coloring in the picture

We can see Mt. Hood from our rental house here in the valley on a sunny day. But as it hasn't been sunny lately it has been hidden. If it's chilly and raining in Portland, it's likely to be snowing on the mountain. With the ski blogs buzzing, it didn't take much more than Val's text yesterday afternoon, "Hot damn, some fluffy powder and not many people. Epic comes to mind," for Jake and me to gain altitude and break into another season. 54 inches deep at mid mountain, and a moist but pleasant texture boosted our early confidence. Our friends Chris and Heather gave Jake some really nice outgrown skis and I finally bought myself a helmet. A good day of turns, and I'm sore now. We dragged ourselves home and snuggled onto the sectional in front of a kid's movie. The day off was great, thanks, and needed.

Recently Maxine and I were mourning the simple truth that we didn't have the luxury to immerse in and dwell on and celebrate the process of building our dream home. There are still and always so many choices and decisions pending. The banks and these challenging economic times have made finances tense. Our lease is running out and perhaps more importantly our desire to stay any longer in this rental house. To move in as planned just prior to Christmas means the concrete guy and site guy and about 14 other players and stars have to line up just the way they...will, by golly. We know we won't be complete, but will we be far enough along for our needed certificate of occupancy?

All of this will simply make us better at what we do as builders and as designers. I also believe that to a large extent, it shouldn't be too easy, because we are making huge decisions that utilize resources, affect our families and communities, and as designers and builders and yes owners we should be challenging ourselves with each project to do better not only than the drivel that generally passes for today's new homes but better than whatever we did on our last project, in our last month, in our latest thinking.

Perhaps like birthing, where I've heard more than one woman talk about how a combination of faded memory and the grace of parenthood are important antidotes to the reality of just how dang hard giving birth really is, we're at the building stage that could make me forget just how hard and long the road has been. Maxine calls it "coloring in the picture." We are now seeing rooms whose naked volumes once offered great promise begin to deliver on that very promise. The hues of slate and clay plaster bounce off of the stainless sink and land firmly and well-balanced on the oak island top. Rich walnut cabinetry dances with the elm floor first with a lively gait as the south windows pull in full light, and then more slowly, but with feeling, as that light wanes into the west.

It's also a time of large and small battles. Our bath counter broke, and as is too common in these cases, both the fabricator and the manufacturer point at the other. Do we do this at Pioneer Millworks? Lord I hope not. The counter would have been a good-looking new product called Trinity, made from recycled glass and concrete. We're not going to buy another slab, though, so a good solution is to use the same porcelain tile as the floor. It'll be fine, frankly, though I put this in the "not a win, really" category.In the "we'll definitely take this as a little win" group was finding out that in some circumstances we can drill more holes in porcelain sinks that get delivered with the wrong number of holes. This is David using a diamond-abrasive hole saw":
A home like this is made up of thousands of these skirmishes. They work out. This is the guest bath, in the basement near the ping pong table, with the new sink and its correct number of holes.