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CALANCHINI CARTER HOUSE

Name: Kent and Michaela Calanchini Carter, plus their boys Miles (11) and Teo (8)

Location: San Francisco, CA Square Footage: 1238 sq ft Years lived in: 7

The Calanchini Carter family are only the third owners of a house built in 1937 in the Central Sunset District of San Francisco. The house retained all of its original features: beautiful crown molding; hardwood floors and tile; and an atrium in the middle. But after 70 years, it was showing its age. They remodeled both the kitchen and the bathroom.

Improvement Center: How did you find your contractor?

Michaela Calanchini Carter: We figured out our total budget first and then calculated approximately how much everything would cost that we needed to pay for in the way of materials and appliances, and then figured out how much of our budget we had left to spend on the contractor. We got bids from three contractors and we went with one – Kent –who had done an extensive add-on to my friend’s house, so I had a chance to see his work and I met with my friend and asked her tons of questions.  

IC: You opened up the space by knocking out a small stretch of wall between the kitchen and office. How did you decide to do that?

MCC: This room used to be a breakfast nook, but I had been using it as an office. There was an ill-fitting table as a desk, and just a lot of wasted space. We opened the wall and installed a breakfast bar between the kitchen and office. My friend made the breakfast bar out of dark walnut and a desk top to match that’s mounted to the wall. It’s a very small office space so I have to keep things tidy but I like it that way because it doesn’t get overwhelmed with junk. The triangular corner shelves are the one thing that’s original to the room.  We decided to leave them because they mirror the angle of the atrium wall near the breakfast bar. I like the function of it, and I can use it to display my curios.

IC: Let’s talk about the fun stuff like your Heath ceramic tile backsplash!

MCC: I was dead set on having that. I just knew if I could fill the wall behind the stove with Heath tiles, I thought that was like winning the lottery. I knew I was going to cut corners in other places so I could splurge on the Heath tile. And then I ended up getting them for such a steal!

Heath was having their big, annual three-day sale on seconds and sale items. Our tiles are seconds and if you look closely there’s a slight variation in color and some are slightly warped. I ended up getting all of them for $450. The woman at the cash register said the original retail price would have been over $2000!

IC: When you moved into this house it had a split bathroom, with a stall shower, tub, and sink in one room, and a separate closet for the toilet. You turned your partial bathroom into a full bath. Why?

MCC: The bathroom was actually the room that we needed to remodel because it was molding and rotting and had a lot of issues that needed to be addressed.  Having young kids we decided to keep the bath and make a combo bath/shower and put a toilet in that space where the stall shower had been. Having a family of four, an extra toilet always come in handy!

IC: Where did you spend the most money and where did you save during the remodel?

MCC: What I learned through the process is to spend money on things that are more permanent and are the biggest materials in the room, like the cabinets, the countertops, backsplash, the things that are going to stay longer and be much harder to replace.

We saved on the things that are easier to change. The cabinet pulls were less than a dollar each, and the faucet in the kitchen is from Ikea.

Also, we saved a lot of money with our contractor. He was more than we could afford so we went back to him and talked about how we could modify our design in order to bring the price down. 

IC: Now that you’ve completed your remodel, what advice would you give to someone who is also designing and overseeing their project themselves?

MCC: Trust your instincts. If you know you really love wood cabinets and granite countertops just Google those things and stick with what your gut instinct tells you and don’t get side tracked by all the other pretty shiny things because it’s really easy to.

I have two things that I wish in hindsight I had done differently. The grout behind our range is starting to get a little brown. We use our oven to make pizza and it’s starting to show the wear and tear of being exposed to really high temperatures. I actually kind of like it because we use our kitchen and we love to cook and it’s showing that. But I might have chosen a darker grout if I had known that before.

Also, I wish I had done a wall mount faucet in the kitchen. It’s really hard to clean behind the faucet. Other than that I feel super proud of the way it turned out, and for never having done anything like this before we did a really great job!

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