Friday, January 3, 2014

Modernizing the Modern Home

One of the reasons why the blog was not updated last year was due to a ton of projects we were working on.  Lots of these projects I've wanted to do since we moved in but we did not have the time to do them.  I've also been waiting for some of the technology to catch up with my vision of a Modern Home. Now the wait is over!  The house is entering the Digital Age! <<Queue Ode to Joy>>

One of things that really bugged bug me was the original builder used the standard ole flip light switches that have been around since the dawn of time. They are functional but they are pretty mundane. So I replaced all the internal house switches with Lurton Dimmers. This had two effects: Lower power consumption and a nicer look.

Now you may have noticed I said “internal” light switches above. The reason for that is I found some interesting switches for the external lights. I could have gone with a simple timer but no! It must have tech in it! The Honeywell switch I found actually gets programed by longitude and latitude.  Once that is set, it calculates sunrise and sunset on a daily basis.  The lights turn on/off with the sun no matter what time of the year it is.  The only real downside to theses switches is that they don’t work well with LEDs but they look cool.

With all the light switches done, including a motion sensor activated one in the walk-in closet I just HAD to add more tech to standard household devices.  First up is the thermostat. The Builders put a standard no frills one in and it was functional but it needed a bit of automation. Originally I wanted to get an Ecobee since it was the first internet connected thermostat on the market but then Nest came on the scene.  The Nest was designed by some former Apple Engineers and it has a nice blend of form and function.  Putting this in saved us about 8%-9% of electricity as well as the dimmers and LED lights saved us another 2%-3%.

Technology marches on and so do I! Nest recently (as of this posting that is) came out with new smoke detectors.  Since we already have one Nest product it was time for two. To help us with this project my Litter Sister started us out with one as a gift. We have really high ceilings on the second floor which makes it painful when the backup battery in the smoke detectors dies at 3am. Climbing up a 10ft ladder while half asleep in the wee hours of the morning is not fun.  So the two highest Smoke Detectors were replaced with Nest Protects.  No more waking at 3am for me since the Protect is smart enough to know what time it is and it will not wake you until you get up.

That was the past and now it’s back to the future! Some of the projects on the slate for this year is replacing the door bell and automating the locks. Both are still in the early days of development but I’m keeping an eye on these emerging techs.

For the doorbell I’m keeping an eye on Skybell and Doorbot.  I like the idea of being able to see who is at the door without going to the door.  It’s early days yet but I like where things are going.

The other little upgrade I’m looking into automating the house entry.  It is super early in the product cycle and I really don’t trust a lot of manufactures to have good wireless security but still.  Having the door open up as I walk to it has that great Star Trek feel to it.  Right now it looks like the August Smart Lock is the one to beat and its due out later this year.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


We have not touched our this blog for over a year so I thought it might be time to do so.  In the past many people created a blog about the experience of building a modern home in Agave and even updated the blogs for awhile after they had their houses built, but most have not been updated in two years. Also the developer left, so no homes have been built in some time.  The great news is we may have a new developer soon interested in the maintaining the modern look of the neighborhood which may mean more blogs!   I think its a great way to show others what the experience has been like and what people are doing with their homes whether being newly built or for someone that buys a previously owned home. 

I also updated all the links on the side of the blog.  I think people are curious about who built the modern colorful homes in east Austin so I tried to list the architect and if possible a link to a house that was built out here under Architecture in Agave. 

Since the last post here was from 2012, we have made quite a few changes to our Emily Little 1725 sq ft home.  We have been here for 5 years and as everyone knows that can mean a fresh coat of paint, fixing a few cracks (due to house settling) etc...   The first project was some interior painting - light grey ceilings, green wall in bedroom and some great accent colors on small sections of a wall in one bedroom and one bathroom where we have cinder block. I will post pics of those later. 

Second, we desperately needed to paint the exterior (with several coats of paint).  Luckily we chose CertaPro and they did an awesome job (Roger and Chris Hazard recommend them)! Now I have to say that actually picking out the paint colors for the 4 different areas to be painted (base, stucco at top of house, color for the eaves, and then the metal work) was a MAJOR pain. There was at least 10 trips to Sherwin Williams to get the paint samples and about 30 different shades. After several months we finally got it right.  We noticed there was not a lot of blue in the neighborhood, mostly greens.  Then we noticed several other people had their houses painted right around the same time … and we saw more blue!  I happen to have a light blue Mini Cooper and I guess it looked like I tried to match my car.. which is NOT the case :).   The car pictured below is obviously not a Mini Cooper but the Mini Cooper's color is about the color of the light blue in the pictures: 

This is not all that we have done, but I leave that for the next blogger to talk about - they all relate to electricity!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We forgot to post this in April/May. There are some great "wild" places in the Agave neighborhood, this one was up on the hill behind some houses and the flowers were awesome. This is one of the benefits of Agave, we have some actual wildlife, natural grasses and great flowers in the Spring!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back to the Future of Agave

Apparently the idea of Modern Green homes have been around for a good long time.  We just did no realized HOW long. If you wanted to know what our house would have been like 60 years ago check this Popular Mechanics article circa 1952.  It about one of our favorite Sci-fi author's house:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Magnets. How do they work?

