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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

as we found it

The first time we pulled up to this house, I wasn't very enthralled. I wanted something classic. A two story Cape Cod, built in the early 20th century. I wanted drawers built into the walls and an attic bedroom. White kitchen cabinets and wood floors. But I also wanted the modern amenities that we'd been living without in our Oak Park apartment. Life without central air and a dishwasher was so not fun. So our realtor appeased my desires to see a few of the old houses and we were largely disappointed in the amount of updating we would have to do and the odd problems that came with them. Like not having room in the kitchen for a refrigerator. 

After listening to what we wanted, our wise realtor must have privately prioritized our wish list and excused some of my fluffy requests, because she brought us to this house. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a finished basement located in an incredibly family friendly neighborhood that was only half a mile from the elementary school. 

When we first walked inside, I dismally noticed the carpeted floors and angular mid-century lines. What am I going to do with those? But the living space was open and airy, something I was really ready for after living with endless walls and long hallways that early 20th century architecture loves. The windows were new, the roof was only days old, the yard was fenced in and it had a deck. It was everything that we needed, just in a Mid-Century Modern modified split level ranch. 
We proceeded into the newly remodeled kitchen and our thinking started to shift. A nice kitchen? I hadn't even thought to put it on the list. None of the women in my family have nice kitchens. I thought nice kitchens were reserved for after the kids got out of college. Tim saw that gas countertop range and started drooling a little bit.
Down the stairs and we flew away into a happy place. The basement was completely finished, recently updated, and only half sunk. We really needed a good space to do our job. One that was out of the way of the main living area but that had plenty of natural light so we don't get depressed while spending many hours on the job. One that allowed Liesel to play while we work. This room gave us hope.
A newly remodeled basement bathroom. Let me just note here that having a second bathroom was a dire need for us. My husband grew up in a family of 9. There were no private spaces in life except for the bathroom. He was conditioned from an early age to get all of his quiet, peaceful time in the bathroom, and to this day his extended bathroom time is sacred. He actually thinks it's called a restroom because that's where you take a little rest from your day. When we were sharing one bathroom in our apartment, times were hard. Tim couldn't get his break-time and I couldn't pee. So this here bathroom is a holy grail of sorts for us.
Cute baby, old carpet.
The beige carpet was everywhere. The walls were light tan. It all blended together into one great mass. But then I noticed a loose corner and reached down to see if I could pull up some carpet...
And lo, there they were. Under the carpets and the carpet pads there lay beautiful oak wood floors. 
And we were very happy. This discovery actually didn't happen until we already had a contract on the house so we suddenly felt like we were getting so much more for our money. We knew immediately that we would rip out the carpets and re-stain the floors dark.
This is the master bedroom. We love those modern windows in the corner. We didn't love the monochromatic colors or that huge outdated air vent.
The other two bedrooms. The smallest bedroom, above, was the worst situation. That carpet was shag and much older than the carpet in the rest of the house.
Upstairs bathroom. I want to do so much with this. I want to rip out everything but the tub and replace with white subway tile and a dark floor. I want open shelving above the toilet and anything but that pedestal sink. I'd love a big round mirror and some modern lighting. Spoiler alert: this bathroom still looks exactly the same and will for at least a few more months.
Does anyone have a creative solution for this situation? There's a delightful new window behind that plastic curtain that I would love to actually see, but I'd rather have a plastic curtain in my life than mold growing in the sill.
These oversized baseboard vents were everywhere! Why, 60's? Why did they all have to be 18 inches long? And I didn't fancy the sudden blonde wood happening on the windows.
So much going on here on this living room wall. Beige, tan, white, older white, and a painted over, unusable 220 outlet.
So this is how we found the house. We had 9 days between closing and our move-in date to refinish the floors, paint every wall in the living room and upstairs, and install new baseboards and air vents.


  1. It's a Wheaton wonderland, full of renovation dreams and memories in the making. May this house be used to live the life that you've been called to live as a family. Following your adventure from France!

  2. What a gem! Hope you make it yours. Great call on the jacobean floors and white walls. the best combo ever.
    Bathrooms are a bear of a project. I dont hate the upstairs bathroom with the black and white tile, but that wooden cabinet thing needs to go. Give it some time before you gut that thing, because bathrooms are the most expensive updates next to kitchens. I would know, because we are just now starting to think about remodeling our 2 bathrooms. $$$$
    Good luck. and keep going. I found if you do 1 thing a day to help update/improve your house, it will pay off! have fun and keep taking lots of pics. its fun to look back and remember where you came from! :)
    -Kyle Blake(i dont have a blogspot acount)

  3. I love the comment about the "restroom" lol

  4. Yea! I cannot wait to see more.

  5. It's not yet done, but I'm liking what I'm seeing! I was looking at your past entries and I can say that you've brought a major improvement. Your artistic side is working well to your advantage! I hope you could update us some more on the progress of your house remodeling. I am really curious as to how it will look in the end. On another note, you take awesome photos!

    Isaac Andre @