It’s your House – Now make it your Home

16 min read The Dream stage of remodel planning is the essential first step to tailor a house you live in into your home. Today’s interview shows you how.

What do you think of when I tell you that you can personalize your home?

Does it call to mind choosing furniture, painting the front door, and perhaps eradicating the color “mint-green” from a house that still feels a bit like it belongs to the previous owner? Those are all great things to do.

But I’m what I’m talking about here is adjusting the house – sometimes its very layout and structure – to meet YOUR family’s particular needs.  So much of what you see on HGTV and in shelter magazines is just cookie cutter updates. They focus on making a standard house more luxurious or bringing up to date in cookie cutter ways. 

If you are going to take the time, and spent the money and live through the stress of a  home remodel, I want you to end up with a house that makes your home dreams come true. 

For a perfect example of what I mean by that, today I’m going to chat with my little sister who’s been busily customizing her new home ALMOST since the last time we spoke to her on the podcast last fall.  

Listen in while we chat about getting to know her home, making some unusual choices about how to remodel it to fit her and her husbands personal preferences, and loving the process!

Me and my sis in her old apartment:

Here’s the house:

This is what we have in mind to transform the addition:

Here are some of her recent painting and furniture sourcing projects!


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One of the most important and overlooked aspects of remodeling today is that you can personalize your home. And when I say that, I’m not talking about changing a color of a tile in your bathroom from blue, which you hate to green, which you love, although sure do that. I’m talking about adjusting the house. Sometimes it’s very layout and structure to meet the particular needs and preferences of you and your family.

So much of what you see on HGTV or in children, magazines is just another cookie cutter update that includes making a standard house more luxurious or bringing it up to date and cookie cutter ways.

If you’re going to take the time and spend the money and live through the stress of a home remodel, I want you to end up with a house that makes your dreams come true for a perfect example of what I mean by that today, I’m going to chat with my little sister. Who’s been busily customizing her new home almost in the last time we spoke to her on the podcast last fall.

Hey there, welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes, helping you match a mid century home to your modern life. I’m your host, Della Hansmann architect, and mid-century ranch. Enthusiast. You’re listening to season six episode two.

Last week, I introduced those essential steps of the master plan process summed up into a simple alliterative framework. The five D design framework. The first one, the dreaming stage is the one that most commonly gets skipped entirely in a conventional remodel process. And look, I can see why it feels extraneous to take the time for it. You look around and see finished remodels. You think you know what you need and you don’t have time to waste. The contractor says they’re ready to go. All you need is a plan, but actually this moment right at the start of the project is where the whole thing can go wrong before you even begin.

Think about it this way. If you were about to get into a car to start a trip, you might already be running late. You want to get going. So you pile in steer out of your driveway and head off at your top legal speed, but did you map your route? You won’t end up where you want to be faster if you picked the wrong option. And if your directions are off by too much, you won’t end up where you want it to go at all. Think about it.

You know, this dreaming time is worth it in the lifespan of your home. You’ll sleep there.You wake up there and spend most of every day influenced by the space around you.

So ask yourself, what does my home really mean to me? Is the house helping me live my best life or making each day a little harder? What do I need to change about my home? And what do I want to change above all? Keep asking why, why do this? Why take on the trouble and disruption? When you ask yourself these questions, you might come up with some surprising thoughts about what to do with your house.

When you take that time to ask what your house is doing for you versus what you wish it could do, you might just end up thinking outside the box and creatively tailoring it to the life you want to live.

Now, this is advice I give all the time. So on one hand, I’m not surprised that my brilliant little listened took it and ran with it when she got her first home late last year. But as she always does, she’s really taken it beyond my expectations. I’m so impressed with how constantly she and her husband had been modifying their new mid-century home to perfectly fit their lifestyle.

The first choices they made largely with furniture, when they decided to keep the TV out of their main floor living area, by creating a beautiful reading and audio room in the classic mid-century combo entry, living space at the front of the house, they took her husband’s big sports TV and made a space for it in the basement. So now they have a high quality movies, sports evening space when they want, and they can completely walk away from it when they don’t.

As a result, they’ve created a low key evening routine of sitting on comfortable mid-century furniture every evening, snuggling their cats, listening to records on the Hi-Fi and reading books just as they always wish to, but struggled to make happen when they lived in a one bedroom apartment with a TV right in the center of their living space. But that’s just the beginning.

