Saturday, December 29, 2007

School's Out

Until the end of January anyway. So I get to spend lots of quality time in WV. I'll get lots of updates up once I'm out there.

Watched some of "The Incredibles" last month - I know I'm getting too into MCM when I watch a movie like that and all I'm noticing is the great design...

And sometime this weekend this blog will get its 15,000 visitor.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ice storm coming

Was out at the house for just a few hours this afternoon to receive our dining room table delivery and let the Sears guy in to (finally) fix our fridge, which is now up and running (apparently I fried the circuit panel when I plugged in the broken plug). So while I was there I finished putting up the deck posts, and I staged the installation of the top rail:

I should have ordered the cedar top rail in 12' lengths so that the seams would all fall on the posts; surprise, surprise - I didn't figure that out until after the wood came. So I'll cut these to size and use the scrap for the trim pieces around the windows/doors. And I'll put in another (sigh) order for cedar...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Filler Post

This is the detail of our roof flashing, which I should have posted when I detailed the building out of the eave and the work by the roofers. Hard to tell from the pics exactly how everything comes together there, but this shows it from the technical side...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Shirley, New York

I grew up here (this pic's from before my time - "Bathing Beauty Sweepstakes," reads the sign on the podium). A repeat visitor to this blog lives here. Do we know each other?

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I love those eBay commercials where the woman comes out of nowhere and catches the auction item for a touchdown. Well that's me!

I swooped in and got these six Krueger armshell chairs for $202.50. (Krueger was an Eames competitor.) I have to say that after giving my dilemma a little thought, I've become very comfortable with the idea of owning the kinds of pieces we like even if they are not the originals - the whole idea was good design mass-produced at an affordable price, right? Well, that's what these are.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hidden costs

Well, as you can see not really "hidden." But these are the kinds of things that I didn't really even think about when I was doing our rough budget. None of the quotes I got from contractors included things like a propane tank ($2000), or the cost of excavating the trench for the gas line (900). And that's not even counting the $2k it cost to fill the thing with gas! (Now you can rent them, and they are free - you pay a surcharge in $/gallon. But then you have to keep it above ground, and the last thing we wanted was a huge propane tank to be the first thing we see when we come up the driveway.) Part of the reason it's a surprise cost is that it was a change; we had originally planned on using all electric. But gas made more sense for a lot of reasons that I didn't appreciate when we started making plans. (And of course we'll have to change that 220 outlet in the kitchen to accommodate our gas range...)

Now those are certainly identifiable costs if you do your research and are diligent about anticipating and calculating these items. I didn't do such a great job. So here are some items that I don't think I included in my initial budget (roughly outlined over at the budget page, which I've been updating a little lately):

Drilling the well: $11k (and we'll still probably need to add a filtration system);

Roof flashing: $3,275 (I knew this was a cost, but I thought it was going to be lower than this);

Cedar trim and cement board: over $3k (again, a cost I knew was out there but didn't know the amount);

Deck: going to have cost well over $12k by the time we're finished (5k in ipe, nearly 1k in ipe clips and fasteners, almost 1k in cedar, 2k for cable rail, 1k for pressure treated framing lumber, 1k for the labor I hired to help frame it). Now this probably would have cost twice as much if I hadn't done it myself.

Again, as you can see these are all pretty predicable costs. You can get estimates for all these things beforehand, or even roughly ballpark them. I think the biggest cost overrun I've had has really stemmed from not knowing what my materials were going to cost (and because Res4 calls for - and we've been using - top quality materials, it turns out they're pretty expensive). That's a function of being my own GC and doing DIY work and not having experience with pricing these items. I would expect that a real GC, particularly one experienced with prefab or even Res4 construction, would be much more adept at accurately predicting what this would have cost at the outset. At the end of the day I should be pretty close to our predicted cost because I'll have saved a lot of money on the basement, but we'll see just how close as these other costs continue to add up. My budget page, when all is said and done, should be a pretty exhaustive detailing of just what kind of costs you can expect to encounter when you do this kind of thing, and so at the very least you can use it as a starting point when evaluating bids from contractors or trying to gauge your own budget.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The last of fall

The day after I took these pictures the temps fell into the teens and the winds kicked up; not much left of the leaves.

