Monday, June 24, 2019

The First Year Sagа

I'll start from the end. This is our little helper mowing the lawn just this past weekend.For our first anniversary of living in our own house I’ve decided to go pick out all home related pictures on my phone taken throughout this year. I heavily trimmed this collection and still have ended up with a massive number — 100 photos in total.

These photos tell a gradual story of us making this home ours. It starts out with how things were and how we progressed to making it what it is now. We’ve done a LOT of things and this collection show only certain aspects of our saga. Although even a number of later photos in this collection is already outdated.

The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.

Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.

First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.

View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.

Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.

Our naked porch door.Our naked porch door.

Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.

Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house.Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house.

These are the last days in our apartment. All our stuff is packed and ready to be moved. What a mess!These are the last days in our apartment. All our stuff is packed and ready to be moved. What a mess!

And our things have been relocated to our house. Last minutes at a place that has been our home for the last 11 years.And our things have been relocated to our house. Last minutes at a place that has been our home for the last 11 years.

Our first acquisition. Weber Genesis II three burner grill. We bought it on the very first day of staying in the house.Our first acquisition. Weber Genesis II three burner grill. We bought it on the very first day of staying in the house.

The installation of a new septic system has commenced in the first few weeks after the move. Our poor backyard is being completely destroyed.The installation of a new septic system has commenced in the first few weeks after the move. Our poor backyard is being completely destroyed.

Septics tanks go into the front yard, which also is being completely destroyed. The leaching field is in the back of the backyard in the previous picture.Septics tanks go into the front yard, which also is being completely destroyed. The leaching field is in the back of the backyard in the previous picture.

Septic tanks go here. We've replaced old three bedroom system with a brand new much larger system that can support a four bedroom house.Septic tanks go here. We’ve replaced old three bedroom system with a brand new much larger system that can support a four bedroom house.

And the septic tanks themselves. A pair of these massive concrete containers. It's going to take us a while to get our yard back to a nice green lawn.And the septic tanks themselves. A pair of these massive concrete containers. It’s going to take us a while to get our yard back to a nice green lawn.

Our new bed has arrived. We've finally upgraded to a king size bed with a great Casper mattress. The bedding doesn't match yet. And there are still green curtains on the windows that were left by the previous owners. We're gong to fix that.Our new bed has arrived. We’ve finally upgraded to a king size bed with a great Casper mattress. The bedding doesn’t match yet. And there are still green curtains on the windows that were left by the previous owners. We’re gong to fix that.

We've decided to put a sleeper sofa into the office. When we have a lot of guest over we have a nice and private place to sleep at.We’ve decided to put a sleeper sofa into the office. When we have a lot of guest over we have a nice and private place to sleep at.

We got this sofa as a free bonus when we ordered our bedroom set. It folds out into a fairly comfortable queen sized bed and looks modern enough not to spoil the overall look of the room.We got this sofa as a free bonus when we ordered our bedroom set. It folds out into a fairly comfortable queen sized bed and looks modern enough not to spoil the overall look of the room.

New and expensive entrance chandelier! Gift from the parents. It took Alёna and I lot of time and energy to install it. But it looks amazing. We've got numerous compliments on it. The shelves on the wall are still a mess. We're gong to fix that.New and expensive entrance chandelier! Gift from the parents. It took Alёna and I lot of time and energy to install it. But it looks amazing. We’ve got numerous compliments on it. The shelves on the wall are still a mess. We’re gong to fix that.

A new and expensive dining room chandelier. Also a huge upgrade over the previous monstrosity. And we kept hitting our heads on the old one. So we put this one closer to the ceiling. It was even harder to install this one because of its massive weight.A new and expensive dining room chandelier. Also a huge upgrade over the previous monstrosity. And we kept hitting our heads on the old one. So we put this one closer to the ceiling. It was even harder to install this one because of its massive weight.

Entrance chandelier installed. Beautiful.Entrance chandelier installed. Beautiful.

Next up is our closet. It was in for a complete reconstruction. We're going to transform it to a much more usable space. First order of business was tearing out ancient built in drawers. The top part in this pictures has just been taken out.Next up is our closet. It was in for a complete reconstruction. We’re going to transform it to a much more usable space. First order of business was tearing out ancient built in drawers. The top part in this pictures has just been taken out.

Walls are patched and painted. Old cheap closet system is next to go.Walls are patched and painted. Old cheap closet system is next to go.

We’re building out a new interior using Ikea PAX system. Lots of furniture construction. Everything is screwed together and attached to the walls.

Almost there. Still a bunch of finishing touches left. More drawers, boxes on the top, new lighting. End result shot is further down this post.Almost there. Still a bunch of finishing touches left. More drawers, boxes on the top, new lighting. End result shot is further down.

