...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Sometimes HH and I get overwhelmed, discouraged and even struck with fear when looking at the long list of things left to do on our Underdog. Especially when many of the projects are right here in plain sight for us to see on a daily basis. We’ve found that the best way to turn our frowns upside down is to look at ‘befores’ of our house and see just how far we’ve come.

We bought the house in May 2011 but didn’t really start any work {aside from tree removal and demo} until after our previous home sold in mid-August 2011. During the nearly 9 month renovation, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment away from the chaos. Even though our apartment was far from lovely, I am so thankful we were able to have a safe haven separate from the renovation.

I thought you would appreciate seeing the progress on our home as well so you’re in for a little before-and-progress/after action today! {I’ll warn you. The ‘befores’ may be frightening to anyone who suffers from claustrophobia and the ‘afters’ are far from done.}

Here’s our Underdog in all its untouched and then renovated glory…

That’s the view from the front door looking towards the dining room and kitchen.

We removed the walls dividing the kitchen, dining room and family room. We vaulted the ceiling and added skylights. The original dining room window was replaced with french doors. The doors need painted and we still have a little work to do in the kitchen {backsplash, window treatment and styling}.

The original kitchen cabinets were rotted and falling apart.

We installed an IKEA kitchen.

That’s the interior wall we took out to open up the space.

A large 9′ island adds storage where wall space was lost and serves as a casual dining spot for everyday meals.

That’s the family room. If you look closely, you can see paint peeling and water damage along the wall and ceiling above the mantel.

And that’s the family room as of this week. Eventually, painted white tongue-and-groove planking will surround and frame in the TV. An original painting {created by the previous owner no less} will hang in front of the TV and raise/lower via a motorized pulley system. HH is still fine tuning the design. Other than buying a rug, new sofa and chairs, this room hasn’t been decorated. We need window treatments, a bench under the picture window and accessories.

Some more shots of the great room after…

The only decision we’ve made about the original brick fireplace surround is to live with it a while. I have nothing against painting brick but HH and I both like exposed brick. We’ll see.

We haven’t addressed the front door yet.

I have plans for a gallery wall behind the sofa to disguise the surround sound speakers and balance out the upper cabinetry on the other side of the room.

The leaning artwork is the piece that will raise above and lower over the TV.

Onto the former den…

The window unit was the only form of air conditioning in the house.

We removed the unit and installed a heat pump heating & cooling system.

We’ve repurposed the room as a dining room/mudroom/laundry room although it still needs a lot of work. HH added tongue-and-groove wainscoting and laid durable travertine tile. Even with the two PAX wardrobes, I need to address storage & organization. Somehow, shoes and backpacks aren’t making it all the way to the wardrobes. We also need to repair the man door to the garage, hang the light and hang the last interior door {to the kid/guest bathroom} that’s leaning against the wall.

The dysfunctional sliders were replaced with french doors. Just like the ones in the kitchen, we’ve yet to paint them. The dining chairs are actually outdoor chairs that will live outside in the future. For now, they’re inside.

The other side of the room housed a laundry closet.

We demo’d the closet and added upper cabinets. The plan here is to install a wood countertop above the washer/dryer and to conceal the machines so that this corner resembles a dry bar.

The opposite side of the house is where the bedrooms and bathrooms reside.

The old hallway was dark and dirty.

Recessed lighting was installed to wash the walls and brighten the passageway. {Hi boys!} The interior doors were replaced but they aren’t painted yet. We need to build a door for the attic access.

The first of the two bathrooms had cracked tile and mold within one wall.

The bathroom was gutted and is prepped, awaiting finishes. It’s on our winter to-do list. It will become our kid/guest bathroom. Yes, that means our family of five is sharing one bathroom right now.

The first teeny {smaller than 10’x10′} bedroom had peeling paint on the walls, matted shag carpet and a bed took up the entire room. It was a nice four poster bed though, no?

This room is the closest to being ‘done.’ As in the rest of the house, we demo’d the room to add insulation to the cinder block exterior walls, updated the electrical, hung drywall, installed new flooring & baseboards and painted.

