I blame instagram for my lethargy with this blog…but here’s why I continue: people find it and they call me. no one has ever called the office and said “i found your mcelroyarch.com website”…but very often people say they found me via the blog. the following content is from December – January (!!) our first snowfall at the cabin the first weekend in december…it certainly was the tip of the iceberg. something that bugged us a bit was walking in the front door there was a view straight into the bathroom, and a vast open space for … doing a pirouette? maybe, but we decided to add a closet that would do triple-duty: create a defined entrance, block the bathroom door, and provide storage since we removed the only 2 closets in the house 🙂 there’s Scott pulling up the carpet to reveal this:the stickiest-ever vinyl floor tiles, beneath which was the original layer of most likely asbestos 8×8 tile in appropriate forest green. ambitiously we thought we could scrape it up with ease: not so fast, because it was stuck beyond fast. I asked around and everyone said ‘just go right over it’, so we did. the time-stamp on these is about 8pm. fun! tbh this was the first wall either of us had ever built, in tilt-up fashion. the Jim Beam helped us celebrate afterward. why is the 2-stud header over the door stacked horizontally? I saw it that way in a frame-construction book. even dad in NY questioned it. but it only has to hold up bi-fold doors, who cares? don’t try this at home, it’s not an instruction guide! even after framing it was super wobbly, with no shear to steady it. a view from within the ‘hallway’ looking out toward the great room, new closet on the right. Continue reading
here’s a peek through the front door and out the back – the entry will same size doors at both sides to keep it open, breezy, and quick access around the long house. there is a deep, flat roof over the front door to give the stoop shelter in the rain and break up the roofline and alert people “here! this is the entry!”walking up to the front door location, here’s the view through the foyer and out the back door. you can see there is a roof overhang on the wall to the right out the back door – we ended up cutting this back to the wall = no more overhang there. the challenge of working on a boomerang shaped house! once inside the entry ‘foyer’ (such a formal word…) you turn left through a short passage and this is the view into the vaulted great room: the kitchen will be to the right, and a small den area to the left. the existing wood burning fireplace will now get a gas insert, a change from the original plan.walking across the room, standing in between the living and dining areas and looking back; kitchen on left, entry foyer is through the passage to the right. the ceiling was previously flat with a roof truss system: the webs and lower chord were removed; the top chord remains but with new sistered rafters alongside. the side walls are 9′ tall; the high point of the room is 16′ tall to the ridge beam. this is a view out through 16′ sliding doors of the living room side; there are matching doors on the dining room side as well. Continue reading
long overdue for a post on our progress at the cabin: this Fall we did a good amount of demolition…I always say demo is the easy part: anyone can tear down a wall! it’s fun, a good way to get in some exercise and get out some stress. reminder: the main living spaces of the cabin have beautiful open wood ceilings. but as seen above, the two bedrooms had dropped ceilings, making the rooms feel cramped. I was convinced that there was the same wood above, in an enclosed attic….there was no access so we just had to bust through. and… what was up there? we found .. knotty pine tongue & groove, woo-hoo!! exactly what we hoped to find. we continued to pull down the tiles. in one corner, we found what looked like an old hornet nest. I knocked it over, and heard the sound of dripping onto the floor…what the hell liquid could be dripping? it turned out to be….ANTS by the hundreds:Scott ran out to buy Raid at the local market while i sprayed them with clorox or whatever cleaner we had. not fun. but we bagged them up and pushed on. this is our first peek up into the ‘attic’ over the bedrooms. wood ceiling untouched since 1963. the gable exterior wall had no insulation in it, not surprised to find.
we also removed the small funky closets that were built into the bedrooms. our thought is we’ll never really need bedroom storage in a cabin, and they took up valuable floor space in the cozy rooms. Continue reading
aptly named for its existing plan shape, this ranch sits at the edge of vineyards in northern Napa County. This is the youngest house we’ve ever brought to the studs – built in 1988. Back then I was walking to the corner store with a friend, buying Cool Ranch Doritos and hearing Sweet Child O Mine croon from the radio as I passed by fields of the upstate NY type. (maybe this should be called Cool Ranch?!)the house is well-built and was cared for, but it just needs a little jolt from us to kick up the dust and bring it to 2016. Axl is still trying to make it happen but that doesn’t mean this house has to. one of the cool things about this ranch is that it came with original blueprints. hand-drawn plans and details! as you can imagine, one of the first things we thought of was to vault the ceilings and really appreciate / experience that gabled roof shape, from inside. that means removing a ton of trusses, 24″ o.c. … it’s a lovely location. the first thing you see from the road is the garage door, none of us like this but it has stay – only getting a makeover. below are a few more shots around the outside. where’s the front door?!tons of butterceam yellow, eek – I really only like this on a cupcake. it’s really weird to me to see massive roofs leaning on spindly little posts. like I said, the house is ‘nice’ but isn’t living up to its potential in this location. out in the back is the water tank building. around wine country you often see old water towers, with the tank at the top. this property has two wells. we’re looking toward the rear yard, from where large doors will be located. inside is just, blah. finishes aren’t amazing, flat ceilings throughout, gigantoid fireplace and concrete hearth. sidenote: there are some brass faucets that were hot in ’88 and despised until a few years ago. it’s all cyclical. here are a few proposed renderings, showing the new entry and vaulted ceilings with rafters. below are some more recent shots of what’s been going on: from underwhelming entry to chopped off entry! the cupolas are staying, a client decision that I think is a good one. photo on the left above is a slice through the house, at the boomerang ‘elbow’ where the new main entrance will be. see one of the wells in the foreground. on the right, to the studs: the future dining / living area and soon to be removed trusses. at the back / north end of the house will be the master bed & bathroom. the photo below is the stunning vineyard view directly across the street when leaving the driveway. this is why I’ve always said I feel like I can finally breathe when I get into the country – air, space, light, views, nature. stay tuned, more to come!
