Our First House

Come on in and tour our first house!  Here’s a complete source list for those of you that are wondering where we got something.

We thought floor plans might be helpful for you to get your bearings.  Here’s the main level:

And the basement:

Front of the House and Yard Before:

The front yard was boring, dated and shabby.  The doors and windows were original to the house.  A small fence blocked off the front.  The walkway that is never used cut the yard in half.  Nearly dead shrubs didn’t bring any life to the house.

Front Yard After:

The small fence,  gas lamp on a post (?!) and shrubs were pulled and replaced with a short vinyl fence, a variety of roses and river rock.  New windows, window boxes, shutters, front door and evergreens give character and life to the front.  Without the concrete walkway, the yard looks much larger.  Ben is OBSESSED with fruit trees and has planted 17 throughout the property.

Walkway Before:

The walkway was a danger zone with an uneven brick path, leftover landscaping blocks and a dilapidated fence.  The old light and numbers were not good-looking or very functional.

Walkway After:

A new paver path and fence make our front walk much safer while chairs are a nice spot to sit.  Colorful roses, window boxes, shutters and a new light brighten things up and add a feeling of home.

Living Room Before:

Very manly, I know.  Ben had already added the crown molding, baseboard, chair rail, and painted.  Apparently the house also had atrocious, smoke scented carpet which is not present, thankfully!

The vertical blinds scream 70’s while covering up the window.  The house did have one great, original feature-the red oak 3/4 inch thick hardwood floors.

Living Room After:

It’s amazing what a little paint can do!  After painting the moldings white, our living feels open and airy.  The new front door with a window to lets in more light.

Arranging the couch back toward the front door creates a more defined entry in an open layout.

The entertainment center Ben built adds architectural interest while providing storage for dvds, cds, and children’s toys.

Dining Room Before:

The dining room is pretty small, and the large table with extra chairs made it feel even smaller.  Ben made the valance, and yes, its leather.

Dining Room After:

We installed MDF trim to create a plate rack.  A coat of white paint brightens up the space while the blue provides contrast.  A new rug and curtains soften the hard lines.

Kitchen Before:

The kitchen was remodeled in 1997 by the original owners, so nothing was our style.  Orangey oak cabinets, ceramic tile and almond appliances = ugly.

Kitchen After:

After five years of planning, we finally gutted the kitchen to start with a clean slate.  Custom built cabinetry, warm wood counter tops, and stainless appliances update the house, on a ten thousand dollar budget.

White and glass front cabinets extend from counter to ceiling for extra storage.  A marble subway tile back splash and crown moulding add a touch of traditional style.

Read more about our kitchen renovation here.

Main Bathroom Before:

Pink, Pink, PINK!  Nicotine-stained floral wallpaper (notice the picture frame outline), pink tile and stained grout feel dirty.  A light strip, blah mirror and old fixtures are functional, but boring.

Main Bathroom After:

We completely gutted the bathroom.  Then installed beadboard, a brick-lay marble tile, a new jetted bathtub and marble tub surround.  Ben built a maple vanity complete with granite countertops and a vessel sink and faucet.  So much better!!

We installed white and dark grey marble tile in a brick-lay pattern.

Guest Bedroom After:

More trim and paint made a huge difference in this room.  We also scored a free headboard (but then had to buy a king bed).  The new windows are one foot closer to the floors than the original windows and flood the room with natural light.

Guest Bedroom Other Side:

Master Bedroom Before:

Small windows and quickly purchased laminate flooring make this room boring!

Master Bedroom After:

We installed more trim in a 12 by 12 inch square pattern and crown molding above the doors and windows.  Ben added lighting in the crown to make the room glow.  The soothing grey/green color is perfect for sleeping.

Master Bedroom Other Side:

The door opens to the master bathroom.  The new moldings really add drama to our doors and windows.

Master Bathroom Before:

Originally, this was a half bathroom accessible from the bedroom and kitchen with a closet and duct work in between.  Ben closed up the wall to add a shower, making it a 3/4 bath.  Here is that stage:

Master Bathroom Other Side:

Master Bathroom After:

After we installed the geothermal heating and cooling unit, we were able to remove the duct work that ran through the bathroom.  Without the duct work, we had enough space to move the toilet and add a 5 foot jetted bathtub.  White tub to ceiling marble, black granite and white marble checker floor and white trim adds elegance.

