Refactoring is a concept from the software engineering world in which one takes something that is entirely serviceable and rebuilds it. To the layman (and many non-technical bosses!) this sounds like wasted effort, since the ultimate end goal is often that the functionality remains exactly the same. Yet this hides the subtle truth: how it works is often just as important as that it works.
We’ve had the same feeling about our house. Going by the stats sheet it’s nearly perfect. There’s a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and a nice open basement all in working order. Still we knew that it just wasn’t right. Things were not as they should be and the spaces neither flowed nor had the correct utilization, honestly unsurprising for a house built in the early 80’s with 60’s entertaining sensibilities in mind.
After seeing the benefits of reimagining the initial claustrophobic kitchen, we knew it was time to tackle the 2nd and 3rd most important spaces in our house.
It’s possibly a little surprising that the entryway is high on the list of important spaces. It is a transitionary space, with little time spent. However it’s importance is highlighted by it being the last place we see when we lave and the first place we see when we come home and there was very little that felt welcome home about it.
The entrance as viewed from the door to the garage
Entering the house greets one with a messy closet and mirror clad walls. The only obvious escape from the funhouse is up the stairs. Which is a complete shame since there is a nice room ostensibly designed for entertaining hidden behind a nondescript door.
Entertainment room behind what looks like a closet door
The room has a wet bar and an attached full bathroom
Franken-media-console put together from Ikea cast offs from other areas of the house
One aspect of the room that always annoyed us was that while there was a wet bar, there was a also a carpeted floor. Anyone with any experience hosting parties knows that this combination does not fit.
To add to the period piece that is the bar, the bathroom came with special 80’s touches, including this shower door that was not only right out of the hair metal era, but too low for anyone of normal height to comfortably enter.
Vintage shower door
Serviceable but uninspired vanity
The answer to our dreary entrance became obvious. The room exists and the bottom floor has the highest ceilings in the house. Why not open the entry way into the large room? Doing so will provide a pathway directly from the entrance into a welcoming space in the house, allowing the guests to relax before laboring up the stairs.
Since we did have the high ceilings, we could also be more imaginative with the closet. Anyone with kids (or husbands) knows that coats almost never go up on hangers, instead finding their way atop any surface that resembles a hook. Why not account for that and build a closet that works the way people are going to use it?
So we (or rather the royal we that mostly means our friends at Georgia Custom Construction) did. The first thing was to expand the doorway to the entertainment room and replace the flooring with something more suitable that would work in both areas. Then we replaced the closet with something inspired by mudrooms.
New closet featuring hooks that will get used. Also of note, the double sliding doors on the right wall.
One of the key considerations of the project was not only to rebuild what was there but also to get the maximum utility of the space. Since standard bench depth is 12”, but the standard coat closet is 24”, there was an opportunity to do something creative.
Shoe shelves hidden behind the mudroom wall.
The next problem was that we had a large entertainment room, but how do we really make it work. We enjoy having a bar, but almost all of our entertaining is informal. The traditional bar setup not only separates us as hosts, it also takes up valuable space in the middle of the room. Pushing the bar to the back wall was an obvious solution. Our goal was to get the most out of the space as we could and a lonely countertop in the corner was not sufficient. We wanted a room for entertaining, so we designed a custom entertainment center and lined both walls with bookcases.
The entertainment room, reimagined
The bar is now part of the structure of the room
And it looks better while keeping the dangerous stuff out of the little one's reach
It’s worth mentioning that one other issue we were able to fix was the centering all the elements in the room. We never could figure out the logic behind original placement of lights and doors. Clearly the original builders followed the cut once, measure never school of thought.
The perfect rainy day movie spot
A fitting home for the TV and AV peripherals. The cable nest hides comfortably behind the center doors
As the final finishing touch we updated the 80’s vintage bathroom with a nicer mirror and a vessel sink.
Small touches make all the difference
Not long after this project was completed my parent’s came by for a visit and let themselves in. I found them relaxing on the couch pictured above which has never happened in the previous 9 years with the layout above. Our desire to have a more physically welcoming home was realized.
The Master Bath
The master bathroom was another area that never really felt right, though all the features were there. There were things that drove us nuts. The first was the the space for the vanity chair. It made sense in theory except for the lack of power. The hairdryer would have to snake across the sink, which meant that the hairdryer was not in the bathroom.
The master bath as viewed from the master bedroom
The second was the mostly enclosed shower. Like many others, we probably do not get enough sleep every night. A dimly lit tiled box does little to help with waking up in the morning.
The final pet peeve was the two large mirrors on both walls. I get the idea, it does make the bathroom feel bigger. But the downside is that there is absolutely no escaping the toilet.
Mirrors on opposite walls meant no escaping the toilet
The classic corner 80's tub
The tub was a prime example of space that felt used for the sake of being used. It’s location and angle made it difficult to augment the bathroom with hampers, stools, and other small niceties that make getting ready in the morning easier.
The shower box. It's always fun to start the day in an enclosed space.
Some rot to go with the claustrophobia
It was clear that a redo of the bathroom was a matter of time. The shower was visibly rotting and the vanity had started falling apart. The issues went beyond just our dislike of what was there.
The new bathroom entrance
When rebuilding something it often helps to begin at the front. In this case, we removed the pre-existing door and replaced it with a barn-door. This not only helped with the odd angles from settling but gave us an additional 4 inches for the shower with the removal of the door trim.
Custom vanity with slotted shelf
Another view of the custom cabinet
One of the major issues we wanted to address was the lack of storage in the bathroom for general needs like extra towels, scales, and other grooming items. Our solution was to install a custom cabinet with a slotted lower shelf. Filling in the original sitting area between the two sinks left us with tons of storage.
The new, wide open shower
The primary goal for the new shower was that it did not feel like a box. This new shower delivers and we opened it up further by creating a front column instead of a front wall. There’s the usual touches of having 3 shower heads that can be switched but what I like the best is how big it is. By removing the wall and door trim the shower is a full 5 inches wider. No more early morning elbows banging into soap dishes.
Shower features traditional and rain heads, along with a hand shower
We wanted a modern soaker tub just as much as we wanted a modern shower. The sound of motors making a lot of noise is hardly the most relaxing and we had long since stopped using the jets in our old tub. The deep soaker makes the bath experience much more peaceful and relaxing.
The toilet is now behind a door
No project can be complete without unnecessary technology and innovation. Behind the new toilet door (yay privacy!) we installed a fancy toilet with water functions, remote control, and heated seat. The jury’s out, but we had to try something beyond the basic design and feature set that we’ve had since the 1800’s.
Toto washlet to bring high tech into the bathroom