A Candid Video Where We Talk With a Contractor about our Plans

June 19, 2019

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The first task before starting any of our larger projects was finding a contractor. We talked to several, but timing and expertise were the biggest factor in who we ultimately wanted to work with. Last week, we had one (Austin Crystal, who many of you recommended!) into our home one morning (I wasn’t feeling the best that day, so pardon the just rolled out of bed look) and talked through all of our plans with him.

In this week’s VLOG, you’ll get a candid look at our conversation and what what we look for when hiring a contractor (have a full post coming with more on this!). A peek into some of our inspiration photos we share with him. I also share why I’m feeling nervous about the process and the doubts that sometimes creep in. And we do some stone shopping and experience sticker shock.

You can watch this week’s VLOG below or subscribe to our YouTube channel right here and watch it on any device (phone, tablet, TV, laptop) anytime!


What do you think?

  1. Shenley says:

    I’m not an architect but I think you definitely need one, or an interior architect/designer. They will help get the proportions and scale right. And help you resolve some of the exterior detailing issues which have been discussed in comments on earlier posts.

  2. Amanda says:

    I really enjoyed this video and listening to your process. At the end of the video when you are just talking to the camera, gave me an idea that I hope you would consider. I would love to see/hear your thought process about designing a room and creating a mood board.

    I find personally, I have a hard time getting started in the direction I want to go. (For instance, do I go dark or light in my bedroom!? Help! Haha) I know you’ve said you typically start with 1 piece of inspiration, but how do you narrow down even that!? And go for a specific feel. I have so many questions and would love to see it through. ????

    I also have a question that perhaps your readers can also pitch in with. We just bought our first house. How do you determine the style of your house? I know you said you want to go cottage/Tudor style in this house, the bones make sense for that. My house is just a split entry 1947 built house that doesn’t seem to have any character at all. Besides the stone on the front (that unfortunately needs to come down due to the way it was installed), the house doesn’t scream a specific style to me. So help determining the way I want to go would be appreciated. My personal style is a mix between classic and comfy/cozy. Thanks!

  3. Summer says:

    I’m so excited you are using Austin! He is very knowledgeable and is aimed to make your vision happen. You will love Dave, his foreman and all of Austin’s crew is fabulous to work with. They made building our home run as smoothly as it could, and do such high quality work!

  4. julie says:

    I know you want all stone. What about doing natural stone, because it looks so much better, and doing some other material (hardie plank) on some smaller sections of the house and on the back to save money? You could still get a cottage look.
    I have radiant heat in my 7,000 sq. ft. home and it is fantastic. You would love it in that room.

  5. Lynne says:

    What is your design process? Do you use a drawing program like Sketchup or a CAD program? Or just do loose sketches and refine as you build things? Would love to know how ideas in your head become more concrete, especially now that your projects have gotten more complicated. For example, how will you communicate the details about your new exterior dining room wall, the heights of openings, trim details, etc. Thanks.

  6. Raha says:

    I live in California and have done a few remodels on my home and alllll the contractors we interviewed wouldn’t even give us a quote without a set of structural plans. They needed to know what sort of details were called out to properly bid the project. It seems that you guys don’t have any actual plans. Curious as to how this works in other states and how the whole permitting would work without plans as well. As a super nerd, i love this kind of stuff and how other states handle things like this. Really am loving the behind the scenes videos. Thanks for taking us along on this adventure!

  7. Liz says:

    Have you considered a geothermal system, for when you have to redo your heat/air. They have to come in with a drilling rig to drill the holes, but you have the space for the pipes.

  8. Erin says:

    I really enjoyed that video and found it very validating. Hang in there!

  9. Ashley says:

    Thanks for taking us along. I’d love to see the next steps too. What you present to the contractor in terms of the look you are going for concerning various elements of the design and even a peek at how you two determine and agree on that with one another. What does that process look like? Narrow it down to two or three and figure it out from there? Each have an idea you present one another and fight it out!? Ha! I like seeing the behind the scenes kind of nuts and bolts of the whole thing! This is the real world part of the process that anyone renovating must face; whether DIYing or hiring it out. Enjoying this new house journey! Best of luck!

  10. Patricia says:

    Alas, the vocal quality is not the best and CC comes out weird in nonsense sentences … and sound bouncing off the rock and other hard surfaces doesn’t help. Hopefully you’ll summarize this at some point.

