Wednesday, March 31, 2010

bathroom details

Karina 10'0331 - 028
Neil has recently added a few built-ins in the main bathroom. He custom built the medicine cabinet with an outlet inside. We have this in our other home and it's very convenient.

Neil also just put in this shelf next to the toilet. All the toilets in the house are Toto Aquia dual flush. One flush is .9 gallons per flush and the other is 1.6. This allows for water conservation and lower utility costs. All the toilet seats are these "soft close" seats. You just push them shut and they slowly and softly close on their own...this helps keep peace in the home. :)

Friday, March 26, 2010


When I was in the process of selling my apartment 2 years ago, to ready it for showing, I had to remove the excess stuff. I took away 20 some boxes of books, half my clothes and other miscellaneous "clutter". Counters were free of pottery and I could see more floor space than I ever had before. I still had my bookshelves filled, but gone were the piles between them and on all the improvised book stands in the corners and next to the seating. At this time the cats also moved over to Neil's. When I think of that home now, I still hear Neil's voice the first time he saw this edited version of my beloved apartment. "Why couldn't it have always been like this?" To me it always felt cozy and warm. To him a bit claustrophobic. I loved my was my clutter...organized clutter as I always defend. But I too secretly loved this version. Since we are selling the new house, we have not move everything in. We are staying there, but the cats, the clothes, the TV and most of my "clutter" is still at the other house. What I did bring over is my favorite things, and my furniture. What I'm grappling with these days, is do I really need all that other stuff? Or more realistically what can I get rid of and not feel a loss when I do. I have books in boxes that have not seen the light of day for probably 10 years...but panic overwhelms me when I think of parting with them. That's when I realize I just need to edit. I'm good about editing my clothes and packing them off to Goodwill each season...I just need to do that with all my possessions. (Actually Neil would say I could do better..."Why do you need 20 sweaters?") I have read plenty of articles and "books" on decluttering, but the ones I find the most inspiring are the interior design books. The best ones talk about how to organize your stuff in a way that is beautiful and practical.

One of my favorites that I reread this winter was Living in Style Without Losing Your Mind, by Marco Pasanella.

He talks of the basics of interiors like light, color and arranging furniture, but he also talks about expressing your individuality and how to do that. How best to work with and show off your collections and to be creative with small spaces. I love this coffee table that swivels up to become a dining table.

Another favorite is Rose Tarlow's The Private House. Mostly I enjoy her mix of textures and natural style.

Off topic, but someday I'll have a garden space like this...

This was in the book Meditations on Design, Reinventing your home with Style and Simplicity by John Wheatman. A book I just read, that I borrowed from the office. One of my favorite chapters of his was "Display the things you love."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

bedroom lighting

I'm not a fan of a central overhead light fixture in rooms...especially the bedroom. We have 3 switches in each upstairs bedroom. One to the outlets on either side of the bed; one to the wall sconce and the third to an outlet above the walk-in-closet. I have a string of Christmas lights up there and love the way they bounce light off the ceiling. The other thing this shelf above the closet does is make the room appear a larger. If the wall went straight up to meet the ceiling the room would have felt more closed in.

The walk-in-closet goes the whole length of the room and is quite large. Large closets are key these days. In the middle of the wall, we placed an outlet and on the other side we have a cable outlet, so a flat screen can be placed here with hidden controls. Or a nice painting.
It gives off such a nice glow. My mom made the lamp pictured here. She also made the afghan on the bed. That was one of our wedding presents. It's very warm and the cats love it when it's on my lap. I just read the Pillars of the Earth which has been on my bookshelf for a few years. What a treat. I was completely absorbed for 2 weeks in the 12th century.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The light over the dining room table was our last fixture purchase. It was bought at Seattle Lighting. I had my eye on it for awhile, but was still looking around, just in case. We had debated whether or not to do a pendant or a track with pendants as we did over the bar. I'm glad we did just the pendant. Over the bar the track allows flexibility to add another pendant or a spot pointing into the kitchen if needed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

morning light

What a beautiful day it is here. Waking up in this home fills me with happiness...especially when the sun is streaming in like this morning. I had bought this orchid at the Northwest Flower and Garden show this year and it's perfect in this window. It gives off a slight fragrance which to my sensitive nose is just subtle enough.

I added this bathroom window specifically to catch the eastern light and it's fun to see the shadows and reflections bouncing off the shower glass.

We are to have a sunny spring weekend which is what I need to finish planting the 8 flats of ground covers I had bought.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

built green - insulation

Many of the points we received for Built Green are for items not seen now that the house is finished. One of the big things that makes this house energy efficient and comfortable is the extra insulation we used as well as the air sealing. We used BIBS (Blown-In-Blanket-System) which is much more effective than push-in batt insulation in the walls and provides for a higher level of insulation (R23). It is far superior to batt in the walls because it fills in all around the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes. "Tests show that a mere 4% void area from a poorly installed batt causes a 50% increase in heat loss. The Blow-In-Blanket® System eliminates voids and does not settle." It also provides better sound control. Looking at this picture you can see how Neil used some advanced framing techniques. Simple things like insulated headers and ladder framing at interior to exterior wall intersections, increases the insulation area of the wall. The blocking to the right of the window is for the convection heater and there is insulation behind it. Also if you look closely you will see caulking along the plates and wood intersections. This seals the wall cavity from air leaks from the exterior to the interior of the house and is one reason we did so well on our blower door test.

We used scissor trusses for the roof structure and because of this had extra depth to increase the roof insulation up to R-49. Here we used EcoBatts. Since the cavities were not filled with mechanical items like the walls, it was fairly straight forward to use Batts. We had Chris of the O'Brien Company out to inspect before we put the gypsum wallboard.

Friday, March 5, 2010

home office

I have a bit of commute to work (a little over an hour including a ferry crossing), but what helps is working from home 2 days a week. I am using the 3rd bedroom which is on the main floor as my office. Having a laptop helps keep it neat and portable. I need to clarify that the bookcases here were designed and made by me BEFORE I met Neil. On close inspection, they are not quite up to his standards...I've been told my carpentry skills are a bit "sketchy". Having this main floor bedroom with a full bathroom downstairs, gives one the flexibility of having one story living or using it as TV room, guest room or as I am, an office.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

a crawl space to show off

My first 7 years in Seattle I worked at Geise Architects and we did mostly remodeling work. The one part of my job I always dreaded was going into crawl spaces or attics to find out what the existing structure was. Mostly it was my fear of the spiders lurking in the corners, but typically they are not places one wants to be. One of the best extra $1000 we spent on the Karina was to pour a slab in the crawl space. The increased height (about 3'-6" to bottom of joists) also helps. This is the place we are keeping the screens for the summer, extra bathroom tiles for the future, and plenty of space for storing sporting gear. We have 2 access panels to get down there. One in the back room closet and one under the stairs behind the secret door.

Monday, March 1, 2010

spring + fence

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it's spring time. Lots of trees are blooming and people are inspired to get out in their gardens. I was driving between our two homes yesterday and drove past this guy and did a double take. I had to back up and take some pictures...I have never noticed this before and hope it was just recently done.

And then I was about to leave and I noticed his friend.

Each weekend I've been taking a stab at our own garden. I picked up some more Nandina-Heavenly Bamboo and a bunch of grasses.
Our fence was installed recently and it really transformed our side yard. We are thinking of putting a trellis along the top. That is why the posts have been left long.