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Style: Other Styles

Built in: 1940-1949


This 900 S. Duplex renovation included the dining room, fireplace, master suite, attic addition, front porch, garage addition, home exterior, and a second story addition.
Location: Harvard/Yale, Salt Lake City, Utah
Originally Built in: 1940

Donna and Martin had been raising their large family in a rundown, 1940s duplex for nearly ten years. They had knocked themselves out trying to work with an extremely inconvenient living situation: they spent years trying to improve their home on their own, knocking out the interior walls that had separated the duplex, painting rooms, and even moving a staircase.

But with Martin holding down a full-time job and Donna's hands full with their eight young children, their progress was slow. And without a master plan of where they were going with their home, they were working piecemeal. As soon as one project was completed, they'd realize it would have to be torn out in order to make another idea they had work. "For years we tried to do it on our own because we thought we couldn't afford to hire someone to help us," says Martin. "But we were wasting a lot of time and money."

They did their best to adapt to living in a constant construction zone and to work their lives around the home's other downsides: no master bedroom, a small "master" bathroom used by the entire family, one cramped family room in a corner of the mostly unfinished basement, a steeply downward-sloped driveway that was especially dangerous in the winter, an unattractive exterior.

Donna rarely invited friends or family over because she was embarrassed by their home's appearance. On one occasion, she did try throwing a "wacky" birthday party for her eight-year-old son. For a party game, she placed objects in wacky places throughout the house-toys taped to the wall, shoes hanging from the ceiling, etc.-then told her son's friends to go through the house and see if they could identify the "wacky" items. Donna was devastated when the boys identified none of the objects she had placed in odd places, but instead pointed out all the problems with her house. "There's a staircase missing-that's wacky! There are wacky pipes hanging out of the ceiling! I see wacky wires running along the wall!" According to Donna, "I was trying to laugh, but inside I was crying."

It was a chance meeting with Renovation Design's Annie Vernon at a social gathering that finally changed their lives. After learning that Annie was an architect, Donna asked her for advice. "Annie was so enthusiastic," Donna remembers. "She said she'd love to come help us and draw up some plans."

Shortly thereafter, as Donna walked Annie through the maze of her home, "I could just see in Annie's eyes that she immediately had ideas and that she knew they could do this."

Renovation Design worked closely with them to determine the family's unique needs and budget, using innovative ideas to turn their house into exactly the home they needed at a price they could afford. "Throughout the construction process, they continued to keep in great contact with us and our contractor," says Martin, "addressing any questions or snags that came up."

Because of the detailed, well-thought-out plan that Renovation Design provided their contractor, the remodel of the home, which included a major exterior facelift, was completed in only four months.

The family of 10, who had been living in the basement during the remodel, was out of town when the construction was complete. After living in a construction zone for nearly a decade, Donna was dying to get back into town and move into her new home. But because Martin would return home a few days after the rest of the family, Donna would have to continue to stay in the basement until Martin could help her move the furniture in.

"When Renovation Design learned this, on the day I got home they surprised me by moving my bed from storage into the master bedroom so I could sleep in my new home the first night I returned," says Donna. "That's the kind of personal touch they give."

The beautiful and functional architecture in which the family now lives has literally changed their lives. They now have a great room on the main floor in which they can all gather. The formerly dangerous driveway now slopes upward and is easy to maneuver. The children, who used to play with their friends away from home, now bring their friends home to play. Donna, who was too embarrassed to invite people into her home, now loves hosting parties and large family gatherings. Martin, who worked so hard trying to remodel the house on his own, now comes home from work and enjoys free time to enjoy his family and his hobbies. Neighbors daily tell them that they can't get over how beautiful the former eyesore on their block now looks.

"Our only regret," says Donna, "is that we didn't do this years ago. Because Renovation Design was so innovative in giving us what we wanted while working within our budget, it turns out that we could afford our dream. If they can do what they did with our home, they can help anyone!"