Most of us aren't going anywhere — geographically, that is. The housing market looks a little healthier these days, but many homeowners are embracing caution and staying put for the next few years. As long as we're here though, it wouldn't hurt to make things a
little more comfortable, would it? We asked three couples what they might like to change about their houses, talked to contractors about a plan and proposed a budget of $10,000.
Crowded Water Closet | "The bathroom's really pretty," says Susan Howson, "but there's nowhere to put anything. You can't even dry your hair in there because you can't set the hair dryer down … I scream a lot."
Howson and her husband, Cam DiNunzio, couldn't understand why the previous owner had done such a nice job of renovating the rest of their Church Hill home and yet seemed to have run out of steam by the time they got to the upstairs bathroom. The pedestal sink means that there's no storage underneath, and the lip of the sink slopes so that nothing can be placed on it without rolling into the basin.
"I have to put things in the pockets of my robe every morning in order to get ready in this bathroom," Howson says.
Sarah Gleason, an interior designer with Franko-LaFratta Construction, thinks the pedestal sink needs to go. It should be replaced with a vanity cabinet and a shelf just above the sink to increase storage potential. Because DiNunzio is a tall guy, she also thinks a pivot mirror would help lessen the stress level the small space engenders. Changing the door so that it swings out instead of into the room and adding a tall cabinet with an incorporated mirror to the right of the toilet would allow DiNunzio to brush his teeth while Howson puts on makeup or dries her hair.
"The two biggest problems of our marriage are getting to bed at a reasonable hour and brushing our teeth when we want to," DiNunzio says. These fixes would solve at least one of those problems.
Estimated Cost: $7,500.
A Porch of One's Own | "When we were looking for a house, I had a bucket list of what we wanted," says Mike Peasley, standing outside his Sherwood Park home. "Instead of all those things, we chose this house because of the location and neighbors." Lacking were a garage and a front porch where you could comfortably sit. There isn't enough space out back for a garage; a new porch, however, is possible.
Mason Hearn of design-build firm HomeMasons asks Peasley why he wants a bigger front porch. "I want a place to read the Sunday-morning paper, to invite neighbors walking by to sit down and have a beer," says Peasley. Within the proposed budget, however, decisions would have to be made. The first choice would be roofing material. "A copper roof will easily cost you $4,000 to $5,000," Hearn says. A black granulated roofing material would be far cheaper, and if the pitch of the roof were sufficiently flat, it wouldn't be obvious from the street.
Size, too, has to be considered. "We really need to be careful," says Hearn, "about the right proportion and balance for an older home … we want to preserve the integrity of the house." He came up with an asymmetrical design right at the $10,000 mark that saved money by saving square footage but still had plenty of room, with a pergola to consider for the future (it fell $2,500 outside our budget).
Estimated Cost: $10,000.
Backyard Entertaining | Kate Bredimus and Matt Brehony only purchased their Cape Cod-style home this spring, but they already know what they want to change. One priority is creating a place to entertain friends outside. Although the backyard has some nice landscaping elements, the tiny brick patio on the side is too uneven to use.
"We just got this grill," Bredimus says, gesturing to a fancy stainless-steel gas model, "but we don't have any defined area for entertaining — at all." Contractor Mark Franko and designer Sarah Gleason of Franko-LaFratta Construction thought a patio could be created well within the $10,000 budget.
The couple wanted the new outdoor space to focus on a fire pit, but because of an overhanging tree, Franko suggested that it would be better to place it to the side. He and Gleason also pushed for buying a portable fire pit instead of building one. "It'll save a lot of money," Franko explained, "and it'll have a better sense of scale — a built-in will look gigantic."
The design continues the paving stones of the patio up to a small seating wall, and, Gleason says, two benches were added at the edge of the patio to "give a park-like feel in the grassy section of their backyard."
To finish, the couple can spend the last of the money in their budget and buy a table and chairs to match the benches. Friends will have no problem feeling at home while sitting with their hosts beside the fire and roasting marshmallows for s'mores after a night grilling out.
Estimated Cost: $10,000.
Sarah Gleason photo