Monday, March 28, 2011

The Final Kitchen

I earlier did a work-in-progress post on the kitchen counters and cabinets; now I'm happy to report the final result! First, a couple photos:

Here are the additions since the last post:

  • Lighting: We choose the Gregg Suspension by Foscarini for the three pendant lights over the island. This was a bit of a splurge for us, but we loved the organic dinosaur egg shape. We choose to have a consistent theme in the house where all our non-recessed fixtures are pure white shapes of glass illuminated from within, without any adornments of any kind. This is also a good opportunity to mention the Castore Suspension by Artemide that we put over the nearby dining table. We managed to get a floor model at the Seattle Artemide store half off!

  • Kitchen Faucet: We used the Interaktiv S by Hansgrohe. This was another fixture that we bought on Ebay at a significant discount; I think Ebay is a good choice for a few key, expensive items, IF you have a good nose for ferreting out dodgy sellers.
  • Appliances: I already mentioned the BlueStar range and kitchen sink in the earlier post. We then added Bosch appliances: a French door refrigerator, a combination convection microwave/oven, and a dishwasher. Choosing a convection oven was key for me, and I'm already loving the browning I can get from it. Since we didn't have room for two ovens, I choose a microwave that can double as an oven. I ideally wanted a microwave that could convection broil, as well, since I often want to hit something with a quick broil while the oven is roasting at a lower temp, but alas, the price bump for this feature was too much for me. For ventilation, we have a Broan internal blower up in the roof and a Broan 36" hood above the range. I was hoping for a bigger whoosh of air from the 1,100 CFM, but it works reasonably well none the less.
  • Backsplash: Behind the cooktop we went with two solid pieces of back-painted tempered glass above and below the upper cabinets. This choice was more expensive than we wanted (almost $30 a sq ft. installed). But, it kept the gray monolithic look of the interior plaster on the other side of the wall, and is very easy to clean (which I've already taken advantage of, since I'm still getting used to the real heat of the Bluestar and caused a mini grease fountain the other day).
We also have a large pantry behind the kitchen for additional storage. Anyways, that's the wrap on our design of the kitchen! It turned out great, with one small caveat. The black veneer of the cabinets is easy to ding or scratch, and these show up very easily on the reflective black.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Here are some details on the interior design of our bathrooms. We decided to use the same finishes in both full bathrooms, and a different set of finishes for the two powders.

As a space-saving measure, our master bathroom is designed to be continuous with our bedroom; it was otherwise challenging to fit three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large master closet in one level of our tight building footprint. Here is the view from our bedroom:

As you can see, there's a lot going on in a tight space. At the back are three black Milgard aluminum windows, looking out onto exterior siding (we plan to frost these windows for privacy). Moving from back to front, we have two floating mirrors with Itre Cubi wall lights mounted on them (unfortunately not illuminated in this image). Then, we have the same white Quantra quartz used in our kitchen on the backsplash and counter. The floating cabinets are Pacific Crest Amero with Metro doors, and the undermount sinks (great for cleaning) are Kohler Verticyl; these are the most rectangular sinks we could find to help maintain our right-angled theme. The faucets are Grohe Essence, which I managed to snag on Ebay for a great deal (a bit scary, but it worked out). The cabinet pulls are Ikea. The black wood-look floor tile is Anne Sacks Xylem in Ebony.

Here are some close-ups.

To the right of the double-sink is the shower/tub, which is fully enclosed in glass. We had originally planned on an open shower without a door, but we were worried about splashes and cold drafts. This much shower glass cost quite a bit, unfortunately.

Inside the enclosure, all of our hardware is from Danze, which is an affordable brand with lots of modern options. We have a wall shower, rainhead, and hand shower; each can be on or off, so there is a separate dial to select between the 8 possibilities (maybe not the best interface). The wall tile is Metro by Arizona Tile, sold locally by Statements.

