The Hall Bath Remodel: before and after

The last time I wrote about remodeling our hall bath we had removed the old cast iron tub and an accumulation of squirrel nests that were no doubt as old as the tub.

Paul has worked with us on remodeling projects several times over the years and he was making great progress on the hall bath. With the tub removed, he repaired the rotten floor boards, updated the plumbing, and moved the drain to a more central location for a shower.

Once the new plumbing was in place, we covered it up (a collective gasp can be heard throughout the land). I wanted to create a more spacious powder room in lieu of having an extra shower/tub we didn’t need. In a small house, it’s nice when a room can feel a bit oversized (relatively speaking, of course), and we can always re-install a shower down the road if necessary since the plumbing is already in place.

Next up was the ceiling. We had planned to use a simple pine plank ceiling until Paul discovered our local Lowe’s also carried worm wood planks. We changed direction.

Healthy trees usually expel beetles by producing a defensive resin. But cycles of warm weather have weakened some of these trees preventing them from producing enough resin to ward off the beetles. Blue stain fungus spreads from the bark beetles to the Lodgepole Pine, Douglas Fir, and Whitebark Pine trees where the fungus works symbiotically with the beetles by turning the tree wood into nutrients. A byproduct of the damage done to the tree is this beautiful, eco-friendly, blue pine lumber streaked with a natural blue-grey stain, also called Beetle Kill Pine. The beetles don’t weaken or contaminate the wood and the fungi is burnt away during the kiln drying process. I’m totally in love.

After applying a light skip-trowel finish to the drywall and tiling over the shower drain, Paul had a family emergency. We pondered the situation for a few days and decided we could finish things up on our own since Paul had already left all the materials ready to be installed. It only took a couple of afternoon’s worth of work to finish things up.

We painted the walls ( a perfect shade of blue that I found on the Lowe’s OOPS rack) and installed trim around the ceiling, window, door and baseboards.

I’ve recently read that one of the trends designers are most ready to get rid of is the accent or “feature” wall. Sometimes we have to go our own way.

On my last trip to the E.J. Victor showroom in High Point, I snatched up 10 partial rolls of wallpaper for just $5. The box says it had been used in the AERIN Fall 2013 showroom, although I couldn’t find a photo anywhere to confirm this (Aerin Lauder is the granddaughter of Estée Lauder).

Eventually I realized wallpaper was the perfect answer for the awful blemishes on the wall behind the sink, and the fact that there was already a chair rail dividing the wall meant partial rolls were no problem.

We also replaced the light fixture over the sink with a pretty brass one I found on Amazon that looks sort of like a picture light. It’s considered a ‘make-up’ light and includes options for warm, natural or pure white light. I chose the natural light, but now sort of wished I had gone with warm. So many choices.

Paul had already installed an under-mount sink and faucet into our antique cabinet.

Most of our spare art and accessories are locked up in a small storage room while we finish construction, but I had stumbled onto an adorable poster last year and slid it under the bed for safe keeping. We opted for a traditional frame from the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $7, slid our poster in front of the frame’s original art, and carefully put everything back together.

We’ve had “Stinky” the tissue holder for a long time, and fortunately the console table was at the front of the storage room. I stained a simple dowel rod to hold drapes that had been in the master bath. Maybe I’ll add another accessory or two when we’re fully unpacked, but the hall bath is finally remodeled!

Renovation: Week 15

 

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Earlier this year we mapped out a plan to transform our cottage into the perfect retirement home. After twenty years of remodeling homes, and despite the skepticism among friends and family, we think we’re ready to stop remodeling – after this one last project, of course.

With one more room, the cottage would be the perfect home. We’d take down a few trees, level out part of the mountain, and there’d be enough space for another room at the back of the house. And while we’re at it, we’d upgrade the kitchen appliances and remodel the hall bath. Piece of cake.

A Conservatory and a Carport

After construction was delayed through the winter, the one-room addition finally has walls with windows and doors, a roof and electrical. By the end of the week, it should also have insulation and drywall.

