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hi November (or Govember)

A trip out west, election day and a sick girl.


I always know who she is missing more by who she asks for in the morning.

Today, it was Dad.

Trying to catch up this week.  Making long lists.

creating a perfect home in a not-so-perfect house

Unless you have the money to hire an architect full-time to design and document your custom dream home, you’ll find yourself stuck living in an existing house or picking out a model from a mass-home-builder’s short menu of available plans.   Basically, the majority of us including me live in houses that fall short of meeting our needs (and wants…God, how I’d love to have a mudroom one day!).  Whether those shortcomings have to do with lack of space, a weird layout, an open plan when you like cozy rooms, cozy rooms when you like open plans, small or nonexistent closets, unused rooms and on and on, there are things you can do to make improvements without renting a front-end-loader and knocking the whole house down to start from scratch.

My Clients (R and J) own a modestly sized Sears Catalog styled home. (We’re not sure yet if it is a true Sears home, but the one next door is!)  It is a 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath house with a Living Room (and fireplace), Dining Room and Kitchen as well as an unheated Playroom off the back which was once an enclosed porch.  They have one daughter (M) and one of them works from home full time.  See the existing First Floor plan and Second Floor plan.  They love their home in some ways, but not so much in others.

Here is their wishlist for the First Floor:

  • Open up the wall between the Living Room and Office (front)
  • Take the door going down to the basement and switch it to the other side of the stair in the Office (middle)
  • Open up the stair going upstairs to the Dining Room, adding a railing, balusters and a newel post
  • Expand the Kitchen into the Playroom

Here is their wishlist for the Second Floor:

  • Pop up a dormer in the back of the house and create a Master Suite (Bedroom, Bath & Closets)
  • Maintain a second Second Floor Hall Bath, possibly with a Laundry Area/Room
  • Maximize closets wherever possible

Because they are looking at renovations or changes to both levels of the house, a large package/consultation (7 hours +/-) was needed.  I arrived early (with latte in hand, of course) and the first thing I did was take measurements so that I could get outlines of their existing floor plans down on [graph] paper.  I then sat down with R for a bit to go over their wishlist so that it was fresh in my mind.  I spent the next couple of hours doing some sketches on trace trying to address the items on their list.  I sat down a second time with R to look at the sketches that I had done and get his feedback, talk about any new ideas and make sure I was heading in the right direction.  I did a few additional sketches in response to R’s comments and questions.  I did a quick exterior view of the proposed addition and spent the rest of the time tidying up all the sketches and reviewing them with R.

Continue reading “creating a perfect home in a not-so-perfect house”

making space for the good

I just LOVED this article written by the amazingly brilliant Danielle LaPorte on The Huffington Post.

How to Make Space for Quality to Show Up in Your Life

“Letting go makes way for something closer to your truth… which is always more beautiful. Always.”

I truly believe this because I’ve seen it happen in my own life and in the lives of people around me.  Whether it’s a chair, an entire house, a job, a relationship or a bad pair of pants you’ve got to let go and make room for better things to come.

Read this.  And then read it again.  (And then maybe go donate some stuff that you haven’t used in awhile!)



plan now! for a home (or work) renovation project in 2013

With the holiday season upon us, no one really wants to think about 2013 yet.  But if you are thinking about about a project in the new year to refresh your space (renovation, addition, redecorating, etc.) the earlier you start planning the better.

*If you spend some time getting clear on your goals and your budget, your project, big or tiny will go smoother.

*Also, the good contractors out there fill up their spring and summer schedules pretty quickly, even in our current economy, so the earlier you get in touch with them the better the chance you’ll get the work done at your convenience.

*Even if you just want to get one room painted, do the leg work now (picking colors, getting samples, making up your to-do and supplies lists) and as it starts to get a little bit warmer you can take advantage of the spring sales and get everything you need at a discount.

*Right now the big box stores are crowded with people buying their Christmas trees and life-size blow-up snow globes for their lawn.  But right after the holidays they will be empty and that is the perfect time to start pricing and sourcing materials, asking questions of the staff if you are planning on doing a DIY project and simply just getting educated about your project whatever it may be.

Check out my SMALL, MEDIUM and LARGE design packages for various size renovations.  These can help get you on the right track by giving you an idea of what is POSSIBLE and then also what you can AFFORD.

Ask me about custom designed packages for everything from a large addition to a one-room (re)decorating project.  Drop me a line here.


home design packages

If you want some help with a renovation or addition project at home but are either intimidated by the idea of hiring an architect or designer or think that you can’t afford to, check out my home design packages available in S, M and L sizes for different project sizes.  They are budget friendly and full of design goodness and value.

