Do you remember TLC’s show While You Were Out? It was on in the early 2000s along with Trading Spaces. I loved it. The premise behind the series was a friend or family member would orchestrate a surprise renovation of an entire room while the unsuspecting individual was out of town for around 32 hours. Then the TV show would record the individual’s reaction to the renovation. Most of the time the response was positive but ever so often you would see a surprise go terribly wrong and result in upset tears and/or bleeped words.
For me, While You Were Out not only provided an hour of entertainment each week, it also changed the way I approached most home improvement projects. You see, when Rory and I were first married he had an opinion about how we should decorate our house. He weighed in on every piece of furniture and decorative knick knack I brought home. Most of the time we agreed, but he wasn’t afraid to nix a proposed project idea if he didn’t like it or if he didn’t think it would “add value to the house.” It was during the first season of While You Were Out that a lightbulb went off- “Instead of asking Rory I should just “surprise” Rory!” Genius! He gets a fun surprise and I get to make all the design decisions! Win Win!!! So over the last 15 or so years, Rory has come home from many a business trip or guy getaway to painted rooms, distressed cabinets, repurposed furniture, chalkboard walls, and the like. This strategy has worked brilliantly. Thru the surprises, Rory has learned that #1 most of the time my projects really do work out, therefore, he rarely doubts my ideas anymore and #2 he really enjoys the surprise because it means he gets out of DOING the project. For me, this approach to home decor has taught me that I LOVE a good reveal. And, for the record, thus far, none of my “While You Were Out” projects have resulted in upset tears or bleeped words….yet.
So with years of practice under my belt, I decided to tackle the biggest “While You Were Out” project of my life last year while Rory went on a mission Trip to Belize. The target was our Master Bathroom. Our bathroom had been in need of some work since the day we moved in. Rory had wanted to paint the bathroom from the beginning but I always put it off because I was afraid if we invested the money just to band-aid the job with paint we might never feel the need to fully renovate later- after all, who sees the master bath except us?!? So she sat with lime green walls, single sink vanity, fiberglass shower, gunked up jetted tub and builder grade lighting, tile, and faucets for 7 years.
Despite her ugliness, I knew there was no way Rory would willingly agree to do a full bathroom renovation after living thru our kitchen remodel, especially since the ugly bathroom truly functioned fine (except for the pocket door that refused to stay on its track). Therefore, I realized the only way our master bath was ever going to live up to its full potential was if I took matters into my own hands and Rory stayed far far away from the chaos of the renovation. So, when Rory announced he was going on the 2016 construction mission trip with our church I knew this was my opportunity to make it happen. The idea for this While You Were Out project actually came to me while Rory was on his first construction mission trip in 2014, therefore I had been $aving up for the past 2 years. Luckily he gave me a 5-month heads-up before he left because I used the first month to gather up my courage to actually commit to the project and the next four months to coordinate the materials and construction plan. I snuck subcontractors into our home to discuss their role and precise timing in the plan in the weeks leading up to the renovation when I felt confident Rory wouldn’t be coming home, but I had a ready excuse why each man might be in our home just in case Rory did come home unannounced- it was all so scandalous. I had my tub shipped to my brother’s house and had to make sure my cabinetry was built and ready to go prior to the trip because my cabinet maker was also going on the mission trip. All the other material I was able to hide in plain sight because we were in the middle of our Irby flip at the time and I knew Rory would just think all the stuff was for that project.
In the days leading up to Rory’s departure, I started getting cold feet. All my subs thought I was crazy to attempt a complete bathroom renovation in 1 week and weren’t afraid to let me know it; and despite the fact I had saved up for the last 2 years, I started worrying about how Rory might react to me making such a huge financial decision without him. So I decided to see if I could gauge Rory’s reaction by asking him to tell me what he would most like to see changed in our house. Um Wow! I was not prepared for his answer. Apparently, there was ALOT he was not happy with at our house because he spouted off a list with no hesitation. Luckily, the green walls in the bathroom did make the list but a lot of things I had never even thought of also made his list like:
– he hated that all of the electrical switches and plugs did not match
– he despised the gold door knobs throughout the house
– he would love down lights on the exterior eaves and wished our flood lights worked by the garage and back porch
– it would be nice if our family portrait that had been sitting in our hall closet for the past year could get framed and hung- and how come we don’t have any other family photos around the house?
