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Our Renovation Design Process

Our Main Floor Demo Plan

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As you may know, we are mid-renovation over here and it’s insanely exciting. It’s moving way faster than I ever dreamt. We are shooting to be done by Dec 1st so we can move in and be there for the holidays. That is a 3 month full home renovation, folks. If you have ever renovated your home and you think “THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!!”  You are not wrong. And yet we are doing it.

Of course we are happier than anyone to speed up the process and start living in our little Los Feliz Dream House. But, nobody in the history of renovations has made so many permanent decisions at the speed in which we have. And so far, you guys, there are no regrets. If you think we are making choices really fast and just yelling out “yes” and “no” and ordering things willy-nilly you are wrong. We have three people (including myself), full speed on the project, and I myself have spent no less than 17 hours choosing sconces, pendants, flush-mounts …. SEVENTEEN. And that’s just the lighting. That doesn’t include the cabinets, layout, moldings, lighting placement, flooring, flooring color, interior paint, exterior paint, location of toilets, vanities, showers, height of sconces and mirrors, direction of tile … And we have barely started on furniture, decor and window treatments. There is a reason people hire designers and not just because you want the design help, no, you want help with the endless minutia. So much GD minutia.

For those of you who are still reading – think about this: the other day we spent 3 hours choosing baseboard, crown and paneling for our house. And I don’t mean 3 hours total – I mean that we researched the best place to go, talked to our contractor about square footage, installation, etc, and then drove to two places in the valley before we found the right store. Once inside we spent three hours. The reason it took so long wasn’t because we were indecisive with styles, NAY, but because every room had its own problems (pop your ambien … fall asleep for this one). In the living room the risers, windows and shelving allowed for the moulding to be either 3″ or 6″ or 5″ with a certain bevel, but you have to add in the height of the new flooring which changed everything. Guess what? We finally figured it out. YAY. But the transition into the dining and entry make those three options totally impossible?!??!? Upstairs in the bedrooms, after so much research, we realized that we only really had one height and profile option because of the decorative framing of the door. And in the bathrooms we had to order a specific profile to fit perfectly and not awkwardly with the tub. None of this information you walk into the molding store with … but it’s all stuff you have to problem solve as you are there.

THREE + HOURS. CHOOSING BORING MOLDING. IN THE VALLEY. WITH NO FOOD IN OUR FOOD HOLES.

THAT is why you hire a designer.

Thank god for Ginny and Mel. Because molding is only 1 of the 1578 permanent decisions we’ve had to make the last month. Historically I’ve been a fast decision maker and when it comes to decor I’ll take advice from my closest, but I don’t really rely too much on others. But this project has been different because when you have to make that many decisions so fast, you just need other brains in the game to weigh in so you don’t make as many mistakes. So thank you, guys. You have helped so much, you have been so integral. I would have collapsed without you.

I’ll blog about every category of decision … starting with the biggest today…. the LAYOUT OF THE ENTIRE HOUSE.

Here is the house when we first bought it:

original_floor-plan_revised-floor-plan_before_with-text-overlay

First things  first – the house is beautiful and old and stylistically I LOVE it. It’s full of happiness, light, quirk, beautiful architecture and humble finishes. It’s not fancy, but neither are we. It’s totally perfect and “US” and I can’t WAIT ’til we move it.

But it had some serious functional issues. So we’ll walk you through the first floor and chat about the major changes.

First the Entry:

before-pic_demo-plan_text-overlay_entry

There are obvious changes like changing out the light and removing the strangely cheap scrollwork. We might even take out that telephone niche so we can put a piece of furniture there and we already removed the cut-out on the stairs so we could hang a piece of art.

I have a general rule with updating older homes that if I wouldn’t like it in a new home, I’m allowed to think about changing it in an original one. For instance the decorative pieces on the beams in the living room are something that I probably wouldn’t like in a new english tudor, but I’m leaving them because I like them enough and it gives character. That big red X shows that we are opening up the entire downstairs and making everything just so much better (as you’ll see below).

We are now to this point and it’s so insanely exciting:

progress_living_entry_demo_entry

It feels so open and lovely and happy.

I know it’s hard to picture, but the door to the powder room (which you previously had to go through the utility room to get to) is now on the right and then the family/play room is on the far right. Then straight ahead is the kitchen and in between there is a utility room that is way more functional that will have a pocket door.

before-pic_demo-plan_text-overlay_bathroom

The only bathroom on the first floor was this tiny little powder room above. We are renovating the whole thing and since we are putting in a new bathroom upstairs, we took out the awkward (clearly added on) shower. We are shoving the whole thing down to make room for a larger, more square and functional utility room.

progress_living_entry_demo_bathroom

That is the view from the kitchen. It means that our kids can play and run and quietly do their activities (HA) while I cook (HA) all while feeling like we are together.

