Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I've upgraded to a tool that I'm not capable of using safely! I feel like this is a milestone of some sort, right?  Finally - I might need to call 911 if I turn this on. woo!

Before PC left for the airport (another work trip), he busted a hole in the side patio with a sledgehammer. Just to "Explore" the concrete, mind you.

His last words to me as he grabbed his laptop and headed out the door were: "Hey I need you to powerwash the dock so I can stain it this weekend - and buy a jackhammer, ok?"
side bacony/patio. Smallest area that needs to be removed so we are starting here. :/

I said "yeah ok". (I have bronchitis and 4 kids, no problem.) 

Later as he was boarding a plane somewhere, he texted me "did you get the jackhammer yet? :) "

And I said no, I'm still sitting here in my jammies, coughing up a lung.

I did finally get myself over to Northern Tool.

All I managed to do was haul the thing onto the patio, get half of it out of the box, and put the wheels on the cart. :/ IT'S SO HEAVY I CANNOT LIFT IT!

And we have miles acres entire vistas!!! of concrete to remove. ...... :(

... to be continued...

Posted by Katy On 2:00 PM 4 comments READ FULL POST

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The irrigation system for this property is fed by the lake, which is the only reason we use it. If I had to pay for city water to keep this gigantic property green, it would be dead brown in a heartbeat. When I moved here last year I noticed that the sprinklers in the front yard appeared to be broken. According to PC, he believed that the cable guys had broken the pipe in one spot. Because his job/life demands were so ovewhelming after he bought this place, he had zero time for landscaping issues. We finally got around to fixing it this weekend.
Guess what? Both AT&T and Time Warner Cable had run cable here in the past, and both companies hit the irrigation pipes. We fixed the first one, then found the second one ---
when water burst out of the ground like a geyser. We fixed the second one, and then we found the THIRD spot ---

and this one pissed me off the most. Those jerks totally KNEW they destroyed the pipe, because an 18 inch section is completely missing and the cable runs right beside it. !!! We ended up digging way past dark in the mud, and I may or may not have been drinking and twisted my ankle when I fell in one of the holes. :)

So we fixed the third broken spot... turned the water on and waited for another geyser somewhere in the yard...
and discovered a couple of sprinkler heads we didn't know existed, when they suddenly shot out of the ground after years of lying useless.

We also cut down some more trees, and I'm still working on building the new closet. But I guess the biggest news is that PC and I have come to a decision on whether we are going to stay here and put the hard work and $$$ required into this Money Pit.

Honestly, I am tired, I have 4 kids who are still only one step above poop-throwing monkeys, and this house is gigantic and overwhelming. I voted to sell this wreck and buy something finished. PC vetoed this. He likes it here too much, and we've got 10 more years until all the kids are gone. I am making peace with this.. I am not excited but I don't have the energy to move again either. !!

I know that PC and I have the background and skills  - I'm just not sure if the energy/strength is going to hold out. This will be our final fixer-upper. The next place is going to be small and near a beach, but this time it will be much farther south than Tybee Island. :)
Posted by Katy On 10:12 AM 3 comments READ FULL POST

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The builder just left - he was here with 3 different subs to discuss how on EARTH they can fix all of our concrete disasters without spending the equivalent of the national budget of Guam. Bless it. I feel a little panicky.

I'm supposed to be building a new master closet. Kinda like this one:

Except this is the room we started with:
So far we've filled in the big loft "holes", relocated the attic access in the ceiling, relocated the ceiling lights and vent, patched ceiling, pulled up some of the floor, etc:
and now I'm building the base of the new closets, which are going to look somewhat like this:

I never bothered learning sketchup since I have CAD, but that means my drawings aren't as cool. :)

For almost a year now I've been living out of boxes because the gigantic "Dressing Room" located off the master bath is the only place to store the gym equipment (NOT MINE), and also store a lot of other crap. I have plans for this room to be flexible--
For those of you who know PC in real life, don't tell him I posted a picture of our messy closet online. lol. He doesn't read this blog so he won't know!

