Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

Choose a Topic:

Sat
29
Jan '11

Y’all Building a Pond?

Yep, that’s right, we’re building a see-ment pond, rye-cheer in our new front yard! Sorry, no, it may look that way, but we’re not that southern…yet. As you can probably tell from the pictures, below, the landscaping work has started. Yay! We really don’t have that much landscaping since the house is only about 23′ from the street and the side and back yards are 40 degree slopes. Everything will be bark, barked beds, gravel, or stone — super low maintenance and not a blade of grass. If one appears I’ll declare it a weed and will pull it asap.

So, if that “pond” isn’t a swimming pool for the bears, then what’s with the big pit that we dug out in the front yard and lined with boulders? Well, I just asked Valerie, and this very moment she brain-stormed a name. She hereby christenes it: “Pizza Stadium.” It’s where her pizza oven will sit, recessed down about 18″, backed up to a berm, with a gravel floor surrounded by big rocks where you, us, and I’m sure the neighbors, can sit while our pizzas bake. Love it.

Our landscaper, Jeff Seitz, owner of Appalachian Creek Nursery, is shown in a couple pictures directing Jeff Nelson on the trackhoe where to place the the boulders. He’s worked with Valerie to design a great plan for our little space. Lots of native, low maintenance plants. And, did I mention, no grass?!

 

 

Two other notable events this week…we have our garage doors and our gutters. The garage doors are custom, locally built, out of pacific northwest cedar. Believe it or not, they were actually less expensive than the Costco price from a national vendor, and they’re way prettier, too. The gutters over the front door are copper. Take a good look at the picture as that’s the shiniest they will ever be. The Statue of Liberty is copper. It’s hard to say what sort of patina they’ll take on, but that’s their charm. The couple other gutters we have, over the deck and over the back door, are brownish-black to match the eaves, but they’re round, too. It’s a great look and goes really well with the house. The downspouts in the back are 35′ long! The water ought to be going Mach 1 by the time it reaches the ground. Look out below!

 

Thu
27
Jan '11

Tiling and Painting

I haven’t blogged specifically about progress on the house because it’s been slow and boring, lately. Tiling and painting, tiling and painting. Poor Gary (now, more like rich Gary) has been camped out in our shower for several weeks. It’s a pretty complicated tile job with a vertical brick pattern and lots of glass inserts. And, he’s not been tiling every day, 8 hours a day. It’s been more like half-time because the weather has been making him really inefficient. Huh? What would the weather have to do with tiling a shower? Well, he has to cut lots of tile and he sets up his big wet messy tile saw in the front yard. Snow and below freezing temps make that impractical work so recently he’s only been “on the job” a couple days a week. He’s put on the miles, too, since the shower is on the upper floor. Each and every cut means a trip down the stairs, outside, and back, wash, rinse, repeat. Thankfully, as of today, the shower is almost done, just a couple more pieces remain before grouting. Then, it’s on to the kitchen backsplash.

Woody is a painting machine. I joke that he’s been on our payroll since Thanksgiving…and, now that I think about it, that’s no joke. I remember asking Steve if one guy could really paint our entire house – windows, doors, trim, ceilings, walls, even the exterior eaves. He said yes, that he always does, that Woody doesn’t trust other people’s work and he’d rather do it himself. So, here we are, less than 30 days from (scheduled) completion and he’s painting painting painting. The windows are done, the interior doors are mostly done, the baseboard and trim is mostly done, and he’s now painting the walls in the basement. This week I asked Steve if he thought Woody was going to make it. He said that he recently told Woody, “I have 30 days…and that means you have less.” Cute. My personal back-of-the-envelope schedule says that he has two weeks. We’ll see.

Tiling and painting.

Comments Off

Mon
24
Jan '11

Viral Video

Around noon, today, we’re at Horizon Tile picking up a few extra pieces of tile we need for the shower. We’re talking with Tim and Rick and joking because Tim has noticed that I always lock our car doors when we come in the store even though we park 10′ from the front door. Tim says we still have that “big city” mentality. We proceed to tell them about our little flag incident, being on TV, etc. Two women are looking at tile across the store. One of them comes over and asks, “Are you the flag people? The ones building a house on Town Mountain?” Why, yes, we are. We ask if they saw the story on TV. Nope, they heard about it on the radio. The morning DJs on Kiss Country 99.9 picked up the story and ran it as their “DA of the Day” (DA stands for Dumb Ass). Here’s the link (scroll down on the left side)… It takes a special kind of stupid to steal an American Flag.

