Two years ago today, demo began on our house. You can read about it here. At the time, in my naïve, foolish, little head, I had visions of us speedily and efficiently transforming this house into a home in a little over six months. Just like you see on TV. Oh, sweet innocence of youth.
Three general contractors, mountains of debt, anxiety attacks on the regular, and about 600 martinis later, I’m still making my peace with our decision to buy and renovate this house. Our little guy is helping, though, and the more we fill this place with memories of him, the more peaceful I’m starting to feel about it all.
Other memories are helping too. As we’ve slowly wound up one project after another, we’ve been able to start using the house as we always dreamed of using it. Our attic guest rooms have been filled at least monthly (and sometimes weekly) with far away friends and their families. And, even with the baby, we’ve managed to cook up some pretty fantastic feasts for local friends. Next week, we’re hosting the annual Christmas luncheon for Chris’s Secretariat at the Diocese (because technically, if you’re Catholic, it is still the Season), and we’ll also be using the house to tape a new St. Paul Center formation program based on The Catholic Table (more details on that coming soon).
And that is what this house has always been about. We didn’t buy and renovate this old 1890 summer home turned bad 1970’s duplex to impress people or keep it all to ourselves. From the beginning, we wanted a big home that could welcome large families, serve the Church, and be a place of refuge for friends and family in need of a break. We also wanted a comfortable home, that made people feel welcomed, peaceful, and loved. The idea was to create a place to which people wanted to come back again and again, and that reflected, in some small way, the joy and beauty of our faith.
How well the house serves that purpose will be the real measure of this renovation. So, only time will tell if it’s been worth it or not. In the meantime, though, we’re celebrating how far we have come. As part of that celebration, I’ve decided to share with you some Before and After shots of the home. So many of you have walked through this crazy journey with us, that it seemed like a tour was in order.
Today, the plan is just to give an overview of each room. Over the next few weeks, though, I’ll go through the rooms individually, and talk about some of the decisions we made and problems we encountered. If house renovations aren’t your thing, please just ignore these posts. I promise to get back to our regularly scheduled program of recipes, hosting tips, and probably some new mom stuff soon. For the rest of you, hopefully this little series either provides helpful advice for your own renovation…or distraction from your laundry.
And remember, I’m not a fancy, sponsored house blogger…just a humble Catholic author, taking pictures with her iPhone, while trying to meet deadlines for the writing that does pay the bills and take care of her new baby, so please have mercy on the quality of the images.
Let’s begin on the outside…This was how the house looked when we moved in two years ago. I hated it. Hated it.
And this is how it looked last Spring, when I tried my best to get a decent image of the outside. The iPhone doesn’t do the paint job justice. What a difference a little paint (and a new roof) can make, huh? I am firmly in Camp “Paint All the Brick.”
This was the entryway, with a missing transom and a faux wall separating the hall from the downstairs duplex apartment.
This was the fancy stairwell, leading to the upstairs apartment. Note doorway to the downstairs apartment on the left.
This is the best shot I’ve got of the opened up room, the restored transom, and the newly constructed stairway. So, so, so much more light.
The stairway up close. Our contractor built the newel post, and we found the spindles at a local salvage shop. The railing came from Hope Depot.
This is the old living room in the downstairs apartment. Groovy fireplace, no? And who doesn’t love a bookshelf half way up the wall???
Here it is today. Salvaged fireplace and surround, hand cut marble tiles, and new bookcase that doesn’t float on the wall.
Here is the dining room when it was still a bedroom. The fireplace had been plastered over…
…and the doorway connecting the living room and dining room was blocked by a closet.
The restored fireplace and built-ins. The fireplace was from a salvage yard, the built ins from elsewhere in the house.
Pocket doors where the closet used to be, once more connecting the two rooms. Again, from salvage shop. There were no happy surprises for us inside the walls. Only sad, sad, expensive surprises.
The someday kitchen when it was a dining room for the downstairs duplex. Note the built-ins. They’re the ones that moved to the new dining room.
The kitchen, as now seen from the dining room. We took out an entire wall between the two.
The someday mudroom when it was the kitchen for the downstairs duplex…
The actual mudroom today. It may be my favorite room in the house. At the very least, it’s the most useful.
The old kitchen from the outside.
We replaced the window and vinyl with these doors.
The old back porch before we enclosed it. (There was an old slider here, that led out from the old kitchen.)
The old back porch after we enclosed it and turned it into a den.
The nursery before…
The nursery after
The future master bedroom before…when it was two separate rooms in the upstairs apartment—a bedroom and a former dining room turned bedroom.
The master bedroom after. We opened up the wall between the two rooms, and made the doorway to one go away.
When we bought this house from a flipper, he had pulled out the cabinets in this room, which was the upstairs kitchen, and called it a closet for the master bedroom…which was the old dining room and the smallest bedroom in the house before we combined it with the adjoining bedroom.
We turned it into the master bath.
There’s more, including two huge guest bedrooms on the third floor, but I’m sick today and don’t have the energy to make the beds up there (we had guests the weekend before Christmas) and take pictures. So, it will just have to wait. For now, though, I hope you enjoyed the quick little glance at our project, and come back as I talk, with the wisdom that only hindsight can give, about the rest of the renovation. In the meantime, Merry Christmas!