Das Haus: The Kitchen Reveal

I know this post is long overdue. I’ve stalled and stalled as delivery had been rather piecemeal. It took an awful lot of time to finish, first the countertop and then the glass backsplash which had been installed only last week. At any rate, everything turned out just as I desired. I hope my dear friends, whom I’ve kept in utter suspense would be just as pleased with the outcome. Now I’m quite ready for your ooohs and aaahhhs ….. should any of you care to humour me haha😀

So first off, the view from the dining area. I think this is the best vantage point from which to admire my kitchen composition😉 Needless to say, I’m very happy how the surface combination turned out in real life. I felt the wood combined with the blue wall counterbalanced the sterileness and severity of the white, while the handle-less fronts and the matte stainless steel grooves in between the cabinets bestowed that modern, streamlined character upon the kitchen.

Kitchen 1

In case you’ve forgotten, there’s a double pocket door separating the kitchen and dining area. So yes, the correct doors have now been installed too. It does feel and look better with the glass panes. It makes the kitchen not too cut-apart from the main living area.

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This window is facing south-east so we get a lot of light in the kitchen during the day.

Kitchen 2

This is the breakfast nook, which is fast becoming a favorite hang-out place for me and D. I initially thought it’s going to feel cramped because of the wall behind it but it turned out to be quite cozy. This is one element where we had a minor revision. We originally planned to have 2 80-cm wide base drawers for a total worktop length of 170 cm (including the side cladding). But this turned out to be too long. It would’ve hogged the entry through the double-door. We’ve shortened this by replacing one of the cabinets with 60-cm wide drawers. This did irritate me a little bit in the beginning, me being a stickler for symmetry but in the end I felt it to be a good decision. Now the space is better proportioned.

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This is the door leading to the utility room.

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And from which, a view of the kitchen.

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As for the kitchen features I love, the pull-out larder is for me a definite cracker. It’s not big but could store enough supplies and sundries to last us until the next big grocery shopping. You can also see here how we figured the microwave solution. This is the cheaper alternative to the matching built-in microwave, which is not say that I’m less happy with it😀 In fact, I prefer not to see so many machines and I like that we can hide it behind the cupboard.

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The Le Mans pull out for storing the bulkier pots and kitchen implements.

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The inside drawers for more storage. Also opting for this style simplified the configuration of the base cabinets fronts with lesser drawers and interrupted lines.

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Of course, the quartzstone countertop. It has a much subtler veining (although hard to see here) compared with natural marble but it doesn’t make it less beautiful. It’s only a a 2 cm thick slab but the fit and construction, particularly the joinery to create a 4 cm edge is so immaculate, I readily forgave them for the lengthy wait🙂 As for the sink, I like the style and size of it. I am however starting to regret the choice of stainless steel. It was very pretty in the beginning until I saw those pesky water stain and scratches, the first of which D had inflicted already on the second day!

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The recessed glass panel while not my first choice also did not disappoint. I thought that there’s just too much white in here but I could not think of a better color alternative. Besides I already have a brilliant blue on one of the walls. I also didn’t care very much for the patterned options. Anyway if you notice, the upper cabinets were placed much higher than the standard 60 cm distance from the countertop, about 75 cm so I won’t bump my head on the range hood. But now the cabinets proved to be much too high for me.

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As for the appliances, I’m quite satisfied with all of them. I particularly like the fully-integrated dishwasher. But I’m perhaps happiest with the induction hob. Ours is not the most techy, but it’s so much fun to cook on. The operation is very straight-forward. Heat can be easily controlled, I’m almost sure I won’t get burnt pan bottoms ever again🙂  The oven is also good, although I have yet to acquaint myself with its many capabilities. Just the manuals are so dull😦

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As for styling, you see that not much had been done yet. I’m really only thinking about bringing in a bit of texture and color by way of the window treatment and kitchen textiles just to make it less austere. But overall, I still prefer it to be uncluttered. For the bit that I’ve done so far, here’s a photo of the open shelving next to the window. I’ve composed a simple vignette up on the upper shelf using the only cookbooks I have, a Korean clay tea-set, a retro-radio and this tentacle-y plant which I love. I meant to display prettier tableware on the lower shelf but I don’t own any so our humble but beloved cups will have to do for now🙂

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But my real preoccupations at the moment are lighting and window treatments. I’m not kidding when I say that these are two design decisions that are not easy to make. In the next posts, allow me to share with you the various inspirations and ideas I’m toying with as well as the ones I’ve already implemented and the lessons I’ve learnt in my research. You may be able to pick up a few tricks and tips there too. So hope you’ll keep dropping by🙂