New sconces! Same style as the chandelier. These replace a pair of really ugly looking flower and they produce a really nice light pattern when on.New sconces! Same style as the chandelier. These replace a pair of really ugly looking flowers and they produce a really nice light pattern when turned on.

Switches for our Hue bulbs. Every smart device in our house has a physical controls. This is a 3D printed plate that goes over the actual switches.Switches for our Hue bulbs. Every smart device in our house has a physical controls. This is a 3D printed plate that goes over the actual switches.

Arosha always loved trampolines. None of his friends would really let him jump on them freely. Some were downright mean. So when we finally had a massive backyard we could not not buy one. We put it together right after the septic install was done. And our kids love it. A year in and it gets used on multiple occasions almost every week.Arosha always loved trampolines. None of his friends would really let him jump on them freely. Some were downright mean. So when we finally had a massive backyard we could not not buy one. We put it together right after the septic install was done. And our kids love it. A year in and it gets used on multiple occasions almost every week.

A brand new SONY XBR-55X900F 55 inch TV mounted on the wall in our family room. At first I was trying to hire somebody to put these up. But then I ended up doing it myself. It's not nearly as hard as it seems. A good bracket from Amazon and some tools along with a good stud finder. A cable is still visible on this picture. We're going to fix that.A brand new SONY XBR-55X900F 55 inch TV mounted on the wall in our family room. At first I was trying to hire somebody to put these up. But then I ended up doing it myself. It’s not nearly as hard as it seems. A good bracket from Amazon and some tools along with a good stud finder. A cable is still visible on this picture. We’re going to fix that.

And the same for our living room kitchen TV. This is our old Samsung that we brought with us. Mounted the same way as our SONY. This is the shot after the electrical plugs have been installed behind the TV. No wires. Both TVs are powered by WIFI connected Apple TVs. HD for kitchen, 4K for family room. Both are invisibly mounted behind the TVs themselves.And the same for our living room kitchen TV. This is our old Samsung that we brought with us. Mounted the same way as our SONY. This is the shot after the electrical plugs have been installed behind the TV. No wires. Both TVs are powered by WIFI connected Apple TVs. HD for kitchen, 4K for family room. Both are invisibly mounted behind the TVs themselves.

Our massive new sofa has arrived. We scoured a ton of furniture stores in Brooklyn and some others in CT. Most American stores just don't fit our tastes. And Russian stores either have tiny apartment oriented sofas available or to get something large and modern an order had to be placed with 4-6 months wait. So we went the WayFair way.Our massive new sofa has arrived. We scoured a ton of furniture stores in Brooklyn and some others in CT. Most American stores just don’t fit our tastes. And Russian stores either have tiny apartment oriented sofas available or to get something large and modern an order had to be placed with 4-6 months wait. So we went the WayFair way.

Sadly going with online furniture purchases you never know what you're going to get. While this sectional looks great it turned out to be not very comfortable. Luckily this was easily remedied with a couple of throw pillows that can be used for support. Also some parts were miss-aligned, so I took it apart and reassembled it anew. Now it's close to perfect. WayFair refunded a lot of our money for this order because of all the issues. So in the end we got a stellar deal for a great sectional.Sadly going with online furniture purchases you never know what you’re going to get. While this sectional looks great it turned out to be not very comfortable. Luckily this was easily remedied with a couple of throw pillows that can be used for support. Also some parts were miss-aligned, so I took it apart and reassembled it anew. Now it’s close to perfect. WayFair refunded a lot of our money for this order because of all the issues. So in the end we got a stellar deal for a great sectional.

Master bedroom is almost finished. We used the curtains from our apartment living room. These were color perfect for our red theme. Some nice abstract art above the headboard. And a pair of good looking modern lamps. We have Hue bulbs in these, so they take on different colors depending on the mood.Master bedroom is almost finished. We used the curtains from our apartment living room. These were color perfect for our red theme. Some nice abstract art above the headboard. And a pair of good looking modern lamps. We have Hue bulbs in these, so they take on different colors depending on the mood.

Mounted this massive IKEA mirror from our apartment in our master bedroom. Same concept as TVs -- just need to find the studs for it not to fall down along with the wall.Mounted this massive IKEA mirror from our apartment in our master bedroom. Same concept as TVs — just need to find the studs for it not to fall down along with the wall.

And another wall of our bedroom. Some modern abstract art in red and black. The metals plates are custom hand made pieces of art.And another wall of our bedroom. Some modern abstract art in red and black. The metals plates are custom hand made pieces of art.

And the final version of our closet. Came out really functional and good looking. Since this picture was taken we've replaced the bedding set, but there are no pictures of that yet.And the final version of our closet. Came out really functional and good looking. Since this picture was taken we’ve replaced the bedding set, but there are no pictures of that yet.

Anna's room is also taking shape. We've put up the curtains from our apartment bedroom. It matches her theme well. And there is a small portion of her zoo on the wall.Anna’s room is also taking shape. We’ve put up the curtains from our apartment bedroom. It matches her theme well. And there is a small portion of her zoo on the wall.

