Extreme home makeover, Part I: Decision time

Our house is a beautiful, 3,000-square foot home built in 1918 that sits across the street from South Shore Park and Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. But after living in our home for 25 years, we were faced with a difficult decision: Do we spend a chunk of money to fix up the place or move? We had done some remodeling in the past, but it was looking tired and the bathroom upstairs still had all of the original (read: very old) plumbing.

As much as we loved the place, the thought of undertaking another remodeling project was too overwhelming. I embarked on a house-hunting mission in nearby Madison and Middleton, WI, but soon discovered that to recreate anything close to what we have -- easy access to downtown, shops within walking distance, lake view, bike path and a quick commute to the airport -- was going to cost $1 million or more. So we reversed course and decided to remodel -- again. Our initial budget was $25,000 and our sights were on that horribly outdated bathroom upstairs.