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Goodbye office, hello bathroom

Good morning! Today is THE day. The day I’ve been eagerly counting down to for months. A whole year even. And it doesn’t involve me laying on a tropical beach or giving birth to another child.

Well, unless that child is a brand spankin’ new bathroom, then yes, it does.

Because today marks the day we begin our little house renovation project where we will be adding a second bathroom. It’s very exciting.

This is what’s happening right now.

Demolition begins

The new bath isn’t quite what I’m all giddy about though. We’ve lived in many different places over the years and we’ve always had just one bathroom, so we’re pretty accustomed to sharing. (I have a harder time sharing my food.) Don’t get me wrong, having an extra bathroom will be divine, but the main reason I’ve been looking forward to this project finally beginning is because it means that half my house will have floor again.

See, when we moved back last summer, we ripped out all the carpet in the family room and the office. We had been renting the house out while living in New York and after having four sets of renters with animals living in our home, the condition of the carpet was not suitable anymore, even after a good steam cleaning. I was 7-1/2 months pregnant at the time and my nesting hormones were wild so I wanted needed everything to be as clean as possible for the baby. We had just ripped everything out in our basement due to flooding, as well as had torn up the yard to install french drains (let’s just say it was a rough return home), so it was easy for me at the time to look at that carpet and chant “Rip it out! Rip it out!” I stopped at the kitchen tile though. It too had a lot of its own issues and needed to be replaced, but at least we were able to clean it and deal with it until that time came.

We didn’t put replacement flooring down because we had intentions to create this additional bathroom. We just needed some time, like a good year, to get into a position to actually pull the trigger on this project. And it didn’t make sense to install flooring in the meantime because we’d just have to redo it anyways. So for the past year, all that space has just become storage for boxes and clutter…and a home to my sister Greta who decided to move in with us for awhile and help with the baby. She found a way to turn that unfinished space into her perfect bohemian quarters, ideal for ukelele playing and hookah smoking. Ahhh, to be 25 and single.

Now that she has just moved out to be in her own place, and summer is coming to an end, we’re ready to. do. this.

In this post I want to give you an overview of what we’re planning on doing. So, to give you some context, here is a floor plan of our house as it is currently. It’s a one story house, so this is all the living space.

Gavin Renovation 2014-existing
The house was built in 1953 and the family room was added in the back of the house before we bought the house in 2007. Sunrooms and basement garages were popular additions to brick ranch homes like ours, and ours received both upgrades. Here is a picture of the family room that we took last summer right after we removed the carpet. It still looks like this today, with the exception of 30 boards of framing lumber now sitting in the middle of the floor.

current sunroomhorizontal

The area on the plan that says “office” was the third bedroom when the home was originally built and before the sunroom (which we call the family room) addition. It’s been a great little workspace area, open to all the light from the windows in the next room, and has some nice built-ins for storage. Here’s a picture of that area, from back in the day, when it still had carpet.


(Note that bit of tile floor in the picture, which is in front of the french doors. It is the same tile that is in the kitchen. It’s like a utility tile you’d find in a commercial bathroom. You can understand my distain for it.) I had my desk on the left wall at one time, and like I said, was a good space to work. But the “L” shaped space of the family room and office has its quirks and challenges.

Gavin existing plan challengesThere’s a lot of space around where the french doors are, as well as in the middle of the two spaces, that becomes sort of lost square footage. It’s difficult to actually make use of those areas efficiently. And there’s still the remaining door to the hallway from the office from when that space was a bedroom. But it’s a rather silly door since that space is all accessible from the kitchen anyway. Also the wall between the office and kitchen became a “wing wall” that is a bit odd to me. When you’re standing in the middle of the family room looking towards the office, you see the wing wall head on, and get sort of a divided view of the office and kitchen. I never really liked that, but it might be one of those things that bothers me and no one else. Also the closet door in the office doesn’t open completely because of the built-ins.

