Sunday, May 11, 2014

And Voila!

Really, it's done. At least the building part. We got our Certificate of Occupancy (the final building inspection) at 4:45pm on Friday afternoon, May 2nd 2014. It's a notable moment in building a home.
Moving in collided with a few family visits, Coachella, as well as a deadline to get things together for the Glastonbury Festival in the UK this summer~ we are bringing the Hand of Man as well as the Caged Pulse Jets and we are ready to have a good time! So we have just barely moved in, but a house takes living in it to develop its real character, so that may take a while.
I am still tallying the receipts to see what we came down to, and I will follow with an estimate of what this really took in the end. 
I had an old friend, Colin Brooks come help with building the kitchen countertop- he takes this very seriously and did a fantastic job- we now have an amazing looking blue kitchen countertop!
Jessica helped with the countertop pour as well as the kiddos, and once installed (it took a few troopers), it really made the space look finished. The good old IKEA kitchen is impressive as well as the hardware is pretty darn fancy, with spring action mechanisms closing the drawers.
In all this I managed to remodel the Gearhouse, now it's all ready for it's new happy owner.
I'm about due for a serious vacation and some time to heal a sore body. Thank you to all that made this house happen, especially the ones closest to the fire. Nonnah: it would just not fly without you. 

Here are the pics!
Thanks for following the blog, and I hope it serves to inspire more homeowner/builders in the future! Power to the People!

Christina & Christian and Kodiak.

Monday, April 21, 2014

a little diddly about the Wash Closet..

Well the bathroom, ie, the wash closet has been the last room that needed attention and it has been humbling how long it has taken. It's still not done, as there are so many details in this here bathroom!
First off, I built the shower stall out of the remaining brick and glass block from the re-store and plastered it with white portland cement. The floor needed to be raised to accommodate the drain and to make sure that the flow of water actually went d o w n the drain. I found a cute toilet at the re-store as well and set it in place.
Then came the extremely ambitious part- the floor... I think it was Christian's idea to have a little of Brazil in the house- and the boardwalks on the beaches in Rio are pretty amazing- so we picked Ipenema's design to copy and well, a million hours later here it is! YES I did lay almost ALL those little stones one by one. Once in a lifetime, and never again. 
The shower has also morphed into well, a shower. I will very likely never be electively be tiling again. Grouting just simply put, sucks. 
I am guessing with all this creative attention in the WC it will be a sweet place to relax with a shower at the end of a hard day. Black, White and Red. Here are some of the pics:

 ...and ta da- the grouting of the floor is complete!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Natural Plaster and never ending details

I have always wanted to be in a beautiful mud plastered house. We live in the abundance of good clay soil and most older local houses and all the homes on the Taos Pueblo were built exclusively of adobe bricks, and mud. Mud is colloquial for natural earth/clay with straw plaster. 
I could go on about how great of a building material it is and how sustainable it is, how long it lasts...but I'll stay on point. 
Nowadays it is not easy to get a building permit for a load bearing adobe structure, so people mix and match materials to try and get a similar look at least.
I really wanted a warm earthen room to sleep in- and one way to get that is to apply an Alis coat over existing gypsum plaster for example. My talented neighbour, and master plasterer, Carol Crews wrote a very informative and sweet book called
Clay Culture: Plasters, Paint and Preservation, which has many recipes and directions for do it yourselfers. After mixing a batch of lovely clay, sand, mica, pigment and straw, I brushed it on the walls and watched them transform. I had some help applying the Alis from Jossen and Marianne as well. Once it was dry I wanted it even darker so I rolled on several coats of linseed oil- which also seals the walls. The pictures below show the straw and the mica, but don't quite do it justice, as the mica sparkles so beautifully in the daylight.

And the never ending details include, the kitchen coming together, the tile going up in the shower, and the staining and oiling of the wood all around. And the floor going in, we are using pre finished maple plywood, which is an inexpensive alternative to a hardwood floor. It will be no shoes floor, and only time will tell how long it will last. In Kodiak's room the plywood also had some surprisingly interesting grain patterns: reminds me of roots.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Kitchen and Bath~

It's nearing the end...and we just finished putting in the Marmoleum floor in the kitchen.  As Marmoleum is an eco product, it is also very expensive, so I saved a bit by only laying it where it would be seen. It went down easily, literally click-it in and move on. Once the kitchen cabinets are in place the floor will look just fine (if not amazing).

