Monday, April 28, 2008

"Due to gentrification, the Ear Inn now allows poodles."

I mentioned how much I loved Philip Johnson's Glass House a while back; I didn't know that Johnson's last commission was a NYC development called the "Urban Glass House," a glass and concrete condo loosely reinterpreting the original (right next to the historic Ear Inn, and not too far from Bill and Amy's apt):

Turns out the developer who's responsible for the Urban Glass House is also building a hotel around the corner from our apt in the West Village (on a footprint that used to be the home of Mookie's vet). Though it's getting the usual NIBMY reaction from local critics (it'll be the only hotel in the immediate vicinity, and I suppose that risks undermining the small-town feel of the WV a bit), the proposed version looks pretty cool to me from a design perspective. Rather than a glass and steel design that has become pretty popular in lower Manhattan, it's going to mimic the brick facades that are more common in the neighborhood:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seasonal View

When we were looking at land to purchase, it always cracked me up to read about "seasonal views" or "winter views" - and of course that's what we've got right now. We probably won't do anything to change that anytime soon - maybe trim some branches to open it up a little, but nothing too drastic. The leaves come in at the perfect time to keep the late-day western sun's heat off of the house (we've got lots of exposures, obviously, and direct sun could really be an issue in the summer, I think). But we would like to keep some of this nice view of the ridge to the northwest and the notch to the west where the sun sets:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Four weeks to go

We've got volunteers to be "test guests" Memorial Day weekend, so I've got one month to finish up...

I got a LOT of work done on Tuesday and Wednesday: plumbed the tub drain/overflow, hung the sheetrock/cement board in the bathroom, trimmed the bathroom window, tiled the shower until I ran out of mortar, hung and trimmed the basement doors. Forgot my camera, though, so the only evidence I have are these fuzzy phone pics:

I actually got most of the shower walls tiled - only about ten rows left to do, plus all the partial pieces to cut. Hanging tile is not rocket science - especially if you've hung your cement board well (with nice level seams), the only real tricks are laying it out so that you don't have to cut really tiny pieces of tile at the edges, and then getting the first row level. (I had an issue with the lip of the tub not meeting the cement board cleanly, so I've got a couple of pieces of tile that aren't perfectly vertical. C'est la vie. A whole post one of these days will be devoted to our DIY mantra of "it's good enough.")

Monday, April 21, 2008

Who's Overbudget?

Yeah? Us too. A lot of debt on credit cards at the moment. We'll see what it all adds up to at the end of the day.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this is not an atypical experience...

So we've been thinking about having the boys paint some pics for us for WV

Here's their first crack at it (it was a team effort by Michael and Joshua - they call it "Painting"):

Assisted by (h/t AustinModHouse) - anyone with kids who want to use the computer all the time should check it out...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Finishing Touches

We really are getting close to done with the upstairs. A couple of nits left here and there, but not much. I put in the pendant light (CB2, $49) over the dining room table when I was out dropping off some stuff. We were surprised when it came to find that it had a twenty foot long cord with a switch, and was intended to be plugged into an outlet. So I bought the mounting hardware myself (standard Home Depot cover plates were all pretty terrible), snipped the cord and hardwired it (Simplex had installed a junction box above the table). Looks pretty good:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Where's It All Go?

When we were designing the house, John Kim at Res4 explained a rough engineering version of what effect water has as it moves downhill against a wall - I didn't really get it, but it sounded scary. And because our retaining wall opens on the uphill side of the house, it acts kind of like a giant catch basin for water coming down the hill underground. So it was really important to get the drainage right and send whatever water gets trapped by the wall through to the other side. The guys who poured the foundation took care of that with pretty extensive drainpipes around the footers that funnel the water through a pass-through in the wall (where it travels through an underground pipe to an outlet below the house down in the woods).

