Making the Most of the Long Wait for Building Permits

I had a lot of people reach out to me with comments and questions after I started my house reconstruction blog.  One of the questions I got was if I plan to live in it when the construction is done.  I’m not sure why that wasn’t clear, but yes, it will be my new primary home.  Unfortunately, since it is being fully gutted and renovated, I can’t live in it until the construction is mostly complete.  So, that sound you hear is the sound of me slowly going broke while I pay two mortgages.  I was doing fine when I only had one mortgage, but I ain’t exactly Rockefeller.

The toughest part of this whole process thus far has been waiting for the building permits from Union City to come through.  It took a while to even submit the plans in the first place.  My architect needed to rip into the walls to understand how the house was structured before he could finish his construction drawings.  Once that was done and they were submitted, the long process of waiting for the town to approve his drawings began.  Of course, the Union City building department rejected the drawings on all fronts last week.  It failed electrical, building, fire, and plumbing all in one shot.

I sat with my architect this week to go over the project.  He pointed out to me that almost every single item that was flagged when the inspectors rejected the plans was them either misunderstanding or missing something that was right in front of them in the drawings.  He has to answer to every one of their complaints, re-submit the drawings, and hope for the best the second time around as the wait will begin again.  I’m hoping it’s only three weeks but that’s wishful thinking.

To take my mind off of watching my checking and savings account balances slowly approach zero, I’ve been trying to make the most of the wait. My meeting with my architect was also to discuss the finish of the interior and how it will look when it is done.  Part of our agreement is that he is in charge of not only the construction design, but he is also an interior design consultant.

While doing my own reading on the subject of interior design, I came across the terms “traditional, “transitional”, and “modern”.  I asked my good friend June (who is an interior designer) what the three terms meant to her.  She told me traditional is exactly what it sounds like, something like The White House with lots of heavy and ornate woodwork.  Modern is the opposite of traditional with a minimal, abstract, and geometric look.  Transitional is a combination of the two.

After viewing thousands of pictures on line and visiting about a dozen showrooms over the past few months, I made the decision that I hated transitional and traditional, and want a modern look for my house.  I told my architect to run with that idea and he went to work on drawing up some renderings of what my modern home could look like.  He showed me the first pass of the renderings at our design meeting and I was elated.

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An overhead view of the great room.  Pictured from left to right, the living area, kitchen, and dining area.  The living area is the north side of the house.  The entrance from the backyard is off the living area, the entrance from the sidewalk is off the dining area.  A half bathroom is near the kitchen island.

 

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Standing in the dining area, looking north.

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Standing in the living area, looking south.

The pictures of the great room are a great start.  There was no way I could have dreamt this up on my own, I really needed my architect to take my feedback and come up with a design.  Now I have something to work with and tell him what I think.  We can iterate on his designs as many times as necessary.

The layout of the great room, from south to north, will be dining area, kitchen, and living area.   The entrance from the sidewalk is on the south to the dining area.  The entrance from the backyard is on the north from the living area. I felt that the kitchen, being the centerpiece of the entire room had to be a distinctive and eye-catching design, and that would shape the design of everything else.  In particular, the kitchen island has to jump out at you when you walk into the house.

What jumped out at me immediately when I looked at these pictures was that I really like the floor.  He went with a wide-plank hardwood floor with a light color.  Out of everything in this picture, I think I’ve settled on that design and color on first sight.  Everything else is off to a great start but will need some work.

One of the first things I noted to him was that I wanted to make a better statement with the lighting.  I don’t want to have just recessed lights across the ceiling, that seems kind of boring.  I would like to have some modern lighting elements over the dining room table, the island, and the couch.  He seemed to think that I should stick to recessed lighting over the island, but I asked him for some optionality.

The next thing that jumped out at me was the waterfall design of the island.  I learned the term “waterfall” at one of my many kitchen designer visits.  A waterfall is design when the countertop stone cascades down the sides of an island and reaches the floor.  I’m not sure exactly what kind of stone sample he used in his rendering, but this gave me a sense of how dramatic it can look with where the island is placed in the room.  I think that the stone selection I make is going to be one of the most critical design considerations in the entire house.

My architect also mentioned that he wanted a unique backsplash on the wall behind the kitchen counter.  Since it is an enclosed space, it lends itself to being somewhat eclectic.  He told me he would outright walk off the job if I selected a stone and glass mosaic.  Fair enough.  Pictured only in the view from the north, you can see that he selected a patterned Spanish tile for the backsplash.  I like where he is headed with that idea.