  11. Bea says:

    I think you should consider an architect so you get what you want the first time. It might save you $$ in the long run.

    • Karen says:

      Totally agree (I am an architect so get especially sad when folks think the contractor is the only important piece, ESPECIALLY on complex cases like this!!) our expertise brings perspective on how to get what it is you want, with the right proportions, relationship of volumes, etc. to not just have it look right, but to feel right too. I think people are SO intimidated by the idea of hiring an architect and you have a huge platform to show the value they bring to a project!!

    • Chantal says:

      I agree, even people of great taste benefits from talking to an architect – especially if you do have a vision for what you want – I feel their knowledge just add so much to the final results and help you bring this vision to life.

    • Kelly says:

      YES! Contractors often think they have a “design eye” (some do for sure) but an architect can ensure your actual vision is detailed out to perfection.

  12. Amy says:

    Have you considered Warmboard for heat in the dining room? Sarah Sherman Samuel just used it in her entire house.

  13. Aimee says:

    Do you ever worry about over remodeling your home? So much so that you would never be able to recoup the money you have put into it? This is a discussion I have with my husband all the time. We have a cottage style house that was also built in the early 2000’s that we are remodeling.

    • Julia says:

      Yes and no. We never renovate for resale, we do what we want for us. But we are conscious of the neighborhood we’re living in when we’re choosing materials. (However, our next door neighbor’s house is currently for sale for more than double what we bought our house for so we have lots of cushion to work with)

  14. George says:

    Resolving this window issues will really help the look of this house.
    I feel your pain with the arched window and the prairie style window grills that just do not work.
    If it was me I’d get rid of all the arches and square off the windows. If that fireplace is going , I’d think a nice row of windows with transoms at the top to keep some of the height would look better.

    The headers on the outside should be part of the structure and not slapped on the facade. But the look of that can be mitigated and hidden when the exterior is redone.

    I remember when diagonal wood floors were in style for about a minute.

  15. Carrie says:

    Ahhh! Exciting and stressful! I’m so excited to see what you come up with. Watching Faye help with measurements brought up some fun childhood memories for me.
    “Just rip the stone off and paint it white!” I thought that right as you said it! Stucco that house!

  16. Megan says:

    Have you found in your area that it’s tough to find a contractor who’s even available to do the work and doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg? We live in the greater Seattle area and have heard that it’s hard to find a contractor who’s available and that prices are very high because contractors are so in demand. It feels daunting even thinking about how to find one that you can trust and is reasonable.

  17. EP says:

    What about raising the floor in the dining room to match the rest of the house? That would give you a place to run the HVAC and would also help it feel like a cohesive part of the house and less like an enclosed patio or addition.

    • Jill says:

      Brilliant! What a great idea! That’s what I would do, EP!

    • Julia says:

      We’re gonna talk to our contractor to see if that’s possible!

    • Liz says:

      Another good point about raising the floor to be even with the rest of the home is the “aging in place” concept.

      You are young, but you have family members who are getting older. That area is going to be your big family gathering area. Having a step may become challenging to people as well as a trip hazard. Having to add a ramp isn’t hard., but it impacts the flow of things. My aunt had a small step from one part of her house to the den area and the interior ramp took up a large chuck of space.

      Making a ramp going outside may be easier – either through the large double doors, if you are keeping them, or if you add a door from the kitchen area to the back.

    • EP says:

      An additional thought: Because it’s a dining room, you will have company going in and out with plates of food and dishes. You may find yourself having to remind people constantly to watch their step — even more so when there’s no door to give them pause!

      I’m sure you’ll also get recommendations for in floor heat. We had it in bathroom and it broke after (maybe) 7 years. The only fix would be to rip up the tile floors and replace it all! In a room this size that would be devastating. Based on that experience I would really hesitate to use it as the only or primary heat source.

    • Judith says:

      I was thinking raising the floor, too, but to then do underfloor radiant heat (not sure about the English name for that). It’s both an effective and pleasant way to keep a room like that warm, especially so since this will be a room where people will be sitting a lot. Warm feet and raising heat will work great. And since you have the room to raise the floor without it creating issues because of height differences, it would be a prefect opportunity to put it in.

    • Summer Fuller says:

      I was thinking the same thing!

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We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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