The Final Countdown: Can We Make It?

We have 16 days until we officially sell the Edgewood house, which means 15 days to finish Barton. Otherwise, we’ll be packing all of our belongings into storage and taking our baby, two dogs, two cats, and sorry selves to live with some poor soul right before Christmas. We’re trying as hard as we can to make our deadline, but even some of our contractors seem doubtful. Probably because the house looks like this:

It’s officially a disaster zone. But we have a plan, and if we can make it, we’ll prove to ourselves that we don’t need a general contractor to renovate a house. Especially not one who is unlicensed, as we found out that ours was before firing him (and wasting a month waiting for him to get everything up to code.)

After failing multiple inspections, we hired a new electrician to rewire the house, and we finally got the green light to move forward on Tuesday. Drywall started right away, and the kitchen was installed bright and early Thursday morning. It still needs hardware, counters, appliances, a backsplash, and shelves—but we’re pretty stoked.

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If all goes well, this house will look a lot different on Monday. Drywall is finishing up this weekend, Todd is tiling the bathroom, electrical trim-out is starting, and so is the trim installation. Next week is painting and refinishing the floors. Counters are set to arrive a day or two before we move in, after which we can tile the backsplash and add some shelves. Besides that, we just have a big ol’ list we need to accomplish ourselves, including trimming out HVAC, pouring a sidewalk, painting the porch, tiling the hearths, finishing out the closets, trimming out the bathrooms, and a bunch of other stuff.

Please send us your good vibes. We’re gonna need them.

 

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The Surprise Gut Job

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There are few things that can ruin a trip to Paris. One of them, we recently learned, is a text from your contractor saying, “I gutted your house.”

Luckily, this surprise news didn’t completely derail our vacation, but it did put a huge damper on the day, became a topic of frequent discussion for the rest of our trip, and made us extra eager to return home.

After several weeks of talking and negotiations, we’d officially signed with our contractor and gotten him his first check literally the day we left the country. We resigned ourselves to being completely hands-off for the first few weeks of the project, curious how much he would be able to get done while we were away. We were initially drawn to his ambitious schedule—he hoped to be completely finished within six weeks.

Things seemed to be going well until that gut-wrenching text. Our contractor was moving right along with our punch list—which did not, in fact, include gutting the house. The old plaster walls and trim weren’t perfect, but we were fine with them. However, he’d made the executive decision that the house would be better without them.

International calls were made, along with apologies and new agreements. Eventually we decided to let him finish up with phase one, repair what he had done, and reassess when we returned home (to put it simply).

We also decided to make the most of the situation. By taking out all of the walls and ceilings along with some damaged floors, we had unexpectedly been given a blank slate. So we decided to completely redo the electrical, add insulation, add new closets, and change the floor plan a bit. All of this while on vacation an ocean away.

The moment of truth came early this morning, when, heavily jet-lagged after a long day of travel, we went to check out the progress on the house. The walls have been opened up and the new closets have been framed out. HVAC, electrical, and plumbing are well on their way. Damaged floors have been repaired. The exterior has even been painted. It looks… good. Really good.

We have several weeks to go, and a lot is hanging in the balance, but we’re feeling good about where we stand. Here are some photos of where we are about three weeks in.

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Opening up the hallway.
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Starting to expose the fireplace.
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Opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and added French doors on the back.
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Framed out laundry closet.
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Oliver approves.
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Looking into the dining room from the kitchen. Todd removed all of the plaster on this side of the fireplace.
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Looking into the new pantry.
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Bedrooms with new closets added.
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This room will become a master bath in Phase 2.

 

 

The Barton House: Before Photos

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Some people would walk into a house like this and walk right back out. It’s old. It’s dirty. It needs so much help. But walking into a house like this makes us giddy. We work hard to look past the grime and the years of neglect and see the possibilities. And there are so many of them. We’re so excited to get started on this house!

First, the exterior. It doesn’t look awful, but we’ll be painting it (stay tuned for a post on choosing exterior paint colors), completely replacing the roof, replacing the front door, landscaping, installing a fence, redoing the sidewalk, installing porch railings, replacing the light fixtures, and doing other minor repairs.

