Sunday, December 21, 2008

The master bath continues

The master bath has become a source of, um, problem.  Specifically, the shower.  
We originally planned to have a shower pan built at House of Marble.  For a 5 foot by 5 foot custom cultured marble pan they estimated a cost of $700.  Which I guess isn't bad.  But then we got to talking.  During my brief tenure with a company that dealt with travertine, marble and such, I acquired a piece of travertine.  It's four feet long, a foot deep and about an inch thick.  It would make an AWESOME shower bench.  But then we began questioning how the bench would work in regards to the pan.  Since it's solid travertine, the
 piece is not light.  There is no way to 'hang' it off the wall, it would definitely need to sit on something sturdy.  I suggested cinder blocks.  (And, after doing some research, I found that is in fact 
an acceptable foundation for a bench.  BUT that is because we have a slab foundation.  You might want to consider another option if you are dealing with a second story or if you have a crawl space.)
So, now we think that we may need to build a custom shower pan where the bench base would actually sit inside the pan and then it would all be tiled together.  It will have a much more custom look and be a bit more cohesive than the pre built pan.
The design for the shower will use a 13x13 tile set on a diagonal. 

This will go from the floor up to about the 5 foot mark.  There, we will use a small brick tile that I found on Ebay.  The store is Oracle Tile, (here is their Ebay store) they have great prices, and despite having to pay shipping charges from California, it was still cheaper than similar products at Lowe's/Home Depot and they have a great variety.  If you are looking for tile, these guys are a must.  I bought six sheets of the brick pattern and one sheet of a matching 1 by 1.  I'm going to use these as accents throughout.  
And above that will be the same 13x13 squared off and we will take the tile up to the bottom of the window which is around 7 1/2 feet.
If we can make the bench work, it take up the four feet and the last foot will be a higher shelf for shampoo.  If the bench will not work, then we will go with the cultured marble pan and a corner shelf.
I will eventually add a sketch of the shower design.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Master Bath

Our master bath has been something of a (you guessed it) problem.  But this one isn't really a bad problem, just that when I stand in the great room and look around, I can visualize everything around me.  I see the cabinets.  I see the paint on the walls.  I see everything. 
But, when I walk in the bathroom, all I can see are studs.  
A month ago, we scoured Carries Flea market. What we were looking for, we weren't sure.  A dresser where we could cut a hole in the top for a sink?  A cabinet to go with the dual vanity we found elsewhere?  Legs from a dining room table that could be used to 'spice up' a boring vanity?  Who knows.  What we ended up finding was this:
It's solid wood and has a slightly rustic charm.  It had a light coat of poly on it and we stripped it down.  We went to our home-away-from-home, Lowe's and bought some stock cabinetry to go on either side of this piece.  Our plan is to use the bottom to store towels and the top will house all the junk that normally resides on the counter top.  Since the house is custom, we are having an extra outlet placed behind this so the hairdryer and all the cords can stay neatly tucked into this cabinet.  
So, we set out to stain the cabinets.
Which, looked really, really good.  Except that the PINE armoire and the OAK cabinets took the stain in completely different colors.  (Yes, just like the display shows!)  So, we sanded those pieces AGAIN and painted them.  Which came out like this:
There will be a matching vanity cabinet to the left as well.  We are pleased with the results.  We also bought a few decorative trim pieces that will help tie the three pieces together.  We are looking for mirrors that mimic the curve of the armoire.  If we can't find something, we will probably be building our own.

Cooking up some problems

This week has brought more and more problems.  Not huge-life-altering-problems, more like annoyance level equal to a gnat-on-red-bull-problems.  The Kitchen.  My beautiful, beautiful kitchen.  I went back to Lowe's and visited with Dan, who surprisingly did not run when he saw me coming.  We moved the dishwasher and replaced it with a smaller cabinet in hopes of widening the walkway to an acceptable width.  We also added twenty inches of cabinets on one of the walls.  So that is done, and I promised that I would only be back to order them.  Let's hope I can keep that promise.
So, the amazing piece that we bought to be the centerpiece of the kitchen will need to house a vent hood for the oven.  We had planned for that and (stupidly) assumed that the vent could be directed straight out the back.  Nope.  It has to go up.  Well, the piece will end up being about 8 feet tall but the ceiling is 10 feet tall.  So our builder gave us three options.
1) Have the pipe stick up out of my BEAUTIFUL CABINET (and paint it the wall color)
2) Build a box around the pipe, which will still stick up out of my cabinet
3) Push the pipe into the wall so that it is not visible from the kitchen, but would create a crazy "bump out" off the back of the house that would be bricked around.
Um, no thank you.
We are going to attempt to build a faux cabinet over the top that will cover and extend all the way to the ceiling.  If it works, it will look gorgeous.  If it doesn't I'll have wished I had not shared this with everyone.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lessons learned

