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Renovating: if, when, and how DIY you keep it

Some friends of mine are going to be collapsing their garage soon; that'll be the first stage in a major renovation on the house they've lived in for ten years. They have a contractor on board, but much of it will be DIY. They also know that to complete the project, they'll probably have to temporarily move out (like when my family lived in the RV park when we renovated!). Just hearing about it, renovating one's own home seems like a giant commitment--maybe not the Oregon Trail, but perhaps more like donning a paper gown and letting the anesthesiologist give you whatever it takes to get you through surgery.

The Home & Garden section of the NY Times had an interesting profile this week of a Chelsea couple who did a gut renovation for $12,000.

Perhaps just as impressive, Mr. Robohm (who was not sharing the apartment with Ms. Doucette during the renovation) lived in the space for the year and a half it took to do the work — a cost-saving move that required him to vacuum the bed before he could go to sleep. Especially after he demolished the nonworking brick fireplace, which resulted in what he calls a waterfall of soot and ash. Getting rid of the bricks was another problem.

"Ever see "˜Papillon,' where they break out of prison?" Mr. Robohm said. "Or maybe it was "˜The Shawshank Redemption'? They cut holes in their pockets and they dribble gravel, a little bit at a time. It was kind of like that. I paid to get the bulk of it taken out, but there was a tree on the street that didn't have a flower bed. Now it has a nice brick wall where somebody put one in."

I'm always shocked to hear about single room renovation costs--the above article quotes Manhattan kitchen renovations going for about $30k. Even in other parts of the country, relatively financially solvent people can't renovate their kitchens. I know a woman in my area who has a picture of a newly remodeled kitchen on her dream board! There's a stigma--definitely in LA--that women are obsessed with their bodies and employing strange serums and tonics in the name of upkeep, but more and more I'm meeting homeowners who would much, much rather have a new kitchen. Or at least tilework.

My leasing lifestyle disqualifies me from any firsthand input, but I'd be interested to hear any renovating success stories/nightmares you have...

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architecture
After Four Months, a Frank Lloyd Wright House in Glencoe, Illinois Goes Back on the Market

Most architecture nerds would be thrilled to live in an original Frank Lloyd Wright house, and occasionally, they get their chance—as long as they’re willing to pay a few million dollars. As of late 2017, there were Frank Lloyd Wright homes for sale in New York, Minnesota, Ohio, Connecticut, and elsewhere for $1 million dollars or more (in some cases, way more). Sometimes, you can find a deal, though, like the $445,000 Usonian home that went on the market in Michigan in 2016.

Sadly, as Curbed reports, a newly for-sale Wright house in Glencoe, Illinois is not such a deal anymore. Only three months after its $752,000 sale, the 1914 Kier House in suburban Chicago has been renovated and is back on the market for $837,500.

Many Wright homes need a little love after decades of use. For one thing, the architect is somewhat notorious for building leaky roofs. Their small kitchens and shag carpeting are no longer quite so desirable, either.

But for many buyers and architects, restoring a Wright home is a labor of love, one that often takes several years and aims to respect the original designer’s genius while bringing the house up to modern standards. (For some of the historic homes, permanent easements also prohibit most exterior alterations, further limiting what a remodel can involve.)

The Prairie School-style house, though it has Honorary Landmark status, isn’t entirely original to Wright. It has a more modern kitchen, a new family room, and updated bathrooms (with a steam shower!). Previous owner Susan Cowen, who owned the house for a number of years and spent an undisclosed amount on refurbishing it, sold the residence in January to a pair of documentary filmmakers, according to Patch. The sale, which included a significant price drop, only took a few months. They, in turn, made a number of improvements. The owners fixed up the chimneys, boiler, and furnace, added a limestone bar separating the kitchen and dining room, and raised part of the ceiling above the stairs.

Now, four months later, it’s on sale again, and, thanks to the upgrades, a little pricier. The latest sellers may find, though, that not every Wright sale goes as quickly as their purchase. The architect’s homes are highly prized, but also known to be very difficult to sell, sometimes languishing on the market for years before finding a buyer.

[h/t Curbed]

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Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images
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travel
Long-Closed Part of Westminster Abbey to Open to the Public for the First Time in 700 Years
The triforium in 2009
The triforium in 2009
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

On June 11, 2018, visitors to London's Westminster Abbey will get a look at a section of the historic church that has been off-limits for 700 years. That’s when the triforium, located high above the abbey floor, will open to the general public for the first time as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

The 13th-century space, located 70 feet above the nave floor, had previously been used for abbey storage. (One architecture critic who visited before the renovation described it as a “glorified attic.”) After a $32.5 million renovation, it will now become a museum with killer views.

The view from the triforium looking down onto the rest of Westminster Abbey
The view from the triforium looking down toward the ground floor of the abbey
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

To access the area, which looks out over the nave and altar, architects built a new tower, the abbey’s first major addition since 1745. The 80-foot-tall, window-lined structure will provide brand-new vantage points to look out on surrounding areas of Westminster. Inside the triforium, the windows of the galleries look out onto the Houses of Parliament and St. Margaret’s church, and visitors will be able to walk around the upper mezzanine and look down onto the ground floor of the abbey below.

The museum itself will show off objects from Westminster Abbey’s history, such as a 17th-century coronation chair for Mary II and an altarpiece from Henry III’s reign, when the triforium was first constructed. Oh, and it will also display Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage license, for those interested in more modern royal history.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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