the farm. {before photos}

It all started about 18 months ago. Or 18 years. :)

To tell the story as it should be told, we’re going psychoanalytical style. Hold on for the revisiting-my-childhood part.

I grew up in a house on five acres. Our land was surrounded by other homes sitting on either 10- or 15-acres plots. We used about an acre-and-a-half for everyday living and growing a huge garden, and once we had quite a flock of chickens that were used as laying hens. The remainder of the property was fenced off and leased to the farmer behind us for grazing his cows.

It was not my favorite.

When I was a young girl, I really enjoyed it. We had a pool and I loved running free. As I got older, I realized I was kind of stuck “out in the country” with about three kids with whom to play, and by the time I left home, I couldn’t wait to put all of it in my rear-view mirror. I just knew that I was a city mouse and couldn’t wait to live in a real neighborhood and go to real restaurants and be around normal people, not in a place where you grew your own food (*gasp*) and took the side of beef – that the farmer behind you paid you with in order to run his cows on your land – to the butcher and ate what you saw grazing in the pasture all year long (*gross*).

Oh I still love the city. I love the noise and the busy and the sights and smells and panhandlers and walking everywhere. I feel like I could either: a) live in an urban warehouse or loft, sell my car, and live with my bike and city transportation; spend hours at the corner coffee shop pontificating important things and arguing politics; and raise our kids in the middle of everything – OR – b) live on a farm. 

We choose farm.

That “thing” that I was running away from all of those years ago is exactly what we’ve been running toward lately. About 18 months ago, we really buckled down about it. Come to find out, through the process, Hank admitted that he has wanted this desperately for the past 18 years, but we just weren’t in the right space for it as a family.

We can’t wait to grow our food and have chickens and ducks and goats and watch the horses next door, combines cutting hay in the field behind us, and maybe – just maybe – put the boys in 4-H.

I tell you…we have been here for just three days, and we are IN LOVE. It is so relaxing, even with all of the work. Laughing comes easier. Being hungry is well deserved, not from being bored. Nighttime songs of leaves and dove and quiet is the best lullaby. And the darkness? You can see the stars.

Here are some other interesting things:

  • We put on bug spray after our showers at night because we don’t have screens on our windows (more on “why” later) and sleep with them open (we don’t have A/C)
  • We have a mysteriously locking bathroom door that isn’t a problem or noticed until you’re standing outside it doing the pee-pee dance
  • Rabbits. Everywhere there are rabbits
  • The boys have had the same BB gun ammo for three years; they’ve used it all in three days
  • Our 6yo is Pocahontas. He can sneak up on and catch a dove with his bare hands
  • There is something quite charming about an old, hardwood floor’s patina after having been lived on for 30 years
  • Old men who address each other with “Mr.” are even more charming than that hardwood floor

And now, about the house itself. We have a lot of projects, as in years of work. The house is a ranch, about 1800sf, with an unfinished basement of the same square footage. We are renovating the entire main floor, starting within the next two weeks. We have hired out most of the renovation since a lot of the work is way beyond our capacity of knowledge, but Hank will be doing demo and some finishing work. The renovation plans include:

  • Building out a new chef’s kitchen (adding windows, demo-ing walls, etc.)
  • Moving the laundry room from off of the kitchen to an area by the bedrooms
  • Creating two bedrooms and a master bathroom out of three bedrooms
  • Installing hardwood floors throughout
  • Refacing the fireplace
  • Replacing almost all windows and adding some new windows
  • Interior paint throughout
  • Exterior paint, trim, and accent pieces

This winter season, we’ll tackle the basement and build two bedrooms, a bathroom, a mechanical room, a couple of storage areas, and a rec room down there. The boys’ bedrooms will eventually be downstairs, with the 2nd main floor bedroom turning into a guest room.

Work to be done around the outside of the house will be another post. :) Too much for one!

Below are before pictures of the house, interior and exterior.

The house has quite possibly the most awkward front entrance I’ve ever seen. Eventually, we’ll extend the center roofline out to meet a circle drive. “Eventually” is the key word, there. Priorities, people.

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The back deck. This deck leads out from the kitchen, and will have French doors installed during renovation. We have to remove the cedars taking over, as well.

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The smaller area between the tree in the center of the photograph and the bushes on the right will open up from the master area into a private patio. That was originally going to be included in our renovation, but we were over budget. We’ll have the space reserved for the exterior door, have that installed at a later date, and DIY the patio ourselves.

