Well, construction of the house is on hold at the moment. We need to get a stamp of approval of our architectural plans from the city of Oakland before pouring the concrete foundation. But we need to finalize the floor plan for the ground units before we can hand it in to get approved. In the mean time, the plumber is supposed to reconfigure the underground plumbing before the concrete goes down, but they need access to an area outside the house that is covered with trash from the demolition from last week. The trash hasn't been picked up yet due to the rain...ugh, everything is at a stand still.

I downloaded a free 3D drawing program yesterday and spent the day playing with different layouts for the upstairs floor plan. The graphics and options of this program is pretty primitive, but it's very easy to use, just drag and click. I love the 3D walk through, it helps so much to be able to see how actual physical objects will fit in the space. Although the empty space feels open and big right now, once the walls are up, it will fill much smaller, the upstairs is only a little over 945 square feet after all. I came up with three different plans, here is the one that I am the most happy about.

2nd floor 2D layout. (Click on the images for a larger view.)

2nd floor aerial view.

View from front door looking to the back.

View from kitchen looking to the front door.

The door on the left leads to the laundry room / half bath. The door on the right is the master bedroom.

View of laundry room.

Looking into master bedroom.

Looking at closet and the door to the master bath.

Master bath.

Painting Studio / 2nd bedroom.

View from back deck looking into the kitchen.


Cat Party

When we first bought the house, we noticed the neighborhood cats have been using our backyard as a giant kitty litter box, much to my dismay. But hey, not much is going on in the yard right now, so I wasn't going to sweat it. I like cats. My old roommate had an outdoor cat, Kitters, but I never saw or smelled her waste around or near the house. She was adorable and extremely easy cat to take care of.

Well, I discovered over the weekend that these mystery cats have decided to do their business indoors now that the first floor is practically just a pile of dirt. Oh how they love the freshly dug soil. The word must have gotten around the neighborhood, because there were at least seven piles of fresh droppings. I gathered they are having a ball every night on our freshly dug floor. It's also possible that everyone is just so overjoyed about this newly discovered indoor hangout that they just can't contain themselves (no pun intended). They no longer need to do their business out in the rain now that there's a giant litter box indoors.

At the moment, the ground floor is defenseless to all these cats that want to defecate in it. Not only is there a giant hole where a door used to be, there's also an open trench around the west side of the house.
I hate stepping in that foul smelling crap having done so a couple of time recently. So action must be taken to regain my sanity take back my house! I googled for cat repellent today and found a product they sell at pet stores that claim to keep cats away. After rushing to procure this magical item, I spent a wonderful afternoon picking up fresh cat excrement in a room full of dirt, then scattered the whole box of this stuff over the floor. Although it says it's safe to use for shrubs and vegetables, not sure that it's completely nontoxic. I hope it does what it says it does so I can stop picking up cat poop...


Parquet Floor Reinvented

This is such a genius use of parquet floor. Some of the rooms are a tad too colorful for me, and every piece of furniture that goes into this flat would have to be either white or solid colors to counter act the crazy patterns of the rainbow colored floor. The HumlegĂ„rden apartment was designed by tham & videgard hansson arkitekts

I think this is one of those things that you either hate or love, I fall into the latter category. I love that the designers were not afraid to step outside the box and didn't take their design too seriously. On a dreary day such as today, looking at these photos bring a big smile to my face.



Rain Rain Go Away

The demolition at our house never seems to end. By the time this house is done, we will have basically a brand new constructed house; which if comes within our projected budget will be a miraculous feat by our amazing general contractor.

Over the weekend, the crew dismantled the rotted breakfast nook that was an enclosed back porch done in the 1950s by Mattie Doris. Who is Mattie Doris you might ask? She was the second owner of this house, who did a lot of "creative" reconfiguration of the house to add indoor space. She also enclosed the front porch that's a signature of Queen Annes. There was a lot of haphazard things done to the house, we are trying our best to do it right this time...Well what do you know, the kitchen area looks much better without the odd nook with the 7 foot ceiling. Oh, did I mention that the foundation for this extension is a little unstable and requires repair as well. Anyway, a collective decision was made on the spot to make this area a deck instead of part of the kitchen. Not only does that save us some money, it will also be a nice to have an elevated outdoor space for hanging out and have a little herb garden conveniently located outside the kitchen. I am already dreaming of those summer barbecues on the deck...

