We bought Idlewild Cottage in October 2017. Since that time, I feel like we made a lot of progress, but at a very slow pace. Our contractor, Brian McCormick of McCormick Carpentry, allotted one month for the demolition of the house, which I thought we’d knock out in no time. Three months and three 30-yard dumpsters later, we still weren’t done.

Demoing a room or even a couple of spaces is no problem. But when you need to rip out EVERYTHING, from electrical, plumbing, sewer lines, drywall, ceilings, roof, windows…it takes time. A lot of time. We had to remove doors and framing and stairs. We had to remove carpet, kitchen cabinets, appliances, tongue-and-groove paneling and bathroom fixtures (side eye to you, cast iron tub). We had to bleach floors that had accumulated Lord knows how much urine from cats and dogs over the years. We had to remove a ton of asbestos tile from throughout the house. We had to rebuild and replace the roof on the (large) workshop and remove several diseased trees. Meanwhile, the house looked unchanged on the outside (other than removing a jungle in front of it, to showcase its ugliness).

It’s a little defeating to know how many hours and thousands of dollars you have spent on a place without making a measurable visual impact.

December 2017. Hazel was not impressed.

But then, suddenly, things started to really happen. Brian brought in his crew, typically about five guys total on busy days, and the house started to change dramatically. Progress!

January 10, 2018. It’s a strange thing to be standing in your bedroom and see the blue sky above you.

January 10, 2018. Final picture of the day.

January 11, 2018. Roof sheathing going on.

January 11, 2018. Side of house–plywood up.

January 11, 2018. Back side of the house.

Every day, something new was changed or added. My parents were just as excited as we were, swinging by the house each day to see the progress. Ann, our neighbor across the street, sits at her window for hours watching the construction. Every time she sees Jason or I, she makes sure to comment and provide encouragement. Rob, another neighbor, accepts our packages at the house and holds them for us until we can pick them up. Gary has offered use of any of his tools or equipment. It’s nice to see the neighbors are as invested in the remodel as we are. Well…not financially, haha. But they are just as stoked.

January 17, 2018

January 17, 2018. Beginning the framing of the addition.

January 18, 2018. We have a ridge pole!

January 18, 2018. The girls’ rooms will face out front; in a cape-style dormer.

January 18, 2018. Back side of the house; with a shed-style dormer.

It’s so amazing to see the plans you made on a computer screen come to life. I think I mentioned this before, but Brian, our contractor, was actually the owner/builder of our last home. We love his work, we just wanted to scale it down a bit to fit in our “living small” plan. Unlike a normal builder, Brian does custom homes (usually his work is for people closer to the 1%, haha), but he can work with any budget and really incorporates you in the planning. So you don’t just pick a plan, you build it with him. And because I am just a bit of a control freak, he developed a blueprint based on what I wanted, and then I spent another 3 hours in his office checking each wall/window/fixture and rearranging it till it was the perfect design for us. You can check out the layout and some background on why we chose certain things in this post.

January 22, 2018. We’re in the upstairs of our house!

January 22, 2018. Next stage of sheathing/framing. The hole in the center is the girls’ rooms dormer. They’ll each have a window with window seat facing out to the street.

To quickly remind you of what the new layout will be, here are the basic plans:

First floor – new layout.

Second floor – new layout.

And our end goal, for the exterior…slowly but surely, we’re getting there!

Right now, we’re on track to hit our April 1, 2018 goal. Jason will be moving into the house next week to make sure he has ample time to complete the electrical and plumbing after work and on weekends. I’ve finished designing the kitchen, now I just need to order the cabinets and countertops, and that’s the last lead-time required purchase.

While this time apart has been difficult at times, I can’t believe how fast it’s flown by. Factor in a couple of trips I have planned with the girls to visit family and friends in the next two months, along with my work on renovating the historic Dingman Hill Farmhouse, and I don’t think I’ll have time to even blink before it’s time to move into Idlewild Cottage.

More from Idlewild Cottage:


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.