Das Haus: The Utility Room

Hey guys! I know some of you are waiting and waiting for the kitchen reveal but sorry, it’s taking forever to finish. July is vacation season for most in Germany so we could not really push them kitchen guys to hurry things up. Anyway, it’s not that I’m still without a kitchen. It is actually pretty much complete now and fully functional, just the glass backsplash not yet installed. They just gave us a date for the installation on the 25th. So 2 more weeks!!🙂

For now, at least let me share with you what we did to the utility room/scullery. I know it’s not a very exciting room but it’s really like the control room of the house. We’ve got all the household Technik there plus the laundry area. It’s not a big room with barely 8 sqm. A few extra square footage would have been ideal because it feels really cramped atm. But that’s mostly because we’ve got all the stuff that we hope to store later at the garage now piled haphazardly there in a small corner. Garage is scheduled for setup only in September so I guess I’ll just have to bear with this jumble for a bit longer.

Anyway I mentioned that we have a side door here from the garage. Here is what you’ll find upon entering. The door on the left is to the kitchen. So pretty much, this room is just a way-through to the house. Not  exactly for hanging out. Also since it’s small, we have to make it as organized as possible. We had the laundry area installed in this small niche, with extra storage for supplies and whatnots. I’m glad we had the machines side-by-side (instead of stacked) as I felt the extra countertop would be useful here, like an extension of our kitchen. The cabinets and worktop are from Nobilia and sink and tap from Blanco. I chose the dark gray upper cabinets to match the gray pipes in the ceiling. Admittedly, this corner is looking ho-hum right now but I already have plans to jazz it up so watch out for that😉

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HWR2

Opposite the laundry area, next to the door is the would-be mudroom. Unfortunately, the wall space here is too short to fit the IKEA shoe rack that we already have. We’re still debating if we’ll just repurpose that or get a new one instead.

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This is the tight corner  where we have all the technical apparatuses. I think this is not even 3 sqm and we have to fit the boiler/heating system, electrical switchboard, water regulator, solar power converter, fiber-optic hook-up and that microwave looking box which is D’s LAN-network switchboard. I’m glad that apart from the boiler, they’re all compact. Thankfully they’ve shifted to a single-phase power transformer with the router already integrated in the switchboard. They don’t do separate meters anymore too for self-generated power and power consumed from the network.

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Speaking of solar power, we’re finally fully registered in the network and online now too! Here’s a screenshot of an app where we can check our real-time power output and consumption. The first bar says that so far, we’ve produced 25 kWh power, 72% of which we’ve routed to the network (i.e. sold) and the rest we’ve consumed. The second bar shows our cumulative consumption, 74% of which we’ve produced ourselves and the rest we bought from the network. Lastly the graph shows our production and consumption patterns for the day. The red is the power used from the network during the night for the appliances that run 24-7 like the fridge. You see a spike in power use in early morning. This is to jumpstart the boiler for hot water. The green area shows how much power had been produced and the blue area shows how much of it was used. For example, yesterday I used the dryer to account for that spike at 2 PM. Dryers do use a lot of power! But still, it feels good to know that we’re running it for free. Well technically not “free” since we also need to amortize the money we invested in this system. Overall though, whether we’d recover all of it or not, we’re happy we did it🙂 We’re just curious how the Abrechnung will turn out by the end of the year.

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Das Haus: The Reveal – Part 2

Friends, back to our house tour. But before that, let me thank you for your positive feedback on my last post. I’m very flattered😉 To think that my only motivation for doing this is to satisfy the curiosity of my devoted fans. Well, you know who you are😉 Truly guys, thanks for your encouragement and support in this project🙂

It’s almost a week now since we’ve moved in. Except for a few boxes in the office, pretty much everything has been unpacked already. Well, we don’t really own a lot of stuff and we’ve left some furniture and old hand-me-downs in the old apartment. We also managed to sell our 5 year-old kitchen to the Nachmieter, which is good. That’s still some money for the many things we need for the house.

Anyway, on to our tour. Today we’ll do the upper floor🙂

Our Bedroom

This is our bedroom. Our view is not really only that of our neighbor. From the window you see on the photo, we get a nice view of the Leine valley. It’s a nice spot for watching the sunset🙂 You see the room is painted in the same warm gray that was painted downstairs, as all the other rooms in the upper floor. Also since our house is not a true 2-storey house, the rooms have vaulted or sloping ceilings like in a loft. This is very typical of German single-family homes. What we tried to do here though is to at least increase the height of the short wall by pitching the roof at a flatter angle, instead of the common 45° roof pitch where we’d only get less than a meter height. Here we’ve got 1.3-meter clearance which is good as it makes the space under the ceiling less cramped.