The second bedroom was a decent size but crowded with furniture and clutter. The baseboards in this room were deteriorating from termite damage.

Our boys share this room now. {Surprise! You get a sneak peek of their new rug. More on that next week.} I can’t wait to add built-in desks and open shelving so the room can double as a workspace for the kids.

The master bedroom was being used as an art studio. It was dark, dirty and outdated.

It’s now a true bedroom but needs some tweaking. Don’t mind the sloppy bed with mismatched pillows. Everett made the bed and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he did it wrong.

I have to be honest. I’m not 100% happy with the wall color. It’s Benjamin Moore tapestry beige and it’s the same color we used in the hall and great room. While I LOVE it in the hall and great room, I don’t like it in the master bedroom. The problem with the bedroom is that it faces north and receives little natural light. I thought painting it light would make it appear lighter but this particular color just accentuates the shadows and comes across as dingy. I’ll probably end up repainting it. Any suggestions for good paint colors in a north room are welcome!

The adjoining master bathroom had many of the same problems as the other full bath. The original tile was cracked and the entire space was outdated.

We did a full gut job. I need to get creative with storage and organization in this bathroom. A toilet paper holder would be a good place to start. I have the same feelings about the paint color in here as in the master bedroom.

Currently, this is our only functioning bathroom. While it isn’t impossible for a family of five to share one bathroom {I do love having only one bathroom to clean}, I am looking forward to the day when the kids have their own bathroom.

So. There you have it. A look at our house from the first time we walked through it to current day.

Whew. That was cathartic. I’m feeling much better about our progress. And that’s only the inside of the house. Maybe I’ll crank out a similar post for the exterior. Can you believe HH and I walked through the house the first time with it looking like that and left with smiles on our faces? Yeah. We’re crazy.

To answer a very popular question…the house was an estate sale in a highly sought school district and listed at $99,000. It was the black sheep of the neighborhood with most homes in the area going for $140,000 and up with minimal updates. We offered $85,000 and got the house. At closing, we learned that all of the money from the sale of the house went to charity.

While tweaking this house into our home isn’t always easy or fun {damn you, concrete slab and cinder blocks walls!!}, we love it a little more each day.

Check to see who won this week’s Stella & Dot and Signs by Andrea giveaways!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

94 Comments

13.October.2012

Wow! Looking so much better than what it was. And what a steal (coming from someone who lives in a Los Angeles, CA suburb where a fixer-upper is over $500K. Love your design choices. Love, love, love your front door (very mid century modern). Can’t wait to see what you do with that door. We are planning on building a new (modest sized) home on tear-down we own and I plan on a front door exactly like yours (from Crestview Doors).
Congrats on your progress.

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13.October.2012

Looks amazing! I say paint the brick white and your front door a glossy black. You’re such an inspiration, if only my hubby was as handy as he is techy ;-)

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13.October.2012

Looks amazing! I say paint the brick white and your front door a glossy black. You’re such an inspiration, if only my hubby was as handy as he is techy ;-)

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13.October.2012

It looks fantastic!! Just wanted to tell you also what an inspiration you have been to me. We are in the process of downsizing into a smaller home that needs a complete rehab and i have gotten so many invaluable tips from you – thank you very much for sharing your home :heart

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13.October.2012

Spectacular ! The house looks so much brighter, cleaner and designed … and it looks so much “Millers” (if you see what I mean …) You’ve come a long way, guys and the “fun stuff” is still ahead of you ! I mean tweaking, decorating and adding furniture. We are in the middle of the kitchen reno here and I can’t wait to reach the “fun stuff” stage as well (it’s the sheetrock/caulk/floor/wall… stage). Good GOOD job ! Take care !

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13.October.2012

I LOVE your house, esp. all the open kitchen/dining/living areas. I love brick and would leave it as it is. When I see the before pictures, I wonder whether I would have seen the potential of the house and bought it … probably not. But seeing the results, I’d move in immediately.
Jule {inside9B}

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13.October.2012

That was a whole lot of clutter to look through! My husband and I are looking to downsize to a condo. We walk through cluttered, outdated spaces and I can totally see potential. My husband thinks I’m crazy. I’m going to have to show him your before and afters!

