Dreaming of spring: flowers, fences and fun

Today seemed like the perfect day to write a blog post about plans for the backyard.  After living in a condo for many years our new home brought with it dreams of summer barbecues, lilac bushes, shading trees, tall glasses of lemonade and cool green grass.  Our reality is that there is still a lot of work to do to finish the house and get our new certificate of occupancy.  Still, a family can dream…

Our backyard today.

Our backyard today.

Although we moved into our house months ago, we are still working on the punch list with the contractor.  Unfortunately, the GC put us on the back burner, then the weather turned cold and what with the constant rain and freezing temperatures, we could not finish the back deck.  Thankfully, the railings and stairs were completed and only the stone deck surface needs to be installed.

In the fall we met with landscape designer, Dan Silverstein, whose services we “won” at our daughter’s school auction last winter.  He came out to see our yard and we discussed ideas for the space.  He took some measurements and we showed him some photos of backyards we liked.  Below is the yard before construction on the house.  We hacked down that tree closest to the building but need to remove the stump in the spring.

Back Yard Shot From Roof

Back Yard Shot From Roof

When looking at outdoor areas we tended to like clean modern spaces but we (I) definitely want an area with some wild flowers and an English garden feel.  We already know the design of fence we want but are worried about how much sun it will block out.

The inspiration photos:

fence

The narrow slats and wider spacing at the top allow for more light to get through.

flowers

We are going to have to use plantings that work well in shade and half sun, especially if we put wooden fence up.

We are going to have to use plantings that work well in shade and half sun, especially if we put wooden fence up.

And this one is a little on the dreaming side but not impossible (no TV just pool or hot/cold tub). hot tub

Our designer came back with a plan that we liked.  We were open to completely re-arranging the space but decided that our budget was not so we are planning to keep the basic bones but clean it up.

backyard plan

As weary urban dwellers, we definitely wanted to keep some grass.  In the long area with the plantings, we hope we have enough sunlight to have a small kitchen garden and some flowers.  In the back, we will probably go with bushes for privacy and to greenify things back there.  These plans are a good start and we liked the way Dan blended modern with natural elements like gravel around the tree and green plantings in the brick walkway.  When spring finally starts to bloom we will fine tune the plans and hopefully, if the rest of the house is done (remember we still have that rental unit to fix up), we will get to start on it.

The Devil is in the Detail

In one of our first posts, we noted the treasures and tribulations that we found in our old house.  Unfortunately, when you are in the process of a complete renovation some original details get lost.  I thought I’d go through and do an accounting of what we wanted to save and couldn’t, along with the few things that were a pleasant surprise.

1.  Fireplace

This was probably the biggest win.  When we brought some professionals (who shall remain nameless) through the house they speculated that the fireplaces were not marble and possibly were painted concrete.  After a lot of toil and trouble we went from this:

Treasure - upstairs fireplace

Treasure – Parlor room fireplace

To this:

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From this:

Trinity's Bedroom Fireplace

To this:

finished - kitchen

2.  Wooden Shutters

Saved!  After prying off years of paint we discovered that all of the original shutters were still intact.  Some were in better shape than others.

Treasure - original wooden shutters

Treasure – original wooden shutters

And this:

shutters2

To this:

shutters after

3.  Etched glass door

Saved!  From this:

back parlor floor

To this:

power room door

4.  Tin ceilings

These were not original to the house but were very old.  When people couldn’t afford the upkeep of their original plaster ceilings they tended to put up tin over them as a cheaper solution to repairing and skim coating plaster.  In the 70′s they just put in drop ceilings.  Although not original, they were very pretty so we wanted to keep them.

Treasure - art deco tin ceiling in kitchen

Treasure – art deco tin ceiling in the old original kitchen on ground floor had to go

We were able to save the tin in the hallway.

After – really just a paint job

hall

The kitchen ceiling was previously a bedroom ceiling.  We were able to save most of it but we had to incorporate it into the new construction.  We looked everywhere and could not find this pattern or the tin crown with the shells.  We think it came out pretty well.

223 Prospect Park 090

IMG_2680

ceiling patch

patched

kitchen ceiling

5 Steps to Install a Medicine Cabinet

When we first worked with our architect we never thought to explicitly request medicine cabinets in our bathrooms.  All of our small NYC apartments have had them as a means of maximizing space.  We’ve learned the hard way that when you don’t ask you don’t receive.  Because they were not in the plans, the contractor put a plumbing vent straight down the middle of where you would install one i.e. the middle of where the vanity was going.  We had to pay extra for them to change it in one bathroom and decided to leave it in the other.

Before the drywall went up we got a quote from our contractor of a few hundred dollars to install the cabinets. Since we hadn’t purchased it yet, we let them close up the walls figuring I could come back and install the cabinets later. Which is exactly what I did this past Saturday in my daughter’s bathroom. Here’s how.

Tools you’ll need:

  • 3 Foot Level
  • Pencil
  • Utility Knife
  • Drywall Saw
  • Scrap 2x4s
  • Hacksaw, snips or grinder if you have metal studs
  • Sawzall or handsaw if you have wood studs

Step 1: Mark the wall opening with the level and pencil. The cabinet’s instructions should indicate how large of an opening you will need. Be sure to carefully make all the lines perfectly level or the cabinet will be crooked.

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Step 3: Remove any wall studs in the way. We have metal studs and sure enough one was in the way so I went to work with my grinder and cut it out carefully. For wood studs you’ll need to do the same with whatever tools you have on hand.

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Step 4: Add in some additional blocking for support. I cut three 2x4s down and mounted one on each side and one to the bottom. Most cabinets will have screws which mount into the blocking on the side from inside the cabinet, at least the three I’ve installed worked this way. The stud that was cut out in step 3 will support the bottom of the cabinet but I mounted some more against the drywall for good measure. 

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Step 5: Slide the cabinet in and put in the final mounting screws and you are all done.

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As projects in my house go this was by far one of the easiest.

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