Wheatstone Farm Remodel Update

Yep, the month of May 2017 will most likely go down as the most intense month of my life. I’ve had some jam-packed phases in life, where lots of projects and gatherings overlap. But I’ve never packed up an entire house for a move, and simultaneously designed and remodeled another, and then went to my office as usual. Did I mention hot flashing and sleep-deprived? Like shoveling your life through the eye of a needle.

But now we’re moved. And we intentionally made our load much lighter. Ten days ago, with help unloading our belongings off to Goodwill, the dump, and to friends–and then and only then to our new digs. We completed the move away from the giant modern, and crammed nearly all of our belongings into the garage of our sweet little farmhouse.

“Heaven on earth” I thought to myself, disoriented as I am, as I stood on my porch overlooking my new front yard–which is a consists of tall grass and forest. It was a very warm day, and the bright sun  lit up the whole scene like a glowing postcard. These are precious moments, where the deep satisfaction of solving life dream puzzles and building something big, makes my soul sigh.

The true pleasure of doing our own work, with our own hands has begun.

But it ain’t all sunshine and roses. The kitchen remodel began one month before we moved in. And, while the kitchen design thrills me, there have been some crazy obstacles to the actual structural changes to the house along the way. For one thing, our contractor ditched us.  And left us with a design that the engineer cannot figure out. So we still have no building permits as of today.  The byzantine regulations of the 2017 Building Code, mixed with litigious anxiety of all county contractors–has added some troubles as well. Luckily, we have a new contractor, who’s an awesome force of creativity, friendliness, and flexibility. He’s got the ball and he’s rolling. Eventually we’ll get those permits. And, with no actual looming deadlines, we have the luxury of taking each thing in stride and working through it, one call, one design element, and one room at a time.

Here’s a series of pictures where we begin transforming the 1980’s apartment-style kitchen, into a farm style kitchen, complete with wainscoting, shiplap and open shelving:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I miss my easel and painting portraits, but transforming the kitchen island has been a creative blast!  We bought a second-hand solid wood dresser with a french twist–to which we added gorgeous turned legs, wainscoting, and shelves:

 

 

 

 

 

 


I’ve thoroughly enjoyed perusing other Pinterest DIY’rs and completing the wood cutting and wood working details with my own tablesaw and chopsaw. I found these tiny brads for puzzling the wood trimming together, and didn’t need to pre-drill. You can see how hodgepodge the island looks with various used lumber from the ReStore. But don’t worry! It will all come together with Halcyon Green and wax…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was especially happy with the shelves we added on the end of the island. I love the little filagree piece I purchased almost 20 years ago on our Donovan house renovation. I never found a place for  it, and its been carted around, waiting for its perfect home on this island. Maison heureuse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some other kitchen renovations from the first phase:

*Removing the dated tile and fluorescent lighting

*Removing, sanding, chalk-painting, and waxing the melamine cabinetry

*adding warmth with wood trimmings everywhere

*adding pulls & knobs that match our design

*agonizing over paint colors for the cabinets and island (final choice: SW Pure White & SW Halcyon Green)

*Upgrading to shiplap walls, with 6″ pieces of plywood- of course I’d love to do every project on my own, but because of our sudden move-in date, we needed to gallop through this first phase of the kitchen renovation. Here’s our pals Alejandro and Alex helping us to hang the shiplap:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renovation can be an expensive and complex affair, but like the remodel on our Donovan home (adding a second story) in 1999, we are making a big effort to cut the cost of labor and material waste involved in this project. The most obvious cost-saving measure available for homeowners is of course doing most of the work ourselves. “In Mr. Money Mustache terms: if you want to become a bassass, you have to enjoy the hard work of your own projects. “Easier said than done”, is a common refrain among the intimidated, but “It’s much more fun than it sounds” is what those of us in the know say in response. Especially those of us who were raised by total “do-it-yourselfers” like my dad. Hopefully, I have a good handle on most of the basics of building from past experience, but in a project this large, there will be tons to learn.

DIY projects thus far:

bought one new farm home without a realtor;

SOLD one large modern home without a realtor;

moved house on our own (with much help from CL);

began remodel on farm house kitchen;

 

As  you know from my last remodel update, we’re frugal builders over here, recycling materials and buying supplies through second-hand vendors as much as possible.  So, another challenge is the odd feeling of suddenly becoming one of the biggest consumers in town. Almost every day we have to buy stuff. Tools, materials, and trimmings are needed in abundance for a project like this, and so we’ve spent about $3,000 in one month on the kitchen. 50% of this is labor costs. Wah. But deadlines were real and we had to splurge.

But that’s the tip of the ice berg. We’ll be spending a whole lot more money when we start bumping the living room walls out and adding the wood burning fireplace. Luckily, since we had to dismantle my son’s huge climbing wall in the other house before we moved, we suddenly have a ton of excellent, reusable 2×4’s and sheeting. However, when we start seeing the trucks and forklifts, steel and wood, cardboard and plastic wrap, I’m sure we be squarely faced with the fact that we are chewing up a huge share of our own planet just to build ourselves a dwelling.

