Thursday, May 28, 2020

Renovating During the Coronavirus Pandemic

So..... we have a routine as we kick off our renovations.  The demo guys come in and we gather up anything that can be reused as they pull it out of the house.  Habitat for Humanity's ReStore comes and picks up the big stuff.  The smaller stuff that they can't use goes to Goodwill and other charities.

And then COVID came and I couldn't do any of that.

Yikes, I have a house full of stuff!!  Lots and lots of stuff!  So now what?
Enter Facebook Marketplace.  As many of you have noticed, I'm on Facebook a lot, but I really didn't have any experience with Marketplace.  It's their answer to Craigslist, but it targets people in your local area and is super easy to use.  On the advice of a friend, I decided to give it a try.

And it was amazing!!!  It's become my pandemic quarantine hobby!   (Disclaimer - I'm not trying to make any money on this - I just want to keep things out of landfills - so everything was offered for free.  It's been fantastic for free stuff) As I'm cleaning out the house, I take a photo of what's available and post it in about 10 seconds.  Typically, within 10-15 minutes I start getting inquiries and the item is gone that day.  I put it out in the driveway with the recipients name on the item.  Curbside, no touch delivery!!  Woo hoo!!

I didn't really meet these people, they just came and picked up what they wanted.  But thanks to Marketplace, they became temporary pen-pals (okay, social-media text pals).  And it was such fun!

Suppose you had the entire VHS set of Gunsmoke (more Miss Kitty than you ever remembered!!) that you need to get rid of?  Enter Facebook Marketplace.  My new Marketplace friend Joe was so excited about them, because he and the missus have a camper with a built-in VHS player.  They're always looking for something new to watch when they go on trips.  Well now they're going to have to step up their camping stays to watch them all!
Plus I found a couple other VHS tapes to keep them entertained!!  You might be noticing a theme to the former owners entertainment taste :-) 

Or Bill, who was trying to decide if it was worth filling up the truck for an hour + drive to pick up DVD's.  But he's a big western and war movie buff and when I told him there were 44 DVDs waiting for him, he decided to come on down!!!  He was happy, I was happy.  It's a wonderful thing.

There was a gal who is getting her first place and needed kitchen stuff.  I left out boxes and boxes of pots & pans, glasses, small appliances, etc. and she took it all.  Win-win!

The big appliances all went in a flash!!  They were in nice shape, so someone will get a lot of use out of them.

And then there was the gup who flips houses. He took a lot, including countertops, filing cabinets and this amazing WWII era metal desk - that I seriously wanted to keep, but had no idea what I would do with it.  It weighs a ton and has this very cool flip top - that was probably to hold a Selectric Typewriter!!!  I'm sure some of you aren't old enough to know what that is, but trust me, it was a critical business tool for many years.
Look at this beauty!  Probably weighs 200 pounds!
Vintage Corning Ware?  It was gone in a flash.
The pattern on the bottom?  1979 - the year Richard and I got married.  I still have some of that stuff!
Old bed frame, futon frame and other miscellaneous furniture?  They've gone to a new home where they'll be repainted for a whole new look.

I'm guessing we kept an entire dumpster full of material out of the landfill.  Stuff that's in new homes that are happy to have them.  COVID has made everything a bit more challenging, but this feels like a happy result!

What else has COVID changed?  Well just about everything and some habits are hard to break.  Handshakes?  Nope, can't do it.  And yet I find breaking the habit of sticking my hand out is almost as hard as not touching my face.  (but I do find a facemask helps remind me not to do that!)

Having more than one subcontractor on the premises at once?  Nope, we're trying to limit them to ensure people can work 6 feet apart.  That's sure to have an impact on our schedule, but keeping everyone safe is far more important.

We've kept a working sink so everyone can wash up with soap and water on a regular basis.  And of course we wipe down doorknobs and other surfaces on a regular basis.

Is this the new normal?  Well for the time being it certainly is.  But everyone has been supportive of the changes and staying safe is the most important thing we can do.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Introducing - Romancing the Ranch

When I reached out for suggestions to name our new project, I was overwhelmed with how thoughtful and creative you all were!  With so many great options, it was so hard to pick a single name.  But after a lot of consideration, I decided on Romancing the Ranch.  It seems to perfectly describe what we need to do!  And as you will see, this place needs some serious ROMANCE!!

