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In my family, pregnancy and home remodeling go together


BEFORE: A young couple spent two years envisioning what they wanted in their kitchen. But when they learned a baby was on the way, the project took on new urgency. (Photo courtesy Marni Jameson)

She wouldn’t be my daughter, if she weren’t undergoing a major home remodel in her third trimester. But there we were.

I still remember being pregnant with her and standing in the torn-up kitchen of the California home I was remodeling — surrounded by hammers pounding, drills grinding, and no working appliances — when my water broke.

History repeats.

When Paige and her husband, Adam, bought their first home together in the Denver area two years ago, the 15-year-old kitchen and primary bathroom needed work. The kitchen felt cramped and dated. The backsplash was busy. Old appliances were not energy efficient. Temperature markers had worn off the stove dials. The refrigerator stuck out too far. And the builder-grade fixtures were ho-hum.

Because they both love to cook and entertain, Paige wanted an eat-in kitchen with room at the island for a couple of counter stools. Adam wanted a gas, rather than electric, stovetop. But the more they studied the space, the less they thought this would be possible, let alone affordable. They lived with what was and pondered their options.

Then Paige learned she was pregnant, and the nesting instinct kicked in. Suddenly, resolving the kitchen question became a top priority. “I needed to find out if we could to this,” she said, “or if we needed to think about moving.”

They called interior designer Kate Clapp, owner of Kate Saige Interiors, who saw several ways they could get their dream eat-in kitchen and also re-do the bathroom without knocking out walls or blowing their budget — before the baby arrived.

Over the next few months, Clapp drew up plans and worked with the couple to select finishes and appliances. They would run a gas line for the new cooktop. To get more kitchen floor and counter space, they would knock out the walk-in pantry and replace the over-sized refrigerator with a counter-depth unit. More cabinets and smart storage systems would compensate for the lack of pantry.

Demo began in early April, eight weeks before Paige’s due date. Miraculously, thanks to solid planning, careful timing and workers who knew the meaning of hustle, baby George came home to a beautiful new kitchen.

AFTER: A young couple spent two years envisioning what they wanted in their kitchen. But when they learned a baby was on the way, the project took on new urgency. (Photo courtesy Kate Saige Interiors)
AFTER: A young couple spent two years envisioning what they wanted in their kitchen. But when they learned a baby was on the way, the project took on new urgency. (Photo courtesy Kate Saige Interiors) 

Here’s what Paige and Adam learned along the way:

Best decision: They hired an established general contractor, Tim Saul, owner of Saul Construction, who was neither the lowest nor the highest bidder. Saul assigned a project manager, who brought in good tradespeople. When something did go wrong, the GC was the heavy and got it fixed. The GC also made sure they had all the proper permits, home association approvals and inspections.

Guidance and choices: “In all the design decisions, we felt guided not pressured,” Paige said. “No one said you have to do this.” For instance, when choosing whether to reface or replace kitchen cabinets, the couple initially planned to reface to save money, but after looking at the quotes, they saw it would only cost $2,000 more to have all new cabinets, which really made the kitchen. “If you’re taking out walls and changing the footprint, you want all new cabinetry,” Clapp said. “But if the footprint is the same, refacing will cut costs.” That said, she only recommends refacing if the cabinet bases are good.

The compromises: The designer and contractor both respected the fact that this was a first-home project. “We didn’t expect the highest-end finishes,” Paige said. Clapp recommended installing good knock-offs of more expensive tile for the backsplash and using the same engineered quartz throughout the kitchen and primary bath because using the same material would save. They also chose mid-priced KitchenAid appliances.

Hardest part: Being patient. Though the project only took eight weeks from demo to done, it took the couple two years to think through what they wanted, save up, find a designer who could make it happen, get quotes and find a contractor. All involved agree, the construction phase would have taken much longer if they didn’t have every detail planned and materials on site.

Happy surprises: “We were braced for disaster,” Paige said, “but because we picked good professionals, and no one dropped the ball, we met our timeline and also came in slightly under budget.”

Pride factor: “Moving might have been the easy way out,” Adam said. “But you get so much more satisfaction when you put in the sweat equity and make what you have into what you want.”

Join me next week when a kitchen organizer adds order to the new kitchen.

Marni Jameson has written seven books including “Downsizing the Family Home.” Reach her at [email protected].



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