Project House: The Before

November 11, 2013


It begins!

Before I show you the “before” pictures, I have to tell you how surreal this whole effort feels. I cannot think of another way to describe it. I’ve written how I’m not sure when this whole thing will finally seem like “mine,” but I thought perhaps having the house ripped up and dirt everywhere might, at least, help with that?

It hasn’t.

It feels like I am watching and choosing for someone else’s project. So far, in the past two days, I’ve picked out a fireplace, two countertops, some bathroom fixtures, and a wallpaper. I’m actively looking for a tub for the master bathroom, ovens for the kitchen, and will be looking for stains and paint colors shortly, too.

These are all things I will have to live with very soon – but it doesn’t feel like I’m picking it out for me. And it is the strangest feeling in the world.


Wanna see the insides?

Here is a view from the front entry hall. It looks through what was the formal living room into what was the old dining room. In the new world, these are getting flipped so that the dining room is humongous (party!), and the room off the kitchen is the study.

While comfortable, the lime green carpet is, sadly, leaving, because under the carpet are original hardwoods that need to be shown off immediately if not sooner. Also new windows in both rooms! Yay for light!

House Old Dining room

Old formal living room and dining room

To the right of that old dining room is the kitchen which, today, still looks like this:

The kitchen and breakfast area.

The kitchen and breakfast area.

The breakfast area is just on the other side of that granite bar, and is surrounded by built in cabinets – one set of which looks into the den and has a groovy bar. The one thing I will never complain about is storage in this house. (Thanks, Meme!) All the cabinetry is getting a fresh coat of white paint, some new doors and drawer fronts, and new pulls. Oh! And where that cooktop is will be a new double oven range of glory.  At some point the kitchen as a whole will be “Phase 2” of this endeavor, but for now, a bit of lipstick will do just fine.

As I mentioned, just on the other side of that bar is the den, or family room. I seem to be missing that picture, but I can show you the two best parts of the room:

den before

Parquet floors and a custom-made, floating bar.

BOOM. This space is fairly large and made for entertaining. The floors are going to be so jacked up after the foundation work, but we have it on good authority from Angel, our floor dude, that he can repair them and refinish them to a dark coffee color. I cannot WAIT to trick out that bar a la Mad Men style. The other end of the room will have built in cabinets, open shelving and… a FIREPLACE. There were two things that were non-negotiable: a tub in the master bathroom (duh) and a fireplace.

Totally reasonable.

Okay! Bedrooms! Here is Leah’s:

Leah's old room

Noooooot quite ready for a sassy 12 year old.

Leah’s room has a great window just aching to come out of hiding. It will be replaced and gorgeous as well. More carpeting that needs to flee – hardwoods await throughout the back of the house, too. Her closet doors will be replaced with bi-folds, and the interior of the closet reworked for more functionality. This used to be my dad and uncle’s room and she thinks that’s rather funny.  I have some really cool things planned for her, but they are a secret, so you’ll have to wait a bit. Can’t spoil the surprise!

And Benjamin…

How cheery, no?

How cheery, no?

Benjamin’s room is where 1950s paneling came to die. It’s everywhere. But not for long! All of it is getting ripped out in lieu of some brighter walls. The built-in desk is going as well so his dresser can be recessed in there and allow for more floor space. That TV is just hanging out there for now. It leaves tomorrow. Say goodbye to the plush carpet, too!  His closet is enormous, which I’m sure will be a bone of contention with his older sister soon enough, but, I’m hoping to contain the 7 year-old toy mess in there, too.

Ohh! Before I get to the master bedroom, you should see the hall bathroom. The kids will share this bathroom and it will serve as the guest bathroom as well.

1950s Blue, baby

1950s Blue, baby

It’s blue. All of it. It’s also in immaculate condition on the surface, which is no surprise to anyone who knew how my grandmother liked her house kept.

All of this is getting gutted and renovated – and it is going to be really cool.

Now! Master bedroom

LOTS of work in here.

LOTS of work in here.

So, before I explain what we’re doing, I should show you the teeny pink master bathroom that is peeking out of the corner of this picture.



This? Will not be staying. I am not sad about this.

Essentially we are doing a few, big things here.

1. Across from that window is a large, sliding glass door. It is becoming french doors. (light!)

2. We are taking the space for the existing pink bathroom, and that dressing area, and making that whole space a new master bathroom with a tub and two sinks and all sorts of storage. That is being done by enclosing that dressing area opening and moving the entrance to the closet down to the left, where we will also enter the bathroom. It is not optimal, but I don’t care, the goal was to bring light into the space (french doors) and get a bigger bathroom.

Originally, the bed was oriented under that window, facing the opposite, sliding glass doors. That caused issues with where to put a TV and I didn’t want to continue to cover up the doors and block the light.

SO! I’m moving the bed to the new, longer wall, once the bathroom is moved, and reorienting the room to take full advantage of the windows.

It’s going to be awesome.

Let’s see, that just leaves the outside.

Back patio.  Ooof.

Back patio. Ooof.

Oh, sad. The square black hole of doom on the left is actually where the bedroom french doors will be. The square black hole of doom straight ahead will be a second pair of french doors in the den/family room. I want ALL THE LIGHT.

The patio is getting new concrete, possibly patterned, some furniture, and the grill.

While sitting on the cute patio to come, you would see the backyard, which currently looks like this:

Ah, much better.

Ah, much better.

A view left and right. The bench and bird feeder are staying because Benjamin was very concerned the birds and squirrels would have nowhere to sit or drink if we moved them. See that tree? My dad planted that tree 60-something years ago.

And there you have it. What started in 1957 will continue in 2013, just with a new wardrobe.

My dad walked around the empty house and said, “There are a lot of ghosts in this house.” This is true, but we have room for them all. There is a lot of “new” in the house to come, but there is also a healthy dose of honoring the home it was, too.

I think Meme and Poppy will approve – and I can’t wait to show you the finished project.

the house

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7 Responses to “Project House: The Before”

  1. sara Says:

    NO, DO NOT rip out that gorgeous blue bathroom:)

    • pamlewis Says:

      I may ask to swing the sledgehammer myself. 🙂 HOWEVER! That blue tub is actually cast iron and really valuable? Trying to save it for salvage. TRYING.

  2. Stephanie Schwab @stephanies Says:

    This house is the same vintage as my grandparents’ old house in Skokie, IL – right down to the identical blue bathrooms!! I cannot wait to see how this progresses – have so much fun!

    • pamlewis Says:

      Ha! I’m fairly certain this is what EVERYONE’s grandparent’s house looked like. As if it was some sort of law – pink and blue bathrooms! 🙂 Thanks for the good wishes!

  3. amelia kleiman Says:

    Pammers—Mom’s house around the corner on Levonshire was where my folks moved not long after I was born in 1957……their original house was on Latma & Newshire. The neat one on the corner. It was the 5th house in that hood…but too small once they had me… around the corner they went…Mom still lives there (Blake Wathen is her “roommate”), & she works at JFS! Nice easy commute…
    And yes, one pink bath and one was yellow (in master)….So excited for you to be able to resurrect all those ghosts…..and so now I know why your dad often stopped by when your mom or Teri and your mom used to babysit us!!!! Love all this!

  4. elz Says:

    Can’t wait to see the finished product!

    • pamlewis Says:

      Thanks! Me, too! You’ll have to come by one day and help me decide some fabric/hardware choices!