This post has been a long time coming. 3 years to be exact. Because our entire house is FINISHED! I mean… mostly. (Is a house ever really totally finished?)
We still have our laundry room, possibly a little flooring, and a few small spaces to go, but I was so excited to dust off our home’s before shots from the old archives when we first moved into our house back in December 2013. From the moment we unlocked our front door for the first time, this blog was born.
It’s been exciting and stressful and exhausting and has felt very much like raising a “baby” in a way.
Our house is a suburban tract home, meaning anything we wanted to “upgrade” during the building phase would cost a huge heap of mulah for less-than-superior work. We bought our house for the square footage, knowing we could customize it over time, but in the beginning, we just wanted the most square footage for as little money as possible.
So I thought it would be fun to update our full customized before and after home tour, Christmas style.
When we first moved in, we didn’t really own any furniture besides a crib and an old couch. Robert had just started his career after graduating from college on the GI Bill, I was teaching at a nearby high school, and Olivia was just a spunky 1 year-old. Funds were tight, but we were determined because we were so excited about this very first house of ours and knew it was a great starting point.
We ended up furnishing and making over our foyer with the help of Craigslist and good ol’ willpower (as was the case with the rest of our rooms).
Our hallway felt a bit claustrophobic at first, but we managed to make use of the space by incorporating this bench we found on Craigslist for $35. We added the board and batten to make the hallway feel larger and add dimension. It’s now our go-to spot to kick off our shoes and drop our bags when we get home.
You can see more about our Christmas entryway here.
The Dining Room
This space was furnished entirely out of secondhand finds and cost less than $700 total.
I made the rope chandelier from a plain thrifted black one using trusty hot glue and a hula hoop. The flea market china cabinet got a quick and simple paint job. I painted and refinished the dining table. And the dining chairs I got from an estate sale, despite being a huge job, were well worth the DIY reupholstering hassle using drop cloth canvas.
I’d always wanted white cabinets to open up this very dim, dark space, but our stock builder only offered one color, brown. A lot of labor went into this kitchen, and I think I love it even more for the effort we personally poured into it. There’s something so satisfying about walking into a room and knowing you DID that! And you never ever thought you’d be capable of completing a project so huge.
The Living Room
This is a shot from our breakfast nook, but our living room has seen the most projects over the past few years.
To add character to our plain doorway, we added this DIY faux beam for about $80.
We always wanted a fireplace but couldn’t justify the $5,000 upgrade to have a very small one put in from our builder. And since we live in South Carolina, we didn’t need one for warmth that much anyway.
So faux fireplace was the way to go. (Don’t you love these sophisticated before shots? 😉 So fancy. )
The fireplace was our first big home improvement project ever. In hindsight, there are probably some things I’d change. It’s not 100% perfect, but I still love how big of a statement it makes in here. And it only cost $600 as compared to the $5,000 from our builder for a rinky dink one. Totally worth it.
On our stairs, I decided against my original plank wall plan back in the day (thank goodness) and made a gallery wall from thrifted frames. To accommodate our ginormous TV, we found a plain buffet table on Craigslist that we reworked to look like an antique printer’s cabinet.
The Playroom / Media Room
Upstairs, our playroom got a major overhaul this fall with lots of built-in storage, work desks, and relaxing space to utilize as a whole family. I love being able to work at the desk or on the couch in the afternoons as Olivia colors or “cooks” in her play kitchen.
Once Olivia was ready to transition from her crib to a “big girl” bed, we gave her room a girly makeover. All of her furniture came from the thrift store or consignment sales (besides her mattress) that I painted. We kept most of the room neutral to grow with her easily. If the day comes when she decides she hates pink, it’s an easy fix.
She’s constantly singing and dancing everywhere she goes, so we stuck with a ballerina theme and incorporated a ballet barre with a big mirror for lots of twirly dress-up fun, which she does every day.
This bathroom makeover ended up being so simple mostly by using paint and replacing the plain mirror. Even the countertops and floors look like a different color because of the paint change in here.
This office has basically served as Robert’s “man cave”. He came up with most of this room’s design on his own since he wanted a space where he could display some of his mementos from his USMC days.
We furnished his office with this Pottery Barn desk we found for a steal on Craigslist and utilized garage shelving for industrial bookcases.
The Master Bathroom
We managed to makeover our entire master bathroom for less than $400 by painting the cabinets, replacing the mirror, framing the window, adding a plank wall behind our tub, and giving our existing shower door a black steel window look.
The Master Bedroom
Our master bedroom was literally a white box when we first moved in, like every other room in our house, so we decided to add some character by incorporating white planks with plywood and framing our windows.
This dresser I found at an antique shop fit in better once I changed the hardware and added a mirror on top. I found an antique Duncan Phyfe chair for the corner of the room too, but for now, I just removed the seat and put our Christmas tree in it. (Learning photography and practicing with my camera helped a little bit too.)
Some days, I look around our house and still can’t believe how far we’ve come. But I think, more than anything, I love that Robert, Olivia, and I have been able to include pieces of our past and meaningful treasures here that make it home.
This place is so much more than installing upgrades and decorating rooms. It has truly made us realize that we can do so much when we are determined and willing to take risks. In a way, our house has built us. It’s taught us valuable lessons about hard work and even my and Robert’s marriage- about how to problem solve, about how to remain calm and sort through chaos, about how to remain humble and admit you don’t always have the answers to everything when something goes wrong. In these three years of home improvement, we’ve learned to trust each other. We’ve learned to see things not as they are, but as they could be.
And we thank God every day for those valuable lessons that we never saw coming when we turned that door key three years ago.
I want you to know, the journey of this house is not about the accumulating of material possessions. (It should never be about that.) It’s about the journey, the growth and strengthening of ourselves. He gave Robert and I a passion for making a home and all it stands for. I can’t wait to see all of the adventures we’ll have and the lessons we’ll learn for years to come, in this house and thereafter.