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Inside, the layout is very segmented, with every room situated off of a main hallway. We plan to open this up as much as we can, including the walls between the living and dining rooms (above) as well as the hallway. This should brighten things up quite a bit and improve the flow dramatically. The fireplace will be a challenge to work around, but we’re excited about the wood floors and great natural light.

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Of course, the kitchen is a complete gut job (as it would be in any older home). But if we’re able to open up the walls between the kitchen, dining room, and mudroom, we’re going to have a ton of space to work with. We may be able to add a walk-in pantry, an island, and a little breakfast nook if all goes according to plan. As for the overall look, we’re thinking of using classic subway tile again, a nice slate tile floor in a herringbone pattern, quartz or granite counters, open shelving on one wall, and some really great lighting. We want to make this room a real gathering place in the home.

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There are technically four bedrooms upstairs, but one is very small without a closet. We’ll either turn that space into a master bath or a walk-in closet/dressing room, depending on how our budget shakes out.

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This is the current state of the upstairs bath. Unlike the Griffin house, we won’t be keeping the clawfoot in this reno. It’s just too big for the space, which is pretty compact. Instead, we’ll be adding a new tub with a tile surround. The downstairs bath is pretty much too small to photograph, but we’re hoping to do something fun in there, like a patterned floor tile.

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The bedrooms are all a good size, but as with most of these older homes, the closets are tiny. We could either eat into the floor space by adding new closets, or hope buyers will be OK with what we’ve got. We always lean toward the latter option, because we prefer to keep the square footage.

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This house has a great backyard with both shady and sunny spots. We’ll be removing that old balcony and replacing the door with a window. We’ll also add a privacy fence around the whole shebang.

Next steps: We’re getting quotes from contractors and starting to put together our budget and shopping list, with everything from tile and light fixtures to appliances and doorknobs. Luckily, we learned a thing or two from our last renovation, so this stage will be quicker—and probably more fun—than last time.

Want to see what’s inspiring us? Take a peek at our Barton House Pinterest board, which we’ll be updating on the regs.

Griffin Before and After: All the Rest

Besides the bathrooms and kitchen, most of the rooms in the Griffin house were in solid shape and didn’t require more than cosmetic work. This involved removing the carpet (oh, the carpet!), refinishing the wood floors, removing the radiators, repairing the trim in some areas, painting, and upgrading light fixtures. Take a look:

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Master

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Griffin Before & After: The Bathrooms

The bathrooms were a huge part of the 3022 Griffin renovation.

Let’s jump right in and start with the powder room, shall we? It was carpeted, for one thing, and the sink and toilet were way too bulky for the space. We gutted the room, refinished the hardwoods, and found a smaller toilet and sink that fit much better.

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Upstairs in the hall bath, we ignored the advice of everyone who told us to get rid of the clawfoot tub and instead had it refinished. We ripped out the tile and installed fresh new white hexagons, installed wainscoting, repositioned the toilet to improve the flow of the space, and found an adorable little pedestal sink that doesn’t interfere with entry into the room. We splurged on a beautiful chrome antique-inspired faucet for the tub. This is Erica’s favorite room in the house.

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That room was a big project, but nothing compared to the master bath—which didn’t exist when we bought the house. We took a dark, awkward room on the back of the house and converted it into an ensuite bath and laundry closet. This involved tearing up the tiles, refinishing the floors, and installing a new tile shower and large vanity. The room is truly unrecognizable from its original state.

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Griffin Before & After: The Exterior

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The day we’ve been impatiently waiting for is finally here: Listing Day!

It’s been a long, long time since we started this journey on a frigid December day. We had more than a few people act like we were crazy for taking on a major renovation project, but we saw the potential in this house from Day 1 and we couldn’t wait to bring it back to life. We had some surprises along the way, and it took much (much) longer than expected, but we learned a lot and we’re excited to do it again.

When we bought it, the Griffin House was hiding behind a cluster of prickly, deep-rooted bushes. Todd worked hard to remove them with the help of a few friends, and we replaced them with sculptural grasses, purple-hued bushes, and rosebushes. The exterior got some new shingles, a new door, and a fresh coat of paint with a subtle green tint. The backyard got some love too with a lot of cleanup (so many leaves!), a privacy fence, tree-trimming, and repairs to the shed.

