Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Finding Our Non-Dream Home

My husband, David, and I purchased our little ranch-style bungalow in January 2012. We had been on a lengthy home search, and I, of course, fell in love with EVERY nonpractical home we saw—from a modern log cabin to a (chin quiver) one-hundred-year-old, my-dream-come-true Victorian with an original asbestos roof and a staircase that would frighten even the biggest of daredevils. I hadn’t even gotten past the entryway before I began exclaiming (while twirling), “Bed & Breakfast!,” “My own business!” The stunning home even had a separate entry to a room that had once been an in-home salon, which had been fully renovated with gorgeous striped wallpaper I would have chosen myself. I was walking on air, not the original gleaming hardwood floors. After my exclamation, my husband shot daggers at me, as he had just reminded me in the car: “Kara, do NOT start shouting with joy to our (awesome) realtor. It does not bode well for negotiating if we end up making an offer.” Well, you get the point. I am not good at keeping my emotions hidden, and I would certainly be in trouble if my career was professional poker. We visited the home a few times, bringing my mother (which means it was a big contender), and came very close to purchasing it. Big sigh.

David and I spent hours upon hours driving to homes that popped up on the MLS listings, dragging our realtor to home after home (Elvina Amati, you are amazing and have the patience of a saint!!). Out of the countless homes David and I chose to view, there was only ONE we hadn't managed to discover on our own. One that our realtor humbly suggested to us. Yes, you guessed it: the home we are living in.

As we drove through the tiny neighborhood to the house, I began my squealing, and David began his coaching (“Kara, do NOT. . .”). You see, I really liked the neighborhood. I liked the large, modern three stories that were every other home . . . and then we pulled into the driveway. “Oh.” That was all David got. “This is it.” Upon entering the 1,288-sq-ft rectangle (below my desired minimum of 1,500), I had the face of a girl who just had her puppy stolen . . . and my husband was beaming. Why was he beaming? He knew very quickly that the house had good bones (blah, blah, blah, good bones). He knew it would be a good economical choice. He knew it was a home and property he could maintain well into his years. He knew that one-story living would be good for my damaged back. He saw a perfectly dry basement and a house built in a way he would have built it.

What did I see? Get ready. Grossly stained carpet. Peel-and-stick vinyl in the kitchen and dining rooms that was not actually sticking. Kitchen cabinets that were pickled oak. Pickled Oak? Is it named “Pickled” because you purposely take a few drinks so your vision blurs? There were eight different paint colors throughout the small house...a fact that kept my lip-glossed pout in place. The house had been built in 1992, and nothing had been improved since. The grand finale: NO CHARACTER. NONE. The house screamed “Size 74 shoe, please place yourself inside me.” Shoe. Box.

This is the original MLS photo. We have since painted the garage doors a lovely cream color, and have added some beautiful landscaping, including two trees.

The fact is, our lovely realtor Elvina apparently knew David and I better than we knew ourselves, and found us a home that perfectly suited our NEEDS but not my unnecessary desires (which would have taken us over budget). My darling husband, who I was glaring at, was ecstatic. I knew that because it was near the top of our one-income price range, we would not be able to transform it immediately. It would be one step at a time. I strapped on my boots, thanked God for our home, as well as a wise (and very handy) husband who had learned some hard lessons from homes he had previously owned, and I dove in. 

We have been slowly transforming for almost three years now, and I wish I had began blogging in the beginning. I am a "self-taught" decorator, with no formal training. My style isn't everyone's and that's ok, because life would be boring if we were all the same. I even applaud the pickled oak lovers out there (my mother is one of them). I simply took a house I wasn't in love with, and made it into what I hope is a warm, welcoming, fun home. I look forward to sharing future posts on how we changed things, the decisions we made and why, and many before and after photos, and I sincerely hope you will enjoy the journey. I will also post our current happenings in between, which will be quite often since things do not stay in one place for very long. That fact is due to Craig, a very dear friend of mine. Most of you may know him—his last name is List. I scour the ads, call my husband, hear his eyes rolling through the phone, and race to purchase. I then either leave it as is or refurbish and paint, enjoy it for awhile, and then I visit dear Craig and sell what I just absolutely had to have. My charming brother-in-law (known to some as Hazel) once said upon entering our home and seeing the most recent changes, “I’m afraid to come over anymore. You might put me on Craigslist.” 

Below are a few of the photos I took when we first moved in, so you can get an idea of what we started with, as well as some photos of where we are now. In the future I will share some of the steps we took along the way, as well as the remaining rooms in the house.

P.S. The “My-dream-come-true Victorian”? Less than 5 minutes away. David used to indulge me with drive-bys, then he claimed I was becoming a stalker. Me?? No way am I a stalker. Oh, one last thing . . . the current owners recently opened up the kitchen into the dining room. If you come visit, we can drive by and see it through the front window.

This was our first night in the house. Gracie wasnt quite sure of it, either.


 Mismatched appliances, pickled oak cabinets, stained carpet and multiple paint colors in all their glory.

Today: New wall paint, flooring, appliances, light fixtures, and a refreshed kitchen after having erased the pickled oak with white cabinet paint...three coats to be exact.

Dining area view to backyard:


The living area, one day after the closing. Youll notice some of the previously mentioned three-story homes across the street, as well as upstate NY weather. From one day with not a single snowflake in sight, to the next day, a snow-lovers dream! 

After many hours spent on Craigslist, at Estate Sales, TJ Maxx, Homegoods, as well as the clearance sections of other home stores and websites. Having my very own (handsome) handyman? Major bonus!!

 Hallway bathroom then:

  ...and now.

Guest bedroom upon moving in:


I hope you enjoyed seeing the changes made over the past three years!

If you enjoyed our time "together", be sure to stop back or follow along by email, and Id love to hear from you in the comments below. If you're in the area, we could grab a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop...which happens to be walking distance to the Victorian...just don't tell David.

Sincere Blessings,


  1. I've always loved your house and everything in it, but it's even more amazing after seeing the before pictures! Wow! You are beyond talented! ♡

  2. That's right, Nicole, you never saw the before photos! Thank you, I am thrilled you love it, as I adore your gorgeous apartment. No talent needed, just a vision and some creativity :) I've certainly had fun transforming along the way! XO

  3. I think your home is fabulous Kara. You did such a wonderful job turning the shoebox into something special. Now put that Victorian bed and breakfast on your vision board and manifest it to reality my sweet friend.

    1. Shavonda, the fact that you complimented my little "shoe box" made my heart swell. Thank you for your sweet words, your encouragement, and for visiting my brand new blog (your own has been a major inspiration in beginning one myself). Sending a hug your way, and wishing we could magically get together with our pups. XO