Help! I Wrecked My House, S2E1June 09 2022
Matt & Sarah
By the time I got my hands on their home, Matt and Sarah had taken it pretty much down to the studs on the main level. They had purchased this house four months prior with the intention of completely renovating it. Since the couple has three young daughters, they didn’t care what shape the house was in when they bought it because it had one amazing quality: it was on a cul-de-sac. It was a dream for this family to live on a cul-de-sac so their girls would have plenty of room to run and play, so they took on the house knowing it needed work. The only problem was this: they attempted to do some really pro-level construction work on their own. Matt, who owns and runs his own gym, ended up becoming a sort-of general contractor for his own home, finding friends and colleagues to take on different projects. Before they knew it, they had a home down to the studs and no plan. Yes you read that right: THEY DEMO’D WITHOUT A PLAN. Please let this be your warning and reminder to NEVER, EVER DO THAT.
Matt projected the work would take six weeks, and here they were, six months later and it wasn’t done. Sarah, a labor and delivery nurse, was feeling the strain of living out of boxes at Matt’s parents’ home. She’d go days without seeing Matt because she would go stay with her parents with the kids, while he was off working on the house. Matt was on the verge of borrowing money against his business to make the house livable again. These two are go-getters, which I love, but they didn’t have the skills to do most of what they attempted… like put in a support beam after they took down a wall. I’ll get to that later. Bottom line: This family needed to get their lives back and to get back on track.
The first thing I needed to do was get an inspector in this house and make sure everything Matt had done by friends was done correctly. Once we made sure everything was done to code and was safe, I needed to bring in my right-hand man Scott Cross and my Built Custom Homes team to get this house from studs to livable. The kitchen needed to be built from the ground up, as did the front room of the home and the sunken den behind the kitchen. The sunken den had an off-center fireplace that needed some love, and I was determined to achieve that without completely breaking the bank. I had 4 weeks to make it all happen. Oh and one more thing… they wanted their own dog cave!
When I tell you this kitchen had nothing in it, I mean it. Matt and Sarah had already taken down a wall that was making the previous kitchen feel small. We brought in an inspector to make sure the framing was done to code (and that the house wouldn’t fall down!), and once we cleared that hurdle it was time to get to work. Matt and Sarah had already bought their appliances without drafting up a kitchen plan, so we had to configure the new kitchen to fit around those measurements. All they really had planned on before I got there was installing a huge kitchen island that they could all eat at together. I allocated $65,000 of the $75,000 budget for the kitchen alone. It needed literally everything!
We gave Matt and Sarah the huge kitchen island they wanted and topped it with a beautiful porcelain countertop that’s printed to look just like marble. Porcelain is one of my go-to materials for countertops because it’s basically indestructible – you can cut on it, place hot pans on it, and so on. This island is 10 feet long – probably one of the longest islands I’ve ever done! On the face, we installed a round matte porcelain mosaic tile in a beautiful blue tone. We added a brass touch to the toe kick on the island by taking brass strips I purchased for $200 and glueing them on. We roughed up the brass just a bit by taking a 120 grit sandpaper to it and distressing the finish. The result feels like super custom brushed brass, but it was affordable and easy to do.
As for the lights, the matte black can lights become an architectural detail on their own. I love how modern they make this kitchen feel.
One of the interesting but tricky aspects of the kitchen before was the large passthrough window above the sink looking down into the sunken den. I didn’t want to leave the space completely open in case someone was in the sunken den in need of quiet time while someone else was banging around with pots and pans in the kitchen. But since this family has three young children, I didn’t want to close it off either because it allows for sight lines into the den. So I brought in someone special to help me with a solution…
Special Project: “New Vintage” Window
To solve the passthrough issue, I brought in my friend John Moss, an industrial artist and metal designer. He made what we called this custom “new vintage” factory window for $1,500, and I love the charm that it adds to the space (on BOTH sides!).
And if you’re wondering… YES, it opens!
Special Project: Custom Water Bottle Cabinet
Matt, Sarah and their girls are always on the go and grabbing their water bottles on their way out the door. To make things a little easier and more organized for them, I thought it would be fun to give them a custom water bottle cabinet. My carpenter Micah Girelli was able to incorporate this functional storage for the family on the end of their kitchen island. Now I want one of these cabinets in my own home!
When Matt and Sarah toured the kitchen after my Built Custom Homes team and I finished, Matt said, “This is one of my favorite kitchens I’ve ever seen in my entire life.” I think that means we nailed it!
The Entryway / Front Room
Before, the wall in the entryway was BRIGHT yellow. I knew I wanted to use color to make this area look cool, but not THAT color. Sarah helped me paint a super cool color-blocked wall mural on the wall and the stairwell wall to create a bold feature for this space. She also really wanted a dog cave – one of my signature design moves! – so we made sure to include that here as well.
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