If the star of our 2019 renovation was the master suite, the ranch house has seen many stars in 2020. Like most Americans, we self-isolated at home for the whole Spring and Summer. With the time saved from commute and socializing, we were able to complete many projects more than expected, and truly improved the way we live in our little house.
1. The Basement Utility
We kick-started the 2020 renovation in the basement utility. It was the last unfinished space in the lower level, and we were dying to have a dust-free living quarter. The utility room was completed in late Spring, consisting of a laundry nook, a utility closet, and a storage closet under the stairs.
The laundry nook:
The left side of the room:
The storage closet with a pocket door:
The whole utility room:
Although a simple room, it involved some major utility work, including moving a floor drain and upgrading most of the water lines. We framed in the unsightly furnace and water heater, insulated the exterior walls, brought the LVP flooring into the utility room, and installed a pocket door on the storage closet.
2. The Basement Trims and Baseboards
After the utility room was completed, we proceeded to install door trims and baseboards throughout the basement.
All the basement doors got as craftsman style trims, including the basement entry door:
The bedroom door:
And the bathroom door:
Due to the ceiling height we did a simple trim profile for the bathroom pocket door:
After installing all the door trims, the baseboards were installed. We picked a simple but beefy style for the basement, which worked really well next to the wood-tone LVP flooring.
3. Furnishing the Media Room
Once the trims and baseboards were in place, we started bringing furniture into the media room, starting with a TV and a media console:
next we moved downstairs Slav’s record collection and record players.
I ordered this commission portrait for Slav’s birthday last year because no mancave is complete without a grand portrait. Right?
Charlie was the first to move into the basement. I guess he wanted a mancave too.
Due to the concern of delivery-related COVID transmission, we did not purchase any furniture for the media room for a while, and instead furnished the room with pieces we had. So the basement looked a little bare over the summer:
But coming into the Fall, after the risk of transmission had died down, we pulled the trigger for a big L-shape leather sofa Slav always wanted.
The sofa really completed the media room. Since it was in Slav has been using the media room every night! This is exactly the outcome I was hoping for by renovating the basement – to create a cozy and relaxing space for Slav to wind down after a day of busy work.
4. Fluffing the Garden
The pandemic picked up in the States right around the beginning of Spring. While Slav was busy working in the basement, I focused my energy outside. 2020 was a great gardening year – it was not only the first season I got to watch perennials waking up in Spring and flourishing in Summer, but also the first season I could wander around and really think how I want my garden to feel. After two years of busy planting, my taste for garden design and plant selection had definitely evolved. I also had a lot more knowledge regarding the growing habits and companionship of plants. During this growing season, being able to watch my own garden changing day after day gave me a great opportunity to come up ideas to fine tune it, “fluff” the garden if I may.
The first big change I made to the garden was to carve out a patio around our garden shed. I’ve been thinking about how to elegantly address the steep slope towards this corner of our yard for a couple years. At the end, all the options and inspirations brewing in my head finally birthed an adequate solution – a terraced garden over a flagstone patio with a seat-intergraded retaining wall.
With the blueprint in mind I started digging into the hill to create the terraces.
The edge of the existing garden bed was also changed to follow the curve of the future patio.
And this is more of less how the new patio garden bed looks like:
Due to the lack of building supply, we did not actually pave the patio, nor build the retaining wall around it. All I’ve done was to form a temporary “retaining wall” with wood stumps, just to hold up the terraced garden, and covered the future patio space with black plastic for weed suppression. But it was good enough to start planting.
The first plant went into the terraced garden was this apple tree called “transparent”.
And the second one is a ginkgo Tree.
As the garden becomes fuller, I was more and more clear what plants I really wanted. Maybe it is just my Chinese heritage speaking, but peony and chrysanthemum are the most elegant flowers to my taste. I planted a hedge of peonies this year in the new patio garden space. And I hope to eventually add chrysanthemum into my garden as well.
I’ve long wanted to add seating and planters into my garden. This set of planters with seating I built for the patio area was undoubtedly my favorite wood working project to date. The cherry on top was that it was built with leftover cedar planks from our 2018 fence build! Talking about one stone two birds here…
Encouraged by how nice and useful the new patio planters were. I built a potting bench/outdoor kitchen also with leftover cedar plank trimmings:
Followed by another planter located in the front yard:
And a small fence to hide the HVAC unit from the view of the master bedroom:
The ugly AC unit was no longer visible from the bedroom window:
These cedar pieces echo our horizontal fencing and really added dimensions and interests to the garden. I enjoy looking at them this year. Towards Fall, with Slav’s help, I completed the most physically demanding garden “fluffing” project – edging the vegetable garden beds and mulching the walking paths with pea gravel.
5. Automating the Irrigation
One of my personal goal of 2020 was to reduce stressful and time-consuming work for ourselves. We all have limited time which should be reserved for creative projects and relaxation, but not house chores! In our garden, the most annoying, stressful, and time-consuming task has been watering. Our property did not come with sprinklers, so the precious summer nights were often consumed by dragging hoses among flower beds, vegetable garden, and lawn space, as well as adjusting yard sprinklers every 30 minutes. Therefore, I was determined to automate the whole irrigation process.
The first I did was to install drip emitters for our front yard lawn space, which enabled automatic irrigation for the lawn grass:
And one for the backyard:
Since the completion of the automatic irrigation grids, we have not needed to spend any time or effort to even think about watering. The entire front yard, including the flower beds and lawn space, as well as all the flower/veggie beds in the backyard were taken care of without our attention. This upgrade, which took a couple hundred dollars and a couple weekends of time, greatly improved our life quality and reduced our anxiety during growing season.
6. My Retreat Room/Home office
After a whole Spring of basement work and a busy summer in the garden, we turned our attention to the main floor of the house. We still have a number of rooms to renovate on the main floor, including the kitchen and the main floor bathroom. But before getting to the tough jobs, we decided to convert the spare bedroom into my office/retreat room.
I just realized that I have not given you a full reveal of the room yet. It is currently decorated for Christmas, so maybe after the Three Kings day when we take down the Christmas decorations, I will take you on a tour. So stay tuned, friends!
7. Starting the Main Floor Bathroom Renovation
The last major renovation project we at least started, is the main floor bathroom. It is currently ongoing but slowly due to Slav’s busy work schedule. Without getting into it too much, I’d say that we have completed the demo and electrical upgrade, and are anxious to start the plumbing process. You can check on our inspiration and design post here to get an idea what we are working towards. It is gonna be a long journey!
2020 wasn’t the year I expected it to be. But maybe, it’s the year I needed. I am grateful for what we’ve learned to appreciate during this unprecedented year. Patience and tenderness, growth and reflection, generosity and sacrifice, all led to strengthen and refine. 2020, I will remember you!