Last Spring, I joined the One Room Challenge for the fourth time to finalize the design and details of my Principal Suite (Bedroom and Bathroom).
In retrospect, it was a terrible idea. Even the extended timeline – eight weeks – wouldn’t have allowed for the completion of that space. After all, we weren’t just working on one room. We were rebuilding our entire house.
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So with a year of perspective (and a lot of embarrassment), I’m here to concede. I couldn’t do it the first time but I know we can get it done this time! I have a plan! But first, here’s where I abruptly left you …
HOW WE GOT HERE
That’s the very last photo I showed you of this space. It’s a view from inside the doorway of the bathroom, looking into the bedroom. They’d just finished drywall and we were working out the trim design details. That was Week Five of the ORC. I gave up on even trying a sixth, seventh, or eighth week. The process sped up really fast then screeched to a halt. Poor decisions were made. I got overwhelmed, emotionally. Just a few months of rebuilding a home after a disaster took its toll on me. I shut down.
If you want to see all the progress we’ve made (and Before + After pictures) on our 1920s Bungalow rebuild after the tornado, you can click here for a full run-down of every project I’ve shown. For the sake of getting everyone caught up, here’s the gist of how this bedroom came to be:
When we bought this historic home in July 2019, this was the entirety of the upstairs. Technically a half story, the ceilings upstairs were only six feet high. Because the space was only about 600 square feet and the ceilings were so low, we initially decided to make the entire upstairs area (really just a bedroom and a landing) our daughter’s space.
We painted the walls a pale pink, painted the floors a striped pattern, made over her baby dresser, updated those 1980s gold can lights, and added colorful pops of ROYGBIV to accommodate our then-4 year old daughter’s taste and we cozied into the only other bedroom in the house, downstairs:
Unfortunately, the only photo I have of this room comes from a low quality Instagram story I’d posted in December 2019 because in March 2020, this happened:
When a tornado ripped through our neighborhood in Nashville, we were among the lucky ones. We were saved the trauma of living through the event because we were out of town. When we got back home, our house was still standing, unlike so many of the homes around us. You can read more about the devastation on our community here.
The trees in the image above, from the real estate listing, came down on the house. Additionally, the old coal chimney (12 feet tall) fell onto the roof and created a six foot-wide hole. Since tornados usually accompany rain, our bedroom (where you see the window on the right side of the house) had flooded and was determined to be a total loss.
Once everything was cleared off the house, it was pretty clear we’d need to *at the very least* rebuild the entire roof structure of the house. That would mean gutting the entire upstairs and half the downstairs in order to replace all that was damaged.
As you can see in the above photo, the entire back of the house was unfinished attic space upstairs. We’d always talked about creating a dormer that would raise the height of that area and allow for a third bedroom and second bathroom upstairs. Since we knew we’d already have the crew onsite and would be purchasing all new materials to rebuild the roof anyway, it felt wasteful to put off the dormer plans any longer. If we waited to add the dormer until we were ready, in five years or so, we’d be demolishing and throwing away perfectly good – and nearly brand new – materials.
My suspicions that it would be easier, more ecologically sound, and more cost-effective to add the dormer at this stage were confirmed by a representative from our local historic review board a few days later. Our home lays within historic guidelines so any exterior changes to the structure must be approved by the commission before we can begin building.
The historic commission agreed that as long as we kept the same foundational footprint of the home, we would be able to add an additional two feet of height to the roof ridge (the tallest part of the roof’s structure) and extend the dormer out the back of the house as far as two feet off the original roofline.
Within two weeks, I was turning in our new house plans for approval by our Historic Zoning Commission and local Building Codes Departments and had secured a general contractor to oversee the entire project.
The image above is the first draft of the new floor plan for the upstairs, starting at where the existing finished space ended. Using the ridge raise and dormer method, we were able to squeeze in a small bedroom, a big bathroom, a new hallway, and an office for Christine in just 600 square feet!
Everything you see outlined above had previously been unfinished attic space.
In the image above, you can see how impactful adding that additional two feet to the height of the roof really was for this home. Inside, this allowed us to vault the ceilings to take advantage of all that new height and allow for better flow of light through the home.
From this view, you can see the original roofline ends where the dark brown wood ends on the exterior wall. All the lighter lumber shows how the new dormer addition gave us additional living space with an increased ceiling height.
The difference between the floor color shows where walls were previously in place, separating the bedroom from the staircase landing. Here’s the original view of that landing before the tornado:
And, for reference, the new look of that landing with additional square footage and ceiling height added during the rebuild:
The original staircase and railing was not moved so you can reference the differences in ceiling height and overall space available between each image. Directly behind that black wall is Christine’s office. The hallway leads to the bedroom and bathroom we added.
There’s our daughter modeling this new portion of the house. Just beyond that door is the new Principal Suite that includes our bedroom, bathroom, and a closet.
This is the space we’re going to be finishing for the Spring 2021 One Room Challenge.
For more explanation on what the One Room Challenge is and how to join (there’s still time!), you can read this blog post from back in 2018 in which I answered some FAQs from followers on Instagram.
To see all the spaces that are going to be transformed during this event, head over to the ORC Blog for a list with images and links to each space.
WHAT TO EXPECT OVER THE NEXT 8 WEEKS
This is the sixth time I’ve entered a space into the One Room Challenge.
So far, only one of those spaces has remained incomplete by the end of that season’s challenge. That’s right. This room.
For a full list of each space I’ve completed with before + after photos, click here.
For the past 4 years, I’ve gotten the One Room Challenge process down to an art form. Each week, I’ll be diving into a new topic to show you how you can use these concepts and ideas in your own spaces. There will be a lot of little peeks into the space but you won’t see the whole project come together until the final reveal on Week Eight.
Like every ORC before this one, you can anticipate a lot of custom furniture ideas:
click the project description to see the tutorial post
Some fun with paint, wallpaper, and decorative moulding:
Lots of easy DIY tutorials to teach and encourage you:
Little vignettes to inspire you:
And lots of opportunities for me to take photos of myself looking far too pleased with myself:
The One Room Challenge is the most fun I have at work every year. I get to come together with fellow designers and home professionals who understand how frustrating and embarrassing it is to work in the business and somehow still have an unfinished home. I get to commiserate over foam shortages and brainstorm solutions with friends who live thousands of miles away.
That fun shows through in our work. So please go check out the other designers and give the ones who inspire you a follow. Once again, you can see the full list of participating designers here.
I’ll be back next week with more photo updates on the space and a gameplan for how we’re going to finish this suite in six short weeks! Until then, stay safe and sane.
DECORATING ON A BUDGET ISN’T ALWAYS EASY BUT I’M HERE TO HELP.
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