Small Footprint, Big Changes

by Kacey Larsen

Working with clients is often challenge enough for a remodeler as the collaboration begins to sort out wants and needs, and then create a cohesive plan and scope of work. Now imagine working for a client who is making decisions on behalf of someone else, particularly someone else who works and lives primarily out of the country and has never seen their new home in person. This was the situation Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of the Upstate, based in Greer, S.C., encountered by taking on the interior remodel of a home in Greenville, S.C.

The client who hired them purchased a former rental property across the street from her own home to fix up for her twin brother, who was looking for a residence to call his own when not traveling outside the country for work. The space would also provide their parents a “guest house” when visiting from Georgia.

Jan Driscoll, business development and marketing manager, Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of the Upstate, remembers the design process being very collaborative. “The client and her mother worked very closely on it. Her mother would come up from Georgia, and one or the other would make decisions. They often wrestled with not wanting to make it just what they liked because it was officially her brother’s house, so they considered, “Would a man like this?” That was in the background of their minds when they were making selections,” she says.

The women had many ideas for the ranch-style home, and the entire 963-sq.-ft. interior was affected in some way. The project scope included: a redesign of the kitchen, removing a wall between the kitchen and living area (to create a more open floor plan), converting a half-bath into a full master bath with square footage from the kitchen, a closet relocation and widening the entrance to the hallway. Several of the design solutions were suggested by the client’s mother, and then refined by the Paul Davis team.

“There were two things Ethel [client’s mother] suggested design-wise that I think turned out great. One was to put an angled wall at the opening of the hallway, so it didn’t feel like such a column and that really opened up the space,” Jan says. “Another design idea she had was wanting to move a coat closet previously located behind where the front door opens. She thought it intruded upon the living room area and was in an awkward space. She asked to get rid of the closet, but we suggested, since that space was available in the room behind it, to transform it into an extra closet in that room. That was kind of how the whole project worked [with the give and take].”

Using Every Inch

A “theme” that emerged throughout the design process, according to Dan Driscoll, owner of Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of the Upstate, was to maximize every possible inch of space, which was a necessary challenge considering the home’s small footprint. He points to the cabinets extending to the ceiling in the kitchen, using an existing wall cavity to add shelving in the guest bathroom and installing a pocket door for the master bathroom as a few examples.

Two French doors were removed from the kitchen to make room for everything in the redesigned kitchen space, and Jan recalls the concern this decision caused. “Everybody likes natural light, and they were a little concerned about switching to a single door but in order to fit the things they wanted in the kitchen they needed to go that way. It turned out absolutely fine. Between the window over the sink and the door, there’s ample natural light in that room,” she says.

While the master bathroom took square footage from the kitchen to become a full bath (whereas previously it had been a half-bath), space was still tight. Dan mentions the selection of a vessel sink specifically to ensure drawer space would be available directly below the vanity counter. The custom-built vanity cabinet went around the drainage pipes to ensure storage would be available, and the vanity counter extends to cover the toilet paper holder and provide additional bathroom counter space.

At the request of the client’s father, a “bar” area was created in the transition space between the kitchen and living area. Dan suggested extending the countertop from the kitchen through the end cabinet unit to become a little bar area on the living room side of the kitchen, which can also function as an extra end table for that space. A wine rack/stand was even built by the company’s carpenter with leftover tile from the bathroom for its top to further the “bar” space under the breakfast bar when not in use or on display in the angled wall space of the hallway, Jan says.

No Detail Unconsidered

As in any remodel, budget played a role. While certain updates took precedence — like making sure the bathrooms were updated before anyone inhabited the home — the client was originally resigned to keeping certain outdated features to keep the budget more in check. “The project did get a little bigger than they originally intended just because there was paneling on the walls, for example, and popcorn ceilings. Originally, they were thinking, “We could probably leave the popcorn ceiling; we can probably paint the paneling.” We removed the popcorn ceiling in one room, and they decided that was much better,” Jan recalls. “We talked about removing some of the paneling, and they were so happy they decided to go for it. So while they knew they wanted to change a good portion of the house, some things did increase in terms of what they wanted to do.”

With the house being a former rental property, most the upgrades over the years had been superficial — a new coat of paint between renters and repairs as needed. As the project progressed, plumbing modifications to accommodate the revised kitchen, master bathroom, laundry “cabinet” in the kitchen and the guest bathroom were made. Dan indicates the electrical updates throughout the 936-sq.-ft. home were fairly extensive in order to bring everything up to current code and update the electric panel.

While these behind-the-scenes updates were necessary, the client and her mother worked with the Paul Davis team to decide where to save and spend. “There were certain things they decided were important to be higher quality, like nice cabinets and countertops. I remember having a discussion about pendant lighting in the kitchen being a focal point probably more so than whatever the living room furniture was,” Jan says. “I think the things that were going to be more permanent and the things they were going to use a lot they really wanted to be high quality.” The clients waited until the wall between the kitchen and living area had been removed to select a size for the kitchen island. The cabinets were installed, and templates were cut out to help them visualize how the island size would look in the new space.

One of the few leftover features from the rental property was the hardwood floor in the living area. New wood flooring was installed in the kitchen, which Jan remembers the client being “a little reticent about because they thought there was no way to blend it to make it look like the flooring belonged in one room.” With the help of Endicott Flooring, who handled all the wood and tile floor installations, the 80-year-old hardwood was matched to the new wood flooring, blending the new open floor plan seamlessly.

All the work and changes to the home by the Paul Davis team, their client and her parents created quite the surprise for the homeowner/brother/son when he arrived to see the space for the first time expecting to see all the yellow from “before.”

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