May 14, 2010

The 1st Year: Evaluating Our Living Space

It's hard to believe, but we've lived here almost a year now. We signed on the dotted line the last day of April 2009, and finally moved in lock, stock, and barrel on May 23rd. It took me that long to get the place cleared out and cleaned!

Like anyone with a new home, we had lots of ideas about what we wanted to do with the place. Besides the land, the house had much of what we were looking for: pantry, office space, studio, and 2nd bathroom. Some things needed immediate modification, even if only temporary; the kitchen for example. Other things like the fireplace, weren't salvageable and needed to be overhauled entirely

As we've been living here, we've been thinking not just about individual rooms and projects, but about how our living space is arranged as a whole. Our ideas and discussions have been about things like this:
  • Food storage - while I was delighted that the place came with a pantry, the 4 by 6 foot space now seems totally inadequate for what we want to store. I'm talking a full year's worth of home canned goods, jars and crocks for lacto-fermented foods, grains, and garden produce. One possibility is a root cellar, but a larger pantry is also in order.
  • Water heater - is getting near the end of it's service life. It currently resides in a rather inaccessible spot in the crawl space. When we install a new one, we'd like to relocate it.
  • DH wants a master suite with a master bathroom. Even though it's only the two of us living here, this is something he really likes.
We've done a lot of brainstorming, and have come up with a possible solution, below. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

To see our current floor plan for comparison - click here.

This will require a bit of work, but it seems a good solution:
  • If we can create another office space for DH, the back room of the addition can become the pantry. It's much larger (8 x 12 ft) and so has plenty of space for storage shelves & work table, it's right off the kitchen, and it's where we put the freezer and the old fridge.
  • The current pantry can become a utility room. We can relocate the water heater there, making it accessible for inspection and maintenance. That room can also be used as a broom closet for the vacuum cleaner, ironing board, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • If we borrow space from our 5-foot wide main hallway, we can create a master suite using the spare room and hall bath. That borrowed space from the hall can become a study for DH. He has a desk and a drawing table, and will need shelving as well. If we can manage that in the "found" 5 by 10 foot space, it will be a workable solution.
There are still a lot of things to consider and a lot of details to work out. As with our master plan for the land, this one is subject to further evaluation and modification. Plus, like the master plan, we're not putting a time frame it. Here's what we're looking at:
  • We've already moved DH's office and studio into the spare room for the time being, enabling us to clear out the back room and start on the new pantry.
  • Our water heater is probably on it's last legs. When we get the new one, DH will install it in the old pantry, now utility closet.
  • The plumbing for that can be done in conjunction with remodeling the back bathroom, which is the next project on our list, now that we've finished the goat fence!
  • Creating the master suite will be last on the list, and I doubt we can get to that anytime soon. But maybe we can a few years down the road.
Most of our projects lately have all been outside: garden, fencing, yard, etc. Many of these are routine to the season, like the garden. Many others are one time projects necessary to build our homestead, like the fence. Even though the house projects seem to be neglected, there has been a lot of active thinking going on. We've had to live in our house to analyze how it can best suit our lifestyle and needs. And I'm glad we have. What we want to do now, is now what we considered at first, and very possibly things will change before we're done! It's all part of the process.


Anonymous said...

you can save a lot of space with a tankless water heater. we installed one 2 years ago and are very pleased. gas and water bills went down the ist. month after installation. the unit is the size of a suitcase and hangs on the wall above the dryer. we used the old space to enlarge our kitchen pantry.

Benita said...

Actually, looking at your house layout, I do have one suggestion. Why not knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room and making that one large, eat-in kitchen? When I grew up (and even now), most people congregated to the kitchen and we never had a separate dining room. Of course, we were are are very relaxed about conventions, but I would much rather have a larger, more efficient, eat-in kitchen than a tiny, awkward kitchen and separate dining room. Also, think about how much more open and airy that space could be making cooking and entertaining a lot more fun. Just a suggestion.

maggie said...

I'm with Benita! Plus, it looks like opening the kitchen to the dining room might allow you to add a bank of storage cabinets across the dining/living room wall, if you need it.

Renee Nefe said...

