David Stegmeier and Nate Rasmussen would not recommend living in a two-bedroom condo while trying to renovate it. Otherwise, you might find...

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David Stegmeier and Nate Rasmussen would not recommend living in a two-bedroom condo while trying to renovate it.

Otherwise, you might find yourself spending vacations chipping out bathroom tile, sleeping in a room with cold concrete floors and spending more on doggie day care than you care to think about.

Stegmeier, 35, and Rasmussen, 32, bought their Capitol Hill condo in October 2004 from an elderly woman who preserved the condo with a 1960s flourish. Rasmussen called the look “cute,” but knew he and Stegmeier would have to tear the place apart and redo it.

The bathroom was fully immersed in pinkish tones (including a pink toilet), the living and dining rooms bore white-painted wood paneling and the balcony floor was covered with fake grass. When the previous owner’s furniture was removed, stains and other problems were exposed.

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“We knew it was going to be a huge challenge,” Stegmeier said.

Especially because they planned to do it all themselves.

Tearing it up

The renovation started in the main living areas. They tore down a wall between the kitchen and common areas, pulled wood paneling off the walls and scraped off glue.

They learned how to install bamboo flooring, and Rasmussen, who had some experience with mosaic tiling, undertook the excruciating work of tiling the kitchen’s backsplash. They also brought in dark, modern Ikea kitchen cabinets and custom counters.

They didn’t have much experience going in but found Web sites offering advice or asked for help from employees at do-it-yourself stores.

The renovation consumed them. Some days were difficult and exhausting. A couple of times, Stegmeier came home, looked at Rasmussen laying tile and knew the breaking point was near. He would send him to the computer: “Go surf the Internet. Go find us a new vase.”

Getting it right

They felt the most pressure to finish the bathroom quickly. Stegmeier’s parents came to Seattle to help with plumbing and tiling and stayed in an RV, which gave the couple a place to shower. They used the building’s communal bathroom for the week the plumbing was out.

They suffered other renovation inconveniences, like washing dishes in a bathtub, eating lots of takeout on paper plates and sleeping in a bedroom turned storage facility for cabinets and flooring.

But they also were determined to do it right, and nitpicked about finishing details.

“You go to an open house, you notice a badly done detail or things that are rushed through,” Stegmeier said.

“We’re kind of design … junkies,” Rasmussen added. “Things like that kind of motivate us.”

They would have finished the renovation faster if they hired someone, but by doing the work themselves, they could afford nicer materials. The entire renovation cost roughly $30,000.

The results

A year and a half later, the results are gorgeously streamlined and modern.

The kitchen opens out over an island with barstool seating that ties in the living room and dining areas. The balcony’s floor now is covered by interlocking wood floating on a plastic grid that echoes the dark tones of the kitchen cabinetry. Cloudy glass sliding doors (professionally installed) replaced bedroom and bathroom doors, adding a sense of lightness to a hallway that once felt tunnel-like. A floating vanity brings a modern angle to the white bathroom enhanced by sparkly silver wall décor.

Collections of Jonathan Adler vases and modern touches, like a curving shelf in the dining room and Charles and Ray Eames dining table, keep their style clean and sleek. They usually favor the newest part of the renovation, though Rasmussen liked the bathroom best for a long time.

“No pink.”

They finished in May, and after more than a year of living with sawdust and general chaos, they have taken advantage of their newly beautified space.

“It’s been a really social summer,” Stegmeier said.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com