SO MUCH IS so sweet here — with virtually zero DIY experience, but decades of memories and dreams (and only two trips to the ER), Ty Warren successfully pulled off the lovely-on-many-levels remodel of his childhood home in Kenmore — but the sweetest might be how we learned of this sentimental act of derring-do-it-himself in the first place.
Ty’s proud mother emailed us.
“My son, daughter-in-law and grandson have just moved into the home he completely renovated since April 2018,” wrote Rosemary Warren. “It’s the home we moved into when he was 4. It worked out that instead of building new in Snohomish County, he had a vision for my split-entry home.”
(Right up there on the sweetness scale: When contacted for confirmation, Ty replied, “My mom just told me about this.”)
Family and nostalgia were big drivers in Ty’s decision to take this whole-house project into his own untrained hands (previously, he had built only a shed and a chicken coop, both with help). He and his wife, Kris, and their 7-year-old son, Zachary, had sold their home and had planned “to find a flat piece of property to build a house on, and then build a small house for my mom,” Ty says.
During the search, Ty and his family moved in with Rosemary: in the 1962 house Ty lived in from age 4 to 20 — and into Ty’s old downstairs bedroom.
And then practicality steered things even closer to home.
Kris works for the Shoreline Fire Department; Ty works for Bellevue’s. Their commutes from Snohomish were sucking up 90 minutes a day and, at times, 1,000 bucks a month in gas.
“We started getting used to being close in,” Ty says.
And then, Kris says, “When we got the final estimate for building a house, we were both a little in shock. And I remember him saying, ‘Don’t say no right away; just think about it.’ He’s like, ‘What do you think about buying this place from my mom and redoing it?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what are we going to do with your mom?’ He said, ‘What if we could buy her a rambler in the neighborhood, something to age in place?’ ”
And — sweetness alert — in a near-miracle of timing, coincidence and aligning stars, they did. Right across the street.
“We just started thinking about what we could do to make this house work for us,” Kris says.
And Ty got to work.
“This was basically a 15-month-long project. It was a complete gut and remodel,” he says. “The house was taken down to the studs, [with the] entire roof structure torn off, retrussed, reroofed; a 250-square-foot master bath addition added; all existing electrical and plumbing torn out. Then it was all built back up from the studs out. The unique part was I undertook this not really knowing how to do any of it.”
Buddies pitched in. (“I had some help from some friends a handful of days, framing and setting trusses, but the bulk of the work I ended up doing on my own,” Ty says.)
YouTube pitched in. (“I have no clue how many hours of videos I watched on how to do anything from using your measuring tape to finish carpentry — probably in the hundreds,” he says.)
His wife and mother pitched in. (“He would tear stuff down, and Rosemary and I would come in with shovels and masks and scoop it all up,” Kris says.)
Architect Phillip “Skip” Dienes of Walls & Weeds handled the official drawings and permitting, Ty says, and, “I did use some subcontractors for insulation, drywall, chimney work and flooring.”
But this was Ty’s childhood-home-improvement project. “I did most of the electrical. All the framing and all that stuff. All the structural stuff,” he says. “I did all the trim, all the cabinets. Put all the lights in. Installed all the appliances. All the outside stuff. All the cedar soffits, board and batten on the outside.”
Inside, Kris painstakingly sourced all the lighting fixtures and pulled together a modern palette of light-gray walls, white trim and black hardware. “Everything came together really well,” she says.
The new, airy great room literally came together well, after a constricting wall came down, the washer and dryer moved out of the kitchen, and its brown-and-orange patterned carpeting (“That’s probably a ‘what the hell’ story on its own,” Ty says) made way for new oak flooring that blends right in with the original hardwood, which had been hidden beneath other, not-quite-as-frightening, carpet.
“The master bedroom had the world’s narrowest master bath. I think it was like 4 feet across,” Ty says. “And there had been a hot tub room my parents had built off the bedroom with a slider door, and I thought, ‘Well, there’s space here.’ We demoed the hot tub room.”
In its place: a bright addition of shiny newness, with a claw-foot tub nestled into a cozy alcove, two spacious walk-in closets, a shower and heated floors.
Zachary and Kylo the bearded dragon (Zachary’s reward for enduring the remodel) sleep in Ty’s sister’s old room, updated with bunk beds and a red locker-room closet. (His dinosaur-themed bathroom now has a big window and enough room for the relocated laundry machines.)
The first night the Warrens slept in their updated home, with Rosemary situated across the street, “Because we’d been living with Grandma, and [she and Zachary are] two peas in a pod, best buddies, we bought them walkie-talkies, and they were saying, ‘Buenas noches, mi amor; good night,’ ” Kris says. “And then the first thing in the morning, we went in there, and he was on the walkie-talkie with Grandma.”
These days, with everyone situated, Rosemary comes over every night for dinner, hangs out until bedtime and walks Zach to school in the mornings.
This success is especially sweet. “I was really sad that when we had property and we were going to build, [my mom] was just going to sell,” Ty says. “To be able to then turn around and do this to the house I grew up in is cool. And raise my son in it; that’s probably the coolest thing: He’s going to sleep in the same bedroom I did. He’s going to go to the same schools I did. So we’ll have all those memories here. … The fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing — it’s a good sense of accomplishment. I figured if someone was going to destroy and rebuild the thing, it would be cool if it were me.”