I'm probably not going to be out to the house much the next couple of weeks while the semester winds down, so while I may do some procrastination blogging I won't be posting any new house stuff til mid-Dec...

Monday, November 26, 2007

No more siding!

Sarah's brother Greg joined me at the house on Friday (thanks!) and we got a LOT done. Including getting the last of the siding finished (in the thirty-degree freezing cold and ridiculous wind - quite a change from Wednesday, when I was working in a tshirt):

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Biggest party night of the year

I spent the night before Thanksgiving drilling holes in our deck posts. The cable rails will be 1/8", so the holes are 1/4". And we will have double posts on the corners with spacers in between; I overdrilled the holes on the spacers (1/4") so that passing the cables through three sets of holes won't be impossible.

Stained and ready to go:

Assembling the double posts:

Sarah's brother Greg on the business end of the ladder (he was in charge of bolting the posts to the deck):

The finished product:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

An extra set of hands

I haven't had any, so I built one. That is a bracket made from ipe scraps that I clamped on the deck at the end of my fascia while I screwed the other side in place. Because I could slide the fascia in the bracket, it allowed me to adjust where the mitered ends met; I had tried just clamping the fascia right into place, but it was impossible to get the ends to meet precisely:

Here's the deck with all the fascia in place:

The odd colors here are just shadows as the sun set on a wonderful 75-degree day in the middle of November:

But I like them

I've followed the debate over wind farm power a bit; I'm from Long Island, and there's been resistance to the idea of an offshore wind farm there (much like the resistance to the proposed farm in Cap Cod). NIMBY and all that. I'm a bit perplexed by the environmentalist v. environmentalist schism around wind energy. I'm learning more about the pragmatic concerns all the time. And I love the East River equivalent.

But mostly I just think that windmills are gorgeous. They mesmerize me. All windmills, but in particular the modern incarnation. The couple of times I've traveled a bit in Europe, I was just giddy when we came upon windfarms in the middle of the countryside (in Portugal and in Germany) - they are like giant interactive landscape sculptures.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

How do get money when you run out and no one will give you anymore

When we decided to do this, we knew we were going to borrow some undetermined amount of money to supplement the proceeds we had from the sale of our apartment. We didn't know exactly how much or when we would need it. A year ago credit was still VERY easy to come by, even for someone like me who hasn't had a regular W2 for awhile. We have some other assets and very good credit, and so when I called around and talked to some mortgage brokers I was satisfied that we'd have no problem.

Fast forward to the late spring, when it's time to actually borrow the money, and things were getting much tighter. If I'd waited another couple of weeks we might have really been in a pickle. It worked out fine in the end, but nobody's lending me another penny for awhile. So if we get really desperate we can always try this - a genius plan by a poor young grad student who bought her very own villa in Italy and managed to get other people to pay for almost the whole thing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sarah's in charge

I have bought the "ubiquitous" (Dwell's word of the month, apparently) Eames dining chair a hundred times in my head, and while I was agonizing over how much money is reasonable to spend on furniture for other people to sit on, Sarah bought six of these:

To go with this:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Like a glove

One of the things about DIY stuff for a guy like me is that things aren't gonna be perfect. I'm doing a lot of things for the first time and not always doing them with the right tools. (I can't go buying a fancy jigsaw table just cause I need to cut notches out of my deck posts.) I read as much as is practical. When possible I talk to guys who do know what they're doing. I measure twice, all that. I make plenty of mistakes, most of which I disclose here.

But the deck is turning out pretty well. Last of the ipe is on. I got lucky and the last row of boards fit the framing almost exactly, so I didn't have to cut those boards the long way; there'll be a little bigger gap between the ipe and the facsia than I'd like in a couple of places, but perfectly tolerable (for me):

Starting getting the 2x12 cedar fascia on, which looks great. Hard to do by myself:

I finished staining all the cedar for the top rail; I notched all the deck posts, which now need to have their holes drilled (for the cable rail) and to be stained:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The view from a possible hot tub location

I'd have to build a lot of steps...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Break from Derrida

This is the funniest story you'll ever read on a modern building blog.

(And that house ended up being pretty over-the-top.)

Bittersweet Endings and Happy Beginnings

The DOResearch team has hung up its keyboard to concentrate on the actualization of all that, ummmm, research. Good luck to them.

Seiko arrived safe and sound.

As did Marco Joseph Limarzi.

And Izzy finally remembered Michael's birthday.

Congrats all around.

Click and Clack

Have I got a story for the Car Talk guys. Last weekend I got out to the house pretty late and didn't feel like stopping to fill my car's almost empty gas tank. Next day the propane tank guys showed up and needed me to get my car out of the way, so I backed it up and, in squeezing past their trucks, got the whole passenger side of the car up on the side of the hill along the driveway. Fine. Next night when it's time to leave, I can't start the car (presumably the tiny bit of gas I had left all sloshed to one side of the tank and couldn't make it to the gas line). So after spending far too much time and effort trying to push my car off the side of the hill (the front tire was in the ditch line along the side of the driveway and I couldn't budge it), I walked down my 1/4 mile long driveway and over to a neighbor's house, who lent me his car to drive over to the gas station (thanks Jerry).

Now here's where I'm an idiot. I fill my 5 gallon gas can and drive back home, where my first attempt to get gas into my car is a disaster (the gas cap is on the driver's side, which is at maybe a 30 degree angle to the ground, and I can't get the gas to do anything other than spill down the side of the car. It occurs to me that the spout of the gas can is not depressing the little hinged flange that a nozzle at the gas station would open. So I find a stick to open it; gas goes in no problem...

But I forget about the stick. It takes a couple of minutes to get all the gas into the tank, I put the gas cap back on, start up the car, return my neighbors car, get a ride back up to my house (thanks Foley), hop in my car and go straight to the gas station to fill the rest of the tank. Where I cannot figure out why the nozzle won't go into the tank. Until I realize there's a stick in it. Which I can't get out. Cause probably five inches of it were stuck past the flange, and maybe a half inch was left sticking out. Which of course I couldn't grasp, much less pull out. After spending too much time trying to remove it, I gave up and pushed it the rest of the way in.

I assume it'll just float around in my gas tank until it dissolves, fouling my engine a little at a time. This car will probably die of something much sooner that this stick can do much damage. But I have no idea...and how often do you have a good story for Car Talk?

When to buy stuff

One of the things about not having somebody (besides me) in charge of everything - especially in light of how slow I'm going - is figuring out when to order materials. You want to have everything on hand when you're ready to use it, but you don't want too much stuff sitting around onsite, getting in the way, having to move it over and over again, vulnerable to theft, getting damaged, etc. For instance:

*I've had to move the drywall that hasn't been hung yet twice - and that's no fun. And now it's outside - covered, but not the ideal place for it;

*the cedar for the railings and deck posts has been onsite for awhile now (also outside), and it got pretty wet once (tarp had a hole in it I didn't know about);

*the pressure treated lumber for the deck frame was onsite probably a month before we were ready to use it (though we had it in a fine spot and we kept it out of the sun to prevent cupping).

Today I ordered the Feeney Cable for the deck. $2000 for roughly 1000' of 1/8 stainless steel cable and their threaded ends and fasteners. (You can buy that cable from any supply store for about $.50/ft, but how do you fasten it? I couldn't think of any good ways...the Feeney system has tension fasteners and that's what you're paying the big money for.) The last of the ipe is waiting for me at the house (only two rows left to do), as is the rest of the cedar fascia and all the notched deck posts (all needs to be stained). And the last of the t&g cedar is stained and ready to go up. Sears is supposed to come tomorrow (the fifth time we've had a visit scheduled) to fix our fridge, and I'll be out there first thing to wait for them and get some work done. I've got no school next week and hope to get a lot done (house and school). We'll see...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Things I didn't know

Apparently when you buy a gas range, the little nozzles underneath each burner are set up for natural gas. My gas service is "LP," or liquid propane. The nozzles for LP have much smaller islets - something about the combustability of natural gas v. liquid propane. The people who installed the gas inspect the gas lines, etc. to make sure you're up to snuff. One of the things on their checklist is the type of nozzle in your range. Apparently if he hadn't called to my attention the fact that my nozzles need to be swapped out for the correct ones, when I turned on my burners the flame would have reached to the ceiling. That would have surprised me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Worked in a short sleeves again this weekend

I had hoped to finish all the outside stuff before it got too cold. And I have been VERY lucky so far with the wonderful fall weather we've had. But my luck might be running out. My weather sources tell me that this weekend is gonna be cold, and the beginning of next week could see an honest to goodness snow storm (of course it's a ways away, but never too far away to be excited about snow). As the good folks at the NWS say below, STAY TUNED!

