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Updating Our 1950’s Brick Bungalow!

Home is where the heart is…

We talk weddings here a lot, don’t we!  But the business course I’m currently taking, has encouraged me to share a little bit beyond what I do when I’m wedding planning, so you can get to know me!  These are the things I’m busy with in my free time!  For the past two and a half years, our time has been taken up with restoring the shine to a very special family home!  In August of 2016 we purchased a home that has been in Stephen’s family since it was built in the 1950’s.  His Granny lived here since this house was built, and after that, Stephen’s Uncle, who everyone simply called “Brother”.  When Brother passed away suddenly, we wondered what would become of this little piece of family history…?  Granny’s house, although tiny, was the meeting place for the family.  Lace curtains would flutter in the summer breeze, and a white tablecloth would cover the old oak table on holidays.  Granny would cook for days, and the sheer quantity of southern goodness that was produced from her tiny kitchen made an impression on me…it’s not the size of the kitchen or the finest of appliances, but the heart of the cook that makes the meal!  We would crowd onto the couch for Christmas visits, and our little girls and their cousins would dash through the yard, baskets in hand, on Easter, past the “egg tree” a little dogwood in the front yard that Granny covered in colorful plastic eggs each spring.  At the time, we lived in a house we had built, it was big and bright, and had a huge sloping yard that took hours to mow.

“What do you think about buying Granny’s house?” Stephen said to me one night as we got ready for bed.

The thought had not occurred to me.  We were happy where we were.  But the idea took hold and the charm of so many family gatherings, all that family history, and the beckoning call of a smaller space, where only the essentials came with us, and where the clutter that dogged us on a daily basis would have no room, won me over.  It really did seem like a crazy idea.  Granny’s house had fallen into disrepair, the charm of its earlier glory days under her watchful care, was almost completely erased.  But something about it just felt right.  So we listed our house, and it sold in 11 days.  A long summer of renovations stretched out before us.  We cancelled our trip to Disney so we could use our vacation time to work on the house, and the girls spent their vacation week with their Grandparents instead.   Stephen and I worked from sunrise, until late into the night, trying to get the house ready to move into.  We worked on one room at a time.  I scrubbed nicotine off the walls for days.  Then the whole upstairs was painted.  Stephen refinished the hardwood floors – sanding and then staining them.  The girls bedrooms were first, and then a total gutting of the kitchen. Next was a really big job – we turned the one bathroom in the house into a walk in closet, and turned the tiniest of the upstairs bedrooms into a large bathroom.  This. Took. Forever.  Next was the downstairs.  My office (yay!) and our bedroom, and then a big walk in closet for Stephen and I to share.  We have 3 area’s left to go – the basement entryway, the laundry room and the downstairs bathroom (this is where my claw foot tub will go – I. can’t. wait!)  My close friend Sherri has been a huge help.  She is my HGTV buddy, always full of good advice and neat ideas.  She spent hours with me taping out the layout of the new bathroom, and consulting on the layout of the basement.  There was also a memorable trip to Homegoods (my favorite!) in her brand new SUV – we certainly tested its cargo capacity that day with all our goodies.  So a little shout out to Sherri for being such a supportive design consultant and cheerleader!  Ok, it is time to share the before and after pictures.

I should mention that my decorating style is a bit whimsical.  Lots of styles mixed together.  But the overall feel I am going for is “Cheerful Little Cottage!”

My house just makes me happy when I walk into it!  It is humble, and plain on the outside, and very, very small.  But it is just perfect too, and the simplicity on the outside, masks the millions of memories, the closeness and the sense of accomplishment found on the inside.  So here’s a little glimpse of our progress, as we restore the shine to Granny’s house… For my own piece of mind I’m going to start with an “After” – We really wanted our girls to feel settled in their new spaces, so we made sure to do their rooms first.  Lyra got the smallest room in the house, so I did white walls (White Dove by Benjamin Moore) to make the space feel as big as possible, and then lots of colorful accents to make it cheerful and bright.  When her room is clean (which is almost never) it is my favorite room in the house!  Belle is a teenager now, so I’m not going to share photos of her room for privacy’s sake – but she chose a great color combo of turquoise and tangerine, and it is a very pretty space!

