project addition: opening up

One of the objectives of this addition project is to finally create a direct connection to the rear garden in our house.  Here’s a BEFORE shot of the current status (well, current a few weeks ago – the lilies and hydrangea are in full bloom at the moment).

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If you sort of squint your eyes and ignore the general decline of the rear yard (leaning fences, sad chain link, failing retaining wall, piles of old building materials), it’s not horrible. It’s just that we never, ever hang out there. Ever. There’s a large window in the kitchen that overlooks the yard, but it’s not like we have a direct view to the garden unless we’re standing at the oven. The door to the side porch is tucked away, and there’s no great visual to the yard beyond because of that magnolia tree.

It may seem counterintuitive to reduce the amount of yard we have now in order to build a better connection to it, but the smaller footprint doesn’t bother us at all. We’ve never used our yard, but I know that we will use a garden, and for us – smaller is better. I’m ready for a courtyard garden, with more privacy, a thoughtful layout, and the opportunity to move freely between inside and outside.

There are two other components to our location that have to factor in here – summer heat + humidity and mosquitos. So there is a degree of shading and easing into the outdoors that needs to occur as well. We may want to feel like we’re outside more, but the reality of summer life in this city is that it’s not always the most pleasant outdoors. Getting some air movement and controlling the light and heat as it enters the new space will be really important considerations.

Here’s a peek into an older version of the addition model. It’s changed quite a bit in the process of working on the construction drawings, but this is a good view to get the overall concept.

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We want that rear wall of the addition to have as much glass as possible, but we also want the ability to open the entire space up to the outdoors, with a terrace and gardens between the addition and the new alley house/garage. We’re hoping to use a NanaWall system in this opening, similar to this.

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My one hangup on this idea has been the screening options. This looks really lovely in the land of no Zika virus. We’ve got big, nasty river mosquitos in our real world, plus I feel like screens offer an added layer of privacy – a bit of a visual separation but not a visual barricade. It was nice to have the rep into the office today to talk about the system, and to see the screen option available. I had looked at other screening options (like motorized screens that drop from a pocket in the ceiling, or the coiling spring loaded screens – some that are pleated), but none of these were really ideal. If we’ve opened up the entire rear wall of the addition, we’ll want to move freely in and out of it without raising and lowering an entire wall of screening.

The NanaWall Screen ONE system is pretty cool in that it allows you to slide it open and shut as much or as little as you want – and it stops sliding when you stop sliding. So you can have the entire wall open, the screen completely closed, and then slide the door a few feet to exit or enter. The glass portion of the system will have a swing door component as well – so you can just swing open a door rather than open the entire wall to exit and enter. If we just wanted to throw open the swing door for a little fresh air, we could pull the screen out to cover that opening and provide insect control where we need it. Here’s a cool video if you want to see it.

The other benefit of installing a NanaWall system on the house? My wardrobe and posing skills are going to vastly improve as a result of it. Also, my view. Mountains and oceans for everyone!!

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(thoughts on a) wednesday morning in the garden

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It’s just after ten p.m. on Wednesday evening, and M and I are sitting in the back room catching up on a few things and just catching up.

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I was looking through my photos from our garden visit this morning, and we’ve been laughing at all the bunny shots in the bunch. Many of them are blurry – because the bunny hopped through a good portion of the garden, but I caught a few of the quieter moments.

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F’s been wearing “costumes” all week to camp – she’s always really into accessorizing, and this week’s theme is her animal mask collection. She’s turning her t-shirts inside out so that they are solid colors that match her masks. It’s a great look, and makes me laugh each morning.

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We got caught in a brief shower this morning – very brief, maybe five minutes tops. It did very little for the heat or humidity issues of late. Today was so hot, and with a few schedule switch-ups this week, I knew today was a run day – like it or not. I did it, and made it home in time to find a lovely dinner on the table, and then I headed back out to power yoga. This isn’t my normal schedule, (and it sounds indulgent), but it’s just the way this Wednesday shaped up. Now that I’m on the flip side of it, it feels good. Good that we made the effort to get up a little earlier and spend some time together in the garden, good that I pushed through the heat and even set a PR for a 5.5 mile run (I did stop my watch for frequent water fountain breaks, which I don’t usually bother with). And then – for the first time ever – I went up into a forearm handstand and a tripod handstand in class tonight, despite being more than a little wiped out.

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I don’t aim for these kind of super charged days; in fact, I try for the opposite. But each week is different, and we’ve gotten really good at adjusting things with the end goal of balance, while not letting go of those things that make us healthy and happy and sane. I thought about this a lot while I was running today. I started to wonder who this person was – I was the absolute hands-down queen of making excuses not to do hard things – especially hard physical things. And now I just do them, and doing them when it’s hard and sweaty and smelly and rough feels that much better when I’m done.

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F likes to complain on Wednesday mornings when I wake her up. She sees the camera on the stairs and she remembers it’s garden morning, and she throws down her litany of complaints. I used to ignore them, but now I do something different. I say “The garden is important to me, and I love the way I feel after I’ve walked through it. It’s not the easiest path to get there, but it’s worth it.” I’m not sure what she takes away from these weekly discussions, but I hope that it’s this: There are things in life that are worth the effort. They aren’t always the easiest things to start, but we are lucky that we get the chance to see them through, and benefit from the gift of an open running trail, a yoga mat, a good dinner, a project finished, a creative day at work, a fascinating read, mastering a new song, deepening a relationship, the peacefulness of a beautiful garden.

