How I did it: Built living spaces to support my family

Tailoring your house to fit your family’s needs is essential, especially as most of us spend more time at home. We talked with two families who recently completed home renovations that made a big impact.

Tags: Home improvement, Home equity, Home
Published: May 19, 2021

As families grow and lifestyles change, so too do our homes. They’ve quickly become a place for everything: working, learning, cooking, relaxing and entertaining. For some, having their home fit their family’s needs requires a renovation and some DIY magic.


A swim spa dream, realized

A few years ago, John B. and his wife, Kathie, decided to build an in-home swim spa. Their son was diagnosed with autism five years prior, and after a family swim class they recognized his love for swimming. Inspired to create a sanctuary for him, they embarked on a renovation process to add an indoor pool to their home.


Living in Minnesota, John and his wife recognized the importance of their son being able to swim year-round in the comfort of their home. Purchasing the 17-foot swim spa was just the beginning: the next steps were reliant on the proper financing and budgeting. “We applied and received a HELOC to provide us the funds to be able to recognize our dream,” John says.


After their financing was approved, building and excavating started. “We quickly realized that the only way we could afford to do this was to do some of the work ourselves,” John says. That meant demoing a large wood deck, jackhammering a cement patio and excavating their backyard to prep the pool’s location.


Once the site was prepared, John and his wife called in a builder to complete the rest of the job, which included using a giant crane to put the spa in place. After an entire summer of hard work, John, his wife and son were able to swim in the pool for the first time. Though the project still needed finishing touches, “we couldn’t keep our son out of the water any longer,” John says.


Making work-from-home work

Like many of us in the last year, Mike K. and his husband, Jeff G. transitioned from in-office jobs to working exclusively from home. “When both of us began working from home full-time, Jeff put a desk in our living room. Sound travels too well in our house, so having him on the phone all day was disturbing, even when I was working on the second floor,” Mike says.


Jeff relocated to their front porch, an under-utilized 400-square foot space that was sunny and quaint, but not really part of the home’s main footprint. “Jeff liked working out on the porch, but winter (in Minnesota) was coming. It was clear we couldn’t revert to him being in the living room, so we made the decision to fully convert the porch to a four-season room,” Mike says.


The design process started quickly. “I pulled down the old ceiling and walls to see what was underneath, drew up an overall design concept and started a spreadsheet for budgeting,” Jeff says. The couple also hunted on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to find budget-savvy and unique items for the space, like an oak table from 1890 that Jeff turned into two side tables.


As for the actual renovation, Jeff and Mike took it on themselves. “Jeff did all of the insulation himself. The front door was new already and energy-efficient. After that, we repainted everything to make it more homey,” reflects Mike.


The renovation instantly showed its value to the couple. “To have a dedicated space where I can work is great,” says Jeff. “He can continue to enjoy working from home year-round with sunny windows, surrounded by things that make the space inviting. And anytime you have more all-year living space, resale is positively affected,” Mike adds.


For more ways to build or update your home to fit your life, learn more and get inspired with these ideas.