Check back for more updates on the Wheatstone Farm!

 

 

 

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Radical Remodel: from Lowe’s to Houzz [Our plan & pics]

“to make living itself an art, that is the goal”~henry miller *

When lifes in an easy groove, its satisfying to make ART out of life. But when I’m swirling in unexpected change, money fears, and legal contracts– art will come later. Or will it? Maybe my new house project is my art. Let me explain. We are moving. We are simultaneously buying a house to remodel, and selling a house –FSBO style–all at once. Its been a wild ride. There has been crying, hysteria, late nights, elation, and whiskey.

We’ve been searching for our forever home for 3 years now. The goals have been to radically downsize, enjoy our commute, get away from the freeway noise, remodel/design for maximum happiness, and have a mightily reduced mortgage when we’re all done. After a 3-year search, we finally found it. Well, we finally found the house the inspires the energies it will take to remodel it. And boy, do we have some renovations in store for it.

Doesn’t it look like the sweetest blue farm house in the woods? Here’s the catch: we are downsizing from a modern 3,400 square foot home with 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths with a Frank Loyd Wright view–to a 1,500 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2 bath home–with an unfinished large garage and attic.

The original plan was to take 3-4 months planning things out and giving ourselves time to contemplate facing the implications of downsizing our living space by 1,500 square feet. Moreover, we are looking to reorient the efficiency of how we actually live. But then the big modern house we’re living in suddenly sold. One day we hosted an Open House, then next week we were in fast, personal negotiations with our buyer (more on FSBO later). My husband and I reassesed. We decided to be a bit more adventurous and just go for it: full-power renovations, starting as soon as possible.

So what are we doing?

This 2008 blue house is a textbook example of “tract house.”  Every friend who walked through helping us decide, was, well, underwhelmed. No character, no charm, drinky living room and kitchen, low ceilings, fake flooring, Lowe’s finishings. Bleh.

However. Drum roll please. The location is heaven. The placement of the house is on a generous 2 acres in the woods. If you know Bellingham, our home sits at the base of the beloved Galbraith mountain in the Pacfic Northwest. There are miles and miles of wooded trails out our back door.

On the downside, the kitchen is annoying, there’s no space for a nice sized farm table for friends to gather around, there is no living room space, and there is no master bath, just a tragicomic room with a slanted ceiling over the shower. All the flooring is faux plastic wood with this creepy sheen to it. The front door is distinctly invisible, bizarrely located, and unused. The room over the garage is unfinished, unheated, and inaccessible–except for a tipsy ladder act. Crazy. The house was designed by a guy, and so the garage is huge and magnificent and was full of his motorcycles and cars. Here is a photo of the current South-west side:

 

 

 

 

The most obvious fix is to bump out the walls on two sides, giving us room for our farmhouse table, a living room to play music with our friends in, add a wood burning fire place to reduce heat consumption –and increase the happy coziness factor. We’ll remove the front door  (locating it on the other side of the house where it belongs greeting people). This will allow us optimal light fixture placement, and room for two sets of french doors and a large Eastern facing window that will give us much light and heat for free – forever.

Upstairs, we’ll add a dormer, tear out the existing awkward shower, and install an efficient European-style enclosed space with clawfoot tub and shower head. Soaking in the tub, a large picture window will reveal tall firs to ponder. Next, a small dormer housing a doorway will connect the attic space (over the garage) into the house. Can we all say “cool guest bedroom” together?

 

After these most invasive parts of the renovation, everything else should be pretty simple: tearing out stairwell walls to open up the space, building a nice new island with a fat wood slab on top, and adding some farm charm finishes to the kitchen.

On the exterior, I have plans to move the 4 humungous garden boxes from the driveway–to the other side of the house near the kitchen where they belong. We’ll create pathways, fencing, gardens for increasing our grown food, and reducing our food budget.

One final–admittedly, the most exciting personal project for me–will be to remodel the garage into a large open, heated space for hosting personal artwork gatherings as well as music circles. So, the insulated garage needs a gas stove, french doors and windows, along with partition wall for a woodshop area. Outside the french doors, we plan to add a Pergola and vines to bring natural shade for outdoor living. I can already feel the warm breeze as I open the southern facing french doors of the art studio, and step under the Pergola to take a seat in the shade –and finally relax.

Our fabulous contractor has agreed to “rough in” all the engineered projects and get them through the permit process. He starts June 1. Then he’ll pack his tools and move on to many others who love his work. From there, we will roll up our sleeves, take back the projects, and become the badass do-it-yourselfers we aim to be. Searching for cheap materials is lifelong hobby. We’ve got several friends and my talented brother coming to contribute to the finishing. The end result of this big construction project should be a house that is ready for the next 100 years of its life, with a thoroughly personalized, bright and artistic new design and a fairly reduced level of energy consumption to go with it. Stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses.