The workers spent most of last week adding the batten-style trim to the exterior that will create a cohesive look with the original cottage. Then we’ll be ready for paint and a metal roof.

The Hall Bath

We must have been delirious the day we decided to go ahead with the hall bath remodel while construction on the addition is still in-progress. But here we are.

The original bath was unremarkable. We updated the toilet and the floor last year during the first phase of remodeling, leaving the original tub and wall-hung sink in place. . . a.k.a. perfume on a pig.

Demolition exposed nothing more sinister than mounds and mounds of squirrel nests – inside the walls and under the old cast iron tub. Once we cleared out the nests, we could also see the sub floor was rotten – and we reinforced those support beams that just happened to be holding up the back of the house. It could have been worse.

The tub was a historic beast.

When we realized our local Lowe’s store had a small inventory of wormwood ceiling planks, we quickly snatched them up for the ceiling.

We found an antique cabinet at a local shop for the vanity that we’ll pair with a sink from the Restoration Hardware outlet in Asheville. The question is to paint the cabinet, or not to paint the cabinet. . . ?

The Kitchen

I could have recovered from an injury and trained for a full marathon in the amount of time it took our stove to arrive. But it’s finally here, and we love it.

And I bit the bullet and replaced the sconces on either side of the kitchen (all six!). Even limiting myself to choices that were $100 or less each, it was a big gulp. But now the kitchen is basically done. Well, there may be one more thing or two. . .

The contractor had estimated construction would last just 16 weeks. It was originally due to be finished, in fact, on the very day it began. This one last project, and we’re definitely done. 🙂

A Cottage Update

We were only a few days away from the start of construction last December when I wrote about a planned one-room addition to our cottage. Then it rained nonstop. It was a miserable winter. Exterior work came to a screeching halt, and we spent the winter working on interior projects instead.

The Kitchen

September 2017: the kitchen and living room had been added onto the cottage in the 70s, and never touched again. It’s really better that way I think. The seller had left the cottage furnished, including a rooster in the kitchen – which you can barely see above the door in the photo below. The paneling had darkened around the rooster over the years, and I put him back in exactly the same spot after the remodel.

October 2018: our initial plan was to put the cottage on the vacation rental circuit for a few years. This picture was taken just before we changed our mind and decided to live here ourselves. The kitchen’s footprint is the same, but it seems larger with the wall fully opened to the living room.

I really loved the look of the kitchen, but it had practical issues. It was difficult to completely conceal the patchwork done to the paneling after closing off the original door and window on the back wall. A marble backsplash hides this world of sins.

The next issue was the appliances. Since the refrigerator was not counter depth, it extended too far into the room. Same problem with the dishwasher – when the door was open it was impossible to move around. The ice cream parlor table and chairs are adorable, but miserably uncomfortable and too small for everyday use.

April 2019: Over the winter, we replaced the standard dishwasher with dishwasher drawers, added the Bosch refrigerator with black glass door panels, switched out the chandelier, and exchanged the rug for a cowhide. We also re-stained the vent hood a shade darker than it had been, changed out the table and chairs, and opted for blinds instead of the ‘all-or-nothing’ shade. I’m on the hunt for swing-arm sconces, and a black stove is on order.

Living Room:

September 2017: the living room was in pretty good shape. I’m not sure the fireplace had even been used. I love all of the wood in this room and the large front window. However, the fireplace isn’t center on the wall, which makes me a little crazy. And the paneling had darkened around the bookshelves leaving an outline of the shelves when they were removed – just like the rooster. Eventually we painted the back wall white, and then re-painted it a pale shade of grey-green this winter. With great hesitation, we painted the fireplace too.

January 2019: We liked the fireplace painted white, but it seemed harsh – almost too white. My husband remembered a container of black glaze in the closet from another project, and we used it over the white. This last step softened the white just enough and allowed more of the brick to show through.

