Photos of our completed half-house renovation

wi-sailorgirlOctober 13, 2012

I'll try to keep this short but let me know if you have any questions or anything.

First of all, I want to say that everyone on this forum was incredibly helpful and supportive while we were renovating our house and I feel bad it took me so long to post any pictures.

Quick backround. Our house is a 1938 cottage that was sort of Cape Code style (but mostly just cobbled together by our former neighbor who was the builder). We bought it in 2002 as a three bedroom/one bathroom. We've since turned the downstairs bedroom into a den/office type room. It had been last renovated (just the inside) in about 1990 (some good decisions and some very bad decisions). I honestly can't remember the square footage but I think it's about 1,500 square feet.

The renovation started with a leaky roof. Several contractors and roofing companies told us it was a bad design (there were weird mini dormers that met the gable at an angle that just held water) and the only real solution was redesigning the roof. And it just sort of blew up from there. We did not add any square footage in the renovation, just raised the roof to create more useable square footage (by the way, that's an interesting one to sell to the bank when asking for a loan).

Enough talk. Onto the pictures.

Here's the plan (we found a designer who is not a licensed architect but is able to do plan drawings for construction and permitting who our contractor recommended who charged us $700 total. A local architect wanted $10,000 to do the same thing).

Here's the front before (the day we started, so our crap for the dumpster was still on the patio):

And after. Adding the gable/portico over the front door was key to the design and I can't tell you how many people told me that was a bad idea:

Here's the "back" (it's really the side) before:

After (I did all of the landscaping, including laying that stone path and the garden stacked retaining walls, myself):

Master bedroom before:

Master after. We put in the bamboo floors ourselves, added a small walk-in closet and designed and painted the built-ins (I've finally finished sewing the window seat cushion as well):

I don't think I have a pic of the guest bedroom before (it was painted the most unfortunately shade of yellow), and honestly I've done very little in this room (sort of hoping it won't remain a guest bedroom for long). But here's the after, sort of.

Here's the hallway by the bedrooms before .. it just led to this weird low dormer (pay special attention to that hideous wall texture ... we're getting to that):

And after, going into the new bathroom that didn't exist before:

Here's the bathroom (we salvaged the door from my grandparents house, which was torn down shortly before we started this project. I loved refinishing it and seeing all the colors it had been painted over it's life):

I designed the vanity and built-ins and had them built and we have more storage than we can currently use. Nice problem to have. This room is only 8x8.

One of the little surprises that arose was that we realized the roof over the rest of the house (the living room) was sagging significantly. So we made the decision to rip down the ceiling and shore up the roof from the inside. This was a massive hit on the budget and time line but gave me a reason to rid myself of that AWFUL wall texture. It was in every room of the house (and still lurks in a couple rooms we've not touched yet) and it turns out that it was just drywall mud slapped on and was so heavy that it was part of the reason the roof was sagging.

So here's what it looked like when we dropped the ceiling:

Here's the living room before:

And after (I'm in the middle of changing around the furniture and color scheme right now though):

The other big project was adding the deck (see the back after picture above). It was the last thing to do and because we were over budget we almost dropped it. Thank goodness we didn't. It has really extended our living space and we use it all the time. The pergola serves no functional purpose other than making me happy :). We added a sliding glass "French" door to the den/office (former master) to access the deck as well. The back door to the kitchen which opens on the deck is our main entry to the house.

We went to great lengths to preserve character details, such as having matching paneling made for the upstairs hallway to replace what had been there before. I also added little touches like glass doorknobs that are appropriate to the period of the house. Otherwise we just took our design cues from what was already in the house (i.e. moldings, window style, etc.) We did almost all the painting and did the bamboo floors in the bedrooms ourselves to help the budget. We still went over by about 25%, which became a stretch because we only took out the loan for 10% over the bid. Fortunately we had a good cushion in our savings.

There are more details on my blog at but feel free to ask any questions if you have some.

For those of you undergoing renovations right now, let me assure it, it is all worth it in the end. It might not seem like it in the middle, but give it time and you'll forget the pain and just love the result.

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Wow! What a wonderful difference you have made -- it is such a charming cottage now. Good work and congratulations!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 2:26PM
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What a beautiful renovation! What a great space you have now and so many more features! Congratulations!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 8:12PM
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'Adding the gable/portico over the front door'

you need to stay away from crazy people - can't imagine thinking that wasn't a good idea!

