Saturday, June 12, 2010

I didn't start off in a fixer upper! My DIY house stories

I spent my childhood overseas, but when we came back to the States we lived in this grand English Tudor that had 15 rooms and 7 bedrooms and 4 fireplaces! All five of us kids had our own bedrooms! It had all of the things a big house should have like a secret passageway and laundry chute, a front and back staircase, a fabulous linen closet and butlers pantry and a buzzer on the floor under the table in the dining room to call the servants! Loads of mahogany wood paneling and gorgeous leaded glass windows with a library full of built in mahogany bookcases and small gas fireplace. This house was built in 1922. We lived here for 18 years.

My bedroom was front right, second floor!
This is what it looked like when I lived there.
Above  is how it  looks now after a one million dollar renovation.
They did a great job.

This was the first house I bought. 
It was my mother's childhood home and I purchased it 
from my grandfather after my grandmother died. 
It was dark grey, no shutters and all covered up with screens.
 I took down the screens and a partial enclosure 
that blocked the open side areas of the porch 
and painted it pink with black trim. 

This house became known as "The Pink House". 
Many tried to copy the color.


This house had a huge foyer with beautiful woodwork, a Count Rumford Fireplace,
5 bedrooms, a grand dining room, heavy mahogany pocket doors.
 It also needed a new kitchen, a new bathroom, a complete residing and paint job.
Here it is in the finishing stages of can see the lattice is not yet done.

This was what it looked like when I fell head over heels in love and had to have it.
I could see beyond it's sad neglected facade.
I am standing on the porch on moving day holding my 2 year old son Colin.
The Count Rumford Fireplace and pocket doors in the living room,
as  movers bring in a carpet through
 the foyer as Colin and I watch.
Everyone thought I was crazy to take on this project.
I loved the thought of how gorgeous this wrap around porch was going to turn out!
My son Brandon is sitting on a wicker chair on the porch.
Multiple bay windows ran along side of the house.
Soon  this house would have all new cedar shingles
 with a painted lady combo of taupe on the shingles,
purple on the trim and lavendar rose for accents like the balusters
and the fancy fish scale shingles at the peak of the roof.
 All the screening was coming down soon!
This image shows closer detail of the porch.
It was a bridal shower for my sister Susan, here with mom.
I decorated my old wheel barrow with balloons to match the house paint.

However I missed the quiet tree lined street of my pink house, 
so after I fixed up the Victorian I bought this classic
Federal Colonial which was only two doors away from the pink house.
 It was white with platinum grey shutters. 
I painted the front door Heritage Red after failing with a yellow color first.
 The best part about this house was the cornfield behind it in the summer!
Notice the bulls eye glass on the door and 
the bead board trim inside the arched ceiling.
 Loved that detail. I liked shopping at Talbots too..
.maybe there was a connection with the red door?
This is when the door was white, and I liked that too.
Nice railings on the side reminds me of 
a whaling captains house for some reason.
 I picked up this adorable duplex after I divorced 
and moved back to my childhood town. 
 Bobby Kennedy's Harvard  roommate grew up in this house.
 He later wrote speeches for JFK!!
I brought my awnings from the federal colonial and installed them on my duplex.
 It needed the other back storm door to be fixed,
 that was in the garage waiting for me..
I had to do window boxes first, of course.
 This is the kitchen in the duplex and I have already yanked the dark green doors off!

What a difference a gallon of white paint makes, eh? 
My dad painted them for me. 
It also had original yellow formica counter tops with a stainless steel edge, 
which was ok and yellow wall tile (ugh) which was not.

Next, I ripped off the wall tile and was thrilled when I  found bead board underneath! 
So I restored it, but had to create a second molding to cover the wall 
where the tile originally was placed. 
I put a french country toile border in between 
the beadboard and the new molding--no more tile!

You can see I was impatient and had already wallpapered the top in a petite red pattern.

 Storage was an issue so I got this lovely pine secretary at a junk shop and stuck it in the corner.
I corralled bills in the drawers and put my prized transferware up top!
 French farmhouse! Kinda.
 If  I knew I was gonna blog back then, I would have taken the pic without  
my boyfriend (now hubby) and kids and his cousin ...
but you can see I added the wallpaper in a petite red pattern 
and had a border where the old tile ran. I liked the black and white linoleum 
floor which I put in, cheap and nice.
I took out the ceiling fan and put in an iron chandelier. 
This kitchen and house was TINY, but I was determined to make it charming.
 Of course the custom curtains added to the appeal.
I also gutted the attic and made two bedrooms and a jack and jill bathroom for my sons to share.

After two years I parlayed the duplex for a nice gain and bought a single family again, this time a sweet bungalow. It was the cheapest house for sale at the time in my town.
 It needed a gut job and a ton of work! 
I redid the entire second floor down to the studs 
as well as the kitchen and back of the little house. 
It came out really great.
Here I am with my mom, sister and brother showing them my soon to be new house.

 I started right away by changing the entryway to the rear instead of the side. 
My new kitchen was soon going to have a little french door to lead outside. 
My boyfriend (now hubby) and I dismantled the cobblestone wall. 
I love cobblestones! 
The ones we didn't reuse on this project I eventually dragged 
to my new home when I married Dave and they are in my garden now.

This was the hideous kitchen inside, UGLY, but I had a vision.
 My broker thought I was crazy. My dad didn't..
.he was going to be one of my biggest helpers on this project! 
He's fearless, like me.

Part of the vision included ripping out the wall over there
 so I could have an open floor plan in this tiny space. 
I had already had my dad hang my crystal chandelier! 
I am impatient.

