Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Orange for the Day

In my quest to see all of Central Virginia before I have to start cooking again, I drove to meet two friends for a day in Orange, Virginia. We met at Montpelier, once home to James and Dolley Madison. A very enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide took us through the house and then we had a picnic and hiked the grounds. The highlight was coming upon a barn that houses retired thoroughbred horses - Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation - operates from a restored barn on the grounds.
I highly recommend Montpelier and the town of Orange for a day trip. I'm reminded daily of the amazing historic events that took place in Virginia.

Back to the renovation. Yesterday a new crew arrived - the dry wall gentlemen. With each crew a new radio station is tuned in to. This week I am getting a break from country music and the "harmonies" from those who like to sing along. I much prefer this sing along group and I'm pretty sure they are hammering to the beat which is most appreciated.

Drywall has a way of making it seem like a house again. I'm day dreaming of paint colors and plan to take a trip over to see Benjamin Moore today to get some sample pots. To jog your memory, here is a shot of the kitchen as it was when we purchased the house:
And here is the same space with new window openings and drywall.
Under the window in the center of this shot will be the farm house sink.
The photo above is a shot facing toward the back yard. The Wolf range will go between the two windows. The flooring is still a wreck - every day they try to reveal a little bit more of what is under the 1920's tile.
Here is a shot of the back staircase. A large pantry unit will be installed up against here. The poodle is always wanting his picture taken.

After the dry wall is sanded, the next step will be new window installation and all the base trim will be put back (we saved all of the original) or replaced.

Have a great day!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gorilla Spotted in Tree on Hanover Avenue

A gorilla has been in this tree for days and it cracks me up. A few days ago it was joined by his friend the white bear, however, when I finally remembered to take my camera on my dog walk today, I see that the bear has disappeared. Today the gorilla is sporting a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket as a hat - fetching, don't you think? This sort of thing would never fly in the old northern Virginia neighborhood. There would have to be an emergency meeting of the home owner's association and no doubt the gorilla would be ordered down from his perch. In the Fan, no one seems to care and it just seems sort of normal. The writing on his stomach says "Got art?" Yes, I think we do.

Today a van pulled up in front of the house and the workers got out and started spraying yellow insulation. It looks like the blob has invaded and brought with him a very odd smell. So, with insulation done, can we be far from drywall?
The other excitement of the day is that my friend, Loi Thai, was featured on the front page of the Home Section in today's Washington Post. Loi has the most incredible shop, Tone on Tone, in Bethesda which you should pop into the next time you're any where near. You will want to go home and throw everything out and start over with some of his inventory.

In my next post I hope to have shots of drywall or windows. Either would make me so so happy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

From the mountains to the bay and back to the city

One of the things I love most about living in this part of Virginia is that I'm able to hike on Saturday in the Shenandoah mountains and on Sunday take a ferry ride out to the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and get back to the city by dinner time. The above shot is of Chimney Rock at mile marker 90 in the Shenandoah National Park. My husband and I did about a 5 mile hike with the dogs and it was beautiful but hot and buggy. The best part was stopping for lunch in Charlottesville on the way back to Richmond.

The photo above is of Tangier Island, an hour and a half ferry ride from Reedsville, Virginia. The island feels like is has been frozen in time - what time I'm not quite sure. We rented bikes for $2.00 each and rode all around the island (no cars allowed out there - only golf cars and the occasional ATV). We discovered a beautiful deserted beach and then headed back to the little town for the required lunch of crab cakes. The ferry ride back was not for the faint of heart as we motored through a thunderstorm. My husband and I stayed up top under the canopy and loved every minute of it - most of the other passengers ran for cover and I was ready to as well as soon as I saw lightning. I'm anxious to go back to that part of Virginia for more exploration but the real world was calling us back to Richmond.

Since my last post I'm so happy to report that we now have air conditioning on the upper level. Central air has a way of adjusting every one's attitude around here (mine). I can now sit at my desk without air blowing at the back of my neck and the quiet is most appreciated. The units are sitting on top of the roof as is customary in this part of Richmond. I wasn't around with my digital camera when the crane came to lift them up there. Maybe that was good.

This week the house is getting openings for the new windows for the kitchen. The mason is out there right now chipping away at bricks and mortar.
So, back to the kitchen design:
Above is a scaled drawing of the back of the house (thanks to the prior owner who is an architect) as it was when we purchased the home. Below are plans for the new kitchen.

The new window that is being cut is is to the right of the range to allow for more light in a north facing rather dark room and also to be symmetrical with the current window to the left of the range. We've eliminated the bathroom from the kitchen area and have relocated it to under the front stairs - also typical for these row homes. The laundry hookups are gone as well - moved upstairs.
Just about every house I've ever lived in and loved had a white kitchen. When I go back into the archives of magazine pages that I have torn out over the years the vast majority are white - I especially love this one pictured above and have kept is as my inspiration for our new kitchen. I"m sorry that I didn't keep the name of the designer or which magazine this came from. If anyone knows, please fill me in. In any case, it has all the elements of what I feel a calm and cozy kitchen has - simple off white cabinetry with glass fronts, honed granite counters, bleached beams and pendants hanging over the island. The backsplash is also simple and elegant. I could move right in.

