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.