Things have been moving along.  The windows were switched (it turns out that only one is wrong, the on over the garage and one in the garage were reversed) and the plumbing has been roughed in.  Friday, we met with the electrician and decided where all the lights would go.  During that meeting, I realized I have probably spent too much time picking out tile and not enough time thinking about other things.  Like, where exactly our light switches would go.  Since we designed this house, (and not someone who, you know gets PAID to do this) there are several places where things may not make sense.  Like the fact that we have a pillar RIGHT beside our front door, just to the left. So, our door has to open to the right.  Which would be fine, except, now the light switch has to go behind the door.  Poor planning.  I mean, I would have NEVER thought of that.  So, much of the conversation with the electrician went, "Well, what do you think?"  And then I would agree with whatever he said.  Because, he's been doing this for much longer.  And he was working on Saturday.  (I'm finding that more people do that than I thought – maybe it's the economy.)  
Friday, they also finished putting on the roof shingles and began installing the HVAC.  We picked a dark brown roof color.  And we are using ridge vents instead of "whirly birds."  They are more energy efficient and look much nicer.
The electrician says that he thinks he can have all the electric roughed in by Tuesday or Wednesday.  It looks like we are still on target to have drywall up before the end of this year.  
We had planned to stain the concrete over the Christmas holiday then protect them (depending on when the drywall will be done).  Today, we set up some test spots and ran into a bit of trouble.  The floors aren't as nice as we had hoped.  They are scratched, there are a few places they have been written on, and you can see some of the swirl marks from where it was smoothed.  Hmmm.  So, now, we are back to the budget trying to determine if we can squeeze out another 5K for bamboo floors.  Which, I really hope we can.  We had planned on doing hardwood later (like in a few years) to help lower our total cost now.  
We also have a small problem in the kitchen.  The island wont be as long as we thought.  Instead of 11' 8", it's probably going to be more like 10'10" which probably isn't as devastating as it sounds to me.  Basically, we designed the kitchen on paper.  And once we got the walls up, we realized that what we had designed at Lowe's based off what we had dictated to our architect didn't leave a walkway between the island and the refrigerator.  So, to make the walk bigger, we have to scoot the island.  But, the pipes are already set for the sink.  The only option is to move the dishwasher to the left instead of the right and to put a smaller cabinet where the dishwasher was supposed to go.  Again, not awful, just not great.  But, with each little hurdle, we learn.  Which will be great if we ever decide to do this again.  And that of course will be determined when everything is over.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shedding light on communication

This morning, I eagerly ran over to the house to see if any windows had been installed.  They had!  Except, several of them are wrong.  Maybe I'm being overly critical, but the 6x8 windows are only 6x7, and the three others on the front do not match.  One opens up, the other has a strange line down the middle, but the other is correct.  

Oh yeah, and the doors are hung in the wrong place.  My sliding glass door is in the master, and the french door is in the dining room.  I actually ran out there last night, but it was dark, forcing me to return this morning for further inspection and photographic evidence.  The workers were loading up when I noticed that the doors were in the wrong place.  So, I had this conversation:
Me: Excuse me, do you speak English?
Guy loading up: No.
Me: (trying to remember Spanish class from 10 years ago) Los puertos son...malo.
Which is Spanish for "Kelli is a retard."
Guy: *blank stare*
Me: Dammit.
I found someone who spoke enough English that he was able to nod in all the right places and finally say, "Tomorrow?"  Which, I whole-heartedly agreed.  I wasn't going to make these guys fix the doors at 6 p.m.
The morale of this story is, I have to keep a watch on this house daily, else it go awry and, I need to learn a lot more Spanish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Sanctuary.

The kitchen.  My home away from home, um, in home.  If I could turn my desk into a cabinet an plunk down a slab of granite, I would be in heaven.  
OK, maybe that's a bit much, but I do love to cook and bake and basically make a giant mess of the kitchen, which my loving husband cleans.  Because he is awesome.
In our old house, we had white cabinet that we antiqued with a glaze.  And then (after Brad pestered me about it) we added a small island, but we didn't want it to match, so we went with a dark chocolate, almost black and topped it with granite. 