We got a new set of space themed curtains for Aaron's room. His whole room is space themed.We got a new set of space themed curtains for Aaron’s room. His whole room is space themed.

And then he got a desk. This one also came from WayFair, but we have zero complains. Its price was good, the desk is nice. Anna has got the same one, only in white.And then he got a desk. This one also came from WayFair, but we have zero complains. Its price was good, the desk is nice. Anna has got the same one, only in white.

Our patio is starting to take form. Unrestored chair and a new fire pit.Our patio is starting to take form. Unrestored chair and a new fire pit.

Now we acquired some furniture. Arosha has actually talked us into this set. He paid for his armchair and its ottoman with his own money. We added some tables, chairs and a loveseat.Now we acquired some furniture. Arosha has actually talked us into this set. He paid for his armchair and its ottoman with his own money. We added some tables, chairs and a loveseat.

Our porch is also fully stocked. We got quite an expensive aluminum and teak set from a local Patio.com location. We were contemplating about getting a full wooden set, but are happy with our decision. It spent a winter outdoors and looks as good as new.Our porch is also fully stocked. We got quite an expensive aluminum and teak set from a local Patio.com location. We were contemplating about getting a full wooden set, but are happy with our decision. It spent a winter outdoors and looks as good as new.

We had an empty corner in the living room, so we decided to put a pair of abstract looking shelves into it. We have a lot of trinkets, mementoes and other things to display to make this room cozier. It came out nice.We had an empty corner in the living room, so we decided to put a pair of abstract looking shelves into it. We have a lot of trinkets, mementoes and other things to display to make this room cozier. It came out nice.

We can write a novel about getting this table. It started with us ordering a dining room set from WayFair for over $4,000. It kept getting delivered only partially and with broken parts. The veneer turned out to be paper thin. We decided to go with WayFair after going through a multitude of stores and not finding anything we liked. We can write a novel about getting this table. It started with us ordering a dining room set from WayFair for over $4,000. It kept getting delivered only partially and with broken parts. The veneer turned out to be paper thin. We decided to go with WayFair after going through a multitude of stores and not finding anything we liked.

And once we placed a WayFair order we went to IKEA and saw the above pictured set. We were disappointed because it looked great, the wood was solid, the leather chairs were really a good match for our whole overall look and the price was a fraction of WayFair's set. In the end after another failed delivery attempt we canceled our order for a full refund. And promptly ordered this set. Couldn't be happier. And we added a pair of wooden chairs in the same color for bigger capacity.And once we placed a WayFair order we went to IKEA and saw the above pictured set. We were disappointed because it looked great, the wood was solid, the leather chairs were really a good match for our whole overall look and the price was a fraction of WayFair’s set. In the end after another failed delivery attempt we canceled our order for a full refund. And promptly ordered this set. Couldn’t be happier. And we added a pair of wooden chairs in the same color for bigger capacity.

To finish the room off we ordered a pair of mirrors finished in the same color of wood. Also from IKEA. These can be seen on this photo and the one above. We were originally thinking of putting a rectangular mirror on that wall, but when we saw these we liked the idea of a pair of them much more. It came out well.To finish the room off we ordered a pair of mirrors finished in the same color of wood. Also from IKEA. These can be seen on this photo and the one above. We were originally thinking of putting a rectangular mirror on that wall, but when we saw these we liked the idea of a pair of them much more. It came out well.

Then my office got a new desk in gray and all new hardware. A pair of 27 inch 5K monitors powered by a brand new 2018 15" MacBook Pro with pretty much maxed out specs.Then my office got a new desk in gray and all new hardware. A pair of 27 inch 5K monitors powered by a brand new 2018 15″ MacBook Pro with pretty much maxed out specs.

This is a draft of the office back wall. I had a book full of National Park posters for years, but never got around to ordering frames and putting them up on the wall. We picked out some of the best looking ones from some of the parks we've been to. But I hated the wall color of the office. It was so boring.This is a draft of the office back wall. I had a book full of National Park posters for years, but never got around to ordering frames and putting them up on the wall. We picked out some of the best looking ones from some of the parks we’ve been to. But I hated the wall color of the office. It was so boring.

So we had an opportunity to solve two problems. When we were buying the house we realized that one of the garages was too small to fit a full size car. And we had an extra foot or two in the office. So we moved the wall. This one we hired a contractor to do.So we had an opportunity to solve two problems. When we were buying the house we realized that one of the garages was too small to fit a full size car. And we had an extra foot or two in the office. So we moved the wall. This one we hired a contractor to do.

Now our garage can comfortably fit both of our cars. We are so happy we've made a decision to do this. This made winter so much easier to handle.Now our garage can comfortably fit both of our cars. We are so happy we’ve made a decision to do this. This made winter so much easier to handle.

