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Little decisions

17 Jul

It’s been three or so weeks since we moved up to our top two floors and we’ve decided to hold off on pictures until we clear out some of our stuff and finally get our furniture out of storage (2+ years and counting – happening this Friday!).

It’s been valuable spending a few weeks in the new space so that we can notice (most of) the things that need addressing. We’ve been collecting the items in a Google speadsheet and today shared the list with our GC. He didn’t get too many surprises and only one painful request (moving the dining room light which isn’t aligned with the doors – not his fault as the doors weren’t in when we set the location).

All together there were 130 items. Sounds like a lot but he feels confident he can knock them out within a week. Since we have been working on this list, I’ve been thinking about other lists and will share some of them over the coming weeks. We’ll start small with little things we’ve done that we’ve been pleased with so far:

1. Countdown timers

Our overuse of dimmers isn’t that interesting so I’ll start with another kind of switch that we’ve used in each of the bathrooms. Three of our four bathrooms don’t have any windows so we’ve installed exhaust fans in each bathroom to help clear out the steam after showering. In other bathrooms we’ve stayed in I always forget to turn the fan off or I haven’t left the fan on long enough so wanted to make sure we found a good solution. A number of companies make switches with countdown timers and we found this 60 minute which has worked out well. When we go into the bathroom, we switch it on and 60 minutes later the fan turns off. Perfect for helping remove the dampness from the bathrooms.

Leviton Preset 10-20-30-60 Minute Countdown Timer

Leviton Preset 10-20-30-60 Minute Countdown Timer


2. Two chime doorbell solutions

There are two front entry ways into the house: the garden and the parlor. Sometimes people ring the top bell, other times people ring the bottom bell. We wanted to make sure we knew which bell was pressed and hear the chime throughout the house. We didn’t want a wireless solution given the reports I’ve read that they don’t always work so well in older buildings (with thicker walls) and there weren’t that many options with wired solutions. After reading through various doorbell forums (yes – there are forums just for doorbells) I was starting to lose hope. I was looking for two bells, two chimes solution with each bell ringing both chimes with different sounds – try typing that in google. Eventually, someone mentioned that they had done it which was enough for me to buy two chimes (NuTone LA11WH Decorative Wired Two-Note Door Chime) and two bells (NuTone PB41LBR Wired Lighted Door Chime Push Button, Round, Oil-Rubbed Bronze Stucco Finish). I was surprised how few attractive options there were but in the end the outside bell blends in and the chime matches other ugly pieces like the alarm, smoke detector etc.

3. Filtered water in the prep sink

Compared to other places we’ve lived, our drinking water is pretty good but we still would run it through a Brita filter. This would work fine until guests came or someone (me) would forget to fill it when it emptied. We’ve stayed in houses with an extra water filler in a sink but they were slow (and often very cold) and couldn’t be used for other purposes (cleaning vegetables, quickly filling a pot etc.). For this kitchen we wanted to make sure we found something we could use through a regular faucet without losing pressure. After reading through hours of discussions on GardenWeb about osmosis, floods, pressure lose etc. I was ready to give up when I found a product by Everpure that filtered and maintained the high pressure we wanted. Our plumbers were happy to install on the cold water line in the prep sink and so far the results have been great. We will see how things go in six months when we have to replace (I did read several people complain about how difficult it was to replace).

Everpure EV9270-85 PBS-400 Drinking Water System for Prep Sink and Wet Bar

Everpure EV9270-85 PBS-400 Drinking Water System for Prep Sink and Wet Bar


4. Lights in the laundry area. 

A laundry on the bedroom level was a must and we always knew there would be lights but we have been glad with the choice our contractor made for us. The light automatically turns on/off when we open/close the laundry doors but what’s really nice is we have the option to manually operate them (so they don’t automatically turn on when we open the door). Great for those late night washing parties we have. We didn’t really appreciate this option until we wanted to do the same in the kids’ closets when they were sleeping.

