Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: ToDo list

Growth: the 2020 Ranch House

It has been two months since we moved into the basement master. This move did not only grew the square footage of our living space, but also dramatically changed our way of living. In today’s post, I’d like to show you the current status of our ranch, and bring you up to date on our 2020 renovation plan. Are you ready?

The Basement Master

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The biggest change inside the ranch since our last house tour, is in the basement. We placed a brand new master suite in the previously unoccupied basement, and finished the big living space as our future media room. This basement was “finished” when we got the house, but it was in such a rough state that it required an total overhaul:

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We demoed the whole basement to studs, combined two small bedrooms to create the new master, and installed a new bath.

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The adjoining living space was renovated too and will soon become a media room for movie, music, and games:

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To be honest, I never had high hopes for the basement before it was finished. Its low ceiling and lack of lighting convinced me that it would never be as comfortable as the main floor. But adding recessed lighting and installing new drywall made it spacious, minimal, yet cozy. It looks and feels a lot better than our main floor now.

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I love spending time in our new bedroom. I take long and hot showers, care for my skin and hair, stretch, read, and daynight-dream. Slav gifted me a massage chair and I love using it in the evenings. This space helped me so much to rejuvenate and relax at the end of each day.

The Main Floor TV Room

As a result of the move, our old bedroom was suddenly empty. Since the holidays, it became a Slav’s TV room. Slav always likes to watch videos and play music at home, whereas I prefer quite evenings. So, he has been wearing headphones in the evenings. Having a TV room where he can let the volume loose has been great for us to relax in our own ways.

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I always loved this room – it locates at the back of the house and has a big east-facing window overlooking our garden. It is private, it is bright, and it is… perky. The morning lights bounces among all white walls and fills the room, making the house plants happy. One day the bedroom furniture and TV will leave the room (after we set up the basement media room), and this room will become mine. I always wanted a grey+pink office. A yoga/tea room filled with indoor plants also sounds good… The possibilities are endless and I cannot wait to create here. It also needs to function as a guest room for weeks at a time, so making this room multi-functional yet minimal will be a design challenge for me.

The Main Floor living

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The rest of the main floor did not change much, except most of the house plants went into the TV room. We just took down the Christmas tree and I am thrilled to have this unobstructed view into Slav’s office again. I like empty space. Leaving void is big in Chinese culture as it represents possibilities, growth, and inner peace. And the ability of doing so often require restrain and strength. I think the same principle applies to interior design. After gaining 600 sqft finished space, we’ve been careful not to acquire any new furniture, but let the new space dilute the pieces we had so every room now has more breathing room.

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The Basement Media Room

What happened the new media room? We had plans to furnish it with a big leather sofa and bring down the TV, speakers, projectors, and records. But considering the upcoming utility room renovation (more on it later), we decided to halt the plan so we do not expose electronic to drywall dust. For now my new massage chair is holding down the fort, and of course tools.

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Oh, and this painting. Can you tell whose portrait it is? Slav was borderline upset when I gifted him this portrait as an anniversary gift. But this is something I wanted for years. It represents everything of Slav that attracts me: handsome, intelligent, dignified, and strong.

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I am glad we did not just go out and buy a big L-shape leather sofa it was really tempting. Nowadays it is so easy to spend money just with a few clicks. But every time we waited, better ideas and choices came along. Being patient is so important part in home renovation, and so is in life.

The Basement Utility Room

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This utility room is the last unfinished space in our basement. And I think it will be our next renovation project. We need to update the old plumbing, and we would love to put a kitchenette for serving drinks and snacks downstairs. With all the demo and new electrical this room has improved so much already, but I want to make it the star of the basement. It will be finished with color and texture. I want it to be unexpected. Then we can officially close the curtain on the basement renovation – who cannot wait?

The main floor kitchen and bath

You may notice that I did not show you our kitchen and the main floor bathroom – we have not touched them at all since the last house tour. With their close proximity these two rooms will be renovated at the same time, which means the renovation project will take months, cost thousands, and turn the whole main floor into a complete mess. The plan is to tackle the utility room first so we can a completely finished basement to hide while renovating the upstairs kitchen and bathroom, maybe next year.

