Yep, my stuff all over the bathroom sink.. means I've moved in. But I didn't REALLY feel that the house was livable until this:
Would you steal WIFI from a signal with that name?
My first night in the house was Sunday, December 15th. And here's the sticker from the County indicating that the house passed final inspection, meaning it is legal to occupy. (Let's not look too closely at the date, okay?)
My apartment lease was up in the beginning of December, after which I stayed in a friend's parents' second home a few miles away. It was divinely convenient that they didn't need the house till Christmas, and that they were generous enough to allow a veritable stranger to live in it for two weeks.
I didn't expect to need to stay anywhere else, but the building inspector surprised me by failing the house's final inspection just because the Great Room didn't have its finishes done - the brick pavers for the floor and wood boards for the walls. I had been told by other builders that this wouldn't be a problem; I needed interior doors for my bedrooms and bathrooms (not for closets) and I needed the address numbers on the house, among other things, but I could definitely leave one room unfinished. Ha ha! Nope.
If we're talking about simply being able to "occupy" the building, it doesn't make sense to me that every room would have to be finished. The building is structurally stable. All the plumbing works. The electricity is on. The mechanical system works. All the appliances are in and working. All of that passed inspection. What else do you need to live in a place? Certainly not wood boards on a few walls of one room! But the inspector said that because I show the Great Room as a finished space on the permitted set of drawings, as opposed to calling it "unfinished space," the code requires it to be finished prior to being issued a Certificate of Occupancy. State law.
Dumb state law, I say. I scheduled the Great Room floor and wall work right away of course, got a good jump on it for the two weeks I stayed at my friend's parents' house, but then decided to just move in anyway. Close enough.
That's one reason I haven't written a post since November. I've been living in this house for over a month now, and it’s been (and still is) such a slow, hard process of finishing everything and settling in that I'm just now getting back to the blog. Also, for the six months leading up to this move-in, I've been poorer and sicker than ever before in my life. Work at my job has continued to slow, and the stomach problems that plagued me for relatively brief periods in the past ("only" six weeks at a time) returned in July of last year and have not left. Just when I would wish to feel my best and be most financially secure, God has allowed me to be weakest and most dependent on others. And just when I would want to be most sociable, especially via sharing meals, my stomach will have none of it. "Y'all come over for oatmeal and hot tea!" Right. I haven't prayed three times for God to remove these thorns, as Paul did; I've prayed more like 300 times. Others have prayed continuously as well. My family even held a healing service for me over Christmas, laying on hands and anointing me with oil. But God is still saying no, and not saying why. The timing is compelling, and especially inconvenient (from my human perspective, anyway). The nature of the affliction is compelling too - NOTHING gets me down like recurring nausea. It's like someone who knows how to torment me best has been allowed free reign.
But I'm plodding along, still committed to finishing, and trying to focus on the special glories I'm experiencing as I live here. One of the first, and one of my favorites, came on New Year's Day - two weeks after I moved in. I started a post and didn't get very far. But I like how that writing began - with a description of what it's like to sleep here:
In general it's been a special experience to be surrounded constantly by real, natural materials. In the shower my eyes are a foot away from travertine stone, and I find myself tracing the veins, following the variations in color from rust to walnut to cream to amber, and seeing nine-squares and crosses in the grid. There is much for the eye to do in a house of such materials; it is invited to follow paths of line and color laid out by the hand that made the eye in the first place.
Okay, now I'll back up and give just a few shots of each phase of work since the last post. Speaking of stone in the bathroom - that work was completed next:
The shower head and control I picked out similarly feature simple geometry and natural material. The head is a square with a circular array of openings inscribed in it - much like a rose window.
The work on the brick pavers in the Great Room had actually begun before I found out that it would have to be completed to pass final inspection. But the mason could only work on weekends, so it was slow-going. He was the cheapest, however. AND the best. (Nice when those two qualities finally get together.) The pattern here is the most intricate in the whole house, but I didn't have to ask him to change a single brick.
Around that time I called my mechanical contractor to have him do his "trim-out" - which means, basically, "finish." First they installed the outdoor heat pump:
It's a fresh air intake duct, with a manual damper. This is not standard, and they wouldn't have done it if I hadn't asked for it. I can flip a switch and outside air is pulled in and added to the air that is blown through the house. Or - on humid summer days - I can turn it off. Here it is all hooked up:
Back to the Great Room a week later and we find another day's worth of brickwork:
After yet one more day, about half of the brick paving was complete:
During the rest of the week, the carpenters were installing wood flooring:
This is the same material I used for the walls: 1 x 6 tongue-and-groove southern yellow pine (unfinished, of course).
The staggered joint that shows up in the exterior siding, interior ceiling panels, and Great Room walls, shows up occasionally in the floor too:
The corners are "woven":
Since I had heard that I would need interior doors only for bedrooms and baths, I saved some money and only bought those five for now (leaving out six for hall closets and the doorway to the Great Room).
I felt especially fortunate to find solid pine, flat-panel doors for a very reasonable price (AND on sale at the time) at Home Depot. I picked up some simple, metal hinges and latches to go with them.
To have interior doors custom built - which I originally planned, in part because I thought it would be the only way to get doors that visually fit this house - would have cost twice as much.
Here was one of the most painful parts of my move-in process:
Anything seem out of place in this trash pile? Yep, my favorite models from school.
Architecture has to be experienced bodily; you have to go inside and let it surround you to get the full expressive effect. Models are not architecture; drawings are not architecture. They are representations that help the architecture get built, after which the representations are of limited use. The building is the substance, the model is the shadow. This is why I've felt that now, with the house constructed and livable, the projects that gave me the understanding I needed to design it can be discarded. The essential aspects of their designs are bound up in this house. So actually these models ARE stored here - but in a way that they cannot collect dust.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was still painful to see them in the trash.
Well, that's plenty for one post. And it leaves the best for next: lights!