Bonaparte House Renovation – Part 1 An Introduction

By Douglas Sorocco

... or, How we started down this insane path.

“Once upon a time—actually 1999—Kristen and Douglas bought an old house in Oklahoma City.  This was the first home that they bought and, for some reason, they believed that they would be able to renovate the home in a fairly short period of time…and they did.  Completing the entire renovation within 3 years…”

Ha ha ha!

What were we thinking? More importantly – what were we drinking?

The home that we had bought—what we are now calling the Bonaparte House—was show on the county assessor’s records as being first built in 1926 and continuously owned by members of the Bonaparte family.  We subsequently found fruit crates addressed to the house and bearing a postmark of 1916 – so, we know that the house is actually about a decade older than shown on the official records.  

We bought the house from the son of the original owner and it appeared as though the house had not had any significant maintenance in many years.  We believe that Mrs. Bonaparte lived most of her life in the house—the neighbors have told us stories about her weeding the flower beds when she was 98 years old and having to lay on the ground because it hurt her back to bend over.  The house needed (and still needs) a significant amount of TLC and basic maintenance and we thought we could get it done fairly quickly.

Ah… the sweet memories of delusion.

Anyway—fast forward to Spring 2007 and we decided that it was time to seriously start considering what we wanted to do with the house.  We had spent a significant amount of time making the house livable and fixing up various rooms for daily activities, for example the kitchen, bathroom and baby nursery.  Kristen and I had been thinking about what we wanted to do with the house and had collected 100s of magazine articles, photographs and book clippings of ideas.  In fact, for our first meeting with the architect (Gumerson & Associates of Oklahoma City), I prepared a 150 page PowerPoint presentation that included most of the clippings and ideas we had collected.  Yes—very compulsive, I know.

Throughout the fall of 2007, all of 2008 and into 2009 we worked with the architects to develop our “dream renovation” taking into account everything we wanted to do with the existing house, the detached garage and the outside areas.  For example, we spec’d in a pool and deck – knowing that those two items were probably far down the road.  In the end – we had a rough idea of the “what and where” of what we wanted.  The details for each “component” of the project would be decided in the future within he framework we had developed.

So – flash forward to late spring 2009 and we made the decision to start with the detached garage. 


The current garage is completely uninhabitable or useable for anything more than unsecured storage.  At some point, the tie rafters had been removed and the weight of the roof had pushed the walls outward and racked the entire structure.  As such, the current garage will have to be torn down and a new building constructed.  Kristen and I both agreed that the garage would be a great place to start since it was new construction and because it was not connected to the house—we could continue to live in the house while the garage was being built.  In a way—starting with the garage is an “easy” introduction to construction and contracting and we figure it will allow us to work out the process and make for a smoother process when we commence on the main renovations to the house.

The imagery in this post is the “first round rough drawings” that started us down this process.  The plans gave us a starting framework—but left us with a couple of things to be desired.  Overall, however, we were extremely satisfied and surprised at how close the architects came on the first round of drawings.  I’ll walk through the floor plans and our changes in the next post. 

Stay tuned!

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