• Work With What You Got

    by Carrie Benuska

    Because most San Marino homes were built many years ago, renovations are a regular part of most homeowner’s lives. Some homes have been so completely and beautifully renovated before sale, that prospective buyers can imagine moving into the home without having to make any changes. Most homes, though, have some flaw or provide plenty of room for improvement. Let’s face it, even homes that have been renovated at some point will eventually need to be attended to again some years later. Renovations seem to be a perpetual part of every homeowner’s life.

    Every family has different needs for their home layout. Having one bedroom downstairs is perfect for those who have older visitors who don’t want to climb the stairs or for those who want a private place for a live-in nanny or housekeeper. For others, having all of the bedrooms upstairs is vitally important, because they have young children who need to be housed close to the master bedroom. Some people have a minimal amount of clothes and find no need for a large master closet, while others are used to a closet more like a room than a closet. Some people are looking for a large kitchen/family room, while others don’t mind having a family room separated from the kitchen. A home that is perfect for one family might be less than perfect for the next owners.

    I would imagine that most homeowners are like my husband and me, continually thinking of ways to improve their home. Unlike some homeowners who are very free with their renovation dollars, though, we try to only make improvements that are vital and important to our lifestyle or will be attractive to future buyers. When we come up with ideas, we always ask ourselves if the money spent will equal dollars to our bottom line.
    Because my husband is a structural engineer and a very experienced construction professional, he has taught me how much more affordable it is to work within the original floor plan of the house whenever possible. We have learned to be very creative with existing space, sometimes re-working it to meet a particular need. If you think about it, working within your original floor plan is also eco-friendly. Why expand, utilize more materials, and enlarge your carbon footprint, when you might be able to accomplish what you want without moving any exterior walls.

    As a case in point, we were faced with a dilemma in our own home, because although we had four bedrooms upstairs, one of them was extremely small (almost more like a sewing room or a nursery.) As our youngest daughter grew older, the size of the room became a problem that we needed to address. Our initial plan involved transforming her room into a larger master bath and closet area and then adding another bedroom and bath over an existing family room. Although this felt like the ideal plan, we also realized it also was going to involve a heavy investment in construction costs. We really hoped to find an option that we could enact quickly and would involve a smaller price tag.

    This is when my husband’s design genius kicked into gear. Although we had to give up on a huge bathroom/closet area, he figured out how we could re-distribute space to allow for a larger fourth bedroom. This is what we did:

    1. We took out the fourth bedroom closet, my closet, and my husband’s closet (all were back-to-back to one another) and re-distributed this square footage to the fourth bedroom.
    2. With the help of cabinet maker, Carlos Reyes of R&B Custom Woodworks, we used the far portion of the fourth bedroom to build out an attractive and roomy closet plus a built-in desk.
    3. We utilized an existing dressing area to create a beautiful and spacious closet area for me.
    4. We utilized the far side of our master bedroom to create a beautiful and spacious closet area for my husband (including an attractive window seat)

    Not only did these changes expand the fourth bedroom and create a wonderful space for our youngest daughter, but it also created efficient and attractive closet space for the master suite. Rather than go to an extreme to solve our issue, we found a way to work with what we had by streamlining the existing space. It was an affordable renovation and highly effective.

    Next time you have an issue to resolve in the house, think about how you can work with what you got. You will probably be surprised about how you can re-work things to meet your needs and add value to your home for a future sale.

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