5. Dish Rack

OK. So this doesn’t quite fit the renovation stuff but we really like our dish rack (even some of the workers have complimented it). It was priced much higher than I thought we’d ever pay for such an item but it looks great, has a good knife area and a drain underneath that feeds straight into the sink  - why doesn’t every rack have that!

simplehuman Steel Frame Dishrack

simplehuman Steel Frame Dishrack

That’s all for now. We’ll do some more top 5 lists soon including 5 best big decisions, 5 valuable websites and 5 things we’d change already…


Movin’ on up…

30 Jun

Apologies for our lack of updates, but I’m now writing this new post bathed in sunlight, sitting in our new kitchen with tall ceilings, most of the cabinets, semi-working faucets and dusty lights.

After 8 weeks living without a kitchen, sharing two rooms, we finally were able to move upstairs and take over the two top floors. We passed the workers on the way up who have now begun finishing what they couldn’t finished before we had to move back into the ground floor.

Given the time (and money) poured into the kitchen, we’ll save a special post on that, so for now let’s take a look at some of the other changes elsewhere in the house.

It seems appropriate to start with the entry way. While most of our choices would be classed on the traditional side for the entry way we wanted to do something a little splashy while still keeping with the overall feel of the house. We were originally inspired by an entry way featured in one of our early inspiration houses designed by Ben Herzog.

Inspirational entry way

Inspirational entry way

After some searching we discovered patterned cement tiles that we thought would look good. We looked through the dozens of available designs from a variety of online companies but couldn’t find exactly what we wanted. Because of the small entry space we needed something that would work in a small pattern and the color choices available didn’t excite us. In the end we decided to go custom and worked with the Cement Tile Shop in Florida. Using an online tool we came up with a color combo we liked and with a little photoshop magic ordered the tiles to match this design:

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 2.14.03 PM

Eight or so weeks later, the tiles arrived and over the last week the tile guys came back to install (we wanted to wait until all the heavy work upstairs was complete before installing so they would not be damaged). We are very happy with the result. They have to rest a few days before we can grout (FYI – you must seal before grouting to protect the paint – something our GC noted minutes before the tile guys started to grout). In the meantime, here’s a pre-grout shot.


New Entry Way.

Once you walk over the new entry way you won’t miss the beautiful post that is almost complete. Unfortunately, there weren’t many original details to restore in the house (and most that were there were either covered in many layers of lead paint or cut up in a way that they couldn’t be salvaged) but we were able to have both newel posts at the bottom of our stairs redone. Here’s a before shot taken during our initial inspection:

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 2.19.48 PM

Original post – pre-contruction.

Here’s an after shot:


Refinished and repaired post.

There aren’t that many people who do wood restoration in the area but despite some delays and interesting work hours, we’ve been happy with the results of the person we selected.

You can also see above that the parlor to top floor stairs are now complete. Again for fun, here’s a before shot:

Pre-work stairs.

Pre-work stairs.

As the picture shows, the stairs were never that great from the start and with all the workers going up and down during demo it was clear that the original plan to repair wouldn’t work. So, we now have new stairs and new railings. There have definitely been compromises here but we’ll save that for another post (along with some tips on how we dealt with the oak handrails we ended up with).


Stairs from the living room. Our architect suggested the placement of the post (in the middle of the door) and the height of the pocket door. Great suggestions!


Side view.


New stairs!

We have talked a little about the floor finishes issues but we have to share our favorite section of the floors. With three skylights on the top floor we get some great light during the day and it really shows how pretty the walnut floors are.


Walnut floors in top hallway.

The last piece of news to share about the top floor is the master bathroom. The wall mounted faucet debacle is the gift that keeps on giving. The backsplash we picked for the master vanity was too sensitive to cut thin so that fabricator cut it at 1 1/4″ which caused two issues: the wall mounted faucets would need an extension piece and panelling we decided to do had to be reworked. We called Grohe and brownstone girl was able to convince them to send the extenders for free but it was on backorder. Six weeks later with our plumbers wanting to come back for a final visit we called Grohe again only to be told the extender wouldn’t be available until September. Since there were other things we wanted the plumbers to come back and address (mainly being unable to use the hot water in the main kitchen sink) we sucked it up again and spent $250 on two tiny extender parts from Faucet Direct. Like I said, the gift that keeps on giving. We are trying to get the plumbers to come back now that we have everything ready for them (including a new part for the toilet that we also needed to purchase thanks to the thicker vanity backsplash). With all that, here are a few pictures of the master bath (minus toilet and faucets).

