When a view sells you on a house, that likely means there is still work to be done. For Julie & Brandon they bought their 1918 bungalow in 2013 and were actually scared of the unfinished basement. The unfinished basement is what scared a lot of other buyers away from the house and they were able to capitalize on that fact.
Julie & Brandon’s house sits on the top of Queen Anne’s western slope, which is what gives the house such great views. The slope is also the reason the basement renovation was not your average bear. The basement had multiple levels and a home-job patchwork of finishes. Even before moving into the house Julie & Brandon had ideas on how they could manage the various levels of the basement and build out a laundry room, bedroom, bathroom, family room, and storage space. Once they moved into the house the next hurdle was for Julie, she was now entering into the world of contractor and renovation management.
Since Julie is hands on, she likes contractors that will partner with her. She enjoys the process, from negotiating the contract to sourcing materials. Over the years of renovating her house Julie has created a few rules that she now uses when selecting a contractor for projects:
- don’t pick a large company that has employees and overhead; there are a lot of ‘up and coming’ contractors who do great work
- insist on a fixed price contract for small projects and get 2-3 bids
- check references and visit current projects
Looking back on a complete basement remodel, the installation of a new half bath on the main floor, and a new upstairs bathroom has left Julie believing that, in a perfect world, they would have remodeled the entire house all at once. The piecemeal approach to tackling projects was a necessity of budget and reality. Her hands-on partnerships with contractors added stress to the process but undoubtably saved them money.
For those working on a budget, Julie also recommends getting inspired from what is out there (read: Pinterest and Houzz). Julie believes the finishes are the easiest component to a renovation: pick what is popular and within your budget and the rest will fall into place quickly.
Julie likes the concept of spending money on the workhorse of a project and finding more economical solutions for the things that are less important or easily changed out down the road. She believes you should do the project right, but know that perfection is unattainable, when a decision needs to be made, make it – time is money.
For a budget conscious renovation project don’t mess with the stuff that works, even if it is not exactly what you would choose. For example, when Julie & Brandon bought their house it already had an updated kitchen. They painted, replaced the dated tile backsplash, and called it good.
To fine tune the details of an older home, Julie finds matching hardware and molding at Limback Lumber, a charming hardware store that’s been around since 1930. She also found a 1920 stained glass window from Second Use and it is now installed next to the front door.
Landscaping the exterior was the one place where Julie leaned on the expertise of a professional designer. She relied on Terra Design to determine the layout and pick plants.
From her renovation experience, Julie now believes that choosing the right house in Seattle comes down to the 3 L’s: Location, Light, and Lot – the rest can be changed.