She looks a little different, wouldn’t you say?

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Front

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Finding Fixtures: Balancing Vintage Style with Modern Needs

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via Simply Grove

In our own extensive real estate browsing, we’ve noted how light fixtures can have a huge impact on the feel of the space, so we knew we had to get them right. Cheap, outdated fixtures can really bring down the look of a place, while attractive fixtures, carefully chosen to fit each room, can be a major focal point. We worked hard to find light fixtures that fit the home’s historic vibe while giving an occasional dash of modern style—and fitting within our budget. Because as much as we’d love to outfit the whole house in Schoolhouse Electric lights, that’s just not in the cards.

Here are a few of our finalists that fit the bill for being attractive, functional and affordable. Obviously, we didn’t use them all in the reno—you’ll have to wait for the “after” pictures to see which ones we chose!

Department of the Exterior: Outside Improvements

We’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning up the exterior of the house and building a new privacy fence for the backyard. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane: This is what the house looked like when we first bought it:

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It was hiding behind lots and lots of old bushes, plus the home’s original wood screens and lattice were deteriorating badly. We debated just a bit before deciding to pull out all of the bushes, and we’re so glad we did—it really opens up the yard. Here’s how it looks now:

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As you can see, we also changed up the lattice under the porch. We’d seen a similar treatment on other homes in the neighborhood, and we liked how it gave them a little more modern look without going overboard. Once it’s painted black (along with the porch floor), it’ll match well with the house numbers and light fixture we’ve chosen, which are both a bit more modern as well. The style of this house is very versatile, which makes details like these fun to play with. Here’s a better look at the fence, which has totally transformed the big backyard of this great corner lot:

 

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We’re not quite done with the exterior yet. We’ve been waiting for a stretch of sunny days to get the house pressure-washed and the trim painted, and once that’s done we can do some landscaping and add our new fixtures. We also got a more period-appropriate front door that will bring some sunlight into the foyer—I just have to decide what color to paint it. Red? Cobalt? Something else? We’ll keep you posted.

Laying the Groundwork: A Very Messy House Update

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If you’re wondering why we haven’t posted in awhile, the answer is simple: Because the house is currently in shambles. Our contractors have been hard at work doing all the nitty gritty details like upgrading the electric and plumbing, installing new HVAC and removing the radiators, and framing out new closets and the master bath. It’s not pretty work, but it’s the most important part of this renovation project.

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The Kitchen. 
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HVAC going in in the dining room.
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Upstairs hall bath
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Framing in the master bath/laundry closet
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Todd and Matthew are slowly pulling out the old bushes.

The contractors still have quite a bit of work to do by our March 31 deadline (yeah—they’re really pushing it). Here’s what’s left for them to do:

  • Tile the bathrooms and install sinks/toilets/showers
  • Drywall the upstairs ceilings
  • Paint the exterior
  • Finish the electric/plumbing/HVAC
  • Refinishing the hardwood floors
  • And a bunch of other stuff

Once they’re done, we can take over. Here’s what’s on our punch list:

  • Painting the interior
  • Installing light fixtures
  • Building privacy fence
  • Installing the kitchen (that’s a biggie)
  • Landscaping

Who wants to come help??

Great News for the Neighborhood

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When we were hunting for a house to renovate, we always took into account the surrounding homes. Were they in good shape? Were any being renovated? Had any recently sold? For the Griffin house, we were encouraged by a home that had recently sold for an above-average price on the next block, and another that was undergoing a full renovation two doors down.

As we’ve started our own renovation, we’ve watched the house at 3018 Griffin come to completion and hit the market. The renovator, a local realtor, did a great job of maintaining the home’s historical integrity while still giving it a beautifully modern look. He priced it much higher than we expected—$324,950—and we held our breath to see when and if it would sell.

We didn’t have to wait long. The house sold within a day, for above asking price. This is good news for the person who put so much care into this renovation, and very encouraging news for us! Check out all the photos of the house here.

In related news, Zillow recently ranked Richmond as the fourth hottest housing market in the country for 2016.