Master Bathroom Other Side:

Granite counter tops, a new sink and brushed nickel faucet, sconces and a large mirror (to the ceiling) open up the small space.

Third Bedroom Before:

Ho hum boring bedroom with small baseboard and short windows.

Third Bedroom After:

The white wainscoting topped by a shelf function as a picture shelf.  The pale yellow walls are a soothing, gender neutral backdrop.

Other Side:

The tall yellow bed makes a statement while the aqua bedding and art add nice contrast.

Theater Room Before:

The unfinished basement was a dumping ground for anything and everything.  Duct work ran through the center of the room and tall people hit their heads on it.  Everything needed to be insulated and sheetrocked before finishing work could begin.

Theater Room After:

The wood burning fireplace is nice on cold winter days, too.

Theater Room Other Side:

We created a floor plan to maximize the space in the basement, giving this windowless room a purpose; a theater room.  Recessed lights keep the lowish ceilings looking as high as possible.  A large sectional is comfortable when we have movie nights with friends and family.

Theater Room Entertainment Center:

The cabinet doors hide toys while shelves hold speakers, theater components, and movies.

Office Before:

The office space was a concrete bunker and storage area before we started working on it.  We did have limitations due to the structural pillar.

Office After:

I loved working in here.  We added trim, cabinets and a full bookshelf to give ample storage.  Space for everything and space to spare!

Office Bookshelf:

We designed this bookshelf for maximum storage, keeping everything in one place.  It held all of my stationery supplies and most of our books.

Small Basement Bedroom Before:

Unfinished concrete walls and floors, a washer and a dryer.  That’s about it.

Small Basement Bedroom After:

A white trim treatment with picture shelf on top brighten the small space making it feel less basement-y.  We never got a bed frame.  Don’t judge.

Large Basement Bedroom Before:  

Ben had already started hanging sheet rock in this room when I met him, but, it’s definitely far from finished.

Large Basement Bedroom After:

While still not our favorite or most finished room, it is usable when we had guests.

Basement Bathroom Before:

Because Ben bought the house two years before we met, he had already started framing the bathroom layout.  The original plan was to have the bathtub along the right hand wall upon entry, hence the concrete board.

Basement Bathroom After: 

We tweaked the original layout to allow for a larger vanity and linen closet behind the door.  And we have a giant pile of tile in here, which we planned to use for the steam shower under the stairs.  Hence the large, unfinished doorway.

Back Yard Before:

A large, uneven patio sat unused.  The grass was pretty dry and the landscaping was definitely lacking.  The chain link fence was an eye sore and not functional for our dog.

Back Yard After:

New fence, trees, table and chairs make the yard more user-friendly and inviting.

207 thoughts on “Our First House

  1. Just found your blog through Southern Hospitality blog. I love what you and your husband have done to the entire house! I was wondering where you got the state artwork in the master bedroom. We are from Montana and my daughters went to college in Minnesota, so love the idea!

  2. I love what you’ve done in the entire house! I especially love the color that you painted the master bedroom…so soothing!

  3. Your home is truly gorgeous… I was visiting the Southern Hospitality blog as Rhoda wrote about my second poetry collection last year…and WOW, I LOVE your home! You have done wonders with it and should be very proud of yourselves! The color schemes are lovely. It is a very peaceful and elegant “retreat.” The cover of my new book, In the Palms of Angels, has similar colors!! :o) All the best to you both, Terri Kirby Erickson, http://terrikirbyerickson.wordpress.com, North Carolina

  4. Hello there!! What a beautiful home you have! I was curious to find out where you got those prints on your master bedroom walls, looks like your home states? Or perhpas you made them yourself? Would love to know where to buy/how you made them. Thanks!! 🙂

