Saturday, December 01, 2012

Transforming a house to a home -- in only 13 years!

We’re done!

Or so I keep telling myself, knowing full well that we’ll never actually be done because Tom can’t NOT work on houses. But we’re DONE with all the huge, intrusive, expensive projects. 

We are.  I swear it! 

(And I’m probably wrong.)

Just look how far we’ve come since moving into this house… way back when Aleks and Kat, our newest college graduates and youngest kids, were in kindergarten.  Have I mentioned that Tom does great work but he’s S-L-O-W?  (Maybe because he has a full-time job and only gets to renovations as his time and energy allow…)

Since we’re going WAY back, I’m gonna borrow from past posts (bolded) including this one from earlier in this blog.

“Tom is a total perfectionist when it comes to building and remodeling! The fireplace downstairs took him two years to build.

From this:


To this:


The upstairs fireplace took a year.

From this:


To this:


Our bathroom… Well, I don’t even have before photos, but here are a few “afters”:

IMG_4282 IMG_4280


And the downstairs bathroom went from this godawful mess…


To this (also over a period of more than a year!):



The yard?  Yeah, he transformed that too (with some help).

From the driveway, before:



From the front door, before:



And from the street, before:

During: Later:

After the yard was transformed, Tom worked on his man-cave:

Remember when Tom and Peter demolished our old garden shed last summer…


…and then Tom began building a writer’s retreat for me?image

(Carol? Wake up!)

Er, I mean when Tom started building his workshop man cave?


Well, somewhere during that period of time Tom got laid off – which meant that his literal man cave became a figurative one as well, and he threw himself into his new “job.”

This is the result:

IMG_0461 IMG_0467 IMG_0468 IMG_0454 IMG_0456 IMG_0458

Even the inside is amazing! Every surface is covered with peg board (which must be to men what shoes are to women).


The kitchen was the renovation that I dreaded the most – because it would have to be completely gutted – but also looked forward to the most.  That happened last summer, concurrent with our insane decision to get a puppy (who doesn’t appear in the following pictures, but looked something like this as our kitchen renovation was underway):


I’m stealing again from an earlier post. 

After more than two months of camping in our dining room…


…and two months of pretty much shutting down any communal living space…IMG_0307

…and after two months of Tom working full-time at Boeing during the day and then coming home to do things like move electrical and plumbing lines all the hell over the place and tiling a new floor and installing a new window, and a million other things that had to happen before the cabinets were installed, and basically bringing himself to the point of sheer exhaustion…


…we now have a delicious, gorgeous new kitchen!

But before I show you photos of the almost-finished room (almost finished because, although it’s functional, there’s a long list of things that still need to be done), you must sit through “process photos” because – well, because I had to sit through the process-process, and I’m just not gonna let you off so easy.

Where did we last leave off?  Ah yes, the wallboard was in and the floor had yet to be tiled. 


Tiling was a bitch.  I did none of it and I can still say that it was a bitch.  (Side note: all that stuff they say about remodeling being hard on a marriage?  True.  True, true, true.  Not that the word “bitch” touched off that thought or anything…)

Tom did the tiling over the long Labor Day weekend, and still he stayed up till 5 AM one morning and 4:3o AM the next morning.  I was afraid he’d drop from exhaustion!  It was a long and tedious process.

First Tom laid out the tile in the dining room, in the pattern he wanted to use.


He’s wanted to bring tile into the dining room for years because the hardwood floor by the back door was being destroyed by people and animals coming in from the wet backyard.  I thought this was a bit weird until he laid down this tile.  Once I saw what he was thinking, I decided he was brilliant.

Before any of the tiles could go down, though, the hardwood had to be removed along precise lines.  Aleks helped with this part.


Then Peter helped Tom install the tile.  Thank goodness for helpers!


(Speaking of helpers, the boys weren’t the only ones.  Elisabeth came over on her day off and helped me paint.)


These photo were taken at about 3 AM:


Or maybe it was 4 AM.  Or 5 AM.


(I had probably been asleep and thought to myself, ‘Carol, wake up!  There are important photos to be taken!’  Then I took photos and went back to sleep.  I had the easy job.)

Grouting was a dirty job. Mike Rowe and the production team from Dirty Jobs should have been at our house.  Except that I looked like hell and if Mike Rowe were to ever come to our house, I’d want my hair to be clean, I might wear a dab of make-up, and I’d find a cute blouse to wear… which would be completely inappropriate at 4 AM.  And plus, there’s something perfectly sexy about one’s own husband grouting in his bare feet at 4 AM.


Really?  This will look good at some point?


Lo and behold, it DID look good!


