Some remodeling projects can completely transform a house. And that's what happened to the home Kurt and Nancy Wiedenmann bought in South Boise.
"There was nothing special about it," Kurt said. It was a closed-in, dark, traditional '80s home along the New York Canal.
They were shopping around for a new or newer home; they wanted a turnkey house. They had done their share of fixing up places in their many years in Baker City and La Grande, Ore., and this time, they just wanted to move in. They wanted to simplify their lives. The kids were grown, it was time to downsize, and they were looking for a single-story home. But when they found this home, they couldn't resist its potential.
"The biggest challenge was how to find a contractor," Nancy said.
They went to a local home show, got on Angie's List, checked the Better Business Bureau, got some leads and then got some references.
Finally, they chose Bill Keilty and Keilty Remodeling, and the transformation was ready to take form.
"Their main goal was to get as many windows as possible to take advantage of the view," said Chris Keilty, Bill's wife. She holds positions on both the Idaho chapter of NARI (the National Association of the Remodeling Industry) and at the national level of the trade organization.
"We knew we wanted the view and worked everything else around it," Nancy said.
The home's original design had a choppiness that needed to be overcome, Chris Keilty said. There were interior walls and closets that blocked the views and constrained the traffic. The kitchen window above the sink felt small and off-center. A sunken living room was more a potential hazard than a stylish feature.
Before the whole project rolled into motion, Keilty Remodeling invited all the chosen subcontractors to the home for a diagnostic conference - more informally called a bid party. Everyone shows up, sizes up the situation and determines the bids for their parts of the project.
"We put a little more effort into it in the beginning, but it's worth it in the end, because it provides a good, solid price for the project, and everyone shares the same vision of what the client wants," Bill Keilty said. "We put a lot of effort up front. There's not a lot of guesswork in it."
"I thought it was a nice touch," Nancy said.
Keilty finalized a timeline of the project so the Wiedenmanns could anticipate the step-by-step process as it progressed.
Fortunately, the structure of the original home was ready for the upgrade. Trusses spanned the exterior walls, so the interior walls blocking the views were all non-load-bearing partitions.
"That made it possible to open up the whole space," Chris said.
Out came the walls. Now it is possible to take advantage of the view "from anywhere in the living area."
The kitchen flows into the dining area toward the fireplace, while also encompassing the living room and opening up access to the extra room.
With the walls gone, it was time to bring the windows down to cabinet level and extend them across the length of the kitchen next to the back sliding doors and dining room windows.
The outer brick wall was modified to make room for the new window design.
"It just opens the whole thing up," Chris said.
The light now pours into the entire home. The stools around the kitchen peninsula all face the backyard and kidney-shaped pool, a canal, farm ground destined to become a city park and then Squaw Butte off on the horizon.
And there's more to the interior remodeling than just a spacious, more-efficient kitchen. Remember that sunken living room? This was the big challenge: They wanted the original wooden flooring to be continuous into this space.
This is where the team's professionalism would need to shine. Kurt is an expert woodworker, and many of the pieces of furniture in the house were built or refurbished by his hand and Nancy's brother is a contractor in Oregon, so they both understand quality considerations with regard to woodwork.
"You never know with colors and stuff how things are going to tie together and, for us, it all tied together and complemented each other and worked for us very nicely," Nancy said.
Today, there is no indication whatsoever that a sunken living room ever existed. There is no clue as to where the old flooring and the new flooring come together.
It even came in under budget.
Knowing that, you can turn back to the view. Maybe step outside to the poolside dining table and take in the summer sunset with a beer and a barbecue dinner.
"It turned out better than we thought it would," Nancy said turning back to gaze out the windows.