Sunday, November 29, 2009

Well...It's A Good Thing We're Renovating

I just wanted to give folks a quick little update today. The hubby and I have been doing a lot of the unsexy pre-renovation work lately (reorganizing, packing, etc.). Well, he was up in the attic yesterday shuffling boxes around when this happened:

We now have a nice big gaping hole smack in the middle of the hallway. Oh well, at least we already had plans to replace the 80's splatter ceilings with beadboard.

More updates later this week on the prelim plans for the kitchen and bathroom (and maybe even a photo of a tile). The excitement never ends around here!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Prep Work

I'm sorry I haven't been posting much, but honestly not much has been going on around here. The hubby and I are sort of in this limbo phase right now while we wait for the house plans to be finalized. Once that's done, we will have to apply for permits, and then once that's done, we apply for financing. It's a long process, and if I had half a brain, I would have started this back in the summer.

Anyhoo, I thought it might be interesting to talk about the prep work the hubby and I had to do to get to this point. I don't know if many of you have worked with a designer before, but this is my first time, and I find it all kinda fascinating. The first thing you need to do is to figure out your own personal sense of style. It took our friends Lance and Will a long time to understand what they really wanted when they first went in to renovate their house. Being boys, they'd never really given much thought to design, so they wound up going to several show rooms and furniture stores just trying to see what appealed to them. Hubby and I were a bit ahead of the game on this because I have subscribed to Country Living/Country Home since I've been married. I already knew that I loved the American Country look, and I particularly loved the old fashioned appeal of old houses- so that definitely gave us a jumping off point.

Once you know what your style is, you have to find a way to get that across to your designer. Now, we had a leg up because our designer is a good friend who has been coming over to our house for years. Karen was very familiar with our taste and always managed to give us the perfect gifts- so I knew she would "get" what we were going for with the new house. Still, there was plenty more work to be done. I went through about 5 years of back issues of my magazines, cutting out anything and everything that looked good to me (floors, kitchens, cabinets, sinks, furniture, colors, etc). I also went through several design books and did the same thing (well, I scanned the books and printed the pages out). I took all these cut outs and pasted them onto paper, and put them in a huge binder divided up into sections (kitchen, bathroom, living room, misc, etc) and then gave that to Karen. The scrapbook is a great reference tool for both of us and once the renovation is finished it will be a great souvenir and "dream book".

But wait- there's more! Not only do you need to scrapbook the new ideas for the house, you also need to catalog what you already have. Hubby and I went around and took pictures and measurements of everything we knew we wanted to keep (furniture, electronics, wall decorations, rugs, etc) and "scrapbooked" those up as well. This will really help Karen when she sits down to design the rooms. She'll have a quick reference of all of our stuff, and it will make it a lot easier for her to work it into the overall design.

I'm not gonna lie, the scrapbooking process was a lot work, but it was "fun" work. It's very cool to look through those books and dream about what your house could be. I also learned some interesting things about myself that I didn't really know before:

- Keeping this house as historically accurate as possible is more important to me than I thought.
- While I have traditionally gravitated towards more of a country/primitive look, my eye kept going to more of an Arts and Crafts/Bungalow style.
- I'm way more girly than I thought, and I like little romantic touches in the home (like frothly little candle sconces).

I know that all the work that Hubby and I did up front to make the scrapbook is going to make the renovation process smoother and it will definitely pay off in the long run. So, if you have any plans to renovate your house, why not start your own scrapbook today? I promise you'll be glad you did it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Big Picture

Sorry for the delay on this post. It can be a little confusing following the plans for the renovation (even if you've been to our house before) soI really felt like you needed the visual aid. So on the left is a our current floor plan, and on the right is the brand new floor plan with spanking new addition:

So, what exactly are we changing?

In All Current Rooms:

- adding recessed lighting and task lighting
- removing the 70's splatter ceiling and replacing it with period appropriate beadboard
- putting in better crown moulding (right now it's all upside down picture rail)
- painting all walls, ceilings, and mouldings
- all four of our old fireplaces will get a gas fireplace insert that looks like coals burning when turned on (they were originally coal burning, not wood burning fireplaces)
- all fireplaces except for one will have a complete redo of the mantle (a 1980's builder remodel took the original beautiful ones out and put chunky fugly ones in)
- all hardwood floors will be refinished or replaced (we're not sure yet).
- the carpeted bedrooms will have hardwood floors put in (with possible large area rugs)

Reconfiguring Current Rooms

- Our current home office will become a master bathroom complete with LARGE soaking tub, open shower with rain soak head, two "his and her sinks" and a working fireplace.
- Our current junk room bedroom will become our home office complete with built in computer desks, built in cabinetry, built in book cases, a working fireplace and a nook for reading.
- Our current 1/2 bath/powder room will become a hallway coat closet.
- Our current living room will be closed off from our current kitchen and will become a guest bedroom complete with working fireplace (as I believe it was before).
- Our bedroom will remain mostly the same, but with the same cosmetic updates mentioned above that applies to every room in the house. We will push the wall out of our bedroom into our current bathroom/closet area and make two large "his and hers" walk in closets with a built in chest of drawers between them. It will also have a working fireplace.
- Our current kitchen will become a bathroom that is connected to the guest bedroom that we make from our current living room. It will feature a 1935 clawfoot tub we rescued from my Grandma's house and a stained glass window. Next to it will be a new laundry room area, and stairs leading up to our attic.
- Our attic will have an insulated room built into it for temperate storage.

