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. As we drove through my husband said in amazement, "Laurie, this 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.)

However there was more. Great pools, Walking trails. Stream. Tennis Courts. Who could ask for anything more? I can. A view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, please. Done. Can we move here dear? My husband said, "Absolutely not." The house's features (listed above) were hopeless. On top of that, 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. He especially disliked the view from the family room windows looking down into neighbors' backyards. No. He wanted one of the other houses.

We put down offer after offer, just to be beat out. Most of the houses we visited were far worse than the one I was campaigning for. Finally, somehow, I talked my husband to making an offer. I kept telling him that he and I knew how to make a place better. This house might be too little for our furniture, but at this point we had run out of decent houses and we had been looking for 3 weeks. This was crazy. This house had to be the one for us. It had been on the market for 6 months! (Everyone thought it ugly and little.) My husband finally and regretfully conceded. We made an offer. It was accepted that night. The next day the paperwork was signed. Then it was the obligatory 30 day wait for all the financial paperwork to happen before the final signing of our lives and moving in.

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. Our table back in Texas was so huge we left it there, knowing it probably wouldn't fit in the next house. It never would have fit here. However I miss that table greatly. I sort of wish I had kept it. Then I would have squeezed it into the basement to use as a craft table with the kids. The wooden chairs were my choice and the fabric chairs with huge red flowers on the front and stripes on the back were my husband's choice. We couldn't come to an agreement until he said we should compromise and get 2 of each...which would add to the French Country eclectic look.

Kitchen (2)

I was relieved to have a deck! The main floor is at ground level in the front of the house. However the yard slopes to such and extent, that the basement in the back of the house becomes ground level. Lots of houses around here have fencing blocking their french doors because there is no deck from their second story main floor. The tiki torches definitely had to go. Even though we aren't in Hawaii everyone around here seems to have these. Well, not us. The inspector told us the stairs were not to code. It needed a secondary rail with the main rail. My husband took care of that himself to make sure it was done correctly so we could move in asap. He also wanted to refinish the deck.


The teeny weeny family room! We were shocked that all of our furniture (minus the coffee table) fit! The previous homeowner only had a recliner where ours is. Then he had a huge tv where the couch on the left is. Lots of wiring for the tv and various components were all over the floor. Those few items made the room look awful and impossible to fit furniture into. Surprise, surprise! Just like HGTV says, it really does pay to declutter when selling a house. I couldn't believe the awful clutter at many of the houses I toured. I didn't think we could fit into any of them. My husband's first goal was a flat screen tv mounted over the fireplace. That took a lot of doing but was eventually done. All these photos (apart from the two from day 1) were taken 3 weeks after moving in. Lots of paint samples are on the wall on the far right. I love all the windows. It's like being in a tree house. However there is hardly any space to hang paintings or quilts. Also this means lots of money needs to be invested into window treatments. Of course my husband likes the fru fru type!

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. My husband and I would love to take that down and replace it with railing. 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? We really want to upgrade this room with new tilework everywhere, like my husband did in Texas. 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. My husband shakes his head.

Basement Bathroom

Not shown is the extra bedroom in the basement, which my husband claimed for his office. It was painted a deep purple. It was a type of purple that I liked a lot and would have liked to work with. However he said no way. I asked if he'd like to paint his office a deep blue, or deep hunter green, or deep red or burgundy? Those are such classic  office colors. No. He wanted to paint it the barest hint of yellow. What? But he was after me for using yellow (deeper tones) everywhere and challenged me to find other colors. Also pastel yellow doesn't quite exude a manly office. He said he is painting the room a light hint of yellow. Well, what about window treatment. He has a huge picture window. I could  do a box pleated valence. Perfect for a man's office. He said no. Zero window treatment. ???? I can't tell you how many Parade of Homes my husband has dragged me to, how many men's offices decorated as I was headed towards that he has coveted...only to want nothing more than the barest hint of yellow with a burgundy papa san chair. Well, so that is what he got!

Meanwhile...I never got my sewing room. I continue to plague my husband with my sewing scattered all over the dining room and the rest of the main floor. In the basement, I still feel like a mole. It's still dark, despite the new lighting. 

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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