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Here is the rest of the room from the vaulted side. Again we have the big windows. The opening on the right leads to a small changing room/walk-in robe.

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I think most walk-ins are walled on all sides. But since we got a window here, we lost some wall space for cabinet/shelving. Also unlike typical walk-ins with open shelving, we’ll have closed cabinetry. I don’t know how people keep their clothes staubfrei in open shelves. This room is about 7 sqm while the sleeping area is about 18 sqm.

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The sleeping area from the walk-in.

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So about the floor. They’ve indeed come very far with the wood vynil tiles. Their looks and tactility have greatly improved to resemble the texture and appearance even of rough-sawn wood. We have here the classic waxed oak. There is one other option that I like better with less knotting and looks more elegant in my eyes, but of course also with a higher price tag. Looking back, we thought we could’ve just upgraded since we’re already deep into it. But it’s already done. I’d just say though that these are great alternative to wood parquet or laminates as they are more durable, less sensitive to scratching and staining, very easy to maintain, and they don’t discolor or fade such as when some areas get sun-bleached. The only thing about them is that they definitely don’t feel like wood, but surely comfortable enough to walk on barefoot. And yes, they don’t squeak😀

Guest Room

Now this looks a lot like our bedroom from this angle. It’s smaller at 14 sqm but an adequate size for a guest room I think. Here we have a fantastic view of the forest and hayfields with the horses. Kind of romantic and so idyllic🙂

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So no, the guest room doesn’t have a walk-in😀

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Here you’ll get a better feel of the room size. I find the sloping ceiling somehow makes the room cozier, gut zum Kuscheln🙂

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Office/Hobby Room

This is the room where the wall dormer is so here we’ve got extra full-height floor space. Because it’s a gabled dormer, not flat-roofed or a shed type, we ended up with some interesting shapes in the ceiling like the one you see on the right. I like it a lot though. It looked almost sculptural specially after it had been painted. That corner is going to be D’s space, which is all the space he’s getting in this room😀

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Directly opposite D’s corner is a recessed wall, which is meant to exactly fit a 2-meter wide, full-depth IKEA-PAX. This is the corner that I painstakingly configured in the floorplan when I was doing it, because I want the cabinet to be flush with the wall.

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You see we left the entry to this room open to allow light from the south side to stream through to the upper floor landing.

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Now this is my side of the room, where I have my bit of Orla Kiely. After ditching the multi-color scheme, I decided a wall in the upper floor should at least be fun. I fell in love with this vibrant retro-print a long time ago. It’s one of those things that makes me smile everytime I see it🙂  I’ve considered several other patterns like the Woods-series by Cole and Son but I keep coming back to this. It must be true love🙂  Unfortunately D is not in love😦 This wallpaper will now dictate my styling and accessorizing…at least color-wise.

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Office 6

Main Bathroom

I love, love, love the bathroom. It worked out exactly like how I imagined it. The room is bright, warm and inviting. It gives off all the feeling of comfort and relaxation that you’d expect in a bathroom. I just can’t express enough how happy I am with the outcome here.

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Tiling was great. I’m happy that we’ve reconsidered the white grout on the walls, as the tiler said there’s no way I’ll be able to keep it white. He suggested a light gray, which worked out great with the tiles. He also had all corners hemmed with a stainless steel strip. I initially had misgivings about this as I feel it’d be too much stainless steel. I only wanted the niches framed and the vanity ledge but that’s it. But he said they’re really meant to protect the tile edges since the tiles are the calibrated type. I don’t know what other types there are but if it’s to protect them, then by all means seal all the edges.

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It’s hard to capture a nice photo from this angle because of the glare, but you see how abundant natural light is in this room. I like that we have the vanity next to the window. Great for putting make-up on😉

This is from the other side, where you see the shower.

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Glass door is still missing.

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You’ll see that my tiling plan here had been wonderfully executed (if you compare it with the initial rendering). I didn’t even have to explain anything to the tiler. He already knew how I wanted it done, except for the tile moulding around the ledge which I don’t want. Again he persuaded me to have them so as to avoid dirtying the wall when I clean the ledge. Now I know, pretty is not always practical :-) Anyway, the mirror is an old, old one we have that we thought we could use here. It’s rather hard to reach a mirror solution here because of the position of the wall-lamp outlets. They’re not high enough and too far apart for overhead lamps. I think they meant for us to buy one of those washstand mirrors with integrated LED light strips on the sides. Not that they’re not to my liking, they’re just too expensive for me, at least the ones I like. So for now, we’ll try to find a temporary but pretty solution.

