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DIY project produces cozy single-level home


Cabinetmaker transforms ranch house

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - David and Deborah Miller have completed a remodel of their 1963 ranch-style home in River Grove.

David and Deborah Miller of Lake Oswego recently completed a complete remodel of their River Grove 1960s ranch-style house — basically by themselves.

“The goal of our project stemmed from the desire to downsize and return to single-level living,” said David Miller, a retired cabinetmaker. “Let’s face it, at some point our knees aren’t going to cooperate as well as they might ... and we just didn’t need all the space we had become used to. This makeover isn’t just a living room, mind you. I’m afraid there isn’t much of the old ranch left inside.”

The day after the sale closed in 2007, Miller was at the house with a sledge hammer, crow bars and saws to begin demolishing the interior. The couple brought in experts to replace the original plumbing, circuit breaker panels, wiring, flooring and Miller’s “old enemy: sheetrock.”

“The pros can do it in a tenth of the time and at about the same cost, and when they do it, it just looks right,” he said. “Six months later we had enough done so we could move in and actually not be camping out.”

When the market collapsed the Millers decided to slow the project down and enjoy the process, which by that point, was down to what Miller calls “the fun stuff.”

Keeping with the mid-century styling, Miller added all the amenities of the 21st century. He built all of the cabinets, most of the furniture and the rest of the woodwork throughout the house. To provide the illusion of more space, several furniture items, including the cabinets in the master bath, are floating designs, leaving floor space open while providing the utility of storage and work space.

“I have to admit it makes cleaning considerably easier as well,” Miller said.

A domed fireplace between the family room and kitchen took up lots of space and made using the family room awkward.

“We discovered during a rainstorm that the fireplace chimney leaked so we just took the fireplace out,” he said. “Now the entire room is open. It’s made a tremendous difference.”

Floors, which had been a combination of carpet, tile and linoleum, were replaced with cherry wood flooring and carpet in the bedrooms.

Miller said this was not the first house he had remodeled; he has done similar projects six or seven times. His advice to others interested in undertaking such a project is simple.

“As long as the house has good bones and you’ve had a good appraisal, do what feels right to you,” he said. “The hardest part is taking that first hammer blow, ripping down that first wall. Then, there’s no turning back.”

To learn more about Miller’s custom furniture, visit his portfolio on the Woodworker’s Guild of Oregon website, guildoforegonwoodworkers.org/Default.aspx?pageid=1203378.