Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Master Bath Pt 1: It Started with the Vanity

Call me crazy, but I'm the kind of person who likes to rip the bandaid off to minimize the inevitably painful experience of a sore getting exposed. If you recall last week's post of our kitchen, we are in the throes of some updates there. That project should be benign compared to what I'm about to share today regarding our master bath in our home.

Mr. P. is tall, a foot taller than I am. Our master bath vanity is standard sizing....30" high and 30 years ago standard. He's been wanting a new vanity for years. I've had issues with the shower. The shower head is high and hard to reach, the non-existing shelf is the exterior framing's ledge, totally out of my reach, and there's no place to hang a wet washrag inside.
While this bathroom is tired, it's still in excellent working order overall. It's very spacious, too.
The jacuzzi tub is hardly ever used anymore, but that surrounding deck makes an awesome bench for Mr. P. to sit and put his shoes on. The master closet is directly across from it (visible in the lead photo above, where the louvered doors are ajar right behind the entry door to the bath from the master bedroom).
Yea, I know. Mirrors everywhere. Brown phone on the wall, Hollywood glamour lighting over the vanity, brass and wood-trimmed faucet handles. It's all there. However, in its defense, it is also very light and bright in there, thanks to those mirrors, lights, and two skylights in the lofted area above the vanity and shower.
The marble tile we both still like; however, it is porous.
Did I mention this bathroom is equipped with a bidet? It gets used even less than the jacuzzi. That's valuable real estate in the area of this bath.

So, what are we going to do? We've decided to GUT the bathroom.

We have been in the planning stages of both the kitchen and master bath projects since October 2016. Between two pairings of designers and contractors who made proposals based on our communicated specs, we made our final cut as to whom we chose to work with in late December. Our designer is acting as general contractor for sourcing and sequencing the contracted labor and [most] materials, based on our final design. I am the project manager - of the designer, labor contractor and Mr. P.  :-0 January was full throttle planning and consulting with the designer and labor contractor, as well as in-depth researching of materials, fixtures, and appliances. February has been about making decisions, purchases, and organizing 'stuff' (read: moving and going nowhere). We are officially in the queue for work to begin this week coming. The kitchen will be first, the bathroom will immediately follow.

I have no idea how long these projects will take (whatever the contractor says, double it, right?), but hopefully they will both be tolerable experiences with better than planned outcomes. It is going to be HUGE for both me and Mr. P. Some people are just cut out for this kind of thing. We are not those kind of people. If I'm seemingly out of pocket on the blog, you'll know why. Right now, we don't even have any planned vacations for 2017, but you can bet we'll be needing one (together, I hope) when this is all over.

Stay tuned for the inspiration board, design and materials selections, and other related adventures in this home improvement series. It may end up just being an 'after', depending on how life goes, we shall see, and only time will tell.

As always, your visit today is welcome and appreciated, and so are your comments. I really appreciate every single comment and all the encouraging words received on the kitchen project. 
Rita C. at Panoply

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kitchen Pt 1: It Started with the Fridge

Mr. P. likes quiet (too late, he married me!). All kidding aside, he always has enjoyed quiet at home. Probably one of his favorite pastimes is reading in the quiet. The fridge was it always does. However, Mr. P. was noticing it much too often as he sat in his favorite chair, reading, in the nearby family room area. I still do not notice the motor running. That said, discussion of making some updates to the kitchen began.
Oh, and I didn't mention the icemaker quit working a few years ago, did I? After two repairs, the last of which resulted in sending the repairman away and a refund, I was okay with using ice trays again. The current refrigerator is 66 5/8" tall, and they're not made that small anymore. There's always a catch, right? I finally conceded we needed to buy a new fridge, but drug my feet (more than a few years), knowing I wouldn't find the same size with the features wanted (and noise level is not a feature measured, as it is with dishwashers). Also, I had yet to figure out if that cabinet above the fridge could stay (my wish), or would end up a shelf, or completely gone. The proverbial stone was about to begin rolling. Mr. P. was also bothered by the scuffed [wood] edges of the [formica] countertops, wanting to have them refinished., thank you. I'll take new countertops instead, please and thank you.
While we're at it, we never use that wine rack either, and I'd like to change it to open shelving for plate display.
Oh yea, on that island's left-hand side? That's a state-of-the-art, 1980s built-in blender station. It's outta here. See that microwave on the counter? That's there because the state-of-the-art 1980s top, dual cooking, oven/microwave's timer quit working and has to be watched for microwaving (both ovens work fine otherwise).

This pantry is staying! It is the bomb for kitchen storage.

At this point, even though they are all still working after 30 years, all appliances are under serious review. This will include cooktop, dual ovens, dishwasher, trash compactor, and disposer. Even though it is a given that no replacement will likely last more than 1/3 of the current life of these appliances, I do not want to face the issues of replacement anytime soon again, especially after we have pricey stone cut for countertops.

This, my friends, is an excellent example of scope creep. We needed a new fridge, and we're all but gutting the kitchen. I honestly love my kitchen, funky built-in blender and all, and that is why we are not doing a complete gut job. I would simply replace my fridge...if the manufacturer's planned obsolescence in sizing wasn't an issue.

Did I mention my desire for under cabinet lighting? Kitchen sink? Why yes, let's throw those in, too, along with a new sink over at the wet bar.

