Wednesday, November 8, 2017

TWO floors! :)

What?! Two ENTIRE floors?  Time really is flying now.  Honestly I was so excited to see this set of photos that if it was up to me I'd probably just halt construction and go live in the house as-is.  You know, if I didn't have a day job that keeps me here in DC learning Portuguese. (More on that in another post.)

I don't really have much to share other than photos, so enjoy!

This is the master bedroom - the ceiling looks vaulted which I didn't even notice in the plans but it's a nice surprise. 

 Guest bedroom (and since these walls are still pre-drywall you can see behind it the bathroom, stairwell and bunk room).

Sunset from the porch.  :)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Video of the Week

Well, it took less than a week, but I knew it would happen. This past Friday the Girl from Ipanema made her first appearance in the Portuguese classroom.  I'm hoping after three years in Brazil a little bit of this cool rubs off on me - it's only fair right?

First are the Portuguese lyrics, then the English comes in about halfway through.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

First floor - up!

And now for the most exciting part of the house building process so far - driving up to the construction site, climbing a ladder (they'll add the stairs later) and standing ON (in?) MY HOUSE. So awesome!  

I climbed up, turned around and this was the first thing I saw - the view from my dining room. Of course, the stressful part of building the house isn't over quite yet, but at least it finally feels like a payoff is coming.  

Sadly I won't be sharing all the awesome pictures of me and my family pretending to enjoy the house and staring out the windows into the middle distance - so you'll have to use your imagination on those.

Well, really, the whole thing requires some imagination but if you saw my last post with the floor plans, this is the kitchen, facing more towards the left front corner of the house.

And finally - the view from the front hall - kitchen on the left (close to the camera) and living/dining rooms along the back wall. What you can just see off to the right is the bathroom door and just behind it is the study/downstairs bedroom.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The best laid plans

I forgot a step with my last post, so backing up just a bit - this post is just a quick glimpse of the house's floorplan so when you look at the construction pics you'll know what I'm talking about. 

If you want to purchase this plan you can do so through the website of the designer.  

Ok, starting from the top- once we had the lot (and after I’d read the covenants outlining how far back from the edge of the property the house needed to sit) I started searching for house plans that fit.  Though I love architecture I wasn’t quite up for designing my own home -so I left this stage to the professionals.  The below plan came from a rather generic website but it had three big things going for it 1) we knew it was up to code, 2) it was relatively inexpensive, and 3) it was one of very few that fit everything that we needed. The house had to be both very narrow and raised on piles (basically stilts) to avoid the risk of flooding.  We also wanted something that was oriented to take advantage of the views.  In the end what we bought is below.

I included the off-the-shelf version (above) plus the final plans including some modest changes (below) in case you’re curious.  Sorry I couldn’t get a ‘cleaner’ copy  -this is the version the framers are using so it’s pretty detailed.

As you can see, I eliminated the separate living/dining room at the front of the house and moved the kitchen into that space.  That allowed me to put a large dining room where I actually want one - by the ocean. As a bonus that change left space to build a bigger kitchen as well.  Since I love to cook that was a big plus for me - and I’ve never been a big fan of formal vs informal eating areas anyway. Might as well have a nice space that’s so comfortable you can use it every day. We also enlarged the bathroom downstairs so it would have space for a shower. That way when I have a full house that space can function as a guest room.

Second floor

As for upstairs, there were fewer changes. I eliminated the atrium in the entryway - to me it just looked like a bunch of wasted space that would attract dust or spiders or both.  Instead I added a hall closet upstairs - a feature that I’ll need to store all of my personal stuff if I ever rent the house out. And I am adding built-in bunks to one of the rooms upstairs.  The plan is that when my brother and his family return to the States my niece (soon to be joined by a little sibling!) will get to stay there. Oh, and I eliminated the tiny toilet room because I just find those too weird.  No accounting for taste, right?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Phase 1: Piles! (stilts for houses)

I'll just pick up where I left off a couple weeks ago - once I had permission to start building from the state and the all-powerful HOA the contractors cleared the land and poured these piles.  The piles are required since it's in a flood zone.  And speaking of flood zones, I got a first hand economics lesson this summer about the cost of flood insurance on the coast. Having sweated my way through hurricane season I definitely see why it's necessary, but the initial bill did sort of take my breath away.  (The news from Houston and the Caribbean also drilled home how blessed I am to be able to afford to not only insure my house but construct a stronger home in the first place. I know most of the people hardest hit didn't have that luxury.)

