Our Finished-ish House

16 Aug 2016

After buying and moving into our house last September, we are on our way again!  To say this year has been a whirlwind for us has been an understatement.  My book came out a few weeks after we closed on our house last Fall and had started the full home renovation project, so there was so much construction, design planning and traveling that it feels like it was only a month or so ago when we moved in.  But it's been almost a year, the house went on the market this weekend, and I finally have a "before and after" post to share!!

The exterior was one of the most dramatic things we changed about the house.  Cape Cods are inherently charming and when I first saw it, I loved that our house looked smaller on the outside than it is on the inside.  I loved the dormers and its symmetry but I was looking to simplify the exterior and take it back to more of a true Colonial Cape Cod vs. an 80s Cape Cod Revival where contrasting trim paint is often seen.  I took inspiration from a lot of the white on white Northeastern Cape Cods and we repainted it the exact same color white but also painted all of the trim in the same white.  New garage doors and a squaring off of the corners around the garage made it feel more classic vs. suburban.   


Here's what it looked like before:

A vegetable garden in lieu of grass is one of my favorite things about the house and it really affects the way we live.  We spend more time in our front yard than in our back now.  Lots of barefoot time on the little patio with wine and cheese...

It was not easy getting this vegetable garden.  The front yard was previously a hill so we actually built a brick retaining wall off of our current one so we could flatten out the front yard and create a massive garden bed.  We added a basketweave brick walkway made out of vintage bricks to create structure and a sense of permanence in the garden and so people could arrive at the front door with dry feet.  One of the biggest luxuries to me in this house is the irrigation system we put into the front yard garden.  It's been life-changing and no more dying veggies!!!

 

We replaced the 80s light fixtures with new more traditionally Colonial burnished copper lanterns on both the front door and garage doors.  

We haven't needed to buy vegetables, herbs or lettuces for a while now and I love it!!  We've had beets, Swiss chard, arugula, kale, eggplant, and tons of herbs. I lined areas of the path with lavendar so it smells good and I love bringing it inside to dry.  We bought many of the things from Mount Vernon during their spring plant sale and supposedly they're seeds from George Washington's actual plants!!

We decided to keep the shutters off when they came down for painting and it's such a simpler, lighter look.  It's not for everyone but we tried to make it as "us" and as pared down as possible...

The foyer was fine before...

 


...but it's now weirdly one of my favorite spaces.  It's a little gallery of my favorite things: vintage botanical studies from Lancaster College, an antique olive oil jug, my wolfhound statue, and the iron console table with my favorite bust on top.(more pics of him to come because I love him so much! ;)

I replaced many of the 80s fixtures with simple globe lights... like I've mentioned before, I kind of have a thing for balls.  

The stair rail was a painstaking design exercise but I'm so happy with the results.  Here's the plan:


And here's how it turned out: 


 

It's so smooth and I loooove holding the rail on the way up and down the stairs because of it.   I based it off of a design I'd seen in a historical home and it's done in a black translucent finish so you can just barely see the brown wood tone beneath it and it's almost glowy.  

Here's the view from the foyer into the living room "before":


We replaced the original trim with simple 1x4s for a cleaner, more primitive feel.  The trim and floors are done in Farrow & Balls' Floor Paint in "ivory" (they gave us a lot of the paint & we've loved it!!) and the walls are done in Benjamin Moore's "Snow on the Mountain" which was the perfect white for this house... neutral enough but with enough depth to be able to stand up to the "off white."

Here's that same view now:


The living room is one of the sunniest rooms in the house and originaly had a large opening to the library.  We wanted both spaces to be more destinations/ private vs. pass-through's, so we closed the wall.  Here's the living room as it looked when we moved in:

 

 

...And here it is now:

Without a fireplace, the room was really lacking a focal point so I had the walls furred out to create niches with reclaimed wood shelves on either side of a wall for art.  Sconces make this room so relaxing at night.  The tapestry in the center might be my most prized possession.  It's a seventeenth century French silk tapestry of Jesus mounted on a canvas (they think it was mounted a couple hundred years later) that a dealer friend of ours found in Belgium.  We need to have it put under glass but I love how raw it looks like this.  The shelves are filled with some of our favorite things: a vase covered in muscles, David's antique copies of Paradise Lost, a driftwood sculpture given t me by a friend, family photo books and more.  All of the furnishings are from our last house but I'm really happy with how the room turned out.  I added a bit of black to the palette to reflect the exterior.  

And it wouldn't be my living room if the cypress tree root my dad found while fishing wasn't making an appearance:

 

Here's what the left wall used to look like:

 

 

 

...And here it is now:

 

My nine year old son loves painting and was so excited to display his new portraits in the living room.  I used random frames from Target and we popped them on the wall in under an hour, making for a super satisfying quick project.

