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: 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: 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. 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.