So You Want To Renovate?
Here are a few matters the Vaughans suggest you contemplate before planning big changes to your home.* Costs vary widely. Amy and Warren's renovations have ranged from $150,000 to $400,000. The first few meetings with a potential client are free. The Vaughans ask for a deposit before Amy begins drafting designs.* Weigh choices carefully. "I encourage potential clients to see what they can afford in the way of a new house first and consider factors such as distance from work and satisfaction with schools before they commit to a renovation," says Warren.* Things take time. Depending on the size of the house, renovation work can last 8 months or more.* Live in or move out? About 75% of their clients move out during renovation. "If you don't enjoy chaos, I don't recommend living in," says Amy.
Amy Vaughan knows about reinvention. After practicing architecture for nine years in Manhattan, focusing on commercial work and public housing, Amy came home to Atlanta to renovate her mother's ranch-style house and contemplate the next step in her career. Turns out she'd already taken that step.
"I liked redesigning my mom's house, and I thought, 'I'm on to something with these ranch-style houses, so I think I'll just stay,' " she says. Nearly 10 years later, examples of Amy's thoughtful reinventions dot the rolling hills of Valley Brook, Garden Hills, and Buckhead, where her reputation continues to grow by word of mouth from one happy homeowner to the next.
"We had a little split-level, and we'd gotten bored with it," says Amy's mother, art gallery owner Frances Aronson. "One builder who has done beautiful homes told me, 'This is the kind of house we bury.' Well, I liked some things about my home, and I didn't want to just bury it!"
Amy designed around the existing footprint and what she calls the "good bones" of the house. She transformed it into an Italian villa, complete with a terra-cotta-hued stucco exterior and a wisteria-draped pergola, and launched her new career in the process.
"She worked with what we had, took out walls and ceilings, exposed the beams, and opened it up," says Frances. "It doesn't have that much more square footage, but it seems spacious. She made it comfortable."
Amy and her husband of six years, Warren (a contractor, who is also her business partner in Amy Vaughan Inc. Design/Build), nearly doubled the square footage of their own ranch-style home. They kept only the foundation and some interior walls.
"We like the idea of taking a ranch-style house and actually transforming it," says Warren, standing amid stud walls and carpenter's dust in the evolving foyer of their all-American ranch-turned-Colonial home. Even when the couple tears down much of an original house, they try to save some of the old and blend it with the new.
"Warren and I can find great shortcuts with our plans because we've worked together so much," says Amy. "I'm such a different kind of architect now for having done design/build projects. I used to say, 'That would be so beautiful, but let's just see what it would cost.' Now I come in and say, 'Cut this; cut that,' and make it work within a budget. I think that's what clients find valuable--achieving the look they want but controlling costs."