But seriously, we are trying every day to not be the helicopter parents that our culture has trained us to be, and we really want our kids to feel independent yet loved. So our parenting method is to keep the line of site clear enough so we know that everyone is safe (especially when they are so young), without having to be next to them every second. Our current house doesn’t really allow for this so I’m so excited that this house is open to the family/living/dining and kitchen.

progress_playroom_demo

The playroom is now going to be open to the kitchen, like I said.

Into the kitchen/dining area – the real problem.

before-pic_demo-plan_text-overlay_kitchen

You can’t even tell how tiny and closed off it was. We couldn’t expand out so we had to think about ways to reconfigure everything.

On the other side of the kitchen was the dining room – which still might be the dining room but might also be just a general family/hang out room since we have the island to eat at and the dining area right outside. We are deciding later as we just aren’t sure how we are going to use the space. If it were just Brian and I we would put the TV in here and have this be a cozy night time family/tv room, but since we have kids we know how important family dinner is and we don’t want a TV to be so optional for them all the time. At the same time there really isn’t an ideal tv area in the living room and we don’t want to not use the living room, once again. It’s a conundrum that you will hear much about the next couple months and one that Brian and I go back and forth every. single. night.

But back to the plan.

There were of course issues with just taking out that wall because it was load bearing. So our architect, who also happens to be an engineer, had to figure out how to add support. A bonus was that the entire floor was not properly supported underneath so they had to add footings in the basement/guest suite. Anything is doable, it’s just how much do you want to pay and how long do you want to wait. We knew that in order to maximize this house and live here the easiest (and most beautifully) we would need to make the kitchen bigger and better, so we did what we had to do and ripped down that wall. The architect/engineer fees to draw up plans, pull permits, do revisions, take measurements, etc was around $15k.

It’s a massive renovation and its not cheap (more on that later as its all still up in the air) but its a good price for great work. And so far, Mega-builders (who is not giving a discount to be mentioned, but knows that I will review them publicly) has done an AMAZING JOB. I literally couldn’t be more impressed. The only thing that is holding us up is us. We are late with materials and finishes, but they are absolutely killing it in quality and speed. We have passed every inspection so quickly, its insane.

Back to the kitchen.

before-pic_demo-plan_text-overlay_dining-room-kitchen

I know it’s all super confusing if you haven’t been in the space (check out Insta-story for a big fun tour). But what might be super helpful is an overhead of the plan before and after.

original_floor-plan_revised-floor-plan_before_with-text-overlay

You can see that the living room is big and great, but then the kitchen/entry/utility/powder room area is so crowded and smooshed together.

So here is the plan:

original_floor-plan_revised-floor-plan_to-be-removed-5

We, again, remove the wall between the kitchen and dining room and instead add an island. Then we break open the “utility room” and give some of its space to the kitchen and open up more for a proper laundry room.

Look how much more open and clean this is:

original_floor-plan_revised-floor-plan_new-floor-plan_2

If you are a true fan of home-porn nothing is more fun than watching it in action:

original_floor-plan_revised-floor-plan_new-floor-plan_gif

Maybe that is too fast. Here are the major changes:

original_floor-plan_revised-floor-plan_major-changes_1_with-text-overlay

Here is how its now being laid out. original_floor-plan_revised-floor-plan_new-floor-plan_with-text-overlayI knew it was all happening but I had no idea how much fun and how much better it was all going to be.

demo-party_emily_sledgehammer

My contractor insisted on everyone wearing gold hard-hats and I happily complied (truth: I bought this at a vintage store in the valley for $40 years ago, hoarding it for its perfect debut).

We had a demo party first, where everyone came to tag the walls that were going and so that all our friends could see the before’s, including Orlando.

demo-party_emily-kitchen-spraypainting_orlando_1

The next day the real demo began and it went FAST.

progress_kitchen_demo_floor-demo

The floors came up, the walls came down.

progress_kitchen_demo_floor-demo_walls-ripped-out

The beams and supports were installed. All in 2 weeks. CRAZY.progress_kitchen_demo_floor-demo_island-roughed-out

Once the temporary supports were removed we roughed out the island – aka the most awkward shaped island in the world. It’s a long story and one that I will tell in detail.

