Both Lee and I have experience with design and construction. He has converted three lofts, in San Francisco, Manhattan and Brooklyn, into residential/studio spaces, and has renovated rental properties.
My late husband and I had picked up someone else’s crazy half-finished expansion of a cottage and turned it into our first home. We later built the home where our children grew up. Our last adventure was to gut and redo the three-bedroom owner’s quarters of our 1790 bed and breakfast.
Hopefully the maxim “practice makes perfect” will prove to be true.
Lee and I were prepared for the work but had to work out some very important issues. Who would pay for what? Whose house would this be? Who would do what?
After much discussion, we agreed that it would be my financial responsibility and remain totally my house. My sons do like the house and Lee, and we didn’t want feelings for him to have any sway over their decision-making when/if the house should become theirs. Lee is a generous man and he is always taking chances. I don’t have to worry and the boys don’t have to worry about him loving me for my house.
Lee is doing a lot of the work on the house: carpentry, wiring, taping, trim, tile, floors. He has started grimacing about his shoulder, sometimes one and sometimes the other, and falls asleep during movies. Hopefully he won’t become an achy old man during this project. He will be bringing in help with the sheet rock and flooring and I’ve just set him up for a massage.
It made sense to divide the work so that the design is my responsibility and the construction is his. It’s easier said than done. There is a lot of interplay between the two.
I chose to hire an architect, even though Lee thought we could do it ourselves and wanted to save my money for materials and labor.
My husband and I designed our second home, and while we did pretty well, after living in it a few months, we realized we were not as smart as we thought we were. We hired an architect for our owner’s quarters redo, mainly because we were stuck. He got it perfectly, and we learned that working with an architect doesn’t mean one has failed. (Clark was a do-it-yourself-er in theory and practice, and so is Lee, and so am I). An architect is well worth the additional cost.
An architect would transform my squirrel house vision into an actual livable structure. Having professionally drawn up plans I would be less likely to step on the contractors’ and Lee’s toes. An architect’s advice and expertise would boost my confidence about the project and provide peace of mind.
There were practical considerations also. What was code? Could we actually put more structure on the little lot? How much would it cost? Where would Lee live until the addition was completed?
I read the town code and thought we could do it, and was hoping our architect would agree.
Lee and I picked a figure we would like to spend, a figure based on nothing in particular. We’ve already gone over the first figure; we knew it was unrealistic. We are hoping we come in close to what we chose for the second.
Lee moved in with his clothing, his dog, some art, and a lot of his kitchen in October 2011: we didn’t want to commute across the river another winter. He found a space nearby for his office and man space. I get a little romantic buzz walking from our home to his office for a cup of tea in the afternoon.
There were more difficult soul-searching questions. Would our relationship make it through this project? Would I be able to complete the house if for some reason Lee couldn’t or wouldn’t finish it with me? What would I do with this larger house if I were once again on my own?
We’ve touched on these questions but they are mostly floating in my subconscious. Hopefully they will not have to be answered.