Monday, March 30, 2009

Settling in

Little by little- even with the plaster dust and drop cloths and wood glue and tile samples-- this house is feeling like a home. I planted some herb seeds last night which made me exceedingly happy. I really, really missed gardening while we were displaced for a year and a half so am excited to get back 'diggin' in the dirt'! I may do a later more detailed post on this project later...
Also, this weekend I baked cookies for the first time in over a year! I really loved baking and this was another thing I've really missed- although I was also traumatized by my last attempt which was just after we had gotten settled in the first apartment post-fire. The apartment was new construction which appealed to us because it was clean and looked great-- but there were SO many things wrong with it- the worst of which were faulty smoke detectors (of all things!) that went off at the slightest thing. We ultimately learned that you had to put the fan on High in order to even boil water on the stove top. Anyway- this was about two months after the fire; I had the idea of taking a "mental health" day to settle in and bake cookies for the fire department as a thank you. Everything was great until I opened the oven to check on the first batch and smoke alarms went off and I couldn't get them to stop.... I'd press the reset button and not two minutes later they'd start blaring again. Long story short- I opened every window in the apartment, eventually in a fit of despair threw the cookies (sheet and all!) into the snow-- and with my nerves totally fried, literally shaking, took the train into work just to get away from it all....
Sooooo this was a MUCH better experience! The blue star convection worked wonders and I made up a couple of little cookie packets to leave for our builders to take home to their families.
Lastly, in the evenings we've been letting our kitty cats out to explore (after we vacuum and wet mop the plaster dust up!) It makes me so happy to see them out and about. Caelyn, our little black cat is a little camera shy-- but here are a couple of photos of Zin:
They both love all the windows in the house-- good for checking out the birds and squirrels and sittling in patches of sunshine. Here's Zin looking out the window between the builtins in the dining room.

..and here's where he sat while we watched a little television last night. I'm so happy that all four of us are slowly relaxing back to being home.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ideal Tile

Anthony met us at Ideal Tile today to help us with our backsplash decision and fireplace surround decision once and for all. (How awesome is a GC that goes with you to help with design decisions?!)

Great news!!! We've settled on a backsplash! It's a pretty, classic porcelain tile with a crackle finish. There's a mix of colors- all gentle neutrals: bluey greys, greens, and browns. The backsplash will be the subways shown here. Behind the range will have a tile molding around framing a the square tiles placed on the diagnal.

Here are just some photos of me playing with the sample Vinny let us take home.
Here's a close up of the tile. ooooo it's so creamy and pretty!

Next up was the fireplace surround. Anthony built this to-die-for mantle which you can see close up here. He is truly a master carpenter-- the detail on the mantle is not lost on us. We looked to him to take the lead on what to do for the surround (within the mantle).

We settled in on these slate tiles. We already have a soapstone hearthstone.... The idea for this will be to use the harlequin (diamond) tiles for the top right below the mantle and above the fireplace. This will be finished off with the black marble pencil molding you can see here too. Then going down either side will be the simple square slate tiles (two across on each side). I am SO excited about the harlequin pattern... what is it with me and things on the diagnal?

Vinny spent so much time assisting us with our selections. He also drew up a mock up of the fireplace design. Here he is! We are so lucky to be working with such masters in their trade.

bathroom updates

Our masterbath shower door is installed. It looks so faaaaancy!
...and most of the hardware in the shower is installed. The whole bath is gorgeous- can't wait until we can actually use it! We did run into a snafu with a couple of the handles of the RH Dillon faucet and diverter. After a lot of worry and a lot of phone calls we hope it's resolved. RH is sending out replacement handles and hardware which hopefully will arrive soon. That's the only thing holding us up from being able to use our bathroom.

