The Basement Renovation Chapter 1

One of the things I was most excited about when we purchased Aslan’s House was the basement renovation. When we purchased the house there was an additional 560 square feet of space in the basement that had not been finished, and we knew that it would make the perfect guest suite. There was already a rough-in to add a bathroom, and the ceilings were not oppressively low. There was plenty of space, a large window, and we were pretty sure we could figure out a way to add a private entrance so that guests could come and go as they pleased.

When we were considering buying the house, and many others, we did a little research on how much it costs to add a walkout entrance to a basement. Our research said the costs should be in the range of $8,000 -$10,000 and we knew we would have that much to rollover from the sale of Amherst to be able to make that happen and still finish out the basement nicely. As you know from my intro post about the house, it was love at first sight with this house, and we were confident we could make the basement work.

After we got settled in from the move, and got through the holidays, I started calling around to figure out the actual pricing on our biggest ticket item: the walkout entrance. Everything else hinged on this project – if we could find an affordable contractor, if our lot was amenable to this project, and if we could get permission from the city to add this exterior entrance to our house. I spoke to a few contractors and had a couple out to the house for bids. Each of the bids came back with a MINIMUM of $18,000!!!!!!! And that was just for a scary concrete chute with stairs in it that would go down the side of the house and enter through the basement via a single door. No double doors to let in light, no comfortable landing halfway down to catch your balance, no nice decorative rock or landscaping or anything else. Oy.

So, the project came to a screeching halt. This project alone, IF we could get permission and get through the rezoning process and IF we could find a contractor to do the project for this price, would cost us over 2/3rds of our reno budget! That’s just crazy!  So we took a break over the holidays to figure out if there was another way to go about this. Surely there must be some other way that didn’t drain all our budget and wouldn’t be a huge headache!

Then, one morning, I woke up with an idea. Sometimes the best ideas come from being told “No, there’s no way to do that, you’ll have to find another way.” Right? So here was my idea:

Currently, both sets of stairs in our house were nested one under the other. The stairs to the second floor started right at the front entrance, and were generously sized but kind of crammed into the little entrance area. The stairs to the basement were nested directly underneath, and were a long straight shot down to the basement, terminating right at the basement wall with about a three foot landing. Here’s a super technical drawing to show you what I am talking about:

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My idea was this: what if we turned both sets of stairs? The upstairs would need to turn ninety degrees so that they began in the living room, and the basement stairs would need to turn 180 degrees so that when you came in the front door you could go directly down to the basement. I pitched it to Lover and he didn’t say I was insane, so we started talking to the experts.

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Luckily for us, we just so happen to have great friends who live nearby, and the husband builds stairs and railings for a living!!! So one evening when they were over, we pitched our idea to him, and asked him about the feasibility (and cost!) of rebuilding a staircase in a different part of the house. And here’s the really cool part. He told us that in houses like ours, the staircases are built as one single unit, that is then attached to the floor and walls in a house. Basically, it’s like those dollhouses you played with as a kid where the staircase was one of the pieces of furniture that you could move around where ever you wanted! So the project would entail detaching the stairs from their current place, and then moving the entire staircase to the new location and securing it back in place.

So, obviously our next question was “can we hire you?” It sounded like a pretty doable project, but you don’t want to mess around with structural stuff like that without an expert! And because our friend is awesome, he was like “how ’bout I just come down on a Saturday and help you guys instead?” Well, you can probably imagine our answer.

So, on a snowy day in February, our friends showed up bright and early, ready to tear out our walls, put holes in our stairs and generally cause destruction! They’re the best kind of friends! I’ll leave you with this before picture and this picture mid-project to whet your appetite for the next chapter!

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Welcome to Aslan’s House

So. It’s been a minute since I posted, yes? Life has been full of lots of things, but obviously not blogging. :) After my last post in August, we went gang busters on getting our house ready to sell, spent a week in Breckenridge while the house had showings, sold our house, looked for a new one, bought a new house, and moved the Saturday before November.

Then we hosted Thanksgiving, had almost a month of company, got wildly sick with bronchitis (all six of us!) celebrated Christmas and went to sleep at 10pm on New Year’s Eve. Then, since life had not been crazy enough, or perhaps for exactly that reason, we loaded up all four kids into the van and drove 18 hours to California to visit my brother for two weeks. Those two weeks allowed me to catch my breath and start to feel normal again, and after another 18 hour road trip we are now back in Denver and I’m feeling somewhat organized and caught up on life. Marginally. Got all that?

So, I thought it was high time to introduce you to our new house. We had a really specific list of requirements for the new house, and Aslan’s house ticked every box. We wanted something still in our neighborhood, a much better layout for hosting friends and a private space for guests that would be separate from the daily commotion of our current life.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Welcome to Aslan’s House.

 

 

This was one of those houses where we walked in through the front door and got really excited. We knew before going to see it that living here would require some creativity, so we were trying to not get our hopes up too quickly. But walking in we just immediately loved the feel of this house, and we were really motivated to make it work!

 

 

 

 

 

Immediately when you walk in the front door you are on the side of the house with the vaulted ceiling and the “great room” as we call it. The living room is open to the dining room beyond it, the stairs are on the left and you can catch a glimpse of the loft upstairs. We really liked that big bay window at the front of the house, and how open everything felt.

