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Quality of Life Home Improvements


:P
On this page:

You might be wondering why the level of postings on my blog has dropped a bit in the last couple of months. For the last nearly 3 months I’ve been involved in a major home renovation of my house here on Maui and it’s taken a lot of energy, even though I wasn’t doing the work myself. But there are decisions to be made with contractors running around constantly making noise and living with torn up floors, constant dust and all the little minutia of helping out in various capacities.

This renovation has been a long time coming. A few months ago I decided it was time to make some changes around the house – basically the house has been left pretty much the way it was since I bought it 10 years ago. No major improvements inside or out. The house has a killer location, but as is often the case with subdivision construction much of the construction details ended up being hurried and uh, less than optimal. Cutting corners in home construction for anything but high end custom homes seems to be the rule of the day even 10 years ago.

Things weren’t exactly ghetto yet, but it was clearly time to start thinking about painting the house inside and out, dealing with the siding and generally giving the house a facelift. The house I live in – and many others in the subdivision - have also been plagued by a disastrous siding choice by the developer, who ended up using a compressed paper fiber siding (no I’m not kidding) type in a tropical and near ocean environment. Hello – genius? A law suit resulted because of this, which was promptly (ie. 5 years later) botched by the lawyers who apparently were so inept they couldn’t even get the measurements for houses right nor the distribution of the final meager reparations that were actually paid out. I was only glad that we got anything at all which seems ludicrous when the developer was clearly negligent in choosing this type of inferior siding that has literally weathered away many of the houses. Luckily my house – being one of the last to be build and being slightly protected by a fence and some dense Areca Palms didn’t fare so bad, but still the siding started to warp and it was time to do something about it. So the siding didn’t need to be replaced wholesale, just on one side of the house and the paint job for everything was the first step to get things rolling.

It all started with a simple paint job and replacing the one wall of siding on the windward side, when a local kid who paints professionally offered his services for the siding and painting. Seeing as he was getting the job done very well, we moved to the inside of the house for painting, fixing various walls that have been bumped a few times too many. A few conversations later and we started talking about flooring, which a friend of his could help with. More painting, re-tiling of the bathrooms and some custom desk building later and before I knew it and many more small side jobs later and nearly 3 months have gone by and I’m just about to get my house back to myself without contractors running around here.

I’ve embedded a few pictures here – there are more in my photo album if you want to see a little more of the house and the process.

The hardwood floors turned out absolutely amazing. It’s streaked light bamboo (light golden color) with natural dark streaks. It’s amazing what this stuff looks like when the sun falls on and coincidentally it also matches with the existing furniture to a T. The change from the old dark grey carpeting is tremendous and it changes the whole flow of the house to a more welcoming and warm feeling.

Initially I wasn’t going to paint the inside because the white walls actually were mostly in good shape but after the floors went in the white walls really didn’t work and so some walls were painted. The living room got a two-tone brown, drip streaked paint job which also matches closely to the floor. The office got a bright red color – the kind of color that makes you just stay awake :-} A few people have already commented on the Red, but this bright color really works well – it’s perky I swear and for the hours I work I need perky. Both bedrooms too got red walls too, but it’s a much darker brick red which is a color that’s soothing to me. All the rooms are much warmer with the combination of floors and colors.

As a bonus the wood floors are awesome for the officedesk[1]acoustics in the house – for recording in the office the room is more reverby and it gets a much nicer tone from the guitar amps for recording. Yay.

I’m not sure if this is just going to be a temporary excitement about the new atmosphere, but it feels amazing to be walking on wood instead of nasty carpet. The whole house has a huge calming and relaxing effect on me. It’s much easier to concentrate for work, relax, meditate and heck even sleep. Atmosphere is everything.  I may just be imagining it, but there’s something to the effects of your surroundings to rub off on me in a big way.

And that’s even though up until Friday the house was still all messed up with the contractor gear.

The contractors have been awesome too. I feel very lucky to have run into these two guys – Mike and Andrew. They are practically kids, but they did one hell of a job on every part of the job, paying attention to detail and making sure things were done right. They’ve also been great to work with for all those little side jobs that weren’t originally planned. This is so refreshing to see when business ethic for commercial business has been dragging me down over the last few years – you know the  “let’s get it done as quickly and cheaply as possible” that is all pervasive these days. These guys were making sure everything was perfect even with a few of the custom build jobs like the custom fitted desk for my office that was sized exactly to filBedRoomNookl a little nook. The desk is made with the same bamboo flooring which is kind of unique too and obviously a good match for the room.

It seems odd to be starting off on a major project like this in this time of economic recession/depression, but the time was just right for it. I’ve been putting this sort of thing off for years and honestly didn’t take the time to really think about what the improvements would mean. In hindsight I’m almost kicking myself for not having done this many years ago although I think the timing and how things worked out couldn’t have been any better. The end result of all this work is a pretty intense transformation of a nice utilitarian house that has now turned into a warm and welcoming home. The comfort level has gone way up.

Contemplating

Over the last few years I’ve changed quite a bit of what i think is important in life and many of the improvements to the home and the associated quality of life and level of “feeling at home” that the changes have brought with it are what spurred on . I know for many years of my life I’ve been saving, rather than spending, telling myself I really don’t need to li ve high on the hog and spend extravagantly just because the money is there. I still feel that way and I  wouldn’t call the improvements exactly opulent, but to me this is still a big chunk of money to spend on something that certainly falls in the category of non-essential expenses.