We took this chance and repainted the office. For some reason I wanted to have orange teal theme for a long time. I think it came out great. Very cozy. Love it.We took this chance and repainted the office. For some reason I wanted to have orange teal theme for a long time. I think it came out great. Very cozy. Love it.

This is the other side of the office and my setup. I took this chance and attached a color Hue LED strip that I had laying around behind the desk. And I finally broke down and bought myself Steelcase Gesture chair. And the shelf in the corners serves as home for our relic collection of DVDs.This is the other side of the office and my setup. I took this chance and attached a color Hue LED strip that I had laying around behind the desk. And I finally broke down and bought myself Steelcase Gesture chair. And the shelf in the corners serves as home for our relic collection of DVDs.

And our living room got curtains! We love curtains. They fully transform the rooms. Alёna's mom searched all the stores in Minks and sent us a ton of pictures. We picked the ones we liked. She had them sized and prepared and sent a full set to us as a gift. We love how cozy our living room became.And our living room got curtains! We love curtains. They fully transform the rooms. Alёna’s mom searched all the stores in Minks and sent us a ton of pictures. We picked the ones we liked. She had them sized and prepared and sent a full set to us as a gift. We love how cozy our living room became.

The other side of the living room. Our patio furniture is spending a winter in our living room. In fact, we liked it so much that in the spring we ordered an actual furniture set to take its place. And we finally started hanging some paintings on the walls.The other side of the living room. Our patio furniture is spending a winter in our living room. In fact, we liked it so much that in the spring we ordered an actual furniture set to take its place. And we finally started hanging some paintings on the walls.

Then winter came. We finally had a chance to use our wood burning fireplace. We had the chimney cleaned and a pair of caps installed on top. For some reasons the house had none.Then winter came. We finally had a chance to use our wood burning fireplace. We had the chimney cleaned and a pair of caps installed on top. For some reasons the house had none.

Then we went to Italy in November and brought back a set of handmade Venetian masks to put above our fireplace. We also got a really nice looking, funky, modern lamp for our family room. It was bit expensive, but we think it was worth it.Then we went to Italy in November and brought back a set of handmade Venetian masks to put above our fireplace. We also got a really nice looking, funky, modern lamp for our family room. It was bit expensive, but we think it was worth it.

We ended up doing some modifications to the fireplace on the chimney guy recommendations. We added one inch thick metal backplate to reflect the heat into the room and we added a vertical grate so the wood burns agains that backplate.We ended up doing some modifications to the fireplace on the chimney guy recommendations. We added one inch thick metal backplate to reflect the heat into the room and we added a vertical grate so the wood burns agains that backplate.

We donated some money to a local boy scout group and the in turn sent us this wreath. We put a hook into the wall between our garages and put the wreath up for the duration of the winter.We donated some money to a local boy scout group and the in turn sent us this wreath. We put a hook into the wall between our garages and put the wreath up for the duration of the winter.

Then some snow started falling. We had a very mild winter. Alёna did most of the driveway cleaning herself, with a shovel. We only had to use a plow once. We're getting a snowblower for our next winter.Then some snow started falling. We had a very mild winter. Alёna did most of the driveway cleaning herself, with a shovel. We only had to use a plow once. We’re getting a snowblower for our next winter.

When we started getting our heating bills we decided that we need to make a bunch of improvements. I installed our first smart thermostat. Then we added another heating zone. Alёna taped up the old windows.When we started getting our heating bills we decided that we need to make a bunch of improvements. I installed our first smart thermostat. Then we added another heating zone. Alёna taped up the old windows.

Arosha and I got Nanoleaf as gifts for New Year. We put Arosha's up on January first. And also finally hung a map of the wold that we had up in our apartment. And there is a Venetian mask of moon and sun that he bought in Venice.Arosha and I got Nanoleaf as gifts for New Year. We put Arosha’s up on January first. And also finally hung a map of the wold that we had up in our apartment. And there is a Venetian mask of moon and sun that he bought in Venice.

It took me a while to figure out the pattern for my Nanoleaf. I tried a bunch with stencils and settled on this arrow that I like quote a bit.It took me a while to figure out the pattern for my Nanoleaf. I tried a bunch with stencils and settled on this arrow that I like quote a bit.

It came out great. I have it light up along with the strip behind the desk when I walk into the office.It came out great. I have it light up along with the strip behind the desk when I walk into the office.

The parents gave us a pair of vases from their collection. We really liked them because they really matched our family room color theme of orange and blue or teal. They also later brought a very modern looking plate from one of their vacations. We replaced our tulip vase with that plate.The parents gave us a pair of vases from their collection. We really liked them because they really matched our family room color theme of orange and blue or teal. They also later brought a very modern looking plate from one of their vacations. We replaced our tulip vase with that plate.