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13.October.2012

It looks so great, and so much bigger! I’m having a similar problem with our paint color in our south facing living room (in Australia!) every room is painted a warm ‘natural white’ but in our living room it looks blue-ish and dull. Can’t wait to see how you handle the problem!
Elise @ http://www.thislittlehouse.com.au

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13.October.2012

I thought you’d bought these curtains for the living room window? I know this, because I’d been thinking about buying them, and have been waiting to see how they look in your home! Am I remembering wrong?

http://www.westelm.com/products/narrow-frame-window-panel-feather-gray-ivory-t253/?pkey=csolid-curtains

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replied on October 13th, 2012

Yes! They are still in their packaging waiting for me to find an extra long curtain rod to hang them from above the picture window. I need to get on that!

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replied on October 13th, 2012

Have you thought of using PVC pipe? I saw it on Pinterest not too long ago and it may be a great fit with your industrial style! http://christopherandanne.blogspot.com/2010/08/kitchen-projects.html

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replied on October 15th, 2012

Genius!!

replied on October 13th, 2012

So are you planning to use them more as decoration – not necessarily to be closed? My other hesitation in buying them is that our picture window is so wide, they wouldn’t completely cover the window when closed. Which is another reason I was waiting to see how you handled it, since you have a similarly wide front picture window. No pressure, though! :)

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13.October.2012

Oh, and we have a north facing master like yours and used BM Light Breeze. It reads as brighter than Tapestry Beige, which we used in our south facing living room.

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13.October.2012

It looks WAY better than it did, Oh my gosh! Be proud. Be very proud. With a working husband, two boys and a baby I’m surprised you are where you are at this point. It takes time – I know. We moved into our do-over in Feb. and still have “tweaking” to do. Just part of the territory I guess.

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13.October.2012

Wow, what you have done in that house is truly incredible. What vision and what hard work! While there are still many things to finish up, you have built a truly beautiful, functional home for your family, and set a good example of what hard work and peristence can do. I look forward to seeing the rest of the changes, and hope you and your family will live there happily for many, many years to come.

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13.October.2012

I need to move back to Ohio!! We live in Arlington, VA and your house in all its pre-renovation glory would probably still sell for $500K in our neighborhood!! Now, AFTER renovation, you probably would have a $800K house on your hands! I kid you not. The housing market here is out of control.

You’ve made amazing progress on your home, congratulations!

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replied on October 13th, 2012

One of my sisters just moved to Arlington! Maybe I’ll see you out there some time.

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replied on October 13th, 2012

Anita is right. Housing here in Arlington is nuts. Any little house, even in a bad location, would list for 500k easily. My husband and I are renting while my husband finishes his career in a year or so. For our forever home, which will be in the easternTN/westernNC area, we are prepared to take a fixer upper if the property is right.
You’ve given me much courage to pursue that idea. Thanks.

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replied on October 13th, 2012

Sandy & Anita– It’s not just Arlington, it’s all of the DC metro area that’s anything approaching a reasonable commute, especially near a Metro stop and in a decent school district. Eight years ago I sold a modest and modestly updated Cape Cod in Kensington, MD, near NIH for $450K, and it sold again last fall for $100K more. How do young families manage in housing markets like that, even if they or family members are super-handy? (we moved to New England)

replied on October 13th, 2012

Anita- I live in Fairfax, VA but work for Arlington Public Schools- small (but not so small) world.
Dana- We have a major fixer upper on our hands too. I constantly get discouraged looking at drywall patches and unfinished bathrooms buttt we are slowly but surely getting things done. We’ve had our house for a year and half and have two small children so it’s almost impossible to get work done with them around. We all share one bathroom and some days its tough. You’re house is my muse so keep it up. I love reading your blog.

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13.October.2012

You are an inspiration, thanks for sharing your progress. Looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for the Underdog!

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13.October.2012

Phenomenal vision you had! I did the same with a house 1910 vintage that had literally not been lived in (other than racoons, etc) for 20 years!! Many of the photos looked like this! It is the highest form of recycling I believe, to revive a house. What you and HH have done is just lovely! As for paint, I really really like Kelly Moore paint called Quiet. I often gravitate to paint colors for the name, and this also proved to be a great color – very pretty light light grey. It has done well in two houses now.

