Brace yourselves–what you are about to witness cannot be unseen. It is truly terrifying and can be overwhelming. Luckily, there is no way to smell through computers, otherwise you would probably pass out from the stench of cat urine that our house formerly reeked of. I now present you with the “before” pictures of our new home. These are from the real estate listing, so presumably they tidied up a bit before they were taken. Possibly…maybe not.

There she is, in all her vine-covered glory. Fun fact…when I was pulling out the vines that were growing up behind the siding, a snake fell into my hands. SO GREAT.

View from the street.

Straight-on view from the street. You can see how the front door is hidden.

Now, if you remember, I have previously covered the home’s current layout, and what it eventually will be. For a quick refresher:

Here is a pic of the attached one car garage, and the patio area immediately adjacent to it (the long room that runs the length of the house in the layout above):

Patio room as it was. This will be turned into a mudroom in our configuration, after the foundation issues are addressed.

From the patio room, you enter the kitchen. While there are problems throughout the house, the kitchen was the only room where I actually threw up while cleaning it out. MOUNDS of moldy dog and cat food were underneath the cabinets, and there were rodent droppings in every drawer and cabinet. The fridge had black mold on the inside. Needless to say, this was an entire gut job.

The door there leads to the patio area. In our design, we’re shifting the door to the middle (where that peninsula is) to allow for a full run of cabinets and counters on either side.

The two door cabinet against the wall there held all the dog food underneath, and the peninsula had all the cat food. Even with a ventilator mask (the kind like Darth Vader) the smell still worked its way in.

The rodent problem in the kitchen was worse than we imagined. When Jason took down the little roof extension over the attached garage, it literally rained mice. A whole colony was living up there, and scattered when it was tore out. I found previously vacated colonies while demolishing the bathroom and laundry room. It was truly an infestation, and I’m glad that we’re opening every wall and replacing every single thing in this home, so that I know it’s buttoned up and rodent-free, otherwise I’d be sleeping with one eye open. #likeaninja

Living room, looking in from hallway area.

Living room, looking back toward hallway, kitchen and front door area.

Master bedroom–windows are being changed in this room, but no other structural changes. This is the only room in the house that will pretty much only receive cosmetic updates.

This laundry room, which technically counted as a bedroom, will become the master bathroom.

The third bedroom will be swallowed, and partly become powder room, desk nook, and stairway to the upstairs.

The bathroom presented its own unique challenges of black mold and rodent harboring…

Immediately to your left in this picture, behind the walls, mice almost chewed entirely through an electrical wire, causing a delay whenever you turned on the lights, and the occasional flicker as it was jostled by the movement of the rodents. ICK.

So, with all the house’s problems, why did we buy it? We were essentially paying only for the land, foundation, and the two car detached garage (which, while not in great shape, was at least better than the house). It came down to a few key items, but the major one was (naturally) location. Our new house is a 5 minute drive to my parents’ place, is on a quiet road with more foot traffic than cars, and at the end of the street is the Great Sacandaga Lake. Where else can you walk to all the shops, schools and restaurants in town, and still own nearly 3 acres of land?

Our last home was beautiful, but too big. We loved the 5 open acres of land, but found it hard to maintain during the weekends. We had a lovely private backyard, but we could hear road noise from Route 29 ALL THE TIME. At this house, you step out and hear…nothing. It’s blissful.

Back end of our property…we own all the wooded areas on the left.

In the cleared area of our backyard, looking toward the house.

Other side of the cleared area of the backyard, looking toward house and detached garage.

We’ll be turning that shed into a playhouse for Hazel and Lucy next summer. πŸ™‚

So, the house itself is…awful. The previous owners filled two dumpsters cleaning it out prior to us moving in, and we’re currently on dumpster #3 (each one is 30 yard length, the biggest you can get). Never say that a small space limits what you can accumulate–this house is proof that you can still pack it in! But, I am confident that this little cottage will be perfect for us when it’s finished. My whole goal with this project is to demonstrate that living small doesn’t mean you aren’t living well. I will be using high end finishes and incorporating pieces with character throughout the cottage to make it feel luxe and inviting, rather than a rodent motel. πŸ˜‰

Here’s a before shot, along with a sneak peek of what the house will look like after we’re done:

Actual existing…

Computer simulated existing… πŸ™‚

What it will look like after we’re done…

If you’re interested in seeing how the layout will change, check this post out. I’ll be trying to post more pictures in the next day or two with updates on what we have demoed so far, and problems encountered along the way. Because naturally, in a reno project this size, there are ALWAYS problems.


Emily Behnke

Formerly a high level professional in a scientific organization, Ms. Behnke now owns and operates an organization and design company focused on living well in small spaces.

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