Their next plan involves a surprising choice for the den edition from the sixties at the back of their house. Leaning into the dream phase of planning, they brainstormed the perfect solution for that space. Because all the five steps of the five D framework are interlinked, we won’t only stick the dream phase in our chat. KJ also talks about her process of discovering the house she’s been working diligently to make herself more familiar with the ins and outs of homeownership and learning more with each call for pricing to a subcontractor about how she’ll manage first, some small projects and later some bigger home improvement undertakings. And you can listen in while I twist her arm to sign her up for a master plan, she needs one and she hasn’t got it yet.

As always you’ll find show notes with links to the references I make and an outline of this conversation on my website at midmod-midwest.com/602, We’re going to chat about some layout things in the interview. So if that seems mysterious, check out the show notes for sketches of the floor plan. So you can visualize what we’re talking about. And I’ll also include some photos without further ado. Here’s that chat.

So it’s been about what half a year now it’s been almost a year since we last checked in with my sister who at that time was in what I described as the exciting Zillow phase of her house hunt. And in that time she’s found a house bought it. Yeah, she got her first offer accepted. We’ll ask about that. And she’s been slowly but surely making herself at home in the new house.


Hey KJ, we’re sitting in the basement of your new house. We are sitting in the basement of my new house. You’ve got some comfortable furniture in here. It does not have the ratty carpet it had when you bought it. Instead. It has …

KJ :

What it has cork at the suggestion of my sister. We have click-lock waterproof cork . That was kind of a fun project.


Yeah, that was, I mean, that’s not the first thing you’ve ever done with power tools, certainly, but that was kind of this, the first project, the basement floor was accomplished during the height of the pandemic when neither I, nor my dad could come over and help. So you’re really flying without a net there in terms of home improvement projects, I was impressed.

KJ :

A lot of phone calls, a lot of taking photos of things and saying, how do I unlock this? Or get this into shape.


You put a new flooring in several places, you’ve painted, you’ve assembled some fun, new and vintage furniture pieces that you didn’t have before. And I think the biggest project is overhauling the addition from the 1960s era.

Oh, first tell us a little bit about the house.

KJ :

So the house was built in 1952. It’s a mid-century ranch go figure on Madison’s north side. Um, it’s super cute and it’s perfect location. So one of the things I talked about last time was that I was looking at a very specific location near my work at the clinic that I work at. We also liked it because it had a walking distance, grocery store library branch. We spent this last summer going to the, um, club league baseball games here in Madison. And it had just a blast being able to walk to do that because they are a drinking event


And you can hear them for your back yard.

KJ :

We can hear them from our backyard too. Yeah, it’s been great. Um, but yeah, we looked at about four to five houses in this neighborhood. None of them felt quite right. We were all almost close to putting in an offer on one or two of them before this. And then this one came up and we liked the way it looked. It was on, you know, what are the streets that we thought of as sort of our ideal go-to streets? And when we got inside of it, we thought, yes, this could work. Uh, we put in an aggressive offer and it got accepted. So we got this house. It was our first offer.

There was very minimal back and forth. Then it’s been kind of a dream ever since we love it. We’re so happy to be here.


I’m so happy for you. I have to admit, honestly, I was not only impressed that you got the first house, you offered four. I was a little annoyed, but

KJ :

You had told me it was going to be hard. And I, I proved you wrong with my determination and willpower.


So, you know, little sister one-upsmanship strikes again, I’m very proud of you. And you’ve been making the place your own. Your husband has been focused on the yard and been finding himself a landscape gardener.


All of a sudden we have monarch butterflies that visited our yard and bumblebees. We are working on making a pollinator friendly habitat. He is becoming a pro at it. So it’s, it’s been also been great.


That’s fun to watch. So the reason I need to talk to you today was this interesting 1960s additions to the house is just a two bedroom. Originally, a previous owner had fit in a bedroom in the basement with an egress window. And you guys aren’t big grandiose bedroom people. When you bought the house, this back addition was fitted out as sort of like a den slash man-cave. It has original late sixties, dark paneling walls, and a sort of a semi custom semi homeowner built, uh, entertainment unit along one wall. And as I mentioned, also in the basement really gross ratty carpeting, which you didn’t tear it up right away, but it got torn out as soon as you could manage. Yes.