a huge thanks to our photographer Melissa Kaseman for pitching our project to San Francisco magazine. They picked up the story and it’s in the November issue.
flip through their entire online issue here, or check it out in images below. Or better yet buy a hard copy, cut those pages out and put them on your wall for inspiration 🙂 and call us when you’re ready to do your own to the studs remodel!
this project was a fun collaboration with really great clients. we can’t thank them enough for being open to 99% of our design ideas. they wanted a sense of whimsy in the house and I think we achieved that feeling.
we like to think of this house as a bright, inviting, energetic series of spaces with bold patterns and textures. it has plentiful windows to grab distant views out the front and a 17ft wide multi-panel sliding door to connect to a cozy garden in the back.
take a look ———–>
at long last we have a place of our own for a to-the-studs project! we could not be more thrilled. this woodsy little confection was built in 1963, at the tail-end of the mid-century era, in the California Sierra foothills. after a 3-month search through the pine forest with our realtor, we settled on the one: it was the right size (800 sq ft) not oversized like some ski-houses tend to be; in a good location we’ve visited with friends – it has access to a lake; and most importantly because it hadn’t really been touched much since the 60s and needs work – nothing major, but work that we’re anxious to do. a real vintage fixer-upper. below are photos of the other sides. it was affectionately referred to as ‘cigarette house’ by our realtor because it was beyond saturated with the smell. but that only ‘fueled’ our interest more – we knew we could do a job on it. I like the board-and-batten siding but not the lemon color. so un-woodsy! it’s nestled into a gentle hill with a deck in front and a cute guest cottage / toolshed out back – perfect for our unwanted guests lol! I assume it was used for sleeping because it’s insulated, carpeted and has lighting. Inside the house, it’s wood-on-wood-on-wood. another big selling point was the vaulted, knotty pine ceiling….which we love and think really makes the cabin. there are three truss-beams running through the living area. my engineer colleague took one look and said they’re not structural. but we’re keeping them, of course.the kitchen is quaint, and came with no refrigerator. that’s OK – we have coolers, for now. seems like a mircrowave was taken too – but we don’t care – less things to throw out because it would probably not been one we liked the look of. the cabinets are not original, maybe one of the only things updated in the house, but they’re OK for now. we have plans. in the bedrooms, the vaulted ceiling disappears….WTF. why are these ceilings flat / dropped? the first time I saw this, I was certain that the vaulted pine must continue above, and this is only a cosmetic lower ceiling. we also did not love the built-in closets that took up floor space in the cozy bedrooms. how about those faux-wood accordion doors? oh my vintage! there’s no way they’d make the cut. The Bathroom…pretty basic…you can’t tell but the toilet is on an angle – we’ll call it the V8 toilet. I’m glad there’s a wall-hung sink, I often prefer them over vanity cabinets that can make a small space feel cluttered (like that shelf!). even the toilet seat was wood-grain. the entire bathroom was paneled, ceiling and all. I actually like this curved-corner medicine cabinet and think with a little spray-paint it can stay. that outlet is not GFI = good thing I don’t use a blowdryer 🙂 some fun light fixtures. old-west scalloped realness above, and the lower one is the same as was in my childhood bedroom – and I’m sure many bedrooms across the USA.. the original wood wall paneling: to keep or not to keep?? it’s ‘real’ wood, as in very thin sheets of plywood. not plastic printed woodgrain that came along later. this is genuine wood..and wood makes the CABIN. we are at once charmed by it, and yet could also see painting it white to brighten the place up. for now we’ll keep it, other things to do first. we’re also unsure if all exterior walls are insulated. the ‘Woodsman’ fireplace is so damn awesome. we’ve already built many fires in it. we like to think we are becoming woodsmen…ha. vintage moment: maybe we should keep the paneling in the bathroom? she doesn’t seem to mind it.and as for this short, but obtrusive wall: I suspect there is a structural post within it, supporting the ridge beam. but it’s in a bad spot. we think this is where a refrigerator once was (on the kitchen side) but we don’t plan to put it back there. this wall irks us but I have a solution.
your homework is to think about the paneling! should it stay or should it go?! more to come!
at the castro corner house, the new walls were framed in, and sheetrock is now being installed.
above is the rough framed new stair to the first floor. about 20′ of new concrete retaining wall was poured along the property line.
in the photo above, part of the concrete wall is thinner to allow for the stair landing in this location – every inch counts to make the stairs work, especially in these narrow san francisco lots!
here the 6′ tall new concrete is furred out to allow for bathroom plumbing to run inside. new johns-manville formaldehyde-free insulation (for better indoor air quality) fills the wall cavities where there was no insulation before…..the globe is warming but we’re using more insulation now than we did in 1940. 🙂 from this point looking over the new stairwell you can see through the lower hallway and to the new garden door. a nice peek to the rear yard without having to go downstairs.. a view along the floor toward the new built-in bench, and spot where the gas fireplace will go. it’s a corner fireplace by Ortal. pretty slick! can’t wait to see it. we’re further along than these pictures show; some cabinetry is installed, and we’re selecting final finishes now. stay tuned, more to come!