Laughter & Light

Let’s face it, life is full of stuff for our nervous systems to chew on. Not always fun. Today, I need a break from all of the things my brain is subject to figuring out—I need a good laugh and some light hearted thinking. Let’s start with looking at pictures of people laughing.  This will get our dopamine and serotonin chambers ignited. Then we’ll read something to complete the cognitive good vibe. Sound good? Take a savoring look at each photo for the full effect:

 

 

 

 

 

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“The message I wish to import to the children goes something like this:

The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyrant of the dull mind forever threatens– but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end its love and love alone that really matters.”
~Tom Robbins.

Express love to the best of your ability today. I’ll try too.
~love,
Laurel

How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Oh Angel! That I never thought I’d paint. I’m not really an angels sort of person– or painter. Talk about stretching my abilities and sensibilities to their full strain.

I saw a piece by Jylian Gustily –and another piece on Instagram that I loved –and had to attempt my own combination. So much fun. Its hard for me to play down bony hands and translucent skin, but I managed.

Here it is in stages. Does anyone love seeing the phases of someone’s painting as much as I do? As I’ve said before, I’m addicted to looking at anything that has a before and after photo.

I’ve included excerpts from a favorite poet–billy collins–to humorously ponder.

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Questions About Angels
BY BILLY COLLINS

“Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

The question is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.”

“Idea Sex”- Mastering the Intersection

I’ve said before how I love James Altucher‘s thought process–even if it is off-grid, cryptic, or unsavory to listen to (his personal stories and insights are painfully hard-earned). He is an Idea Machine. Here’s one that is so super fun I had to write it out:

Making your ideas have sex. “Idea Sex.” Here’s Altucher:

“Stan Weston had an idea that would change the lives of little boys forever. He knew that girls liked to play with dolls. But boys had no dolls to play with. Boys liked guns and action. Dolls + Action == ??He made a doll based on a soldier, gave it a plastic gun, and called it an “action figure”. He named it GI Joe. Stan Weston didn’t come up with the newest newest new thing. All he did was combine the simplest concepts and made something that millions of kids loved. ‘The best way to make a living with your imagination is to develop innovative applications, not imagine completely new concepts.’”

That’s it. Make two lists of what people love. Combine them. Have fun. The best ideas always come from mating. Think of Hollywood. When they pitch an idea its never just “I have this idea”. Its always “It’s “Tarzan” meets “My Dinner With Andre” ”When you says “its like X +Y” then people all lean back and their own elegant imaginations begin to dance with your ideas.

Mating two unlikely bedfellows, for fresh possibilities. Like

Peeping Tom + social platform = Facebook.

Peeping Tom meets Photo Camera App = Snapchat.

 

Here’s some things I’m wanting to innovate new forms or processes for:

acrylic painting

poetry

beatniks

therapy

attachment

writing

portraits

organic building structures

meditation

zumba

teenagers

ageing

playing fiddle

playing mandolin

playing piano

mindfulness

photo books

vacations

homestay students

senior photos

systems for creating

systems for planning

socializing

remodeling

diet

photos

reducing Iphone addiction

gut health

artistic lifestyle

goal setting

getting in the woods

Feel free to apply x+y to these for me, and leave innovations in the comments. I’d love that!

Example: I need someone to shop for a car for me. I have to let this old Beetle go. But you’d have to really know me and care that I got something that makes me happy. In return, I would paint them a picture. Or something else personal. Where is the online business for that? Online friending crossed with meaningful services. 

Here we have a bit of idea sex: how to paint something others like + how to use your photos. This is how I see Ivy Newport’s online class “figurescapes.” She takes printed pictures, makes copies, uses gel medium to adhere, embellishes with drawing, and then paints the pictures. A little unlike “paint by numbers” which was another version of idea sex from the 60’s: maps + paint + numbers= possible okay painting.

Here’s a couple of my paintings. I love seeing process, and so always try to show my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Love as nonviolent activism

“Nonviolent resistance … avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.” MLK

No Clowning Around

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All together now…

Love this piece from Jenny Doh’s website Crescendoh!

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Jenny Doh

Counseling people for the last couple of tumultuous weeks, taking in the turmoil people are feeling, post-election. In particular, jews, people of color, and my gay/lesbian clients. What do we do with all of the anxiety that has been stirred up? Get close to people, listen for ideas, read, write, help…..paint. Your unique voice, your unique angle, your view, from whatever vantage point–each voice carries the unique creative potential to to help this all move forward. Its going to take all of us coming together with those voices , creating real solutions, in solidarity. Let your voice be heard.

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Pensive. 16 x 20 acrylics & charcoal

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”  -Martha Graham

From my office window~get up stand up
From my office window~get up stand up

Seth Godin~ be an artist

Artists express. Art can illuminate. I feel like there is a lot to express and understand right now. Lend your voice. Be an artist. Or, if you apsolutely cannot attempt that, then appreciate artists.

Here’s a favorite quote from Seth Godin. I love how he stretches the definition of artistry…

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“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? I don’t think is has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists.

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On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artists who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

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An artists is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artists takes it personally.

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That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artists, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.
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Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artists, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artists because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

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Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

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Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”~SG

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