This is the second post about our home renovation project. The first one detailed the nitty gritty, excitement, and challenges we faced during the renovation. This one is much more of the fake-HGTV-Rennovation-Show post with the glamor shots .
We don’t really live in a Farm House (although we are utilizing some of the ‘farm house’ styling). I suppose the post title is a little bit of a misnomer- our house is really just a basic suburban brick house located on a street named “Old Farm Rd”. Hence the nickname I’ve been using to describe our home: Old Farm House. It certainly has an ironic ring to it that I like.
The primary living space of our home is a standard 3/2 ranch. We have a partially finished (at the moment) basement that will be some combination of airbnb, home gym, kids playhouse, hangout, and guest space. We have yet to do anything major with the exterior or the yard. It’s all a bit of a mess- Anything outside the primary living space is second priority. Maybe someday the basement and exterior will get their own post. For now, we’ll share what we’ve been up to over the last few months. So, without out further ado- the before and after shots of the renovation:
As cliche’ as it is, we really do spend a lot of our time in the kitchen. For our family, it certainly is the focal point of our evenings and the hosting area of our home. We love to cook, and eating with the whole family around the table is one of our top priorities. We decided to spend the most time, attention, and money here. The original home actually had a smallish kitchen and a tiny breakfast room. We ended up knocking down two half walls, adding an island (moving the sink & dishwasher to it) and combining the kitchen and breakfast room into a large, open kitchen. The effect doubled the size of the kitchen and added room for many more cabinets and counter space. In addition, the change added sight lines into the dining area, deck, backyard, and living room. Although the ‘open concept’ is in vogue at the moment, the functionality of the concept actually works well for our family and provides a sense of togetherness even if we are in different spaces.
The Living Room
Functionally, the living room didn’t really change much. Mostly we just cleaned up, added a few coats of paint, and some subtle decorations. Since we removed the ‘breakfast’ room and table, we adapted the living room into a wide open space with a large dining room table at the back. With the help of a good friend, I built a nice little farm table that can fit at least ten people for a meal. Although the big table/kids table system worked decently well, I’m looking forward to being able to have our family (and potential guests) dine together at a shared space. The toughest debate for the living room was the placement and size of the television. Ironically, my mind oscillated between not having a television at all and having a gigantic one that could easily be viewed 50ft away while grilling outside on the deck. Even determining how high to mount the tv and placement of the mantel were challenging. In the end, we bought a television that can be used when we host family and friend events (often centered around sports). It’s probably overkill but time will tell. Who knows, maybe I’ll be ready to throw the televisions out after a few months.
The primary bathrooms were decently functional however, they were old, extremely warn/damaged, and dirty. We started by gutting them and starting over. We added a new molded shower to the kids/guest bath, as well as a new vanity, toilet and lights. We replaced the vinyl floor with some nice tile. The master bath got a larger makeover with fresh tile, a walk-in tiled shower, a double vanity, and a fresh coat of paint. It was one of the most interesting and challenging projects of the house renovation, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the new bathrooms. One of the minor improvements was replacing the master bath door/frame from a 22″ door to a 36″. In the master we leave the door open most of the time so this made the space feel much larger and easier to access.
The bedrooms needed the least amount of work. Pretty much cosmetic with a few updates. Actually, it could probably all be boiled down to cosmetic but we did add some additional functionality with closet rack systems, working ceiling fans and overall decluttering. The biggest family change for us is that our kids now have separate rooms. After sharing a single room for the first several years of life, the kids now have their ‘own’ space. However, surprisingly, they are mostly indifferent to the change. They still spend time together, go to bed at almost the exact same time, and still wake each other up occasionally when they scream in the morning/evening. I will be interested to see if the massive increase in space will bring the extra stuff and junk that comes along with it.***
All of the interior got a fresh update. We started by simply repainting every square inch of the home. In our previous home, we painted each room a different color. In this house, we simply painted every room the same color and used different decoration schemes to make each room unique. We went with an extremely non-offensive soft gray. This provides a nice natural canvas and has a nice slight contrast with the white trim. We also replaced the overhead lights with some nice cans and updated all of the fans in the home. The worst project of all was scrapping the popcorn ceiling. It was extremely inexpensive, yet time consuming task that I dreaded. The overall effect makes the house appear much more modern but I’m not sure I would do it again (probably just replace the Sheetrock).