It’s starting to look up! All the plumbing, electrical and foundational work was done quickly.

progress_kitchen_demo_floor-demo_drywall-is-up

It’s so open, its crazy. Whenever Brian and I visit (which is every day or every other day) we just say to each other this is going to be such a better house and life. I know that this house can’t solve all of our problems, but I really think it’s going to be so great for our family.

As you remember the living room looked like this with lots of decisions like these: emily-henderson_renovation_home-imporovement_spanish_tudor_living-room_construction-plans-12

The wood flooring was removed. Quick point! It was in super bad shape and was cheaply installed. Just because it”s original doesn’t mean its high quality. It was 2″ oak which is rather generic and while I wanted to keep anything that I loved that was original – these floors didn’t fall in that category. progress_living-room_demo_floor-demo

Then the real work started. As most of you might know we made some final (but VERY HARD) trim paint decisions recently so they started work on those.

progress_living-room_demo_beams-stripped

The stripped beams look awesome and once we stain them they’ll be beautiful. We saw the herringbone floor go in yesterday and it’s ridiculously stunning.

All in all there are some hiccups, sure, but no major problems that are going to set us back weeks or months.

I guess a good conversation to start today is how much do you remove of original character and architecture? We are preserving the original plaster on the walls, the shelving, the windows and doors (although some we have to replace because after 100 years they are just falling apart), and updating all the fixtures to be more modern but still classic. But we are taking down walls and that tiny adorable non-functioning kitchen will no longer exist. I will say one thing on record right now: when buying an older/vintage home you should NEVER, EVER, EVER try to make it a contemporary style. Update it, modernize it, but don’t force a crop-top onto Meryl Streep.

Most of you know that, but in case one of you is about to buy a castle in Ireland and put in glass mosaic tile as the backsplash, PLEASE DO NOT. You can modernize kitchens, update the appliances (perhaps using this line, eh?), and certainly work with the trends, but love the house for the era and architecture that it is and don’t try and make it something that its not.

I know that the last owners of the house might be reading this and understandably confused and upset, so I’ll just say: Please know that despite looking like we are tearing this house apart we are keeping in mind its original intent and respecting its charm and architecture at all points. I know you loved this house for 12 years, but I promise we will love it even more and for longer.

Do you guys think we are respecting it??? You might have to wait for the design plan to decide but if you have ever demo’d out original flooring or walls please weigh-in …

Fin Mark

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Loribeth

“Update it, modernize it, but don’t force a crop-top onto Meryl Streep.” This may be my favorite Emily quote of ALL TIME, and I’ve been a fan for years!!!

Sarah Z

I actually think Meryl could totally rock a crop top. I mean, is there anything she can’t do?

All joking aside this was such a fun post to read, I love these new house design decision/progress posts. I cannot wait to see the final product! I think you guys are doing a great job respecting the original character of such a fun and lovely home.

Emily, did you ever consider opening a design school or some course? You are so informative to the last detail.

Jeanz Beanz

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS Emily (when you have finished your house) PLEASE do a design course!!

I totally agree! She’s my favorite blogger for that very reason.

Julie

I do love the quirk of older homes, including even some reduced functionality, and it seems like much of that is going away. But still, you are making wonderful choices that is bringing an older home into a modern era, and most importantly you are making it functional for your family AND not ruining it! It’s going to look fabulous.

I’m sure you’re so sad to see that impossibly small bathroom go.

Jenna

This is going to make all our lives better! 😉 I am so excited to see what you do! The new layout is incredible. Herringbone floors! Swoon.

Grace

I hope you keep some of the adorable built-in details or at least recreate them or move them somehow! Our house is a 1948 cottage in Austin and had a big remodel 12 years ago. The floor plan is much more open and the bathroom is updated which is nice. They kept the original floors which I really appreciate (but understand when that just isn’t an option). BUT, none of the cute built in cabinets or details remain and I really feel that it takes away from the home.

So excited to see where you go with your new house and I’m so glad you’re blogging about it! SO much useful information for us homeowners!

Brooke

Thanks for showing the in between progress shots! It’s just as interesting to see what goes behind the walls and all the effort it takes to get to the staged photos. I think it’s important to respect the original character of the house but I agree that you can do that and modernize it at the same time. Hopefully the previous owners will follow along and see how wonderful the house will turn out.

Vicki

So exciting! I am a retired Kitchen/Bath/Interior Designer and I gotta say this is really fast for all that you are doing and I can see it is going really well. Amazing decisions! Like you said anything is possible, (as I would tell my clients when they came up with some great ideas), though often would back down when they saw the cost in time and money. They trusted me so knew I wasn’t scamming them.
Love your posts, I know there are a lot of design posts out there Emily but you are terrific and absolutely cover all the bases. Thanks!

