Sunday, November 24, 2013

New Windows

The house is nearly complete. New windows are installed. Take a gander.

Friday, October 18, 2013

First Look At The Millwork

Just received some preview pix of the millwork and am beyond excited!

Here is the door that we found in a scrap heap. Unsalvageable sadly, but we used it to inspire the doors to come.

Now the new:
 Bathroom Door

Glass paneled back doors to sitting porch and dining porch

Interior double doors
Though they lack the charm of a door long abandoned in a backyard, they will WORK which is nice.  And they're lovely too, don't you think? ;-)


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Prepping the "Pretty": Lacquer removal. A labour of love.

our Deltana hardware after a thorough de-lacquering
But only after it's aged a bit really. Apparently, I am alone in this belief as nearly all manufacturers of brass hardware produce it with a lacquer finish that keeps it from tarnishing. And that lacquer ultimately yellows to a really weird fake gold color over time and hides all the inherent beauty of the brass.
But there's good news, that lacquer can be removed! And it can be removed easily - though it took us two houses and countless hours of scrubbing to realize this. I now share the secret with you:
1) Multi Strip Professional Paint remover
2) Paint and sponge brushes
3) fine Brillo pads
4) patience
5) elbow grease

Multi- strip has the consistency of "Slime" and it's best to slime the hardware with enough Multi Strip to cover the hardware and the surrounding surface. Wait three hours, wipe the slime off with a paper towel and the lacquer will slide right off with it. Inevitably, some spots of lacquer will remain but then you enthusiastically scrub any remaining lacquer off with the brillo pad. Et voila! Lacquer free brass.
It will now age to a deep rich brass color that looks better and better!

I would have never had the guts to try this had the fantastic architect Maria dela Guardia of DLGV Architects not suggested it and I am forever in her debt. It makes a world of difference!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Wetting the Roof:" a Bahamian Tradition

When I first saw this photo  of the small cottage's new roof in mid August, I asked Owen what the flag was for and he said "To wet the roof."

I figured that was some sort of technical term with a definition above my pay grade so I let it be.

But when we came down at the end of the month and saw this flag on the original house's new roof, I was curious about the term and asked what was needed to wet a roof and why.

He responded "well usually, a case of beer or some rum."
Yep. When a crew finishes pitching a roof, they raise the flag, grab some booze and christen the roof with a splash for the house and the rest for the crew.

We missed that glorious moment but decided to "wet the shingles" after the front side was completed just for the fun of it and Owen did the honours:

Terrific tradition that I wish we could employ for every "first!"

What's New is (or looks) Old Again

I have a camera full of  amazing photos of the latest Jewelbox developments but it appears that I left the cable required to download these photos at Jewelbox! GRRRR.
I did come back with my tape measure though. This, I couldn't find when I was there and needed it but now that I am back in NYC, it seems to be exactly where I thought I put it in the first place. 

So the photos from my iphone will have to suffice.
But what terrific photos they are!

It been three months since Jewelbox went from this:

To this:


An almost identical copy but with a little more height, dormers and whole new roof.
Putting the old wood back up was the plan from the start and it does much to increase the house's authentic appearance.

Cladding the street facing dormers with some of the siding lengths that were too damaged to use on the side anymore is one of my favorite details so far.

Another one of my favorite details is the new siding that the crew milled on site to mirror the old siding EXACTLY!

It is gorgeous!

10 x 1” pressure treated wood that three guys have to maneuver through a saw at just the right angle to create the same look. It’s time consuming and probably not at all fun for them but they’re really good at it and it is THE difference between a house that looks original and a house that looks newly built.



Sunday, September 1, 2013

Eight Weeks in a Flash

This video is a bit of an exaggeration, but it feels like the house is flying up this fast. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Details II!

And now this joyful update.
The new ceiling beams were installed today and the guys very conscientiously ripped the same tiny bead detail into the new beams as existed in the old.
I LOVE IT!  Everyday I can better see the forest through the trees of house wrap and concrete block and plywood and all those things I can’t stand to see in a house but know must be there.
A few hundred coats of paint and you won’t even notice the difference!!
And check this out. The view of the north windows originally and as of today.

It's all in the details!

Hopefully, the photo documentation of the house’s reconstruction has been as entertaining to you as it has been to me. This is doubtful I know, as it’s not your house and you couldn’t care less if it stands or falls; but I hope that if you’re interested in construction, you’ve been pretty impressed all the same.

Personally, I have been blown away by this entire process – so very different from the Chatterbox project – and I wake up every day excited for the day’s events.

Owen Higgs - seriously one of my favorite people and definitely my all time favorite contractor on the planet – is as passionate about construction and preserving an old school vibe as I am. And better, he, and his awesome team, knows how to make it happen.

I realize that at this stage, there’s very little that appears original but that’s about to happen and hopefully in a marvelous way.
Let's review:
A quick check of the photos of the original structure shows an old and beautifully shaped building in seriously bad condition.
We’d hoped that we would be able to sort of reinforce it in a non-invasive way. After spending a day in there kicking the crumbling foundation stones and touching solid seeming walls that turned to dust, it became powerfully clear that the only way to keep it from falling down was to take it down, build a proper structure and then reinstall all the usuable wood from the original building.
the original foundation from the interior
new foundation before the lime and curry dirt treatment
I can’t tell you how painful this was! Sort of like having to re-break a kids broken arm in order to properly set it. It’s the absolute best thing to do, but in the moment it just feels mean!
It wasn’t until last week when they built the kitchen frame and used old wood beams as the posts did I really believe that rebreaking the arms of the house was going to work out just fine.
Original kitchen on the right. It rested on beams then.
And it rests on beams now! Original beams! From the original house. YIP!
Another view. Ignore the post brackets.

