Has it really been 5 months since my last post?
The process of trading our skyway connected apartment for a slice of the city skyline took more energy than I anticipated. Happily, we are now home high in The Pointe of St. Paul, a 34 story building with family friendly amenities. Still downtown St. Paul, still in under 1000 square feet, but 2 blocks removed from the skyways we still love and use.
We moved for the normal reasons: rising rents, a desire to customize our living space, and with luck, we hoped to add a 3rd bedroom. Existing 3 bedroom condos were rare or beyond our budget, so we had to be creative.
It was gutsy, buying a condo with a floor plan we hated before knowing what to do with it, but we had faith for a few reasons.
1. Location, location, location
Even if we epicly failed:
- We’d at least still be where we wanted to be: on the green line, 95 walk score, next to our church, a block from a grocery store.
- We could rent (or sell) our unit and try again somewhere else. (Many condo associations ban renters – if you buy, make sure you know the rules.)
2. Post tension concrete
This is a building technique that puts all the stress and weight of a building on the exterior walls. It means interior walls don’t matter, they can exist or not exist. When we learned The Pointe was post tension concrete a world of possibility opened up. The down side is absolutely no wires or channels can be made in the ceilings or floors. Would we have exposed conduit? We took that chance.
3. It was a good deal.
Our condo was priced below comparable condos, thanks to unfortunate design choices and worn surfaces, but since we planned to move walls this was good news for us.
4. Personal experience
From our rental apartment I knew 900 sq. feet was big enough – if designed well. Renting is great practice for owning. The challenge was in the design, the bones were there.
5. We had shoulders to stand on.
God bless the experts and trail blazers before us.
I must give Slow Home Studio a special shout out. Their book, “What’s Wrong With This House?” is awesome. They should re-title it “The Life Changing Magic of a Good Floor Plan.” Maybe it would get the traction Marie Kondo got (also a stellar book). If you are searching for a home, or hate the one you are in – worth $10.
Which leads me to our floor plan. Our awful, tragic floor plan.
This is what you had to walk around to see it.
Tragic, but not my biggest complaint. The wasted space was. Square feet means nothing if it’s unusable.
Qualities of a Bad Floor Plan:
1. Lots of Hallways
Hallways should be subtracted from overall square footage on real estate brochures. You can’t put furniture or storage there – too cramped and a fire hazard besides. You can’t have a conversation in them – you’ll annoy the people you live with trying to get through. No windows, nothing to look at.
Our condo had:
- A long, narrow, winding hallway leading to a closed in kitchen.
- Another long hallway to a second bedroom.
- Uselessly deep, narrow storage closets just creating more “hallway” off of the hallways.
2. Lots of Angled Walls
Angled walls were popular in the 80’s. Saint Paul had a building boom in 80’s. Way too many condos and apartments have angled wall problems here. I’m sure it seemed clever and modern at the time with the goal of maximizing river views for more units, but angles make furniture arrangements and traffic patterns more difficult.
Nothing we could do about the exterior angles, but there were plenty of interior angles we could dispose of in the hallways, the master bedroom, and kitchen.
3. Lots of Mystery Walls
See the 5 or 6 dark boxy areas in the floor plan? When we opened the walls, we found cement columns, furnaces, plumbing and enough wasted space for 2 new closets.
4. Lots of Regular Walls
- Walls separating the kitchen from every side.
- Walls blocking gorgeous views of the Mississippi River.
- Walls separating side by side closets.
Why so many walls? Instead of a few spaces feeling big, every space felt small.
Moral of the Story:
The re-purposed wasted space translated into:
- 3 bedrooms, instead of two
- 2 baths
- Laundry room
- Large entry
- Dedicated office
- Huge gourmet kitchen
- Informal dining area
- Formal dining area
- Living room
- Walk in closet for both kids (albeit shared)
- 2′ x 14′ of master closet space
For us, the worst floor plan, became the best opportunity for a major remodel. “After” pictures are coming. Stay tuned!