Psyche. Not quite yet.

But this morning I renamed the blog “Foghill Modern,” moved it here, and fiddled with the look and feel a little bit. Change is good.

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The results of (probably) the most nerve-wracking decision to date

The front of the house – she is naked!

It’s been a while since I’ve addressed the outside of our abode, so here’s a little refresher in the form of a “before” photo:

Quick: it’s like the Hocus Focus from the Sunday Funnies. How many changes can you identify?

First, it’s probably pretty obvious that we ripped the pergola down. As hard as it is for me to admit this, it was actually not an easy decision at all. I had a very tough time imagining what the facade would look like with that bulk gone, and I feared the result would be something stark and sad. I don’t know about you, but I think the result is a total breath of fresh air.

Removing the pergola in concert with the new front door placement makes it much more apparent where one enters the home. One of my pet peeves back in the day was the front door was so hidden; once we address the walkway it will be even more evident. See the big, ugly, unfriendly, spiky plant in the “before” photo? Gone in the “after.” That thing could cut you if you rubbed up against it. Glad to have it eliminated. We did keep the birch tree, however. It’s a mighty pretty specimen.

Look! A little brick wall we never knew we had! For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stucco over it on both sides.

We also opted to take the window planter boxes down. Having to run the drip irrigation up there was a drill and I never thought this was a planter box-style house anyway. It’s like someone took a 1956 modern box and tried to turn it into Cape Cod or Mill Valley. I never thought it looked right. Our plan is to replace those with simple wood panels, painted the same color as the window trim (whatever that is!).

A minor point, but important nonetheless: the electrical conduit is now on the roof instead of the top of the front wall. If you squint the house kind of resembles Alfalfa from the Little Rascals:

If we had two, we’d look more like Little Sally Who:

Sadly, there is one constant in the “before” and “after photos:” the porta-potty. Sure, it’s covered up with lattice and all, but it’s still a toilet in our driveway.

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Kitchen no longer (counter) topless!

It was an unprecedentedly busy week over at Chez Foghill. Funny – things get very serious once you and your contractor agree on an occupancy date.

The big wow factor emotional boost this week arrived yesterday in the form of the kitchen counter tops. The color is absolutely perfect.

As always, the lighting is bad and the transition from reality to digital camera to Web site causes colors to be rendered funkily. But I hope this communicates the gist of the situation; what I’ll never be able to show in a photograph are the tiny flecks of recycled mirror that provide just a hint of sparkle. There’s also quite a bit of brown and gray in the material that doesn’t translate in photos at all.

The view from the living room gives you a sense of where the island “bar” is; the original design called for an extension along the right side as well, but when we mocked it all up we realized that doing so would cause the counter to extend past the little wall there. Oh well!

And, a minor aside here: See those two floor stain samples under the island? Which one do you think looks better? Josh and I both prefer the lighter of the two; David, the color consultant, is making a strong pitch for the darker. He is won over by the contrast with the island (true) and the potential for rugs and furniture to pop (also true); we are nervous the ebony floor will suck too much light out of the room, show every piece of lint and dust bunny more than the walnut will, and to me I think the darker color creates too much of a “cabinet sandwich.” We will decide tomorrow so the staining can happen next week while I am in New York.

Bah poor lighting and rookie photographer. But can’t you just imagine how amazing it will be to stand there, whipping up a batch of chicken and dumplings on the gas range with the view in the background?

Here you can see floor stain #3 which we have all already rejected: reads way too green.

Today the plumber comes to install the kitchen faucet. Having all the appliances in will make a really big difference; that should happen in about a week and a half…

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Color time!

Although in my previous post I said that taking photos of paint samples is a waste of time, I did it today anyway. On a day-to-day basis, the changes taking place in the house are subtle, but when I looked at the last bunch of photos I posted I realized that the place has actually taken even more shape than I realized.

The kitchen as of this morning. It’s protected because the painters have taken over and primed the whole house. Tomorrow the counter tops are installed. That will be MAJOR.

We’ve been through two rounds of wall color and just today landed on The One. In this photo, it’s the upper of the two; the original hue was too dark for our liking, so we “backed off” (as David the color consultant likes to say) and mixed a solution of 50% color and one of 75% color. 75% is the sweet spot; 50% was too light and too close to the cabinets and trim color.