Opened wall from dining area into kitchen with my french door I told you about in the back ground. Still a TINY house but it felt so much larger by opening this up. I painted the walls my favorite BM color Hepplewhite Ivory throughout.  My cabinets were white glazed uppers and alder wood lowers with a Boos Butcher Block island. I had pale green granite counters and I was in heaven. Here I am carving the turkey for a small family Thanksgiving in our new home.
I had chicken wire in the corner cabinet instead of glass so I could put my cool things on display and have a touch of french farmhouse. 
The under cabinet lights did not look obnoxious like that in real life!
This was a simple stylish makeover that fit this little house.

Not long after, my handsome boyfriend proposed marriage and this bunglalow hit the market! 
I moved into Dave's house that he was building and we have been working on it ever since.  
Our new plans include expanding our outdoor living space with french doors and a minor kitchen remodel, with a new backyard patio and garden area. Stay tuned.


 This is my current home. It is actually a pre-fab from Canada. Center entrance colonial 
 with black shutters and a light grey vinyl (ugh) siding. 
I want to put a french door in and make a patio area. 
It is on a small city lot, and I want to try to get in as much garden area as I can.
 Right now it is a work in progress!

It sits up on a rocky ledge.....I am in the neighbor's yard snapping this pic.

 The famous pink swing my dad made many moons ago.  
It was white. I like to paint things.
It hangs outside the entrance to the cellar apartment my son lives in.
The walkway up to the front door & the granite walls my husband makes.
A garden closeup: Nepeta, Betty Prior roses, and Boxwoods mingling happily.
There are my bungalow cobblestones!

 This is our second home, a colonial in New Hampshire right next to Pleasant Lake. 
It has a fruit orchard, 90 blueberry bushes and beautiful lake views. 
Old stone walls. So lovely. This used to be a farm long ago.
Lots of balconies and decks to capture the lake view!
 A beautiful spot in the summer.


  1. Wow! What a history of homes. That 1920's tutorial looks amazing. What a place to grow up. I lived in military housing in Germany as a kid, so this kind of house was a dream of mine.

  2. Wow! You are really amazing(and fearless like your dad,i guess!!) I just loved looking at all your terrific pics and what youve done with the houses&how you made them such lovely homes! I just loved the pink house. It really was so nice to meet you and your husband the other day outside Nate. I will be checking out your terrific blog! Keep up the good work. Godbless!

  3. Wow, I'm so envious of your ability to move and remodel older homes... it's a dream of mine! How neat is it that you took pictures of all these homes that you can now share in your blog! Looking forward to seeing how the story continues :)


  4. What a FUN post. Your motivation for renovation is inspiring! I really enjoyed the 'tours' ...and especially loved your childhood "English Tudor" home, as well as "The Pink House" that you purchased from your grandparents. Beautiful before/after photos. And of course the STUNNING VIEWS from your lake home are nothing short of breath-taking!

    You have a fun blog here, and I am glad I've become a follower. It's been fun checking in on other talented decorators from all over blog-land! :) God bless!


  5. I had so much fun looking at all the homes you lived in...your 1920's Tutorial home was incredible! Very nice growing up like that, I can see why you have a sence and the gusto, along with your father, to continue the remodeling of them. Congrats on all of them, your home now and the lake view one...just terrific!

  6. Amy,
    I enjoyed reading about each home and it's progress! You have done an amazing job. My very favorite is the pink house. It reminds me of my great-grandparents home, except their home was yellow.
    It is also great to meet someone who has moved from a finished home to one that needs lots of love. Everyone thinks we are crazy for moving to the pond house! One more thought...I smiled when I saw the yellow counter tops in the one home....we now have babyblue counter top and backsplash! Ugh! Can't wait to see it go :)
    Take care,

  7. Who knew?

    Your pink house was breathtakingly charming. What a joy to see each time you come home!

    Romantic Domestic

  8. OMGosh Amy...I am exhausted just hopping from house to house with you!

    I loved every one of have a talent in seeing the beauty beyond the obvious. A rare thing indeed..maybe you got that from your Dad??

    I really enjoyed this post. Have a lovely weekend.

    Janet xox

  9. thanks so much for a brief house history... It's just great to see how you went from house to house, improving each one. Thanks, Linda

  10. Amazing! I applaud your efforts. Amazing what you did with each place - lots of courage! I love all your interior designs.

  11. What an interesting post. I loved the discription of ALL of your homes and I was tired just reading about all the work that you put into them.

  12. What a great post!
    My FAVORITES were the Pink House, and the Shingle-Style! It would have been so hard to let them go! Especially hard to move back to the neighborhood and see every day what you gave up--wow!
    BUT---what a great job you did on every one of them--Girl Power!

  13. What great talent you have! Your homes are all beautiful. The pink house was really special...and the house you lived in growing up reminds me of our tudor from my childhood. It, too, has gone through a renovation and looks even more gorgeous.

  14. How wonderful that you had pictures of every home that you lived in. i guess i should take a camera and go back and take pictures of all of my childhood homes. this is a great post.....

    hugs, cindy

  15. So many beautiful homes! I love them all.

    Of course, now I'm wanting to know the paint color for the pink house! It's so cute! I can't paint my house pink (right now), but I am going to fix up my potting shed this summer and I can paint IT pink. Oh, that would make me so happy. But I have no idea where to even start with paint -- so I'd love yoru color. Or if you don't have the color, some tips? I know how to pick blues and greys and creams, but I have NO IDEA how to pick a pink! :-)


  16. I really enjoyed this post... It was like a mini book, I got lost in your story. You did such great work with all the homes, the pink house was sooo pretty! The Tudor home u grew up in is so huge! I live in a Tudor now but it's tiny 1100 sq ft. Anyways great job!


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