I have a fountain


Our house came with an atrium. In the middle of this atrium is a sad fountain and a bunch of rocks and pebbles.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

I’ve wanted a fountain for a long time. I guess I over-emphasized my desire for one because one of my kids started pointing out every fountain he saw with “THEY have a fountain!”. Hmmph. This is the same kid that gave me a desktop fountain for Christmas one year – which helped get me through my fountain-crush.

Most people with our floorplan have removed the atrium, turning it into the new kitchen space.
We, however, had once designed a house with an atrium in it, so naturally we embraced the idea wholeheartedly!

We weren’t sure what we wanted in a fountain. I’ve seen some mighty cool fountains where the water burbles up out of the vessel and gently spills over the brim.

Do you think its too big for the space?

Do you think its too big for the space?

Or perhaps we want the fountain to cascade from one vessel to another?

Umm, no.

Umm, no.

This kinda goes with the Tiku Hut theme, yes?

This kinda goes with the Tiku Hut theme, I think.

Well, after pricing fountains (eek), we decided to go with a simple waterfall – no separate water feature after all. The water goes from the pond to the pump, which sends the water to the other side of the atrium and up over the rock shelf into the pond.

Hauling out the fountain.

Hauling out the fountain.

The rocks can be reused so they are wheelbarrowed to the side of the house.

The rocks can be reused so they are wheelbarrowed to the side of the house.


Here's the pond before we added the plants.

You can see the water damage on the siding along the right side of the atrium

Rick installed metal flashing around the atrium below the window sill to minimize water damage. He also replaced the old window sills.

atrium before plants

Here is the atrium before the plants and then as of a few days ago.

That one canna lily off to the left is probably 7 feet tall!

That one canna lily off to the left is probably 7 feet tall! It is THE happiest plant in the atrium.

The rock in the middle of the pond is for the turtle. More on the turtle adventures in another post.

We planted 1 lily in the pond but it promptly died. Stupid lily. I also wanted horsetail but it also lacked courage.

I saw a lovely pond with these very tall lotus in it...I wanted to replicate that - to no avail.

I saw a lovely pond with these very tall lotus in it…I wanted to replicate that – to no avail.

After awhile the lily grew some new leaves underwater, then the leaves disappeared. I am going to hazard a guess that the turtle likes the lily the best? I have left the pot there just in case I get more leaves some day…just in case ;-)

Our gorgeous deck!

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I must say that Coastal Lumber did a marvelous job!

Here is what the space looked like before…

ugly, isn't it...

ugly, isn’t it…

and after…

...and the guys who did the work...

…and the guys who did the work…

Here are some ‘during’ shots…

Its scary when a big 'ol truck has to maneuver around our little parking lot!

Its scary when a big ‘ol truck has to maneuver around our little parking lot!

Support posts for the deck.

Support posts for the deck.

Placing the boards on the deck frame.

Placing the boards on the deck frame.

Once it was done, I rolled on a water-resistant stain.  Painting is not my forte.  Not sure what is, exactly, but it definitely is NOT painting.  However, it needed to be done, so I did it.  It doesn’t look half bad.

Now we have added an inexpensive table and chairs and a gazebo for shade.  We spend many lunchtimes out there, sometimes have client meetings and even our clients will use it after meetings to continue their conversations.

Before photo

Before photo

Come and set a spell...

Come and set a spell…

That’s the definition of a well-designed space!  ;-)

Getting quotes for a deck

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Its strange that we have so much trouble getting quotes for a deck and fence. You would think that, being in the residential design industry that contractors would, if not falling all over them selves to get on our good side, at the very least try NOT to get on our bad side!

Oh, I wish that were true.

Location of future deck

Location of future deck

This shows where the deck will go. The BBQ will be on the deck and the trash cans will have their own little enclosure! The deck will be resting on the asphalt, which slopes, so one end of the deck has to be built up a bit with a step.

We were getting three quotes. 1 from the people who put in the fence on one side of our property Coastal Lumber, 1 from a company who did a gorgeous job with a fence and some gates for the property next to us (we’ll call them “Reuben”) and another from a company that called us out of the blue, Just Wood.

Just Wood came out on time, 2 guys. I was told when I made the appointment that “Alex” knew everything there was to know about fences and decks. I don’t remember which one was Alex but 1 of them was on his cellphone 1/2 the time, not paying any attention to our project. The other guy wanted to spend more time talking about his friends home remodel project than talk about our deck. They tossed off a quote for $12,000 (for a ground-level deck that’s 12×15) then said that there was a springtime sale of 20% off so the total would be $10,000.

