Finishing the House in 2005 (We got by with help from family and friends)

Between October 2004 and June 2005 Brian Burgess and his team worked quickly to finish our house.  The myriad of decisions that had to be made prior to completion of the exterior paled compared to the daily discussions we had during those next 8 months.  Bob and I were delighted to find that we would not need the marriage counseling that Brian had jokingly said he would not provide.  We not only agreed on everything but we were able to include important improvements suggested by our sons and friends.

Each time we visited Deer Isle we would walk along the cove and enjoy the great herons, osprey, seagulls, eagles, woodpeckers, deer, and even fox. We enjoyed our four acres of woodland and the beautiful granite of our island retreat. The water in the cove was relatively warm and the mud at the bottom was soft. We had to be careful not to lose our shoes in it!  It is a tidal cove therefore there were times it was completely full (approximately five feet deep) and others when it was just a trickle. It was fun to watch the animals come in to feed when the tide was out.  Bob brought up our Whitehall wooden rowing/sailboat and would take it out exploring the area.

We had much to think about but it wasn’t stressful.  We relied heavily on Brian Burgess’ experience and expertise about what worked well for the strongly divergent seasons in Maine.  We had red oak floors in our 75 year old house in Westwood, New Jersey and found that they captured the various wood shades of our furniture.   We decided to use this as the flooring throughout the house.  However Brian Burgess strongly suggested we not have wood floors in the kitchen and dining areas as they would be subject to ongoing onslaught by water and sand.  I was a bit stubborn about this until he took us to a house that had wood floors in the kitchen and he showed us how damaged and worn the wood floors were next to the sink.  After seeing this we decided to have tile in the kitchen, dining room, and hall to the second bath and guest rooms.

I had always loved the terracotta floors prevalent in the Californian homes of our youth but Bob pointed out they probably fit that style better than houses in the northeast.  Picking the tile for this significant area of the house was challenging.  We wanted it to blend well with the red oak floors of the living and bed rooms and to continue with our theme of bringing the outdoors in.  We visited Ellsworth Building Supplies (EBS) several times and had finally decided on a beautiful floor.  Bob and our son Brian Wilson were standing at the counter ordering it when Brian looked down and asked Bob to reconsider.  Bob agreed that this was terrific. Brian ran over and brought me to the counter and sure enough, on the floor was a tile that looked exactly like slate.  It had shades of red and green and rust.  It pulled in the colors of our furniture and the woods.  What a find!  This tile laid the foundation of colors for both our darker honey stained cherry wood kitchen cabinets and our granite counter tops.  Thank you Brian!

Any woman will tell you the kitchen is the heart of the home.  Guests and family alike gather in this room to talk and nosh.  We spent quite a bit of time designing ours to accommodate my love of cooking and the holidays and vacations when we would have several people in the kitchen and more than one chef.  Our “adopted” daughter Nadia Hernandez spent many patient hours listening to my ideas, looking at magazines, and visiting stores where I would head right to the kitchen section to get inspiration. I admit I was more than obsessive on the whole kitchen planning issue.  I queried family and friends and sometimes absolute strangers about their opinions.  I spent many evenings looking at decorating books and magazines.  I just knew that this would make or break the house for me and that any mistakes I made would have to be lived with forever.

Funny but the Giallo Veneziano granite countertop color actually helped to guide us with other decisions.  We purchased our granite countertops from Dennis J. King Masonry, Inc. in Hancock.

We decided on simple Mission style cherry cabinets. Cherry has such a rich color and it darkens beautifully with age.  I was fed up with trying to roast a turkey while baking pies and scalloped potatoes for Thanksgiving so we included two ovens.  Overkill for a just a couple but almost mandatory for large family/friend gatherings.  A large island would allow us to prepare meals while talking to people and added extra and very needed storage space for pots and pans.

