No one wants to Run My Renovation
Recently, Nathan & I applied to be on a DIY show, Run My Renovation. Our friends Karrie & Bryan were on it this spring & their project turned out just fabulous. Sadly, we were not chosen, but I thought I’d share our application, so when we act a little twitchy, you’ll understand the environment that probably has a big impact on our sanity. (NEVER RENOVATE A HOUSE YOU’RE LIVING AND WORKING IN!!)
1. Name & age of yourself and your spouse/partner.
Claire Presnall 32
Nathan Presnall 31
3. Do you have any children and/or any pets?
4. What is your occupation? What is the occupation of your spouse /partner?
I am a photographer, mostly weddings & events, some portrait and commercial.
Nathan is a broadcast designer/creative editor.
5. Would you and your partner/spouse be willing to take at least 3 days off of work?
Yes. We’re self-employed, so that would not be a problem in the slightest.
6. List any DIY skills or experience you and your spouse /partner may have. (experience not necessary)
We are currently renovating our home so we have:
Installed hardwood floor
Installed custom baseboards
Installed ceiling fans
Run additional power to our garage
7. Would you be comfortable with at least 14 people invading your home for 3 days?
Sure! Bring the whole crew. I’m like your grandmother and will probably want to feed everyone homemade cookies.
8. Do you have any concerns or issues with letting America decide and vote on your renovation?
Not a problem. I’m really hoping for a kitchen renovation since I hate ours and anything America picks would be an improvement. If you want waterworks on TV, just give me a working triangle so Nathan & I can cook together. Of course, if you’re looking for another room we’re pretty much a blank slate. We have some ideas of our own, but I’ve seen some of the other renovations and thought they turned out great, so bring it on!
9. List the top 3 rooms you’d like to renovate and why? Also, list the dimensions of the rooms.
#1 – Kitchen. I HATE this room!
It is completely unworkable for the two of us to really cook together. There is a tiny bit of counter space between fridge & stove then a useless corner of counter between stove & sink, then the peninsula that juts out and takes up the rest of the kitchen. The dishwasher is in the corner of the peninsula & sink, so I can’t even do clean up while Nathan cooks as the washer door takes up all of the chopping area standing space. I’m worried we’ll accidentally stab each other with knives as we spin from the only food prep area to take things across the kitchen to the stove. And the lighting! There is no place in the kitchen where you can work without being in your own shadow. Well, the stove light on the underside of the microwave is low enough you can’t get in the way. Of course, the microwave is so low, I have to duck to see what’s going on on the back eyes. There is no room for our recycling bins, and our garbage can is just sitting in the middle of the walkway. And don’t even get me started on how long it takes to get hot water out of the sink and the fact that the mineral count on the water is so high that our cats have to drink bottled water to avoid UT blockage
The appliance situation is pretty sad too. The dishwasher, when not getting in the way of chopping, blocks access to half of the cabinets. You have to unload onto the counter top, close the dishwasher and then put away the dishes. The oven is basically in a corner as well with no counter space for putting hot dishes that are finished cooking or cold dishes ready to go in. The stove, directly above the oven, suffers from lack of side space as well. If we don’t stab each other with knives first, we certainly run the risk of dumping a gallon of boiling water on the cat while looking for a safe, non-heated place to set the kettle down. But the true pièce de résistance in this kitchen design disaster is the refrigerator. Never put a side-by-side fridge in the corner. The freezer door only opens halfway before the handle hits the wall. The door shelves are deep enough that the freezer opening is effectively blocked. When you have given up on the freezer and decide you just want in the fridge, that’s easy. Until you want to load or unload and are searching around for some convenient counter space. The door covers that teeny bit of real estate and you find yourself setting the milk down on the stove so you can dig past it to reach the orange juice.
But don’t think it’s just the large appliances that suffer. All of our small appliances are homeless. Currently, we have some out on the counter but they get sprayed with veggie juice as we chop or oil as we cook and are taking up a large amount of our very limited counter space. The appliances that don’t fit on the counters are either in underneath storage where we have to remove several items and then crawl halfway under the counter, behind the dishwasher to get at some or on top of the cabinets where we have to climb the counters to reach them (and then have no place to set them down).
