Archive | January, 2013

Quick update!

31 Jan

So, we’re happy to report that we passed our plumbing inspection (hooray!), but we need to file an amendment for review of our gas lines. This was more or less expected, as the system submitted in our plans to the DOB for heating and cooling was ultimately not what we chose for the house.  Here’s hoping our architects and expediter continue to have the magic touch and get it all through quickly.

Second structural opening began today, and so far, so good. Sheet rocking should begin tomorrow, heating will continue, and hopefully tiling will begin next week!


Heating, windows and openings!

29 Jan

Big week for us at the house – we have new windows and the start of the new heating system! The structural work has also begun, and we’re set for our first plumbing inspection on Wednesday. 75% of the tile will be delivered this week as well.  Lots going on – fingers crossed for the week to come.

First up, our new windows. After considering various brands and models, we ended up going with the Andersen A Series windows. About half the price of Marvins, these windows are Andersen’s top of the line double pane windows. They are beautifully crafted inside and out, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. There’s still insulation and other finishing details to complete, but the initial impact really exceeded our expectations.

We’ve opted for black on the exterior (our architect approves), unfinished pine on the interior so that the trim throughout will be uniform. Here are some photos:

Window – Andersen A series in black.

Window detail.

Window: inside view.

We’re sorry the work on the heating began on the coldest week of the year thus far, but we are glad it has finally begun! After a 2 week delay in our HVAC guy’s arrival, they have made up for it by having 3-4 guys in each day to complete the job. Our prior heating system was a forced air system, and although we could have, in theory, updated that system with new duct work, given our desire to have central air and heat, plus humidification internal to the system, replacing the entire system turned out to be the best solution.

One of the nice things we were able to do when not having to retrofit work into an old system is to split the system into three separate zones; we’ll actually have three individual furnaces in the house. This will allow us to cool or heat each level independently, which will of course save us a great deal on bills in the future. We’ve also been in houses where the heating on one floor would also heat another floor, and we more often than not just chose to stay cold or overheated to avoid acclimatizing an area not being used.  Here’s to comfort without guilt!

Trane furnace in the top floor.

Heating and cooling outlet in one of the bedrooms.

Ductwork in our master bath.

It’s really kind of an amazing thing to really see absolutely everything going into our walls and all that it takes to make it happen (and happen right!).

The other big event of the week was the start of the structural openings in the back of the house. The garden level will have double doors to the garden, and the parlor level will have a wall with three ganged windows, french doors and transoms over both like this inspiration photo:

Inspiration photo for our kitchen windows and doors. Ours will not have the grill work, but the overall finished look will be very similar. This photo is of a prior project from our wonderful architect, Ben Herzog.  Isn’t all that light dreamy?

so steel beams were a must have, as was a structural engineer to define the plans.  The larger structural opening on the parlor will be done later this week, which will then allow for the remaining windows and exterior doors to be finalized.  Here are the photos of the basement structural work completed:

Opening for the sliding doors on the garden level.


A peek at the steel beam support that runs the length of the back wall.

Next up this week: plumbing inspection tomorrow (fingers crossed!), more structural work and the start of sheetrocking.

Super stud to the rescue!

21 Jan

Hooray as we pass the half-way point in the renovation! (Famous last words).

Over the last couple of weeks the electricians have been busy running the lights and outlet boxes throughout the house. It’s amazing to see what will be behind the walls once the sheetrock goes up.

Wires on the parlor floor

The plumbers have also been busy getting ready for the first plumbing inspection. They are concentrating on the bathrooms which will allow us to start tiling shortly (the tile starts arriving next week). Having enjoyed Manhattan water pressure for so long we have made every effort to ensure we get good water pressure throughout the house. We are most excited about the dedicated lines running to separate shower heads in the master bath. Like our previous renovation we’ve ordered shower heads from the creatively named

One set of pipes for the master shower.

The plumbers also finished off work in the laundry. Since the laundry is on the top floor (with the bedrooms) they’ll installed some extra safeguards in case the machine overflows. We have a drain and an additional system that detects when water hits a certain level on the floor and automatically shuts off the water. Hopefully these two will combine to protect us against any flooding in the house.

System to protect laundry from flooding.

The guys running the internet cables arrived on Friday to start work. I met with them to go over our requests and they were kind enough to indulge us with our specific requests (at last count we’ll have 34 data ports in the house). We had them upgrade their cable as well for faster speeds throughout the house. While our current internet (Time Warner – boo – hiss) doesn’t support the fast speeds we are hoping that one day someone will and given this is our only chance we want to do everything we can to prepare.

Placeholder for data cable.

The HVAC guys are coming on Monday (we hope!) to start their work. They were supposed to come a couple of weeks ago but haven’t showed up (much to our frustration). They are the last steps before we can start sheet rocking the non-bathroom rooms. With temperatures dropping well below freezing later in the week let’s hope they can work fast and provide the workers some heat. The heating guys will also be working on the venting for the hood over the stove and the make-up air system (which we’ll try and write about in another post).

