Picture Show

Below are some recent pictures of the progress on the house, which has accelerated to warp speed, as the architect now promises delivery by mid-November. That would be a month ahead of schedule or approximately nine months from groundbreaking. “Completion” is a relative term: We’re open to moving in even if the whole place isn’t finished, as it surely won’t be. For one thing we won’t have much furniture. We’ll see.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

1. This is the front of the house, as you’d drive up to it. The round wall in front, approximately 6′ high, will create a warmer micro-climate garden that will allow, I hope, growing tropical or subtropical plants, as a break from the desert landscape that covers the rest of the land. (There’s an entrance gate by the garage door; that’s another picture.) The antique roof tiles, reportedly from Oaxaca, are also a recent addition. They each weight about 10 pounds are just rest on the roof without any cement or other adhesives.

2. This is a view from the road below, which is not used by anyone and is practically impassable. We spent quite a bit of time positioning the house to maximize the views of the valley below, and making sure that they are protected from other houses to be built. That worked out pretty well, though we’re still planting trees around the perimeter of the property to provide further cover.

3. A side view. The rounded silo for the shower originally was to be covered with slate. The architect picked out a really nice greenish/rust slate for the outdoor floors but we decided that to extend that to the silo would have been too much. So it is just being stuccoed, and will be painted to match other stucco outside walls.

4. The Living/Dining Room. The cathedral ceilings are high but the floor space is not quite as huge as it seems. This is the view looking toward the kitchen. We put two clerestory windows over the front doors to break up the wall space, to let additional sunlight during the winter (this is the southern exposure) and also to facilitate ventilation by letting out the hot air during the summer. We’ll see how all that works in practice.

5. A screw-up with a happy solution. Though it was never clear how it happened, a screw-up in either design or construction created an ackward space where the cathedral roof was to meet the flat kitchen roof. The architect came up with this skylight idea which turned out to be pretty cool and lets additional sunlight into that corner.

6. Welcome to custom-made land. Doors and windows are not ordered in standard measurements from Home Depot or Pella Windows, but are all custom made, in this case of iron. So you get to pick the design, paint, door locks, sizes and everything that might occur to you. The finished product was of amazingly good quality in both feel and look.

At first we feared the green color might be weird (it might still be to some tastes) but we feel it worked pretty well as a contrast to dark-brown adobe finish of the outside walls. The architect originally lobbied for dark brown or black paint but that would have made the place look like a monolith.

Glass is translucent in the garage but will be clear in all other doors and windows. For security reasons, we thought of making the panes smaller or adding more cross-pieces but after a while the place starts to feel and look like a medium-security prison, so we picked this size.

7. The big bedroom turned out to be quite ample and with terrific views facing east and south.

The house will have ceramic floors, of large tiles in three different sizes arranged in an interesting pattern.

That was another good save by the architect. The house has two wings going off the main living/dining room area. The wings were supposed to go off at exact 45-degree angles, but the kitchen ended up at a 41-degree angle instead.

What’s the big deal? you ask, until you start laying out ceramic tiles which would have veered off in a weird direction as you went into the kitchen. If you’ve ever laid down floor or wall tiles, you know exactly what the problem would be–and it wouldn’t be pretty. The architect promises us we’re cool with his floor pattern. We’ll see.

In the bedroom we are insetting a wood floor area around the bed like an area rug, a great idea from Stew. Wood floors are warmer than tile and this will provide an interesting visual element to break up what could become a sea of ceramic tiles.

8. The view from the shower area, which for some reason remains mostly undone, compared to the rest of the house. The roof over the shower is a skylight with vent holes for the steam.

9. This is the entrance garden which remains mostly undone. The un-stuccoed space on the wall will be a wall fountain, one of those deals where the water trickles over a surface of irregular slate pieces, down to a pool at the bottom.

The architect had specified a much wider fountain, and a wall about four feet taller, both of which we nixed. The fountain would have been way too overwhelming, and the tall wall made space almost claustrophobic, not to mention blocked the view of the mountains.

A late-breaking idea is to put a gas-fueled fire pit at the curving edge of the slate-covered space in front of the entrance doors.

10. “Wanna go in the car?” has become Gladys and Lucy’s favorite question. Before you even get to the question mark they’re both jumping by the truck doors.


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