October 25, 2011

U P D A T E . . .

            Things have been busy, busy at Folly!!  In addition to lots of decorating there has been some nifty energy news.  Today’s news is about our foyer light, but other updates will follow.

            Folly has an entry foyer that is 22+feet tall – sounds like a mighty big space and it is, but it grew so large for practical, not aesthetic, reasons.  Florida houses benefit from high ceilings that allow the hot air to rise above the people, so Folly’s ceilings are well over 9 ft.  In addition, all the a/c ductwork is placed in insulated space between the floors, resulting in the second story addition being a little higher than usual.  Actually, the staircase has nineteen steps! (It’s an added benefit - who needs a Stairmaster?!)

Filling such a space usually requires a large chandelier that draws a lot of power.  Even 25-watt bulbs would draw 400 watts in a sixteen light chandelier.  Using 40-watt bulbs would draw 640 watts. 

But… our goal was to make Folly enormously, stupendously energy efficient!  Nowhere in the house will you find an incandescent bulb. (I am not against incandescent bulbs in colder climates, but since they generate heat they add to the a/c burden here). Most of the lights are LED with a few fluorescent bulbs in some places. 

Folly’s chandelier measures 7 feet tall by 3 ½ feet wide.  

 Its sixteen lights are fitted with LED bulbs which, in total, use just 60 watts.  Yes, those few watts are bright enough to see – the effect is the same as any ordinary foyer chandelier.  

 It’s another of Folly’s secrets – a beautiful, functional fixture that sips energy instead of gobbling it!!!

June 26, 2011


Like other homes, a LEED residence is better for something in it that delights a child.  Such a bit of foolishness at Folly comes in the form of turtles - yes, turtles!  This is not just whimsy.  The beaches of the Treasure Coast of Florida are a  nesting area for  loggerhead, green and leatherback turtles.  Between March 1st and October 31st buildings and roads along the beach use low light so as not to interfere with the nesting activity.  Volunteers patrol each morning (very early!) to monitor the number and condition of nests.  

So Folly has turtles, too!  There is a family of turtles in the pool and more "swimming" in the sink of the pool bath. Fortunately, there are talented ceramicists working here to help with this project.
 Sharon Sexton set out to craft two adults and four babies for the pool.  The process requires thought in the design and knowledge and care in the execution.    Like most local residents, Sharon had been  studying turtle coloring and anatomy for some time, so she tried some drawings.   Then, standing on the empty pool floor, she worked out the appropriate sizes so that she could  draw life size templates.  Once satisfied that sizes would work,  she hand molded each section and set the pieces in the kiln for a first firing.

this kiln has shelves so that many pieces can be fired at one time

 Painting and glazing each shell requires both an artists eye for color and a firm grasp of the technique.  Firing ceramics is as much art as science as the materials give different effects depending on temperature and other conditions.    
You can see the distinct pattern of the shell
Each turtle has a signature pattern

Worker sets each piece in place
For fun, Sharon added some baby turtles

Sharon's work is at  www.tigerlilyvero.com/Sharon-Sexton
Inside the house, Glenda Taylor designed a pedestal sink. The challenge of this project was to make an original work of art that functioned as a plumbing fixture.  (She actually appeared calm when she heard my request!)  The aesthetic elements of design, color, etc., were constrained by the function and placement of the piece.  The finished sink is truly a work of art.

Seaweed winds around the pedestal

Glenda can be found at www.tigerlilyvero.com/glenda-taylor

Turtles swim up and around the bowl
A folly for Folly and fun for all visitors!

June 12, 2011

Water Capture ...

