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Before & After: Rebuilding a Primary Suite from Scratch

One of the things I like to say in describing our farm life is, when referring to the many remodels, that we "rebuilt it from the inside out AND the outside in." From stripping the kitchen down to the studs and opening the wall between the kitchen & dining, to redesigning & rebuilding our primary suite bathroom, to replacing the roof, removing the skylights and replacing the ancient cedar shingles with eco-friendly lap siding, and SOOOO much ore, it truly looks nothing like what we stepped into on Day One. And one of the biggest examples of that is definitely the Primary Suite (aka the Master Bedroom).

As mentioned in my earlier post detailing how we rebuilt the primary suite bathroom, there was a big ol' mess to behold on arrival. This bedroom, as you can see, had teal green carpeting (with cat pee stained through the cheap subfloor underneath!), a half-wall that, on the other side, contained a random tiny closet, a several-hundred-pound 'hearth' net to where the bed was that covered up a hole where a woodstove vent had gone through to the ceiling many generations prior, a ceiling fan hanging off the beam low enough to clip ya if you weren't careful, leaky old storm windows, and 'country oak' ceilings that no, did NOT make you feel like you were in a log cabin. And the smell - oh the smell. The first few nights we slept in there something just didn't seem right, and sure enough, it wasn't. A trip to the doctor for the new cough I'd developed turned out to be a form of asthmatic bronchitis (I don't have asthma) that comes from the offgassing in environments like this. So we immediately moved the bed to the guest bedroom, where we would stay for the next seven or eight months while we tackled multiple renovations in the house.

Here's a summary of how we turned this stanky room into the peaceful sanctuary that our buyers ultimately were lucky enough to inherit when we sold it a year and change ago...

  • Removed all the carpeting, ultimately repurposing it in the garden I'd been building which served to smother sections where raised beds would go. Once that occurred, we repurposed it a second time in the front yard, which I'd wanted to de-grass much of and make into a flower garden.

  • Replaced the pee-stained particleboard subfloor. Not only was it nasty, it's the worst of the worst to use for subfloor and the floors were bouncy. Yuck. This was my husband's project, and it got trashed, and we replaced it with gorgeous thick, smooth plywood that would be the base for new bamboo click flooring.

  • Removed & repurposed the hearth. One of our favorite DIY memories - my husband dragging/rolling that sucker out of the bedroom and pushing it off the 2nd story deck onto the grass below...and it didn't break (as he said, "it broke the Earth"). Turns out though that the beast was a perfect base for our new 550 gallon rain tank in the front of the house! Woo hoo!

  • Installed sustainable bamboo 'click' flooring & new wood floor trim with quarter-round. Not a job we enjoyed (especially realizing halfway through we'd done it wrong and had to pull it out and redo it!) but boy did it look lush after it was done...and a fraction of the cost of having actual hardwood installed (especially living in a town where only 2 contractors did this - and neither showed up for appointments!). Trim, btw, is a killer way to cover up imperfect wall angles where the wood doesn't quite align!

  • Tore down the floating 'half wall' & closet. Fortunately since it was part of a 1980s remodel, it was merely drywall and 2x4s, so a lot easier task than it'd been on the main floor (where the interior walls were all 1940s shiplap under the drywall). Reused the 2x4s for other projects. Crazy, but pretty simple to do.

  • When we replaced the roof, we had them also cover up the skylights, then we covered the sloping wall they were on with drywall. I will never, ever buy a home with skylights, folks. It's not a matter if IF they will leak, but WHEN, and these ones came without handles to open them as well! And who wants a skylight where sun points directly tono your bed in the AM? Not us! The sloping wall they were on was also 'country oak' shiplap, so it was a pretty quick drywall job over the entire wall (amen for some nice internet tips on how to create ledges for the drywall to rest against while screwing it in because even with 2 people, it's heavy and awkward!).

  • Painted the beams and shiplap ceiling a crisp zero-VOC white. I swear this changed the vibe of the room SO fast! Skinny husband climbed up there and did it all, including plugging any gaps that were letting the cold in.

  • Replaced the windows with double-pane Energy Star versions. While my original plan was to pay someone to do all 20+ of our windows, the quotes were just silly on how much they wanted to charge ($25K+) so a neighbor gave us a quick tutorial on how to do it (including replacing the trim inside and out) and we were off and running. These two were the biggest challenge, however, as they were the only two windows on the upstairs of the house that were not easy to access. You see, the house originally had a second-floor deck on the side where most of the windows were, so we replaced them all before the deconstruction of the rickety deck began. This side? Not so fortunate(and the only contractor who showed up wanted $2,000 to replace these two - and that was LABOR ONLY as I had already bought the, hell no). But then my husband was chatting with a customer at work who had, of all things, scaffolding. And the dude VOLUNTEERED to loan it AND set it up for us. So he climbed up it while I brought the window in through the upstairs and we installed the two together, then redid the trim. Truly folks, if you don't ask, you'll never know what's out there to borrow - nor how awesome folks can be!

  • Built the new wall to the bathroom + barn door. As mentioned in the earlier post about the bathroom, adding a wall to where the slope ended in the upstairs made much more sense, opened up the room, and of course created access to the new and improved mega primary suite bathroom. Building it with reclaimed 2x4s a neighbor was happy to unload on us (a bit warped but workable for the job, ones I also reused when I built a new hearth in the living room), then using tongue & groove for the walls & plywood for an inexpensive barn door, the room made much more sense and suddenly was....HUGE!!! I've never had a room this huge - over 400 s.f. During our years on the farm, we never properly filled up the space, of the reasons we knew we had to downsize.

  • And finally, decorated. Our longtime Crate & Barrel mango wood king bed was of course the centerpiece of the room, then I bought a pair of inexpensive matching nightstands, picked up a bedside lamp at Goodwill, ordered two jute runners to go next to the bed, installed nice long linen curtains on existing curtain rods, scored a clearance leather storage bench for the end of the bed from the now-defunct Pier 1, added some low-light plants and a bunch of my framed photographs, and...voila!

Here are a few other perspectives from when we put the house on the market. If this room was on the main floor, maybe we never would have left, it was soooo peaceful for us to sleep in! But life hands some lemons, and we had to make lemonade and start a new chapter. The lessons we learned from massive remodels like this however? Invaluable. The things I never realized I could do - never even conceived of doing! - that I ended up achieving? It was really, really cool.

Or as a neighbor told me early on - "living out here, you'll end up learning how to DIY."


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