Cathy Best’s “Best of the Best:” 400 Hurdles and a deadline

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Cathy Best

Cathy Best

By Cathy Best

While dreaming of building a modern house, a tiny mid-century jewel dropped in my laptop. My clients, in their early 30s, forwarded pictures of said house with the idea of renovation. I was smitten with the modern 1962 two-bedroom cottage. They were cautiously optimistic and, before purchasing, requested I walk through and advise them of renovation possibilities.

The house sits on a tree-lined street in a quiet city neighborhood. There’s a nice mix of retirees and young families, it’s a good location. Front yard landscaping needs work but the backyard and outdoor living areas are great. A glass wall front façade, extending the full width of the house, creates a privacy challenge, but the light-flooded, south facing, room is a good challenge to have. The main living area is spacious and, with some wall demolition, perfect for family life and entertaining.

With deed in hand, a list of renovation priorities, budget, and deadlines, we set out to polish the jewel. We no more than got the kitchen, eating area and living room gutted when the Mrs. of the house found out that queasy feeling, she thought was gluten, was due to their first child arriving in seven months. DEADLINE!

What began as a sprint is actually the 400m hurdles, or is that 400 hurdles? Initially, we hoped to get the main living area complete before they rented out their condo and moved into the house. When that deadline didn’t happen, gourmet cooks Mr., and mom-to-be, decommissioned the commode in the hall bath and established a makeshift kitchen. In any construction project there are deadline sacrifices, but even more so, when the homeowner takes on the job of general contractor and the sub-contractors have day jobs. The advantage, in this renovation, is huge savings. The disadvantage is a refrigerator on the bathroom counter.

Fortunately, the Mr. of the house is hands-on; he assists subs with demolition, laying tile, hanging drywall, installing hardware, and more, which keeps construction moving along. For my part, I research and recommend design elements, prioritize the wish list to maintain a budget, work with the subs on design issues, and review features, and furnishings, suggested by the couple to ensure the project stays focused. At times, I’m a therapist and marriage counselor. Deadlines have come and gone since the stork dropped the 10lb 3oz, 22-inch bundle of boy, but the finish line is in sight. Mr., Mrs., and precious baby Francis (Frankie) are moved into the new kitchen/living area and couldn’t be happier. With flat panel style doors, brushed stainless hardware, bamboo flooring, polished concrete countertops, modern lighting, subway tile, and a light neutral palette, this little gem has a sophisticated, user-friendly, feel with a spunky attitude.

Renovations continue on the master bedroom and bath while the family temporarily snuggles together in Frankie’s nursery. The master suite should be move-in ready within the next two weeks followed by demolition in the nursery and hall bath. Furnishing the living and dining area is underway to meet a baptism brunch deadline in mid-August. Did I say deadline? Really? Did I say DIY contractor, part-time sub-contractors, live-in house renovation and Frankie in the same column with deadline? Surely not… stay tuned.

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