Just a couple pictures of this phase since I wasn't able to get down to FL to see it myself.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Remember that sand pile I bought?

A lot can happen in two years, but maybe you remember back in January 2015 when I bought a lot in Florida.

I’ve had plans for a LONG time to build on the lot and that moment has finally arrived!  As expected, it turned out to be really difficult to build a house remotely and just the permitting process has been a rollercoaster.  But I’ll spare you the novella and just say It’s been an adventure so far and I am hugely indebted and extremely grateful to my father who has basically taken on the contracting as his second job right in the middle of an incredibly busy and stressful time for him too.

So thanks/sorry Dad!

Ok, where was I? Oh yes, I bought the lot in January 2015 and it took about a month to close.  The exact dates are a bit fuzzy to me now, but I think it’s safe to say I spent about two full years in the preparation/waiting phase. Why so long?  Because, with this crazy lifestyle I wasn’t willing to take on a the debt load of a mortgage until I was sure I wasn’t going to be assigned to DC for my follow on tour after Rome.

Side note: A posting in DC would mean I would be paying for an apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the US ... while simultaneously paying down a mortgage. I’m a big saver and all, but that’s just not a realistic scenario.  Granted, I may be able to eventually rent out the house when I’m not around to use it, but there’s no guarantee that would be a steady enough source of income to mitigate the risk. So I waited until October 2016-ish before greenlighting the next steps.

Of course, in the meantime I picked out a floor plan and had it modified (again, thanks Dad!) to better suit me. I looked at paint colors and appliances and worked hard to pay off the rest of the land loan and save up for the construction process.

Once I knew I was headed to San Paulo and would have a few years to get my finances settled before any potential DC assignments we moved forward and my dad/general contractor obtained the many, many permits necessary for the build.  Since the lot is right on the beach that required a lot of work with the environmental authorities to make sure we weren’t destroying any dune mice habitats and everything was turtle friendly. (The area is apparently a nesting site for sea turtles.) There are still lots of rules we’ll have to follow with the construction and materials but that’s a small price to pay to be living in such a beautiful place.

It also took forever to obtain a construction loan which I’m sure is partly an overreaction to the housing market crash and partly our banker’s uncertainty about working with an overseas homeowner. Had I known how slow that process would be I would have gone with a bigger bank, but in the end it’s done and that’s the important thing.

I promise to keep you updated on the beach house progress now that things are moving along at a faster clip.  In the meantime, here’s a teaser!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Home leaving it up

Home leave only comes around every couple of years so it's hard to restrain oneself in the planning phase.  I wrote a list about a mile long of all the things I was planning to do when I got back home.  Naturally, I have scaled back a bit after the plane landed but I'm still seeing the sights and spending some quality time with my relatives in the Midwest.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about this home leave but America's been awfully good to me this year.  What have I done so far?

  • had a bonfire
  • tailgated and cheered on the home team at a college football game (Go Hawks!)
  • shopped at the farmer's market
  • gone sailing - in fact I joined the local sailing club just so I can try to squeeze in a couple more sails before I leave
  • donated my hair to Locks of Love
  • kayaked on the lake
  • hiked, biked and swam
  • helped my mom host a tea party
  • attended the local orchestra's outdoor show
  • picked apples, raspberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peppers, and zucchini from my mom's amazing garden - and even dug up some potatoes too! 
  • sampled every new restaurant that opened in the past couple of years (and all our old favorites of course)
So basically, it's been one big Norman Rockwell painting.

Still on the to-do list? Visiting a semi-famous local attraction that's been on my to-do list for years, learn to can something (one of my New Year's Resolutions in fact), visit the site of my house and check on the construction, and hopefully do some 'hometown diplomating'. That last one is a state department program where you speak to local schools or media to share what Foreign Service Officers' do. It's a bit dependent on the local group's timing, but I'd be excited to share a bit with my community, I'm not entirely sure people know what it is I've been doing around the world these past few years.

I'm also working on a couple of side projects, but those will have to wait until I can report some substantive progress.

A dopo! And here's some pictures to enjoy. :)