Sheetrock waiting for the heating guys

Last but not least the skylights in the top floor bathrooms have been marked out. There were some last minute changes as we were concerned that the skylight in the master would not provide much light since the house next door is one floor higher. After some back and forth with the architect (there’s a building code requiring a 6 foot clearance on the roof from the front of the house to the back) we were able to relocate the skylights to a better location.

Master bath skylight.

Till next time…

p.s. We were pleased to see the level of personalization companies now go to when sending out building supplies.

Kitchen: the stuff dreams are made of…

10 Jan

Anyone who knows us knew that the place where we’d really be focusing our attention is in the kitchen.  The kitchen is the heart of any home, as they say, but this goes double for us.  To give you an idea, the best Valentine’s Day gift I have ever received was this bad boy, the Sumeet Multi Grind:

Sumeet Multi-Grind. Best countertop appliance ever.

The Multi Grind takes anything you put into it and makes it into a fine powder or paste. Ground spices, nuts, grains, curry pastes, you name it. It was love at first site for me and the Multi Grind (discovered at an Institute for Culinary Education glass in Thai Curries), and she’s had a place of pride on our countertop ever since. No flowers and chocolates for this girl (well, ok, no flowers, but I’m more than happy to receive seriously good chocolate)!

So, where do we begin?  For a refresher on the floorplan, cabinet style, island stone and backsplash, take a look at our backsplash conundrum post (and feel free to continue to weigh in on that one…we’re opting to wait on that decision until after the cabinets are in). For the lighting, take a look at our kitchen lighting, blue or grey post (we’re going with grey – thanks again everyone!). For our rocking faucet, head to the bottom of this post.

Here are a few highlight photos for those just interested in the eye candy:

White fantasy quartzite: our likely countertop choice.


Beaded face frame cabinetry. Ours will be a whiter color overall with concealed hinges.


Modern aire PS-26 hood in brushed stainless with polished steel rivets and bands. Ours will be about 18 inches wider to accommodate the larger rangetop plus some overhang for more power.


Floorplan of our new kitchen.


Character Grade Natural Finish American Walnut.

Character Grade Natural Finish American Walnut. This will be used throughout the house, including the kitchen.


Waterstone Gantry faucet. We’ll have a matching faucet in our prep sink in the island.


The grey dining room light from Niche Modern. Ours will be the one with 4 bulbs. At 13 inches in diameter, it turned out to be larger in person than it looks online, which is perfect.


The clear Bella pendant light. We’ll have two over our island. The light is the narrower bell-shaped light with the light saber bulb.


What’s left? Nothing, I guess…oh wait! The appliances and cabinet inserts.  We spent a ridiculous amount of time researching appliances, as one should, as well as where to buy them.  We’re ultimately going with AJ Madison as they offered great deals for bulk purchases through our contractor.  We wanted to go with a smaller mom and pop place in NJ, but between the sales tax (which they couldn’t waive), delivery fees and overall pricing, plus a tremendously antiquated paper-based system, AJ Madison turned out to be the winner.

So without further a-do, here are our appliance selections:

Rangetop: While we were momentarily lured by the fire power of the Capital Culinarian, the Bluestar range was our first and final choice.  Fans of the product on blogs like Gardenweb (which, if you are looking at anything kitchen related without reviewing this blog, it is something akin to trying to hone a wheel out of stone with a butter knife), as well as various videos demonstrating the Bluestar’s general awesomeness sealed the deal:


In the end, we’ve opted for a 48 inch rangetop, which includes 6 burners and a 12 inch indoor grill (there was some hesitation about whether the grill, which receives mixed reviews, is worth the trouble, until we spent a mosquito-infested summer in Brooklyn an decided we were less enthusiastic about grilling outdoors).  Here’s a visual:

Burner configuration.


Bluestar rangetop. Ours will not have the griddle.


Ovens: Why double wall ovens instead of going with a full range (including the ovens)? Unless you are getting a 60 inch rangetop, you’ll end up with one large, one small oven. The discomfort of bending over and attempting to view the contents of said ovens with an island directly behind you is also less appealing. With small children, we can also run the top oven without as much of a safety concern.  Most of all, though, is that electric ovens are generally considered to be better for baking than gas, and we do a great deal of baking.  We have opted for the DCS Fisher-Paykel electric wall ovens:

DCS Electric Wall Ovens

The hardware in the oven itself was far superior to many of the other options, and it includes great features like a built in probe thermometer, proofing functionality and the best broiler available on an electric oven at half the price of Wolf ovens (generally considered tops for electric ovens).  We briefly toyed with the idea having one regular oven and on Gaggenau steam oven or combi oven (both of which offer great options for bread baking), but in the end, the great price and excellent features of the DCS ovens made them the winner.

