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December, 2005:

Kitchen refined again (it’s never ending!)

Still working on the kitchen layout. Here’s the latest and greatest (version 6a), incorporating many people’s comments (especially really great ones from Well denziens and from Adam’s mom). Changes include swapping the fridge and ovens, removing the counter next to the back door (replaced with a small shelf – though it’s not too clear in the drawing), adding the microwave under a counter (it hadn’t had a home before this version), and planning for the open door of the dishwasher.

A few important notes:

  1. The window that we’re losing in the pantry, which is currently in the bathroom, looks out into the 12″ space between our house and the house next door (yes, this is a very urban house – fortunately we’re on a corner, so that’s our only bad side). No loss of view, and not even a loss of lot of light, if we lose that window. Also, the glass currently there is frosted (as it’s currently in the bathroom) – if we did reclaim it into the kitchen it would need to be replaced (just one more expense).
  2. The door upper right is the main door to the house, temporarily. Later in 2006 we hope to add a mudroom outside of this door, but for now it opens direct to the outside. Not ideal, but it’s what we have to work with for the moment (building the mudroom will involve pouring a foundation, which is just more than we think we can handle right now, especially as the winter is just beginning).
  3. Some people have suggested that we narrow the bar/peninsula, but if we want to have 24″ base cabinets below I think it needs to be at least 3’4″ wide – so we can have our knees under it while seated (with 1’4″ available for knees).
  4. My thought is that the peninsula is at table-top height – so that I get my lower countertop to work at, and we get a comfortable place to sit (I don’t like bar stools).

As always, your comments much appreciated.

Three more kitchen layouts

Here, for your viewing (and commenting) pleasure, are three more kitchen layouts. My stepmother Nancy and I burned the midnight oil on Saturday night, working through all of the issues. She was really insightful and I think these designs are much improved over the earlier ones. One major change she suggested was to turn the bathroom vertically (relative to these drawings) – which buys us a lot of space along the main kitchen wall and also brings the (current) bathroom window into the kitchen.

However, two of these designs blocks off that newly recaptured window with the pantry. The walk-in pantry is something that’s really important to me, so I keep trying to figure out how to get it in. I think it’s worth the tradeoff for a window we never really had in the kitchen anyway.

Our kitchen contractor Joe was out yesterday to have a look, so I hope to see his ideas on Monday. I haven’t shown him these designs; maybe he’ll have a whole different spin on the space.

We continue to solicit your comments and ideas– they are very useful to us!

Concept 5B

Concept 5C
Concept 6

Interesting History about Park Hill Funicular

I found a REALLY interesting article about the old funicular that used to run up Park Hill. (we live at the bottom of Park Hill) Not sure what a funicular is? Look it up here!

Our theory about our very large garage is that rich people who lived up Park Hill went to work using the old funicular and then would take the bus/tram/trolley/subway to NYC.

When the funicular closed down, people started driving down the hill. The people who lived at the bottom, realizing that rich people wanted a place to park, started putting up large garages all over the place. All along S. Broadway, there are old brick garage buildings. Our theory is that’s how we ended up with such a spacious garage. (Even a couple of blocks off of Broadway)

However, the article states that the funicular didn’t close down until 1937. And we theorize that our garage was built in the 1920’s. So perhaps the garages were the cause of the death of the funicular, rather than the other way around? Some more research is probably in order!

An interesting fact is that the funicular was designed by Otis Elevator, which was started in Yonkers in 1853 by Elisha Otis. WIKIPEDIA ENTRY

One of the best things about our new neighborhood…

One of the great things about our neighborhood is the cuisines. Our neighborhood is full of all different ethnicities, and they all have different foods, and a lot of them are on South Broadway. (Which is not very far from the new abode.)