The first thing I noticed with your plan is the distance between your spare bedroom and a bathroom anyone using that room can use. I suppose that when the house was first built that distance wouldn't have been an issue but folks are much lazier now days. ;o)

the second thing is the unused space in the old hallway that is now the master suite. Do you have any plan for making it more than just a hall of doors? I assume that you need the wall for support, so it would probably be best to use those walls for shelving of some sort.

and I don't like the idea of taking down the wall between the kitchen & dining room because I worry about supporting the roof. My town recently lost one of it's historical buildings because the new owner knocked down a wall and the roof went with it! but I do like the tankless water heater. I wish we would have gotten one but the price made us go with a tank.

Cynthia said...

Reading your blog has made me think more about our plans or lack thereof. I like your systematic plan-and-revise approach & am taking small steps towards it myself.

Leigh said...

Anonymous, we did research tankless water heaters and it was something I was really interested in. The gas ones are supposed to be especially efficient, but we don't have gas. They come in propane models too, but I am not keep on having to keep a tank filled. Being able to hook into a public utility service would be much better.

The problem with the electric tankless models, is the amount of electricity they require when one first turns the hot water on. If the hot water is run continuously, this may not be so bad, but for just the two of us and the few times a day we require hot water, it probably wouldn't be a savings.

DH also likes the idea of water tank heater because we can hook it up to a passive solar hot water heating system, which we plan to do.

Benita, Dan wanted to do that at first, but I really don't want to. I've lived with "open concept" room arrangements before, and did not like them. I prefer rooms. I know the selling point is openness for entertainment, but really, we entertain so little anyway. But also, DH liked the idea of a formal dining room, which is what we've gone with.

Maggie, see my answer to Benita. The other thing is that I need that wall space in the kitchen for shelves and cabinets. Since the living and dining rooms are open to one another via double french doors, there isn't much space to do anything different, unless we closed it off. Plus, all the walls in the dining room are cement board, so any modification would be a major undertaking!

Renee, the original house only had one bath. That distance between the 2nd bath and proposed guest room is pretty far and that is a concern. But Dan wants that master bath. His first option was to add another bathroom, which I'm not for at all. Not only would it be a major undertaking, but two people just don't need three bathrooms, unless we did away with that little one in the addition or made it a half bath. However, the reno on the kitchen comes first! I'll put my foot down on that one, so in the end, we have quite a few years to think about it before we actually add that master suite.

If we do it that way though, the wall we add in the hallway to partition it will indeed be a bookshelf, rather than just a plain wall.

Cynthia, you'll probably notice that our plans change a lot! In another year, our plans might be totally different. Still, having a master plan gives a direction that will hopefully help us not have to re-do some things and regret having done others.

Anonymous said...

All I can say from experience is you just never get through. We still have lots of projects in the works around here. What I also know is, it sure is fun!

I love your wood heater and the alcove. You are right about the pantry. I wished we had made ours bigger than it is. I don't have room for all my canning jars plus the other pantry items.

Everything looks and sounds like it is coming along just fine.
Have a great weekend.

Sara said...

I love your plans - it always seems to take so much time to get things done - but, it is so worth it.

Kathy said...

I love your new heading with Mr. Himself in it. Too cute!
I tried to make a smart-assed comment on the previous post, but for some reason Blogger wouldn't let me. So,:
"It's nice to see you've got a new channel on CAT-TV, Leigh. :)"

You and your DH have done so much for one year. You should be proud of yourselves - you both worked very hard to make your dreams come to fruition - and it looks like they are.

Here's to the next year being even better, in all ways.

bspinner said...

You and your husband have worked so hard and accomplished so much over this last year. You should be so proud of what you've done!!! I've enjoyed this adventure you're sharing with the rest of us and look forward to each of your blog postings.

House will be wonderful no matter what you do with it because it will be the way you want it.

Leigh said...

Pam, you've just hit the nail on the head. I sometimes think that if we either had the house, or the homestead only to work on, things would be a whole lot simpler!

Sara, I'm learning to count on the knowledge that it will be worth it, and not sweat what needs to be done. Both Dan and I are project people, so our minds are always working on ways to change things. Either we'll eventually get it all done, or we'll be fine with things the way they are!

Kathy, your the 2nd person who had problems commenting on that post. I appreciate your encouragement! And yes, didn't Rascal give me the perfect post for that pic! He's such a ham.

Barb, I appreciate that!