The House Has Been Discovered…(have its people call your people)

Big excitement at 1501 yesterday, as the camera trucks rolled in.  The house starred in a commercial filmed for the organization, Broadband For America, whose goal is to insure broadband internet access to every home and business in the United States.

A couple of weeks ago a woman knocked on the door and asked if the exterior of the house could be used for a commercial.  She had been driving around and decided it had the look she was searching for, and the geographical setting which would be best for light at the time of day of the filming.   There would be some compensation for the trouble and, by the way, would we mind if they planted some shrubs that they would, contractually, be required to leave behind?    The answer was “yes” to the commercial and “no” we did not mind if shrubs were planted.

A week later, a team of eight dropped in to take photographs and measurements.   The director, location scout, art director, props master, lighting director, customer account manager and a couple of others spent an hour, had me move the car to an exact position, and asked to see the garage in case it rained on the day of the shooting and they needed to have the actor exit the house that way.  They were pretty shocked by what they saw, thanks to our summer renovation with Potomac Garage Solutions (which I have yet to write about here).

The storyboard was pretty simple and went like this : a man walks out of the house with his briefcase over his shoulder and his smartphone in hand, reading a message.  From his car.   It says something like, “Time to change my oil!”.  He gets in the car.   The next shot is at a local auto-body shop, where he has the car serviced, and then sees a car being towed in – presumably because it had not texted its owner to tell him to do preventative maintenance.

Not a word of dialogue.

Yesterday the crew showed up at 10:30—the aforementioned gang, plus the producer, the customer, the talent, a makeup artist and about 20 technicians for the camera, lighting and so on.  Huge lights were erected in the front yard.   It was a clear and cold day.

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A catering table was set up in the garage with lots of snacks, fruit, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.   Lunch was brought in.

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I walked in from a business trip around 12:30 to find 35 people in every room of our house, including upstairs, having lunch, talking on cell phones, working on computers and warming themselves by a roaring fire Lou had built.  One guy was wearing one of Lou’s fleeces!

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Union-mandated lunch break ended, and they all headed outside to start the filming.    Neighbors began “walking their dogs” and stopping by.   One woman asked if we were in a reality show.

Ben was beside himself with excitement and insisted I take his picture to prove that this had really happened at our house.  He had been excused early from school, and was waiting with great anticipation for the school bus to turn the corner on our street, and to see the face of one of his classmates.

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The filming went for over 3 hours.  The actor walked beautifully….other than that he was a very average looking/seeming guy.  How does an actor get a job like this?

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The crew at work :

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Lots of networking went on, dah-ling.   Patrick, our designer guru and friend, came to watch, and made some great contacts with people who loved the interior of the house as well.  Danny has an offer of an internship from Nancy, the producer, the day he turns 18.   Nancy has produced cooking shows (like “Emeril”) and said she would like to use the interior in a shoot.   

If a 30 second spot takes this much work, this many people, this much time, I absolutely cannot imagine making a movie.  The term “big-budget” and then “over budget” on a Tom Cruise flick takes on much more meaning. 

I’ll update when the commercial is finished and is going to air.    Great fun, super interesting and Danny got a fabulous inside look at the kind of work he thinks he would like to do one day.

My agent is setting up “Real Housewives of Rockville” right now.

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Danny’s room

Oh my gosh, it’s been crazy town around here and I have been terrible about taking care of FoundSpace.  But we have house updates!  

We have almost finished the bedroom of our 16 year old, Danny, and he moved into the room about two weeks ago, after being a displaced person since before Christmas.  You should have heard the complaining from him when we offered to make him an amazing room by knocking the wall down between his room and the guest room. Woo baby, you would’ve thought we were doing the opposite and telling him that we were about to erect a wall in his previously cramped room and expected him to live in a windowless cell, with a slot in the door to receive a crust of bread and tap water for dinner every night.

No, we were offering to expand his cramped space, which we had painted an unfortunate dark blue in the wrong finish – read, shiny – and to make it hip and functional and friend-friendly, by removing the wall to the middle bedroom of our 4-bedroom second floor and making one spectacular room that is 12×26’. 

