April 18, 2022
We bought our home in 2014. It’s a very basic mid-century ranch, built in the early 1960s. It has a walk out basement and is on a quiet cul-de-sac. When we first toured the home, the thing that sold me was the view from the back deck. The back of the property kind of slopes down so you’re overlooking a creek and so many trees. You can see other houses through the trees, and of course our neighbors on either side of us. But coming from a row house downtown, it felt like a park-like setting nestled in the woods and perched up above a little valley. The sun rises up through these woods, offering a sense of serenity.
As I walked through the house, I saw a lot of potential from the very beginning. Since then we have been working away at it slowly and through projects large and small. I have probably watched more hours of HGTV than should be legal, and so from the beginning, I envisioned an expansion of the master suite and a bigger kitchen renovation. Eight years later, we are finally doing it!
Our master suite reflects the original midcentury bedroom-bathroom layout. We barely fit our king size bed in the room! And, the bathroom is only large enough for one adult at a time (approx. 4′ x 8′). With the renovation we will gain a little space by absorbing the existing bathroom into useable bedroom space, which means I will be able to stand in our bedroom, extend my arms, and spin around freely!
We’re losing that old bathroom, but we’re adding on a 13’ x 16’ addition off the back to embody a new master bathroom and walk-in closet. The space will have a separate soaking tub and shower, double sinks, a water closet and a giant skylight! It’s thrilling to picture a bathroom my husband and I can share (vs. my daughter and I) and stand in together, comfortably!
The new walk-in closet will replace our current reach-in closet with original sliding panel doors. We will wall up over that old closet and open it up in the nextdoor bedroom, creating a much larger closet in that room (thanks, renovation!). We will likely move our daughter from her room into this room so she can have more closet space as she gets older.
And there’s more! We’re updating the kitchen with new perimeter cabinets, new counters and new appliances (keeping our current island). The new cabinet layout will allow for a much better use of storage space. One ridiculous aspect: the cabinets won’t look drastically different from what we currently have. They’ll be the same color with a very similar door style. But the current cabinets are all original boxes, with wood-on-wood slides for many of the drawers, and just a terrible use of space. We’re doing a few counter-to-ceiling cabinets that’ll serve to hide away countertop appliances. We will also gain a little length on the far right perimeter with a larger pantry cabinet. I am so looking forward to this renovation because every square inch of current space is at a premium!
When we first moved in, we bought a brand-new Samsung fridge for about $3,000. From that experience, I don’t believe things are built to last anymore, or you get what you pay for. That fridge has constantly broken down and hasn’t cooled properly for over two years. We’ve had several service visits, many hours of frustrated DIY repairs by my husband, and a mini fridge sitting in our sitting area for over a year (to keep things reliably cold like dairy). Over it!
Our current range is an NXR brand and has functioned somewhat well, but has also required at least two service visits in recent years plus a successful (but profanity-laced) DIY repair by the husband. And, our dishwasher is 18″ wide and sounds like a freight train.
So, I’m most looking forward to the appliances. It will be such a luxury to have a full-size dishwasher that washes quietly and blends in with the cabinets. Paired with a new 36″ Wolf range with griddle and Subzero fridge, I’m over the moon.
Because of the way the yard slopes in the back, under the addition will be a finished flex room with 8’ ceilings. We’re splitting that space into a narrow walk-in shed/storage area and an extra room to be something TBD. It’ll have double doors that open to our terrace area, so if we’re entertaining out there it may be fun to have easy access to game tables or an arcade game of some sort, especially as our little one gets older. This lower-level square footage also adds to our total appraisal value once complete!
Finally, the driveway will get its own renovation, and this is a pretty big overhaul. Our current driveway is a straight, pull-in layout – and it’s crumbling apart in many places (it’s also on a slope so weather has been tearing it up). Until recently, our front yard was entirely consumed by a giant 120’ poplar tree with the biggest mound anyone has ever seen. It was a beast to remove because it was 12’ from the road and the house, and even closer to power lines. On its own, that was a project we’ve been working to get taken care of since 2016, when part of it broke apart in a storm and literally shish kabobbed our roof. But now that it’s gone, we will re-do the driveway as a semi-circle layout for easy access and exiting.
We are just getting started on this renovation journey and based on our experience restoring from the storm in 2016, we know we’re in for a roller coaster. Already this process has taken far longer than anticipated. We started looking for contractors in late 2020, signed to take on the project with our contractor in February 2021(!). We’ve been through two appraisals, closed on the construction loan in March, and broke ground in April. Of course supply chain and pricing issues are scary. And, the current mortgage rate environment is heading in the wrong direction. But we’ve pushed forward nonetheless and have committed to making this the place we’re happy to call home for the foreseeable future.
Years ago when I worked for a homebuilder, I learned so much about homes and real estate – plus I just love homes and different floor plans (more on that here). They say that there are really three factors that go into buying a home: design, price and location. There’s generally something you can do about the first two factors. You can build a home to your specifications, or can take on a home renovation or remodel to suit your design preferences. For price, you can negotiate, you can borrow money from a bank, friends or family, you can try to make more money to afford the house you want, or you can search/wait for the right home in your budget in your desired area. But location is unchangeable. Land is in place and determines school neighborhood, nearby amenities, districts and daily commute time.
Luckily, the location factor was perfect for us. Price factor was doable, and that left design. I’m so grateful that we’re finally tackling this mega home improvement list – it’s making us all the more excited to spend many more years here.