The colors of the walls have to change.  There’s no way that I’m going to settle for a sterile white for the walls.  I’d like something bright, bold, and not necessarily even neutral.  Again, I believe that I need to decide on the stone for the island, then the colors of the cabinets, and then the paint color for the walls and ceiling.

There isn’t anything along the east wall in the dining area right now.  I asked my architect to add some shelving for wine, liquor, and decorations.  I’m going to put a 55” television on the wall where that painting currently is.

These renderings don’t show the west wall.  I asked for a lot to be done there.  In the living area, I need a cabinet or shelves for my electronic equipment.  I’d like to frame out a 65” or 70” television in the center of the wall.  There needs to be some sort of functional or decorative elements along that wall so it isn’t just empty with a big TV hanging in the middle.

I also asked for book shelves along the west wall across from the island.  I have a big stash of cookbooks that I’d like to keep conveniently located in the kitchen.  I don’t, however, want them to distract from the look of the room and look cluttered so I’d like for them to be enclosed in cabinets so they can’t be seen unless the cabinets are open.  I also want to hang a 32” TV above the cabinets so I can watch TV while I’m prepping food on the island.

I’d also like to consider opening up the stairwell and not walling it off as it shows in the rendering from above.  I think it might function better for carrying large pieces of furniture up the stairs if it’s more open.  I think it will also make that area of the house seem bigger and airier.

Finally, in the living area, asked him to center the desk so that it is not right up against the refrigerator.  My computer will go on that desk and I’ll have a swivel chair there so I can turn around and watch TV easily.

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Overhead view of the second floor.  The master bedroom suite, along with a bathroom and a walk-in closet, is pictured on the left.  The small bedroom is in the center.  The main bathroom is to the right of the small bedroom.  A larger bedroom is in the front of the house, pictured right.

The upstairs is going to be less visually stimulating, and mostly just functional.  Even still, I’m very excited to see the initial rendering he gave me.  On the west side of the second floor (the left on the picture) is the master bedroom suite with a bathroom and a walk in closet (both on the top left).  To give an idea of scale, that is a king sized bed in the bedroom.

The bedroom in the middle is going to be the smallest one of the three. It will have a closet and room for a queen sized bed.  I haven’t decided what I’m actually going to do with this room yet, maybe I’ll take up a new hobby and stage it in this room.  Or maybe I’ll just treat it as an attic and use it for storage.

The closet right outside the master bedroom is actually going to be where the washer and dryer are. That didn’t come across in the rendering but we are going to run gas, water, exhaust, and a drain to that room.  I’m glad that I don’t have to haul laundry all the way down to the basement.

The main bathroom is just off the hallway at the top of the stairs.  It’ll have a linen closet just outside of it, and I’m tinkering with the idea of fitting it for cat litter boxes should I decide to become a cat owner again.

Finally, in the front of the house (pictured top right) will be the third bedroom in the house.  This space doesn’t currently exist, right now it is just open air over the front enclosed porch.  This one will have substantial closet space and room to move around.

While all this planning is happening, my contractor got to work with the interior demolition.  While we didn’t get the building permits yet, the town did grant us a permit to begin non-structural demo.  He’s stripped away most of the walls and ceilings, and hauled most of it away.  We can’t get a dumpster in front of the house because there is a handicapped spot that belongs to my neighbor in the way.  My contractor figured out some way to hire a guy to show up with a pick-up truck to haul away trash on an on-demand basis.  He claims he got a good deal and that’s the price isn’t that much different than if we had gone the dumpster route.

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They told me when I bought the house that it had “good bones”.  I guess.

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Here lies the remains of the ugly pink bathroom.

The demolition only took a few days but it was good that it got done.  Once the building permits are ready to go, I’d like for the construction crew to be ready to get started quickly.  There will be more demolition that needs to be done as some structural parts are going to be removed, and the entire exterior will be stripped, but that can’t start under the conditions of our current permit.

With all this planning underway, I feel like I have at least a fighting chance of working through the overwhelming amount of details and decisions that will have to be made during the construction finishing process.  I need to get my head around how the house is going to be wired, for TV, data, sound, security, smart outlets, and smart lighting.  Maybe I can Google all that while I can still afford to pay my ISP bill.

This is going to take a long time…

Comments

  1. Nice vision! I will follow this from France!
    Browsing through kitchen redo for inspiration and tips 🙂
    https://eugeniestreet.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/brainstorming-a-kitchen/

    Like

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