before + after, our first house

The day I found (and put an offer on) my house. No visible grass, but lovely garbage cans. The 1940’s American Foursquare in Rochester, NY lacked curb appeal, presented with a damaged exterior and even more sloppily maintained interior. But a less-than-perfect home is what I wanted, so yeah, I asked for it. It was move-in-ready when I found it, or at least more so than the homes I wanted to make over with a renovation loan. I saw its potential and knew that with a little repair I knew that could make it my own, top to bottom. I lived there for four years before moving in June of 2013. I rented it for a few years (that was hard) and ultimately sold the property in the summer of 2015. What kinds of projects did I do while I lived there? Keep on reading.

You can click on these links to jump around on the page, if you’d like:

Quickie Tour of the Exterior:

Out with the old, in with the new… front porch, that is.

The old porch was neither symmetrical nor attractive. It needed a boost. And that’s what it got.

Did you notice that the siding color changed in those first few photos?

I updated the original dented aluminum with a fresh vinyl siding (Mastic Ovation in Victorian Gray). There’s a whole post on this adventure, so go here to read about it.

Front of the house with new siding.

The song should really go “How slow does your garden grow“.

The first summer in the house I made a modest front garden along the front of the house where there was none before. I made progress in the fall of 2011 by widening the front garden, and switching out some plants for new ones. Winterberry, Inkberry, Dogwood Shrub, let’s see where this goes when the plants latch on and mature.

A freshly dug front yard. Satisfying.

An old deck there once was. It was red and octagonal, and why wouldn’t they have a perfect octagonal deck leading up to what once was a round above ground pool?

The original octagonal and red deck. Without the pool, it looked silly (not to mention the stain was chipping and it wasn’t built to code) so down it came. I sold a lot of the pressure treated lumber to offset the cost of the new deck, but we also handcrafted an amazing treehouse for my now-husband’s daughter as well. A new deck went up in it’s place, and was supplemented with simple pergolas to complement the natural height of the house and the size of the deck. You like?

The deck and pergolas.

The backyard itself was home to roses, tulips, berries, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers on any given summer day. On a cooler, springtime day in New York, it looked a little more barren, like this:

The backyard. Berries over my right shoulder, mint over my left. Roses along the right fence, and soon-to-be tomatoes along the garage wall.

Updating the Front Entryway:

Let’s start with the front door.

The old door was heavy and insulative; not a bad thing. It was new-ish, sure, but it wasn’t my taste, and it certainly didn’t do anything for the house. My solution? Out with it. I found a new one at a local salvage shop (solid wood with pretty, pretty leaded glass) and had it installed; the whole she-bang cost <$500, and I was left with a door that I could be excited about and proud to walk through.

We swapped out the existing storm door too just this spring in favor of a model that would really help to show off the new door in full, and added new railings. The driveway and front porch were improved upon in the summer of 2013, shortly after I moved out and rededicated this place as my rental property.

New front door, new storm door, new railings. Bad driveway.

If I had let you in, you’d have been greeted in the entryway, complete with jacket hooks and a shoe rack that Pete built me. It received a gradual overhaul; I removed a linoleum tile floor and painted the stamped cement that was revealed.

The floor stayed painted like that for almost 2 years, when I decided to take it a step further by re-tiling the surface with hand-selected shale stonesfrom a Lake Erie beach. Mortared and grouted in place, the stones felt lovely underfoot and make for a more impacting entryway.

The stairs that you would have seen when you entered received a subtle facelift with hand-painted stripes in shades of gray and gold.

A pretty handpainted staircase.

Oh, and I painted the walls in the entryway too.

Three of the walls are a dark gold but one wall received a dark brown shiplap treatment to tie it in with the dining room accent wall you’ll be seeing a little further down:

New entryway. No big surprise, more shiplap.

Walk through the living room:

The living room in the house I bought was very small and dark – I didn’t buy the house because I loved that living room, but I knew that behind the over-stuffed sofa, dark curtains, and obscure wall hangings, there was opportunity.

Living room, move-in day. Living room, move-in day.

The updates that have been made allowed for a dramatic change.

I showed off the original hardwood floors. Painted the fireplace, and updated the hearth a glossy gray. Installed a new door to the sunroom. New furniture, including DIY’ed ottomans. And new blinds, left without curtains. Oh, and a new light, new paint, and new art. And books. A lot of books.

Updated living room. Rainbow bookshelf. Colorful ottomans. Large art. Living Room.

I even built a table to flank the couch, and made two driftwood lamps with coloring book lampshades.

Updated living room, featuring a DIY table and lamp.

Come to dinner in the Dining Room:

It was the only room that had exposed hardwoods when I took over ownership. The whole house was exposed hardwood by the time I left, but early on, it looked like this, which wasn’t a room that I necessarily wanted to eat or work in.

The original, empty dining room. Appetizing?

My first stab at updating the space in 2009 was to update the color (with coral pink, which I love, and was similar to Pantone’s 2011 Color Honeysuckle) but it didn’t last long. I decided to extend the olivey-green from the living room into the dining room to encourage cohesiveness, and it worked.

