Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Custom Built-ins Provide Focal Point


One of the problems with the 1970's condo was it had no character.  Nothing.  Nada. Plain walls, lack of architectural features and clamshell molding means a boring house. 

So we wanted to change that - particularly as you walked in the front door.  But the project was so big - with much of the budget already defined - we didn't want to spend a fortune creating a focal point.  (BTW - the wall was so boring, we didn't even take a 'before' photo of it! πŸ˜‚) 

We forgot to take a before picture of the wall!!
The solution - create a fireplace wall.  Not that it would be easy, because a) there isn't a chimney and b) there isn't gas available.   But it would create some nice ambiance - particularly with our cold Maine winters.  

So the first challenge was finding an electric fireplace.  I know what you're thinking - they're cheap and tacky looking.  But have you seen any recently???  They've come a long way!   My friends found this one from Wayfair.  For under $200!!  Looks pretty great, don't you think.  And it has a heater fan, so it feels a lot like a gas fireplace with blower.

Source:  Wayfair



But we didn't want to just hang it on the wall.  That wouldn't give us the focal point we were after.  So instead we decided to surround it with nickel gap paneling (aka shiplap) and build a bookcase next to it. I laid out the design with painters tape, so we could arrange the shelving height.  We allocated space for a television, their books and favorite decorative items.   We furred the nickel gap out below the mantle, so we could hide the electrical cord and plug behind it. 


Oh - and one quick mention about the flooring.  There is a parking garage below the condo, so they needed something that could handle climate swings and a bit of soundproofing.  They found a cork backed LVT (luxury vinyl tile) that is AMAZING.  It has the look and texture of wood, but is a much more practical solution for this application.

Next, I went hunting for an antique mantle.  This old reclaimed beam I found at Old House Parts Company was perfect!  They have an amazing antique table and this color and grain pattern is an almost perfect match.  Lucky!!



The guys got to work and once it was all painted and everything installed - well, we think it's a pretty fabulous focal point!  The nickel gap paneling provides some nice texture.  And with the new door and moldings, it provides a bit of a wow. 
What a nice change from the boring blank wall that we started with.  Isn't this the perfect place to sit with a good book (or a Netflix movie) on a cold Maine winter night?


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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Condo Project - Before Photos & Plan

Dear friends of ours bought a condo, just before the pandemic kicked in last year.  It was BORING, but was in a fabulous location......and you know the old real estate adage - location, location, location.  They asked me to help with the renovation - promising I could make ALL the design decisions.  How could I say no?

How would you like this view from your kitchen window? 

So let's start with the location.  This place has water views.  Pretty gorgeous water views and access to a private beach.  Does it get any better than that?  But for some weird reason, the existing layout hid the views from sight, until you got into the not-so-exciting kitchen.  Obviously, we needed to change that.

The former owners really, really liked ceiling fans.  There were 5 of them - in a 2 bedroom condo.  And while it's nice to push air around a bit, they just screamed 1980's. 

See - no view as you walk in the door - but it's right behind that wall!

The floor was some sort of Pergo like laminate, which wasn't very exciting and had seen better days.

The kitchen was pretty dated with lights that didn't work - and another ceiling fan and my favorite, a boob light πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚!

A ceiling fan and a boob light - jackpot!!!  

And the bathroom?  Well, utilitarian might be the right term!


And the stained carpet and ceiling tiles???  Yeah, they had to go!

So we set out to update everything and make it a much more livable floor plan.  First step, coming up with a design.  We wanted to open up the view to the water, from the moment you walked in the door.  It's a condo, so we couldn't make any exterior changes (like bigger windows) or plumbing changes, but we could highlight what was there.

We needed to keep the utility closet in the kitchen.  It housed the electrical panel and hot water heater, so it's pretty important.  And it's so nice to have a washer/dryer in the unit, they stayed in the same location (because water and vent exhaust were already there!).  But we changed the rest of the layout, creating clear sight lines from the front door to the water views and enlarging the kitchen.  The owners do a lot of entertaining and wanted a lot of space for cooking and dining with friends (when we can do that again! Does anyone remember what it's like to have a party???). 

First step was opening up the wall between the kitchen and dining room (thankfully not a load bearing wall) and removing the cabinetry from the kitchen and bath.  The difference was amazing!  The old entrance to the kitchen will provide space for the refrigerator to be recessed.



