Dream To Reality

Going Home

How a Weymouth man turned his boyhood home into his dream house

By Matt Carroll, The Boston Sunday Globe

September 16, 1990

Weymouth – When Richard Shaw moved back from Iowa to the home he grew up in Weymouth, he saw the house needed some major changes.

It was not that the 40-year-old Cape was in bad shape, or had not been kept up by his parents.

“My dad his own style, and that was wonderful then,” Shaw said. “But now we have our own style.”

Shaw and his wife, Kathryn, thought the house needed a facelift, especially the kitchen. It was too small, with room enough for only one person to work in, and too dark, with only one northward-facing window.

While they were at it, maybe a deck could be built off the kitchen, facing the backyard. And, hey, maybe the small forest of oaks and elms in the backyard could be cut down and pool could be put in.

So the couple in their 40’s did that, and more, too. They converted the garage into a bedroom for Richard’s special needs brother, James, who lives with them. A full bath was added in the former breezeway between Jimmy’s room and the rest of the house.

The yard was re-landscaped and a double-width driveway replaced the single lane driveway. A gunite pool was built.

But while making the changes, Shaw did not want to change the basic character of his home. He wanted to think of this as his boyhood home that “was always warm and comfortable.”

All told, the Shaw’s spent about $105,000. “We could buy two houses in Iowa for the same amount of money,” Shaw said.

They say they saved thousands of dollars by doing much of the work themselves. But for a lot less than the price of a new home in Weymouth, that have completely transformed the character of the old house. Instead of feeling small and closed in, it now is relatively open and roomy.

Richard, who works in distribution at the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, and his wife, who still runs a tour business part time in Iowa, are clearly pleased with the results.

“We love it. We love it,” he said. “The kids say we have a yuppie kitchen, because it has a contemporary feel, but we like it.” The kitchen was altered the most. In is parents’ day, entertaining was done “in the parlor,” he said. “In today’s society, there’s more or a tendency to entertain in the kitchen, be a little more informal.”

“It’s airy and spacious and cozy and everything else,” Kathryn said.

Richard’s original plan was to move back to Weymouth temporarily, to help care for his ailing mother. But his mother’s condition did not improve, and his brother needed a guardian. So the couple, who have two college-age children, decided to move from the Midwest, where they had lived for 25 years, back to New England.

In deciding to renovate, they were not sure where to start. That decision was complicated because Kathryn was still 1,500 miles away in Iowa. The couple had some “long conversations” about the changes, she said. They turned first to Richard Connolly, President of Cornerstone Consulting, Inc., of Weymouth. Connolly helps consumers who are building or remodeling homes.

“Very bluntly, we see to it that they don’t get ripped off by the building industry,” he said. He works on an hourly basis, unless he coordinates the project, for which he charges between 8 and 10 percent of the total price.

Shaw elected to act as general contractor.

Connolly had the couple draw up a “wish list” of what they wanted, which included soliciting plans from five kitchen companies. He helped the Shaws draw up extremely detailed plans and blueprints, everything from where the lights would be located to the brands of the appliances. Since they knew what the wanted, bids from subcontractors were easy to compare.

They also learned quickly how to keep costs down. Shaw bought the materials himself, saving money that subcontractors would normally tack on. Shaw and his brother Jimmy also gutted the old kitchen themselves.

The Shaws set a budget of $50,000 for their dream kitchen. He said they have spent $47,200, although some painting and wallpapering still needs to be done. The work was done from the middle of October through the end of December.

The results are stunning. The size of the kitchen has tripled by the 10-foot-by-20-foot addition. Two skylights in the cathedral ceiling let in streams of light. “In the old kitchen, you always had to turn the light on, no matter what time it was,” Kathryn said.

Sliding doors to the 8-foot-by16-foot deck off the rear of the house let in more light. Lights are also inset in the ceiling. The cabinets are done in light-colored maple, also adding to the airy feeling. Instead of the old, small counter, a long, laminated counter of imitation granite sweeps around half the kitchen. The kitchen table is set along a wall, in its own alcove, looking out over the backyard through the sliding doors.

All the appliances are new. Because they saved so much in other areas, they were able to be what Shaw called “a little frivolous.” For example, the dishwasher is paneled in the same style as the cabinets, which are all high quality. The refrigerator is extra large. A microwave has been built into the cabinets, and a stationary hutch is made in the same style wood as the cabinets.

Before doing the kitchen, the couple had transformed the garage into Jimmy’s bedroom for a cost of $13,000. Other than the ceiling being a little lower than in a typical room, it would be hard to tell the room once held cans of gasoline and automobile engines. Built-in book cabinets and wall-to-wall carpeting give it a homey feel.

Connecting the former garage with the house, in the space where a breezeway stood, is a new full bath, complete with tri-fold doors and whirlpool jets in the tub, one of the extras they added. The bath more than replaces a half-bath that was knocked out when the old kitchen was replaced.

The Shaws have also done work to the backyard, which was overgrown with trees. The yard was cleared and a 18-foot-by36-foot, heated gunite pool in the shape of a “lazy L,” was ready by Memorial Day. The deck overlooks the backyard. Small flagstone patios are on either side of the deck. Costs of these and a few other items, like a pool cabana, came to around $45,000.

“I love to come out here in the morning with my coffee and papers,” said Shaw, with a big smile. Standing beside the pool, he sweeps his hand over all the renovations and said, “We feel this is the last time we’ll do any major work on the house. This is meant to last a lifetime.”

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