I had scored my dream man, my dream son, two dream dogs, and not so dreamy suburban living. I needed my city life back ASAP — the noise, the energy, and the people! I woke up one night seven months pregnant with our second child and couldn’t do it anymore. With a 2-year-old son at home and another on the way, my husband and I quickly realized that we wouldn’t be back in the city entirely, but we would work to get as close as possible.
We spent five months endlessly looking. Home after home was disappointing. Those in our price range would not meet the needs of our family. They were too small, too rundown, and way too much work. Homes that were out of our price range were, well, out of our price range. During this time we had our second child, which meant the challenge of home shopping and moving was taken to a new level. In addition to a newborn, our current family home was put on the market and sold in a week, which meant we had to move … and fast! All six of us creatures landed in a very tiny apartment during the renovation of our new home.
I could see all of this breaking apart a family but it actually did quite the opposite. It was an amazing, memorable time together. After much research, we found a darling house just outside the city limits and close to the beach — a factor we held so dear to our hearts. Over the 14-month process, we did much renovation, but it was well worth it, allowing us the dream house we wanted and within the price point we could afford.
Here are tips to get you through a remodel with your family intact — from ways to save money and time to helpful pointers on avoiding arguments.
I received a great suggestion from a close friend — don’t limit yourself to homes on the market, seek out others you like and find out if they may be interested in selling. Another friend recommended a house in the neighborhood we were looking. I went for it — knocked on the door of that house, was greeted by a lovely woman, and lo and behold, she was going to put it on the market the next day! This one chance led us to our family home. (Full disclosure: My husband was very embarrassed by this. He parked a block away and ducked while I rang the bell. But hey, it worked!)
2. Balance instead of compete with your partner
Divide up the tasks. We were a great duo — our joke was that my husband handled the brains of the operation and I handled the beauty. As he’s in commercial construction, he has strong opinions about the quality, and my heart was in the color, style, and feel of the home. I often yelled, “Dream bigger!” during the process and he often said, “I have to look at the budget!” A check and balance of sorts. I was grateful for him keeping me in line and he was grateful I pushed us to search for the perfect details. As long as there is love and respect for one another, a practical and a dreamer can make an amazing team!
We found creative ways to reuse original pieces of the home. This saved us money and kept the vintage charm of the home. We used a large wooden beam from the original garage as our fireplace mantel, a unique pedestal sink now graces the wall of our powder room, and an old cast iron tub is where our boys splash for bath time each evening. During this time, our love of vintage furniture inspired us to shop for old furniture that could be refurbished to further enhance the style and charm of our Dutch colonial.
While I thought having two kids and a career was multitasking, I had only begun to understand the meaning of the word. I often found myself refurbishing furniture in between serving dinner in our cramped apartment. Right there next to the kitchen counter, I was chalk painting my latest vintage find!
5. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
Color was very important to me from a style perspective but the cost of an interior designer was not an option. ($300/hour? No thank you!) After some online research and 40 sample cans later, I had my palette worked out. I was pretty confident in the colors, but spent a couple hundred bucks to pull in a professional designer to help fine-tune the selections. With the sample colors on the walls and my palette in hand, she made a few minor tone changes and voila, we had a color scheme for our home!
6. Be decisive
This saves time and arguments. It was an extremely helpful quality to have during this project; it kept us on our timeline and the stress to a minimum.
7. Go the extra mile
Being impulsive is not the way to go. We must have spent hundreds of hours searching the web for the style and quality of products we wanted. We would patiently wait for sales, and even set up alerts on my phone.
8. Bring an unbiased third party to act as a tiebreaker
My husband and I couldn’t agree on two aspects in the kitchen, so I brought in a designer and she agreed with me (one feather in my cap).
9. Know where to spend the money
While this was very much a DIY type of project from a stylistic perspective, we splurged where it counted, such as the bones of the home and in the internal workings. Just like in a marriage, you need to start with a good foundation.
10. Involve the whole family
We made visiting the house a fun activity for our boys. They would get ice cream but couldn’t eat it until we were there, as a way to keep them entertained while we discussed the details of the home. As we got further into the process, our oldest even picked out his room and paint color.
This 14-month project is one we cherish. It means so much within the realm of our relationship. We learned that under the pressure of two careers, two children, two dogs, and the renovation of an old home, we proved to be the strongest we have ever been. One of the best moments was when we opened the doors the day the home was completed and our boys went running wild and giggling in their newfound space.
As we lounge on our couch over a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed, we look around our home, so proud of what a little hard work and love can create.More On