The bathroom is the last room that needs a ton of work. I used up the rest of the building bricks which we bought a pallet of at a Habitat re-store for creating the shower stall, as well as some glass block I had laying around. I used backer board for the walls, and coated all the inside walls of the shower in that crazy pink water proof coating. That is required by code if you don't use a standard shower pan, which only comes in some boring square sizing- so we improvised the shape and went with the coating. Next I'll plaster the brick walls with white concrete and lay tile on the floor and two of the shower walls. Going to pick up a toilet at the re-store, and tile the floor black and white, which will take a bit...but should be worth it.
Painting has also been going on, the pantry, now the "green room", and Kodiak's room is going to be orange with a dark blue ceiling. He picked the orange himself, and was extremely specific about which orange he wanted.  The mud room is bright blue- the color that in some traditions is believed to ward off evil.  It's used extensively in North African architecture, which I happen to adore.
I stained the outside wood detail to Kodiak's room with blue analine dye, and will be getting some more colors for other details around the house. Most all the pine wood walls have been white washed or pickled, so they will stay light and bright rather than aging yellow with time. This will be a colorful home.
Next week should make a big difference in how the interior is coming together. More soon!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The First Supper.

Yup, it was my birthday and what better occasion than that to have a small intimate dinner gathering. It was a sweet first supper, and set the bar for many more to come! Now back to building- new pics to follow soon. enjoy~

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

We are packing...

I didn't realize until recently what a disturbance moving is to everything. We have started to move out of the Gearhouse, our stuff going into a storage container for now until the new house is ready. As the art, the books, and all the random small stuff goes into boxes and away, it feels unnerving. Granted I spent more than half my life moving from one place to another, usually from one Country to another Country, so I have vivid memories of boxes and feeling displaced, but even this move, feels scary, as true and real as any major change in life can be.
It's here, we are in the countdown- a few more weeks and a new living situation is a reality. 
I know three months from now, the dust will start to settle, but right here right now is tumultuous, and filled with tension. Of course with some perspective, we do  have a defiant toddler ( all though cute) and Christian is battling a tight deadline for his 30 Ft tall (that's really tall!) robot he's building for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in four weeks!!! It's fair to say that we are working hard on buoyancy on a daily basis.

I have been on house mode, and this is the latest- we have plastered the interior of the house! I finished grouting the pantry. The sub floor is laid down and ready for the finished maple flooring. The wood walls are nailed up. My back is hurting. Building and construction is hard on the body, no matter what great shape you are in.  Next up is working on the bathroom, as well as taping and mudding the remaining drywall, and possibly a visit to the chiropractor.
pre plaster...
post plaster..

 pantry floor

bathroom, plaster still drying.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Safety glasses, dust masks and nailguns

Weeks have gone by and Christian and I have traded places working on the house. As plumbing and systems have been successfully installed within the walls (Christian's handy work), I have become the cover-it-all-up-and-make-it-look-good-person.
With a deadlineSo I pulled in some great help and we are moving right along. Meanwhile Christian is getting really dirty in the shop, building a Huge robot for Coachella. With a deadline too. I am not sure who is having more fun.

My first big idea was to use the "green" cellulose blow-in insulation in the roof and the walls...but as I started working with it I decided that the roof would be plenty of work, and it was. The walls suffered the consequences, and are festooned with regular R19 batts- ie. fiberglass (cough cough) insulation. The house should be plenty warm though, with a total of R29 in the walls (including the 2" thick rigid foam on the outside) and my best guess for the roof would be somewhere between a R38 and R50... we blew in plenty of cellulose. 

Once the dust settled, sheetrock and wood paneling started to go up. More bricks behind the newly installed wood stove as well, as they radiated so much heat from that first stove fire that I had to build a larger brick wall. That first wood stove fire was a treat! 

I have been glueing and hammer nailing(with live ammo!) a sub floor onto the concrete. We will be putting in maple plywood sheets on top, for a cost effective wood floor.
The past two days, a team of us nailed up an aspen T&G ceiling- a bit rough on the old neck and shoulders, but it sure looks beautiful. Thanks Jojo and Patrick!

Next up there will be plaster on some of the walls, mud and paint on others and wood panels on the rest. 
It's a new mixture of aesthetics- his and hers. 
Kodiak's room is finally outfitted with bubble windows- making the mesa view pretty exciting. They have hence been coined the space ship windows.

We passed a few key building inspections, which is always a relief. One little step at a time.
The next few weeks will fly by and the house will start to morph into a finished space. 
Now to some beer and a weekend.