I do not need a dressing room this size. I rotate my yoga pants (home attire) with my jeans (public attire). We need this to be more flexible so that it can function as a second home office, a "gym", or maybe a sewing/work room. (ha.) I thought I would build storage in here so that someone else could use this as a dressing room if they wanted, but for me it's not practical. I need a place for all my various equipment (not gym equipment. such a waste of space I think but whatEVAH.)

OK. SO I've been staring at a pile of 2X4's, trying to find my motivation this week. I had Lasik surgery a month ago (yay!) but then I had a rare complication (of course I did - you know it) and so I'm on round-the-clock steroid drops until it corrects itself. sweet.
Hope y'all are getting through the pollen blast and have planted some fun veggies by now!

Posted by Katy On 12:21 PM 2 comments READ FULL POST

Monday, March 28, 2016

It took months after I moved in here to figure out the electrical system. For a while, we had no lights. Like, when it got dark, we were using flashlights.

That is because prior to the pipe bursting/flooding/ServePro events, this house was completely run with a system called "X 10".  No electrician I've talked to has ever heard of entire house like this being outfitted with X 10.
Basically, every single switch on the walls is capable of being programmed to operate ANY light fixture/fan ANYWHERE else in the house. Does this make sense? So if you are sitting on the toilet (where there is a cable modem installed - weird) you could throw the switch on the wall and turn the lights on in the kitchen.

Or, if you're in the kitchen, you could turn on the bedroom lights in one of the guest rooms.

Did I mention the man who built this house was a Lunatic?

So for a while, when we first started trying to re-program all the switches and organize everything properly, I would be in my closet getting dressed and the lights would go out.

Routinely I would yell at the kids to turn off lights and they would say "but we did! we swear!!" And sometimes the portico lights outside or the attic lights would come on, and we would try to figure out WHO had touched a switch and WHERE in the last 30 minutes. !?

It's like playing Clue, except if you guess the right relay, you still might not be able to make it work.

PC has programmed the foyer/kitchen/bedroom lights to the correct switches, but we are only about 70% of the way done.

Part of me finds this entertaining, because I bet Bob Vila never did any of THIS crap on tv
Posted by Katy On 12:28 PM 9 comments READ FULL POST

Saturday, March 26, 2016

***I wrote this post years ago when I was building the cottage on Tybee Island -- but since I'm now in the process of interviewing a contractor for this Lake house mess, I thought I would take this out of the draft folder. I re-read it and it still holds up, so I know it's good. :) ***

When you're trying to hire a guy to help you build something, you have to be picky. It's almost like picking a boyfriend -- if you get a bad one, he'll take your money and your self esteem.

After searching for a while, I did find one general contractor who didn't blow me off, didn't talk to me like I was Miss Daisy ready for the Alzheimer's Unit (EVEN IF I AM), and took me seriously when I said I wanted to do a lot of the work myself. Here are the things I would look for in a contractor, if I were starting all over: 

#1. Ask him if he has ever worked with a client who did some of the work himself.

My contractor had previous experience with framing a house and letting the client finish what he wanted, and he was prepared to let me do that. [the contractor I am considering for my current mess is going to let me jackhammer my own concrete to save my demolition costs.] Not all contractors like this. It depends on his comfort level with taking out a permit in his name and having everything pass inspections, if you're going to be doing the plumbing and electrical yourself, let's say. You need to ask. And beware the guy who says "yeah sure" - but then tries to intimidate you at every turn. (More on this below..)

#2. If you are worried about money and/or the scope of the work, be honest and note the response.

 Especially if it's something outside the norm (like building a tiny house that barely fits on the lot and will be highly problematic. ahem.) This doesn't mean give him all of your financial information. If you say "I'm trying to do this without a bank loan, so my budget is tight, can you work with me?" - Does he immediately say "oooh. you probably can't afford this". Or does he say "I'll work up a general line-item estimate to give you an idea of what you'll need" ? If he laughs at you, that's a good sign to move on as well. I asked one contractor to give me an ballpark estimate on what it cost to build a new house on Tybee Island (price per sq ft) and he actually replied: "How much money do you have?"  (don't pick that guy.) Depending on where you live, you may run into a very tightly-closed contractor community. It may even feel like you are dealing with the mob, because they are very intent on keeping any competition out. Just be aware of this before you go all Pollyanna into a contractor meeting so you don't feel like you got your ass handed to you afterward.

