Archive for the ‘Finishes’ Category

Picking Appliances is as Difficult as Manufacturers Choose to Make It

While the house plans are in for approval, I’ve been checking out appliances — both online and in-person — looking for the right dishwasher, fridge, washer, dryer, and oven/range.

The quality gap between appliance websites is simply astounding to me. It’s 2009… you’d think everyone would know how to do a “help me select my appliance” feature by now. The worst I found was ironically the company whose brand I had already decided on: Bosch. Bosch makes TWENTY models of dishwashers and the process of distinguishing between all of them is maddening. None of the features are explained in a convenient manner, none of the sub-brands are clearly differentiated, and worst of all their “product comparison tool” only lets you select three models at a time. To compare each model against every other would require 1140 different combination trials. Go ahead, try it… it’s embarrassingly bad.

On the other side of the spectrum is Samsung. Ironic as well, since their cell phone interfaces are so second rate. Where Bosch fails in leading me towards a happy, confident purchase, Samsung excels. Samsung’s washer selector lets me pick features one by one and removes models that don’t fit the criteria on the fly. It also has some nice Flash demos demonstrating some of the features that might need explaining. By the time I was done checking off features, I was down to one model. That is how it’s done, BOSCH!

I haven’t made any final decisions yet, but here’s what I’m leaning towards (if you have experience with any of these brands or others, please let me know in the comments):

Dishwasher: Bosch

Despite the awful website, Bosch seems to have a great reputation with regard to dishwashers. Multiple people, including Build, have recommended them personally to me so I am loath to go against that sort of word-of-mouth claqueury. It’s the one appliance that a lot of people seem to agree on: Bosch makes the best dishwashers. That said, thanks to their website, I have no idea which model to choose. My only requirements are integrated cabinet face and the adjustable upper rack option. Depending on the model, it should cost anywhere from $800 to $1600.

Refrigerator: GE Profile

There are tons of good refrigerators out there, but so far I’ve only found one that has the top two features I’m looking for: French doors with the freezer on the bottom and an external water/ice dispenser. French doors seem to be in these days, but external water/ice dispensers are harder and harder to find. Many models just do the water-only dispenser on the inside now apparently. Boooooooooo. External seems a lot more convenient.

The GE PFSS6PKXSS seems to fit the bill perfectly and has dope LED lights on the inside as well, which is just awesome. It’s $2699 retail, but since I work at, my GE employee discount should knock a good portion off of that. Not bad considering some of the other fridges I looked at were twice that amount.

Washer/Dryer: Samsung

I didn’t even know Samsung made washers or dryers. They do and they are awesome, according to Consumer Reports and other sources. Among the more novel features is something called “SilverCare” which embeds microscopic silver particles in your clothing to keep the stank away. Watch this video for the entertaining details of how Consumer Reports performed the test.

The kicker, however, is something called VRT. It’s a technology that Samsung pioneered which dramatically reduces the vibration of and noise of the washer and dryer during spin cycles. According to everyone who has tried it, it’s a no-brainer if your washer/dryer is not on a concrete floor. Since we’re putting ours upstairs right next to the master bedroom, this seems like a slam dunk.

The other set that looked awesome is the Electrolux. Honestly, they look even better than the Samsungs but I couldn’t find a single review online and Consumer Reports hasn’t tested them yet. They are priced similarly as the Samsung set (about $1500 per piece), so at that price, I feel much better buying something that’s been thoroughly tested and reviewed.

Oven/Range: Probably GE Monogram or Wolf

This is the appliance I’m least sure about right now. I do know I’ll be getting a dual-fuel 36-inch wide unit, but no one model has stood out yet. The Wolfs are nice, but $8500 for a range seems ridiculous, considering how often I failover to the microwave. Currently, I’m leaning towards the 36 inch GE Monogram Dual Fuel Oven/Range with 4 burners and a griddle. It’s more like $5500 and hopefully the discount will knock a substantial amount off of that as well.

So that’s where I’m at on appliances so far. If anyone has any advice or positive/negative reviews for certain brands or models, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

UPDATE (8/8/2010): I just published this new post describing the final appliance package.