$10,000! My mom’s deck cost $4800 and hers was more than 2x as big with stairs and railing and footings AND it’s made out of a more expensive product than what we were asking for. She used a Trex-like material and we’re using redwood.

They also said they’d follow up with a written quote – they finally called just now, 3 WEEKS later, to ask if we still wanted a quote! D’oh. I told them they were over a week too late, we’d hired someone else.

Coastal Lumber came out on time, was professional and followed up with a written quote – which, incidentally, was half, HALF!, of what Just Wood quoted.

Fence that needs replacing.

Fence that needs replacing.

Reuben, ah, Reubon. Reuben’s employee, Jeffrey called me 45 minutes late, at 5:45pm and said he wasn’t going to be able to make it that day. He asked if he could reshedule to the next day, same time. Sure, I said.

Of course, he’s a no-show…and no-call.

I wait another day, thinking I got the day wrong…nope.

I call the company and they’re closed for the day, so I go on their website and, being the gracious, gentle soul that I am, ask them to please confirm when Jeffrey was coming out since I obviously got the time wrong.

A Reuben rep calls the next morning and says they don’t have us on their schedule – and , guess what, Jeffrey doesn’t make his appointments anyway. Oookaaay. No apology, nothing. Nothing about how Jeffrey just decided he wasn’t going to make it and didn’t bother to follow up with his people to make sure we got taken care of. No, nothing like that.

Now the rep is saying that there isn’t anything available until – not next week – the week after that. Fine, whatever, I make the appt for Tueday at 10am.

This bench is in the way.

This bench is in the way.

(We’ll relocate the bench but the plant might get crushed by the deck construction – hopefully it will grow back because it is a lush, colorful plant.)

In the meantime, we received a nice quote from Coastal Lumber and decided to go with them rather than wait another couple weeks for Reuben to get around to seeing us. They did a fine job on our fence – although the marketing guy modified our fence contract because he didn’t understand why we wanted the fence we wanted – he thought we should only want a 5′ high fence…why would he think he knew what we wanted? Fortunately, we caught the error as the first panel was being built. Lesson? DON”T BE GONE DURING CONSTRUCTION OR YOU MIGHT NOT WHAT YOU WANT!!!.

Isn't this a nice fence?

Isn’t this a nice fence?

I call Reuben to cancel the appt and…sure enough, they don’t have us for Tuesday at 10am, they have us for Tuesday at 6pm! They are a mess! I certainly don’t want to hire a company who can’t seem to get 1 appt scheduled properly.

Coastal Lumber starts Wednesday…I’ll keep you updated on what happens then ;-)

Sherman-Williams’ new Chip-It! tool

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Choosing colors for your home can be exhausting.  And trying to match the colors of your favorite painting or quilt or flower (or the other way ‘around, matching a pillow to the color of your walls) usually means a run to all the different paint stores trying to find a match. Or, worse, carrying that pillow around with you – been there, done that.

Sherman-Williams just made that job easier!  They have a little bookmarklet you add to your toolbar and when you see a color you like online, you can click on the Chip It! tool, drag it to the picture and it will provide you with chips for the colors in that window!

Very cool – plus you can go to the Chip It! website and upload photos and the tool with provide color chips.

Its not perfect.  I uploaded some random photos I already had to see what it would do.

The tool chose the colors it wanted but not all the colors represented.  Chip It! gives you 5 chips regardless of the number of colors in the picture.  So your new-favorite color might not be one of those it chooses.



In the above photo, the tool completely missed the turquoise.

In the photo below, the tool decided no one in their right mind would paint a room all those different colors of brown, so it gave me a couple, plus a gray and then added the blue from the top left corner of the picture.


By the way, the above photo is a floor in the new Exploratorium in San Francisco.  The wood is from all over the world, very striking.  So many beautiful woodgrains and colors!

This photo below was the most disappointing.  It ignored the predominate green on the box!


Oh, well, I still think this tool is worth checking out.  It did a pretty good job on this photo.


But it didn’t give me the darker pink, only the lighter one.  And it added black, of which there was very little in this photo.  I thought that was a little strange.

I even uploaded this photo twice to see if some algorithm in the program might change and give me a different pallet of colors…no.

One you have an account on the Chip It! site, you’ll have access to all your colors from your tablet or smartphone.  You won’t have to carry all those chips around with you anymore.

Of course the color-matching is only as good as the color monitor you’re using, but you knew that, right?  ;-)

Almost random thoughts on design



The design process is one of give and take.  You want white, she wants cream, they want expansive, you want cozy, we want a great room and you want a formal dining room.

