Tag Archives: renovation

Buy this house: Ahoy, Matey

In my ongoing quest to save all the houses, I recently took a peek inside this amazing – but dated – home in our neighborhood. Someone needs to buy it and hire me to re-design it. And by “hire” I mean “just let me do it, please PLEASE PLEASE.”

I mean, LOOK AT IT. It’s like the Boy Scouts went into residential architecture.

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If you are brave enough to embrace the quirky/unique front facade, you’re in for a treat. This 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house is over 2500 square feet and sits on more than half an acre of land. It’s listed for $269,000, but it’s been on the market for a while.

The previous owner was clearly in the Navy or Coast Guard. There are anchors everywhere, and the kitchen door has a sign reading “Private Mess.” Although, I guess that could also be a commentary on someone’s cooking. I don’t know their life.

Let’s step inside, shall we?

One of my biggest problems with this house is that there are about seven different types of flooring throughout the space. There are tiles in the foyer, different tiles in the living room, parquet in the dining room, yet another tile in the kitchen, etc. Each of the bedrooms has different flooring. It’s baffling. So, to start, I would put down a single type of flooring throughout the house.

The foyer/entry is a good size, but daaaaark. It sports dark wood paneling on the lower half, and a dark woven wallpaper on the upper half. It’s….. a lot.

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Here’s a closeup of the wallpaper:

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In this space, I’d replace the sassy brass light fixture, replace the dark paneling with bright white wainscoting or board-and-batten, and freshen up the paint color. If there was a bit more money, I’d replace the front doors.

Like this:

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Moving on to the formal spaces. The living room runs off the foyer along the front of the house, then the dining room is at the corner, and the kitchen is along the side of the house. I would reconfigure this space so that the old kitchen and dining room became one large kitchen, and the living room became a good-sized dining room.

Here’s a picture taken from the corner of the dining room, which is also the corner of the house.

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I’d expand the opening into the now-living room (on the left), and take out the wall between the now-dining room and now-kitchen (on the right). Because this kitchen is 1) small and 2) not very awesome.

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The new kitchen would be roughly twice as long, and you could make it a double-sided galley kitchen, like this:

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Or an L-shaped kitchen:

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Continuing down the side of the house, we come to a washer/dryer closet and then the first of two master suites.

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Please note: yet another type of flooring, and the terrrrrrible, soul-crushing light fixture.  The same flat, square, recessed light is in every bedroom.

I think ideally I would borrow some space from the kitchen to make a proper laundry room and walk-in closet. But barring that, new flooring, new lighting, and paint would go a long way to improving this room.

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The bathroom has plenty of space. I’d replace the vanity cabinet , re-tile the shower, and maybe move the toilet to the sink wall (but moving plumbing fixtures adds a lot of dollars). I’d also rip out that wallpaper and burn it in the yard. Dayum.

The house is basically U-shaped, and we’ve now covered the right arm of the U. Now let’s go back to the center of the U, which is this quite-frankly-amazing room at the heart of the house.

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Again, there is a LOT going on in the room, texture-and-color-wise, but it would be pretty easy to simplify. I’d remove the paneling, replace the floor, and (if the homeowner could not embrace the rock climbing wall/fireplace surround) cover that fireplace wall with brick, stucco, or more millwork to echo the foyer.

Like so:

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The back of the room makes almost no sense:

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The bi-fold doors and smoked-glass windows look out on… a hallway. I’d remove the entire back wall and side wall to open up the interior corridors, which are dark and cramped. If safety was a concern, I’d add a waist-high metal railing or a half-wall around the corner. And, despite its awesomeness, that bar would probably have to go.

The left side of the house’s U-shape consists of three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The middle bedroom is very small, and has no closet. I would cannibalize that space to upgrade the master suite, adding a walk-in closet and expanding the bathroom.

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Also: burning the very, very plush floral carpet. Shudder.

The bathroom features reflective patterned wallpaper. Everywhere.

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Both master suites, as well as the living room, open onto a large multi-level deck.

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There’s a detached garage with workshop, and a paved courtyard at ground level.

Despite the dated appearance, the house was clean and looked well-maintained. It just needs someone to love it. With the interior opened up some, it would be a great house for a family, or for entertaining – or both.

If you’d like to see this house, call a realtor. If you don’t have one, use mine – her name is Patty Wilson, and she’s great.

 

 

 

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Done and Done.

The kitchen is done! Like, done done. The last check has been written, the paint is dry, and I’m ready for some serious before-and-afters.

Set the way-back machine to way back, aka January 2018.