The two rooms have served multiple purposes through the years.  The corner room was originally the guest room, when the middle bed room served as Danny’s nursery.  Eventually, the corner room was shared by Danny and Ben, who had a beautiful loft bed system designed for them by Hardwood Artisans in Rockville, MD.  We have disassembled that system over the past few years when Ben moved into the tiny bedroom at the top of the stairs, and Danny stayed in the corner.  Danny is still using the double bed platform, and the dresser, which has a small plaque that says “made for Danny and Ben, 2001”.

We wanted the room to be spacious, light, functional, welcoming, hip and fun.    We wanted to be sure that it did not look like we had done a hack job of whacking down a wall, and saying, voila, big room!  We wanted to maximize closet space, and make the closet as functional as possible.  It houses Danny’s clothes as well as my business wardrobe, which consumes about 40% of the space.

With designer Patrick, we discussed the repurposing of furniture, the layout of the room, placement of doors, expansion of closet and installation of lights.  We took into early consideration the art and photos that we will hang, choosing a very special print, shot by my dear friend David Brashear,  that we’ve enlarged to something like  33”x52” as a focal point of the room.

Lou has always wanted to incorporate transom windows in these bedrooms, to capture what light we can possibly bring into the long dark hallway, and this presented the perfect opportunity to add this architectural element.

There is much to share, and detail, but here are a few photos before :

Corner Bedroom 2009 (looks nice, doesn’t it – It was the day I finished painting and putting it together.  Never looked this good again!):

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I am searching for good samples of what the 2nd bedroom looked like, prior to construction, but we didn’t used to take a ton of photos, pre-digital, and before my obsession with “before” and “after” documentation.  I’m kicking myself. 

Everyone – take pictures of everything right now!  Then take pictures, even when you are just changing a light bulb!

Ok, Here are pictures from the identical house in the neighborhood, which is still in its original state, that I took recently :

Corner bedroom

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Middle bedroom

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See the closet there on the right?   That is the one that we brought into our master bedroom closet.

Anyway, for today, long story short – Danny has a fabulous new room.   I plan to walk through many of the details and more of the construction photos, and describe the elements of the room like the carpet, curtains, fan, lighting, pillows etc., but here is the Big Reveal :

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His friend Lily (in the photo)  visited recently and said something like, “Oh my God.  This is the best bedroom EVER”.

Which is, quite frankly, exactly the reaction we were going for.

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for a culture so obsessed with fashion, we’re a hot mess

Sitting in the Charlotte airport last Friday, waiting for my colleague, watching humanity stream by.

It was, granted, the beginning of the weekend for many, and Charlotte is a hub to many destinations, particularly points south /Caribbean and leisure.  However, it was still a business day, and I was on a business trip and yet, just about the only suit I saw was on one  guy sitting in a rocking chair across from me. 

What a parade it was.   I was even momentarily blinded by the sun – from the floor to ceiling windows facing the runway  — hitting the sequined tunic that was too short to be a dress on a middle-aged woman as she passed me.

I am going to just go out on a limb, and  estimate that 2% of the people going by actually gave one minute of thought to what they would wear to travel that morning.  Not only were many women dressed completely inappropriately in ill-fitting, ill-advised footwear and clothing but a lot of them look like they pulled that t-shirt and those sweat pants right out of the laundry basket.  The dirty laundry.

I’m a bit hyper-aware of fashion these days – well, not necessarily of fashion, but style, and appropriate, stylish dressing – since becoming hooked on YouLookFab.  In fact, I was reading Angie’s blog after this airport incident and  came across something she posted in 2009 :

Clinton Kelly, celebrity co-host of TV’s “What Not To Wear”, was recently interviewed on freep.com. I found the answer to this question particularly interesting: “What is the most common fashion faux pas you see women make?”.

His answer:

Being underdressed. I spend half of my life in airports these days, and what some people will wear in public is absolutely revolting. I mean, I understand that we live in a casual society, but far too many people use that as an excuse to look like out-and-out slobs.

http://youlookfab.com/2009/01/20/clinton-kelly-on-being-underdressed/

Thank you, Clinton.  “Revolting” is exactly the adjective I was looking for.

So,  America  flips from being obsessed with “America’s Next Top Model”, idolizing Carrie Bradshaw who had $500 shoes but no rent money half the time, and magazine racks with twice as many fashion magazines as news magazines, to going out in public like slobs.  I’m not even going to quote the statistics on plastic surgery in this country.