We loved the stone backsplashes we had seen in Italian kitchens in New Jersey and I longed for a touch of Tuscany so we incorporated some fun copper tiles and mural.  I had seen the mural in the Home Expo Center and then when I returned it was not only gone but sold out. Luckily I was able to locate it on the internet through Ebay and at the same time find some copper “grape” tiles that we could intersperse through the backsplash to tie it in.  The copper worked beautifully with the granite countertops.  Each decision had to take into account all the other decisions.  We decided against the popular stainless steel appliances as they show fingerprints and we wanted our house to be child friendly, assuming that at some point we would have a slew of grandkids.  White would be too stark but black was perfect – elegant and again fitting with the granite countertops.  We found some drawer handles in Home Depot that had a wave-like pattern and decided to use this for both the kitchen and the vanity in the master bathroom.

The next most important part of the house after the kitchen are bathrooms.  We decided to use the same tile for both bathrooms which would be in keeping with the continuity we were striving for throughout the house.  Walking through the Home Expo Center we saw a beautiful tile that invoked the colors of the ocean in our cove.  Perfect!  It not only provided that water-water link we desired but fit well with the African Slate tile we had chosen.  The only problem was that we could not order it from EBS.   We came up and tried to find something that would be a reasonable substitute but were unable to do so.  We had the same problem with the backsplash tiles for the kitchen. We had no alternative but to order these Italian tiles in New Jersey, load up the Ford Explorer and drive 10 hours to deliver them to the work site.   Brian Burgess worked with us to determine how many large tiles we needed for both bathroom floors and how many small tiles we would use to surround the Jacuzzi spa and around the shower in the master bathroom.  While we were standing in a tile specialty store in Paramus, NJ ordering the tiles we saw some interesting brushed silver leaves and spirals that could liven up the master bath.  Nice touch and so that was added.  Of course we also had to decide on the color of grout (decisions, decisions!) and order that too.

Finished yet?  Not nearly.  Next came the decisions of lighting.  I have an affinity to Tiffany style lamps and we had found the perfect one for the dining room.  It pulled in all the colors and added a bit of drama to that room.  But we didn’t want to have this style in every room.  We decided to go with a twig-leaf style since we were nestled in the forest.

Almost all of our lighting we ordered from Bellacor Lighting and Home Furnishings online ( We found that Bellacor had the best selection and the best prices. Furthermore many of the fixtures had free shipping.   From the chandelier at the top of the stairs to the sconces above the Jacuzzi tub to the ceiling lights in the bedrooms and hall, we had a common theme.

Finally there was the decision of interior door styles.  We decided we would go with solid wood, Mission style doors that we had to have made specifically for our house.

Brian had Tim Seibert do all the finish work in the house including the window frames and the stair and loft banisters.  Tim is truly an artist.  No one enters this house without remarking on the excellence of his work.  We had this all done in pine with a honey stain.

Throughout the house we used Benjamin Moore Atrium White.  It’s a warm white that encourages the light without being stark.

When Brian and his team finished and we came up to see it we were awestruck.  It is so difficult to imagine how it will all work and even Heidi Burgess’ pictures did not convey the magnificence of what we had all strove to create.   Everything just flowed together, each complimenting with another part and yet standing on its own in loveliness.   Our house was finished and we were in love with it.

About Shawn Phillips

As someone who has relocated several times – buying and selling houses of my own for personal and investment purposes – I can easily put myself in my clients’ shoes. I know what I needed from my Realtors and I attempt to provide that or better for my clients. My family relocated to Charleston six years ago and my love for the city and the lifestyle is one I enjoy sharing with others. Prior to entering real estate in the Low Country I was a hospital administrator for many years in Charleston and New York City and was a Realtor in Sarasota, Florida. Leveraging my experience, I pride myself in providing outstanding client service, availability, personal touches, multi-faceted marketing, and skilled negotiations. The level of trust given to me by a client is the greatest compliment I receive as a professional. It is the foundation of my practice. My dedication to each and every client is evident before, during, and after the sale!
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6 Responses to Finishing the House in 2005 (We got by with help from family and friends)

  1. Marie says:

    Nice! I love the tile story, that’s cool looking slate indeed.

  2. What serendipity to be standing on the very tile that was meant to be in our home! Brian won that day for sure!

  3. Congratulations! I especially like the bathroom!

  4. Geri says:

    Shawn & Bob, your home is gorgeous…………wonderful job. love the tiles around the tub and that stairwell is breathtaking. enjoy your time there………….

  5. What a BEAUTIFUL house! I’m getting the “let’s do a remodel” itch again myself… 🙂

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