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Thanks to a friend’s idea and support from others, I have decided to take my house obsession to the next level: I’m starting a blog about it.

House from the street

The background of this blog is pretty simple. Thanks to the 2009-2010 first-time homebuyer incentive, saving, and just plain being TIRED of wasting money on rent, I’ve bought a house. It’s nearly 30 years old, and I’m quickly learning that it has a personality all its own. It is cranky, tired, and in serious need of a makeover.

So for the next few months… or years… I will be attempting to completely transform this ugly duckling into something I can be wildly proud of (and actually invite people over to). Most of it I will attempt to DIY (or is it DIM – myself?), and I will be creating a page of lessons learned with each project. Considering that I’m a total klutz, I’m anticipating a large amount of hilarity for those not directly experiencing it, and utter frustration on my end. However, I am not completely alone in this adventure. Scott and my parents are graciously willing to lend a hand whenever I need it, and for that I am very grateful.

This blog is being created a few months after I’ve bought the house, and several projects have already been completed. To give you a back story, I’ll fill in what I’ve done so far and some misadventures along the way. And, of course, pictures of my progress!

What It Looked Like Before I Bought It

These pics are really fuzzy and not taken from my own camera, but these will give you an idea of the former owner and how she lived (forever dubbed “Old Lady” here). She seemed to be a recluse (which I’ve now confirmed with my neighbors) and never cleaned, but it didn’t seem like too great a challenge. Considering that most houses in my very tiny price range were a lot worse off, this house looked like a diamond in the rough. She clearly liked blue!

Living room: blue couch, blue curtains, blue planter, blue rug, and blue flowers!

Super dated living room

State-of-the-Art Kitchen ;)

Super dated kitchen and dining area

Luxurious Primary Bath ;)

Super dated primary bathroom

Primary Bedroom – Look, more blue!

Super dated primary bedroom

Moving In

Just before Scott and I moved in, my parents bought us carpet cleaning as a housewarming gift. We plan to replace the carpet as soon as I can afford to (hopefully in May). It needed it pretty badly! The Old Lady never cleaned out her air filters, which meant that dust kept recirculating throughout the house, landing on every surface and of course, deep into the carpet. YUCK.

Once the carpet was cleaned (not that there’s a noticeable difference, it’s still 70s brown), we cleaned out every duct and wiped down every surface to get rid of the extra dust. We ripped the curtains down (Old Lady left them up) to let light in, and as an added bonus, they became drop cloths for painting the living room (freebie! woohoo!).

Before painting the walls however, we needed to address the ceiling. I couldn’t smell that the owner had been a smoker, but the amount of yellowing on the ceiling made compelling evidence. So, my first trip to Home Depot began with several gallons of crisp white ceiling paint and we painted EVERY room. Because we already planned on painting/replacing pretty much everything, we weren’t concerned with getting things taped off or worrying about the carpet too much.

Below is a lovely photo of the worst part of the ceiling. In the kitchen, we removed two large and clunky-looking ceiling fans and could see a VERY noticeable difference between the exposed ceiling and the protected area beneath the fan cover. Again, YUCK. But the fresh white paint improved the old-lady smell and considerably brightened each room.

New white ceiling paint vs very yellowed ceiling

New white ceiling paint vs very yellowed ceiling

Living Room

After the move in, Scott and I painted the living room a Valspar paint color called Fresh Bread. I was going for a warm tan that would really pop against the soon-to-be white trim. Because the living room walls continue into the hallway and up the stairs to the landing, I bought a 5-gallon drum for color consistency. Lovely on the paint chip… GOLD on my walls. Not the look I was going for. I was very frustrated that I just wasted all that money on a 5-gallon bucket of paint I wouldn’t use.

My next attempt at the wall color turned out to be the same color that Scott had picked within the first 5 minutes of looking for paint (yep, before I had picked Fresh Bread). You know how that goes: I spent over a week agonizing and limiting down the seemingly endless variations of “beige” and “tan” and Scott walked into the room and points to one and says “that one.”

So, back to the store we went, and Waverly’s Sandy Shell (a Valspar paint) is the color we chose. I didn’t purchase it at Lowe’s though – Behr paint at Home Depot is cheaper, covers well, and can be matched to any other paint swatch. Wound up saving about $45 for the 5 gallons, which I could then use for trim paint.


living room before

Living room before


living room after paint


The kitchen needs a TON of work.

Kitchen before

Kitchen before

I’ve got a lot of ideas, but budgeting takes time. Our first big purchase for the kitchen was new appliances. A trip to Brandsmart and 20 minutes was all it took to get rid of the old, broken dishwasher and replace it with a newer, sleek black version. A new black gas stove was also purchased:

Kitchen before

And, although it was planned to replace the fridge eventually down the road, I got such a good deal (and the Energy Star credit incentives) that I bought a new stainless fridge and Scott got the old one to put in the garage. When the appliances were delivered, we quickly realized that the fridge wouldn’t fit under the cabinets, but the difference was so small we were able to sand down the end giving us the trouble and it worked like a charm.

New fridge makes a huge difference

Well, there you have it. Two rooms have vast improvements and will eventually have even more. But walking into my house now versus even a month ago feels SO much better and it’s so much cleaner-looking. Seeing changes over just a few coats of paint leaves me excited for the next project! Stay tuned!

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  1. Looks like you'll be busy for awhile! My mother, my sister and I bought a “fixer-upper” and have started bare minimum so far after a couple of weeks. Low income means getting clever and deciding what gets fixed and updated first.

    Good Luck on your endeavors!

  2. Wow! You are doing a great job. I'm a new follower! We are going through some similar things, so I look forward to learning from you.

  3. Hi,
    Just stumbled upon your blog. For some reason I couldn't comment on the tour page.

    I just moved into a 1971 house in Maryland. An elderly lady had been living in it and, well, it needs lots of updating.

    Lots of weird yellows, nasty green colors on the walls, in semi-gloss to make things worse. Each of the 4 bedrooms are painted a different color (blue, green, pinkish and a mystery color.

    The kitchen and the 1/2 bath are the worst. If I get a chance I'll send you some photos.

    In the family room I just patched the walls and put a coat of primer on it. Since you know primer never looks good on walls, it should tell you something that even the primer alone looks much better than the old semi-gloss pea greenish color that was on the walls.

    You are more adventuresome than I am. Other than minor repairs I don't touch drywall. To keep costs down I think I will do the kitchen cabinet painting thing. I'll need pros to do the countertops (granite) and flooring (porcelain tile). The painting and some of the lights I'll do. I don't mind electrical work IF it doesn't involve running wires through the walls.

    Thankfully the hardware floors in most of the house looks nice and the upstairs, except for the hallway (more greenish color) I can live with while redoing the lower level.

    Good Luck and Happy New Year.
    (Richard in Ellicott City, MD)

  4. You should paint cabinets white….well maybe you shouldn't since you have black appliances. Making good progress

  5. I just came across your blog while researching drywall repair and skim coating. I’m looking forward to reading through your progress! I recently bought a 1970s fixer from an older gentleman, complete with (nonworking) harvest gold appliances, vinyl tile floors, and wood paneling. It’s been nothing but problems, but there is satisfaction in learning how to fix things ourselves and seeing the progress.