In the foyer again, here's a close-up of the metal console table we had made with my favorite bust atop it:

 

Past him, you can peek into the dining room:

 

I didn't really get the chance to "decorate" the dining room at all and used our old dining room table which is a bit too small for the room but was a pretty placeholder.  Now that we're leaving, I'm glad I never got to it.  Just freshening it up with white paint though, and incorporating our furnishings in things made it a great space to eat though. 

Here's what it looked like before with the original woodwork and in its original size.  We made the massive dining room smaller to steal space for a powder room which was cutting the family room off from the kitchen.  We also centered the door in the dining room which made the room feel so much better.  The view from the dining room into the kitchen and vice versa is now perfectly lined up.


 

 

...and here's a real estate photo of that same angle.  You can see I added a cabinet in one corner where we had extra space and I keep wine and big vases, jugs etc. in there.  It's the best little storage spot.  


 

Here's the view of the dining room from the kitchen which makes me happy.  I love being able to enjoy rooms in my house even when I'm not in them...

 

Here is what the family room/ hearth room looked like when we moved in.  The jut-out you see on the right was the original powder room and it created a block in the view and wouldn't allow the furniture arrangement I wanted in the hearth room so we moved the powder room over, stealing space from the dining room and putting the door to the powder room in the new little hall between the kitchen and dining room.

 

Here's a another view "before":

 

 

 

...And here it is now:

 

We looooove this space and pretty much live in the kitchen/ hearth room.  We added to the original beams (but painted them white) in the family room and then also did them throughout the entire kitchen to make it feel cozier and to add a slightly rustic Colonial vibe.  The four-chair arrangement is awesome for our family with chairs big enough to fit at least two at a time.  It's not uncommon for Dave & I to be in a chair with a few of them piled on.  We've loved reading, hanging and playing here.  A vintage kilim is layered over a jute rug.  I found the random windsor chair at a local thrift store for $20 and it moves all over the house, often as a stool for reaching things.  

Here's a photo of the original kitchen:

 

And the view from the hearth room:

And here is is now:

My kitchen makes me so happy.  When I come home from traveling or work for the day, I just love being here.  It feels so airy and open and there's enough breathing room for the mess we inevitably make every day.  We also have more storage than we did in our last kitchen which has been nice.  The refrigerator/ freezer is to the left of the range hood and I did a pantry on the right for balance.  We had the hood made from reclaimed wood and the counters are honed Carrara.  I tried to keep as much out in the open as possible to warm up all of the white and keep it feeling cozy and lived-in so I hung the pots on the walls, did baskets with vegetables and cookbooks on the island, I keep my spices & random things out by the cooktop, plants and cutting boards on the wall, etc.   

One of my favorite things about the kitchen is that we did these crazy "kao" flushmount fixtures by Barn Light Electric on the ceiling instead of the typical recessed lights.  Barn Light Electric gave us the fixtures after I'd reached out to them.  Betty Lynne at Barn Light Electric & I had been talking about collaborating for a while and when I thought about the kitchen ceiling, I reached out and they said yes!  We used Edison bulbs and they're so warm and cozy at night and when we turn them on it's like an instant party.  Dancing in the kitchen is pretty commonplace here and they're perfect.  (We have them all on dimmers too.)

We don't have gas at this house so I decided to try out an induction cooktop from Thermador and we love it.  It's the "Freedom" so the entire surface is active and you can place pots or pans anywhere on it.  The tea kettle and many of our pots and pans - which work with induction (none of our originals ones did!)- were given to us by Demeyere and we absolutely love them.  Even though our next house does have gas, I'm planning on going with induction again because of how quickly it boils water (a minute, sometimes less) and how easy it is to clean and for my oldest son to cook on.  I miss not being able to char on it but we do still have our grill for open flames.  The 36" wall oven below is by dacor and I'm so sad that they stopped carrying it because we love it.  

Here's the view into the dining room. old powder room from the kitchen before:

 

...And you can see from this real estate photo how we niched in a microwave area (I love the Sharpe microwave drawer) and spot for our plates, bowls and glasses.  

 

We use this area as a little bar when we're entertaining:

The breakfast area off the kitchen looked like this before:

 

 

And here it is now...  We love the views from in here.

 

The library off of the hearth room was originally a more formal-feeling space with lots of molding:

 

 

We stripped it down, simplified it and closed off the wall to the living room to create this really private hang out space.  The kids paint in here and I love being in here pretending I'm going to read before someone needs me.

The guys keep a chess game going in here which is fun to see.  