We were a little hesitant at first to ask our GC to redo to molding around the vanity (after they initially completed it, the vanity still stuck out 1/2″ beyond the paneling) but knew it wasn’t something to look at over the years to come.


Panel flush with vanity backsplash.



We modelled the panelling on the door molding.

Moving back downstairs and into the living room where our shutters and light splurge are on full display.

Many houses in this part of Brooklyn have pockets shutters which we were sad to see partly removed from our house. Unable to find replacement parts we went in search of a place that would build new ones. Some of the quotes from Brooklyn based companies were ridiculously high so we settled on a company in Atlanta (called Devenco or Americana, depending on how you locate them…you can find them at Again, 8 weeks later they arrived and were installed. We were a little nervous as the ‘pockets’ had to be built without the shutters thus relying completely on the measurements provided. Fortunately they fit perfectly and look great!


Shutters in their pockets.


Shutters open.

Finally, the bubble light.

Walking around our area at night, one can’t but help peek into the parlor living rooms and see some amazing rooms. Mostly, it’s the great detail but we loved those rooms with a great light! With that in mind, we saw a light on Houzz and knew right away. Brownstonegirl then did her magic searching to find a great deal and here is the final result.


Living room light – at night the bubbles create a great effect on the room.

See you soon with some shots from the kitchen.



Experiences with finishing Walnut Floors

3 Jun

Brownstoneboy and brownstonegirl have been known to hold different positions on certain decisions that have had to be made over the course of this renovation, but our mutual dislike for oak flooring made one choice very easy: our floors.

Early on we settled on walnut with inspiration from pictures like this one:

Walnut flooring.

Walnut flooring.

The warm colors and great grain would provide great character to our house. With brownstonegirl having secured a good deal for 5″ inch wide extra long walnut flooring (from PC Wood Flooring in Brooklyn), we were looking forward to seeing the final product. With our sublet ending at the end of April, we had to move back into the house before everything was finished. And that’s when the floor finish problems began.

After researching many floor finish options, we decided to pursue a tung oil finish. Because tung oil won’t absorb easily into wood on its own, you need to mix it with a solvent. Usually, this is some type of chemical but at an online store named Real Milk Paint, I was able to find a natural citrus based solvent along with some very detailed instructions on how to apply. After testing a few samples, we went ahead and bought 8 gallons of solvent and 8 gallons of oil (enough to do more than one floor).

Our floor finisher had experience with tung oil but not with the natural solvent, so we were a little nervous as they began their work. Unfortunately they didn’t follow the provided instructions as requested; they did not apply 3-4 coats as requests and other earlier coats were either left on too long or not mixed properly. Because the ratio of solvent to oil was off, the third layer didn’t really soak in at all and I had to wipe it off by hand when I arrived at the house on the morning of moving day.

Wet floors – great color showed us what the floors could be.

A few hours later we moved in with wax paper down to protect the floors (we’d read this tip online – wax paper allowing the floor to breathe while it cured). Right away we could start to see the floors being scratched and dirtied despite our best efforts to protect them (the rain that day didn’t help either).

Over the course of the next few weeks the only way we could clean the floor (or removed the scratched areas) was to take a clean cloth, damp it with a mix of solvent and oil, buff the surface by hand (or even better, by feet) and let is dry overnight. The result looked great but it was no way to clean a floor (especially with 2 kids!). The feeling of walking on raw wood also felt uncomfortable on our feet. It was then that we started to research other options for the two upper (unfinished floors).

First we looked at a water-based poly which is what our GC had recommended from the beginning. We bought a small satin finish and grabbed some left-over wood. We followed the instructions and waited to see how it would look. Rather than bringing out the amber colors we particularly liked about walnut, it dulled the color and looked grey and cloudy to us.

Water based piece in the middle of a piece of restored flooring.

Back to the internet for more hours reading through flooring forums and we discovered an interesting option. We wanted the coloring of oil without the harmful effects and resultant smell and found that a number of floor finishing companies made an oil-modified water based poly that changed the color of the floors as with oil without the long curing time and other already mentioned side-effects of oil finish (we were encouraged by the discussion at We narrowed our choice to a product by Bona called Woodline and tried to buy a sample.