We snapped this picture of Bentley playing with Mr. Boggs in January when the wall was still white and before we experimented with the fireplace.

 

After four days of excavation last week the rain started again. Dump trucks came one after the other all day every day to export dirt from behind our house to some unknown location nearby. A couple of days into the process I remembered to ask them to leave some of the rocks for landscaping, and now we have a pile of rocks so large we’ll never summon the strength to move them ourselves. The sheer number of these large rocks leave us all convinced there was a rock wall at some time in this land’s past. Otherwise, the only buried treasures were a handful of old bottles and a tire.

By this time next week, we hope the dirt will be gone, the back yard will be flat – or at least partially flat, and there will be endless days of gardening ahead of me. Said differently, I’ll be in heaven.

The 2019 Plan

Another remodeling project is taking shape. It’s like being in the early days of training for a marathon; you choose a training plan, and begin to work your way through the program that will culminate in a magical place – although finding yourself at the finish line seems so far away that it’s impossible to believe it will ever happen at all.

Most of the remodeling of our little cottage was completed in 2018. The kitchen finally escaped the 1970s, the master bath stole enough square footage from the center hall for a shower and two sink cabinets, and we converted the 2nd bedroom into a proper walk-in closet.

The next projects on our list include the addition of a 300 square foot conservatory (with all its required excavation), remodeling the hall bath, updating kitchen appliances, adding an attached carport and a she-shed for yours truly.

If you’ve tuned into The Fartlek for these occasional design and renovating stories, this could be a plentiful year. And if you’re a runner, please don’t despair. The year will be more about running than it may currently appear!

Conservatory

The 19th century was the golden age of conservatory building, primarily in England. In a residence, a conservatory would typically be attached to the house on only one side, and by definition must have more than 50% of its wall surface glazed. Our new room does not technically meet the ‘conservatory’ standard, but it’s the aesthetic we’re going for.

The conservatory will connect to the rear of the cottage through an existing closet. A vaulted ceiling, 6’ windows, a wall of bookshelves and two closets make it the most functional 300 square feet we’ve ever added to a home (a third new closet is accessible from the master bath). It will lack the feel of a full conservatory because of the wall of bookshelves, however, that side of the room only looks onto the neighbor’s house. Bookshelves are more practical. French doors at the back of the room lead to the she-shed and a view of the back garden.

Carport

originating from the French term “porte-cochère“, referring to a covered portal, renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright coined the term when he used a carport in the first of his “Usonian” home designs: the house of Herbert Jacobs, built in MadisonWisconsin, in 1936 (Wikipedia).

The driveway encroaches the property’s setback restrictions on our left side, which precludes the construction of a garage. A carport complements the little cottage perfectly anyway.

Excavation

In the early 1900s, Lake Junaluska’s Epworth Lodge was built where our house now resides. I admit that I’m secretly hoping a buried treasure or rare artifact from our property’s historic past will be unearthed during excavation.

Another dozen trees were removed a few weeks ago and the excavator is scheduled for the first of the year. The plan is to tear out the tree stumps and dig out the hill to render the whole area level (i.e., flat/perfect/divine). 

A french drain will probably be required near the conservatory, but the excavator has promised to fill in with gravel throughout the yard to prevent any issues in the meantime. . . my husband was completely unsympathetic to the plight of my future garden being full of gravel.

A bucket truck was used to cut sections off the tops of the trees until they reached a manageable height, although sometimes the guys just climbed the tree to reach the top (notice the man in a yellow shirt barely visible at the top of the tree to the right).
What the back yard looks like at the moment (a.k.a. a mess).

She-Shed

We’ve decided on a combination greenhouse/shed that provides enough space for my bicycle(s) and a Kung Fu wooden dummy. We prepare the foundation and the prefabricated structure comes ready to assemble, supposedly in just two days – given the right amount of help I assume.

I have big plans for this little building.