Comments Off

Sun
23
Jan '11

Slow News Day in a Small Town

“Flag Thief” was the top story on WLOS Channel 13 at 6:00 and 11:00.

“A thief is caught in the act on surveillance video outside an Asheville home. For the homeowners, it’s what the bold criminal stole that has them scratching their heads. Ron Patton and his wife are building a home off Town Mountain Road. The house is under construction, so they have security cameras mounted to protect some equipment and material.  But there’s one item they weren’t expecting to protect: their American flag.  The couple caught a woman ripping their flag from a pole on camera. They say the flag has little monetary value, but much symbolic meaning.”

Without pictures it didn’t happen, right? So, here’s a link to the WLOS video…

Sat
22
Jan '11

Scum of the Earth Caught on Video

Front door video from 8:09pm last night. It doesn’t get much lower than stealing an American flag by ripping it off the pole.

P.S. 1/23/2010. Last night I forwarded the video to the Asheville police and WLOS Channel 13. No reply from the police (I really didn’t want or expect one, just FYI) but reporter Katie Killen called me back about 10pm. She said they “were all sitting around the office watching the video in disbelief” and want to run a story on it. She and a cameraman are coming out to the house at 3:00 today. Valerie’s in hiding. Asheville’s a small town. Maybe a friend or relative will recognize this woman. A little public embarrassment and humiliation would be proper punishment. News at 11:00.

Fri
21
Jan '11

You know you’re getting older when…

You go to the mailbox and inside is the monthly AARP Bulletin and Reader’s Digest. The former is Valerie’s and the latter is a new gift subscription from my parents.

Thu
20
Jan '11

Is this a spec house?

Valerie was at the house this afternoon meeting the cabinet delivery guys. While she was standing in the front yard talking to our landscaper a “well-to-do” looking woman drove up in a nice car, rolled down the window and asked Valerie’s nightmare question…”Is this a spec house?” Valerie picked up a 2×4, ran over and chased the woman down the street. No, really, she just screamed, “HELL NO! Get out of here and don’t you EVER come back!” No really, our landscaper politely told her that it was built for owners. The lady said she liked the ”angles” of our house, said thank you, and left.

Valerie is sooo done with building a house. There’s no price she would take to sell this one and do it all over again. Okay, she did say she has a price but it involves a very extended stay on a tropical island.

Good thing I wasn’t there. To the lady’s question, “Is this a spec house?” I’da replied, “It could be…”

Sun
16
Jan '11

The Great Stairwell Light Project

Our new house has a three story stairwell that runs from the master bedroom down to the foyer then down to the family room. It’s similar to what’s in apartment buildings where the stairs wrap around, come to a landing at a floor, then wrap around some more. Within the stairs is an opening of about four feet square that goes all the way from the cathedral ceiling to the bottom floor.

 

We arrived at this design because we had two requirements for our architect: One, we didn’t want a stairway smack in your face when you walked in the front door. That design, so popular in both old and new houses, always seemed strange to us. Guests never walk in your front door and go directly up the stairs to your bedrooms (well, maybe yours do!?) so why place the stairs like that? And two, if our stairs were in a central location and were highly visible, then they should be aesthetic, not just carpeted 2-by-10’s with painted 2-by-2 balusters. What we ended up with is fantastic. Our stairs are a show-piece and actually something we’d be proud to let people see.

All along, though, even back when we were reviewing initial sketches from the architect, we knew that lighting the stairs would be a challenge. What we would need is a multi-story fixture that hangs from the center point in the ceiling with lights hung at increasing lengths from 7’ down to 27’ – sort of a miniature (and less ornate and pretentious) version of what’s hanging in the Biltmore House.

 

If you go to Lighting Universe you’ll see that they have 16,431 chandeliers and 10,566 large pendants. I looked at the pictures for each and every one (seriously, I did, and even more at Lighting Direct). None of them would work. No one made such a unique light fixture, and worse, any fixture that even approached the size we needed was many many thousands of dollars. We couldn’t go there, but my search did get me thinking. You might say…a light bulb went on. We have season passes to the Biltmore. I remember the old Johnny Cash song about stealing a GM Cadillac in a lunch box “one piece at a time and it didn’t cost me a dime.” Hmmm. Maybe the Biltmore staff wouldn’t notice.