Another look at the living room wall and a glimpse of the very bold and gorgeous blue accent color that will start at the front entry, travel up the ceiling and along one wall and stop just to the right of the doorway in this photo.

Here’s where the photography and import to the web is a major FAIL. There are two colors here; the bottom one is the one that will be on these TV room walls. It’s a pale gray-ish blue. Subtle.

The other color, a pale pale warm gray green, will be the office color.

Here’s another glimpse of the accent color. Here you can also see the full, 75%, and 50% versions of the main wall color.

When given lemons, in the form of a very awkward and crazy angled staircase, make lemonade, right? So we’re going for broke and painting that bit. The big stair wall behind it will be white. And see that little flat part where the stair turns? Well, that’s already gone, so now the angle descending from the top goes all the way to its logical conclusion without that dumb flat section. Much better.

Have I showed you the new front door yet? It looks green because there’s a layer of protection on the exterior. The glass is actually frosted and looks whiter in real life.

A bit of a non-sequitur, but here it is nonetheless: the upstairs bathroom shower/tub tile. Kind of hard to see behind the plastic…

Bathroom vanities were supposed to be installed today but weren’t, so we’ll have to find out tomorrow what happened…

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The third leg of a 4-man relay

I thought about titling this post “the sprint to the finish line,” but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. With about a month to go, this phase feels more like the set-up to the final sprint: putting all the pieces in place so the schedule does not slip by even one day between now and October 7th. Yes, there it is: our move-in day.

It’s been a pretty busy week, though not a very photo-worthy one. This past week featured: tile grout (looks great but is immediately covered and protected and therefore a pain to photograph), kitchen island counter top metal support installation (also immediately covered to protect from paint), paint sample review (impossible to photograph accurately), and schluter installation in the master bath.

I did manage to complete a few homework assignments this week. I finally ordered our safe and chose bath accessories. It’s the Sonia Tecnoproject line (“now’s the time on Sprockets when we dance!”) in polished chrome. At the risk of slipping down the TMI slope, here they are:

Ours will be 30 inches wide and hang in the master bath towel niche…

The 12 inch version will house hand towels; one 24 incher will hang in the upstairs bath for guest towels.

I’m a big fan of TP holders that require no extra work.

In spite of the fact that we have no idea where we’ll hang our robes (oops!) I picked up a couple of these just in case. We’ll have to put them somewhere.

Admittedly, this was not on the original list, but if you’re going to have a brush, I guess it’s better to have one that matches versus one we pick up at Target after we move in.

It’s cool that Facebook includes a photo when you publish posts to your status update, but it would be even better if I could choose which photo to use. I think it must default to the last photo of the post, which means in this case the toilet bowl brush is the featured shot. That simply will not work. So here’s an alternative:

This baby was posted all over the Red Cross van at the Air Show we went to in New Hampshire 2 weeks ago. Priceless.

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Is it OK to design your entire color scheme around a single pillow?

I certainly hope so.

I have long coveted velvet striped pillows I first spotted on Jamie Mears’ blog, I Suwannee. I’ve been following I Suwannee for a good couple of years at least; Jamie has great style and, besides, how could I not fall in love with a blog that features a “Bookcase of the Day?” About a year or so ago, Jamie summoned her innate talent and eye for design to open a store in her hometown of Raleigh-Durham, NC called Furbish. For months I would drool over her store photos, praying for the day she would open an online store. Well, lucky for me, that day has arrived.

Yesterday my pillows arrived. And they are even more wonderful in person than in the photos; but for you dear reader, photos (from the Furbish site) are all I can offer.

The texture is luxurious but not stuffy, thanks to a break from the velvet in the form of a white cotton (I think) background. The colors are vibrant and happy, but not cheesy or juvenile. Here’s a close up:

There are so many wonderful colors to pull from: yellow, gold, peach, rust, sky blue, turquoise… Not that everything will match, per se, but instead enjoy a good working relationship with these colors.

For example, the orange and rust in these isn’t an exact match to the marigold in the kitchen:

but they can have a good conversation with each other.

