Sunday, April 12, 2015

Renovation Diary

 Sometimes we need a different viewpoint, a new way of seeing the world--up close and far away.  A year ago, a 70s ranchburger wasn't a part of my world. If you'd told me that I would end up on this hilltop, I wouldn't have believed it. At my age, I had no desire to embark upon another renovation, especially one that appeared to be Mission Impossible. Then, without warning, I was pushed up that hill. 
I dug in my heels, shaking my head. No, no, no. I swallowed so hard, my throat clicked. As I approached the house, I had a sudden image of cedar shake and crisp white trim. Sort of a New England coastal vibe. I imagined dormers on the long part of the train. Would that work? Or be an expensive mistake? My reverie ended when someone said, "Why was a squatty house built on a hilltop?" Because it was the style-of-the-day, but the style on this house was inconsistent. It has been called French Country (no way) and Tudor (huh?) and a mishmash. The middle section was shaped like a train and didn't mesh with the two wings. A huge stone chimney turned out to be fake. Every elevation had a different vibe, and the rear elevation was referred to as Motel 6.

I thought the house had great potential, even thought it had issues. Seals were broken on some windows--windows so old, they were no longer manufactured. I couldn't replace all of them. Each one was examined and notes were made. For example, the triple window in the master bath (below, right) was in good shape and didn't need replacing. A grille will be added, and plantation shutters will be an instant update--plus, they'll add privacy. Also, cedar shake siding will go a long way to unite the disparate elements.

The windows in the pool house are quite old but intact, so they're staying. Cedar shake will be installed over the brick, and the 70s French doors will be replaced with Very Special Doors. Can you guess which ones?

Do you remember the double, 8 foot front doors (front elevation)? They're earmarked for the pool house. 

  My co-designer, Zap, barked twice--a sign that he approves.

Ten months sped by. Plans were made. Plans were deleted. And deleted again. But I never lost faith in the transforming power of cedar shake. In late winter, we replaced the old picture windows (they were actually sheets of glass--not energy efficient) and added stock French doors. The bay window in the breakfast room was created out of these doors, too. I hadn't expected them to make such a huge difference. It was a happy moment when I drove up and the ranchburger didn't seem so burgerish!

One plan had called for the stone pillars to be repurposed, replaced with square white columns. But with the addition of the shake, I thought the stones added texture.

The trim paint is crisp and white. I had originally imagined a Nantucket or Hamptons Style vibe, but the house had other ideas. She is a Tennessee hill house, thousands of miles from the sea. I could almost hear her say, "Let me be myself." 
I am listening to her.

 However, we did have to face structural issues along the way. As you can see, we were dealing with two different ceiling heights in the center part of the house. The kitchen (you can see the stock windows and doors in the center, below) had an 8 foot ceiling. The living room had a 9 foot ceiling. We'll need steps (matching the stone porch) off the kitchen door.

With each change--a window here, cedar shake there--the house is developing her own personality.

The same style of windows will go in each wing. Then cedar shake will be installed over the brick. Raising the roof wasn't an option, so I opted for faux dormer windows, and they'll go on the long part of the "train,"in the center of the house, adding a little height to the front elevation--unless the house doesn't want them. 

Inside the breakfast room, I can see all the way to my Mama's house.

When you're renovating--or making any kind of scary change--one must maintain perspective. When things go wrong--or even when they're going right--step back and look for the wider view.

Coming up:
A new paint color for the stock, interior doors
Kitchen cabinets
Marble vs wooden counters vs Solid Surface
Master and Guest Bath updates

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  1. It is good to be able to look out your window and see your Mama's house!

  2. I am so glad you kept the stone columns, Michael Lee. They meld beautifully with the color,of the cedar shakes. My favorite part of the whole house would have to be the view...spectacular!! Yes, houses do have to "talk" to us and we need to listen. I like going on this journey with you.

  3. It is all coming together nicely Michael. Great idea to step back and take inventory every now and then of what you want and what the house wants. It is going to be breath taking and soooo worth it!

  4. In my mind, you are "The House Whisperer". She cries, you hear her voice. You are helping her sing. It reminds me of The Captian in the movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. She is calling to you and you are helping her properly express herself. What an exciting voyage you have embarked on. Thank you for sharing this grand tour with us. More, please.

  5. I once read that a house/site should reflect its surroundings/ that it "fits." When you said that it is a TN hill house, I thought bingo! Yes! I am familiar with the rolling hills of TN, as well as the higher elevations of east TN. All of it is beautiful landscape! By listening to your house and its site on the hill everything will be in sync. And...from my hill in south central KY to your hill in TN...have a wonderful day! I doubt we could see each other but if you look north and I look south our lines of vision will probably cross. Looking forward to more pics! Sheila

  6. I am really enjoying your journey with the ranchburger!

  7. Ahhh...the house is starting to show us what she really looks like. And she's going to be a beauty! A true daughter of the Tennessee hills. Expansive. Warm. Unpretentious. Real. Welcoming. A Safe Place. Just like the people.

    I imagine that she has been in a semi slumbering state all this time, waiting, dreaming for the right person to find her and search her out with eyes and ears that could see and hear her. And that person was you.

    I believe that this home is going to be a real gift to you every day of your life. You will nurture each other and create a sanctuary of peace for everyone who has the pleasure of spending time there.

    Thank you for taking us on the journey.

  8. I have really enjoyed reading about your renovation journey, and will have to admit that you are a much stronger person than I am. You have a beautiful home to work with and the landscape/view is outstanding.

  9. Loving these update posts! And the amazing view!

  10. There's so much interesting going on in this house (in a good way). It is going to be spectacular when you're finished ML.Love that you've let the house talk to you. In retrospect I wish I had done that on occasion.

  11. Such a beautiful home and gorgeous views! I cannot wait to see how it all turns out!

  12. I like that you are "listening" to the house. I think it's a great home and the view is fabulous! That's really wonderful that you can see your mama's house. My home is nothing close to this caliber but I have been through a huge renovating job with it a while back and I had to work with what I had rather than trying to mold it into something it wasn't capable of being. The dormers will probably add just the right touch but I know it's scary to take that step since they have to cut into the roof to do it. You seem to have the knowledge, talent and patience to do all this and that's what it takes!