We ended up putting glass doors on our fireplace. The problem was that we had to leave the flute open for the night after the fire in the evening. So by morning all the warm air would get sucked out and replaced by cold air. Now we can close the glass doors while the fire is going out. And some modern art. Although we just replaced this one for a bigger one from the same artist.We ended up putting glass doors on our fireplace. The problem was that we had to leave the flute open for the night after the fire in the evening. So by morning all the warm air would get sucked out and replaced by cold air. Now we can close the glass doors while the fire is going out. And some modern art. Although we just replaced this one for a bigger one from the same artist.

Anna's got a storage shelves from IKEA Kallax series. Arosha's got the same thing, but in different color. We placed his one horizontally and filled it with different looking containers.Anna’s got a storage shelves from IKEA Kallax series. Arosha’s got the same thing, but in different color. We placed his one horizontally and filled it with different looking containers.

Our living room and kitchen spot lights are filled with Phillips Hue color bulbs. We had a bunch of themes programmed for the top floor. Our living room and kitchen spot lights are filled with Phillips Hue color bulbs. We had a bunch of themes programmed for the top floor.

There is an orange teal one, fire mood one that consists of red orange and yellow tones and there is a theme called Daughter's Wow. It's pink and purple, naturally.There is an orange teal one, fire mood one that consists of red orange and yellow tones and there is a theme called Daughter’s Wow. It’s pink and purple, naturally.

At this point we have all walls decorating with paintings. My dad has a pretty good collection and he's been giving us a lot of them. Some we put in the store, and some go up on the walls. We keep shifting them around from time to time. We also acquired a nice orange teal pot for our plant that used to fit in a tea cup.At this point we have all walls decorating with paintings. My dad has a pretty good collection and he’s been giving us a lot of them. Some we put in the store, and some go up on the walls. We keep shifting them around from time to time. We also acquired a nice orange teal pot for our plant that used to fit in a tea cup.

I brought a some of my prints I had in the office at work. They are not cheap to make, but I never had a place to hang them at home. Now our hallway seemed like a perfect place.I brought a some of my prints I had in the office at work. They are not cheap to make, but I never had a place to hang them at home. Now our hallway seemed like a perfect place.

Then we printed a pair of square ones -- my photographs of lighthouses from Cape Cod. This goes really well with our hallway and our black-gray and white theme of the bathroom.Then we printed a pair of square ones — my photographs of lighthouses from Cape Cod. This goes really well with our hallway and our black-gray and white theme of the bathroom.

We added a small mail and key shelf by the entrance door. And we added some shoe shelves inside the closet by the same door. And the paintings that are pictured here we've already replaced with a different one.We added a small mail and key shelf by the entrance door. And we added some shoe shelves inside the closet by the same door. And the paintings that are pictured here we’ve already replaced with a different one.

And when you enter the house you see these. Although we've already replaced the bottom one. The one above the stairs we're keeping. It has this Russian feel to it that it seems appropriate. Plus it's very lright, in case it falls down.And when you enter the house you see these. Although we’ve already replaced the bottom one. The one above the stairs we’re keeping. It has this Russian feel to it that it seems appropriate. Plus it’s very light, in case it falls down.

More art in the corner. Our family room lamp with Hue bulbs in Orange Teal mode and our smart diffuser in teal.More art in the corner. Our family room lamp with Hue bulbs in Orange Teal mode and our smart diffuser in teal.

Tripple Hue switches by the bathroom entrance. The actually switches are inside the the bathroom behind the door. This a more convenient place to control them.Tripple Hue switches by the bathroom entrance. The actually switches are inside the the bathroom behind the door. This a more convenient place to control them.

Our play room is kind of visible from the street, especially when kids play inside with lights on. Alёna's mom did another major search and we went with this gray purple theme throughout our play and guest rooms. Privacy curtains. Nice for when the guests are staying overnight.Our play room is kind of visible from the street, especially when kids play inside with lights on. Alёna’s mom did another major search and we went with this gray purple theme throughout our play and guest rooms. Privacy curtains. Nice for when the guests are staying overnight.

We finally bought an actual bed from the guest room. We had our expensive queen size mattress on the floor from our apartment bed. We kept thinking about getting rid of it and replacing it with a sleeper sofa, but then it was too new and too expensive to throw out. So it got a bed.

And then the bed got a nice purple set that matches the lower floor decor. It also got some art and a vintage lamp with Edison bulb.And then the bed got a nice purple set that matches the lower floor decor. It also got some art and a vintage lamp with Edison bulb.

Once it started to get warm I installed string lights on the porch that we had laying around since the middle of the winter. It was always kind of dark on the porch, so we thought this kind of lighting would be very fitting and useful.Once it started to get warm I installed string lights on the porch that we had laying around since the middle of the winter. It was always kind of dark on the porch, so we thought this kind of lighting would be very fitting and useful.