Roofing complete. Doors are on.

Upon returning from a two week vacation in Peru and the Galapagos Islands a week ago (which was awesome), I was pleased to see all of the progress that was made in my absence. The roof is all done, the siding is beginning to go up, insulation is in, the drywall is being hung, and best of all, the big metal container that’s been in front of the house partially obscuring the livecam is gone!


The house has four roof surfaces: the south roof, the north roof, the roof deck between those two roofs, and the garage roof. The north roof and the garage roof are standing seam shed roofs in a warm grey tone. The roof deck will be clad with Trex Brasilia espresso synthetic wood decking. I feel pretty good about these three surfaces.

The only roof I’m still not quite feeling is the south roof. It’s almost flat so it wasn’t a good candidate for standing seam metal, so we went with a white single membrane surface. The white doesn’t look great but at least you can only see it from the roof deck. On the bright side, you can easily walk on the roof and it will also be easy to install solar equipment — which I’ve pre-wired for — when the economics make sense. My main concern with this roof is how the edges look from the street. The edges require a noticeably different treatment than the edges on the shed roofs, and I’m just not feeling the gestalt yet. The plan is to edge the south roof with the same Cembonit cement board panels we’re using on the rest of the house. We’ll see how it goes. I’m reserving judgement until the siding is up and I can see how everything meshes together.

My roofing contractor is Nate Dowers Construction and they have done a bang-up job so far.

UPDATE (5/1/2010): We decided to turn the south roof into a matching standing seam metal one after all. It cost us a few thousand dollars more but it looks better and should last longer than the membrane version. Looks great!


There are a few different types of doors in this house:

  • Solid-core interior hinged doors
  • Solid-core interior pocket doors
  • Raumplus glass sliders (for laundry, office, and media rooms)
  • Standard exterior hinged doors
  • Huge, super-awesome front doors

So far, everything except the Raumpluses have been installed. The hopefully interesting details are as follows:

  • We ended up going with the Linnea Pocket door locks and they aren’t as bad as I feared. Quite acceptable really, as far as pocket door interfaces go.
  • For the standard interior doors, we went with Karcher Cyprus handles. They are clean looking and feel good on the palms.
  • For the huge, super-awesome front doors, we went with a double-door made of fir veneer. Veneer is apparently much stronger and more resistant to warping than solid wood so that’s what people usually go with these days. The doors are almost nine feet tall. They feel majestic. We’re waiting until the siding and a few other details are done before picking the exact stain color. Some people might choose aluminum framed glass doors for a house like this, but for some reason, I just feel like a house should have wooden doors. Aluminum with glass feels too much like a retail space to me.
  • For the front door hardware, we’re going with the Omnia Urban which looks sharp and meshes nicely with the NanaWall hardware.

Scope additions and shifts

Several items related to carpentry, installation, and various other areas of labor have been shifted in the budget from subcontractors to Build as they’ve taken tasks on themselves. I’m happy to have team Build tackle this stuff because of the high level of work they’ve exhibited so far. Additionally, we’ve added $4000 to the construction management budget — bringing it to $99,000 — to cover a lot of the extra coordination that is going into this project. I’m happy to increase the construction management fee modestly in this way as I feel I’ve gotten plenty of value for the money.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Nate Dowers Construction (roofing labor and materials)$37,008.00
Additional material to convert south roof to metal$2,715.00
Compton Lumber & Hardware (doors)$11,337.00
Builders' Hardware & Supply Co, Inc (door hardware)$2,394.00
McMaster Carr (closet door pulls)$121.00
Miscellaneous expenses$2,007.00
Printing fees$268.00
Honeybucket rental$117.00
Build LLC (various installs, carpentry, doors, labor, etc.)$7,532.00
Build LLC (additional construction management fee)$4,000.00
Gale Contractor Services (insulation)$4,561.00

The concrete floor saga

This is a post several months in the making. I’m only able to write about it now because it’s officially resolved and I’m satisfied with who I should name, who I shouldn’t name, and what the costs have been to me as a homeowner. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’m very careful about naming subcontractors on this site because Google search results have the ability to make or break someone’s business, depending on what is written about them.

