Completed Kitchen

This post first appeared on Brownstoner on September 23, 2014

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The summer has been incredibly busy. The house is about 90 percent complete. Due to budget constraints the garden will have to wait until next year. But the good news is that the kitchen is finished! Last we left off, I had picked out a marble countertop. I’ve been living with the marble for almost a month now and so far so good. Two dinner parties with lots of red wine and accidental lemon spills and the marble is still going strong.

The marble countertop was installed by the fabricator and the entire process took about an hour. At the end of the installation the team applied a professional grade sealant on the marble. Sealant is key to keeping marble mostly stain free. It has also helped that I picked a slab of marble with lots of imperfections. My slab was already flawed, what’s a few stains here and there? Plus it was much cheaper!

The cabinets are Ikea, which I’m less than thrilled with at the moment. I already need to replace one of the drawers due to poor alignment. The dishwasher and refrigerator are both Fisher Paykel and are floor models purchased on eBay at about 60 percent off retail. The stove is NXR and was purchased at Costco. The wood floating shelves were custom made.

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Finished Bathrooms

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This post first appeared on Brownstoner.com on November 17, 2014

Designing the bathrooms in a narrow house was a challenge. One option was to forgo having an office to accommodate a massive long master bathroom. I’ve never been the type of person that needed a huge home or bathroom — and I always wondered who were those people on HGTV that insisted on having double vanities. So the smaller but fully functional master bath won out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The en suite master bath is in no way tiny. It does have a tub and standing shower but there isn’t much room in there except for the necessities and I’m fine with that. The master floor tiles came from a company in California. I searched high and low for inexpensive patterned concrete tiles and there isn’t such a thing.

And the electrician put the bathroom sconce too low. To remedy that problem, I need to a find a horizontal medicine cabinet.

To save on costs, the new guest bathroom is actually an existing bathroom off the hall in the old house configuration. Crazy how much money you can save by not moving plumbing. The downside is that things are really tight but cozy. The Moroccan-inspired floor tiles in the guest bathroom, pictured above, were also pricey but luckily I didn’t need a lot. And at the store where I purchased them, if your designer or architect places the order then you get a 10 to 15 percent discount, depending on the style. The wall tiles are from Overstock.com.

I’m debating adding a shower enclosure to the claw foot tub. Reviews from my few overnight guests have been mixed. My mom loved not having an enclosure, as did my friends who stayed over with their kids. But another set of friends said the current setup was awkward. But I must say, I love not sharing a bathroom with guests. Continue reading

Bed Stuy Reno: First 203K Inspection

This post first appeared on Brownstoner on December 12, 2013- as part of our cross blogging partnership

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From the contractor’s perspective, the 203K inspection is probably the single most important part of the 203K process. The contractor doesn’t get paid for his work until an inspection actually takes place.

But let’s take a step back. The 203K inspection is the official FHA inspection of the property, and it can only be done by the 203K consultant. When applying for the 203K loan, you are required to select a consultant. Based on budget and the scope of work, the consultant determines the number of “draws.” Draws are the total number of payments and inspections.

My project has a total of five draws. I selected my consultant based on the feedback I got on Brownstoner Forum last year. My consultant has been great and even gave tips to make the process go more smoothly.

When to schedule a draw? How it works is that your contractor will complain to you about how he’s low on cash and then you will tell him he needs to finish more stuff before you call the consultant. (I’m only slightly joking about this.) Prior to the first inspection, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

I frantically emailed Pamela from the blog So We’re Buying a House! and asked a million questions, such as “do I have to fill out this crazy FHA form?” Pamela patiently answered all my questions by telling me not to worry about the inspection, and that the consultant will complete all the forms and he will determine the percentage of work completed.

The day of the consultant’s visit my contractor actually cleaned up! Cleaning is not his strong point but I was impressed that there were no longer paint cans and equipment just laying around. (Above, one of the kitchens about four or five weeks into construction. It looks totally different now.)

The consultant came and took lots of photos of all the work and asked the contractor questions. The entire process took about 30 to 45 minutes. A day or two later the consultant sent me and the contractor the official report reflecting the amount of work completed to date and the amount the contractor is to be paid by the bank.  The owner and the contractor both have to sign the form. The form is then sent to the bank by the consultant, and like magic a check arrives that you and the contractor both sign.

And all is well for a couple weeks until your contractor starts complaining about getting paid again. Next up: How to find a contractor for a 203K renovation.

Shower is almost done…with the correct tile

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The shower is almost done which is the good news. But I’m starting to feel that no one listens to me. I told the guys to use black grout on all the rental kitchen back-splashes,  hell, I even went to Home Depot and purchased the grout myself. I went to the house today and guess what color the grout is? White of course! I asked Carlo why did he use white grout when I explicitly told him to use black grout. His answer: “What?! You wanted black grout with white tiles? That makes no sense” Well, it seems that Carlo is also an interior designer. Anyway, I told him to make sure they use the black grout in the one bedroom kitchen. I also think it looks weird that they extended the backsplash to the side wall but at this point I’m willing to pick my battles.

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Always check the tile box…ALWAYS

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A few weeks ago, my contractor changed the configuration of the studio bathroom.  The new configuration actually works better than the original plan.  When he changed the plan  I asked him to let me know how much more tile he needed.  In all honesty, I didn’t push the issue and looking back I should have been more proactive and had the measurements taken on the spot. Well, I didn’t do that and last week I got a frantic call from the project manager that they needed more tile ASAP.  I went to the tile store to reorder the tile.  The tile arrives the next day and my project manager goes and picks up the tile. I come by the house later the following day and to my horror the guys are putting up the wrong tile. Seems that the tile store filled the order with the wrong tile and the contractor nor the project manager checked the box before leaving the store or even before bringing it to the house.

All this was made worse because the previous day I had conversations with the project manger and the contractor about being proactive and being able to order things like tile correctly without me being involved.  Anyway, I made the guys take down the incorrect tile but the tile store is orthodox and therefor not open on Friday and Saturday.  I waited until Sunday to make the changes and asked them to check the boxes twice.  The guys are going to put up the correct tile tomorrow, I’ll keep you posted.