Where did our home improvement story begin? Well, high school, if you count the desk chair we began refinishing the morning after our ACTs. But the real story, and the focus of this blog, began in December 2003. After six weeks of searching, and some convincing from Alex, we decided on the house that was, coincidentally, the very first house we toured with our agent.
Never mind that the owner was a little creepy and wouldn't leave the property during showings. Ignore the fact that the home looked like a run down bachelor pad, complete with damaged hardwood floors, little character, and a bathroom that Blanche Devereaux would have felt at home in. We looked past all of that and fell in love with the amount of space, the great location in the center of a highly sought-after historic district, the quaint outdoor courtyard, historic charm, and loads of potential. From the surface, it looked like it could use some decorating, as well as new bathrooms and a new kitchen. But boy, we would come to find out later that wouldn't even scratch the surface.
That being said, I invite you to tour our home, the way it appeared during our home inspection in December 2002. It's becoming clearer to me now why my mother had a horrified look on her face the first time she came to visit. I think her exact words were, “It will be...cute...when you're done with it.” Another close friend actually said to us, “Actually, I'm surprised you would buy such a crappy place.” (We still haven't let him live that one down.) But here it is, in all it's glory:
(We've made some significant changes to the exterior since then)
The hardwood floors in each room were damaged or removed and poorly patched. Here's the evidence the doorway to the living room was widened at some point.
Widening was a trend apparently. Here's evidence of how wide the upstairs hallway was originally. Then in the 1980s they moved the wall...but didn't take the time to fix the floor.
Yet another example of the damaged and unprofessionally patched floors. We still haven't been able to figure this one out.
They say kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. It's no wonder our house was on the market for more than six months!
Here's a look into the (now) dining room and living room beyond it.
Here's a look at the (now) family room.
Pictured here is the seemingly cavernous master bedroom, filled with a poorly placed king size bed and essentially nothing more.
Here's a view from the master bedroom down the hallway. The interior of the house was white on white with white accents... and featured a horrible and sloppy paint job. The transom window was one of the few truly original architectural elements of the house, but it was painted shut, the lift had been removed and it wasn't operable.
Though it was winter, we could see the potential for a very nice view out of our back window. The fact that we had our very own tree was an added bonus.
(The back yard has undergone some major transformations since this photo.)
The back of the house was without anything interesting, and the wall showcased poorly kept ivy and missing stucco.
The master bath was a DIY special. The vanity was poorly constructed, tiled, and grouted, not to mention impossible to keep clean.
The master bath tub was large, but had no shower curtain. It was also installed incorrectly and allowed water to sit against the wall, eventually causing other water damage issues. Did I mention the house was white on white? Oh, and the sexy one piece toilet with random light switch above it was one of a kind.
Though the master bath was a sight to behold, the guest bath was simply shocking. The room featured off-white square matte tile with gray grout to match the gray fixtures, and a shower with two shower heads that could comfortably fit six people. Hideous, to say the least.
The toilet in the guest bath was also gray, and the tile throughout the entire bathroom was installed floor to ceiling. It was dirty, dated and disgusting.
The front entry hall had potential, we could see it, even beyond the white cracked walls, white sloppy trim paint, and ceiling light you could only turn on with a pull chain. You can barely see it in the picture. Yes, you read that right, a PULL CHAIN!
(The changes the entry hall has undergone is one of my favorite projects we've taken on.)
The tile in the sun porch was also...um...interesting. Not our taste, but at least it was installed in a semi professional manner.
Here's the upstairs guest room in all of its baby pink glory. These cracked walls remained this offensive shade for more than eight years. I don't know how we waited so long to update them.
(Though it took eight years, the pink walls were finally eradicated.)
This is one of my favorite before photos. This view, from the bottom of the stairs, shows the gross carpeting, odd handrail, and complete lack of character our house held. We could see the potential, but I can't blame anyone who couldn't.
(We tore into the work on the stairs the first day we owned the house. The once awful eyesore is now a calming welcome to the house with custom wainscoting.)
And now I bring you the crown jewel of the back yard. An odd entry from the alley, custom built (maybe the owner was greek?) with an original interior door and lots of other molding that was not ready for outdoor exposure. This was constructed sometime in the 1980s, adorned for some time with a plaque that bore the name of the owner it was erected for, and by the time this photo was taken, full of termites, rot, and general disgustingness. Some of our friends likened it to a port-o-john.
I was 24, Alex was 25, we were first time home buyers and old house newbies, but we were excited for what was to come. We went in almost blind, but knew it would be an adventure.
Of the whole house, and all of the things I knew we wanted to change, there was one thing that I loved in its current form -- the door knob on the front door. Sure, it can be spruced up and moved to a new door, but I loved it then and love it now.
(Though we loved the lock, the whole entry vestibule had to be redone as well. This included the task of making the transom window operable.)
From our experience, we do have a word of caution to any first time home buyers out there. If your home inspector tells you to ignore the water stains next to your skylight, get a new home inspector! What can I say, we were young, naive, and learned the hard way.
I'm happy to say that over the years we've made converts out of our naysayers. We're proud of what we've accomplished so far, and can't wait to show you more befores, durings, and afters from our home renovation journey!