Because we also get a lot of water from the roof through the scupper above the retaining wall, the same process needs to happen - it all needs to get funneled through to the other side of the wall. So as they infilled the retaining wall they connected some black sewer pipe to the footer drains and ran it up the side of the wall to right below the scupper. I built the walkway with a box for a gravel catch basin:

When the stone for the driveway came a few weeks ago, I stole some of it and filled the bottom half of the box, cutting down the pipe:

Graded the stone toward the pipe and lined it with plastic and some chicken wire:

And filled it (almost) the rest of the way with stone:

Remains to be seen how it will handle a lot of falling water - how much splashing we'll get, how quickly it will drain through the gravel, etc. And I'll finish the open edges of the box with some leftover ipe.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Waiting for Spring

Trees are popping here in DC, and even at the lower elevations in the Lost River valley, but not up on the top of our hill yet...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Happy Tax Day

So it's been two weeks since I was last out at the house, so not much to blog. This is how I left things:

That's gonna be a cozy bathroom, by the way. (That's NYC realtor talk for tiny.)

In the meantime, I have done the following:

-bought a fancy plasma tv on craigslist (new Panasonic TH-42PC77U in an open box for $900 - won at a charity auction by some rich guy who already had two (!) plasmas in his house);
-arranged to have DirecTV installed;
-bought a reproduction Wassily chair for $20 (also craigslist);
-bought a nice aluminum and teak outdoor table (guess from where?);
-researched the staggering variety of mulch available for purchase just down the road from the house in WV;
-got a bill for (gulp) $4200 for the work the excavators did stoning the driveway and putting gravel around the house;
-did some homework re: website aesthetics/functionality at the behest of my IT consultants for our homepage;
-presented a paper at a conference in NYC on early slave petitions;
-had dinner with Zach and Jen (Michael is looking forward to doing "karate" with Evan) and drinks with a bunch of old work buddies; and, finally,
-filed an extension on my taxes (merely to delay the misery of trying to figure out whether I am now, in fact, a "real estate professional" whose losses - and there are losses, believe me - can somehow mitigate the adverse consequences of borrowing from his 401k to fund this adventure).

Hopefully out to the house to deliver some of the aforementioned loot tomorrow, but have to come right back home for school. Next week I'll get a couple of days out there for some real work...

...oh, and when this thing starts making money hand over fist I'm gonna get a couple of these for the deck:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Penny Wise

Dollar foolish. That's the saying, right? Well DIY can have that effect on a man. One of the VERY FIRST THINGS we should have done after the foundation was poured, or at least after the house was set, or at least after the siding was on, was get gravel down around the perimeter of the house. It helps drainage and it keeps rainfall from kicking dirt and mud up against the side of the house. (The ridiculous construction litigation in which I made my last contribution to the world as a lawyer had, as one of its subplots, the failure of anyone to install gutters/downspouts to protect the $20K custom made garage doors from splattering mud.) It also would have cleaned the site up quite a bit instead of being the mud pile it turns into every time it rains, with me dragging mud all over the inside of the house all the time.

But because I am a DIYer, and because all it takes is a strong back and a couple of days work to do this yourself, I made a conscious decision not to have any of the guys working on the house over the summer take care of this. And here we are, the beginning of spring, and I still haven't done it. So last week I finally bit the bullet and had the original excavator (who was coming back to put stone down on the driveway) take care of it. Of course, it was three fifty-year old guys using shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows. Which just KILLED me to see (I was out at the house working on the basement). This is one of the perverse consequences of DIY - you start to think, not that you can do things better than anybody else (I have no illusions about that), but that you SHOULD be doing anything that you CAN do. So the idea of paying someone else a not-immodest sum to do something that requires NO skill at all becomes galling. But at this stage of the game, something that takes three experienced laborers an entire day would probably take me months to get done, so there you go.

You can see some of the dried mud on the siding in these pics; it washes off, and while it won't actually cost me any more money than if I had just had them do it when I should have, I'm still kicking myself...

Now as I understand it, the gravel in this pic below is probably too close to the bottom edge of the siding - you want to keep any critters that can climb away from any possible points of entry. So I'll have to pull it back a little (the appropriate distance, I think, is 6", though we don't have that much to work with).

Our plan for the short term is to put mulch down on the bare ground around the house; that's another project that needs to get done before we're ready for renters.