The Treasure Coast of Florida, where Folly finds her home,  has been suffering seriously low rainfall over several years.  This past dry season (October to May) has seen very little rain. http://www.evergladesfoundation.org
    Our “snowbirds”, i.e. our affectionate name for tourists, have enjoyed our sunny, dry days tremendously, but our plants have not.  We are now under water restrictions for irrigation. 
positioning the tank
Our effort at Folly to mitigate depletion of our wells while keep the landscape looking good, has included using very little grass, mostly drought tolerant plants, and the installation of two 4,000 gallon cisterns to provide a total of 8,000 gallons of water for irrigation.  The water comes from the gutter system on the house which feeds the cisterns by means of  underground  hoses.  Of course, during times of extended periods of no rainfall, the two wells will take over.
The installation of the cisterns was challenging.
removing them from the truck

arriving by truck

The large tanks, made of fiberglass, arrived by flatbed truck, removed by crane to set side by side while a large hole was dug to receive them.  Of course, since we are in Florida, water seeped into the bottom of the hole at eight feet.



sipping water
A pump system was set up to drain the water to create a solid base.    

adding gravel


tanks with anchors on each side
 After some gravel was added, the tanks were put into place.

A possible scenario might be that the water table rises during a hurricane causing the tanks to pop out of the ground. In order to  insure that this does not happen, large concrete columns placed on either side anchored the tanks. A metal chain fixed the tank to the anchor.  Also, 18 inches of water will remain in the tanks at all times.
in place and strapped down

The hole was filled in with dirt so that only the caps show above grade.  The area will be sodded.
only the caps will show above ground

Once the area is covered with sod, only an experienced eye will be able to find the caps. 
This is one of the experiments at Folly.  Hopefully, it will teach us all about how to use water more wisely.

May 17, 2011

Mona Lisa Comes Home !!

            Some elements of a house give it special character; for example,  a front entry, a fireplace, etc.   For Folly, a very special feature is the island in the kitchen/family room.  Architecturally, the kitchen is a most unusual, and pleasing, space.  As one walks into the kitchen, the wall on which the stove/oven/ hood are placed curves away from you.   The cabinet doors are curved as is the range hood.  (Incidental intelligence for planning a budget:  a curved wood door costs six times as much as a flat door!). 

In front of this stands an island which holds the sink/dishwasher/trash.   

 Beyond that, the space opens into a cozy family room.  Since this room will be the central gathering place, the social heart of the house, so some extra attention to the various parts seems appropriate.  My hope  was the eye-catching stone top of the island would be a conversation piece, a magnet for friends and family.  

           Readers may remember my search for the countertop.  Wandering up and down aisles and aisles of granite, marble, and quartzite reminds one of the unbelievable richness of Mother Nature.  Who knew that stone came in so many patterns and colors?  There are literally hundreds of choices!   After searching several stone yards  up and down I-95, I finally settled on an exceptional piece of quartzite – something quite out of the ordinary and absolutely fascinating in the movement of the pattern.  How appropriate that it was called “Mona Lisa”!   Folly deserved no less than this magnificent stone!   

           All these months Mona Lisa has been quietly waiting at the fabricator, Elgin Marble.  Mona Lisa is big – the finished size is four feet wide by almost ten feet long and three centimeters thick.  Weight:  over 600 pounds.  How does one move such an item?  Carefully. Methodically. Slowly. Interestingly, after the truck brought her to the site, there were no other machines used.  The team established a route which consisted of small steps. 

From the truck to the ground. To the door.  To the midpoint of the room.  To  the front of the island.

            Up onto the island.

     The procedure took about an hour, but the finished product was worth the wait!!

May 15, 2011


Truthfully, Folly has been less engaging since the wallboard has gone up.  All the clever, thoughtful innovations that make the house airtight and solid are now hidden.  One cannot see the old wood reused as studs, the spaces carefully filled with insulation, the sealed air ducts, the wiring in conduit, etc.  Although no longer visible these elements create the calm, cool spaces which allow Folly to be so livable.

Thus far, the kitchen cabinets are either in place or awaiting the arrival of Mona Lisa.  Perhaps she’ll arrive on Tuesday (shall we have a toast?) 

Walls and woodwork have a first coat of paint, and the stone floor has been laid.  
These items are not inconsequential.  Getting them right has been very important.   Folly’s painter, Billy, has been diligent in seeking low/no VOC paint that actually covers the wall with out streaks.  At this point he has direct experience with the products of 3-4 paint companies.   As you can imagine, all this experimentation has been labor intensive as well as costly. The paints vary widely in cost – sometimes by as much as 2-3 times - which definitely impacts our budget.