I have three categories I put subcontractors in:

  • Did a great job, would recommend. So far, almost everyone has fit into this category. If you do a great job, charge me a reasonable fee, and are someone I’d recommend to others, I write about you here and link to your site if you have one. Hopefully this leads to more business for you. My landscape person, Alex at Alexandria’s Creations, recently told me she’s gotten a several new clients from this site, and I haven’t even written the final glowing post on the landscaping yet.
  • Things didn’t go well for one reason or another, but the person was honest and tried to make it right. In this situation, I write about the process but keep the contractor’s name out of it. Only a few subcontractors so far have fit into this category. If I wrote about the entire process and named the company, it would have the effect of casting the company/person in a negative light, and I do not wish to do this. If you are honest and tried to make things right, you shouldn’t be subject to a full writeup about everything you did wrong.
  • Things were a disaster and I want to publicly warn readers to stay away. Nobody has fit into this category yet, but there have been a couple of situations where the final resolution saved someone from this group and put them in the previous group.

I don’t tell any workers about this system and I’ve never used it as an overt incentive/threat in order to get anything done. Not a single time. If you’re working on my house and you happen to find out about this site, you can draw your own conclusions as to how you may show up on it, but in most cases, people don’t even know about it until they get referrals weeks or months later.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, on to the concrete floors…

In planning the “grand entrance” for the house, we had a lot of choices: bamboo to match the floors, concrete to tie in with the steel, slate to keep things affordable, and linoleum to completely ruin the entire project if we so desired.

We liked the idea of concrete the best, but because of the existing subfloor elevations and some weight issues, we couldn’t do a full, thick poured concrete floor. We were turned onto a product, however, that’s been around for quite awhile now called a “concrete terrazzo overlay” or “decorative concrete overlay” floor. It’s essentially a poured floor made of concrete and aggregate but is only an inch and a half or so thick. It was about the most expensive option available at about $9,500 for 400 square feet. This cost included in-floor heat, but it was still probably twice the cost of something like slate. Nevertheless, it was a very public part of the house, so we went for it.

Around the beginning of February, work started on pouring the floor. It was only supposed to take a week or so, including the 7-step polishing process, but it ended up taking about 2.5 weeks. A loud, dusty 2.5 weeks. When the grinding and polishing was almost done, I noticed several cracks across the floor, some of them pretty major. Concrete workers always warn you that you should expect a few cracks when you choose concrete as a floor option, but given the fact that the thing wasn’t even fully installed yet, I freaked out a little. The company tried to fix one of the cracks and it seemed to make things worse.

I wasn’t feeling very good about things at this point, but we couldn’t hold up the rest of the construction and needed to cover up the floor with protection for the next few months as other work continued. Given the fact that the company needed to come back towards the end of the project anyway to do the final polishing, the decision was made to just deal with it then (incidentally, I don’t recommend doing this… deal with everything at the time, if you can).

Well, a few months went by, we completed most of the rest of the house, and it was time to uncover the floor and bring it up to snuff. To our surprise and dismay, there were now over 20 cracks in the floor. Mind you, none of these cracks were concerning from a structural standpoint as they were all hairline in size, but to have your brand new concrete floor dominated by very visible and ugly cracks is disappointing to say the least. We called the owner of the company in to have a look and were a bit worried he’d say this was “completely normal”, but even he agreed this was out of ordinary and not something he anticipated.

One of the approximately 20 cracks. This was the worst one.

We had two options: try to fill the cracks with color-matched grout or grind the whole thing down and do something else on top of it (like more of this product or maybe ultra-thin slate tile). The decision was made to try the grout option first as it had the least project/cost impact. Unfortunately the grout ended up making the cracks even more conspicuous.

At this point, we called the company back and expressed our disappointment with the grout fix. The company did not immediately return our e-mails so we prepared ourselves for a situation where they would walk away from the project (I had paid them about $8000 so far and still owed about $1500).

