For those of you with children: remember when you didn't have children and you would secretly roll your eyes at the people who did have children, silently judging them for how they were raising their children?
I remember seeing a woman talking on a cell phone at the park while her prefect little baby was sitting on a blanket eating what I assume to be squirrel dung. And I thought I will never do something like that. Then I had four children in five years and all my judgements went out the window. Squirrel dung became a weekly favorite. It pairs nicely with an unassuming Pinot Noir and sweatpants covered in drool and glue and applesauce.
In the midst of raising a bunch of small humans, losing my father and struggling with a chronic and confusing health issue that left me feeling like a dishtowel, I brilliantly launched my interior design career. Because if you’re already drowning you might as well put on a winter coat..with a hood.
Since that brilliant launch I have worked on more than 100 projects — and many included major construction. While I always empathized with my under-construction clients, I didn’t truly understand their struggle. I kept my eye on the prize and reminded my bedraggled but beloved clients that everything would be Beautiful and Amazing and Worth It in The End. But my pre-renovation superiority - just like my pre-motherhood judgements - were tested when we decided to renovate our own home.
We bought our house in 2008 and Caroline was born two weeks later, making us a family of five. We slapped some paint on the walls and muddled through that first year. We sporadically updated bathrooms and extended the back patio and replaced important but unexciting things like the roof and the hot water heater. Then we had another baby. So we painted our kitchen cabinets and put in new countertops as a temporary fix. We mulched. A lot. Paint and mulch are magic, FYI. A little bit of both makes a whole lot of difference.
But it was eleven more years before we truly went under construction. The mess and the money and the delays were trying. Making meals in the garage was not at all “like camping.” The water leak on our new hardwood floors was heartbreaking. Buying the jankey but pricey professional grade appliances that cost more than my first car is something I need to talk through with a therapist and a martini. Everything turned upside down, but the inside and out are better for it and I thought it was time to fling open the doors of The Neighbor's House.
So - for all of you who think you will never finish your house and you will never have enough time and enough money, you are right. It’s never finished. There’s never enough time. And there’s certainly never enough money. But keep going. Even when you feel like a dishtowel drowning in a heavy coat. With a hood. Because it is Beautiful. And Amazing. And Worth It In The End. Take a peek:
We started demo like most people start a marriage, full of hope and excitement.
Then reality set in and start wondering what were we thinking?
My fancy stand-up desk
A chef's kitchen (before it got moved to the garage)
Years ago we had painted (and repainted) this space and replaced our granite, but this space still felt small and dark. The cabinets and drawers were original to the house and tiny - literally coming apart at the hinges. Like me.
Removing the wall between the kitchen and dining space made a huge impact because it allowed the light from the window
to stream into the space. Losing the cabinets in that wall and the sink wall made Andy Blackford nervous but I assured him that our new design would actually give us MORE space. And I was right. Like always.
Our countertops are Wilsonart and I think they are so pretty.
The sink is black granite and you could kill a person in this sink and nobody would know which is something that could come up during a renovation... you don't know. I suggest (force) all my clients to buy a sink like this.
The faucet is a Delta touch faucet which I adore until I get to someone else's house and keep hitting their
faucet and then they get concerned that I may be having a seizure and then it's just awkward.
The handles are Atlas Home and the shelves are custom. The wood cutting board is from a trip to Africa
but the clock is from Target so it totally balances out.
We painted the entire main floor Alabaster by Sherwin Williams and the cabinets
are IKEA boxes with custom black door fronts by The Cabinet Face.
These vintage glasses are a favorite find from a flea market in Georgia.
These are the only items on this shelf we don't use - everything else is family friendly and used daily.
Our sink area before
In the old kitchen this little area was supposed to be a coffee area but ended up as a dumping ground (and sometimes seat). This is now part of the pantry and storage for water bottles and lunchboxes and the broom and vacuum.