We leveled them out along the edge, connected them to a smart plug and put a switch on the door. It makes the place cozier even during daylight.We leveled them out along the edge, connected them to a smart plug and put a switch on the door. It makes the place cozier even during daylight.

Then at some point during the spring we ordered a shed. First step was installing a foundation for it. This was included in the price of the shed.Then at some point during the spring we ordered a shed. First step was installing a foundation for it. This was included in the price of the shed.

Shed itself got delivered on May 1st. But I have a full post about it already. It's been very useful so far. And we built a pathway for it. That took a lot of effort.Shed itself got delivered on May 1st. But I have a full post about it already. It’s been very useful so far. And we built a pathway for it. That took a lot of effort.

We also installed a nice looking privacy film on garage windows. It's main purpose is actually to hide the mess that we have inside the garage. Looks much neater from the outside.We also installed a nice looking privacy film on garage windows. It’s main purpose is actually to hide the mess that we have inside the garage. Looks much neater from the outside.

Then we added a couple of nice details to the porch. We were hunting for some nice plaque to put up for a while. And then WayFair came thought. Nice, rough looking plaque that welcomes people to Gather Here.Then we added a couple of nice details to the porch. We were hunting for some nice plaque to put up for a while. And then WayFair came thought. Nice, rough looking plaque that welcomes people to Gather Here.

Another thing that we found was a box for beer bottle caps. It proclaims that the best beer is an open beer. The season has just started, so it's mostly empty, but we're working on filling it up.Another thing that we found was a box for beer bottle caps. It proclaims that the best beer is an open beer. The season has just started, so it’s mostly empty, but we’re working on filling it up.

Then when the warms days became more frequent we tackled a project of replacing all of our old bedroom windows with a nice, expensive wooden double pane ones. Old ones were horrible and drafty. Single pane glass, crafted of small glass pieces, falling apart.Then when the warms days became more frequent we tackled a project of replacing all of our old bedroom windows with a nice, expensive wooden double pane ones. Old ones were horrible and drafty. Single pane glass, crafted of small glass pieces, falling apart.

Most of the house had new windows, but bedrooms didn't. So we replaced all in all six of them. That was not cheap at all.Most of the house had new windows, but bedrooms didn’t. So we replaced all in all six of them. That was not cheap at all.

As I mentioned before, once our patio furniture returned outside we ordered a nice gray leather and metal set for our living room. Fits the color theme of the room and is very comfrotable. Who would've thought that we would buy furniture from Raymour & Flanigan at some point? But I got us a really good deal on these.As I mentioned before, once our patio furniture returned outside we ordered a nice gray leather and metal set for our living room. Fits the color theme of the room and is very comfrotable. Who would’ve thought that we would ever buy furniture from Raymour & Flanigan at some point? But I got us a really good deal on these and they actually look good.

At the end of April we went full tilt into landscaping. We were determined to fix backyard and front yard grass that was destroyed by septic install. We bought new top soil, leveled it out, installed irrigation system and seed it.At the end of April we went full tilt into landscaping. We were determined to fix backyard and front yard grass that was destroyed by septic install. We bought new top soil, leveled it out, installed irrigation system and seed it.

A month later we have a nice, green backyard and front yard. It took a lot of effort, time and money and it's still not perfect. But it's a huge leap from what it was.A month later we have a nice, green backyard and front yard. It took a lot of effort, time and money and it’s still not perfect. But it’s a huge leap from what it was.

We also cleaned up our side yard. And then we mulched it. And we planned a hydrangea that was gifted to us by my mom.We also cleaned up our side yard. And then we mulched it. And we planned a hydrangea that was gifted to us by my mom.

Our right house bed was empty. Last year we planned two bushes. This year we bought a young spruce and a lilac tree. Spruce was my pick and lilac was Alёna's.Our right house bed was empty. Last year we planned two bushes. This year we bought a young spruce and a lilac tree. Spruce was my pick and lilac was Alёna’s.

And then Alёna removed all the weeds from the beds and we mulched both of them with red mulch.And then Alёna removed all the weeds from the beds and we mulched both of them with red mulch.

And a week later she cleaned up our newly grown hosta. And she put a bunch of red mulch there as well.And a week later she cleaned up our newly grown hosta. And she put a bunch of red mulch there as well.

And here is a chair that I mentioned at the start of the post. At this point it was washed and sanded. Holes were filled in and it was sanded again.And here is a chair that I mentioned at the start of the post. At this point it was washed and sanded. Holes were filled in and it was sanded again.

And here is it reborn in red. We bought a brown one to keep it company. Turns out these things are quite expensive, so I'm glad we saved ours instead of disposing of it.And here is it reborn in red. We bought a brown one to keep it company. Turns out these things are quite expensive, so I’m glad we saved ours instead of disposing of it.

