This whole time, since we closed over three weeks ago, Ian and I have been working on our plans for third floor; the master bedroom layout and making the bathroom and huge walk-in closet work around vents, windows, etc. We had our contractor (Kevin from Lux Design & Contracting) come out and take measurements and talk to us about our options. Then, per his suggestion, I contacted a structural engineer to verify that the changes I wanted to make in the stairway would be structurally sound.
Turns out…they’re not. At all. But they could be – for a small fortune (and a major zoning change). So…yea. There goes that plan, the whole damn thing. Poof, gone.
Truth be told, I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. I immediately called my mom and met her for lunch. Numerous glasses of wine later, I was feeling no better. I had so many questions and no backup plan. I was a mess, every little thing set me into hysteria. I was supposed to pick a paint color that afternoon for the entryway and I couldn’t even begin to think about it. “I just want to blow that $*%#ing house up!” I remember thinking.
The third floor master suite was one of the major draws to this house. An entire floor to ourselves, how cool. I was so excited to have our own private retreat with a huge spa shower, matching double-bowl vanity, claw foot bathtub under the window, an enormous walk-in closet, and all the fixtures and finishes I wanted. I imagined Carrara marble tile in the bathroom and dark-stained hardwood floors in the bedroom, lots of white linens to soften the look and a minimalist approach to the décor; it was going to be an oasis. And it was going to be all ours.
Then, the structural engineer happened.
To keep an absurdly long story short, the problem with the third floor is the stairwell. The roof slopes in at the second landing of the stairs and creates a clearance issue (you don’t have to duck, but it’s tight). I assumed – stupidly – that we could simply re-direct/widen the stairs, or knock out part of the interior wall, or bump out the roof line to fix the problem. I thought I was being the accommodating, flexible homeowner by saying, “I don’t care how we do it – whatever way works is fine with me.” As it turns out, the best solution was the ‘bump out of the exterior wall/roof line’ option but that caused a whole host of issues including adding a 14 foot reinforcement beam, re-building the entire roof and applying for a zoning variance since it’s so close to the property line. And that was as the easy way.
For the next few days, we continued to work on the first floor walls and plugged away at our other projects, but I felt lost. I was so in love with our plans for the master suite and now we could not make any of our ideas a reality. Enter: Jim. You would never know it since he’s not at all handy, but my dad has been very involved in this renovation. He has been one of our biggest cheerleaders during the process – helping us when and where he can. He knew he couldn’t rebuild a roof for me, so he sat at the corner of the table at lunch one afternoon quietly reconfiguring the space in his head in an effort to make something happen.
When we arrived at the house later that afternoon he finally spoke. He proposed a plan to put the master bedroom on the second floor, removing only sections of walls, and leaving the 3rd floor stairs alone. The third floor space could easily be converted to bedrooms and/or lounge space. Initially I hated the idea, what about our romantic retreat?! But over the course of the next few days and after numerous conversations with appraisers, mortgage brokers and other contractors/specialists (and just about everyone at my office), we embraced the new plan.
I was initially concerned about leaving the roof as-is, but since it doesn’t technically go against code (like I initially thought), the space can be counted without the wall being altered. That calmed me a bit. Also, the more typical house layout, with the master on the second floor, will probably appeal to more potential home-buyers when we go to sell the house. All in all, it was a good decision. It was not without sacrifice, however. I will not get the claw foot bathtub in my master bath (plans for the tub are still undetermined, however it’s not going in the master). I will not get the giant walk-in closet that I envisioned, just a regular walk-in closet that may only have clothes hanging on one side. I also won’t get the toilet in its own room, it will be enclosed by walls on 3 sides, but there can be no door. And it looks as though we’ll have to settle for a queen bed (which we have currently), as a king will be too large for the space.
But that is how this home remodel thing goes. You give up original ideas. You change plans. You reevaluate what’s important. You learn to be flexible. You change your mind, you make it work, and you move on…