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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Street

Bee House Update #1

Things are moving along at the Bee House and we've been weekend warriors as we tackle a MAJOR renovation. I'm glad that we had some conversations as a family before beginning this process about what it would look like for us and what boundaries we would set. It is so easy to let this consume us, and to some degree it has even with boundaries. I believe I could write an entire blog post about the realities of first time flipping and I'm sure I will at some point.

The previous owner was an avid beekeeper.

I'm not even sure that major encompasses everything we are doing at the Bee House. We knew there was a lot of work we wanted to do when we purchased the home, but it still doesn't prepare you for everything. Our beginning list was decent, but felt small. The yard needed some attention, but has a lot of great mature plants already. We tossed around painting the exterior brick to improve curb appeal and maybe a new front door. A few plaster cracks to repair before paint in the rooms, removing some excessive shelving, and focusing money on the kitchen and baths. We also knew to expect that things would come up we might not consider or want to do. The list of things we are not touching at this point is much shorter than the list of things we are improving or adding. So I'll do my best to recap the most interesting pieces of how we got to our current point and what we have coming up next.

The Task Wall

My family has made so much fun of me for my task wall. The first day working at the house everyone was hip hopping from thing to thing with no real organization or focus. It was clear we needed some direction. Maybe it didn't bother them, but it drove me crazy. All I could picture was us floundering and not working in a logical order that would keep us on track. I made Austin go over to the Bee House with me one day and I brought my favorite teacher markers, some paper, and we went to work. We brainstormed everything (even simple tasks) that needed to be completed in each space and tried our best to list them in the order that they needed to occur. The task wall has helped us stay focused. We have to get each room to a certain stage so that it makes sense on the timing to bring in outside contractors like electricians, plumbers, and others for things like windows, exterior paint, and the roof. There is an order and priority in which things have to be done. Additionally, some things will determine how much money is left in the budget for others so we knew we couldn't jump ahead and spend money on projects that don't make sense for us to take on. It is also pretty gratifying to be able to mark things out on the task wall.

We have mostly been doing demo and planning over the last couple of months. Removing wallpaper, dated light fixtures, fireplace mantels, cabinets, etc. None of the work has been glamorous or easy. A few major things that have been completed in addition to finishing demo are new HVAC and ductwork repairs, new windows in the sunporch, and the electrical main has been buried underground. The new windows in the sunporch make it feel like a tree house with beautiful, unobstructed views to the back yard. The windows on the end are sliding windows that can be opened to capture a great breeze. We plan to paint this dark wood with Benjamin Moore Feather Down to create a light, open, and airy feel for this relaxing space that will be perfect for morning coffee.

New windows in sunporch


Bottom, original layer of wallpaper from 1940s

Wallpaper on wallpaper on wallpaper on wallpaper and some paint, too! It feels like every Saturday we are working at the Bee House, my mom and I find ourselves getting distracted by the never ending task of removing wallpaper in the kitchen. There were four layers of wallpaper dating back to the 1940s and some of the wallpaper had been painted over at times. My mom and I have peeled a lot of wallpaper over the years, but this wallpaper seems to be stuck pretty well. While it is pretty annoying, it has been neat to see how styles have changed over decades through the wallpaper. So far, we have finished demo in the kitchen by removing cabinets and countertops. Luckily, all the appliances in the home were new and in great condition. The kitchen is small, but the layout is perfect and functional.

Original corner cabinet we plan to reface.

My joke is that this smaller kitchen is much more functional than my spacious kitchen at home. The kitchen cabinets were actually very well made and in great shape. However, they were shallow, dated, and did not have interchangeable shelves. We felt this would hurt the resale of the home. We did leave an original corner cabinet in place as it is perfect as a pantry cabinet. We will have doors custom made to match the new cabinet style. We put the cabinets at the curb and they were gone in hours! Because the kitchen is smaller and we aren't spending money on appliances, we are investing in quality countertops, backsplash, and other finishes. It's going to be beautiful and I'll definitely be jealous! We've tested a few paint samples for cabinets and have been debating between Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee or Benjamin Moore Boothbay Gray as frontrunners. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Main Level Bath

The main level bath is back to the studs! This weekend we completed all demo, repaired tongue and groove boards as needed, replaced the subfloor, and framed for the new shower. The only thing original in this bathroom is the cast iron tub. You can imagine that an 80 year old house had some natural water damage over time, so I'm happy to report that all has been fixed and this bathroom will basically be brand new for future owners. This room, much like the kitchen, was full of unanticipated layers. Layers of wallpaper, then plywood paneling, and then...plastic tile! This was a first that I did not even know existed. The bottom layer contained white and black plastic tile in a checkerboard pattern from floor to ceiling all around the ENTIRE room. Such a small room has taken up a lot of time. Watching my mom take a 5 pound hammer, crow bar, and literally smack some plaster, wood framing, and old subfloor was so awesome. She's a hard worker just like my grandfather and not afraid of demo. Demo definitely hasn't been my strong suit, but I've been a pro on clean up duty with a broom and shop vac following close behind! So many tiles and so many nails, but we finally finished demo and it is ready for new electrical, plumbing, and then we have some pretty transformative plans for this space that I won't share just yet!

