Glenlochan -The Beginning

Glenlochan -The Beginning
Glenlochan - The Beginning

Glenlochan Today

Glenlochan Today
Glenlochan Today

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kitchen Cabinets in Progress and a Few Random Things I Love About VA

On a recent trip to Virginia, we had the opportunity to stop in at the workshop of our cabinet maker, Donald Tease. His workshop is, well, overwhelming and awesome and he’s very talented. 

 And here's Rob in the workshop:

Donald wanted us to look at the design and base cabinets to get a feel for what the kitchen will actually be like once the cabinets are installed. As mentioned earlier, I struggle a bit (okay, a lot) with visualizing abstract concepts, so seeing him hold up the various cabinet bases he had already built based on our last meeting and walking around them and imagining the solid objects in the new kitchen really helped me to understand which kinds of cupboards and drawers would be located where. 

The good news – I loved the layout just as he designed it so there was no need to make changes. We then had to select the paint and glaze colors. Trust me, I’m having more than a few twitches about covering solid maple doors and drawers in paint (especially since an upcoming project will involve me stripping lots and lots of old paint) but in our effort to stay somewhat true to the original colonial revival period in the home’s interior, we are going with painted kitchen cabinets. We’ve selected a wonderful antique white color and a light chocolate brown glaze to give a little depth, definition, and character to the cabinets. Budget permitting, the counter tops will be in soapstone, with a matte black granite as our back-up plan. It’s very exciting to see this coming together.

Spending time in both Philly and VA has given me the opportunity to reflect on the good things about each region – and believe me, there is plenty to love about both. Here are a few random things I really love about VA:

1. Weather – even if it snows in the winter, it never lasts, and the daily temps are always 10-15 degrees higher than Philly. My blood has apparently thinned (may be due to age or southern exposure) and those degrees make a big difference in the winter.

2. Sunshine – Although some would argue that it’s always Sunny in Philadelphia, I really have to disagree. It’s generally a lot sunnier in VA – even throughout the long winter months.

3. Gas – check out the recent VA gas prices….you won’t find those prices in Philly.

4. Beverages – given the archaic liquor laws in the state of PA, you really start to appreciate fantastic wine stores like Total Wine and the ability to buy a mere 6 pack of beer, rather than a case in VA.

I promise to do justice to Philly in an upcoming post.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Beams with a Re-Purpose

We've been told that the really cool beams we discovered in the infrastructure of Glenlochan are old ship beams.  Frankly, I wouldn't know the difference between a ship beam and some other kind of beam if my life depended on it, but I have embraced the idea that these beams were re-purposed from ships. I just love the beams - they look so terrific and full of character and I can't help but wonder about their "life" before becoming a permanent part of Glenlochan.  Adding to their character are the Roman numerals etched into a number of these beams.  If you look closely at the beams below, you can see Roman numerals on each.

My curiosity led me to try to research what, exactly, the Roman numerals signify, but I haven't been able to find much detail at all (and it doesn't help that I'm not fluent in nautical terms).  One reference indicates that the numerals may be draft marks to indicate the "draft value":  "The 'draft' of a ship is the distance of the floating waterline from the lower edge of the keel.  On larger ships there are draft marks on the stern post and stern. Roman numerals were used to indicate the value in decimeters or English feet."  This is from a resource entitled, Chapman Great Sailing Ships of the World

The second reference I found, however, provides a more likely scenario - that ship builders marked the ship's keel with Roman numerals along the length of it to mark the position of the hull frames.  I found the second reference in an on-line forum.  The post mentioned that this information came from an article, but didn't provide a citation or name, so I don't have a way to locate the original article.  Because the beams are numbered in sequential order in the house, the second explanation makes more sense, but it's certainly not verified.  As such, my curiosity has remained somewhat unsatisfied, but my imagination has run wild.   If anyone knows anything about this subject, please comment - I'd love to know more.

We plan to keep a few of the best beams exposed in the downstairs of the house.  I like to think that this will be the third life of the beams  - from serving its original purpose on a ship, to providing structural integrity to Glenlochan since 1910, to now serving as a decorative element in this home (even while continuing to provide structural integrity).

And, every time I look at them, I'll continue to wonder where they came from, what ship they were in, where the ship traveled, and who was on the ship and other details about their prior life. I cannot help but "beam" with pride. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Additions to the Addition

Progress on the back addition continues on schedule and should be fully "dried-in" soon.  The second story framing is up and the roofs are constructed and ready to be shingled.  No major issues in this phase - but we are still without water...!

The framing in progress:


The newly constructed hip roof over the laundry room and half bath:

The roof over the game room in progress:

 The master bath and sitting room (upper left) waiting for the new roof:

Framing the roof:

All in all, great progress.  And, Glenlochan is sporting a new sign in the front yard:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Electricity - 1; Water - 0

When we started this most recent phase of the renovations, we had a temporary power pole erected and brought electricity into Glenlochan that way.  Because the original overhead electrical lines to the home looked very, well, crappy, we decided to check into the process for having all of the electrical lines to the house buried.  Surprisingly, the process is not too onerous, and although the prep for this project has been multi-week, Virginia Dominion Power has been really terrific and responsive at every turn.  (I've selectively forgotten how angry I was at VA Dominion 16 months ago when Hurricane Irene left us without power for a week at our home in Richmond - selective memory is a beautiful thing.)  Here's a shot of our brand spanking new electrical boxes - no more knob and tube for us:

Next up was clearance of the trees by the road.  Although I don't have pictures of the actual work, it was done through a combo of our tree removal sub and Dominion's subs.  Apparently the trees by the road have caused some other headaches for Dominion and have contributed to some outages, so we gave them permission to be ruthless with the tree trimming and removal.

