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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Need Advice for Total Renovation

LD JenkinsJanuary 14, 2013
Small 1930 Bungalow inherited from my hard-working parents that I lovingly call the Buddy & LucyMae Jenkins Estate. Northern Queens (one of 5 boroughs in NYC). Not looking for luxury. Need updated & practical living space. Narrow house with strange, small layout with room to expand into backyard. Ques: Although I know it’s optimum, but do I really need an architect? What about HousePlans.com, etc and hiring a builder/contractor? What about Design-Build Firms? I’ve heard pros & cons about them. Remember, I live in NYC with tons of regulations, codes, restrictions, etc. along with companies us native NYers have learned to be skeptical of. Needless to say I am very wary. I like nice things, but I’m not good at decorating. Not good at conceptualizing design & structure, but I know “it” when I see “it”. Please no comments about the messy upper floor. Just pray for me. Want to have garden in the backyard in memory of my mother and porch on front in memory of my father. Not sure what to do about the colored windows which were built into in the front room in 1930. Not really crazy about them but they remind me of my childhood & mother who liked them. Looking to renovate in next 3 years. Late 2014 is optimum. These are stats of my home:

Building - Dimensions 30 x 25 (750 sq ft)
Lot Size - 40 x 97.42 (3897 Sq ft)
Building area - 1364 Sq ft

Foyer9’ x 10’ 1”
Room off of Foyer(Temporary Closet) 8’ x 9’ 2”
Bedroom 8’ 7” x 12’ 8”
Living Room 10’ 3” x 11’ 6”
Kitchen/Eating area 17’ 10” x 9’
Laundry area 5’7 x 4’ 11”
Bathroom 5’6” x 5’ 11”
Stair Width 1’ 10”
Upstairs Office/Library 10’ 4” x 9’ 10”
Upstairs Open Area 11’8” x 7’
Upstairs Room(used as B/R) 10’6” x 18’6”

Pics are attached. I'm currently poring through Houzz for ideas and advice but would appreciate all of the advice, input & guidance I can get! Thanks!
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Love the windows and the storybook roofline of your house. I would emphasize the storybook look. Take off the awnings, and take down chain link fence. Would love to see shutters and picket fence. Landscaping and cheery pots og geraniums. Make the most of the front porch.
3 Likes    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Jacqueline Pestano
You have the basic cream color on your walls. Why not give each space their own individualized color. Think of a period that you love and look for designs from that period. E.g. Contemporary vs. modern .
    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 6:50PM
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LD Jenkins
Thank you both so much for your comments! My plan, however, is not to do anything with rooms or simply get rid of awnings or make the most of the porch. As the heading says, I'm talking about a TOTAL renovation! I'm talking walls being knocked down all over the place and building into the backyard. My jeep won't even fit into my driveway. I know you probably that the pic showing space between house was a walkway. No it's my driveway!! LOL. I need to be practical and I need parking! Absolutely everything about infrastructure is ancient and unlivable. Absolutely one closet in the entire house 3 feet wide. Hence the big wardrobe taking up space in the tiny bedroom. One bathroom with the tiny dimensions I gave. I can't even run the washing machine at the same time as the microwave. I'm looking for specific advice as related to the questions I asked. I really appreciate your input though!! :-)
1 Like    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 7:59AM
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In answer to your question, yes, if you are going to take down walls, you need an architect. Possibly also an engineer. You and your contractor need to know what the city building codes are. Start by going down to city hall to get copies of the permits on the house. Make friends with the staff, ask if they have handouts or a website for renovators. You'll need to know what the code says about driveways, parking spots, setbacks and so forth. Electrical updates, so you can run the washer and microwave simultaneously, are not cheap. Find out exactly who those fences belong to and if they are on the property line. You may need a professional survey if you want a wider driveway.