All-in-all, the flaws are very minimal, and we considered just keeping it the same. But, being the designer I am that loves to spend endless hours sketching floor plans, I knew there was a better solution. One that would give us A. a new bathroom, B. a bathroom off our bedroom, C. a more usable kitchen, and D. a closed off family room that could also fit a workspace, as well as double as a guest room, and potential third bedroom.

I mean, essentially, without touching any exterior walls, we can go from a 2 bedroom/1 bath house, to a 3 bedroom/2 bath house AND get an improved kitchen. It just seems like a no-brainer.

So, ladies and gentlemen, may I present: our renovation plan.

Gavin Renovation Plan with notesIt’s definitely our biggest project yet, but still very manageable. Because, basically, all the work is mostly focused on that “office” area and then just rearranging where openings are. The only demolition needed is where there will be new openings into the kitchen and into the bedroom bathroom. Everything else is basically just adding a few new interior walls to define the new spaces. The new bathroom will be small, standard, yet functional, and the existing bath will get reconfigured so that it will be accessed off of the bedroom rather than the hallway. The most costly part will be the plumbing and electrical. We did have to file a permit with the county, and will need inspections performed. Last summer, we switched our oil furnace to an electric heat pump, and during that install we had some of the vents moved so that it would work with this new plan. So mechanicals are already done.

But there’s a lot to do. Lots of coffee, pizza, trips to Home Depot, and sweeping of saw dust is in our future. Here’s what we’re doing, room by room:


  • Extending the wall behind the stove to meet the adjacent wall, effectively closing off the opening into the back room.
  • Moving the refrigerator and adding about 3 feet of counter space and cabinetry.
  • Adding a coffee bar/buffet opposite the refrigerator.
  • Fixing the trim and repainting the walls.
  • Installing hardwood floors.

Family Room:

  • Installing hardwood floors.
  • Extending the wall at the basement stairs all the way across to meet the exterior wall at the covered porch.
  • Adding a single french door into the space.
  • Adding can lighting.
  • Possibly redoing the trim around all the windows (they were cased incorrectly).
  • Adding electrical to accommodate a workspace and TV area.
  • Repainting the walls.

New Bathroom (from office):

  • Installing simple fixtures: fiberglass tub/shower insert, pedestal sink, toilet.
  • Tiling floors.
  • Adding necessary electrical and vanity light.
  • Adding trim.
  • Painting the walls.
  • Possibly adding a skylight to let in natural light.
  • Removing the existing textured ceiling.

New Hallway (from office):

  • Installing hardwood floors.
  • Converting closet to a pantry.
  • Repainting the walls.
  • Converting the door to a cased opening.

New Hallway going to Family Room (from office):

  • Installing hardwood floors.
  • Adding some sort of detail to the wall separating it from the bathroom, possibly shelving, coat hooks, or a simple counter shelf. To be decided once it’s built.
  • Repainting the walls.
  • Moving the door to the basement.

Existing Hall:

  • Installing hardwood floors.
  • Closing off door to existing bathroom.
  • Redoing drywall and trim.
  • Repainting the walls.

Bedroom Bathroom:

  • Relocating the existing cast iron tub.
  • Building in a linen closet with the remaining space next to the tub.
  • Installing a pedestal sink.
  • Retiling the floor and tub walls, and wall behind sink.
  • Redoing the electrical and lighting.
  • Fixing trim and repainting walls.

So that’s the plan! I think it’s a pretty good one. I tried lots of alternatives (like trying to keep the existing bath as is, and seeing if the family room could be our bedroom), but this ended up being the best option. The thing that was hard for us to overcome was facing the fact we’d have to undo everything we did in our current bathroom, which was the total cosmetic overhaul we gave it in 2007. But, we made some mistakes there, and we’re ready to take on a new challenge. There are a couple of things I don’t particularly like about the new plan such as the new door to the bedroom bath will swing right into the toilet (a bathroom design sin), nor do I like that the new bath won’t have a window (we’re going to look into adding a skylight). Also my already very small bedroom will be losing even more wall space to the new bathroom door. Other than that, I think this will be a great improvement to our house.

