Friday, September 16, 2016

Our Virginia Fixer Upper...the Before Shots and the Vision

Seven years ago we moved from Texas to Virginia. We were offered scores of homes in Northern Virginia that were 4x the price but of far less quality than our home in Texas. Our Texas house was a mere cookie cutter house that we had redecorated in many ways. But even from day one we had more than anything offered in Virginia for 4x the price.

Our Texas house had:
  • hardiplank siding 
  • best use of space
  • huge pantry/laundry/mud room
  • loft
  • cute backyard
  • ceiling lights in every room
  • mostly one switch per light

Virginia houses had:
  • vinyl siding
  • more square footage but less usable space
  • small pantries, if any at all
  • laundry closets, for the most part
  • hardly any mud rooms
  • no lofts
  • sometimes a cute backyard
  • lacked ceiling lights in every room (nothing like stumbling in the dark, forever, when first moving in and forever after that until more lighting is secured)
  • as many as two and three switches per light, I'm still getting confused!  

How in the world do we justify going into debt 4x more than we did in Texas, when we get so much less. What type of investment is that? Nevertheless, we had to live somewhere. Rentals were just as expensive as ownership. We wanted to own so we could make the house our own. We put offers on several different houses (one at a time) or at least tried to, but the competition was fierce despite being at the bottom of the housing  market.

I kept coming back to one house. Experts always say, "location, location, location." Well, I fell in love the first day our agent drove us to this neighborhood. It is like a modern Colonial Williamsburg. Overall, there was that general feel due to many picket fences and colonial stylings of houses, modern though they were. Most homes around here are colonial in style, but there was something about *this* neighborhood, right down to the sighting of some chinisuiot fencing here and there. Some houses even looked more Georgian, and of a few of those my kids dubbed "the Governor's Palace" due to their unique styling. Well, we didn't get one of those. Oh, there were even "ha ha" walls! (Be still my heart.)

The greatness: Great pools, Walking trails. Stream. Tennis Courts. Who could ask for anything more? I can. A view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, please. Done.

The woeful aspects included: the family room was sooooo small, there was no way more than a recliner could fit in there and there was no where to put the tv. The dining room furniture would never fit into the dining room. Hardly any pantry. The walls were filthy with awful paint colors. The family room carpet was ugly, but newish. The vinyl floors in the bathrooms were ugly.

So...this house was the winner because we can fix all the bad stuff!

Because I was so discouraged of the look of the rooms and outdoors, I did not take very many "before" photos of our new home. I did take a couple. Also everything was such a rush. The movers moved our goods into the house the morning after we closed on the house. Why didn't I use that wait time (because the movers were very late that morning in arriving) but I think that again, I was *that* discouraged about the look of the house. I was very depressed, even though I knew we could eventually make this place cute. I was so much happier buying our Texas house, because it was fresh, newly built, built better, much cheaper, and more nicely laid out. We had more space even though we had far less square footage. The very last night, after cleaning the very last nook and cranny of our Texas house, I'll never forget sitting in the drive way, about to pull out one last time. I saw tears well up in the eyes of the upstairs windows (our loft and son's bedroom) and roll down the cheeks onto the garage and dining room below. I started crying too. It makes me cry now to think of this. I miss that house so much. Yet, here we were and it was time to make our Virginia house a home.

My mom and mother-in-law kept asking for photos of the house, so a month later, I finally ran around the house and took photos. Some rooms were in progress of being painted or had been painted. I've gone through all the photos and am going to do my best to share the before photos. They photos truly did not reveal the awful dirt everywhere. It was so disgusting and icky. But just imagine dirt on all the walls.

First the entry. The first room is actually the living room. We've never had a living room before so it's rather bare of furniture and I'm still trying to figure out what to put in there without spending a lot of money. Ideally we'd love to put a baby grand piano in there! Also there is not a single light in this room. There is no electrical box in the center of the ceiling to put any lighting into either. That is crazy! Well, I never got a before photo of that, so moving on to the stairwell in the center of the house...

This photo was taken on day 1. I brought in a gift from our Sunday School class back in Texas, a group photo from our last night there that everyone signed on the mat. It was good to have as a reminder that they were praying over us during this time of transition. =) I love the pillars, actually. Very Jeffersonian! He liked to use pillars in his architecture. The spiral staircase is interesting but it takes up floor space and makes our rooms teeny weeny. Our biggest plan here was to paint the stairwell walls a new color. I also toy with the idea of removing the carpet and doing wood flooring for the staircase, and to do the spindles in a stain. It would be an asset to my photo shoots of historical clothing. However, that is a lot of work and expense.  Also when reselling the house I am thinking a young family might buy this and prefer carpeting on the stairs for their littles.

Stairwell Day 1

Opposite the stairwell is the powder room. A friend saw this and exclaimed in disgust that it looked like someone splattered blood from their hands on to the wall. The plan was obviously to repaint. Also I wanted to find white cottagy style fixtures, like we had in our Texas house. Sadly, the store where we had purchased them no longer sold them.

