My wife had a few days off this week to help unpack and generally settle things down in the new house while our son was in pre-school. Because we didn’t have to keep an eye on him, we were productive in getting things organized.
The kitchen – a spot my wife planned meticulously to work with how she enjoys cooking – is a focal point of the organization. It is one of the more complete areas of the house right now, missing just a few of the decorative hanging lights above the black granite counters.
Our kitchen is planned around our tendencies and how we tend to prepare food and clean up. The drawers and counter space all revolve around the cook space and the sink is large to soak pans used for roasting or large rice cooker pots that are hard to clean.
The appliances are all Fisher Paykel, a brand we hadn’t heard of prior to this build. They are very sophisticated pieces of gear which isn’t apparent until you dig into the manuals and see them in operation.
One of the things I hate to do is run a dishwasher before it is full. The downside of this mental quirk is that the dishes would pile up inside of the appliance, unwashed, for a few days until we had enough to fill it up completely to run. That problem was alleviated with our new setup.
The dishwasher is a two-drawer system. You can run both drawers in tandem or the small lower door for small loads or the slightly larger upper drawer for normal loads. It keeps the counters clean and the dishes clean as well. So far I’m loving this thing.
We were slightly worried about buying an induction range because they were fairly new technology (in the US) and expensive. They fit into our house planning ideas that eschewed fossil fuels since induction is based on magnets. We had been collecting pots and pans that will work with induction for the last few years – since we knew we were going to buy one – and so far they have worked really well. My wife loves the range and oven. The induction heat is very responsive and there are no fossil fuel fumes to worry about. The only fumes we have to worry about are steam and regular food cooking smoke which we manage with the Fisher Paykel range hood. Major things like kitchen design are always a bit of a leap when you are planning a house but the whole setup feels perfect and we’re really happy with how it worked out.
The refrigerator is smaller than I would like it to be but we are making it work. It has made us much more conscious of what we put into it which is helpful. So far it has only meant that food no longer gets lost like it does in the cavernous back of a normal fridge. Since we buy beer fresh these days, there isn’t a lot of beer taking up room. That may change as snow slows our ability to run to buy beer at the Alchemist quickly. Despite insane peeper traffic this week, it takes about 9 minutes to get there.
The prices on the Fisher Paykel appliances were eye-watering but we are glad we were able to furnish the house with them because they are fantastic so far.
Here’s what you can see in the photos: - Fisher Paykel Range - $5,649 - Fisher Paykel Dishwasher - $1,299 - Fisher Paykel Refrigerator - $2,500
The pantry area has been great. We have put all of our supplies in it and have tons of room to spare which is what we hoped for. We can now stock it with staples and larger items from Costco for the long winter or the apparently-impending economic collapse. We also have room for canned or pickled foods as well.
On one wall of the pantry we have a butcher-block counter and shelves with huge pull out drawers underneath. This area is keeping the clutter away from the main kitchen countertop and it houses the coffee maker, microwave, mixers, food processors, etc.
The small library is coming together. We were worried that it would feel cramped rather than cozy and we’re still not 100% sure since the sofa has yet to arrive but so far it is good. All of our books have been moved to the shelves and we room to grow. The TV isn’t too large for the space which is a relief. We still need some of the wall-mounted sconces but they are on a very long backorder.
One of the stars of the place is the lighting. Our electrician has been great with suggestions, finding great lighting choices and thinking through how to best use the light in the space. The stair lights are one example where a suggestion he made transformed the house. Having the stairs lit by small, dimmable LED lights has been far more effective and attractive than a night light and we just love them.
The main room lighting has a lot of ways we can configure it. The large hanging light from Hubbardton Forge is what we use most of the time. It is a warm, subtle enough light that we can do what we need to do but not blast the room with overhead light, which we don’t generally like. The room does have high intensity overheads though, if we need them. They are organized into switched quandrants so we can target the light where we need it.
We also make heavy use of dimmers and under-cabinet lights which add to the warmth and coziness of the house. They are in the office, under the new IKEA cabinets, in the kitchen and in the pantry. Under-cabinet lights are what we use to give the room a glow without having a ton of bright light bouncing around. Obviously we have great task-based overhead lighting in those areas as well.
Something we weren’t sure about prior to moving in was how well the bathroom setups would work but I am happy to report they are both great.
The main floor bathroom is nearly perfect for us with a large shower with both rain and regular shower heads. The faucets feel sturdy and their operation is tight. We can tune the water perfectly and they are very easy to use. The tub is a good size and the filler faucets fill the tub very quickly. We haven’t organized all of the towels, sheets, and such but there is a lot of empty drawers and cabinets for that purpose so its a project for this weekend.
We had forgotten about getting a bidet toilet (Toto Washlet) but it was something we did back during the first months of the pandemic when toilet paper was hard to find. So far, surprisingly, its a useful device. It combines a heated seat with the normal bidet functions.
I was worried about not having a purpose-built shower steam fan in the bathrooms because the Zehnder ERV always seems so quiet but there are boost buttons in both bathrooms and, despite not having a dramatic-sounding fan, it seems to do a great job carrying the steam out of the room quickly.
HEATING AND COOLING
Speaking of the Zehnder, the heat pumps combined with the ERV seems to be a great combination. I haven’t had heating or cooling on for the last few days and the temperature is stuck at 70F, despite it going down to the 40’s and low 50’s at night. The goal would be to use the heat pumps to control the ambient temperature as little as possible and so far that’s working. We’ll see how far that extends into the colder weather but we have a lot of heat sources in the house should we need them. Solar heat warming the concrete floor in the main room, cooking, fireplace, heat pumps, electric baseboard heat and ambient flooring in the first floor bathroom all should combine to keep the temperature at a comfortable level all winter. Because the Zehnder circulates the ambient air throughout the house, warmth in one area of the house should spread to all corners fairly quickly.
The solar installation permit was granted by the town last week so the solar install team return to finish their work. The panels went up quickly and the wires were run into the mechanical room and a shut off installed on outside of the garage.
We have had some more issues thrown at us this week so hopefully that job will be done next Tuesday and we’ll start generating our own power soon after.
This week the landscaping crew installed the driveway. It transformed our property from a muddy area with a structure in the middle of it to an official-looking thing.
The excavator operator and my wife did a lot of rock work this week. Once the grading was completed, I could see my wife out every window pointing and directing the rocks to various areas of the land. Some of the rocks were places as sculptural elements but otheres were more practical. We now have a few natural benches scattered throughout the property for peering into the woods or the wetlands.
There are just a few boxes left to unpack and not much is left in the storage facility. We are completely out of the apartment and we are tying up a lot of loose ends. All of us feel more relaxed being here finally, even the pets.
One thing worth noting is how quiet this house is. For better or worse, you can’t hear anything going on outside. After the nightmare deluge of ear-splitting Harley riders at our old house, it is indescribable how great the new situation is. For example, our painter had his radio on outside of the breezeway door. I couldn’t hear it until the door was opened and it was very loud. It was remarkable how much the thick walls, triple-glazed windows and doors and tight seal keeps out the sound. Unfortunately it also keeps out cell phone signals but that’s a story for another post.
We still have very little furniture due to shipping and manufacturing delays affecting our ability to get the sofas we ordered in the Spring. We might get one of the sofas this week but it remains to be seen. The main sofas (for the living room and library) are likely to be delayed well into November.