So we bought a new house! Let the fun begin!
I’ll start off with the MLS photos. Despite some problematic areas, these pictures honestly did not do the house justice at all. Not only were the pictures dark, but they actually neglected to even show some of the spaces (?).
To recap, this house had been on the market for a quite a while (about 4 weeks, which isn’t really that long, but this was at a time when the local market was extremely competitive, and inventory was at an all-time low), so we were initially concerned that something was seriously wrong with it. We knew it was in a highly desirable neighbourhood, so we chatted with our realtor about our concerns: she had actually visited the house with other clients before and they all expressed concerns with the layout.
We agreed, the layout of the main floor was not ideal — every space was closed off (completely – there were doors on the dining room and living room), and there was no garage access from inside the house. However, unlike other potential buyers, we (I) had vision. I could see how a few tweaks would make the main floor function perfectly for us. So we moved forward and bought the house. We knew that even if we couldn’t make the vision a reality, we would absolutely be able to live in this house long-term. It still offered all of the things we were looking for, we just knew there was a better way for them to work for us!
PSA: major changes to the layout (and thus, to the structure) of a house will typically require building permits. This will ultimately depend on your location, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
In preparation for applying for a permit, we were able to get copies of the original floor plans for the house from the city to refer to. This was helpful because it allowed us to (a) see what changes had already been made by previous owners, and (b) have access to some of the hidden details, such as joists. We were fortunate enough to work with my dad’s best friend, who has a construction company; that made the entire process so much easier for us. He came to take a look at our house, determined which walls were structural and which ones weren’t, and assisted us in drawing up the proposed plans to modify the layout (which was required by the city prior to them issuing a permit).
Basically this is what we started with:
Our idea was to essentially divide the front living room into two smaller spaces; part would become a cozy den space, the other would be transformed into a mudroom space with access to the garage. This plan would also open up the wall between the existing dining room and the new den space, and open up the dining room to the hallway (the closet would move into the mudroom) creating more of an open-concept layout.
The proposed changes to the plans (excuse the poor quality of the pictures!):
Yes, the living room became considerably smaller, but we were able to justify it:
- we would be gaining coveted garage access
- we have a comfortably-sized family room on the main level; we do not need two living spaces on the same floor (we will eventually have a rec room in the basement)
- the smaller “living room” (which we planned to use as a den area with bookcases and a computer desk) would be open to our dining room, so it would not feel small
- the dining room (and thus the den) would be opened up to the main hallway area, allowing more natural light to flow throughout the main floor, and making the entire level feel open
When we sold our first house, we intentionally held some of the equity back from that sale (as in, we didn’t use it all toward our down-payment on the new house). We knew that would be the easiest way for us to pay for this extensive project. HGTV shows and magazines (not to mention my knowledge from my interior decorating classes) led us to anticipate a big price tag for these renovations. But in reality the costs were actually far less than we had prepared for (in part because the structural work was being done by a friend, and also because we were prepared to do the bulk of the other work ourselves) — obviously that was amazing news! Since we were in the process of doing a major renovation, we re-evaluated and thought let’s make life even more insane! — we also embarked on a full kitchen renovation.
Let me back things up for a second — the previous owners of the house had made a few changes to the layout themselves:
They had essentially shrunk down the laundry room to move the fridge and another small bank of cabinetry across the room (which also closed an original doorway that between the kitchen and dining room). We had talked about someday moving the laundry down to the basement and recapturing that space for a larger kitchen. Turns out, someday was a lot sooner than we had anticipated!
The kitchen we were taking out was nothing special. It was original to the house (so it was 30ish years old) and the previous owners had painted the cabinets (not well). Initially it appeared to be something we could live with for several years before moving forward with our big expansion plans. But when we moved in, the poor condition of the cabinets was screaming at us. We figured that since we could afford it now, we might as well do it. That way our entire main floor would be modified to become exactly what we wanted/needed (every space would be redesigned with the exception of our fully-functional family room).
So to sum up — we are crazy people!!!!!!