Monday, December 19, 2011

A Walk Through

I finally got to do a quick walk-through of the house. It was pretty overwhelming to actually be inside something that I've seen drawn on paper and mocked up on computer screens for so many months. The size of the house feels really good. Not too big or too small. It only gets more exciting from here on.

New House

All three stories are now built and the roof is on!

New House

This is the view from what will be the kitchen/dining area, into the living room.

New House

A temporary staircase.

New House

Second story balcony. Where the container garden will be.

New House

View from the third floor.

New House

Third floor beams are close together to support the solar panels that will be on the roof.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

There's an Appliance For That

catalog stove

In our old, falling down, moldy, no-heat house, we tried to put off purchasing anything new or fixing anything unnecessary because we knew we were going to be starting this project and a whole new home would be in our future. One of the things we avoided fixing was the stove. It was a brown and avocado-green model that came with the house. It had one working burner and an oven that heated about 25 degrees off what the readout said. Still, I cooked dinner every night for years on that stove. I wrote a cooking blog based on my recipes. I used that stove to illustrate my belief that anyone, fancy kitchen or not, could make nice meals every night of the week.

catalog stove

But I'm not crazy. I never LIKED the stove. I felt no pangs of emotion when I bid it, and our other sub-standard appliances, goodbye. Before we even moved out I was starting to research what kind of stove I would have in the new house. And all roads led to Wolf. Everything I read said that Wolf stoves were the best. People loved cooking on them. Whenever I read an article featuring a house tour where there was a Wolf stove, it was always listed as "best splurge." Consumer reporty-type sites and home design blogs and people's personal accounts all lined up. These stoves are awesome. They never break. They are a pleasure to cook on. And they are nice to look at, as well. The same kind of accolades applied to their fridge line, Subzero, which also looked great. And buying both got us a rebate. Sold.

catalog fridge

Well, "sold" didn't actually come that easy. My husband ended up on a self-directed crash course in Wolf/Subzero Appliance Acquisition. Who had the best prices? Everyone's prices were basically the same. Who could offer financing? Almost no one, except The Bay. Why were the appliances significantly cheaper in the United States? A combination of the bad economy and NAFTA. Would it be cheaper to just drive to the USA and buy the appliances there? Not when you factor in truck rental, movers (because these things are HEAVY!) storage etc.

So, off we went to The Bay last weekend. After a few hours of phone calls to their credit department and dealings with a somewhat keyed up salesman, we'd purchased our fridge and stove and hood fan. Sold! Finally. I can't wait to get cooking.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

First Floor

first floor

We've got wallllllllls, they're multiplyin'....

first floor

We stopped by the house yesterday so I could get a look at the walls that have gone up on the first floor. It sure is amazing to see so many versions of plans for a building and then see that building start to appear in real life.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Lighting Plan

architect's office

Every week we have a meeting in the architect's office which is located in his newly renovated attic and has big gorgeous windows looking out over the Glebe. Lately, these meetings have centred on the "lighting plan" for our house. Did you know there were plans for lighting? Most of my previous residences had lighting plans such as, "Don't Turn That Overhead Light On In The Bedroom Because The Wiring Is Bad And It Will Probably Kill Us" or "I Think I'll Put That Old Light My Grannie Gave Me In Thw Corner By The Couch Because That's Where The Only Plug In The Room Is."

But now we have pages of lighting plans. They look like this:

drawing lighting maps

The main push and pull between us and the architect so far has been around his love of open, multi-use space and our love of more closed, single use space. As in, this is the living room where we will read books and listen to records and this is the bedroom where we will mostly just sleep. We had a major break through when the architecture team realized that the lighting was going to mostly be task-specific, rather than adaptable to many different uses of one space. It's been cool to work with people who will challenge our perceptions of what we want and at the same time listen to us and figure out what will work for our lives, even if it isn't what they normally do.

Here's John demonstrating the lights in his office and giving us all a collective heart attack by standing on a chair at the top of a staircase.

demonstrating lights


Saturday, November 19, 2011


first floor

The architect said next week we'll actually be able to walk on the floor all over main floor of the house. I want to run around yelling, 'I'm in the living room! Now I'm in the kitchen! Now I'm in the laundry room!' My husband is not planning to do the same, he says.

floor joists

The meeting with the landscape architect this week went well, though I think it took until the end of the meeting for her to grasp my true desire for a food-producing urban farm. As we talked more, though, she started suggesting pear trees on the front lawn and figuring out the logistics of growing grapes on our third floor terrace. She's not a fan of bees, being deathly allergic to stings, but she did seem enthusiastic about their pollinating capabilities.

landscape talk

We went to look at fireplaces today, which is a whole other story. Opinions and anecdotes regarding gas vs wood-burning are welcome.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011



A few weekends ago I got an actual look at the foundation of the house. It was more exciting than I thought it would be. It hadn't occurred to me that this would be the first time I'd actually see the real footprint of the house. So much different from looking at drawings.


Tomorrow I meet with the woman who is helping with the landscaping. I hope she's excited about this being a little urban vegetable farm. Because that's mostly what I'm excited about.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reality Vs. Imagination

Right now the site of our new house looks like this:

construction site

There's a hole in the ground and a porta-potty and some machines and a fence. Not the kind of thing that excites me. But then the architects send us pictures like this:

giant green jello cubes

Yes, it looks like a mock-up of what it would look like if we became jello farmers, but really it was to help us choose a colour for the window frames.

It is amazing to see these pictures with added detail, even if the detail looks like giant cubes of a wiggley, low cal dessert.

whole house


Giant green jello cubes and some guy.