I don’t think our kitchen is tiny, just poorly laid out. The whole room opens up into a dining area that is poorly placed and I would be willing to lose. We don’t own a table, so we have currently raised the light so that Nathan would quit bashing his head on it every time he wanted to go outside. One severe oversight in the design is we have no pantry. We put chrome wire shelves up in the area where we would like to have one, but have you ever tried to stack anything on wire shelves? It’s not pretty.
I think some people might like the general design of our kitchen with its complete lack of color and overall “generic-ness,” but I don’t. The floor is some sort of faux-wood laminate that was installed like bricks (alternating seams) which really bugs me. It also gets filmy if you mop it and is generally a terrible floor. The laminate counter tops are cracked and uneven. The cabinets are poorly laid out with too many cavernous corner cabinets of doom or teetering top shelves just tall enough for me to push the item I’m reaching for back into it’s deep corner depths (yes, I said deep corner upper cabinets. OH THE HUMANITY), and there aren’t enough cabinets to hold all of our dishes and cookware. We have no place for our pots and pans. Currently they live in this horrible little spinning corner cabinet of despair that does its best to crush my hand every time I try to get a pan out. And best of all, it’s beige, all of it! The most blah kind of “new house” boring beige with plain wood cabinetry that makes me think super-saver at the construction yard. Blah blah boring. Did I mention I HATE this room?
The kitchen is 9’7”x23’7” with a slanted ceiling.
#2 – The Master Bathroom. I don’t know that you can really call this a “Master” bathroom other than the fact that it is privately attached to the Master bedroom. It’s tiny, there is only one sink (I have gotten toothpaste spat on me & spat toothpaste on Nathan), the toilet is on main display, and because of the placement of the toilet, the additional counter space is inaccessible.
Then there’s the tragic closet situation. Our “Master Closet” is the saddest closet I have seen in a master bedroom, so to make it more masterly, they cut into our tiny little bathroom. Then, there’s the nearly useless closet on the other side, so as you enter the bathroom, you’re actually going down a tiny hallway of closet walls. It just feels like a cavern with a big beige toilet living it in.
The whole room is beige. Boring beige with blah white trim and bland counter above more of those super-saver wood cabinets. At least the cabinets are actual wood rather than pressboard; mostly. There are some smoke stains on the ceiling from the previous owners that adds a darker beige to the general beiginess. Inside this beige room is blah linoleum, a slightly darker beige tub/shower with a light beige toilet. YAWN.
The Master Bathroom is 8’4”x7’3”
#3 – Back Deck. If you look on our deck, you will see that we love to grill & smoke food as well as grow potted plants. You would not know that we love to hang out outside in comfortable furniture. Why wouldn’t you know that? Because there is no room for furniture on our deck. It is TINY! It’s also falling apart and has volunteer blackberries growing under it (which isn’t awful since the berries are delicious, but they definitely get in the way). We would love to be able to sit out on our deck, not get eaten by mosquitoes, and enjoy the fruits of our labor (delicious veggies from our garden that we have grilled to perfection). Basically, it’s a usable space, we just need more of it.
10. What would you like to see happen in the rooms listed above?
#1 – The Kitchen – I just want a U where I can possibly bring in a floating island for canning & preserving the food from our garden, full-access to my refrigerator (preferably not a side-by-side as I find them to be cavernous & difficult to organize), and a place where I can cook with my husband and friends.
In our ideal world the kitchen would have a double wall oven (perhaps one of them could be a microwave/convection dual oven), a refrigerator with French doors and the freezer on the bottom, and a 2-drawer dishwasher so we could wash small loads without having to run the whole machine. We would love to have a hanging rack for our pots & pans and a point of use water heater for the sink with an under the counter water filter (or a whole house unit, as long as we’re talking ideal world here). We talked about concrete counter tops, but what we need is something that will withstand lots of use, and we want it to be earth-friendly while still looking nice. We also want a space where we can feed our cats and dog and put their water. And if you can find a space for a small table or even a bar with stools so Nathan & I can eat together without breaking out the TV trays, that would rock!