The dining room is a smidge bigger than our previous dining area, and it is much more comfortable to host dinners than before. This part of the house has two skylights  – the light in this house is just incredible. How do you like those three big mirrors on the wall in the dining area? We use them to keep tabs on the kids when they’re playing in the fireplace room, and they think we are the smartest parents ever. Don’t tell them our secret!

 

 

The wall that the buffalo picture is the kitchen wall, and that doorway to the left leads to a little hallway with the stairs down to the basement, the powder room and a closet. Beyond the kitchen, tucked away in the back of the house is the fireplace room, which is a cozy room that gets great light and is open to the kitchen. It makes cooking super enjoyable, because the kids can be playing in the room, and you can still be a part of everything that’s going on.

 

 

 

The kitchen is a great size, not overly large and difficult to clean, but big enough to spread out, have counter space and not feel completely on top of each other. Love that window overlooking the backyard.

 

 

So that’s the downstairs, let’s head upstairs, shall we? Upstairs is super cozy and we have big plans to make the whole space work a little better for us. I won’t get into all that right now though! Upstairs are two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a big loft area that is currently a multi purpose area for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly we have the master “suite”. It’s a gorgeous room with another vaulted ceiling, plenty of space, our first walk-in closet! and an en suite master bathroom. And – you can see the Rocky Mountains from our windows! Gah! I’m loving it. We call it our retreat, and believe you me, at the end of another long, full day, we are so happy to “retreat!”

 

 

 

So that’s it! There’s also an unfinished basement that we will finish and turn into a guest suite, and a great backyard with a deck and space for the kids to play. As you can see, I’ve got plenty of projects ahead of me; wallpaper stripping, painting, changing out light fixtures and more wallpaper stripping. :) There’s even wallpaper in the master closet! So that’s our new house, and we’re loving it. It felt like home right from the get go, and as we settle in more it’s only getting better!

 

 

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The Merry Go Round in My Life

You know that old saying “God will never give you more than you can handle?” Yeah, that’s baloney. Straight up fantasy. God very often, all the time, gives us way more than we can handle. How else would we learn to lean on him? If we can handle every challenge that comes our way, what do we need God for? Why do we need his strength?

This fall is shaping up to be quite the humdinger for me. August has already flown by in a series of meetings, days full to the brim, late nights working hard to get everything done. We are serving in two different areas at our church this year; working with the teens on Sunday morning as we did last year, and leading a life group as we’ve done the past few years. That’s pretty manageable.

We’ve got four kids under the age of six – the oldest started school this month and the youngest is one of the sweet, happy babies that just goes along for the ride. Four kids is a lot of work, but it’s pretty manageable.

We decided to homeschool this year for kindergarten. It’s kindergarten, so the daily commitment isn’t too long, and one day a week Javi is going to a co-op run through the public school system. He gets to be with other kids and I get a day where I don’t need to fit school into our day, so it’s pretty manageable.

My eBay business has really started to take off, and I’m starting to get into bulk auctions so that I can more easily increase the volume of items I have for sale without spending hours and hours sourcing. I’m gearing up for the holiday season, making sure I have lots of inventory and getting it all up in my eBay store so that it can sell! It’s a lot of work but it’s fun and so far it’s pretty manageable.

We’ve also decided to sell our house. We’re looking to move to something with another bedroom or two, and hopefully a bigger kitchen to more easily accommodate our growing family. But most importantly, we are looking for a house with an in law suite: something that has at least one bedroom, a living space, a full bathroom and a kitchenette. An area that is completely separate from our space, with its own entrance. That way when we have family visiting or friends in town we can comfortably host them, and whenever we don’t we can rent out that space on AirBnB. I’m really excited about this idea. If we had nothing else going on right now, it would be pretty manageable to take on moving. But…

Coupled with everything else going on in our life, I feel a little bit like I got on one of those playground merry go rounds that is spinning too fast and I can’t get off. I feel like I’m hanging on for dear life with white knuckles and eyes squeezed shut, trying my hardest not to fall off. On the days where I stop trusting that this is what God has for us in this season, and start looking at the calendar with all of our days filled up, and my to-do list that never seems to shrink, I get overwhelmed. I start thinking that this entire juggling act of the many balls I have in the air is going to get the best of me. I wonder if I will ever have a day where I will wake up and think “hey, I have nothing to do today!”

There are seasons of rest and seasons of quiet days and simple schedules. This isn’t one of those seasons. This is a season that is difficult for me, as I try to find my footing with four kids, as we dive into the world of homeschooling, as I try to build an online business, and we sell our house. Change is always hard, the constant demands of mothering are always challenging, moving is always disruptive. But we are certain that we are hearing from God in each of these areas, so we are moving forward one step at a time, one day at a time, one item crossed off on my to-do list at a time. I’ve got way more than I can handle going on right now, but that’s okay. I’d rather need God than have a life so simple and manageable that I’m never looking for the ways that God is going to step into my days and show himself mighty on my behalf.

So if you need me, I’ll be on the merry go round. But I’ll be doing my best to laugh and enjoy the spinning instead of being afraid and overwhelmed!

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