Several weeks ago we invited some friends over. And then we realized that our wide chairs only fit 8 people on the porch. So we acquired a bench from the same set as our dining table. And we got some more pillows for it. It fills out an empty corner nicely and it served us well for larger gatherings.Several weeks ago we invited some friends over. And then we realized that our wide chairs only fit 8 people on the porch. So we acquired a bench from the same set as our dining table. And we got some more pillows for it. It fills out an empty corner nicely and it served us well for larger gatherings.

This is one of the last paintings updates. We got another painting done one of my dad's known artist friends, so we made space for it in the dining room. Note the light pattern produced by the wall sconces. Pleasant.This is one of the last paintings updates. We got another painting done one of my dad’s known artist friends, so we made space for it in the dining room. Note the light pattern produced by the wall sconces. Pleasant.

And our last touch so has been an acquisition of a hammock! We wanted to get it last summer, but somehow never got around to it. It's really nice and kids are loving it.And our last touch so has been an acquisition of a hammock! We wanted to get it last summer, but somehow never got around to it. It’s really nice and kids are loving it.

On Wednesday we have a crew coming over that is going to remove six dead trees from our lot. These have been bother us and we don’t want any of them falling on the house during some storm. So that’s going to be a nice thing to get done, although it also will be not cheap.

And thus I conclude a look at some parts of our first year saga of house ownership. It’s been a good year.

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Smart Home — Ecosystems

Apple Home.Elgato Eve.This is going to be a long post on my foray into smart home and automations. This venture has started soon after we bought our home — about 6 months in now — and I was finally able to do things that I couldn’t while living in an apartment.

I was fascinated by this for a long time — ever since Nest thermostat came to the market and by what Philips was doing with its Hue series. Those two products were something that I wanted to do as soon as I had the chance.

I had never really explored it any further and had no idea how quickly this hobby could suck in a lot of time and money, none of which I regret in the slightest.

I have decided to split this post(s) into several parts — general introduction into our ecosystem, overview of types of devices and specific devices in those groups that I’ve used and my impressions of them, room by room setup in the house and automations that we use.

Ecosystem


At first I didn’t give this much thought, but very soon after I’ve started to realize that I need to figure out what I want to use as a core of my system.

Amazon Alexa.Vendor apps.The biggest players in the market would be Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit. The idea is that you want ALL of your smart devices exposed in one place in order to be able to do complex automations evolving multiple products and brands.

Amazon Alexa


Before I considered this all and since I had a mild fascination with Alexa for a while that’s what we started with, but eventually went in a different direction.

Amazon Echo.Amazon’s system is generally a very safe bet. Vast majority of smart devices support it. One huge plus that it has going for is the range of products available — starting from $30 Echo Dot all the way to $230 Echo show. And then there is a ton of 3rd party products with Alexa integrated. This is very convenient for voice control.

I bought a pair of Amazon Echo devices. Standard Echo lives in our kitchen and Echo Spot lives in our bedroom on my bedside table.

Alena uses the kitchen one for audio books and music listening. I use Echo Spot as my alarm clock — and a great one at that. It automatically goes into night-mode during the night where its display produces practically no light and shows the time in non-disruptive red color.

The smartphone app generally does its job, but I’m not a huge fan of the way it handles device grouping and automation in general. Automations specifically is quite a weak spot for this system in my opinion.

Amazon Echo Spot.As I mentioned before I decided against using it as our core system, although we still have our most used scenes and devices replicated into the Alexa system for easily reachable voice triggers.

Beside the pair of Amazon devices we have a Sonos One speaker and a thermostat of all things with Alexa built in.

Thermostat Alexa is disabled and Sonos speaker Alexa implementation is not stellar. I have much higher success rate with voice triggers on Amazon’s own devices. Though Sonos does provide great sound for music playback.

Apple HomeKit


Each vendor of smart home products ships their own application to manage the accessories. The more different vendors you end up using, the more messy managing it all becomes. That’s why having one single place that unifies everything is important for not only managing your devices, but stringing them up together in automation.

HomeKit emerged as a natural choice for us since we’re heavily embedded into Apple ecosystem. We have numerous iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs and Macs. As such I really have no experience with Google Home, but I imagine it’s a good choice for Android families.

Apple HomePod.There are downsides and upsides to HomeKit. The choices of accessories is more limited because Apple has stricter rules for HomeKit certification. To counter the negative part of that you end up with a more secure system. And since we, as Apple users, have to pay the price for Siri voice assistant that is not using all the data given to it to improve, we end up with a company with a very high focus on privacy.

I imagine Google collects a lot more information on your usage. I imagine Amazon does its share of this as well. And you have to be insane to even consider putting Facebook’s device with a camera and a microphone in your home. HomeKit is a big winner in the category in my opinion. I actually wouldn’t mind sharing more information with Apple if that would mean staying ahead with such things as Siri.

