new floors–done!

February 18, 2011 § 5 Comments

There’s a little sample board of the Eames chair, the boomerang table, the Arts and Crafts rug, and the new Plyboo floor.  The floor is so dark that it’s been tough to get good pictures during daylight (and it’s really sunny, glorious, in fact, today).  I’ll update tonight, but it looks so freaking good that I couldn’t wait to get some shots up.

It’s pretty amazing how different the front rooms feel–roomier but cozier, somehow, and the postwar furniture seems to fit better with the dark floor.  It’s also, of course, nice to not be living with splintering boards, huge swatches of 30-year old spilled paint, and exposed screw heads all over the place.  Gary found a few dozen areas where the subfloor hadn’t been nailed down properly, even after the hack job in the 1970s, and the entire first floor is now gloriously silent.

I particularly like this–in the dining room, without even meaning to, we matched the border of the LeWitt print on the wall.  And, for that matter, the matte black steel of the table.  We’ll tell anyone who asks, of course, that this was totally intentional.  I’m thinking of picking up another of these bases and doubling the table top, which would mean we’d have room for eight instead of six, and the dining room would feel more like a room and less like a corridor.  We’ll see what K thinks.

And, finally, even the coat closet, which we’ve referred to occasionally as just the “bad” closet, looks great.  This and the back hall took Gary almost as long as the dining room–lots of corners, not a lot of space.

So, nine working days, but apparently right on budget, and really well done.  There is exactly one detail that I wish we’d caught sooner, and there’s no way I’m going to post a photo of it.  But any houseguest who can find it will get the whole story.


floors–week 2 update

February 15, 2011 Comments Off on floors–week 2 update

As you can see, we are fully immersed in a construction site.  It’s sort of like camping, but with power tools.

Gary finished the dining room today, and as you can see the new floor looks pretty sharp.  Now that there’s some good acreage of the stuff installed, you can see how the color works with the trim.  Both rooms look a bit larger, and we can now walk from the kitchen to the front door without anyone else in the house–or neighborhood–knowing.

We’ve detailed the thing on the fly.  As Gary has run into problems–where we switch direction between the living and dining room, for instance, or how the threshold between the kitchen and dining room works (or doesn’t…) I’ve been more or less around and we’ve been able to test some things out.  This is the way I like to design, but it takes a rare contractor who’s willing to put tools down for half an hour and just move bits of wood around.  So we’re behind, but gloriously so, and so far we’ve been able to get the little things right.

And here’s one that’s definitely right.  We have a giant return air grille in the corner of the dining room that looked just awful–a DIY wood cover that had been falling apart for years.  So on the principle that you take the worst part of the house and make it the best, we custom-ordered a stainless steel grille, and Keith and Gary figured out how to get it under the floor molding and absolutely flush with the Plyboo.  It’s a little piece of high-tech meeting the Craftsman aesthetic, and a trick we used on the front door and at the back sliding glass door.  But inside it looks freaking sweet–absolutely precise and level with the floor, and dark enough that it doesn’t stick out too much.

Gary’s working on the back hallway now.  I’m thinking he’s got a day and a half left, but we’ll see.  If it all turns out like this, of course, an extra day or two will be fine with me…and the kids, who enjoy the chaos and the presence of serious saws and drills.  More tomorrow…

new floors–living room done and (over)occupied…

February 11, 2011 Comments Off on new floors–living room done and (over)occupied…

Like our new living/dining room?  It took Gary and me a while, but we finally figured out a kind of big sequencing problem today.  The solution involves moving the dining room into the sitting room, while he uses the living room for cutting floorboards for the dining room.  It’s a little tight, but everything fit.  And it’s weird eating in the sitting room, but what the hell.

Anyway, it’s looking pretty good.  He’s done with the two front rooms now, and for the first time you can see what the new, super-dark Plyboo looks like with the bright walls and the deep oak trim.  It sort of replicates the colors of the Eames chair (front right), I think.  And it makes the rooms look just a bit cozier, which we had been after.

You can just see, too, that taking the time to find a straight line and sticking with it has paid off–the boards are all nice and tight, and there aren’t any major ‘slivers’ at the edges, which there surely would have been if I’d tried to do this on my own (not to mention the trips to the ER, not to mention that we’d still be tearing out flooring).  So I’m ecstatic, even though we’re way behind and the trip between kitchen and ‘dining’ room is a bit inconvenient.  I’m thinking he’ll be on to the back hall by Wednesday and life will get back to a bit of normal.

