Michael figured that the best way to develop a home's future was to live with its iterations, past and present. So he began slowly—upstairs. It was a calculated move, for two reasons: First, he could experiment with the floor plan and architectural trim before moving to the showplace areas of the house. Second, Renee would have a haven while he was rebuilding the rest of the rooms. "Let's face it: Living through a renovation is a pain," says Renee, who was about to learn that lesson firsthand.
The couple wanted a master suite with a sitting area, so Michael took down a wall between two small bedrooms. In its place he built a partition 20 inches thick with wraparound wainscoting and hidden closets.