Build recommended we call a company they’d used before called Cirvell that uses a product called Milestone, which is essentially hybridized portland cement. The product has a “hand-troweled” look and isn’t as “shiny and pristine” looking as the concrete terrazzo overlay, but at only a sixteenth of an inch in thickness, it could be troweled on top of the existing floor with no grinding whatsoever.

We informed the original concrete floor company that we were proceeding with the Milestone option and that we felt a refund of half of the fees paid so far was a fair arrangement for both parties. This would leave me paying $4000 for a heated concrete subfloor, plus $2500 for the Milestone coat. To his credit, the owner of the original concrete company sent us a check for $4000 and we’ve now parted ways, sadly but amicably.

Although I was obviously not happy with the concrete terrazzo floor, the way the company owner handled the refund showed me he was an honest guy and someone who cared about the quality of the product and service he was providing. He could have easily just walked away and stuck me with the bill, but making things as close to “right” as possible was important to him, and that is why I’m not interested in steering readers away from his product. He’s no doubt done hundreds of successful floors… just not mine, and for we know, there was something about the construction, or temperature, or humidity in this job which conspired to not let the product cure correctly.

Thankfully, the folks at Cirvell were able to give us an end result which we’re quite happy with. They completed their work in only a few days, for a reasonable cost, and have graciously offered to come in and fine-tune the tint of the floor after we move in, if we desire. I do not hesitate to recommend them if you’re looking at Milestone as an option in your own home.

Here’s what the finished product looks like now. Plus one for Milestone.

… and with that, the concrete saga is thankfully resolved. For more photos of the floor, please visit the photo gallery.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Concrete terrazzo floor$4,159.00
Milestone overlay (Cirvell)$2,500.00

How to Design a Perfect Bathroom

Bathrooms are a big deal. People sink a lot of money into them because of the labor and materials involved, but rarely do homeowners take a close look at the usability of their prospective new bathroom before opening their wallets. This post will discuss how we planned our bathrooms and what guidelines you should follow when designing your own.

To match or not to match

Most of this post will concentrate on the master bathroom, but one question that will come up early in your project is “does each bathroom need its own distinct personality?” Because of the wealth of materials and styles available, many people are tempted to design each bathroom to be much different than its peers. We designed our bathrooms in partnership with The NB Design Group and Build and both companies advised against trying to get too cute with individual bathroom styles. Each can have some distinct qualities, of course, but when you walk through someone’s house and one bathroom looks like the “aquarium” one and one looks like the “dark marble” one and another looks like “spartan” one, it tends to look a little forced. For this reason, we decided to follow the same general color and tile scheme for all of our four bathrooms. Some are nicer than others but they all look like part of a family.

It all starts with the shower

To me, the most important thing to get right in a master bathroom is the shower. You’re going to use it every day, and many times — if properly designed — it’s going to transport you from a murky web of morning grogginess and hangovers to a refreshed and invigorated state. Not only do you want to eliminate the common problems with showers but you also want to add the best components you can in order to maximize awesomeness. This is something you can do without building a brand new house by the way: take care of your shower and main bathroom and you’ll leave for work a much happier person.

The showerhead

If the most important part of the bathroom is the shower, then the most important part of the shower is the showerhead. I am a bit of a showerhead snob and we went through six heads before finding the perfect one. I will just go ahead and save you the time and tell you what the best showerhead in the world is: The Kohler Flipside. It is truly an amazing showerhead, and if you’re reading this blog without having started your new home yet, just do yourself a favor and buy it. They are on sale for $71 at Home Depot right now.

Let me count the ways I love this showerhead:

  1. You can easily remove the flow restrictor, creating an torrent of spray even Cosmo Kramer would appreciate.
  2. 3 of the 4 spray settings are wonderful. One feels like you’re going through a carwash. The problem with most multi-setting showerheads is that usually only one setting is good, and on that setting, you’re only using maybe 20% of the head’s nozzles. On the Flipside, you’re using all of the nozzles on whatever face you’re flipped to.
  3. It has a built-in handshower.
  4. It looks great.
  5. Both the girlfriend and I actually agree that it is the best showerhead ever, and we never agree on showerheads.

