Renovations

Porch Renovations: The Reveal

So, a couple of months ago I shared our plans to demolish an exterior staircase, restore the master bedroom balcony, and repaint the porch. (Cha-ching!)

Well, here's the update.

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No more John Deere Green Porch! I'm almost certain that it's not the original color I choose (it's much closer to the Steel color than the warmer Stone color that was our first pick), but it's grown on me over the last month. For one thing, it meets our #1 criteria: the extra grit provides enough friction to keep us all from a nasty death-by-slipping. The only downside is that you can really see the various droppings from the nesting birds in the eaves. This just happens to take place immediately adjacent to our front door, which is pretty gross. Another reason to hate birds...

... Not that I Need Any Encouragement.

While the porch color is definitely the thing I notice most often, the side of the house also looks quite different. The staircase leading from our master bedroom (on the second floor) to the porch below is now gone, and we have a complete balcony again.

And Now We Have a New Death Trap.

Eventually, the second floor balcony will have a rail around it -- similar to what you see on the main floor. We're having a bit of trouble finding railing that is period-appropriate (and buying it new is prohibitively expensive), so for now there is no railing at all. Just stay away from the edges and you'll be fine.

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The two photos above are from the balcony. They don't do justice to the size of the space -- you could easily put a dinner party out there. But maybe not until we get the railing up.

Prefer a video version of the balcony tour? Your wish is my command.

Next Up: Swapping out a Window for a Door

With EIGHT exterior doors, you might think we are crazy for adding another one. And, in general, you are right. If anything we need to be closing up the doors.

But in this particular case, we want to take out the window (the far left one in the photo below) on the side porch and install a set of double doors that go straight to the guest suite. 

That way, guests can enter their own space directly from the front porch, without having to walk through our entry way (via the front door) or through the backyard (via one of three doors on the ground level). We think it will provide a nice bit of privacy for both us and them.

And finally, one last look at the side porch -- this view is  straight from the front of the house. You can see one of the stairways down the basement (yet another exterior door!), as well as the lovely space to set up a couple of rocking chairs. Can't you imagine sitting in the shade with a mint julep in the summer, chatting while the kids run around in the final rays of sunlight? 

While I'm Gone

Note: this post was scheduled for mid-October, but I got distracted and here we are six weeks later. Just pretend that you're still getting ready for Halloween and we'll all be good.

I'll be away from The Manor for the next two weeks. While I'm gone, the most extensive changes to date will be taking place.

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 You can see that Emmie is very excited about the plans. So excited that I found her nibbling on the drawings shortly after this photo was taken.

You can see that Emmie is very excited about the plans. So excited that I found her nibbling on the drawings shortly after this photo was taken.

The first major change that we're making is to the wrap-around porch that covers three sides of our house. Right now it's a very bright "John Deere green" -- clearly not a historically-accurate (or aesthetically pleasing) choice.

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The larger problem, however, is that it is a death trap. As soon as it gets a bit damp it becomes slick. The first hint of frost, snow, or ice and it becomes an ice rink. We've already had one semi-serious incident with a 6-year old and a goose-egg head injury. With winter fast approaching, it has become our top priority. 

The contractors will grind down the existing concrete paint, then paint back another version--this time with a grit mixed in that will provide some necessary traction. So it's a 2-for-1 benefit -- we improve the safety of The Manor and upgrade the color to something less neon.

We're going to try the "stone" color (top row, second from the left). The contractors will spread a gallon of it and we'll get to check our assumptions. If we like it, they'll proceed. If we hate it, we can pick a second option (probably "steel"). 

Of course, it can't be that easy. We also have an exterior staircase on the side of our house that needs to be removed, and it has to be done before we can fix the porch. So begins the second half of our major project.

First, some background: When the house was a school, it needed lots of egress routes for the students. So they turned a balcony (from a room that is now our master bedroom) into a stairway down to the main floor porch. The placement was a little awkward, and the bottom half of the staircase covered the window into the guest suite's entryway. 