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13.October.2012

I have enjoyed watching your progress immensely! Everything has been very inspiring and sometimes nail-biting (mold in the walls?! vaulting the ceiling?! an new family member?!?!) Truly, you have gone from being a likeable blog to my FAVORITE home blog. And, it is comforting to me to see that you do not have everything done instantly. Sometimes I read home blogs and feel like such a schlump because I have projects that have been sitting undone for months…er…years. Your tagline “because home doesn’t happen overnight” is my mantra. And accessories really do take a long time to tweak, huh? I think I will be working on those forever.

One idea about the front door if you are planning on keeping it: what if you painted it the same color as the kitchen cabinets?

Thanks for the before and afters!

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13.October.2012

What an incredible undertaking and what beautiful results! Don’t know how you did with “other” jobs and raising three kids. Remarkable. Can’t wait to see more as it progresses. (You should have never mentioned the “boob” speakers, though. That’s what I see now, too. hahaha!) Inspirational demo and design!

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13.October.2012

Love before/afters! Your home looks amazing. You both should be very proud of all you have done!

I painted my living, dining and hallway Creek Bend by Behr. It’s a warm grey color and I love it. I went two shade darker in the spare befroom and love that too. It’s a great neutral shade that still adds color and is NOT white. The color changes with the light of the day. It’s super cozy! Good luck in choosing a new paint color for the master!

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13.October.2012

I just love everything you have done with the house. It looks amazing. Love how it is all coming together for you!! Just beautiful!!!

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13.October.2012

I love the brick fireplace and the front door … such nice nods to the era of the house.

Several years ago, we almost bought a house with almost the exact floor plan as yours. It is fun to see what you’ve done with it.

Wow … the purchase price!!!! That does make a remodel possible. I live in the Pacific Northwest and fixers with those kind of amenities (location, size) are double the price.

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13.October.2012

Wow, the transformation is amazing! And even more amazing is that you and your husband had the vision – in spite all that mess. kudos! Thanks, too, for sharing the reality of projects that are on hold, in the works, etc. We just moved in to our new (1950s colonial) not quite 2 months ago and I get frustrated that we’ve done little more than remove some wallpaper and almost all the carpeting. I need a regular reality check/reminder that things just take time – and money, of course. Thanks for providing the inspiration!

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13.October.2012

Whew; I’m exhausted just from looking at the photos! Really impressive and really lovely.

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13.October.2012

I am in LOVE with your completely clutter free countertop! I also feel you on the only one bathroom to clean. When we were in Peoria we had 6 people using the same bathroom. Now I have three bathrooms and another “stall” toilet for the farmers to use without taking off their shoes. The words Hazmat Team come to mind! Eeww! When Hector and I finally start our renovation I will probably call you up about some idea boards :)

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13.October.2012

Wow, simply amazing. This post truly shows the amount of hard work you’ve both put into this. Thank you for sharing.

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13.October.2012

Knowing how much HH did single-handedly, on weekends and after long days at work, is jaw dropping. “Handy” doesn’t begin to cover it (not to mention what you did while you were pregnant and still at your job). A question about the master bathroom: Are those flashes of color Turkish pestemals?You mentioned that towels didn’t dry well on hooks compared with bars. Do the pestemals dry faster? Are they cotton or linen? Back to the befores and afters–give yourselves some high fives!

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13.October.2012

This post was AMAZING! Thank you for being so candid and sharing/bearing it all! It was informative and fun to look at all of the photos. Wow…you guys have done such an amazing job and I am blown away by your progress. Congrats! I have been following you now for a while and I am always glad to see your updates in my mailbox.

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13.October.2012

What is the cost of a rehab similar to this if you hired out for it? How fortunate you all are to have the skills to DIY!

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13.October.2012

The difference is amazing! You both have put so much work into the underdog and it sure does show. It doesn’t look like the same house. That is wonderful that all the money from the sale of the house went to charity. I can’t wait to find out the details on the boys new rug.

