Farmington couple say key to successful home improvement project is building good relationship with contractor

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After much discussion and number-crunching, Mary Beth and Scott Morrison finally agreed they could afford to add an artist’s studio and two-car garage to their 30-year old, two-story home in Farmington.

Then came the hard part.

Their house is nestled on a wooded lot on Mason Road off U. S. Route 2. It was big enough when the Morrisons were raising their two children, but now with both kids grown, the couple found they required different kinds of space to accommodate their changing needs.

Mary Beth is a full-time artist who works in watercolors, oils and pastels, does her own framing and matting and gives classes. Her dream was to have a dedicated space for her Braided Stream Studio and Gallery, consolidate her “sprawl” and move out of the alcove off the dining room.

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“I wanted something that had big windows, high ceilings, plenty of storage and a lot of light,” she said.

Scott, a manager at the Oliver Stores Inc. in Farmington, had a home office set up in an empty upstairs bedroom and wanted to move it to the first floor. A garage to keep the family cars out of the weather was a priority, they said.

The planning process started last spring as they looked for a general contractor, checked references and asked for proposals. They eventually selected Craig Jordan Construction of Farmington.

Excavation began in August and the project was completed in December.

“We couldn’t be happier. We are very pleased with how it all worked out,” Scott said.

The challenge was the design.

“We had a unique situation here. We wanted to see if we could incorporate a garage and a studio/gallery into one addition. We didn’t know if it was feasible or if there would have to be two,” Scott said.

“We wanted it to look good and complement the rest of the house and blend with the existing roof lines,” he said.

Jordan proposed a single structure that included a 24-foot-by-24-foot studio, a new entry way that would extend the existing entrance through the studio, and a single-width garage that could comfortably hold two cars parked back to back. The design allowed for a full basement under the studio that connected to an existing cellar and was accessed through the garage.

The studio is an artist’s dream. Banks of double-hung windows open to the west and north, which provide the best natural light for artists, Mary Beth said.

There is a high ceiling with 15 recessed lights and four sets of directional track lights to illuminate work stations and spotlight art on display. The layout of the room maximizes the space and has two built-in storage closets, and a new opening into the main house that provides direct access to the living room.

And she said she always wanted to have a window seat where she could read, draw or contemplate.

“It is so ‘freeing’ to have the space you need,” Mary Beth said. “We are both so glad we did this.”

As homeowners who had not undertaken a major home improvement project before, the Morrisons learned a lot as the work unfolded.

One lesson was that even with a general contractor running the job, waiting for subcontractors and materials took longer than anticipated.

“That was a frustration. We were surprised about the delay in getting supply companies to deliver things on time,” Scott said. “Through no fault of the general contractor, the job was done one month later than we expected.”

Mary Beth said the noise and activity into the fall until the addition was enclosed was more disrupting to her work than she had counted on, but she realizes it was to be expected.

She commended Jordan and his crew for their conscientious work, for always cleaning up inside and around the house at the end of each day, and for carefully securing heavy dust barriers when they opened up the north wall of the house to put in a new door. Jordan was also on the job regularly.

“The crew was excellent and the work was very well done,” she said.

The Morrisons said Jordan listened carefully to their ideas and gave the project a lot of thought because of its design challenges.

“Craig really addressed all the questions we came up with and he gave us images to work with. He gave us a lot of attention before anything was even signed,” Mary Beth said.

“He told us one thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to change the way you use the house,” she said.

Jordan put the Morrisons together with draftsman Jerry Nash who developed a design for the builder and family to refer to.

“Having a plan on paper is valuable, but it is so important for the homeowner and the contractor to be flexible,” Jordan said.

“I tell people that no matter how much planning went into the design and how things look on paper, when it comes right down to it, when you see the physical building take shape, you will want to change your mind about something,” he said. “You have to work with people and be flexible, and give people the opportunity to look at something and adjust it.”

He said he realizes that customers often want the work to be done faster but delays in lining up subcontractors and waiting for deliveries is to be expected. “The time it takes to do a quality job has to be taken into consideration. I would rather take longer and have the customer be happy than rush through it,” Jordan said.

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