Meanwhile, here’s the dining room.  When I got home with the kids this afternoon, Gary was stripping out the last of the nails.  “Notice anything?” he asked.  I knew this was a test.

“They laid the subfloor in the summer, and the timber they used was still green.”

Yup.  Meaning that over 84 years the boards have shrunk across their grain, meaning that, for the moment, you can stand in the dining room and see right down into the playroom.  Not a big deal, really, but the mark of a builder in a real hurry back in 1926.  I pointed this out to the kids.

“Yikes!” said O.

Cool,” said C.

The weirdest thing?  Gary took a couple of hours to screw the subfloor down where the original builders had saved time, and the new floor is absolutely silent. All of the squeaks that we’d sort of come to know are absolutely gone.  O thinks this is great, because now she can play ninja-girl even more convincingly.  C is concerned that if Decepticons ever attack the house, we’ve lost our best early-warning system.

construction site–day 2

February 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

As you can see, it’s been a busy morning.  Our contractor’s lead carpenter showed up at 7AM and commenced tearing &$*# up in the living room.  I had to remind C that he couldn’t come down to breakfast in his underpants.

There are always some nice mysteries when you crack open an old house, and we found a couple.  Doors where we wouldn’t have expected doors, for instance, from the house’s original layout, when our double-square living room was a parlor and a bedroom.  Fortunately, no bad surprises, like nests or giant holes in the floor.  At least not yet.

The children have been slightly worried about what we do when they’re done in these rooms and they start in on the dining room–are we stuck in the kitchen, they asked?  Will C have to go outside to get to the playroom?  No, I assured them, and the contractors have agreed to ensure a path at all times through the dining room.

Exciting stuff.  I secretly love this moment, when the house is torn up and awaiting some really fine craftsmanship.  Others in the family disagree, and will find even the photo distressing.  Hang in there, K, there will be some beautiful plyboo to look at soon…


January 18, 2011 Comments Off on plyboo

Just to add a difficulty factor to three months of single parenting, we’ve decided to get the floors in our living and dining room replaced while K is away.  K hates construction.  I love construction.  Ergo, this makes perfect sense.

Before she left, we got a bunch of Plyboo samples and actually agreed almost instantly on a deep chocolate brown color.  This was a good sign, since we never agree on colors.  The conversation usually goes like this:

K:  What about this simple, attractive green/red/blue?

Me:  Why the hell can’t it be white?

We thought that dark floors would set off our carpets nicely, and they will make us sweep more often, which we should probably do.  And we both loved the idea of plyboo, which is a compressed bamboo that’s both durable and completely sustainable, since the stuff grows faster than, say, oak.  (A bit of a panda problem, but we’re going to ignore that).

So I’ve had the usual back and forth with the contractors about what it would cost, sweet Lord, it’ll really cost that much?  Can it be cheaper?  Oh, but that will look like crap, won’t it?  OK, let’s go with that more expensive thing.  Keith is the best builder in town, bar none, and he’s worked on our house off and on for eight years, now.  (He just bought a new pickup truck.  Hmmm.)  He’s the kind of contractor who ordered the plyboo two weeks early so that it will acclimate to the humidity in our house, making their work to lay the stuff that much tighter and more accurate.

As you can see, it showed up yesterday.  Actually it showed up as we were heading out to dinner, and discovered that our driveway was blocked by a giant semi.  “You order some plyboo?” the nice driver said to us as we were about to back the Subaru out.  He, of course, was only contracted to deliver it to our driveway (he chose the middle of the driveway, as a matter of fact), and Keith had planned to be there to get it all inside.  He did show up, with ace carpenter Gary, to let me know that, um, the truck should be arriving sometime…oh, never mind.  So the three of us schlepped in about 1/2 ton of the stuff and laid it in the living room, where it will sit for a couple of weeks getting used to our happy home.  As you can see, the old wood flooring, paint splattered, paper-thin, and splintering, is justifiably worried.

Here’s what’s known in the architecture business as a ‘brown-trouser moment:’  As we’re getting the last of it in, Keith asks me, in that casual, sing-song way that contractors have that lets you know something is seriously wrong, which way the joists run in the living room.  And both of us think the same thing at the same time, namely that Keith might be about to build us a whole new subfloor, too, and spend a few days digging plyboo out of the basement.  I remembered which way the joists ran, and I did a quick mental calculation involving the weight of the sofa + four friendly students at our last party, and concluded–tentatively–that the floor probably wouldn’t collapse.  Probably.  15 hours and counting, though, and no signs of imminent movement.

We did get to dinner.  But holy &$*#, it’s a good thing K isn’t here for this…

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