Upstate Jane: The Reinvention of Our Weekend Home

  |  November 21, 2011

Megan Oldenburger, aka Upstate Jane, is the owner of Dichotomy Interiors, an Interior Design and Style firm based in Woodstock, NY. She writes for Upstater about design, home furnishings, real estate and culture.

For the next few weeks, I am going to tell you the story of how the first two years of owning our humble piece of mod pie has unfolded. I will start at the beginning and take you to the current day if you care to hear a real life version of “taking the plunge” and finding a diamond in the rough. Luckily I have my own blog, which I used to document most of our journey, so I have a fun way to look back at what I wrote and felt now.

Almost two years ago to this day, I was in an unnerving place. I was about to purchase a weekend home upstate, in Woodstock, NY.  You can read exactly what I wrote about that moment here. We had passed the inspection stage,  got our loan, and were waiting to close (hopefully by the end of the year.) Today, I am in the exact same place. This time, I am not just buying a home though. I am also selling a home. I am selling that same home two years ago I sat unnervingly waiting to close on. Two years ago I was dreaming of my new weekend life upstate and the ways I was going to make the home beautiful. Why would I sell then? Over the last two years we fell head over heels with the area so much, that we have decided to REALLY take the plunge, and move full time to Woodstock! We needed a larger space than our weekend home could provide. And even though I love it dearly, and put alot of heart and soul into it, I knew it would start getting a bit tight to work out of together. So that brings me to the point where I sit back and reminisce like Grandpaw over his old golden retriever he had as a boy. Kind of.

I hope that reading about my process will help ease the fears and give insight for people pondering the big decision. Especially when so many places in most peoples price ranges don’t start out looking like they belong in DWELL.  So…we begin. More info, more pictures after the jump!

First Loves…

They say you never forget your first love. I think that may be true of houses too. Your first house will always be one you look back on fondly, forgive the quirks and donning rose-colored glasses get misty over the memories that were made there. I can say that is true of my first house. Well the first house I have OWNED that is. Here she is…she’s a beauty now…

But that wasn’t always the case. When we visited in October 2009, we came to see a shabby, dated, dark, and cluttered home that seemed to have a cool wrap around deck and a rad vintage pre-way fireplace in the livingroom.

We were almost more impressed by the dramatic rock outcroppings all around it, than with the house itself. However, I saw potential. We surprisingly found ourself putting in an offer two days later! We had just come up for a weekend of relaxation, and now we were buying a house!

After we closed, which was December 31st by the way, (the evening was spent at New World celebrating) we stayed the night in a rental. You can see see the moving in process here, and read about our closing here.  We had a week off to get some furniture into the house and get it cleaned up. It was daunting to walk into the empty, dark, and dirty house. There were NO LIGHTS the first night!!! We had to light the fire, and use some candles.  I was not planning on that, along with many other things I realized we didn’t have. Luckily getting these “things” out there is alot easier than in the city! We made due though, and our little dogs snuggled by the fire in a big furry bean bag I had bought for the place.

One thing about this type of move, is that you can’t take all of your furniture from the city and put it in your new house. So we had to plan ahead. After our offer was accepted, we started purchasing small things like you see in the above triptych from fleas, craigslist, and blogs. (Along with the furry beanbag from Pbteen) However,  some items can take a while. Our sofa took over a month and a half to arrive. I hd to put the order in after inspections and our loan was locked. Luckily everything went smoothly, and it arrived about 3 days after we moved in.

After that first week, things progressed quickly. The very first thing we did  to make a big impact, was to paint that dark wood that was EVERYWHERE, a clean white. I had read online that you really aren’t supposed to just paint it, that the stain will bleed through, and bla bla bla. With a pioneering spirit and desperation to rid ourselves of the depressing 70’s mancave cum hunters lodge, we bit the bullet and got to it. Guess what? It worked, and it made a HUGE difference. This was the 2nd weekend we were there, and already it started feeling like our house.

I will admit. We worked on it every weekend  for a good long while. But we still found time to go out to some of the fabulous restaurants in the area, and start to explore or just sit and read.  I knew that the first thing I wanted to really CHANGE, was the kitchen. We cleaned it but it was still kinda gross.  Not only was dated (and not in a quite kitschy or retro way)  it was not functional. It had a GIGANTIC old energy sucking fridge, a washer and dryer from the 70’s you had to fill with a hose, and a NYC studio sized oven I couldn’t even stick a frozen pizza into. (hey, don’t judge- we were busy doing all that paintin!)

I knew I needed some professional help on this one. I could design it, buy everything and manage it all- but not only did I not have the time to do the labor myself, let’s be honest- we didn’t want it to look like a kindergarten ashtray project. We bought a house, spent hard earned money on it, and I wanted everything we did to be worthy of that investment. I found a highly recommended contractor who I can proudly now call my friend and “partner in design crime fighting”. Over the course of February, I designed, purchased and handed over my kitchen space to my contractor. We did save money buy purchasing and picking up our own materials and appliances and putting together the cabinets. You can see the progress here.

While he was working on the kitchen…we didn’t have one. So that was the longest we have been away from our house on the weekends except for quick progress visits. We really missed it, and I was very anxious about how it would turn out since this was our first project together. To my happy surprise, it was done and finished by my birthday. I was thrilled with the result and can’t believe how much bigger, and more functional it became. With some design sleuthing and a great contractor we ended up spending FAR less than I had anticipated. It really felt good to have completed this first big project, and have it come out well and to have spent LESS money than you had thought.

That first project really got us excited and changed the house so much. We had added new floors too (they were linoleum when we moved in) Coming from the city it started to feel funny that we spent the week in this not so amazing place with a not so amazing kitchen and then on the weekend we got to spend 2 days in what for us was turning into a gourmet luxury home. I was anxious to start my next project, adding on a master bathroom. Timing is everything though, and that is the project I will talk about next.

So that is the first segment of our look back at the first 3 months of owning a weekend home. Things speed up naturally the longer you are there, as time always does. The next segment will feature some learning curves, and our next big renovation.  You can see some of the progress we have made by looking at our album. Happy House hunting!

Read On, Reader...