Little rooms need a “wow” factor, and for us, this super colorful chandelier (we call it our Chande-Lyra) was the perfect starting place for this room!

Now for the “Before’s”

On the left is the kitchen before.  Ivy was stenciled by Granny around the tops of the walls <3  The floor was parquet squares, and there was a ceiling fan.  Most alarmingly for me, there was no dishwasher…that was going to have to change lol.  We tore out this room down to the studs.  New hardwood floor was laid.  We put in a planked ceiling (I think this was my friend Sherri’s idea).  Almost all the work in the house was done by Stephen – he is very humble about it, but he is super handy.   We have had a contractor come out 3 times so far (once to hang our kitchen cabinets, once to rough plumb the new bathroom, and once to build a new staircase to the basement).  We also had some help from my friend and co-worker Monique and her husband Lance, who helped us with some of the initial painting – thanks guys!  Stephen and I spent a very hot, (so, so, impossibly hot) day on ladders in the kitchen installing this ceiling.  I do love how it turned out!  I painted it a pale turquoise!  We picked white cabinetry (again for a clean, airy look and to make the room look as big as possible – it is tiny) and my favorite thing – Sparkly, White Counter tops.  We chose Quartz counter tops, a white color called “Stellar Snow” by Silestone, the counters have little silver and turquoise sparkles in them – I LOVE them!

Ripping out the drywall so we can wire for the new refrigerator.

Do you like how I was already displaying my dishes before the kitchen was finished?  I am impatient like that 🙂

So that little pop out to the right of the oven is the chimney in the house.  It was Sherri’s idea to do that in brick – and it is one of the details that really “made” the kitchen for me.  I love the contrast of the brick and the turquoise tile backsplash – LOVE!

and with the brick added…

Fun side note – I used to have a GIANT fork and spoon from Pottery Barn hanging in the kitchen of my old house, they made me laugh.  I gave them to Sherri when we moved (there is literally no where big enough in our new house) and she gave me the sweet little red fork and spoon for Christmas – perfectly sized for our new space 🙂

Decorative Forks and Spoons for EVERYONE!!!

And the cheerful finished space.  I was really, really hoping my pretty new kitchen would inspire a love of cooking dinner, but sadly it did not.  I love being in there, just not cooking 🙂  Also side note – my family are terrible people and tease me relentlessly about the “Eat” sign.  They all say it looks like it says “Cat” – I told you, they are terrible people.  Another side note – the Pioneer Woman needs to take All. My. Money.  I love everything single kitchen accessory that she makes!  Here is the view from the kitchen into the dining room before and after:

Our first Thanksgiving in our new little house.

There are no true before and after photos of the old bathroom, because some things can never be unseen…

it was really anxiety inducing, trust me.  We gutted the whole thing (somehow we ended up doing this on the coldest day of the year – carrying buckets and buckets of smashed tiles (all the walls were tiled) out to the truck in the dead of winter).  We laid new hardwood floor, all new drywall, and a nifty closet system.  So now we have a good large closet upstairs.

This room was the tiniest bedroom of the 3 upstairs bedrooms.  So we turned it into a nice big bathroom.  Because it is the only bathroom in the house, we had to plan and time this really carefully, so that we weren’t without a bathroom.  We had plumbers come and rough plumb the shower, toilet and sink for us, then we did all the finishing work, and then the plumbers came back and switched the water from the old bathroom to the new.

Once the upstairs was finished, we were ready to tackle the downstairs.

Our house is built into a hill a little bit, so it is a walk out basement, with windows and access to the backyard.   A lot of walls had been put in to divide the space up into a little apartment that Brother rented out.  There was a lot of wood paneling, and a popcorn ceiling, and vinyl flooring.  We tore all the walls out, the ceiling, and all the wood paneling to start fresh.  Here are the before’s…

with the walls…

and with those same walls gone…

and now with all the walls gone… (demolition days are the best days!)

Stephen: “I could do this for a living”

Heather: “What, basement remodeling?”

