Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pictures of Plastic Stuff

Better late than never, here are pics from yesterday's House Update:

And from the back:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

House Update: Plastic/Metal Stuff

We went by the house today and saw what appears to be the last step before our foundation is poured. The house two lots away is always about 2-3 days ahead of us and their foundation is in. We have all the trenches dug, plastic sheeting laid down, and some pieces of metal in there. Looks like all we're missing is concrete. I got some great pics, but I also got a new iPhone 5 today and traded in my Android (and house pics) for a credit towards a LifeProof case, so you'll have to settle for the pics Pato took of me admiring our plastic stuff.

Also, here's some of Pato, Whitney, Corey, and I at Bark in the Park. The dogs thought it was the best day ever.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Things I Won't Miss about the Apartment: Baths and Laundry

Our next stop on the tour of reasons we won't miss apartment living is the bathroom.

The Bathroom

The first problem: that header is singular. When Pat and I first decided to move into our current small apartment, it was part of our plan to save money for one year before buying a home. Well, life happened and it's been two years with one bathroom. One shower, one toilet, two sinks (marriage saver). There's barely any storage here either, so we leave the stuff we use daily on the counters. That wall-mounted shelf helps it stay tidy-ish, but it's all in plain sight.

There's a small linen closet which houses the cats' litter box so at least one door to the bathroom has to be open all the time. We try to store clean towels there, but Atticus inevitably curls up in the warm linens and they all have to be washed again.

As if that's not bad enough, our cats know how to open every door in the A.P.T. I realize this knowledge won't leave them when we move into our house, but at least they won't be playing footsie under the door from the master to the bathroom as we sleep.

Our bathroom also completes our apartment's figure eight shape, so Boone and Atty can chase each other all day long. Although it's fun to watch a 14 lb. cat take on an 80 lb. dog, I'd prefer for them not to bump into me while I get ready in the morning.

Our Soon-to-be Bathrooms

 Images property of Standard Pacific Homes
Soon, we will have two and a half baths. Two tubs, one walk-in shower, three toilets, and four sinks of freedom. The cats' could have their own bathroom if they wanted, but they won't need it because they will have their own special space in the laundry room.

That's a nice segue.

Our Laundry Room

...errr, closet. Laundry closet. In the only bathroom. We have two antiquated machines, which, to be fair, is better than many apartments and definitely better than a laundromat. There's a small wire shelf that holds the three types of detergent I require (is that bad?) and not much else. The fabric softener, stain removers, washing machine cleaner, and Dryel have to live on a ledge that supports our water heater. And that ledge is sharp and it's located exactly where your head goes when you move clothes from the washer to the dryer.

Our Soon-to-be Laundry room

Wish I had a picture; it's beautiful.

I've always been bothered by the inefficiency of a home where all the bedrooms are upstairs and the laundry room is downstairs. I have a bit of an infatuation with laundry rooms and an upstairs locale was high on my list of must haves when we were looking at houses (funny, because the hubbers does most of our laundry). So yes, it will be upstairs.

Our laundry room is big enough to house more cabinets than our current kitchen, but it won't have that when we move in. One of my great, equity-adding ideas was to not have our builder install any cabinets in our laundry room. For the time being, we'll live with wire shelves (better than our current laundry room) and put cabinets in down the line when we can afford to do it right. Hanging space for drying? Yes. Beautiful storage for my Tide arsenal? Yes. Folding space? Of course! Maybe even a jetted sink for handwashing delicates (ha!). That way when we resell, women will be falling over my laundry room upgrades. And we'll pocket the profit, not our builder.

Things I Won't Miss about the Apartment: the Kitchen

I reluctantly admitted the things that I will miss about living in an apartment. It's a short list,  but it exists. Now, we wouldn't be moving if there weren't things we can't wait to be done with. We'll go through this room by room. Today, the kitchen.

Our Kitchen

I consider our current kitchen a microcosm of what a good kitchen should be: the layout is highly functional (and not too different from the layout of our future kitchen), it's open to the rest of the home but doesn't showcase all the dirty stuff that must be hid in a kitchen, and the traffic flow works.

What I don't like about our kitchen is that a microcosm is by definition a small representation of something and in this normal sized world, a kitchen can't be small. We have three pets who all have their own diets, appliances that take up space, and habit of putting off grocery shopping that necessitates a very large pantry for when we finally make it to the store.

Right now, we have literally one cabinet as a pantry. And we fit Boone's food, paper towels, canned goods, snack foods, and almost all our dry storage in this one cabinet. Boone's treats share a separate cabinet with the crock pot. And anywhere we can spare an inch, you will find cups because we like to stay well hydrated. We even have to use the top of the cabinets for storage. Not pretty or practical.