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The little break in the lilac bushes will be opened up and an arbor with a gate will be added as access to the new World Headquarters of Invisible Window and Mary Pantier Photography. We’re having an external office building built next week that will house a large office with room for three people to work and a living/conference area, in addition to a small bike shop on the back for Hank.

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Now for the interior.

The front entry. During reno, the white X door will go away and that opening will be much wider and have a small built-in for shoes & jackets. I love the white door – hope we can find a new spot for it in the house.

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The wood-burning fireplace will get a facelift by Hank. He’s planning to demo the rock and do a tile surround with a board and batten treatment on the wall. We had originally wanted to convert it to a gas fireplace, but that was stricken due to budget. We can revisit that conversion later.

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The view from the dining room down into the living room. That bay window!! Gorgeous! All of the carpet will be replaced by hardwood floors, salvaging what we can from the existing oak floors, but refinishing them and staining a darker color. What do you think about those curtains?! Beauty. (Sorry about the chromatic aberration in the photo below. Obviously didn’t spend too much time on these “before” photos.)

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The view up into the dining room – again the bay window! The wall with the French doors leads into the kitchen and will be removed during reno. The railings have to go, too, and we’re still brainstorming what will go there. Maybe one long step down to tie into the existing one? We don’t know yet.

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Another view at the wall that will disappear. I kind of like those doors, but I’m not sure where we would possibly use them. They’ll probably end up as a ReSource donation.

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And now, the kitchen. :) It has HUGE potential and will end up looking very different. Three new windows are planned for the far green wall, all upper cabinets are going away, and the footprint will be redesigned to include a long, working island and another island perpendicular to it that will seat up to eight people. We still have a little fine tuning to do in here, but be prepared for a night-and-day difference. The existing laundry room sits in the open door on the right in the photo – that will become a secondary pantry area/coffee bar/fridge area. I can’t wait! What do you think about that Tommy Bahama fan? ;)

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This wall will include a second window, and again, no upper cabinets. We’ll have a huge fireclay apron sink along here with a new commercial grade, 36″ range and stove. 

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You can see the laundry room here with the fern wallpaper. So retro. :) That wall will open up to the secondary area I mentioned before, and the fridge will move into it.

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This is currently the master bedroom. We’re redesigning this side of the house so that this will be the guest bedroom. Until the basement is finished (sometime late spring/early summer), the boys will share this room. There will be two new closets that flank the window (on the left), and under the window will be either a bench seat or a desk area.

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This house has a couple of awkward things, and aside from the front entry, this is the other. Right now, this small closet is the entry to a bathroom off of the current master. This will be absorbed into the bathroom and revamped to make it flow better. There will also be a pocket door (left wall in photo) so that guests will have access to this bathroom from the main part of the house, since there is no powder bath for guests. Since the bedroom will eventually be a guest room anyway, this is our best work around.

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This is currently the middle bedroom, which will be absorbed into the master suite.

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The back bedroom, which will become part of the master bath, part of the master bedroom. There will be an exterior door along the back wall that leads to a private patio for us under a beautiful tree, also giving us easy access back and forth between the house and the new office, since the office will not have its own bathroom.

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This bathroom will be converted to the new laundry room. Right now, it’s the 2nd bathroom and guest bathroom. Digging that brown tub and toilet, aren’t you?

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The hallway here will hopefully be absorbed into the master suite area. There won’t be any use for it since we’re converting the three bedrooms to two, but we haven’t run that by the designer yet. Hoping that’s a good solution, as it will give us a good deal more space in the master bedroom that’s dead space as a hallway anyway. Also with the walls moving on this side, windows will have to move to balance out the new spaces, as well as the floorboard heaters. It’s a lot to think about.

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And that’s it. Pretty simple, but not easy and a lot of work. It should be anywhere from 8-12 weeks on the renovation, although Hank and I have been advised by those of you who have done renovations before that it will most likely be longer. Eyes on the prize, though.

Until then, we’re camping out among our boxes in the basement. It’s a Pantier Grand Adventure that sounds fun to some and horrifying to others. We’re keeping in mind that this is just an inconvenience – we still have a roof over our heads, food to eat, a warm/cool and dry place to sleep, and we are loved. Basic needs? Check! (See? Another psychoanalytical tie-in!) And, our contractor is leaving one bathroom intact at a time, so we’ll always a place to clean ourselves and our dishes. Total luxury, I tell you.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them (aside from specific financial questions, of course). We’re learning as we go and will be sharing both our successes and failures, knowing there will be many. I’ll blog as we go along!