These are couple of short videos that Justin took of the demolition, video 1video 2.

We arrived at the job site on Saturday morning, demolition was already in progress.

Thankfully no one fell through the big opening where there used to be a wall.

View from where the kitchen will go. Although we'll be losing a little bit of square footage on the inside, that space was awkward and under utilized to begin with, so it's not a huge loss.

The house boarded up temporarily. We are going to enclose the area below the deck and use as laundry room for the downstairs units. A door will be put in next to the temporary boarded up wall. We thought about putting in french doors that open up to the deck, but decided against them for practical and security reasons. The wood siding on the back of the house has some damages, dry rotting, we'll replace them also.


Small Kitchens

We got the architect drawn floor plans for the house yesterday and it got me thinking about the upstairs kitchen. Here is my amateur drawing of the floor plan that's not to scale, but which the architect's drawing was based on. 
As you can see, the kitchen is going to be long and narrowish. Looking through design to inspire today, I found some beautiful small kitchen designs that I love and think would work well in our kitchen. It's hard to make a decision when there are so many choices. I find it interesting that in each of these kitchens, their national design aesthetics are easily recognizable.

The curtain is from Ikea, we have the same one up in our apartment's bedroom windows. I like the plain wood shelving above the counter. (Scandinavian)

I love everything about this french industrial kitchen with the tall windows. It's unpretentious and practical. (French)

This is a more traditional kitchen with a classy subway tile backsplash. It looks very nice, but feels a little too traditional for my taste. I think I maybe having subway tile fatigue syndrome, after seeing it being used everywhere. (American)

Like I've mentioned in previous posts, I love neutral white palettes. This kitchen is minimal but still feels a bit rustic and the off-white wall color really warms up the room. (British)

This is a very modern and practical Ikea type kitchen, I like the 2" square tile backsplash, I am thinking about using in the bathroom. I like the juxtaposition with the classic elements on the entry way to the right. (Scandinavian)


Foundation Progress

After 4 weeks of hauling trash and staring at an empty shell of a house, we are finally seeing something else happen to the house that really gave Justin a shock. The crumbling brick foundation for half of the house is gone. One side of the house being held up by a temporary wood frame in the mean time. The wall that used to be sloping out before is now straight again. I am very happy to see the progress on the foundation. So yeah, we thought that we had got rid of all the trash, but there's more, including some very colorful vinyl floors, definitely not sad to see them go...


Neighborhood History

Our neighborhood is called Golden Gate. Here is a little history from Wikipedia. "The area was originally developed by Charles Alexander Klinkner who built 75 homes there and called it Klinknerville, established in 1885. A Klinknerville post office was established in 1887. The name was changed to Golden Gate in 1888. The town was annexed to Oakland in 1897." Our house was built in 1894, three years before the town was annexed to Oakland.

According to Inside Oakland...
Golden Gate Neighborhood is Within the stretch of a mile, San Pablo Avenue cuts through three cities: Berkeley, Oakland for a short ten blocks, and then Emeryville. The span that is Oakland's domain is the old Golden Gate neighborhood, named for its views (now absconded by development) of the Golden Gate Bridge across the Bay. This is a largely African-American community, but now many of the businesses operating in the area are owned by Asians or Middle Easterners, many who have only recently gained citizenship in the United States.

