If you want to give yourself an education in interior design start by doing a gut renovation of a house – ideally a stranger’s house or someone you don’t like …. because you will mess it up. If you want to learn even more, then … do it again. Want to get better at it? Don’t go to grad school – RENOVATE AGAIN, and again and again. It’s a job that is wildly benefited by a proper education in design (of which I don’t have) but you will never master until you actually participate in every aspect of some massive renovations. I’m sure it gets to a point when the intuition is stronger, the decisions are easier to make and the possible problems and costs to fix them become more second nature. But I’ve done 5 now and I’M STILL LEARNING SO MUCH. I have three new design assistants, recently out of school, and I tell them all the time – Just watch, listen and learn, because the best thing you can do for your career is to be as involved in these renovations as possible and watch me avoid or even better (for them) MAKE mistakes. It’s knowing the possibilities, processes and execution tactics, but also knowing what not to do and of course, having an idea of the ballpark cost of things.
What I say to myself, my brother (who is doing the project in Portland) and my team constantly is ‘I’ve renovated and designed houses before, but no one has ever done THIS house’. Every house is different – architecturally and every house has its own idiosyncrasies and problems. And design isn’t a formula nor should it be.
Luckily for them, I’m an ‘external processor’. That’s the pretentious way of saying I have to verbalize OR write down (thus the blogging) ALL OF THE THOUGHTS. It’s a literal stream of consciousness coming out of my mouth-hole whenever there is a question asked without a clear answer. I verbalize all the outcomes of each decision, weighing every pro and con, declaring every fear, and detailing worst case scenario. I tell stories of when I’ve done this before or when I haven’t, and wished I had. So there is a lot of verbal stuff coming out of my mouth hole and my lack of ego really lets them in on the WHOLE PROCESS.
The need to converse is the reason I started this blog and man have YOU GUYS HAVE HELPED ME SO MUCH – I learn SO much from you. I was trained as a stylist, not an interior designer and every single day I’m realizing there is a massive difference.
Today’s reason that I love you centers around the floor plan of the mountain house. THE FINAL FINAL PLAN.
Here is the original floor plan of the first floor, which is what it looked like when we bought it. See THIS post to read all about it.
Below is how we originally planned on changing it. The light blue indicates the major changes that we were planning on making.
Then we changed it, and improved it even more.
But so many of you had such great suggestions to help the final plan after we posted THIS post. And we had some things that seriously bugged us still, too.
So here is the final floor plan. You know how I know it’s the final? Because it’s pretty much already framed and there is NO GOING BACK. The green indicates all the final changes that were made to the plan.
The biggest improvements from the last version to the final are as follows:
1. We moved the HVAC so we could put the fridge in the… kitchen. See below.
I’m not sure why this wasn’t considered before. When we asked we were told that moving the HVAC would be super expensive but then when I pressed – ‘like HOW much?’, the answer was about $4k. Now that’s not nothing but when you are considering how prominent and important it was in the space and the fact that our fridge felt like it was outside the kitchen (all the way at one end), well that’s worth a 4k move (especially when the cost of putting the fridge where it was going to be was $3k – because we had to move the exterior flu and furnace shed to inset it). So HVAC gets moved under the stairs (in living room) and we just gained a much-needed coat closet and of course a fridge in our actual kitchen. My family loves to eat food a few times a day so this proved to be very convenient to our food eating habits.
2. We switched the sink and the cooktop – AGAIN. I forget why we did this in the first place. You were super helpful. I think that functionally we wanted the sink to be on the island more than the cooktop and many of you had concerns about kids on the island so we flipped it back. GREAT.
3. We created a bar cabinet by the fridge, across from the ‘bar’ peninsula. This will be enclosed, but once opened will be a magical cabinet with a wine fridge, and shelves of pretty glasses, booze and accessories. Never miss an opportunity to put in a bar cabinet with wine fridge. Unless you are sober. In which case you might want to avoid that ‘opportunity’.
4. We eliminated the wall of cabinets in the playroom so we could make room for BRIAN’S PINBALL FANTASY. Fine, I get it. I guess you have to place it against the wall and we didn’t have one. He was also nervous about not having one normal wall in there (just windows, or cabinets or fireplace/TV wall). So we moved those cabinets to the other side of the room (except a lower version), opposite the kitchen and then added back in the fireplace.
Are we going to put a sofa in here? We don’t know. I’m on the hunt for something modular that can leave it more as a ‘game room’ and ‘play room’ but when needed can be a backup TV room if the grownups want to hang out in the living room (where our projector will be) so the kids can watch a movie here. It will look like a piece of art the rest of the time (because it’s The Frame and it’s the world’s most beautiful TV).
