So, way back in the beginning we suspected and then confirmed that the rails were made of a bad batch of lumber…and we have A LOT of railing… really. it’s kind of ridiculous. I was kind of reluctant to get into this rail thing…. we had other things that needed doing and i thought this could wait…. but, call me “Pandora’ i went and opened that box…or can of worms or whatever…..
We had admired the rails at a friend’s home and figured that we could start with replacing the rails around the pool…. the old rail sort of obstructed the view… and this new rail would not impede the view.
The rails are a bit higher and thinner — so if you are sitting on the deck your view really isn’t obstructed– with the old rail the top hit you square in the view line. Of course this led to what i will call ‘rail mania’ (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Mania) and the G man was ALL about replacing rails…..until the total price tag hit turns out this stuff ain’t so cheap……….. and then we had
somewhat-more-subdued-rail-mania…. leaving us with a bit of a design split personality (that is making me more than a bit nuts….) Admittedly
this isn’t the best picture of the outcome —
there is no cable installed… but the side rails have to stay for now I am going back at the end of the month and hope that this looks a bit less meh… but at least the view from the decks looking out will not be so obscured from a sitting position! The entry drive will also have a gate more for the goats than anything (and it remains to be seen whether that will have ANY effect on the goats….probably not…….
During the dismantling of the utility room (AKA super good storage space) we realized that by giving this up we didn’t have anywhere to store our personal items, pool stuff/beach chairs/you-name-it- random effluvia……. We also realized that the closets in the rooms were just , well …meh……… (actually less than meh….. much less than meh they were downright icky).
J1.2 to the rescue….. the old closets really were very spare… i think that even monks who have taken vows of silence and poverty at least have a shelf in their meager closet…. and a hanging bar that fits a hanger– then again i don’t frequent monasteries… but this is what I imagine to be the case. we needed two things…. more storage for us (i.e.: an ‘owners closet’) storage for other things (linens and supplies for change over days) and a closet that worked well for guests with shelving and hanging space.
J-1.2 devised a series of these great shelving units . HE then proposed to cordon off the upper part of the closet so that we could use that as a personal storage area
the side narrow side of the closet (the left side of the photo to the right) will be used for linen storage / supplies. so we’ve solved some of our storage issues so far
Of course, this still needs a hanging rod for the short and long hang areas – and doors (those arrived today! for some reason the interior doors all were delayed…..) For exterior storage (for beach chairs and the like) we are thinking of using the space by the exterior stair wells –but we still haven’t settled on that. While closets are kind of an after thought (at least for me) these are a bit less ken follett ‘pillars of the earth’ and more civilized– and i think will provide decent storage for us and our guests .
When last I posted, dear reader (if you are actually still out there — and i cannot blame you if you are not, as I have been quite remiss in posting ), we had closed chapters with our contractor, J-1 , realized that we indeed really HAD to replace the entire kitchen, and that the reality was that this was an enormousproject–and, I am NOT going to lie… the more I thought of it, the more freaked out I got….. like losing sleep freaked out. Pretty much EVERY building project i have heard of anywhere (and this is especially true in St John) runs well over budget. Add to that that things that are more practical ‘up here’ (e.g.: stainless steel finishes or veneers) are not so practical ‘down there’ (i am sure i have made no end of mistakes despite the wonderful advice i have received ) . In addition to this, the long distance aspect of things and the time pressures to get this house on the rental market by high season.
This combination of realities practically derailed me in some of the decision making process….Really , it took me 6 months to decide on tile for a bathroom makeover in our stateside home !!! (and caused poor g-man no end of aggravation) …..
We desperately needed a new contractor… and talked to a few different persons — all of whom would have done a great job I am sure. in the end we went with someone who had been on island a while, had impeccable recommendations and knew many of our subs already– we could not be happier….and since he is a J name as well. I will call him J-1.2.
So the Saga continues….chapter next…in which we reclaim the fourth bedroom…… and redo some baths…..
