Get a Plan

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When I don’t have a plan, I get anxious. Everywhere I turn I see things that need to be done. Lights that are too dim, closets that are too small and wallpaper that is, well just bad.

Should I keep the original light fixtures or do they look frumpy? Can I live with the 90’s whirlpool tub or should I spend the money to gut this basement bath? Where do I put all my clothes? How many bathrooms do we really need on the second floor? How many do we need for resale? What did we get ourselves into?



Remember the chaos of back to school days when everyone was adjusting to new schedules and new places, often resulting in tantrums and tears? Remember the sense of relief you felt when some sort of routine was created? Kids like routine and structure because it makes them feel safe and in control. I need to create routine and structure for myself before I start throwing tantrums.



Porch Time With Kate

So now every morning, Kate and I sit on the front porch, sip coffee, and work on our plan of attack. We make lists that make us feel more in control.

Its helpful to live in a house for a while before you decide what needs to be done and what you can get used to.

You may also discover buried surprises like the backed up toilet in the basement, that lead to discovering tree roots clogging the old terra cotta sewer pipes that had to be rodded and jetted out, and then patched in 3 places ($8,000).

Which in turn leads to us discovering this. A deep brick cistern/settling basin. It was actually pretty cool. It cost us $2,500 to dig it out.

This house is in very good shape so for much of the existing house, it’s really a matter of taste and budget. After a few months living in the house, we edited (and reedited)  our  “Needs“, “Wants” (if budget allows) and “Willing to Live With”  lists.

Needs List

  •  expanded eat in kitchen with opening to living room (to be used as great room)
  • exit on garage side of house
  • master suite with bath and walk in closets
  • additional bath on second floor
  • get rid of dated wallpaper and paint colors ( especially decorative painting on ceiling)
  • upgrade electrical

Wants List

  • small mudroom on first floor close to garage side exit
  • second floor laundry
  • screened porch or small family room off of new kitchen
  • small porch off of master (I always wanted one of those)
  • remodel powder room
  • remodel basement bath
  • paint exterior  (ugh) with lighter colors
  • get rid of pecky cyprus paneling in study ( not original) and replace with something historically appropriate
  • turn 3rd floor of garage into a cool Wrigleyville theme indoor/outdoor party room to watch games in
  • replace fireplace surround ( not original)

I can Live with this to save money List

  • attic bath
  • newer ( but not appropriate foe time period) cabinets in the butlers pantry
  • concrete pavers ( not sure if Dave can live with those)
  • closets in existing bedrooms
  • existing wallpaper that is relatively neutral
  • slightly dated but nice hall bath
  • poorly finished basement with suspended ceiling tiles and cheap paneling

After all that emotional stuff was over, Dave came up with a 2 phase construction schedule.

Phase one: update the parts of the house that  we can’t live with that will not be affected by the addition:

  • hire an architect and make final decisions on the scope of project, and which rooms will be affected
  • take down awnings  to allow more light into the house
  • take down large trees close to the house to prevent further damage to the cedar roof and to allow more light in
  • develop design plan for entire house, to include color palette, cabinet colors, lighting and general style to ensure consistency from existing to new
  • upgrade electric and cable wiring (one outlet per  bedroom is not going to cut it).
  • remove/replace dated wall paper and paint walls to brighten rooms and halls
  • select and order light fixtures, window treatments, wallpaper and paint colors, etc for existing house
  • replace dated light fixtures and replace with more current fixtures that put out more light
  • remove/replace dated wall paper and paint walls to brighten rooms and halls
  • convert fireplaces to gas log lighter

The order here is very important. My impulse was to don some painters pants and start transforming the house the weekend we moved in, like you see in the commercials. Had I done that, the electricians would have destroyed most of my work when they upgraded the wiring and the trim colors I originally chose would have clashed with my future kitchen cabinets .

Phase Two: addition and remodel of areas affected by addition

  • expand kitchen and open to great room and dining room to improve flow
  • add small family room off kitchen
  • add mudroom and exit to garage on garage side of house
  • add master suite, including bathroom and closet
  • add small full bath to existing bedroom
  • add second floor laundry.

Believe it or not, this is the easy part.

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