Unfortunately, that plan was a no-go because we needed a light in February, not in ten years…but I was on the right track. I’m a handy guy, I occasionally read Make magazine, maybe I could just build a light fixtures from pieces and parts…

I scoured Lighting Direct and Lighting Universe for ideas. I found a 21” canopy (the flat part that mounts to the ceiling) from LBL Lighting that supports seven pendants. The problem was that it claimed to only be compatible with their pendant lights – and their lights were way too expensive, especially times seven. But, what did they mean by “compatible?” It turns out that it’s all about the strain relief/bushing that the wire passes through into the canopy. Different manufactures use different size bushings and wire. Some thicker, some thinner. Okay, what if I replaced the canopy’s bushings and the wire with my own? Enter Grand Brass Lamp Parts. If you need a lamp part, they have it, no matter how obscure – armbacks, bodies, finials, flanges, swivels, nipples, nozzles, wire, and strain reliefs! They have everything one would need to construct the Biltmore chandelier from scratch – and maybe, just maybe, what I would need to build our stairwell light.

One problem remained and that was the decorative glass pendants. I still needed to find something at a reasonable price (notice I didn’t say “look good’) that could safely and securely attach to the ends of the wires. Enter Lowes. Yes, surprisingly, big-box hardware store Lowes. They sell configurable pendant lights that are fairly cheap. You buy a canopy/cord/socket set and pick one of their many decorative glass globes that are “compatible” (yah!) to screw on the end. I purchased a set and brought it home to dismantle. The light wasn’t made to be taken apart, but with the help of a utility knife, small needlenose pliers, and an itty bitty screwdriver, it did, and I found that the wire from Grand Brass Lamp Parts would attach perfectly. Back to Lowes to look at the glass options.

We didn’t like any of them.

Well, they were fine, and they were inexpensive, but they weren’t ideal, especially when there would be seven of them and we would have to like them forever and ever until we die. But there was this other pendant hanging nearby that was pretty cool. It was made from alabaster-like rock chips all fused together. It came with an “attached at the factory” canopy and cord (which I’ll throw away) and was just a few dollars more. After tearing it apart on the Lowes floor (they just love me) I decided that it would work just fine.

[Stay with me, there’s more, but we’re almost done…]

So I bought the two lights they had in stock thinking that I could pilfer the rest from the other three Lowes stores within driving distance. The next day I stopped at the south-side Lowes. They had three lights on the shelf but they were in red boxes, the two I had came in black boxes. I popped the lids and they looked okay so I brought them home. That night I unpacked them and set them up on the dining room table next to the other lights. Rats. These “red box” lights had entirely different alabaster chips from the first two. One had chips about ¼ the size of the others and another had very few chips and was mostly resin filler. Worse, when I darkened the room and put a flashlight in each one it was obvious that the resins were a different color. The manufacture didn’t just change boxes, it changed look of the lights.

I didn’t know which was newer, the black boxes or the red boxes, or when our nearby Lowes restocked which ones they would get. So, yesterday we went scavenger hunting for lights. Luckily, between the three Asheville Lowes and the Weaverville Lowes we found seven lights that are pretty consistent in their looks – all from black boxes. The only alabaster chip lights remaining within 30 miles of Asheville are red box versions – in case you’re looking, too.

Today I spent a few hours drilling out the canopy strain reliefs, replacing them with new ones that fit the new wire, and stringing out the seven cables – 9’, 11’, 15’, 19’, 21’, 25’, and 29’. Good thing I bought a 150’ roll! Tomorrow I’ll disassemble all the lights down to their raw parts and toss their canopies and wires. So far everything seems to fit together nicely. After the electricians hang the new canopy (I don’t know how they’ll get up there to do that) I’ll attach the lights to the ends of the dangling cables and flip the switch. My contraption should look pretty nice.

It’s been an adventure. A great problem to solve. Sort of fun, actually. And the best thing is, to quote Johnny cash, “…I’ll have the only one there is around.”