With the floor finishers coming in a week we didn’t really have the option to order online so we started calling the places Bona listed on their site as distributors. Most didn’t even carry Bona but we found that the place where we’d originally bought our floors (PC Wood Flooring) carried it and had in quart size containers of semi-gloss and satin; they also had the sealer that Bona recommends applying before applying the finish. I jumped on the train and headed to their store on 3rd Avenue and picked up a quart of each.

With the painters still working upstairs we setup a little testing area in the cellar and opened up the hatches for ventilation. We didn’t have time that day to do a full sealer application following by a coat of the finish so I just applied the finish to a piece of wood to see if there were any color changes.

One coat of the satin oil finish (on the left) next to an unfinished piece of wood.

We were encouraged by the result so setup another test the next day, this time applying the sealer and then applying the semi-gloss and the satin finish to each side of our mini-floor that we put together.

Semi-gloss on left and satin on right.

 We were satisfied enough with the result to speak with our GC and ditch the tung oil plan in favor of the Woodline product.

Fast forward a week: we left the house for a few days and the floor guys came in again. We were a little nervous on our return and walked up the stairs to take a look at the final results.

Kitchen floor

Living Room Floor

Top floor hall (with bonus view of our new stairs).

I’m not sure if we were more excited or relieved. The floors looked stunning. Exactly what we’d hoped for from that first time we saw those inspirational floors on Houzz. They are still curing upstairs but feel great under the feet and show the amazing grain and variation present in the walnut flooring. The one downside is that we’ll have to redo the floor that we are living in (with the tung oil) but in the end it’ll be worth it (at least that’s what we keep saying at each bump).




Everybody Must Get Stoned

24 May

As we end the week with a rainy Friday in New York, it’s time to share our happenings over the last two weeks. Starting with the kitchen which is coming together nicely.

With our kitchen base cabinets installed last week, were able to come and template our granite counter tops and master vanity. A week later everything was installed and looking awesome. As previously discussed, we’d decided to go with Super White stone for the kitchen and now it’s installed we are very happy with our decision.


We used in our apartment renovation in 2011 and were happy to use them again despite requiring several visits to Jersey to find our elusive stone. There were a few mishaps this time, which I’m putting down to their recent expansion to 5+ locations, but they are righting their wrongs without too much trouble.


Waterstone prep faucet

The kitchen (and many other rooms) also saw their lights go in. Most are covered to protect from the dust but the lights won by brownstonegirl in a Niche Modern contest were on display for a night. The island ones look great as does the dining room light. The shared kitchen dining space made placing the dining light a little awkward but we are hoping once the dining room table goes in it’ll seem better placed.

(Dusty) Niche Modern Lights.

One light we were worried about was the parlor entry. Ordering 95% online has worked out pretty well so far but this light was much bigger than expected and we feared the entry door would hit it. Fortunately, it just cleared but does look a little cramped in there. We could ask our GC to move the light back but given all the finishing work done we’ll live with this position.

Parlor entry light.

We continued to be amazed by the amount of care and time the painters are putting in. I swear they have been here for more than a month and are still not done. First they tape the walls (i.e. cover the cracks between the sheetrock), then they prime (twice) then they paint (twice). After that it looks great to me but they then go over, find the imperfections, sand down, fill the gaps and paint again. Needless to say when they are done it’s looks amazing. Here’s a couple of pictures taken in the kids room. They are still painting the split window solution put in to handle the wall divider on the top floor but you can start to see how it will be finished (based on a suggestion from our architect).

Split window right side.


Split window left side.

Finally, the master vanity countertop also went in. The pictures don’t do this beautiful stone justice so you’ll just have to come over and see for yourself when we are all done. The only issue had to do with the wall mounted faucet (big surprise). We had requested that the marble guys cut the backsplash 3/4 inches thick (vs. the 1 1/4″ that’s more common) but they couldn’t do it because the stone is so fragile. The thicker stone meant that the plumbers needed an extension so that the faucet would go beyond the stone. Fortunately Grohe were able to provide a part (10 week ETA though) that we can use.

