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House Projects: Year in Review

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We’re closing in on two years since we first bought the house (has anyone ever noticed how quickly years go by?!) and I remember thinking when we bought the house in December and moved into it January 1 that I truly believed we could redo our kitchen for less than $20,000 and by the end of that year. I remember first seeing the kitchen and being horrified and thinking that that project had to be among the first that we do. Oh, how naive we were, we quickly humbled first-time homebuyers! I mean, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

What dummies.

Truthfully, I’m happy that we haven’t been able to do the biggest renovation just yet. Living in this house for almost two years has given us a great understanding of how the house functions, how we function in it, what we need out of this house, and how we can possibly make it work on somewhat of a budget. In fact, my original idea¬†about what to do in the kitchen is completely different from what we plan to do in there now and may even be different when we actually get to it. I have barely shared any images of the kitchen on this blog because it’s so truly ugly and we aren’t quite ready to do or share anything yet, but I hope a year from now there’s something to talk about.

Clearly my first impression of what we could take on is laughable but we have actually done quite a bit to make this cozy cottage more of a home for us and our guests. There’s been a lot of painting. I mean, a lot. The only rooms we haven’t painted are the kitchen, both bathrooms and entry. There was a small renovation to alter the layout of the upstairs and creation of a master bedroom closet. All of that was almost entirely in our first year (2015). And then there’s what we’ve done this year. Here’s a review of my top five favorite projects of 2016, each with a different reason for being a favorite. Soon on the blog I’ll list my top five planned projects for 2017.

Happiest Project: The Front Door

We wanted to take our cozy cottage from having a basic and bland appearance to something that popped more and was a color that reflected what we hope comes off as a happy and fun home. So back in March, we debated between turquoise and coral and decided on coral. I sanded, primed and painted the front door over the course of two days and transformed our basic exterior into something that still makes me smile every time I see it. For more on that project, visit here.

front door with molly up close
Most Life-Changing Project: The Fence

Usually when people say something is life-changing, it refers to something very dramatic. Admittedly, when I think of a fence, I don’t think dramatic or life-changing, except that’s the one word to describe what our fence has meant to us. Even though it impacts our life greatly every day, I never wrote about it because the physical transformation wasn’t great, although I did mention it here. So why did the fence change our lives? Because we have a dog, one with a lot of energy that likes to spend time outside and takes hours to tire out. We got her in March of 2015 but didn’t get a fence until March of this year. It was a cost we just didn’t think we could afford and weren’t ready to spend thousands and thousands on this project in 2015 when we had just done our first renovation. Lucky for us, our property is entirely fenced in on three sides thanks to three bordering neighbors so our fence expense wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned. We just needed one short piece on the left side of the house and one longer piece and gate over the driveway on the other side. The fence is cedar. The left side is 6 feet tall and picketed so it matches that neighbor’s fence. The right side is 5 feet tall and dog-eared so it matches that neighbor’s fence. It cost less than $3,000 and happened over the course of several hours while we were at work. That night, when I could let our pup outside to go to the bathroom and run around and I didn’t have to be there with her, it automatically became the best $3,000 that we ever spent. We got a modular planting system to screw into one side of the fence so it didn’t just seem like one huge section of wood and left the other side bare since it’s the gate and in use several times a day.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I HATE mornings and I HATE having to get up early to let the dog out but drinking coffee in a peaceful, quiet backyard watching my beautiful pup run around trying to kill squirrels is one of my favorite things in the world. That was something that could only happen after we finished fencing off the property.

You can see the fence on both sides of our house in this picture, when it was relatively new, still clean and before I added modular planters to the left side.
Most Fun Project: Boss Bar

Question: How does one extend hangout space, turn wasted space into something useable and do it on a budget? Answer: Turn a section of a garage into an outdoor bar, reuse and breathe new life into old materials, take freebies and stake out sales. That’s how we created Boss Bar, our outdoor bar and hangout space that we did over the course of several weeks in May and June. I can’t tell you how many times we hung out there this summer and fall, playing darts, drinking around the fire pit, hosting parties and guests, and just having a good time. It is closed for the season and I can’t wait to reopen it this spring.

garage full daytime

Most Challenging Project: Guest Room

The reason why decorating the guest room was challenging was because it is the only space in the house in which we were starting from scratch, the room needed to serve as a guest room that could easily be changed into my sewing room/studio, and it is the only room for which we had to totally furnish and decorate it on a budget. Another reason why it was challenging – in a fun way – was that I wanted to keep it fairly neutral to take advantage of all the light the room gets but it still needed to fit into an upstairs that embraces color (our master bedroom is dark blue and the second bedroom that we use as an office is dark green). I really like how it turned out and it certainly has gotten used for both sewing and guests as we’ve hosted several overnight guests since we finished it in July. I love knowing that guests have a space of their own and I also have a space of my own when I need to work on my clothing and other sewing projects. For the full story, visit here.

Most “I Hate This Room Less” Project: Mud Room

Much like the aforementioned horrendous kitchen, the mud room was covered in ugly wallpaper and had cabinetry that, while very useful, was bulky, took up so much space and also was ugly. I wrote about how much I hated looking at the mud room and how this room will evolve over time here. In short, we completed phase one of the mud room in September and turned a room I hated into one that I don’t mind by fixing the walls, painting, adding raw-edge wood shelves and repurposing a vintage wardrobe to serve as storage and a closet. That phase one story is here.


So there you have it, my top five house projects of 2016. What do you think? Do you like what we’ve been doing with the house? Any suggested changes so far?

Also, stay tuned for my top five planned projects for 2017.

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