I think what’s interesting to me about that space is that to anyone else the obvious use for it would be to keep using it as a den to have the front room as sort of a formal living room in the back as a den, or if you want it to be a little more ambitious, you could remodel it as a master bedroom. And it’s very common to have a master bedroom addition off the back of the house, actually with a little bit more design thinking, we brainstormed both a really unusual and a really perfect solution for that space. So you want to tell us what’s going to happen in that room.

KJ :

So it’s this great room right now. And I mean that in a lot of ways, one is that it has a large footprint. And so we certainly could’ve left it like that, but it also sort of tucks in around our garage fits right into it. So currently our attached garage, we enter into the original footprint of the house into this very tiny narrow hallway with a doorway down to the basement, a doorway in the opposite direction, to the addition in a doorway straight ahead into the kitchen.


Yeah. Hallway is four doors in a three foot by four foot space.


Yeah. It’s tiny and cramped. And when we come in, there’s nowhere to set things down or take off our muddy, snowy salt, grimy boots in the winter, which was when we moved in. And so we were frustrated with it right off the bat. What we want to do actually is create a mudroom space in our addition. Our plan is to cut in a door on sort of the 90 degrees opposite wall, walking straight into the addition from the garage, rather than turning it to the side of the garage and walking into the original footprint of the house. We’ll walk into that space and essentially then divide the addition, lengthwise one third, two thirds. So that the third that’s looking at our backyard, you know, the house, it was an L and makes this cute little nook around her patio.

KJ :

We look into our shared neighbor’s backyard. We’ve gotten really close with them. It’s actually super fun. We’re going to put more windows on that side. We’re calling it sort of the bird watching room. Um, it’ll be more open and light and airy and bright and a place for us to sit, maybe breakfast, relax in the afternoons and read.

Then the other two thirds of the room where the door will be, that will come in from the garage. We’re going to treat us sort of this mudroom bike storage room tool room, where we can carry in and out the heavy equipment that we need to work on projects in the house. Or my husband, Kevin loves riding bikes. He’s getting me into buying more bikes. So that’s the challenge and the pandemic. Um, and so we’ll have it as a space to work on those in all weather store them safely.

KJ :

We might cut another door in on the far side of the addition so that we can have straight in and out access from there too. But it’ll just all of a sudden, we’ll have all of the storage space we need for everything we want to be doing in the yard or out and about activities here in the house comfortably. And that space to walk in, not be kicking cats out of the way, not be getting muddled right into the kitchen right away. Um, and then transitioned into her house and a much smoother, much more pleasant way.

We’re really excited about it. We really want to try to get at least some of it, at least the door part, uh, done before the winter, because it was so unpleasant last winter, she always be sort of tripping into the kitchen every time we came home. Uh, but we’re really excited about it. Yeah. And I I’m just like,


I think it is the perfect example of tailoring a house to fit your own life because you don’t need to be bound by what a space was before or what for resale value might be. Again, these are the things that were missing from your lives.


You guys are obsessed with your yard and with birds and having a space where you can really appreciate that. None of the other windows in the house, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom can realistically be expanded to be a wonderful birdwatching space. The other thing that the house didn’t have for you was a place to obviously make a bike Mecca for, um, for Kevin. And I think another, another choice might have been to run that down into the basement. People often think of basement as more unfinished space, a lower quality space. And that’s where you would do gritty things like bike maintenance, but from a ease of access point of view, that’s not as good running bikes down the stairs into your mechanical space.


Back here would be pretty inconvenient. And you’d already taken steps to fit up the basement as your cozy TV watching den. Because when you watch TV, you really love to. And when you’re not watching TV, you want it completely gone from your lives. So these two parts of your life that are so important, the birdwatching and the bike working didn’t have a home in your house and you had this big extra space rather than buying a whole bunch of living room furniture to fit out a third sitting space. You came up with this great solution. Let’s talk about a little bit about the design process, how we got there. I will be the first to admit I have yet to have Della make me a mid-century solutions package.

KJ :

And I regret it deeply because I wish we had a master plan. Um, we need one to figure out when things are going to happen, what all needs to happen when we do each project, the addition feels like enough of its own space that I think it’s what we’re doing. There will fit with the others, tentative ideas we have with the rest of the house.

When we start thinking about what are we going to do with the kitchen and their existing bathroom upstairs, and other things like that. I can’t imagine doing that without a master plan, but I might be a little biased from my big sister’s advice. Uh, so we’ve been trying to think about, you know, what can we do ourselves? What do we need other people to help us out with?