The Kitchen

As fate would have it, Paul has helped us install tile every November for the past three years in whatever house we were remodeling at the time. This November he installed a marble backsplash in the cottage kitchen. We’re choosing black appliances to finish things off.

Space is limited so we decided to use dishwasher drawers to avoid a door that drops down into the room. The Fisher Paykel version is about the only one on the market, except they don’t come with a certified installer in our area. We’re waiting on an installer to drop by from Asheville after the holidays. Once we see the true ‘black’ of the dishwasher finish, we’ll choose the most exotic matching stove and refrigerator.

We’ve decided on the Hallman stove in either glossy or matte black to go with the Fisher Paykel double-drawer dishwasher. My new favorite refrigerator is a Gaggenau unit with antique finishes added by Italian firm, Restart Srl. . .  although at a starting price of $10,000 USD, maybe we’ll keep shopping. 🙂

The Secret Garden Cottage – Part II

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It’s been almost a year since we began renovations on this little cottage. After it spent several decades in a 1970’s decor, it has been fairly receptive to our suggestions both inside and out. Two new porches and a metal roof were added earlier this year, but it was this summer that the side yard got a total make-over, including a koi pond, stone steps, a raised flower bed, and lots of plants.

September 25, 2017: the side yard day one.

May 1, 2018

We covered a hundred years of roots (and ivy) with mulch instead of grass. I have never planted so many plants straight up in mulch rather than dirt.

July 20, 2018

There was an awkward slope up from the front of the house, and I thought it would be helpful to have a couple of steps.

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September 10, 2018

A koi pond fit perfectly in the corner, and we added five goldfish that I’ve worried over every day.

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We visited the discount rack at the Lowe’s garden center after lunch most days. If there was a perennial there, we brought it home – most of them just $1 each.

691766A7-9997-428D-AEF5-47ED892ED70FAnd I convinced my husband to rip off the lower boards of the front porch so we could crawl underneath and dig out the ferns that had been trapped there since the remodel began. Anything for a fern.

72CD9215-909A-401E-AF10-0DED18F14B4DThe flower bed was my idea for covering a set of concrete steps from a kitchen door that was closed off during the renovations. It was either build over them or take them out, and none of us seemed to want to take on that chore. Lewis did most of the carpentry work during the renovation and all of the stone work. He filled the flower bed with mulch, and I filled it with herbs.

7A8811B6-D22D-4641-939D-A53AB83B2B0CAfter a year of debating whether to paint the living room paneling, we compromised and painted one wall. Then I played musical chairs with several rooms of drapes back at home so I could move a brighter pair to the cottage, which complements a new rug. The result is a significantly brighter living room.

January 2018

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September 10, 2018

89530604-BADE-437B-9E23-C60B9897998CWe’ve also swapped out the too-small-queen-size-bed for a beautiful king bed, there’s a new fig tree – barely visible to the far right of the picture below, and plans are in the works for the next phase of construction. . . which will entirely change this little cottage yet again.

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The Strategy of Staging

Our downsizing experiment has lasted almost four weeks, and we’re still married – although there was that meltdown near the end of week one.

We had furnished our cottage for the vacation rental market, so we really only needed to bring clothes and a toothbrush. He forgot his toothbrush.

The plan was to bring the bare minimum; no need to move too much until we were sure this downsizing experiment was successful. Except that every day of the first week we had to make an emergency trip back home to fetch something critical to our survival. After a few days of this routine, my husband announced he would not move back home – even if we hated living in this little cottage. It would be the understatement of all time to say he hates to move.

With the gauntlet thrown, we turned our attention to getting our house ready for market. The only thing my husband hates more than moving is getting a house ready for market.

I’ve spent a month of days removing anything from the house that would identify us: family pictures, pictures of the dogs, my running memorabilia. The garage, closets, kitchen cabinets, and even the refrigerator have been re-organized. Then we cleaned everything like there was no tomorrow. The last step was to edit, edit, edit: accessories, books, artwork, plants, and even the area rugs. Staging is the part that sends my husband over the edge. With every house we sell, he swears our house doesn’t even look like our house by the time I’m done staging. It’s wasted time to tell him, that’s the point.

