Wednesday, February 10, 2016

And Away We Go!!!

As luck would have it, our stretch of warm (almost springlike!) weather disappeared, just as we were ready to start the project.  Oh well, Mainers are tough, it's not going to slow anyone down!
We have a plan.  We have permits.  We have a demo crew and (drum roll please) we are ready to get started!  Hooray!

It's already exciting - and the difference after just one day is pretty remarkable.

First wall to get done - lots of plaster!
This is a load bearing wall, so it will get stripped of the old lath and plaster and then a temporary wall will get built to hold the load while the new engineered beam is installed.  It's a multi step process.  

Wall before
Look at how much the living room has changed by opening up this wall.  Now, as you walk in the front door, you can see the living room.  

Wall stripped of lath and plaster

And remember how dark the living room was, despite the porch windows along the front?  Well now the sun is streaming through, brightening up the whole room!

Ah, but you ask, what's the floor plan for the first floor?  That's finalized, so we can move ahead.  We're planning to open up a few walls, to provide lots of flow between the rooms.  That provides more options for furniture placement and will highlight the staircase to the second floor.

Still lots more to do, but this is great progress on day one.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Options for the Cherished Bungalow Renovation

For every house we have renovated, I have created an imaginary potential buyer for the house.  Sometimes it's an empty nester, sometimes it's vacationers 'From Away' (a term we use here in Maine that means you're from another state), and sometimes it's a family with young children.  I think about the needs of this imaginary buyer and keep that in mind as we develop and implement the renovation plan.  Many large retail companies do this, as they develop new products for their customers and it seemed like a good way to approach our projects.

But here's the rub. I have NEVER been right.  Seriously, you would think I could get it right once in awhile, but that clearly isn't the case!  So I took a step back and tried to figure out what I've learned with the houses we've done thus far:
-  100% didn't have children (either empty nesters or hadn't started a family yet)
-  67% were downsizing from a larger home
-  50% were single women
So my new strategy is to forget about targeting a specific buyer and think about how to create a house that meets some key interests.  The people I've worked with seem to want 5 key things:
-  Open concept floor plan - people want to move to smaller homes, but they want to maximize the space with a flow that lets them entertain family and friends
-  Antique charm - don't lose what makes the houses quaint and unique.  They aren't looking for new construction.  They want something that has a real history!
-  Modern amenities - but there is a limit to antique charm, particularly when it comes to baths and kitchens (nasty old plumbing will not do!)
-  Closet space -  this can be a tough one with an old house
-  Low maintenance - small yard, low maintenance exterior features

For this house, I was able to get some additional buyer insights.  When we held our 'Before' Open House the other weekend, I asked everyone to look at the 3 options for a new second floor design and to let us know which appealed to them the most.  One quick note - because this is a bungalow, the designs are a bit quirky thanks to the roofline slope and the knee walls.  So there are lots of limitations on what we can do, to make sure there is enough headroom.  What looks reasonable on paper, doesn't always make sense when you're faced with the angle of the roofline.

Option 1 - Leave the current roofline intact and finish the second floor as a large master suite, with 1 full bath.  The spaces you see around the perimeter are all behind the kneewalls - so not useful living space.
Option 2 - We had multiple variants of this (different locations for the bathroom), but they all add a large dormer on one side of the house and provide 2 bedrooms and a large bath.  At the Open House, I asked for input on options 2a and 2b.
Option 2a
Option 2b        

Option 3 - This option adds matching large dormers on either side of the house and includes 3 bedrooms and a full bath.

And the winner from the Open House marketing poll???  Interestingly, most people liked Option 2b.   A big factor was putting a large soaking tub in the dormer - which seems pretty fabulous!  And with two bedrooms on the first floor, they didn't really see the need to add 3 more bedrooms on the 2nd floor.  But a few people said they'd be happy with one large bedroom and liked Option 1.

There are some structural challenges with the dormer options (a structural engineer is helping to work through different approaches) and some city setback rules that may require a building variance - which can be a long, complicated process.  We're actively working through these issues now and hope to have a final approach soon.

But I'm curious - which Option do you prefer??

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Cherished Bungalow - Before Interior Photos

Good News!  The inside of this 90 year old bungalow is already charming.  It has beautiful woodwork, great light streaming through the windows, and original features throughout.  Our challenge is to retain that charm, while updating it with modern amenities and a nice flow throughout the living space.

So let's start at the front.  There is a nice bright sunporch that runs the whole width of the house.  It faces west, so it's lovely to sit here on a cold winter afternoon and just bake in the sunshine!

The living room is big, but has some pros and cons.
Pro:  A nice fireplace at one end and beautiful built in bookcases at the other.

Cons:  A long narrow footprint that makes it tricky to furnish, and with the sunporch along the front, the room is a bit dark, even on a bright, sunny day.  The fact that there are no overhead lights makes it very dark on a dreary day.

View from Living Room to Dining Room and Kitchen
There is a lovely, big dining room, thanks to a gracious bay window that faces the south - bringing in lots of sunlight!

And the staircase to the second floor is hidden in the corner.

The kitchen?  It's a good sized room.

