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Scene in Shaker
For Better or Worse

By Jennifer Kuhel

To live in an old Shaker home is to live in a home with history – a history that sometimes begs for revision. Like the bathroom infected with 1950s-era pink tile. Or a dated breakfast nook that's more claustrophobic than cozy. Or basement walls that fail to legitimize efflorescence as a focal point.

Renovation is a near-given with a home that's pushing 50 years on the young side, 100 on the old. And in the marriage that is Shaker homeownership, these Six Stages of a Shaker Home Renovation embody the notion of "for better or for worse" in spades.

Stage One | Pinterestitis

These days, many a home improvement project starts with a single Pin. "I use Pinterest the way most people use Google. It's a great platform for visual inspiration," says Fernway resident Amy Fredricks, a habitual DIYer with her husband, Ian. Amy maintains an impressive 7,300 pins on the image-collecting site, but she's not just hoarding pretty pictures. Many of the ideas she pins have been incorporated into the couple's home improvement projects in the three Fernway homes they've inhabited since 2006. Amy's most recent Pinspiration: drawer pulls made from rocks she'd brought back from her home state. "Now each of us feels a daily connection to the place we love," she says.

Stage Two | DIY or Eldin?

The decision to tackle a project on your own or to hire a contractor depends on experience, guts, time, and money. For the Fredricks, there's excitement (and project flexibility, like when Amy painted her bathroom cabinets once...and then twice, after she changed her mind) in the possibilities of tackling jobs themselves, as they have with three kitchens and baths. But there's a limit to the work they're comfortable doing: They've also contracted out three fences and storm doors, two roofs, one chimney stack, and some wood floor refinishing. On the flip side, Boulevard homeowner Tricia Khayat all but has a contractor on speed-dial: "DIY was never even a consideration for the Khayat family."

Stage Three | Timelines

Still, Khayat thought she'd considered wisely when an architect suggested she determine which two of the three variables in a renovation she valued most: cost, quality, or timeliness. "I chose cost and quality, so I accepted timeliness would be a problem," explains Khayat. A problem, indeed. Her four-month project took 10 months.

Stage Four | Hitting the Wall

Back in October, Fernway resident Kate Burleigh was just over three months into a basement/first floor/second floor addition. The honeymoon with the contractor was long over. "Despite my deep love for our contractor – I'd give the man one of my kidneys, he's that good for my blood pressure – we'd hit the wall and just wanted everything finished," she says.

Burleigh recalls experiencing the same phenomenon with a previous kitchen renovation but admitted, "Much like the pain of childbirth, I erased this phase from my mind. Memory is so kind." Alas, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Stage Five | Punch List, Smunch-list

Last March, my husband and I hired a contractor to update our living room and sunroom and to convert a set of crumbling French doors in the back corner of our house into a picture window. The contractor estimated he'd complete the entire job, inside and out, in one month. When the interior job was completed six months later (our frustration with the timeline was tempered by happiness with the quality of the craftsmanship), we were
remarkably apathetic about the final punch list item: the exterior work under the new window. That part of the job remained out of sight, out of mind, and incomplete until 30 days later, when the contractor applied the final coat of stucco and paint.

Stage Six | Bliss

Ellen Berglund and her husband, Bill, purchased a Van Sweringen demonstration home that was in foreclosure (and disrepair) in 2014. The couple corrected the home's violations and renovated the main bathrooms and the kitchen, which was inconveniently (considering they have four young boys) under construction for six weeks after they'd moved in.

Despite the hassle, Ellen remains nostalgic on their decision to gut the kitchen. "The kitchen is the heart of our home," she says. "We could have done the kitchen and just left the rest of the house as is because that's where we spend so much of our time. It
really is lovely."

She doesn't look forward to tackling the projects ahead ("There's always something," she says, like any seasoned Shaker homeowner), but she's still sentimental about the caring for their home, "I feel like we're being good stewards for the house for the next generation." SL


Click here to read more features from Shaker Life's Winter 2017 issue.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017