We like these colors, so we are planning on keeping it very similar.  Brad found this photo, and we have been referring to it as our 'inspiration piece.'

So, off we went to find something that will either come close to this, or at least help us get across the feeling of grandness.  We ordered our cabinets from Lowe's (in Bryant), and the extremely helpful (and more patient than I would ever be) Dan helped us get what we needed.  Until, of course, we found this.

And we had to completely over-haul the kitchen design.  And Dan changed it all with a smile.  (Although after the third time we visited him, I'm pretty sure he cursed us after we left.)  This piece was bought at Carries flea market, and (before you say it, no, it's not a mantle) it is actually the top of an entertainment center.  Once it is sitting on our cabinets, it will be close to eight feet tall.  Which should look perfect with the ten foot ceilings.  It will go on the back wall, over the stove.  To the right is the double oven.  And on the left wall is the microwave over a small cabinet, next to the refrigerator.

The kitchen has an eleven foot bar that will be comprised of the mocha cabinets topped with kashmir white granite.

The back cabinets will be glazed off-white (just like our last ones) but topped with Black Galaxy granite. Despite the gorgeousness of stainless steel appliances, we think that the black appliances will work better.  Which we have already started hunting down, but that's another post.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Putting the vain in vanity, maybe.

Our guest bath is small.  Not super small, just your average vanity, toilet, tub/shower small.  Which is fine.  Because we don't ever plan on using it.  
If we could build a house that was 2,000 sq. ft. and was a one bedroom, one bath, we would.  Except we would have to die there and then burn it down around us because nobody in their right mind would buy that house.  
So, we have two spare bed rooms and an extra bath for resale purposes only.  (Which is moot if you think about it, considering that Brad declares that this will be the last house we ever own.  We'll see.)
So, to help with the tight bathroom, we designed it to have a pocket door.  I have always thought those were cool.  It's like a wall that appears when you need it then hides the rest of the time.  OK, so maybe they aren't that cool, but still, I wanted one.
We went to the Garage Sale Outlet and found this little beauty.  Super cute!
It was only $300.  The others are a bit more, but they also came with a faucet.  Which, I have been told are crap.  If you get a vanity from there, be prepared to replace it.  Instead, I found a hardware guy on Ebay who is pretty great.  I bought all three bathroom sink fixtures from him for only $54 each.  (Search Dynasty Hardware on Ebay if you are interested)  They are sturdy and a really nice color – oil rubbed bronze.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lots and lots of wood

The framing started a little later than we would have hoped.  The foundation took a few extra days, so where our plumber had been scheduled for monday with tuesday inspection.  The rain caused it to be install on Friday with inspection on the following Monday.  That would have left the copper exposed over the weekend and well, we weren't having that.  So, almost a week late, the foundation was finished.

But framing moved ridiculously quick.  This was after only one day.

After two days.
After four days.
And they would have finished on the fifth day, but they ran out of the techshield roofing material.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let there be light!

Today, we picked out all of our windows.  We want BIG.  BIG.  BIG windows.  With lots of light.  So for the two in the front of the great room, the one in the dining, and the one off the back of the master, we went with six foot by six foot picture windows topped with a six foot by two foot transom.  No panes, just solid sheets of beautiful glass.  
And then, just in case there was a tiny bit of light not making it's way into the house, we opted for a sliding glass door to the deck and french doors off the master.  There are even windows in our garage.  (Which of course if more of outside aesthetics rather than a light issue.)
And then he wanted to know about the front door.  Well, we had picked out a rather boring one from Lowes.
No, he insisted, he had something amazing.  And he called it the 'St. Charles."  Which of course made me go, "OOOOOh." even-though I hadn't seen it.  So, we met up with one of his associates at National Home Center and he showed us this:

The St. Charles.  It's so pretty.  I could pet it.  Sadly, we had designed the house with a single door and [frankly] could not afford the double door anyway.  So, we should have one of these beauties sitting on our porch in the near future.  (Note, they also have this double set up with an arched transom that is worthy of having a choir stand there to sing just when people approach your door, for a tidy little sum of 6K.  Also, not in our budget or design.)
But, for roughly $900, we have a solid mahogany door with glass (aka beautiful light) and gorgeous iron work.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A good foundation

The foundation began the day after my uncle cleared the lot.