I suggest you decide on your budget before talking to the architect and contractor. The budget is really where you start.
2 Likes    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 8:19AM
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You have lots of photos, and that is great - but viewing them so small in a collage of other images, makes it hard to really get a sense of your interior/exterior. Could you add them individually to a "project" album here, ideally by room? I think you will get better feedback :-) Good luck - Have you had a house inspection? It might be worthwhile if you have not - to identify problem areas beyond the obvious. These are things you can address during the renovation, things like drainage, foundation issues, code issues, plumbing - the down and dirty bits that can sink any plan to move a wall. Once a demo begins ... oh the surprises! And whatever you can do to save the windows ... even if they end up somewhere else in your "estate." Make a list of what you want, don't want, and yes ... you should have an architect to coordinate it all. Houzz is best for decorative solutions, but you should be able to get some recommendations for professionals (architect or design build pros) in your area.
1 Like    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 8:58AM
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LD Jenkins
Those are helpful comments! I did the collages because Houzz only lets you post 4 pictures. I was hoping people would be able to just enlarge on their screen or device in order to get a better sense of the interior. Maybe you can only do that with a Mac or iPad..... ;-)
    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:32AM
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Well, I am in windows so ... ;-) But even if I download one, it ends up being very pixelated so focusing on one room from the whole ... doesn't work too well. But it was a good idea!
    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:54AM
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LD Jenkins
@lessismoore Thanks!
1 Like    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 2:43PM
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You have to prepare yourself for spending more time and money than you can imagine. If you have both, then go for the big plans. If not, get an inspection and find out what needs to be done to bring it up to code. Then you can decide how to proceed.
    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 3:01PM
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Since you inherited the house, I assume that you do not have a mortgage, which would mean that you can knock down the house and build another. I say this only because I understand that you are thinking of going for a total gut job. It will be cheaper per square foot that trying to renovate. BUT if you do that, you will have to meet current code about set backs, etc. Actually when you do a renovation, you will have to bring things up to code but only where you're doing the renovation.

If one of your goals is to get the Jeep off the street, then something has to give on the house structure. I think you need at about 10 feet to park the car on the side of your house and I think you only have five.

Have you heard about the Not So Big House? It is a great concept of how to maximize the functionality of space. These are a series of books that give you so much of an education of what makes a space work to really living in the space and enjoy it. I've read them and they are wonderful. I am sure the NYC library has copies of the books or you can buy them and you can check out the web: http://www.notsobighouse.com/

So far you have received such good advice. Yes, get an inspection to find out what the issues right now. Yes, use a good architect. Houzz has professionals who you can check out the style of their work and see if one in the tri-state area would be a good fit for you and your project.

If you want to bounce things off us, I agree to break the questions down to smaller categories. Like the first floor would be good place to start. You can post a new dilemma and then add more pictures by commenting on it!

Good luck!
3 Likes    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 3:40PM
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LD, it sounds as if you should just sketch out each floor and a layout that works best for you taking into consideration your future needs. Include all your dreams, ideas, and establish a budget with a contingency plan for surprises. I think the comment re having a home inspection now is a great idea. Over the next few months rework the plan until you are satisfied. Then bring in a design/builder; you can share your must haves and they will tell you what is possible, make suggestions to improve upon your own ideas and finally to quote the job.

Are others renovating their homes in your neighborhood? You may know a realtor that has seen some great renovations. I am not at all familiar with your area of the country but here in Colorado it isn't unusual to have a curious visitor stop by a job site to see what is going on...most homeowners are anxious to share their project with others. Have fun! CB
2 Likes    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 3:46PM
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Jacqueline Pestano
I live in the tri state also, so I can relate to the space issues that you so clearly define. I was surprised that you have such yard space. The developers would kill for that real estate
1 Like    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 7:21PM
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LD Jenkins
@houssaoun That is wonderful advice & information! Those are the kind of comments that get my wheels turning! Correct--no mortgage. I've heard of Not So Big House and I just ordered one of the books but have not heard or visited the website. Will do! Yes, I WANT a total gut! YES! but I thought it would be MORE to gut than to renovate. I had an architect come in 3 years ago. He took my wish list and gave me an estimate of $420,000 for design and building. I placed my plans on the back burner while a lot of folk told me that that was a bit high -- even for metro NYC.