1005 PM EST TUE NOV 13 2007


We have....

...a full tank of liquid propane, heat, hot water, and a working radiant system.

We do not have a finished deck. (Marc tells me that this is the slowest-built deck ever to be documented on a blog.) But I'm almost there!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mixing Business with Business

Sarah tells me she's been getting complaints (from people who will remain nameless) about my last post. Sarah, in fact, has wondered aloud about my last post. Sometimes I just need to justify my blogging to myself, you know?

Here's a story in today's Times about a fun house in the Hood River Valley in Washington state that my friend Bill pointed out to me. Similar to the volume of Res4's Mountain Retreat house, but by functional demand as opposed to simple aesthetics:

Monday, November 05, 2007

The more things change...

Owing to the ambiguous state of the law of slavery in England in the early eighteenth century, it wasn't clear whether English common law countenanced the existence of chattel slavery on English soil - obviously it was kosher in the colonies - or whether getting baptized freed one from slavery, or whether slaves weren't really slaves but some kind of indentured servants. So planters from the West Indies basically took the King's Counsel to dinner, got them drunk, and had them issue a declaratory memo telling all the courts yes, no, and yes. The Yorke-Talbot Opinion "suggested" that slaves did not become free simply by setting foot on English soil (so planters could bring their slaves with them to England untroubled about whether they'd be able to leave with them); that becoming a Christian did not change a slave's legal status (despite the fact that their "heathen" nature was a popular justification for slavery); and that "slave" meant "slave" - property like a cow or a dog, subject to physical punishment and even "destruction" at the whim of the master, protected by none of the rules of villeinage or indentured servitude that had come to govern slavery in practice in England. No legal reasoning, no reliance on precedent, just wrote down on paper what the planters told them and those were the new rules (and these were the two most prominent lawyers in England at the time). So every time a lawyer had to fend off an action calling into question the rights of master over slave in an English court, counsel simply cited the opinion of the learned King's Counsel and that was that.

By the end of the eighteenth century, Lord Mansfield has overruled the Yorke-Talbot Opinion and the abolition movements in both England and the U.S. are in full swing. Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano - both Africans who freed themselves from slavery - are vigorous anti-slavery activists, two of the first published black writers, and active participants in the legal debates over the legitimacy of the enslavement of blacks.

That's what I should be doing whenever I'm blogging. Like now.

Oompa Loompa

We have a Munchkin modulating boiler to run our hot water supply (for both domestic hot water and for the radiant floor). The boiler is kinda like an on-demand boiler, except that it monitors the temp of the water coming back into the unit from the radiant system and pumps in more hot water as needed to maintain the temp. You can manually adjust the flow to each loop to adjust the floor's temp in different zones if you're so inclined. (I think there's something crazy like 2 total gallons of water in the whole radiant system.) And the tank underneath is a small storage tank for high-demand times. The mechanical room is getting crowded...

HVAC guys are going sloooooooowwwww, but hopefully we'll be up and running by the end of the week, and our gas tank can get installed on Monday.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Par for the Course

Twenty five degrees at night in WV this weekend, but up to 60 during the day. We've got a working furnace in the house (but still no gas), so the house stayed pretty warm. Still a little drafty with the basement unfinished.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I didn't have enough ipe to cover the whole deck. I was two rows short. Ninety linear feet. We didn't have any waste at all; I think I probably didn't include the square footage of the walkway in front of the house when I ordered it. On Friday I got all my boards down, and I'll get the six more that I ordered sometime next week.

I stained some of the T&G cedar and some of the cedar 2x12 for the fascia; I built some new drying racks and set up a drying station on the deck. (That's tricky with all the leaves falling, but I don't have anyplace else to put it.)