Our oven features four coil burners and they are all uneven. Really, really uneven. It's ok, if you only like cooking on one side of all your pots and pans. Our refrigerator is standard apartment stock, so we have to bend over ever time we need to refill our cups (first world problem). That's a bigger problem if you have back problems like I do.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the shallow, grungy, divided sink. It's only about six inches deep and I flood the kitchen every time I attempt to do dishes. Our faucet drips constantly and if you use the sprayer, it won't automatically switch back to the faucet. And the sprayer doesn't automatically recoil, so it just lays in the sink all. day. every. day.

Our Soon-to-be Kitchen 

 Image property of Standard Pacific Homes
Our future kitchen has a huge pantry that's approx 6'x4', we briefly considered putting the dog kennel in there, until we realized how unsanitary that would be. I know, don't tell me. We sprung for the upgraded gas range (like the one pictured), all the better for making mac & cheese, and I'm dreaming of a french door refrigerator. And I guarantee my sink problems will be a thing of the past when you see the beauty I picked out.

After some encouragement from my mom and receiving my husband's blessing, I was thrilled to pick the upgraded off-white cabinets, just like the ones in the model. For you Nosy Nancys, our kitchen will have the same cabinets, floor, range, and microwave, similar counters (ours are dark granite with gold flecks). We'll have an off-white subway tile backsplash, simpler cabinet hardware, and we won't have the pendant lights or the glass door on our pantry (who wants to see that?!)

In conclusion:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Things to Enjoy While You Can about Apartment Living

I really, truly can't wait to move into a bigger place, with more than two basic rooms and one toilet. But there's a part of me that recognizes on some theoretical level, we're going to be giving up a lot.

Any apartment will fix things, but I feel like we hit the jackpot here because our apartment has the best maintenance team. They respond quickly. They will fix anything. If they fix something in the "morning" and I'm still sleeping, they never wake me up (it's happened dozens of times). They even know our pets by name. It's free. Seriously, they could've charged us on multiple occasions, like when Boone ate the weather seal off the patio door. Not a dime.

In a few months, we'll be responsible for all that. If our AC breaks on the hottest day of the summer, not only will we foot the bill, but Pat will pay a premium to get it done fast because I'm a pain in the ass when I'm hot (sorry, Mom).

Ahh, the pool. When the AC inevitably breaks the pool is the only non-alcoholic way to turn me into a pleasant human being. And the gym! I can't believe in a few months I'm going to be running on sidewalks with Boone (World's Worst Running Dog, 2013) instead of working it out on an elliptical while Martha Stewart decides what we're having for dinner. Our apartment's gym also stocks current magazines, which almost makes me look forward to burning 400 calories.

Buffer Zone
I'm sure there's another cat owner out there who has one cat that just tries to escape every time a door opens. That's Atticus. At least right now, he has to make it down three flights of stairs before he's 100 yards from the closest road. We're pretty good at catching him so our poor guy's paws haven't touched grass in 3 years. At the new house, he'll only have approximately fifteen feet to the road. That's kinda scary.

This one's a love-hate: I hate having to walk my trash to the dumpster, but I love that I don't have to keep a large, smelling can in my garage that I have to smell several times a day while I wait for once a week pick-up. I can't quite decide what's the lesser of the two (very real) evils. What pushes this one into the apartment's favor is the A.P.T. provides several convenient stations to trash Boo-Poo so that even if I did have to store trash for an entire week, at least dog waste wouldn't be a part of it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

House Update: Preliminary Plumbing, Electrical, and Security

We had our Electrical/Security appointment today and it got me so excited, I drove the half hour to see our house for no reason at all. I was planning on taking Boone and walking around the neighborhood and getting some (good) pictures.

But of course, halfway there it started to rain. Not just like "grab your umbrella" rain, but "makes your umbrella look like a joke" rain. Luckily, downtown Charlotte is beautiful in the rain.

Not so luckily, all that rain made our newly graded lot much too soft to walk on.

I was mistaken before, our foundation isn't in yet. It has been boxed off for now, and they are working on plumbing before the foundation is poured (should be any day now). It's still very exciting. That tall pipe you see carries gross things down from the second floor.

And for those of you wondering, our house will be fully wired for a security system. Anyone larger than Boone will set off a motion detector, so you gotta be a very small idiot to try and steal anything from us.

