Twelve years ago we bought our first house. Newly out of college and very very pregnant we moved in. Jason and I had dreamed of buying an old house and fixing it up. As a lover of old movies my mind immediately went to “It’s a wonderful life” where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed fix up this dilapidated old house with little money and lots of kids. And so the search began for “our big fixer upper” 🙂 Although we didn’t realize it at the time being newly married and in love this journey was going to require a lot of trust. Two completely different people (me a quick decision making former dance major thrift store employee and him a needs to analyze everything math major computer programmer) having to make big decisions early on.
Our new house was a 100+ three story that had been neglected for a long time. When touring the house for the first time one had to use their imagination as to what the rooms might look like without the clutter of “stuff” everywhere. There was little more than a path to walk through the whole house and yard. They had so much stuff outside that I had mistakingly assumed that there was a yard sale going on the first time I drove by. I found out later that they always left furniture and knick knacks in their front yard :).
We both fell in love with this house located in the town I grew up in and around the corner from our favorite coffee and donut place. We bought the house “as is” and above asking as one had to do in order to score a house at that time.
So much to love right? When the clutter was gone all that was visual was lots of rooms with painted trim (every color of the rainbow), cardboard covered missing windows, a kitchen ceiling falling down due to a leaking bathroom, ivy covering the first two stories and coming in the house through the windows, and a furnace in the basement that was coal converted dubbed “the octopus”.
We have many crazy memories of this house. We will never forget my mom falling through the front porch floor while moving us in, a huge bathroom leak that started while I was in labor with our first, me falling through the same bathroom floor and landing on an upper kitchen cabinet while pregnant with our second.
We dove right in and started remodeling it from top to bottom over the next three years. New roof, new windows, front porch, new paint inside and out, new landscaping, new kitchen, new bathrooms and laundry room, and new furnace. Looking back I wish we had taken things a little slower and taken more pictures. We are thankful for all the lessons and knowledge we learned and the fun memories we had along the way. We also are very thankful for a lot of help we had along the way from family and friends.
Here are some before and after pictures of the adventure:
We took down 2 floors of ivy growing on all sides of the house. Jason replaced all the windows in the house one by one. A few days after we moved in the front door knob fell off and the wood was completely rotted through. So the front door was one of the first projects. Jason had to screw the door shut the first few nights :). We added a new front porch floor, columns, and railings. Jason built a little cedar fence on the right side of the house that had a gate with a simple arbor above it. We added a slate walkway leading up to the front porch from the driveway. We, of course, changed a lot of the landscaping as well. The 2 things Jason didn’t do himself was the roof (I didn’t want him up on a 3 story house) and most of the painting of the exterior. The before and after of all of these pictures are so dramatic…it’s hard to believe we did this much in 3 years.
Most of the updates in the foyer and stairway were cosmetic (patching, sanding, and painting). Paint make such a big difference (see this post for why I love white paint). I added a comfy chair to sit down on and put on your shoes. I found some old vintage hooks in a third floor closed that I re-purposed for hooks in the foyer…a place to throw kids and guests coats.
We used kilz primer on all walls prior to the finish coat to cover up the cigarette smoke smell baked into the walls. The fireplace needed a good cleaning. The fireplace was always pretty smoky so we added some gas fireplace logs. This house was pretty drafty so this helped to make the living room cozy. 🙂
Phew! This room was a bear. It had 3 layers of “beautiful” wall paper that we had to strip. I had always wanted a barn red dining room. It took 5 different coats of red paint before I got it just right. Jason shocked himself installing the new light fixture because I thought lowering the dimmer switch was the same as turning it off, OOPS! This dining room was where we started a family tradition of big Christmas Eve dinners. The swinging door in the picture leads to a butlers pantry that we don’t have any pictures of :(.
This was a complete gut job. Unfortunately we had to take out a 2nd stairway to create enough space for sufficient cabinets and an eat-in area. The door to the basement was right where the fridge is…we had to move that to the hallway. We removed a window where the stove is and replaced the rear window with a sliding door that led to a new deck we built off the back. We also exposed a brick chimney to add some character to the room. The broomhandle yellow paint was a poor choice of mine. The nice thing about paint is you can keep trying :). The kitchen table was a thrift store find that Jason refinished.