Entirely New Areas:

- We are building 16 feet off the back of the house and that will contain our new kitchen/eating area and a large open "great room" for entertaining.
- The kitchen will contain a pantry, every fancy cabinet type you can think of, granite counter tops, stained glass windows (maybe), and a large kitchen island.
- The kitchen will also feature my Grandma's 1935 art deco stove. I'm going to have a normal stove to use for the day to day, but this stove will be functional and will probably get a lot of use during the holiday season.
- The great room area will feature entirely new furniture (our old stuff is crap), our 52 inch LCD TV, DVD player, PS 3, Wii, Tivo and some sort of Sound system. It will have windows with blackout curtains for a "home theater effect".
- The great room will feature a brand new gas fireplace.
- Off the back of the house we will have a screened in porch and a small deck for our BGE.

Now you can see why Les and I have decided that it might be best for us to just pack up and move during the renovation process (oy!). I know the house is going to be beautiful and so worth all the hard work, time and effort, but damn I'm already tired just THINKING about it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bathtub Musings

Okay I know I said that today I was going to describe everything we are doing for the renovation, but I'm sorta waiting on the hubby to scan in some drawings of our house to really help you visualize it. So, instead I thought I'd discuss the single thing that I'm looking forward to the most in this renovation- the bathtub. I have always loved taking baths. When I was a little girl, I would spend hours in the tub playing with my toys and tub crayons. As I got older, I felt it was the height of luxury (and coolness) to soak for hours while reading Seventeen magazine. Eventually I graduated to the hard core stuff and am now a full out scented soap and bath salts junkie.

So you can understand that it was quite an adjustment for me, a born and bred tub soaker, to buy a house with the world's smallest tub. Seriously, this thing is barely big enough to be called a tub, it's more like a "largish shower bottom". For 8 long years, I've done nothing but shower. Sure, I've tried to simulate the bathtub experience by using fancy scented shower gels, dimming the lights, and putting on a little mood music, but was nowhere near as satisfying as the real thing.

Now that we're getting serious about the renovation, you can understand why I've become a little bathtub obsessed. I watch movies and TV shows now just to check out their bathtubs. I've pestered poor Karen and Brett to death, making sure that they KNOW how important the master bathtub is to me. Heck, I even made Brett watch part of an episode of True Blood where Bill and Sookie are going in for a post-coital soak. I paused the screen and was blathering on about bathtub decks and mood lighting when I noticed Brett seemed a little flabbergasted. So deep was I into my bathtub mania that I failed to notice that I paused the screen on a shot of a hot naked vampire Bill getting into the tub.

So here it is folks- my ideal master bathtub, Nordic vampire included:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Hubby and I know how lucky we are to even be doing a renovation in these tough economic times, but what really makes us feel like we've hit the jackpot is the help we are getting from friends and family. As I sit here typing this, our contractor Brett is going around measuring our windows so he can put the numbers into his CAD program and come up with accurate drawings of our house. Brett is a prize beyond measure, an honest man and a contractor that you can trust. We met him through my Dad (he's used Brett on several of his business projects) and pretty much from day one I knew that we had someone working with us that cared about the project, cared about our happiness, and was passionate about getting the job done right.

With a project as big as this one, hubby and I knew we were going to have to the help of a professional designer. We are basically redoing our ENTIRE house (more on that tomorrow), and the thought of having to pick out every little thing from the mouldings to the light fixtures to the paint just scares me to death. That's why I feel very lucky to have the help of my friend Karen. She's a professional interior designer who specializes mostly in retail spaces and restaurant kitchens. About 9 years ago, she and her husband bought an old house in this very neighborhood and lovingly restored it to it's Victorian/Craftsman splendor. In a way, they inspired us to take the risk on buying an older home.

Now, Karen is an extremely busy person. She works full time, is the mother of a toddler, and she helps her husband out with his film career, so I knew that her free time is at a premium. It was with great trepidation that I called and asked her to work with us on this project, and I almost peed my pants when she said yes (although she would never know it because I was totally trying to play it cool). I KNOW that Karen will help us strike that delicate balance between preserving the history and integrity of the house while enjoying all the modern conveniences and luxuries. She has such a gentle, reassuring presence and a wonderful sense of taste that I know we can trust her implicitly. Karen is almost as excited about this project as we are (maybe a little bit more so because she doesn't have to pack up everything she owns and move) and she is definitely a budget conscious "eye on the prize" kinda gal. We are so very, very lucky to have her in our lives, not just as our designer, but also as our friend and neighbor.

I know that even under the best of circumstances, the renovation is going to be a long, laborious and stressful process. I feel so much better knowing that I get to work with great people like Brett and Karen. Together, we are really gonna make this house shine!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In the beginning...

