The Project House *before* or How we ended up with a project house

May 5th, 2013

I remember showing this picture to Mr. Project before we went and looked at the house. His immediate response was “NO”. No point in even looking at it. Then I told him the price and the square footage, and he was willing to go look at it, but wasn’t overly optimistic…


I don’t think I’ve ever posted my full set of “before” photos for our project house. When we bought this house, we were on a very strict budget but wanted something big enough for our growing family. I was 9 months pregnant, and didn’t want to stay in our tiny apartment, so house hunting we went! Anything in our budget that was “move-in” ready was around 1400 sq feet. Since we work out of our home, that just wasn’t enough space for us. So we had 2 options: buy something small and grow out of it pretty quickly, or buy something larger and put some major work into the renovations. We had never really renovated a house before, but I figured there was a first time for everything. Mr. Project is such a hard worker, I had no doubt in my mind that he could jump in and just do it.


When we found this house, it was in pretty bad shape. No one major negative, but just years and years of neglect. The carpet was 35 years old and the house hadn’t been painted in years and years. Unless you’ve been in a similar home, you can’t imagine how badly 30+ year old carpet smells. We brought friends over to see it before we signed on the dotted line and they ALL thought we were crazy. certifiably nuts.


But I could see the beautiful swan in the whole thing. The floor plan was pretty awesome, the spaces flowed well, and there were 2.5 bathrooms. And the best part – the part that really sold me was this home office space:


It also had a beautiful backyard and was on a big piece of land that was somewhat secluded from the neighbors. That’s something we didn’t see in any of the other (newer) homes we looked at.


When we decided that we were going to go for it and buy it, I knew that we were going to have to renovate every single surface. Nothing that we could *see* would be visible in short order.


I was excited to remove all those dark pine doors, and 3/4″ baseboards. The orange peel walls needed to be re-plastered and smoothed, and the flooring of course all had to go.


New lighting, new kitchen, all new bathrooms and laundry. We had to gut out the whole thing and start from the drywall up.


We did have a few surprises here and there. The entire under-lament (what sits on top of the subfloor, but under the flooring) turned out to be particle board, Mr. Project had to tear out every inch of every crumbling sheet and replace it with a much higher-quality plywood sheeting.

_before10Some of the plumbing was in disrepair and we ended up having a plumber come and replace the majority of the old copper pipes and fittings in the house.


The lighting was also outdated and sparse, so we had an electrician spend a few weeks rewiring and adding some more modern lighting.

_before4But the bones were good, and with enough work we made the house look brand new again.


Every surface updated in some way or another. Think about every surface in your home, and how much work it would be to replace them.

I remember leaning against the wall in the living room that first day and imagining that very process and being terrified of it, but also excited to be the creator of something so massive and wholly ours.


And in the end, I think we did a pretty amazing job. Mr. Project really made it happen, I was mostly a cheerleader – he’ll say visionary, but I couldn’t have imagined anything quite so beautiful unless I knew he could pull it off. _before15

He was there night and day for the 2 months leading into move-in. And then finishing up small projects and a few big ones like the kitchen and laundry in the days and months after we moved in.

I think we’ll be forever changed by this house. It changed our goals and expectations. It made us realize that any goal is achievable with enough effort and a clear vision. It also made us never want to stop creating and making things more beautiful than how we found them. Which is a big reason why we wanted to move on to another project house. We love the adventure of designing a home. (see the after photos)


6 responses to “The Project House *before* or How we ended up with a project house”

  1. What an amazing transformation! I love that you have documented your journey. I went to school for interior design and I really love and appreciate a good sketch and rendering! I actually did the same thing you did, bought a house nine months pregnant. (We closed the same week we were due, crazy!) We plan on renovating our house as well and can’t wait to get started. Good luck with your new house and keep the awesome renderings coming!


  2. Sheila says:

    You guys are a great team and I am so awed by the before to the after of this house. I am actually kind of sad that you sold the house, because you transformed it into perfection!

  3. Cheryl Jones says:

    Such a change in the front photos! Love it!

  4. Tambur says:

    It is so much fun when you can see the hidden potential in a dud and know that when you are done it will sparkle and shine like a rare jewel. Good eye!

  5. Susan says:

    I too have the orange peel wall texture! I’d love to hear how you got rid of it.

  6. Jen Allyson says:

    Susan, we hired a drywall guy to come and sand and re-texture the entire house. It was our one really big splurge, and so completely worth it.

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