This Old House: Should We Renovate, Build or Be Content?
Here’s the deal: We live in an old house. We love our old house; in fact, we bought it on purpose.
The good news: It’s in really great shape considering it was built in 1955.
The bad news: It has a few quirks. Like no bathtub. And faux marble kitchen counters (think: laminate). And a chopped-up layout. And strange walls that exist solely to conceal added AC duct work. (Just think: maybe there’s a hidden room in there somewhere!)
Here’s our quandary:
1. Spend money to renovate our current house?
It would require quite a bit to do all the things on our list, such as:
Add a bathtub.
Where? We love the tiled, walk-in shower upstairs and don’t want to replace it. Adding a separate tub to that bathroom would require major work. We’d be happy to say good-bye to the downstairs walk-in shower, but a tub for that space would have to be custom-ordered, due to the out-of-date size. That automatically ups the price. Plus that’s the guest bathroom. We’d rather have a tub upstairs, where it would be more useful. But we love the tiled, walk-in shower upstairs…and, well, you see where this is going.
Speaking of bathtubs, we’d love to add a master bathroom.
Currently, we all share one bathroom upstairs. It is not connected to anyone’s room, which leads to occasional streaking. As I live in a house of all boys, you can see how this might be a problem. And again, there’s the bathtub problem.
Reconfigure the layout to include a school room.
We’re currently using only about half of our living space. The rest of the space–the basement, which includes finished and unfinished parts; and the living room–could be put to much better use. Especially when you consider that our school supplies (and books! Oh, the books…) are quickly outgrowing their allotted space, leading to their distribution across several rooms and levels of the house. Which is not at all handy.
Reconfigure the layout to be more conducive to entertaining.
We LOVE to entertain. In the almost-four years we’ve lived here, I can’t even begin to count the number of dinners, brunches, playdates and overnight guests we’ve hosted.
The problems are several:
1. Limited dining room space
Our table seats six somewhat comfortably, and eight somewhat uncomfortably. If you’re 5’11” or taller, there is no real comfort involved. So far, we’ve been able to eek by because our own children and those of many of our friends are still quite small. We often utilize one or two of our rustic, wooden benches and line up as many bottoms as possible. There’s also the small, kids’ table in the corner which can seat two or three small children. We’d love to find a longer (or extendable) table, but the dining room just can’t accommodate anything bigger.
2. Small seating areas
The living room is far away from all the action. On top of that, the traffic flow and fixtures like doors and a fireplace severely limit the furniture arrangement. Our main hang out spot is the playroom, where we went to great pains to create a comfortable, inviting seating spot. We love the coziness, but it really only works well for about six adults. Which is fine for every day and for hosting one family or several moms, etc. For parties and events, we have to get really creative.
3. Zero seating in the kitchen
I’d love for guests to have a place to sit while I’m working in the kitchen. It seems like we always wind up in there, with me working at the counter and a guest or two leaning awkwardly against the pantry door. I always want to offer them a place to sit, but there’s really no room!
On the same note, I’d love for the boys to have a spot to sit and do school work under my supervision while I’m working in the kitchen. Currently, they work at a table in the playroom and run into the kitchen to show me their progress.
Ditch the southwestern vibe.
Terracotta stucco might be more palatable if we happened to live in Sante Fe or Tuscon or some such location in the southwest. It does come in handy for giving directions to our home, as I’m pretty sure it’s the only home of its color in the entire county. We’d love to repaint the entire exterior, and cover the existing stucco in the front of the house and garage with stones to match the chimney.
2. Save, and build a new “old” house?
Believe it or not, this would probably be cheaper (in the long run) than Option #1. It would require more investment up front, but we could design the home to meet our needs (bathtub, a school space, better layout for entertaining, etc.).
Because of all the issues involved with renovating an older home that’s been added onto over the years (think: original exterior load-bearing walls made of cinder block and now located inside the house; all kinds of duct work from the non-original AC unit; funky electrical work; and more), we’d wind up spending big bucks and probably still not get exactly what we want. Plus, those kinds of renovations are messy! And time-consuming.
3. Just be content with this house forever?
This is the option we’re choosing for now, until another option becomes more clear, or until we’re overrun by our ever-growing Personal Library… 🙂
Seriously, though…we do realize that even living in a home is a great blessing, and we’re truly thankful to call this one ours. And while many families live in larger, more beautiful homes, it’s true that ours would seem like a mansion to a significant portion of the world’s population.
Therein lies the struggle. Could I live the rest of my life without a bathtub? (Or master bathroom, school room, more entertaining space, etc.?) Yes. Many do. Do I want to live without a bathtub? No. So, from a Biblical perspective, is it acceptable for us to better our situation, or should we just be content with what we have? And is it possible to be content and better our situation at the same time?
It’s difficult to think objectively about questions like these, here in 21st century America. And so, we wait. (And pray for wisdom.) And bloom where we’re planted, gratefully…in This Old House.
What would YOU do?
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