The Lower Level

Framing for future mudroom/laundry

The lower level contains an additional living space with a fireplace, third bedroom, bathroom, and garage. We've made quite a few significant changes to the lower level that we hope the future owners will consider improvements. The garage contained the washer and dryer. Ideally, we would have moved this to the main level if it was possible. We decided to finish out part of the space in the garage to create a true laundry and mudroom. This new room will contain the laundry, cabinetry, and a sink. We will leave some wall space open so that future owners can add additional storage that meets their needs. If it was me, I would add some cool locker style storage with cubbies and hooks!

The main level bath may be back to studs, but the lower level bath is well...gone? Back to the dirt? Studless? What used to be of the lower level bath is no more. This bathroom has been completely removed and the concrete floor has been jackhammered up. It's actually very scary looking and that is a picture I will not be posting! We completely removed the bathroom to create more headspace in the lower level, access main level bath plumbing, and enlarge the bathroom significantly. The concrete floor had to be removed to create proper leveling for a new shower drain, relocate the toilet, and ensure that this 80 year old home had the correct size plumbing. So many things about this bathroom were just odd and needed attention. I'll be excited when this part of the home doesn't look so ominous!

In the lower level, you entered from the garage into the third bedroom and bathroom and there was a small closet. This third bedroom was a pass through to the additional living area with the fireplace. Whoever would use this bedroom would have absolutely no privacy. I think it was a stretch to even call it a bedroom. Therefore, we decided to encompass the closet into the bathroom as mentioned above. This allowed us to enlarge the bathroom and then create a hallway from the new mudroom to the additional living area and provide the bedroom with a larger closet and dedicated private entrance.

New framing in lower level to create private bedroom
Looking into bedroom from new entry

You can see in these pictures that the flooring is up. We took up the laminate hardwood that was downstairs. It was damaged in a few places, did not fit our vision for design, and was not the correct type of flooring for a lower level. We've chosen a hardwood look luxury vinyl plank by MSI to replace the floors in the additional living area, third bedroom, and hallway, so that they match the mudroom. We have chosen a gray marbled look MSI porcelain tile for the lower level bath that I am considering using in my own home. It looks so good and I can't wait to see it. I love this lower level because it is so functional in a variety of ways. The additional living space could be an office, game room, play room, exercise space, etc. depending on the needs of whoever buys this home. The third bedroom and bathroom situation will be so improved that this whole level could function as a very private main bedroom space with a sitting area or great for a teenager. It's so versatile and I think we've made some valuable improvements to the layout.


Electrical and plumbing will be completed over the next couple of weeks and then we will be ready to start putting things back together. If you are local and are interested in contacts for some of the professionals we have used (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, windows, etc.), send me an email and I'd be happy to share!

Our plans include painting the exterior and all interior rooms. Thanks to our Instagram followers who helped vote on an exterior color scheme and paint color for main living areas! We will also be refinishing the original hardwood floors on the main level. Landscaping and a new roof are coming up. We have a few built ins that we plan to replace and an odd wall that we need to get creative with between the living area and sunporch (which was an addition). Be on the lookout on Instagram for future polls as we make some final decisions with cabinetry, flooring, and finishes.

Thanks for following along on this journey. So far it's been a great mix of fun and stressful. I'm not sure how the rest of my family feels! I'm just hoping that we find the perfect new owner for this home who will appreciate the thought and care that we are putting in to improving the functionality, integrity, and style of this charming bungalow in a perfect downtown location! From finding a few of the previous owners belongings and listening to stories from people who knew her, it's obvious she cared deeply for this home and the bee hives that once were here ( she had A LOT!). I have a few projects up my sleeve with some keepsakes we discovered while cleaning out and doing demo. I feel that they belong at the Bee House and should be passed to the future owner.

I promise I won't go months without a Bee House update again! Stay tuned for regular updates from the Bee House and Street House!

- Meredith

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Sonja Hammett Smith
Sonja Hammett Smith

This is such an inspiring story of the "Bee House." I think it will be great to be able to share the journey with the new owners. I am so inspired by you and your family. I look forward to following your blog. I can't wait to stop by one day soon.

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