Hey everyone! Getting back into focus on the blog made me realize that I still have not shared the cottage journey with you all!
If you’re not familiar, the “cottage” is what I’ve been calling the room above our garage that we renovated. I’ve posted some stories and tours on social media, but I want to share the nitty gritty details with you here.
Let’s face it, home renovations are stressful, overwhelming, exciting, exhausting, and frustrating. They basically bring up every emotion a human can experience no matter what the size is! Even though I do this for a living, it’s not any different and I still experience the same as you.
What Can Happen During a Renovation…Even As a Designer
One of my most popular posts is on the importance of a checklist for any renovation (read it here). Being an interior designer does NOT make it any easier. It is a known fact that we are our own worst clients because we cannot make a decision for the life of us!
Which is one reason why working with a professional and having a decision maker in a renovation project is so important. With my clients, that’s usually me. I also scale down the number of options for them, making the decision process so much easier. It’s hard for people to make a decision on their own home because they don’t want to make the wrong one!
So if I’m the client, who was my decision maker? You guessed it…the hubby! Well, most of the time :) Even though I drew up the design, I needed him to give a firm YES so we could move forward.
There will also inevitably be some type of unexpected issue or delay that comes up. Believe me, I wish this wasn’t the case. But, as long as you’re aware of it, that will help with getting backup solutions ready.
How to Make Decisions For a Renovation
Our home is a modern farmhouse style so all of the decisions for renovating the area above the garage needed to fit in with the rest of our home.
We began our farmhouse style cottage renovation in 2020. Yes, here we are in 2022 and to be honest, it’s still not completely done (waiting on a door replacement and some minor changes). But, it’s so close and we’ve come a long way.
Originally, this space was going to waste as a catch all storage spot. Or as I liked to call it, our hoarding area, haha. We can all fall into this trap, so I’m sure you can relate! And as nice as extra storage space is, this just wasn’t an ideal use of the square footage.
With my in-laws living in South Carolina, we began talking about having a space for them that’s separate from the house. We wanted them to feel at home especially when they’re staying more than the usual 2-3 days on their trips up here.
When Covid hit and the hubby was home all the time, we quickly realized we needed more space for us as well. So, we got clear on what our priorities were and why we were doing the project. From there, we spoke with our contractor and architect to begin realizing our vision for the room above the garage. We knew we could get more out of this area by using it for actual living space instead of storage.
The Farmhouse Floor Plan
As with many things in this process, where you start is often not exactly where you end up. That’s why it’s a good thing to make sure you have a well planned project. If you wait until you’re in the middle of it with studs showing and wires going everywhere, that’s where things can get messy. Or ruin your highest hopes all together.
In the first plan, I wasn’t thrilled with the shower size and we knew we wanted space for a kitchenette. In the original layout, there were stairs that went from the garage into this space. After going back and forth (many times) about whether to keep them there or move them, we decided to relocate the stairs. This made the garage larger, too. And of course, the hubby liked that a lot :)
To enter the new cottage area above the garage, we added exterior stairs instead. These lead up to a small deck with sliding doors. Once we agreed that we liked this layout the best, I drew it up and started working on the design for how I thought it should look.
I treated this project as I would any client project. First, figure out what’s truly feasible and make sure any major decisions are realistic from a structural standpoint. Then, come up with floor plan options, begin selecting finishes, and working out design details.
This is the revised floor plan that we decided on:
It’s All In The Details
In July 2021 construction began. It was smooth sailing…until the decisions and modifications really came into play. We had the basic design down, but the little things that are unexpected kept creeping in. This is true of any renovation, no matter how many you’ve done.
For instance, do you know how many outlets you should have to be up to code in a space this size? We need one at least every six feet.
Also, important decisions had to be made on things like lighting. This one is so incredibly important, especially with recessed lights, because you could easily overdo it or have placement that is off. Neither is good. Have you ever seen those rooms that look like they have landing strips on their ceilings because of too many lights?!? That’s exactly what you want to avoid.
The decisions don’t stop there. Besides selecting the light fixtures themselves, you have to plan out the switching for each fixture. How many switches need to be in the space? And where do they go? Which switches control which lights? Are they single or 3-way switches?
You want to really think through how you’ll be moving through the space and using it. Then you can have an efficient plan for your lighting and switching locations that feel natural.
It’s best to figure out these kinds of details after having the bigger layout planned. Otherwise, you’ll just be doing the work twice (and who wants to do that?). Remember when I said we called our contractor and architect first? So important to start talking to your remodeling professionals early in the process.
The rendering below shows our final layout. We had our initial design figured out and our contractor told us it could be done. The only things we couldn’t keep were the cathedral ceiling (which was a huge bummer for me) and the U-shaped kitchen due to space constraints.
Let’s talk about it. Because we don’t like them, but they’re very common.
We had many delays, and mostly on the items that we needed in order to move forward. Like….windows and doors. Very important items I would say, haha. We were also told, for 4 months, that our refrigerator would be delivered. Well, guess what happened? They showed up without a refrigerator. We had to scramble and find one that someone else had in stock.
The kitchenette cabinets took almost 4 months to get. And the bathroom vanity I picked out vanished without a trace, too, making me have to find another one. You can see how the need for a few different solutions start to add up!
What I like to say about EVERY project is to expect the unexpected. Have your backup plan in place so that when issues arise, you’re as prepared as possible and a solution can be easily navigated.
Looking Back On It
All in all, even with the delays and stressful times, I am so happy we decided to do this project. I’m a firm believer that everyone’s home should be functional and utilized as best as it can be for their lifestyle.
When we moved in 3 years ago (here’s the first post about our house) we knew it was the perfect one for us to grow into. We knew we could make it our own. This home has allowed us to create so many memories already!
It also lets us explore things we didn’t consider before moving here. Like growing some vegetables in our garden and enjoying the firepit area. The boys have loved being able to grab beans right off the stalk to eat and watching how cool the cucumbers look while they’re growing.
We’re an outdoor family, so any excuse to be outside grilling by the fire or chilling with smores is good by us! Now with our cozy little farmhouse addition of the cottage, we have additional space to relax, unwind, and welcome our visitors in comfort.
Here's a quick video :)
If you've been thinking about a renovation around your home, or if you’d like some help with decor and design details, please reach out! I’m here to help and super familiar with the process. I like to think that going through these projects in my own home helps me relate to everything my clients go through as well.
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