Exhibit B: The Danish modern sofa we had reupholstered. In truly serendipitous form, we chose the fabric before I bought the pillows, but it’s a match made in heaven.

(The chairs are Milo Baughman club chairs that have yet to receive the upholstery treatment. I’m holding off until I have a better sense of where they will go and what color they should be.)

We knew this sofa had a ton of potential, even when it was covered in this drab, sad, and stained (yuk) gray:

So just like the kitchen orange, the sofa gold isn’t an exact match to the pillow color, but who would want that anyway? As Stacy London and Clinton Kelly say, “It doesn’t have to match, it just has to go.”

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Who knew kitchen cabinet knobs could bring such joy?

Not me. Until today.

Knobs, like faucets, are “house jewelry.” Like and earrings and necklaces, they add that little something special to the outfit. And you typically put them on last, right before lipstick and as you head out the door. So in addition to looking simply wonderful, these knobs signify serious progress. OK, so the floors aren’t sanded and stained, the walls aren’t painted, the new front door is leaning against the foyer wall, blah blah blah. I’ll take signs of progress wherever I can take ’em.

Not to mention the kitchen island, all installed and everything.

I am so happy with the open sections; can’t you just imagine each of those little shelves on the left there housing one of these Heath lovlies from the summer collection?

Or perhaps a more understated white piece?

Or maybe a rotating collection that I can adapt to my mood?

There’s been a lot of progress in the master bathroom tile department, too.

The “towel niche,” all tiled up. Not grouted yet, but that’ll happen very soon. We are leaning towards using “alabaster” grout, which is a tad creamier than white white — we don’t want it to look too antiseptic in there. We’ll see.

The master shower floor – quite possibly THE most impossible tile to photograph and have the color render correctly. Plus, the angle I shot makes this look much squarer than it really is. But hopefully you at least get the idea – what’s lacking in here are all the subtle gray and browns in this tile; we’re going to use it for the vanity back splashes, too.

I took this photo today in honor of my mother-in-law, Annie Brankman, who peppered me with so many home renovation questions during our short visit to New Hampshire this weekend. I am truly honored to have such an avid reader of this little blog of mine. Anne, here’s a photo of the back of the house – as well as the back of your son! Pure coincidence, I promise. Enjoy.

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A kitchen floor plan comes to (near) fruition

Nearly all of the kitchen cabinets are placed, some are actually installed, and the counter top guy comes tomorrow to cut the template. As I’ve said before, we are so pleased with the way they look. Added bonus: Mike Singer is way impressed with the materials and construction quality, ease of installation, and excellent customer service by Viola Park. As a new-ish brand, this was a new product for Caruso and they were nervous they would have a nightmare on their hands. Happy to report it’s been smooth as silk.

OK – except for the fact that in looking at this photo right now I realized that the wall cabinets are hung too high! They are supposed to line up with the top of the window on the left, not the right. Thank goodness for this post or I may have never noticed. I don’t think it’s too big a deal to scoot them down, just as long as that doesn’t cause the space between the counter top and cabinet bottom to be too tight…

This is the kind of thing that makes contractors really happy. These subtops came pre-cut.

So now we have everything AND the kitchen sink (well, not really)! The faucet is in a box in the cabinet below. Seeing these things we chose months ago actually in the house and even in some cases in their proper place just tickles me to no end. The cook top will be delivered tomorrow – I can’t stand it!

The new deck surface is nearly complete. We could have placed the “tiles” so the boards ran the other direction, or even in a checkerboard pattern. We opted to go horizontal, just like the floor boards inside the house.

In this shot you can see the feet that the tiles rest upon. These are built like mini bar stools that twist up and down in order to create a level top deck surface while still maintaining a sloped under-deck for appropriate drainage. How cool is that?

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On this episode of The Office

The subject remains: desks.

On the previous episode, we considered a few different desk options. And while some were a bit higher end than others, they all shared the same basic characteristics: mostly white, some drawer storage, lots of room underneath for legs. Fundamentally desk-y.

Since that adventure (two weeks ago already – my, how time flies!) Josh and I were able to spend a little bit of our drive home Sunday from Ione (home of not one but two correctional facilities: Preston Youth Correctional Facility – featuring a haunted castle! – and Mule Creek State Prison – home of Lyle Menendez. Neither of those were the reason for our visit – just fun discoveries along the way.) discussing those three options and a possible fourth: the simple but lovely Parsons desk.