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Sorry I’m still going to go on with my bathroom loving😀 Because I really love the vanity. The basin doesn’t look very deep but water doesn’t splash out of it even with the taps off-center. Also at 120 cm wide, there’s plenty of space for me and D for our daily ablutions, which we do almost always at the same time. The taps I like a lot too, except they’re jutting a bit too far out in front I think. Aber macht nichts! Now just the vanity unit and bathroom accessories.

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Upstairs Hallway

This is what you’ll find upon reaching the stairs landing. So I like that immediately I see something that makes me happy🙂

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The left-most door is to a small storage room, then bathroom and on the right to the guest room.

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The door on the left is to our bedroom.

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Lastly from the top of the stairs. You see here that the stairs and the floor are not matchy-matchy, but it’s really not very bad. This is already after we’ve moved in as evidenced by the flower on the window sill🙂 Maybe in the coming posts I’ll show you how we’ve furnished the house with the stuff we already have. Furnishing a house as you know is a process and for us, it may still take some time until I could say that we’ve got the feel and character we’re going for. It’s again a journey that I’m looking forward to sharing with you, as we see how each room evolves. So stay tuned for that🙂

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So that’s it for the upper floor. I said I’ll be sharing the kitchen next but I’m afraid, it’s not yet reveal-ready. Some elements are still missing and we can’t say for sure when they’ll be done with it. For now, just let me reassure you that it’ll be worth the wait🙂

Until then guys. Tschüss! 

Das Haus: The Reveal – Part 1

So dear friends, das Bauprojekt has come to a close. They really did finish in only 11 weeks😀 Kaum zu glauben, oder? It does feel like only yesterday when the concrete foundation had been poured and now the house is ready for move-in! What a truly spectacular ride this project had been. And not once did we feel overwhelmed or unduly stressed by it. We owe it all to the brilliant Handwerker, whose works I could only describe in superlatives. Specially our Engineer, who had been key to all these. If not for his magnificent orchestration, this project would not have progressed the way it did and turned out as splendidly as we hoped. I know I promised this post will be about the finished product. Please note, I’m not claiming any sort of grandness as is often associated with “reveals”, so temper your expectations🙂 I only wish to share with you the end result… and naturally, my utter delight in it😉

Shall we get on with the walk-through?🙂

Entry

This is what you’ll see upon entering the front door. I think it’s a good enough-sized entryway, bright and airy. Overall, a welcoming space if you ask me🙂 I am very happy with the staircase. It’s one of the few items that we’ve upgraded. But I never really knew how it’s going to look like until it had been installed, as we chose this based only on a slab of wood. Anyway, it’s solid oak, white-waxed. This we chose over the standard birch or beech, which are also pretty but not really doing it for me. I was hoping that the wood finish will match the flooring upstairs but it didn’t. Nevertheless, I’m still happy with our choice. It is really lovely in real life ;-)          

Entry 1

This is from the other side. I appreciate that the staircase is somewhat filigran, sturdy but delicate-looking. It didn’t really hog the space here at the entry. The open risers and slender stainless steel railings allow transparency, for light to filter through to the room and for air to circulate.

Entry 3

The door on the left is to the guest bathroom. Then next to it is an alcove which I’ll enclose later with double glass sliding door to serve as cloakroom.

Entry 2

The space under the stairs may be a good spot for some styling in this room. I’m thinking about putting a console table here or a wall-mounted commode, maybe accesorize with mirrors, lamps, plants etc. I’m afraid though that that may happen much, much later. In any case, I’ll be sharing with you my ideas and inspirations and of course, if and when I do implement these ideas, I’ll make sure to update you on the outcome🙂

Entry 4

Guest Bathroom

This is but a tiny bathroom, not even 4 sqm. But we managed to squeeze a 90 X 90 cm shower stall in the corner. Glass shower enclosure had already been measured but installation may still take a few weeks. The opening to the shower could be a bit problematic because they have to fix 2 glass slabs on either side, next to the vanity and the toilet, to avoid collision with the fixtures when swung open. We agreed to have 45 cm glass slab fixed and the other 45 cm “swing-able”, allowing about 60 cm opening in the corner. So it may be a bit tight.

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The toilet corner is also rather tight. But I thought this should do for a guest toilet.

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I love how the tile combination worked out here. It’s hard to see but the wall tiles have this subtle concrete-finish effect. They’re like smudgy white tiles, but smudgy in a pretty way. I also like the stainless-steel framing of the shower niche.

