Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Deathtrap - Safety First for the Charming Cottage

As much as we loved living in this house, there was one feature that freaked me out - or as I thought of it, the Deathtrap!  The entry from the driveway is a tight little 3x3 square foot space with a few steps up to the kitchen and lots of steps down to the basement.  Even with a glass door, you can't see into the landing and when you open the door, you can pitch someone standing there down the steps (ask me how I know!).  

Side entrance - aka the death trap!!! 😂

And to close the door, you have to go up a couple of steps to get out of the way of the swinging door.  Such an awful design!!  But it's the door we used all the time, because it was so convenient for bringing in groceries, taking off wet coats, etc.

I really, really want to change this.  But does it make sense for an investment?  Probably not.  Once fixed, does this mean the house will sell for a more?  Probably not.  Will it create a big, spacious mudroom?  Probably not.  In fact, there isn't a real cost benefit analysis that makes sense.  But when I think about the safety factor, it's totally the right thing to do! (and this is why my profit margin isn't the same as a typical flip).

So forget about profit - we're going to fix this and here's the plan.  

This house has a one car garage, which is a fabulous feature in Maine.  We can't block access to the garage, which limits how big we can make this entryway.  

So our plan is to make it 2.5 feet deep and a little over 6 feet wide.  It will ensure the door opens safely.  It will also provide space for a little mud bench and hooks for coats and backpacks.  So it's not a big glorious mudroom, but it's 100% better than what is there now.  


 Ideally, I'd like to add a small window on either side.  This bump-out faces south, so it gets lots of sunlight.  Yet I can see the homeowner wanting to peek up and down the driveway, so windows would be a plus.  But of course windows limits space for coat hooks., so there is a trade off.  There are so many decisions to agonize over!!! 

An added benefit?  It will look pretty cute on this plain facade! 


In the meantime, I'm feeling pretty good about our plan and hope to get started soon (or maybe once it's warmed up a bit)!  

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The House of Built-Ins

If you buy a new house today, chances are it won't have much in the way of built-in cabinetry.  But when this house was built, that was a hallmark of a quality home - and this one has more built ins than any house I've ever seen.  And they're brilliantly tucked into what would be wasted spaces.  

Let's start upstairs and work our way down.  The hallway has this great built-in - with a large cabinet at the  top and lots of drawers below. 

The bathroom has a cute cabinet/drawer unit built into the space at the edge of the dormer.  Such a great use of otherwise wasted space!


The first floor has the two dining room cabinets that I've shared before.  The little one is built above the back of the firebox - again, otherwise wasted space that is now getting good use.



But the real treasure trove for built-ins is in the basement.  I don't think these are original to the house.  The knotty pine seems like a 50's update.  Maybe a previous owner was a carpenter - wanting to utilize his skills?

The first set is as you walk into the main finished space.  A couple of tall cupboards and a set of drawers.


There is another storage area tucked behind the door under the stairs.


In the laundry/utility room, there are so many built in spaces (this house must have been owned by a carpenter!).  Along the main wall, there are big cabinets built on either side of the brick chimney.


3 cabinets!!

The opposite wall has lots of cabinets, including one right above the laundry appliances.  Perfect for detergent and stain removers!



The back wall has an entire row of cabinets under the window.

Two sets of cabinets

And there is even a cute little door to open and check the oil tank level.  How clever is that?

I have to confess, I love all this attention to detail with clever storage space,  It's a shame it seems to be a lost art!

So, so clever!!!

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Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Sun Porch

My husband keeps reminding me that now that we are living in the 1898 House, I have the rest of my life to get everything done.  That's a good reminder with my broken wrist, since it's putting a big damper on all my plans.  

Thankfully, work is still moving forward to get the house finished.  The guys are focused on getting the sun porch done.  (You might remember this was a late 'phase 2' part of our plan.  We want to use it as it was intended - a 3 season porch.  So we saved it till later as we worked to get the main house completed, so we could move in.)  

The porch started as a low ceilinged add on at some point in the house's history - but the roofline looked funky and when we started investigating, we discovered it was infested with carpenter ants.  

So the job became bigger, as the guys got that fixed, but the end result created a pretty fabulous space.  Here's the change to the exterior.  So much better having that nice crisp roofline all the way across!!

But the interior - is even better!  We used the new roofline to create a cathedral ceiling.  And then we used some of the original ceiling joists to add beams across the ceiling.  It added so much character to the room!!


See the difference the raised ceiling made? The old ceiling height is still there at door to the dining room

The room originally had 6 doors - we managed to eliminate one of them, but it's still a major connector between the kitchen, garage, back deck, dining room and driveway.

