Well, here we are! Probably eating take-out tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner since we don’t have a kitchen this week BUT does that even matter when we’re feeling the giddiness Christmas morning often brings as we’re starting our home renovation?!
We are a few months into our new home situation in Arizona and while a lot has happened on the home front in many regards (though never as quickly as I’d like! and never ever on my timeline, but such is life! I should know by now!), we are making progress slowly but surely. The demo started this week on a few things we are changing inside the home so we sealed up a back section of the house we aren’t currently working on and crammed the furniture and belongings into it for the meantime. It feels a little bit old-school-newly-wed-Harlem-days in our studio apartment circa 2007, though this time we’ve got 5 extra bodies to tuck in each night beside us!
about the home and yard
Backing up a little bit, when we first walked through the home (you can read more about that here), we knew straight away it was where we wanted to set up shop for this new chapter as a family because of the yard. The property is filled with mature trees and shade in a neighborhood zoned for all kinds of animals in a fully fenced-in space. There is a garden in the corner where Conrad has sprinkled many seeds and a hammock between two grown elm trees where you can usually find Eleanor with her nose deep in a book. There have been a few scorpion sightings (shaving years off my life!) and lots of lizards caught and safely released by our Samson. And then there’s the fun of having two toddlers often found with muddy feet most days running after a chicken or two. While it was the only home and property we walked through, we knew with time we could make this house a home, despite the house not really being our style or aesthetic just yet (a lot of brown tile, a lot of brown carpet, a lot of textured walls which I’ve since learned is called knock-down). But the house had been so thoroughly cared for by the previous owners, and I feel an immense amount of gratitude that we haven’t run into anything scary like mold or failing pipes or worse. It really speaks to my heart as I think about what may have taken place here before us, with little ones that grew to be big ones with walls I am hopeful maintained a safe space for a family to make the memories within them.
I won’t shy away from the fact that being thrown into home ownership for the very first time and the maintaining of anything green has pretty much felt entirely overwhelming like, every thirty hours or so. Keeping five kids alive and healthy and thriving is one thing, but adding trees and grass and a home to the mix (where I can’t just call my landlord/super to help with a water leak or help me with a door hinge that’s busted and hanging)… it’s been a learning curve for sure. I managed to kill two of my three queen palm trees over the summer (though a tree company we hired to help us as I started to see the trees begin to waiver did express that there wasn’t anything I could do with the heatwave Arizona experienced this summer and the palm trees old age). STILL! I carry the guilt that they passed on my watch and feel pure panic thinking about losing any one of my citrus trees. I will not recover.
Right before we put the official offer in on the home, I texted the queen of design and all things home renovation. Because when it comes to good and generous people, they don’t come better than Jenny Komenda (whom I’d first met when her family also lived in nyc several years ago). She kindly walked through the home for us and even crawled into the attic to check the beams (I’d never have thought to do that). Having her let us know the home had potential (and wasn’t a terrible idea) helped boost my confidence on the home front since all of this is so new to me.
The home is an old ranch style home, with 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. We don’t have any plans to add additional square footage. I know it’s different for each family and living situation, but we have so enjoyed our close quarters in city apartments and feel this amount of space is just right for us. The kids are all still sharing bedrooms and we’ve allocated a separate room for all the toys and things like we did in the city so our kiddos have dedicated and separate sleeping spaces and activity spaces.
I really love old ranch homes. I like that era (mostly 1940 to 1980 builds) and that everything is on the same floor level with a more open floorplan which offers a lot of great things to work with. It’s hard to dare complain about anything on the house front given all the love and safety these walls have already shown our family, but if we wanna discuss one feature that’s kind of not my favorite thing, it’d be the low low low ceilings. Most ranch style homes have a ceiling height of around 8 feet and while that’s totally manageable, our home has even lower hanging soffits holding a system of air ducts in much of the spaces making it under 7 feet in some areas with ceiling fans like sometimes feel like they might take the top of your head off! We looked at pitching the ceiling and taking advantage of the attic space in the main living areas, but the price (or bid as they call it) for a project like that had a jaw dropping price tag reaching six figures (and we wouldn’t be able to live in the home during that part of the renovation for 9 months or more). After that bid came back, I looked around at my terribly low ceilings and I was like, I don’t mind you! You will do!… But we’ve found a few work-arounds, and we do plan to remove the lower hanging soffits (so all the ceilings will be flush at 8 feet) and bring all the air ducts that are currently inside the lower soffits into the attic. We hope to add larger windows throughout the back side of the home to bring in more natural light, too. I am hopeful some simple maneuvers like these will help make the space still feel open and big despite not being able to raise the ceiling and expose the attic beams. (i’ll show the lower hanging soffits in better detail in a video soon! i have taken a ton, just need to download them!)
