Renovation of a home and lives |

Renovation of a home and lives

Erin Miller
Special to The Union

Set on a busy street, this house, originally built in approximately 1880, was hiding behind evergreen trees which were way too large for the narrow strip between the sidewalk and the structure. The house had several poor additions and was divided up for multi-family living. And it had been neglected for years. But its proximity to town and other impressive features showed potential. So it was purchased with the intention of performing a renovation.

Those who purchased it were enduring some of life's great challenges including health issues and the need for lifestyle changes, and new paths. It was a difficult time and yet they had faith that the project would be healthy for them.

Restoring the home themselves would be financially viable, and the process could enhance skills and consequently, provide more options in the future. At the very least, the demands of the job would certainly provide respite and distraction from the life challenges that surrounded them.

I worked with them to re-design the structure and all of its interiors, and I drafted the construction plans. The needs were straight-forward and included:

• Restore it to a single family residence with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths.

• Create an open concept living, dining and kitchen area.

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• Utilize the existing footprint (without large additions).

• Maintain existing exterior walls and roof, and keep the 10 to 11 foot ceiling heights which were a beautiful interior feature of the home.

Now that the work is done, the exterior of the new home looks fresh and clean, but familiar. Because we intentionally preserved the beauty of the old house, rooflines plus the shape and size are pretty much the same. But its familiar exterior belies the extent of the work that was actually completed by the family. Acting as owner-builder, Jason McClelland was able to lead his family and occasional sub-contractors through a massive renovation of the structure, the property, and all of their lives.

First, trees between the house and street were removed. Then, Jason began stripping interior wall surfaces, removing non-load bearing walls, and exposing the structure. And unfortunately, it was a bit shocking. The home had been added to and altered many times and the framing didn't properly support the roofs. Ceilings and roof structures were at many different levels and were not stable. The structure would be more challenging to fix than to just replace. Ultimately, there was very little to save so the majority of the structure was demolished.

While this seems like a terribly wasteful, time-consuming and costly change in the construction course, every builder I have ever worked with assures me that it is more economical to remove and replace rather than try to re-work an old, failing structure. And in this case, the re-built walls, ceilings and roofs are more structurally sound, straight, plumb and were easier to finish off than older structure would have been. So it ultimately saved time and headache. And as a side note, current California Building Code requires that much of the building materials removed from a structure go to recycle and re-use purposes. So environmentally, even large demolitions are not as wasteful as one might think.

Now that it is complete, this home has a beautiful covered front porch which replaced a couple less functional entry points.

And gardening is the passion of the owners so the entire property is on its way to beautiful.

They had the landscape designed by Elizabeth Poston, Outdoor Living Landscape Design in Grass Valley. The existing property included an old well in the front yard and several granite boulder garden walls. The beautiful and functional new design celebrates the old well (as a decorative feature) and more boulders have been added throughout.

The owners are extremely grateful to Clyde Beck who's labor and artistry with boulder placement created the paths, garden terrace walls and hardscape that makes the yards useable and beautiful. Bit by bit, all of the property is being planted out with gorgeous trees, shrubs and flowers. There is a large rear deck overlooking a beautiful rear yard. And the deck is accessible from the living room and master suite and includes BBQ, dining and lounging areas.

This house was in desperate need of restoration and rejuvenation, as were those who purchased it. While it is not for everyone, the owner-builder remodel process was an excellent experience for this family. I can't wait to show you around inside – where the real "WOW" is.

Inside, we worked as a team to create a perfect family floorplan. And Jason's true artistry and craftsmanship is revealed in every detail. His skills were combined with labor, shopping and design choices of the family to create a warm, comforting and very personal home. And because the family worked together, emotions and hearts were transformed in the process. Now the residents feel peace and enthusiasm as bright as the as their home! Join me next time…

Erin Miller is the owner of Erin Miller Designs in Grass Valley. They offer complete design and plan drafting services, and interior design and décor for remodels, additions, kitchens, baths and custom homes. Erin can be reached at (530) 477-1401, or at

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