Our FIRST Home


We were extremely lucky with the exterior of the house when we purchased it.  The previous owner had recently, (in the previous 2 years), replaced the siding, roof, and windows.  Not only did this save us a lot of upfront costs, but also helps to keep our utilities cost down.  Here's the before:

After moving in we replaced the front door from a single-paned glass to a more efficient aluminum one and painted it for a pop of color, removed the old landscaping and replaced it with some boxwood shrubs and transplanted hostas from the backyard.  We also removed the walkway that went out to the sidewalk.  

After completing all of our large remodeling inside we focused on the porch, which turns out was significantly worse than we thought and had extensive old termite damage.  We removed the siding and replaced all the damaged wood and added extra support, and poured a new walkway.  We used faux stone to create more visual interest and added back some landscaping, and refreshed the porch sitting area.


Our living room used to have some sort of striping feature that was not only badly painted, (you shouldn't be able to feel the stripes), but they also effectively made the 8' ceilings seem lower than they were.  Even through the weird camera orbs you can see the floor had great potential.  Here's the before:

After painting over the stripes (twice), we had the floors refinished, brought in our old furniture and added some more updated curtains to get to phase 1.  We built a fauxdenza, and got a different TV stand, along with some other furniture updates to finally bring the space to a style that was more us:


Off of the living room, the dining room had a good feel but desperately needed something to fill the space in the window recess.  Also hiding under that beige were more stripes like the living room.  Here's the before:

The dining room received some sanding and fresh coats of paint before we moved in.  We also added a window seat to cover up the plywood floor under the window.  And of course all the hardwood floors were redone before we moved our furniture in.  During the kitchen remodel, we removed the wall connecting the dining room and kitchen and finally decorated the room.


The kitchen was the one room in the house that I immediately hated.  The dark wood-grained laminate cabinets sucked all the light and made the small room seem even smaller.  The walls were painted wallpaper and scratched so badly, that looked like it got in a fight with a stray cat and lost.  Here's the before:

Although we had plans to completely gut the kitchen, I couldn't live like it was, so used paint to fix some of the major problems, like the gloom-inducing colors, and scratched and holey wallpaper.  The result wasn't our ideal, but it did lighten the space up and make the room feel larger.  Here's Phase 1:

As our last major remodel, we tore down the wall between the dining room and kitchen and opened up the space to one large room.  Now it's a large kitchen, with peninsula seating, and our main floor feels kind of like an open floor plan.


The bathroom we inherited boosted "recent bathroom updates".  Since our house was built in 1927, a 1970's update is technically recent, but that still doesn't negate the fact that our bathroom was ugly.  We had two different types of wallpaper, yellow tile, and green painted walls.  Not to mention, the same dark wood-grained laminate cabinetry as the kitchen, (there must have been a sale).  Last, but not least, how can we not mention the broken speaker built into the vanity under the sink.  I'm sure the previous owner was singing in the shower with this setup, but before renovating it was used as our declawed kitten's favorite scratching post.

The bathroom was completely gutted and all the plumbing and electrical was updated.  We also removed the chimney, (after replacing the furnace and water heater and no longer needed the ventilation), and added more storage.  We kept the same layout, but added a double sink vanity, and even DIY'd our solid surface counter topsNew tile, paint, and new fixtures and accessories turned our 1970's bathroom into a sophisticated modern space, with traditional details to keep the integrity of our older home.  Check out all the dirty details, as well as a cost breakdown here.


The guest bedroom was originally our intended master bedroom.  After some thought it was decided that it would serve better as our guest room as well as changing room as it already had a large closet.  The room came with a feature wall of dark gray (much darker than this photo shows) that made the room seem smaller then it actually was.  The newer ceiling fan might have seemed like a good idea, but on an 7 foot ceiling, was low enough to hit your head on.  It also had some nasty carpet that we assumed, (correctly), covered the same hardwood that was throughout the house.  The closet was the major sore spot in the room with a homemade cedar closet (made with plywood), and a built-in cabinet that provided awkward storage as well as covered up the only attic access.