what we’re changing
While we aren’t adding square footage to the home, we are changing a little bit of the layout (we realized after living in it for a bit that there wasn’t a back door. HA! The things you realize when it’s midnight and you’re trying to run the trash outside to the trash bin but have to open the garage door in order to get out to it! It’s amazing how much clarity you can get on what you’d like to do with a space after really living in it for a bit and seeing how your family utilizes the rooms or how the flow of traffic works within the layout. At first, I wanted to jump right in and change things the first day we got keys, but it’s been really helpful to sit on it for a bit since a lot of what we originally thought we wanted to do has changed so many times in the past few months as we’ve been in the space and learned more about its functionality and what we really need from it. A good example of this was over the summer when the kids lived in the pool behind the house each day. Whenever they needed to use the bathroom, they had to run from one side of the home through several rooms to the other side of the home leaving behind a trail of puddles since there isn’t a bathroom anywhere near the pool. We realized if we put a back door in by the laundry room, it could be the kids’ main entry point from the pool and since we have a water hook up already in that space, we can create a small half-bath right there for them as well. Another plus is that it’s right where the laundry is for all the pool towels and clothing changes as they’ll then have a dedicated place to dry off and change and leave their wet towels or rinse their muddy boots or whatever it might be they bring in from playing in the yard. And the best part? No one will be slipping on puddles of water gathered throughout the home like we did a few months ago and Josh and I now have access to the trash bins without opening the big garage doors on the side!
We’ll be doing a full kitchen renovation (we are SO excited about this!), plus updating the kids bathroom and laundry room. We’re creating a mudroom off the garage with good storage space for shoes and coats and all the kiddo things (since we currently don’t have a good set up near any door for those things). We are saying goodbye to a lot of the knock-down textured walls so I can apply wallpaper and paint them all fun colors and make these walls really sing! We started pulling up the brown carpet a few months back because it just made all of us feel better having that gone despite not having the flooring solidified just yet (we threw down some white paint over the concrete that was under the carpet and it’s actually got us thinking about incorporating some concrete floors into the home now.) And like I said above, the tile demo has begun so we are inching closer to standing on a nice piece of hardwood in the bedrooms soon enough!
I haven’t shared a ton of words or videos or hopeful plans surrounding the house just yet since we hadn’t really started, but I’ll do my best to keep the progress up to date since we’ve begun! I’ll share videos on my instagram (there is already a highlight saved with some renovation progress) and if you’d like, you can check out all my home pins to see some of the inspiration for our project. I always love when you guys share ideas and suggestions with me, so feel free to keep them coming if you see something in the space you think might work or be better than our current plans! Josh and I are kind of flying by the seat of our pants here and were up wayyyyyyy too late last night with a tape measure and masking tape going to town with a little blueprint draft paper app on my phone (shout out to that little magicplan app that has changed my life and brought out my inner architect!). I do have to send a big shout out to helpful people in the design world who have kindly helped hold our hand from afar with a couple of suggestions and ideas (looking at you, Chris and Fallon) and all the incredible DIY bloggers and designers out there (IHOD and Chris Loves Julia to name a few) who have helped my fingernails remain a little more intact as they share detailed specifics on DIY home projects for people like me who are like, “wait, you can do what with vertical paneling?!”
I’m overwhelmed like 70% of the time, especially since this renovation often feels last on our list right now with Josh’s new job here and life with kids plus schoolwork and navigating the drastic changes 2020 has brought us by way of a new state and community and chapter of life. But I feel so very thankful for this house and surrounding yard we get to call home and for the memories we’ve already begun creating in this new state and new space and new chapter of life. I’m learning that when I lean into this change, and really open my eyes to see the good these last few months have brought us, I can’t deny the immense sense of gratitude I have, knock-down walls and all.
Feeling all sorts of thankful this week. Thank you to those of you who have shared in our excitement for this next chapter. Sending so much love to all of you.