As the summer started wrapping up, I started exploring options for where I might be able to call home on the weekends while my house was rented. Remember that gypsy living thing...yeah, it was real and as I pushed more into weekend rentals, I started looking at some options. I have 2 acres and felt this would be ideal to build a tiny house on but wouldn't you know it- local zoning laws prohibit any additional buildings built on property less than 5 acres. So I had to start thinking creatively and economically. How can I have a weekend retreat while complying within zoning laws and not breaking the bank. So, I started exploring self-contained tiny houses on axels but turned down the idea based on simple economics. People were asking outrageous prices for super small spaces. Granted they were ADORABLE but I needed practical and enough space for 2 adults, 4 dogs, 1 cat and a newly added guinea pig. So, I started researching RV living and decided that was probably my best bet. There were zoning laws about RV but they were within reason and I could easily be within compliance.
So, the journey began to look for an RV. What size do I want? Do I want slides? How much do I want to renovate or update? How old is too old? What shape seems to work best? Will it last? Where will I put it? Hmmmm....lots of questions. Stay tuned for the answers.
Once we moved in June, things did not slow down a bit. Julianne, my youngest of 4, graduated HS and she started her summer job right away. I was constantly moving between my now 2 houses when summer short-term rental season peaks and I do the majority of the cleaning, maintenance, planting and plucking. Why have a daily workout when you can sweat it out for 4 hours in a hot house any given day of the summer in 80% humidity?
Fall quickly came and so started my weekend experiment- I was quite curious as to how a weekend rental would do in the Catskills so close to ski-resorts- 2 within 15 minute drives and 2 more within 30. September was quiet but then once October came, I was booked at least 2 weekends out of the month. The holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah) booked up quickly and before I knew it- December - March was booked nearly every weekend of the month. It made the weeks of school and prepping the house always busy- it seemed like we were back to living as gypsy's- always loading the car with bags, unload and then turn right around and do it again 3 days later. We did not mind...we always came home to a clean house and the bills paid!
Then this things called COVID-19 happened. It hit really fast and before I could blink, schools were being shut down, executive orders to stay home were written and my head was spinning. I had not intention to rent my house out full time but as I always have done...when opportunities present themselves, I often give them a try. I was contacted by some people in NYC asking if I might be interested in renting for a week...at this point, school was scheduled to move to remote for 2 weeks so why not. After that week, I had another family ask if I might be interested in renting for a month. It was a gamble as we were due to be back in school in a week and I just figured I would commute for 3 weeks- the rental fee would far exceed the inconvenience so I agreed. This became my first experience with actually how scared people were of COVID-19. NYC was the epic center at this point and people were fleeing downstate as fast as they could and the family that rented, did not want to have any contact with people for the month- myself included. I tried to go work on the yard a bit and they told me to go away. No joke. After the month passed, I was approached by one of the families renting and asked if they might be able to stay on longer. At this point, it was obvious schools were to be closed and teaching remote for a while so I thought...why not? The husband was an asst. principal and the wife, a state attorney both were working remote and had no desire to take either of their young daughters back to NYC. They ended up staying until mid August- 5 months in total. What a blessing they became for our family. The good news was this allowed the financing of some important outside work to be done on the house- more work than I had originally planned for the house but the funds were there so we jumped right in once the snow cleared! Down came 4 trees, the driveway was cleared and stoned, a new back patio was created, concrete work was done, stones were moved for the fire pit, new side gate and privacy fence panels installed, chain-link fence was secured and the old landscaping was pulled and cleared. So much works was done, it still catches me off guard and I often don't recognize my house at first glance.
Since so many cancellations came in for the Cobleskill house summer rentals, we spent the majority of our summer there, which was also a great blessing. We worked diligently to catch up on all of those projects that often get pushed aside when the summer rentals come in. We were able to add a glass tile back splash in the kitchen, clear out more closets, work more on landscaping, added new outside stairs in the front and side porches, repaired a lot of the tedious finishing work and secured the spiral stairs railing. Rentals started to pick back up again...this time mainly on the weekends as people were trying to have a short "stay-cation". It worked out really nicely and we loved being back "home" for a bit!
So, now that we are back in Margaretville- it means the school year is about ready to start and our summer is coming to a close. It equally feels as good to be back in Margaretville- the luxury of living in both of our homes in the last 5 months has been wonderful!
