Retirement was opportunity to remodel home

2013-01-27T00:00:00Z Retirement was opportunity to remodel homeGabrielle Fimbres Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There's been little lounging for Sue Von Borstel since the Pima County employee retired a year ago.

Von Borstel has spent her retirement planning, deconstructing, scraping, tiling and painting as she remodeled much of her burnt adobe, ranch-style home on the northwest side.

The Tucson woman had been contemplating the renovation for years. As her January 2012 retirement loomed, she spent her free time planning the job. First on her list was a total makeover for the kitchen, with its aging fixtures and little room to move.

"You couldn't open the refrigerator and the dishwasher at the same time,'' Von Borstel recalled of the dated appliances that faced one another. "It was very claustrophobic.''

The master bath was in major need of a creative overhaul to make the most of the small space. Also on her list: remove the popcorn from the ceilings throughout the 1,650-square-foot house, and add new tile, carpet and paint throughout the interior.

Von Borstel is pleased with the modernization of her comfortable home that was, well, a bit stuck in 1972.

"I love it,'' said Von Borstel, who relocated to Tucson from New York 30 years ago and bought the home in 1999. "It's really updated.''

After doing her homework, she hired a contractor. Von Borstel, a self-taught handywoman, determined what work she could do herself and what she would leave to the contractor.

"I got handy because it's too expensive to hire someone,'' she said. "It's all been learned through trial and error.''

Von Borstel gutted the kitchen. She and a friend removed all the cabinetry and the contractor went to work.

While the kitchen was torn up for seven months, Von Borstel cooked in her garage on a two-burner hot plate and microwave. She washed dishes in her bathroom sink.

One kitchen wall was moved 18 inches to allow for more space. A kitchen closet that held her washer and dryer was converted into an attractive wet bar, with a soft gray quartz countertop and a convenient wine refrigerator. A hole was cut into the wall, providing a view from the kitchen into the living room.

"Before, you were really cut off from the living room in here,'' Von Borstel said as she stood in her kitchen, gazing out at the stone fireplace in the living room.

"If you were cooking, you were usually by yourself.''

She designed and installed the tile backsplash that runs through much of the kitchen, stunning in grays and browns.

She upgraded with top-of-the line appliances - including a double oven - and attractive cabinets. An island was added, and 18-by-18 porcelain floor tile in modeled grays and browns was installed throughout the house.

"My goal was to create more space and make it more user-friendly and updated and modern,'' Von Borstel said of the kitchen. "It wasn't a joy to cook. I enjoy it much more now.''

After the kitchen was complete, next up was the master bath. During that three-month project, Von Borstel slept in the laundry room - a 140-square-foot room built in the garage.

It was time for the powder blue tile in the tiny shower stall and the Formica countertop - reminiscent of the 1970s - to go.

"It was old and grungy,'' she said. "Taking a shower was not a satisfying experience."

Von Borstel gutted the bathroom, ripping out tile. She saw an idea for a slope-in shower with no door on HDTV. Because the shower floor slopes down to the drain, a shower door is not needed, adding to the usable space.

The shower floor is an eye-catching tile mosaic in shades of pewter, black and white. A band of the same tile mosaic runs throughout the bathroom.

A medicine cabinet was added, as well as a round, vessel porcelain sink. Von Borstel reconstructed the cabinet, and with a leftover portion, created a small linen cabinet, which she hung over the toilet.

As part of the remodel, Von Borstel spent a solid two weeks scraping popcorn from the ceilings throughout the house. She painted all of the rooms, covering up all of that white with a soft, cozy tan, with white trim. She painted an accent wall in her bedroom milk chocolate.

New carpet was installed in the reenergized home.

So how much did Von Borstel spend? The entire project cost $50,000, and she figures she saved about $20,000 by doing much of the work herself. The bathroom remodel weighed in at $5,000, and the kitchen at about $30,000.

While she's already thinking about her next project, Von Borstel is pleased with the results.

"I'm home a lot now and I really enjoy being home,'' she said.

Home renovation tips from Sue Von Borstel:

• Set a budget and stick to it.

• Choose a reputable contractor and check their references.

• If you decide to go without a designer, choose one element that you really like -floor tile, for example - and pick everything else to go with that.

"I got handy because it's too expensive to hire someone. It's all been learned through trial and error."

Sue Von Borstel, retiree turned remodeler

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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