La

I respectfully disagree on the parallelism with Meryl Streep and the tank top. I recently read an interview to the wife of one of the Princes of Luxembourg (she is an architect, if I recall correctly), who renovated an ancient castle, where she lives. She said something about restoring what can be restored (if still practical) but be as modern as possible with new additions, obviously making sure they work with the rest of the home. This way, generation after generation you can see and appreciate the additions. They had a 1800 patio on a 1500 castle (or older?), and the bathrooms were as new as and contemporary as you can get, and yet, in my modest opinion, the contrast with the old parts of the home was amazing. On a much MUCH smaller scale, I live in a three hundred years old building. While I kept the original cathedral window glasses and I love the vaulted ceiling, it would be impossible to install a kitchen true to the era. Or a bathroom, since they did not have bathrooms at all, and the kitchens were on a different level, for the servants only. A “classic” bathroom or kitchen would still… Read more »

Cris S.

La – okay, now we want to see pictures of your home too! Sounds lovely.

Emily

Emily,
I love the changes you have made. The symmetry loving person in me wants you to square off the back of the kitchen so you can have a huge kitchen and a square (or rectangular) island! I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Emily

Vee

This is where I have to respectfully disagree with LA. I do not think people should make new additions as modern as possible. Generation after generation will not appreciate this. I have seen many older homes that were updated in the 60’s, 80’s “very modern to the time” style that doesn’t read well today. How many people walk into these homes and say everything needs to be gutted? Most. Today’s “modern” will read as 2016 in 20 or 30 years and people will come along and rip it out for whatever is current then.
I think people should make additions fit the home. What is classic design and architect with the home will translate for generations.
As far as renovating a castle or 300 year old home, I wouldn’t mind an updated kitchen and bathroom but I personally wouldn’t want it “super modern”. I would want wood or white painted cabinets, carrara marble counters, wood floors and updated appliances. But to each his/her own.

LA

Haha, a lot of respect and disagreement around here today 😀 I understand and I totally agree: in 40 years I’ll be the first one who wants to gut that. But wouldn’t you gut a ’70th bathroom or kitchen, regardless of the design? I would. To me, 30 years is the maximum life for a bathroom. But my bathrooms renovated in 2003 (one classy and traditional the other kinda traditional without the classy part) feel both already outdated, especially the not-so-classy one. My mum’s bathrooms, renovated in 2003 as well, but with the latest trend, feel still pretty new. That style that was at the time so new that was quite surprising, now is much more common and still very “in”, 13 years later (at least here in Italy, don’t know about the USA): minimal bowl sinks on thick wood shelf, transparent glass shower door and a minimal toilet that still looks like out of the last catalogue. I believe in 10 years hers will look slightly outdated, mine will look really outdated. So yes, I’ll replace the kitchen cabinets some day, but at least until that time I’ll have a kitchen that I genuinely love and, FOR ME, a… Read more »

Mikky

I agree with you LA, and our new kitchen looks a lot like yours (we are not in the US either). I find even new American kitchens very traditional/old-fashioned looking but I guess it’s just a regional taste thing – basically it’s each to their own when it comes to whether or not a style is sympathetic to an old house. Personally I think a sleek style like you and I have gives the bits and pieces of retained character the chance to sing.
And I also agree that kitchens and bathrooms get re-done every 20 years anyhow so just go with what you personally love!

I love reading statements from all over the world here. Such a great conversation! Greetings from Germany! PS I would really love to see pics of your house, LA.

Laura

This seems to be the favored position of preservationists in the UK…on the design shows I watch via YouTube, the preservation officers always want things to be clearly modern and in contrast to what was the original structure…so you’ll see a very modern glass addition added to, say, a 1650s house. As you said, they seem to want people to clearly be able to tell what is old and original, and what’s new. Of course, they are dealing with houses that are much older than most of our housing stock here in the US.

Holly

I’d like to hear what design shows you watch on YouTube! 🙂 I’m living in Hong Kong and unless I download fully bootlegged episodes (not ideal), I starve for HGTV!

Molly

I agree, LA. An intentional contrast is much better than a failed replica. The issue is to make sure that it is very thoughtful and well-designed. In my opinion, a lot of these things are done much less deliberately in the US than they are in Europe, and the time contrast is much greater in Europe than in the US because of the age of the buildings. Americans also have a nostalgia for “old” things and style continuity that Europeans don’t have because they are surrounded by so many things from so many eras. Meanwhile, in America, people will be upset if you build a modern/contemporary house on an empty lot that is next to more “traditional” homes.

