The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Renovations always start out simple enough. We’ll paint this, remove that, and update the other thing. And then the “one thing leads to another” phenomenon kicks in and before you know it the supply list includes everything from spackle and paint to light fixtures to new trim and even switch plates. And you can’t leave the old furnishings in an upgraded room so it’s time to get shopping!

If I sound like I have some experience with renovations, I do. My husband, fondly known as Mr. Fixit, and I have redone every home we have owned. It all began with our starter home. One night after the kids finally crashed, we were recovering in the living room and started talking about home improvements. This was long before HGTV and Property Brothers so we were truly making it up as we went along. We fixated on a wall that we didn’t like between the kitchen and the dining room. We wanted open concept long before it became popular. One day while my partner in crime was at work and I wasn’t, I started ripping out the wall. He came home to find me knee deep in sheetrock and dust with a big smile on my face. Oh man did I jump the gun! No plan, no strategy, no materials, and no budget with two little ones running around. Lucky for me I married an extremely patient human who jumped right in and the result was better than either of us could have imagined. In fact, the people who bought that home said it was the open concept that sold them.

Fast forward to house number two that had dated wallpaper in every room. No problem we said as we signed the offer, we’ll just remove it. Easier said than done as the walls had not been sized and all removal techniques left damaged sheetrock behind. I took on a small bathroom first and every inch of the sheetrock had little tears in it when I was done. After a very long walk to work off my frustration, I came home and learned how to texture walls with various paint colors layered on using sponges. It turned out beautifully and no one was the wiser. In fact, people asked us where we got the pretty wallpaper, got to love the irony. It is amazing how clever you get with wall coverings in a bad wallpaper situation. Each room ended up with a slightly different solution. The kitchen was Venetian plaster (which I don’t recommend as it absorbs every splash and drip), wainscoting in the family room, texturing in the bathrooms, rolled steel in our son’s bedroom (he loved having magnetic walls) and even paint was used to permanently remove the memory of dated ducks, geese, and flowers that permeated our home. 

One of our most interesting experiences along the way was allowing our then teenage daughter to 1, pick her own bedroom colors and 2, paint her walk-in closet by herself. She spent her high school days surrounded by alternating bright lime green and purple walls. Truthfully, it was the most cheerful room in the house. The kicker was when she moved out for college and we discovered the true story behind the closet paint project. She must have gotten bored as she only painted part of it and then arranged her possessions so we didn’t see the results. And the eye rolling “I know mom” when I pointed out the need for drop cloths, tape, and other surface protection landed on deaf ears based on the clean-up work that remained. Lucky for us, today she has a wonderful sense of design and is even more of a perfectionist than we are.

We have come a long way in 30 years so when we bought Cherry Creek Guest House in 2016, the projects flowed like the nearby East Gallatin River. Lots of fresh paint, replacement windows, new carpet, light fixtures, trim, and yes, even switch plates. Mr. Fixit, and the previously referenced daughter, took the original 1956 bathroom down to the studs and built it back up to a modern and yet rustic bathing retreat. Nearly black upper walls are complemented with white bead board wainscoting, wood-like tile floor, and beautiful Edison bulb light fixtures. Perhaps the favorite feature in this room is the reclaimed beam shelving above the commode and in the towel cubby.

What we have learned from our do-it-yourself projects is the importance of advance planning and really thinking through the details. Asking how the space will be utilized and how we want people to feel while experiencing the room is essential. We are preparing for a master bathroom renovation and we will have most of the specifics worked out, supplies purchased, tasks divvied up, and timeline defined before we even unscrew a switch plate (which will likely be replaced).

Owning a vacation rental is incredibly rewarding. We get to let perfect, and most of them are perfect, strangers live in our home and make life-long memories. Part of creating the best vacation experience possible is paying attention to the details and if there is anything that Mr. Fixit is good at, it is fine-tuning the details.

The opportunities for your next Montana adventure are unlimited and Cherry Creek Guest House is ready to serve as your home away

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