Does anyone remember this part of my 2011 home tour?
I have a scheme for how we can turn the space into a modest two-bedroom, and rip out the wall of the stairwell to create an epic family room/mezzanine space at the top of the stairs. That stairwell is so grand and filled with afternoon sun… but it’s a fucking stairwell. If we opened it up to a mezzanine, we’d really feel that square footage more. Plus, Tavi would have a bedroom.
Well, you guys… it’s totally happening. Why is it happening? Because almost exactly a year ago, I crashed the wedding of a pair of architects, and then last fall I hired them to see if my dreams could actually be a reality. Turns out that my scheme was totally feasible. Turns out that Liz & Mark are great architects. Turns out that, despite the fact that my husband and I are both self-employed, we can refinance our mortgage to cover the cost of the remodel. Turns out we found a great Seattle contractor. Turns out we can stay in a yurt at my mom’s during the 6-8 weeks of demolition and construction. Turns out it’s maybe happening next month!? HOLY SHIT.
So wait, what are we doing?
The scheme might be sort of hard to explain, if you haven’t been to our house. In fact, even if you HAVE been to our house, it’s hard to explain. Basically, we’re swapping the private and public spaces of our condo — our bedroom becomes a living/dining area, and our living/dining area becomes two smaller bedrooms. We’re turning a 1-bedroom into a 2-bedroom.
As part of this swap, we’re moving our stairs and doing a build-out over the stairwell to create an open mezzanine dining area. Our condo is part of a chopped up old mansion, and our unit got the mansion’s original palatial stairwell… which goes up to a French door that opens into our very modest 1-bedroom home. Actually, the French door opens into a clusterfuck space that includes the door to our bedroom, a hallway off to the kitchen/bathroom, and then a weird half-space before you walk into our dining room. We’ve learned never to put anything in that space, but it’s the place where, whenever friends or family come over, they drop their bags and coats… which then immediately get tripped over because it’s the space you walk through to get anywhere in the house.
Our goal here is to make more of the usable square footage we’ve got, mostly in the interest of getting my son into his own bedroom. His walk-in-closet bedroom has been pure win since he was born and for all the years since, and he still loves it.
Despite the comfort of his closet, it’s become clear that my son won some sort of genetic lottery and is going to be a very large person. He’s already the height of some of his seven-year-old friends, and is built like a tank. And while having him just off of our bedroom through his infancy and toddlerhood has been perfect, he sleeps through the night every night now and honestly, a little privacy for ye olde conjugal bed would be appreciated. My son cannot stay in our walk-in closet forever. We need him out of our room, and he needs space to exist.
With this remodel, Tavi will be getting his own bedroom. Granted, it’s a very small bedroom (roughly 9.5′ x 7.5′) But he gets the balcony with its glass door facing a courtyard full of trees, so it’ll be a small room filled with green leafy light and morning sun.
So he gets a bedroom, and we all get the joy of a home that immediately opens into a family mezzanine area. No more walking up some stairs, through a glass door, and into a little clusterfuck hallway/corner area. Now you’ll come up the stairs into a wide open living room with our dining table built into the very center of the space. What’s now the top of our stairway landing will become our dining area, right in the center of the room, overlooking the enormous stairway (hello down there, we’ll call from the table when someone comes home). It’s hard to explain, but it’s going to be cool.
Of course we could just move, but there are factors: We love our neighborhood. We love our lifestyle. We love walking to everything. We love that the elementary school we can walk to is really great. We love living on several bus lines. It’s awesome. Since our neighborhood is awesome, it’s also very expensive, and 2-bedrooms are out of our price range — especially since we’re both self-employed. We love being self-employed. It’s also awesome. So if we want to retain the awesome things we love (our awesome-but-expensive neighborhood, and our awesome-but-modest self-employment), we need to get creative. Plus, I did the math, and it’d cost us about $20k in real estate fees to sell our condo and buy something new, so why not just apply that budget toward to make more of what we already have?
Wait, why is this the first y’all are hearing about this?
We’ve been slowly plodding on this process for a year now. There are a bazillion people involved: the architects, our homeowner’s association, several bankers, our contractor, the city of Seattle permitting departments, structural engineers, feasibility inspectors, and valuation assessors. It’s been a slow and fiddly process full of logistics that are honestly pretty boring.
I’m also easily overwhelmed by design decisions. I love bold colors, but am completely unable to select them. I love cool looking shit, but quickly hit decision fatigue when looking at images that are supposed to be inspiring. Sometimes I just want to Kermit flail and be like “I DON’T KNOW JUST MAKE IT LOOK COOL.”
But despite my lack of chattiness about the project and quick rates of overwhelm, I’m pretty stoked by the prospect of what we’re doing. Seven years ago, we bought a home that was within our means in a place we love. Now we’re shifting it to make it fit better with what our lives have become, but it feels really good that we’re staying committed to living within our means and within the neighborhood we’ve loved for so long.
Updated to add
Some architecture nerds really want to see the drawings full size. Clicky to view full-size:
(All drawings by Mark Dorsey & Liz Piscotta, whose lovely wedding you can see here.)