  

Comments Off

Thu
13
Jan '11

Snow Falling Off a Metal Roof

The weather continues to set records in Asheville for cold and snow. Things have pretty much been shut down the last few days; no school, no business, and no sub-contractors working on the Patton house. Oh, well. We have six weeks to finish.

While twiddling our thumbs waiting for the big thaw we did discover something interesting about snow on a metal roof. Check out the pictures, below. We don’t have gutters installed yet (and we only plan to have them over the doors and the deck). As the temperature warms, the snow is slowly sliding off the roof and curling back towards the house. It’s a really neat effect. Physics! Next year we’ll be able to watch it happen from the comfort of our living room.

  

Sat
8
Jan '11

Who Stole my Chocolate Éclair ?

This morning we ran some errands and stopped at Blue Water Seafood for lunch. It’s right next to City Bakery so on the way to the car Valerie picked up a loaf of bread and a chocolate éclair for me (I must have been a good boy this week). Our next stop was Office Max to take advantage of their big sale and buy our new desk and filing cabinet. We parked out front, put the bread and éclair on the dash and, since it was a nice day, left the windows down a couple inches. We ended up staying in Office Max a good half hour deciding which desk and color we wanted. When we got back to the car I immediately noticed that the loaf of bread was askew and, more importantly, my chocolate éclair was gone! I opened the door and looked around. The small wax paper bag was on the seat and the paper wrapping was on the floor. There were a few remnants of custard on the paper but otherwise it was clean as new. Some pastry thief must have reached in through the open window and stole my éclair leaving the wrappings behind! The weird thing is that Serena was in the back seat the entire time and apparently let the burglar commit the crime. Since she’s not talking we’ll never know how it all went down.

Fri
7
Jan '11

Change #2

Back in November I blogged about a  couple changes we made to the house. One was the countertops; that was really just a change of thinking, we didn’t have to undo or redo something. The other was me tearing out the window seat in the master bedroom. That was officially change #1. Today was change #2.

The beauty of a new house that looks as if it was ”built over time” is that (for the most part) you can’t be wrong. It’s okay that the pantry and screened porch look like they were added on. Having the garage separate from the house is a design goal. Putting stained wood windows and doors in the living room and painted ones elsewhere makes sense. The look and feel doesn’t have to be consistent. It’s part of the charm.

The downside is that you can’t make one decision that applies everywhere. You can’t say, “white baseboard, windows, and trim, throughout.” That’s too easy. You need to think about each room, individually, make it its own, but also loosely tie it in to the other rooms. With nothing being consistent, sometimes those decisions can go awry or get lost in translation…like with our foyer.

The interior doors arrived this week and Steve began installing them. They are all (except for those in the foyer) paint-grade poplar. We plan on painting them a light brown. The windows are being painted the same brown (except for the living and foyer) but the trim throughout the house is an off-white (except in the living and foyer). The living room and foyer will have cherry windows, doors, and trim. Somehow, someway, the doors for the foyer arrived with cherry panels and paint-able poplar jambs and trim. Miscommunication, misorder, don’t know, but it’s what was delivered. Now, this scheme can work. We’ve seen several houses with stained doors with painted trim that looks really sharp. Steve hung the doors in our foyer and…they didn’t look sharp. Ugly would be more like it. It’s hard to say why, but for this room they need to be cherry doors with cherry trim. And, the windows in the adjacent stairwell, which were primed in white, need to be brown. So, Steve has re-ordered the door jambs/trim for the elevator closet, powder room, and coat closet and will need to remove and rehang the the new ones (he calls it job security). We halted Woody on painting them and caught him just in time before he painted the windows. Beige walls with white windows, doors, and trim would have been so much easier… I wonder what change #3 will be?

Comments Off

Wed
5
Jan '11

Orbs Under the Deck

OK, so what is this thing flying around under our deck in the middle of the night? It lights up brightly under IR light, hovers and moves like a hummingbird, but is out at night, in January, when it’s 20 degrees?

Comments Off

Tue
4
Jan '11

We Have a Date

Well, well, well. We have a date for completion…sort of. Last February, before we started construction Steve took out the builder’s risk insurance policy on our house. He recently received a letter from his agent telling him that the policy expires on February 25. Steve doesn’t want to extend the insurance or buy another policy so we need to have our CO (certificate of occupancy) by then. Sounds like a date to me.