Once the floor was in, Tom’s 6-week push to prepare the kitchen for cabinets and granite was over and he could finally relax a little.  (And we started speaking to each other again.) 

Neither of us had any idea when we went into this how much work would be required to bring this kitchen…





Oh wait!  I can’t do the reveal till you sit through a few more photos of the process!

The appliances arrived…


Look at that!  They move those heavy appliances by cradling them between the two guys.  Pretty cool.


…and I was teased by having to store them on the deck for a few weeks.

And then -- the cabinets.  Ah, yes – the cabinets!  The work Tom had done during the previous six weeks – moving water and electrical lines, bolstering walls, running a gas line (OK, we had help with that) – hardly showed, and the kitchen didn’t look all that different from day to day.  Then suddenly, within a few days, this happened:


We contracted with Keystone Kitchens on the cabinets and they did an amazing job.  Talk about personalized service!  I’m almost tempted to have Chris and Susan, the owners, and Jeff and Tom, the installers, over for dinner.  But that might be a little weird. 

Things were beginning to move quickly at this point.  Within hours of the cabinets being fully installed (which took about four days), measurements were being taken for the granite using a very cool high tech machine.  And believe me, these were precise measurements, down to the width of a business card!  So cool. I do love meself some technology!


Two month previous, we had selected the exact pieces of granite we wanted in our kitchen.  The slab is called Stormy Night and it was love at first sight!  I loved all the movement and drama of this piece of granite.  None of this “all looks the same” speckled granite for me!


As part of their personalized service, Vince at Venetian Stoneworks even sent me photos and a video (which I’m not including here because it was basically one noisy shot of muddy rippling water) of our granite being cut as it was happening!  Did I mention that I love technology?


Here’s a video of their process, using a photo of the exact purchased slab.  

I could barely contain my excitement as the granite – perfectly and precisely fitted to our cabinets – was installed a week later.


(See how the granite pattern flows right off the bar and onto the counters? I so love that!)


And an undermount sink!  I always wanted one of those.


Once the granite was in, Tom only needed to hook up the plumbing under the sink, connecting the insta-hot faucet, the regular faucet, the disposal, and the dishwasher.  Good thing he warned me that it would take a few days and that there would be flowery language involved.  Both were true.

There’s still much to be done – all lighting, floor and paint touch-ups, the back splash, and a zillion other little things (15% of which, based on history, will never get done), but we now have a fully functional kitchen!

(Purely out of habit, I filled the dog bowl with water in the bathroom this morning and I went for plastic cutlery with which to eat my breakfast.  It’ll take a while for it all to sink in.  No pun intended…)

And now, finally, the unveiling!  Here are a few “after, but not quite finished” photos.  The first few are panoramic photos that I captured using a very cool iPhone app called Photosynth.


I love, love, love some of the features of the cabinets, like full-extend drawers that must have some hydraulic hardware.  Mad as one might be, these drawers cannot be slammed!  All by themselves, as if to say, “Calm down, dearie!”, they slow down and gently ease themselves closed.  Not that I’ve ever tested them.


And the pull-outs.  Oh, lordy, the pull-outs!  Every single cabinet has pull-outs.  I love them!


There are even pull-outs for my spices.


I have two lazy Susan cabinets, one for my new lusted-after cookware from Costco (yes, Costco’s Kirkland Brand, makes wonderful stainless cookware) and one next to the sink for my small appliances.


In our old kitchen, cookie and cupcake tins would fall onto the floor every single time we opened that cabinet, so this adjustable tray divider above the fridge is especially luxurious!


And then there’s the handy-dandy fold-out drawer for my sponges, allowing me to keep the sink area clear.


The leaded glass (actually fake leaded glass, but who cares, and who can tell?!) was created for us by Art Glass Technologies, another company that was a pleasure to work with and whose work is phenomenal!


I found the hardware at Home Depot (special order) for $3.49 each!  That was quite a bit cheaper than the $29 a piece we’d seen at one of those hoity-toity specialty stores!  I love the hardware and think it really gives the kitchen a classy Craftsman-style flair.


Ah, gas!  What a joy to cook with gas again!  Tom insisted on this (and it was an expensive royal pain to make it happen), and he was absolutely right.


More of the granite, with all its “visual interest.”


And the whole glorious room – which feels three times the size of the previous kitchen, although we didn’t expand the actual size of it at all!



Then we moved into the backyard and replaced the deck that was just about ready to collapse:





(They even replaced our long-since missing siding and expanded the size of our bathroom window!)







(What a mess!  I’m almost ashamed to shows these pics of immediately before we started on the new deck!)





(Look at all that wasted space!)



(We moved the neglected, so-far-away hot tub up and onto the main deck, where it will get LOTS of new use… especially during the upcoming bathroom remodel!)









