Last week I had the pleasure of photographing this beautifully renovated farmhouse near the Bigfork area in Montana. It took the owners just 18 months to nearly finish a complete renovation, doing everything themselves...while working full-time jobs! They began the project with no past renovation experience, but learned as they went.
Here is what the owner, Felesha, has to say about their experience renovating the house:
"The day we closed, October 16th, 2013, was the day we started tearing things down, gutting EVERYTHING. As we got deeper into it, we wondered how this place stayed standing all these years! 20 amps running through 15 amp wiring, outlets charred, brittle and frayed, live wires loose in walls, the chimney brick was nearly falling over, full of soot. Wood stove was the main source of heat since the propane didn't do much with the cardboard boxes for insulation and underwear and socks stuffed around the framing of all the window and door frames to keep the cold drafts out. Walls were flammable, flimsy particle board, ceilings stained with pack rate urine. The main plumbing from upstairs ran through the living room wall with a large screw sticking out of it AND someone cut one of the load bearing support beams to put the pipe there."
"When we were to the point where we could start on the upstairs, we decided to take out the attic to open it up and get higher ceilings. So one day, as we were on our ladders, geared up in masks, goggles and long-sleeves stuffed under our gloves, we started scooping out 4-5ft of loose insulation that was blown in a few years back. Just in a hurry to get this horrible job done, without knowing my hands found one of those large paper hornet nests. I pulled it out with the insulation and it just fell on top of me and broke over my head. Luckily my husband and the cold winter killed them off by that point. Still, what a horrible, creepy crawly feeling!"
"Oh, the things we found in this home. I'm surprised WE didn't burn it down ourselves, frustrated with all the hidden nightmares she kept revealing. But somehow, a miracle of some sort (or possibly my mother) kept our heads down and nose to the grind stone and we did what we had to do to finish it. Our friends thought we fell off the face of the earth, cashing in our entire social life to renovate this house. Now it all feels like a bad dream and I woke up to a beautiful house...or like I was Dorothy, whorled around in the tornado and the wicked witch cackling around me and then I wake up in a field of poppies. I guess I'm making this all sound like it was so horrible for me, like "I" had it bad. As we were looking for a house to purchase, and we came upon this one, my dearest husband knew how much work it was going to be, but he let me buy it because I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT. He was the one who got the dirtiest, the bloodiest, and the sweatiest. The place made him nearly mad. His mind constantly on over drive, thinking of how to solve this jig-saw-puzzle of a house and with only him and Google to sort out the problems. But now he's in full satisfaction mode, priding his craftsmanship and dedication. As so he should! A lot of it he learned as we went."
Here are the tools they used to create what they did:
All the barn wood came from old barns and ills from around Montana. Jeremiah traded his labor to get payment in wood and material, alongside his full time job. They would even get scrap wood from burn piles to use as trim, kitchen signs and a coat rack.
The wood brackets holding up the kitchen shelving are old 2x4's salvaged from the dumpster. Whatever wood they had, they used, regardless if it matched the other wood throughout the house. They reduced, reused and recycled as much as possible.
The metal backing around the wood stove is old ridge cap from a barn. They saved thousands by not hiring out to get traditional stone hearth put up.
The paint they used for the upstairs is PPG Porter Paints - Breakthrough. No sanding or priming was needed. It has incredible bonding properties and is extremely durable. The color she used was "Natural Wicker".
Furniture and decor are either from Felecia's home in Ohio or Craigslist.