Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Torn Between Two Renos

It's not falling down around our ears, but our house could use a lot of work if we want to stop feeling like we're living in Levittown 2009.

It's no exaggeration to say that every. single. room. in the house needs work.  Not to mention the outside -- who in the world thought it would be a good idea to put mini-palm trees in an Oregon front yard?  Worse yet, the outside is faux-Craftsman, while the inside is a bizarre combination of Home Depot Clearance Aisle and Colonial.

Which leaves us torn between two renos.

Project Number One:  Continue the contemporization of the open-plan main floor, started last summer with the installation of shiny, sexy black hardwood floors, by ripping out the yellowish Colonial-style turned balusters that came with the place and replacing them with something sleek, probably involving brushed nickel and enough cable to choke a horse and pass a building code inspection.  The pros?  It will be gorgeous and we will enjoy it every single day.  The cons?  This is the kind of project that will need to be *completely* outsourced, and probably pretty expensively.  Not exactly thrifty.  And it will be difficult to find somebody to design and execute the vision.

Project Number Two:  The terracing of our nearly vertical lot, which is 1/4 of an acre, yet so steep and choked with hunks of tree that the kiddies have less space to play outside here than they did on our postage-stamp sized lot in Los Angeles.  If you believe the home improvement industry, this is the kind of project that has great potential for an actual return on investment.  Moreover, aside from the portions of the project that require heavy equipment (i.e., serious earth moving) or critical safety skills (i.e., properly installing retaining walls), landscaping projects generally provide the thrifty home improvement buff with some serious money-saving potential.  Clearing the lot of trees, brush, and baby toys pitched off the deck last summer?  Has "put your teenager to work" written all over it.  Seeding or sodding once you're nice and terraced?  Easy peasy.  Planting?  You can handle it yourself -- or you can hire a garden designer for the limited task of drawing the actual design and suggesting appropriate plants, while doing the actual purchasing and labor yourself.  There are lots of money saving options.  So on paper?  Landscaping seems to be the project of choice.

But.  Unless you live in Southern California or some equally mild climate ... the inside project is something that will be enjoyed every day of the year, and the landscaping ... will not.  And the inside project will have to be done sooner or later.  I can't imagine trying to sell a house that is half contemporary/sexy shiny black floors, half yellow Colonial balusters, and all bumblebee...

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