Crowd-sourcing a renovation on Bayshore Bluff

By Jamey Bradbury • Photography by DMD Real Estate Photography

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But Ron and Tracey Blain relied on their “village” of close friends and neighbors to inspire a home remodel that everyone can enjoy.

Porath Tatom Architects
The Lighting Gallery by Brown’s
Doors & garage door:
Door Tech
50-year LP Smartside, Spenard Builders Supply
Flooring, hardware, cabinets, tile:
Home Depot; Big Bob’s Flooring
Bathroom countertops:
Last Frontier Roofing; Storm Proof Roofing
Dakine Concrete
Security system:

Before the Blains bought their expansive, three-level 1980s house in Anchorage’s Bayshore area, it was owned by a family of 10 who homeschooled their children. “There are a lot of different rooms and areas in this house, and we didn’t know what to do with all those spaces,” Tracey describes. “We talked with a lot of our friends and neighbors who would come over for get-togethers, and they would brainstorm with us or tell us what certain rooms used to be like. There was a lot of influence from other people – a real community effort.”

The most obvious renovation that reflects the Blains’ crowd-sourced remodeling method is the basement, previously home to a kitchen and a couple of bedrooms.

Now, neighbors can stop by for a drink – at an actual pub with four different beers on tap! Roy wanted an industrial look for his bar, so he welded a steel base and installed a concrete bartop, added commercial vinyl plank flooring and created a low-hanging light fixture from old pipe to illuminate the pool table.

While the adults enjoy a brew and a game, they can keep an eye on the kids through the Plexiglass of the adjoining full-size racquetball court. There’s also an exercise room, fitted with a shock-absorbent floor and a variety of equipment. “It’s funny how many people want to give you their old exercise stuff,” Roy says with a laugh.

Just around the corner, movie-lovers can catch a show in the Blains’ home theater – what was once a bedroom, torn down to its studs and insulated and outfitted with sound deadening channels. Authentic theater seats and plush, double-padded carpet create a comfy space where the family can relax with a bucket of popcorn after a long day.

The couple did much of the renovation themselves, relying on Youtube videos and the advice of friends and experts as they finished the basement and moved to the home’s great room. “Luckily, we didn’t really have to do any electrical or plumbing,” Roy explains. “It was really about repurposing rooms and choosing the right finishes and materials.”

“The house’s bones were strong and stable and gave us a wonderful palette to work with,” adds Tracey.

Choosing that palette was a matter of focusing on one key element of each room, then building around it. Take that great room: “We loved this slate,” Tracey says, indicating the tiles that cover one side of the room; their stone texture and natural tones echoes the greens and browns of Cook Inlet as seen through huge windows. “I grouted the tiles myself, then put the sealant on – and suddenly the orange in the slate really popped! That influenced our decision to paint an orange accent wall, which inspired a more neutral paint for the other walls, which influenced the artwork we chose to complement both.”

Though Roy gradually became a drywall expert and Tracey developed her texturing and painting skills, there were some projects the couple knew they didn’t want to tackle themselves. They relied on the pros to install carpet and custom bathroom countertops as well as the 50-year pre-finished siding that will never need to be painted.

The cost of the siding was worth it, Roy calculated, after finding out from friends how much a re-paint would cost, and how often it would need to be done. That was one of the secrets the Blains learned along the way, says Tracey: “Quality can be super-important, especially when it comes to carpet and paint. We learned quickly where to direct extra money to actually save us time and money down the road.”

Upstairs, the bathrooms got heated tile floors and those gorgeous natural stone countertops, plus a jetted tub for the master bath, and a walk-in shower with double showerheads and glass blocks that take advantage of the wealth of natural light that streams into the upper level. The master bedroom has an elevated stage so the couple can catch a nice view of the inlet from a seated position. Here, the ceilings are high enough, and the light so abundant, Tracey points out, “We were able to go with a darker ceiling color to create a warmer, cozier feel.”

The house also boasts a craft room, where the Blains’ children do their homework at built-in desks, generous storage spaces and walk-in closets with custom shelving, wooden and Trex decking and a concrete side porch area Roy installed himself, with two inches of ridged insulation to prevent frost heaving. “That concrete hasn’t moved or cracked in five years,” he shares – another example of how quality work has resulted in longevity.
The remodel has taken the Blains about six years – but the couple is quick to point out that they had an ahead-of-its time house to work with. “The original architect was kind of a visionary,” Tracey says. “He created this big, open floor plan, which in 1983 was pretty progressive.”

He also emphasized natural light and the view from the great room – along with the sense of solitude possessed by the house, despite its size and location.

“One of the neatest features of this house is even though you’re in the city and you have neighbors, you don’t know it,” Tracey explains. “You walk in, and you have natural light, view of the trees, and between the sounds and the visuals, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.”

It’s the perfect combination: Solitude in the city, plus all the entertainment amenities the Blains could want, all right at home.