Stephen: “No, Wreaking Havoc!”

So the little window is where my desk is now…

All the doors in the house are painted bright teal!

This was something I saw on Pinterest.  I was a little nervous to try it, but once I did one, I LOVED it, and did them all!  It’s my way of adding lots of cheerful color, without making the small rooms look smaller!

My crazy yellow chairs from Ikea make me extremely happy!  I seriously love them.

  Next up was the master closet.  3 progress pics below (far right is almost complete except for the baseboard trim)

In the middle picture if you look closely, you can see the built in ironing board on the right – a handy space saver for our small house!

The stairs to the basement were homemade at some point.  Walking down them was a lot like I imagine surfing would be… a lot of rocking back and forth.  They also angled forward a bit, so walking down them in socks was tricky – you sort of got catapulted downstairs.  We went back and forth about doing this ourselves, but finally decided that having a contractor do the whole job in one day was the best choice (otherwise we would have to climb a ladder or something to go between floors!  Lyra enthusiastically suggested we install a fireman’s pole, which we ultimately declined lol!).  This area is very narrow and LOW (it’s a good thing we are not a tall family).  So, after much googling, and pinterest-ing,  we decided to do a “Winder” staircase, where the final 3 stairs fan out towards the open part of the room.  It turned out perfectly and the contractors were able to complete the job in one day – bless them!

We will build a wall on the left side of the staircase that will close off the laundry room (coming soon!)

Drywall lifters are the best invention ever.


We really haven’t focused on the outside at all yet.  Granny was a great gardener, and each spring it is like she is saying hello to us, as Peonies, and Iris’s and other flowers I don’t know the names of, rise up to greet us!  The two big things we’ve done outside are replace the roof (We still need to replace the shutters… we’ll get Green ones to match the roof) and we put in a fence for our sweet boy Grover.

Oh! We also put in wrought iron window boxes under each front window.

The house is very plain on the outside and I loved how the window boxes added just a tiny bit of personality 🙂

We have lots of Dandelions too!

The empty house before we moved there.  The big bushes had to go – spiders would build their webs between them, and it was like leaving a haunted house.

Here is the exterior of the house when we bought it.

Goodbye big bushes (and the 8 million spider webs in the bushes).  Hello window boxes.

New fence! New Roof!

The arbour is my favorite part.  I’ve always wanted a charming little white fence and arbour.  And although this may not be the “dream house” where I imagined it, “Bloom where you are planted” is my motto right now – so I got myself an arbour!   This photo was taken the day our new roof was going in.

If you squint, you can see the rose bushes I have planted on the other side of the fence.  They are Double Knock Out Roses.  I planted two and then got super ambitious and planted 2 more.  In my mind’s eye, I see them popping up over the top of the fence and spilling their blooms along the street.  But let’s be honest, I’m not even sure if they’ve survived the winter – I really, really hope so!  Close up below, and also a pretty painting someone in our family did of this house as a gift to Granny many years ago (look how tiny the bushes were!).


That’s it so far.  Sometimes it feels like we aren’t making any progress, so this has been fun to recap and see the changes!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into our project!  I can’t wait to be able to add a Part 2 – someday it will include a screened in side porch, a backyard makeover, a laundry room update, and the piece de resistance – my downstairs bathroom with clawfoot tub (I am ever hopeful, and bought the tub when we moved in lol, and it will probably be the very last room we do!)

So cheers to family memories, tiny houses, de-cluttering, hard work, sweat equity, and blooming where you are planted!

xoxo – Heather

Psst – over here…a few years have passed and we’ve got some more done… (yahooo!)

As of June 2020 Update

The front of the house has really come along!  We were able to do the new shutters in hunter green to match the roof, and the rose bushes DID survive the winter (2 winters now) and are flowing over the fence like I hoped and dreamed they would!  It has been fun watching them grow…they are the first shrub I’ve planted that has flourished…you know, ever, in my life.

Green shutters make this scarecrow happy!

flowing.over.the.fence 🙂

Stephen and his fearless self, putting up the new shutters

We also finished the basement entry way!