I’ve been reading some articles and blogs about the age-old criticism that Americans aren’t stylish, that we don’t know how to dress.  I’m not even talking about high-fashion and cutting edge style. I’m talking about choosing clothes that actually fit and are situation-appropriate when one steps out the door. 

What does this say about our sense of self-worth in this nation, or our respect for ourselves and for others that we leave the house to travel to another city or country, looking like we just got out of bed?  

What do the homes of these people look like, I wonder?

My colleague showed up looking like a million bucks – dark trousers, pastel-colored, collared shirt without a tie and a jacket.  Very appropriate for a Friday meeting.   I think  Clinton would have approved.

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Love Luv Lurv YoungHouseLove

So.  I’m 30 days behind in my 31 Days to Build a Better Blog course offered by Darren Rowse, the man behind the excellent, instructional site ProBlogger at http://www.problogger.net.   But, I have actually skimmed all of the lessons, and Day 7 is particularly important and relevant — linking to other blogs of relevance.

(Well, would you look at that?  I just linked to Darren!   I hope I get an “A” for Day 7).

Here is the exciting reason for today’s post.   I stumbled down to make coffee this morning, picking up the papers from where Ben had flung them inside the door on his mad rush to the bus stop. The Montgomery Local Living section was on top, with this great article about one of my absolute favorite blog sites, www.younghouselove.com and blogger couple, Sherry and John Petersik.   Have a look at this amazing press in today’s Washington Post ;

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/young-house-love-bloggers-their-diy-hobby-into-a-full-time-job/2011/02/23/ABtCNmf_story.html

Sherry and John!   I know so much about them from checking on their blog at least once, if not twice a day, they feel like family.  I absolutely contribute to the 3.5 million (MILLION) hits on this site, monthly.

The author of the article captures all of the reasons I love YHL.  This couple is adorable in all ways; they are so cheerful, accessible and witty, and they anticipate exactly what readers/homeowners/DIY’ers want to know, explaining everything they do in a ton of detail, and with many photos of the process, not just the before and after.  They have no formal design or renovation training but, boy, can they put a room together. All by themselves, and on a budget.  Smart.  They’re very, very smart.

YHL has not only been an excellent resource for design- and home-related topics for me but,  more interestingly, an excellent tutorial on how to produce and maintain a dizzyingly successful blog as I’ve put my toe into this crazy blogosphere recently.  I study their site.   I think that maybe FoundSpace should be like a YHL for the middle-aged, we’ve-lived-here-a-while-and-our-needs-are-changing set.  My seat of pants research says it is an unserved market.

As Sherry and John both came from the advertising world, it is no surprise that their advertising section is well put together.   They also highlight their advertisers’ goods and services on a monthly basis, adding an extremely important personal touch and recommendation for every sponsor.     Their store section, where you can link from the site to purchase many of the items in their house, or things they use (like their camera) also has a personal recommendation — not a sales pitch, mind you, but an earnest description – of why they love each and every item.   And you feel a tremendous desire to click “buy”.

For instance, at their suggestion, and because of their blog entry, Danny and I drove 240 miles roundtrip to buy mattresses at The Original Mattress Factory.

Four total hours of driving, but only 20 minutes of decision time before we were loading 2 mattresses into our van.  Thanks to YHL’s research and recommendation, I bet the net-net of our mattress time was less than I would have spent traipsing around the suburbs and not being sure of what I was actually getting at these mattress discount joints.   Plus, was a kick of a road trip with my teenager.

http://www.younghouselove.com/2011/02/a-matter-of-a-mattress/

So here’s to Sherry and John.    Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition for the hard work of living your dream, and thanks for sharing.

Please come and house-crash 1501 this spring?  Bring Clara and Burger, and have a beer with us?   Our houses may have been built by the same builder, the same year,  so let’s swap notes. With the bedrooms amd closet almost done, Lou probably needs a new project or two, anyway.

And John can look at all the power tools in our shed.  It will be a rollicking good time.

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before and after

One of the many reasons I wish I’d started this blog a long time ago — like way before blogs were even invented – is that we’d have such an amazing history of the evolution of our home. I envy the young folks at http://www.younghouselove.com, for the living archive they are creating every day.

