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Home reimagined
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Home reimagined

Most remodeling projects, especially ones that go beyond surface treatments, involve planning, disruption to the property and substantial expense. The trick is to try to make lasting improvements that outweigh the temporary hassle. Here are three examples that achieve that end.

Garage conversion

“Our kitchen was quite cramped, and we had a crowded one-car garage,” said Wanda Starnes about the home in Union Hall she shares with her husband, Gary. “And the laundry area was shoehorned into that garage — small with no work space.” So as the couple approached retirement and planned to become full-time lake residents, they decided some renovations were in order.

They started by building a detached two-car garage with space for a shop. “Finally room for both cars, gardening gear and a workbench,” Gary said of the new space. “Since Wanda likes to cook and entertain, we blew the kitchen out into the former garage and added a generous laundry and homemaker office at the far end.”

While the footprint of the home stayed the same, the day-to-day living space increased by nearly 324 square feet. The old garage door became a wall, with stone to match the rest of the house, and looks like part of the original design.

The kitchen expansion let them brighten that space with two enlarged windows relocated to accommodate the new cabinet layout, new antique white cabinetry, an update of the 13-year-old appliances and lighter-colored granite countertops. A free-standing island with an induction cooktop, in contrasting coffee bean-stained cherry, serves as a prep area. There's also a wide serving bar that doubles as barstool seating for up to six for quick, casual meals. A hutch in matching dark cabinetry displays Wanda's assortment of Jugtown pottery.

A stone path leading to the front door replaced planking that was causing some drainage problems. The result was a dryer lower level that has since been freshened and decorated into comfortable guest quarters.

Gary, a civil engineer, designed the project while Rick Schlaginhaufen Construction did the building. Gary lived in the home during the project to supervise the work, shop for materials and fixtures and ensure the work met his standards.

“It was painstaking at times,” he said, “but being constantly on the scene was a big plus to the end result.”

Outdoor kitchen and fire pit additions

The home John and Denise Stroebel bought in 2009 boasted enviable outdoor-living spaces — a large covered back deck plus a screened porch next to the kitchen.

“The house is quite high on a fairly steep lot,” John said. “Those spaces were convenient, but using them kept us and our guests farther from the water than I wanted to be. After all, it's the lake that makes life here so special.”

John envisioned a waterfront patio with a fire pit, a kitchen counter and appliances. But with advice from a professional landscape designer, he inverted the layout so the kitchen was against the bank and the fire pit was in the wall on the lake side of the patio flanked by benches. “That put the patio closer to the water and the fire pit just above the 800-foot line with the lake as a backdrop, which goes to show that getting a pro's design advice is a good investment,” he said.

As the couple envisioned entertaining in the new space, they realized it had to include secure, weather-and vermin-proof storage to keep all the necessary utensils, dishes, condiments, plus the food and beverages, right there and ready to use. “If you have to schlep all the fixings down the hill and back again for each occasion, it will surely limit the number of occasions,” John said.

Appliances from Ferguson's included a gas grill/rotisserie, a refrigerator and storage lockers set under impervious granite counter tops, plus a clean-up sink with hot water. “It saves having to carry dirty dishes back up to the house,” John added.

A vine-laced pergola over the stone pathway that John, a talented woodworker, built creates an inviting “entryway” for the patio space. An opera singer and music lover, John said he insisted on music at his patio and opted for a Sonos system, which WiFi accesses iTunes and feeds the music to all-weather speakers. Outdoor lighting on the patio by Keenan Electric, in addition to lighting in nearby trees by Westlake Irrigation and Lighting, makes being there after dusk a delight. “Gazing up at the magnificent star-filled sky is always a treat for everyone,” John said.

From the patio, it's just a few steps down to the dock, so those two spaces combine into one big waterfront fun area. “We can spend an entire day at the water with minimal trips up and down the hill,” John added.

“John's lake life really centers around the boats,” Denise said, “and this new space draws family and guests down to where everyone can be part of the fun.”

For those who might be interested in a similar project, John had some advice: “Envisioning how you'll use the space, then designing and equipping it accordingly, is key to a project like this, but hardscape and outdoor appliances are pricey, so be prepared for sticker shock. This project ran upwards of $50,000, but it has added immensely to our enjoyment of our property.”

Multi-season deck porch

“This used to be a deck, and a hot one at that,” said Charlene Maresca. “We really didn't use it; we just looked at it from inside. After living in this house for 16 years, we decided to convert part of it into a multi-season porch.”

Charlene and John Maresca had screened porches in their previous homes and loved them. “We finally realized how much we missed that kind of space in this house,” John said.

Draftsman Eric Buck designed this one and helped the couple decide which part of their deck to enclose. The space was centered on the back of the house and accessed from the living room. It left a corner deck with a fire pit near the kitchen and a private deck just outside the master suite.

“It's not where we expected the porch to go,” John said. “But Eric knew just how to make it functional and blend with the back of the house,”

Clear glass railings had been installed on their deck a few years back. They hired Construction Marketing to reinforce the deck, frame in the enclosure supports and build the roof. They selected Eze-Breeze Sliding Panels, which use crystal clear 10-mil vinyl for glazing coupled with screens outside.

“These are lighter and much more affordable than glass, and with the windows closed and a couple of portable heaters, we can be use the space comfortably during cooler weather,” John said.

“We love having our Christmas tree out here,” Charlene added.

With seven large trees recently removed from the hillside below, the room offers a spectacular floor-to-ceiling view down the Blackwater. White vinyl bead-board-look ceiling panels keep the space bright at day's end.

With careful shopping, the Marescas made this significant change to their living space for a little more than $30,000. “We should have done it sooner,” Charlene said.

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