House exterior "before"
April 2nd, 2010, we closed our drawn-out 4-month-long escrow on an absolute mess.  Not just a needs-new-floors-and-some-fresh-paint mess, it was more of a don't-show-your-parents-you-just-bought-this mess.  (And we didn't show them for at least a few months of renovations, and even when we did I believe the reaction was something of the "Shane's gone insane" variety.) As one picture can do a lot more than I can tell you, here is what we were moving into:
Master bathroom "before". Creeptastic, isn't it?
The "living room" before, previously two bedrooms for tenants.
To give a bit more perspective, we were desperate to purchase our own home.  While every media outlet was telling us that this was the "right time to buy" and we had the credit and savings to do it, purchasing in our price range in the Los Angeles area was still not easy.  Every offer we made, some even $40k above asking price, was outbid by someone else.  (Usually a house flipper looking to make a good deal in the market.)  And, little us, with our $3.5% down FHA loan couldn't get anyone in our price range to even look at us.  We had a few bleak moments of hope when a seller (or in our case, a bank) would accept our offer, but through a string of bad realtors and greedy banks, something always seemed to fall through. And then, we found Sue.  The best realtor I have ever met.  She became not only our realtor, but our friend, as we searched for our new house.  Shortly after we found Sue, we found our mess.  It was pouring rain outside during the open house.  Brad and I had met there, I was coming from work on that Saturday and he was coming from our current apartment.  We walked in and were immediately lost.  The house was a short sale heading into foreclosure.  The woman who had previously owned it couldn't afford her mortgage, so she started building up walls anywhere she could to add extra bedrooms for tenants.  (Our now 4 bedroom home was an 8 bedroom.)  The living room was split into two bedrooms, the garage was her "master suite", and two relatively small 10x10 rooms were somehow turned into three.  Hallways had dead-ends where you had to turn around and walk all the way back around the house to get to the other side.  It was a mess.  But, as I mentioned, after a year of searching and offers and disappointments, we were desperate.  And, the house had this:
The atrium "before"
No, not the heaping pile of junk.  (However, that on its own was pretty enticing.)  It was an open air atrium in the center of the house.  In LA, outdoor space is at a premium.  Since our weather is perfect 365 days a year, having a great entertaining area outside is important.  And, we fell in love with the potential.  We put in our offer and the bank accepted. Getting to close on the house was also not easy.  With our FHA loan, the bank wouldn't accept the house as-is due to its "dangerous condition".  Luckily, with the help of the best realtor ever, Sue, she was able to negotiate for the bank to pay for the house to be put back to its original floor plan.  The house started to go under construction before we even closed.
Kitchen in progress. This is about what it looked like when we moved in.
Four months later, the house was finally ours.  I remember getting the news and the lockbox combination while I was at work, and once the day was over Brad and I rushed over and immediately started cleaning out the yard.  At the time, we knew absolutely nothing about renovating this mess.  Brad and I are both from Phoenix, where all houses were built after 1980 and most of them are brand new, so we hadn't grown up with any handy experience from either side of the family.  So, we made a lot of mistakes and hired a lot of people to do the majority of the work and spent way too much money on it.  We started to feel a bit like this: And then we learned our lesson. My friend Stacy led me to Ana White.  Reading her posts on how to make furniture looked so easy, and we needed a guest bed for a then-empty bedroom.  So, Brad and I bought a circular saw and all of the screws and materials Ana told us we would need, and we built the bed.

It took us 2 weekends to make the bed: one to make the bed frame and the other to build the headboard out of a leftover piece of fence that we had from paying someone else to build it.  But it gave me such a sense of accomplishment to create something that actually looked... good.

