The plan was to renovate, not completely remodel. An updated kitchen, with a few walls moved around. A spit shine everywhere else.

That’s worth restating, even though it might be repetitious to the point of being irksome. The point of putting it out there, one more time (and this time with a full gallery of photos, from all over the house) is to underscore the opportunities we missed because we were in a particular mindset.

Other than the kitchen, which was transformed beyond recognition, the rest of the house was fixed but not remodeled, even though we had more than half of it down to joists and studs.

On one hand, the original plan was an agreeable layout, for the most part, to start with. It’s a classic design, made a bit quirky from the 1920s additions of rooms that didn’t fit the original roof line. Putting it back together as it was (again, except for the kitchen, which is its own story) seemed so obvious at the time.

We were also under time and money pressure, as all home renovators and remodellers are. Rarely, if ever, does a project fail to go over budget or require value engineering to remain within budget. And then there’s the time-tested adage: Price, quality, and speed are a pick-two proposition. You can have any two at the same time, but never all three.

Looking back now, thinking about what we could have done, is worth a minute’s reflection. There are a few things we could have done very differently, without much effect on the timeline or budget. We could have taken the architect’s advice on the bathrooms, for example, and made the Jack-and-Jill connector between the two bedrooms. But we weren’t in a creative mindset, weren’t open in that particular way at the time.

Maybe it’s the transformation we’re living through, all of us, right now. If I were writing the story of our house, our family, our home at any other time, maybe this thinky-thought wouldn’t have popped in my mind. But today, as chaos, crisis, and pessimism reign, it seems a good time to remember that rebuilding and remodeling are two entirely different things. When a structure or a system or a place is broken-down in extreme, the option of remodeling instead of just rebuilding is right there, front and center. The possibilities for what could lie ahead are multiplied, not diminished.

On a more practical note, for anyone embarking on a house overhaul, I hope you’ll take this advice to heart: If you unexpectedly have to take things down to studs and joists, take a minute to pause and consider all the options. You’ll never have as many again.

A Home Renovation/Remodel Gallery

Note: I didn’t take many photos during the construction or very many “before” photos at all. But these should give a pretty good idea of the comparison.

This post is part of a series about our renovation of a house built in 1905 that we bought in 2003 from the woman who lived in it for 91 years. The first post in this series is “Jackie’s House.”

  1. The house needed you. And you needed the home. If you had not told yourself that it was an easy task, you would have never chosen each other.

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