Oh, and I FINALLY got my money back from Mike at Austin Wholesale for the original misdelivered ipe...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blogging is the best form of procrastination

So I should be grading papers right now, to return to students tomorrow. But instead I am blogging and getting ready to go to a friend's house to watch Jeff Green's professional NBA debut (one of the downsides of not having a tv).

I am headed out to the house on Friday to review the HVAC work, get some more boards down on the deck, maybe stain some cedar, and meet with a guy who I hope can drill the faucet hole in our kitchen countertop, which was on our original Simplex punchlist (we've been washing dishes in the bathroom sink). For a host of reasons this didn't get done before the house shipped - another thing on my to-do list is to get a comprehensive punchlist posted, detailing all the items that needed attention after the house was delivered. We didn't have anything big, and Simplex has been attentive to my requests, but I'm sure it'll help folks to see what sort of stuff goes into the post-delivery phase...

Want to spend some money?

I've been meaning for awhile to post some of the sites I've been trolling for furniture and other fun stuff. A couple of good ones: BetterLivingThroughDesign and GrassRootsModern. I'm going to put them all together in one set of links on the sidebar one of the these days pretty soon.

This guy, who built his own very fun house himself, recommends them as well.

Looking to lose yourself in the world of modern building blogs?

LiveModern is the place for you. They have begun aggregating all the modern building blogs out there, and there are lots of them. The interface isn't great yet (they are just posting all the posts from all the blogs, instead of letting you look at which blog is which), but I bet they'll get the bugs out soon. Lots of good stuff in there...

The LiveModern community used to be really vibrant, but has quieted down quite a bit over the last couple of years. The forums are really productive when they hit on something that is relevant for you; hopefully they'll get some more traffic and liven things up again.

Going once, going twice...

Today's Times has a piece on Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House. (Not having spent any real time in California to speak of, I am intrigued by this place they call "Palm Springs.") Anyway, down at the bottom of the article we find the names of the architects responsible for its renovation: Marmol & Radziner, who of course have another noteworthy home in the California desert. There's something about that landscape that really lends itself to modern design. The endless views? That it's dry as a bone? A much different aesthetic than a cabin in the woods. (We don't have scorpions.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Don't call us, we'll call you

We got a call a couple of months ago from the reporter who wrote this article in the NYPost on Res4; but she never followed up and apparently we weren't good enough for her. (Actually she said it was probably going to be much easier for her to interview someone local.)

All these cookie-cutter articles about prefab seem to read the same after awhile...

Monday, October 22, 2007

85 and sunny

Hard to believe the leaves have just barely started to change. I was working in shorts and a tshirt this weekend. Strange fall. [UPDATE: 29 degrees last night, just about one week after this was originally posted. So fall's here.]

Made a lot of progress on the deck - the ipe is almost all down:

The trench and hole for the gas line and tank are dug, but apparently my HVAC guy is still at least a week from being finished:

One of the BIG downsides of being your own GC is not having continuing relationships with trades. I'm sure I'm at the bottom of this guy's list, and I don't have a whole lot of leverage. So we're just crossing our fingers that we have heat/hot water before it gets too cold...

Monday, October 15, 2007

What I imagine it would be like in a submarine (a really nice submarine, with lots of windows and cool furniture and deer on the outside)

It was cold at the house this weekend, and we don't have heat yet, so we were shut in tight and bundled up in sweatshirts and all that. And for as much as we've imagined all the glass in the house as really opening up to the outside (and that's how it's been most of the time we've been out there - all the windows open, breeze and birdsong coming through), it was a really pleasant experience to be sealed in the house and looking out, instead of feeling the outside coming in. Michael shouted DEER! at one point, and sure enough, out the windows on the hill above the house was a line of six deer, just slowly making their way along one of the deer paths, stopping to nibble on trees. That didn't happen during the day when it was warm out and we were making noise for everything out there to hear. But now it feels kinda like we're inside a bubble, and the woods is alive and undisturbed all around us. And we get to watch.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The magic of TV

Though we are nowhere near finished with anything, our friends from TV land were out at the house again this weekend for the "house is finished" segment of the show. Actually was great, cause it meant we had to clean. Now the upstairs really does feel like the space we've been waiting for:

Of course our first piece of furniture arrived as the camera crew left...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You could have come to my house

We don't have a tv. (Well, actually, we have a tiny little tv, but we keep it in the basement and we don't have cable.) This drives some of my more tv-literate friends crazy. We don't have an ideological stake in the whole no-tv debate (and our kids watch the occasional dvd or youtube video on our computer). We just gave it up when I went back to grad school and never went back.