Thursday, October 20, 2011


Here are some tiny screen shots of the draft floor plans for the new house. Some bits have since changed, but these are mostly accurate.

first flooor

Gound Floor: entrance, living room, The Greatest Kitchen Ever, dining room, side patio (gardens and barbecue and table and chairs), powder room, laundry room/dog corral.

second floor

Second Floor: open office area, sewing room, spare room, bathroom, deck (for container gardening).

third floor

Third Floor: master bedroom, closet, bathroom, deck (for sitting and reading the paper and drinking tea and coffee. And probably some more gardening, like grape vines.)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And there it goes...

house falling

I missed this big event, but luckily I have a husband with a Blackberry who was on site when it happened. He snapped these six photos in succession as the house came down. They'll be digging our new foundation next week. Everything seems a whole lot more real now.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Last Days

We got word that the house will be torn down this week, which is very exciting. I'm hoping it happens on a day when my work schedule is flexible so I can come by and see what's going on. And take more photos. As it is, here are the photos I took today when we stopped by the house after lunch.

from the front:
bye bye

from the back:
from the back

this tree needs to come down:
other doomed tree

bricks and flagstones from driveway and backyard (to be re-used):
saved stones

back of house and one doomed tree


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking About Toilets

I don't normally think about toilets. You know, beyond the "I really need to find somewhere to pee," thoughts that we all have now and again. But choosing fixtures for our house means thinking about toilets. And sinks and showers and faucets and bathtubs.

These are the fixtures that we have to choose first, because they might actually affect how the house is built. Things like cupboards ("millwork" I've now learned to call it) and wall colours, and flooring come later.

We went to four different plumbing stores (Boone, En Suite, Preston Hardware, and fancy, fancy Astro) a few weekends ago and took photos of any fixtures that caught our eye. By the end of it all I was thinking mostly about an article I'd read in the New York Times magazine about "decision fatigue".


What we learned? I like round stuff. My husband likes square stuff. We don't actually care much about what our toilets look like. I have a major crush on "pot filler" kitchen faucets. There are a lot of ugly sinks out there. If you want to sit in a showroom bathtub, you need to take off your shoes first.

Luckily, there is a designer who works with the architect we hired. Her name is Serina, and she helps sort out stuff like which bathtubs fit the style of the house and the limits of our budget. I am more than happy to leave these things to the professionals. Last week we had a meeting where she took all the fixtures we'd taken photos of, and showed me options she'd found that were identical or similar. One of the architects, Sarah, sat beside us, doing budgety math. I just had to say, "I like this bathtub better than that bathtub." Almost everything we chose came in under budget which made everyone very happy. It was much less daunting than I thought it would be.

I'm still expecting to be a bit freaked out when I have to pick paint colours, though.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Boarded Up

On Thursday I drove to Sandy Hill so I could vote in the Provincial election. I parked in front of our now vacant house and got to see for myself that it had been boarded up. I'd seen the house in disrepair already, since our friend Jamie corralled my very kind husband into tearing up the floorboards with him. Jamie is going to use the floorboards in his basement. At least he's going to try. The floorboards are soft wood and were installed by idiots. They were nailed AND glued, despite being tongue-in-groove. All that to say they didn't exactly come up like a dream.

The windows were removed by the contractors. Part of the LEED certification involves responsibly disposing of the old house, so they're dismantling the house slowly so they can salvage as much as possible.

One thing people keep asking me is if I feel sad at all thinking about the destruction of the house. I'm pretty sentimental and soft hearted, so I'm surprised that the answer to that question is no. I am so excited to live in the new house. A house with heat! And a great kitchen! And non-splintery floors! A house that's organized and practical and healthy. So no, I'm not shedding tears for the old place. Everything that I loved about living there, namely my husband and pets, are still with me now and will be with me in the new house. We'll all be happy when it comes time to move in.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Foundation

our house

The first time I ever saw this house was on my first date with the man who is now my husband. We'd taken our dogs for a walk and gotten along well enough that he suggested we drop our dogs off at our respective homes and then walk up to a nearby pub for a drink. We dropped my dog off first and then drove to his house.

At that point in the date I was pretty sure I liked him. But, given my previous dating experience, I was also sure there must be something wrong with him. As we pulled into his driveway I thought I'd found it. The house beside the driveway was so decrepit it looked like something from a horror movie. The paint was peeling, the walls were sagging, and the porch roof was being propped up by some haphazardly placed wooden posts.

My date (who on my other blog is called The Man of Science and would probably like that to continue here) leapt out of the car while I was studying the falling-down house to my left. He walked around the front of the car and went up the walk to the house- on the right. Not the horror movie house, but a perfectly reasonable, liveable home on the lot beside it.

crappy cabinetry

Years went by. I moved into this house with my dog and my cat and my record collection. I married The Man of Science. I developed a pretty strong love-hate relationship with the house. I loved its lofty bedroom ceiling, it's giant lot with space for gardening, its mature trees and its view of the park across the street. I hated its lack of central heat, its crumbling carpentry, its mouldy smell, and its cracked foundation. We started to think seriously about what we were going to do with the house.

Building inspectors and architects were called in. They all said the same thing. We'd be better off tearing the house down and starting from scratch with a brand new building. This news made me want to lie down with a cold compress on my head. My fairly unflappable husband shrugged and said he'd expected as much. We selected an architect and started watching the plans develop. We had land surveyors, engineers and appraisers walk our property. My economically savvy husband met with bankers. I started saving all my spare money, cleared away all my debt and signed loan documents.

terrible bannister

And now, it's all starting to actually happen. Tomorrow we move to my parents house (a situation worthy of its own post, stay tuned) and next week they start shutting off the utilities. By Halloween, the house I am sitting in while I type this will no longer exist.

Here we go.