Our First House

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fun fact, we purchased our first house together after 2 months of dating. C-R-A-Z-Y, I know, but both of us knew at that point that this was the real deal and we were heading towards marriage. When we purchased this home as basically strangers, I did maintain some level of rational thought and realized that there was a chance we could break up and I'd be handling everything myself, so we decided to be conservative and buy a home I knew I could maintain if our happily-ever-after didn't play out the way we'd hoped (SPOILER: It did!). We found a well-maintained but 90's, builder, blah townhome in a great neighborhood half way  between both of our offices. About 3 months after we closed on this house, I was unexpectedly laid off my job in advertising, and soon transitioned into becoming a Realtor.

Tangent -- isn't it funny how something that seems so scary can turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to  you? I always say that I was only meant to have that job so I could leave New York and move to NC where I met Spenser like 45 seconds after I got here. Losing it was the second best thing that ever happened to me because it pushed into my dream of working in real estate. The best thing that ever happened to me was meeting Spenser, duh. #gross

Because this was a townhome, we had some restrictions on what we could do. We weren't allowed to make any exterior changes, per our HOA, and even though we attempted to garden (more later), we ultimately had to take it all out because... HOA. So, we focused what we could on the interior and tried to make changes that we knew would benefit us in re-sale.  While there were a few projects I really wanted to get to that I didn't (painting the kitchen cabinets & re-doing the backsplash, namely), I'm overall super happy with the progress we made on this home.

Here's a quick tour of our favorite before and afters from our first home:

All of the before photos are from the original listing when we bought it in 2015. The After pictures were taken my our real estate photographer (Amy Rossi Photography, we love you!) when we sold it in 2018.

Exterior Before:

Exterior After: 

Not the craziest transformation of all time (HOA...), but we did end up having that huge tree removed because it had a termite infestation, and they got into the house (!!!). We also planted that sweet little peach tree and he produced fruit this year for the first time. We're sad to leave him, but he's so happy there we can't wait to see how it grows and hope the new owners enjoy it's fruit as much as we did! At one point, we tried to landscape our side yard in between us and the next row of towhomes (to the left). $500 of plants and hours of labor later, we had a decent little garden! What we didn't know is that our HOA pays to have the homes power-washed once a year, and they use bleach. Guess who didn't cover their plants? Yep. $500 of plants down the drain, and we've never been able to get anything to grow there again. We learned a couple really valuable lessons though:

1) We don't really like to garden. We're not super good at it, and while we love having plants everywhere, going outside to water plants in the blistering NC heat is not fun for us. Anything we plant needs to be super low maintenance.

2) We aren't very good at designing garden beds. At our next house, we will *absolutely* hire out for landscaping help. Even if it's just paying for a proper design, we need the help.  We really aren't great at choosing plants or figuring out how they go together. Know thyself. Save thy time. Hire it out.

Entry Before: 

 I loved the hardwood floors, but everything was just soooo blah. Builder beige everywhere. But how awesome is that opening into the kitchen? It has been one of our favorite things about this home. Easy to entertain, but your kitchen isn't open to the whole party so it can stay messy #word

Entry after: 

  Obviously, just having furniture makes a big difference, but we also painted the walls Revere Pewter and Colorado Gray to liven things up a bit. I really love greys, blues,  blacks, and metallics mixed together, but in our next home I think  I'll tone down the colors a bit. It's hard to see in this photo, but two of my all time favorite projects in this space are the shelves on the right hand side of the kitchen. it added SO much storage space and just made that big wall make so much more sense! Same goes for the spice racks all the way to the back of the kitchen wall. We love how balanced that space became once we added a decorative bowl and skinny shelves for storing spices.

Living Room Before: 

 Living Room After: 

My  absolute, all time, favorite project we did in this house was closing in the 90's TV cubby above our fireplace. When my husband got a promotion, we gifted ourselves to an "adult sized" TV. We had a small TV from college in the cubby because it was all that fit, and it was hard to see sometimes. This was his #treatyoself present to himself, and I got to fiiiinally close in the gap to mount it. It was actually really easy! We hired a contractor to the drywalling, and then I laid the boards down to give a board & batten effect. I love how it made the whole fireplace look more stylish,  and put together. And, we still have the cubby for all the electrical wires! We cut an access panel in the coat closet right behind the fireplace so we can plug/unplug things from there without messing with the TV. Will definitely do something like this again at our new house!

In  this room, the things we changed are:

  • Closing in fireplace  TV  cubby  
  • Painting room 

Kitchen Before: 

Kitchen After: 

If we had been in this house for another six months, this kitchen would have looked a lot differently. The ONLY project I really, really, really, regret not doing was re-doing the sandy floor tile backsplash and replacing it with subway tile.  Cue: Projects I didn't  expect to be so time consuming/expensive. My hubby and I were afraid to take this tile down ourselves, but I sometimes wish we'd just done it and figured out how to fix it later (we differ in project styles a lot of the time 😂). But,  alas, our house sold without this project being  done, but I hope the new owners  are brave enough to make that change, because  I think this kitchen  would just POP with a pretty white tile!

In here, the things we changed were:

  • All new appliances 
  • Hung  open shelving on back wall  
  • Hung spice shelving on pantry wall 
  • Added a small kitchen island 
  • Replaced the light  fixture
  • Painted the room 

Half Bath Before: 

Half Bath After:

For such a small space, I feel like this room was one of the most significant changes. Just painting the walls with a better quality  paint made the room feel so much cleaner. The cheap, builder paint we inherited showed every old water stain ... so the back wall behind the sink always looked so dirty! We painted the room, hung some shelving behind the toilet, and swapped out the mirror and shelving. I had purchased new hardware to replace the sink fixtures, but we never got around to doing it. Eventually, when I  realized we were going to sell, I just returned it and decided to make changes in the new house, instead. I loved hanging that little owl drawing - this door is right in our main room, so when it was open, it became such an attractive space to walk by instead of a blah, boring eye sore!

In this room, we changed:

  • Replaced bath mirror 
  • Replaced light fixture 
  • Repainted with higher grade paint
  • Hung shelving behind toilet 
Master bedroom before: 

Master Bedroom After: 

I absolutely loved how this bold, blue paint turned out. I love it so much,  we're going to paint the exact same color in our new house. The paint color is called Nordic Ice, and it's the perfect moody blue/grey/green for a relaxing master bedroom. Our room was on the 3rd story  of this house, so we were basically up in the "tree canopy" when the windows were open. It was always so peaceful walking into the bright green wall of trees in the windows and this moody paint! 

In here, we really only added the ceiling fan,  painted, and decorated. Pretty simple, but a drastic transformation! 

Master Bath Before: 

Master Bath After:

I learned a great lesson I like to call "you can't paint everything!" in this room.  Turns out, even if  you  aggressively  sand them, cabinets with a Thermofoil finish (where they almost feel like plastic) are heavily factory finished and won't hold paint well. Oops. I just kept a little can of black paint under this sink and occasionally touched it up 😂 Either way, the black cabinet made such a difference in un-blah-ing this bathroom! We also got rid of the weird privacy curtain, and added a simple window decal that made the glass frosted for privacy. In 3.5 years, we never had  an encounter with a neighbor from her bathroom window (directly across), but it was a fun game we occasionally played! 

Laundry Before:

Laundry After: 

This room had always bothered me, for the same reason as the bathroom - the paint quality was terrrrrible. I wish I had been more bold and painted it the same color as the guest bed (below), but I went with Revere Pewter again since that was on the walls in the hallway. I found this subway tile wallpaper at Target (of all places!!) and it was so, so great! It had a raised grout line, so at first glance, it honestly looked like real tile. This was one of those projects I wish I  had gotten help from my husband with, because I do not have the patience for projects with a ton of precision (he does). There are a few places where I couldn't get the tiles to  line up, so  if you look closely, they're imperfect, but in passing glance you don't notice soo..... keep on walkin' by! 

Guest Bed Before: 

Guest Bed After: 

If you have an eagle eye, you'll notice the bed in this room is the same bed from our Master Before. The sellers of  this house left it for us, along with the nightstands and a dresser, which we've sold. As FTHB, it was such an awesome thing to have gotten furniture as part of our home purchase. Big win for us, and it's in great shape! 

Guest Bath Before: 

Guest Bath After: 

Not much happened in here other than some fresh paint and some added storage! 

Basement Before: 

Basement After: 

One of the best lessons in homeownership we've learned is that we actually don't need as much space as we thought. We *rarely* used this basement for anything, unless we had overflow guests. When we were looking for a new home, we really wanted to be sure we didn't buy a home with too much "wasted space." We know where we live in our house - kitchen  - living room - bedrooms - and that's really about it! We don't use our dining room much, and we don't use the basement at all. Our new home has almost the same square footage, but is laid out differently, so we won't have as much wasted space! I never spent much time down here, so this is all the original paint, but I'm happy with how we styled it. I tried to make it a fun "man cave" for when Spenser did want to have game night or something down here (never happened), but now we  know! It costs money to heat and cool 650 square feet (the size of this basement) and I just don't want to pay to maintain something we're not using. Lessons learned! 

That's pretty much everything we've accomplished in this house. In the next post, I'm going to outline some of our plans for our new home, and hopefully set a timeline that we're going to stick to to accomplish it! Thanks for tagging along! 

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