The Fixer-Upper House on the Fixer-Upper Hill

In the past week I've had three different people ask if I've been taking before and after photos of projects we've been working on around our house, mentioning that I need to record them.

I haven't done the best job at getting good photos - so angles and lighting won't be great. But nonetheless, I am going to post them.

Sometimes, when projects take long, and not all is done at once, it can seem as though not much as changed. It's really good for me to pull the old photos out, to remember what our place use to be and to see how far we've come.

I wouldn't have saw the potential in this place had Herm and I been house shopping together. It was a run down and overgrown property. The house smelled of stale smoke, cigarette burned carpets telling its tale. There was still food in the fridge, a fridge that was set to 55* F for over a year. The place was filthy, and felt like the inside of an icebox, with the flooring, walls, and ceiling all in various shades of white or cream. (Even the kitchen counter tops and cabinets blended in, their beige-yellow tones adding no favor.)

But it was because of this house, and Herm's dream of moving to New York, that our paths crossed. The weekend we first met was the weekend Herm had closing on the place, the mortgage now in his name.

Our story happened fast, within 13 months we went from complete strangers to lovers, now married and figuring out what life would look like together.

Every weekend during our first year of marriage was spent on house projects, on cleaning up the yard, building shelving in the closets, painting and repainting. We were broke, to put it bluntly, so the projects were small, we did what we could, when we could.

Over time our savings grew, as did the budget for each project. Herm is a carpenter, so he has the knowledge and the tools needed for almost everything we did. And if you give me a paint brush or drop me off at a thrift-store I can run with it...

Now, over four years later, the transformation is amazing -- and as we dream, our project list keeps on growing, even after so many things have already been checked off.

We're even dreaming about the next fixer upper we could flip together... but until then, we'll keep on creating and painting and thrifting to make this house even more of a home. (I'm currently searching for a large oriental rug, a leather or velvet sofa and two accent chairs, an antique bench and a cow hide rug... so, fellow thrifters, feel free to be on the lookout for me!)

As you can see, the house really lacked depth and texture and warmth. When Herm first bought the place, his family blessed him greatly by coming to New York for a long weekend of scrubbing and painting and making the place livable. I've heard horror stories of what was scraped up around the toilet and of the grease coated liberally on the kitchen stove. 

They painted the main living area, and shampooed the carpets. That helped some with the stale smoke smell, though on cold, damp days the odor still managed to seep out of the walls...

The Kitchen:

This was the kitchen before Herm's family came to clean and paint...

And this was after his family spent the weekend painting.

Then he married me, lover of all things neutral, so the entire place was repainted again. I also painted the cabinets and counter tops with a specialty paint from Rustoleum. Because money was tight at the time, I didn't want to spend on adding subway tile for the back-splash, so my talented sister painted the wall to look like it.

Eventually I took two cabinets doors off, so that I would be able to display cups and dishes. And most recently, we replaced all of the flooring in our house with this laminate wood floor. Good-bye ugly linoleum, later disgusting carpet!

The Dining Room:

This was right after we got married.

And this was taken today. As you can see, new paint color, new flooring, as well as a new table, butchers block bar, and bar stools -- all handmade by Herm! We are planning to change the lighting in here, make a bench for the table, and find new chairs too. 

The Living Room:

When it was still a mancave...

We built a fake fire place at one point. But later moved that, along with the TV screen down to our cold, damp, unfinished basement. Out of sight, and out of mind! Best decision ever, if you ask me. My husband doesn't really agree... yet.

I rearrange furniture as though it were a hobby. So the living room has boasted many different layouts. We also added a wood stove, which is our main source of heat. The photo above was taken shortly before we tore out that gross carpet I keep mentioning.

And this is the living room, currently

The Bathroom:

Wooden seat, awful cabinets, and a RUG by the toilet. Excuse me while I go throw up.

Not a great after photo, but it's ten times better. Just trust me. 

The Bedrooms:

Ours, above. Carson's below.

My sister, Kate, painted the mural.

And that's it. At least for today.



  1. Love it all! And those bars tools are amazing!! Tell Herm he should totally start selling them!

  2. Joanna Gaines called...she wants you. ;)

  3. Love it! I'd be your shopping buddy all the way if I lived closer. I'm always shopping for new furniture on craiglist... Iz doesn't understand the thrill;). I've found many great leather deals, that I've let go... I'm watching for area rugs too. Painting is my hobby.. Have you discovered mistints? You should go to a horse show for the cowhide. We went to Congress in OH this summer they were very reasonable and has lots of beautiful variety. Thanks for the tour!

  4. You've worked wonders Sarah (along with the carpentry). When do you go into business asa designer?

  5. The little-by-little transformation of a home is so fun and rewarding! You and Herm have done a beautiful job.

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