The entire first floor is covered in shellstone. That means, every room, hallway, and closet. Such a large installation requires master craftsman.  The prep work itself takes some time.  Cleaning and leveling the floor and putting down crack suppressant sets up the condition for the real work to begin.  Establishing the pattern for each room and hallway (as well as the transitions between rooms) requires an easy familiarity with fractions as well as will a wet saw! As each small section of floor is set in place it is checked with a level to be certain that it is true - no dips or hills!

It’s accurate to say that the project is nearing completion, but there are still a number of systems to come on line.   There will be more updates in these final days.

December 13, 2010

Shooting The Pool

Believe it or not, the process of building a backyard swimming pool has its own special science and lingo. Of course, every weekend builder knows to begin with digging a hole. In this case, Folly’s pool will be 15 ft wide by 50 ft long, so it was beyond the scope of the shovel and wheelbarrow. It took some serious earthmoving equipment to dig the hole. These dimensions allow us to swim laps – both wonderful exercise and necessary therapy for arthritis. Perhaps it will also be the site for water aerobics for the local Golden Girls!

Building the pool takes six steps:
1. Once the hole is big enough, a wood form is built of the right dimension.
2. The form is lined with metal bars, both vertical and horizontal. At every point where a horizontal meets a vertical, a ring is inserted and fastened to hold that joint in place. You can imagine how many joints are required for a pool!
3. It’s a happy day when the day to “shoot the pool” arrives. The cement truck drives onto the site to great expectation because a big change will take place on this one day. The truck is NOT the kind one ordinarily sees rolling down the highway with a large drum turning to mix the cement as it travels from garage to worksite. Pool cement is quite different. The truck has two sections – both stationary. The larger section holds sand; the smaller holds cement. Both are drawn into a special hose equipped to add water to the dry material only at the last minute – at the nozzle. The result is that the cement sets in a much shorter time. 
4. It takes someone with considerable strength and skill to manage the pressurized hose.
5. The final step is to smooth the interior surface of the pool.
6. Admire the work.

Final painting and tile work waits until the pool deck is finished. Until then, Folly is one dream away from a swim-able pool.

November 2, 2010


Deciding to renovate a home brings all sorts of delicious quandaries. What to keep? What to demolish? Maybe keep something but use it in a new way? These questions have been asked and answered many times at the Folly.

One particularly prickly issue dealt with the installed stained glass windows and leaded glass windows. Family treasures? The result of a successful day of antiquing? The previous owner obviously loved them as they were very old before they were moved into the beach house. Since the colored glass, while beautiful, blocked the light, it was decided to sell all but one. A local antique dealer took a fancy to them. After buying and reframing them, they are now up for sale in her shop.  
The leaded glass panels seemed better suited to the house. Originally opposite the front door, they held pride of place. Everyone’s first impression became those panels. And although they limited the light that shined into the foyer, the patterns of metal bands afforded an interesting view to the garden. 
Oh, here is the delicious quandary: What to do? Keep the window in place and give up garden access from the foyer? Relocate the panels in the house? Sell the panels? There was a lively conversation of the “let’s do this, no, let’s do that” variety that lasted several weeks. Final decision: Separate the panel sections so that they can be used individually in some other part of the house. Install French doors to the garden for an open, modern feeling. Keep the old, but enliven the foyer with a light, bright introduction to the beautiful Florida landscape and ocean beyond. We have a plan…

A creative architect serves many functions. In this case, Matt was asked to solve our recycling problem by finding places for these leaded glass panels. His solution…let’s use them as the fronts for the doors of the storage cabinet we were building in the dining room. The piece will have lights to show the beauty of the glass (and the china behind). Larry, our multi talented, in house carpenter, loved the challenge. He built frames so that each panel serves as a single door. While not yet painted, it’s already obvious that this piece will be a distinctive feature of the dining room.  
Like the Chicago Brick fireplace reincarnated as an outdoor grill, Folly now has a new, more appropriate place for all the very old, still beautiful, leaded glass.

Don’t you love recycling?!