Could it be a blog update?  Yes! I know it’s been a long time since there has been an update, just about a year or so.  I wanted to update it sooner but honestly there has not been a lot of interesting things to post about.  Most of the stuff we have been doing has been house maintenance and interior decorating. Neither which makes interesting reading.  A few things are worth chatting about however.

The weather has been a bit wonky this year and this previous winter was very cold for Texas.  20 degree weather should never happen south of the Mason-Dixon Line but it hit Austin hard this year.  Lots of our cactus died and we are replacing them slowly but that it a story for another blog post.  

The good thing was that when Spring arrived the weather was perfect.  It still is relatively nice and the summer (A.K.A Hades) season has not yet begun.  The only problem with the nice weather is one thing: wind propelled door slamming. We opened all the windows in the house and a few of the house doors would just slam shut when a gust came though.  We would stick random household items (Bookstops, Cats, Roombas) in front of the doors but nothing seemed to really work until I discovered the power of magnetism.

These door stops have a magnet in them that keep the doors from blowing open when the wind blows through.  They also (in my humble option) look better than the standard spring base door stop.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

I’ll take what’s behind door #1…

I’m a lean mean blogging machine this week. It’s almost like a new house is being built.   As I mentioned earlier in the week we have been going crazy doing stuff.  I wanted to post one more time before home improvement hang over sets in and we don’t do anything interesting for another year.

In between everything else we have been doing and after several crazy events we decided to change out our back door.  At the time the builders at Agave basically gave us two choices: a solid door or one that was mostly glass.  Neither was really that interesting but they fit the aesthetic (unlike the horrid bathroom lights that we replaced day one) and were serviceable.  Now what we really wanted was a door from Neoporte but that would require a second mortgage and some kind of pagan sacrifice involving a moose. With a suggestion from a few neighbors we decided to look at Crestview Doors instead. Not only is Crestview Doors a local Austin Company with some really nice people they have some killer designs.  There is one problem though.  They don’t sell doors anymore they sell doorlite kits which you have to install yourself.  Not a problem.  I’m very handy… with a phone and called in for back up (Thanks Nelson!).

Anyway… we picked the Carlysle style of kit because it allowed for a lot of light and it added some architectural interest to the back.  This is how it turned out:

The new door

As you see from the bottom window there is another reason why we picked this design.   Hmmm... that looks a little too hard to see.  Maybe this close up will work better:

How much for the kitty in the window?

That’s better.  We needed a window so someone could look out the back at the critters during the day.  Now we are not totally done with the door.  It needs another coat of paint and maybe a few other touches like a different style of lock and a kickplate. If only I can hold off the home improvement hangover one more day...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Agaves of Goo and Steel

Not only have we been doing interior work (see previous post)we have had some exterior stuff done as well. It has been a long time since our yard got some TLC and we put in some effort to get things going again.  One of the big reasons for this was the death of many of our plants this winter.  The most disappointing one was the Desert Museum Tree which turned in to a giant twig sticking out of the ground. Our agaves in the front planter literary turned to goo.

Now if you don’t remember about a year ago we got the back yard done. You can see the post about it here.  To contrast it you can see what it looks like now.  The plants have grown in and we had the dead ones replaced.  If you also look at the stairs they now have limestone blocks to make waling up and down the stairs safer. 
 This is the stairs going down to the back yard with the missing tree.

 A closeup of the steel planters with new plants.

Stairs going up to where the Garbage cans were.

What garbage cans you ask?  Heh... Read on...

Sometime last year we got a Nastygram from the HOA that you can see our garbage cans from the street and that they have to be removed if not we would be fined.  Hell hath no fury as an HOA scorned. Since we don’t have a garage and there is no convenient place to put the garage we pulled it to the top of the stairs on the back yard.  It was an eye sore for a year.  We called our handy dandy builder Nelson (who still talks to us after all these years...) and put a new gate on the other side of the yard.  Once that was done Eclipse Landscaping poured a concrete pad for the cans put a plant in front of it.  This was the result:

Remember the white chalk outline of agaves that turned to goo in the front planter? Well Shawn from Eclipse came up with a solution.  These agaves will not turn to goo unless they are hit by a Martian Death Ray.  They are painted steel agaves in the back yard:

Now even with the steel agaves we think the yard needs some more work.  Hopefully there will be a blog post sometime next year referring to this post about all the wonderful additions we did to the back yard.  That is if this post did not cause some kind of paradox in the space time continuum be simply mention the future post.  I guess I better charge the Flux Capacitor to find out…