlank forms being permanently and very stubbornly stuck to what is meant to be the single resounding architectural element of the entire project, our giant concrete front wall.
For those of you who aren't schooled on board-formed concrete, let's back up and I'll tell you how we got to this point.  Traditionally, concrete forms were built from framing lumber like 2x8s or 2x10s. The concrete is poured between the wood forms and when the boards are stripped off, there is a slight imprint from the wood texture. Some concrete slumps between the boards leaving horizontal lines at the seams too.  You see this look a lot in modern architecture.
Given  that our wall is 16' high, 25' long, and has an exposed steel beam that spans a 17' wide gap in the wall, it's crucial that the wall be very flat.  Lumber tends to warp and move, so the thought was to form with plywood for flatness and the add siding with the wood grain pattern for texture.
2 months and $25,000 later, we have reached a resolution.  It looks beautiful, it looks intentional, but I still cringe at how we got to this point.
The solution?  We soaked the wall, scored the siding, and took chippers and grinders to every inch, being careful to not damage the concrete underneath .  It was time consuming, labor intensive, and awful.  Then, we hired a sandblaster to blast off the fine layer that was left and smooth the texture.

The lesson?  If someone on your project claims to have invented a new wheel, ask a lot of questions.  Ask other people in the field, suppliers, vendors, and reps.  Go to the forums and ask people who do this all the time what potential trouble you might run into with a new process.  I love finding better ways to build, but I hope you all can learn from my mistake on this one.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rebar Madness

It's been a crazy couple of weeks trying to get everything in place for this momentous concrete pour. Since last post, we poured the piers and installed all the underslab plumbing. Then we dropped in 12" of gravel and tied all the rebar for the topping slab and the retaining walls.
The entire garage level will have concrete walls and floor.  This includes a laundry room, bathroom, and mechanical room, so we have to make sure that every exhaust duct that needs to go through the wall is planned before forming all the walls.
While it's always important to have a lot of people on hand for the concrete pour, that is especially true here where we have to get the hoses to the top of a 16' high wall.
Including the piers, the topping slab, and the retaining walls, we have 65(!) yards of concrete in for this two-story addition.  The concrete will need to cure, and then as soon as the forms are stripped, I'll show the finished product.  Check back in soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Project! Rustic Modern Master Suite Addition

I am so excited about this new project -- we just broke ground, so it's in the very intense beginning phase, but I know it's going to be amazing!  The house is in a great location, nestled into a hillside under a towering grove of redwood trees.  These are the "before" photos of back and the side of the house, with story poles in place showing what we're going to build.
The goal is to remove a deteriorating and poorly insulated master bedroom and garage, excavate into the hillside, and add on a new two story addition that will encompass a garage, laundry, bathroom, mechanical, and storage room on the ground floor, and master bedroom, master bath, writer's studio, and kids' playroom on the second floor. 
Notice the tiny backhoe ready to get started!  We have already performed all the demolition and excavation, so we're left with this massive hole.
To give you an idea of just how steep lot is, in this photo, I'm standing in the back yard and looking down toward the front yard.  Yikes!  We built safety fences all the way around the site that you can see in the background.
We've just begun drilling for piers.  We have a total of 12 piers, going down 12-15' into bedrock to anchor the new foundation to the hillside.  On the back wall where the black tarps are now, will be a 11' high concrete wall.

The design of the house is rustic modern, so that's what I'll call it from here on out.  It combines elements from the natural surroundings, like stone and weathered wood, with contemporary finishes, like steel and glass, to make the home seem like a cozy extension of the forest.  I'm starting to see more and more of this style in the wooded areas of the Northern California hills.  You're going to love it!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Tar Paper Star

I am such a fan of the site Fun and VJs, run by Anita in Brisbane, Australia.  She has a Queenslander house, which, to be honest, I'd never even heard of before reading her blog, but now I know it is a lovely architectural style native to Queensland in Australia, developed in the 1840s and still in use today, characterized by verandas, raised living spaces, and corrugated metal roofs.  VJs refers to Vertical Join timber, locally referred to as tongue and groove.
Anita's sow's-ear-turned-silk-purse is our latest Tar Paper Star, so check out her site and read more at the Tar Paper Stars link above.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paint Colors at the Cottage

I've had a lot of questions about the paint colors used on this house, so I thought now was a good time to download for all of you working on your own cottages. 

