Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Face-lift on the Cheap: Part 1

I've been a really busy girl over the last couple of weeks, thus the inability to muster the energy to get back into my daily blog posts. Betcha wonder what I've been doing. Well, it's not furniture (which is still waiting). Instead it's been a mini face lift on an older rental house.

The house after it was painted a few years ago. Unfortunately, the paint hasn't weathered so well. The gray has faded unevenly and the burgundy has turned a hot pink!

Back view. It's actually a nice little house.
The house is one of those older ranch style houses built in 1984 (Gee...if that's old then I'm ancient!). It's got the small high windows, stained cheap wood trim, hollow core doors, flat panel cabinet doors with the nice little groove thing around the perimeter that went out with the pioneers, butcher block & faux marble laminate, gold bath fixtures, etc. all nestled in the woods! UGH! Dark and dated are the words that come to mind. I don't hesitate to say that because the owners and I completely agree on all of the above (except for the need to paint trim & kitchen cabinets)...thus the "remodel".  Structurally, it's solid, so it warranted a makeover in order to justify the rent. Fifty years ago, this would have been a middle class dream home at 1530 square feet on one acre, but unfortunately in this age it hardly qualifies as such. Now this would be considered a starter home. It's sad, really. Why do we tend to think we need so much these days? Despite being dark and dated, if allowed, I could drastically improve this to meet today's "standards". I'd begin with  gallons of warm white paint:)

Want to see what it was to begin with? Brace yourself! Most of these are old pics the homeowner took years ago. I'd have taken newer ones where the wallpaper had at least been removed, but before I could get there, they'd already started ripping out flooring. So, these will have to suffice:

Thinking all the drapery is just a wee bit DATED!

Newer family room picture prior to starting work. If I could only paint the brick as well!
You can imagine what response that would get, so I didn't even go there.

The homeowner has since removed the wallpaper boarder and replaced the chandelier in this dining area with a semi-flush mount. All new lighting was picked and installed by the homeowners prior to me getting involved.

The homeowner did manage to get in just a few more current "before" photos before the work began.
Here's the dining room as it was with it's parquet floor.

Where do I start with this kitchen & breakfast area?!
Dark, more wallpaper border, super dated everything, florescent name it!

See. It's not much better from this angle! Butcher block laminate counter that continues up the back splash, dated appliances and bar stools, nice little scallop over the sink, and weirdest of all...TWO light fixtures! Some tenant was nice enough to do that for them:) It was probably the same tenant who did this and left it for them (see next picture):
OMG! Is that seriously a stuffed bear hanging in the tree?!!!
Maybe they should run background checks for psychological issues on possible tenants!

Super grainy, but a view of the paneled chair rail and wainscoting. DARK and DATED!
Newer shot of the hallway where they'd started down the right path and painted the paneling out, but not the chair rail. Like the louvered track door? There was one going into the kitchen from the dining room on the right as well.

The main bathroom with it's pastel seashell wallpaper, dated faucet & handles, cabinetry and lighting.

The first bedroom that felt like a cave when we tested out the home owner's first paint choice!

Second bedroom: see the carousel horse in the window? Would you believe the ceiling fan has them on it and mirrors?!

Master bedroom a tenant had painted bright yellow!

Master bath with it's faux pink/yellow marble laminate, gold fixtures, and Hollywood light strip!

When you have a rent house, you have a choice to make: are you going to be a slum lord and just leave it as is renting it out for whatever you can get until it absolutely has to be repaired or bulldozed? Or are you going to keep it updated and maintained to get your maximum rent out of it? The owners prefer the later:) Fortunately, most of what this house needs is just some cosmetic love, with the exception of installing larger windows.

