small rancher

terryinmdSeptember 21, 2006

I'm very excited to find this forum!

DH and I bought a small ranch house in a vacation area, with plans to retire there someday. Well, someday is getting closer, and I'm getting worried. This has been great as a vacation home, but DH and I are afraid once we move down there, we won't be able to get away from each other.

The house is a rectangle, 24' x 48'. The front door faces water, the back door faces the road. On one end there are 2 bedrooms, about 10' by 12' each, with good size closets. On the other end is a master bedroom, about 10' by 12', a master bath 8' by 10' with a closet and a single bowl sink (lots of wasted space, but the possibility of putting in double sinks). Then there is a 6' by 10' combo mudroom, washer/dryer area, and main entry. The center of the home is a living room and an eat-in kitchen, semi open to each other. Out side is a covered deck, almost the length of the house, but only 6 feet deep; a deck on the back or street side; and a one boat dock, with a sundeck on top. There is a storage shed. There is no garage, no usable attic space, no basement just a crawl space underneath. We have a well and a septic system. If theres no power, then no water. We plan to put in a whole house standby generator, and are considering solar hot water, and solar electric panels.

I have some of the same problems others have, no coat closet, we use pegs in the laundry room, the front door in the living room opens to a covered deck with a water view, but there are 15 steps up to it, so everyone uses the laundry room door. The kitchen is very basic with lower grade cabinets and appliances. Haven't measured the 2nd bath, but the bath and surround are across the end wall, with the toilet and vanity on one side wall, and 2 towel bars on the other wall. Not enough room for a double sink, no place to store towels unless we install something above the toilet.

There is a deck on the street side of the house, but it sits in sun all day and faces the road, so we don't use it except to dash out and grill something, then come back in. You have to go through the mudroom to access it too.

The living room has pathways on 2 sides, to the master on the short end, to the kitchen on the long side, and to a bathroom door and then continues to the 2 other bedrooms. Right now I have "floated" a couch with it's back to the kitchen and bathroom door. We have a picture window, but the railing on the deck cuts off the water view when sitting.

We furnished the place, including washer and dryer, furniture, pots and pans, and linens for less than 8 thousand dollars 5 years ago. As you can imagine we spent at the dollar store, the 'marts, and Ikea. When we move down there almost all of that will go, to be replaced by our furniture in our current home. Well some of that is going to have to go too, cause we have more rooms, and bigger in the current house.

We have considered adding to the lake side of the house, to make a large living room with lots more windows to view the water. The septic tank will have to be moved if we do that. We have considered building out on the street side, making a new front entry with closet and hall, and a new kitchen and pantry. The current kitchen and living room would then become a dining room and library/office, and we could expand the master bedroom into one end of the living room to make a larger room and larger closet. The problem there is that you would have to walk through those 2 rooms to get to any of the others. We will need a garage and a boat storage area.

Now that I've written a novel, what advice would you give me on planning our move, and upgrading the house?

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Over 1100 sq ft for two people doesn't sound bad at all. I would think it'd be worthwhile to live there for a year before you start making huge changes and spending tons of money.

You don't say if you need both extra bedrooms as guest rooms. But you can easily make a bedroom into a study and have it look nice, not like a home office. Just having a second comfy place to sit allows you to get out of each other's way.

For example, in our study we have the computer in a small armoire, bookshelves on either side have doors on the bottom to hide office supplies. On the next wall, two small but very comfy chairs sit on either side of what appears to be a small table but is really a lateral file cabinet. Third wall has a window, fourth wall has small display case and the door. It's a very nice place to read if DH is watching TV in the living room or playing on the computer. All this in a 11'x11' room.

Anyway, the only changes I'd consider making right away: plant something or put up lattice to screen the side porch from the road. Buy an umbrella or put up an awning to shade it. And put up a cabinet in the bathroom to hold towels.

Then sit back and take your time to decide what you really need.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 2:22PM
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I agree -- try it out first. I live (by myself) in a ranch with about 1100 square feet on the main level, with nothing in the basement but the washer, dryer, furnace, and water heater, and it's plenty of room. There are two bedrooms besides the master bedroom; either would make good "getaways" if there were more than one person living here. I would not rush to make changes beyond the downsizing and maybe the alternative-energy items.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 2:57PM
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We have 2 kids, 2 dogs, a cat and 2 of us in an 1100 square foot home and have plenty of room (not as much storage of course) The key is to carefully plan your furnishings to give you the maximum space possible. We are able to entertain with no problems and get great compliments on our home.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 3:54PM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

The older I get, the better "small" looks. My ranch home is about that size, but the basement is finished as a big family room. This house is plenty big for the two of us.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 4:41PM
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I agree with PP's on living there first. That way you can see what really annoys you and address that first. You may find that your DH and you can live comfortably in an 1100 sq ft house but that you can't stand the fact that you don't have a coat closet etc.. It's funny how the things you think will bother you don't and the things that you don't think will bother you, do.

