Amy and I are well aware of how small projects can become big projects before you even realize it. In our current home, a little dog pee on the carpet in the upstairs hallway resulted in ripping out that carpet and then the subfloor… which meant it was a good time to scrape off our popcorn ceilings, replace baseboards, renovate our entire bathroom, and refinish the newly exposed hardwood floors. And…since there was carpet on the stairs (and no surprise..lead paint!) you can guess where that led. Yes, we would have probably done all those things eventually, but the dog pee was the spark and once you get going – it tends to snowball.
When we bought our new house we knew that we wanted to TRY to keep the renovation costs as low as possible. We did not initially plan on knocking down walls or doing much to add to the scope of the project. The problem is… that philosophy can easily conflict with the “let’s do it right the first time” philosophy and the “while we’re doing this, we might as well do this” philosophy. We quickly figured this out when we started thinking more thoroughly about how we would live in this house.
We couldn’t wait to see the initial plans that our architect would have for us. We had given him the run down of our current thoughts and he said he would sketch out some of those ideas, but also maybe show us some others to help us think through other possibilities. When we finally got to meet with him, he laid out 5 different plans. We were slightly overwhelmed with all the options and possible directions we could go. As you would expect, none of the 5 were perfect, but there were aspects of each that we liked.
We preferred avoiding knocking down all the walls and changing the historic nature of the house. In fact, we quickly discovered that forcing our own will on the house did not work nearly as well as just paying attention to why the current floor plan of the house works, then seeing if we can work a little closer to the original intent of each room. For instance, we thought about having one of the bedrooms downstairs in a room that was already modified with added drywall, but the more time we spent in the house the more we realized that having the wall there made the whole downstairs feel confined. By opening up that room it was as if the house could breath again and it really gave us a good feel for the width of the house. As a bonus, it brought back the circular floor plan that was originally there.
Another example of the benefits of listening to the house was the placement of the kitchen. The original kitchen was in the back of the house, but was very small and had a total of FIVE doors and two nearly floor to ceiling windows. It would be nearly impossible to create realistic counter space let alone make this a kitchen that would work for us. After all, we are bonafied foodies and don’t mess around in the kitchen. So, we thought we might just move the kitchen to the old dining room and have the back room be the dining room.
Something like this:
This would have worked great, except for 3 big things… The kitchen wouldn’t realistically fit in that old dining room space, it felt strange having the dining room in the back (and having the bathroom right off the eating area), and we would have had to tear down that big built-in that is in the current dining room. We lived with that idea for several weeks, but once again the more time we spent in the house the more we realized that having the kitchen in that area of the house just didn’t work. Putting it where it originally was (in the back of the house) just felt better and made more sense.
After going through all the original 5 floor plan options, we were able to make some firm decisions and priorities. It is impossible to get everything, so having these 3 priorities gave us a great starting point.
1. We wanted all 3 bedrooms to be upstairs. Originally we thought that maybe one bedroom could be downstairs. The more we lived with that idea the more we realized we didn’t like it. This meant that we would either have to do an addition above the kitchen or move the stairs and work to get three bedrooms and a bathroom in the existing space. We chose the latter. The kids’ rooms will have okay floor space, but we will have to get creative with the angled ceilings. That doesn’t really bother us, in fact, we actually look forward to working with the oddly shaped rooms.
2. We wanted the kitchen in the back. This meant that we would have to expand the kitchen and absorb the space currently taken up by the pantry and bathroom. This would create a 13′ x 20′ kitchen. Big enough to include a table and even a small island. Of course there is also a consequence for this… We have to relocate the bathroom and we lose a large historic pantry.
3. We wanted to restore the original circular floor plan. This was easily accomplished (just a swift kick), taking down the drywall that plugged up the old opening between the two rooms.
We have not finalized our floor plans yet, but we are getting closer. We think we have an arrangement upstairs that will fit the three bedrooms and a bathroom. We also think we have a good spot for the downstairs bathroom. The big item remaining is the stairs. We know where it is generally going to go but we might need to move it 12-16 inches (which would mean moving a wall upstairs). Hopefully we will have this figured out within the next week or two.
In meantime, no reason we can’t start demo on the kitchen…
Follow our story and read the next post here: Finally! We get to do something.
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