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As we leap into work mode there are a few things I want to share about our fixer upper that I’m quite grateful for.  With any new house there are always things you love and things you’re not so fond of, and when it’s not move in ready, the stuff that needs changing can start to feel like a giant pile of annoyances as you reverse the choices the previous homeowners made.  Here are some of the best things about the new place.

I’m so very glad our fireplace is like this.  A corner fireplace is a little harder to arrange furniture around, but all it needs is white paint and maybe a mantel nailed up to be attractive.


In the near future it should be looking more like this:



You know why I’m super grateful for this particular fireplace?  Because almost all the other houses we looked at also had a “fireplace”… this kind.



We don’t have the budget to change that kind of thing to a real fireplace – I would have been stuck with it.  Urrkk!

Next, I’m grateful for an indoor laundry area.  Ok, it’s in the master bathroom, but I’ve been doing laundry in a garage full of greasy car repair projects for the last 7 years.  It will be really nice to know my clean laundry can fall on the floor and not maybe have to get washed again!


Perhaps down the road I’ll put up some bifold doors like this cute space so we don’t have to see the washer and dryer all the time.


This one is pretty basic, but I’m thankful for two bedrooms and two baths!  Our current house only has one of each and is about 1000 sq ft with additional unfinished space that we store stuff in rather than live in, and this new home is 1400 sq ft.

(No picture for that one — I’ll finish up the floorplan and post it at some point down the road.)

I’m also thankful that the kitchen has a very work friendly layout.  It’s small at 11×11 and I prefer small kitchens – less wasted movement.  I’ll tell all the details of our planned updates in a future post so for now let it be said the work triangle is just what I like and I’ll be so happy with the space after a coat of white paint and a minimal amount of remodeling.  Here’s the world’s worst mockup just so you can see that it’s not so bad looking when it’s not bright orange wood!

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Moving on, I’m delighted that our new place has an actual entryway!  It is great to have a large and practical transition space into the house instead of being dumped into the living room when you open the door.  Having a sense of entrance is a really good feeling, not to mention having a proper spot to put down your bags, keys, coats, etc.  It seems like a lot of homes don’t have that.


The fridge is going and we’ll be painting the cabinets and laying new flooring before we move in so that’ll take the entry a good ways toward finished.  This photo below has sort of the feel I’m imagining, though we’ll have wood plank floors.



Last but not least, this place has privacy.  There are blinds on all the windows but if I don’t run around at dusk to close them we’re not going to turn into a fishbowl to every passerby!  Between the 2 acres of property, hillside location, and the 8 foot hedges, it is our own little oasis.  We do actually have a granny flat rental over the detached garage, but it’s all arranged in such a way that those neighbors can’t see into or walk past our house.


While we scrape and paint and sweat, I’m going to keep these blessings and the bigger picture in mind to get through the valley of the shadow of construction!

What were your favorite things about your fixer upper?  Have you lived through a DIY remodel with small children and lived to tell the tale?


Hello dear readers!  I’m resurrecting my dormant blog because, dun dun dun, we are moving.  To a fixer upper, of course.  The new property is out of the city, on 2 acres with a view and two enormous garage/workshops for the Chief, a major selling point.  The house is slightly larger than our current place, with enough space for our family of four.  It is also in pristine exceedingly dated condition.  It was built in 1984 but feels like a mix of the 60’s through 80’s.

We’re working on a tight timeline and budget so I’ll be sharing just the broad strokes as we prepare it for move-in!  We’ll be updating the main living areas and hold off on the bedrooms and bathrooms for now.  There is so much bad wallpaper and vinyl flooring to rip out everywhere, I can’t wait.  Without further ado, the “before” pictures!

Because of parking, the side door is the main door.  It actually does go into an entryway, unlike the main door which opens straight into the living room.  This little porch light with bizzarely placed installation is par for the course for the interior as well.



The entry, below. There are cabinets along the right and two closets (coat and broom) on the left.  And an extra fridge…  and you can’t see it here but there’s a counter level pass through on the right, perhaps to shove your grocery bags through to the kitchen?



Moving forward is this large window, which we’re replacing with French doors for better access to the backyard.  You currently have to go around the house to get to it.  Hard to see, but to the left of the window is an office nook.