So, it was time for a serious redo, but we have had a few mitigating factors that influenced the design decisions: fixed lower budget (it's a rental), the fact the owners live half way across the country, and a husband who's of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mind-set as well as a stained wood lover. I say that factually, not critically.  He's entitled to like whatever he wants. It's his house! It's purely a matter of opinion. It's my job to do what pleases while trying to gently help them see what exactly makes a house feel dated. And it's not that I don't like stained wood. It's just that white would appeal to more people - specifically more women who tend to be the final say-so in chosing a house. It would also reflect more light making the spaces feel larger and brighter. But, it's not in the cards, so I've had to get creative. How do you keep the budget minimal, get the desired updated look, and still please the client? Sound familiar?

I'm not going to lie. It ain't easy! The first thing done was to go in and rip out all the flooring. They'd already decided to install 3/4" hardwoods throughout the living, dining and hallway and new linoleum in the bathrooms. It didn't take much arm twisting to get rid of the carpet left in the bedrooms, even though it was actually still in decent shape for a rental. The problem was the color. I think it was called "Mocha" but any "chocolate/coffee" had turned decidedly lavender over the last twelve years! Ick!

My favorite part -  that was not cheap and pretty much blew a good chunk of the budget - was the hardwood floors. They did those all on their own and I give them a huge thumbs up on design! Budget wise, I'd have probably not spent the extra on laying it on the diagonal in a rental, but it does look nice! They used 3.5" wide white oak planks on a diagonal, sanded and left UNSTAINED...just polyed in a satin finish at my suggestion. Glossy is beautiful, but shows wear, drips, and dust considerably more than a satin finish, which is also a little more subdued and appropriate for this space. Again, the house is going to be lived in by tenants with little to loose should the floor be scratched!

Example of white oak solid 3/4" flooring without stain and just polyurethaned.

Example of a wood flooring laid on a diagonal and left unstained.
via Hardwood Floorist

Once floors were all picked out, then it was time to pick some paint colors that were as light and neutral as we could get to brighten the space up without being taste specific. Here's what we went with:

SW 6133 Muslin
Used in the kitchen, family/living room/bathrooms/upper portion of hallway.
Awesome color and looks fantastic with stained or unstained wood! Just enough color to be creamy but not yellow.
Ever so slight of a greenish tint in some lighting.

SW 7536 Bittersweet Stem
We lightened this with two parts Muslin: one part Bittersweet Stem.
Used in the bedrooms, dining room, and on old paneling and chair rail in bottom half of the hallway.

The wife wanted color, which everyone knows I'm usually enthusiastic about, but in this case I had to reel her in due to limited light and her bent toward pinkish undertones. Bittersweet Stem is a gorgeous warm mid-tone neutral, but in bedrooms with dark wood trim and small windows, it was cave-like. White trim would have made all the difference, but like I said, it wasn't going to happen. So, I mixed in some Muslin and we came to a lighter version that we both liked - a warm light neutral that was slightly darker than the Muslin used in the main living areas.

Then, because I don't mind grunt work if it pays, guess who got to do the painting of the ENTIRE HOUSE?! You betcha! Talk about exhausting! Five days of hitting the floor running with lots of coffee holding me up until I fell into bed around 10-11 at night. Painting is something I do well, so because the pay was good I enjoy it,  I was willing to take on the job with a little help from Grandma and hubby watching the kiddos:) I'm a glutton for punishment, aren't I?!

As of now, all new flooring has been installed (I've not seen it yet) and every square inch of drywall painted with two coats (I would know!). Coming appliances installed, a possible (if time & homeowners will allow) creative solution to old but solid cabinets that I'm not allowed to paint, new window dressings, a good pressure washing for the exterior, new lighting & ceiling fans, back splash update on the cheap, touched up trim and new kitchen hardware. Did I mention it's all supposed to be done by the first of February and yours truly is doing a lot of the work? Hey, if I can and they're willing, why not? Makes for good blogging material:)

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  1. So as to stick with the anonymous theme, "homeowner" was laughing her head off as she read this. Love the sense of humor. Since I am not there, hands on helping you out, I'll look forward to the after pictures as much as the rest of your blog readers. :-) Thanks for all the creative ideas and the hard work. Don't know what I'd do without you!

  2. You go, girl!! Just take lots of pictures while you're going...:)


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