Powder Room

Around the corner is the kitchen. The countertops were stained laminate which needed replacing. The appliances did not work. I wanted to paint the cabinets. I also wanted to replace the hardware on the cabinets. The drawer pulls that looked like twigs weren't doing it for me. I wanted to take those two center niche shelves down. They weren't even stable. If I could find some that were French Country style I'd get them. The window treatments had to come down. I was okay with the green color, apart from the stains. However the kitchen was too dark for me. I liked the sink layout at the corner windows. Those windows are quite unique and are kind of fun. This is the only other photo from day 1. The basket was a gift from our real estate agent after closing. It was full of all sorts of yummies and fun stuff from Virginia! The kitchen has can lights! The best lighting I've ever had, in fact! If only the basement had can lighting. We also wanted to tile a backsplash. And of course new window treatments.


Another view of the kitchen after moving in. By now we had found and purchased this cute French Country table and chairs.

Kitchen (2)


Surprise! Our furniture fit into the family better than we had imagined! However the coffee table was doomed to the basement, which is really inconvenient.

Family Room

Back to the stairwell, a peak at the dining room 3 weeks after moving in. By now we had painted some of the walls. The walls were originally this purpley grey color that was very dirty. This color was in nearly every room. I know greys are very popular these days, but it was depressing me! I needed color! Also not seen here were scuff marks on the ceiling. How did that happen? We also discovered that some of those alarms in the ceiling were completely dead.  You can just barely see one of the knee walls in the dining room. I like them for having a place to put things, however they are taking up floor space and making a small dining room smaller. Visually and practically it will look much larger if we take out the knee walls. However to do that, we have to be at the point to replace the flooring. We are thinking about doing wood floors throughout. We'd like to go with a dark wood, but that might make the place look too small. Also, then we'd have to restain the railings a darker stain. That's not always an easy task. A huge irritation is that someone stamped gold flowers onto the ceiling around the chandelier in the dining room. It's going to be such a pain to repaint all the ceilings. Walls are one thing. But ceilings? Oh, and of course we want to replace all the ceiling fixtures and chandeliers. Someday.


At the top of the stairs the first room belongs to my daughter. Again, purply grey. A paint job was definitely needed. She also wanted different curtains and curtain rod. Also she needs a light. None whatsoever! She also needs a fan.

Carolynn's Room

Next to her room is the kids' bathroom. Purpley grey walls. We still need to paint this room. We ran out of steam (though we have done many other rooms) with the busy-ness of homeschooling junior high school.

Kids' Bathroom

The hallway was also pupley grey. For some reason the railings on the stairs came to an end and now we have a knee wall. Wouldn't it really open the space to knock that knee wall out and do a proper railing. The space would be a bit brighter and more open...appearing more spacious. That means lots of intricate painting and staining. But we have to be at a point where we are putting down new carpeting...which is what I think what we will do on the upstairs and basement, someday. My son's room also needed paint because his walls were like the basement (below) pink mocha. Ick! He also needed window treatments, light (what is it with zero lights????) and a fan. 

Stairwell Landing

Our bedroom is the largest room in the house! That is crazy! If only our family room was this size. In fact, if only we could squish the family room and living room together and  have one huge space! That would be incredible! But impossible. We have a coat closet and powder room between the two and I think the structures in place are load bearing walls. Poor planning on the part of the architects. They really need to prioritize practicality then give that pizazz. We wanted to repaint and find window treatments. We didn't like the curtain rod so that needed to be replaced.

Master Bedroom

Our master bathroom. The paint isn't bad, but it is dirty. The shades are now shot and we have to replace those. We have already put up a valence (with tassels) and are talking about plantation style shutters. There were zero medicine cabinets in here. Can you believe that? I don't even recall if there were towel racks or not, but we did get new ones.

Master Bathtub

The etagerie came with the bathroom. The shower is a pain to clean. Any tips? New tile would be great. We'd also like one of those seamless shower stalls. All clear, no metal? What is the name of those? We can't figure that out though. We ran out of budget (same money we had in Texas but we did far less because Virginia is so insanely expensive). We are thinking of keeping all the white wall tile and tub. Then replacing the icky flooring with a gorgeous 1920's black and white hexagon tile. We were originally thinking Tuscan like we did in Texas and in our kitchen remodel, but that would mean replacing everything. Also we are on the East Coast now and the 1920's black and white tile on the floor, and then a quartz marble look counter top would be cool! Also I'd like to repaint the walls to a light turquoise type, like the HGTV Dream House used a few years ago. Also we want to paint out the cabinets.  Also we want to replace the lighting.

Master Shower

Down the stairwell and we are in the basement where every wall had pink mocha that was sponge painted. I felt as if I were in a cave. Here I am in the middle of painting. I had already painted the back walls belgian waffle yellow. The overall lighting was next to nothing.

Basement Pink Mocha

This is the basement full bath. The paint I sort of like but could be stronger. I like saturated colors in the bathrooms because it's the one room where there can be deep color and I can get away with it because all the lighting brightens it up. So saturated colors in the bathrooms. Lighter tones elsewhere. This room also has beadboard, which I like a lot. However someone put in the trim upside down.

Basement Bathroom

Well, stay tuned for what we did and are doing! It's much homier now! As much as I'm liking it more and more, I still miss my Texas house. (sigh)

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