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Living/Dining Area

From the entry, through the double-door, you’ll find the dining area. It’s the longer side of the room. Since it’s also narrow, you can easily guess the only table situation that could possibly work here.

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This is the dining area from the other side of the room. The double pocket doors in front leads to the kitchen. These however are not our doors. Unfortunately, they installed the wrong ones. They’re supposed to be the same as the double doors at the entry (the ones you see on the left) with the glass panes. While we’d decided to barricade the kitchen, we still want the see-throughness of open kitchen plans. I feel the glass panes will somehow allow that, although I suspect we’ll most likely keep these doors open anyway.

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The dining area from the living area. Here you see how bright the room is, just the way we want it. But as I walk around this room, with so many big windows, I can’t help but feel a little bit “exposed”. I’ve really got to get on with the drapes…and soon! It’s good we have shutters!

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Anyway here you’ll get a better view of my curious color choices🙂  I didn’t really go crazy with the paint colors, although I initially considered using several bright ones as accents.Yes some people may say, accents are so yesterday and that it’s the era of pastels and soft tones. But I love bold colors and I want something exciting. However, instead of having several colors – the idea was for each room to have an accent, not really diverging colors but just nuanced palettes of blues and greens – I chose one and I zeroed in on this blue. Unfortunately, the blue you see here is not the same in person. It’s a deeper blue, with a touch of green, similar to a color they call here petrol. I had it painted on this wall all the way to the kitchen on the other side. The rest of the walls are painted in a warm gray, with a touch of ochre, very mother-of-pearl-ish. I’m really happy I didn’t go for this multi-color idea.

As for the paint finish, I chose flat, matte finish. My mom warned me against it. She said it’ll easily soil and I fear, she may be proven right. I already see blemishes here and there, although the painter said it should be easy to spot clean with a soft damp cloth, plus the paint is formulated to contain some kind of a dirt-repellant. I’m not too sure about that though, so we’ll see. I just happen to love the velvety texture of the matte finish. And since it doesn’t reflect light, the colors appear to me deeper and fuller.

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This is the living area. If you remember the houseplan, it’s the shorter leg of the L shape of the room. Now here you may appreciate the floor tiles better. I feared in the beginning that it’s going to be too dark once laid out on a bigger surface. But apparently not. The browns on the tiles adequately balanced the grays. Overall, I love how it turned out. I feel the wall colors also tied in with the tiles beautifully.

Living room2

Here you may see it better, although still not the same IRL. Now just want to say that our tiler is truly the best! Would you believe the whole tiling was just a one-man job? And he finished all in just 4 days, and excellently too! He did limit the grout in between tiles to maximum 3mm as I requested and all grout lines are as straight as they could be. Layout was also superb, without tile cuts along the expansion joints. I couldn’t be happier🙂

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This is the view of the living room from the dining area. We have here another set of big windows. Oh gee, how much fabric do you think I will need for the windows here? I’ll go DV shopping when I get home😉

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Sorry guys😦 I could only do a partial house tour today. But we’ll move on to the upper floor in the next post and then the kitchen and utility room.

Until then! Hope you stay tuned🙂

Das Bauprojekt: Update

 

Guys sorry I have been remiss with the updates. The past 3 weeks had just been a crazy flurry of activities, we could barely keep up, although we drive to the site almost everyday now. Anyway I thought today I’ll fill you in first on the works done before the finishing touches. I meant before the painting, tiling, sanitary installations and door fittings. So mostly boring stuff. I realized it would be more interesting to show you the finished output instead, in order to appreciate the space before any manner of styling is infused. So here goes:

Wall Finishing

Similar to the floor paving, the wall finishing had been done in a less conventional way. Most of you probably know how finecasting is done, where cement mixture is either sprayed or applied on the wall and then smoothed down to a Baby-Po surface. Instead of that, here they’d glued pre-casted plaster boards on the wall like you see on the photo. I’m not sure how different these boards are from the sheetrocks they’d used for the walls upstairs, but they look very similar. The only interesting thing is that this was one particular job that had not been contracted out by Viebrockhaus. It didn’t appear to me that “involved” requiring any special skill but maybe there’s a secret somewhere that they want to keep exclusive😉

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Here is after the seams had been smoothed and spackled, ready for priming.

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The same treatment had been done to the bathrooms.