Here’s the office nook!  I want to rip it out and put in a reading nook instead.  The open doorway leads to the hall and the beds/baths.  You can see the previous owners were really into lots of storage.  Luckily this means I can rip half of it out and still have plenty.  Gotta love that upper cabinet hanging out all by itself!



So looking in the other direction is the open floor plan living/dining/kitchen area.  Two huge (12′ and 8′) windows are there for the view.  The column in the middle is structural, holding up the roof, and the kitchen island is right against it.  You can also see the not so attractive ducting space running along the peak of the vaulted ceiling.



The kitchen is basically hanging out there in the middle, and it really doesn’t work for me.  There’s not enough width around it to use furniture to divide the space better, so we’re putting up some partition walls around the kitchen to make it less open.  I’ll detail the plans for the kitchen in another post, but basically the fridge is moving to where the island is, the fridge corner is getting walls around it, and everything will be painted off-white.



So much orange and gold!  On the floor of the main area is a lovely pink and gray patterned vinyl.



The kitchen counters are dated linoleum but the pattern is not noticeable from just a few feet away and reads as a decent buttery creamy color.  Good, cause they’re staying. IMG_2445


The walls are all covered in grasscloth wallpaper, which is experiencing a trendy revival right now. Sadly, the peach color and waterstained spots on it make it only worthy of the dumpster.  Did I mention all the wallpaper we have to get off?  Not looking forward to that.



We have a problem with the windows, which I didn’t realize until we were in escrow (and it wasn’t a deal breaker).  All the south facing windows have a heavy amber tint on them.  You can really see it where the window is slid over and the glass is doubled up.  It makes me feel like I’m inside a cigarette – everything is all dingy and yellowed.  I thought initially it was just the paint and finishes, but it’s also the windows!  I desperately hope I can get the tint off myself with the help of Google, because I want to enjoy that California sunshine.



Next is the main bathroom, in the hallway.  I won’t be tackling this until after we’ve moved in but I think that with everything painted and a decent mirror, lights, tile, and towels it will be quite passable without much of a budget.



The girls’ bedroom –  not much to say here except thank goodness there’s no wallpaper! They will probably be living with it as is for quite a while.



The master bedroom.  Wallpaper.  Mismatched sconces.  A wall of windows!  Two closets.  And…


it even has its very own laundry room – slash – master bathroom.  Yup.  I don’t even know how we would change all this – it would be extremely expensive to rearrange the location of things due to all the plumbing.  The toilet is around behind the sink wall.  I’ll worry about it in 3-5 years!  Meanwhile I’ll just be glad there’s no wallpaper.



So there you have it, a badly lit introduction to our new house!  I hope you will follow along on this journey with us.  It promises to be a huge adventure/challenge.

As I’ve dreamed about fixing up the front of our house, I have been taking notes on what the neighbors are doing.  Miss E and I go on walks with her in the carrier on most evenings, and sometimes in the afternoon as well.

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We live in a development built in the 1950’s and for blocks around, there are really only half a dozen floorplans or so (and their mirror images).  Since being built there have been several decades for the various owners to build additions, change the facade, move doors and windows, add porches, etc. etc.  This means that when I go on walks, I have tons of opportunity to take notes on what works and what doesn’t on our exact same house!

For comparison’s sake, here’s a reminder of what our house looks like.

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There are two houses nearby that I particularly like.  They haven’t done anything drastic but the homes are updated and have tidy front yards.

I really like gray houses with crisp white trim, which is part of why this one appeals to me.    It just looks spick and span in person.  The paint looks fresh and new, and the lawn is always taken care of.  That’s more than I can say for a good percentage of the homes around us!  All the windows have been updated and have mullions (hard to see with the reflections), which I also love.IMG_1552 (800x598)

This house has a simple ranch-style porch that fits well with the rest of the house.  It also looks beautiful at night!  They have pretty, low-care landscaping with grasses and mulch and perfect outdoor lighting.  It really makes things look high end for our modest neighborhood.  Isn’t it amazing how great lighting can have that effect?

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So as the Chief works on restoring our windows, I’m dreaming about the end result.