This wall was blocking all the light and I hated the microwave over the oven and
when it stopped working I thought: 'why not rip the whole house down?' So I did.
Taking out the wall and adding a flush mount ceiling vent solved so many issues.
We added a tiny overhang to the dining side countertop and gained two additional seats there so now, when we have company, people can sit at the table, the island side with the four silver stools or the wall or the swivel stools in the dining room (you can't see the swivels but they are tucked right under the countertop just beyond the range and they are perfection... very spinny!)
We had the built-ins installed years ago and the light fixture is one my most treasured pieces.
I know it is old and over-the-top and huge and crazy and that makes me love it even more.
This is our dining room table and chairs from before the reno. How about that carpet?
Carpet is such a good idea in a dining room. What could go wrong?
We also had these odd half walls that, in a moment of frustration, I had a contractor cut giant squares into to give them new life.
But then we ripped out those strange half walls and got rid of the table and chairs. Our new table was made for me by the talented Drew Allman of Board & Bolt. Getting it in the house was terrifying, but like most terrifying things it was worth it in the end. Except for trying on swimsuits and eating from one of those shwarma carts - both terrifying and never ever worth it.
The white leather chairs are from a now defunct furniture store and the brown armchairs, found by my friend Brenna,
were the first pieces I bought after getting engaged.
The centerpiece is a dried palm frond from the front yard of my childhood home in Florida;
my mother actually wrapped it up and sent it in the mail. My mother is a rockstar.
Years ago this spot held a kitchen table.
Then I made it a sitting - or, sleeping - area.
Then I found this AMAZING vintage piece!
Andy Blackford was less than pleased, because he doesn't have any vision.
This belonged to a couple from Manhattan and it had been their first purchase when they got engaged in 1961
and I felt like it was meant to be. Turns out I was right. Again.
We painted this beauty and I recovered it myself.
And then when my crummy recover job fell apart, I paid A&B Upholstery to do the job.
Because, according to Andy Blackford, I don't have any patience and like to waste time and money.
The fabric is Genevieve Gorder and I think it's hysterical.
We moved our piano outside and had it painted
(yes, you can actually paint a piano...! well, not you, but someone with a professional painting background) --
I wrote a blog about it here.
And now it looks like this
We tore up all of the oddly orange floors (after we polished the silver because that's super important during a renovation)
Then we had a water leak which made me cry.
But knowing all my silver was nice and polished helped me more than you can imagine.
AFTER (sort of)
Ten years ago our living room looked like this. This qualifies for #thesaddestroomintheworld in my book, but this sofa was and will always be the most comfortable I've ever owned. And this looked good in 1999. It did.
But now this living room is one of the happiest rooms I know.
The green couches are from IKEA and green velvet is super fun and not at all practical for a family who
refuses to use the many, many, MANY seating options I mentioned earlier in this post. But too late now.
And my crew is 50/50 on the rug but I, of course, think it's gorgeous
and because of the pattern you can hide the remnants of an entire bottle of red wine from Christmas Eve. Ahem.
I found the 1960s glass tables at a consignment shop years ago; they are pieces that I will always have in my home because they are true cocktail tables and who likes cocktails?
Me and all of my friends. My entire family. The guy who drops off the drycleaning. Basically everyone, that's who.
There is a little bar next to the fireplace that works perfectly for us. Though, in all honesty, most bars do.
And because I had the paint out (or because, according to my sister, I have serious mental issues), I decided to redo the playhouse. After years of wear and tear, it looked like something out a horror film.
But it was a gift from Andy's parents and I knew it could be something special.
And I was right. Again.
(Yes, we finished painting the floor but I ran out of paint because, according to Andy B.,
I am also a poor planner. But at least I have vision.)
Here is the kitchen in live and in action, without a fancy photo shoot
by the talented Ashley Weldon who took all the pretty pictures from this post.
I am happy with most of it and would change some of it, but the people inside of it make it absolutely perfect.