And during the design process, you will make many decisions – some tiny, some large – which lead to a finished product.  But someone looking at the finished design, whether it be a house or a fork, doesn’t have the perspective of all those decisions previously made.  The critique could be insightful but most of the time?  Its not helpful.

That said, here are some pictures and my humble thoughts on the design, heehee.

Take the picture at the top.  During the kitchen remodel, those posts either had to stay or a beam put up in their place – they are structural supports.  So, what can you do?  Why, make them interesting!  This is a good example of making the best of things.  Switching out to a support beam would have been much more destructive of the existing space and could have cost a pretty penny.


Now, look at this picture.  Not a very exciting kitchen, but its OK.  Now find the red pan on the counter and scan upwards to the ceiling.  See the open beams?  What is that curly pipe?  WHAT?!?  That’s the sewer pipe under the toilet?  Ewww!   I’da camouflaged that, you can be sure!


Here is a bathroom that has been squeezed into the attic space.  They removed the crawl space to get some head height.  Discussions about the sense of removing insulating value aside, this is a pretty imaginative solution to making tiny spaces work.  Look to the right and there are the shower heads.  No separate shower stall, there wasn’t room.  Nifty idea, I think!  If you’re worried about getting the toilet paper wet, there are holders available from boat supply places where the rolls are completely protected from water, yet easily accessible.


In this tiny bathroom, a coat rack serves as towel and robe rack.  Great idea, but I’d be tripping over the wide angled legs all the time.  Better to have a rack with a flat round base.


Are you starting to see a lot of undercounter curtains like this?  Reminiscent of Granny’s kitchen.  I don’t have an opinion about it, do you?  I DO have an opinion about the open racks above the sink.  It just looks messy.  And busy.  And dusty. 



What with all the ‘no fire’ days this winter, we haven’t been able to use our fireplaces very much, have we.  This is a striking use of the space, don’t you think?  Simple, sleek and the shell reminds us of warm summer days to come.


This is a lovely idea, too, although sticking the box out into the room is awkward.  I’m guessing they covered over the firebox opening to keep out drafts (or its a fake mantle).  Fill a box or basket with tiny white lights and pinecones or kindling and you’ve got a warm, lovely, warming ‘fire’.  OK, not so warm but definitely warming…


Oh, yeah, I must admit that most of the pics are from Houzz.  If you’re looking forward to a remodeling project or you’re just a lookiloo, its a fascinating trip into other people’s homes.  Inspiration abounds. Be warned, you can lose a lot of time wandering around this alternate reality -better set a timer so you come up for air ;-)


Trash cans are ugly!


…not to mention expensive!  You can drop $80 on a silver can that is chrome and sleek but doesn’t blend with your décor.  Not to mention separating trash from recycling.

I’d rather have the trash under the sink but getting to it is awkward when someone is at the sink – excuse me / scootscoot-out-of-the-way-trying-not-to-get-soapy-water-on-the-floor!

Well, THIS is my under-the-sink.

Garbage disposal and water filter leave little room for anything else!

Garbage disposal and water filter leave little room for anything else!









With children living at home it was best to have the MOST efficient, obvious, yet hideous, solution in order to have the kids remember to throw their trash away and to recycle cardboard, milk cartons, bottles, etc.

Which resulted in this:

100% accessible and visible at all times!

100% accessible and visible at all times!










Gray is for trash and blue is for recycling…smart, I know ;-)  We don’t compost, do you?  I think I feel guilty about that, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, with the kids gone and mostly, now, people are used to recycling – at least around here they are – we didn’t want the nasty-looking cans sitting out but also didn’t want the sleek chrome-which-doesn’t-match-our-décor bins.  Our décor is warm wood and rattan in a tropical motif.

We had an epiphany!  Which resulted in this:

Its a repurposed laundry bin!

It holds more than the previous open plastic bins and look:

It has 2 compartments - trash and recycling.

It has 2 compartments – trash and recycling.










We drop plastic kitchen trash bags down inside – each compartment came with a liner so the white bags don’t show through.

Peek inside...

Peek inside…










And my hubby attached S clips – 4 to a compartment and opened up at one end, so we can slide in the trash bag which stays in place perfectly.

See the S clip?  Maybe 'clip' isn't the right word, but you can get them at hardware stores...shaped like a figure 8.

See the S clip? Maybe ‘clip’ isn’t the right word, but you can get them at hardware stores…shaped like a figure 8.











Here’s another picture:

This is a better shot of the S thingy.

This is a better shot of the S thingy.










We just push the metal prong through the plastic bag and the pull-tie of the bag helps keep it in place, although it doesn’t get much strain anyway since the fit is so perfect!

to THIS!