Sophia

Absolutely love this post, especially the floorplan images with changes are really helpful! Think the end result will be amazing! A renovation doesn’t have a be a painful process and it can be done in time and within budget like you said, you are doing it. There are some great online tools for people who are not as experienced with renovating. I recently discovered https://app.mykukun.com/Home-Renovation-Costs where you can calculate the renovation costs for free and it even has an ROI tool that tells you how much equity your renovation will build onto your home. This took me a lot less time compared to waiting on all the contractor quotes.
Really can’t wait to see the end result Emily!

Kelly

I am so with you on preserving the original charm and architecture. We live in a 1910 American Foursquare and are currently renovating it to remove the parts that were updated out of sync with the true intentions of the home. Yes, we need to modernize it for daily function but the layout and finishes HAVE to match the period and style of home. I’ve toured too many homes in my wonderful prewar neighborhood that have been gutted and look like hideous suburban builder tract homes inside. I’m always like you have ruined it!!! So, I love your thought process and definitely love what you’re doing. Total envy that you’re not living in it while renovating and that’s being done in 3 months! 🙂

Lisa

Amen! As someone who purchased a 100 plus year old home, I completely agree about maintaining the intent. Also, because its old, the imperfections that would drive us nuts in a new home (e.g. different flooring, or imperfections on the wall) just make this house more beautiful. Owning an old home can be a headache especially in the beginning when you need to sink a lot of money into things you dont see (I am looking at you water heater, AC unit, and termite damage), but in the end you feel like you are part of history and its awesome!

Regan

Looks great. Personally, I would use the “den” space as a dining room and the open “dining room” space off the kitchen as a family/playroom.

Ah, hey, I just read this! I agree, below.

Lynn

That’s an interesting idea!

I totally agree! This is a more natural use of the space.

Katie

I vote to keep the current dining room a dining room. It’s right off the kitchen, and as the kids get older there will be art projects and homework and leaf collections and the table will serve as a hub in a different way than the kitchen island. Also, for me island meals = quick ones, not “family dinners”. Sitting all in a row on an island, or even around a corner isn’t really conducive to conversation. ALSO, it will be great for entertaining since it looks from the drawings that it opens up to the backyard, so you can use the dining room table as a buffet for parties while people actually eat outside, etc.

I think if you end up making that a den, then you’re going to get in a similar situation you’ve talked about in your current house where you don’t really live in your living room. You can totally make that living room cozy. I mean, there’s a FIREPLACE!

As someone who did a “gut to the studs” reno earlier this year (and used so many of your resources in doing it), I love watching this transformation!

Laura

Totally agree about the island comment! I hate hate hate sitting at barstools for a prolonged period. I’m not five–I don’t want my feet to dangle when I eat! The bar/island is for snacks or breakfast, but family dinners and lunches happen at the kitchen table. When we moved this last time, I ruled out so many houses because they only had an island or bar in the kitchen. I want a true eat in kitchen. We use our dining room as a music room/library and need it for the piano.

Lacey

I vote yes for Regan’s idea— using the space directly next to the kitchen as den/play area. I remember in a past post from when you bought the house you pictured your kids playing and having the doors open, oriented to the backyard. Would be a perfect set-up for your vision. (The reason I remember is that it’s something I value in my home). I guess the beauty of your new plan is that you could always change it up when the kids get bigger doing homework, etc. at the table would be more conducive to your life, and not needing to be in eye-shot constantly.
I’m so excited for you! This looks awesome! On another note: MANY thanks for being so inspiring everyday, Emily. And thanks for all your THOUGHTFUL, THOROUGH, AMAZING posts. I do feel like I’ve been to EHD School of Design having been following you since design star days! XOXO and keep up the great work!

I did something similar 25 years ago. I live in a 1953 Bay Area ranch house. My kids were not quite two, and four. We knocked out the walls to our kitchen, replaced the old vinyl tile with wood, opened a bedroom with a pocket door into the living space to become an office, and built a new master bedroom & bath. Replaced the pink 1950s tile. Respected the house origins enough that it still looks like a ranch house, used simple finishes to avoid too much dating in the renovations. I live here still, and absolutely love my house. The key was choosing materials that feel beautiful to me, a black granite in the kitchen, a gray slate tile in the new hall, etc., and building in views of my garden that change but never let me down. Your new layout will be so much better for your family. I applaud your focus on laundry, by the way, the only thing I’d change now is to expand my pantry/laundry out six feet into the garage, so I could fold where I wash:). My only suggestion to your plans, based on living in a space like this over 25 years,… Read more »

Lynn

Hear, hear! I live in an area with homes that are from ~1840 (and not very strong historic preservation laws), and it kills me when people try to completely gut the insides and make them look super modern, like feel you are walking into a cement-walled condo somewhere. Nay!! (Why did they even buy these houses?!?) If nothing else, keeping the original plaster walls helps preserve the original charm..