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Additionally to the particularly wet areas in the room such as the shower, a liquid sealant had been applied on the wall. This in preparation for wall tiling. One interesting thing I’ve observed from the very beginning is that singular attention paid to sealing. Compared to building techniques I’ve seen on various blogs and forums, this preoccupation seems to me sometimes overmuch. But then, problems of water leakages were never really pleasant nor cheap to take care of, so I suppose these are instances when there’d be no overkilling it😉

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Floor Finishing

This is only done upstairs, in preparation for the laying of the vinyl planks. I initially thought that they would just be glued directly on the floor. Although they said you could do that, but that it won’t stay put very long. The surface needs to be super-even, possibly without airpockets or any way for moisture to creep in as those will eventually loosen the hold of the glue. So the concrete surface was first treated to a thorough vacuuming and then sealed and primed. After which, a thin layer of very fine cement/plaster mixture had been poured and then leveled with that implement you see on the photo.

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After a few hours, it dried up into this.

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Utility Connections

Of course, a house won’t be functional without utility services. So finally, they had our house connected. You see here that it’s quite some distance from the road where the pipes are to our valves.

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I don’t know what the other pipes are for. But we only need these 3.

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Solar Panel Installation

You know this thing that gets D shaking in his boots. We were expecting these installed already before they took away the scaffolding, but they’re delayed. No matter, at least now they’re there. I just worried a bit about those tiles. I hope he replaced them correctly.

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There are 2 sets of these. One on either side of the wall dormer. And aren’t they a beauty? I couldn’t commend Viebrockhaus enough for their aesthetic considerations even for banal and practical stuff like solar panels🙂 I don’t know if you notice, but these panels don’t have the characteristic blue-ish checkered patterns on the surface. Not that they matter so much but may still irritate me a little bit😀 I love that these blend more harmoniously with the roof tiles.

Just for your info, these are Sunpower X20 solar modules with 335 Watt power output per module, which is 33% more than conventional panels. Also, the SunPower Maxeon Solarcell-Technology used in these modules allows energy absorption even in bad lighting conditions such as when it’s cloudy or rainy which unfortunately is more the case in our region. These are advertised as one of the best modules out there right now, so that may interest some of you.

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OK so that’s it! Like I mentioned earlier, the next update will already be the finished product🙂 which won’t be long now. Because you know what? it looks like everything will be done 1 week ahead of schedule!!! It’s already quite impressive that they promised delivery in 12 weeks. But in even less than that?!?! If that doesn’t knock your socks off, I don’t know what will😀

All about Energy-Efficiency

I’ve described here and there several features of the house that are supposed to make it energy-efficient, such as the 2-shell wall construction, use of thermosole in the baseplate, floor insulation, installation of triple-glazed windows etc. But what is its energy-efficiency standard exactly? Officially, the house is categorized in Germany as a KfW 55 house (named after the German credit institute), so far the second-highest category after KfW40 under the KfW classification. To enlighten you a bit on this, this classification is principally based on 2 values, the rate of heat transmission (or thermal loss)  and the house’s primary energy requirement per square meter per annum.

For the first criterion, heat loss for a KfW55 house is expected to be no more than 70%. How this is measured exactly, I don’t know. I just know that the calculation is largely determined by how the house is constructed, like how thick the walls are, how good the insulation, how much thermal bridging is present, how optimally it is designed, etc. To officially qualify under this category (and naturally to qualify for a KfW loan), a number of building specifications need to be fulfilled. Additionally, a week before the turnover, an independent regulator will come to the house to conduct a test to verify this. So yes, for Germans it all boils down to evidentiary support😀

In terms of energy consumption, as the number suggests, a KfW55 house is supposed to require only about half the energy required by a “regular” house. Shown below is the current reference in red arrows (for new buildings), effectively putting our house in the A+ category.

energy bedarf
Via Viebrockhaus

How is this level of consumption achieved? We see that the 2 values are positively related i.e. increasing rate of thermal loss corresponds to increased use of energy. Heating is a relevant factor in the calculation because it requires the most energy in a home, more than all the cooking, computing, or washing one does everyday. That’s why the house has to be build to a certain standard. But of course we know, a large part of this also depends on our behaviour as energy consumers.

Heating System

Now speaking of heating system, the house is outfitted with perhaps the greenest (also cost-effective) technology available, a feature that we are most proud of. It’s a system developed by Viebrockhaus in partnership with a Swedish company, Nibe (exclusively for Viebrock houses). I say green because we’re not going to use conventional energy sources. Although this system technically runs on electricity, we’ve planned on networking only with renewable sources and hopefully in the near future, be energy self-sufficent.

