Behind the Scenes (and Walls)


Old ceiling totally gone.

It’s mid-week, and I have some updating to do!  Our little project is moving along quite nicely.  The demo phase was so fun!  Every day last week, there was such dramatic change.  And this week, I arrive to see some wiring in the walls, and the next day, some more wiring with a few other thingamijigs in the walls/ceiling.  The plumber, electrician, and heating guy have all been amazing, but I admit, the important stuff in the wall and ceiling cavities are a bit boring.  There were discussions on Monday between the electrician, me, Jay and John about size and number of recessed lights, and when proposed locations of lighting and switches couldn’t be accommodated, there were more hemming and hawing sessions (mostly by me).  A remodel inherently has some challenges, as new stuff has to be located around old stuff.  It’s kind of like a game to choose the next best option, when the ideal won’t work.   That being said, it’s great to have moved on from the demo to the “build”.  You saw the sub-floor in last week, and now we have new wiring, pipes, and vents!  I guess we are now ready for all of the inspections that need to happen before the sheet rockers take over, closing up the ceilings and walls, and bathing the house in the thickest layer of dust yet.


Kitchen wall exposed.


Housing for 4″ spotlights and one over-the-table fixture.  Fun stuff!


Adios (today) to the last of the demo debris!


Good People.

Having embarked on this remodeling adventure, I am feeling so fortunate to be working with a great “team”.  John (our architect) has been wonderful in providing the expertise concerning the changes we are making on the house.  He is creative and thoughtful in his designs.  He is also attentive to my wishes and input, and when I have been indecisive, he offers that professional opinion I need.  He’s happy to email or call me back when I have had questions, and has even assisted me (willingly) on various shopping trips for the new spaces.  (These were trips for appliances and cabinets, which are time-consuming and would have been torturous for my husband!)  The best part is that John seems to be genuinely interested in our modest project.  This is a guy who has done some pretty cool stuff in terms of architecture, furniture design, and even ongoing architectural humanitarian efforts in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.  You must check out his website to see his work!

My other fav person is Jay Middelstaedt, our builder.  Liked him the moment we met, and like him even more since work has started!  He is everything you would want in a builder, plus a smile.  Things have been moving along really well with no big surprises.  Here’s a pic of the main space as of yesterday:


Two sub-foors were laid to bring it to the correct level.

Today, I met Jay and Dan from Sela Roofing for a roofing bid and to take a look at the hole in the roof from the chimney we had removed.  Here are a few photos from that experience…Yes, even I climbed the ladder!


Gotta meet the electrician early tomorrow am.  Need to verify all the right spots for the wiring of ceiling fixtures, switches and outlets. Exciting stuff!

Demolition Slide Show.

Last week, demolition of the kitchen and dining spaces began…


The wall between dining room and kitchen.


Other side of the wall.


Wall is gone!


Other view.


As of yesterday morning, this monster was still hanging around. With the stack, it was over 1.5 tons!


Here’s what the stack looked like coming up through the second story (master bedroom). Once gone, we get a bigger closet. Yeah!



Sometimes you need a crane to do the heavy lifting!



Jay appears to have everything under control. The house feels sooo much better having shed the 1500 pounds of fireplace, and 4 dumpsters of concrete-set tile!

Just want to tell you all that I appreciate the interest you have taken in reading my blog.  Thanks so much, and I will do my best to keep you informed!  Off to ikea to purchase the cabinets.  Wish me luck!

Builders and other revelations.

As you may have suspected, the previous posts are playing catch-up to what’s happening in “real time” on our renovation.  I am feeling a bit guilty keeping you in the dark, and need to come clean:  We are into the second week of demolition (of the interior)!  THIS MORNING THERE WAS A CRANE LIFTING THE MASSIVE CHIMNEY INSERT THROUGH THE ROOF!  There, I said it.  Now we can all relax…Yes, of course you will get a photo update as well, but all in due time, all. in. due. time.

