When it comes to making home improvements, there isn’t much that Bill and Lee Jones won’t tackle. When the couple bought their five-bedroom home on 9051 Swans Creek Way in 2008, the 2004 home was finished with many builder-grade features, and the landscaping was sparse. But after four years of hard work, the couple has transformed the nearly 6,000 square-foot interior from non-descript to high-end and custom, and the bare, 1-plus acre yard into lush, garden-filled grounds. And, they did it all themselves.
The couple bought the three-level house primarily to have more space, both inside and out. The home’s wraparound porch and the ample room between neighbors were among the selling points. Bill and Lee, who have long enjoyed doing home projects themselves, had plenty to look forward to.
“We bought from the original owner and not much had been done, so the yard was pretty bare. It had that builder’s touch—just a few things here and there,” said Bill, a military retiree and now vice president of an IT company. “We did a lot of landscaping. We tried to create some privacy and tranquility.”
Lee, whom Bill termed “the artist and master planner,” designed the landscaping. In addition to planting trees and shrubs on all sides of the yard, and a large vegetable garden, the couple created a small, Japanese-style garden on one side of the house. “We built a retaining wall, put in a couple of fountains, and a rock path along the house,” Bill noted. “Now, it’s a place where you can just sit and be quiet.”
Big beautiful refrigerator
Inside, the couple began the task of upgrading and modernizing some of the home’s appliances and features. “We wanted to make the home more modern, to take out the builder’s grade stuff and upgrade the materials,” Bill said. “It was our grand undertaking.”
One big endeavor was replacing the refrigerator in the gourmet kitchen. “We had a beautiful, big kitchen but the builder had put in a traditional refrigerator. We decided we wanted a 42-inch wide, double door refrigerator/freezer—a $10,000 refrigerator,” Bill said. “We felt that this type of home needed it. “
Getting the huge refrigerator into the kitchen took three people. It also took removing all of the cabinets around and above the refrigerator, and then re-installing and supplementing them after the refrigerator was in. “The change created a 12-inch gap on one side of the refrigerator, so I bought and installed an 84-inch by 10-inch cabinet that matched well and used molding to cover the remaining small gap,” said Bill. “It looks great.”
The couple also removed a half-wall between the kitchen and family room, and they added a wet bar/kitchen area in the home’s lower level, where Bill built the bar with wood and drywall, then created a wooden bar-top finished with glass tiling. They also finished off a bedroom on the lower level, doing all the work themselves except for the framing and dry walling.
"I get braver with each home."
“As long as it’s not structural, don’t be afraid,” said Bill, who noted that asking questions at home improvement stores and simply experimenting are key. “The biggest challenge is getting started; you can talk yourself out of it because of the challenge of the unknown. I’ve owned five houses and I get braver with each home.”
The couple modernized the home with custom tiling. Their DIY (do it yourself) projects ranged from tiling the kitchen backsplash and the sides of the breakfast bar, to installing black marble flooring in their back entry hall and tiling all of the six bathrooms. They also did some woodworking, including chair rail moldings and shadow boxes.
Taking on the traditional fireplace in the family room took some resolve. “We wanted to convert the wood-burning fireplace to gas and to replace the old-fashioned brick hearth with granite or stone,” Bill noted. “We talked about it for a year and finally just got a sledge hammer and a chisel and started in.” The fireplace is now a contemporary styling, with a surround of travertine stone.
One of the Joneses’ most recent projects was to tile the fireplace surround up to the ceiling on an angled wall in the master bedroom sitting room. The couple used horizontal travertine tiles but made the top border vertical. “It took about five hours to put in, but longer to clean up the tools, “said Bill. “We did it with a $100 tile saw.”
Landscaping: Where "all your sweat goes"
“We’ve made a few little mistakes along the way, but it all turned out great,” Bill added. “Sometimes you can be harder on yourself than you would be on a contractor.”
With all of their DIY projects on the inside of the home, the work the Joneses most enjoyed and the transformation that makes them most proud is the landscaping. “It’s where all your sweat goes. Sometimes you look at it after awhile and decide you need to move something around. It’s a canvas, a lifelong event.”
Bill and Lee are downsizing, and have put their house up for sale for $1,095,000 through Jack Work of RE/MAX Preferred Properties.
But Bill noted that he has taken pleasure from adding sweat equity to his Swans Creek Way home. “Having a home is always work, but the joy it brings is really unexplainable,” he noted. “For our house, all is done and maintenance is low; however, there is always room for more if you want.”