I would say, Emily, that not only are you respecting this house’s style, but also the lifestyle of your family, and you’re doing a very fine job integrating the two. Love every change you’ve made and can’t wait to see how that island turns out. What a wonderful, open plan; you’re all gonna love it there (and btw, that gold hardhat is sublime!).

Chance

I’m very excited about this new house and seeing the transformation. I have two thoughts though, one being that island is giving me all the weird feels. Maybe it won’t that bad once you finish, but I can’t see it yet. Also, I think you guys should leave the dining room as a dining room and fit the tv in the living room. Having a table inside will be really nice for when you have guests/holidays and eating together. We always used the island as a more breakfast/lunch spot and table for dinner but that’s just my two cents!

Kimberly

This is my favorite post ever! (Okay, I say that at least once a week on this blog, but seriously this is really exciting stuff.) I think the open floor plan is going to be AMAZING and so liveable.

I just have one question–from the front door, how well can you see into the kitchen? I ask because at my house there are pretty much always dirty dishes piled on the counter by the sink, so when I see floor plans that open up to the kitchen from the front door it gives me pause. (Maybe everybody else isn’t as messyvas me, though. And maybe you weighed that in your decision but still decided opening up the space was the best option.) Anyway, this remodel is brilliant and I cannot wait to see the rest as it unfolds!

raq

Love this kind of in depth post where you walk through your decision making! Big fan of the blog but really wish you guys edited a little more – ” coudl see the ‘beforee’s, ” and the like are just really distracting

Anna

So happy to see the layout of the kitchen hasn’t taken away from the chance to have a dining room. When I heard you were tearing down a wall and putting an island in there, I was nervous it would jut into the dining space. Looks great–all of it!

Cris S.

Did I miss out on what is happening with the den, because I love the idea of that being the dining room and the current dining room being the family/tv room open to the kitchen?

LC

I love all the details and changes! Keep up the great work!
Please, post the follow up to this post about your second floor soon! The suspense is killing me…I saw the instastory and I am amazed at how you were able to add the shared bathroom for the little ones and have your own master suite! Congrats!! Love how you post the blueprints, since I can understand better that way the changes you are making.

Xoxo

I could not agree more! Just because it’s original doesn’t mean it’s high quality. I live in Detroit where the single family homes are historic and absolutely gorgeous, but a lot of them need some help. From a sustainability standpoint, it is better to make changes that ensure the home’s livability, rather than allowing it to fall to ruin (something we know a lot about in Detroit) because no family wants to live in it. It is better to be updated and used than preserved and wasted.

Also, there is a difference between tearing out original hardwoods and replacing it with sheet vinyl vs. replacing an original wood floor (in desperate need of repair, as you said) with something of equal or higher value that will extend the life of the house.

I love the direction you’re heading with this reno. I think you’ve found that balance between updating and keeping it true to the original style. I can’t wait to see it all finished! I just love your work.

olivia

This was a truly excellent post (and I love everything you do). Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together!! I’ve been loving the sneak peeks on Instagram as well.

Leigh

have you considered creating a dining space within the living room? perhaps just as you step down under the jail window? of course, still have a living space over by the fireplace. This way you can make the old dining room into the casual living space you mentioned wanting. just a thought 🙂

Cynthia

This is all super exciting and Emily, I really appreciate your taking the time to do an in-depth post like this in the midst of chaos and marching orders! To take a 100 year old beauty and thoughtfully and lovingly give her the support she needs to live for another 100+ years is a gift to all of us. It’s wonderful that you have the resources to do the upgrades in the proper order. I love that you’re making it more functional for a young, active family. I also don’t see you guys as a “dining room” family. You don’t cook that much and you live in LA…chances are your gatherings can be outside or will be cocktails and finger food affairs. I wonder if you could get away with a folding table and chairs that are stored in the garage and set up for the rare sit-down formal dinner. Once covered with linens and styled like you do so well, it would look beautiful. And setting up a table in the middle of the living room even with a roaring fire and Christmas tree would be magical!