Before:

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After:

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I wanted a kitchen that felt at home in our house, but which also worked hard to feed six people day in and day out. I wanted a space that was pleasant to work in, but not “decorated” or accessorized. I wanted clean lines but rich texture.

I got all that. And more!

The kitchen has always been my favorite room in the house, even when it was more boring. It has windows on three sides, so it gets beautiful natural light all day long.

Before:

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After:

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I cannot believe I get to work here every day. Even if I’m just toasting an English muffin, it’s so pleasant.

Before:

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After:

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Elements in the kitchen echo other parts of the house. For example, the entry area is now painted the same color as our living room. The floating shelves by the sink are stained to match the floors in the rest of the house. The upper cabinet knobs look like the doorknobs everywhere else. I wanted to be sure that the kitchen fit seamlessly into the house, and it does.

 

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I could compose odes on the brick floor. It looks incredible, like it’s been there forever. It’s my favorite part of the kitchen.

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Happy 90th birthday, house!

 

 

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How We Saved Money on our Giant Kitchen Renovation

A complete kitchen renovation is expensive. There’s no way around it. However, we worked hard to manage the cost of the project, and saved money in big and small ways. Every little bit helps!

There were some areas we actually put cash dollars back into our own pockets:

1. We paid cash. We’ve been saving for this renovation since we moved into the house, because we knew it was something we wanted to do. And some of the money came from my mom’s estate (thanks, mom!). By paying cash, we avoided the costs of taking out a renovation loan or other financing arrangement. Savings: Unknown, probably several thousand dollars.

2. We sold the old appliances. On Craigslist, I sold the wall oven ($100), the dishwasher ($75), the range hood ($50) and the fridge ($75). That’s $300.

3. We got a deal on the new appliances. We are getting a $700 rebate from Kitchenaid because we purchased three new appliances from them. Additionally, we got $150 discount from the appliance store because we paid cash for the appliances.

4. We got rebates from the city. We got $115 electric rebate and $240 natural gas rebate, for a total of $355 in rebates.

That’s $1500 in hard savings, as well as an unknown-but-large amount saved by not financing the entire renovation. This is definitely not a project we could have done ourselves, especially the multiple floor/subfloor issues we encountered.

In other areas, we made choices that lowered the cost of materials or labor:

5. We tolerated eccentricity. Our cabinet makers are two grumpy brothers from Havana. They have a pre-paid phone, and when that runs out of minutes, you have to get creative to contact them. Our contractor had to resort to leaving notes on their windshield at one point. But their bid was several thousand dollars less than the competing bid, and their work was excellent.

6. We prioritized. The floor repairs were important, so we were willing to spend more money on them. Likewise, it was important to me to have the hardest-working countertops I could find, which was expensive. To offset those spendy items, we chose plain white subway tiles for the backsplash – it’s inexpensive and classic. We went middle-of-the road for appliances, sink, faucet, and hardware.

7. We were patient and flexible. Several times, it paid to wait. When the first flooring company said they couldn’t install the brick, we waited until we found a company that would do it, rather than choosing a different, more expensive, material. We got several quotes for the countertops, and took some time negotiating. In the end, we saved $1,600 by patiently going from vendor to vendor to work out the best deal. We ended up with a piece of quartz that the vendor had on-hand – it wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but it was close enough (and now I love it).

Whether you’re gutting your kitchen or getting ready to DIY a bathroom, these are good tips to keep in mind.

And since you’ve made it this far, I’ll share the last two details that finished the kitchen remodel.

First, the cabinetmakers created some floating shelves for the wall beside the sink. They stained the shelves to match the wood floors in the rest of the house, and I bought the shelf brackets on Etsy.

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Second, we left the original butler’s pantry area untouched, but wanted something to break up the whiteness of it all. I decided to wrap the countertop in a sheet of copper, to match the large light fixture (and our gas lamps, etc.).

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The kitchen continues to be a joy and a delight, and I spend most of my day in it. It’s even fun to clean.

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 9: “Substantially Complete” is Music to my Ears

Welcome to week 9 of our kitchen renovation. This is the week we moved our stuff back in and I put my appliances through their paces – despite the fact we’re still not technically “done.”

Are you ready?

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I wasn’t ready.

Everything is just so lovely. Jason remarked that this is the kitchen our house always wanted to have.

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Cooking in the kitchen is a delight now. There is room on either side of the stove for bowls and utensils, and Jason and Hazel are frequently parked on those green stools, keeping me company while I make dinner. We have a speaker located near the fish tank, so I can listen to music or podcasts while I’m working. It’s just so pleasant to be in a space that functions so well.

