My thoughts exactly. It’s the storm before the calm. The house version of Benjamin Button and it’s going to take a while for this old house to age backward and look like beautiful baby Brad Pitt, except stopping at the “Legends from the Fall/Farm” era, for obvious reasons. Let’s back up. For the last month, the farm has been in the back of my mind – I canceled every design meeting/post and prioritized getting our family settled into our new life. It’s shocking how overwhelming life can feel when you don’t feel tethered to or settled in your home – such limited brain space, and unhealthy coping habits (thus the fact that I’m souping again). The first time we went to the farm after we landed in Portland, two weeks ago, our “forever” home had gone from the sweet “before” of a year ago to practically post-apocalyptic and almost unrecognizable. It’s all stuff we knew would happen and had seen photo updates, but we still weren’t prepared for how it looked in person. It’s all going as planned (ish), ARCIFORM is doing a great job, our emotions are in line with where they should be at this point, but for all of you, restoring or renovating an older home we are in the “should we have just torn it down and started over?” phase (answer: NO). So here’s where we are at and how despite the terrifying visual, there has been exciting progress, and obviously some setbacks.
The Bad News – What Has Slowed Us Down
Before I get into the bad news you should know that in the history of renovations there has never been one that has gone exactly as planned. The more experience you have the less amateur hiccups there are, but we are wise enough at this point not to wonder about “if” there will be a setback, only “when and what will they be”. And remember – it is a privilege to renovate. Period.
The Permit Process
We got through the permit process in a normal manner – the ARCIFORM team is excellent about due diligence, hiring great engineers, and having the plans extremely dialed in (which speeds up the back and forth) when they submitted it. It took about two months to get the green light, and we did. We’re off!! But then there was a question regarding the trees. What none of us had predicted is that the city would care so much about the roots of all the trees on the property (and it’s a huge property). I get it, City of Portland, I also LOVE trees (thus moving back to Oregon and installing multiple tree murals in the past, not to mention the tree disaster of 2017). The city wants to ensure that we aren’t going to just bulldoze a bunch of old trees on the property to put up a McMansion and throw away the wood, so we had to hire an arborist to help identify each one and submit a report (which took weeks due to availability and the sheer time walking the property and researching). And then once the report was submitted, the verdict was that we needed to put many many chain-link fences around the root system of most of the trees to ensure that the huge heavy equipment that we needed for excavation and foundation pouring wouldn’t damage the root structure. So we had to postpone it all. This is all fine and honestly just part of living in a more progressive city – more bureaucracy, sure, but with important considerations and I too want to protect trees from irresponsible realtor developers. So not only did that slow us down, but as you can imagine the property that was once a sweet humble run-down farm with a lot of potential is now covered with chain link fence and piles of dirt. Like I said, post-apocalyptic.
The Drought = Super Dead Grass
As you might know, the PNW is no longer the climate that it was 30 years ago (true story – you have to plant different trees now that can live through the more Mediterranean climate – THE CHANGE IS REAL). Well, the 116-degree week-long streak this summer really did a number on the grass up here and the historically super green Twilight-esque grass in PNW is, well, temporarily dead. Now I think it can come back by either reseeding or maybe just via magic, but it’s super darn depressing. We did find out that we have two wells so assuming we can get those functioning we can have irrigation from our own water. But anyway, here we are now – dead, dry, brown, scratchy and 100% unfun grass to look at or hang out on. It’s totally fine, but the visual was jarring at first.
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS:
It’s all happening, we know it. And there are some major things that have really given us hope that we might someday live here. When we were here yesterday Brian and I still felt that buzz of excitement that we have had this whole time. We can see it and feel it, we just have to be patient. So here are the big progress updates:
The Foundation Is Being Poured For Our Addition + New Mechanical Room
We decided to add 8 feet to make a larger bedroom but we also really needed a mechanical room over here to house the new Electric Heat Pump (We are using Rheem which is meant to be awesome). It’s basically a bunker that you can walk into from the side of the house that is 9′ high and has the heat pump as well as the other Rheem products to heat water, etc. I don’t totally understand it but I trust that building this here is the best way to do it, with the extension of the house on top. Next up is the new kitchen/living room which we are VERY excited about.
Vaulting (And Supporting) The Kitchen Ceiling
Vaulting 1/2 of the kitchen ceiling was something we pushed hard for. Changing ceilings in the middle of a room is often ill-advised, architecturally speaking but we’ve seen it work and frankly, we’ve fallen in love with A. skylights and B. tall ceilings.
To do that we needed to install a huge beam and hide the post by the fridge cabinetry. Then they had to reinforce all the other beams. We’ll drop the ceiling a bit to add room for insulation and electrical then panel it.
The Cutting Of The Scenic Doors And Windows
This is HUGE as the living room was just so dark and now, with the massive scenic doors (from Sierra Pacific – I can’t wait to show you) and all the custom windows in the kitchen and entry, we’ll have a ton of natural light even on the cloudy days (like today). I understand that not everyone is obsessed with natural light, and that’s fine. But we are and I have zero regrets about adding more windows in the main living spaces.
Living Room Openings
We feel so much better than I did 2 weeks ago – in a million ways. Two weeks ago I wondered if we had bitten off more than we should have. And that yes, we should have just leveled it – something most people would have done. But being here yesterday, with the windows framed and cut open made us so excited AGAIN. I have so much to tell you – so many blog posts are in the works – how we designed our custom windows to work with the original ones, how we designed the kitchen cabinetry, how we are designing the mosaic floor in the sunroom, and the landscaping – oh the landscaping. It’s all coming at you soon, as soon as I turn in the final edit of the book (which should have been last Friday). Getting “settled” is taking far longer than anticipated, but this week feels like maybe it’s the first real week of living here. Soccer practice, farmers markets, and LOTS of walks with the pups in beautiful neighborhoods full of trees. More to come on the farm, soon, I promise. xx