5. We reoriented the guest room deck so that we didn’t have to move the exterior stairs up to the master. Our architect thinks those stairs are hideous. I don’t love them, but of all things to spend $5k redoing, that’s not it. So this way we can have the deck without hitting the stairs.
6. We moved the interior stairs back to the original configuration because there were too many structural and cost issues with the first plan. Essentially we would need a wall to house the stairs (and help hold up the second floor) because we would need to remove a support beam in order to not hit your head on the current beam when you do that turn. Boring stuff. Underneath the stairs, we’ll have storage as well as the new HVAC. This means that we can’t really do a stone entry because I don’t want the stairs to end in stone. So again, our ‘entry’ is compromised, but the only way we were able to move the stairs would be if we added a wall to support the stairs which would cut off the room so much. We like the visual of seeing the stairs go up to the second level and it really matches the house.
7. We added closets back into the guest bedrooms. Brian didn’t want them. I vetoed him here. He doesn’t think we’ll have a lot of ‘stuff’ here and while I agree right now, future Emily knows that not having enough storage, but having huge bedrooms is a total mistake. The one on the first floor didn’t have a closet but ultimately that room was huge and it just seemed crazy not to have a closet. Sure we wouldn’t live here full time, but what if we wanted to stay for a month? Or at least for resale? Closets are back in the final changes version. (We were going to put wardrobes in there, by the way).
We reoriented both bedrooms to accommodate the change. On the first floor our king bed won’t fit as easily, so one nightstand might be in front of a window, which is not ideal, but maybe we can come up with an interesting solution.
On the second floor, we got rid of the Juliet balcony so that we could put the bed on that wall.
8. We moved the toilet in the guest bath to be in a less noticeable spot. When designing bathrooms you want to see the toilet LAST. We realized there was no reason it couldn’t be tucked to the side, thus just being prettier and less visible.
Now, for the second floor.
For you floor plan junkies (of which I am now) above is the original and below was our first proposed.
Remember when we thought we were going to keep the stairs to the master bedroom? HA. That was all you guys. THANK YOU. A good question to ask yourself all the time when designing or renovating is ‘do you need that? Could it be simpler and better without it?’ That’s the case of the stairs. We didn’t need them and both rooms (master and playroom below) benefitted in a huge way.
This was how we changed it.
But since the last revision, the following things have changed to the second floor.
1. We realized that we were going to have this amazing master suite with only a reach-in closet. So we added a walk-in which let us reorient the room to look out to the backyard. Which led us to…
2. THE FIREPLACE. HOLD THE PHONE/CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. OBVIOUSLY we should have an indoor/outdoor fireplace. We could sit on the deck in winter, drinking hot toddies, or in the on-deck hot tub. HELL, YES. The bedroom gets smaller, but you can still fit a king and a chair/ottoman in the corner (not shown). We won’t have a dresser but we’ll have a walk-in closet.
The room was huge, it’s still really big – but now it’s big and hot and has more ‘masterful’ storage. Brian didn’t want it, but he’s coming around to the idea that a walk-in is better for our future. It also made the room smaller so we have way more wall to wall carpet options (when you get over 15′ in both directions you are very limited on the kind of plush carpet we were loving – more on that later, obviously). He gets his plush wall to wall carpet, and I get a walk-in closet and a better orientation of the room. When you are in bed you now look outside, which is also where the fireplace is.
3. We listened to you guys and switched out the guest room closet for a shower. Thus making it a full bath. And as I said above we decided to add a closet which meant that we kinda needed to reorient the room.
4. We eliminated the balcony so we could use that wall as the headboard wall, flanking it with windows. This made the room more functional, although smaller. The balcony was a lovely idea, but I wasn’t convinced it was worth the sacrifice. Who would use it and how often? Plus obviously, a balcony isn’t free and would likely cost at least $3500. Sometimes I wish we had nixed the deck below, but I also think that is going to be a dope room and I don’t want them to be identical….
We made all these changes weeks ago so I feel pretty good about them not changing. Permits are pulled. Demo and reframing is very much underway. I really don’t think these will change.
Plus…. Brian and I are still married – and most of the time, even happily!! So this renovation so far is actually going well (… now the Portland project on the other hand…more on that later …. no one is going to die, but man, renovating a 5k square foot house out of state is “challenging” to say the least.)
Any and all suggestions are welcome although we likely can’t change much at this point. Any questions?
Thanks so much for your input, seriously. You guys came up with some amazing ideas. Now that I’m better at floor plans and I’m getting SUPER into interior architecture I’m excited to look at yours or others plans. Funny how that works. Once you have experience with a medium or something that had previously intimidated you, you feel empowered to do it even more 🙂
Seriously. Thanks for your help. xx
Update: Check out all of The Mountain House REVEALS here: The Kids’ Bedroom | The Kitchen | The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Living Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Hall Bath | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room