THIS COTTAGE RENOVATION PROJECT WAS A LABOR OF FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, ENDURANCE, AND TENACITY.
I have known this client for about 2 years before I started working with her developing the concept for her enchanting, European Coastal Cottage. Using the term “European” loosely as my client who I am now proud to call my friend and esteemed doctor- loves Italy, is partial to England and is inspired by all things vintage, antique and cute.
Over those prior 2 years, I came to really understand her love for all things beautiful, simple and comfortable. Anything, from her T-cups to the tiniest details of embroidered linens repurposed as window treatments, and from Antique doors and eclectic vintage hardware to an enchanting unassuming but magical garden.
When you see the photos of this amazing project I had the honor to participate in, you will see the magic in the cottage and it the garden (Photos to come) forged by her own hands; literally and figuratively.
We hit it off from the start, she had worked hard at sketching and drawing every single detail she envisioned. She drew options and was flexible although with a conviction of what she really wanted for this unusual space in a fairytale little neighborhood here in town. We worked together on the budget and we didn’t rush it.
However, due to the circumstances and the budget constraints we were thrust into a situation that I would rather look back upon- as a huge learning experience.
Every single project teaches me something valuable and adds to my experience; so I value these lessons. However, a general contractor with little to no integrity is one lesson I would willingly sign up for much less expose my clients to. But the truth is that by the time we realized it wasn’t a good fit – it was too late. The story goes on and it has gory details, however, we are going to focus on the beauty of the cottage today and the lessons we both got on this journey.
AS IT WAS: “The original cottage”
The bathroom was in the kitchen of the 650sf cottage, the original entrance had been closed off into a tiny dining nook…hmmm, I would say 7’ x 8’ space. There was a little hallway that led to 2 bedrooms just off the “dining nook”. To the left side (Northwest) one “sliver” of a bedroom with windows to the front of the property and on the right side (Southeast) a “master” bedroom with French doors to an interesting patio, but in its defense, it had adequate closet space. Essentially, aside from the location and the backdrop… the endeavor was questionable. Previous owners had made a mess of the hodgepodge lipstick work – they attempted.
SCOPE: “It sounds simple”
Relocate the bathroom to the old dining nook, replace windows to give the main living area more light, more space, get rid of the “hallway” to the 2 “bedrooms”, but create a potential separation when needed for future guests. Re-configure a kitchen in the space that was the bathroom & old kitchen; add modern amenities like a dishwasher and incorporate her price position… a Wedgewood Gas Range.
Confusing I know, but am hoping to include rough floor plans just to give you a visual.
DEMO & “REVELATIONS”:
The demo began and so did the revelations. Most of the existing 650sf were not original and therefore was not permitted. Honestly, I don’t think there was a CODE at that time the cottage was erect. So, needless to say, that the scope grew as the revelations appeared and as demo occurred. Approximately 90 days into the project we both realized the G.C. was neither our friend, nor professional but by this point, we were vested, or knee deep in the process. He had us, and it wasn’t at “hello”. Granted there were a lot of changes to the scope due to the age of the house and a lot was based on the discoveries but let’s just say that changes, additions, and deletions were not handled properly.
We chalked it up to the stresses of the process. As much as this statement may hurt me and you may question my expertise- I too make mistakes and am not afraid to admit it. I should have convinced my client to fire him. I reckon that had we stopped the process at that time and fired him as we should; that decision alone would have saved us about six months’ worth of headaches, conflicts, and disappointments. In fact, in my lovely client’s defense, she did suggest it at some point and I talked to her about second chances.
LESSON# 186: When it comes to renovation projects if you don’t have a good relationship with the G.C. or if the relationship is questioned at some point after starting- STOP! Analyze the situation and evaluate if it’s better to cut ties or continue. Chances are that cutting ties would be best for the homeowner and in essence for all involved.
(More details about hiring the right contractor, in a later post. Stay tuned)
RESULTS: “Magical” – in spite of the obstacles
A picture is worth a thousand words or so they say. Let me share with you the amazing pictures by Cindy Aires-Photographer of this beautiful cottage. It is enchanting thanks to the location and to the client’s patience and tenacity to get it done- also; her faith in me and my commitment to her and the project. Now the cottage has her touches of love and her soul and with the natural beauty of the location serving as an ideal backdrop. The breezes and the foliage around the community- all the elements came together and this cottage is short of a magical place.
Friend, designer, and mediator throughout the process to mitigate the lack of professionalism and integrity of some participants. Minimal, but it was a lot of work, a lot of professional vulnerability, a super sticky middle part. But am happy to say that I love this project, I don’t love the experience my client had- but it has made me more determined to be involved in every aspect of the process –even more so- more deeply- and to continue to work with clients to obtain the space of their dreams. Further to perfect my ability to provide them with a much more positive process and not so stressful experience.