Anyway, I do not pretend to know the exact mechanics of this but I’ll try to illustrate a bit here (all photos are from Viebrockhaus). As in many systems, the heart is the heatpump (boiler) where water is heated. To jumpstart the system, heat needs to be generated first. They said we can jumpstart this by baking a cake. After that, whatever heat we generate inside the house from cooking, baking, showering, practically any activity that produces heat including heat absorbed by the house (via thermal mass) and even body heat is collected and retained internally through a heat-recovery mechanism integrated in the air exhaust. So while air is expelled, heat is kept which is then fed to the boiler. Appropriately, this system is called Hybrid Air Compact heating system.

Entluftung

Heated water is then distributed via the radiant pipes laid out on the floor. This is regulated through the heating circuit system, while individual room temperature is regulated via a thermostat. Unlike a conventional gas- or oil-fired boiler, the heating process in this model is much, much, much slower. For this reason, it requires as much surface area to be able to distribute heat…hence the radiant pipes instead of the typical radiator.

heizung

When they’ve first explained this system to us, I couldn’t quite believe that this actually works. It’s almost too clever to be true. But when one thinks about it, if the house is built practically like an air-tight oven, then it really will not require much to heat it. Besides, there are many potential energy sources around and within the house that I never thought could be tapped and harnessed in this way. I’m obviously very fascinated :-D But this is not even the latest technology and I believe they’ve already upgraded the model to reverse the workings of the system for cooling. Now that might be something that could work for tropical climates.

Ventilation System

Tied to this system is the ventilation. We’ve already dealt with the de-aeration above, which is a centralized system. Aeration, on the other hand, is decentralized. Several air vents were installed on the walls, in the living room and bedrooms, technically, rooms where heat is not generated, whereas exhaust vents are located in the kitchen and bathrooms. The main purpose of the ventilation system is to control humidity, without having to open windows which we know leads to thermal loss.

Sounds good but this is not really the most efficient system. While the vents are only small openings on the wall, they still create significant thermal bridging. Naturally we thought the centralized system is better, where fresh air flows in through a single opening, filtered and then distributed in the house through pipes. But our problem with this is that it’s also easily disrupted, like you cannot open a window lest you disrupt its workings. Some are also not too keen on this system because it takes away the feeling of fresh air streaming through. But then we thought, why not just go out and take a walk for that…feeling🙂 I’ve also seen a Viebrockhaus with this system and I don’t like the pipe lay-out. The air vents are fixed flush with the floor (at least in the upper floor rooms). They are very likely to collect dust or crumbs I thought, which in the end would affect air quality.

Be- ung entluftung

So anyway, we’re happy to settle with the air vents, which are by the way also fitted with filters to deal with spores, pollen etc.

Solar Energy

This is D’s favorite aspect of this entire project. I’ve already mentioned that the house package came with a small photo-voltaic system that could generate around 2 kWp of power. D had upgraded this by adding additional solar panels for a total of 4 kWp capacity. This is planned mainly for our personal consumption. Considering our work situation, we are optimally setup to maximize our use of solar energy without a house battery. Since I work at home, I could run the machines and do the laundry or other chores, while energy is being produced during the day…while sun is up. I know…so domestic-goddess!😀

The system is fitted with a single-phase power converter. I really don’t know how this works but it basically converts the energy collected into usable current, the kind that powers the plugs, which is the same current that we could also route to the power network when not in use. I think we’ll get a few cents per kilowatt of power thrown into the grid, for which, funnily enough, we’d need a business license!!! They say once you sell something, then you’re on business😀

power router

Anyway, we don’t have a house battery yet. We decided to wait it out first how the Tesla house battery will pan out. We doubt not that it is the best battery out there right now, but at the moment we question the cost-effectiveness of this investment. Nevertheless, our goal to be a real autarky someday remains, so we’ll certainly keep this in the pipeline🙂

Das Bauprojekt: Weeks 6&7

Work mood was kind of laidback in the last couple of weeks. Week 6 was again a short week because of a holiday, observed in all Bundesländer except Lower Saxony!! Our contractor happens to be from Nordrhein Westfallen so egal where their work is, holidays apparently always apply. Week 7 was a regular week, but still it has not been as action-packed as in the weeks before. I kind of feel that we’re now entering the wrapping-up phase. And just about time too. Can you believe it’s already June?!?!? And we’re already half-way through to the Endabnahme?!?!?

So here were the happenings these past 2 weeks.