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The girls transform once we arrive. We have so many things to talk about. We launch into our days refreshed, connected. It’s worth it.

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paint blues, then success

I haven’t been able to keep up with my goal of writing every day, but I’m enjoying the gentle nudge to write more frequently than I had been writing in April and May. Sometimes I think that it might be nice to have a physical journal to write in – I often think about things I’d like to write down when I’m nowhere near a computer to do so. Longhand writing is something I rarely do anymore, but I love to go back and read my travel journals still today.

These summer days have been busy but they feel different, which is nice. It’s something I needed after the month of May. It’s felt good to jump into a physical project for a change, to get out of the computer on some evenings, and even to stay up late with a paintbrush in a sleeping house.

Speaking of paint – I thought I’d write a little bit about the paint drama that almost took me down a few weekends ago. Now that we’re on the flip side of that, I can talk about it without triggering feelings of despair and exhaustion.

We’ve planned to paint the wainscoting in the bathroom a deep indigo blue for ages now. Here were my five inspiration photos for color:

melanie acevedo dark bathroom stand alone tub

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melanie acevedo dark blue bedroom

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indigo-blue-wall-white-couch

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ashely-putman-blue-room

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Before we even installed the wainscoting, I sampled some colors on the walls. That was my first hint that deep blues are HARD! I had some really lovely swatches, but once they went on the walls they looked so bright. I broadened my range a bit, and sampled three more colors – too dark, too navy, too teal. Then I bought some spray paint for a different project and really loved the color of the frames I painted. I decided to custom color match the spray paint and I purchased a sample pot of that paint.

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When I had the paint matched, they sprayed some of the paint on the end of a wooden stir stick, dried it with a hair dryer, and then color matched it from that. The sample paint looked great on the walls, so I thought we had found the perfect one. We finished the wainscoting, patched, sanded, caulked and caulked and caulked – there is roughly 600 linear feet of caulk in the room – and then primed.

M took the sample pot to the store and ordered a gallon of “real” paint, and he started on the long wall, cutting in and painting for hours.

Two things – the blue was pretty, but really, really dark the longer it dried and the more area we covered. Plus, the paint was also really, really annoying to work with. On a nice blank wall with a roller it would have probably been fine. But painting in a dark color with a slight sheen (matte or eggshell) was nearly impossible – the paint dried so quickly that brush strokes were really obvious everywhere. We decided to do a second coat on that wall to determine if we liked the color, because coverage is important on dark colors.

A few bays into the second coat, M threw in the towel and refused to use that paint anymore. It was just too thick and difficult to work with for brush work.

Round two – he tried a different paint that would brush on better, but they couldn’t use the formula from the first can to match it. So he went back again with one of the frames I had painted. The color looked okay when they dabbed a bit on the lid and dried it with a hairdryer, but I started painting with it on a Friday night, and after seven hours of painting and drying, we admitted it was not a match. But it wasn’t an awful color – maybe it just needed more coverage! We gave it another coat, but no dice. It was dark, and a little bit teal, and just not right. Again, if these had been straightforward walls with rolled on paint, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. But cutting in for hours and hours and hours, and painting behind a freestanding tub and installed toilet and pedestal sink is NO FUN. Especially when you finish a coat and step back and it’s just so very wrong.

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Not the right paint.

It was wrong at one o’clock in the morning, but it was really wrong the next morning with the sun streaming in. We held up new swatches against the painted walls and realized that it was now so much easier to see the “right” color against the wrong one. M wisely got us all out of the house to the market, then the circus. Refreshed with some Ted Drewes and some perspective, we headed back to the paint store with a new swatch. Screw the custom colors. We went with BM’s Gentleman’s Gray. The following photos are all taken with my phone, and at various hours of the day and night, so the color rendition isn’t so great, but I’ll take some good photos when we’re all done.

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Mind you, between every coat we sanded every square inch of wainscoting and then vacuumed the dust and wiped everything down before painting the next coat. Then we both painted on opposite walls – I got the short straw and had to do the areas behind all the fixtures because I have a foot less in height to bend and contort.

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(Side note: this angled brush with flexible short handle is awesome for tight spaces!)

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We collectively have untold hours of painting in this room behind us, and the end result is nothing short of gorgeous. We got it right. Finally.

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Since then, I’ve painted four coats of paint on the underside of the tub and we’ve removed all the blue painters tape. The upper walls and ceiling are just perfection – crisp white and lovely.

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We have new recessed LED lights and they look great in the ceiling. M’s sanding and repainting the ceiling grilles to get them nice and white and refreshed in there. We still have to paint one coat of trim paint on all the remaining white trim – around the door and the window. The window needs a little love as well, and some paint. But then our painting days (in here) will be done for awhile. Which means our project pile in our bedroom is dwindling. Hooray! Hooray!

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