Once you decide what "issues" you want to fix, I would hire an architect to see if he/she has suggestions on how to make the home functional and beautiful for both of you. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 10:26PM
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Your setting sounds so wonderful, that in itself is worth the ideas you have....with many possibilities for adapting the house. Jena's suggestion wasn't something I would have thought of, an excellant idea. Once you are in the house there will most likely be many more ideas for creating it to fit your lifestyle. The only issue would be the move and another if you didn't feel it would work out.

I'm in an 1100 rancher rid of a lot of furniture, made some major changes in my life. Smaller has been great and haven't missed the room of a large home nor all that came with it in upkeep and expenses.

When I was looking at smaller homes, one of the owners had glass shelves across one wall of the bath (very small bath)at door height, she put all of her towels/wash clothes on these. Very colorful and the glass kept the room looking open. A couple of baskets were on the floor, near the tub and sink holding daily needs. That you have a laundry room is a plus, lacking in my house.

Am sure you will get lots of suggestions from this group, we love our smaller homes.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 8:03AM
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Is your deck open or does it have a roof over it? If a roof then I would also suggest a lattice wall on all sides. When I lived in an apartment we were allowed to enclose our porch with lattice. After doing that DS and I framed out screens which we tacked up on the inside. That way it was usable and gave some privacy.
Rereading your post I see the deck is covered so you are one step ahead of the game. Wood Lattice is reasonable. I agree to live in it for a while then start to make changes. What might seem the way to go now might prove impractical later on.
Plan on some area for your own space and also for DH.
I think it is wonderful that you've done this.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 8:09AM
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You say you have the water on one side and the road on the other.

That's two ways right there to "get away from each other."

Put in a bunch of windows facing the water, buy a canoe or small motorboat, keep some gas in the car, and you'll have all the space and escape options you need :)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 2:16PM
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Thank you all for your replies. I agree it would make sense to live in the house for a while before making changes. I would hate to get rid of a lot of furniture, and then find that we wanted increased space, thus needing to buy more furniture though.

It's really not bad, and a lot more then many people have, but we are pretty full in a bigger place, and there will be a lot of choices to make about what we keep.

We have 2 adult children, neither married yet, and they will visit once in a while, but I think they could survive on aero-beds, so DH and I could each have our own den. Right now the 2 guest rooms each hold 2 twin beds, a 3 drawer clothes chest, and 2 traytables at each bedside. Not really inviting or useful for anything but sleeping, but we can change that.

I would like to plant flowering trees and shrubs right now, but we won't be there to water etc. while the plants establish themselves. It'll have to wait til we are there permanently.

Yes the setting is wonderful. I love to sit and look at the water while I drink my morning coffe. It's beautiful when the sun shines and the water sparkles, and it's beautiful when the mist floats above the water. We are on a cove off a river leading to a large lake, with lots of wildlife. Bald Eagles, Herons, Kingfishers, wild Turkeys, Deer, Beaver, Muskrat, Turtles, Dragonflies in multible colors, and of course spiders and snakes.

Escaping to the water. We usually rent a pontoon boat while we are vacationing (we figured we could rent one 4-6 times a year for 10 years before we spent the equivilent of buying one, and thats not counting the maintenance, storage, and insurance) but we do have a kayack, and I love paddling around in it. As for hitting the road, the nearest grocery is 40 minutes away, the nearest city with a Walmart, movie, Peebles, Cracker Barrel, is over an hour away. :)

I'll be reading a lot of these threads for ideas.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 7:12PM
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Didn't add that I have a rented storage unit with bunches of stuff I'm still hanging on to. Some things just take a while to let go of and it may take a year before this happens personally. I don't plan on moving again....Out of sight, out of mind...but still tough to let go of.

I also have a grown son who lives with me. He is on the road for 6 to 8 weeks, then home for 3 or 4 weeks which he still works full time...didn't make sense for him to have a place unmanaged along with paying for it. For now I just enjoy having him here when he is here and he helps out on a lot of to-dos. But he also takes away one of the small rooms which I haven't figured out how to make dual purpose other than if a guest shows up which requires some scheduling. This room was supposed to have been my art room, didn't even figure in a guest room so maybe the change was meant to be. Since a lot of interior redos are going on the room does get a lot of the supplies moved in there when he is gone....means I'm moving stuff around a lot though.

I've used those air beds too, the kids know how to deal with them well, short term works.

Again, with your setting I would definitely hang around for a while. Sounds wonderful.