But here's what we're missing: according to prefabcosm, Bob Vila is doing a whole series on the construction of a modular home by Simplex. Well, Bob, if you'd visited our little cabin you'd not only have gotten to see the Simplex modular process but a fun modern design to boot! (And maybe we'd be finished by now...)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Guinea Pigs

The first flatpak house is finished. Built in Massachusetts by artist Amy Goodwin. Took a couple of years, apparently. But pretty great looking.

As an aside, I some day would like to be a guinea pig. "Donate" some land to an architect, tell em what I like, and then say "go!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Buying Spree

Though we are absolutely out of money, we have begun shopping in earnest for furniture. There are some pieces that we have always wanted to have - modern classics, you might say - and now we feel justified in actually buying them. And I've been wondering - is it worth it to us to have originals of design classics (like the Noguchi table and the Eames LCW)? How do you decide? There's the quality question. There's the vanity element of owning the real thing; there's the financial element (though they'll hold their value, maybe?); there's the integrity element (are you really getting the same design?). There's the legal question, which interests me more in the very esoteric sense of who owns good ideas. And there's the whole democratization of design thing. So what to do?

Like I said, we're out of money, so I think I know what we're going to do...

Friday, September 28, 2007


No name yet - we've apparently got til Sunday, when we have to turn in the birth certificate...

Everybody's doing great:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Don't know if my feet are gonna like it, but it looks great

Blogging has been a little slow lately - I haven't gotten much accomplished out there with things picking up here at home. C'est la vie. I got out there Sunday to get some more work done on the deck (and to await a Sears repairmen - for out non-functioning refrigerator - who never showed up):

And I got to take a look at our freshly polished concrete basement slab, which looks pretty terrific:

It's actually a bit darker than I thought it would be. And it sharpened, rather than smoothed out, the visible texture of the troweling from when the slab was poured, which also surprised me. We chose not to have any stain or color added. I think it looks pretty great. Here's a close-up (I had to use the flash, which distorts the color a little - it's more of a brown; and the stone is just the aggregate in the concrete - we didn't add anything to get that speckled appearance, which is more prominent in some places than in others):

I'll say just a couple of things about the process (which I was not there for and didn't see in action). The machine can't polish edges very well, so the first half-inch or so off the wall is a bit rough. This is fine for us - we'll have square trim like we have upstairs to cover it up. But polishing an open floor (before framing) would avoid a lot of that. It also appears to have been VERY messy. The wet grinding creates a kind of slurry that gets thrown around - it's all over the drywall, and sometimes reaches more than a foot above the floor (though no dust anywhere). There was also some tearing of the drywall paper where the machine bumped it. Any greater level of finish in the basement and we could have been in a bit of trouble. Now we're going to have to be cafeful with what kind of mess we make on the floor down there, but I think doing this earlier on would have been better (though really there's a down side no matter what). And - this is weird - there are some faint brown stains on the floor where insects have died. I'll keep an eye on that.

Our guy was Jim Cuviello at Complete Decorative Concrete Solutions on the Maryland eastern shore. I'd recommend him (though the only other residential concrete polisher I could find was in OHIO!). Cost $6750 for roughly 1000 sf.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Other prefab you can try on

Well, our little project doesn't seem as if it will be ready for renters in the immediate future (more on my - slow - progress soon). But if you've got $800 lying around, you can rent this fancy version of Rocio Romero's LV for a night:

The owner is apparently a general contractor and using this as a marketing tool (not a bad advertisement for your work, I gotta admit). NapaPreFab, he calls it. If you're in wine country and have more money than you know what to do with (and if you're in wine country this may very well be the case), this is probably more fun than the Ritz.