 

Suddenly you have great sight lines as you walk in the front door - and the place feels twice as big.  They also decided to install soundproofing insulation in the ceiling.  A really smart move in a condo, that doesn't have a huge price tag.

The owners wanted to reduce the size of their bedroom a bit, to create room for a walk in closet (because with condo living, you can't have too much storage space!)

And the bathtub was replaced with this beautiful new shower featuring glass tile and a Carrara marble bath floor.

I'll be sharing some of the key projects we did and the 'after' photos soon, but doesn't it look better already?  Farewell ceiling fans, stained carpet and boob light!  πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚


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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

1950's Rancher Gets a Dramatic Makeover

As I went back through all the 'Before' photos of this house, it was almost hard to believe how much it has changed.  The small, separate rooms are gone.  The ceilings have been raised which make it feels so much larger.  And the exterior is almost unrecognizable.


So let's take a look back at how we got there!

The original 1952 house had been added onto a few times over the years.  And you could tell by looking at the exterior.  There were different types of siding, different elevations and it lacked any real architectural style.  Our goal was to create a cohesive look for the whole house - while also making some changes to the interior to make the house much more livable.  

We eliminated the original front door (the living room would become an en suite bedroom) and highlighted the new entrance by building a mock gable above it.  We also installed new doors and windows.

And then we re-sided the whole house, to give it a nice uniform look.  The mock shingle vinyl siding looks remarkably real, while providing a maintenance free exterior.

On the back of the house, we rebuilt the failing deck and added a couple of windows to bring more light into the kitchen and dining room.  Now it's a great outdoor living area for the new owners, with a big private yard and lots of space to relax and play.



There are just as many changes on the interior as the exterior, starting at the new front door.  This area started out as garage storage space - but now it's much more useful as a mud room to shed boots and all that outerwear that we have living in Maine (and did you see that floor???  πŸ’•πŸ’•)

I spent weeks stripping layers of paint off this antique newel post and balusters.  Doesn't it look great here?

The 'wow' moment comes as you go up the steps and look into the new living area.  With walls removed and ceilings raised, this space no longer screams '1952'.  It has a warm, welcoming feel with the big island that overlooks the dining and living spaces.

The key to creating this space was removing the walls from the original house.  It's a big job - requiring engineered beams to carry the new load.  But what a difference! 
One of the biggest changes was raising the low ceiling.  The new cathedral ceiling, with the antique beams that came from a church in New Brunswick, looks so good!

The old gas logs were torn out and the fireplace was returned to its wood burning origins.  We left the original bookcases - they were in good shape - but we added new trim once we raised the cathedral ceiling.

Can you believe the kitchen changes?  I'm not sure which is my favorite feature - 

the marble backsplash, custom stained glass cabinet, or the big pantry with its antique door.


But there is a lot more.  The original living room (which was used as a laundry room) was turned into a bedroom, by removing the old front door and adding a new double window to bring in more light.  



And the odd exterior alcove was closed in to create an en suite bathroom.


Bathroom - Before

The original hall bath got a much needed makeover.  A too wide shower had been installed at some point and made the walkway extremely narrow.  
Bathroom - After


And the two original bedrooms got new, larger windows to meet fire safety code.


But one of the biggest areas of change was the basement.  The previous owner had run an electronics repair business in the basement.  It was bursting at the seams with electronics parts, manual and stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff!  

We gutted everything and insulated the walls, before installing new ceilings and walls.  Now it's a bright, welcoming space that can be used as a home office, playroom, or whatever else the new owners desire!
We gutted everything (except the bookshelves) and opened up the thick concrete wall to the back area

Basement - Before

Basement - After - Same Photo Angle!  Can you believe the change? 





And finally, I have to mention the major overhaul of all the infrastructure in the building.  The house didn't have grounded outlets, so we had to rewire everything - including 10 hardwired smoke detectors.  We upgraded the insulation throughout and installed a high efficiency heating system - ultimately exceeding our energy goals.  And obviously the plumbing was updated with the kitchen and bath work.  While this isn't technically a new house - it's pretty darned close!
Best of all, the new owners love it and are happily making it their own home for many years to come.  So now we're moving onto our next project - a very cute bungalow!  Stay tuned! 
 






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