So, I decided to go ahead and put up a "home improvement/home renovation" blog to document this oddyssey that the hubbers and I are about to embark on. I don't expect anyone who doesn't know us will read it, but years of conditioning in high school writing classes has compelled me to start at the very beginning whether anyone wants/needs to hear it or not.

So, about 8 years ago the hubby and I were looking for our very first house. We had been living in an apartment for several years and being "This Old House" and HGTV junkies, we were dreaming about rennovating some beautiful old house...some drowsy Victorian jewel with wraparound porches, clawfoot tubs, carved marble fireplaces, and beautiful fixtures just waiting for the love and attention it would get from our tender mercies. Bravely the hubby and I would stand side by side, hand in hand, working on the weekends and evenings to restore this beautiful house to it's former glory.

yeah, right.

So, we started looking around the Atlanta area at the older homes for sale, and we found that most of them fell into three categories:

- A complete crap hole with no insulation, no hot water, no central heat/air. These houses would require tons of work and masochistic tendencies to live there.
- An already renovated old house, usually updated with completely ugly (and pricey) ultra modern kitchens and bathrooms.
- A beautifully renovated old house that somehow managed to keep it's charm while being updated with all the modern conveniences. Oh, did I mention that these houses were inevitably WAY out of our price range?

So after being dragged from one crappy candidate to another on what had to be the HOTTEST August day Atlanta has ever seen, we finally got to our house.

Tucked into a charming Atlanta neighborhood filled with neat little bungalows, our house is actually an unusual type. It's a Pyramidal Folk Victorian. What this means is that it has a pyramidal shaped roof with a Victorian style layout, but it was built for middle class folks (so it doesn't have a lot of fanciness that most people associate with Victorian architecture). Our little house is strange indeed because it sort of straddles two major house styles. For instance, we have the classic 4-over-1 windows which is very much Craftsman, yet we have a very wide central hallway running through the length of the house which is most definitely a Victorian layout.

Anyhoo, when we announced to our friends and family that we were ready to get our first home, everyone told us that when we got to the right house, we would "just know it". I can be pretty analytical at times, and I tend to do a lot of research before I buy anything. I had a stack of about 20 "buy your first house you dummy" books by my bedside table that I had faithfully read cover to cover, so I had trouble thinking I would have some deep mystical attraction to a pile of bricks, mortar and lumber.

I was wrong.

After being dragged through about 40 houses ranging in age from Antebellum to the 1930's, I was tired, I was hot, and I was exhausted. I was not really in any kind of mood to fall in love with anything, and yet I did. Hard. We pulled up to our little house, and I noticed that the front yard had all these neat little rockscapes and flower beds.

Bumble bees floated along in the drowsy heat. The front porch looked cool and inviting, and I could almost see myself rocking in the front porch swing drinking a glass of iced tea.

By the second room, I knew it was the house for me. What attracted me to it? The house had a lot of little quirks that were just perfect:

- There are four fireplaces in the house, yet none of them work. This would be offputting to most people, but I loved it. We live in GEORGIA where you have maybe 3 cold (or even coolish) months a year, so you don't really need a fireplace. However, I really like the look of one- so I get the look of fireplaces without all the mess and fuss of cleaning them up? WIN!
- There hadn't been a whole lot of upgrades to the house, but the important ones were there. The house had central heat and air, hot and cold running water, hookups for our washer/dryer and perfectly functional (albeit tiny and extremely ugly) kitchen and bathroom.
- Did I mention that the bathroom and kitchen are tiny and ugly? Cause they are. You would think that would be a negative selling point, and it would be for most people, but I'm not most people. We went through several old houses that had added an extra $40,000 bucks to their price tags because they had recently renovated the kitchens and bathrooms (to their taste). At the time, the whole white-on-white-on-white Shabby Chic thing was really in and we saw so many stark white kitchens and bathrooms that I was starting to get a headache just looking at them. I didn't want to have to pay the money for remodeled spaces that I didn't like, so give me my fugly, tiny, functional ones any day! We can always remodel later (I didn't realize at the time that it would be 8 years later, but them's the breaks folks).
- The house is painted like a clown college. Every house we went to had beige walls, which is what the experts say you should paint your walls to sell your house. But you have to understand, I was coming off of 7 years of living in an apartment. 7 long years of staring at bleak white walls that if you blinked at them too hard would get smudges. The people who lived in this house before us were artists, and they were NOT afraid of color. Just about everywhere you look there are bright, overly saturated colors on the walls. Heck our bathroom has lime green walls, bright red cherry wood paneling and gold lame stars. To most people this would seem ugly, or at the very least, just too much...but to my color starved soul it just seemed LIVELY! BRIGHT! VIBRANT! Besides, you can always paint the walls later, right? Admittedly, after 8 years of just "living with it", I'm really ready for something a bit more subdued, sophisticated, and adult. Just no white or beige please.

So we got a good price on the house because they were selling it "as is". We moved in and told ourselves that in a couple of years when we had saved some money we would renovate it and make it the lovely old home of our dreams.

That was 8 years ago.