In any event, that 's why I asked about buying house plans from the internet and hiring a contractor rather than bringing in an architect. I found some really nice plans I like. I wanted to know people's experiences or thoughts (?????)

@Jacqueline Pestano, you are right about the land. I was going to move, but it would probably be ridiculous. Not only do I have room to expand in the back, but although I'm in Queens, I'm able to drive into Manhattan in under 15 minutes and although I can literally walk to LGA airport, my house is not under a flyover path--no noise. These things really matter and add value in NYC.

I'm attaching an ariel view of my house/land. Not sure if you can enlarge and see it clearly, but it's the house with the red Jeep sticking out of the driveway onto the sidewalk. Tree is in backyard. It shows how far back I can build.
    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 11:23PM
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I meant that a teardown and build new is cheaper that a total gut renovation of the structure. I wouldn't move either, if I were you. You are so lucky to have this opportunity. I'm a Jersy girl, but love NYC.

If you started from scratch, you could build in a one car garage up front. That would be the most efficient use of your space. Some people have there garages in the back, but that takes up a lot of real estate for the long driveway. So you could look at online plans that suit you needs and fit the restrictions of your property.

If you do decide on a new build, I would build a two story house, rather than use up the space in the back yard. (Right now your house is a one story house - 1 foot 11 wide staircase was intended for attic access. Your back yard is so great, try not to build on it.)

One question is, would you be willing to tear down the house? You could save some pieces of it, but it certainly would be hard emotionally. Or would you rather work with the house and renovate?

Look forward to hearing more about your thoughts. Take care.
    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 12:29AM
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LD Jenkins
@houssaon I do want to tear it down and save a few pieces to reuse. You are reading my mind! Like the windows I mentioned above. Not crazy about them, but would like use them somehow b/c my mom loved them and they were built into house in1930. Maybe art?? Dunno. Funny I was just looking at a narrow house with a rear entry garage on the Not So Big website you recommended. Definitely pros and cons, but honestly, I rarely use my backyard and it costs a lot to hire someone to keep it landscaped and neat. But I would like to look outside at a bit of grass and flowers/garden.

I really can not work with this house the way it is. Check out the room sizes above and the one closet is approx 3 feet wide. One tiny bathroom (see dimensions). Plus that useless cement-stuffed "fireplace" you see in foyer picture above is what's holding my house up. It's smack dab in the middle of my 30 x 25 box of a house.

As long as I save some actual pieces, it won't be too emotional--I don't think.... Before my mother died, she said 'your father and I worked for that piece of house, now it's your investment. Do what you want with it---sell it, stay in it, tear it down or build. We won't be turning over in our graves unless you do something stupid!! Whatever you do use your head!" That's why I'm a sponge trying to get as much info and have as many options as possible---so I won't do anything stupid!! ;-)

Right now I'm also scouring through NYC Department of Buildings info and the NYS Energy Efficient Funding Incentives for new home builds.......

I welcome any other thoughts you have. Will stay connected. Thanks!
    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 12:57AM
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Vikrant Sharma Homez
An Architect is what you need ,since your area has a lot of codes and regulations to Follow , who said its a Free World ? Lol
    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 2:14AM
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LD Jenkins
@Vikrant, It may not be free, but we can get the most out of it! LOL. Why wouldn't a builder or contractor (who's licensed by the State) not be able to follow codes and regulations with regard to my purchased plans? If they're certified by the state & city, isn't that part of their job.
1 Like    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 2:19AM
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Vikrant Sharma Homez
So very true LD Jenkins.
    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 2:30AM
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