I couldn’t believe it when David informed me that this past weekend marked four years since we were handed the keys to the Blue House. I remember walking in the front door like it was yesterday, and I feel that same sense of coming home every time I do.
I remember us saying to each other, ‘you know, there isn’t too much we would need to do to this place.’ Oh so naive. I think the only thing still standing is the ceiling fans and the washer/dryer. (Which by the way, are dope. The Blue House is the only place in the world I love to do laundry.)
The only place in the world I love to do laundry.
When we bought the home, it was in pretty decent shape. It felt like it just needed a bit of a refresh. Built in 1985, we didn’t foresee there being too many issues to come up during the renovation, especially given that we’d had an in-depth home inspection that didn’t surface anything major.
When you walk in, the first thing that greets you is the staircase that leads to the upstairs bedrooms. When we took over the house, the stairs were enclosed, with a small pantry tucked underneath. The kitchen was, at the time, designed as a galley so that additional storage was useful, but it blocked the line of sight through the house. The stairs had to go.
Before we took out the original stairs and after.
With only one bathroom in the house, we also felt this needed to be reconfigured. We wanted to replace the tub with a large shower, add a laundry shelf and, most importantly, heated tile flooring. A must-have in any Scandinavian home or hytte.
Upstairs, we knew that simply ripping out the carpet and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint would go a long way in bringing the bedrooms up to their rightful splendor - the windows and light up there are pretty fantastic. The rooms are large, with plenty of room for storage, we just bumped out the walls and added a touch more.
We decided to do the same hardwood flooring throughout the home and wanted to give ourselves a blank slate with white paint, trim, baseboard and new doors. Some windows we knew we would want to replace, some we would keep and paint. Wherever possible, we wanted to use materials that would help bring the outside in, materials that are durable in nature.
The heating system would need to be brought online (David is obsessed with our Nest and rightfully so. It has saved our butts on more than one occasion.) and we’d end up replacing most of the utilities down in the crawl space. David and our contractor eventually convinced me to add an outlet for an air conditioner, but this remains tucked behind the drywall (and will until the day you pry this house from my cold, dead hands). Like most Norwegians, I despise air conditioning, and there is simply no need for such modern amenities at a hytte. I still can’t believe he convinced me to buy a tv.
Outside, the roof would need replacing in five to ten years, and someday it will make sense to paint the exterior, but at the moment our focus was the inside. We already loved how the house sat so modestly on this little wooded plot of land, and we wanted to manage expectations until you have a chance to walk in that door. Then blam! That’s what I call a hytte.
So there you have it, our rough original renovation plan. And frankly, as far as the average homeowner goes, that plan was pretty comprehensive. We knew what we wanted. But there was plenty more that went unplanned and unexpected.
From learning the central supporting beam of the house was resting on a piece of plywood (that’s how I got my exposed ceiling beams so a girl is NOT complaining), to our shipment of hardwood flooring getting stuck indefinitely on a freighter from China, it feels like there were a million moments where this whole project could have gone entirely off the rails (as frankly, it does for many).
Having a comprehensive and detailed plan for your remodel is the cornerstone of a successful project. And even with this plan in place, it would be foolish to not also expect – and do your best to prepare for – the unexpected. Such as budgeting for unforeseen expenses in your original plan, and not tying yourself to the original estimated date of completion.
This woman clearly has a plan!
In our case, we are pretty tenacious people when we first start something. David is a spreadsheet and research virtuoso, and I am pretty good at cutting through the *bs* and making decisions. We found a mutual love for home building and design that meant that we got a kick out of juggling this project across the finish line, even when it fell behind schedule. But I won’t lie and say it wasn’t exhausting.
We now know to put even more thought and detail into the upfront planning of a renovation project, at any scale. Fewer decisions should be made on the fly, and change orders (any updates to the original plan agreed upon with your GC) are the number one way to slow down your project. Let’s be real, things will inevitably come up. Decisions will need to be reconsidered. But with the right foundation of expectations and communication, this too can be managed.
There’s so much more to tell you about the Blue House project and how we went about designing this hytte. I could go on for pages just about the virtues of heated floors and sourcing stair railings from a local metal worker when my parents threatened to never visit again, and believe me, I will. But for now, let’s start with the plan.