At this point in the conversation I recalled a plan we had once considered when that room was still 100% Josh’s office, but that just might be an even better solution now that we will be sharing 50-50: Room and Board’s (who else?) Custom Linear cabinets. When push comes to shove, our home office “desk” is way more about storage than work space. Both of us are heavy laptop users in the truest sense of the word – computer on top of lap; and now that we’ve decided to turn the former man cave/game room/catch all into a digital photo studio, we’ll have absolutely no need for a desktop computer zone in the home office.

So with this in mind, I’ve mocked up two versions for our consideration.

We’ll call this one Linear Classic Three:

Each of the three zones of this piece is somewhat customizable. In this version I’ve chosen a cabinet with a pull-out work surface above, for the occasional round of bill-paying or thank-you-note writing, and a set of three drawers (one file and two shallow). The floor plan with two of these looks like this:

Because these aren’t actually desks and would be more than likely closed most of the time, one question to be resolved is where do we put the chairs we would need for the times we do want to sit there and work? Hm. The chairs, at least for the time being, are going to be two of our dining chairs, the sublime Louis Ghost:

I think we can also consider a four-bank version; something along these lines:

Wow – just look at all that storage. And the floor plan:

I think if we were to take this road, we would have no room for anything else on the floor of these two walls, save perhaps for a nice plant or maybe cool floor lamp. The “three” option may offer room for some other kind of storage item, though my worry is that would appear cluttered. We could certainly have some wall-mounted storage (like floating shelves) above the pieces if we determine we need more storage or they would just look neat.

These kinds of proportion questions are tricky.

This line comes in four wood finishes: maple, white oak, cherry and walnut. The versions here are in cherry, which I chose based on the fact that we have some other cherry wood furniture (by Blu Dot). But just now as I was clicking around to remember the names of the woods I realized we may want to consider the walnut version as it will be much closer in color to the hardwood floors and therefore not introduce another (perhaps unnecessary) element into a relatively small space. It might look really slick to have these look somewhat integrated into the floors in there. What do you think?

A contender, for sure.

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Is this what they mean by “finishes?”

Finish. A word I hesitate to use lest I jinx any semblance of progress. But I think we’ve moved into the phase of the renovation when the finish work kicks into high gear. For example:


Window trim…

Basement floor epoxy…

and master shower tile.

Everything’s lookin’ great. In addition to this finish work, the guys were able to make a few improvements in the garage now that the kitchen cabinets are in their rightful home.

Some time in late February-ish, Josh and I took a hammer to a piece of plywood that was here to satisfy our curiosity about why the heck it was there. What we discovered was nothing more than a big hole that went right through to an old closet. Once Caruso came in they were able to use this as a very handy materials pass-through; I take the fact that it’s been sealed up as a very good sign.

Another promising development here is the disconnection of the washer and dryer in preparation for their move to the infamous laundry closet.

This is the former home of our old electrical panel. The need for more juice in addition to major advances in home electrical since 1956 means we have a brand spanking new one and could 86 the old one for good.

Now I can really understand why the crew was itching to get those cabinets out of here; there was a whole host of other junk that needs to be kept here! Well, that — and our new bedside tables, which are in the cardboard boxes under that, um, microwave?

Our ever-patient next door neighbor, Yan, has been inspired by our work to paint the exterior of his house. This makes us very happy; previously the top and bottom halves of the place were two different colors, which we were subjected to every time we pulled into our driveway. Yan is preparing to sell this house; if we time it just right, as soon as we move back in a new owner next door will (because this is San Francisco) promptly initiate a major remodel.

This is the portion of the rear of Yan’s house that we can see from our back deck. The peach was one of the former colors; clearly the prospect of a nice neutral gray pleases us.

No excursion to Chez Brankman this weekend thanks to a big Indy Race at Infineon this weekend. The traffic on Highway 37 totally cuts us off from most points south, so we’re going to embark on a Foghill Adventure of another sort and head east for a little car camping in San Joaquin and Calaveras Counties. Monday’s site meeting should be a lot of fun: more cabinets installed, more tile in place.

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