And just like...we are moved in. Although we are not entirely done- still little things to do...caulk and paint trim, touch up paint, install a railing at the top of the stairs...we are essentially done and moving in. Furniture was moved in, cleaned up and settled in. Appliances were installed and inspected. Wifi was connected. Flowers are being planted. All in all, things are coming together and the to-do list is shortening quickly.
I have fallen in love with this house. I have watched her come back to life. She looks like someone loves in her. She is alive again.
Floors...once the work starts on the floor and the kitchen cabinets~ it all starts REALLY coming together! The floors have been ALOT of work and moments I look at them and my breath is taken away and then other times, I do the same- because- well, they still need work. Overall...they are amazing and clearly, the icing on the cake.
When I bought the house, I knew right away the downstairs living room, dining room and bedrooms were covered in this amazing and beautiful flooring-even under piles of garbage, dirt, pet wastes and mold. What has come to a surprise has been the 18" wide plank pine and the kitchen floor was a mess...it was under 5 layers of super ugly linoleum~ and even more of the same from the other rooms. That floor was a black, yucky goo with lots of water stains and needed lots of repairs. The verdict is still out about how it will blend when everything gets put together but I do love its rustic nature. It is perfectly imperfect and tells the story of this 130 year old beauty.
So, as we start bringing this project to a finish, the stories this house are still being told!
And now things are taking off...this is both amazing and scary at the same time. I have guests coming in early June...if just one thing is off, the entire project gets delayed so I am spending so much time right now making the lists, checking them twice and holding my breath!!
Now we have walls, primer has been applied and walls have started to be painted. The floors are being sanded as I type this and I am truly amazed at the repair magic my flooring contractor has accomplished- which is no small feat considering we moved walls, leaving holes in the floors all over. Additionally, we have about 5 different wood species of work with and oh, boy- that has been fun to match up!
So we are in he final stretch and my contractor has promised that everything will be completed exactly 2 weeks AFTER the floors are done! The end is in sight!
Ahhhh...vacation week. St. Augustine was EXACTLY what the doctor ordered and I felt so refreshed knowing my contractor was busy working on the house and my Airbnb was picking up momentum. I needed to sun, smiles, sleep and sangria. It was the rest I knew I needed for the final push for school and for the renovation and right before my summer Airbnb buzz started. It was my quick breather I so desperately needed!
Yesterday was spent doing what I have done SOOO many weekends before- off to grab supplies for the house reno. It is actually one of my FAVORITE things to do and my family has grown a custom to EVERY trip means picking up supplies. If we are going to the doctors, we are picking up supplies. If we are going to a social function, we are picking up supplies. Nearly every weekend. So why would this weekend be any different. This time, it was all about comparing paint swatches and paint brands, primer, ceiling paint and paint supplies. Paint...we are in the final stages! I love paint and painting. It creates and changes mood in a space. It is the backdrop to a design and how simply changing a color changes the entire feel of a space. And a single mom with limited funds, a $30 gallon of paint made our home feel fresh and new.
So, today I went to the Margaretville house to drop off supplies and my heart sank. The snow is gone leaving the house LITTERED with reno debris and it is So overwhelming! My contractor has given me his word that the house part of the work will be done in 3 weeks. I am trusting that will happen but when I start looking at the big picture- all of the little things that need to be done...peeling paint, dirty windows, a basement FULL of debris, a yard FULL of debris, and DUST everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Sigh. I look at all of my furniture in the basement~ the furniture that has been moved around, piled on and DUSTY. It has been subjected to the bitter cold and heat and some pieces have been roughed up. On top of it~now that things are coming together, I have forgotten what I have so quite honestly, once I start moving things upstairs out of the basement- it will be somewhat like Christmas!
So now that spring has sprung, time to lace up the work boots. The end is in sight...I hope!!
Back in the summer, I had my heating contractor look over my boiler with high hopes he could just repair it and I could squeeze a couple more years of life out of it. When you take on a old house project with lots of questionable areas...one learns to just bite the bullet. My contractor took one look at that rusty old box and said "I am afraid if I loosen just one bolt, the whole thing might just crumble into a heap". He wasn't far from the truth. Prior to my possession, squatters lived in the house. They lived in deplorable conditions- feces and urine all over, maggots in the refrigerator, heat the house with portable kerosene heaters and put foam board insulation between the window panes to try to keep the heat in. When I walked through the house the first time, we were walking over clothes, massive amounts of furniture, covering our noses and squinting to see in the dark. One of the first things I did was open the windows and took the foam board out and what took my breath away- the house was HUGE and natural light was abundant, even if they had lived in a cave.