The carpet was removed as well as the ceiling which revealed almost a 12 inch sag in the ceiling.  After removing the ceiling plaster and lath, (as well as the entire upstairs ceilings), the culprit was found to be 2x4's spanning the length (about 13 ft).  Mike and some friends used 2x6's to brace along the width (only about 9 ft.) of the room, effectively eliminating the sag.  The carpet and built-in cabinets were removed and the closet was gutted to better utilize that space.  The attic access was also moved to the hallway for better access.  Finishing touches were added to make this room inviting to both guests but also utilitarian for our dressing room, like our DIYed mirror and roman shades:


The Nursery started as our office and was a small room with a decent size closet.  What we thought would be an easy re-coat of paint, proved to be anything but.  The dark green walls hid painted wallpaper that hung to the plaster with every inch of it's being.  The window and door frames were also painted only about 37 times including a couple layers of varnish.

The wallpaper was peeled and cut away, and the frames were striped to the natural wood.  We repaired any cracks in the plaster walls and, like the guest room, we replaced the entire ceiling.  During the first life as our office the room was repainted with a lighter color to enlarge it and the trim was given a fresh coat of white.  We also transplanted my old crafting area from our townhouse to it's new home and added some workspace for Mike as well: 

After we found out we were pregnant, I got to work making over this space into our son's nursery!  We had a loose theme of Tibetian Sherpa (read more about that here) and it became my favorite room in the house, not to mention the one I spent the most time in.


The master bedroom doesn't look that offensive in the picture below, but anyone who visited in the beginning, or read our blog, remembers the splatter.  Other than that hidden treasure, the room boasted a nice size closet, more hardwood and two windows, all in need of a good cleaning and coat of paint.     

After countless hours of sanding and a skim coat, the walls were smooth enough to paint, in this case a deep blue.  Like the rest of the upstairs, the ceilings were replaced and the closet was also re-drywalled and outfitted with new closet hardware.  The floors got the refinsher's touch, and our furniture was moved in.


We were lucky in that more than half of our basement was finished.  It's just unlucky that it was finished in the 1970's and we were left with wood paneling and carpet squares.  The built-in on the far wall was not only large and so dark it sucked all the light in the room, it also covered our electrical box.  The paneling that covered the bottom of the walls were lamenate and the carpet tiles were so thin it's a step above, (pun intended), a drop cloth over concrete.  The windows were inefficient and provided no privacy.

The first thing we did was replace all the windows for some privacy and better insulation.  Then, we installed a new, higher efficiency water heater and furnace, allowing us to remove the chimney, which gave us more room during renovations on the upper levels.  We then did some major construction and upgrades to the basement, including cutting the concrete flooring and replacing all the old cast iron piping with new PVC, leveled the concrete floors, added new drywall, new lighting, and rebuilt the steps to add more storage, and very important, added a beer cave area, complete with a beer tap menu!


While, we've added some storage and made a few upgrades here and there, the biggest change we made was refreshing everything with a new coat of paint.


Another great part of the finished basement is the full bathroom.  Although it looks as if it was updated circa the wood paneling, it's laid out pretty nicely and perfect as a second bathroom.  The fact that it has a stand-up shower was a bonus.

We took on the basement bathroom renovation with the basement reno.  We decided to change the layout to provide more space and a larger shower.  Mike first demo'd the room, then replaced all the drainage pipes in the basement, allowing to move the toilet pipes to the other side of the room.  He then cleaned it and poured new concrete.  Then we added drywall and a new shower, added a built-in storage closet, tiled the floor, adding a heated floor system underneath, (best decision ever), and added the vanity, toilet, and lighting.  I finally finished everything up by building shelves and adding accessories.  You can find the full reveal here.


When we bought the house, all of the exterior finishes had been recently replaced, except the garage.  The garage  was nothing more than a shed (not even up to code because of the lack of gutters), with a gravel floor and termites.  It was also a look at what the original house might have looked like.  Even though maroon and gray look great together, especially as school colors (Go Bulldogs!), we were very grateful they chose a more neutral beige when residing.  Here's the termite breeding ground:

One of our first and largest projects when we moved in was to tear down the existing  one-car shed and rebuild a new two and a half car garage.  We moved the footprint farther back to the edge of our property line so we didn't block off any valuable grass space and added roughly 40 extra feet of driveway.  After months of grading and construction, we unveiled the completed project:


The back of the house wasn't much to look at.  Our backdoor in the kitchen was several feet above the ground and had a small overhang and steps that were anything but safe.  

We thought the best use for the back of the house would be a giant deck.  So, the summer after we finished the garage, we started our next major outdoor project.  It took long days, and even a few nights, but we finished it right before fall hit and we were able to use it for a couple times before winter came.  It took a couple tries to get the stain right, but we finally finished and landscaped for a perfect summer entertaining spot.

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