On a parallel track, we need to lock in our mortgage interest rate. We can do that up to 60 days before completion. Yes, that’s sort of like saying, “turn 5 miles before the dead-end.” How do you really know until you’re already there? But, since we have a February 25 insurance date and that’s currently 53 days from today, I guess we can lock in anytime.

Of course, when I look around, there’s still a ton of work left to do. The deck isn’t done (still need about 10 boards put down), the deck stairs need built (that’ll take a week), the peak still needs siding, the deck and retaining wall railings need installed, the window trim needs finished, then the baseboard, all the painting, wood floor finishing, electrical and plumbing fixture installation, final grading, landscaping, driveway, stone caps on the retaining walls, garage doors, HVAC, generator, closets, oh my. A lot of this can happen in parallel. It has to. And, that reminds me, I need to order all the lights! 

P.S. In the Author section on the left side of this page it talks about our 22 month adventure. Long ago, before my heart surgery, it said 18 months. Today, I changed it to 26. But, who’s counting? I also thought it was appropriate to put the ”Moving” tag on this post in addition to the “Construction” tag. Get them doggies movin’.

Comments Off

Mon
3
Jan '11

Charlotte Cheap Eats

We made a road trip to Charlotte and back, today, to visit Reeves Store Fixtures, IKEA, Costco, and a couple lighting stores. Serena spent the day at Happy Tails. We got an early start and skipped breakfast figuring we’d pick some up along the way. We’re not big fast-food fans so I drove past all the McDonalds and Bojangles, then all the IHOPs and Waffle Houses. Didn’t see a Cracker Barrel. The miles ticked off and two hours later we were in Charlotte at the IKEA…and starving. Did you know they serve a “big breakfast” of scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and French toast sticks for $1.99? We’re talking Red Cross Sysco Foods quality, but hey, a buck ninety nine. Shoulda bought an extra. Time to shop.

We ended up spending over three hours in IKEA! Yikes. We had lots to investigate…pantry countertops and legs, guest bedroom furniture, storage accessories, and more. Two interesting scores: Valerie bought a stainless steel pivoting bath towel holder that she’s going to use in her kitchen, not as a towel holder, but as a hanger for her freshly made pasta (Alton Brown would be proud). I bought two 36″ undercabinet LED kitchen lights for $35 each. If you’ve looked at undercabinet LED lights you know this is a great deal. The closest greengouging price I could find for something comparable was $130. These are so new they aren’t in the online catalog. Thank you IKEA.

Because we stayed so long at IKEA we had to rush since we had to pick up Serena by 7:00. We tried to go to the “famous” Penguins Restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives but found out it’s closed. Argh. Short on time we only had one option – the $1.50 Polish dog and pizza slice at Costco. Valerie loves me. Total food bill for the day: $11 and change. At least we balanced out the “bad” food with Valerie’s scrumptious homemade beef and barley soup when we got home.

Sat
1
Jan '11

Happy New Year and Ta Dah!

There’s an old saying about what you’re doing on New Year’s Eve (or New Years Day) is what you’ll be doing the rest of the year. Gawd I hope not. Last night at 9:30 I was re-installing the toilet in Camp Bell’s master bath and at 11:30 Valerie was painting the baseboard in the kitchen. We were on a mission to “finish” the last major work on Camp Bell by the stroke of midnight. We did! Yeah! Bow and wave to the crowd. It’s a huge accomplishment and we have truly transformed (“lovingly updated” in realtor-eze) Camp Bell in the last 12 months. The word “finish” is in quotes because although we can claim that the major projects are done there are still several little things left to do…putting a fresh coat of paint on the front and back door, installing new cabinet knobs in the kitchen, properly venting a pipe in the attic, and setting some popped nails on the deck, etc…but the big projects are history. After we move out and before we put Camp Bell up for sale we’re going to have all the windows and the carpets professionally cleaned, give the kitchen cabinets a good scrubbing, and then ride off into the sunset (okay, actually to the north) to our new home. Happy New Year! Anyone want to buy a “lovingly restored home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Asheville’s highly desirable Ballantree subdivision”?

Comments Off