I found the cute little sign at my new favorite store AtHome (don’t be mad Homegoods, I still love you too, I just want to see other people)

After the basement entry way was complete, we were at a toss up of whether to begin the bathroom or the screened in porch next.  A strange serendipity occurred, and I booked a wedding at the beginning of 2020 for a bride whose stepdad was a…wait for it… contractor.  At the end of our venue tour, he asked “do you ever barter services” and I took a leap of faith and said “sure!”.  I had never traded or bartered before and wasn’t sure how it would go, I could see it going badly in about a million different ways, but his crew did a wonderful job and we couldn’t be happier!  So, our screened in porch was completed by his team.  Literally a few days after it was completed, a stay at home order was issued due to COVID-19 – the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  Both our girls have really enjoyed this outdoor space during the pandemic and all their extra time at home.

Here are some “before’s” of the little side porch: (see ya later astro-turf!)

And the “After” hooray!!! 

The metal railings and astro turf were removed.  The astro turf adhesive (which had apparently been very generously applied!) was scraped away and the cement floor repainted.  The porch was framed and screened and a cute little screen door installed.  I knew I wanted some retro-style porch furniture to keep with the age of the house, and found some really cute cherry red chairs and glider.  I hope to add a little indoor/outdoor rug, a dog bed for Grover and some other decorations (maybe fairy lights for at night?) when I’m able to get out to the stores and have a look around 🙂


And so we come to the greatest saga of all…the downstairs bathroom.  The backstory is that I vastly under estimated how long these renovations would take (and by vastly, I mean by YEARS).  When we bought this little house, I immediately ordered a claw foot tub…my lifelong dream.  After much measuring and floor-planning, we realized it wouldn’t be a good fit in our upstairs bathroom, and so it was sent to basement storage to wait, and wait and wait, until the downstairs bathroom project got tackled…a project that was second to last on our list. The original downstairs bathroom was…ummm… very rough, and didn’t even have a door, just a curtain (oh god) and I can’t spend too much time thinking about it…it gives me anxiety.  We demo’d the basement the first year we worked on the house, and framed out the new bathroom, but left it until last to finish due to time and expense and other parts of the house being more of a priority for us.

And finally, during the spring of 2020 we were able to get to work on the bathroom.  COVID-19 meant my wedding business was very slow (read: non existent) for a few months, so it ended up being a blessing in disguise, that we had more time to work on this project (and thank goodness all the fixtures had been purchased years before and were ready to go!)

From left to right:

1) Adding the tile floor (I love this tile from Lowe’s!!!), 2) Drywall goes up, 3) Walls painted with primer

Stephen was very sweet about letting me choose whatever I wanted for the colors / decor in this room (and really with all the rooms in the house, but I went extra girly with the bathroom, it is going to be my cheerful little sanctuary and I am SO EXCITED!!!)

I originally was imagining a light grey/pale yellow color scheme for this room.  I knew I would need to pick something light and airy, because there are no windows in the bathroom, and I didn’t want it to feel dark or claustrophobic.  But I recently discovered the mecca that is AtHome and when I saw this colorful removable wall paper, my color scheme was decided!  It is so Cute!!! and Charming!!! and Cozy!!!, it really does make me ridiculously happy.  My tub has found its place of honor and it looks PERFECT!!!  It is an acrylic tub so it was pretty light to move into place (rather than cast iron or such).  The real trick was figuring out the plumbing.  The tub came with really fancy floor mount plumbing.  But having all those pipes in the basement floor was not a great idea in case of a leak etc.  So Stephen was able to find a conversion kit that allowed us to use the original fixture as a wall mount instead – hooray!  My paint color for this room is a peachy/pink called “Champagne Pink”by Valspar.

The white vanity with marble top was a special order return in the clearance section of Lowe’s so we got it for a super cheap price (I think it was like $80?) and just decided to work around the size /colors / style since it was such a great deal.  Lowe’s is always pretty motivated to clear out the scratch and dent and special order returns section, and it never hurts to ask for an extra discount.

The shower is in the opposite corner.

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Magazine May / June 2021 Issue