03 Jun, 2010
There’s no time like the present for this wartime home
Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno
I love our home. It’s a wartime home, built in 1942 or ’43. It is cozy and full of personality. It is utterly charming. It has a VERY small footprint in an amazing neighborhood. I am thankful to be living here and I pinch myself every day.
This house is us.
It’s 1.5 storeys with three bedrooms, one four-piece bathroom upstairs and a two-piece downstairs. I loved this place the moment we saw it.
I remember running my fingers down the thick banister that connects the main floor with the bedrooms. It felt warm against my skin; a single piece of tree that had had a million hands eroding it ever so slowly with every passing touch. Sold!
The realtors, trying to be helpful (and I suppose to give the sale more appeal), suggested that we could slice off our backyard and sell it to someone else to be developed. Mark and I both looked at each other, aghast. Why on earth would we want do that?
Although we’d never consider selling off our backyard, we’ve realized that we can fill a bit of it with some extra house.
Twelve years ago I didn’t mind the tiny closets, the nonexistent front hall, the unfinished basement, and the fact that the living room is completely separated from everything else … resulting in a rather awkward floor plan for a family of four. (I really should sketch it out for you Now uploaded here – it’s weird.)
Having that upper .5 storey means we have heavily sloped ceilings upstairs. Although they add charm and personality and a certain feeling of comfort in the bedrooms, it also means that each one has at least one totally unusable wall (one that can’t be used to lean a bookshelf against or even to hang a framed photo or two) and very small closets.
We consider ourselves lucky to have an upstairs bathroom as part of our .5 storeys (we’ve seen some places that don’t), a garage, a dry basement, and an addition of an office as well as an enclosed back porch.
I think we have about 1200 sq.ft of living space. I have spent 12 years thinking about it and I know that I don’t really even want THAT much more. We’re don’t want a monster home filling every square inch of our lot, but we do want room to breathe. We need smart space.
In our neighbourhood, those little City of Ottawa Committee of Adjustment signs are cropping up faster than weeds after a rainstorm. Many times the appearance of this sign means that the individual or the developer is requesting the city for MORE of something. They want two houses where there should only be one, greater height, greater depth, or greater width for whatever it is that they’re building. There are zoning by laws in place. Why can’t people build within them? Gah. That’s a whole different post.
We have been taking a good hard look at our everyday needs. I’ve read some of Sarah Susanka‘s work and I really like her philosophy about living space, which tends to be open in some areas (like the kitchen/family room) and closed off in others (like bedrooms and work areas). And then there’s the issue of the space we think we are supposed to have. Take the formal dining room, for example. Do we really need a separate room for special occasions? With a table that seats 12? Personally I’d rather put the extra space towards other areas of the house, like a main floor laundry and mud room.
All this is so overwhelming. We’ve been talking about it for years but the time has finally come for a major remodel and serious upgrades. We want to finish the basement and make it into a livable area with storage. We want to expand two storeys out the back and reconfigure the space to include a better-functioning kitchen and a family room, get rid of the garage and tack on a secondary entrance and a mud room. AND THEN I would love to have the backyard beautifully landscaped. *sigh*
Since we’re planning on being up to our armpits in drywall dust and paint chips for god knows how long, I would love to implement some eco-friendly features, like a tankless hot water system and a high-efficiency furnace. Sadly, Mark will not entertain the idea of solar panels, a green roof, or geothermal heating, and he won’t let me get rid of the driveway, but projects like the Now House (have you heard of it?) make me realize how much is possible in terms of green design.
So now we’re looking for someone to help us take on this massive project. And we really don’t know where to begin.
I’m afraid of this taking over my life – that all I’m going to be thinking and talking about for 18 months is plumbing and electrical work - but we are at a crossroads and since we don’t want to move this is the path that we need to be taking right now.
Ideally I’d like for someone to ring my doorbell and hand me floor plans of someone who was in our exact situation and remodeled their home in the same way we want to, thus saving us the anxiety of the design and planning stages. (And then POOF the house would be fixed up! Ha.)
Ideally we’d like to hire a design/architect who can help us figure out how to reconfigure our space in the best way possible, AND give me 3D renderings because I am TERRIBLE at visualizing this kind of thing. We need someone who is really creative, and most importantly, has worked on our kind of house before.
Anyone know anyone?
It’s so big it is paralyzing. Other than tearing pictures out of magazines, where do we start?