This showerhead is so good that I may buy an extra to have around for when this one needs to be replaced and it is inevitably discontinued.

Even if you’re not going to take my advice on the Flipside, make sure you have a shower arm installed that fits all standard half-inch showerheads. Originally we had a Kohler Purist showerhead (beyond terrible) and arm installed and unfortunately the arm is not separable from the head. This is a huge design problem, in my mind. A homeowner must be able to experiment with different showerheads and find their favorite.

Pipes and valves

You should have your shower lines run with 3/4 inch piping (as opposed to 1/2 inch) in order to make sure you have enough flow to do what you want. Similarly, pay special attention to what valves you specify. We originally had a standard Kohler thermostatic valve spec’d that not only was meant for a different type of system (the type where you control volume and temperature on the same knob), but also it only allowed about 5 gallons per minute through. If you have anything special in your shower like bodysprays, you’re going to need more than 5 GPM. We ended up installing the excellent Kohler 669-KS which will let a whopping 17.2 gallons per minute through if you want it to (which of course, we don’t).

Shower controls

The most important thing about shower controls is that they should not be placed underneath the showerhead. At least 90% of showers get this wrong, probably just out of builder convenience or laziness. You should be able to step into your shower, fiddle with your knobs, wait until the temperature is right, and then hop into the spray. Consider putting your controls as far away from the showerhead as possible. You’ll thank yourself every morning for it.

The other issue relating to controls is which type of user interface to go with. Most showers these days are controlled from a single knob that turns the water volume and temperature up simultaneous in a clockwise motion. It sickens me that this interface has become standard. I think it coincided with the 2.5 GPM MAX law, the thinking being “why would you ever want the water at anything less than full blast?”. I much prefer a knob for volume and a knob for temperature. That way, the temperature one stays in more or less the same position and the volume one(s) can be turned independently to affect flow. If you are designing a system like this, make sure your plumber knows your intention and make sure you buy the right valves and trim for it. Some plumbers will do this thinking for you. Others will not. Know which type you hired.


We put two bodysprays in the shower just to make sure we had the option of using them, but we rarely actually do. They are nice to have occasionally, but I wouldn’t call them a must, especially if you have the Flipside. If you need to cut bodysprays out because of budget or installation challenges, I say go ahead. If you want them, however, maybe go with three instead of two.


We went with a special type of glass called Starphire that has much less of a green tint around the edges. It is also a bit more etch-resistant than normal glass because it’s coated with something called Showerguard. It’s nice, and I recommend it, but not a must. The company who fabricated and installed our glass is Distinctive Glass.

Radiant heat, in the shower!

Since we did electric radiant heating pads underneath the tile in the master bathroom, Build surprised me and ran the pads right underneath the shower tile as well. Very, very awesome. No more curling of toes in the morning while inching into a cold shower. If you’re already doing radiant in the bathroom, there is no reason not to run it into the shower as well.

Shaving step

We had a small step built into the shower for leg shaving. You can do this with a wooden stool as well, but if you’re starting from scratch, might as well build the little step. It’s only maybe 6 inches deep, 15 inches wide, and a foot and a half tall, but it gets the job done… or so I’m told.

Alcove for bottles

Last but not least, we had a little alcove carved into the side of the shower to hold bottles and other shower-related things. Notably, we specified that the alcove be double-height with a glass shelf in-between. Shower alcoves never hold enough stuff so we were determined to build one that did. And it does.

… and those are the elements of a perfect shower.

The tub

We debated whether or not to have a tub at all in the master bathroom given the hot tub on the roof, but it was only a few thousand dollars extra and there are definitely nights in Seattle which are too cold and wet to want to use mess with a hot tub, so we put one in. We ended up going with a BainUltra Origami, which is an “air tub”. Air tubs don’t use water jets but rather air jets. Because they don’t use water jets, you can safely use bath oils and salts without ruining the system. We call the two tubs Fat Man and Little Boy. I haven’t actually used Little Boy yet, but the girlfriend says it’s the best bath in the world… so there’s that. Also, another bonus about the Origami is it lacks “old man handles”… the ugly clear plastic handles that adorn many popular baths.

