Friday, December 9, 2011

The Garden State Home Renovation Tips and Design Review

It seems there will be no gift of a completed home renovation project in time for Christmas. 

Work goes on for phase one.

That includes windows and French doors in the dining room and master bedroom suite, new roof (take that Nor’easters!), insulation, (getting some much needed warmth inside now that the weather is turning winter cold), and the first part of front porch frame and mason work, as well as the back porch addition off the dining room and next to the existing terrace.  This is where the Japanese soaking tub and yoga will be. And chairs for contemplation… And star gazing.
Here is where the Sunbrella fabric drapes will frame the view and offer privacy and shade.

roses watch the their new home companion
roofers start

start of loft

There is noodles of wiring meticulously threaded throughout the house by Harold, a darling, tidy electrician.
And there are miles of silver foil sheaths peeking out and twinkling behind the framing, knowing they will soon be hidden away, and what looks like plastic garbage bags channeling an amusement park tunnel attraction but is in fact part of the HVAC.

Once most of the framing and flooring was up, we could see we needed two windows that could open—positioned on either side of the center square window on the water side of the loft room perched over the new dining room.

In the areas where there was existing house: upstairs where the bedrooms and bathrooms are, we had to move all the "stuff" that was in the rooms and lined the walls. 
This was no small task; especially as all the house items and furniture from the living room and kitchen and garden room have already been moved to the garage. 
There is no place left to put the stuff!
We moved the upstairs room items to one side and put a drop cloth over the stuff.
The French door with soon-to-be-Juliet balcony was installed to my great delight.  How perfect it will be to wake up with light streaming into a new expanded bedroom and to enjoy the glistening water views and New York skyline and stately sailboats and frisky sunfish sailboats and cruise ships sailing hopefully to exotic ports from New York Harbor -- and our gardens below.  

We also wanted to offer our overnight guests more of the water and skyline and garden view too.  It was almost like one would have to peek through a squinted or squished viewfinder with the previous windows. Now there is a big, wide square happy window. 

The house, having been originally built in the 1960’s placed all the important rooms on the back side or southwest side of the house in order to safeguard the integrity of the windows from storms, especially the wicked Nor’easters that angrily whip through with impudence every season.  We’ve been told the windows back then just couldn’t sustain the winds and beating rain.

Now, the technology and window designs allow us to get creative with shapes and sizes and positioning. 

We selected the floor for the dining room.  It is comprised of 20x20 tiles – grayish/bluish with striations of coppery brownish.  Small copper squares will be placed artistically throughout the tiled floor area as accents.  This will accessorize the copper topped table to giddy design magazine-worthy heights!  The exciting part of this is the transition tiles I found to lead from the wood kitchen and living room floor to the dining room tile.  This transition tile is appropriately named Opulence.  Oooohh!  It looks like jewelry with tiny glass squares of dazzling copper, cinnamon, silvery-gray and saffron colored tile.  Perfect.  

I am finalizing the outdoor front walk, driveway and front herb garden designs. 
My design request - to be scaled for front porch
I forwarded the image of the front porch design to the masons via the architect – see here -  but they said the design was too big and if they were to do it would cost us $1,000 more to cut the bluestone and brick to scaled size. Further, they said the labor to put the bricks between the slate would require more money.  I suggested they stay within the budget parameters and provide a design opportunity that is close to the look we wanted without costing more. 

The design compromise that was emailed was a random bluestone patter -- too dizzying to work with the clean, straight-on walk design I envision and designed.  After some phone consultation, the mason brothers came over to meet and lay out my suggested alternative design concept, using 16" bluestone.  On the diagonal/diamond-shaped.  With bricks around the sides.  ^:^ Sounds pretty familiar? It worked for me!
The front steps will be 12" bluestone, framed by brick.    

We try to stay focused on the progress. We try to stay out of the dust.  We try not to think about the loss of privacy or the lack of space to put anything.  Thank goodness we have the Gotham apartment to live in during the week.  And my mother's welcoming condo down the street. On the water. We need to get away from all this plus the noise and mud and …

What I wasn’t prepared for is the lack of GC communication and the problems it’s caused. 
Santa should prepare for coal in stockings this year…

Coming up will be installation of the kitchen cabinets, making the template for the kitchen counters and island that will be used to cut the most beautiful marble this side of heaven.
The marble looks like the Caribbean Sea or the sky.  With stars and clouds.  I literally hugged it  when I came upon it. I knew it was for us!  
It took too long to find the cuts we coveted. But we prevailed.
It will look so dreamy mirroring and reflecting the water of the bay and the wide berth of sky behind and framing.

And the front door needs to go in. Right after they finish the front porch.

The siding will go up next week. We chose a bluish grayish shingle that will blend with the water beyond.  The color and style will also work with the existing brick siding on one part of the house that we will whitewash so that we achieve a kind of French country house effect.

We continue. 
So much of a home renovation is hope, tears, and attention to detail.  I advise all homeowners to over-manage. Do not allow anyone to take the reins or to think they control or selectively control the project. It must be very clear at the outset who is the client and how the relationship and process will proceed.  So much time is spent on the materials and design. When in fact, so much of the project is really about the chemistry found in the relationship between the architect and GC and the homeowner/client.
There is more than enough challenges and stress to go around. Be sure to partner with someone who shares your values and character as well as your style and vision.
Do not trust anyone with your budget.  The trust is too often misplaced.  Go over the numbers yourselves and then together with the GC manager. Sadly, professionalism can be in the eye of the doer.
Homeowners are so busy with their work and family lives that more often than not they do rely on the GC for that oversight management they are being paid for.  However they make mistakes.  Sometimes bad ones.

I also recommend having constant email and text updates. That’s worked very well for us.  Weekly meetings – not so much.  The meetings should be more than requests for money.  They should include design review before work is to begin in the areas next in the work flow schedule.  While we only had two change orders, we might have been able to realize the need for different windows if we had walked around once the part of the construction was completed to a point to see what was emerging. 
Take notes and write meeting reports to share with key decision makers.
Review and review and confirm.

The meetings should also foster a sense of team, shared responsibility and commitment and pride…

Weather plays a big role in home renovation in locales where there are four seasons.  Outside of getting the work done in the ideal temperature-kissed late spring through fall time period, there are still rainstorms.
And given climate change - - (yes, Virginia, there IS climate change!) there will be more wild swings in weather patterns including this year's hurricane, tornado, and earthquake. So I suggest looking to the weather channel's long-range forecast when planning the work schedule.  It's a good arrow in the quiver. And it's a good way to plan to use the teams for inside tasks when inclement weather prevents outdoor work.

Securing permits is also a time and schedule challenge that needs to be managed.

Take lots of pictures - before - and as the project progresses.

Have fun. Enjoy the path to a soon-to-be new style

More to come with completion of the house, phase one.  Then on to the the garden and driveway designs.

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