Master Vanity – white quartzite 

Master Vanity – 10 weeks before we can put in the trim.

Up next are the stairs, floor finishing (a post in itself – we are backtracking again), more painting and air conditioning units going up to the roof (just in time for Summer). Still hard to believe we are weeks away from taking over the whole house. It’s been quite the journey.

50 Shades of Grey

6 Apr

Knocking on wood as we report another busy week at the house.

Because of the previously reported DOB fun slowing everything down, we won’t be finished by the time our sublet ends (April 30th); the goal is therefore to finish the bottom floor with limited kitchen access by the end of the month, and everything else by the end of May.

That means we have to start thinking about paint colors. After many hours on Houzz, we came up with about 20 colors we wanted to see sampled on the walls. We designated where we thought a color could work and ordered samples from Benjamin Moore. Once the painters finished taping the bottom floor and priming, they kindly put up our samples.

After renovating our apartment a few years ago we felt that our color choices were a little dark and a little bold, so this time we are leaning towards lighter and slightly boring. We can use curtains and other room accessories to provide bolder elements down the line.

First, the office:


We decided on the middle color: grey owl. The right color matched our garden bath tile so we added that to the sample to try in the bathroom (which we subsequently rejected).

The garden hall is a big choice as we are continuing the color up through the parlor and second floor hall as well as the kitchen. For this we had the painters put up 5 samples:


Kitchen wall sample colors.

With the back door and window (arriving Tuesday – they swear) still covered, it was harder to get a true sense of the real colors (things look yellower in the picture than in person), but we decided on the top left (light pewter). It was good to see the other samples up as we think they could work elsewhere (bottom left – white wisp – garden bath, top middle – edgecomb grey – living room, right – marilyn’s dress – kids bathroom). We’ll add them to the samples to try in each room.

With the playroom color already decided (golden straw which we used previously, the one bold color we really liked), the last choice was the trim color. Last time, we didn’t even know we had choices with this but after some research we narrowed it down to Decorator’s White and White Dove. Taking some of the sample molding we had ordered, we painted one half one color and the other half the other color. In the end we chose White Dove. To us, the color seemed a little richer with more depth (which has guided us with our other choices).

The other big change at the house was new stairs. Originally we were just going to repair the stairs but over the course of the construction they deteriorated and our GC said it’ll be about the sample price to replace. Both sets arrived on Thursday with one going in on Friday.


New stairs on the garden level.


New and old stairs

Unfortunately, due to height differences we won’t be able to reuse the spindles but the newel posts will remain. We’ll donate the spindles in case others are looking to replace some broken ones.

To be donated.

To be donated.

In other news, the interior doors have been ordered. Our original plan was to replicate our old doors but we just couldn’t get the sample right, so in the end we decided on a simpler finish which closely matches our cabinet and shutter choices.

Some door samples.

Some door samples.

Next, we did a little sampling with the crown molding. The old moldings were different from most moldings that you see today in that they had a big projection and small height. We very much wanted to keep those moldings, but with many layers of lead paint over the plaster, floorplan changes and whole sections that had been removed when a bathroom was added on the top floor years ago, it just didn’t make sense to try to work with what was there. We did, though, make it a priority to find something similar (not an easy task when you are trying to replicate 100+ year old plasterwork).  After a lot of searching we found something similar which we are going to use in the living room (which has high ceilings).


We are also hoping to use it in the adjoining kitchen space but there are a few transitions we aren’t sure about. For example, the kitchen joins a narrow hallway. The hallway is too narrow for the molding so we have to figure out how to transition from the kitchen to the hallway with things looking too weird. To help with this our GC spent a few minutes mocking up an example.


There is definitely a little more work to be done on the transition of the outer detail but we are confident that this can be addressed.

Finally, the tile work continued in the master and kids bath.

As a reminder, our inspiration for the kids bathroom came from Houzz.

Kids bath inspiration

We decided on a blue penny tile where they used grey and have been really happy with the results so far.


Kids tile.

Subway from Lowes. Penny from buy

Once the grout is done it will look even better. Our only regret about this room is that because of all the pipes and venting running behind the sink, we had to replace our recessed cabinets with surface mounted.

