Backyard Office: Siding and Drywall

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Things are moving along at a pretty good pace now.  Over the past couple of months, there were a few setbacks which held things up for a while, but it looks like we are in the home stretch at this point.  The last few windows were supposed to arrive today, but didn’t, which was a bit of a bummer.  I felt like a kid at Christmas waiting for those dang windows, but hopefully they will arrive tomorrow.  Maybe Santa got stuck in the chimney or something.  Who knows.  There is actually going to be another window on the front where the large area of wood siding currently is, so once that is in, it will look quite a bit different.

I am really happy with how the wood siding turned out, and I love the stain.  I went to great lengths to find that stain color, and even worked my way onto several construction sites before I finally tracked it down.  It was worth the extra effort though, and turns out it was one of the colors we thought we hated when we were going through small color swatches.

Hopefully the windows will arrive tomorrow, and I will post more pictures when they are in.


Backyard Office: Framing

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A lot has happened since I last posted about our backyard office, including the most dramatic change in the construction process, the framing.  Going from a concrete foundation to the complete structure of the building is a pretty crazy change, and it was so exciting to finally see the outline of what it will actually look like.  We have been dreaming, talking, and planning this thing, but seeing it in person is so much better.  All the framing happened in about three quick days, and since then, they have finished the plumbing, roofing, and electrical.  We are waiting on inspections at this point, and then on to sheet rock and insulation.  I’m not holding anyone to this, but it sounds like everything could be done in about 4 weeks.  Even though this has taken a lot of time and energy as far as making decisions on our end, Nichelle and I were both just talking about what a fun process this has been.  I know a lot of people hate the idea of going through construction or a remodel, and inevitably things do come up from time  to time, but we are lucky to have a great contractor who has made this whole process super smooth and easy, and has allowed us to have a lot of fun so far!  It’s fun to wake up each morning and see who is out back working and what changes are taking place.

Previous post in this series: Backyard Office: Concrete Foundation


Backyard Office: Concrete Foundation

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It has been a busy couple of weeks since I last posted.  Last night I got back into Seattle from an assignment that took me to Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, and Akron.  Lot’s of flying, driving, checking into hotels, and shooting.  It was a great assignment, and I’ll share the images when they are in print.  Lot’s of shooting these past weeks have also meant my list of new blog posts to write is growing longer by the day.  As soon as I get a couple of down days I’ll get back on it.

The office has seen a few delays during the last two weeks, so thankfully I haven’t missed anything yet.  It sounds like tomorrow things should start moving really quickly once they begin framing.  Below are a couple of pictures of the foundation / floor.  We went with a black hand troweled concrete floor.  It hasn’t been clear coated yet, so it will look a little shinier once that is done.  I learned a lot about concrete going through this process, and we decided to mix black coloring into the concrete so it will be black throughout the entire foundation and floor.  Some of the other options for coloring concrete include several different types of stains etc. but those are prone to fading, chipping, not producing the color you wanted, etc.  Color mixing seemed like a better option for us, not to mention we saved about $2,000 by mixing the color on site as opposed to having the concrete company do it.  That makes sense, right?  Pouring 13 small bags into a mixer.  Let’s see…  Yep, about $2,000.  I’m in the wrong line of work!

Previous post in this series: Backyard Office: Honey Bucket
Next post in this series: Backyard Office: Framing


Backyard Office: Honey Bucket

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This is the kind of thing many people can only dream about.  I have seen Honey Bucket’s at fair grounds, Amos Lee concerts, and even dog parks, but now we have one in our driveway.  Wow, how exciting.  Not to mention convenient.  We don’t even have to bother going in the house now…  I can’t think of a better way to spend $500 friggin’ dollars.  What a waste.  Although, it is better than the alternative I suppose.  At least that is what I will keep telling myself.  If you find yourself in our neighborhood and you really have to go, fear not.  Now you don’t have to buy a $4 latte or a BigMac just to use the restroom.  You can use our Honey Bucket.  Just make sure you clean up after yourself when you’re done.

Last night, just before dinner, I looked out the window and asked Nichelle if she would watch Isla for a second.  “The light is really nice right now.” I told her.  I threw on my shoes, grabbed a camera, and went out front to photograph the beautiful new green plastic toilet on our driveway.  I even moved around it for a few minutes trying different angles. ” This is what it has come to” I thought to myself.  After all the hard work these past 10 years, I am photographing a portable toilet.  Perfect.  My work here is done.

Next post in this series: Backyard Office: Concrete Foundation
Previous post in this series:  Backyard Office: Concrete Forms


Backyard Office: Concrete Forms

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It’s been a pretty busy week, and I haven’t had as much time to blog as I had hoped.  There are a couple days worth of progress to share, and the next phase is the forms for the concrete foundation.  It’s really impressive how they can make the forms so precise.  It looks like a big mess at first glance, but when you get up close, you can see just how precise it is all put together.  Like a surgeon.  The light blue stuff you see on top of the gravel is insulation.  We are going to have concrete floors which will be created with the same pour as the foundation.  The concrete will be poured on top of the insulation which will keep the floor at room temperature, unlike a garage floor which can get pretty cold.

Tomorrow is the inspection, so hopefully everything checks out ok!  More soon.

