Happiness typically comes in waves.  Like the ebb and flow of the tide, we experience good, bad, and everything in between.  As I learned in a therapy group, healthy people trade in one set of problems for a new one in this thing we call life, while the dysfunctional ones (usually because of some kind of addiction or Family of Origin problems) carry the same ones, adding to them.  For much of my life, when I experienced an unusually long “winning” streak, I grew hyper vigilant, half waiting for trouble to balance all my luck.


As I have embarked on the house—henceforth known as 8345—my life has taught me the truth of, When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I live with a man who has worked as an illustrator for the last thirty-six years, and while he would not characterize it as eternal joy, he is a very happy person, whose giant cup of coffee is always half-full. And I have finally discovered the thing that makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning. In finding my bliss, I can now follow it.

So, here’s what I’m doing to two floors (750 s.f. each) at 8345, with the excellent team I have assembled:

Working with VCArchitects (who designed my own addition) to:

  • Re-design interior, opening it up to create a better flow
  • Remove some interior walls and ceilings (there’s another 7’ of height to be gained)
  • Add exterior stairwell to the basement, so the owner can let her two Labs out, without having to go through the house.
  • Remove all interior duct work, to be replaced with radiant heat throughout.
  • Turn bedroom on north wall into part of the living room
  • Move stairs to basement, using open risers and aircraft cable supports to keep the space open
  • Add awning windows in living room, kitchen and bedroom to increase the open feeling and add natural light

Formerly "finished" portion of the basement, separated by wall to laundry and service area. Stairwell will move, walls will come down and room will open up (with special doggie hotel).

Kitchen--accessible from side door--will gain space after demo and relocation of stairs. Stove will be installed in island across from sink, and ceilings will rise to peak at 15'.

View from the LR towards hallway (which will go).  Closet wall will go, opening kitchen, and load-bearing wall (on left) will extend upward 15', to support open ceiling.

Entire bathroom goes, to be replaced with new. Walk-in shower will replace tub and run perpendicular to this view. Ceiling will slope to 15' on shower side.

I’m serving as the Project Manager/General Contractor, so I can maintain control of the job and working with subs, to assemble a reliable group, so I can offer seamless, turnkey solutions from concept through implementation as I develop my business.  With Corban Construction, I have found a person who does concrete, demolition and framing.  He bills me AFTER he does the work and stays in constant communication (key) as we move forward. He is more than capable of playing General, but actually likes the notion of my doing all the leg work, while he does the heavy stuff.  He’s conscientious and dedicated.

As anyone who has embarked on home-related projects knows, things rarely turn out as planned, and on-time delivery disappears.  Remember my addition that was supposed to take 30 days, that turned into a nine month project?!?  That was when I decided to “do it myself.”  And it requires daily interaction, pre-planning, scheduling, interfacing with subs and total immersion on my part, to get it right.

Maybe that’s why I worked for others for so long.  I get it.  And I’m a communicator. And a go getter. And I’m not juggling multiple projects. Yet. A month from now I’ll be teaching four classes, but –because I have scheduled properly—I will be at a good place in this house re-design by then.  

My client—whom I also communicate with DAILY; thank God for the Internet and Camera/Video capabilities on my phone—asked me the other day what I’m most nervous about.  I told her, “I’m not worried about anything.”  And I meant it.  Little could she know that for the first time in my life, I’m not worried about anything.  My kids are all grown up and thriving.  My house is as close to being finished as it will ever be.  And I have used my Composition teaching methods of plan, execute and revise to work as a designer, too.  The house is completely designed, in my head (the planning stage).  And now we are executing the changes.  When the first two steps are done well, the editing becomes in design what I call “details.” It’s when all the little things are added, to reflect the owners and make it theirs.  

Communicating with an owner—all the time—reveals things about her that she might not even know she likes.  I have used Pinterest to send her hundreds of photos, telling her what it is I want to use, or what I think in modified form will reflect her.  It has become an invaluable tool.  I have to be careful, though.  Too many times, unless I am explicit about just what it is in an image, I get feedback about another element.

I hope to showcase the project as it moves forward, so I’ll post before, during and after photos, just to give you a glimpse of the scope.  The best thing is that we are leaving the exterior (except for a new driveway and new landscaping, which I’ll do next Spring) exactly as it is. The owner made it clear that she had no intention of purchasing a small house in a quaint neighborhood—this house was built in 1941—and turning it into something that doesn’t fit.  Not so on the inside, though!  I asked if she wanted to go 40’s on the interior and she said, “That’s up to you; I just want simple and clean.”  The evolution has taken us more contemporary than 40’s, but a lot of today’s Modern or Contemporary has elements of Modern Classic, so that’s where Pinterest comes in handy.

The exterior stairwell is almost complete.  A basement water expert will guarantee a dry, humidity controlled basement with a system they’ll install as they demo the basement while Corban turns the main level into a small ballroom, and then we’ll get the plumber, HVAC and electrical subs to do their thing, followed by insulation, framing and drywall.  Then . . . onto the finishes.   Stay tuned.