Tell It!

A couple shares the unvarnished truth about remodeling the main floor of their home. (Spoiler alert—in the end, it’s all worth it.)

Tell It!

A couple shares the unvarnished truth about remodeling the main floor of their home. (Spoiler alert—in the end, it’s all worth it.)

By Lila Edythe ∙ Photography by Tuck Fauntleroy

Having a two-inch lip on the kitchen counters was more important to Allison Arthur and Brian Upesleja than flooring, so they went with laminate flooring instead of real wood. Allison and Brian often use the island as a workplace. “I [like] the island as my ‘office’ rather than the desk downstairs because it is in a central spot in the house,” Allison says. “And I make us a salad or green bowl for lunch every day that I don’t have a work meeting.”
Allison Arthur, who with her husband, Brian Upesleja, remodeled the main floor of their home on Pine Drive during the fall and winter of 2016-2017, doesn’t mince words when talking about home improvement. “I think people, when they start a remodel, shouldn’t imagine it’s going to be great and easy and fun, and that they can control it,” she says. “This might not be what people want to hear, but it’s the truth, and if you know that going in, maybe you won’t be as frustrated as I was. Know that it’s going to be hard and take longer and cost more than you planned. But, eventually, you will love it.”

Prior to starting this remodel—their second major one; previously they remodeled their home’s basement apartment into a master suite—Allison developed spreadsheets of the project’s expected budget and timeframe. Respectively, these were three years of their savings and three months. “I’m a control freak, and I approached it like I do my job,” says Allison, who is the co-editor and co-publisher of Dishing, a magazine about the valley’s food scene. “I was meticulous.” By the time the two were able to move back into their house, though, both the budget and the timeframe had doubled.

“Know that it’s going to be hard and take longer and cost more than you planned. But, eventually, you will love it.”
[ Allison Arthur, homeowner ]

“The last three months were really, really hard,” Allison says. “It was a very trying time in our lives.” Brian adds, “I know two couples who remodeled and are divorcing now.”

Chatting with Allison and Brian—still happily married—in January, nine months after the remodel was finished, though, it’s evident they love the end result. “It did take us a little while to get over the process before we could fully appreciate the work we did,” Allison says. “But now we’re superpsyched on it.” When asked if they’d do anything different if they could, all the couple came up with was that they might go back and make a second side of the kitchen island overhanging so stools would fit against it.

So, what made it so frustrating and budget-bashing during the six months of work? There was a big window that arrived with its frame bent in half. Last winter had record snowfall. Their Viking appliance package literally fell off the delivery truck. The removal of the old dishwasher revealed that a leak from it had rotted most of the kitchen’s subfloor. And, and, and. “Expect a problem at every step,” says Allison, who’s happy to share what she and Brian learned going through the process. “I think remodeling is inherently hard—you never know what’s behind and under what you’re tearing out—but it doesn’t have to be as hard as I made it. Sharing what we learned is fun … now that it’s all over for us.”

– Allison’s Tips –

1. Utilize professionals. We worked with an architect and a cabinet designer, and also sought out opinions from other industry pros. Think of remodeling as a collaborative process—you don’t know everything—and it will come out better.

2. Plan a budget and a timeline, and then double them. We were on budget with our materials. It was the time and labor for all the things we never could have predicted that killed it.

3. Know when to splurge and when to save. This is individual. I really cared about a big stove and also a two-inch lip on the countertops. But I didn’t care as much about flooring, so we went with laminate.

4. Know your roles and trust each other. Brian deferred to me on purchasing and picking finishes and design details. I deferred to him on getting everything done.

5. Price out everything like materials and appliances online, and then see if local companies will match it. We’re both small-business owners and it was important to us to support other local businesses, but we didn’t have an unlimited budget. Sometimes we could get prices matched locally and sometimes they wouldn’t. But, we gave them the opportunity.

6. As frustrated as you get, know you’ll love it in the end. We spent way more money than we anticipated, but don’t regret any of it.

– Brian’s Tips –

1. Get a dumpster delivered right to your front door. You accumulate so much trash in the demolition and throughout the project. This can save the time of going to the dump all the time.

2. Expect delays.

“I used the space that is under the lip of the island and harder to reach, to build shallow shelves that house my cookbook collection,” Allison says. The window above the kitchen sink and the French doors onto the deck are wide open all summer, except on the hottest days. “These create an indoor-outdoor feeling and double our living area,” Allison says.
Brian doesn’t just do remodels; he also “dabbles in art,” Allison says. He carved and painted the fish hanging near the ladder access to the loft.
“The pantry and pullout cabinet offer an incredible amount of storage space to house the way-too-many spices/oils/vinegars I collect and the larger kitchen gadgets I love having but only use a few times a year,” Allison says. She says she and Brian got the idea of the pullout cabinet by consulting with a cabinetry professional. “If we weren’t open to suggestions, we never would have gotten that, and it’s become indispensible for me.”
Kristin Fay from Trauner Fay Designs helped Allison pick out the fun chandelier above the kitchen island. The pink armchairs predate the remodel. “I got them for us for our seventh (I think) anniversary,” Allison says.
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