Originally the fourth bedroom was used as the utility area-we had planned on using it for our own storage and as the laundry/utility area. But a number of folks on the job noted that the fourth bedroom would really add value and make the house perfect for two couples with kids or a larger family — we ran some quick numbers, choked and said , well, what the hell… A LOT of plumbing needed to move, (remember we are also putting in a separate hot water tank for the other side of the house ) but much of the plumbing and the laundry was relocated to under the pool deck. I have to say J-1.2 works FAST and his crew does GREAT work! kind of like moving from OS-6 to OS-10– much faster processing !
We decided to use travertine on the floor and for the shower because it was readily available, and reasonably priced…. and then since we did that bedroom in travertine, i figured i better do it’s mirror image (the other downstairs bed/bath) in travertine as well…. G-man rolled his eyes at that one…..
Since the bathroom in the ‘new room’ doesn’t get the same light as the other bathrooms we decided to use glass block to make the shower enclosure — that would enable more light thru. We also used a cypress ceiling in the bathroom that is light and, i think, really pretty (though i only have a picture of it being installed…)
So….bathrooms…..for the past year and a half i have been up to my eyeballs in bathroom renovations. We redid the kids bathroom then our master bath in our stateside home (that was the six-month deciding dilemma) then pretty much RIGHT when that was done… a pipe burst and took out the first floor and basement powder-rooms…we were out of town at the time and it was a mess…. lost half the first floor and almost all of the basement. ugh . But as a result I sort of have the bathroom gig pretty well down (or at least i’d like to think so…others might disagree…) Unfortunately ….. i have never met a piece of porcelain tile that i truly liked (I take that back, i did and it was horrifically, crazily expensive and came only in a really large size (like 24″ by 36″) — SO of course, I bought that and had it cut down-thus ADDING to the already batshit- crazy expense and used it for the basement bathroom…. But, hey, it was a really small bathroom!)
I debated buying tile on St Thomas (a special trip down) or buying up here and shipping first to Miami then to St John, or flying to Miami and buying tile there…. I opted to buy here and ship — OK OK, i see you …. you are shaking your head and saying ‘oh no she did not!’ — you know who you are….. Sometimes a girl gots to do what a girl gots to do.
I wanted the bathrooms to each be unique but have some unifying themes… the toughest part of this was that the downstairs showers were already travertine and travertine comes in many different shades and pictures are sort of hard to judge…..
i also really wanted to keep everything very neutral.
so some of this was kind of seat of pants stuff. picking tile blindfolded almost… Each bath will have an accent wall where the vanity will be placed and that same accent will be run up the shower wall where the controls are
I chose to go with the folks who i bought most of my ‘here’ bathroom tile– Since I had reason to do so much business with this particular supplier they gave me a contractors discount and because i was shipping out of state did not charge me tax (which more than covered the trucking to FLA) this particular mess o’ tile also got shipped in the same container as our exterior doors — so all in all the shipping charges really were not bad! (but that is about the only time i will write those words….) The upper baths are not quite complete (the last time i was there — which was a couple of weeks ago).
But here is a preview of one of them: NO that right there is NOT IT!!!!
The new shower looks a bit cleaner, I think…. I hope you think so too.. I was going for something that sort of said nature/shore/beach.
The vanities are teak and were sourced from signature hardware (who were super nice to deal with) and have marble or granite tops.. the lower baths will have round white porcelain sinks and the upper bathrooms oval sinks. The bath hardware was sourced from Faucet direct — and the folks there are super. but if you are shipping to a consolidator BEWARE…… They made me fill out all sorts of attestations and crazy crap…it was nuts and i thought I would miss my shipping deadline (they also went down with the doors).
So that is what’s been happening at the house! I have a LOT more to report (and hopefully you are not too bored!)……And promise not to be so lax in the future…… but right now i have to go pick up a bunch of teenaged boys from hockey practice!
