Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Tale of 3 Remodelers and 1 Houseboat

I have lived the expression "bittersweet."

Last month, I both celebrated, and cried over the sale of our floating home in Portland.  It had been on the market almost three years.  That's three years of maintenance, extra mortgages, and stress.  It needed to find a new owner because after our move to Bend four years prior, we couldn't use it, rent it, keep up on the maintenance, or afford it.

But this home was my pride and joy.  Our first big remodel.  Every crack, flaw, molding, and color was fixed by us, made by us, installed by us, or picked by us.  Each time I walked in there, I felt like it was a complete expression of me.  It was the first home that ever really felt like it belonged to me...not the person who built it, drew the plans, or selected the cabinets.

Let me assure you, however, that for every ounce of "character" this house had, there was an equal amount of sweat and fighting contributed to it.  The remodel period was, to put it lightly, some of the most difficult years of our lives.

When we purchased it in 2006, it was a mere shell.  The man who owned it prior to us had aspirations of making it a beautiful retreat.  He moved walls, built decks, and worked on lighting...the outside was nearly finished when he decided to leave the project behind and sell it to us.  We bought it at a bargain price, because only the outside was done, and remodeled it at a bargain price, because that's all we could afford to do. 
The Master (Before): When our friends and family walked in to see this, they didn't know whether we had gone stupid or crazy
The Master (After): But we had a vision, and knew that a little paint, carpet and love could go a long way.

We spent four years laying tiles, stretching carpet, dry-walling, and decorating.  We slept in the living room until the kitchen was done, the guest room until the master was done, and our parent's house when the smell from the paint and carpet was too much to bear. With the exception of the french door installation, we did just about all the work ourselves.  I have a lot of lessons learned--some of which I plan to share in a future story--but was it worth it?  I think so.  My husband does not.  I'm proud of our little floating home makeover, but my husband says all he thinks about when he sees the house is all the sleepless nights and days of hauling drywall, dumpsters, doors, and paint up and down the 1/4 mile of dock.

Last month, as I went to bring the new buyers a housewarming gift, they took me through the house to tour it.  They have put some beautiful finishing touches on the home, and it looks better than ever.  In fact, I think I need some outdoor decorating tips from them!   I couldn't just write my home off to any buyer.  They love the house as I do, and three remodelers's better than ever.

I will always remember the time we spent remodeling this home and all it has taught me: patience, looking on the bright side, thinking outside the box, and how to use power tools!  It will always have a close place in my heart.

CLICK HERE to see more Before and After shots.

The Sitting Room (Before) was originally a boat garage.  We installed french doors with custom crown-molding where the garage used to be to add light and and make the most of the view of the water.
The Sitting Room (After): The french doors added light, while the grey paint color gave it a cool, calm place to retreat.

We added an electric fireplace (gas is not available at our moorage) for decoration and extra heat, which we built-in to disguise an awkward backside of a closet.  We made custom bookshelves to unite the fireplace and add much-needed storage space.  I really like that we decided to leave the back walls of the bookshelves grey.  A small, but decorative touch.
The old door to the boat garage was removed, but the space still looked like a garage until we decided remove a portion of the wall and create a pass-through.  I think this was the single best decision we made.  It opened up the entire house and gave it a large, spacious feel.

The previous view was blocked by an ugly garage door which we replaced and I sold on Craigslist for $250.
The Guest Room (Before): The entire house had nothing but plywood on the walls, no window dressings, no closet doors, and no carpet. 
The Guest Room (After): A little drywall, paint, and some creative, ocean-inspired decor can do wonders to make a house feel like a home.
The Kitchen (After): I don't have pictures of the kitchen before.  Frankly, I think it scared me.  But we updated this kitchen on a very tight budget by adding beadboard to cover the holes in the ceiling reserved for the florescent--yes florescent--light fixtures and installed recessed lighting.  We removed the giant bar and created our own island with a set of stock cabinets from Home Depot and some granite tiles that were on sale.  We painted, instead of replaced, the once-brown 1970's cabinets and added some updated hardware.
The Great Room (After): When you remodel a home from the ground-up, you can think outside the box.  One of the best things I did was create a tile pathway through the entire house so after a swim, I wouldn't have to worry about wet feet on the carpet.  Only a patch of 10x10 carpet resided in the den, and I used a remnant which made it cheap as heck to have nice carpeting in that room.
The Stairway (Before): We had this great spiral staircase, but the wood walls and giant pole through the middle made it an eyesore.
The Stairway (After): A little paint, carpet, and a mosaic made out of left over tile and glass beads from the Dollar Tree made the spiral staircase a focal point instead of an eyesore.
The Master (Before): I think you're starting to get the general idea....
The Master (After): This is the room we did the least in.  The great windows, and spacious loft-like space really just needed some brightening up!
The Bathroom (After): This was the last room we finished.  Because we only had one bathroom, we couldn't manage to remodel it until we no longer lived in the house, unless we wanted to bathe in the river until it was done!  The original bathroom was about half the size; with a pedistal sink, toilet, and 4'x4' shower we could barely fit in (think of cruise ship bathroom).   We removed a water heater to add more space the bathroom and instead installed a tankless water heater which fits into a cabinet.  This allowed us to put in a full bathroom.  There was no room for a closet, so shelving and baskets were utilized to store all the bathroom needs.


  1. I feel that I owe Amber some comments and thoughts about her "remodeling" blog. I owe her anything I can give. See, she's my wife. I get to be the nailer, dry-waller, carpenter, plumber and hammer-er when she becomes inspired to turn a once dusty old heirloom into something royalty could brag about.

    Believe me; Amber gets inspired about many things and she holds the secret to inspire others. When we walked into the "houseboat" for the first time it was obviously a multi-year project. That may seem overwhelming to some, but not Amber. It would have been to me, but she infected me with her optimism and her belief in me. When I told her that I was ready for the challenge, she looked at me like I was this special man who would help her dreams come true.

    We got right to work. After about a year, the work was still far from done. We worked on it every day. This wasn't some project that was delayed by lazy procrastinators. But, the work seemed endless. Soon my patience was wearing thin and I was constantly moody. So anything I accomplished on the walls, floors and doors was tarnished because I wasn't helping Amber to feel the satisfaction that should come with all the hard work and attention to detail.

    I am running out of characters, so let me get to my point. Remodeling a "home" isn't just the work, it's working TOGETHER, creating beauty on a budget, a labor of love; a complete challenge. It was tough and tiring but I would do it again. But I wouldn't spoil Amber's accomplishment with all my grumpy gills. Sorry babe. You created a beautiful home.

  2. Oh my gosh you guys are one of my favorite couples!