The tiling in the master also finished up. We spent a lot of time going over tile placement with the architect and GC to make sure things lined up, fixtures would be centered on tiles and how much tile to use when a full tile wasn’t an option. This was time well spent given the results. Again, pre-grout.



bathroom floor

Bathroom floor – AKDO basketweave with gray glass dots and 3/4 by 3/4 carrara bella mosaic.

Next week, more painting, tiling begins in the garden bath, remaining stair install and kitchen window delivery!

Dirty pretty things

30 Mar

With our gas inspection and DOB drama behind us (until the next filing), some of the more attractive details are starting to appear in the house. Let us start with the floors.

Early on in the material selection process, we fell in love with character grade walnut floors. While softer than other types of woods, we loved the color and the variation of the wood. With kids we knew any floors will get banged up over time so wanted something where ‘kid-made imperfections’ would just blend in with the other imperfections.

When the wood arrived we were a little concerned that the character grade was a little too character. In fact, our contractor expressed concern that there may not be enough good wood to complete all the floors.


While we shared this concern as well, we felt that if we sort the wood and put the best stuff in high trafficked areas, the lessor pieces under beds and other furniture and the worst pieces under cabinets that we would be enough.

We began the process by marking up our floor plan to show where we would like the different grades of wood to go.


Instructions for the installers

Next, we spent about six hours sorting through the wood. Creating a green pile for the best wood, a yellow pile for under furniture wood and red for discard or under cabinets.


A yellow pile

With the last of the floors being laid yesterday, we are very happy with the result. Even before we do any of the floor finishing work they are looking great.


Master bedroom floor. The yellow wood went where the bed will go. Green in the walkways.

We will be finishing with 100% tung oil. To better absorb, it needs to be mixed with some kind of thinner. Most are man-made chemicals but we found a natural solvent made from citrus with no VOC (ordered from Real Milk Paint).

Passing the gas inspection also meant that we could finally close up the bathroom walls and start tiling the three bathrooms (the powder room on the parlor floor will have no tile).


Kids Tile


Master bath ready for tiling

We started by meeting with our GC and the architect to go over tile placement. While we have had the general tile placement plan for some time, it was important to go over tile placement to decide how the edges would finish, where the tile would center relative to the niches and fixtures and how high tiles would go.

Speaking of bathrooms, the concrete sink for the garden bathroom arrived and looked even more stunning than we had hoped. This certainly wasn’t the cheapest option but seeing it in person has us considering whether we could use it in our master bathroom instead (ordered from Trueform Concrete).


The painters also spent a couple of days at the house this week preparing the walls for painting. While we haven’t decided the final paint colors, we ordered about 20 samples which we plan to try out before making out final selection.

Next week our new stairs are due to arrive along with the final window in the kitchen. The brickwork in the back should also wrap up allowing us to get started on removing the concrete in the back which we need to do before we can start work on the new deck.

Excited to think about moving in in terms on weeks not months!

Some like it hot

3 Mar

Things have slowed down at the house over the last month while we wait for our updated plans to be approved by the city. At the end of January we failed our gas inspection because what we did for heating (gas powered furnaces, one for each floor) differed from our approved plans (radiator heating). Until the updated plans are approved we can’t close up the bathrooms which means tiling cannot start. We have a meeting scheduled with the DOB on Tuesday so hopefully things will get back on track.

In the meantime, here are some updates to share.

Firstly, all but one of the windows arrived this week and have been installed. These include the door in the kitchen that will lead out to the deck (still to be built) and the skylights in the master bath, kids bath, and top floor hallway. With both bathrooms on the top floor in the middle of the house, it was important for us to get light from somewhere and the roof provided the only option.

Kitchen doors

Kitchen doors

Kids skylight

Kids’ skylight

Master Skylight

Master skylight

Our master bath is close to the neighbor’s wall so during construction we decided to move it off the wall a little. Unfortunately you still get a good view on the graffiti some kids left as a house warming gift just before we closed (another thing to take care of before they finish up the work).

The HVAC guys also turned on the heat this week in preparation for our new floors arriving on Tuesday. The flooring will stay in the house for a week or so while it acclimatizes to the house.