Built in 1952, the house has had the same owner since the early 1960's.  That's a long time!  Sadly he has now passed away and the family sold the home 'as is'.  And like many houses we see with elderly owners, there weren't many updates over the years.  It's time for some serious investment!  It might be hard to see now, but it has so much potential!

So let's start with a tour.  On the outside, it's a bit quirky.  There is the main house, connected to a garage that's almost the same size as the main house.  My guess is there might have been a breezeway connecting them years ago - but that's been closed in, leaving a covered alcove in the front.  It's a nice spot to store the trash cans, but I think we can find better use of the space!

The back has a long deck with lots of windows to a big rear yard.  And since it's adjacent to a Nature Preserve, it's a nice quiet location.  By SoPo standards, it's a great big backyard!

Inside, as you step in the front door, you see the washer and dryer!  Not your typical location, so we will be moving that.

The kitchen was probably updated in the 1980's.  Dark oak cabinets and paneling - and without any direct windows it's a dark room.  

The former breezeway provides a bit more kitchen space, with cabinets and storage.  But it still feels tight and obviously needs updating.

There are only two bedrooms, which are a bit on the small side.

And those fans!!!???  People are always amazed that I can guess the height of the former owners - but seriously, it's not so hard :-) 

The only bathroom in the house had a large shower added at some point.  I'm sure it was an aid to the elderly homeowner, but it made the bathroom extremely tight.  We will be removing it!

So at this point, you're probably wondering why in the world would I want this house??  And this is it.  In the mid 1970's, the owners put this big addition across the back of the house.  It almost doubled the size of the house and provides so much living space!

The room is 16 x 26 feet with a gas fireplace and a wall of windows/sliders, out to the rear deck.
I know it's a bit jumbled at the moment, but trust me, it's going to be fantastic!
See the waterfall picture?  It's embedded into the window frame of the original exterior window!  Clever!
But there's more!  The house has a HUGE, dry basement.  And while there isn't usually a lot of interest in finished basements in this area, the coronavirus pandemic has changed that.  There are two big rooms that can be a way of getting away from it all - whether it's a home office, playroom, craft room - whatever!  Wanna hide from your kids?  There's room for that!  Wanna watch a TV show your husband will hate?  There's room for that!  Want a pool table in the basement?  There's room for that!
You can see the nicotine stains on the walls, where the old pictures were taken down
But it will take some work.  The first room at the bottom of the staircase was used as an office.  It has some nice bookcases, but a low ceiling makes it feel cramped (not sure what we will find under all that ceiling tile!).  Does anyone need some C++ programming texts?  We have lots!

Next is the boiler room, that also has a whole house vacuum, oil tank, washer and dryer.   And look at the big workbench - that's pretty cool!  Oh and more bookshelves, this was home to a book lover!

And the surprise space - this huge workroom.  When they built the big addition in the 1970's, they also dug out a full basement.  That's pretty unusual, but it's a fabulous space.

Want some old VCR's that have most of their parts?
The previous owner ran an electronics repair business out of here (does anyone need 22 VCR's that were used for parts???).  I'm not quite sure if we'll find any treasures mixed in all this stuff - but it's a huge space.

And finally, there's a large garage.  The garage door is oversized for a single car.  And the separate door next to it appears to have been the primary entrance used by the owners.  There's lots of space in there!

Throughout the house we found lots and lots of VHS tapes, DVDs, art and books that focused on war and westerns.  Those were obviously his favorite genre - but it's time for a change! So we're going to give it a big dose of romance!

Stay tuned, we have a lot of work ahead of us!  And be sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook for even more updates!

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Centennial Cottage - Final Wrap Up!

It took 8 months to get to this point, but it was so worth it!  We took this 814 square foot house, without enough head room for tall people to get up the staircase - and now it's got 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, fantastic water views and energy efficiency for the 21st century.

The location is pretty fabulous!
How did we do it?  Well we couldn't change the footprint of the original home due to building codes, but we could build a new addition.  That let us solve a lot of the challenges - as well as introduce some critical new spaces.