Tile strategy

One of the most difficult parts of the entire building process was getting a grip on tile strategy. There are just so many different types of tiles out there (and most will be dated within years or months) that it’s tough to know where to start. Nancy Burfiend at the NB Design Group and the folks at Build gave us some great guidelines that we ended up following:

  • Use big tiles to make small spaces look bigger
  • Use the same tiles up the walls that you use on the floors
  • Use ceramic tile for durability and timelessness
  • Use a tile with a different texture or size as your main tile (but the same color) to add interest without being over the top

Using these guidelines, we chose off-white ceramic tile, ran it across the floor and halfway up the walls and then used smaller and grainier versions of the same for inside the shower. For the backsplash, we went with small glass subway tile. Neric Pro Build did all of the tile installation for a very reasonable price, and with a little bit of coaching and oversight, everything turned out swimmingly.

Faucets and sinks

Sinks are largely a personal affair, but we found what we wanted with these Ronbows. Simple, modern, white, and not likely to be dated any time soon. Vessel sinks are nice and all but every time I see one, I look at my watch and wonder how many months until they are out of style.

For the faucets, we fell in love immediately with the famous Dornbracht Meta series. What we didn’t fall in love with, however, was the price. I searched for weeks online and around town for a decent Dornbracht knockoff, but every single one had something wrong with it. Too fat, too thin, not the right angle, etc etc. None of them matched the beauty of a real Dornbracht.

Then, I finally found one! It’s called the Taron 101 and it’s available for about half the price of the Dornbracht. We ended up doing real Dorns in the master and three Tarons elsewhere around the house, and I have to say, I almost like the Tarons better. They seem very well built, and for half the price, I’m diggin’ em.

The following paragraph is intended to help others in their similar quests for reasonably priced Dornbracht alternatives by indexing some search terms on Google… please ignore if you’re a human:

dornbracht knockoff, dornbracht copy, cheaper dornbracht, dornbracht alternative, affordable dornbracht, imitation dornbracht, generic dornbracht, chinese dornbracht

If you came in from Google because of that paragraph, you’re welcome.


As in the kitchen, we went with quartz countertops in the bathrooms. While the kitchen is Pental Chroma, the bathrooms are Cambria. Quartz is affordable, durable, and modern. A perfect fit for our needs.


While my friend Danny advised putting audio in every bathroom and I felt like I needed one, we went ahead and wired just the master into the whole house audio system. We don’t use it much, but it’s a good move if it’s on your agenda.


Our toilets are Toto Pacificas. Affordable, modern, and a simpler-than-usual design that allows for easy cleaning. Wall mounted toilets are also nice, but we opted for simple, proven floor mounted ones.

Radiant heat

As mentioned above, we ran electric radiant heating pads underneath our tile. These are on a simple digital timer which cranks the tiles up to 85 degrees or so for an hour or two in the morning and then keeps the heat off for the rest of the day. For several hundred dollars, it’s a worthy addition.

A recirc line

If your master bathroom is far away from your water heater, you’re going to want your plumber to run a “recirc line” from the water heater to someplace near your bathroom. The recirc line is on a timer and runs a fresh supply of hot water close to your bathroom so it doesn’t take three minutes for your shower to get warm. Smaller houses or houses with multiple tankless water heaters may not need this, but if your water tank is two floors below your bathroom, you will get great use out of this little bit of technology.


Finally, there is the lighting. We put standard 5 inch cans in our bathrooms with the notable addition of Alinea bars in our master and powder room. Alineas are seldom-used fixtures that provide an interesting type of lighting: linear incandescence. Think of a long florescent tube but with a nice warm incandescent glow instead of a cold harsh florescent one. We put a long one of these above the mirrors. On the upside, it warms up the space nicely. On the downside, it cannot be dimmed without buzzing so it’s either all on or all off. Some people recommend placing lighting on the sides of your mirrors instead of above, but the Alinea seems not to cast the sorts of shadows this advice aims to avoid.