But it’s extremely hard to put a value of quality of life improvements. When I was in Austria with Markus and his family and friends we actually had a few discussions about this very topic and how European and American values often are somewhat different in this respect, where American values lean more to the material side, where European values tend to lean more towards building roots and home for comfort.

To me making my surroundings comfortable and pleasing is the biggest incentive for happiness which in turn leads to productiveness and effectiveness in everyday life instead of wasting valuable energy. It’s something I’ve been slow to embrace  honestly even though I’ve always known this to be the case.

The whole process of this renovation was a spur of the moment thing too as much as one can say that for a 3 month project. There was no grand master plan, but rather it was one step and one small inspiration at a time. From outside painting, to painting the inside to the floors, finding these floors and walking into the first flooring store and seeing it and pointing at it and going “That’s it!” As I said the timing was right and everything flowed into place one thing at a time. Here and now – where it should always be…

Posted in Personal  

The Voices of Reason


 

Huberto
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Congratulations!. It looks beautiful. You would have felt just at home here in
Cabarete (Dominican Rep.). I never met you personally but I suspect you
bought that house because of the windsurfing. Did you ever consider buying
something here instead?.

Doug Dodge
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Rick,

The bamboo looks really good. I like the color. I have heard it's quite durable. I have always enjoyed building projects as a way of relaxing but for most getting the work done is the relaxing part. :)

I took a peek at your place on zillow ( http://www.zillow.com/homes/map/32-Kaiea-Place--Paia,-Hawaii-96779-_rb/ ) and it appears that your place is right in the middle of the general price range. I also noticed, after also looking at Google maps that there is a huge agricultural area. Pineapples?

Best,

DD

Steve from Pleasant Hill
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Having a place where you feel at home, especially if you live and work in the same place, is key.

I am more along the lines of "build deep, not out". Figure out the square footage you need and make it the most comfortable and homey that you can.

One flooring choice that I find remarkable is "cork". Sounds odd, but there are amazing choices.

João Bragança
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Seems like this is exactly the time to do it. Every business right now is hungry for work. Everyone I talk to says the same thing - they're chasing the cheap dollar, offering deep discounts just to get their cash flow back up.

Martin
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Now I finally understand (from your earlier posts) why you are so frugal with your server purchases. :) You have a nice home, and damn, it's in Hawaii. Sweet life! Congratulations.

Andrew D
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

I really only come here for the ASP.NET posts, and yet I find it strangely interesting looking at pictures of your house. Weird.

Bertrand Le Roy
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Nice. I know what you're going through, as I'm adding 500sqft to my house currently :). It never ends. I have similar bamboo flooring through half the house here, and it looks fantastic, but is quite fragile. Any object dropped on it leaves a mark. So for the new addition, we went for Brazilian Cherry instead, which should be a lot more durable and resilient.

Rick Strahl
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

@Doug - those values are the official county appraisals for tax purposes I believe. They're not doing a real appraisal though - it's roughly calculated (for my house it is definitely). I think that's a bit on the low size based on the chart they have. Interesting site zillow. We're surrounded by sugar cane fields, but luckily I'm not directly up against it - keeps some of the cane critters that come out when they burn the fields.

@Steve - I looked at cork. A friend of mine has a laminated cork floor and it's nice, but the color is a bit darker which is not something I wanted.

@Bertrand - Destructability was a consideration for sure. The Bamboo I ended up with is pretty strong. We had a hard time even scoring it with a knife. This stuff is thin sheets laid up in clear epoxy and layered super thick. We'll see how it holds up but I think it'll withstand even my bumbling abuse. :-}

Doug Dodge
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Rick,

Right, I think Zillow is on the low side typically. I looked at your 'tax bite' and if all you're paying is what they had listed (don't care to know the number - your personal info) then I'd consider myself a fortunate man. Mine was about 4 times that abount and our place would appraise for just over 1/2 of yours.

Must be the location. <g>

Not sure I'd want a bunch of 'cane critters' in my place though. <bg>

Best,

DD

Rick Strahl
February 09, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

@Doug - yes property taxes here are very low. Much of the state income comes from tourism and so property taxes have always been low. In fact, I pay more in taxes in Oregon for my small condo than I do here which is crazy. Although I have a feeling that will change soon. Tourism has been on a steep decline the last year.

Sean Kearon
February 10, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

Great work - you have a lovely home and that bamboo floor really rocks. It's also really good to be able to add some humanity to this "tech blog thing" that I read. Helps a reader to know you better which, I'd say, is a really good thing! Hope you enjoy the new pad and keep posting :)

PS: I'm posting from Cornwall, UK - you should come and check out the cold Atlantic breakers when you're in the EU next! (Smaller and colder, I'm sure)

Rose J
February 11, 2009

# re: Quality of Life Home Improvements

You have done a good job improving your home. It looks so lovely and so homey. I agree with you that making the surroundings comfortable and pleasing is the biggest incentive for happiness. So going home to a nice and comfortable home is a treat as it's a place to relax with your family after a busy day at work. It aslo creates a positive mood and makes family bonding even better.

When it comes to home improvements, I also found this blog helpful which I'd like to share too.. http://www.joelanepainting.com/how-to-hire-a-painting-contractor/#more-34
 

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