total home renovation

A little piece of Honor’s Corner

As we come down the home stretch we are continually amazed by the multitude of professionals who have come and gone over the past 11 months, contributing their talents and great works to our project.  We have met some interesting folks and have made some new friends along the way!  I was inspired to present each of the key contributors with a token of thanks and being the crafty person that I am I was determined to make them something representative of the house.  All summer I tossed around ideas but kept coming back to the pile of wall studs left from the demolition.  John had his eye on most of it for reuse in the house but he let me have a few pieces and just before the winter holidays he cut it into smaller sections for me.   I remembered that our son had handcrafted some wooden pieces when he was enrolled in a technology course at Pocahontas Middle School in Henrico County.  Some were made as fund raisers and some as personal items including a beautiful writing pen.  Deciding that we should give our principle contributors a pen and knowing that I could not make a pen myself,  I reached out to the technology teacher to see if he and his kids would be up to the challenge.  Wouldn’t you know it!  PMS is involved in a year long fund raising project for Relay for Life.  They are hosting the event on their track in June and had set some pretty lofty goals for themselves. Mr Long designed a win-win collaboration through which I would make a donation to Relay for Life for each pen completed by either himself or one of the students.  In the end, I have 50 handmade pens crafted from century old wall studs and Relay for Life has a nice donation.  I love it!

All the interior walls were taken down to open up the floor plan.  Nails were removed and the wood was stacked for future use.  I was able to sneak a warped piece for the pens.


Coincidentally, Mr Long was wearing his purple Hawks Relay for Life T-shirt the day I picked up the pens!


Our collection of pens made of Heartwood Pine taken from the walls of Honor’s Corner.


Distribution of the pens began on the night we hosted Green Drinks and had many of the principles in attendance.  Every now and then another stops by the house I can get one to them.  Pretty soon we will have another gathering for the demolition crew that spent the hot summer months deconstructing Honor’s Corner and I can give them each a pen made from remnants of the wood they removed, reshaped and reused in our house.  Certainly a small token of our appreciation to them and many others for their hard work.  I treasure my pen and have been using it to write the many checks necessary to get us through these final weeks.  That’s right!  Final weeks.


We have light and lots of it!

One of our main concerns for the redesign of our house was light, natural and artificial.  City lots are typically long and narrow and the houses are very close together or attached to one other, reducing the amount of natural light that gets into your home.  When we bought the house it was dark.  The paint was dark, the carpeting was dark and windows were limited because every room had a fireplace on the outside wall.  With the fireplaces removed we were able to incorporate more windows and since we have a corner lot we get lots of additional natural light.  We are situated on the northwest corner, which means morning light in the living areas of the house. We are thrilled to have a detached home on a corner lot!  Michael’s design placed French doors where there were once walls and doubled the number of windows in all of the common areas.

We have also been very intentional about the artificial lighting.  We have used the maximum number of can lights on the ceiling without being obnoxious and are using LED bulbs in each fixture.  LED stands for Light Emitting Diode.  They are fascinating little chips that put off light and are covered by a glass bulb or mounted on a strip for cabinet lighting.  We are using LED strips in the kitchen under the cabinets and in our media room behind a cove on the ceiling to cast light upward.  There are two huge positives to using LED lights in your home.  First, they don’t produce heat which is healthy for our environment and for your home during the summer months.  Secondly, they greatly reduce the energy consumption for lighting, reducing stress on the environment and your electrical bill.  I found a series of short You Tube videos that discuss LED lighting and compare it to incandescent and compact fluorescent.  If you are interested in some brief, succinct explanations take a look, especially if you like listening to snappy accents!

LED strip with the tiny chips that create the light.


The US Green Building Council’s LEED certification program has a prescription that dictates the wattage of lights that can be used in the home.  There is a formula for determining the points awarded for energy conservation. We are using LED bulbs in every light fixture except for the pendants over our kitchen island.  These pendants need a bulb that reflects light in all directions.  The LED technology aims in mostly one direction.  Designs will catch up but for now we will be using compact fluorescent bulbs in those two lamps.

Here is a look at some of the lights.  We are obviously going for a contemporary look.

Our island pendants are made from repurposed cardboard.  The cardboard is salvaged from Walmart and Target stores, sterilized, laser cut into circles, pieced together with Elmer’s glue and treated with a flame retardant.  At night when the bulb is on, the light sneaks out through the corrugated openings but this is what it looks like during the day. You can see a night picture by moving down to the last post about our Green Drinks open house.  These lights are fabricated in the USA by Graypants.


The dining room chandelier uses candelabra LED bulbs.  One downside of LED bulbs is that they are typically pretty ugly.  I found this chandelier almost a year ago at a greatly reduced price and bought it not knowing if we would ever find a LED bulb that wasn’t really weird looking.  Fortunately, after hours of searching Patrick found these bulbs. They have a little glass tent inside over the chip to imitate a filament.  These were the only ones that looked decent enough for a chandelier.  Another drawback to LED is that they are very expensive, but they should last 20-23 years!  These were less than half of the cost of some of the uglier ones!


We also have a chandelier in the stairwell.  We are using the same LED bulbs as in the dining area.


I knew I wanted to use a George Nelson Saucer Lamp in the house.  My idea to place a large one over the dining room table was vetoed so I ordered a small one for the powder room.  Everyone loves it there!


Everyday someone asks when we will be moving?  Pretty soon!  The major items on the “To Do List” include plumbing fixtures (about half done now), counter tops and finishing of the floor. Then we have to perform a blow test for LEED to evaluate the effectiveness of the insulation “envelope” and ductwork seals.  We are hoping for late March-early April!  We like to say we are in “single digit weeks.”

Honor’s Corner Makes her Debut!

Last night Honor’s Corner served as hostess to the monthly gathering of Richmond’s Green Drinks, part of a national organization with local chapters made up of people dedicated to living sustainably.  Green Drinks is a simple and unstructured event where people interested in sustainability can get together to network, learn something new and enjoy some food and drink.  We welcomed about 65 people into our “soon-to-be” home and shared with them some of the nuts and bolts of the house.

We were thrilled to have some of the key contributors to the project present to give brief explanations of their piece of the design.  I was so wrapped up in the fun and education myself that I really dropped the ball on photos.  I am kicking myself for not assembling the team for a group photo!  That just means that they all have to come out together again so I can take a picture!

The evening began with an amazing sunset!


We enjoyed food and drink on our make-shift plywood island top.


Steve from Cary’s Mill Woodworking shared cabinetry details.


Ellis from Rock Creek Innovations described the BMP for rainwater control and native species landscape design.


Attentive listeners include Brad and Stuart from EarthCraft.



Scott from Custom View shares the saga of finding the perfect windows!

(Sorry about the closed eyes!)


Adam, from Delta Temp, explains the Geothermal Heating & Cooling.


John, our happy builder, gives an overview of the entire project.


Mingling of guests…Bobby talks with Ellis.  I missed Bobby in the crowd and didn’t introduce him but he has been there with John over the past few months adding all the details to the home.


(I also missed getting a pic of Daniel Moore, our floor man.  I will be sure to post pics of him finishing the floor next week.)

More mingling…



Hosting the event means that we must be getting close to move-in day.

Thanks for sharing our excitement!