And to my brother, the firefighter: we got a smoke detector that automatically notifies the Fire Department if anything goes up in flames.

A different view of the plumbing:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

House Update: Foundation?!

So, a trip to the dentist in Dilworth meant I was close enough to uptown to justify a drive by of the new house. And much to my surprise, the foundation of our home is underway! I wanted to get out and walk around but I was in sandals and it's an active construction site (!) so I decided best not. I promise the pictures will get better. At least I rolled down the car's window so you're not looking through pollen and sap. I love Spring.

Also, looks like we will have a little slope in our (tiny) front yard, so now I get to daydream about beautiful retaining walls!

A few more, just for fun.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

House Update!

I know it might not be exciting to you, but we have a bulldozer and a sign on our lot! After six weeks of nothing, I'm like a kid on Christmas morning!

And, when I drove by later that night (I know, I'm obsessive), our sign had our address and building permit numbers on it. Woohoo!

If you build it, they will come.

I'm super excited that we're building in Brightwalk, a brand new neighborhood near uptown. It's designed to feel like an older neighborhood with lots of little Craftsman style houses and mature oak trees lining the sidewalks. There will also be one large park and several pocket parks which I'm super excited about (all the better for dog walking).

I guess I shouldn't hide my consternation for the adjacent neighborhoods. That's the one thing that made Pat and I hesitate and eventually cost us $10,000+ in price hikes while we "slept on it" for nearly a month. Brightwalk is part of Historic Double Oaks, previously home to the infamous Kohler Avenue, aka the ghetto.

As a city, Charlotte is putting a ton of money into making this area, that's less than two miles from uptown, the next South End. All of the old barrack style housing has been bulldozed to make way for newer homes and brave, affluent families are moving in every day. There's a few things still missing and I've got a plan.

City of Charlotte, take notes:

We need retail.
A lifestyle center has been suggested, a la Birkdale in Huntersville, North Carolina. That would meet the needs of the new residents, but I have bigger visions. I envision an Atlantic Station (Atlanta, Georgia) model with mid-to-high end shops and plenty of parking.

Two of the many opportunities identified in Charlotte's 2020 Vision Plan is the lack of shopping in uptown and the gentrification of the North Corridor (the larger area where Double Oaks is located, NoCo as I like to call it). By creating an uptown mall, we won't just be meeting the needs of the new residents, we will attract people from all over Charlotte, maybe the state, to visit the neighborhood and remove the stigma associated with Historic Double Oaks. Two birds.

And amenities. 
It was very clear to us when we signed our contract that our HOA will not be providing a pool or gym. That's fine, but the lack of nice membership-based [read: quality controlled] amenities nearby, is a real disservice to the area.

By providing more than destination shopping and making the uptown mall a real (walkable) asset to residents, the area would be more attractive and seem like a more stable investment, thereby increasing demand. More demand means higher housing prices. And as sad as it is, higher prices will in turn increase the demand even more.

And a dog park. 
There are very few off leash dog parks near uptown and most are indoors, private pay-per-use, and focus more on training/agility than just playing. With the the new Double Oaks Park being cultivated in Brightwalk, a dog park could easily be included.

Surely a dog park would increase Double Oaks appeal to potential new residents, right? Yes, but like the retail, I believe we should set our sights even higher. Let's not aim to meet just the needs of the immediate residents, let's aim to pull visitors in.

The Newton Dream Dog Park in Alpharetta, Georgia is the type of dog park that draws crowds in from across the city because it makes all other dog parks obsolete. Double Oaks is the perfect location due to it's centrality, enabling it to serve all of Mecklenburg County. Would I drive across the county to visit any old dog park? Nope. But I would drive a long way to visit a park like that. And I would be envious of everyone who lived close to such a place.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let the waiting begin...

So we're doing it: the Hubs and I are buying our first home. But we're not just buying, we're building. After the initial excitement wore off, the fear set in and once the fear subsided, the hard part began: waiting. Anxiously waiting for everything to be shiny and new and just the way we want it. Waiting for a place to host friends and start establishing a home. And every time I open our tiny pantry or have to climb three flights of stairs just to walk the dog, that wait becomes slightly more unbearable.

Truth is, the wait's not so difficult because we can no longer fit in our tiny apartment, it's because I'm overflowing with ideas on how to create a home. Blame Pinterest, Houzz, HGTV, and Martha Stewart, but now that there's a date on when one of my biggest dreams comes true, I'm finding my nesting instinct impossible to resist.

So check in once in a while and I'll keep you up-to-date on the progress of our home and share ideas I'm excited to try when this all becomes real.