One of our favorites is an Arab place Ya hala. They have amazingly good food, and while it isn’t particularly cheap, it isn’t particularly expensive either.[Stephanie wrote me afterwards to say that she thinks it’s very cheap– It’s definitely cheaper than lots of other places, but the two of us eat there for around $10-$12 per person– if it were $10-$15, then I’d say it’s cheap! But you know, one woman’s cheap is another man’s fair to middling]The owner, Ziad, is an excellent guy who makes some of the specialties himself. We had a Ya hala feast as a houseclosing party the day after we closed on the house. The food is always excellent.

I think that while the kitchen is being done, we’ll have Ya Hala on speed dial.

Next door to Ya Hala is an Arab grocery called Hala. They’ve got foods, teapots, and housewares. It’s great to go in– it’s really as if you’ve walked into the Middle East. (Not that I’ve ever been to the Arab Middle East– I’ve really only been to Israel, and I’m guessing it’s at least slightly different. Nevertheless, it makes me think that I’m in the Middle East, and that’s what I’m sayin’…)
Ya Hala Restaurant
(914) 476-4200
326 S Broadway
Yonkers, NY 10705

Is this the entrance to contractor hell?

We haven’t even hired anyone yet and I already hate them all. Hate them. Two of them blew me off today – one for an 8:00 am appointment and one for an 8:00 pm apppointment. Since we’re not yet living in the house, meeting contractors before and after work is a chore – get up early, drive up to the house, wait around, leave again, park the car at the Yonkers train station (first time at that station – very nice), and get to work, then reverse it all in the evening but end up at home (apartment home).

So today I drove to the house in time for the 8:00 am appointment, the guy didn’t show and didn’t call, and never called me back (I left him a couple of “where are you messages”). So I guess that guy, an electrician, doesn’t want my business. Tonight’s guy was our kitchen guy, whom we really like, and he had the flu, so I’m not nearly as upset about that. Besides, it was much more of a pain in the ass to get there early in the morning (I’m not a morning person) than it was to go to the house after work.

Did I mention that last week another guy (the guy measuring for the kitchen) blew me off for an 8:00 am appointment too? (He ended up rescheduling for 8:00 pm and then was 25 min. late – but at least he showed eventually.)

So, next, the only G.C. we’ve talked to so far wants an appointment for 8:00 am Monday for their electrician. No way, no how. Certainly not on a Monday morning. I think I’m giving up on 8:00 am appointments altogether. Getting my morning sleep might be the only way to keep my sanity through this process.

However, I’m not sure how I’m going to get all of the appointments we need to do in and still keep my job. The problem is certainly exacerbated by the fact that Adam is stuck in Providence through New Year’s (because of Bright Night) and is therefore not able to do any of these appointments himself. I have the feeling we’re going to end up deferring all decisions until January, just because we won’t be able to meet with enough people before then – but that means that we will be moving in just when we’re starting construction, and we were hoping to at least have some stuff underway before we moved in. Oh well, the best laid plans….

My Kingdom for a Kitchen!

Okay– OUR kingdom. (I have to get used to saying that!)

One of the biggest questions we are going to have is — what are we going to do with our kitchen?

For those of you who have been there, you’ve seen it– we definitely need to redo the kitchen. (For those of you who don’t know, there’s a wall in the middle of it, ugly kitchen floor, a very awkward bathroom, with a self-installed shower in an awkward place,even uglier kitchen cabinets, and a stove that doesn’t work.) Changes HAVE to be made.

We know which walls we need to knock down, and assuming we can (which we are pretty sure of) the question becomes– how are we going to get everything that we need in there in there?

We’re waiting to hear from the kitchen guy with his design, but in the meantime, Stephanie found a room design program and has been playing with it. Here are the results so far– We’d love to get your input!


What is it with heating contractors?

So today I started to understand that among contractors, the greatest variation, at least thus far, seems to be in heating contractors. They all have vastly different opinions on what we should do with our oil-fired forced hot air furnace to make it more efficient and hopefully heat the office on the 2nd floor (which has no air duct) and the three bedrooms on the 3rd floor (which all share one air duct, which is in the floor in the hallway between the three). We’d also like to eventually get air conditioning installed, which at least two out of three agree is theoretically possible with our setup.