After using it a couple times, I realized it needed a handle, so I took an unused curtain tie-back and slipped it between the weave of the lid and used a twisty-tie to hold it in place!

Who invented the trusty twisty-tie?

Who invented the trusty twisty-tie?

Although part of me thinks a leather strap would look cool.

Although part of me thinks a leather strap would look cool.











from this...

from this…










...to this!  Pretty nice, eh?  No more unsightly bins.

…to this! Pretty nice, eh? No more unsightly bins.











Now, don’t pay any attention to the floor…we have boxes of eucalyptus flooring in the garage, which is what the rest of the house has (except the bedrooms) and which will be installed in the kitchen in a year or so when we remodel it.  Or maybe in two years… ;-)

What color should a Tiki Hut be?

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We bought a house.

Rather than buying a fixer-upper to move into, renovate and sell in a couple years, we decided to buy a house in an area to which we’d love to retire (and to which the grandkids, which currently number in the oughts will really, really, really want to come!  We are very forward-thinking, aren’t we.)


Long story short, we bought a fixer in Discovery Bay, about 95 minutes north of us.  It’s a community of homes built around a golf course or lake and with canals which connect to the Delta.

The house is about 1800sf, 1 story, on a lovely canal, well, its not a canal, more of a baby bay.

This is an aerial view of the area, but not our bay.

This is an aerial view of the area, but not our bay.

Below is our list of musts and wants, which changed from side to side – must to want and vice-versa, depending on how glorious or meager the item was in a particular house.

- great room

- deep water dock

- 1 story

- space for a pool table

- large deck

- not in a pinched area, fighting for dock space

-  3 bedroom, 2 bathroom minimum

- sunset views

List of deal-killers

- no dock

- 2 story

- major fixer-upper

Yeah, its a small list.  There weren’t a lot of homes in our price range.

Being a contractor and an Architect – plus having done a number of large and small projects on our own homes – Rick (me, too) is very comfortable with homes needing work.  But there are items that would simply bust our budget, like needing a new roof or having foundation issues.  Any house we bought would have to need mostly cosmetic work.

And…we found one!  It has perfectly functional bathrooms and kitchen, which is important so we can wait to redo them in a few years…plus replace the windows then, too.

The view from our deck.

The view from our deck.

So, what are we doing now?  Repainting, that’s for sure.  The inside is mostly white and the living room is a mushroom-gray color but too dark for the space and not my fave color, anyway.

Boring mushroomy-gray, see?

Boring mushroomy-gray, see?

I love yellow walls, pale pale yellow, like buttercream.  It goes with so many other colors you can accent with – turquoise, orange, leafy greens, white, black, browns, even gray.  Done!

However, I don’t want the entire house to be one color, then again, I don’t want every room to be a different color.  A small house feels cut up if all rooms are unique colors, I think.  Better to have a cohesive plan, yes?

All trim is white.  The kitchen cabinets (to be replaced later) are white so they’ll look more like they were part of the plan.  The wainscoting (how IS that word pronounced) in the hall and the bathrooms so those will be white, too. 

Unfortunately, when I say ‘white’, paint suppliers say ‘dove’ or ‘ice’ or ‘lace’.  I want the purest, most whitey-white I can find and it doesn’t exist, which is frustrating.  The brightest white I can find simply isn’t WHITE!  Its off-white…not-white…virtually-white, nevertheless, those are my choices, so I buck up and pick the one closest to a true white.

But, behold!  Sherwin-Williams does make a brilliant white for ceilings.  I can’t get it in any type but flat, so I’ve have to live with barely-white everywhere else.  At least the ceilings will be WHITE.

Now to find another color for some of the rooms.  I love the color next to the buttercream on the color chip strip.  Its darker, a warm golden beige.  Gorgeous.  Walking around the house, I decide that the entry will be the darker color.  You’ll walk from the entry to the living room, and the living room opens up in space and the lighter color.  The hall will be the darker color and you’ll walk from the wall to the bedrooms, which will lighten up.  Lighter color in the bedrooms also allows for more variety in the decorations.

Now, all I need is a color for the yucky painted-brick fireplace.  Since the TV will be placed over the fireplace, I don’t want a big black blob on that brick.  Better to have a darker, complimentary and not matchy-matchy color so the TV is a bit more blendy, without disappearing completely.  So, the fireplace brick is now a lovely brown.  It is lovely, just don’t be changing any diapers there, it might call for an uncomplimentary comparison.

Now, we turn our gaze to the floors.  I swear (and my relatives, Johnny and Celeste, support me in this) that the carpet can be saved with a good cleaning and I have the phone number to Stanley Steemers already programmed into my cellphone.