The second story of the home is a walkout basement. With full sized doors, 8+ ft ceilings and large windows, the basement was previously setup with 3 extra bedrooms and a bathroom. Although pretty low end, the space was ‘finished’ but poorly. So, we basically unfinished all the space and we are now in the process of putting it back together. We will turn it into a single room (or maybe 2) with a much nicer bathroom. The previous bathroom was pretty rough so it ended up being a complete gut job. The final finish will have a largish L shaped space that will probably end up being a playroom/game room for us and the kids. I’m actually surprised that the kids enjoy traversing up and down the stairs to get there. The basement is still a work in progress but we plan to finish it out with the same level of finish as the upstairs. I’ll be curious to see how much we actually utilize the space.
The exterior was one of the biggest selling points of the home. Although insanely overgrown at the time of purchase, the backyard includes about an acre of fenced in property with a small seasonal creek in the back. The home backs up to 150 acres of privately owned woods with some overgrown trails and a cool little abandoned campground. The exterior is the slowest project of all but mostly because it doesn’t negatively affect the function of the home. The exterior of the home is brick so we’ll start by just painting the trim and updating the roof. We’ll do some repair work on the back deck, fix up the covered patio and patch and resurface the driveway/basketball court. Long term, we plan on fixing up the backyard mini barn and rebuilding the once epic tree-house that graced the tree line. We’ll expand our garden and probably add a few chickens to the equation. The backyard has a ton of potential but will take plenty of time to complete.
Observations From The Big House
Our old home was a little over 800 square feet. It was full- but tidy and efficient. When its completely renovated, the new home will be somewhere around 2,700 square feet. That number doesn’t include a 400sf enclosed garage, 200sf deck, 200sf covered patio and unfinished space in the basement or the front porch. The change is a little shocking to the system. Although our family currently occupied about 1,500sf daily, the differential is pretty crazy. In addition to having the family slightly more spread out, I’ve noticed the change when it comes to the work it takes to upkeep and renovate the space. A simple paint job at the old house was a few hours compared to days in the new one. The yard has about 10x the usable space. Redoing the floors at the old house took a Saturday and it has been a multi-week project to do all the hardwoods at the new home. And the stuff. Suddenly, we have lots of empty space. Our old house had 10 kitchen cabinets- the new one has 32. We only have stuff to fill about half the current ones but the temptation is there to fill them up. In addition, our closet space has more than tripled but my clothes are the same as they were last week. I kinda like the minimalist aesthetic but I will be curious to see if all of those spaces get filled with stuff over time.
The Challenges Ahead
Renovating takes time and attention. I didn’t really think as much about this until we sold our previous home (and before we purchased the new one). We ended up in the strange state where I took a new job (40 hours) but I was finished with my full time schooling and didn’t feel compelled to do any projects around or outside our home. For a brief period, I actually felt a little time margin. I noticed that I got excited about playing with the kids after work, going for daily walks, working out, and building things out of legos. The nagging sensation of outstanding projects was minimized. Although like the progress of extracurricular projects, it can be tough balancing that with the never ending ‘home to-do list’. I’m still working out the logistics prioritizing on-going house projects, helping with the family, playing with the kids, and reading/writing/relaxing. I’ll probably do some experimentation over the coming weeks to figure out exactly what will be sustainable for the next several months as minor projects need attention.
Doing it all Again?
So, now that the renovation is mostly complete- would I do it again? The short answer- not for a while. I really like the final product our house has become. I think it really does look great and will be extremely functional for our family. However, at the mid point of the renovation, the pressure I put upon myself (combined with some poor family communication) was not healthy and something I don’t want to repeat in the future. I’ve learned a ton on the project and I’m pretty comfortable doing (or subbing) almost any household task. I love seeing the before and afters and I’ll certainly take into consideration the full cost of any project before we tackle another. Overall, I think the project made sense given the market conditions and inventory, so, depending on our next move, some level of renovation will always remain an option.
***It already has