Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kate's Renovation: The Plans

Client projects have kept me busy, so this post is a bit more delayed than originally planned. I'm playing catch-up trying to get these up-to-speed with what is currently happening at the house. Nights and weekends have kept us busy with tiling both bathrooms upstairs and painting is starting to happen all over. Things are really beginning to take shape and moving in feels like it's just around the corner... despite an overwhelming amount of work that needs to happen between now and then.

Also! Our kitchen cabinets are partially installed. As is typical, they could only get so far before the countertops needed to go in, so our kitchen is sitting in limbo until slabs are installed next week. Quickly followed by appliances.

But I'm ahead of myself, because before any of this could happen, we had to re-arrange things and create some new spaces.

The Basement:
If you recall, the basement was virtually a box with a few support walls in places. We've planned ahead for the future by marking off some space that can someday be a 4th bedroom (after it meets all egress requirements for safety (until then, it's open studs)).

We've made a mudroom that will act as a wet entrance from our alley and backyard. The mudroom also has a shop space off of it that will be the home base for all of our future projects (the list is long). Also, with a very "vintage" garage, it's the best place for tools and time spent improving. For a future owner with little use for a workshop, it can function as a store room.

You'll see that all our systems moved in to the two closets that were already here, but underutilized. We've moved to a tankless hot water heater and an air-handler for our heat pump.

At the base of our stairs is still a bathroom, but now there is a small vestibule that leads to the future bedroom and a laundry. The rest of the basement will be devoted to a bonus room with a large finished closet for storage.

The Main Floor:
We've created some new spaces here, as thankfully, none of the walls were load-bearing in the kitchen and the re-arranging allowed us to expand the kitchen and create a pantry and powder. The circular floorplan was re-inforced as now you travel through a hallway to get to the kitchen, rather than crossing through a breakfast room. 

While it is a hallway with 5(!) doors, this was originally designated as the "service" section of the house, so it still feels very true to the original intention. We're wallpapering this hallway as well, since it's visible from the entry and kitchen, so while it's very much a public space, it functions on multiple levels and won't feel like you're in a different section of the house.

The kitchen now spans 16'-0" in length and with some thought, it was enough to eek out an island rather than a peninnsula. My husband and I both cook a lot and love to entertain, so having a kitchen with as much work surface was very important to us. Seeing it go in last week has us both gobsmacked -- we're walking around thinking we've won the lottery since our last kitchen was decidely a "one-butt" space. We practically had to climb over each other to accomplish anything.

 The Second Floor:
Looking back on the second floor, there was no master bathroom or shower and the closet space was awkward and small. Also, the arrangement left the "4th bedroom" useless. With some re-configuring, we've added another bathroom to the mix, as well as a walk-in closet. 

The arrangement of our windows, doors and floor joists didn't leave many options for the configuration, but what we've ended up with is ample for a city bathroom. The walk-in shower is 3'-0" x 5'-0" and the bathroom vanity has tons of storage for us, despite one sink. For us, it felt like one sink was a good trade-off for big drawers on a 5'-0" vanity.

The other change you'll see is the move to a French door at the top of the stairs. Originally, this door to the deck was through a bedroom. Changing out the short, wide windows to a french door has changed the landing dramatically. It's amazing what a difference it makes to the space and having the deck so accessible really makes the house feel bigger. We hadn't been on the deck in about two months since the old door came out long before the new one arrived, and it's amazing how great it feels to have it back. 

One last note: To preserve the classic layout of the 4 doors leading to a room in each corner of the house, we changed the old bedroom door to a linen closet. While we have some storage upstairs already, it will be awesome to have shallow shelves for towels, table linens and sheets that are separate from the household things I can imagine in the original deep cupboards/drawers. Sacrificing a little bit of the walk-in-closet was worth keeping the door -- anything to help this renovation feel as natural as possible. 

Woof, I think we're caught up on the plans. Maybe we're in store for some shorter posts in the future!

- Kate

Monday, January 4, 2016

Kate's Renovation: The As-Built Plans

For better or for worse, from the first moment we walked in to the house, we knew what we wanted to change. If we had been able to live in the house prior to renovating, maybe we would have come up with alternatives or we would change our mind, but in this case, the nice thing about having an idea immediately is that it gave us the courage to know we could make this floorplan work for us with some changes. 

The house is a very typical center-hall Colonial. The nature of this style of house makes for easy way-finding and lots of symmetry, which is wonderful. The downside is that making changes to it can be tricky given that everything has its place and a matching partner somewhere else in the house. The floors all have a very similar layout to them and are all generally the same size -- each floor is roughly 1000 square feet. 