And finally, here's a shot of the fully cleared front yard - looks great, doesn't it?

Rob contacted the city water department to request that the water lines be marked so that Dominion Virginia Power workers could try to avoid them as they trenched to bury the electrical lines.  Unfortunately, the Town of Urbanna has no such records and there was no way to know where the water lines actually were buried.  So we requested that the water be turned off and hoped for the best when install day came:

Well, not only did the water lines get hit in multiple places, but the water had not been turned off as requested, so the yard quickly started flooding as water bubbled up heavily.  In the heat of the moment, no pictures were taken (I really wonder how it is that people actually have time to take pictures in times of emergencies and chaos..) but Rob hoofed it over to the water department, they quickly came out and turned off the floods, and that was the end of hot showers for Rob for a while in the camper.  We're waiting patiently for the plumber to come out and our entire water line from the street to the house will be replaced in full - the expected rain may delay this a bit longer...

So, Murphy's Law at work?  Not so much.  As it turns out, the water lines were the original ones laid when the Town of Urbanna first provided city water and they were within the end of their lifetime anyway.  So, although our budget will take a slight hit to replace everything now, this actually was a very positive development and saved us from emergency replacement and digging up the yard after it was no longer a construction zone.  And, per my usual thoughts on such things...everything worked out the way it was supposed to.  Easy for me to say, I suppose, I didn't have to clean up with cold bottled water in a camper after a hard day of physical labor!   Final score:  electricity is flowing through our nice new underground lines and the water remains turned off as of today.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Great Debate

What's amazing to me is how many different factors must be taken into account when designing the layout of a room - or, at least should be taken into account if the room is to maximize the space and provide livability and functionality.  Plenty of homes were not designed with actual use in mind and they are dysfunctional - see, for example, the houses that sit on the market with no buyers, or the rooms that undergo wall removal and extensive renovation to make them functional. Clearly these flaws were not evident until after the building was complete - who would purposefully build a dysfunctional space?  That is, in fact, exactly what we are working so hard to avoid; we don't want to regret our decisions.  Actually, we've done this enough times to know we'll always regret a few or wish we had done something differently - that's a normal part of the process and we can live with that.  But, the kitchen is one of our main hang-outs when it's just the two of us as well as the family gathering place when everyone is we really want it to be right.

I struggle to visualize things that aren't right in front of me, so when it comes to the need to take into account every possible item of impact on livability (furniture, sightlines, doors opening, room to walk, and on and on and on) and make sure the design has accommodated for all of them I, quite simply, suck.  Give me a non-space related situation for a person and I can catalog every possible thing that could go wrong, every possible disaster that could befall him or her, and every possible ramification in minutes.  Give me a bunch of studs and plywood and the need to work with actual objects...nothing.  The neurons just don't fire across the synapse that way.  I stare at the studs and plywood and struggle to imagine how these remotely correspond to the lines on the blueprints.  Luckily, there are people who are very good at this - Rob, for one, and our various sub-contractors, and our cabinet builder.

So, Great Debate Number One was the layout of the kitchen (I am numbering this as "one" only because I am quite positive that this will not be the only subject of great debate in the months to come).  We have detailed kitchen plans that we painstakingly revised numerous times and finally agreed upon back at the blueprint stage...and they made imminent sense a year ago.  But when it is time to have the cabinet maker actually come in and measure, the plans need to be revisited, the specifics determined, and crazy detailed decisions about pull-out shelves, drawers vs. cabinets, size of the kitchen sink, soffit vs. "dust-collectors" (otherwise known as display areas), types and sizes of appliances and on and on ad nauseum have to be made.  But, before you can even get to that point, you have to confirm the basic layout and because our layout is a bit funky (unique?) we had to play with it all the more.  So, Rob and I spent the better part of an afternoon talking, walking, visualizing, and laying out boards to represent cabinets and counters in advance of us spending the better part of the next morning with the cabinet maker to repeat the exercise.  If you are like me, you are in dire need of some pictures at this point, so here goes - the first plywood boards down represent the counters/cabinets at the back of the kitchen (the easy part):

The next set of pictures are our varying attempts to get the angled "peninsula" countertop at the right angle and in the right place:

Because I want to be able to "see" into the keeping room while I'm working in the kitchen and invite people to sit at the counter, (and I wanted to be able to use table height chairs, not bar stools) the peninsula had to be at just the right angle to allow for 2 levels of countertops.  It was so frustrating we briefly considered scrapping the idea entirely in favor of a more traditional island, but we soon determined that was not going to work, either.  We decided to call it a day in hopes that the cabinet maker would have some fresh thoughts on the subject.  And, he did - knowing exactly what angles the soapstone countertops could be cut eliminated many of the options.  After a bit more debate, and lots of decisions about the kitchen that I hope I don't live to regret, he quickly sawed a few boards by hand and had the layout finalized:

That put an end to The Great Debate (number one).  I'm sure number two is right around the corner.