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13.October.2012

Wow, I wouldn’t have believed it is the same house. Amazing vision you two have, and it’s coming together beautifully. I love how light and open it is compared to before. And so much more functional for a young family.

And thank you, thank you, for showing some family life in these pics – I loved seeing the infant carseat, random things lying about, and the kids – because that is real life. And it’s lovely. :)

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14.October.2012

Love everything!

Just curious on what your total updating costs are to date (if you don’t mind sharing)

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14.October.2012

Isn’t it amazing how you can look at a house full of crap that needs more than TLC but just know that you can make it a home…it also helps when it’s the right price!
Love what your doing, what a team! I cannot wait to see more reno’s as they happen and so glad you always keep it real.

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14.October.2012

It really is an amazing transformation, especially since you’re not even finished! It hardly looks like the same house, especially the great room.

It gives me the itch to buy and settle into my own house (we’ve only ever rented)… but we don’t have a DIY bone in either of our bodies, so I doubt our place would get as much love as yours has. No funds for someone else to do it either. Guess I’ll just have to keep reading your blog and surfing Pinterest to get that “ooo, pretty!” feeling. ;)

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14.October.2012

This is a great post. I had never seen the “before” photos prior to gutting the underdog. It is great to see how far your home has come. We bought a new home back in March and are under full tilt renovation ourselves (we currently have the kitchen down to the studs) If I didn’t look back at where we started via photos I might lose it a bit. I enjoy renovation so I am more patient than most however I do get tired of people asking why we aren’t done yet. You can tell they have never attempted the scale of work this type of renovation takes. Keep up the amazing work!

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14.October.2012

Wow! I’ve been reading along the whole time so I knew about all the changes you’ve made but seeing it all at once is jaw dropping. The fact that you did all of this while pregnant/living with a new baby is even more amazing! My hubby and I are expecting in February and we’ve just moved into a new house in a new town and we’re overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done in our new place. You’re an inspiration :D

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I’ve been following your progress, but seeing it all together in one post blows my mind! You guys have accomplished a TON of work! Truly inspiring that you could see that potential beneath the cluttered interior. I am amazed at the difference that vaulting the ceiling has brought to the space. You’ve made brilliant decisions along the way. Well done!

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Holy hoarder house…You must really have a good eye to see the potential in that house…I can usually visualize something but I’m not sure even I could have got past all that clutter…You have done amazing things with your new home…Great job!

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14.October.2012

Compared to the golden, intense, direct light of your great room, the light entering your bedroom is reflected in off of trees, grass, and even the sky, giving it a green or blue cast (depending on the amount of foliage). A light color that looked rich and nuanced in the bright room will look duller (without the direct light to make the pigments pop) and cooler (greener in the summer, bluer in the winter).

Your best bet is to pick a color that’s rich and highly pigmented on its own (without the help of bright lighting). I’ve been told conflicting things about the best way to account for the cool tint of the light — do you counteract it by going even warmer or embrace it and go cool? — but I think it depends on the space.

A random semi-related fact: a northern exposure that’s very open (lots of sky) is thought to be the best light for artists. In a room with direct light, you have to contend with glare and shifting shadows through the day, but northern light is softer, more even and diffuse. The slight blue tinge shows pigments more accurately than overwhelmingly golden light, which is better for mixing hues and judging overall color. Here’s Edward Hopper’s Cape Cod studio, complete with ginormous north-facing window. Basically, it doesn’t surprise me to see that your home’s former owner had chosen that room to be her studio.

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replied on October 15th, 2012

That’s what I had heard! I read somewhere recently that north-facing rooms are great for artist studios because of the light and also bc the light doesn’t change that much throughout the day so an artist can leave and then return to a piece mid-work.

You are so right about the outdoor elements reflecting into the room. Our room takes on a greenish hue on really sunny days due to all the outdoor foliage.

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14.October.2012

I can so relate to seeing projects everywhere you look! I can also relate to sharing a bathroom with the kids. Actually, just a shower as our master shower broke but we haven’t fixed it since the whole thing needs be gutted anyway. With baby #3 on the way it isn’t happening anytime soon. Those before pictures though….They make me want to curl up in the fetal position. Someone was living in that. :::shudder::::

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15.October.2012

I’ve been following your blog since YHL linked to it, you guys are a real inspiration, sticking it out through ups and downs of demo/reno/DIY. I love your choices. Q: what’s th source for the great room ceiling fans? I love their clean lines. Thanks!

