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Renovation Diary Part 3: Trusting the process while miles away

The new owner of a Trinity learns how to let go and stop micromanaging

The new owner of Trinity shares how she learned to trust the process and not micromanage.
Photos by Melissa Romero

After years of fixing up homes throughout rural Pennsylvania and abroad, RoseAnn Hill had the itch again to renovate. Only this time, the home she fell in love with was in Philadelphia, and at 776 square feet, it was the smallest property she’d ever taken on. Follow along the renovation process from start to finish, as the 52-year-old works with local architect Timothy Kerner of Terra Studio to fix up a traditional Trinity in Queen Village.

Editor’s note: this story package was originally published in 2017 but each piece has been updated with the current information. This is part two of five stories.

Since I don’t live locally, I really have to rely on Tim, the architect, to make sure that things go smoothly on a day to day basis with this project. But the experience so far has been similar to when I built the house in Nova Scotia. I had found a custom builder that I really trusted. I would make these trips up there and we would go to home shows and I would send him pictures I liked, and he would let me visit things he had built and showed me details that matched my aesthetic. So that was a really positive experience because I obviously wasn’t in Novia Scotia for the majority of it.

But the part that’s difficult is that you have to stay calm because you’re not there to micromanage some of the details. So if you’re very fastidious, this might not work for someone who doesn’t paint with broad brush strokes.

The damaged stair treads will be replaced.

With the Trinity, I knew with Tim it was going to be a similar situation. Technology makes things so lovely. Tim was able to send me three pictures of different things and the dimensions of appliances, and I could pick and choose in a leisurely fashion. So in a way you still have a lot of control even though you’re not there regularly.

The same goes for when bids went out for a general contractor. I saw the detailed bids of general contractors, who Tim had known or had worked with in the past. So when he came back with the numbers, there was such a large range. That was the jumping off point for me to go with Rob and Mark of DiAntonio and Bongiovanni Builders because they were really a lot more conservative financially.

I really felt like when I met with the contractors, they were very seasoned, hardworking people who have worked on a lot of houses in Philadelphia. They were recommended by Tim, the price point was very competitive, and I think they understood that this was kind of a puzzle. They were taking it down and knew that they weren’t going to know what we were getting into until we really saw the bones of it after demo day.

When we walked through the Trinity with them, I can honestly say that there were absolutely no confusion, no blank looks—they knew exactly what Tim was talking about with his vision, and they made some recommendations along the way.

In the basement kitchen, the fireplace will feature a new mantel and a small bar will be built just below the stairs.
Exposing the brick revealed that some windows had been filled in. The window on the first floor will be opened up once again.

Also, it’s a very small space, so I don’t think that me being there necessarily speeds up the process. My being there is another set of eyes, but I think there’s a point it becomes a little excessive. Rob’s there, he knows what needs to happen, this is his job.

With Tim’s artistic eye and their workmanship, I feel comfortable with letting go a bit. And When I do visit, I love what I see. Everybody’s on the same page.—As told by RoseAnn Hill