#3. Avoid the guy who uses scare tactics.

The first builder I called quoted me for demolition of the existing shack. I chose to go with someone else with a lower quote. I called the builder again afterward for an estimate on building the new house, and he was offended that I handled demolition on my own. "oooh but he's not local!! if he messes up the lot and causes it to drain on the neighbor's property that could be a huge expensive mess for you!" Basically he tried to scare the shit out of me (and almost succeeded) because I didn't hire his buddies. [I hired a licensed professional, The Sarge, who handled all the permits and he was awesome.  Find him here, if you need demo in the Savannah/Tybee area.]

If a contractor makes you feel intimidated, confused, hopeless, or stupid -- run away. I don't care if he's the most popular contractor in the area. That doesn't mean squat. If the thing you are trying to do really is outside of your budget, he can tell you that with respect.

I realize that a lot of this advice has to do with gaining confidence.  Hopefully this helps another woman out there who is thinking about building something BIG, but is too afraid to try! xo
Posted by Katy On 5:22 PM 1 comment READ FULL POST

Sunday, March 20, 2016

But first, a new painting from Cecilia Rosslee!

I was rearranging the great room trying to figure out if I like the dining table in front of the patio. This house has a desperately strange layout. Plus I was trying out white paint colors (behind the plant):

And this is where the fun stops. :(

Unfortunately we've gotten more bad news, and it all goes back to The Lunatic who built this house. His sons were well known to local police (which explains all the crack pipes we discovered in odd places. I am not posting pics of that.)

We heard more stories from the neighbors which also explains the extremely shoddy craftmanship in all the tile and exterior. Apparently the Lunatic didn't want to pay for any professionals so he let people stay in the house for free in return for (really poor) DIY construction work. (!)

The second paint quote came in at $36k, which is better than the previous $75k, but that is before the mason explained that all the windowsills were done incorrectly.

And nobody manufactures this kind of brick anymore so you cannot get anything that matches.
It's ugly anyway. The Lunatic used this crap because he found it practically free. Because nobody else wanted it.

And all the porches were poured concrete, and they were built wrong. They don't slope correctly which is why all the exterior doors and frames are rotted out.

Basically it will take $100k to fix the exterior and we will never get that money back. (assuming we had $100k to throw away on the exterior anyway.)

The alternatives are:

1.) We teach ourselves to be masons, rent a jackhammer, and rebuild everything ourselves. this will involve tool rental, concrete pouring, years of hard work, and probably have to hire help anyway because the steel structure under the concrete has to be lowered. I'm not confident that PC and I can rebuild the steel pans and studs ourselves. ?

2.) Or: We slap some paint on it, squat here for another 8 years til all the kids are gone, and then replace the rotten doors right before we sell. (this feels shady, of course. And doesn't take into account the possibility that it will need major emergency repairs in the next decade).

3.) Or: we sell this pile of crap, take a huge loss, and move into a new (much smaller) house with no issues.

Take a guess what I'm thinking. :/  Is the view really worth it?

Posted by Katy On 9:47 AM 11 comments READ FULL POST

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I really truly think that I have changed. In a deep way. This kind of thing used to make me breathe in a paper bag and Flip. my. shit.

I hired an amazing landscape designer (Maryanne White) to fix the exterior of this house, and she sent me the above photos to give me an idea of what she was thinking. In the process of re-designing the exterior, I had a painter give me an estimate for painting the brick:
because it is a very yellow beige brick (you can't tell from this photo) and I was trying to decide where the renovation budget should be allocated. I knew that the bricks needed re-pointing, plus we need the driveway and back patios redone. We're trying to determine the source of the window leaks as well, so everything is in "pre-game forecasting" mode.
As of this week I've had a gas line moved, a water spigot moved, the mason is coming for the first estimates, the roofer has come out to fix another hole, and we have torn up the master bedroom ceiling:
yes those are the attic stairs hanging from an extension cord. We had to relocate that and also move all the spotlights and the HVAC vent in the ceiling to make way for my riDONKulous built in closets (coming soon. I hope.)