They dug out the footings  and poured the concrete.  (Sorry for the blurry image, I was still learning how to master the iPhone.)

From there, rows of bricks were added to build up the back left corner of the house (the master) and bring it up at least two feet at the highest point of the dirt.  The slope of our property was a little more than the surveyors said, so we had to wait for more cinder blocks to bring it up to the final height (which is about 7 feet tall off the back!)

After that, donnafill was poured into the blocks and stamped down.  Donnafill (yes that's how it's spelled) is the by-product of crushing granite rock.  So inside the cinder block base, under the concrete is granite.  This foundation is not going anywhere.

Finally, the concrete was poured.  This has to cure for one day before we begin framing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Can you believe that all these little trees were cleared with just this little machine and a chain saw in one day?  (And at 25% of what my builder estimated)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It begins

This is our lot.  We bought it April 11, 2008, which happened to fall on our three year anniversary.  Yes, there is a fire hydrant in the front of the house – at least we are safe!  But, it could change where the driveway goes.  That is still yet to be determined. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

We have a plan

When I last left most of you, I was complaining about my architect. We have [long] since found a new architect - Philip Rye ( He specializes in energy efficient homes and works with a builder who does the same. After two drafts, Brad and I had our dream home on paper. 

Our floor plan, we designed it ourselves.  The great room area includes living, dining, kitchen and pool table rooms.
Ta da!
OK. So we wanted to go with stained concrete floors because 1. they look really cool, and 2. we can do them ourselves and save a ton on flooring cost (like the whole great room area would cost around $300.
We took the design to our builder, and he visited our lot, and on our second visit, he informed us that our lot slopes. A lot. So, the deck off the back will probably be about 8 feet in the air. Hmmmm, not what I was wanting. And since it is so high, we would not be able to do a slab foundation, we would have to have a crawl space. AND since we are already 8 feet in the air with a "hole" under our house, why don't we do a basement instead of an attic bonus room?
OK. Cool. Except now, we have a 3,007 sqf house for two people!
Like, we could literally have a bowling alley in our basement. (And don't think Brad didn't seriously consider it).
So, we have to present our design to the ARC (architectural review committee) of our neighborhood. If they don't like the design of our house, we cant build it.
A rendering of what the front of our house will look like.  The two left gables are the front of the side entry garage.
It will be a sandy brown painted brick with dry stacked stone accent and a dark brown roof and trim.
One of the things the ARC requires is a survey of the property that shows where the house will go (that cost $650 - ouch!). During that process, we discovered that the property DOES slope about 6 feet, but the area the house will be on is only about a 3 foot drop. And new costs put the basement addition around an extra 17K. SO, we are back to a bonus room over the attic. Which is perfectly fine for us. AND that means we can do a "block and fill" foundation (which is kind of a mix of a crawl space and slab), so we are back to our stained concrete floors! Which is exciting and also sad. During the period we were told we had to go with a crawl space, I kind of fell in love with these dark stained bamboo floors. But, seeing as our budget just dropped from 5K to $300 on the flooring, I think I can live with it!
I will continue to keep everyone updated as we progress. We are working on financing, but seeing as we packed all of our previous paperwork, we have a bit of "storage space diving" we have to do. I would love to break ground by October 1. Or else I will cry.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The architect from hell