My budget does not allow for custom cabinets so I've narrowed our selection down to Medallion Cabinetry. It was difficult to find a white finish that didn't look baked on and that would go with the existing exposed brick wall on the back stair wall. We've chosen the Park Place door style for the wall and base cabinets and the island will be in a rustic Alder wood with possibly a butcher block top. There won't be that many wall cabinets in our new kitchen as we've elected to add a window. I can't have glass fronts on the few that I will have, except on the higher units, as I don't want to look at my mis-matched collection of coffee mugs or my spices. Not that I don't love those coffee mugs, painstakingly collected in our travels over the years - I just don't want to look at them all the time.

The final decision on counter tops has still not been made. Harry the Homeowner has done some research on honed absolute black granite and the results are a little disturbing. From what he reads, they stain easily and are a maintenance headache. There is another stone that is quarried here in Virginia that apparently holds up better - I need to go slab hunting soon. I also love Carrera but I don't think it will work in this scheme.

The back splash will most likely be glass subway tile from Villi tile. I've selected a soft gray color that will sing with the brick and the 36" Wolf range. Other selections are a paneled front dishwasher from Bosch, a Whirlpool refrigerator (stainless) and pendant lanterns (verdi gris finish) from Cape Cod Lanterns. We brought a chandelier from our old house with us that also has a verdi gris finish. This will hang over the farm table in the eat in area. The microwave is going to be installed in the island - a Sharpe microwave drawer. I could have lived without a microwave as all I usually use it for is reheating my coffee but we always have to think about resale as we never know where the wind will blow us. Reheating coffee in a drawer might be a spill waiting to happen - time will tell. The flooring selection is still an unknown until it is determined what lies under that last layer of linoleum - the contractor is very hopeful that we can salvage what's there.

Today the electrical inspector from the city is coming and I'm sure we will pass with flying colors. Next week we get some insulation and then I think I heard someone say drywall. I almost don't want to write this down but we are ahead of schedule. So far everything is going so well and smoothly. Right now I hear a vacuum cleaner - the workers have been so considerate and tidy.

It is supposed to be hot here today - I'd better get on my bike now before I talk myself out of it. Have a wonderful day.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Home Again, Jiggety Jog

I was fortunate to spend the last week on Figure 8 Island in North Carolina. For those of you who have never heard of it, the island lies just to the north of Wrightsville Beach. My extended family (mother, father, three sisters, two brothers in law and several nieces and nephews) rent a house for a week on the sound side of the island and it is my goal to only leave once to go to the market when it is my turn. We all take turns cooking and even the kids took a night this year!! It was so nice to be in a dust free, quiet zone with a functioning kitchen. I wanted to do nothing more than kayak, read and swim and I turned the blackberry off for days at a time - quite a feat.

So, while I kayaked with the dolphins and the sea turtles the crew here on Hanover were very hard at work. All of the duct work for the upstairs air conditioner is now in place. The unit is to arrive this week and will be lifted by crane onto the roof. Fortunately the weather here in Richmond has been cooperating and we seem to be able to get by most of the time with window and ceiling fans.I never thought I would so love to see a vent in a ceiling. This will blow cold air on my side of the bed very soon.

Before I left for Figure 8 the contractors discovered that the original hardwood floors lay under all of that Euro laminate that was in the foyer and soon to be family room. The floor contractor believes that the kitchen floor can also be saved, even though it is covered with a thick mastic and laminate flooring from the 1920s. This I am so happy about, as adding another flooring material to the budget was going to be painful. I have it in the back of my head that, if needed, I can have the floors painted. The possibilities are endless, but I'm keeping it under my hat for now.
Here is a view from the front door (just got back from a bike ride!). The floors are in remarkably good shape, probably because they've been covered over for so long. I can hear the house sighing with relief to be back to its original design.

A lot of framing took place as well in the last couple of weeks. It is hard to capture that with a camera but here are a couple of shots:

The image on the left below is the old "trunk room", soon to be laundry room (upstairs back hallway). I've never had the laundry upstairs but I'm told it is the only way to live. Right now we're walking a few blocks to the Strawberry Street Laundromat every Monday night (I call it our date night), so any thing will be better than that. The floors in this room were painted and so I will most likely be doing the same. I have visions of stencils swirling in my head. The large structure to the left in the room is to frame around the ceiling of the back stair case which leads down to the kitchen. We'll be turning this into a counter for all of that laundry I'll be folding. We'll add some cabinetry down the road (phase 2) so we can hide the cleaning supplies, etc.

The image below the laundry room is a shot of the new powder room's framing. The old "loo" was right next to the kitchen which we feel is a most unfortunate location. Many of the homes in the fan have powder rooms under the front stairs and so that is where we have elected to place it. It will be a tiny space but in a much more private location. The electrician and I marked the location of the sconce boxes before I left - here is a shot of one of the sconces - ready to be hung.

I purchased these sconces from Aquila Little at Scott's Market in Atlanta, GA a year or so ago before I knew that we were moving, but knowing that some day they would find a good home. If you get the chance, stop by to see Aquila in the North building - she has an amazing collection of lighting and other decorative accessories.

This week the plumbers and electricians are due to finish up in preparation for inspections. I've been working with our architect on the kitchen design - details to follow on my next post. Have a most happy 4th of July. We're off to the Dogwood Dell for fireworks and some patriotic band music!!