With regards to the main app to control your accessories once they have been added to HomeKit you have numerous options. First of all there is Apple’s own Home app. It’s clean and good looking, so we use it as our primary hub for most day to day things.

However HomeKit protocol in itself is just a back-end database which can be managed by any app. And there is a multitude of them. Elgato Eve makes a beautiful free application which lets you manipulate HomeKit’s database to a much higher degree than native Home does. It exposes a lot of controls that you wouldn’t know existed if you were only using Apple’s Home.

Sonos One.Another great application that I use for configuring complex automations is a 3rd party app named Home 3 by Matthias Hochgatterer. While it’s not very pretty, the Trigger — Condition — Action automations are invaluable as is a granular control of your accessories.

And then there is an open-source project called Homebridge, which I’ll provide more details on a little bit later.

HomeKit voice control is a mixed bag. Siri at its release was completely useless to me because of my accent. With years the voice recognition has improved SIGNIFICANTLY. I have a very high success rate with it. It’s very much on par with Alexa if not better.

I’m not asking Siri of any complex inquiries and it follows smart home informational request and scene and accessory setting commands easily.

The negative part is that while pretty much all Apple devices have Siri built-in using your phone is far from convenient for voice triggers. It’s better on the watch, but still not ideal.

The one and only option right now is HomePod. And at $350 retail price you won’t get far without breaking the bank. We have one that we got for $250 on a big sale from BestBuy.

We placed it centrally in our living area and the performance of it is superb. Microphones are very sensitive so I can reach it easily from the kitchen, living, dinning and family rooms. And the sound it produces for music playback is the best we have in our house.

However music playback is my least needed feature and I’m saddened by the fact that Apple chose that as their focus. What I’m really looking and hoping for is that there will be additional choices of cheap(er) Siri devices that I can place in other parts of the house.

As far as hubs go, which are required for remote control and automation, HomeKit can use Apple TVs, HomePods and iPads. Since we have a pair of Apple TVs and one HomePod we use them as hubs. iPads should be used as hubs as a last resort only, in my opinion, so we do not do that.

3rd Party Apps


As I mentioned each manufacturer of devices also ships an app to control those products. In vast majority of cases I use those to only go through an initial product setup and rarely visit them afterwards.

Some of those offer additional controls that are not exposed in HomeKit and you need to use those apps for firmware updates. However I rarely have a need to revisit those apps.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Blu-ray Player

Blu-ray player hooked up to our TV.On Sunday we finally decided to make the next leap in the realm of home video entertainment. We were in a local BestBuy and almost bought a Blu-ray player. I’ve been thinking about getting one for a couple of weeks already and the main reason was the falling prices of Blu-ray movies.

You see, we tend to add movies that we liked to our collection from time to time. Originally, when DVDs used to cost around $15 for the movie and BD would cost $50 there was no interest. But when BD came down to $18 for the same movie I started feeling that buying a DVD was becoming silly to save $3.

LG BD390 in a box.Of course to make that argument work one needs to have a player that can play said BD movies. My research led me to 2 top players from LG and Samsung — BD390 and BD-P36001 respectively.

For some reason I was leaning towards LG, although I think Samsung is equally good. Of course thanks to my iPhone I checked the price2 on Amazon. So after running around with LG box around the store, we put it back where it belongs, went home and placed an order online.

Contents of the box.It was delivered yesterday and I was eager to hook it up. Even though our TV is over 10 years old it still supports 1080i playback, but that’s not really the most interesting thing. One of the main reasons of us getting this player is of course Netflix.

It took us only a few minutes to set it up and to get a movie from Netflix to play on our TV. I couldn’t really tell a difference between this and DVD quality-wise.

LG BD390 Blu-ray Player.This is the moment when I had an epiphany — why would I want to buy a disk now if I can just play anything whenever I wish from Netflix? Never quite felt this as profoundly as at this moment. Of course the answer right now is that Netflix doesn’t have everything for instant watch, but for how much longer will that be the case?

  1. Although Samsung has a higher end BD-4600 it has a really weird form factor and doesn’t really add any benefits for the added cost. []
  2. BestBuy had it for $349 + tax, Amazon had it for $285, no tax, free shipping. []
In: Gadgets & Gear, Home Sweet Home   Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Happy Year

New Year in the HallwayThis year is almost over and New Year decorations are starting to appear all over the city. I think I’m ready to start getting into the holiday mood as well.

The year 2007 was a great year for us, as the one before. Many things happened, but probably the most important achievement of the year is the acquisition of our own apartment and the fact that our parents have finally took the same step. Yesterday they closed the deal on their own apartment in the same building as ours. A couple of weeks of minor fixes and we’re all hoping that they’ll be celebrating the New Year in their new home.

The lobby of our building is already full of decorations and it always fills me in with a kind of a warm feeling every time I come home. This is one of the main things that we need for complete happiness I think. The warms of the home. And luckily I have plenty of that.
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