Thursday, September 29, 2016

The House In The Woods - Inside Before

I'll do a much better drawing to start working from soon, but until then I have a rough sketch to show how The House in the Woods looks right now.  As I said in the first post (A House in the Woods - Outside Before) THitW was originally two houses that were connected with one room that I'm calling the breezeway.  You can see clearly the small house in the back that had it's own kitchen, bedroom, pantry, closet, and a small porch.  The bigger part of the home up front is nearly a thousand square feet with a large front porch where you could wait out a downpour and not feel a drop.  It's BIG! 

It's currently a three bedroom, two bath house with a challenging layout.  But I like that.  There's lots of potential and plenty of great details to work with; wood floors, wood planks on the walls, and wood ceilings.  My first job will be coming up with a more efficient plan.  As I said before, I intend to open things up  and may even juggle some of the rooms so the Living/Dining/Kitchen are closer together.  The bedrooms being spread out is great if you have a house full of snorers, but what parents want their children sleeping on the other side of the house?  All the sleeping quarters need to be closer together.   

I also need to eliminate some of the wasted space and improve the foot traffic, which is always in mind as I redesign a home.  That breezeway is like a big hall with too much wasted square footage.  I also need to add a bathroom to the back of the house.  Bedroom #1 has a door out onto the porch, which makes me wonder if they used to use this room as some type of home office.  This front bedroom isn't accessible from indoors without walking through the bathroom so there's an obvious opportunity to make that functionally more practical.  There are plenty of closets, but they're sort of jacked up.  Efficient, practical closet space is a big plus when it's time to sell.  It's not hard to work in if you're thinking about closets from the start and I always am.  I have to squeeze in a laundry room too... at least dedicated space for a washer and dryer. 

The shuttered bay windows in the front bedroom.

The main kitchen is ready to be modernized.
The back bedroom has some sweet trim.

Kitchen in the back.  Pantry on the right,
door to the porch on the left.

Windows in the breezeway is a clue that
this used to be the outside.

The panels on the high ceilings cover up wood.  Nice!

Living Room

This reminds me of the days when we only had three channels.

This house is really dark inside because
of all the overgrowth on the outside.

Although I'm ready to start... I'm not quite ready to start.  :)  I have some other projects to finish first.  However, everyone keeps asking me what's next and seems as excited about this one as I am.  I'm still trying to decide the best way for everyone to watch me dig into it, but I'm figuring that out and it's going to be a whole lot of fun! 

Stay tuned peoples.

A House in the Woods - Outside Before  (Sept. 23, 2016)

Friday, September 23, 2016

A House In The Woods - Outside Before

I've seen houses like this for decades, but until now I've never owned one.  Mother Nature is winning.  She hasn't won yet, but it looks like she's already victorious.  She's not.  This house had a great metal roof system installed decades ago, I'm not sure if it's original, but it's done an outstanding job for a long time and that has made the difference for this special place. 

I'm so excited to clean up the property and give the home a chance to breathe again.  It's engulfed by trees, vines, bushes, weeds, and natural debris.  However, getting choked by the invasive plants are some grand oaks, pines, and magnolias as well as grape vines and flowering bushes that need room to thrive and bloom again. 

This Pig's Ear is like many old homes in this part of the country in that it's actually two separate homes that were connected together to become one.  The small house in the back is close to four hundred square feet and the biggest home in the front is nearly 1,150.  The small section that connects the two buildings, perhaps a large breezeway that has since been enclosed, is a little shy of two hundred square feet. 

I've been inside and know the conditions on the interior.  I have a lot of work to do, but this house has tons of potential.  I'm going to open it up and transform it into something extraordinary.  It will be a smart, practical renovation that I'll do in a way that honors the home's history, while making this house feel modern and cool.  There are plenty of windows which will make it easy to let the natural light pour in from multiple directions. 

The original little house in the back.

This metal roof is made up of multiple, interlocking squares of metal.

These delicate corner details are in surprisingly good condition.

The azaleas blooming in the spring.

The pictures on the inside are next.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Five Options is Better Than Two: Subcontractors & Political Leaders

Subcontractor involvement on my projects is critical.  I'm referring to the skilled tradespeople, experts in their fields, that come on board to complete a specific scope of work that could take hours, days, or weeks.  These folks are vital to what I do and how I do it and I'm mindful of their significance.  Because of this, I take the process of including them extremely seriously. 

This is how it works for me:  I make phone calls to invite the contractors to visit me on site to review the project in person.  When necessary I provide drawings and written specifications.  When we meet, we each ask questions, and I typically receive a written quote in the form of a standard proposal immediately or within days of this meeting.  These meetings are informative for both parties, but I'm keenly aware that I consistently learn a lot as I listen.  These interactions ultimately help me do my job as the General Contractor.  For the most part, I've grown to really enjoy these meetings and they're worth all the time and effort they require.  I'm happy when I can get one quote and thankful when I get three qualified numbers.  More than that is ideal and five proposals really does the job of establishing an accurate value for the work I need done. 