– Our mudroom tile was stained and nasty and would be awesome to replace.
By the time we finished our house tour of disappointments I was in a total panic that I was about to spend all this money on things that were not even on his list of important things. Sooooo instead of calling off the renovation, I decided the only way I could ensure a happy reveal was if I tried to knock off a few things he mentioned on HIS list in ADDITION to the master bath reveal. And thus the projected project grew.
Then on February 20th, at 3:30 in the morning, the craziest week of my life began….
Colby, our resident videographer, filmed the process so we could show Rory when he got home. This reno took place before I started blogging/Facebooking about our rehomes/storybook homes; therefore I wasn’t planning on anyone but Rory watching. If I had known, I would have tried to look a little more cute or at least a little less scary. But I’m going to swallow my pride and let you peek because Colby worked so hard filming and editing the 50 min video down to 12 minutes, Cohen was adorable, and Rory’s reaction…. well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. The lighting is pretty bad in parts so I’ll include pictures of the “after” projects after the video.
You know it’s a good surprise when your husband forgets to ask you how much you spent until the next day.
Here are some close-ups of most of the projects we tackled that week:
Downlights from the eaves:
New Exterior Door Lights
Went from a single dated chandelier to double pendants in Dining Room:
Swing-arm sconces over the coffee bar:
Also switched out all the light switches and plug-ins. And upgraded several builder grade hall lights and the flood lights by garage and back patio.
Re-tiled the Mudroom Floor:
Replaced all the gold doorknobs throughout the house to satin nickel.
Framed the boys’ picture over the fireplace:
Dad made and I finished the picture shelf for the upstairs hall and for the first time in 7 years we had family pics on display:
Finished decorating Living Room with GIANT Romans 12 project:
And I painted an old round kitchen table Dad cut down to coffee table size:
In the boys’ bathroom, Dad came down and built the tub room window seat and shelf:
And I concreted the vanity tops:
Along with new lighting, faucets, and paint.
And then finally the room that started it all….. The Master Bathroom:
Oh man! What a week! It was not healthy folks. I know I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t tell you if I ate, and my kids pretty much raised themselves that week. You know it is utter chaos when your school age boys are excited about going to school just to get away from your house. I have no right to complain, I subjected myself to this insanity, but who I really need to thank are the men that I roped into this craziness who did whatever it took not to be the reason this 1-week renovation failed:
Darin the Plumber- he was on site the second the old tub and shower were ripped out to stub in for the new and was back at the end of the week to make sure we were fully functional
Marcos my tile guy- did all the big demo and re-tiled not only the floors but built and tiled the new shower.
Mark Ladd and his cabinet shop- built the vanities and cabinet
James Barr’s crew hung the new sheetrock
Nicolas and his crew painted everything we touched
Hall Electric did all the electric work
Rex helped me with some carpentry projects.
Dad built the window seat and shelf in the boys’ bathroom, the picture ledges in the hall, cut down the coffee table and helped me with the wood walls in the master bathroom.
Mom kept my boys fed, on time to school, and alive in the 3 days they were down.
Cohen replaced all the doorknobs
Colby was diligent to take video every morning and night
So there you have it! That was the last of our BIG renovations on Sister. It has been so fun reliving these renovations with you during the past couple of weeks as we have been preparing to put Sister on the market. There have been a lot of great memories in this house and it’s a little (ok a lot) sad to think about saying goodbye. But the fate of Caldwell and Storybook homes rests on us selling Sister so as soon as I hit “publish” on this post I will be placing a sign in the yard and working on our Zillow listing. I would sooooo appreciate a like and share from our FB friends when you see the listing go live. And thank you in advance!
After this week I promise to return the blog back to the Caldwell story. I’ve got a lot to catch you up on over there!