Anyway back to the painter. And his estimate. DRUMROLL!!!!


Now, to be fair, there was some "power washing" involved so it wasn't *just* paint.

Back in the day I would have cried and thought that all of my schemes plans were never coming true because one contractor has ruined everything and how can paint possibly cost that much!?!?!?

But instead, I just snorted, laughed, and moved on. Seriously that is pretty impressive for me.

I can't wait to hear the masonry bid this Friday. (actually the mason is pretty important so I hope to God he is a little more reasonable. The paint was just an optional thing, whereas fixing the brick and patios is a "must do".)

I absolutely hate cleaning the kitchen 20 times a day. So sometimes I make the boys gather sticks from the property, build their own fire, and I toss them a bag of hotdogs. If only they would catch their own fish next -- I could stop going to the grocery store every 5 minutes.
Posted by Katy On 11:14 AM 18 comments READ FULL POST

Friday, January 29, 2016

So have you been thinking about buying one of those electric fireplaces that you plug into the wall? Basically they are just space heaters with a really pretty mantel wrapped around them. Since I am extremely cold-blooded and South Carolina winters actually get down to 30 degrees sometimes, I decided that I needed one of these STAT.
 I ordered this one from - and no I am not getting paid to review this, as you will see. ;)
First, I bought the clearance model that had "slight defects" so I could save $300. That is fine but just be warned -- it's more than slight defects. We had to strong arm the steel brackets to bend them into the right configuration and we will definitely need to apply some heat-resistant white paint to the back of the glass since it was wearing off big time. I think this was an item that was returned to the company, and they re-sold it on "clearance" -- beware.
But if two engineers cannot make this work than we are in serious trouble right? We got it working.
But THEN...
I didn't know that this was a BACKLIT LED FIREPLACE and the colors automatically rotate? BEHOLD!

OMG Y'ALL! You can change the color of the flames AND the back-lit part.  We are laying here playing with the remote control, it's like Christmas!!! (Ignore the stupid cord hanging down -- PC is going to move my outlet up the wall so that you can't see the cord.)

God bless Chinese manufacturing and all this LED stuff that is everywhere now -- we were sitting here completely mesmerized (kids too! ha), and I'm totally warm and toasty. I recommend this fireplace just for the novelty. My parents bought one of the more traditional looking ones :
and my mom loves it. We both put ours in the bedrooms because that's where we wanted the extra heat at night.

So order yours you won't be sorry -- as long as you don't order anything off the clearance section. If you do, just know that you're getting something more screwed up than the website is going to tell you, and you'll just have to MacGuyver a solution.

XOXO hope you all are warm right now!!! :)

Posted by Katy On 9:16 PM 5 comments READ FULL POST

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Back when I spent 3 years collecting fabric and art for the Tybee cottage, I got a little carried away. Because that dream didn't end the way that I'd hoped, a lot of that fabric was never used and I still have it in a bag in my closet. *sad face* I will probably list it on Craigslist someday.

Fruit Doves wallpaper - Palau

yellow counter stools

I'm trying really hard not to get carried away with hoarding curating too many things for this house, in case something happens and we have to sell it. (I am seriously spooked).

But I've already ordered too many fabric samples, alas. I can't resist the siren call of fabric samples. Or paint decks. Or iron beds. (I already bought another rusty one off Craigslist, it's sitting in a pile in the garage.)
My new fan decks + my old bag of Pantone chips. So that when Pantone disappears I will still have them ALL!

And now because we are renovating the master bedroom first (totally not on purpose but whatever), I ordered this fireplace:

Oh yes! I did!

So here is a new discovery about myself, and maybe this holds true for others? I never thought that I liked modern or contemporary design. This is because 15 years ago, I was buying the "cottage decorating magazines" because they were the only publications that showcased the things that I love: bright colors, and lots of white. Back then, we were in the "Tuscan Brown Trend" and everybody was decorating with beige, gold, and sage. It was a hard time, decoratively speaking. ;)
Quick & Easy Decorating circa 2001 -- this was my magazine, yo!!!