It would be frustrating for me to have five known contractors, with some restrictions that limited the process for evaluating them.  If for some reason, I could only have my face to face meetings with just two of the people, that would make my job unnecessarily difficult.  For example, if these chosen two were free to tell me whatever they wanted during the meeting, provide me with printed information, make something of a sales pitch, and talk or text questions.  At the same time, the other three contractors in this fictitious scenario would be limited to sending me a single email proposal for my review.  That's it.  Not an apples-to-apples opportunity for all the contractors, but from that system, I'd have to make my choice.  That'd be messed up and would make my project more difficult to complete and likely more expensive.  In addition, I suspect it'd negatively impact my schedule and that would cost money as well. 

Darrell Castle
Now, to bring in our current Presidential Election.  There are five candidates;  Darrell Castle, Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Trump.  The media is talking about Trump and Clinton everyday, all the time.  The good, bad, and ugly all day.  The obvious truth is, I'd love to be able to get to know all the candidates comparatively to how it happens when I'm working as a GC... with some sort of equality.  As a citizen, and further more as an American, I want as much information as I can get before I make an important decision.  I want to know about all the candidates.  Equal, objective reporting would be helpful for me and in my opinion it'd be best for the country. 

Jill Stein
After the Watergate scandal in the 1970's, the media began to be more cognizant of their role in our nation.  I won't go so far as to describe them as an addition to the tripartite established by the framers of the constitution, but they can serve as a substantial check to balance things out for the greater good.  I won't blame the media for the degradation that we've witnessed in our current Presidential Election, but I believe that our country would have been better served if they covered each candidate equally, shooting for something closer to 20% coverage across the board. 

Image result for gary johnson
Gary Johnson

When a home renovator is interviewing subcontractors,  two or three quotes is good, four is better, and five is awesome.  Five Presidential Candidates is equally ideal, but we need an opportunity to get to know them in news features, nationally televised forums or debates, and through interviews of the candidates as well as their supporters.  Maybe the same two would have risen to the top, but I believe we'd all have been better off if we'd had that chance to figure it out ourselves in lieu of having that decided by television producers.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Newlyweds' Cottage - Before

John Sr. and Maymie had The Newlywed Cottage built for their son John Jr. & his new bride Annie just before the U.S. entered World War II.  It was a little home with a living room, kitchen, and dining room on the first floor and the bedroom & bath up on the second.  The parents lived on the property just two houses down from the honeymooners.  When John Jrs. parents passed, the couple moved into the bigger house and rented out their first home for the rest of their lives.

When I bought the cottage it had been vacant for quite a while.  The layout of this small home was not too much different than it had been when the cottage was originally built in the early 1940's.  There were a few clear changes to the finishes inside and out, but in most ways it had been the same for three quarters of a century. 

This was a fun project.  I really enjoyed making the most of what we had to work with and I hope you all like what we ended up with.  Stay tuned for more.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Queen Anne-Craftsman - Before

A big question with this house early on was, 'Is the home built in the Queen Anne style or is it more of a Craftsman?'  Well, in the midst of the restoration we decided that it was a wonderful combination of both.  It was built during the QA Era (1880-1910), has a steeped roof that's a characteristic of that style, there's obvious symmetry in the original part of the home, and it has the definitive bay window. 

However, there are some nods to the American Craftsman or Arts and Crafts style of house as well; late 1800's early 1900's  construction, natural materials, dominant fireplaces, a spacious front porch, and built-in furniture/cabinetry.  Without knowing what the original owners/builders were thinking, I'm speculating they were influenced by both styles, so naming this Pig's Ear The Queen Anne-Craftsman seems appropriate as well as respectful to those who were responsible for building it at the turn of the twentieth century.

The QA-C was condemned with a handful of other run-down buildings in town.  However, the local historical society voiced their concerns which lead to them taking ownership soon after, saving it from a demolition crew.  After years of contemplation, the historical preservationists decided they needed to find someone to take over in the rescue effort and I was referred to them by one of my neighbors.  I looked up the home on Google Maps, called my contact, and a couple hours later I was walking the property having a serious discussion about becoming the property's owner.  The windows were boarded up, there was obvious water damage and wood rot throughout, and cracked plaster walls suggested serious structural issues.  However, I was drawn to the QA-C because of all of the potential I could see; 14 foot (13' 6") ceilings, six fireplaces with original mantels, originals doors and wainscoting, lots of great bead board, and clear evidence of structural integrity in the midst of deficiencies.  

This is such a great house.  I'm thankful the historical society intervened and grateful I was able to add it to my list of Pig's Ears.  What a great project.  Stay tuned to see how it turns out.