1/14/09

Reflections of A Remodeler

After two years and 6 months, I officially have baseboards. And to think, when we moved in I was convinced we'd have the place whipped into shape in one year (max). Pshaw. It cannot be done. Tearing down walls, reworking the flow and space of a home, decorating to reflect every family member's needs, killing bamboo in the foundation, it all takes ions of time and mega ounces of determination. I'm not saying this house is complete. But the sight of baseboards make me swoon.
I've encountered a few neighbors who've stopped by to inquire about our progress, where we came from, what we did, how we maintained our budget and our sanity. I keep revising my responses, editing my advice, and here's what I've accrued thus far in my remodeling experience.
Clear the space. If it's built-in or added, if it's not an exterior wall, either physically or mentally remove it. Imagination will take you a long way when remodeling. Because I'm impatient, and knew our budget was limited, I worked within the exterior walls of our home, not wanting anything to do with city planning, permits or adding to our floor plan. Recognize your limitations before you start. Some bonuses include raised foundations or attic space for rewiring, plumbing, moving a bathroom-neither of which we had in our case. Drawbacks can be open beam ceilings and a concrete foundation (both of which we have). Always consider a closet moveable space. Windows are a little more difficult. But windows can be replaced with doors rather easily.
Reflect on your family and your wardrobe. In order to make a home work for you, admire the qualities of your family. If you have three young children, than putting a giant glass coffee table in the living room is probably a mistake. But creating storage and "play stations" for them may be a more applicable solution. Are you tidy and simple, than modern may be attainable. Are you packrats who love knick knacks and tall stacks of books, try a more eclectic tone. We fell somewhere in between with the intention of erring on the modern side due to our wee tiny house.
Where is the traffic? This is a good question to ask when approaching a kitchen. Where does your family walk, chase, skip and hop around the room? Do you cook with a partner or usually alone? You may want to create more work/counter space than what's there. You do want to imagine the old kitchen with NOTHING in it besides walls (exterior)and windows. How could the space work best for your family? Do you need two work stations in the kitchen nook? Do you need a computer space or an office? Be realistic. You will not miraculously begin filing your bills just because there's no place for them to be stacked. Where do your kids like to play? Are they independent kids who spend time in their rooms or do they like to drag their toys to the middle of the kitchen where you're attempting to cook dinner? Is there a space where you can compromise? How can the arrangements grow with your children? Sure, a bistro table may seem like a romantic item to put in that awkward corner of your living room, but if you have a monkey child like I do, that bistro table is gonna cost you a trip to the ER. Save that vision for your retirement years.
Look at your wardrobe for inspiration. The colors you wear are most often the colors which make you feel happy, relaxed, confident, sexy, calm. These are the colors you want to surround yourself with in your living space. In my living room, I chose bright colors of both cools and warm tones (blues/greens and oranges/reds) which I thought reflected myself and my family. Hot pinks and bright reds for our vibrant girls and happy times and cool turquoises to both calm and give a fun beachy twist. In our bedroom I used oranges and deep taupes and beige, almost sultry with a masculine feel. Then I accented with silver lamps and lots of sparkly glass vases and candlesticks.
Have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. The first being those major items you cannot live with a moment longer, it must be changed/deleted/added. The second Plan is for items you really want to accomplish but the budget may be tight when you get to that point. Plan C is the dream category. For us, Plan C is remodeling the master bathroom and closet, a front patio deck, an overhaul of our guest quarters. Our Plan A began with a safe and kid-friendly yard for the girls to play in. Because we knew that if they were happy (and occupied), we'd be happy (and available to make remodeling progress).
Think outside the box. Not every home needs 4 inch colonial style trim, brushed nickel lever doorknobs and white hollow core doors. Study the architecture, the vintage, the soul of your house. Find some other homes that look similar. Gather ideas. Go for a drive, stalk your neighborhoods, buy magazines, step inside your library. Flip through the pages of 1 million home style pictures and sleep in your house at least 3 months before making any major decisions. Consider your roof, the addition or deletion of skylights, patios, bathroom vents, kitchen hoods. Roofing our house was the last thing we did after moving appliances, replacing skylights, and removing a covered patio.
My goal in this house was to make it the furthest thing from a track house. What's your goal?
For those of you considering or already drowning in remodeling hell, I hope this helps. And I do expect comments from any and all of you post, present and future remodel survivors. MORE TO COME...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

photos! we need photos!

Gabrielle said...

I agree-photos would make my advice more reputable. And as soon as my house cleaner finishes (yours truly, as soon as I finish this comment) I will snap away. Wait, we broke the family camera last month. I will...use my cel phone to snap away! Stay tuned! G