So, the plan was to start work on the boiler back in November before the cold hit hard. As all well laid out plans in house renovation land goes...well...that plan took months to come to fruition. By then, all of the radiators had been detached to make way for new framing, pipes had been removed and cleaned up and by the time the heat work started, the project went from a simple connecting of a new boiler to a full replacement of everything except the room radiators. My contractor tried to convince me to upgrade to new ones but I refused...I wanted the old radiators to stay with their old house charm. "The news one are more efficient". Well, with the new insulation and a highly efficient boiler, I won't notice too much of a difference- I am restoring an old house not building new. So, he listened and the radiators stayed.
For 2 weeks, I stopped in almost daily to monitor the progress and it was exciting! Then one day, I opened the door and felt it..."The heat is on!!!" and it was toasty warm, a really nice contrast to the cold outside. This is the first time this old house has been warmed from the inside in years...and she smiled.
Today, I was seen skipping from the house. Skipping in my favorite insulated coveralls and work boots, covered in multiple warm layers, bracing for the typical 20 degree, mid- February upstate NY weather. Why...because today, I felt like major steps forward were made in progress of the house.
Last week, building and zoning inspections were done on the rough electric, plumbing, insulation and framing...green light to moving forward and that was exciting. Today, my contractors and I met with the bank's inspector and heard a lot of "wow, good work", "looks good" and "well done". It was so nice to sign paperwork to have everyone paid and move the project forward!
So, as I was leaving today~ although my contractor is heading to a much needed vacation to a warm and sunny golf course~ I had the numbers I needed for counter top measurements, interior doors I needed to order, the layout of the radiators and the boiler was already up on the wall in my new utility room before I left. I had a message on my phone for a flooring quote and my pellet stove guy was checking in with me to see if the stove was working well.
What is most exciting is that the "guts" of the project are almost done. Today, we started talking sheet rock, placement of cabinets and fixtures and I started seeing the light! So...pictures are from the spray foam installation...and even in an unheated house sitting at 20 degrees, it felt fairly comfortable. PROGRESS!
It is amazing how much work can get done in a month once the demo is done. We finished demo just before Christmas and now- we have roughed in electric and plumbing, the plan for spray-foam insulation is set and I have an estimate in the works for a heat recovery system. We have added a sub panel for the electric, we have installed the bathroom ceiling vents, new windows and walls. The footprint of the house feels complete and I walk through it saying "oh my gosh, this is so much better than I envisioned". It is truly amazing when you see your vision start taking shape. It is also the time when I am reassured that I was not meant to get the other houses- I was meant to get this house. Smiles all around!
So, in the next month, we will see the front and back doors framed up and installed, house insulated, boiler installed (2 zoned system with on-demand hot water), handful of inspections and possibly sheet rock hung. My contractor will be taking a much needed 2 month break to go to Florida and I honor that need. We have had subzero temps lately and to continue to work on a house with no plumbing, limited electric and no heat is brave! I have often walked into the house, all bundled up and there he is- in my freezing cold house- working in a sweatshirt. I have so appreciated everything he has done!
Over the holidays, I was presented the opportunity to purchase a tiny home kit. It was bought by a a former party and then they changed their mind. I have always been the person who knows when it is time to jump at an opportunity. This has always been a part of my personality- I studied in Germany of a school year, flown over the Schoharie Valley and Catskills, lived in England and Italy, bought a house at a tax auction, stayed in a HUGE vacation houses in the Outer Banks and walked away with dozens of friends and the list goes on and on!
When I bought my Margaretville house, the county had thrown in a second lot into the package- much to our surprise. So, not only did I obtain my house on an almost acre lot, I also won a second lot also almost an acre large. And it is PERFECT for a tiny home! So...the hope is to be building the tiny home next spring!
Catskill Simple Living
Started by a Family and Consumer Science teacher with an interest in housing and interior design, Catskill Simple Living started as a way for her combine her interests and share them with new friends.