If I didn’t have a sweet 11-month old to take care of, I’d totally be helping with demolition today (at least a few good whacks with the sledgehammer to kick it off—because I know that all the fun at the start will quickly become sweaty, hard work), but my husband and his friends will be doing most of the demo and framing today. I’ll take the pictures and pick up the sub sandwiches, and maybe, but hopefully not too often, exert my designer authority if needed.

So, what do you think of our plan? Are we nuts?

I have to close this post by saying that today really is a BIG day, and not just because of this project. Today is also the launch of this little blog, a blog that numerous friends and family have told me to start over the years, and one that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It makes sense to start one because I feel like I’ve got loads of content to share. My husband and I love home improvement projects and we’ve done so many, oftentimes ones way over our heads. It’ll be fun to get feedback and insights from others, and hopefully I can provide some useful tips along the way.

I plan on posting progress updates on this project and details of plans for each space, so come along friends (insert exaggerated arm gesture), and please leave a comment!





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  • Greta Louise
    August 23, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Seeing how your home has gone from a dream redo to today’s demolition is really inspiring. It’s a lot of work and investment faith to do big changes like that. It’ll be neat to follow the process.

    • Tamara
      August 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

      Thanks Greta. Demolition is fun, messy, and a little scary. Now that we’re down to the studs, I can’t wait until the next part!

  • Camia
    August 23, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Awesome! Can you also post about how to vault ceilings and exterior paint! Thx

    • Tamara
      August 24, 2014 at 12:59 am

      Are you thinking of vaulting your ceilings? It all depends on the roof. I have a low hip roof so I don’t think I could every vault mine unfortunately. We need to paint our exterior trim at some point, so yes, eventually I plan to write about that experience!

  • Liana
    August 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I just read this entire thing!! And I am TOTALLY INSPIRED and thrilled to keep up with your new posts!! Although my hubby and I are still a few years away from buying our first house, we are also a builder/designer duo like you and Jaga, so your projects are like I said, super inspiring and exciting to read about 🙂 take lots of pictures!!! Woohoo ya’ll are great

    • Tamara
      August 24, 2014 at 12:57 am

      Thanks Liana!! You are my cheerleader! I will be taking lots of pictures. xo

  • Kate
    August 23, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    So inspiring! My house next please? 🙂 I’m excited to keep up with what you are doing!

    • Tamara
      August 24, 2014 at 12:54 am

      Thanks Kate!

  • Mitsuyo Ikeno-Yamada
    August 24, 2014 at 5:31 am

    Can’t wait to see how your home project turns out. I know it will be amazing. There will be moments when your patience will be tested, but in the end of all your hard work together as a couple will bring you closer. I can also get ideas in how to set up our new home too 🙂 Go team Jaga and Tami!

    • Tamara
      August 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      Hi Mitsy! Congrats on your big move! Moving across the country requires a lot of coordination! And I can’t believe you had to go to the ER right after getting to your new place! I hope I can give you lots of ideas. Thanks for commenting!

  • Shauna Ann
    August 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Hey Tamara! I’m interested in becoming an interior designer. Any tips from one blogger to another?

    • Shauna Ann
      August 24, 2014 at 10:10 am

      Also, want to say I am new to the homeowning part of life and am having a blast with making the house exactly as I want it.

      • Tamara
        August 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm

        Welcome to homeownership Shauna! I see you are tackling your bathroom too!

    • Tamara
      August 24, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Different designers specialize in different things. I went the whole 4 year degree, first job at a big firm, got licensed route, but there are many designers who don’t do it that way. Do what you love, and continue showcasing what you’re doing with your house!

  • trickyjean
    August 25, 2014 at 12:02 am

    I am so excited to watch your home/marriage/life journey unfold! Go team Gavin! xoxox

    • Tamara
      August 25, 2014 at 12:18 am

      Thank you for your support Nikki!!

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