That was when I realized that I could do a lot more than I thought I could.  I started googling how-to videos on what needed to be done in our house and began to think "we can do that".  (My husband was a bit more skeptical than I was, but he came around.)  So, we started small and took a weekend and tiled our own backsplash.  Then I built closet doors for a room that didn't have any.  Then I built my own bathroom mirror out of scraps and a $15 IKEA mirror.  All while I continued to build furniture out of both mine and Ana's plans.  I became kind of... handy. Our house is still a constant work in progress, and I look forward to documenting the rest of our renovations and adventures along the way.  Maybe it will even inspire someone else to DIY something for their home rather than pay someone else.  To close, I'll leave you with a few more friendly, "after, but still kinda in progress" pictures of our home.
House exterior while getting a fresh coat of paint and new garage door
Atrium "after"
Master Bathroom "after"
Kitchen "after"
Living Room "after"

12 Replies to “OUR HOUSE”

  1. I’m already obsessed with your blog, and you only have 3 posts. I have been WAITING for you to get a blog so I could more closely follow your projects – Facebook pictures just aren’t enough to sate my curiosity! I’m so envious that you have such a wonderful space to work on – your commitment and fantastic eye really show! I can’t wait to move back to California and spend some time in your amazing home! (And, you know, build stuff together, of course.) 🙂

    1. Aww… thanks, Stacy! You’re too sweet! I’m a regular secret stalker on your blog, too :-). And, I can’t wait for you to move here!! PS- Do you like my shout-out to you and how you showed me Ana? None of my projects would have happened if it weren’t for you!

      1. It thrills me to no end that you’ve found such inspiration from that! I look through my “want” list often and just dream, and dream… Soon I’ll be able to get my hands dirty and find out if I, too, have what it takes to DIY for my home!

  2. Hi Shane,

    Im from San Diego and we just bought our house, like 2 weeks ago. We are still unpacking but I have lots of plans. I love your floor, what type is that? Laminate? We are looking forward to replacing the freaking blue carpet that is all over the house. We will be also using some of Anna’s plans. But what brought me to your blog was the door of your closet, omgsh, it is awesome. I was just wondering if there is a way we can have the track on top and bottom, I feel like the doors will be swing around if someone touch them, what do you think?

    1. Hi Leila! Congrats on buying your new house! Blue carpet, huh? You’ll have so much fun ripping that out! Our floors are actually pre-finished hardwood maple from Lumber Liquidators: http://www.lumberliquidators.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=6839&categoryId=690&sectionId=614&subCategoryId=692. I love them, but they scratch really easily. If I were to go back and do it all over again, I probably would have splurged for the thicker Bellawood. (Hindsight is 20/20, right?)

      So glad you like the doors! Thank you! Yes, you could totally put a track on the bottom as well, I would just make sure you’re right on with all of your measurements. The kit I purchased from Amazon has a little bottom piece that you screw into the floor in the center that keeps the doors from swinging around. I was too excited to take pictures once they were hung that I hadn’t installed that piece yet… oops :-).

      Best of luck with your new house, and let me know what you end up doing with your floors! I would love to see some before and afters!!

  3. Maybe I’m crazy, but I can’t wait to own a house one day and I hope it’s like yours – a huge, messy, all mine, kind of project!

    I’m still a renter, so for now I just dream about it…
    tile… door knobs… apron sinks… one day!

    I’m pumped to follow your project!!

  4. I’m in the same boat. Our problem is that my father in law is our realtor and he did NOT like the idea of us buying a 100+ yr old hm which has very few issues. Parents seem to keep the parent title and forget that we too are adults now and can solve some of these problems. Best of luck to you!

    1. Thank you! Let me start out by saying that this was my first project ever, so I had no idea what I was doing. I believe we used 2 coats of Espresso Varathane stain, painted on with a paintbrush and then wiped off. We didn’t use any poly – I didn’t even know what that was at the time. (But I would certainly recommend it :-).) I think we were smart enough to use wood conditioner… but I’m not sure. With a regular stain and pine, I would recommend that too!

  5. Beautiful work! I love the espresso-colored buffet in your kitchen and am looking for something like it. Did you make it or buy it? I have DIY envy!!

    1. Thanks so much, Deb! The buffet was a wedding gift before I knew how to build. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time – it would be so easy to DIY! It’s the Benchwright Buffet from Pottery Barn.

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