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So what’s left? Painting, for one thing, and the cabinetmakers still have some adjustments to make (like installing the trash pull-out). The transitions from the kitchen to the rest of the house need thresholds, and the doors to the laundry closet and storage closet need to be trimmed down and re-hung.

In the words of the contractor, we are “substantially complete.”

I won’t post again until those items are done, when we can have a big before-and-after party. Huzzah!

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 8: The Home Stretch

Most of the week was spent waiting for the counters to be fabricated and delivered. We even started leaving piles of mail and keys on the peninsula, since that’s an inevitability.

In the meantime, all the shiny knobs and pulls were installed on the cabinets.

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It was like adding the right jewelry to a little black dress. Now the cabinets look finished.

On Monday morning the counter tops arrived. And there was even more rejoicing!

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They are glorious and I love them.

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On Tuesday the tile setters got to work on the backsplash. Because the rest of the room has so much texture, I chose a simple white subway tile. I was inspired in part by the “downstairs” tour we took at The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island a couple of years ago. Most of the behind-the-scenes spaces in that home were tiled floor-to-ceiling in white subway tiles, to reflect light and keep surfaces easy to clean. For example, here’s the kitchen at The Elms:

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Notice a few familiar elements? Black lower spaces, white upper spaces, touches of copper…. when it comes to kitchens, I definitely have a type.

Here’s the tile in progress:

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It will be grouted on Thursday, with a medium-gray grout. The plumbers are scheduled to be here today, to install the sink and hook up the dishwasher, and then this battle station kitchen will be fully operational.

 

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 7: Countertops

The Griner brothers tackled cabinet adjustments this week – one upper cabinet had to be re-hung, and one lower cabinet re-configured.

In the meantime, we moved on to selecting a counter top.

I will not bore you with the ins and outs of choosing a counter top material. Suffice it to say there are dozens of options and lots of price points. Lucky for me, I already knew what I wanted. When we involuntarily remodeled our kitchen after our last house caught on fire, we chose quartz counter tops (the existing counter tops were quartz, so it didn’t cost any more to replace with the same material). I LOVED those counters. They were beautiful, durable, and maintenance-free. And sparkly.

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(That’s Silestone Stellar Night, if you’re curious.)

As much as I loved my black sparkly counters, I knew I didn’t want to repeat the color if the lower cabinets were also going to be black. I went back to my original inspiration photo for, um, inspiration.

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I liked the idea of white counter tops with a little bit of “movement” (which is apparently the technical term for “fancy squiggles”). I finally selected this:

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The contractor installed temporary counter tops so we could get used to the width of the peninsula and adjust it if necessary.

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The end of this week saw a dramatic increase in activity as we push for the finish line. On Tuesday, the electrician arrived and put in outlets, switches, and light fixtures, AND the appliances were delivered.

APPLIANCES. And LIGHTS. All the pretty things!

By the end of Tuesday, the kitchen was a giant beautiful mess:

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And now it’s time to introduce you to the very first thing we bought for our kitchen, the oh-gee-wow piece that is the literal center of the whole thing.

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It’s a giant old copper wash tub that some enterprising soul flipped upside down and turned into a light fixture. Jason and I bought it at the Westside Market, our favorite antique/vintage shop in Atlanta, on our way home from Thanksgiving weekend. I have been patiently waiting for it to be installed.

And now it has been. And there was much rejoicing.

 

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 6: Cabinets!

The cabinets began arriving Friday afternoon, and honestly I couldn’t have been more delighted if they had been delivered by a parliament of Hogwarts owls.

Here’s where we’ve been since last Wednesday:

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Our cabinets were made by the Griner brothers of Havana, who are always slightly grumpy. They keep a pay-by-the-minute phone, and when it runs out of minutes, you are SOL if you need to contact them. Our contractor once drove to Havana and left a note on their car when he needed to talk to them.

They are national treasures. But they make nice cabinets at reasonable prices, so we’ll let it slide. They arrived with a trailer full of awesomeness.

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They worked most of Saturday afternoon to install all the cabinets, and now the kitchen looks like a kitchen again.

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I am so impressed by the work the Griners did. I love all the details – the side of the fridge enclosure, the back of the peninsula.

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I am deeply relieved that I love (LOVE LOVE) the matte black finish we chose for the lower cabinets. It looks great with the floors.

But my favorite thing in the whole room is this beauty right here:

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It’s a giant, floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet whose proportions match the original butler’s pantry you can see over in the back right corner. The Griners repeated this proportion on the panel that encloses the fridge, too.

The cabinet hardware arrived, as scheduled, on Valentine’s Day. This seemed like the logical next step:

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The next week will involve a few cabinet tweaks and then on to counter tops.

 

 

 

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