You can see the lack of a floor threshold between the shower and the rest of the bathroom, as well as the storied linear drain above. It turned out great, but was it worth the extra cost? Hard to say. Finally, within the shower enclosure we have the Kohler Archer jetted tub, with its own filler. This is probably the only affordable and reasonably modern jetted tub available, at least that we could find.

We used the same tub, without jets and with an integral apron, in the kids bathroom. We would have preferred a tiled apron rather than plastic, but in yet another oddity of the plumbing world, it turns out that alcove tubs without aprons are remarkably expensive. Getting an alcove-style tub with an integral "tile bead" (basically a raised lip) is important, however, for waterproofing in a combined shower/tub, so we just went with the integral apron.

To the right of the tub is a Toto Acquia II dual-flush toilet, which we used in all bathrooms.

Finally, the two powder rooms. We used floating countertops of Quantra quartz, but otherwise tried to keep costs low, here. Remarkably, our cheap sinks and faucets turned out higher quality than we expected. The vessel sink is by Kraus, and the faucet by Vigo. That faucet cost less than a nice dinner, but the quality is surprisingly good!

Phew. Bathrooms involve a lot of choices, I almost forgot how many until I wrote this post. Overall, though, we're really happy with how it all turned out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moved In!

We moved in this past wednesday! I apologize for the lack of updates, the last month has been absolutely crazy. Between dealing with all the last minute issues, putting in some sweat equity by installing all the closets myself, and moving, I haven't had the chance to blog. Our house was also featured this past Sunday in the Seattle Tour of Architects, so we had to be unpacked and clean-looking in fours days!

Anyways, I still plan to do careful posts on all the decisions we've made, so don't worry. We've shot some pictures, and you can see a gallery here.

So, for my first post-move post, let's talk about how the concrete floors turned out. First, a couple pictures.

In the end, they turned out great, but it was quite a saga with several sleepless nights (building a house is stressful!). The bamboo floors were banged out in one day, but concrete is a much more complicated beast. Once we finally took up all the protective coverings, things didn't look so hot. There was a "runway" down the middle of the room caused by the boundaries of the protective paper.

There were also long tape marks, and boot marks(!) in the living room. The first hope was that a light sand, at 80 grit, would lift most of it up, but that wasn't the case. Our concrete finisher, Maverick Specialty, told us that the marks were fairly deep in the concrete. Our options were to sand deeper down, which would expose aggregate and give a pebbly look, or to apply a stain. I was pretty worried about the idea of stain, since most stained concrete floors are a highly variegated brown created by acid staining, rather than a natural concrete look. However, this stain was acrylic, and could be done in a natural gray. We put down two light coats; the result is that you can still see the natural patterns of concrete through the stain, but the offensive marks now blend in and can only be seen if you know what to look for. After staining, we put down a sealer (Scofield SelectSeal-W) and several coats of glossy floor wax (Diversey Vectra). The end result looks great.

So, what are the lessons from our experience with the concrete floors? There are several:

1. Concrete floors always have marks and other patterns which give it a somewhat industrial look (unless you polish the floors, which is a whole different thing, and more expensive). When you see the pictures in Dwell with beautiful minimalist concrete floors, realize that if you looked at them up close you'd probably notice more defects than you can see in the picture.
2. I always thought concrete floors were cheap, but that's not really the case. In the end, our strand-woven bamboo floors on the second floor were cheaper. Once you include pouring, prepping, and sealing, you're probably looking $9-$10 a square foot, whereas woven bamboo will run $6 installed (more on that flooring, later). Of course, for the ground floor, if you're already pouring a slab anyways, finishing concrete is cheaper than adding another flooring.
3. Get a decorative concrete guy involved early on, so he can make sure the floors are properly protected from other trades. For the first two weeks after pour, nothing should be left on the concrete (objects leave shadows during curing), workers should wear booties, and so on.

In the end we're happy with our concrete floors; they're pretty, and have great thermal mass for the radiant heat. But I lost a lot of hair over them!