Next week taping will being since most of the sheet rocking is complete. That will mean we will start having to make paint color decisions. Of the hundreds of decisions we’ve had to make over the six months, these are the kind we dislike the most. When you have an unlimited number of options, it’s always hard to make the final decision.*

Last week the architect, contractor and engineer met to discuss placement of the condensers (needed for air conditioning). Since we are placing them on the roof, there have been a number of things to consider (sitting on steel beams vs. bolted to roof, placement around the neighbors chimney and back). This decision delayed finishing up our bedroom (if we had selected bolting to the roof, it would have been over our bedroom, and would have required many additional roof penetrations; one of the reasons we decided to go with the steel beams). Now, that the decision has been made and approved by all interested parties, work has continued on our master.

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

One ‘special feature’ of our master bedroom will be the kitchen venting running straight up through the closet. The kitchen is below our bedroom and we have to vent our 1400CFM hood (also arriving on Tuesday) out to the roof. The venting is big and will be eating into Brownstonegirl’s closet, but it’s a small price to pay to have a super-efficient but quiet venting solution.

Hood venting from the roof

Hood venting from the roof

Finally, we’ve made the last of our lighting purchases. In all, there were about 20 lights to purchase. Brownstonegirl gets all the credit for our selections (another one of those unlimited option decisions x 20). We’ll share pictures once they are installed.

* Speaking of unlimited choices, we appreciate everyone’s feedback on our granite dilemma. In the end we went back out to Jersey to confirm our super white selection and put down a deposit so it would be ready when our kitchen cabinets are done (eta end of March). It’s interesting how varied their supply can be from month to month. Had they had the super white when we first went out there a few months ago, we likely wouldn’t have searched further, but they’d only had remnants at that time. We were lucky that when it finally came to decision time, they’d just gotten in a large, high quality shipment.  Thanks again for the feedback!


Tear down this (back) wall

8 Feb

Another busy week at the house!

First, the crew has finished removing the back wall on the parlor floor. The opening is huge and we can’t wait to see the doors and windows go in.  There will be a 9 foot wide window over the cabinets, and a 5 foot wide set of doors beyond the dining table with 17 inch high transom windows above both, so it will feel almost like an entire wall of glass.

Kitchen opening

Kitchen opening

We met with the contractor today to go over additional details on the back half of the parlor floor. There’s lots to fit in this space being shared by the kitchen and dining room, so we firmed up the cabinet depths, island and dining placement and the lighting fixtures. All of these details had previously been set by the architects, but now that we know exactly how much space we have to work with, we had to make a few minor adjustments here and there. Our contractor also brought over a sample cabinet for us to look at. He’ll be building custom cabinets for our space; it was great to see the quality of work that went into building it and to be able to make a couple of minor adjustments to the look.


Sample cabinet

The HVAC system is mostly done and so there were also a few tweaks with the placement of the registers (where the air comes out). One area that will need a little more attention is the registers above the kitchen cabinets. While we are lucky to have 10′+ ceilings, it’s still a tight fit with the ductwork, the cabinets, hood and counter tops. We might have to adjust our crown moulding selection so things aren’t bumping into each other.

Duct work running into the kitchen

Duct work running into the kitchen

With the back wall gone and the new wall framed out, the plumbers were able to return and start working on the plumbing lines that run along the back of the house. This also includes them adding the drain and the water lines for the island prep sink which you can see marked out below.

Island placement

Island placement

The other big news of the week is that the walls have started to go up. After one final confirmation of the data and outlet locations, the sheetrock went up in the kids’ bedrooms, the office and the gym.

Space for gym

Space for gym

Office space

Office space

Kid bedroom

Kid bedroom

The last picture shows the challenge we have left with the center window splitting the two kids’ bedrooms. Originally we thought we would do a zig zag layout so that one bedroom would have an extra window and the other space would have more room but our architect suggested splitting the window with a fixed glass panel covering the portion of the window showing in each room. We still have to figure out how it’ll work with a shutter but the regular shape of the bedroom will make it easier to place furniture.

Next week we plan to file our updated plans with the city so that we can get our gas worked signed off. That’ll allow us to close up the bathroom walls and start tiling. There will also be more sheet rocking and more brick work on the back.



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.

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.