Farmhouse Updates: Eleven Months Later

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Just about eleven months ago (really? it has been almost a year!?), I lost my mind took a leap of faith.  A giant stepping off of a cliff. Sometimes, you've just got to have faith that things will work out the way that they're meant to.  So, when  we sold the home that I designed and we new built twelve years ago and downsized to a 65 year old red brick ranch which had been vacant for nearly two years, I just knew that it would be okay...even though about half of our belongings would be in storage for over a year and the crawl space beneath the bedrooms periodically filled with water.

During the past eleven months, we've taken care of the water issues in the crawlspace, I've stripped wallpaper and painted the entire inside of the house. I hung a couple of light fixtures in the kitchen  and painted the cabinet in the bathroom just to make things livable.  I had new hardwood flooring installed in the former "living room" in preparation for storing all of our furniture in this room during construction and the shed in the back yard got new window boxes and some shutters because it looked sad and I look out my window at it every day. It'll get new siding when we re-side the house in the fall but at least it's a little more cheery to look at.

Those are the "upgrades" that have been accomplished to date. They're minimal for a reason:  I don't believe in spending money on things that will be demolished during Phase 2 of the renovation. This means that living here has been a lot like camping...without the sleeping bags or guitar music.

The remainder of my "free time" has been spent doing a little demolition... and planning.  I started working with a wonderful architect named Dennis Parsons last fall on what I've been referring to as "Phase 2" of the renovation. This is the part of the renovation where the house will finally start to look like a farmhouse and I'll have windows that open and a kitchen with an oven that works.  The laundry room will move out of the basement and I'll have a functional studio in which to paint furniture, weave, sew, and do all of the other stuff that I've been doing all over the house for the last year.

Due to the Village Zoning Ordinance that was in place until July 15th, 2014, the garages and stable hall would not have been able to be built where I wanted them located on the property and, rather than abandon my original vision for this project, I decided to wait.

See the little yellow piece of the garage in the photo below? That is the five feet that I chose to wait for.  Without it, the house didn't line up with the garages and my courtyard wasn't a courtyard (at least not to me) because the walls weren't straight..

Over the winter and early spring, I've  had many meetings with the village zoning board and planning committee and was told that (luckily for me), they would be amending the setback ordinance for our village in the spring of 2014. I was willful enough willing to take the time to see what happened instead of changing my original design.  As a result of that decision, everything was delayed....for about eight months until the new ordinance took effect in mid-July.

During that time, Dennis (my architect) patiently worked with me while the guest rooms changed locations three times, the master bedroom moved to the other side of the house and I messed with the exterior trim detail on every single elevation of the house to make them NOT match each other. The original four pages of drawings rapidly became a stack of paper and tissue and I'm pretty certain that we were on revision "AA" before it was over. Without boring you with the details, the buildings can now be placed on the property as I had originally hoped,  the five feet is no longer an issue, and my poor architect will probably save a fortune on printer paper now that I'm no longer finessing the design and moving bedrooms. 

Another benefit to the delay was that I got to really  know this house...all of it.  From the drainage issues in the back yard to the ice on the electric outlets in the bathroom this winter. The delay also gave us time to save money by removing the existing landscaping and the retaining wall from around the patio ourselves rather than hiring someone to do it ("remove" is kind of a loose term because one day I pushed on it with my foot because it was leaning and it literally fell apart into the lawn).

During the first few months, the delays and bad workmanship at this house had me more than a little frustrated. However, now that we're only a few weeks away from construction, I'm thankful...

                                                                                               Yes, you read that correctly. I'm thankful. 

Thankful that my son will be safely back at college when the roof comes off and his bedroom becomes a part of the family room.  Thankful that we didn't have our home open to the elements during one of the rainiest spring and early summer's that I can remember. Thankful that I had time to rehab my son's apartment and help my sister with a couple of projects at her house.

I've also learned to be thankful for the less than stellar workmanship which means that the patio blocks that used to form the retaining wall will be able to be re-used as a new patio because they weren't glued together and that the layers of flooring were only nailed and not glued which made them easier to remove. Candidly, I'm hopeful that we'll find more things that will make demolition easier when we begin to tear down interior walls and the builder removes the roof.

So, while things haven't gone as I expected, they're actually turning out pretty well.  I didn't have to hire a lawyer to seek a variance to the code which would have been expensive and  I've had the luxury of several months to find things like my bathtub and sink on Craigslist.

Final revisions to the plans are complete and I'll share the drawings in detail just as soon a I have blueprints.  Here's hoping that the permit process moves quickly and that we have a long, hot, DRY autumn here in least until they get the roof back on.

Thanks for your words of encouragement and for sticking with me,  it's been one heck of a ride so far...and this portion of the journey to turn my 50's ranch into a French farmhouse is only beginning!