Click here for more info.  And email me if you have any questions.  I can also custom design a package just for you.

the weekend 12.06.03

our weekend

top: lots of playing outside enjoying the weather

middle: finally starting our very small garden, it’s about all I can tackle right now

bottom: there was some pool time today, despite it still being in the 70’s here, K didn’t care

Is it wood or tile? Walker Zanger Nature Collection

I love the look of this new tile from Walker Zanger.  Yes, it’s tile, “made with state of the art glazing technology”, creating an antique wood floor look but with the durability of tile.  I think I like the grey the best.  I’d love to see it in a mudroom at home.  Or in an office located in an old building or warehouse to bring in a bit of vintage feel to the space.

Any takers?

To see it close up, go to Walker Zanger and click on New Products.

(photo credit: Walker Zanger)


buy and renovate to get your ideal home

I don’t know if it’s a buyers’ market or not, but every time I turn around another house goes up for sale in my area.  Consider yourself lucky if you find ‘the perfect home’ out there.  Most times in some way, small or big, a home whether brand spankin new or historically old will fall short of meeting ALL your needs or wants.  But with all the inventory of houses for sale, prices are good which means you can buy something in the ballpark of ‘perfect’ and spend some cash to renovate it and bring it up a notch.  If you are looking to buy AND RENOVATE a home take a look at my home-buyer packages which can help you discover the HIDDEN POTENTIAL of a house/property and also determine if the improvements you want to make are FEASIBLE, BUDGET FRIENDLY AND MARKET SUSTAINABLE.

The packages are designed to be quick, painless (aka user friendly) and affordable.  I can also custom design a package for you.  And I’m always happy to coordinate with your real estate agent and/or general contractor.  Drop me a line.

You can check out a home-buyer session I did for a local lakefront property to get a better of idea of the process.

Happy Hunting!


home-buyer workshop :: lakefront

D and C are looking to purchase a lakefront home.  There are very few water-front homes available in our immediate area so it is a unique opportunity for them.  The lake is a part of a state park and the location is perfect as both of them love the outdoors.  The downside is that the house is outdated and neither of them are thrilled about how the house is laid out.

The 50 year old house is a one-story ranch on 2 acres (filled with mature trees and shrubs).  An attached garage was converted into a family room.  It also has 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths, an open plan living and dining area with a separate kitchen and study.  There is a partial unfinished basement, three fireplaces and an in-ground pool.

Their wishlist includes adding a second floor, creating an in-law suite on the first floor, updating and possibly enlarging the kitchen and building a detached two-car garage.  Finishing the basement and updating the rest of the interior are also on the list.  It could be an intensive 6-9 month project or multiple projects done over several years.

I offered them three options for the consultation: a four-hour workshop, two-hour workshop and a simple one-hour walk-thru (no sketches included).  They chose the two-hour workshop.  I met with them at the house and spent an hour getting a tour and taking some key measurements to be able to sketch out a ‘scaled’ first floor plan (meaning roughly accurate and measurable).  We talked about their plans for the house, how they might use the rooms, what improvements they would want to make and whether they could live with the house as-is until the improvements could be done.

After the walk-thru we met up at the local coffee shop so that I could sketch out a rough plan of the second floor and discuss their project further.

Their main goal was to get an idea of what spaces would fit if they built a partial second floor over the existing house.  The second floor sketch would work by building a stairway up over the existing stair (near the kitchen) that goes to the basement.  As you can see, even with a partial second floor there is enough space to get a master suite, two bedrooms with a jack-and-jill bath and a loft that can be used as a play space and/or home office.  With the construction of a second level, the bedrooms on the first floor could be renovated into a large in-law suite now or sometime in the future.

Other things that were discussed…

How can the living room, study and family room be used effectively or differently so that there is not redundant or unused space?

Should the family room be changed back into a garage?  It could, but an additional detached garage would still need to be built to store 2-3 cars, a riding mower and various other items.

The family room could also become a first floor master suite or an en-suite guestroom as there is a full bath there now.  Radiant heat would have to be added to the floor as it is a slab-on-grade and very cold.

Adding space ‘out’ instead of ‘up’ is not really an option because of side yard setbacks from the property lines and the close proximity of the in-ground pool in the back.  Adding up would also be cheaper because it eliminates the need for new foundation walls.

We talked generally about cost and I threw out a ballpark number for construction of the second floor and most of the interior improvements.  Their meetings with a few local contractors confirmed where I thought they might be relative to cost.

Using my real estate license I accessed our regional real estate listing system and looked for a few comparable properties to help them determine what a fair offer would be on the house as-is and what appraised value they might hope to achieve once some of the improvements were done.  At the time we met they had not yet hired their own agent, but that professional could have provided them with that information as well.

D & C saw the potential in the property and had a vision for what it could be.  I simply helped put their vision down on paper.  Following our workshop and their meetings with contractors they put an offer in and it was accepted.  They are now in the process of inspections.

Usually the architect or designer is the last person to be called in when a buyer is looking to purchase AND renovate a house but for a modest sum you can bring one in early to get a clearer sense of what can be done to improve the house and make sure all the ‘numbers’ work.

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