I extended stained shiplap detailing from the master bedroom and created a warm accent wall that adds interest and vibes with all of the dark furniture that I had included in the house.

Updated dining room with a shiplap focal wall!

To entertain an inset space in the dining room wall, I added built-in shelves for appearance and utility.

Updated dining room. Dining room, showing off some of the dings on the imperfect dining room table.

I loved this kitchen:

The big kitchen came with a lot of counter space and storage.

Not a bad perk, although each wall was a different shade of sweet baby blue and I was drowning in oak cabinets.

Kitchen, empty on move-in day. Kitchen, empty on move-in day.

I opened the room up by painting each and every wall white, and removing lots of cabinets in exchange for open shelving. I also made an island out of a workbench that I found on the side of the road, and refinished the door that led to the basement. All changes combined, I left the kitchen looking quite different.

Kitchen, in progress, January 2012.

I altered the room’s appearance further by updating the floors, gel staining the remaining oak cabinets java brown, and having the countertops replaced with pretty white acrylic. It’s easily the most transformed room in my home.

Kitchen transformation progress as of February 2013. Cabinets have been gel stained dark brown, countertops updated with acrylic white.



Kitchen transformation progress as of February 2013. Cabinets have been gel stained dark brown, countertops updated with acrylic white.


Kitchen transformation progress as of February 2013. Cabinets have been gel stained dark brown, countertops updated with acrylic white.

Kitchen upgrade with new countertop and dishes.

Sometimes the stairwell is ignored:

Not here. I removed the carpets to refinish each and every step by hand, and painted the walls to add fluidity from the living room to the second story. Stairwell (looking down the steps)

Bathroom: First doorway to the right:

The original bathroom color didn’t last long; bright teal? Nice, but not here, not now.

Our bathroom with, technically, the previous homeowners belongings. Tiny towel rack, small vanity, crazy colors.

I made minor cosmetic improvements to transition the bathroom to gray (which complemented the existing tan shower) and added new (longer) towel racks.

My initial bedroom updates involved painting the walls and installing new towel racks.

I also updated the shower curtain to complement the new, lighter palette.

After saving and planning for a year, we finished our first bathroom renovation and had the opportunity to share the whole process here on DIY Network’s blog, Made + Remade. From the floor to the trim, to the tub and tile surround, to the vanity, mirror, and lighting, we updated the room in entirety to suit our taste (on a budget of only $1,500!). See the full list of related projects right here on DIY Network.

Our bathroom in its current state, after a modest renovation to upgrade the tub, shower, floor, and design.


The vanity was update too, as was the baseboard and window trim.

My Master Bedroom:

Albeit a small room, it overlooked Lake Ontario, so I was able to deal with any inconveniences in size.

Once upon a time, the master bedroom was carpeted and bright yellow.

The master bedroom, the day I moved in.

That too changed quickly with the removal of the carpeting and decision to paint the room dark gray. An experiment in lowering the box spring and mattress to the ground really opened up the room, making it feel both taller and more spacious. Because it fit best beneath the window, I decided to anchor the bed in place beneath the window, flanked by DIY canvas curtains and a self-stained-and-installed shiplap paneling accent wall.

My modernized master bedroom with hardwood floors, an accent wall, and warm, cozy colors. Shiplap wall in the master bedroom.

My West Elm Pebble Rug remains a favorite splurge of all time, and two simple IKEA MALM dressers provide extra his-and-her’s storage. A hand-painted ikat pattern pops from the closet interior, and I adore the orange-red of the CB2 Harvey Lobster bedside tables.

My modernized master bedroom with hardwood floors, an accent wall, and warm, cozy colors. The closet is handpainted ikat, and additional drawers are from IKEA.

Two family heirlooms hold their own against the wall across from the bed: the antique trunk and a mirror/frame from the year 1900 add charm and utility to the space. A vintage trunk and mirror flank one wall in our master bedroom.

Julia’s Room:

Julia is Pete’s daughter, my stepdaughter, and the room that was hers also came a long ways. The room was originally light blue, highlighted by a rainbow fan, and carpeted.

Guest room, move-in day.

I gradually altered its design and its furniture orientation, eventually transforming it into a modern little girl’s getaway with a pink striped wall, birch IKEA furniture, and lots of room for toys.

Bedroom transformation for a little girl.

The third bedroom/office: I didn’t need animals painted on my walls.

The third bedroom, a nursery.

A works-from-home girl needs a real working sanctuary, and when we lived there, our office was in this third bedroom. I painted the room with Powdered Snow walls and light blue ceiling, and added appropriate storage. I updated a desk, a $1 chairpainted an IKEA cabinet pink, installed a pegboard panel for utility, and refinished a pair of filing cabinets. And the bear rug? Yeah, there’s a whole story and tutorial behind that.

Bedroom turned office space.

I added a small gallery wall (with DIY octo-art) on the left side of the entryway, building in space for a magnetic board for notes and inspiration images. All of the baseboard trim in the room was new too.

Office gallery and new baseboard trim.

One last thing:

If you’re looking for more information on the color palette you see in this home, be sure to check out the latest color palette post. Here’s an overview: Yes, it's possible to have a rainbow paint palette.

And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the tour.