One thing to note is that the ceilings are the same as the wall colors throughout.  This is a new technique we're seeing lately that really makes the woodwork stand out.  I was afraid that going away from white ceiling would make the rooms feel smaller, but it actually has quite the opposite effect.

Kitchen Cabinets & Trim:
Benjamin Moore Int RM 02, Super White, satin finish.

Kitchen Walls & Ceiling:
Benjamin Moore 463, Woodland White, flat finish.
Stair Woodwork:
Benjamin Moore Int RM 02, Super White, satin finish.

Stair Walls & Ceilings:
Benjamin Moore HC-173, Edgecomb Gray, flat finish
Bedroom Cabinets & Trim:
Benjamin Moore Int RM 02, Super White, satin finish.

Bedroom Walls & Ceiling:
Benjamin Moore 1577, Artic Gray, flat finish.
Child's Room Cabinets & Trim:
Benjamin Moore Int RM 02, Super White, satin finish.

Child's Room Walls & Ceiling:
Benjamin Moore HC-171, Wickham Gray, flat finish.

Exterior Trim & Fence:
Matched to Marvin Window clad color, Stone White, semi-gloss finish.

Exterior Shingles & Siding:
The exterior is not painted, it is covered with integral color HardieShingles and HardiePlank Siding in Boothbay Blue

Door Trim:
Matched to Marvin Window clad color, Stone White, semi-gloss finish.

Front Door:
Benjamin Moore 538, Vienna Green, semi-gloss finish.

Good luck to all of you out there in the painting stage.  You're almost there!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Modern Kitchen Fun

I've been meaning to post pics of this kitchen for a while.  I just adore the way it all came together.  This is another great design by Lorin Hill Architects, of the English Tudor house fame.
The house is classic mid-century modern, but a previous owner had poorly installed a cheesy Home Depot kitchen without permits.  At the "encouragement" of city officials, that room was torn out and the resulting kitchen has changed the whole feel of the home. 

The slab cherry cabinets and white granite lighten the weight of oversized pot drawers, and the orange accent wall (including door and trim) adds an element of playfulness while slyly downplaying the galley layout of the space.
Large rectangular floor tiles give the feel of stained concrete and heat registers run through the cabinet toekicks keep the floor area clear.  Period light fixtures from the underground favorite Schoolhouse Electric Company top off this great mid-century kitchen makeover.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Antique Lighting Restoration

Stop!  Don't throw out those old fashioned light fixtures that have been with your house from the beginning of time, bring them up to date with new shades and wiring.  You'll support your local artisans for less money than buying all new fixtures, and the style will read true your home's architectural roots.
The original gothic light fixtures at our English Tudor home were rewired to bring them up to safe and modern wiring standards by the folks at Sue Johnson Custom Lamps and Shades on Solano Ave in Berkeley.  Better still, they crafted these gorgeous custom shades that showcase hand-selected leaves of native California plants set in mica.  The seams are stitched fabric and the result is stunning.
If yours are already gone, scour your local antique stores and architectural salvages for period lighting and have a lighting restoration company bring it back to life for you.  So much more soul than buying new!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tar Paper Stars

See that little TAR PAPER STARS link above?  It will take you to a brand new feature I'm excited to introduce.  The plan is to showcase one builder site a month that deserves a little blog love, and by all means, suggestions are welcome!  Even though this month is already halfway over, it's never to late to introduce Meryl Rose of the Picardy Project.  She's based right here in beautiful Oakland, CA and has a great site where she documents the restoration of her storybook home.  Go there now!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cottage Complete!

At last, all the finishing touches are complete on our Little Blue Cottage and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out.  Check out the photos below, and as always, if you have any questions, be sure to shout!

BEFORE:  2 Bedroom, 1 bath, Single Story home
AFTER: 4 Bedroom, 3 bath, Two Story home
DURATION: 10 Months 


Front of House - Before

Front of House - Current


Front of House - Before

Front of House - Current 

Back of House - Current

For more on this kitchen, see the 360 degree video here. 



During Framing



Woo-hoo for our first complete remodel from start to finish here at TPC!  So... what do you guys think?