See that hole in the wall above the main shower faucet? That's where the diverter is suppose to go which will switch the water flow from the overhead to the handheld.Also, here you see our sink.. with sadly only one working faucet. Still, I can be patient, the bathroom LOOKS amazing even if it isn't yet functional!

and talk about life changing--- we got a towel bar and tissue holder installed in the guest bath (which is what we're using until we 'move' into our bed/bath). What a difference that makes! No more hanging our wet towels over the shower curtain bar-- no more reaching around to the back of the toilet for the tissue roll. It's the small things that you can sometimes be most thankful for!

Monday, March 23, 2009

not done yet!

The area rugs we ordered from arrived. We have two of them in the kitchen (both in red) and one in front of the door to the deck- the same style, but in black. They are indoor/outdoor rugs which should clean up well in these high traffic areas.

It's always nervous-making to order things sight-unseen, but I'm very happy with them. I like this photo-- I can't quite believe it's our kitchen. Even though the rest of the house is in disarray with so much continued work (and the dust that follows it)-- these little vignettes make me happy. It's amazing how the elements come together from the linen white of the cabinets and the door style to the hardware and soapstone and the sink and the latest touches of textiles.

That said, here are a couple of the things I'm so anxious for them to finish up. The built-in's in the dining room:

The doors on in the laundry room to cover the washer/dryer instead of having them propped up on the walls.

Clean up the dust (from wood, tile, drywall... and goodness knows what else) once and for all. We're fighting a losing battle here! Every night when we get home we vacuum and wet mop everything... but it's back the next day. Worst is Saturday mornings when the sun is streaming in....

Change out the diverter to the correct one and replace the tile in the hall bath. Oh and uh finish our masterbath and bedroom so we can move out of the guest room!

...and here I was going to point out that I'm longing for the fireplace surround... but I have to put that on hold... doesn't the mantle painted white look just heavenly? For as anxious as I am for them to finish... I'm even more happy thankful to be here at all.... Surrounded by such an amazing house- it is much easier to be patient.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Placing plants

Greg our landscaper came early yesterday morning before any of my piano students arrived so we could set the foundation plantings. He'll be back on Monday to stick them in the ground!
It was really cold out, but the sun was shining-- giving me just enough of a taste that spring is going to be here soon.What do you think of something like this for the front? In and among these boxwood foundations is where I want to plant my herb garden... but I like the way these add some permanent interest and frame our entrance way. It's starting to look like a "real house"!
Here are the "contractor's boxwoods" to cover the gas meter. These and the dragon lady holly were the only things we purchased-- everything else was salvaged from our previous home.

You have to use your imagination here, but I'm thinking hydrangeas on either side of the chimney and that's a full/low boxwood in between. I of course have visions of filling this out with perennial and annual plantings, but these are the foundation plants.

Here's another view with a larger boxwood on the corner of the house. I do love boxwoods....

Again, please use your imagination, but that's a hydrangea on the corner of the deck-- some peonies in between that and the stairs. Those large posts on the deck are where the lattice will be and I'd like to grow white climbing roses and clematis up there. Still figuring out how to hide the two air conditioning units in front...

Here's the back yard. On the far right is forsythia, next a Japanese maple which looks like it has a fighting chance and then two plants which really may or may not pull through. We're going to stick them in, give them some love and see if they take... but if not, we'll hoick them out.

Another view of the side/chimney area.

And of the front...

This view is from our neighbor's yard so you can see the side of the house. I like it too because it has some grass (where our yard still looks like a giant mud pit!)
Here's another view of the back... use your imagination... I think I could potentially frame out our whole back yard with beautiful perennial borders and have a gorgeous private retreat....
Another view of the back.... I have never liked that jacob's ladder plant and it's not looking good. out it goes!
Here's the side-- more boxwoods interspersed with azaleas. Again, these will be the foundations but I'm excited to plant some sun-loving annuals on this side of the house too.