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Strategize the 2020 Renovation

The renovations in 2020, namely the basement utility room, will be mostly hired out. 2020 is a year both Slav and I want more professional growth, so we will try to trust and manage instead of DIY. The truth is, renovating a house requires many different expertise and experiences. If we want to have high quality results without living in dust forever, we need professionals. Looking back, I am actually thankful to the bad experience we had with the previous GC in 2019. It revealed my strength and weakness in project management, and show me exactly what triggers my stress response. I am not stressed over financial challenges, unexpected technical difficulties, or making decisions in an emergency. Years of the laboratory experience has trained me to make the best possible snap decisions without overthinking or regretting them later. What I cannot stand is incompetence and lack of communication. And this was exactly how our last GC was. But as soon as I started interacting with experienced subcontractors and focus on one task a time, I did not feel stress only excitement. So the key elements of a successful 2020 ranch reno will be to identify contractors who are knowledgeable and responsible.

The 2020 Garden

With the interior work hired out, I will be focusing on the garden in 2020. We have some hardscaping projects for the backyard, and I would like grow a better vegetable garden. We planted so many trees and shrubs during the last two years, and this is the year all of them needs pruning, fertilization, and training. I also want to iron out the irrigation. These are big work and will surely keep me busy and fit for 2020.

In 2020 we are hope for a year of growth, both professionally and personally. What is your 2020 goal?

A Look Back at 2019

Happy new year! Everyone!

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I am back from my holiday break and it was the best ever. Compared to a rather crazy 2019, the last a few weeks of 2019 were so much fun! Slav’s work hosted a cocktail Christmas party where I got to doll up and made new friends. We also got invited to a couple family-style holiday parties filled with warm hearted people and wonderful food. After a low-key Christmas dinner home, I took a trip to my sister’s and celebrated new year with my family. I enjoyed good Chinese food, hiked, tried rock climbing, and spent some valuable time with my nieces. Slav and I skied a couple times together in between, and we both had lots of time home cuddling the dogs.

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It is already a week into 2020, but I have not felt like saying goodbye to 2019 yet – even though it was so out of control for both of us. Our house renovation goal for 2019 was the basement. And basement was all it happened. I honestly did not think it would take a whole year, but between Slav’s new full-time job and an incompetent contractor, we barely made to the deadline before hosting family over Christmas.

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We started poking around in the basement last December (here, here, and here), and very quickly, the idea of a new master suite emerged. To make a master suite we love, we installed an egress window and expanded the bathroom floor plan.

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We had such a good experience with our window comtractor. When Spring comes around, we hired them back to update the windows throughout the main floor. It did not only add value to our house, but also brought comfort, peace, and some much-needed curb appeal.

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We also cut down some half-dead trees along the north fence and planted a few new garden beds:

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The outdoor work took away a good portion of the Spring. Before summer started we came back to the basement, running new plumbing for the bathroom and installing new electrical for the whole basement.

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Slav soundproofed the whole basement before closing up the walls and ceilings. By adding mineral wool insulation in between the floor joints and around the utility room, our basement is now a quiet sleeping space.

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Hanging drywall (here and here), mudding, and skim coating took a while. Drywall is a messy job and we did not enjoy it one bit.

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But everything seemed to be worth it as soon as the paint went on – nothing like a fresh coat of paint that makes a room:

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Slav and I tackled the floor ourselves. The NuCore LVP floor (in driftwood color) is the best decision we made for the basement. We love the color, we love the texture, we love its warmth and comfort. We love everything about this floor.

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At this point we hired more hands to finish the electrical and bathroom plumbing, which allowed me to focus on putting in an IKEA PAX closet system in the new master:

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After the shower door was installed, the bathroom quickly came together:

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We were able to move into our new bedroom when flipping the 2019 calendar to its last page. Till then it had been a whole year since we first put hammer through the old basement walls. It has been a long and stressful process, but I think the end product was exactly what we had hoped for:

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During the last a few weeks of 2019, after moving downstairs, I surprised myself by not doing any renovating work. We still have doors to hang and baseboard to install, but it is also important to rest and enjoy the space we just created, before jumping into the next project too quickly. It is such a good decision to take a break – not only for our back, but also for our minds. Do you agree?

2019, Set, Go!