I remember you working on the builtins - it looks like it all turned out great.

glad it's over for you now - hope you're enjoying it


    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Okay, you need to post this over on the Home Decorating forum,too. They would love to see it, if they don't frequent Smaller Homes. I can't believe how pretty the house has become. You did a wonderful job inside and out, very talented. Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 11:32AM
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You did a wonderful job. You made the house so much more liveable, but in a way that kept the spirit and style of the original cottage. You're a cottage whisperer!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 11:34AM
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Your renovation turned out Gorgeous. LOL at the mudded walls. We had those too in one house. they were not fun to try to keep clean.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 2:48PM
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What a gorgeous transformation. You made it SO much bigger and better. You have some very well thought out designs and I love that you were able to use a door from your grandparent's house. I love the stone sidewalk and am so impressed that you did it yourself. I'd like to know how you did it sometime.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 6:55PM
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Just... WOW! You have kept the cottage feel- light, bright and airy. Very 'beachlike'! This IS something that could go in a magazine in my opinion.
Nice work. Now that the work is done...get going on getting rid of the 'guest-room'!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:36PM
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That is gorgeous! What an amazing transformation.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:48PM
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Thank you all for the nice comments! It feels good to have other people appreciate it too. We love everything and the only decisions we regret are the ones we were talked into by other people at the end of the project and they are all exterior issues:

1. I don't like where the shingle-style siding ends. To me it should be lower. Our contractor talked us out of it. We actually bought extra shingles to fix it, but we haven't done it yet. Still, they all told me, "Give it a month and you won't notice." But you know what? I notice it every single day and it bugs me every single day.

2. The posts and risers on the deck are cedar that is smooth on one side and rough on the other. I wanted to use the smooth side out but everyone told me "No one does that. I've never heard of that," so we put the rough side out. Huge mistake. Dog hair sticks to it like glue. It's a total pain.

3. There was a miscommunication on the back stairs. We wanted an extra step to lower the rise a little for our aging dogs, but two steps were added so the rise is REALLY short and now the dogs hate it even more. Fail.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:28AM
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When can I move in? It's perfect...well worth the wait!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 10:02PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

I remember your plans for the wall of storage--oh my, that is wonderful! It looks like a picture from a magazine. The whole remodel is gorgeous!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 6:34PM
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wi-sailorgirl, what a wonderful place to live! if it were a B&B I would want to come and stay!!! what part of the country is this? I am assuming it is on the east coast somewhere. i am in southern ca and there isn't property out here like that.
You did a beautiful job. i love everything! the garden is lovely too.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 9:17PM
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"I wanted to use the smooth side out but everyone told me "No one does that. I've never heard of that"

I don't understand this either. I'd want the smooth side out - only makes sense to me. I know about the dog hair - the banister of my old steps had a cut/chip in it and there's a tuff of puppy hair stuck to it where she bumped against it.

the rise and run of steps are very important - didn't those guys have a step guideline to go by anyway? the steps comfortable for me and (were for) my old girl have a 6.5 -7" rise and about a 9" (or more) run. I'd have to recheck them... that makes them not steep!

do that shingle project down the road. Make it the way you want it - no matter what anyone else says.

and when they say 'no one does that...', tell them you aren't 'no one'!

it does look absolutely lovely tho!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 10:41PM
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Go-figure ... believe it or not, this is southeastern Wisconsin, but I'm not unhappy that you guessed it might be East Coast. We're about 500 feet from Lake Michigan, with a row of houses between us and the lake. One of the unexpected benefits of putting all those windows in the bedrooms is that when the leaves are off the trees we have a view of the lake!

Desertsteph, our oldest Newfoundland just turned 9 so we may no choice but to revisit that step issue. Basically what happened was that my husband told them we wanted 6 steps and he was including the step up to the deck level. The contractor built them with 6 steps not including the step up to the deck level, so we ended up with 7 (well by our thinking anyway). By the time we got home that day they were finished and we were so late in the project we just didn't have any fight in us anymore.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 11:46PM
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wow! that must be some view! is it from the deck or the front door area?

I do know about not having any 'fight' left. Many times I've just said 'oh well, it'll be fine' and been grateful anything got done at all.

I know my eyes are bad but I count about 9 steps - am I off that much? yikes... I need new eyeballs!

my old girl did good up til the last few months on my regular steps at the old place - they had a low rise and a deep run area. that made for shallow steps. the new place had steeper steps and she couldn't do those. I tried carrying her up and down a few times but with my bad back and arm it was just too dangerous to continue. It would end up hurting both of us if I fell. the last few months on the other steps she had more trouble going up than down. Going up I started to stand 'over' her (her body between my legs) so if she wavered I could 'catch' her with my legs and prevent her from falling over on the concrete. Her little body was very frail and boney by then (16 yrs old).

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 2:32AM
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wi-sailorgirl-what a beautiful job you did. I especially like the side of the house with the garden path. The master bedroom looks fabulous now w/ all those windows(I love built-ins & window seats).

"Adding the gable/portico over the front door was key to the design and I can't tell you how many people told me that was a bad idea"---Why ???

"the only decisions we regret are the ones we were talked into by other people at the end of the project "-ain't that the truth !!!!!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 9:18AM
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