AzureSong

I feel like I’ve seen a lot of styling posts in her previous dining room, perhaps because Target regularly comes out with updated tableware. I think she should keep a formal dining room for that purpose at least. This is a working house! 🙂

Jessvii

Character is nice, but day to day quality of life is way more important.

Everything looks great so far.

Honestly, I’m feeling kind of relieved seeing this post. The house is looking more sunny, relaxed, and Emily-y now :).

Danielle

So exciting! Definitely think you guys are respecting the house’s architecture, but no matter what, it’s your home, so your choices. My only 2 cents are to hold onto that dining room! I know it’s California and you can eat outside – but isn’t also sometimes too hot to eat outside? Can the playroom become a playroom/den with a comfy couch for tv-watching??

Christa

These plans make a lot of sense and I know it will be amazing. I L_O_V_E herringbone floors for this house. Perfect upgrade that is appropriate to the house. I agree with your Meryl Streep analogy. The architecture should inform the design. I’ve seen a lot of horrible renovations, where the owners just put in whatever was the hottest look of the year that they redid the kitchen, no reference to the age or style of the house. I also find it hilarious how people shop for a house and want a Beach house (when they live in a landlocked state) or a farm house in a downtown urban area. I mean, to a point, you can reference those kinds of designs, but you have to follow the logic of the structure itself.

Leanna

Will be curious to hear why you didn’t go with a round or elliptical island instead of the funny shape. I think a slim oval island would be so lovely. I agree with what you’re saying about not mixing historic and contemporary, I think some of the people disagreeing with you may be confusing ‘contemporary’ and ‘modern’ – modernism can look really wonderful paired with an ancient French chateau, but it has to be done with the same quality as the original architecture. You shouldn’t buy a historic home and do a bunch of contemporary renovations (ie glass mosaic tile – a great example). It’s really about the level of design and craftsmanship matching, which, obviously, glass mosaic tile and fake wood floors from big-box-hardware-store do not belong in a house that was built by hand 100 years ago.

Jody

The photo of you in that gold hard hat should be your profile pic everywhere. Leave it to you to look gorgeous at a demo site wearing demo gear.

mary

Removing those walls was a good idea. Tiny, cramped kitchens might’ve been the style then but it’s not coming back anytime soon and it’s just not functional anymore. It’s not a merely aesthetic decision like keeping a phone niche. It’s your kitchen! Make it open and new. Plus no one wants to read a design blog about leaving an old house old. ; )

Susan

As someone who is also renovating a house, you are so lucky to have things move so quickly! As far as all your renovation ideas, I think you’re house is going to be so lovely. I can’t wait to see some more details. I also think that sometimes you have a vision and then the house says “no I won’t wear that”, and it’s important to listen to what it’s saying. At the end of the day the bones of the house have to shine through. Your points are spot on and unfortuantely not everybody has interior design skills, which is where the bad flips happen etc. I see a lot of friends design rooms by the piece instead of envisioning how it will all look together (this also pertains to exterior choices, please match your roof to your exterior paint people 🙂 Keeping the character of the home while modernizing to expand the function of the home is excellent advice, and obviously expert advice! Thanks for sharing Emily!

Caitlin

It’s just so exciting to see how you can make a traditional small-roomed home feel open and airy! I love it and am glad it’s going fast, I’m dying to see more!

Viktoria

Looking great and I love following your thought process:) Had to laugh about your baseboard story, I spent about the same amount of time in a lumberyard at 90 degrees weather with a 4 year old and a 1 year old, putting molding pieces together to figure out the perfect baseboard and window/door trim. If I remember correctly from those times from 5 years ago, there comes a point, usually at 2 am when you wish you were not so ?#%$% detail oriented and particular about everything, and could just go to Home Depot and get something in a half an hour. BTW, the feeling goes away after 5 minutes, so don’t panic.

Jade

So exciting to see the progress. Reveal day can’t come soon enough!

Naomi

Thank you so much for this post! So much fun to read it and live vicariously through all that you’re doing. I truly savored it and even made myself stop reading for a few minutes to make a cup of coffee! I just love it, love your decision making process, and can’t wait to see the final product.

In the meantime, I keep thinking that the den/playroom could be an ideal dining room, and then you can use all the rest of that space off the kitchen for more kitchen space. Perhaps you can store the kids’ toys along a wall in the dining room and hide them for whenever you need to throw a fancy dinner party?

