If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you probably know that demo has begun at The Two Flat, and we should start seeing some very significant changes in the weeks and months to come! The plans for the home have been approved for weeks, and yet, we haven’t shared them in an official capacity. That changes starting – now! It’s time for a proper run through of the approved future layout and all of the changes we’ll be making. We’ll be diving in first with Unit 2, as well as some of the common areas of the space. Unit 1 will see the most drastic changes to the floor plan (like a staircase and closets and two additional bedrooms!), so it will receive its own dedicated post later in the week. But today, it’s all about Unit 2!
The Floor Plans
So what’s going to change, you might ask? Pretty much everything but the floor plan! Okay, but really, as you can see below and in this video walkthrough, the bones of this unit are great, so the layout changes we’ll be making are minimal. Every single surface, however, will be ‘touched’ to bring new life to the entire space. (I think we can all agree that this goes without saying moving forward, yeah?) The biggest difference you may notice below is the widening of the opening between the living room and kitchen, as well as a reconfiguring the kitchen into a more functional U-shape.
Current Layout vs. New Layout
Plaster & Trim Decisions
Before we jump in to details on the more specific layout changes, it makes sense to address the elephant in the room. What’s happening with aaaalllll of that plaster that’s now laying in piles on the floor?! Prior to us purchasing it, the home sat vacant for well over a decade. Because of the lack of occupancy, the building experienced drastic temperature swings that led the plaster to crack and fail. We considered attempting to repair and patch the plaster wherever possible (in fact, we were pretty adamant about it at first), but there was so much damage to the majority of the walls that it became more cost effective to start from scratch and install new drywall throughout the unit.
Beyond the plaster, we’ll also be attempting to salvage as much of the original millwork as humanly possible. The demo crew will be removing the trim as they go, we’ll then label it, refinish it and reinstall it once the drywall is back in place. In areas where the original baseboards and door/window trim aren’t in place, we’ll do our best to match with modern millwork like we did here. It’s certainly a labor of love, but one that will surely be worth it in the end!
Expanding the Most Adorable Archway
One of the more drastic changes to Unit 2 will be the widening of the arch between the kitchen and living room. We wanted to ensure that as much natural light as possible reached the common areas, while also improving the flow into the kitchen, so this decision seemed like a natural one. The arch will expand vertically by 10 or 12 inches, and then we’ll expand the width by 6-8 feet depending on how everything flows together once all of the debris is cleaned up. We can’t wait for this modification, as it will completely change the way the future tenants enjoy the space! Note: We talk more about this in our most recent ‘Dear Two Flat’ entry.
Adding In-Unit Laundry
In-unit laundry is a very sought-after feature in any city apartment. The doorway you see below used to be the kitchen pantry, but we’re nixing it in favor of a small laundry nook with space for a stacked washer/dryer and maybe a small cabinet or two for storing laundry necessities. The layout of the laundry nook might end up similar to that of the Garden Unit, but this space is slightly narrower, so we’ll play around with the configuration once drywall is in place. In place of the massive pantry, a more functional kitchen layout should help with the storage that we’re removing. In a Chicago rental, in-unit laundry beats a big pantry any day!
Refinishing the Common Foyer and Staircase
The common foyer and staircase in the Two Flat caught our attention immediately the first time we toured the home. The flooring has seen some wear and tear, of course, but we’re confident that sanding and refinishing will bring new life to the space! Heading up the stairs, the tread of each individual stair has been protected for quite some time with heavy duty rubber runners.
For stairs that have been in place since the late 1800’s, it’s hard to believe the condition they’re in. Again, sanding and refinishing the stairs should have a huge impact. Luckily, most of the millwork in the foyer and is also in fantastic shape, so we’ll strip, repair and paint as necessary to unify the space and brighten things up.
Adding Curb Appeal Out Front… And Out Back
The front of the house is going to see a complete transformation that will have it looking like a different structure all together when we’re finished! We’ll be completely rebuilding the rickety old porch and eliminating the awkward ‘box’ that encloses the flat roof over the porch and bay-ish window bump out. A more period-correct portico will take the place of the box and the whole house will also see a fresh coat of paint to tie everything together. Also, see that ‘tree’ in the dead center of the front yard? From what we can tell, it’s actually an overgrown Yew shrub that exploded to its current size and shape after years of neglect. Much like the Yews that had overtaken the backyard at Tree House, this big fella is going to have to go! Apparently we have a thing for buying houses with large, unwieldy Yews, huh?
Speaking of Yews, our demo team has already removed two more of them from the backyard behind where the former garage stood. Which – oh, yeah! – the garage has already been demolished and removed. And do you see the massive back staircase/deck in the photo below? It was rebuilt just a few years ago and is in great structural shape, but the whole thing will get a thorough cleaning and a fresh paint job. Prior to paint, we’re also investigating ways to replace the enormous ‘upside-down-V’ braces with a simpler design. To round out the exterior work, we’ll patch in some damaged siding, install new gutters all around and make some minor roof repairs.
One Step at a Time
Since we have no intention of living in this home, this project is happening in bulk stages instead of ‘room by room’ as we normally work. That is a whole new experience that we’re taking one step at a time. Once the demolition is done and the majority of the dust has settled, the rough carpentry team will take over to make all of the interior and exterior changes. After framing, the mechanical teams can come in to tackle the HVAC systems, electrical and plumbing work. And once the work behind the walls is wrapped up, the drywall installers will step in to bring us to ‘white box’ status! It will be then that we’ll take over for the majority of installation and finish work, hiring out smaller jobs as necessary.
For reference, these are the smiling faces of two people that have lived through (and lived IN) this kind of mess many times before. Old home demolition is not for the faint of heart, but we know what comes next and we couldn’t be more excited (we say with a nervous laugh)!
It’s incredibly exciting to see the work begin! The lack of a few solid walls is already giving us an idea of how the light will make its way into each space and we’re already visualizing the finished product. This is going to be a long road, and we hope you’ll follow along with us to see it through. Be sure to check back in a few days for all of the Unit 1 details! (It’s a doozy.)