Defining Greatness

With the Olympics on, and us living in the lower mainland, I’ve been struck by how we all have special skills and abilities. Mine is writing, but I also have a flair for seeing what needs to be done to make a house beautiful (I like to think so anyway!). In the last few weeks I’ve had several people ask me how The Renovator and I choose the next house (aka: project) we’ll live in.

We didn’t plan for our process to evolve the way it has. Certainly, neither of us established who would do what when we’re looking at a house, it just came about as a natural part of our relationship. When we bought our current house, “The Mother of Ugly”, it was after looking at a lot of other houses. I’m pretty sure our realtor was exhausted by the time we signed the final offer.

Driving up to a potential house, I already have a partial feeling of whether the property can work for us or not. While we aren’t swayed by ugly furniture, bad paint colours, crappy design choices or a lack of curb appeal (in fact a crappy appearance is generally better for us renovators. You’ve seen the ‘sell this house’ type shows and know that few people can see anything but what’s in front of them), there has to be the ability to create curb appeal and a beautiful, functional, inviting house. My eyes don’t necessarily see what is in front of me – they see what could be done. At that point, I start to talk.

Here’s what I saw as we walked around, outside, the Mother of Ugly. What do you see? I see a bumped-out living room window to create a box window seat, a completely re-worked foyer / entrance and an extension to the master bedroom over the garage.

Outside view from the yard at the creek

If a house is a possibility, I feel it. I know in some part of me it can work. To get to that feeling, The Renovator and I need to look at the full picture: curb appeal, the lot, the exterior and the interior. When a house is wrong, I generally say very little, or comment on the insignificant points. The Renovator knows immediately whether I’ve got ‘that feeling’ or not, based on how much I talk.

The day we viewed this house, I started talking as soon as we turned into the driveway. I had seen the potential with the lot, all I needed was to know we could work with the house.  Although The Renovator says you can change anything with enough time and money, there are limits! We respect these limits when doing a walk through.

The master bedroom will come out 8 feet

This is such an ugly entrance! Imagine exterior stairs, a small porch and a double door at the upper level

Imagine that window being replaced with a well-patio, french doors and stairs up to the yard

A few steps inside, I began seeing a vision for the house and started my role in the process by asking The Renovator if my visions were possible. “If we deleted this wall…”, “I’d like to open this up”, “can we add on over here?”. Together, while I think about improvements and The Renovator assesses the possible, we walk through a house with a constant dialogue, building a plan.

This leaves guests wondering “where do I go?”

For this tiny split entry, I see gutting the entire mess and creating an extension to the space, putting the entry on the upper level and the stairs on the outside, like a brownstone.

As it stands, we’re still contemplating the changes we discussed when we bought the house. Some ideas have since been questioned by The Renovator, but we’ll work through those by establishing whether the cost and pain of the work will be worth it at the time of resale.

With the kitchen plan complete and the family room under construction, now is the time for me to draw basic plans for all the other spaces so that we have a game plan. We look at design and home magazines together, make drawings, discuss concepts and go to home shows to do this. If we don’t, I could come home to some big surprises! And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.


Ronda Payne

A writer since she first held a pen, Ronda Payne – aka: the Girl with a Pen, is passionate about words. In 2007, she kissed ‘real jobs’ goodbye and began her true career as a copywriter, non-fiction freelance writer (magazines and other periodicals) and creative writer.

Leave a Comment