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Renovating: if, when, and how DIY you keep it

Some friends of mine are going to be collapsing their garage soon; that'll be the first stage in a major renovation on the house they've lived in for ten years. They have a contractor on board, but much of it will be DIY. They also know that to complete the project, they'll probably have to temporarily move out (like when my family lived in the RV park when we renovated!). Just hearing about it, renovating one's own home seems like a giant commitment--maybe not the Oregon Trail, but perhaps more like donning a paper gown and letting the anesthesiologist give you whatever it takes to get you through surgery.

The Home & Garden section of the NY Times had an interesting profile this week of a Chelsea couple who did a gut renovation for $12,000.

Perhaps just as impressive, Mr. Robohm (who was not sharing the apartment with Ms. Doucette during the renovation) lived in the space for the year and a half it took to do the work — a cost-saving move that required him to vacuum the bed before he could go to sleep. Especially after he demolished the nonworking brick fireplace, which resulted in what he calls a waterfall of soot and ash. Getting rid of the bricks was another problem.

"Ever see "˜Papillon,' where they break out of prison?" Mr. Robohm said. "Or maybe it was "˜The Shawshank Redemption'? They cut holes in their pockets and they dribble gravel, a little bit at a time. It was kind of like that. I paid to get the bulk of it taken out, but there was a tree on the street that didn't have a flower bed. Now it has a nice brick wall where somebody put one in."

I'm always shocked to hear about single room renovation costs--the above article quotes Manhattan kitchen renovations going for about $30k. Even in other parts of the country, relatively financially solvent people can't renovate their kitchens. I know a woman in my area who has a picture of a newly remodeled kitchen on her dream board! There's a stigma--definitely in LA--that women are obsessed with their bodies and employing strange serums and tonics in the name of upkeep, but more and more I'm meeting homeowners who would much, much rather have a new kitchen. Or at least tilework.

My leasing lifestyle disqualifies me from any firsthand input, but I'd be interested to hear any renovating success stories/nightmares you have...

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find
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iStock

The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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architecture
5 Scrapped Designs for the World's Most Famous Buildings
Ker Robertson, Getty Images
Ker Robertson, Getty Images

When an architect gets commissioned to build a skyscraper or a memorial, they’re usually not the only applicant for the job. Other teams of designers submit their own ideas for how it should look, too, but these are eventually passed over in favor of the final design. This is the case for some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks—in an alternate world, the Arc de Triomphe might have been a three-story-tall elephant statue, and the Lincoln Memorial a step pyramid.

GoCompare, a comparison site for financial services, dug into these could-have-been designs for Alternate Architecture, an illustrated collection of scrapped designs for some of the most famous structures in the world, from Chicago's Tribune Tower to the Sydney Opera House.

Click through the interactive graphic below to explore rejected designs for all five landmarks.

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