I’ve been getting better at figuring out who to call and ask these kinds of questions. And it’s definitely a hit or miss. I’ve had some phone calls where it’s super helpful. And I feel like everything I ask, I get an answer that helps me figure out in more detail, what are the actual next steps? And what do I need to pull together with a subcontractor? The subcontractor,

KJ :

Other times I tried calling the permit and maybe I didn’t call the right person. I still need to figure it out, but we just confused each other terribly. Um, and that’s definitely on me because it’s my first time doing this. But, um, I think, you know, we’ve been thinking about our three options of speed, quality, or saving money. And definitely, I think the thing, you know, we’ve done some projects already, but for the most part, we’re trading off on speed where, you know, we plan to be in this house for a while. We want to do this. Right. And that’s been too terribly much money on it. So we’re taking it slow and trying to do it at the cost. We want the quality we want with the plan we want, but we need a master plan.


Yeah. Yeah. I think you do. But at this point you gotta get in line because we’re fully booked out through the end of September. This is actually not even a bit. I really am trying to twist her arm here. Thanks for listening in podcast. Um, so yeah, this is, I’m so delighted with how you guys are living in this house, making it your own.

It’s funny. I never really thought of you guys as house-y people, you were so well suited to your apartment life too, but watching Kevin just nest into your garden and watching the two of you make this house, your home, it’s been so satisfying. And for those of you listening, I’ve been intermittently posting photos to this is on Instagram. I’ll gather them into the show notes. So if you want to check out some of the really cool, bold paint choices that KJ makes that I would never dare on my house because I do everything in gray. Uh, I’ll put those pictures together. And also some of the floor plans that we’ve been working out for this space.

KJ :

Yeah. We’ve been trying to lean into really making it a place for us and not how other people will use this room or what makes the most sense from that perspective. And it’s been super comfortable from the get go or we’re loving being in here. And we’ve got a lot more projects in mind. Um, but the way it is now is also great. So it’s, it’s all good.


It’s just been a delight to watch you guys go through this process and it’s been fun to help out in the ways I can. I can’t wait for you guys to decide you actually need a master plan so we can organize the whole project, but I’ll stay tuned. And, uh, I’ll let you jump in right at the end of the line whenever you decide to sign up for that sounds good.

If it wasn’t totally clear from the chat, basically we’re talking about downgrading, something that had been a den into a three season porch and a bike focused workshop to a house flipper. This would be madness, but my sister and her husband are planning to stay.

And even if they weren’t, this is a change that will take their house from good, to great. It fills the last of their major lifestyle needs that the house wasn’t meeting in a way that a third sitting room certainly would not.

Now I expect that your home is somewhat different from theirs. Although mid-century homes have a lot in common, but I know you have totally different personal preferences, passions and projects in mind. I challenge you though to re-examine your house. Does it have what you need right now? Maybe you have a formal dining room, but what you want is a sewing space.

Your kids might each have their own bedrooms, all the spaces allocated, but they long for a playroom. Could they double up to sleep and get a daytime chaos room and trade? Is your basement just holding stuff? Or could it be replicated as much needed living space?

Many home remodels include additions, but more can be accomplished than you expect by just reallocating the spaces from one unwanted task to another that you love. And you’d better believe it’s more budget friendly to make that choice.

I’d love to hear what’s popping into your head. Hop on to my Instagram, please, and send me a DM to let me know what your house isn’t doing for you yet. While you’re over there, you can check out my recent AJTV series on dreaming and discovering your house. Find it at midnight Midwest. And if you tap on the little TV icon, you’ll see those videos and more are coming.

So that was our dip into step one of planning, a remodel giving yourself time to dream.

If you missed last week’s episode, outlining the whole five D Design framework. I encourage you to give it a listen, or you can just download the PDF laying out each step at midmod-midwest.com/framework.

For more advice in custom planning, your home update, reach out for help. By going to my services page to set up an appointment for an hour, paid consultation about your house, or apply for a master plan design for your home update and keep your eyes peeled for announcements about the relaunching, ready to remodel course coming this fall. You can sign up for the wait list to make sure you’re the first to hear any news.


Next week on mid modern model, we’re going to chat about how you can get really empowered to lead your own remodel. No matter your background or skill level, I’m going to frame this specifically for women or female, identifying single homeowners.

But in reality, this episode will be chock full of useful advice for anyone who’s ever wondered. Do I know what I need to plan to remodel? Yes you do. Or at least, yes. You certainly can. Can’t wait to share it with you. See you next week.