Home Renovation Works Best as a Hands-On Process
Thinking about renovating? Get an architect, says a couple who have been through the process. Be informed – ask friends and neighbors who have been through the process – and consider going through the permit process yourself for small projects.
"There are builders who are more sympathetic to the historical fabric of a house," said Tom Behrens who renovated a Craftsman bungalow in Hyattsville with his wife, Naomi.
Naomi, 34, has an architecture degree and her own firm, 2X2 Studios, that she runs from home while watching their very active almost-two-year-old, Tobias.
Thinking about renovating?
Get an architect, the couple says. Be informed – ask friends and neighbors who have been through the process – and consider going through the permit process yourself.
"We always grumble about the permit process but in the end it's a good thing," Tom said.
Naomi added that the staff are just there to be sure the renovation is done right – that it's healthy and safe for the long term.
Their house was built in the 1920s, probably as part of a set put up by one contractor and scattered in the area, said Tom, who moved in, in 1998 when he was still a bachelor. He said the $90,000 he paid for it then has probably at least doubled – Naomi guesses tripled. And it was a manageable size that could be expanded.
Expand it did, going from a two bedroom, one bath house to three bedrooms, two baths and another room with a Jacuzzi on the second floor. The main living area on the second floor is airy and cozy at the same time, with oak flooring which functions as part studio, part bedroom. It has the feel of a polished SoHo loft in the 1970s.
On the first floor, the house is most traditionally Craftsman, with the bookcases on either side of the fireplace (extended), a small comfortable dining room and original late 1950s stove in the era's turquoise color. It has a secret though: the burners slide out of the way into a drawer when not in use.
Now Naomi, with Tom's collaboration, is doing design and consulting on other neighborhood houses, through her company. She says as the designer of record, they draw up their own floor plans; she gets permits, keeps an eye on construction and troubleshoots. Her company provides services from soup to nuts – design to light fixtures and paint.
She advises homeowners starting a project to ask lots of questions and not to wait until the work is done if you are not getting what you want.
Their latest neighborhood project is a three bedroom, two-bath house that is adding a bedroom, modernizing the bathroom and opening up the second story.
Recommendations come by word-of-mouth, Tom said.
"Sort of like people learning about Patch.com. Local people spreading local information."