While we wanted to accomplish a few things on this trip (register the new ride…ha!, attend to the business of the solar panels, etc. ) , this trip was primarily to introduce the house to the kids and have a bit of vacation time….. so this is more of a trip report than anything else….and it is our first time staying in the house (which is just barely
In case you forgot, it is the white one sticking out of the hill there……. really have to work on landscaping (though i am not sure how much goat proofing we will have to do first…..we have a TON of goats…..) The house is seriously lacking in curb appeal….or curbs for that matter. Anyway, i digress, after the barge (one of two that were currently running) we stopped first at the Beach bar and were able to meet up with the SeasTheDay guys if you aren’t already following their progress, you should! (http://seasthedaystj.com). After a couple of cold beverages we headed over the hill to the house, assembled air mattresses and headed to shipwreck landing for dinner– for family trips that has always been our traditional first night dinner and it did not disappoint. It was fairly dark by the time we made it to the house so it wasn’t possible to see all of the progress that was made (and i did not take too many pictures i am afraid….and i apologize) . One thing the kids made me keenly aware of the MOMENT they stepped into the house was this : ‘how much do you want to be that someone is going to try jumping off this balcony and into the pool?’ ugh…..that thought actually NEVER even crossed my mind!But this is the view from the balcony/deck down to the pool (and there you can just make out the pool tile (coral stone) which had been mostly laid but is not grouted, filled or sealed (i am told this will be completed by tomorrow) — Which demonstrates the straight shot from there to the pool…….COWABUNGA……and then? This probably demonstrates the temptation (and foolhardiness) more clearly
Since you cannot fix stupid, I guess we will have to put some very clear signage that this is NOT a good idea. A friend and wife of RAE suggested a picture of the hospital in st thomas with the warning that it’ll take about 5 hours to get there…… Another friend suggested screening it in–which would be a shame, but might be a good idea. Monday we headed to Lameshur — this was my first beach trip in, i think 3 visits in the past 2 months.
An on- island friend upon hearing we bought a place looked at the G-man and said ‘well, you will never vacation on St John again–you will always be running to the hardware store or some errand…’ Let’s hope that we can prove this wrong at least some of the time! Later that day I was due to head to Cruz Bay to pick up two of 1st-F-1’s friends meet the person who was acting as the agent for the person i had bought the car from (he had already left the island….hmmmmm) Now, i KNOW that i shouldn’t buy a car site unseen…and i have heard the warnings and let’s just say, i get it….and deserve whatever happens…..SO the seller sends the power of atty via express mail…and we are off to connections….but the Title is still with the car, so back to the car to get the title….and then back to connections and all is notarized for the BMV and then ….’you have a copy of the sellers drivers license, right? ‘ look in the envelope and he forgot to include it…… frantic phone call… can you fax it? sure….waiting…and then ‘NO- cannot fax– will email’……doesn’t come thru…..then the internet goes down– and it is 5 pm….so no way i am getting insurance and getting to the registry today (it would have been tricky anyway….but not happy about having to come back into town to deal with all this again….) So….. off to get the girls…….
This next part is the SAGA OF REMOVING THE CAR FROM THE MONGOOSE JUNCTION LOT so three teens, one slightly stressed out middle aged woman and two cars….one a rental and one a standard transmission beater that needs to be moved….. you do the math…. quasi legal activities needed to be engaged in. I was not proud of this slight incursion into lawlessness– but we had to get both cars up the hill (the one for repair of a power steering pressure hose and a valve gasket cover-repairs which i knew about and parts which i brought with me-the other one for onward transport….) and I am the only one that drives a standard….. 1st-f1 was a bit hesitant to drive on the left– but we’d go slow….. I get into the ‘new’ car (and have both of 1st-f-1’s friends with me-) depress the clutch and turn the key….and nothing…..lights on, but NO one is home in the engine compartment….okaaaaaaayyyyyy let’s do that again…..AND….. nothing…… so a few more frustrating turns of the key and i call the former owner…. my annoyance not quite in check… (he disclosed many things about the car– but there were some -like this and the lack of a working seatbelt, and a few other things that were left out of that conversation)–he informs me that the clutch has a bit of ‘play’ and in order to engage the starter sensor you have to push the clutch over to the right– now this isn’t hard once you get the hang of it, but it was very difficult to figure out what he was trying to tell me long distance. But finally mission accomplished and we are off…up the hill (the clutch is a bit weird and will take some getting used to….) 1st-f-1 does an admirable job on her first outing on St John roads. At the house and it feels great to have a bunch of kids there, have the g-man there– in short, it feels happy and that means a ton .
