Dream homes come in all shapes in sizes. On Christmas Eve 2009, Mark and Charlotte Rongers closed on theirs – well at least his.
“It was the only house that we looked at, and I knew immediately from the look on my husband's face that we would not be looking at any more locations,” Charlotte said. “It was my first ‘sacrifice’ as a newly married woman. He got the house he wanted.”
A 2,700-sq-ft A-frame on a prime piece of property directly in front of the deepest spot on Lake Holiday, the Rongers’ home was among the very first to be built along this particular Lakes of the Four Seasons (LOFS) shoreline in 1970. A private, gated community located midway between the vibrant downtowns of Crown Point and Valparaiso, Lakes of the Four Seasons (LOFS) is now home to approximately 10,000 residents with its own private security and volunteer fire fighting forces, plus an 18-hole championship golf course, parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, tennis courts, beaches, a swimming pool, two restaurants, clubhouse and pro-shop.
While Charlotte quickly became a fan of her new neighborhood’s fun recreational atmosphere – including the great variety of activities sponsored by different clubs and organizations within Lakes of the Four Seasons - it didn’t take long for the fact that her new home, while aesthetically pleasing, was lacking some of the important functional characteristics of a “normal” layout.
“We really didn’t have much in the way of walls or closets,” she said. “Plus, since the house was built in the ‘70s, the kitchen was very small with hardly any storage. The first year and a half in the house was spent purging items from our two separate homes from our single years, organizing what we kept and attacking punch list items from the home inspection. We rebuilt the deck out back to get it up to code, and in the process went ahead and enlarged it.”
While the dramatic improvement in the quality of outdoor living with the new deck spurred some thinking about making a few more changes around the house, a couple of new additions to the Rongers’ nest set the wheels of a total renovation in motion.
“I became pregnant with our daughter Roxy,” Charlotte continued. “Honestly, who would've thought one little baby needed so much stuff? Then, in order to help with the caregiving, my mom - and her lifelong collection of personal items - moved in with us. Needless to say, my pregnancy ‘nesting’ hormones were in full gear.”
Looking back, she did say the couple looked at different options – from relocating to a more suitable home for their growing family (not an option according to Mark) to staying put and finding a small condo for Charlotte’s mom as close as possible (not nearly as simple as it may sound).
“When it came down to it, having my mom move in with us was the best decision for all of us,” Charlotte said. “But, we definitely needed more space and more storage. Lucky for us, my best friend’s dad, who was an engineer while we were growing up, was now a home builder. I knew his work well from working and attending the various Parade of Homes his houses were in, and I doubt I would have ever initiated such an undertaking if I didn't have him as the go-to person I could trust with my home - and my money.”
Based on an earlier estimate of $55,000 to tear down and rebuild the garage, the Rongers’ plan went from something rather basic to a total upgrade.
“Our thinking was that we were already investing a great deal of money in just the garage,” Charlotte explained. “Since the workers were going to be here anyway, why not just go for it and create a home for three generations. A home where there’s a place for everything, where we can enjoy all the space, not just the view.”
“We started with an addition of about 420-sq-ft for the master suite add on and another 330-sq-ft for a bonus room over the new garage,” said Ed Kelly of Kelly Construction who is currently Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana. “Of course a lot of other things took place as well, from extending, overlaying and re-railing the deck to a screen porch addition, a new kitchen and residing the main home to blend with the addition.”
“Thanks to Ed and the various subcontractors that we met along the way, we accomplished quite a bit in one year's time,” Charlotte said. “Now we’re enjoying the whole house including our new garage with the bonus music room on top - Ed calls it a 'Garagemahal.' My husband got his dream lake house, my mom is well taken care of and my daughter - plus her new sibling on the way - has everyone and everything she needs for a great home to grow up in. I love that everything has a place now. I actually like cooking again with the things I need always close at hand.”
The remodel gave the Rongers' a new mast suite with walk-in closet and en-suite bath, two completely remodeled kitchens, an outdoor kitchen in the garage, a new crawl space for storage in the laundry room, and a screened-in porch that is part of the finished walk-out basement apartment for Charlotte's mother. Charlotte said not one room of their home went untouched in the remodel.
“I guess the best insight on this or any remodel job is to come up with a needs based list before things start, to be patient and flexible and then prioritize needs so that the right things can be done in a proper sequence,” Kelly said. “The first concept for this remodel/addition was to add a two story addition with the bonus room above, but this was not going to work with the existing character of the home. The garage had to be replaced regardless, so we incorporated the bonus room over the garage and went with a single story master suite to ‘preserve’ the look of the existing structure. In the end, it all turned out just fine.”
Now, the Rongers' have their dream house in a dream location.
“We just celebrated my husband’s birthday with about 100 people at our house over Fourth of July weekend,” Charlotte said. “The parade passes right in front of our house and there’s a great fireworks display that is fun to watch from boats on the lake. I don’t know of any other neighborhood like that. When we first moved here, we thought we would be young and in love forever so the house itself didn’t really matter as much. Now with a child - and another on the way – plus my mother living in her own apartment with us, it’s like we’re on vacation every day. We really do plan on staying here now, this house will be in our family forever.”