Last week’s heating guy basically threw his hands up and walked out. Well, that’s a tiny bit harsh – he said he didn’t work on oil, but then scared the crap out of us by telling us that we didn’t have the proper fresh air returns and, if it were him, he wouldn’t live in the house because it’s too full of potentially toxic air. Super.

This week’s two heating guys both seemed less concerned with the returns; one had an excellent solution to the problem (repurpose unused air ducts), and the other suggested maybe bringing in some fresh air from outside. Beyond that, their approaches differened dramatically – the first one said we should keep the furnace, zone it for two zones, add ducts where they’re missing on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and then we’d have a good system that is efficient and also ready for A/C down the road. The second guy originally said we should switch the 2nd and 3rd floors to baseboard electric heat, but later called me and said he’d changed his mind and we should do a separate gas furnace on the 3rd floor with forced air ducts run through the closets.

Let me tell you, at this point I’m very confused. I think we’re going to have to talk to another one or two heating guys before we can feel comfortable about making a decision on this.

I also learned today that there is a hole in the first floor leading to the basement that needs to be patched. Yeah, it’s a nice round hole, about 15″ diameter. Goes straight down from a floor vent to the basement. It was covered with cardboard so not too noticable until you take the floor vent out. Used to be a duct, but now it’s just a hole. So it goes on the list with the other repairs needed to be made to the first-floor floor (basement ceiling), including putting back the subfloor the previous owners took out when they added a shower stall to the half-bath, and propping up the main staircase from when they took out a section of the first floor to add a set of stairs to the basement. It’s a wonder the house is still standing.

Our House Listing

So this is the listing to our house…. (MLS # blurred for our protection)

[EDIT: Photo removed – if you want to know why, email us!]

Of course, as it turns out the house was built pre-1900, not 1950, has closer to 2300 sq. feet (than 3500), and (although we haven’t measured it yet) I’m pretty sure it sits on more than 0.0 acres. And although it does have 6 bedrooms, three of them are on the third floor of the converted attic.

Nevertheless, it’s a very big house, with a LOT of work that needs to be done. I am very excited about it, and a little bit nervous. I haven’t lived in a house since… oh, a VERY long time. I’ve been a condo/loft dweller for over 15 years. I believe I’m in for a whole new lesson in swinging a hammer, shoveling the walk, and fixing leaks…

The Mayor of Yonkers

By the way, the Mayor of Yonkers is Philip Amicone

I found out quite a bit about him and about Yonkers on the City of Yonkers website

For example, Yonkers is the fourth largest city in New York State! And Amicone is very well qualified as Mayor– he spent 8 years as Deputy Mayor before becoming the mayor.

I’m guessing that I’m going to be getting a lot of use of that website.

Welcome to Yonked!

Welcome! Adam and I are building this blog to bring you into our world – that which involves the recent purchase and upcoming renovation of our 100+ year old Victorian home in Yonkers, New York.

The fact that we’ve bought the house is significant for a number of reasons:
1) It means Adam and I are moving in together.
2) It means Adam is moving to New York from Providence.
3) It means we’re both moving to Yonkers. Yeah, Yonkers.

Admittedly, we didn’t know too much about Yonkers when we started looking for houses, only that it was close to Riverdale (part of the Bronx, in New York City), which is where I’m living now, and that we’d heard there were still pretty good house deals to be had there. Admittedly, we’ve owned the house for over three weeks, and I’m still not sure who the mayor is.

(The closing date on the house, just to officially get the date in this blog, was November 18.)

We’re deep in interviews and discussions with contractors; more on that, and the house itself, soon.

Yonkers tidbit: they don’t plow the streets as fast (nor, apparently, as well), as NYC. Guess there’s less at stake for their mayor (whomever he is).