Melanie

Nothing is more satisfying then redesigning a bad layout. I’m sure you’re figured out the tile for your kitchen floors, but I found a new design from Villa Lagoon that NO ONE ELSE is making…
https://www.villalagoontile.com/long-hex-farah-encaustic-cement-tile.html
It’s just a little twist on what everyone else is doing.
and yes do a design course. PLEASE.

ks

i’m sure you’ve thought of this & it could just be the way the plans look like here versus IRL but what if you made the den the dining room & the dining room the den more of a casual kids room? that way the front of the house flowed for entertaining side to side versus through the kitchen to the dining room? And the kids would then be next to you playing if you were having friends over in the living room or if you were in the kitchen so you could keep an eye easier?

I just sent this article to current clients. No joke. It is insane how much it takes to do this, and you just perfectly explained the 1000s of details that goes into a remodel.

Also, would your architect/engineer mind if you shared their information? I am in LA and would love a reco.

Tony

Check out Meryl in 2015’s “Ricki and the Flash”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3623726/mediaviewer/rm3289180160.
Don’t be ageist!

Katie

Have lived in 2 Tudors consecutively and I know that getting rid of original features is painful. I mean it really hurts tearing out that old wood, or painting trim work. But I think as long as you stay true to the style of the home you cannot go wrong. We choose to leave as much original as we can, but sometimes you just need a bathroom sink that’s tall enough for a 6’4 man. So it’s a good thing there are so many options these days from companies that specialize in modern reproductions. So glad you kept the beams natural, the floors would’ve been tough to rip out, but that herringbone is undeniable and suits the space beautifully. Hopefully someone got a hold of that old wood and can put some good use to it.

3 months sounds crazy!!! I love hearing about your entire process and love the way the new floor plan ended up! The island looks like an interesting/unique shape, can’t wait to see the after photos to see how that turned out!

Characters & Carry-ons

Sarah in OR

Since you’re moving the waste line for the powder room anyway, can you flip your present PR layout so you can’t see the toilet from the entry? Sightlines to toilets are one of my design pet peeves.

I’m going to have my husband read your re-cap of the hours you’ve spent making decisions about “endless minutia”. Thank you for describing it in such detail! We renovated our new-to-us 1917 Craftsman from January – April this year and I didn’t have a team of 3 working on all the decisions – just me, and LOADS of 2 am bedtimes (while my husband worked 65 hrs./week and my oldest daughter took over meals & grocery shopping for our family of 8). Among other things, I spent an entire 3-day, snowed-in weekend deciding on appliances! I’m feeling so incredibly validated right now that I did the work of 3 people – no wonder it was the most stressful 4 months of my life. Anyway, YES we took out walls and some original flooring, but, much like you, preserved and even enhanced the original character of the house. You’re doing an amazing job! Don’t doubt yourself!

Melanie

Oh what about putting the formal dining room in the den and just making the current dining room the more casual hangout? I don’t see many pictures of the current den so maybe it’s not as pretty? That way you could cook and hangout.
The only drawback would be (from what i can see in the layout) is the bathroom would be right next to the dining room. 🙁

Stacey

I love what you are doing. The house has to work for you and your family, and you have a knack for updating without being insensitive to the feel of the home. When we used to get the San Francisco Chronicle they were forever featuring Victorian Era homes that had been stripped and turned into modern, cold interiors, it was idiotic IMHO.

Susan

Re this topic of preserving original character:
Sometimes you see situations in an older home that have nothing to do w character, but are more like, “What the heck was someone thinking? Why, why, why??” That’s how I feel about the (former) crazy corner in your kitchen. I mean, who made that decision and what kind of drugs were they on? Or how incompetent were they?! That crazy corner just boggled my mind. And what was the deal with the utility room and powder room? Was it a utility room or was it more like…useless?! (On the other hand, where are you putting your w/d?)
I know that in older homes the kitchen was meant to be out of sight. In the former layout, you see a closed door when you enter the home. Now you’ve changed that…I just wonder what that view from the front door will actually be. It looks like you’ll see the side of a cabinet. Just curious how that will end up playing out.

The minutia and how you educate us on your process is exactly why I read this blog religiously and I can’t wait for more!

Question about opening up spaces for families. Do families with young kids at all value privacy so toys aren’t everywhere and adults can have their own space? I ask because we live in a cozy cottage built in 1903 that has three main rooms on the first floor – kitchen, dining room, living room – and three bedrooms on the second floor, i.e. no separate family room or den situation. We are always talking about how we’re going to renovate it and want to open it up but will opening up the downstairs so that it’s more like 2 main rooms rather than 3 hurt us with buyers with kids when it comes time to sell? We don’t have any kids of our own so we’re really not sure.

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