There’s less deck now, but every inch of it is so much more useable!





Look at the seat/box they made for towels and spa chemicals.  Love that!









After the deck, we had just ONE MORE major renovation to do – a room that hadn’t really been touched since the house was built in 1978… a room that was dangerous because its walls were full of mold – the main bathroom!

How’s THIS for a transformation?!

From this:





To this:





To this:



This ugly moldy ceiling:


To a skylight (that was very much a last-minute thought as we opened up the ceiling):


I love, love, love this new bathroom!  Going for three months without a bath – which is my nightly sanity ritual – was excruciating.  But now… look what greets me nightly now!


Doesn’t that just make your whole body R-E-L-A-X?!

In between the big projects we had some smaller ones, like a mischievous cat-induced closet:

(Angel cat)


(Devil cat)


…should have been more guilt-ridden than he was.  In other words, a tinge of remorse would have been appropriate.  (Yes, I know he’s a cat and kind of a cute one too! but that’s no excuse!)

How could that little guy have caused all this, wonders Tom…


The mess he caused extended beyond just the closet!



He’s gloating!  I swear, he’s gloating.  Or maybe marking his territory?


Lest he have the last laugh…


(Thanks, Peter!)


(And Tom – who spent the past two weekends on this, full time!)


Look at that, he’s trying to TAKE CREDIT! 


And some transformed rooms, from kid rooms to empty-nester guest rooms:

At the beginning of the summer (2011), Tom got pneumonia.  Even before he was back to normal, he was helping Peter and Kat move into their new homes and then he did a complete remodel of Peter’s room, bringing it from this…


(on a bad day)


(on a good day)

…to this wonderful new guest room:


And my old office…


 became another guest room:


While Aleks’ old room…


…became a new office for both Tom and me!


Even our bedroom got a bit of a facelift in the form of deep merlot walls, thanks to Kat, while Tom and I went away for our anniversary (2011):


Those two six-foot skylights?  Oh yeah!  That was a project in itself! (I don’t think I ever even blogged it!)

We even had the roof replaced…


…but what fun is THAT?

So yeah, the past thirteen years have been busy ones around our house.  (Let’s not even talk about everything Tom did to our previous two homes that were brand new blank slates.  He transformed those too, at about the same pace, so suffice it to say that he’s been working on houses for our entire almost-30-year marriage!) 

I’d really like to say that we’re done with this house.  But this is what our front door looks like right now:


It’ll always be a split-level; there’s nothing we can do about that, much as we hate split levels.  But there’s no way we can call our home “finished” until this atrocious door…


…is a thing of the past!

Stay tuned!

(But first, come to Hawaii with us, won’t you?  We leave in about a week and a half and yes, I will be blogging it!)

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Tonya Watkins said...

Oh, woohoo, Hawaii! (I've never been there ever in my 56 years). I know what you mean about s-l-o-w. John sounds so much like Tom with talent and ability and know-how. But there just isn't enough time to get 'r done in a timely fashion. Our house is pretty much a wreck and needs SO MUCH WORK, but our heart isn't in it -- it's focused on the Harstine house. And John plans to work on much of it himself (mostly finish work) and it makes me nervous. He's no spring chicken, there is also SO MUCH that needs to be repaired/redone at the house here in Des Moines so it'll be sellable, and what he's signed up for at the Harstine house is daunting. I just...don't know. And I've never been through this type of thing before. I SO admire everything you guys have done! It's all just gorgeous and amazing. (I really want John and Tom to meet! I think they have so much in common!)

Carol said...

Tonya, John and Tom DO sound a lot alike! And they even work at the same company! (Who knows -- maybe they already DO know each other?!)

You MUST go to Hawaii! It truly is paradise! I was kinda dreading bringing my big ol' 17" laptop, but now I must, so I can post for YOU!


jennifer said...

So many great photos! I think the most dramatic change was your most recent bathroom remo. The moldy ceiling! Eeeek! The new one is gorgeous and has me thinking about re-doing my shower with a glass partition like you put in.

I agree, the front door's gotta go. I do love the pic of the 2 dogs looking out at you. And the dog "let me in" scratch marks on the outside!

Michelle said...

Carol it looks wonderful. If he does get the itches to remodel again. Just send him over to my sisters house. I know she would love it. Have fun in Hawaii. Wish I was going with you. Happy Holidays :-)

Anon said...

Nice. But still no railing on that scary-ankle-breaking set of stairs in the front?!?

Susanne said...

What a fantastic job you have done with your house. I absolutely love everything, inside and out!I know how much work that is, I admire you guys!What a joy it must be to do some cooking in that beautiful kitchen! Great job!
Greetings from Texas.

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