  5. you guys have done an awesome job! did you do all of the wood/mdf work yourself? i love the panels and would like something similar in our new house but i worry that it will make the ceilings look even lower than they already are. thoughts? do you post any tutorials on how you did it? i’ll poke around your blog to check!
    also, where did you get your basement bathroom vanity? love it!!!
    we just bought a new house and are trying to plan out finances to cover all of the mostly-cosmetic work that needs to be done. with an 8-month-old son, our pockets aren’t exactly overflowing these days! 🙂
    p.s. the rude comments are hysterical – i love when i see people taking the time to read through posts and then write things like that! hopefully they just woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day and that isn’t their usual demeanor! 🙂

    1. Hi Lizzy,

      Thank you so much for your kind words!! Yep, I design the trim, Ben installs then I fill, sand and we both prime and paint. I think the height is key. You don’t want to cut the wall exactly in half. So if you have 8 foot ceilings, don’t put the top at 4 feet. And, I wouldn’t go any higher than 5 feet. Our dining room is the tallest because of the plate rack. How high are your ceilings? Ours are only 8 feet upstairs and about 7 1/2 at the tallest in the basement. Here’s a link to the tutorials we’ve posted about trim: http://ourhumbleabowed.wordpress.com/category/tutorials/trim-tutorial/ If you have questions, just ask. 🙂

      Ben built the vanity. Actually, if you wanted something similar, you could use 4 by 4 posts for the corner legs, then install one or two shelves and a few drawers. To reinforce the top, Ben placed a piece of steel under the front edge to support the granite. Oh, and we added 1 1/2 inch MDF facing to the shelves for extra strength.

      Yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why people care to leave rude comments. It’s just more time out of their day to waste, I guess. We fully understand our house isn’t everyone’s style, but we’re also not forcing it upon anyone. The mean ones are cancelled out by all of the fantastically sweet comments we get from people like you!! 🙂


  6. thanks for the info! i think our ceilings are 8 feet. (that’s an educated guess since i’m currently at “work” and can’t get an exact mesaurement!) i was thinking about putting some trim in the master bedroom and/or the main bathroom. we have those fugly baseboard heaters so i’m not sure how that would affect the look of the trim – but i guess anything would be better than the horrendous green sponge paint that the previous owners put in the bathroom! ha!
    there are a few pics of the house here: http://anexcellentadventure.blogspot.com/2011/05/week-one.html
    unfortunately (well, i should probably say “fortunately”) there arent any pics of the bathroom on the site yet. oh, and we finally got a couch, rug, and hung some pics so the living room has taken shape since that entry. the sun is shining in boston for the first time in a week so hopefully i can take some updated pictures soon!

  7. I love your house! I’m in the middle of making our house ‘home’. While I don’t have a fixer, but new construction, it’s still pretty overwhelming with all the beige. We bought it as our first home, so didn’t have money up front for all the stuff we really wanted, and I LOVE how much you’ve transformed your home! I have been looking for the perfect drum pendant, yours is great!

  8. Such a great job! I’m so impressed-I feel like I’m doing such a disservice to my beautiful old spanish home…need to borrow your hubby for a few projects! All the best and keep up the great work!


  9. Your house is freaking adorable and I’m following so I can look back at this when I’m buying a house, can only afford a fixer, and need some major inspiration. Love all the architectural details you added to the walls to death.

    1. Aww, thanks so much Brittany!! You’re too sweet! We definitely love having a fixer upper. That way, you can get the price you can afford and change things along the way to suit your taste and needs. We’re thrilled you’ve found inspiration in our blog and we’d love to see your future house. 🙂


  10. Hi!
    This is so nice- we’re in the process of updating our home too and I found your site. I was curious where you got your sectional green sofa in the basement? Is it a name brand or custom? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Jenna W,

      Our sectional actually came from Costco, oddly enough. We were just there today and saw the same couch (in a grey/tanish color) for $800 for three pieces. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

      Happy renovating!

  11. Wow I love your place! It is soooo big! I really like the colours you picked for it aswell, lovely! Can I ask where you brought the bedside lamps from? I really need to find me a pair of them 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your adorable home

  12. I really love the changes you made to your house. i was thinking of adding some similar wainscoting to our new house. What paint color did you use for the wainscoting? Is it all painted the same shade of white throughout the house?