There’s just a few more things to talk about before the demolition slide-show.  You still haven’t heard about our finding a builder, and how that process influenced the project!  Okay, so back when we felt comfortable with the “generous” floor plan, as well as with floor plans noting changes made to the basement and upper level, AND totally revamped exterior, we needed to move to the next step.  Find a builder to bid the work.  John, our architect, has worked with various builders on other projects, so we met with two he recommended.  They were both knowledgeable and thorough in their preparation, spending hours to best understand the house and the work to be done.  It took awhile, but when the numbers started to roll in, it was a major reality check.  Both builders knew our target budget of 100k (no more secrets!).  Builder #1 was annoyed, and got hung up on little things, like us not having decided on the exact puck-light placement under the cabinets, or baseboards with or without base shoe.  Without those things figured out, how could he provide us with an accurate bid?  Builder #2 was courteous and understanding of our hope to keep costs down.  Where Builder #1 had a furrowed brow, Builder #2 had a smile and the confidence to work things out.  It came down to the fact that I basically really liked Builder #2.  It was an easy decision.  His name is Jay.

Budget woes.  With bid information, we had to get more creative.  We nixed a bunch of cabinets and built-ins, and decided to shop for the necessary ones at ikea.  We had originally planned on an ikea kitchen, which suits the house, but the island was first planned in custom walnut cabinetry.  Now, it too would be built from ikea cabinets, and only faced in walnut on the sides facing out.  The range was first planned in the island, but relocated on the wall with the sink to save costs associated with an island hood and the extra venting.  We nixed other “wants” like the basement bathroom and new storage, cabinet refacing in the upper baths and fancy sliding doors separating the laundry  and loft areas.  We also decided to hold off a bit on the exterior improvements, which can wait until later in the spring.  Decisions continue to be made.  Just yesterday, John, Jay, and I finally found the perfect flooring for the entire main level:


From left, premium maple, #2 grade maple, #3 grade maple. We all like the #2 grade, with some variation, and overall lighter tones.



John (left), and Jay.

You now know our architect, our builder and our budget.  All three play a big part in this adventure!

Floor Plan Fun!

There’s nothing like a floor plan to get me excited about a project!  After a meeting at the house, a second one to gather info about our family’s needs and wants, and an hour or so for measuring, our architect prepared a series of preliminary plans for review.  All include removing the original wall between the dining room and kitchen areas.  Here are three different floor plans proposed for our main level:  (If you are so inclined to take a closer look, and actually see these plans, just click on the photo, and it should enlarge.)


Plan #1:  This plan we have named “The generous option”, as kitchen, dining, and living spaces are just that.


Plan #2: What if we wanted to incorporate an informal living area within the kitchen? This plan does that.


Plan #3:  This plan explores the possibility of adding a bedroom on the main level (within the existing space).

Do you have a favorite?

Ok, I was actually going to save the big “reveal” for the next post, but with blog logistics, you might see that post before this one, and that would spoil the surprise!  We can’t have that, so here it is below:


The winner is plan #1, “Generous”.

All three plans gave us something desirable.  Wouldn’t it be great to have that 5th bedroom, as proposed in plan #3?  And space for a sofa and TV in the kitchen could really be nice, shown in plan #2.  But, with that bedroom, we would be sacrificing so much natural light in the kitchen, too much to really consider that as an option.  If we chose to incorporate lounge furniture and entertainment in the kitchen, we are pretty sure we would rarely use our actual living room, and that 2-story space will be too light-filled and special to ignore!  With the “generous” version, the kitchen and dining spaces have room to breathe.  Plus, this design allows for a kick-butt island  (aka a “continent”, it’s that large).  Our architect believes in the proportions of this design, and the intention of using all parts of the house for everyday living.  So, with plan in hand, we need someone to make it a reality, and that, my friends, means finding a builder!