We want to rip out that peninsula to open up the room and minimize the corner cabinets, especially the deep ones that seem to go on forever. We definitely want to get the fridge out of the corner. Even if we had a top and bottom fridge, putting a refrigerator in a corner up against a wall just seems like a bad idea. Currently our vast collection of cookbooks live upstairs on our bedroom bookshelves, so we have talked about putting the refrigerator on the shared wall with the living room and encasing it in a floor to ceiling bookcase on one side and the back with plenty of counter space on the non-bookcase side. Around the sink, we would love to have space to put rinsed dishes where the water won’t drain all over the counter and a sink big enough to hold our large pots and pans. Under cabinet lighting would be great and some lighting around work areas that is directed so that we’re not in our own shadows would make our day. Also, we have several small appliances we use regularly (a stand mixer, vacuum sealer, toaster oven and juicer) that need a home where they will stay clean but accessible. We thought some kind of counter-top appliance garage with doors might be a nice solution.
We’re very eco-conscious, so earth friendly materials would be great. We want to be able to sort our recycling and compost while we cook. We would love to have space to grow small potted herbs in the winter and a space to hang herbs to dry during the summer. We keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand year round and need a place where the fruits and veggies that store better out of the fridge can sit out and remind us to eat them. We want our pantry to have room to store our canning supplies as well as the jars of food we can during the summer. We are planning to build a screened porch on the back, but currently have a deck and want to have French doors that open to the outside. We don’t use the a/c while it’s so nice out, so more windows would add airflow and more natural light.
Our house is a split-level with kitchen & living room on the main floor. We have seriously considered taking out the dividing wall to create a pass-through/island with a bar on the living room side so friends could sit and visit while we cook. Our plan for the living room is a music room & library. We just acquired an antique baby grand piano and have several hand drums with the idea that we would get a drum set for Nathan. We also already have bamboo hardwood floor to put in the living room. So I don’t know if that plan is still workable, but it’s a thought. If you choose the kitchen and want to knock out that wall but not do the living room, we have the supplies and knowledge to finish the living room ourselves (but feel free to roll them into one, we won’t stop you). Feel free to take down that wall!
The kitchen + living room is 23’3”x approx 23’7.”
#2 – The Master Bathroom – We’d love to steal the closet space back and create a water closet so the toilet isn’t the focal point of the room. In fact, we really want to move the toilet so the bathroom is more functional, pull out the tub and replace it with a beautiful tile shower, and put in two sinks since the only thing we really do with the counter space is pile things on it. We also need more storage space, especially a linen closet where we can put towels and possibly our sheets and a space for a dirty clothes hamper.
Our ideal Master Bathroom has heated tile floors and a timer on the fan. We would love to have the towel bars situated so no one’s towel is resting on the top of the toilet, and if the towel bars were heated, I would cry (good crying, the joyful kind).
We have talked about putting in some windows so it doesn’t feel so closed in and we can open them to air the room out on nice day. Opening the ceiling up to take up some of the attic and give it a peaked ceiling, possibly with a skylight would be amazing. We also talked about a solar water heater system for the roof.
We have considered putting in concrete counter tops (we bought a book to learn to do it ourselves), but we aren’t married to that idea.
Again, we would love something eco-friendly, but comfortable.
#3 – The Deck – We want to tear it down and start from scratch, most likely. We have a grand plan for a fabulous screened porch/deck/patio that we would love to enact. It would expand the tiny 1280 sq ft living space and give us a place to sit and eat (since there’s no space in the kitchen) and enjoy the outdoors with our cats & dog who love to watch the birds and squirrels.
We want double French doors opening into the screened area and would love to be able to extend tables from the porch back into the house so we could host our families and friends. Inside the screened area we want a porch swing and a table and chairs (which can be small since it’s just us most of the time), plus some storage space. We would love if the screened area could be converted to an all season space so that we have a place to put our potted plants during the winter, and we could continue to eat out there since there really is no space in our house to set a table.
Around the screened porch, we want a deck with covered areas for the grill and smoker. The smoker needs to be away from the house to avoid discoloring (and possibly melting) the siding. They could be next to each other, but that’s not necessary. The design we have recently talked about had them separate. We want stairs leading down from the deck to our garden. We would also love to have a door and stairs up next to the house from the screened area, as we would like to put a patio and possibly a small greenhouse along the back of the lower level next to our grape arbor.