This was one of the most fun mornings-- I was running around like a little kid-- pointing, "Let's try that holly over there!" and, "What about the hydrangea here?" and carrying the smaller boxwoods to the front of the house. I still have to figure out where the rest of the peonies will go... and take another look to make sure everything is in place before tomorrow.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Would you look at this? I could not believe my eyes. These little beauties are showing their glory in our front yard. M. and I had tried to dig up all our bulbs last august before demolition knowing how destroyed our yard would be... only to have the landlady of our apartment throw them all out. I was devastated.
... but here are a couple we missed.... who also somehow made it through all the construction. It fills me with such joy.
... and these may even fill me with greater joy!!! They don't look like much.. but you may see that bit of pink popping up there... they are my PEONIES!!! Greg found them and they are sprouting already. Who knows how they'll fare once they are back in the ground, but I'm just glad they weren't too torn up or gone missing. I love these peonies.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Front of house day dreams...

Hydrangeas are among my absolute favorite flowers. They were in my wedding bouquet and I adored the ones on the side of our (old) house. I love the shape of the flowers, the color and texture of the leaves...and the dried flowers are to die for. I've been thinking, dreaming of a pee gee hydrangea for the front corner of the house. I love white flowers and I think the white and green would look stunning against our house.

A simple google image search of pee gee hydrangeas is enough to make me drool:

I'm thinking on the corner by the music room window- kind of where that piece of plywood is in this photo:

Can you imagine this display of blooms in real life?

I would like to ground the landscaping in the front of the house with some other foundation plantings that would maintain their interest throughout the seasons. Perhaps some of our salvaged boxwoods (who look very sad on the side of the house right now).
...and then my real plan for the front of the house is to start a (mostly perennial) herb garden!
While unpacking I came across my all time favorite seed catalog from seed savers exchange. A (non gardening) friend joked to me once, "what is that? garden porn?" I don't think it was the look of pleasure on my face that made him ask the question- but rather the high-gloss, absolutely sinfully gorgeous color photos of heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers. So I've been trying to figure out what my garden budget is going to be and make my wish list.
I had initially planned to do raised beds in the back and try my hand at square foot gardening. I've been pouring over the book for months and sketching out my plans... but ultimately I realized I should simplify this year.... I realized since so many of our shrubs didn't survive the fire, transplant and winter... some basic landscaping had to take priority. So I've tabled the idea of my raised bed vegetable garden for now and am focusing my energies on an herb garden in the front!
I love that herbs can be both functional and highly ornamental. Favorites first. Lavender is one of my all-time favorites... a definite for my garden. I've grown Hidcote from seed before but I'd also like to try English (true) lavender... and maybe even a couple other strains...
Sage is anothe obvious one. Look at how stunning this border looks (with swiss chard in the back- gorgeous!)
Tarragon. Love tarragon.

Rosemary is a favorite that we've grown before and actually had success overwintering. I love the smell of rosemary- and the taste! Also it's a pretty plant whose spiky texture will compliment the softer foliage of the other herbs.
I've never grown chives before but would like to try. Their flowers are pretty and the shape of the plant is conducive to my vision.

I've also never grown hyssop before. There is also a variety with white flowers which I might prefer.

Wormwood is another new one to me, but I love the shape and texture of the leaves.

Anise would be a new one too, but I like the flavor and the green and white goes with my vision.
Bay leaf is gorgeous.... not sure if it'll be difficult to grow where we are...?

Parsley- check. Both curly and flat leaf, please.

Bee balm. I think I just love the name. I'm not sure of the uses for this herb... I'm pretty sure it's not for any culinary uses, but it does attract bees and the flowers are pretty!

Another name that I quite like is Lamb's ear... and look how pretty the silver leaves are in a border.

We'll need to plant some chamomile I think.

This posting is becoming rather long... and I'm still not done with my herb seed wishlist, but I must add this photo. Basil is an obvious one for our herb garden and we've grown genovese basil and lemon basil before. This year I'm dying to add one of the purple basils to our list-- look how pretty they look together!

Now I just need the builders to finish in the laundry powder room (where I will be doing my seed growing) and for the soil to warm up!