Here's the view when you walk in "before":

 

And you can see that my old portraits found a great (temporary!) home here:
 

I debated about shooting this room with Helen because I hadn't recovered my sofa to work with the room but really love being in there so we did it with the throw blanket any way and I'm so glad we did.  The paint is Farrow & Ball's "Ball Green" and I did the walls, trim and ceiling in it.

Upstairs, the master suite used to be a bit of a mess.  The iphone "after" photos I have are pretty terrible as we weren't finished by the time we shot the house.  (Seriously it came down to the wire and we still have tile repairs to do!!) The master bedroom was an addition and the only way to get to it was to walk through the master bath:

It was awkward and extremely un-private to say the least.  So here it is now, converted into a gallery hall with his & hers closets, bathroom, laundry closet and bedroom off of it:

A pocket door opens to the bathroom on the right:


Here's the master bath before:

 

 

 

And here it is now, still in process, but almost there!!

Our tiler messed up so we now have someone else repairing his work. (oh joy!)  I'm so excited to have a new bathroom if only for a short time!!!  We used unlacquered brass fixtures by Rohl that will age over time with (shocking, I know) white tile & black grout, again, to pull the palette through the house.  A stainless vanity mixes with the brass and black and like I've mentioned before, often, instead of using color, I like to use metals as colors and mix them for an interesting palette.    

 

We loved the old bathroom so much functionally that we kept the same shower layout:

You can pretty much learn something (whether it's knowledge about something you like or don't like) from any situation and I'm glad we got the chance to live in the old bathroom before replacing it.  

We didn't do much in the master suite except add window seats, close in a strange niche between to the dormers to create a little luggage closet, and close off the back deck to make it into a private balcony.  I had originally planned to do more in here architecturally but since we were leaving, we decided to keep it simple.  Here's what it looked like before...

 


 

And here it is now...

I didn't buy anything in here for the room and used our existing things.  Had we stayed, I would have done something completely different, which is why you'll notice I didn't shoot it with Helen.  (the above pic is a real estate photo)

Here's the master deck before which was pretty much just a pathway to get down stairs:

 

And here it is now:

 

We love this space.  I love waking up and being able to walk outside.  The crepe myrtle blooms were insane a week or two ago:


The view of the forest is ever-changing but here's one of my favorite photos of it this past winter on a misty morning:

{Btw, we took down trees, added in truckloads of dirt and made a back yard out of what was previously scraggly trees.. it made SUCH a difference.}

I'm not sure why I'm sharing any of the bedrooms with you since I never even really got to decorating them at all but you're probably curious so here is my oldest guy's bedroom before:

 

 

...And here it is now, below.  It's just been painted white for resale with the newly added window seats.  It's also very clean.  Don't let him fool you, though, there are lego's shoved into every book and cranny and those two drawers under the bed are jam-packed with them.  Our old cb2 lucite coffee table is great for him to draw on, build legos on, etc.  

 

Gisele's bathroom underwent a mini makeover last week.  We kept her shower but replaced the linoleum floors, vanity and light:  Here it is before...

 

 

...and here it is now...

I never got to decorating her room (sorry #4!) but brought in a little pink here and there:


 

 

The boys' bathroom also had a mini makeover.  Here it is before:

 

 

And here it is now:

New soapstone countertops, faucets, lighting, mirrors and sinks made such a difference!!!  The vintage eagle towel holder was my little Colonial nod in here:


And finally, here is what used to be a 6th bedroom (the original master actually!) that we opened up (to let in more light!) and converted into an upstairs den:


And here it is now:

A TV in the armoire is great for Saturday morning cartoons (and helps me sleep in!!) and houses books and toys for the kids.  This is mostly their space though I find Dave in there randomly.  Again, it's all existing furnishings and things and not "decorated" but we're really happy with it.  We took down the (unsafe) balcony that was previously there (we would have had to completely rebuild and and tear open our kitchen ceiling to do it) and removed the sliding doors and replace them with windows.  This let in a ton more light into the kitchen breakfast area which was key for me!!

I hung my collection of landscapes above the sofa and hope I have a spot to do this in our new place.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tour of our finished-"ish" house!!! It's been a busy eleven months but we're so glad we did it.  We learned so much about ourselves, what we want and what we can do when we set out minds to it.  We have made it through some seemingly insurmountable deadlines and times if crazy-busyness in the past but none of it even compares to what the past three weeks have been like for us.  I am seriously in awes of David and his sheer will.  There were times when I just had no clue how it would happen in time but he just kept going- at one point only having slept five hours in three days- and made it happen.  Whatever happens with the house sale, this was a crazy bonding experience for us and it feels great to be (almost!) done.  I can't really talk details yet but all went well with the open houses this weekend!!



 

-