Stay tuned for the design selections, which have been a very labored exercise in material and appliance comparison shopping. Mr. P. loves Consumer Reports, and typically consults it for major purchases. However, I have a sister and niece who each purchased the Samsung washing machine which was recalled for exploding (!) , yet was rated highly in CR. I'm fastening my seatbelt, as I think it's going to be a bumpy ride of home improvement projects in 2017. This is not my cup of tea.

As always, your visit today is welcome and appreciated, and so are your comments. And if you have any pearls of wisdom for me, I'll welcome those, too.
Rita C. at Panoply

Sunday, February 5, 2017

State of the Winter Garden 2017

We live in a Region 7A - middle south - agricultural zone (see below, as realigned per the USDA in 2012 from 6B, or upper south), which basically means we see all four seasons, but plant hardiness has shifted somewhat. We can't rely on plants such as white paper birch to thrive in our heat, but crepe myrtle more reliably flourish through our winters.
While I am not a fan of winter, I suppose it wouldn't be winter without snow.  Our first winter snow of 2017 arrived on January 6th.
Only an accumulation of 4", but the freezing temperatures and wind chill in the few days following that snow were enough to convince me it was winter in our region, indeed. We walk nearly 3 miles almost every day, and those few days were days of layering long underwear under regular clothing!
We had a layer of ice under that snow in the wee hours, but it sure didn't stop a kid spotted in the neighborhood on a bike. I couldn't believe he was riding on that ice! By the time we were well into our walk, though, the snow was melting from travel and treatment on streets and sidewalks.
That snow was completely gone a few days later, with warming temps that had us feeling like it was spring! This kind of winter weather is much more typical further south of us, but I quite like the more moderate temps.

Apparently, our power company also liked the warmer temps, and they had their tree-cutting contractors out again. If you recall, I had a stay of execution on the tree on my property that camouflages the utility pole at back center of my landscape (as seen below last Fall). You can read all about that drama here and here. The contractors' last visit was in September (2016), and I pleaded for at least allowing the tree to reach its color peak and shed its leaves. They obliged.
Maple Tree in full fall color, 2016
When they knocked this time (early January), I answered the door, and happened upon a very reasonable man. He agreed they would cut my tree per my wishes - in similar fashion to the last hard prune we paid for by professionals (because I had seen the contractor's' work through the neighborhood!). This guy also promised to phone ahead when they were coming, so I could 'supervise'. Guess what? He stood by his word! Below is the before and after latest pruning photo of my tree.
Maple tree, before and after hard prune, winter 2017
I know it's a bit difficult to see the silhouette with gray background, but that's a typical winter day here in my region. The guys basically followed the prune cuts from the last job, and left the tree in a nice shape. Mind you, only one guy did the work (the one in red vest), but they changed my opinion of their typical performance with the result of my experience this time.
Power company's contracted tree trimmers
A walk around the yard the same day of the pruning left me a bit surprised. There were several plants showing signs of rebirth - a little too soon - leaving them at risk for the remainder of winter.
Winter sprouts 2017
Clockwise, in the photo collage above, (top L) my irises are pushing through, (R) love-in-a-mist sprouts are in the foreground of nandina in the back corner, and (bottom L) bluebonnets surprised me!
Winter nandina 2017
The front corner of the landscape is thick with a screen of nandina, full of berries (above photo). Only in very harsh and prolonged bitterly cold winters (like 2015) do those plants drop their leaves. Otherwise, they have year-round interest.
Winter 2017 back landscape
The very back of my landscape is where my glider benches flank the central garden flag. I disconnect and cover and all my garden hoses (3) during winter, and you can see one of them behind the hydrangeas in the above photo (far right). You can also see a glimpse of my maple tree just above the brick wall. Other plants visible are pansies (foreground), a lavender plant (behind flag), a cluster of English laurel (Otto Luyken, behind far left bench), and one of a group of three butterfly bushes (pruned, left of bench).
Winter 2017 daffodils emerging - too soon!
Imagine my surprise when I stepped outside on January 20th and my daffodils were already as pictured above! This is really early, too early I'm afraid, to be seeing what appears to be buds. These plants are in my front beds, closest to the river (read: warm). Grass is also sprouting outside the steel edging (reseeded late last fall after my summer annuals spilled over and killed the undergrowth).

If this warming trend keeps up, I may have to break out my new gloves soon and get busy outside. My sister gifted me the gloves pictured below this past Christmas, thinking they'd be helpful in warding off my proneness to poison ivy outbreaks. They're almost too pretty to wear in the dirt!
I'd be really surprised if winter stays as mild as it has been so far. I may have to start thinking about working some other species into my landscape mix. Maintaining year-round landscape interest is my goal, true of most gardeners. I may need to tap into my Southern friends' knowledge base to get some ideas for amending my regional climate twist. Maybe some camellia plantings?

Are you finding you're having to adjust your landscape plantings too? What are your favorite plantings for year-round interest? I'd love to hear your comments. If you love gardening as much as I do, feel free to explore my topic on my main menu, or search the labels (my garden, my landscape garden), or key those words into the search block on my sidebar. It's a favorite topic, hobby of mine. Let's share some dirt!

As always, thank you for your visit to my blog!
Rita C. at Panoply