Room to Grow (& be creative)

2013 – the year of the big ADDITION PROJECT!

It may have taken from April to December, but I’m back to blogging. My excuse for the absence is that I have been a little preoccupied this year. After 20 years of sharing a small home office space with my husband (we both work out of the home), we finally bit the bullet and decided to add-on dedicated office spaces for each of us. No more listening to each other’s phone conversations (whether intentionally or not), being an unexpected participant in the other’s Skype meeting (sometimes working in pajamas is not a good idea), and dealing with competing work styles (neat nit vs., well let’s just say, another type of organization style).

We started planning the project in March and I am writing this announcement in December. You can fill in the months between. Suffice it to say, it’s been a fairly stressful year.

The carrots on the stick are the soon-to-be-done (oh Lordy, we hope) individual offices. The extra carrot for me is a dedicated studio space in the addition basement! I have to say I’m more excited about this nearly 24 x 14 foot space than anything. For years, I’ve been dyeing and doing my artwork in, essentially, an alley of our basement with no natural light or ventilation. I had to crawl over my work table to get to the freezer, do a shimmy past my felting table to get to the washer and dryer. You get the picture.

When we built our house 20 years ago, I designed it and was very involved with the general contracting. I even became THE general contractor from drywall to finish. So I figured it was time to break out the designer/contractor’s hard hat again—this time being not only the designer but the GC for the entire project. A self-contracting “coach” has been holding my hand during the process since the building industry has changed a bit in 20 years. He was a great help for getting quality subs. But the hands-on supervision has been my baby—and a cranky baby at times.

This was NOT the year to do any building project, mainly because everyone and their uncle has had the idea that this is the PERFECT year to build. So getting subcontractors to come within a reasonable timeframe has been a major task and continues to be a challenge. With all the customer juggling and working overtime, by the time the subs get here, they are often quite burned out. Plus this popular year for building has created a seller’s market, causing the costs to rise as the year moved along. Nevertheless, we managed to fit the project into our budget without too many painful cuts and broke soil in October.


One of the first steps in this construction project was to put up a silt fence around the perimeter. It was fairly easy to place and the dogs found it just as easy to jump over. So now it’s become an agility course as they jump back and forth from the woods to the open construction zone. (They ARE border collies after all.) The fence will come out next spring, although I may just need to keep portions of it here and there so the dogs can still have their fun!

Here are the results of 1 1/2 months of construction, from the middle of October to the first week of December:

Pre-build view.

Pre-build view.

The foundation is up.

The foundation is up.

Framing begins - here's a side view.

Framing begins – this is a side view.

Currently waiting for siding.

Currently waiting for siding.

Looking back, from October to early December, it does seem like we have progressed quite well. But when you are living in the space (and working in your living room) while the build is going on, time takes on a whole new elongated dimension!

The basement space is inherently insulated since we used ICF blocks (Insulated Concrete Forms) as the construction method for the basement walls. They are put together like Lego® blocks and then rebar is placed and concrete poured into the forms. Very energy efficient and eco-friendly since they are made from recycled styrofoam.

The basement space is inherently insulated since we used ICF blocks (Insulated Concrete Forms) as the construction method for the basement walls. They are put together like Lego® blocks and then rebar is placed and concrete poured into the forms. Very energy-efficient and eco-friendly since they are made from recycled styrofoam.

Here they are pouring the concrete into the forms.

Here they are pouring concrete into the forms. 

We expected the project would be finished by Thanksgiving—really finished. Painted, finish carpentry done, move in ready. Ha! If any of you have ever done a remodeling project, you know the Ha! that builds up in the throat over such thinking. This has been a humbling experience. I pride myself on an ability to arrange and schedule events that are well-thought-out and happen on time. The construction industry isn’t made of such cloth. Oh, I’ve had such beautifully drawn up timelines! Everything and everyone in their place. And I become more plumped up when a sub actually shows up according to my beautifully arranged schedule! The dream of all contractors: one sub moving right after another, with inspections all in a row—until someone has a vehicle break down or another customer call with a more urgent need. Then the lovely plan is torn up into tiny little pieces and rearranged into a new semblance of loveliness—for a moment—only to be torn up again by another delay or problem… well, you get the drift of how my fall has been going. Endless creative reality checks.

At this point, we are sweating out the weather (more like freezing out the weather). With winter comes new challenges for subs and lumber deliveries getting up our steep hill (it IS Saga Hill after all) and challenges for us to stay warm-ish in a house that is only partially insulated while the temps drop into the teens. (Update: Since I wrote this yesterday, the insulation sub did their thing and we are toasty warm now. It took them 6 runs to finally get up our hill with their massive truck after a slippery snow storm overnight. It’s always an adventure living on Saga Hill!)

So that gets you up-to-speed on what I’ve been doing “on the side” this year and why I’ve been so quiet in the world of fiber.

The Year Ahead… 2014 promises to be a year when I will grow new ideas from this new space and get back to creating designs—other than architectural. My book FINALLY comes out in January (Yarn Works: How to Spin, Dye, and Knit Your Own Yarn); and I have numerous new vendor gigs, a few classes, speaking and book signing engagements, and lots of great ideas to pursue in my REAL studio space! This is my year of enLIGHTenment. (More on that in a future blog.)

Let’s share with each other! Does anyone have a story to share about their remodeling or building experience? How did you cope with the life interruption and what did you learn from the experience? For artists or other creatives, I am especially curious to hear about studio/work spaces you are currently using and/or any studio dreams you may have. Share photos if you have them!


About wendyj-sagahill

I am a textile artist, designer, and author.
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