Mcgillicuddy...that was funny and couldn't have come close to thinking of it. When my husband and I first retired we had a gentleman's farm (meaning no income, just a lot of work) and he spent his days out there. No humor created at my end, but we both had our passions to maintain space and enjoy time together.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 8:39AM
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My sister and I share our smallish (1300 square feet?) summer house on the river. It is asbestos siding with knotty pine panelling in the living/dining room. That means weekends there are at least 6 people there. One year we had 21 people and 17 dogs for 4th of july... you can make it work especially if you have a beautiful setting (which it sounds like you do) my private space was a daybed that I set up on the front porch (doesn't work too well when it gets cold though) I always say I would leave my nicer city house in a minute before I would give up the family summer house.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 9:30PM
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We have one small spare bedroom we set up as a den. The entertainment center fits flush in the former closet. The couch folds out for overnight guests. One whole wall is bookshelves-full! It is so nice to have the TV in it's own room, out of the main living areas. With another TV in the master BR, we can each watch what we want. The only thing is, I wish we had a quieter area for the computer. It's in a former (small) dining area, right in the middle of everything.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 9:05AM
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We are planning on moving next year. We will put our current home on the market next March.

We need to research a whole house generator, a water filter (we're on a well) and maybe a larger tank to increase water pressure. I want a dishwasher. I was thinking portable/convertible so we can use it wether we remodel the current kitchen, or build an addition.

A captains bed, or the pottery barn bed with storage baskets sounds like a good idea, but then on the other hand I could spend $30 each on 4 covered underbed baskets from Ikea.

All 4 closets in the house will get new shelving systems, currently the 3 bedroom closets have a wooden shelf and a rod, and the linen closet has 4 wooden shelves, with much wasted space.

We may start bringing some things down now, to empty this house out for showing purposes. Yes I know, I have to get rid of some more stuff too. The treadmill and the health rider are both going to curb exchange, or the dump if no one grabs them.

I need lots of encouragement to get to work, so please give me your best advise.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 1:48PM
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While lifestyle is very important, we concluded that living in a "perfect" small house was also very important. Therefore, our plans for retirement had to include a house which was designed by us, just for us. We gave up on waterfront property because we never could figure out how we could afford both, perfect location plus perfect house. Whenever we feel like being at waters' edge, we take the motorhome and stay at one of the lakefront campgrounds.
Are you totally committed to your location?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 3:44PM
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You've gotten some well thought-out ideas. Here's my two:

If you decide to add on, don't increase you public rooms. Instead, add on a hideaway room for one or both of you. You could walk through the master BR to get to it. Just make sure it has acoustic privacy from main living space.

The other is, and we're doing this in our retirement home now being designed, think ahead to the day (and it could be tomorrow, one never knows) that you might need accessibility for walker, wheelchair, etc. You could enlarge the master bath for that and make sure you have a 5 foot turning radius in hallway to BRs, in kitchen, and in living area. You'll need grabbars in the bath with proper blocking in the walls behind them. Watching my friends and relatives move into facilities they didn't need to be in except that their homes wouldn't accommodate them was really sad.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 8:53PM
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We love the location, but in any case we have to live there for 2 years before selling, or take a tax hit.

Future needs are why we bought a rancher. We may have to widen some doorways, but the tubs already have grab bars. A ramp to an entry would be a doable project now.

I just don't feel like going through another round of preparing a house for sale, and getting rid of stuff, then moving. We've only been in this house for 2 years, planned to be here 5-10, but DH wants to go now. I am torn, part wants to go, and part wants to stay in this house which I love.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 7:33PM
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We have three kids and live in a house that is 25x50, including the garage. We enclosed half the garage to make a den/bedroom/guestroom. We also removed the wall between the kitchen and living room, making the whole great room space the entire depth of the house so we have windows on both sides. That gave us a really nice entertaining and social space, so the bedrooms can remain quiet rooms...sleeping and homework spaces plus clothes storage. The bedrooms are too small to use for much else!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 9:43AM
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Retiring is both scary and thrilling. We moved to an area much like you've described. I agree with the others to wait until you see what your priorities really are. Ours turned out to be bigger decks. Those 6' decks just didn't work for us. Later we added even more on the back and screened in it which added a ton of room to our 940 sq. cabin. Also added a 24x36 workshop/garage. Kept the pontoon on the back of the property. (It had a metal cover.)

You're wise to keep things in storage. I'd suggest making a list of what is in each box and number the boxes; also, list each piece of furniture. That way if you need something you'll know where it is.

It sounds like a beautiful, peaceful setting. Hope that 40 mile trip to the grocery doesn't get to be a pain. In our case, it did so we sold and now live in an actual city after 14 years of "country" life. Anyway, I wish you luck!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 10:14PM
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Well I've started. I've drawn up a timeline and planned some of the painting and lawn care. We'll fill in the decluttering, super cleaning, and a date to put up for sale as we go. It won't be so bad if I do a little at a time.

