DIY Renovation of Architect’s Condo, Phase 1: Design

DIY Renovation of Architect's Condo Phase 1 One Design Condo Midtown Atlanta LG Squared Inc Jodi Laumer-Giddens

As architects, Chris and I are often asked, “If you could design your own home, what would you design?” A reasonable question when you have two architects in the same household. Also reasonable to think we would have a definitive answer. But we don’t. Although I am practiced at interpreting the needs and wants of our clients when designing their homes, it’s a different problem to solve when it’s my own. Part of the reason; my tastes vary. A lot. When considering design as it applies to me, whether it is fashion, interiors or architecture, I don’t get one vision or idea in my head and pursue it doggedly. I’m more of a make-it-work kind of gal. That is to say, I’m open to alternatives to guide the way if cost, availability or time are issues. Does this make me wishy-washy? I don’t think so. I think it makes me resourceful and a bloom-where-your-planted person. I have found that approach opens up a lot of possibilities and leads you in directions that are off the grid, outside of the box and inventive. That’s a good thing when you’re a designer, especially when you’re on a budget.

Turning less in to more

Chris and I (and our dog and two cats) currently live in a 900 square foot one-bedroom condo in a modern glass high rise in Midtown Atlanta, GA. We bought it when we moved to Atlanta four years ago, after having sold our 1,300 square foot historic bungalow in Florida. We were ready for something different and wanted to challenge ourselves with a “less is more” lifestyle. So far, so good, but the four year itch set in. It’s time to regroup. Do we sell? Do we rent? Do we rearrange the furniture? I don’t particularly want to sell, and the waiting list to rent our unit is a good three years long. There are only so many ways to angle the couch. So, the scratch to that itch…?

“Tear Down This B*tch of A Bearing Wall…” – J. Crawford, Mommie Dearest

Our biggest opportunity to gain space was at the bedroom-bathroom connection, where the original design allows you to go from the bedroom into the bathroom without passing through the living space. Great in theory, but to manage such a configuration there are no less than three doors in about a 10 square foot space. When you’re living in a total of 900 square feet we decided that space can be better utilized as part of the living area. That means those walls need to come down.

Ok- that takes care of that. But wait- when the walls come down, what happens when you look up? Dropped ceilings that don’t make sense anymore. No problem. Demo is demo. Getting rid of the ceilings will also make the space feel that much bigger. But what’s lurking up there? All kinds of goodies like wiring and ductwork. Oh, so maybe not as easy as a tug and a pull and down come the drywall soffits.

That’s when Chris, in all of his HVAC wisdom, chimes in with “Let’s go ductless!” Which means we’re replacing our extremely inefficient and clunky heating and cooling system with a new ductless mini-split heat pump system that is not only going to eliminate ductwork, it will save us a lot of money on our energy bills, and we’ll finally be comfortable!!

DIY Renovation of Architect's Condo Phase 1 One Design After Floor House Plan LG Squared Inc Jodi Laumer-Giddens

Demolition Floor Plan


DIY Renovation of Architect's Condo Phase 1 One Design Before LG Squared Inc Jodi Laumer-Giddens

Before demo looking toward Dining, Bedroom, and Bath (furniture moved for demo)

DIY Renovation of Architect's Condo Phase 1 One Design Before 2 LG Squared Inc Jodi Laumer-Giddens

Before demolition looking toward Bath and Kitchen (furniture moved for demo)

DIY Renovation of Architect's Condo Phase 1 One Design Before 3 LG Squared Inc Jodi Laumer-Giddens

Before demolition looking through Living toward Kitchen (furniture moved for demo)

Finishing Touches

Once we take out all those walls, how do we organize the space? I love a good loft but I’m not willing to have our bed be in the middle of the living room for all to see. Call me old fashioned. How do we keep the “open” feel without actually having it open? Sliding wall in the form of a barn door. Simple as that. Except, I’m not paying thousands for a bunch of boards put together to look like they’re 100 years old. Nope! I’m gonna make it myself. So, I’m in Florida this week where my dad has a woodshop and an endless supply of reclaimed boards and materials perfect for our door. I love a good DIY project. It makes me appreciate all the work that goes into just about everything. Demolition starts this weekend (OK, so we may have actually done a bit, already). Barn door should be ready this week. Stay tuned for an update after we “tear down them walls!”

DIY Renovation of Architect's Condo Phase 1 One Design Barn Door LG Squared Inc Jodi Laumer-Giddens

In Florida with my Dad planning how to build the Barn Door from Reclaimed wood

DIY Renovation of Architect's Condo Phase 1 One Design Wood Shop Barn LG Squared Inc Jodi Laumer-Giddens

The Wood Shop and Barn where we’re building the barn door.


written by Jodi Laumer-Giddens

14 Responses so far.

  1. Josh Lloyd says:

    It is so true, as designers we are our hardest client, because we see and appreciate so many different styles and techniques you can’t do them all. Then as you mentioned, there is the cost.

  2. Josh- thanks for reading my article! I definitely have to curb my desire to include a little bit of everything because there are so many styles and interesting ways to do things. My mantra in my head: less is more, less is more, less is more!

  3. David Sturm says:

    I love your sliding wall/barn door idea and how you are building it. What a great way to partition your new open space. Can’t wait to read your next post!

  4. Thanks, David! It has already been a great process. Stay tuned…..

  5. Jen says:

    Great reading, (well, I mean writing, which leads to great reading, lol), Jodi! I haven’t seen the door since you sanded, but I know it’s beautiful. And it was fun to see your condo. We probably won’t get a chance to see it this visit, either, when we babysit. But one day, right?
    Keep the musings coming. I know EXACTLY how you feel about design, varied tastes, possibilities, etc, -well, we are sisters after all :). xoxoxo

  6. Thanks, Jen! Glad you enjoyed it! Can’t wait for you to see the final unveiling with the door in place. I know you can feel our pain!

  7. […] As architects, Chris and I are often asked, “If you could design your own home, what would you design?” A reasonable question when you have two architects in the same household. Read More! […]

  8. Ed Nunn says:

    Great article, Jodi…looking forward to the follow-up showing the work in progress and finished product…I’m sure it will be fantastic!

  9. […] neat freak (ok, maybe not so inner) has been put to the test during the renovation of our Atlanta condo. Everything involved some sort of dust. When I was constructing the barn door, which turned out […]

  10. […] the Serenbe we drank the kool-aid®, and were ready to move! So far, we’re still in our midtown condo, but there’s plenty of […]

  11. […] read more about their remodel, you can check posts on their LGSquared blog, Here & […]

  12. MN says:

    I see now that you are in Atlanta. Do you have any suggestions for contractors in Key West? I hate the mini splits. The ducted system seemed perfect. Thanks, Marleen

  13. […] you can read more about the design, de-construction and re-construction in Jodi‘s Part I and Part […]

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