Of course, there was no Internet back on January 31, 1994 when two energetic, childless and much-younger-than-we-are-now newlyweds moved into the house vacated just hours earlier by the original owners, the new husband’s parents who were on their way to retirement in Florida.     There were also no digital cameras back then, so our original photos are on paper and fading, and I took far fewer shots since there was no instant repeat and delete.

This house was a wreck.  To put it more nicely, this house needed a buttload of work.

The past 17 years have been non-stop work, renovation and improvement.    We’ve changed the house so much that it is hard to remember the original footprint sometimes.     Which is why I was so excited when, a week ago, I jogged past a house a few blocks away that is for sale and is our exact model.  I stopped to look, and realized that the owners of that house had hardly done a thing since the day it was built! I decided to get into the house one way or another, to look around and especially to take some “befores”.

Yesterday I visited the house with a friend who is a realtor.  There is a whole entry to write about the emotions of walking into a time warp.    But, for right now, I offer this Before and  After as an indication of how far along we’ve come.

My husband has done so much of the work, and has had all of the vision of how this house could change and become modern and wonderful.  Much of his vision has met with my resistance for years, until I finally concede on one project or another, see the finished result and then wish I’d done so years earlier.

In fact, this shot is a perfect illustration of that dynamic.     We did agree, Day 1, 1994 that the spindles had to come down and we took a crowbar to those puppies so fast we damaged the ceiling and we did not take 1 “before” photo.    However, it took 16 years and many iterations to finally achieve the “after” and it went something like this:

One. I did not want to take down the wall.

“Where will we put the love seat?” I would wail.

Two.  I did not want a door leading out to the back yard. And, by then, we had two little boys.

“The floor will get dirty,” I would moan, sounding exactly like my Mother in 1968.

Worn out with the years of discussion, 3 years ago I did agree to cut out the right side of the wall, near the window, as a pass-through which enabled flow to the family room and out the sliding doors. I admit it – that was a good improvement.

Patrick, designer and mediator, arrived on the scene in March 2010, and took one look at the wall and stated, “You’re going to take that wall down right?” It was gone 2 days later!

Here is the Before:


(Lou’s parents used to file their mail in between the spindles.)

And, here is the After, and current state of that exact same space :

Love seats don’t need walls to exist as it turns out.

Happy Birthday, honey.  You were right.


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PS measure twice cut once (oh the irony!)

OK.

This is so stupid.

But, it’s funny.  Sort of.

If you read the last entry, after all of the drama, the end result is that I have a new credit card, and no Big Irony table.

Here’s the real irony.    I thought that I had miscalculated, mismeasured, or mis-heard the measurements of the room.   I thought that I was wrong about the 11’8″ width of the room, because I was looking at our contractor’s hand-done drawing that said, “10’1″.  In black and white.

Our contractor is possibly dyslexic (and I truly mean no offense to those suffering this disorder. It’s a fact.)  The room is not 10’1″!    It is also not 11’8″.   Actually, it is 11’10″.   Ten feet one inch vs eleven feet ten inches?  See? Oh. My. Goodness.

You know, I think that Lou and I measured the room, and that is where I got my 11’8″ measurement.  But during the utter panic I went through about ordering the wrong size piece of furniture, did I ever take a tape measure and go up to the room and check it out?  No.  I did not.

So.   Patrick thinks that we still should get a 90″+ table.  Danny thinks that would be a great too, and would allow him to really spread out. There are not many choices.   Crate and Barrel has one but it only comes in red :

but, we’re kind of grooving on orange carpet from FLOR called Feelin’ Groovy, and looks like this :

We need to decide which direction we’re really going.  I think Big Irony plus Feelin’ Groovy : Orange, is a good combo.  But, I am not feeling good about the 94″ length and here is why.

This is an investment piece, and either Danny or Lou and I will take this piece to our next abode.    Danny will be starting out in a string of apartments.   Lou and I will be downsizing.   It takes a really specific – and very large – space to support a 94″ long table.   I think that a 73″ long table is a much more practical, and versatile investment.

I found a place in Vegas that apparently sells the Zeus Big Irony table.   Let’s see how it goes.

Measure!  Measure measure.  Then order.  With your new credit card, preferably one that has merchant dispute protection.