My favorite feature?  The shingled wall.  It was originally shingled, but had been painted so many times, we didn't think adding new shingles could ever match the original.  So we started over with new cedar shingles and suddenly the porch had a totally new feel and character.  The warm wood tones made such a difference!!
Don't you love that cedar shingled wall?


My husband installed the ceiling fan this weekend (it's a very cool one with retractable blades when it's not in use).  Hopefully as my wrist heals, I can start setting up furnishings soon!


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Thursday, February 8, 2024

To Keep or Not to Keep

We had a 'Before' Open House a few weeks ago, so local folks could come take a peek at the house before we start demo.  It's always a lot of fun to chat with folks and get their thoughts on potential changes we are thinking about.

And it's always fascinating to see what their opinions are.  Case in point - the dining room has two built in hutches. One is full sized and the other is smaller, because it's built over the back of the fireplace.  

I want to open the wall between the kitchen and dining room.  But that begs the question, should we keep the big hutch?  Or tear it out?  It's obviously an original feature. In fact, almost every house in the neighborhood has one.


So I asked the folks at the Open House their opinion - and was a bit surprised!  

The majority said take it out!  It would enlarge the kitchen and cabinetry by 28 inches, but might restrict space for dining room seating.  The angled hutch wall provides more seating space. 

So what are your thoughts? 

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

New Project - The Charming Cottage

We moved into this house for what we thought would be 9 months, while we renovated a home for ourselves.  18 months later, we've finally moved out and can start renovating this sweet place.  We loved living here - great neighbors, walkable to everything and a fabulous, private backyard. 

The guys keep joking that this is the nicest SoPo Cottage house we've ever bought.  It doesn't have all the major challenges that many of our projects do.  But after living in it for awhile, I've got a good idea what needs to be changed to make it work better for modern living.  First thing that needs change - this kitchen!!


I shared some photos when we first moved in, but here is the whole set of 'Before' photos as well as a few 'After' of the exterior.  I got impatient and we updated the roof and siding while we were living there!!!

The foyer is pretty tight as you come through the front door, but you quickly note the wide staircase and the fireplace wall in the living room.


The entry always seems a bit dark, even on a sunny day

The living room is a nice size with multiple windows and original oak floors.  We installed an electric fireplace while we lived there, but our plan is to return it to a wood burning fireplace and move the electric one to the basement.


The dining room is charming.  The French doors open to a brick patio in the backyard.  


The previous owners added heat pumps - and while I hate the look of them, they're a nice addition for heating and cooling.

It has two built in corner hutches, one full size and the other is built over the back of the firebox.


The kitchen is surprisingly large for the 1940's (isn't that when women were the only occupants and there were doors hiding it from view?😂).  And I'm pretty sure these are the original cabinets.  They may have been great in their day, but they are only 30" tall (vs. 36" for modern cabinets), which our counter surfing dog thought was fantastic!!! 





I don't think the sink is original - probably a 1950's or 60's update.  After using it for the last year an a half, I can tell you it's a workhorse of a sink.  We'll talk a lot more about the sink soon!

Upstairs is a really small bathroom.  And yet oddly, the dimensions of the room aren't bad, it's just the layout that makes it so tight.  We can fix that!



There are two street facing bedrooms that are almost the exact same size - so I'm not sure which you would call the 'primary'.   

Bedroom 1:


Bedroom 2:


The third bedroom is small (my husband used it as his office), but it would be great as a child's room with a twin bed.


And then there's the basement!  The basement is like a time warp - my parents would have called it the 'rec room'.  It has all the hallmarks of the 50's and 60's - Pickwick Pine paneling, a big fireplace and a built in bar.  I'm guessing there have been some great parties down there! And it could be whatever the new owners want - a kids playroom, a man cave, craft room or large home office.  It's versatile!

Check out that bar!!! 


The back of the basement has the laundry, utility sink, boiler and lots of storage. 


But the basement has one other feature - a half bath!!!  Isn't it a thing of beauty?  Now that's vintage!!


And of course there is the exterior.  We updated the old siding with blue vinyl and PVC trim (aka no maintenance) last year.  The trellis on the front of the house (and the garage) is from a much older house that was a gift from a lovely friend.  


There is a one car garage with a bump out on the back for extra storage. 


And the backyard is pretty fabulous.  The round brick patio is bordered by stone walls.  The plantings provide amazing spring color with lilacs and beauty bush.  






It's a small yard, so little maintenance is required - and yet it has fantastic privacy.

So the guys were right - this is nicer than our usual SoPo Cottage starting point.  But it's going to get even better when we're done!




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