Home renovation and remodeling projects can be difficult in general, but the results are almost always worth the struggle. The Our Little Warehome renovation project was definitely on another level in terms of both process and results.
For those of you who followed along with the Branch family, you will recall the incredible transformation that happened during the renovation series. (For those of you who have not yet watched the series or read our previous blog on it, go check it out. We promise you this project is nothing short of amazing.)
You will also recall the sometimes daunting, always exciting construction process the family went through to build their beautiful downtown home from a broken-down warehouse. The Branches’ creativity and vision when it came to this project has been extremely inspirational. But of course, there was a lot of thought and decision-making going on behind the scenes of the remodel, so we sat down with Allan Branch to hear his insights on what this renovation experience was like for him and his family.
Here’s a reminder of the absolutely unbelievable transformation that unfolded by the end of the series.
What was your favorite part of the project?
The planning stage was really great. There was so much initial excitement from Anna, myself, and the kids: it was all dreams and ideas. Also, releasing the videos has been a lot of fun, but I’d have to say my favorite part of the project was definitely moving into the project at the end!
What was the hardest part that left you really boggled?
The hardest part definitely came with finishing the project. In the beginning, there were these big tasks like demolition, but as the project got closer to being finished there were so many little details that had to be handled. There were like 5,000 tiny details to handle. It got pretty overwhelming in the end.
There were also so many decisions to be made as we got closer to finishing the project, and there were so many things to choose from. For example, even when we had decided on our JELD-WEN Custom Wood windows, there were so many stain and treatment options. It was awesome to have those choices, but it also got very overwhelming since we had so many decisions to make.
What was the greatest lesson you learned?
Nothing is as good or bad as it seems, and that is just a great life lesson in general. There are things that would happen, like a tradesman didn’t show up, or something like that, and in the moment it’s stressful, but then you begin to realize that these things are not a big deal in the grand scheme of your life. Separating yourself from the stress, and realizing it is not as important as it may seem in the moment. I think I am better at handling stress now, haha.
What advice would you give someone who is ready to do something like this or embark on a new home project?
You are the author of your life story. I feel like I am driving my life forward through projects and things like this, and I would encourage people to embark on adventure. Whether it is building a new home or renovating your current home, just go for it with reckless abandon.
Looking forward, what’s your next project? (Because we know you have one!)
My wife and I have purchased five buildings in our downtown, and we are going to open at least one brewery in the next two years. We are currently filing paperwork to get permits. We are also building apartments and want to incubate small businesses in our downtown. My background is in software, and I wouldn’t say I am leaving software but certainly “branching out” (pun intended) into real estate. So now, we are going to learn about running a brewery and making it profitable. It’s all very fun and exciting.
What made you decide to remodel an old warehouse, rather than just purchasing an empty lot of land or existing home?
When I found this building on the MLS—which is where the real estate agents post listings—I thought it was typical stick and board construction. But then I saw it was brick on the inside, which really excited me. There were some things I just really loved about the building: I love that it is a weird shape, and I love that it is brick. There is a certain charm of an old building, and I think this building fit our style as a family more than other homes we had seen.
The beautiful thing about buying historic buildings in downtowns is that you become a part of the story of the building. This original building here was first a church in the early 1900s, then it was a school. After that, they took that building up and Ford Motor Company bought the land and turned it into an auto garage. After that, it became a piano repair place, then a storage space for an appliance store across the street, and now it is our home. Maybe one day people will add us to the story of this building. I think that is really beautiful, being able to be a part of the story. That is something I didn’t realize until about a year ago, and now I am hoping that one day someone will be telling our story.
What were some design elements that were important to you as you created the house?
We wanted this building to look like it had been here for a long time. Every design element we picked, we kept that in mind.
We didn’t want a new-looking set of windows on an old building. The wonderful thing about the JELD-WEN windows we picked is their wood casings, which you really don’t see that often. And they also have this beautiful copper on the outside. Copper is just such a timeless material that you also don’t see much in residential. So I really feel like these windows are throwbacks to a different time, and although they kind of feel old, they have this new technology, which is really amazing.
We wanted to make sure we kept a historic charm to the house. We wanted to refresh it, but we didn’t want to throw a modern building on top of a historic building. People will walk in and be like, “Well, what did you guys add?” It’s like, everything! But we wanted the space to feel like we didn’t have to do much to it, like it had been here for 50 or 100 years when in reality everything was pretty much new besides the brick.
What were some unexpected experiences that came from this project?
I know a lot more about home construction now. I also learned a lot about how to manage because this was a very quick project, we did it in around 10 months, and usually a project like this would have taken around two to three years. But because of the video project aspect, we pushed everyone and were scheduling everyone really quickly. I think I would be able to help a general contractor manage a project now, and I can definitely handle stress a lot better now.
Despite the project being overall a pretty predictable process, there were definitely some unexpected surprises we found while building. However, when it came to this stuff we learned to just roll with the punches. There are lots of little things in an old, historic building like that that you run into. For example, we found a 5,000-pound car jack in the floor that we needed a crane to pull out. We ended up having to cut a part of the roof out for the crane to get into the building.
How was it working as a family team on this home? Do you feel it brought you all closer together?
My kids are 11 and 9, and are home-schooled, so we have always been super close to them. I want my kids to have a unique childhood and be ready for anything as an adult. I think even as children they experienced some of the stress from the video project, and they watched as Anna and I handled the stress and worked together as a team.
I do want my children to be entrepreneurial and learn from their experiences. And that’s how I grew up, doing odd stuff with my parents and their businesses. I want my children to have that odd life. As homeschoolers we are not looking for a better education, but rather a different education for our children—and that is experiences, and doing things like maybe even shooting a show. So as a family I think it was a huge success, because it gave them opportunity to see how to handle stress and try new ideas.