The Basement {As-Built}:

Our intention was to basically close the basement door for 2 years and get to it when we'd recovered from the upstairs phase of the renovation.

That more or less has happened, but the door has by no means been closed. When we bought the house, we planned to switch out the oil boiler for a gas version and keep the radiant heat and corresponding radiators throughout. With more research, we learned that switching the boiler meant thousands in permitting, upgrades, and labor (the estimate was around $30k), so at that point we began to explore updating the system entirely, especially with so many of the radiators in crazy locations.

To do away with the radiators meant a clean basement, free of low-hanging pipes and the addition of a ducted heat pump system that could heat and cool the house more efficiently. Combined with the tankless water heater we installed, it means that the monster boiler and water heater (shown in red here) could move elsewhere and we gained useable space.

We also have had to re-wire and re-plumb the entire house (surprise!), so with all these decisions happening, we decided to frame in the rooms we planned on for the future and run the necessary plumbing and wiring to them. The new laundry got drywall so it would be functional for us in the sort-term and we'll finish it more as we get things upstairs crossed off the list. More details on that with the renovation plans.

Otherwise, the unfinished basement was more or less an open space, with few walls and a sad excuse for a bathroom (this was the only shower in the house).

Main Floor {As-Built}:

Walking in the front door, the dining room (with french doors) is to your right and living room to the left. Straight back is a 15-lite door leading to the breakfast room and a two-part powder bath. Typical of this floorplan, it makes a loop to access the kitchen this way, or via the dining room's swing door. 

While looking for a house, one of the top priorities we had was a main floor powder room. And if it didn't have one, where could we build one? Well, the house definitely had one -- it was massive and yet TINY all at the same time. The second doorway off the breakfast room was partially blocked by the edge of the kitchen counter and the freestanding range. This was a product of the house never having been truly updated to accommodate modern appliances like fridges and stoves. We know this because we tore out the original ice box and coal door that used to make the kitchen more functional. 

Also in the kitchen was the now-outdated chimney for the boiler. This run began in the basement and ended above the roof (4 stories in total) and it wreaked havoc on every floor's arrangement. In the kitchen and upstairs bedroom, it was plastered over to look more finished, but we lost almost 4 square feet to it on all three floors of living space. My vote was immediately to take it down. We did it in Susie's first house 15 years ago and I was hell-bent on getting rid of it here too. To my husband, it sounded exhausting and miserable, which he was pretty correct in thinking, but thankfully he eventually agreed and with the help of wonderful friends, it was only a weekend of disassembling and mind-numbing brick scraping (future retaining wall and patio: win-win). 

Finishing out the kitchen was a narrow hallway that leads to a back porch. This is the only access to the backyard, which backs up to a driveway and ally. 

The Second Floor {As-Built}:

Technically a 4 bedroom house, the second floor landing has perfect symmetry with all 4 bedrooms coming off the 4 corners of the landing. The rooms were all served by one 3/4 bathroom (toilet, sink, tub -- no shower). The tub could have had a shower added to it, but the windows in the bathroom hung into the tub, bringing up some issues of water and privacy. 

What we're calling a "bedroom" here could never have really been one, at least not by today's standards. It had no outlets and it had very little square-footage thanks to the master closet that backs up to it. It also had a wall hanging half-way in front of the window and the saddest excuse for a closet -- nothing more than a couple shelves. 

This room's fate rested on that of the master bedroom. How to get a better closet in, as well as an ensuite master bath? Neither the "bedroom" or the master closet were doing their job well enough to warrant a pardon, so I'm sure you can guess that these areas on the second floor have been where we focused our attention. 

This was another area that we told ourselves we'd demo for the sake of permitting and building codes and then shut the door on. We were prepared to lay down ram board and set up some rolling racks to use it as a closet in it's demolished state for the immediate future, but thanks to the changes in our plumbing and electrical, one thing has lead to another and we're going for it. 

Another thing to note is the access to a back deck via a bedroom. From the windows at the top of the landing, you can see a bit of Lake Washington and a great view of the street behind us. We're lucky enough to back up to some really beautiful houses, so (with some bias) we consider the houses to be really pleasant. It's also a great deck that gets morning light and during Seafair, the Blue Angles fly right over our house. We're making some changes here to allow for more public access to the deck, rather than directing into a bedroom.

We've got plans for the exterior as well as the backyard, but those will spring and summer projects. In the meantime, the changes to all the street-facing windows have left the house with a new look.  Thank goodness for neighbors who were so desperate for someone to rehab the house, that even this is an improvement to them: 

New windows, in progress

Next time: The renovation plans. 

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