So, we are taking down the staircase and returning the balcony to its former state of glory. It will run the entire length of the house, with a door from our master bedroom. I hope that we'll eventually put some outdoor furniture out there, so that we can sit out and enjoy the early morning light. 

The project ain't cheap, and we're getting our first real taste of the money pit that is an "old, charming home."

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And the project price doesn't even include the porch railings (the contractors are still looking for historically-appropriate pieces from salvage stores), which are likely to run us another $3,000 - $5,000. Ugh -- my stomach heaves every time I think about it.

Hopefully, it will be completed (or nearly completed) by the time I return. I've left Bill with strict instructions to document each stage of the project so that we can share it here. 

What Major Project Should We Tackle First?

The small projects have already begun -- getting a new lamp here, re-arranging furniture there, installing 500 feet of goat fencing back there -- but we're holding off on any big projects for a year.

"Why a year?" you might wonder. Let me enlighten you.

There are many reasons to wait and ponder our options. Here are a few of them:

  • This is a gigantic house and it will take a while to get to know her -- her quirks, her hidden disasters-waiting-to-happen, and (hopefully) her pleasant surprises. Before we invest large amounts of time and money into upgrades, we want to make sure we're prioritizing the right things.
  • Plus, she's old. And it terrifies us to think that we might jump into something precipitously and ruin her charm. They don't make homes like this any more and we want to be respectful of any changes that we make.
  • Waiting a year means that we'll get to experience the house in all four seasons. As Bill has mentioned before, some of the options we're considering will have significant impacts on heating and cooling -- which are one of the biggest expenses we have (after the mortgage payment).
  • Oh, also, these projects are going to be expensive. And we need plenty of time to save our pennies before embarking on anything major.

So what are the major projects under consideration?

There are four major projects under consideration, each briefly described below. (These are old pictures from before we moved in -- just FYI.) 

 Renovate the attic -- finish the walls and floor, add insulation, and create a kids' paradise. The primary focus is to make this space livable year-round and help us better manage our heating and cooling bills.

Renovate the attic -- finish the walls and floor, add insulation, and create a kids' paradise. The primary focus is to make this space livable year-round and help us better manage our heating and cooling bills.

 Renovate the kitchen -- knock down the wall separating the kitchen from the breakfast room, add a double wall oven, gas stove-top, and side-by-side fridge and freezer. Create a massive island with a separate prep sink and seating for at least six. 

Renovate the kitchen -- knock down the wall separating the kitchen from the breakfast room, add a double wall oven, gas stove-top, and side-by-side fridge and freezer. Create a massive island with a separate prep sink and seating for at least six. 

 Renovate the backyard -- create a large vegetable garden with raised beds, build a better chicken coop and goat pen, put up a gazebo (?), create a patio space for outdoor dining, and do something with the remaining tennis court area.

Renovate the backyard -- create a large vegetable garden with raised beds, build a better chicken coop and goat pen, put up a gazebo (?), create a patio space for outdoor dining, and do something with the remaining tennis court area.

 Renovate the basement -- replace the dropped-ceiling acoustical tiles, pull down the ugly paneling, fix up the laundry space, upgrade the party kitchen, run better wires for the TV, and refinish the flooring.

Renovate the basement -- replace the dropped-ceiling acoustical tiles, pull down the ugly paneling, fix up the laundry space, upgrade the party kitchen, run better wires for the TV, and refinish the flooring.

Breaking News! Bill and Jennifer Disagree...

I think the primary focus should be on the kitchen, since we are there ALL. THE. TIME. Especially because we work from home, we're cooking in that kitchen at least 18 times a week. While I like the idea of all these projects, making the kitchen comfortable and functional (I mean, the refrigerator isn't even in the room!) is my #1 priority.

Bill thinks we should do the attic first, because he thinks we'll save a ton of money on lower heating and cooling bills. And because he is deathly afraid of wasps -- which are currently enjoying easy access to the attic through the un-insulated roof.

Your turn.

So, dear reader -- if you had a pile o' money laying around and got to tackle one of these projects, which one would you pick first?