Sunday, July 31, 2011


Update 8/1: Issue resolved. Beam and post will be gone. Structure was tied into the far wall already. We'll have a staircase that is open to the great room as envisioned. Regardless, the story below outlines the process behind it all...

For the most part, Niels and I have been on the same page when it comes to making decisions about our house. He got veto power on structural and technical choices because he likes to research that stuff and it makes my head spin. Easy decision. I got veto power in the kitchen because it's my "office" and I do the cooking. For the most part, with the other rooms, we'd bring up ideas and quickly come to a agreeable decision.

The only area where we had a bit more discussion was with the ceiling height of the great room. In my previous home, I had a two story cathedral ceiling, which I loved for many reasons, not the least of which is that it saved my life (long story short: brain injury + forgetting to turn off the gas stove = thank God for all the gas going up to the ceiling). Since I still have a brain injury, I have quite a strong affinity to tall ceilings. Niels, on the other hand, tends to shy away from things that are blatant money wasters, like heating high ceilings. Months ago, we came to a compromise. We would have higher ceilings (14'), but not two-story ceilings. I still get the high ceilings, the ability to look out over open stairway to the great room while climbing the stairs (but not over the whole room from the second floor), and Niels gets better efficiency. Everyone is happy. We tell the designer. All is well. 

Til we visit the site on Friday and see this:

Stairs are going up, but...

It's not open!
This is not what I envisioned at all. I was picturing a staircase that was open from the floor to the ceiling, so I could look down into the great room as I'm going up. I want to have my row of anniversary frames going up the steps and visible from the great room. We were planning on a pony wall, originally, since we didn't find a railing we liked. But now it looks like it will be a hallway up, or at the very least, only a small triangle will be open. That's not the look I'm going for, and the frustration of not having clearly articulated what I do want is not good for my brain. I don't do stress well and when I most need my words to articulate what I'm thinking or feeling, my aphasia kicks in and I can't get the jumbled thoughts from my brain to my mouth. I've spent most of the weekend in bed, and because I know this is a first world "problem," I feel guilty for even stressing about it. But, when you want to build the house of your dreams, it's still frustrating when reality looks different than the dream. We realize that it's our own fault for not catching it sooner, which is more frustration for me, because I couldn't visualize what the plans would look like in real life.

So, Niels is going to talk to our GC tomorrow to see what we might be able to do. In the meantime, I scoured Houzz and Pinterest for pictures of the stairs in my head. I like the stairs in these pictures for the way they don't have a beam at the bottom, and are open to the great rooms they ascend.

This is closest to what we have in mind.

And, since it's me, I should probably have steps like this:
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