Since we bought the house, we've been slowly meeting the neighbors. There is a plot of land over grown with grass across the street from us. We met the caretaker of this lot on Sunday and had a nice conversation with him. His name escapes me right now, but he grew up in our neighborhood and remembers well the railroad that ran down the middle of the street. The warehouse across the street from the front of our house used to be a fruit drying plant and the train would stop at the factory to pick up the finished goods and ship them to the east coast for retailers. He currently lives on nearby street and had leased the empty lot to grow vegetables and donates them to the church down the street. He recalls fondly about the good neighbor fence in the area during his childhood and the close knit community feeling it had back in the days when most of the residence worked for the dry fruit plant across the street. Everyone walked to work and knew everyone on the block. He does not think highly of the idea that some developer wants to redevelop the street we are on, because he doesn't want his neighborhood to change/gentrify. From him, we also found out that our house's previous owner had some legal problems with his tenants due to among other things, sexual harassment with a female tenant and a backed up sewage pipe. Yucky! Anyway, he is glad that we bought the house and will be taking care of it after all these years of neglect. I am looking forward to the day when we can officially move into the house and make it our home sweet home.

Screen shot of the lot from Google street view. The lot is much greener now that we've had some rain. I can almost see there being some goats and chicken roaming around...I know someone has chickens in their yard because I can hear them cackling nearby.

Catching Up

Going into the 3rd week of demolition pretty much every wall and ceiling in the house has been torn down. It's kind of shocking to see the house so exposed. I keep telling myself that it's a good thing that everything's been ripped out because now the house will be put back together properly. It will get insulation in the walls, electrical wiring that's not from the middle ages and plumbing to ensure we don't get flooded with fecal matter when the corroded pipes explode like what happened at one of rental properties that Joe (our contractor) manages. And most importantly our sweet little Queen Anne cottage will get a much needed new foundation to ensure that it will be standing for another hundred years.

I've been busy for the past couple of days with drawing up floor plans for all three units. The upstairs will remain pretty much the same except for expanding the kitchen and creating an entrance to the one bathroom through the master bedroom. Turns out that there was a door framed out at the exact spot where we are planning to put in the door.

Over the weekend, Justin and I worked up some sweat by help loading several dump truck loads to get rid of the debris on one side of our house. Apparently our job site has been designated as the neighborhood dumpster. We discovered buckets of used car oil outside our fence and someone's old roofing material on top of the carpet we ripped out. We had our regular dump truck guy come out on Saturday and hauled about 2/3 of it away. Then I found someone on Craigslist and paid them for 2 truck loads to the dumpster. We also went to Home Depot and got some no trespassing signs to put up around the house. It felt good to get rid of all the trash and Justin loved doing physical labor and feeling sore all over afterwards. I see a new career for Justin in the future if his IT work doesn't pan out.

Some photos I took last week, the house is pretty much gutted.

Looking toward the back of the house, where the bathroom will be. The door is already framed out, how convenient!

Standing in what will be the master bedroom and looking to the back of the house. The kitchen will be on the left.

Standing in the master bedroom and looking toward the living room. One of those two doorways will be drywalled over. A piece of wood is covering up the hole where the chimney used to be, on the other side of this wall.

The living room and master bedroom both had dropped ceilings installed in the 50s. We discovered the original 10 ft plastered ceiling was too damaged to save, so it all came down.


Demolition Progress

After being away for a week we couldn't wait to see the house in its current state. Still not used to the time change from the east coast, we woke up bright and early this morning, excited to go survey the progress at our house. A lot has been done while we were away. The downstairs units are completely gutted and the false ceiling in the living room upstairs has also been torn down. The wall separating the living room and kitchen is gone. All these changes have made the upstairs unit appear much larger than before. Enough talk, here is the photographic evidence.

These are photos taken from the upstairs unit which will be our main living space. We are going over to the house tomorrow to try and salvage some door molding. I will post photos of the downstairs tomorrow...

1. Upstairs bathroom.

2. DIY window that was put in by 2nd owner of the house in the 50s.

3. Where the brick chimney used to be.

4. After the lowered ceiling was torn down, revealing the original ceiling height and pink wall paper. The condition of the original ceiling is too far gone to be saved.

5. Standing in the living room, looking toward the back of the house, with the kitchen/living room wall torn down.

6. Standing in where the kitchen used to be and looking toward the front of the house.

7. I think Justin is in shock...