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks so much for your sweet compliments! Our wainscotting is all painted in Behr’s Vermont Cream. It’s almost completely white with a small drop of yellow for warmth. Each room is the same just to keep it cohesive. Hope it helps!


  13. Love the transformation so far! Your home looks much more comfortable and welcoming to friends and family! I saw your bench post on YHL when I was adding a post about re-doing a chair I just saved from the side of the road. 🙂 Love your stuff!! 😀

  14. I stumbled across your site via Pinterest and soooo glad I did!! I am in love with what you’ve done in your basement! We are starting the basement finishing process and are stumped about how to lay out spaces/rooms. I love your theater room and office especially!!! Do you happen to have a floor plan of the basement online somewhere?

    1. Hi Kelly,

      I’m so glad you stumbled on our blog, too! 😉 Thank you so much for your kind words about our house. I just added a floor plan to this page. Hope that helps! If you have any questions, we’re happy to help!


  15. Your home is bellisimo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You and your husband have created a masterpiece!!!!! Unique Home!!!! Congratulations!

  16. LOVE your house! I am new here (today) and just wanted to let you know what an incredible house you have! (As if you didn’t already know:))
    I am not sure if you have it listed somewhere, but what it the sq ft of your house? We have a ranch that we are fixing up (still 10 years later.. it’s a process!)
    Good job!

    1. Hi Nancy! Welcome, and thank you so much for your kind words. 🙂 I don’t know if I’ve posted it anywhere else, but we have about 1250 square feet upstairs and another 1200 downstairs. Fixing up a house is definitely a process. We’ve been working on ours for over five years (that’s since we’ve been married, Ben bought the house 2 1/2 before that!) Good luck with your renovation!

      Thanks again!

  17. Okay, I just looked through this tour for the first time and while everything looks great, I cannot believe your basement bathroom looks like THAT. I can’t even imagine my main bath looking that great – ! Wonderful job.

    1. Hi TryinginPittsburgh, Aww, thanks! The entire basement was a labor of love (and nearly labor of a baby- I was literally finishing up painting and having contractions. I thought they were Braxton Hicks, but the hospital confirmed otherwise).


  18. Amanda and Ben. Excellent job at updating everything! One little suggestion for your dining room. By your own admission, the room is very small. Have you considered a built-in banquette along the wood paneled wall? This will give you the opportunity to have a longer table, more seating AND give you about 6 to 12 additional inches of walking space between the kitchen and your table.

  19. Hi, I love your renovation, thank you so much for sharing all your ideas. I am especially interested because our homes are so similar — same age, style and almost the same floorplan (minus a master bath, I would be in heaven with a master bath). My big question is storage. We have so little storage space. Closets give us enough for the basics but no space for anything extra (holiday decorations, sporting and camping equipment, extra food or household items, etc.) We have talked about opening our kitchen up to the living room like you have done but that would elimate cabinet space in the kitchen. Spefically, those cabinets we use as our pantry. Where do you store everything? 🙂

    1. Hi Linda! Aww, thanks so much for your kind words! Crazy that our homes are so similar. 🙂

      As for storage, each of our bedrooms has a decent sized closet, but nothing crazy. Our holiday decorations are pretty minimal (all our Christmas stuff fits in the same box as our fake tree), sporting and camping stuff is in the garage. We’re lucky enough to have a large pantry in our hall right off the kitchen: http://ourhumbleabowed.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/painted-pantry/ Bulky food is in the pantry and we keep every day food (snacks, canisters with baking supplies, bread, condiments, cereal, etc.) in a drawer in the kitchen.

      Oddly enough, we have more usable storage space now, with fewer cabinets, than we did before renovating the kitchen. Taking the upper cabinets ceiling to counter has made a big difference. And, the huge cabinet above the refrigerator holds a ton of stuff like extra dishes, a coffee pot, and such. I think having all drawers has made the biggest difference, though. The space is SO MUCH MORE USABLE! (No, not shouting at you, just excited!) We were able to customize the cabinets because we built them so we built everything as large as possible to have the most inside space.