Monday night we met up with friends at concordia for open mike night– I missed most of the music since we had all the car drama , but had drinks and a great meal with friends. (and 2nd-f1 even dared to perform…..nerves of steel that one…..)
Wednesday was the crazy fest that is the BMV…..dropped the kids at Francis and then off to the BMV — walk in and then realize that i had forgotten to go to the insurance folks first….so off to the insurance folks and then after about 45 minutes (with very pleasant people i might add!) had my car insured…..then back to the registry and after about 90 minutes? had the car registered as well.
We celebrated 2nd-f-1’s 15th birthday at shipwreck on Wednesday
and went sailing to Jost with Kekoa and friends on Thursday- which was great fun.
We set a meeting with J-1 for Friday Morning– unsure as to how things would work themselves out–but we did want to have the week to hang with the kids as much as we could and not think too much about the serious business of the renovation. After a long discussion with the G-man about the laundry list of projects and all-he decided to part ways. J-1 did a great job getting us going- and i am very thankful for that- So now we are interviewing and getting quotes from other builders to finish (hopefully!) what we have started! My tiling seems to be a spiraling price point– so time to get real about that as well…… We got a quote on a cable rail system from custom Welding in St Thomas — am going to see what it looks like if we bring in the cable ourselves…..(thanks for the tip– if you are reading this you know who you are !
The wind and rain really had started picking up towards the end of the week– and that sort of sealed the deal on the sliders debate…..After living in the house G-man sees that the kitchen really does need a complete overhaul — and on this trip it was decided that we have to put in an extra hot water system – since it is all located on one side of the house and running water from one side to the other while waiting for it to heat up is just wasting water and power…..Signed the contract for the solar, and met with an A/C installer to get prices for installing split units in the bedrooms. so the project list just keeps on growing…….but the interior ceiling is all painted, the roof is fixed and some of the strange plumbing and drainage issues have been dealt with….
More dinners with friends at Aqua bistro, Oasis, and at persons homes; attending a meeting of the Coral Bay Community Council , easter on Francis
and mostly meeting more wonderful neighbors and other residents, and getting to know yet others even better makes me more sure that this is a community that I want to be a more permanent part of –With kids still in highschool that will be a while off… I probably will go back when we have some more business to attend to (in a few weeks?) but until then i will leave you with this picture 1st-f-1 took from the first floor bedroom balcony
So tomorrow we venture as a family to camp in the ‘manse’ — and my daughter has two friends along for the journey… should be interesting! I am not sure what we will find when we arrive….J-1 asked me if i had someone coming in to clean up– i didn’t/don’t since the deep cleaning was done a bit ago…or so i thought? — Hopefully it’s not complete chaos? With everyone tripping over each other there — there are bound to be some bristled feathers — and, of course, we have just that…. As i have said before, i am extremely lucky to have been able to engage the persons i have- to a T, everyone has been terrific at what they do — and I really hope that whatever issues there are can be resolved. More pictures soon come of whatever progress awaits. That and and a rail-less pool deck …… So, patient reader, can a cable rail possibly look good on this house? or do we replace with the same look…..I am thinking that a cable rail might look out of place with the traditional rail on the rest of the house– also considerations of a vinyl rail versus aluminum ? — thoughts (if anyone at all is actually reading this! ) oh….and i bought a car– might be the best or worst purchase ever (ok, probably not the worst– the used volvo that blew up in the driveway with my infant son inside– pretty much CANNOT top that….and yeah, that one the Gman never lets me forget…..-cannot say as i blame him!!) For this trip a week — and i hope to actually get to the beach this time…. been three trips and no sand and no water…
If you don’t know the story ofDr. Seuss’s Solla Sollew — it is about a being who encounters some challenges and then tries to deal with them by escaping to a magical place where there are no troubles (at least very few) …….to many this might describe this venture…..or perhaps describes BEING in this venture……
seuss always captures things perfectly.
as it seems that when one problem is resolved….. another arises…..
to put it in Seussian terms….
