For North Carolina transplants Andrea and Todd Waller, their ranch-style rental was a temporary house but not a home. They have now renovated the not-so-cozy bungalow in Norhill to maximize existing space and better highlight its vintage vibe.
Among the examples: rope runs between shiplap panels like frosting between cake layers, adding some texture, contrast, and even insulation to the living room. And there’s a section of carefully preserved original wallpaper, worn and faded, and now sealed into an accent wall in the master bedroom.
“You can see the character coming through,” Andi Waller says of the results.
The Waller’s home is one of six properties featured on the 2016 Norhill Bungalow Tour themed “Turn of the Century Homes, 21st Century Living and offered on Saturday, Oct. 15 from noon to 6 p.m.
At just under 1,100 square feet – less than half the size of their previous digs – the 1930 bungalow was a project full of intentional choices, she says. “This home has taught us to value space and be thoughtful on using space…We had to ask ourselves who we want to be and what kind of life we want.”
Their answer was to downsize and consider that decision “a lifestyle statement.”
“Older homes have an energy and character,” she says. The homeowners are fine with the creaks and imperfections honed by decades of home use. “You have to ask what you are willing to accept.”
Initially, the couple had seen the property online but did not bite. Months later, they were looking at properties in the area and happened upon it during an open house.
“We saw lots of potential,” she recalls.
The porch-front property sits on a quiet, block-long street of similar homes and had been well maintained. It also had been previously updated, however, and some of the choices had “over-modernized,” she notes in an account of the project. “We felt that some of the true character of a 1930s bungalow was lost.”
Also, there were some spatial considerations to rejigger in the kitchen and bathroom to optimize space and add storage. Her background is interior design. Her contractor husband runs Beam & Compass, which specializes in painting and tile services.
In spite of − or perhaps because of − their redo backgrounds, scope creep hit. Their initial plan was to “just” replace some of the existing fixtures and add some cabinets. But then, as often happens, cosmetic changes gave way to bigger goals.
“After putting so much energy, creativity, sweat, and love into our home, we decided we needed to think longer term,” she says. “We kept saying, ‘Well, we are this far…might as well go the rest of the way.’”
That meant they reconfigured the kitchen’s cabinetry and replaced its flooring and countertops; they revamped the sole bathroom, knocked out a closet, and took some of the interior walls down to studs before reinstalling the aged shiplap. They also refinished hardwood floors, painted the exterior and interior, turned a small third bedroom into a big closet, and the list goes on, she says. Phase II might eventually add a second bathroom.
“When you marry a designer you just have to know that she will say ‘We can just move some things around’ but what that really means is ‘Let’s scrap it all and start over,’” reads one of Todd Waller’s online quips about the evolving project. He and his crew-of-one, Gerson Cruz, handled most of the updates, other than trade specialties.
Every renovation has its surprises. For the Wallers, it was the persnickety kitchen floor, its vinyl tiles glued to plywood screwed into the original wooden floors they had hoped to refinish to match the rest of the home. But once revealed, after an arduous and lengthy demo, the boards were water damaged, rotted, and patched. The couple opted for tile instead.
“In reality it worked out better,” she says. Tile is more accepting of any overspray and water park effects related to dish washing that at times is so exuberant it sometimes looks like the sink area might have been used to wash their 45-pound dog.
For homeowners with similar renovation aspirations, make note that even well-planned projects can take longer than expected, she advises. Despite having a timeline and all the finishes and fixtures picked in advance, things (and ideas) happen.
“Patience is key,” she says. “Know your limits…If you decide to live in your home while doing the work, keep a space for yourself where you can escape the “mess.” Having a clean, organized, construction-free area will help keep you sane while everything around you is attempting to drive you insane.”
For 2016 Norhill Bungalow Tour tickets or information, visit www.norhill.org.
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