Dismantling of the Scaffolding

Let me start with this, although they only did this on the last day of Week 7. Here again are some photos of the house, this time without obstructions😉

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Floor Heating Installation

As for the main works, they’d now moved on to the setup of the heating system. Having heated floors is perhaps our most favorite thing about the house. Beyond the fact that I won’t suffer cold feet anymore, I’m happy that I don’t have to see another ugly radiator in the house. Oh I forgot. There’ll be one in the main bath, but it’s a bit fancy-ish so that’s OK🙂

To prepare the floor for the heating pipes, a layer of polystyrol insulation had first been laid out on the concrete base. It’s about 10 cm thick on the ground floor and 6 cm on the upper floor. It’s not a dense material, so it’s kind of springy. I know this functions mainly as barrier against frost, in addition to the insulation already integrated in the base plate and a sound absorber, I guess, to minimize the clacking of heels. But who does wear heels inside the house?!?! But more than that, I’d like to think that this also somehow acts as some sort of underfoot padding to relieve stress on our poor joints especially when walking or standing barefoot on the surface.

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So areas with large pipes had been carved out and filled with a granulated filler.

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Then on top of this layer is  another layer of foam (about 3 cm thick) overlaid with some kind of foil you see here on photo. This is the living/dining area already laid out with radiant pipes.

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And the guest room upstairs.

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You’ll notice here in the bathroom that the coils had been more densely laid out. This is partly to compensate for areas without floor heating, namely shower and tub. Also because sleeping rooms were meant to have a cooler climate than bathrooms.

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All these coils were then connected to the heating circuit distributor. There are 2 of these: one on the ground floor and one on the upper floor (here hidden in the storage room).

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“Paving” of Floors

After the laying of pipes, a layer of screed (aka palitada) had been piled on top. The screed is a conventional mixture of cement and sand, to which a special compound was added to replace the usual amount of water used to bind. So you’ll notice, it’s more crumbly than the wet mixture we’re more familiar with. The main objective here is to use as little water as possible to minimize condensation inside the house. This kind of “dry” construction is a technique that had been extensively researched by Viebrockhaus over the years. Even the laying of foam underneath is part of this system, resulting in this floating floor construction they’re doing here.

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These piles of screed were then leveled to a smooth surface like this. This is now the last floor layer before the final surface material i.e. tiles, vinyl planks etc.

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Drying of this layer is very important and all moisture has to be sucked out of the house. We don’t want moisture lingering within because as we know that would encourage the growth of unwanted flora on the walls. So for good measure, we’re instructed to air the house (windows wide open for 30 mins to 1 hour) twice a day for about a week. And even after moving in, it’s recommended that we air the house regularly for a year, even with the ventilation system.

So counting all layers, we come to about a 20cm thick floor plus 24 cm baseplate including all insulation.

Grouting of the Brick Facade

I never realized, from an aesthetic standpoint, how important the grout is. It’s not a few times that we were asked what the grout color is going to be. It’s a bit disconcerting because I don’t remember ever discussing this with our consultant before. She just said, it’s going to be gray. But what kind of gray?!?! Now I realized, if it’s not the right kind, then the entire facade is going to be “ruined”, considering how much I like the bricks!!

Add to that the suspense of the “missing” grouters. We knew the scaffolding would be dismantled on the Friday of week 7 so they really had to have this done before then. Week 7 was already drawing to a close and grouters were still MIA. We called the Engineer but he said if they don’t do it as scheduled, they’d have to set up their own scaffoldings. And Gott sei Dank, they showed up last Wednesday and finished the thing in half a day. But then I thought, wasn’t that a bit “too” fast? So I checked as soon as and this is how I found it…up close.

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For a more complete view of the effect, please see photos of house above. Overall, grouting was OK. Some parts were a bit schmierig but I think these will still get a face-wash later anyway. As for the color, yes it’s gray. I think it’s mittel-grau. But when I saw it, I thought it could be a tinge darker. The thing with grout though is that the color also depends on the moisture content. So let’s just say, I like it better when it’s wet.

Others

The guys doing the heating will also be doing all sanitary installations later. So last week, they’ve finally delivered and setup the tub and shower trays.

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Here’s the shower stall in the main bathroom. I love the shower trays. They do feel solid and sturdier than I imagined. Somehow I’ve always thought them flimsy because they’re made of acrylic. I mentioned before how I liked the enamelled variant better for their durability and scratch-resistance but I know they’re also more expensive. That’s why I settled with these. But now that I’ve seen them, I’m quite satisfied🙂

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Overall, everything seems to be coming together nicely. But somehow, I’m also increasingly becoming more tensed, especially now that we’re about to start working with the surface materials. Tiling will begin next week and painting the week after. Tiles as you know have already been picked. Paint colors have just been recently decided upon. Just hoping now that they’re going to work out like how I visualized them in my head. D is hugely skeptical about the pink, but he said he trusts me😀 I may talk about that in another post. For now, let me end here.