38 But now I was safe
39 Both in back and in front.
40 Then New troubles came!
41 From above!
42 And below!
43 And a Skritz at my neck!
44 And a Skrink at my toe!
45 And now I was really in trouble, you know.
46 The rocks! And the Quail!
47 And the Skritz! And the Skrink!
48 I had so many troubles, I just couldn’t think!
(i know that there are many who are thinking….i wish i could have such troubles….yeah… i know……. and i am not bitching –least not that much)
SO while we were busy thinking about the rats and the tile and the wood….. (rats…gone-ish…..) the tile has been cleaned up and re-grouted and looks SO much better–I think i have the tile whisperer working…..
J-1’s crew is working miracles on the woodwork — The people working at the house are really a terrific bunch– i am VERY lucky. Our electrician –has been great at untangling our electrical ‘issues’ has been assessing the wiring…. to paraphrase “most people would go a to b to c….they seemed to go a to n to d….” or words to that effect — i have in my possession an light that is ‘switchless’ (how about that!) and wiring that apparently is a bit crazy.
The electrician has been a godsend and is a really great guy–I was really worried about the wiring –knowing how corners were cut and things were put together- I am feeling much better now that he is working the system out and pulling it into some semblance of sensible.
We knew that there was a roof leak. and there was some rot in the T-111 in the ceiling of the front porch deck– we thought it was a small issue…..but the leak in the corner turned into a maze of rotting wood that requires most of the roof to be redone
We have a lot of mystery drainage issues at this house… and funky sizes– in fact i spent a better part of a day running around St Thomas (actually DRAGGING my friends, my VERY PATIENT friends!–and in their car!) finding oddly sized PVC pipe, reducer bushings and unions…. (2.5inch pipe, 2.5-3 inch bushings, etc) I have got to say that if you EVER need oddly sized stuff (and you KNOW you will someday–ok, maybe not) that Plastic City in Bovoni is the place to go….and they give away cool swag too! (i got a keychain flashlight!) — i learned a lot though– the difference between schedule 40 and schedule 80 PVC and that 4 inch unions are HUGE (yeah a guy’s business for sure….) — Home Depot doesn’t carry most of this stuff and even the very good plumbing supply store up here said that most of this was a special order…. so…. Plastic City wins– and BONUS… steve is from New Hampshire….and sox fan…. ‘nuf said….if PVC is your thing, then this is the place to be.
So, for this trip the last thing was the cabinets… did i already say how the rats had eaten thru a bunch of the cabinets? well they ate thru some pretty important structural stuff (at least in the sink/oven area) and the finish is falling apart and spending more time effort and energy and money trying to fix them seems like a waste of it all– SO the big bad news of this trip was the decision that we probably need to replace the cabinets…..ugh. This is a huge and unplanned expense and the G-man (while i think initially not a big fan) has been far more understanding than i had anticipated…. the question remains though– do we keep the current layout and only replace the cabinets on the sides (so keep the island and the cooktop in the island) OR do we revert back to the original layout where the island is simply an island and the stove/oven is placed next to the fridge– pro’s : easy to run a gas line to that location so i could do a gas stove! cons: all new counters……
We return to the island on the 13th this time with everyone (and more) in tow– we will camp out there — should be interesting…
so been in St John since monday…on Coral bay side of the island my phone (verizon) DOES NOT work….. and no wireless except a bit at concordia….and so…… radio silence…. I was going to write a long post tonight with pictures….– but it is 11:45 pm — and I just got home…because i missed my direct flight to JFK — because basically the Airport at St Thomas is FUBAR. if you have been there you know the drill– and i was a *bit* tardy– i was not THAT late…… and told the security people that i was REALLY late (after getting thru the 50 minute line for customs and then the 45 minute security line — or something to that effect….) they did the following…: shut down their second security line (the X-ray machine line) and looked at me and shrugged….. so racing thru after security and they are taking the steps away from dear old AA flight 936…… (and my chances of getting home for dinner) …..but the agent in st thomas for american immediately rebooked me on the miami flight then on to JFK..so i walked by flight 936 (scheduled for 1:05) at 1:15 or so (insert glare stare here) and onto my Miami bound flight…. but in an exit row (score one for me!) — met a LOVELY woman from St Thomas who is a school counselor there– so that was a nice way to spend the flight….The house has been slowly (well – not so slowly) revealing itself and the project list grows all the longer…… the G-man reminds me that our last name isn’t Gates or Buffet..