Dishwasher: Having spent some time living overseas, we can attest to the vast superiority of European dishwashers.  They simply do a better job and are quieter to boot. The general consensus was that Miele are the best but are about double the price of Bosch and require Miele trained staff for install and repair, so we scratched those off the list. However, you can’t just buy a Bosch dishwasher and assume you are good to go. After careful research, we discovered that there are two lines of Bosch: those made here, and those still made in Germany (the Bosch plus line).  We opted for the German model for the quieter function volume, hidden controls (great with kids), cool rack configuration and great reviews:

Bosch 800 Plus Series SHX7ER55UC.

Refrigerator and Freezer: Years of living with other peoples’ tiny fridges with variously awful configurations made us a little nutty on this particular set of appliances. We’re going with a 36 inch fridge and a 30 inch freezer for an outrageously silly 5 1/2 feet of cooling capacity.  We actually would have preferred a smaller freezer at 24 inches, but the brand we decided upon doesn’t offer a 24 inch model, so 30 inches it will be.  The brand will be Miele:

Miele refrigerator.

Sinks: Having had a stainless sink in our last apartment that looked scratched and beat up from the jump, we wanted to go for a porcelain sink this time around. However, we also have seen the typical apron-front, farmhouse sink stained and mottled when the standard white model is used. We found a great option with the Blanco Silgranit line, made from 80% granite, which promises to be stain free.  We’ll be using them for both the main and the prep sink. We were able to score an unbelievable price on both sinks at Hayneedle through regular searching and dogged persistence (a week later and the price has increased there by 40%)!

Microwave: We toyed with various options and locations for the microwave, and after reading the pros and cons of every possible option, we’re going with a cheap, non built-in option that comes highly recommended.  This is your average Panasonic model with none of the bells and whistles we don’t need (convection oven, oversized capacity, etc.) and the one we can’t live without (a mute function…truly, if you have kids, this is a godsend). We also considered Sharp’s line of drawer microwaves, but we were turned off by the price and user complaints about the door and the ease of putting things in and pulling things out. One final tip for microwave selection: with built-in microwaves running well over $2000 (Yes!), you can buy a trim kit for less than $200 that will work with your $200 microwave and achieve the same look.

And here are a few of our favorite cabinet insert selections:

Utensil organizer:

Utensil organizer.

Above the oven cutting board storage:

Spice racks for the pantry:

Spice racks.

Under sink organizer:

Under sink drawer.

Under sink pullouts:

Under sink pullouts.

Pantry design:

Pantry design (ours will have french doors). Yes.

And my personal favorite, the baking station:

Baking station.

Designed to accommodate both bread and pastry baking, this will be brownstonegirl’s personal corner of heaven in this kitchen. The perfect height for kneading bread by hand, the wooden board need not be dragged up to counter height; it’ll easily be stored away underneath when not in use. Awesome.

The stuff dreams are made of, indeed.   What are we looking forward to the most? Just having counterspace again – such a luxury after several consecutive rentals with limited space!

Room by Room: Kid’s Bathroom

5 Jan

The plumbers and electricians were busy at the house this week. Most of the plumbing that is required before the plumbing inspection is complete (once the sheetrock has been put up and the tiles have been installed, they’ll come back to install the finishes (toilets, faucets etc.)). The electricians have finished all the outlets and most of the boxes for the lights. We are looking forward to when they will install the lights since we have about 10 big boxes from lighting stores stuffed into a corner of our son’s room.

Next week the heating and cooling guys are coming to start putting in the ductwork, and the data guy is coming in to run the computer cables through the house.

We are also bracing for the biggest task of the project: removing most of the back wall in the house which we are opening up.

Since a bunch of wires and pipes aren’t that much fun to take pictures of we’d thought we return to look at the design of another room in the house.

The kids’ bathroom is pretty small but we are squeezing in a shower/tub combo, a double sink and a toilet. We spent some time looking for tile inspiration and finally settled on a high border pattern like the one shown below.

We like the penny tile combination where the floor is white with a colored grout (which doesn’t show dirt as much) and there’s a colored penny on the border with white grout. We are doing a light blue for the border instead of the color shown in this picture. We also think the owls are cute but not sure if we’ll go that far. What do you think?

We have about 42″ to fit in the vanity and we’ve found one that we think will work. There aren’t many options when you want a double sink for that small a space but we’ve found this option from Lacava. They can run a little expense so we are searching for a cheaper version.

Over Thanksgiving, we were able to grab some great deals on Toto toilets and a tub. Researching toilets deserves a post on its own since the forum discussions around this topic are so interesting (no really, I mean it!). It was helpful to read about the difference between round and elongated toilet bowls, eco versus non-eco toilets, two piece versus one piece models, etc. There was clear agreement that kids are much more comfortable with round bowls, so we’ll be doing that in the kids bathroom.

The final thing to note about this bathroom is that there’s a shared wall between the bathroom and the master bedroom. In our old apartment we installed sound insulation bats between walls and they hardly made a difference. This time we are going with quiet rock which people much prefer. Here’s a quick video that demonstrates how well it works.