The Interior Story Continues…

My first post introduced the outside faces of our new house (in its current state), giving you an idea of its style and personality.  We love that it has one (a personality), and feel lucky to be working with something so unique.  Those exterior pics were also shown to help you better understand the interior, and the important relationship between inside and out.  If you are like me, I get frustrated seeing a montage of interior spaces without knowing the “look” of the outside of the very home they reside in.  Alrighty then!  This post is supposed to be about the interior, so let’s get on with it.  As promised, here are the rest of the interior “before” pics:


A view of the kitchen. The elephant in (the middle of) the room is a fireplace.


Another view, looking out a door to the backyard.


Main floor full bath. Obviously not original, but not keeping with the mod vibe of the house.

Let’s venture upstairs next.  There will be less dramatic change happening up there, but still worth show and tell:


At the top of the stairs, you can peek into the loft space over the living room.


The laundry area off the upstairs hall.


Master bedroom with balcony at the end of the hall with two more bedrooms up.

Well, that wraps up the “before” tour of the above ground spaces.  The basement is pretty basic.  It has a finished bedroom and an unfinished space.  Nothing special.  I am sure you will see other pics of it as we get going on the “improvements”.  An upcoming post will dive into the plans detailing these home “improvements” and the thoughts behind them.  Kinda liking this blogging  gig, so it won’t be too long before I’m back for more!

An introduction is in order.

Hello reader!  My name is Allison, and I am a 41 year-old mom of four looking for a creative outlet of sorts to document the remodel of our new home.  So welcome to my blog.  I am flattered you have decided to take a look!  We have owned other homes in the past (4 to be exact, so our home purchases now out-number the kids, which qualifies as two ways we have over-extended ourselves!).  We have fixed them all up to varying degrees (homes and kids), but this new one is a doozy.  This remodel will be like none we have done before.

Here are photos of the subject:Image

Back of the house facing the yard.


Front the house (at an angle).


Now you can see the front door.

Interesting property, huh?  This bad-boy was originally built in 1964, designed by architect James Stageberg.  If you are into architecture and live in Minnesota, you may have heard of him.  Anyway, I admit that after learning this home was designed by a Harvard-educated architect, the rotted awnings and peeling paint couldn’t dissuade me from seeing the possibilities.  Another thing it had going for it, was its price.  As you can imagine, its condition turned off many a buyer.  Plus, it is located outside the hipper Minneapolis neighborhoods where modern architecture is better appreciated.  This house is just out of Saint Paul (our preferred twin city), where traditional reigns supreme, generally speaking (even though I hate generalizations).  There’s no denying it; this house is an odd-ball.  My intuition told me that this ugly-duckling could one day be a swan.  So we bought it!

The day we closed on the house, I started emailing architects, with hopes of getting started.  Our plan was (and still is) to stay in the apartment we moved to after closing on our old home, while work was happening in the new house.  So, just to clarify, we are not living in the house.  The six of us are in a cozy apartment.  It’s been 5 months.   At least it didn’t take me long to find the right architect.  He is actually a friend of an acquaintance.  But more important than that connection, he was the only one who didn’t flinch when I explained our budget.

THE BUDGET.  It may not mean much to you, considering you have yet to hear the extent of the work that needs to be done.  You have not seen the inside either.  Let’s just say the main floor is a total gut-job. Plus there’s the new carpet needed upstairs, new upstairs laundry, and basement improvements.   Oh! and the inspector  said a new roof is in order too.  How much would you guess needs to be put into this house?  As I am somewhat reluctant to share financial information, especially in this friendly format, instead of me just telling you our number, suffice it to say, it’s low.  Still a good chunk of change, but remodeling is expensive, and there’s a lot of work to be done.  I think of our budget as a challenge to be super creative.  And our architect seems to be on board with tapping his creativity in designing to our budget.  He’s young, and although admittedly busy, not too busy to take on our project.  So after a few preliminary meetings, he came up with some cool floor plans and elevations.  Discussion for another post, another day.  And you don’t want to miss hearing about our search for the right builder.  Stay tuned!