Gather ideas and count the cost like a pro us­ing Chris­tine’s in­sights.

Cottages & Bungalows - - Contents - BY JO­LENE NOLTE

See how to gather ideas and count costs like a pro in this sec­ond in our six-part se­ries on a young fam­ily’s ren­o­va­tion of a 100-year-old aban­doned farm­house in western Michi­gan.

In Part 1, we introduced you to the Bridgers and their 100-year-old fixer-up­per farm­house in a charm­ing neigh­bor­hood of western Michi­gan. Over the next year, with the ex­pe­ri­ence of sev­eral pre­vi­ous ren­o­va­tions the fam­ily has un­der­taken, Chris­tine Bridger will take us be­hind the scenes to ex­plain what goes into the trans­for­ma­tion you’ll see un­fold be­fore your eyes.

In this is­sue, Chris­tine guides us through the plan­ning stage and how they ap­proach it for the best re­sults.

If you’re in­spired by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of a his­toric home,

or any fixer-up­per, once you have the keys, what comes next? Ren­o­vat­ing is a process, but the Bridgers have got it down.


Once you’ve found your fixer-up­per, it’s time to imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties. To do this, es­pe­cially with a his­toric home like the Bridger’s, Chris­tine be­gins by look­ing back and ask­ing, “What can I learn from the past?”

“When we get into the de­sign, the first thing we start with is just try­ing to get in the right mindset for the home we’ve ac­quired,” Chris­tine says. “We try to talk to lo­cal peo­ple. We go and re­search the de­signer who built the home. We try to meet peo­ple who have lived in the home if they’re still in the area. Re­search that style and era of home on­line. You’d be sur­prised—you might be able to find ar­ti­cles on a par­tic­u­lar home.”

This works well to get a feel for the area’s roots and see what other peo­ple have done. Re­search archives and see what you can un­earth about your home and other homes built around the same time. This gives you a ref­er­ence point for what is authentic to the orig­i­nal home.


“Then we move on to ‘How do we want to use the home?’ We are the type of peo­ple who learn from our mis­takes and learn from our happy ac­ci­dents,” Chris­tine says. “We cre­ated a me­dia room in our other home in Hol­land, Michi­gan, that had big wide doors that opened up for the room to flow into an­other liv­ing area, but we could also close off the room if peo­ple want to watch TV and not dis­turb the rest of the group that might want to sit and have a con­ver­sa­tion. And it also con­verts into a bed­room. We repli­cated that con­cept here at our farm­house.”

From there, Chris­tine says, “We start tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from any­where. We could be in a restau­rant and see that we love the in­dus­trial look of a work­ing kitchen. ”Whether it’s on­line re­sources like Pin­ter­est or Houzz, mag­a­zines or a restau­rant, Chris­tine and Gabe gather their all in­spi­ra­tions to­gether in one place.

“With­out judg­ment, we pull what­ever ap­peals to us. Then we start to break it down,” Chris­tine ex­plains, by notic­ing com­mon themes.

“We call it ‘de­sign heat map­ping.’ It al­lows our in­stincts and in­tu­ition to guide our de­sign process. If you al­low your­self to freely col­lect de­sign in­spi­ra­tion, then it’s eas­ier to find those things and whit­tle down what you are most drawn to.”


Once you’ve dreamed up pos­si­bil­i­ties and nar­rowed down your vi­sion, “bud­get al­ways comes into play.” It’s all about pri­or­i­ties, so Chris­tine and Gabe ask, “What is it that we ab­so­lutely have to have? We never want to end up with a box with­out char­ac­ter,” Chris­tine says.

For this farm­house, Chris­tine and Gabe agreed that “it’s an ab­so­lute must to keep the orig­i­nal home struc­ture, even though it would have been cheaper to tear it down. We wanted that be­cause we thought we would be pre­serv­ing the heart of the home, which is the fam­ily room. With­out it, it would have no heart.”

Some­times it comes down to a cost sav­ings. “We wanted all our doors to have charm and feel pe­riod cor­rect, but we didn’t want to go over bud­get pay­ing for high-qual­ity repli­cas. So we went on a sal­vage-shop hunt to find a set of 10 match­ing doors from an­other 100-year-old house, cost­ing only $300 to­tal. “An­other high pri­or­ity for the Bridgers and their farm­house is the ex­posed rafters in the main liv­ing room and sun­room.

Chris­tine and Gabe al­ways share their plan and walk through the home with their con­trac­tor, Jon Faris, owner of Par­a­digm Restora­tion. “It helps us to walk the space … we start look­ing at things from a 360-de­gree view,” and Jon’s per­spec­tive in­tro­duces new ideas or struc­tural con­cerns. With the de­ci­sion about the ex­posed rafters, Jon im­me­di­ately pointed out that this would cost an ex­tra $4,000 to in­su­late. That’s what Chris­tine calls a “gut-check mo­ment,” where you re­al­ize how much of a pri­or­ity some­thing is. This par­tic­u­lar de­ci­sion was so im­por­tant that Chris­tine knew they would have to pay for it. “We just could not pic­ture this house with dry-walled ceil­ings. It was go­ing to ruin ev­ery­thing,” she says.

Other times, learn­ing the cost shows that some­thing is not as im­por­tant as you had thought and you can ad­just in or­der to save on costs. The bud­get­ing phase re­ally iden­ti­fies your pri­or­i­ties.

From there, Chris­tine says, “Once we know the big ar­chi­tec­tural de­ci­sions, then we start get­ting into the fi­nite de­tails and phys­i­cal col­lect­ing mode. Since we have such a good vi­sion, it’s re­ally easy for us to make spon­ta­neous ma­te­rial de­ci­sions. For ex­am­ple, I knew we had de­signed a re­ally wide space for a sink in our sec­ond floor bath­room that ev­ery­one would be shar­ing. So know­ing that, and hav­ing an idea of what we were look­ing for, we ran­domly came across some­one who was get­ting rid of a big, huge Kohler three faucet util­ity sink from a sal­vage shop. So I was able to say ‘Yeah, I’ll take that’ with­out any mea­sur­ing or fur­ther thought be­cause I knew it met the cri­te­ria.”

“Choose a fo­cal point for the house to avoid hav­ing to spread your bud­get too thin.”

“The big­gest sav­ings is sourc­ing your own ma­te­ri­als.”

From left to right: Gabe Bridger, Chris­tine Bridger, Jon Faris, owner of Par­a­digm Ren­o­va­tion

SAVED IM­AGES: Here are some of the im­ages that in­spire Chris­tine.

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