Boho Bungalow Renovation – First Step

Last year when my husband brought up the subject of selling our building in downtown Charleston, I was less than receptive. For three years we had poured everything we had into what was once a falling down 1840s grist mill that had been used and abused over the years and created the perfect live/work space complete with my dream art studio. And now nearly a decade later, not only do I love our building but I love living in the city – so the idea of moving to the burbs nearly had me in hives. How could I give up my daily walks with Hope along Upper King? What about all the restaurants just minutes from our front door? And this might sound odd to many, but how would I sleep without the cacophony of the city?

The before and after of our building in downtown Charleston.

We sat down and tried to talk through the benefits of selling, and you can imagine there were tears and a lot of tension. It’s hard when, as a couple, you’re not on the same page regarding the big issues like where to live. After several rather ‘chilly’ weeks, we sat down again and this time I surprised Micheal by saying, “I’m ready to make a change.”  I’d been giving it a lot of thought and over the past few weeks I’d been driving over to one of our rental houses, just over the bridge and close to the city. I liked the neighborhood with its big oak trees, sidewalks, a large greenway for walking Hope and most importantly the ‘walkability’ factor with restaurants and stores within walking distance. The houses are all 1940s bungalows – and although they’re charming, they’re also quite a bit smaller than our current space – the one drawback.

And so we talked late into the night – weighing the pros and cons of selling and moving out of the city.  The more we threw around ideas, the more excited we both became at the prospect of another renovation project! The next day we did a walk through of our rental property – to say it was a mess is an understatement.  We still had tenants in the house and more than a decade of renters had taken a toll on both the interior and exterior. Thankfully that doesn’t faze me. Micheal and I have done numerous renovation projects together and I’m used to seeing a building at its worst – I’m blessed with the ability to be able to have a vision of what it can be and I easily look past its current condition.

A few before pix of our Boho Bungalow … many more to come!

After the walk through we sat down for another in-depth conversation, and I laid out what I call my ‘non-negotiables’. I wanted to: add onto the two back bedrooms, creating a large master suite and an art studio; French doors leading to a covered patio from the two back rooms so we could have a beautiful outdoor living space for relaxing and entertaining; a pool so that Hope could practice her dock diving and I could survive the brutal Charleston summers; and a butler’s pantry off the kitchen.  Being the ‘money guy’ Micheal reminded me that all of this was going to be costly and I reminded him that if he wanted to move me out of the city, I needed to create my perfect nest – and I assured him that I had complete confidence that he could make it happen!

And so once again, Micheal and I have decided to embark on a renovation project – the Boho Bungalow.  Our downtown building is on the market and we’re crossing paws that we’ll find a buyer who will love and treasure this old gal as we have.  I hope you’ll join me as we venture down the renovation path – I’ll share our secret to maintaining a happy marriage during what can be a stressful time; my three Fs for renovation success, focus, flexibility and fun; the design process including tips for creating pup friendly environments; dealing with the bureaucracy of renovation, permitting, surveys, etc.; selecting everything from appliances to wall finishes; and ‘the b word’ – creating within a budget!  Renovation takes a courageous heart, a lot of faith, and a good sense of humor – there will be tears and there will be laughter but the most important thing to remember is to enjoy the journey!



Melissa Gray

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