Sunday, June 6, 2010

Walls, and More Walls

Some day the house will look something like this. The main shape of the building is pretty much correct, but the vegetation details are way wrong. First, there is no grass. Lawn in the desert is an incredible water hog. Unless you have small children or dogs, grass is not a necessity. Secondly, the house faces south. If the artist drew the house as it actually will be landscaped, you couldn't see it at all. We are planting as much shade on this side as we can. And that graceful branch in the top right corner? No. The house faces a firetruck turnaround circle and a cliff next to open space. The only vegetation on the ridge will be what we plant.

But before we can get to the foundation of the house, first they had to finish the retaining walls. The guys here were hard at work stacking cement bricks through rebar and building up the walls. They also had to wait for a couple of days for the acres of concrete to dry before they could apply the final finish to the interior of the wall. First they put tar paper against the wall and brushed it with more tar to provide a water tight seal. There are some weep holes at the very bottom of the wall to let any rain (all four inches of it per year) drain away in a timely manner. At least we don't have to worry about snow!

While we are waiting for the second wall to be backfilled and the last wall to be started, we continued to make interior decisions. We visited Arizona Stone and looked at some Black Mountain irregular rock facing for the fireplace. It will cover the entire wall up to the ceiling and the back of the wall (with two closets). We looked at a lot of material at Arizona Tile. Although luxury houses in the area are often floored with natural stone, I think it is a pain to keep clean and doesn't wear well if you have wheeled chairs and tables. James and I both found some porcelain tile that we liked for each of our studios and I think I have come to terms with the kitchen granite. Most of the kitchens I have designed have had some wildly patterned granite. They have been truly amazing slabs of stone with lots of quartz inclusions. This time, I think I am aiming for something blander and more uniform. With the incredible view and the artistic kitchen table, I think the counters should be more of a background.

We also worked on picking out plumbing fixtures and finally talked to the door guy. We are going for plain slab maple doors with dados (incised cuts into the door surface). We have seen a lot of doors in contemporary houses that are dark and have narrow strips of silver metal horizontially across the door. Since we will have light doors, we might have the dados painted black or look for a black metal strip. The strangest thing we picked out were the door handles. For the first house we built, we spend months looking for the exactly right handle that wasn't round and wasn't a lever. The elliptical knobs we chose were unique, but no one noticed them except contractors. This time we agreed on a lever handle in about 30 seconds. It's fairly plain, but functional. It is the exact same door handle that we have in the house we live in now and neither of us noticed it when we picked it out.


Nadine said...

So you wouldn't recommend natural stone for a family room/kitchen then? I've been thinking about limestone.

Kathryn said...

Natural stone is fine for lots of areas, but NOT where you are going to run wheeled things across it every day. We have limestone flooring in the house in Hawaii (not our choice). The living room and dining room is still in good shape, but the office shows a ton of wear where our chairs roll. And I HATE the shiny Crema Marfil marble everywhere in this house. In the kitchen it shows every grease spatter and loses its luster after a month of walking. When there are beautiful rectified (means you can lay them without grout lines) tiles that almost look like granite or slate or marble, I'd rather have the durability. We are all about the functionality. Sure cool design is cool, but functionality comes first.

Nadine said...

Thanks very much-I would never want marble in a kitchen either. Ugh. You have definitely given me food for thought, as while nothing's on wheels, stuff in the family room will get moved around a fair amount.

Front Range Stitcher said...

Hi Kathryn, I'm so excited about all the choices you've made and very interested in why you've made them. I've always thought, "live and learn" when it comes to buying or building houses. Wonder if one could ever have enough houses to work out all the kinks in advance? Doubtful but you've got a good start. LOL! The fireplace wall sounds amazing. Don't cringe with me thinking so far in advance but I don't recall you mentioning this, will you have a pool? I'm just getting excited for you.

Kathryn said...

Someday I will fill in a few posts about things that happened in between contractors, like posting the final house plans. Yes, there is a pool. We dithered about that item because my husband uses the pool some, but I rarely use it. A hot tub was mandatory, but a pool? So, it's not a huge pool, but it does have an infinity edge facing the Strip view. We might come to regret that, but each house and house owner is different.

If anyone has worked out the kinks in advance, it would probably be us. We have finished two framed houses, done a 1929 complete renovation (some back to historical accuracy and some very modern), built an award winning loft in San Francisco, too many minor remodels to count including a cattery, and had a failed building in Honolulu. We do know what we want and how we live. If you can answer all the questions in one of my first posts, then you can probably build your dream house, too. Overall we are functional over designed and practical over impressive. So that actually makes us easy clients. We know what we want and we stick to it.

Front Range Stitcher said...

You are most definitely a lady with her act together, whom all the while wisely enjoys a great partnership with your husband. Kathryn in all sincerity your gusto for this undertaking, particularly with health issues looming, is more than impressive. I'm truly in awe of you and your many skills including life management. To use today's vernacular, "You got it goin' on girl!"

Personally I feel the smaller pool is the way to go unless one is interested in something more than cooling off, even a lap pool would suit most needs. The asthetics count too and you've got that well covered with the infinity edge. Fabulous.

It's clear that ambivalence and hesitation are not part of your vocabulary. Which means you are brave. Note to self: remove ambivalence and hesitation whenever found.

I've enjoyed visiting with you this morning Kathyn, thanks for letting us in to watch this amazing process and learn.
Waving and admiring from Colorado

Front Range Stitcher said...

Just checking in to see what's new. :) You'd think it was my house our something. Hope you had a great Fourth and that you're doing well.