But there are more big issues……and they have to be addressed….. I remind myself that i am one lucky lady to have this opportunity…and a supportive (if slightly more jaded?) spouse….
So, heading back on Monday to see what gives–i should be ecstatic…..but i am kind of just filled with foreboding…..More Rat nests were discovered and the damage from the rats is likely to lead to even more significant expenses (over what it already has– which is basically all new appliances…thank you R.O.U.S’s……) I still haven’t made a decision on french doors versus sliders (this will become a theme here i imagine…my deciding and committing to one thing or another……it took me a good 4 months to decide on tile for a bathroom once! This is going to be a LONG process…..)–but the G-man wants the place on the market by late fall……so this means getting my act together. For now, adding to the list the additional rat damage and another electrical connection that may not be up to code.
The house needs to have some happy in it– so hoping that we can manage that….and next week i hope to infuse the house with happy (Without rats…..god , please! Without rats……not that i am against rats being happy– just not happy in my house) — In the meantime i since i am sort of paralyzed by the larger projects (committing to replacement doors, large furniture purchases, etc, etc) I thought i would buy a few things that might be nice in the house….. so in no particular order- coffee mugs. (a pair of each) a small tray and a small box for a bureau, a kettle, and a serving platter…. none of these things is particularly significant and will go in a box until we ship a container down…but starting the process of thinking what i want there makes it a bit less abstract and makes it a bit more happy……
J-1 called and said he was reconsidering his last assessment of the cabinets so they might be ok after a lovely and wonderful cleaning faery scrubbed and beautified them…..and if he can find the serial number then I am told that Kraftmaid will have a record of them and can make replacement parts — so that is a WHOLE lot cheaper than a new kitchen….PHEW…….Pool is being taken care of (i know, i know….– a case of misguided priorities….but hey! I have never had a pool! And besides we are going to ‘camp’ there over the kids spring break.) But the list still seems to be getting longer rather than shorter…roof has (more) issues….areas are flat and need a bit of pitch so that the water runs off…, more rot in the wood (which i think will all need to be replaced eventually and there is a lot of it) a drainage issue , a septic issue…a water pump issue……
but small steps and so far, so good……i am impatient by nature– so this project will be a test for me for sure……..I am lucky to have many wonderful friends who are making the way a bit easier, by making introductions, talking me down off of my panic “did we make a huge mistake?’ giving me good advice (even if i don’t necessarily want to hear it– you see i really do want those french doors…….and i might live to regret it). And one friend in particular who has done so much…that i am not sure i can ever find a way to say thank you.
J1 called tonight and his words were basically …..’well, after looking behind the appliances…..i think that maybe my initial take on the cabinets might be wrong……maybe they do need to be replaced…..whoever put them in…well, they weren’t very careful…..’ <<cue downward slide whistle>> G-man is more against dealing with cabinets than he is french doors…….call this the cabinet revolt….– but really only the center island revolt– so maybe we annex that part of the kitchen to russia? or norman island? Bear with me . Like i said, it is late. 1F-1 is studying for a Bio test and I am trying to keep 2f-1 from annoying her while she studies…….it’s late and everyone’s tired and tempers are not what they should be…so i am a bit punchy and there is snow in the forecast . … After the 30 K estimate for tile work that was delivered today (much that is necessary and has to be done ….and then some — a big ticket outdoor shower–that is desired, but not critical) staring a complete kitchen redo in the face is really not what we wanted…
but as a friend says ‘2 live kids at the end of the day? I win’ (and wow, with their issues tonight that was almost not the case!)
a renovation blog that may just change your mind about your caribbean dreams…….or not.