Around the deck, we would love to have planters for herbs. We also want to be sure to leave room for our rain barrels. I’m in the process of replacing our grass with edible, low-growing herbs, so you really can’t encroach too far into the yard.
11. Do you have a good relationship with your neighbors?
Yes. They think we’re a bit odd (what with replacing our big Bradford Pear with fruit trees, planting herbs and other edibles everywhere, and the fact that we aren’t as into grass as they are), but we share our veggies, work from home & keep an eye on the neighborhood while they’re gone and lend out tools and a hand. We’ve also made some grand improvements to our front yard and are no longer the scourge of the neighborhood with the big pile of mulch in the driveway. So all in all, they think we’re pretty cool, just weird.
12. Tell us about you; what are your hobbies and interests? What about your spouse/partner?
I’m a photographer/artist who plays the piano (at an intermediate level, don’t let me convince you I went to Julliard or anything). I love to garden with native plants, companion planting, and organic techniques. My style is a blend of funky bohemian and uber-modern. I’m very hands on & DIY, but sometimes I get a bit overly excited and bite off enough that Nathan has to come rescue me. Luckily, he always does. In terms of the house renovations, I’m the optimist who wants to do it all and do it now!
Nathan is also an artist. He does his own thing with the graphics & editing (although I help), but he also works with me on photography projects and together we have made a short zombie film (still in post production). Nathan’s style leans more toward the modern with clean lines and bold colors. He’s also a big DIY-er and likes to build things and do it right. He’s much more thoughtful about the project before getting started, but sometimes I’m the one who sees that little detail that’s going to bite us if we do it in the wrong order. He’s also very handy with tools. Nathan is actually the one who got me into gardening (I don’t know if he knew what he had started). He’s also the one that keeps our house from looking too funky (and the neighbors still liking us visually). He’s very picky on some things (his office, for example. He would never let America design his office space. He won’t even let me design his office space.) and pretty laid back in others. He’s the realist who keeps me grounded and our to do list from reaching full novel status.
13. Why should we choose YOU for Run My Renovation?
Because we’re just cute as buttons and look great on camera! We’re a great team and really play off each other. Sometimes I’m the zany one and Nathan’s my straight man, but then he hits you with something right out of left field. We are pretty energetic (well, I’m really energetic), and we have non-regional accents (no one believes I’m from Georgia), so if you want us to be from “far far away,” we can live up to the charade.
Our house is a blank slate. The demo part would be a snap (I’m a whiz with a crowbar). We have lots of renovating left to go, so no priceless Ming vases to worry about breaking, just watch out for that baby grand piano. The way we’ve planned our renovation is to finish rooms from the outside edges toward the middle. While we’ve discussed our ideas about renovating our house, nothing is ever set in stone until we actually finish the room. That could be why we’ve been here for four years and only finished 2.5 rooms. We are open to all kinds of ideas and being creatives, we love bold, bright colors and interesting design. Did we mention you can knock down a wall? We’re pretty sure it isn’t load bearing.
Access is super easy; our street has little to no traffic and plenty of on street parking. The driveway is flat with room to work and our garage will soon be cleared out (we’re finishing Nathan’s office next week so no more wood on saw horses). Our neighbors would think it’s just more of our usual.
We are super excited about the idea of someone coming in and making our space amazing. We’re really open to the possibilities (we bought our house because of the possibilities, not what it looked like when we signed the mortgage), and think it would be a fantastic experience.
So I don’t know why they didn’t pick us. The producer came by to film the space & us, so perhaps we just we’re as cute as the buttons they were expecting. The Master Bath is super tiny (hard to fit a work crew AND a film crew. No, make that impossible) & they don’t do a lot of outside jobs, so their choices were limited. The rest of the house is a disaster, so perhaps they wanted a room in a more finished space. It’s policy not to tell us. So I’m thinking of reapplying with our Master Bedroom, Livingroom & Garage. Life has been crazy busy lately, but after that, I’m out of rooms, so it’s worth a shot!