My husband swears that it cannot be saved.  He has nothing to support this theory except for puppy-dog eyes.  I yield.

Carpet choices are easier when its only the bedrooms and they are all the same color.  I ask the carpet installer, Neil from Checkered Flag, which manufacturers he prefers.  He gives me some pointers and steers me away from a particular brand that he says will stretch too much over time and he’ll have to keep coming back each year to pull it tight again.

Shopping for carpet isn’t too difficult, there are a lot of choices but I am fine with a color that looks good with the pain, isn’t too dark or too light and is, maybe, on sale.  See?  I’m pretty easy.  I was a lot pickier when choosing a carpet for our office, for some reason.

I don’t want something that is a nightmare to clean or vacuum, either.  Those fancy loopy piles that remind me of a Komondor?

Looks just like a rug I saw for sale a couple weeks ago!

Looks just like a rug I saw for sale a couple weeks ago!

Nope.  That extreme shag carpet?  Too easy to lose Legos in that stuff!  And then where are your toes?  In your hand, as you hop around muttering X%*#@! after stepping on one!

I’m not cheap when it comes to the carpet padding.  A better padding will make a less-expensive carpet feel just as appealing to your toes as the crazy-pricey one.

Carpet?  Done!  Its called Sweet Tea, but I think sweet tea has a stronger reddish color.  This carpet is more of an Arnold Palmer.

Yeah, way red.

Yeah, way red.

Still too orangey...where DO they get the names for colors?

Still too orangey…where DO they get the names for colors?

Flooring…we won’t have carpet in the main rooms.  We’d like hard-working hardwood floors.  We’ve had oak and bamboo thus far.  I like oak but I’m tired of it.  Bored with the grain – we have it in our office/house so I’d really like to get something different.

We put bamboo in our office entry, which has held up very well but I’m not fond of the unremarkable caramel color.  The colors we really like are in a stranded type of bamboo, which is strings of bamboo shredded from the stalk and then bonded together.  Bamboo comes in 5 basic colors:  naked pale, blah caramel, cinnamon, brown and very dark brown.

While the patterns of bamboo are very interesting in all of its varieties (flat boards, end, side or stranded), we really liked the stranded variety with its stripy, tiger look of dark and light browns.  Its a very busy pattern, too.  I think I’d like it more for cabinets or doors, ooh that would be cool!



Then we saw this Eucalyptus floor and fell in love with it.  It has a marvelous wood grain and it wasn’t the cheapest choice, either, so there.  And, side note, it is my niece Roni’s favorite tree.

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

Most of the time, we make our list of finishes (tile vs stone vs granite, paint color, chrome vs bronze vs nickel, pendant lighting vs track vs wall sconce vs ceiling fan…and so on and so forth), knowing that little is actually set in concrete.  We see something we like (perhaps a shower curtain) and the entire room can change to accommodate it in an instant.  And that is exactly what happened.  But that is for a different post.

Its better to be flexible when choosing your finishes.  Keep your options open.  BUT, on the other hand, don’t keep putting off your decisions and second-guessing yourself.  Research but don’t get brain fry and freeze into immobility.  Make your purchase and accept that you might have been able to save a few bucks if only you had worded your Google search a little differently.  Put a check mark by that item and move on.

The same thing applies if you discover an item you want is no longer in stock or won’t come in time.  Don’t mope about it, move on.

While I’m on my soapbox, here’s another lesson I’ve learned with the multiple projects we’ve done:  Timing is not under my control.  I can’t force painters, suppliers, weather, work and so on to fall under my command.

The wood flooring was stuck at the Port of Oakland for some strange reason – delaying installation for a week.  The painters didn’t begin when I thought they would, they took a job between quoting ours and my signing the contract, so that delayed the carpet installation for a week.  Our ski boat is in the shop and the shop is swamped with work so we are in a long queu and probably won’t be done in time for our Labor Day Weekend.

I'm not sure this was the best purchase we've ever made >sigh<

I’m not sure this was the best purchase we’ve ever made >sigh<

I learned a loooong time ago that whenever I push, I lose…oh, I might win the battle, but I lose the war.  THere are things useen at work here…stress, for instance.  Relationships, too.  And sometimes, the delay for me ends up working out better somehow…like a store losing my order but now I found something better for less.  Its not the destination, its the journey.  

Now if I could just figure out why the paint in the hallway looks just like Harvest Gold from the 1970’s! 

Not at ALL the right color!!!

Not at ALL the right color!!!

Its hideous and I can’t figure out why.  The other rooms don’t look like that!  ?!?!?  Well, I’m not gonna stress about it.  I can always repaint it, right?  ;-)

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