And I love, love, love this original sink!!!  What a great focal point for the kitchen!  It's supported by a nice, custom built cabinet that will also be staying.

 This is the hallway that leads to the bedrooms and bath.  It's a really nice little space, that also has a door to the basement stairwell.

The first bedroom is in the back of the house and has two good sized windows (and drapes that I love!)

The smaller bedroom is across the hall.

And the bathroom?  Yup, it's pink!!!  It might be time for an update  Ha ha!!!

And the 2nd floor?  Well it's a blank slate!  We're still noodling over ideas, but it's so much fun to have a space like this to finish.

Last, but not least, is the basement.  It might be funny to highlight it, but at the Open House, everyone was talking about it.  Why?  Because for this part of the country it's amazing.  It's big. It's bright.  It's dry (with no funky basement smell) There is a high ceiling.  It includes a laundry area, with an antique soapstone sink.  And it has a nice garage at one end.  Seriously, in this neighborhood, it doesn't get any better than that!

So what do you think?  Lots of possibilities?  Thanks to all the folks that came to the Open House, I've got lots of great input for the design.  We're meeting with the structural engineer this week and hope to get plans finalized, so we can get started!!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Cherished Bungalow - Exterior Before Photos

So many food donations!!!  Thank You!!!
We had such a fantastic turnout at the Open House over the weekend!!!  Thanks so much to all of you who stopped by.  And special thanks for bringing so many food donations for the South Portland Food Cupboard.  Your generosity will really help a lot of folks in need.

We loved hearing all your ideas and input for the Bungalow.  It was fantastic to get so much input from people that are familiar with the neighborhood!  We're still working through design options, permit requirements and this week we're meeting with a structural engineer to determine key beam sizes.  So lots of prep work in progress!

For those of you who couldn't attend in person, here are some of the before photos.  As I mentioned in my last post, this bungalow is in great shape.  It's been beautifully maintained over the years and you can tell it was really cherished by its previous owners.  Of course, that doesn't mean  there isn't an opportunity to make some changes.  But we won't do many on the exterior, it already looks great!.

The first thing you notice when you see the house is the beautiful landscaping.  Stone walls surround most of the property, since the house sits on a little hill.  The previous owner was a master gardener and it really shows.  Hydrangeas, hostas, day lilies and more surround the entire property.

And while many homes look pretty blah in the winter, this one looks just as lovely surrounded by a blanket of fresh snow!  In fact, you can really appreciate the stonework and terracing that has been done.

Rustic stone steps wind up from the driveway, with beautiful plantings.

And the deck is a great addition on the back of the house.

One of my favorite features is the bay window on the south side - and the rustic stone fireplace.

Isn't she a beauty?

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Setbacks...... the Design Process That Will Never End

I don't think I've ever had this much trouble finalizing a house design.  We are now on Design Option #14 for the second floor.  And after a meeting with the city this week, we discovered we have property setback issues that will potentially create timeline setbacks.  Geezzzz.....

We have a no-dormer design.  We have a small dormer design.  A large dormer design.  And a double dormer design (requires a modified variance).  All of them give less than desirable ceiling height around the perimeter of the room (worst case is 5' 9").  But to bump up requires a major variance, that could take months to work through (and could look a bit wonky as well).

So I'm looking forward to lots of input from folks at Sunday's 'Before' Open House.  What do people in the area want?   One large master suite upstairs (for a total of 3 bedrooms in the house).  Or 3 bedrooms (for a total of 5) for a family with young children?  And of course my investment numbers are looking a bit crazy at the moment.  We can't get too carried away.

Are you local?  If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sunday.  Hope to see you at 180 Preble Street,  1-3 pm in SoPo! (PS - you can't park in front of the house, but it's convenient to park on the cross street)

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Design Inspiration - Mixing Upcycled Elements in a Warm, Cozy Setting

We were having lunch in a little cafĂ© in Amsterdam, when I fell in love with this design approach.  There was something so cozy and gezellig about the place (Note:  gezellig is a Dutch word that doesn't translate simply to English, but means homey, warm, and inviting - particularly when getting together with friends and loved ones).  Let's face it, we all want our kitchen to be gezellig.

As I sat there eating my salad, I tried to inconspicuously take some photos (so please forgive the photo quality).  I want to take a few of these ideas for the kitchen on our next project.    Here's what I found that I want to try and incorporate.

White tile with aged wood accents.  I love the mix of the high white gloss tile, with the earthiness of the old wood.  These hanging bread baskets wouldn't really make sense in a home kitchen, but maybe we could do some kind of shelving unit!

And look at the reclaimed wood on the back of the island!  This wasn't the only element they up cycled.  The owners proudly showed off the recycled marble countertops that they installed.  Marble, it's a classic touch.

Cream colored woodwork.  I was surprised how much I like this.  Typically I would use white cabinets and woodwork with white tile.  But this cream color really brought out an added dimension in a monochromatic palette.

Oh, and are chalkboard walls passe' now?  I do like them in a kitchen.

Look at this brass faucet hook - isn't it great?  They had these for people to hang their coats in several spots around the cafe.

Chunky light fixtures.  Love the industrial down lights by the windows. may be seeing some of these elements on our next project!

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