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When Didi and I first started thinking about finally turning the attic into a grandkids’ dorm, Kara and I decided to draw some plans.  We went up into the attic and balanced on the joists, managing not to fall through the insulation into the house below, while we “measured” how much room there might be by counting rafters.  We calculated the studs on 2′ centers, giving us a rough idea of the available space.  Based on our calculations, we drew out a plan: 

We weren’t sure if we’d need to go into the front gable, so we put a ? on that part.  Obviously we forgot to take head room into consideration!  The place where we put the closet and bath would have no head room!  Now you know why we needed an architect!

Just for comparison purposes, I’ve turned our drawing on its side so it faces the same way the architect’s drawing does.  Here’s her plan (which we got on May 25): 

Here’s what our plan was:

The Craft Room – The only existing room upstairs, on the right of the upper landing.  With its vaulted bead-board pine ceiling and French doors opening onto a private balcony, it will make a marvelous craft room.  Who would not feel creative in a place like this?

Hall – The stairwell opens into a library area with plenty of shelving for all our kids’ books.  Let’s call it the Library at Cair Paravel.  Think gleaming metallic walls and mirrors with comfy cushions for sitting by the low shelves (head room, again!)

Bath – The Lodge, it will be cozy and woodsy.  After all, those infamous creatures’ houses are made of wood.  I get very excited about anything wooden nowadays!

Bedroom – The left hand bedroom will be Aslan’s Tent, a luxurious retreat for parents or guests in an Arabian-Nights-Gone-Wild decor.

Bedroom – The bedroom closest to the library will be Narnia.  As you come up the stairs and turn into the hall, you will be facing the wardrobe doors leading into Narnia. Each side of Narnia will have two ship-style berths tucked under the slanted ceiling–Kings on one side, Queens on the other!  Beneath the window will be the Stone Table, made cosy with cushions and flanked by two thrones, a perfect spot for reading by the big window.  

NOTE to my married kids:  Do not think this means we only want 4 grandkids!  If you give us more, there’s always the attic at the other end of the house!

By the beginning of July, I was quite discouraged.  This project felt like swimming through molasses!  After we got the plans from the architect, we asked two contractors for bids.  That took a while what with summer vacations and such.  Then one contractor wisely suggested that we need a structural engineer to look at the plans.  It took about a week to make that happen.  Even after he came, we still had to wait because his assistant had been on vacation and he had a two-week backlog.  Sigh!

We got another shock when the engineer’s recommendations came back.  Cutting through the rafters to get into the front gable for Aslan’s Tent added a LOT of cost to the project. The plan, as it stood, involved some very funky valleys in the bathroom ceiling and serious support requirements like LVLs.  Translated: $$$!

We decided to go back to our architect and have her come up with a different plan that didn’t involve cutting rafters and installing LVLs in the ceiling.  Luckily, she was available quickly, so I sat down with her at her computer and we looked at her second plan:

Ann did exactly what we asked her to do and gave us a room at the other end of the attic without cutting rafters.  But Didi, Kara, and I felt a sense of loss when we looked at this plan compared to the first one.  It seemed as if the magic was gone.

However, it also seemed to be much more economical to build.  So both contractors came back to rework their bids based on this new plan.  More delays. 

The one bit of progress during this time was that after getting the second round of bids, we felt able to choose our contractor.   Stuart Bickley had the job!

Then there were more delays while we waited for Stuart’s electrician to bid on the electrical work and get our local provider to give their input.

Meanwhile, in early August, we had all four of our children (and both GKs) here together for the first time in five years!  Amidst all the chatter and laughter and activity, we managed to find a chance to get their input on our plans.  The verdict was almost unanimous.  Among the seven (kids plus spouses), all but one preferred the first plan.

Their reasons were different, but they all mattered.  With plan two, they missed the library area; they missed the open hall at the top of the stairs; they missed a central gathering place; they missed the parents’ bedroom being close to the kids; they missed the centralization of the plan; they missed the bathroom close by.  Perhaps the final death knell was the real estate outlook for eventual resale value of the house because of the awkward floor plan.  

After everyone was gone, Kara and I were discussing my discouragement over our quandary.  Plan One was too expensive.  No one liked Plan Two.  “Why not combine the plans together?” she suggested.  “Keep Plan Two’s smaller bathroom where it is and put the open gathering area/library where Plan One’s bathroom was.”  I wasn’t convinced; we’d either have the expense of cutting rafters, or we’d have a tiny library area.  Maybe I could make my craft room serve double purpose as a sitting area . . .

Then Stuart’s final estimate on Plan Two arrived–and it was more than Plan One!  Of course he had included electric work and insulation, but still–!  We were puzzled and unsure once again what to do.  Much as we hated to, it seemed the only thing to do was get Stuart back here and consult.  

To be continued . . . 

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