Written By Beth Herman
I’m obsessed with home renovation. HGTV’s Love it or List it is among my favorite TV shows. It’s fun to sit in your living room watching Susan, Dennis and their two kids eat dinner in their Racine Wisconsin garage, while their kitchen gets torn apart and rebuilt. Then, decision time: will they stay in the newly renovated house, or sell and buy a new home?
Sometimes life imitates art—or at least television. When we bought our house in 2004, it desperately needed updating. Hoping to sell in 2012, we took the plunge. Under the guidance of our realtor Denise, we brought in a kitchen company and contractor, who renovated the master bath and replaced everything in the kitchen except the windows and floors. Eliminating the wall between dining room and kitchen provided clear ‘site lines.’ (Who wants to be in the kitchen cooking when all the fun is in the dining room?) The estimate was three to four weeks. It took seven.
The Reico rep said it was one of the most dramatic renovations she had seen, and she wasn’t exaggerating. In place of white Formica, we got sleek granite countertops, ‘espresso’ cabinets, and two times the storage. The master bath, two dark small rooms of 1980’s vintage, became one huge bright space (my husband calls it the Halls of Congress) with a window, skylight and large seamless shower.
After washing dishes in the guest bathroom, storing boxes of pots, dishes and dry goods in the living room, or hiking down to the guest bath in the middle of the night for seven weeks, the carpet still had to be ripped out and replaced. Seven days later, the house was finally completed.
We were thrilled, exhausted, and suddenly facing our own Love it or List it moment. Finally, a home with serene spa-like master bath and a kitchen/dining room space worth showing off. Our first dinner guests arrived with champagne, an hour after the last workman drove away.
In the end, we decided to love it. I dreaded telling Denise, but thankfully, she was more than gracious. “There’s always next year, she said, “and in the meantime enjoy!”
When I called her this January to her say, “we’re ready,” she was thrilled. But alas, there was more work to be done. The master bedroom needed repainting, and the maroon shipbuilding wall paper had to come out of the first floor laundry room.
More renovations? I thought wearily. But I couldn’t argue.Years ago, I painted the bedroom myself. Harvest gold, the color choice of the previous owners, was covered with aqua; walls, trim and doors, creating an underwater effect.
This year, instead of a team, we used one guy. Ron, who had done tree work for us. He estimated three days. It took six. Sometimes his 19-year-old daughter came to help. The bedroom, now a soothing white trimmed in screen grey, matches the rest of the house. My dark little laundry room has a new floor, soft grey walls, a new toilet and vanity.
This time, we chose to list. I hope our house sells quickly when it goes on the market, but not too soon. I want to enjoy my new laundry room. At least for a little while.
Beth Herman is a writer and artist based in Charlottesville. She would love to hear your renovation stories, scary or smooth.