It is 2019! The year I’ve been looking forward to. This is not only the year I turn 40, which I feel giddy with anticipation, but also our second full year living in this beautiful State of Colorado. Moving to the place we chose and buying our first house here granted me a sense of belonging that I’ve never experienced since moving to the States. It feels nice to have a place to call home again.

2019 also marks the second year we live in our ranch. We adore this little house and the land it sits on. It is a responsibility. It is work. But it is also joy. We can change it anyway we want and we are doing just that. The process of making it ours is liberating and electrifying.

So what is in store for this cute little gem in 2019? Basement, basement, and basement. Basement renovation is our top priority this year, and saying that we are pumped is an understatement. It is amazing to think that merely a month ago, we were still clueless on what to do with this space. We were too intimated to even start demoing! But as soon as we discovered the I-beam, it is like a torch leading us out of darkness. Combining the two bedrooms and the decision to make it our master bedroom solidified our plans for the basement, and the rest became natural from there.

But there is renovation and there is renovation. To which point do we call it done? Our basement already has a very functional layout, especially after we connected the two bedrooms. We do not wish to tear it down to the studs or switch to fancy finishes, rather aim to create a comfortable nest to curl up in. It is already a big enough undertaking as every single room needs some upgrade. To make the process less stressful, I always look at such project in smaller chunks. And here they are:

1. Egress window and new bathroom windows

Sleeping in the basement makes fire safety the top priority of this renovation. We have gotten quotes from egress window contractors and are very close to committing to the installation. In short, a big window with a walk-out window well will be installed in our bedroom, likely on the wall facing the backyard. It costs around $4000, including cutting into the foundation. At the mean time, we will likely to ask the contractor to replace the broken bathroom window.

2. Sound proofing the bedroom ceiling

Our new bedroom will be directly beneath the future guest bedroom. To add privacy we would like to dampen the sound transfer between the main floor and the basement. A combination of sound-proof insulation between floor joints and resilient channels under the basement ceiling has been shown to be effective. And we are gonna give it a try. Such upgrade is not particularly expensive but rather labor-intensive since it involves removing the existing bedroom ceiling and re-drywall.

3. Can lights + new electrical

Since soundproofing requires the removal of basement bedroom ceiling, we will use this opportunity to run new electrical for recessed lights. The ceiling height in our basemen is 7 1/2 feet, so every inch of headroom counts. Eliminating ceiling lights and adding more can lights will make the basement feeling less like a closed box.

4. Water-proof laminate flooring

in 2018 we have removed all the basement flooring and exposed the concrete slab. Fortunately, the slab is in excellent shape – dry and flat. Wanting something warm and comfortable under our feet, we will likely install water-proof laminate wood flooring over the slab. It shall cover the entire basement including the utility room. We estimate to spend ~$2000 on material and install the flooring ourselves.

5. Bath vanity, storage cabinet, and fixtures

Due to water damage we had to toss both medicine cabinet and vanity in the bathroom. They will be replaced with new ones with slim profile and sufficient storage. We will also upgrade all the shower fixtures. Bathroom fixture choices are enormous. We will sure run into analysis paralysis so just wait for it.

6. Wardrobe system, furniture, paint, etc

Being completely empty this basement needs furnishing, starting with wardrobe closets. Slav and I are swinging back and forth between wardrobe cabinets such as IKEA PAX and Elfa system in framed closets. The second chuck of furnishing is for the basement living room, which will be turned into a projector-centered media room with a dedicated reading corner. A deep love seat for late night movies and soft rugs for dogs to nap on will be ideal. Last but not the least is paint. The living room are covered in dark paneling and all the existing drywall and ceilings have seen better days. Smoothing out the wall textures and painting the whole downstairs a brighter color is a must.

Above concludes the first phase of the basement renovation, which grants us a private master suite and a quiet sitting/media room separated from the main floor. Down the road, we would love to add a kitchenette in the utility room, and eventually turn it into a dry kitchen. But first we are gonna focus on getting us moved down here.

In addition to the basement, I also have plans to expand our edible garden in the new year. Nut trees and new planting beds for edible perennial shrubs will be added to the backyard. Site prepping and hardscape will likely to happen in early Spring, which will surely keep us away from the basement reno for a few weeks. I am looking forward to all the exciting changes happening inside and outside of our ranch. Are you?

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