Julie, our trusted realtor, walked through every inch of the house and gave me advice on my progress. We’ve worked together long enough that I could imagine what she would say about almost every accessory in the house. I have a propensity for decorating with dark bronzes. She would suggest something bright instead. And then there’s a few buyer-distracting accessories, such as the dog door stop that has his leg hiked. One time I took out all the bronzes, including the stampede of horses, and stored them in the garage. This time I’ve brought the dog, the fish coat hooks, and a few others to the cottage. Every surface has finally been re-arranged with an eye toward benign and bright in hopes of appealing to the masses.

Our forever home, the one with nine rooms and a mansard roof, hits the market today. Julie reminds us we can always move back home – if it doesn’t sell, if we don’t get the price we want, if we change our mind about cottage life. . .

It’s safe to say we’re hoping it will sell.

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Photos Courtesy Julie Lapkoff, Keller Williams

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A view of the back patio in full bloom last summer (with Bentley and Mr. Boggs).

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The beginning (before photos): Nine Rooms and a Roof

The Great Land Grab

If curb appeal is everything, our little cottage had nothing. A nice collection of ancient trees gave the place a mystical appeal, but they denied us a driveway. There seemed to be enough room, if we could only recapture some of that land from the forest. What we didn’t realize was that taking down 12 trees would be the easy part.

Before:

B28CB8E2-4FF1-4F7A-9BE2-DB105DB839F1The cottage sits in a holler; a term used in our area for a small rising valley region between two hills or mountain often containing a creek. We’ve lived in a holler with a creek before. Moving water can wreak havoc on your landscape.5DEAB8A5-03B0-4544-90EB-32D142D5A373Starting at the top of a large hill behind the cottage, the water ran along the left side of the property. From there it found its way under the street to a creek that runs through a park in the middle of Stuart Circle. Over the decades the water had carved out a wide ditch along its route that left little room for a proper driveway.7DB520DC-C29E-4915-B530-604F3D3C2A56.jpegAn excavator worked for several weeks to take back the land from the moving water. He added a corrugated drain pipe from the top of the hill to the street with collection drains at the top and bottom. Then he moved the earth around to fill in the ditch and take the steepness out of the drive, and still he hauled away tons of dirt.542B5752-7CEA-48EA-BE3E-E5BC96A4C645Hundreds of rocks uncovered in the process now form a retaining wall.2DBEAB09-F48B-4F20-B4AC-1AB6C8817FCFWith that job finished we now realize there’s room for a driveway and a garage with a guest suite. The first land grab went quite well.78FB3E51-D2BA-43FE-B6DD-AD24C7DB3962Meanwhile, my focus had turned to a parcel of land behind the cottage. At the top of an ivy-laden hill is a small sliver of land that sits below another road up above. I wanted this sliver of land to be part of our back yard, but it wasn’t. My worry was that some day a house would go up on this land and ruin everything.0E2540BC-1E30-4A43-A98A-F619C11DEF7AThe long sliver of land was hardly wide enough to build a house given the required set-backs, but it wasn’t impossible. What it lacks in width is made up for in length. It stretches behind our property and past our neighbor’s house as well.F3FBE50A-E8F9-41CB-A90C-FF9843E776E7We found the road above our cottage where we also discovered a For Sale sign attached to that sliver of land. We called Julie, our trusted realtor, and made a ridiculously low offer – a move my husband called a defensive purchase. Julie made our case to the owner, they accepted our meager offer, and our final land grab is complete.

Now we can dig into the mountainside to have even more room for the garage – and I admit that my imagination runs away with me over what else we can do with all this extra space. The only caveat is that my husband has made me promise, for real, that this will be our last move ever. Thank goodness there seems to be enough projects left on this little cottage to last me a lifetime.

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