This is the first of a series of blogs and projects based on our renovation journey of this unique Dutch Colonial home. We fell in love with it the minute we saw it and the journey from there to here has been one fraught with all kinds of frustration, creativity and fun!
It’s drawing toward the end of July. Every year at this time I long to pack a bag, throw it and a cooler in the car and head out on vacation. Last year we did just that and spent a thoroughly relaxing time at a lovely Michigan lake. This summer, circumstances didn’t lend themselves to a getaway. Our youngest daughter and her husband have been living with us while their new home has been under construction. This week they will be making the move to becoming homeowners. It’s a big, exciting step when any young couple purchases their first home together and Tim and I are very happy for them and proud of them for their planning and hard work.
We appreciate the love of home. A home is not just house and a house is not just a home. We all know a lot more goes into a dwelling than people and furniture. We really realize it now, as we have entered year three of renovations on our house. This summer, with most of the interior work completed, we undertook the exterior renovations. Home has always meant far more to us than just a place to eat and sleep. Our home is most certainly a creative extension of ourselves. We love to work on the yard and garden. Through all the seasons we spend a lot of time just looking at the trees while enjoying a cup of coffee. In the summer we settle on the patio – and now on the new little “coffee deck” that was added on just weeks ago. In winter, we bask in the warmth and crackle of a fire on the hearth.
We were attracted to this property because of the very true “location, location, location. We desired a quiet neighborhood and a lot surrounded by natural spaces. It's Dutch Colonial style appealed to our rustic hearts. Despite the fact the house was constructed in the early 70s, the basic footprint was well thought out. The major interior renovations were to completely gut and remodel the bathrooms, rethink the small kitchen and figure out a way to open the back of the house visually and logistically so that we could enjoy more of the view and access the outdoors more easily. We knew when we bought the place that it needed serious updating of surfaces and fixtures and major repairs to correct issues that occurred due to deferred maintenance. In our parents’ day, it was called “just letting things go.” The problem with just letting things like leaky windows, old water heaters and janky wiring go is that little problems can become big problems very quickly.
But, we have a great contractor, who, along with his partner, have stuck with us, made suggestions, been honest about what needed to be done first and worked hard to help us make our ideas become reality. From the copper roofed cupola with a squirrel weather vane and kitchen storage closet tucked under the stairs to the galvanized tub laundry sink, he patiently looked at my sketches and Pinterest photos. The two of them listen to my spur of the moment brainstorms with far more tolerance than my spouse does. When I'm asked “how high and how wide?” they follow my directions and descriptions that are transcribed with a lot of hand and arm waving rather than a set of actual measurements in feet and inches. Then miraculously - it's created! We have also appreciated being told when something shouldn’t or can't be done and why, and the honesty when breaking the news to us how much something is likely to cost.
When the guys are here working, I’m working, too, whether it’s being the official go-fer, painter, one-person cleanup crew or onsite decision maker. So, during this going-on-three-year process, the house has become my occupation. As a result, I really don’t wish to pick up a paintbrush for quite some time now. We hired a professional to paint the ceilings and up into the far reaches above the staircase, but the rest I did myself, woodwork, doors, windows and walls, inside and out – I painted them all. Fortunately, the younger two daughters kicked in and helped me when my energy began to flag and my enthusiasm needed a kick start.
Now we have a home that will require much less ongoing maintenance. The place is truly buttoned up. The roof is tight, the windows open and close smoothly, and no longer does the light switch in the living room turn off the power to the upstairs bathrooms. Dousing the lights and leaving houseguests in the literal dark while visiting the loo is a heck of a practical joke, but it is in the poorest of taste. Now I go about the daily tasks of living smoothly and easily and not a single day passes that I don’t feel appreciation for the guys' ingenuity and hard work. We are getting things wrapped up, with only a couple of small projects left to complete, some inside, and some outside.
I can’t begin to describe which project is my favorite – there are so many big and small improvements. Having lived in a lot of different houses and whittled down our belongings and really honed in on our needs, I had a good idea of what kind of storage we needed, where it should be located for optimal use and ways to make the tasks of daily life simpler and more enjoyable. So, I thought I’d share different before and after photos for some of my favorite reno projects. Please visit the Projects page for the first in the series: The Laundry Room Reno.