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the big irony (mea culpa)

I’m not going to go into all kinds of details and I’m not going to belabor this point.  But, I screwed up, both in a design sense and in a buyer-beware sense, and I’m going to share.

Here is my design screw-up :

Caught in the enthusiasm of planning a bedroom expansion for our 16-year-old son by knocking out a wall between 2 smaller bedrooms, Patrick and I started to plan the design and decor.  Patrick fervently recommended that, if we bought one thing and one thing only it should be this amazing table, the Big Irony Table by Mauricio Peregalli from Zeus as the desk :

This is an awesome piece, and it fits with Patrick’s philosophy about collecting, or investing in a piece a year, or over time, as you can afford to, until you have enough special, high-end pieces to combine together for a complete wow.   Patrick convinced me that this is something that Lou and I, or Danny, would have for decades to come, in whatever abodes we may live in, and I agreed.

Patrick also recommended we get the very biggest table that the room would allow, and we chose a table that was approximately 94″ long.    We based this on a room width of 11’8″, or 140″, which would have allow a 46″ space between the end of the table and the left side wall, if we positioned the table parallel to the back wall, and perpendicular, and resting on, the right wall of the room.

I ordered the table online, based on just anecdotal discussion with Patrick about a friend who had ordered one and it was a place in California and it was all good.

Design problem : The room, at that end (former Bedroom #2) is not 11’8“.    It is only 10’1″.    The reason for the miscalculation is that the room at the OTHER end, is 11’8“.   Bedroom#1 includes the additional width of a closet which was lost in Bedroom#2 because it becomes the 2nd floor hall way.   OOPS.  And a big, big miscalculation.  There is no way that room can fit a 94″ long table!  There is no direction it can be turned.

So, I began to panic about the business issue of having ordered a piece of furniture on-line, that cost well over $1,000, plus shipping, having checked all of the boxes that say “no return” “no change”.    It had been 21 days since my order, and the shipping time was 12-16 weeks (84-112 days). I prayed I could change for a smaller footprint table, 60″ or so.

Buyer-Beware screw-up :

When, with shaking hands, I pulled up my online receipt from January 12, I could not find a phone number.    I typed in the website and sure enough, no phone number.   Not a person referenced, nothing.    Just a drop down box inviting you to send them a message and they would “try to respond within 24 hours”.   Now I really began to panic.  Further research revealed that the Berkley, CA warehouse phone number was disconnected.   It appears this entity is based in the Netherlands.

I called American Express.   [SHORT ASIDE :  I need to give a huge shout-out for the American Express Platinum card.   This card carries a hefty annual fee, but some truly amazing benefits including merchant dispute support, and an annual protection of $1,000 against a purchase gone wrong.  There are all sorts of other bene's too, not the least of which is their superior and wonderful customer support.   Note : I am not in any way compensated for having made that statement, other than being a satisfied customer.]

I needed to find that 50% deposit charge and see if AMEX could help me with this merchant — either to get the product changed, or to cancel the order.   Funny thing…no charge showed up on the date of the order.  Nothing.

So, 24 hours passed with no response from the merchant, and I sent another note to the online concern stating that I was cancelling my order, and would not accept delivery of any product, and then I cancelled my credit card so there is no possibility of a stray charge showing up.  Thanks to my friends at AMEX I will receive a new one today, 24 hours later.

I visited the manufacturer’s site, which I should have done in the first place, instead of just googling the item, and found recommended resellers in the US – all in California.    As it turns out, the price I had been quoted by the website was significantly lower than what this store was quoting, and the shipping charges were 1/3 the actual price.

My guess is that the online concern is out of business; their website is still up and automatically spitting out responses, and that no order was ever placed nor would be.  So, I never would have received the Big Irony table which, had there not been a design problem, would have been a real bummer when I only realized this 12 weeks from now.

The true big irony here is that I think it’s worked out.   But, it scared me.  I spent a lot of time thinking about the room, the piece and the design, but did not double-check and triple-check the measurements.  Worse, I did not do due diligence on the merchant.

I don’t think this is the moment for an investment piece.   Patrick and I need to convene on what we’ll do next in Danny’s room. It will be fabulous.  Stay tuned.

But I really like that table.  Maybe for our dining room.

Posted in The House, The Rules | Leave a comment