Original staircase had limited head and shoulder room
Speaking of the staircase..... well this is how the project started.  Tall people (like me) had to do a duck-and-roll maneuver at the top of the steps.

Since we couldn't change the height of the stairwell, we decided to move it to a whole new location.  Look at it now!  We have a big open stairwell with a wall of windows overlooking water views.  And lots of sunlight streaming in!
New staircase is bright and open - with water views!

I know everyone is predicting the end of the open floor plan - particularly after being cooped up with their family during the coronavirus pandemic! But I'm still a fan of linking these rooms, especially when there is a little bit of separation between them.  In this house, the foyer and staircase separate the living room from the rest of the first floor.
The living room in the cottage is part of the new addition.  We opened up the entire gable wall of the house to connect the living room to the new kitchen.
Linking old house with new addition
The living room is a large room, with windows on 3 sides, bringing in lots of light from morning to evening.

We added a gas fireplace at the far end, which creates a cozy spot on a cold winter (or like this year - a cold spring!) night.  Window seats flank each side to provide both seating and storage space.

Don't you love the knobs we added to the doors?  I bought them when we lived in Amsterdam and have been waiting for the perfect place to use them!  I love them here!

Do you remember the debate about which marble pattern to use around the fireplace surround? Isn't this herringbone Carrera perfect?

Laurie Fisher's paintings look fantastic in this room!

Original lobster painting by Valerie Paul
And best of all, the staircase provides the link between the living room and the rest of the first floor.  With huge windows all the way up to the third floor, sunlight comes streaming in every morning.

The kitchen is a great place for the family to gather - so different from the original space.  You see, it started as the living room, hallway and staircase.  

Now it's one open space.  The only original element that remains - part of the old staircase, which is now the kitchen pantry!  See the steps and diagonal skirt board on the left? 
One room that stayed the same (well, sort of!)?  The dining room!  But we widened it a bit and added a sliding glass door out to a new deck.  See all the sunlight that streams through?! 

Best of all, with an open floor plan you need a place to get away.  So there is a first floor home office. Perfect for those telecons when you want to shut the door for some peace and quiet!

It has a full bath adjacent to it - which got a major update, we gutted it down to the studs and added new insulation to keep it nice and warm.

Upstairs?  Well, we have the new master suite. (Sorry, this is in the new portion of the house, so there aren't any 'before ' photos to share.)

Lots of storage! 
And the master bath is pretty nice!  It has a double vanity and a large walk in shower.

The original staircase is just a memory - we reconfigured the space with lots of storage space and a skylight to bring in light and ventilation.

And check out the two original bedrooms.  When we started, you had to walk through the bathroom to get to the end bedroom - not exactly a desirable entrance!  We changed all that by reconfiguring the  doorways, an improvement for both rooms!

We also moved the oversized closet to the other side of the room, freeing up lots of floor space for furniture.  Don't you love the nickel-gap knee wall, what a great spot for cars and trucks and things that go.  

The middle bedroom is almost a mirror image of the other bedroom. 
Bigger window and moving the closet made such a difference!
 In both rooms, the original window was too small to meet fire code - so we raised the dormer and gained a much nicer window with a pretty view of Casco Bay.

The other change in this room?  We moved the door and closet, which allowed us to recess the closet back and make the room much larger.  A nice improvement, don't you think?

And the original bathroom?  Well we gave it a MAJOR facelift!  We replaced all the behind the wall stuff - electrical, insulation & plumbing - as well as refinished the original octagonal tub.  Isn't it great?

One of the biggest changes to the house was the 3rd floor addition.  It's up in the treetops and provides a space to get away from it all.  I know I've talked about it a lot - probably because I love it so much.
Top of stairwell

The windows provide a great spot to watch the ferry going back and forth from Portland to Peaks Island all year long.

And the deck is a perfect spot for a cup of coffee to start the morning - or a cocktail to end the day!
Meadow view to the right, Casco Bay view to the left.  Pretty sweet!
It's kind of exhausting to look back at all the changes - which also included lots of energy efficiency updates, new plumbing, electrical, heat pump, etc.  This was a huge project for us, but so rewarding to see the final product.  And best of all, the new owners are just thrilled with it!

We've already started our next project.  Hope you'll follow along on the blog, Facebook or Instagram!

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