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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects


Dear Families and Friends,


The plan was that we would just be decorating and sipping wine, looking out on the field. (Prediction of March 22 anyway.)

Reality is different, not too different, but different nonetheless. We're more into cleaning than decorating, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and in the loft.

November 9, Starting to Clean Up

Two weeks since the last diary entry and there is measurable progress.

The entrance and the bathroom are looking pretty good. No fixtures yet, but the walls, floor, painting, and lights are all done. The sink stand will be special, just wait!

Upstairs, on the main floor, things are looking good. The main working lights, special brightness and evenness for the artist, have been installed. They definitely will provide enough working light. We may even change to lower power tubes for a couple of them, to minimize the office look.

The view out the back window remains the best feature.

Things are close to done in the sleeping loft too, just some electrical and the flooring remain.
Meanwhile, down in the garage, more work is piling up., in this case, the flooring. This should be the last "construction" item and it may go in within a week or, more likely, two.

So, it's not going too badly, all things considered. We'll see how the rest of November goes.

November 18, Let There Be Light, Lots of Light

Since last entry, we've been working hard. First, almost all the wood has been treated with oil or a oil-wax combination that's common here. This is DIY work, not hard but tedious, on all the wood interior we have.

All the lights are now installed too. As usual, we overdid. We could shoot TV shows in here. And I'm afraid our neighbors won't be able to sleep at night, except they always close their shutters anyway.


The main floor has plenty of light. We will lower the wattage in a few of these, but still..
Upstairs, there is just one light, the one in the fan. However, this too needs to be softer. Another small chore.
From the outside, we seem to be lighting up the neighborhood.


Even the garage has more light than we need!

We have discovered that planning is not always successful.

First, we had a simple kitchen selected from IKEA, one that required minimum setup and looked less like a traditional kitchen than nice wood desks and work tables. Last Saturday we went to order the pieces and discovered that they were no longer available! So, we had to come home and re-plan. Now we have a more traditional kitchen look, without the function (no oven, no cooktop). This is only a guest area and artist studio - not a real house.  

Then, also on Saturday, we discovered that our pattern for the floor was not acceptable! This time, we already had all the material but then started to read the installation fine print. It turns out that one must stagger the joints (horizontal ones in this picture), but our original checkerboard pattern, the one Marianne wanted from the beginning, did not. So, it was back to the drawing board to find a pattern that had some of the same elements and hopefully the same number of tiles from each color. So, here's what we ended up with.

Of course this floor and the kitchen are more DIY. I like the idea of building something, but right now I don't know when I can do it all. We'll see.

November 22, Sink, Float, and Defeat

More activity, if not real progress. First, good news. A couple months ago, Marianne picked up this wonder-full wash basin stand and committed to turning it into a feature of the new bathroom. She also found an old mirror and, with the help of an architect, we discovered which way should be up. (We had tried to mount it horizontally. Wrong!!)


Now, the Army-desert-beige sink stand (matches the stones in the shower floor) waits for use. Meanwhile, the mirror is being considered for a new paint job -- also a form of light brown. (Marianne has fancier color names, but I figure brown covers a wide range.)


Then there's the floors. We had decided on linoleum because it is easy maintenance and because it's a traditional, environmentally-friendly material, in use locally for over 100 years. Because I had wanted to actually do some of the work on the barn, we had settled on a "click-tile" form of linoleum -- you know, the ones with advertisements saying how easy it is to install.

It isn't. First, we discovered that our stair installation was 6 millimeters too high, so there had to be an underlayment placed below the click-tile to make the stair transition right. This turned out to be a limited setback and, after a hurried trip to the floor-supplier's wholesaler, we had the material and we were ready for installation on a cold and blustery Saturday.

I cleaned the floor and laid down the plastic vapor barrier. So far, so good. Then I put down underlayment, carefully alternating seams as specified. Since this stuff can be cut with a knife, and since it just has to roughly fill the floor, this floor layer was pretty easy.

Then came the easy-to-install click-tile. The row along the wall, where just one edge of the tile had to "click" was OK enough, although there was a minor problem about getting a straight cut along the edge of the tile.

Row 2 was something else. We had been told at the store that it's best to fit the ends of a whole row together, then "click" that row to the previously-installed one. Sounds doable. Wasn't. No matter what order or combination, it proved impossible to get all the tiles to click under each neighbor. Absolutely impossible. I tried one-tile-at-a-time, but the result was the same, seams broke apart as fast as I could try to add one more tile.

After an hour, I admitted defeat. We will now have to find a craftsman who can handle this "simple" task. That's just money. What is more defeating is admission that, in the end, I've been able to contribute very little to the barn project, other than the ability to write bank transfers.

Maybe our easy-to-build IKEA kitchen will be different, but we have to see. I'm not promising anything.

November 27, Door and Floors



Some progress is happening bit by bit. The bathroom now has a nice sliding door. The glass seems to have the right amount of transparency, enough to transfer light but not enough to see anything. This may take some getting used to however, especially since there is no lock on this door. (Maybe a future addition?)

As for the floors, getting a professional was a good idea. First, Mr. Wittmann did in fact get things done. Second, since I helped a little, I can say I learned a bit about the process. It turned out that even someone who does this for a living can have a difficult batch of floor and this was just such a case. It took a long time before he discovered the "trick" to getting the floor pieces to stay together. I hate to admit that another man's struggles made me feel better, but it's the truth.

After two full days of work, the floors do look pretty nice - our opinion anyway.

I don't know if there will be any other progress the rest of this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but we definitely are seeing that only a few jobs are left: a little electrician work, a little plumber work, a little carpenter work and, last but not least, a little DIY kitchen-building work. At least I hope it's "a little".


No mater what, we will need a barn project diary for December, an extension of the original plan. But, by the end of THAT extension, we will have a finished space and furniture from California. A good Christmas bonus.


John and Marianne

Diaries - Travel

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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects