Back in the days when our kids were babies and we lived in Seattle, we bought the only house we could afford: a 1948 house with ahead-of-its-time mid-century architecture, that was updated profusely in the 1970’s, followed by a top-of-the-line kitchen remodel in 1992. After a miserable house hunt, we bought it the second we saw it.
Before it was on the market, we’d traipsed through moldy tear-downs and houses whose front yards also happened to be the freeway (for you Southerners, I understand you call that the “interstate”). Our car was littered with stinky baby bottles and sippy cups, tossed by our baby and toddler during the hours they’d spend driving around with us. We were almost ready to give up, but our month-to-month apartment was also moldy and made us have a perpetual scratchy throat and runny nose. And, we slept on a mattress on the questionable carpet next to a pack-n-play. In which we could see our baby daughter peering at us through the mesh. She was nicknamed “Cagers” by our two-year-old son.
One lucky day in July, though, we found a gem. It was over 2200 square feet, a far cry from what we were used to looking at. In Seattle, house prices are based on location and many people have very small houses. This house was double the size of the others we had been looking at. The only problem: it was covered in paneling, peeling flooring, and carpet in the bathroom (which covered the hole the toilet was falling into). We had just sold a house in a different city we had renovated and were ready to take it on. The only problem: no budget. We had to put all of our money into our down-payment and moving costs.
Finally, moving day came, and we hurried into our new (old) digs, where I’m pretty sure someone had died not long before. The people who owned it had lived there 50 years and had mysteriously not needed the place anymore. But we were thrilled, until we realized that no surface had been touched in decades and all needed some serious TLC.
I don’t think any of you Seattle friends ever saw the before pictures, as we tore into it pretty quickly. These are some of my favorite before pictures in any of the houses we have renovated! Here goes:
This is actually the best/least offensive before picture. It’s just the main living room, which we thanked the Lord for daily because it alone was bigger than the other houses we saw in entirety. It had the original wood on the fireplace wall, which was solid sheets of the original wood. Looking back, I would’ve kept it. But it was 2009 and midcentury modern wasn’t in as much as it is now, nor was wood on the walls. We painted the walls gray (before gray became ubiquitous), the wood a dark gray, and put metal brackets on the shelves (and knobs from Anthropologie on the cabinets under the shelves). We took down the ancient yellowed drapes, knocked out the weird, shelved room divider, and ripped up the carpet. We got curtain panels at Lowe’s on clearance, so for less than $100, we changed it to this:
(There was a tall vase on the mantel balancing the off-set mirror, but I fail to see it in this picture). The after was much more conducive to selling this house for a profit, which was the goal. Now? I would’ve left more of the midcentury touches and bought some furniture at West Elm. But, I won’t worry about painting that awesome original wood because we don’t live there anymore.
The dining room:
This before pic used to look awful, but now that styles have changed, it is interestingly cool. Still, the weird shelf/room dividers had to go, and all the furniture in the before pics wasn’t ours anyway. Did I mention these were the pictures that were on the original listing? I don’t know who took them, but the credit goes to an unnamed photographer in Seattle and the interior design credits go to the deceased couple who sold us the house.
Here is the after:
A couple comments: I like this a ton better but please don’t judge my “Friends”-style dining room set. I didn’t want any of my chairs to match at one point in my life (I think it was 2007), so I bought unfinished chairs in all different styles and painted them differently. I loved it at the time but now, not so much. The sheer curtains I don’t remember getting, but I think they were cheap and we needed a replacement for the old drapes. The side table was from Goodwill and the plant (which, interestingly, is also in style now) was from Home Depot. The wall color was from Restoration Hardware. The weather was usually gray there, and I wanted the dining room to be cheery.
Next up: the “new” 1992 kitchen (aka the Full House kitchen)
I was a pre-teen in the early ’90’s and these cabinets brought me back to my days of watching Full House on TGIF. Laminate cabinets with wood trim. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s sleek and modern (though awfully hospital-ish and drab). This kitchen came with a faux-cobblestone vinyl floor and off-white laminate countertops to ensure that everything matched. Notice the wood-paneling accents? That’s because the room you can see through the “window” above the sink was covered in that paneling. Here’s what we did:
First, you are asking, why did we paint the cabinets pistachio? I honestly couldn’t say. It’s just that I had always liked that color of cabinets, and I had a can of primer and a paint swatch. So I bought the color and did it, not really intending to leave it. But, it worked and was fun, so we bought hardware at IKEA and left it for selling. We painted the dishwasher with appliance paint and moved the range to create more space. Moving the range doubled the size of the kitchen. Here’s a look from the other side of the kitchen:
We replaced the floor with wide-plank laminate from Costco since they had a major coupon for it at the time and I’d always wanted to try out wide-plank (which wasn’t yet very popular). I personally hate laminate, but since it was sort of a house-flip, I thought I’d try the wide-plank and laminate at the same time so I’d know if I ever wanted to use either of them in my forever house. The verdict: laminate, no. Wide plank, yes, but with caution since it has become very trendy.
Next post (coming soon): the bathrooms and master bedroom. Here’s a preview of the (horrifying) befores:
I’ll let you know how they turned out.