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His project will likely take all month at the rate it’s going so far – the old paint is diamond hard and tough to get off, then everything needs to be primed with oil based primer, let that dry, then re-glaze each pane with window putty, which takes weeks to dry, then paint it all white.  He’s working on it a sash at a time and is currently about 25% done.

Are we the only ones who go around cribbing ideas from the neighbors?  Or is this a common DIY tendency?

I’m delighted to report that the front of our house currently looks like this:

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It’s fall and that means it’s time for the Chief to stop working on car projects and switch to house projects.   I love this time of year!!

The front of the house has been getting me down lately.  The three original wood windows were in dire need of re-glazing because the putty was flaking and disintegrating.

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There were still paint swatches from a year ago next to the door.

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And there were stucco patches across the front.



We decided to prioritize an exterior update this fall.  This is Phase One (of two) to complete our curb appeal update.

Phase One Tasks

  • Re-glaze windows
  • Re-paint windows
  • Trim out windows with new, thick trim
  • Paint front of house (yay, no more piebald look!)
  • Paint house trim white (currently dark gray)

This will definitely elevate the appearance of our home!  After that we will probably take a break before continuing with Phase Two in the next year.

Phase Two Tasks

  • Tear down ugly metal porch and build nice new one (I wish we could tear it down now but we need something to keep off the winter rains!)
  • Replace the siding and brick on the far right facade of the house
  • Pour concrete walkway
  • Add landscaping

Here’s what the house looked like at its best before we got started.

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And here’s the in progress shot from the top of the post.

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It always gets worse before it gets better!  I’m really excited.  I’ll be back this week to share some more details.

When fall arrives do you tackle big house projects?  What small updates have boosted your curb appeal the most?

Well, we did it.  The little girl is three and a half weeks old and we have managed to keep her alive and happy.  I have to say she’s our biggest DIY project yet… har har har.

I thought today I’d share what the Chief did on his paternity leave.

First thing was to put a sign on the door.  Somewhere in the middle of labor (we did a home birth) I suddenly turned to the Chief and said, “Oh my gosh, can you put a sign on the door so nobody tries to drop in?”  It was early Sunday morning and friends routinely show up unannounced to visit on the weekends.  So he made this sign for me, with his friendliest roundy capital letters and a smiley face:

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As an introvert as well as a new mom, I just didn’t want to see or talk to anybody for a long time, so that sign stayed up for more than two weeks.   It was awesome.  It even kept some Jehovah’s Witnesses from knocking.

Secondly, he installed air conditioning in the house.  I’m not totally sure of the details because I was mere days out from giving birth, but there was an old cruddy nonfunctional system up in the attic which got replaced in an epic four-day (I think) work project.  We’d never had working AC apart from a small unit in the back window, and that window had been replaced several months ago with the French doors – effectively leaving us with no air conditioning and summer on the way.  The Chief had been collecting the components to install whole-house AC for a while, but when our thermostat indoors was suddenly reading 84 degrees he realized he needed to put it in Right Now while he had time off!

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Uninstalling the old system showed that it was worse than we’d thought.  He ended up ripping out all the ducting, resulting in some impressive piles of trash.

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The poor man was covered in 40 year old insulation from crawling around the attic and dragging that stuff out.

Now we have a brand new, sanitary, high powered AC system that can keep the house up to 30 degrees below the outside temps – an excellent thing when summer highs routinely go over 100 degrees and we always get a day or three over 110.  Babe, if you’re reading this, can I just say THANK YOU again?

And last but not least, I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day as a mother this year for the very first time!  The little girl got here with great timing, and to top it off, my mom was in town from Michigan over the holiday too.  What the Chief did was to made us a succulent Mother’s Day feast on the grill.  We had lobster tails (so much better grilled than steamed!), steamed Dungeness crab, grilled asparagus, and a big spring mix salad.  Oh, and lots of melted butter with garlic.  In fact, between the asparagus broiling in a shallow pan of butter, the butter stuffed into the lobster tails while they cooked, and the butter used to dip the seafood in, we went through about two and a half sticks of butter on this meal.  A lot of it fell into the grill though so that’s not the actual amount consumed… quite…  YEAH BUTTER!

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So that’s what went on during paternity leave.  Sounds awesome, huh?