Spring Valley’s North Section Avenue has been a flurry of activity for the past year as what was once the neighborhood’s ugly duckling has been transformed into a beautiful blue swan.
Though others may have viewed the undertaking as impossible, Adrienne and Matt Craft of rural Grand Meadow were excited to take on the task after purchasing the home in April of 2015.
“We’ve always wanted to flip a house or get into the flipping business. I love design and he can do the contracting; I like to joke that I’m the brains and he’s the brawn. We aren’t scared of these bigger projects; we never wanted to just go in and change out paint,” Adrienne explained.
In the beginning, however, there was some debate on whether they should even keep the structure.
Adrienne revealed, “Matt priced out bulldozing it and rebuilding and it actually paid out to keep the shell of it. But that was certainly a thought in the beginning – is it worth it? This was a much bigger deal than I would have wanted for our first flip on our own, but we’ve had fun with it.”
The couple admitted the most difficult part of the flip was deciding the final floor plan because the home itself did not have a typical layout (the kitchen footprint was originally on the second floor) and the home had already been roughly redesigned by the former owner.
“We had such a hard time with it. The hardest part was that we got his (the former owner’s) blueprints for his plan so we’re trying to do the layout and we’d keep going back to his. Then, when we moved the garage, we got rid of his all together and that made it much easier. It was the best thing that happened,” Matt revealed.
Adrienne certainly agrees. “When we drove up the first time to look at it, besides the realtor thinking we were completely crazy and the few choice words I had for my husband when I first walked in, the first thought we had was that we needed to do the garage on this side (rear),” she said. “We didn’t realize there was block already laid for it, so we actually struggled more to make a garage fit up there (front). We’ve changed the plans dozens of times, but it fits the lot now and we’re super happy with the way it flows.”
Part of the struggle, especially for Adrienne, was trying to preserve the historic charm of the house.
“I was concerned with maintaining the character of an old house, but the hard part was there wasn’t anything to maintain – it was in shambles,” she explained. “But just keeping the big windows was important to us and having these two rooms (the office and living room) maintain their original shape, at least, was important.”
The couple began the rehab on May 4, 2015, and though Matt was able to do some of the work himself, they also had the help of local contractors, friends and family.
“It was a lot of high school kids that were looking for something to do that would come in here and gut it while I was at work,” Matt said. “I was here on the weekends all summer long, between trucking and field work, so I really didn’t start on this that drastically until November.”
He said he was excited about it because he knew enough people to make the renovation work. S&K Carpentry of Racine came in for the structural improvements and Dean Braaten was called for all the finishing work.
“He (Braaten) was able to come do the siding for me and the kids were able to come do the muscle work,” Matt said. “My father-in-law comes out to help, too. Knowing the right people who can come help you out is huge.”
The couple has had some interesting surprises during the construction process, such as finding an unsupported wall and floor joists that had to be jacked up substantially.
“There was originally a fireplace where the big picture window is,” Matt shared. “There was actually a fire in here in the 1930s and there were still beams and studs that were left in here that were burnt and shouldn’t have been left in there!”
They also found some unusual windows and doors, which they plan to keep as souvenirs of the project.
After nearly a year, the home now sports an attractive open layout throughout, with nine-foot ceilings on the first and second floor and eight and a half in the basement. The large windows allow for great natural light on all levels of the home.
The main floor boasts a laundry, spacious pantry, living room, office, half bath, mudroom and kitchen, which opens to the dining room, while the basement has two bedrooms and a bathroom, storage space and a cozy family room.
The shining star of the second floor is the impressive master suite, which is not only a great size with three large windows, but has a sizeable walk-through closet and a master bathroom with a spa-like shower room.
While the couple is happy with how the house is coming along, Adrienne admitted it was difficult at times trying to keep their minds focused on what potential buyers may want to see rather than fulfilling their own design dreams, all while balancing the cost of the project.
“We’ve always said quality over quantity. We’d rather make a little bit less, which sounds crazy, but know that we did it right and that somebody will enjoy it and we can feel proud of it,” she said.
Some may ask why the couple would want to take on such an imposing project while juggling full-time jobs and a growing family.
“For me it’s the pride. I’ve always loved projects where you get a pile of stuff and then turn it in to something. I enjoy doing this stuff,” Matt expressed. “I like the struggle; I like to stand back, look at it and say this is what I did and be proud of it. It comes down to what I put into it, because there are so many corners you could cut…we want to do it as if we were going to live in it.”
While the venture may have been larger than planned, the couple is very happy with the progress.
“We knew it would be a long project. We said hopefully we’ll have it listed in a year, but we knew we would have to work around our schedules. I think that helped, knowing it wasn’t going to be a quick flip, so we had that mentality all along,” Adrienne said.
Matt continued, “We wouldn’t have planned it to be this big, but we had to work with what was here. It’s all working out, we’re going a little past schedule, I think we’ll go into April a little bit, but my goal is to have the inside done by the end of March.”
One would expect the duo to have some anxiety over the sale of the home, but Adrienne said, “We’ve never had a concern. We’ve done flips with some other people and then it was a little bit of a concern, but neither of us has doubted for a second that this would sell. I think it’s appealing enough with a great lot in town and close to the school.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of the project has been the great response they have received from the neighbors and community members.
“We’ve been thanked by people for taking it on and getting rid of the eyesore,” Adrienne divulged.
Knowing the community’s interest in the house, the couple would like to hold an open house for the public in June as a way to celebrate the end of project and the home’s new beginning.
“We’ve always wanted to do this and then the opportunity came up. It’s been fun to work on together,” Adrienne concluded. “It’s gone very smoothly given the size of the project. It wasn’t a standard house that we bought, but I think we’re both super happy with the way it flows. I think it works.”
When asked for the key to a successful flip, Matt said, “It’s money, it’s the time, having a job that allows it and having a designer and decorator wife.”