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replied on October 15th, 2012

The industrial fans are from Barn Light Electric. They are a commercial design but we opted to use them for residential purposes. They weren’t that expensive either. The only drawback is that they hum when operating. I don’t mind it but it drives HH a little bonkers.

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replied on October 16th, 2012

I laughed at the work bonkers. haha

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replied on October 16th, 2012

oops! work = word…. i am at work and i shouldn’t even be reading this! but some how through all the firewalled sites this isn’t one of them :)

15.October.2012

Love the before and after pictures! You guys have done an amazing job.

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15.October.2012

It really is amazing how much bigger and brighter it looks!

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15.October.2012

It. Looks. Amazing! We have been through many trials with our house that we bought a year and a half ago (mold, termite damage, etc…) and are still having issues! I love the transformations that you have made and don’t know that I would have had a “vision” like yours. I am very inspired!

Our kitchen is north facing and since it doesn’t get much light I struggled with colors but I chose Sherwin Williams Useful Gray and love it!!

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replied on October 15th, 2012

I’ll have to grab a swatch of Useful Gray next time I drop in Sherwin-Williams. Thanks!

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15.October.2012

What an AMAZING transformation.

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15.October.2012

Absolutely Amazing! You have been able to do SO much, in such a small amount a time, and with two kiddos and a newborn. I am not a regular commenter but I just had to let you know how cool it was to see these before and afters.

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15.October.2012

You all have done an absolutely amazing job on the house. . .We have been working on our house for around 6 years and are almost finished. Renovationg takes alot of time, expecially when you are trying to do most of the work yourselves. I look forward to seeing you continue tweaking your home. =)

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15.October.2012

The transformation is amazing! You’ve come such a long ways, from where the house started.

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15.October.2012

Wow wow wow. The house looks beautiful – and thank you for sharing your renovations stories. I’m a huge fan of the vaulted ceiling! I had the same paint color problem in our master bedroom and bath. I ended up going with Benjamin Moore palladian blue for the bedroom and dune grass for the bathroom. It brightens up the space, but in a peaceful way :)

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15.October.2012

You’ve come a long ways! I am having a hard time reconciling “artist” in former residence with the decorating choices in evidence then, lol – but I guess creativity expresses itself in different ways.

I had a thought about the former “study” area – where you have a dining table and the IKEA wardrobes. (Forgive me if you already considered this and discarded it.) Could you do the “lockers” (wardrobes, hooks and benches and cubbies, whatever you end up with) along the same wall as the garage door, if that’s where you usually come in anyway – and then shift the dining to the corner that adjoins the back doors – opposite the laundry of course? It would allow for a corner banquette. You could even extend the banquette along the longer wall to accommodate a longer table when the occasion called for it.

I also had pictured a little half wall a hallway’s width out from the backdoor, to accommodate a bench against the door side of the wall, and the wardrobes flanking that door – leaving the garage door side of the room free for a corner banquette. I like that it would be more of a straight shot from the kitchen to that dining area, in terms of traffic flow. I don’t like that it would involve kids moving from back door to the far side of the room to sit down and put things away, but a half wall there would conceal a lot of it from the dining space. (I’m picturing a floating half wall, open on both ends so it shrinks as little of the footprint as possible.)

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This was an awesome post! I love seeing all of the progress completed on the Underdog. I am in the middle of putting together a before and progress post of our house. It’s crazy to see how far we’ve all come! PS-SO jealous of your home’s cost! I don’t even think you could get a piece of land for that price in Jersey! It’s ridiculous…ugh!

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15.October.2012

Holy cow! Seeing the before pictures with the old owner’s stuff gives me a heavy feeling in my chest. I can’t believe you guys saw THAT and got excited. The house is coming along so great — I tried to convince my husband to do the same thing, but after seeing the befores here, I doubt I’d ever get him on board, haha.

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