Tuesday, November 28, 2006
After seven months of planning, dreaming and lots of hard work, we have moved from our home in Sleepy Hollow (Chicago) to our new house across the bay and over the hills from San Francisco. We spent Thanksgiving Weekend Driving across the country with our two dogs and cat. The moving trucks will arrive tomorrow and the next day.
It wasn’t easy leaving our home on Pine Lake (www.pineconelane.com ) or our good friends in the area. Yet, the new house is going to be fantastic when we are finished with it. It is ideally situated on 2 acres of land along the Las Trampas Range and nearly every room has fantastic views of Mt. Diablo and the valley below. The terraced gardens, the pool and the outdoor entertaining areas are superb. I am especially delighted to be in the East Bay, which is pretty much foodie paradise and a gardener's delight as well.
The house itself is great, but we have done a lot of renovation work already and there is much more to come. The kitchen had not been touched since building the house in 1975, and after spending two years building my dream kitchen in Sleepy Hollow, it was a hard sell to get me to move into a place that would need a complete gut re-hab job. But when I considered the other homes we looked at, none of which had the amazing views or a truly good kitchen (not one came close really) , it was a decision that was not so difficult to make. After all, I knew how to design a great kitchen and I also knew that it will be worth whatever sacrifices it takes along the way. Meanwhile, we have things in a workable and much more cosmetically pleasing way. There is a short term plan (Phase 1) which is nearly complete now, then a mid term plan (Phase 2) and finally the long term plan (Phase 3) which will include the gut re-hab. I am a firm believer that you really should live in a house for at least a year before undertaking anything as severe as knocking down walls.
For the short term we took out the popcorn ceilings, repainted every room in the house, refinished the beautiful random plank oak floors in the downstairs, replaced the same in the living room area when the carpet removal revealed serious water damage to the original floors, had the totally inefficient irrigation system completely re-done, had the redwood pergola pressure washed and sealed, upstairs carpets cleaned, all windows washed and the scratched reflective film removed, refinished the ash cabinets in the kitchen and dining room re-finished, new 4” baseboards installed, new light fixtures in the dining room, kitchen dining area, kitchen and rear stairs, installed a new fan in the master bath, new faucets, new bath faucets, new hardware for the kitchen cabinets, bar & master dressing room, gutted the laundry room and put in slate floors, new cabinetry and sink, removed old ugly blinds and window treatments (we don’t need to cover the windows, it is so private), installed gas lines for our gas grill on the deck, our dryer and the new stove in the kitchen, replaced every electrical outlet, changed out all switches to dimmers, had a new bar top built for the kitchen, new under cabinet lighting installed, new stove top with downdraft and grill installed, had the tile in the kitchen and bar re-grouted, and now we are having the little garden shed out in the back yard completely re-built to use as an art studio. This also includes a great deal of drainage work, as well as pulling in water, cable & electricity into the “little house”. It will be a glass and pottery studio with storage for garden supplies. I am also having a potting bench built there.
Our contractor, Neno is amazing. He is Serbian and has a superb network of sub contractors that are all excellent craftsmen. We found Neno through my friend in the area, Mary-Anne. Her daughter is married to Neno’s brother. I interviewed and got bids from several other contractors and decided that Neno was the best choice. We have been extremely happy with his work and we will retain him for the additional work to be done.
Phase 2 (after our house in IL has sold) will include building an outdoor kitchen with a wood burning pizza/bread oven. We will also be installing a new Jacuzzi tub in our bathroom and replace all of the interior doors in the house.
Phase 3: In a year or so will include the new kitchen space. Right now we are thinking we should knock out some walls, but we’ll see about that once we go through the design process. At this point we will also replace the windows in the house. This house is all about the windows because of the amazing views.
We also have plans to do some planting of fruit trees in the “lower forty” and we are having vegetable raised beds installed down there too. Our next door neighbors have horses and we are going to see if we can have some of their manure for the raised beds. Ishamael, our gardener is going to be a busy guy this winter! I will detail the gardens in another post.