Next post in this series: Backyard Office: Honey Bucket
Previous post in this series: Backyard Office: Plumbing


Backyard Office: Plumbing

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This was probably the least exciting day so far.  No offense to our wonderful plumber.  He did a great job and is super nice, but there is just not as much visual gratification when it comes to laying down water and sewer pipes.  Next up is the concrete foundation and floor, so maybe that will feel more like a party.

Previous post in this series: Backyard Office: Ground Breaking
Next post in this series: Backyard Office: Concrete Forms



Backyard Office: Ground Breaking

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This was a big day.  No turning back now.  I took a deep breath and was finally able to relax once the construction crew began to break ground in our back yard.  We had to cut down a bunch of bushes and small trees, which we were a little sad about, but we will just have to plant new ones once the office is complete.

This process took a couple of extra days because our soil was too soft.  They had to dig deeper than usual, and fill the hole in with gravel before pouring the foundation.

Previous post in this series: Backyard Office: Shed Demo & Building
Next post in this series: Backyard Office: Plumbing


Backyard Office: Shed Demo & Building

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We used to have 2 storage sheds in our backyard.  But in order to start building the office, we needed to tear down the shed behind our house.  Tearing down that shed meant we were losing a lot of necessary storage space, so we then had to tear down the other shed, and build something more substantial to make up for the space we were losing.  Still following?

Here is a before and after picture of the first shed we ripped down.  As you can see, I am not going to miss that thing.  It was basically a spider cave.  We actually installed that huge window we bought on craigslist in there.  It seemed like it was a good idea at the time.  Nichelle wanted to grow seeds out of the weather, but we didn’t think about the fact that the window blocked UV rays which makes it difficult to grow anything.  I know, real smart.

That’s Ian from Gigantic Squid with the Hammer of Thor.  Turns out he’s not just a retouching wizard, but he can also destroy things with surgical precision.

After watching Ian for a while, I decided to speed up the process, and knock it down with my hands.  No big deal.

The new storage shed is still not finished yet, but here are a few images from the early stages on.  I was pretty nervous about taking on this project since I have never done any construction before.  After doing more than enough research, I began cutting 2×4’s and nailing them together.  I was surprised how easy it was, as long as you think everything through before you begin cutting and nailing.  Over preparing is ok when it comes to this kind of stuff.  Measure twice and cut once as they say.  I also had help from some good friends, and overall it has been a really fun project.

Previous post in this series: Backyard Office: Dreaming
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Backyard Office: Dreaming

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Drawing of a Backyard Box office unit.

Nichelle and I have dreamed of building an office in our backyard, off and on, ever since we bought our house almost 5 years ago.  We have talked about a million different ideas and locations in the yard.  A couple of years ago, we even bought a huge 300 pound picture-window on craigslist to put in the office, which we never ended up building.  Those who know me well, know I am a dreamer, and can often be impulsive.  Thankfully, however, I am not so impulsive when it comes to big decisions like this.

Over the past several months, we began discussing a backyard office once again, but this time, everything seemed to fall into place.  We have had 5 years to think, research, and let it all sink in.  Now, I can honestly say I am glad we didn’t act on some of our previous ideas.  Our needs and lifestyle has changed quite a bit over the past few years, and I think we now have a better idea of what we want and need moving forward.  As I look out the window at the huge hole in our backyard, I am pretty sure we are not going to back out this time.

We played with the idea of building a prefab office, and we also interviewed architects and contractors.  In the end, we went with a company called Backyard Box and we are so excited.  Backyard Box is a new company run by contractor Sloan Ritchie, specializing in prefab offices and homes.  The designs are by Jim Burton of Blip, and as soon as we saw pictures of his work, we knew we found what we had been looking for.  Jim and Sloan have worked with us over the last 2 months to create a custom office, which ended up being even better than I expected.  That says a lot coming from a perfectionist.  It will look a bit different from the image above, but this is the unit it was based on and the style is obviously the same.  We will not be able to do prefab for a number of reasons, so this will be a good old fashion construction project.  It still has not sunk in that it is actually happening.  Although, the masonry drill putting holes in our foundation at 8:00am helps reality set in a little.

Having a work space where you can be creative and away from distractions is really important.  Since this is something I am extremely excited about, I thought I would blog about the building process as it unfolds.

Many of you have asked me to blog about this process as you are interested in doing something similar.  I hope it is something you enjoy.  For those who are not so interested, I hope you will bear with me.  It won’t go on forever.  🙂

So far, we have ripped a roof off of our patio.  Tore down two sheds, built a new shed, cut down a few bushes and trees, and finally the construction crew has begun digging.  It’s hard work, and very time consuming, but I have really enjoyed all of it.  I love working with my hands, and our backyard has provided no shortage of things to do.  No wonder I have felt so busy lately.

I recently did a shoot with Jane Pauley (NBC, AARP) and she commented at one point that the brain is happiest when it sees the hands working.  I don’t know if that is a scientific fact, or who to credit that statement to, but I think there is a lot of truth to that.  I find that I am happy when I am working in our yard, and I can see tangible results.  But, just to be clear, I’m not working on this office.  I’ll leave that to the professionals.

Next post in this series: Backyard Office: Shed Demo & Building.