Brad and I are building a house. A beautiful house. A perfect house. Or at least it will be, once we start. We bought the property, looking at it three times before calling the real estate agent to meet us there. While we were waiting for him, we decided we wanted the lot BEHIND the one we originally thought we wanted. We bought it a week later. 
We met a guy, Mark from ARC Home Design (Arkansas Custom Home Design) at a home show this spring who designs houses, so we called him up. Set a meeting and took over a draft of what we wanted. And a list of things we needed him to add for us. It went well, with the promise to see something in a weeks time!
A week came and went. we waited over the weekend, giving him an extra day because of the holiday in May. That afternoon, I shoot an e-mail, "We're really excited to see something! Do you have anything to show us?" 
Two days later, the reply is, "Sorry, forgot to send it, I will get it to you tomorrow." Another day later (not the promised tomorrow) a plan is sent. OK, not bad. Except he forgot the door off the Master suite to the back deck. And the extra bathroom I asked him to try to fit in. And there are no stairs up to the bonus room. And really, those windows are too small. And we don't have any closets. Hmmm. 
We play with the design for a few days. We realize that the house is 7 feet too wide for the lot. We decide that if the master bath has a water closet, we may not need that extra half bath. We also find ways to shrink it down to the required width. We get the hand drawn changes back to him on Monday. I dropped them at his office, with a quick explanation, "We shrank the house, it cant be more than 62.8 feet wide. Also, we need to flip the entire floor plan. And we added the door of the master, and I think the stairs to the bonus room can fit here." "You want stairs?" he asks. I cock my head to the right, "How else would we get to the bonus room?" I reply. Hmmm. That may not be good.
We wait a week. If he promises the first draft in a week, he should be able to get the revisions done in a week. Week comes and goes. Nothing. I wait a few more days and send him an e-mail. "Hey, just checking on the status, also, once the floor plan is set, what else will we need to do? How long will all that take? Will you need to meet with us again? Thanks!"
Two days later, the reply comes, "Sorry, I'm covered up. I will get the changes to you soon." That was on the 17th. Another week passes. Nothing. I e-mail again. "Just checking the status of the project. We are planning on breaking ground no later than August 1st. Please let me know if you are able to accommodate this timeline." The next day, I hear back. "Sorry I havent gotten back to you, my father had a heart attack, I have been out of town. I will have changes to you by tomorrow afternoon." That was Wednesday, 25th. Of course, Thursday comes and goes. Friday at lunch, I decide to pay him a visit. 
I arrive at his office close to noon. Two ladies are sitting at his desk. "Is Mark here?" The younger lady replies, "No, he ran to pick up his niece." I close the door and wait outside.
Five minutes later, I decide I am too pissed to wait any longer, I go back inside. "I am a client of Marks, and he has some things I would like back." Older lady replies, "The folders are over there, get what you need." I open it up, take the neighborhood plot with our elevations, and grab the latest sheet of revisions, covered in my red ink. I put the folder back, and tell the ladies, "If you could, tell Mark that I took these, and that I will also be taking my business elsewhere." 
The two women burst into laughter. I stand, confused. Who are they? The young one answers the questions that I never asked. "Im sorry." she starts, "But when you walked in, I could tell from the look on your face that you think he's an idiot too! What did he do to you?" 
Wait, these two are clients also? "He wont make the changes we ask. He takes forever, and I can't wait." I say.
She proceeds to tell me that the other lady is her mother, who had to come in from Dallas in order to sort this guy out. He doesn't listen. Wont make the changes. And, the week before, her mom had flown in for a meeting, and he cancelled, saying he had a sinus infection. 
Interesting. I tell them that he said his father had a heart attack. They had not heard that one yet.
I leave, more pissed than I was when I arrived. I call Brad and tell him what happened. He wants to give the guy another chance. He mentions the deposit that we paid. I dont care. I refuse to give this guy another dollar. I had already found another designer, and was planning to let him take over. Brad says he will call him. 
A few hours later, Brad calls me. OK, Mark says he forgot to e-mail the changes, but says they are done. So he will send them by the end of today. Hmmm. If he had them done, he could send them now, not later. But whatever. 
Sure enough, a 4:57, I get an e-mail. The floor plan is wrong, all wrong. He managed to flip it, but nothing else was correct. As I had predicted, since I took our notes while he was gone, he wasnt able to make the changes that had been in his office for three weeks. I thought I wanted to be angry, but seeing that he couldnt do his job made me sad. 
I get home, and Brad calls him to inform him that he would be fired. Mark gets irate and starts cussing. He is defensive and refuses to accept responsibility. Brad hangs up on him. 
We moved on. Our new designer is working on the plan before the first is even fired. We are fine. And our new guy, Phillip Rye, says we will have a plan to take to the bank in two weeks. Three weeks shorter than what we spent with Mark. 
Monday, Mark sends me an e-mail. The opening line says, "Of all the pain in the ass clients I have ever had, I have never told anyone else to go stuff it. I am sorry for that." WOW, what an apology. He continues by offering to finish the work in two days. Start to finish everything. Nice. You had five weeks and couldnt produce shit, but now, you can do it in two. No thank you. 
And I tell him so in a not-so-nice reply. 
Sadly, that is the end of this very long story. The morale of which is, DO NOT USE ARC HOME DESIGN!