Good times!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Just Like That

The house is flying up.  Just like that, the back bedroom is already up and framed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Walls Go Up

Just as fast as it went down, Jewel Box is going right back up.  Framing for the first wall (back bedroom / washroom) went up today.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Foundation

The new foundation has been poured, and the site is ready for Jewelbox to start going (back) up!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tear Down

Taking down JewelBox to put in a new foundation.  Every piece of wood was salvaged and will be used when it goes back up (shortly).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Time Flies

As part of the Jewelbox project, we set up a Time Lapse camera to capture everything that happens, and to be able to show the whole process quickly.  Here is one of the first videos. that actually tracks about a month prior to the build (not shown is the process of getting final approvals from the government...).  We will have more videos showing the tear-down and rebuilding process.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What's in a name?

Jewelbox's original name was Bethel House.

In the abstract, I like the name Bethel but sadly it carries both personal and commercial negatives.

When I was a six or seven year old kid, the son of a family friend drowned in Bethel creek and to this day I can recall with perfect clarity the pain that wracked his family, our family and the neighborhood. Personally, my association with the name Bethel is a little sad to say the least.

A quick Google search of "Bethel House" explains the commercial negative.
Go ahead and give it a try. I'll wait.

Back so soon? Quite a few Bethel House entries huh? And nearly all are shelters dedicated to homeless or displaced families or women who have suffered abuse or addiction. Noble causes all and it didn't seem appropriate to have "chic vacation rental home on idyllic Bahamian paradise" nestled in among them.
And imagine THIS conversation:
Me: "You want to stay at a great place for your vacation? Come to Bethel House! I don't have a card but just Google it and you'll get all the info you need."
Them: They never respond because they Googled "Bethel House" and are deeply offended that I seem to have suggested they need rehab, a shower or have a horrible relationship.

Fortunately, I'm married to a branding genius so enlisted Rich and our friend Natasha Shephard (who has crowned myriad homes and boats with names so perfect, you can't imagine them every having been called anything else) to make the magic happen.

Within 24 hours both had lists with near perfect names but when each suggested "jewel box" it sealed the deal. The house is on King Street, just off the corner of Crown Street and I'm a jewelry designer. What could be a more perfect name!!?!
I admit that it's a no brainer but at the time I was crushed that they wouldn't let me name it "Sweetwood."
Sweetwood, as I'm sure you know, is the common name for a local Bahamian plant with bark that's used for incense and tummy issues. And the house is made out of Abaco pine, which is nearly extinct! So having a house that's made entirely of it is pretty sweet! Get it!?!
They didn't get it either. Which is fine because the more time I spent with Bethel House/Jewel Box, the more I am certain that "JewelBox" is the name it was born to have!

 But mark my day, one of our houses will be named "Sweetwood." It will probably be made of limestone and the name won't make a lick of sense to anyone but me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Step 1: Clean Up

The first step in any good construction project is to clean up the worksite. About 20 years of underbrush, rocks, wood, chicken eggs and other detritus has been swept away.  Yard is looking good, and we are ready to tackle the house!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

JewelBox: The Story

This is the house. Merriam-Webster defines “house” as the following:

1) a building that serves as living quarters for one or a few families
2) a shelter or refuge (as a nest or den) of a wild animal

In its current state, one could definitely argue that definition 2 is most apt but in fact, at one point, definition 1 definitely applied!

The inspiration for the purchase of this house was three parts vodka/soda/splash of cranberry and one part the following conversation:
While staring idly at this house on King Street, a local elderly gent with few teeth and probably less sense walked past and said:
“Nice House. Needs some paint. I’m a painter you know, I’ll paint it for you.”
I said “Uhhhhm, I’m pretty sure it needs a lot more than paint.”
And he responded enthusiastically “Ok, so you fix it and I’ll paint it!” 
Later, over sunset cocktails I recounted the story and thought “Well, he has a point. Why not fix it?”

We've watched the house fall apart for years, passing from hand to hand, always the pet project of someone who planned to rehab it someday but never really found the time. It is a wonderful example of colonial Bahamian architecture, over 150 years old, and stands proud still - in spite of hurricanes, abandonment and a general disregard. Rich and I decided that there was NO way we were going to let this house disappear only to be replaced by something new that lacked the style and character of this one.

Having just completed the renovation of our own wonderful 150 year old house, we were eager to tackle another old house, though honestly I’d hoped for something with windows and running water at least.

We checked it out and the place was a wreck. No floors or ceilings. Packed to the brim with flotsam from someone else’s renovation scraps and genuinely terrifying.

 Not terrifying enough for us to walk away from however. We loved the original Abaco pine siding (which was almost entirely intact) and the general frame of the house (which was not in tact at all) and we figured that with time (which we have) and money (which we don’t) and a spectacular building team (check), we could definitely make this happen.

And here we are. Two months after a tense negotiation, in contract and ready to roll. This is the blog. Written for many reasons:

1) I find that if I don’t write things down, I forget them. And if I do write them down, I remember that I've written them down, but not where I put them. Blog as Organizational Tool!

2) I know that many people dream of buying and building in the Bahamas and I hope that sharing our experience will either foster the dream or at least give it some perspective.

I go on record now as saying that I do not recommend buying an old house in the Bahamas and fixing it up. But labours of love go deep and sometimes some things just HAVE to be done.

Welcome to the Jewelbox blog! Visit often!