I have a list of smaller pieces of furniture that we can start to take down to the retirement home when we vacation there.

DH has found someone who wants the couch, loveseat and chair from Ikea, so we have to bring that back up from the retirement house.

The Salvation Army is going to come pick up the treadmill and the health rider. I have 3 computor paper boxes filled with books to take to the used book store.

I am trying to be very careful about what I buy and bring into this house, including food. I keep a big pantry, but don't want to move it all.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2007 at 3:34PM
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It took 3 tries, but the Salvation Army finally got here. The first time they didn't show, I called the next day, and was told someone had probably hit "next" instead of "save" so I wasn't on their list.

The second time I was told the driver had been on the street but hadn't seen the pile. Possible but unlikely. Talking to a higher up revealed the driver had been on our street without being on the only connecting street. Not possible.

So I gave detaied directions again, and was asked if I would be available in the morning. At 1 PM I called to see what had happened. I was told there had been a delay but they would be ther about 2:15, but call at 3 if they hadn't gotten there. They did roll up at 2:45, so the treadmill, the cardio glide, 3 bags of clothing and 3 boxes of miscellaneous household items are gone. :).

Went to Home Depot with DS, and he is going to put crown molding in the living room for me, so I get to enjoy it for a while before we sell.

DH and I are discussing what painting and/or decorating projects to do to this place to make it more saleable.

We will be at the future home for a long weekend in June, so will take some measurements, especially of closets, to plan more storage.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 9:23AM
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I have measurements and sketches of the closets and laundry room to plan for shelving etc.

The Ikea couch loveseat and chair have gone to their happy new owner, a recent college graduate.

We saw a contractor and he is going to send us estimates on a kitchen addition, and on tearing the whole thing down and replacing with a modular home.

We are discussing furniture placement.

I found a local church down there has a yearly fundraising auction, and they accept stuff all year round because they have a big building to put it all in. Anything friends and family don't want can go to them.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 11:34AM
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Is the modular home a serious consideration? Anyway, hope everything goes well for you.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 2:22PM
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Ive lived in a 1100 sq ft house for 30 years and raised 3 kids in this house.
being on a lake sounds like paradise to me

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 7:37AM
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Please keep adding posts to the process? I've enjoyed reading about your downsizing, the lake house, and what you are doing to prepare your present house for sale.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 4:05PM
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Thanks for the encouragement, and the interest. Life is getting interesting.

DD moved in for the summer, has a job connected to the Renfest, and will go back to Norfolk in Sept. during the week, but will be here Friday to Sunday for renfest til mid Oct. She brought her cat with her. It doesn't get along with my two cats, but loves my dog.

DS has been using the basement as his apartment, with his own bathroom. He just moved out, but left most of his stuff behind until the end of Dec. We have asked him to consolidate and pack the stuff he left behind so it takes up less room.

I would like to move DD and her cat down there for the rest of the summer, and do away with those 2 AM cat yowling contests. After that, I would like to use it for exercising instead of the living room, so I can leave stuff out.

I did take 2 boxes of books to a used book store. They took all the paperbacks, the cookbooks, and the decorating and organizing books, but not the hardcover mysteries and novels. I'll have to try another store, or donate again.

Oh yeah, I got a whopping $14 dollars in store credit for my "valuable" books. I brought home 2 childrens books, a mystery, and a book on color schemes for the home, and still have 6 dollars in credit left.

DH has to read 15 more paperbacks to see if he agrees they can be let go. I had over a thousand books before we moved here, donated about got rid of about 400, but of course have bought more. I have 4 25" bookcases, and 2 30" bookcases, 6' tall, and don't want to buy any more.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 9:07AM
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Life does change quickly. DH was asked to apply for another job. He didn't get it, but was told another one would be coming up. He got the job, and we are now planning to stay where we are for 2 more years. I'm going to continue with the decluttering, and DH and I will continue to discuss options for the ranch house.

The new job includes some flex time, so we may be able to vacation a bit more often.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 3:21PM
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How great for you to continue an update. Usually the original poster disappears, but I think most of us always wonder what evolved.

Interesting regarding kids hanging in there. My youngest son returned home for a couple of months and is now headed out again for a job taking him on the road as once before. As much as I love the kids and having them here, tis a bit of upset to the living small plan. Now back to what was for me, but know this probably won't stay the norm. And change is part of life.

Congrats to both you and DH on the new job and best of all in decluttering. Let us know what continued plans are in the works. I'm in a ranch also and still finding unused valuable space to redo correctly.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 9:17AM
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Just thought I'd share a couple of pictures of the view from the bedroom window in Feb.



In summer there are more leaves, but you can still see water.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 12:51PM
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