N.J. home makeover is a regular feature on NJ.com. To submit your renovation for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, email address, phone number and town/city. Attach "before" and "after" photos of what you renovated.
Maureen Kane is a woman whose time is divided between her role as a widowed mother of two teen boys and her job as a nurse practitioner.
In 1999, she and her husband moved with their boys into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Ramsey. Six years later, they expanded the house with a second level that added two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry room, bringing the home to just over 1,800 square feet.
The couple had planned a second phase that would make over their home's lower level, but in 2009 her husband died of multiple organ failure after an extended illness. With the loss of her husband and her family's major life change, work on the first floor was put on hold indefinitely.
Thankfully, Kane's parents lived next door, having moved to Ramsey in 2003 so that Kane could keep a closer watch on them in their advancing years. They also helped her by watching over their grandsons until 2013 when her mother died unexpectedly. Not taking his wife's passing well, her father died a little more than a year later.
In the face of her losses, Kane says "faith, family and friends was what got me through. Still, as her sons grew older and more aware, it became more obvious that their first floor didn't work. "We'd come home and not be happy with the house," she said.
But Kane was reluctant to take on a major project alone. It didn't help that she considered the previous renovation to have been extremely stressful. She also was not interested in selecting materials, fixtures or furnishings. "I don't enjoy doing that," she said. "My husband picked out everything for the first part of the job."
The turning point came last year when she met Jill Shobe another Ramsey mom with sons about the age of her boys. Shobe also happened to have a background in interior design.
"In the sidelines of soccer as well as through church we had many conversations of what I wanted to do with the house, then that turned into what I was doing with the house," Kane said.
Recalling the many demands on her time and energy, Kane says Shobe was essential to getting her house in order. "She was there every time that I couldn't take off from work." Shobe also resolved any problems with subcontractors, Kane said.
Shobe was very hands-on with the project. In addition to taking on the role of both designer and general contractor in a full first-floor renovation that required removal of two walls and gutting the original 1950s kitchen and bathroom, Shobe found trades professionals that Kane said saved money.
While Kane selected Keller Construction of Mahwah for the bulk of the work, Shobe brought in the cabinet maker, plumber and electrician.
Elsewhere, Shobe was literally hands on. "She was out on the porch stripping the sofa and refinishing the wood," Kane said. In memory of her parents, Kane wanted to keep the French Provincial sofa and two dining chairs, all from her childhood home. Shobe also had the sofa reupholstered to complement the updated living room. She took home the heirloom dining chairs and painted them black to use with a round table she designed and had made. The table is set in front of a built-in cushioned settee flanked by tall cabinetry.
"My wedding china finally got displayed after 17 years," Kane said. Between the display cabinets a wall is personalized with a gallery of vacation photos that Shobe had enlarged and then framed herself. She customized the banquette cabinetry and other built-ins to fit the home's size.
"It was really critical to make sure we had enough storage in the kitchen, because it is not a big space," Shobe said.
Kane said her initial goal for the updated kitchen was to create a gathering area that would bring her together with her sons. She said, "It just seemed that when the house was closed off that everybody was more separated."
Removal of the walls opened up the space between the kitchen, dining room and living room. That is a big part of what pleases her about the updated lower level. The island has room to seat four for casual meals. Beyond it, the banquette is a charming niche with a view of the backyard.
One of the first floor's two bedrooms became a guest room that doubles as a television and gaming den for the boys, now 16 and 17. Kane, who sometimes works from home, gained a first-floor office in the other bedroom.
"It's my refuge," she said of the room which has a wing chair that Shobe found at a thrift store and had reupholstered, a process that also rebuilds the chair's inner support.
Kane estimates that including demolition, reconfiguration and furnishings, the project cost about $115,000. It's an expenditure she doesn't regret, she said. "I decided to do something for myself for the first time in many years. It was one of the best decisions. Every morning when I come downstairs, I feel like I'm on vacation."What she renovated
The entire first floor of an expanded 1950s ranch-style house.Who did the work?
Jill Shobe of Ramsey, Keller Construction of Mahwah and various subcontractors.How long it took
About five months, from October 2015 to February 2016How much it cost
About $115,000Where she splurged
On cabinetry and window treatmentsHow she saved
"Not having to take off work saved me money and stress," Maureen Kane said.What she likes most
"The openness and the island and the wood work," Kane said. "I also love the settee area. I love the island more."What she'd have done differently
"I think I would have done the original plan to put a fireplace in the guest bedroom. Originally, it was supposed to be French doors to the room with a fireplace in the back. Jill drew all of that up, but probably for monetary reasons I decided against it," she said. "So, that's phase three."
Kimberly L. Jackson may be reached at email@example.com. Find NJ.com Entertainment on Facebook.
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