Wrap up

And so there you have it… the elements of a well-designed bathroom. Whether you’re building new, remodeling your current place, or just hate your showerhead, hopefully you can apply principles from this post to your own projects. Bathrooms are only about looks when you sell the place or are entertaining… all other times, they are about usability. Pay close attention to the usability of your bathrooms and you’ll forward to more of your mornings.

UPDATE: For a lot more shots of the bathroom details, check out the Bathroom section in the photo gallery.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Two Broan medicine cabinet mirrors ($274.00
Two replacement Broan medicine cabinet mirrors ($325.00
Bathroom mirrors and shower doors (Distinctive Glass, Inc)$5,038.00
Gatco Latitude II Towelbars/Holders/Etc. ($366.00
Modern Bathroom (Chinabrachts)$675.00
Buy Aggressive (Cascade Bath Filler)$337.00
Seattle Interiors (Laufen Palomba sink)$929.00
Blanco Magnum kitchen sink (HomePerfect)$598.00
Hansgrohe Interaktiv S kitchen faucet (HomePerfect)$310.00
Two Dornbracht faucets$922.00
Plumbing installs$13,681.00
Counter and tile work - kitchen+baths (Neric Pro Build)$24,703.00

Smarter Space Usage with Sliding Doors

One of the things that can make a house feel too big is an abundance of hallways and rooms. You know the style: you walk in and there are three hallways leading to different places. You walk down one and it leads to a couple of bedrooms and a study. You walk down another and it spits you out in another bedroom, the kitchen, or the rec room. Yet another leads you to the living room, a bathroom, and another spare room. Tightly tunneled houses can feel very wasteful, and especially if you don’t have a big family in the house, many areas of the house feel unused.

We wanted to create big, open spaces in the house, not only to maximize the views but also to make the most of the circulation space throughout the house. This strategy produced a house that is great for entertaining and everyday living, yet doesn’t feel too big or unused. In order to shrink some of these open spaces when we need to, however, we used Raumplus sliding glass doors in three strategic locations throughout the house: the great room/TV room junction, the kitchen/office junction, and the upstairs laundry area/hall junction. The sliders between the great room and the TV room serve an additional purpose in that they darken the room during bright days, allowing for more pleasant TV viewing.

We chose Raumplus system because they are sharp looking and slide along a barely noticeable set of rails set flush into the floor.

Here’s what the doors look from the TV room, tucked away behind the fireplace

… and here is a view from the opposite side, when they are closed

Costs accrued during this stage:

Raumplus sliding doors$11,189.00

Doorbells, Numbers, Mailboxes, and Carpets

As I get ready to post the final costs for the project, I have two entries to sneak in first: this one covering several items and another one covering decorative lighting.

The doorbell

For the incredibly affordable sum of $50, we got ourselves a sexy Spore True doorbell, and I have to say, it is money. Not only does it look great but people actually love pressing it. One pizza guy even said he’s never had the urge to press a doorbell a second time until he pressed this one. Not that you should be worried about what pizza delivery people think about your doorbell, but I’m just sayin’…

House numbers

Seeing as Build designed the house to evoke a midcentury esthetic, we figured we should get house numbers set in a typeface that was inspired by that era. Neutraface was the obvious choice, and conveniently, Design Within Reach sells house numbers set in this face.

The mailbox

Although brands like Blomus make great, modern mailboxes, $320 is just a ridiculous sum to pay for a container that I wish I never had to use. Happily, I found this little jobbie at Chiasso for $78 instead. It does the job just fine, but I still look forward to the day when I can turn off my mail service entirely.


Carpeting just isn’t a sexy subject these days, but almost every house has at least a little of it, and ours is no exception. We chose high quality berber carpeting for the upstairs bedrooms and cheaper berber for the basement. We got our carpeting from Decor Carpet One of Bellevue and it turned out great.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Berber carpeting (Decor One)$11,235.00
Mailbox ($78.00
House numbers (Design Within Reach)$193.00
Spore Doorbell ($50.00