We are totally past that trend now (thank God), because now suddenly I can buy fabric and textiles and ceramics in colors that I like! Manufacturers are no longer pumping out everything in earth tones. (The downside is that when everyone gets tired of this trend and moves on, I will once again be making all my own crap. lol)

The result of those years of color-poverty, though, was that I believed that my favorite style must be "cottage" or "retro". That is because it was the only style where you could go wild with bright color. At least in my plebian world, it seemed that way. Did anyone else have the feeling that in order to be a grown-up, you had to have a brown couch and beige walls??  (back in 2000-2005?)

I approached the Tybee cottage from the viewpoint that I had "permission" to go wild with color because it was at the beach, and I was using retro plumbing fixtures and other assorted reclaimed items.

And I still LOVE vintage plumbing and anything pre-war, really.

But... it turns out I like contemporary too, as long as the color balance is there and it still feels comfortable (to me).   I think this is a two-fold personal discovery:

#1.) Your Sweet Spot is already there inside you, and the clues are when you are 23 and painting your first kitchen the brightest yellow you can find at the paint store, and repainting your baby's nursery every three months because you JUST. NEED. ALL THE COLORS (apple green! then yellow! then lavender! then sell the house! lather rinse repeat!!)  But this can translate in many different ways - you don't have to pigeon hole yourself -

#2.) always be brave and try the new thing. And when you try that new thing (like contemporary design), don't be afraid to do it your way. Not the way the magazines do it. Not the way everybody else interprets it. But the way you see it.
one of my first boards for the beach shack, before reality forced me to simplify. ha

Maybe all of this only comes with age and experience? And I am just sooo behind the 8 ball. ! I feel like everybody else figures this stuff out so much faster than I do, but it helps me when I'm talking to my kids about what they want .. 

I can relax because I don't have to find activities for my kids, they just naturally gravitate to their talents! Amazing!  (seriously it was like I discovered the atom or something, when I realized this.)

Happy Thursday, all of you talented and BRAVE people out there. :)

Posted by Katy On 11:30 AM 2 comments READ FULL POST

Monday, January 25, 2016

From now on I'm not going to announce what I'm posting next. I've always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl, and when I try to act organized it messes with my mojo. Last time I said something about solariums and High Point, and yes to all of that - but first:
What happened is that we've made a ton of progress closing up the master bedroom "loft". That super weird window on the right hand side? I had to put that there so I didn't lose all the light and views upstairs. :/  I've got to work with it like this, and because it's not centered over the kitchen opening it is driving me CRAZY.
So why the window off center? Because the best view is in the corner and because this wall is going to be floor to ceiling built in closets.
The floorplan is weird but I'm doing my best to fix it and make it look like it was all designed this way on purpose.
Here is one of the ServePro pictures of this room, back when the previous owner lived here and it was flooded from a broken pipe:

do you see all the little computer screen thingies??

There are cameras in every corner of this house... this dude was weird. Not sure if it was paranoia issues? Or if he was a drug lord?
and in other news, we actually have some furniture now. I'm beyond excited... just picture these chairs covered in a pretty fabric someday! ha! (after my 4 kids grow out of chimpanzee stage!!) oh and a different lampshade. and I found that mirror in the house. LOL -- baby steps. I'm just thrilled we have somewhere to sit and eat now! I found this at a local consignment shop. Brand new, half price from the manufacturer, just because it had a few imperfections. That nobody can see. :)

Posted by Katy On 11:40 AM 4 comments READ FULL POST

About Me

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For many years I was a mechanical engineer and a single mom of 3. Suddenly I am now a married mom of 4 and I'm working full time on remodeling my latest gigantic project (lake house). I previously built a tiny house on Tybee Island that I sold in 2015, and I'm always designing and building the unexpected. Stop by for the house stuff, stay for the panic attacks. (kidding. maybe. ha. ha....)

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