      It’s also important to note that we live a mile away from a grocery store, so we don’t have stock piles of nonperishible food in our house. If a zombie apocalypse happens, we’ll starve. Haha. If you’re going to commit to tearing down the wall, you might have to purge items. It’s a give/take relationship, but I think the open-ess far outweighs letting go of rarely used things.

      Sorry, that might not have been the most explanatory answer, but it works for us. If you’ve still got questions, I’m happy to help!!


  20. I love your style!!! I feel so inspired, especially by the office. I work from home in a very boring office space. I’d love to update mine to be something that I don’t mind spending 40 hours per week in. I’m very excited to see what you do with your new house. Good luck selling this house, although after looking at the tour I can’t imagine you will have much trouble.

    1. Hi Andrea, Thanks so much! So glad you’re liking the before and afters. We’re moving soon, too, so we’ll have even more to share! Stay tuned. 🙂


    1. Hi Schoolhouseshakeup! Thanks so much! We’ve done a lot to this little house over the past several years. 🙂 So glad you like it.


  21. Greetings,
    The best is that after this project you are still together! I’m crazy for all your custom cabinetry, breadboard, and white kitchen cabinets. Anytime your husband wants to come to TX for extra work, I would welcome him. You both created a warm and welcoming, inviting home for your family.

  22. Someone may have already asked this question but on the small peninsula in your kitchen there appear to be drawers on both sides. Is this the case or do they only open one way? beautiful job on your kitchen. We have a similar idea for a wall coming down but weren’t sure what to do with soffets….we will likely have to pay someone to refinish the ceiling. I also considered adding open, see through shelving across the top for display pieces. Also interested to know if a new DIY could possibly make cabinets as you did. They look amazing!

    1. Hi Leslie!

      Good question! The stack of drawers closest to the wall do function, but the other stack at the end of the peninsula are false fronts. We thought a blank panel would look silly. The soffit patching wasn’t too hard, just time consuming to apply mud, let it dry, add another coat, let it dry. I think it could be possible to make the cabinets, but I’m not sure I would give my first try on a whole kitchen. Maybe start with a bathroom cabinet or build a small nightstand type just to figure out the process. It most definitely saves money, but does take a lot of time, so it’s a trade. Here’s a link with more info on how we built ours: https://ourhumbleabodeblog.com/2012/02/21/reader-question-how-we-built-our-kitchen-cabinets/


  23. Oh one more question…..did you redo all your trim around the doors? We have simple moldings and I would love to upgrade them however with something like 18 one just one floor …x that by two since their are two sides to each door…that is a lot of molding!!! LOL Wondering if there is a simple add on we could spruce them up with. Got any ideas?

    1. Hi again Leslie!

      Yep, we changed out all the trim around our doors. But we didn’t do it all at once. Each room got it as we finished it. Of course the hall with all the doors happened at once, but it’s not that bad. Depending on the look of your current trim, you can buy a thin strip of molding (something 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide) and add it an inch or two from your existing trim. Then paint it all the same color so it looks thicker.

      Hope that helps, but let me know if you still have questions!


  24. Hi there! I live in nearby Laurel and was thrilled to see someone from BILLINGS featured in BHG! Congratulations! I was wondering…after all the time and $ (and love!) you put into this home, were you pleased or disappointed with your return on investment when you sold the home? My husband and I have made a lot of improvements to our first home, a 1920 beauty. We wonder often when we should stop “upgrading”…

  25. The changes you made to your home were incredible. I am amazed for every design you do on the whole room. I love the concept of your kitchen, basement especially theater and also the basement bedroom. Really comfortable and a great idea. Your inspiration gives me an idea in the future to renovating the house.
    For those of you who may be in need of a home builder in terms of renovating your whole house, you can contact http://www.biesterbos.nl and pour in each of your ideas with them, and they will give you an extraordinary feedback.

  26. I know that it’s an old post, but I still love the walnut vanity in your old bathroom. I believe you noted that you used teak oil. Did you put a coat over it? I’m wondering how that oil would work for walnut kitchen cabinets. I really like the color tone of the oiled walnut— it brings out the difference in the wood grain. Thank you!

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