The 8 Month Difference…

After yesterdays first house vs. current house comparison, this comment from Jess definitely got our wheels turning: “I think its an unfair comparison to put 8 months of work at the current place up against 4 + years at the old. You should have compared current photos from this house to what your old house looked like 8 months after you moved in there!!” Well, that’s probably not quite fair either, since we’ve definitely learned a ton in the last five years of homeownership (and also spend a lot more time doing house stuff these days since this DIY diary of ours is our job)… but we’re game! It’s Friday. But oh boy is this walk down memory lane going to amuse you. Just picture us quietly cringing over here as we bare all.

See, eight months into owning our first house, we still didn’t even know how to properly paint trim (I painted all of it in the entire house with flat paint only to learn it should be semi-gloss and then had to redo it all – and yes, it was torture). But the beauty of this post is that it’s a good reminder that houses take time. And sometimes they look crazy. Which is probably why some of the completely unfinished rooms in this house don’t make us want to cry as much as they did in our first house (back when we thought homes were supposed to be done the week after you moved in). Now we know better. So just for fun, here’s how our first house looked around eight months in (which was only about eight months before we started this ol’ blog to track the progress of our big kitchen renovation for friends & family members). Oh and you can scroll back to yesterday’s post if you want to peep the final first house pics (or compare this roundup to our current house’s eight-months-in progress). Just didn’t want to bog this post down with 50 more pics and crash the site like I did yesterday. Oops.

Front Yard, First House (8 Months In):

Our front yard was kind of just a forest when we moved in. But in eight months I did manage to clip all the trees that completely blocked the view of the house from the curb so neighbors could sneak a peek (yes, there really was a house back there). Project Tree Trimming was one of those let’s-surprise-John-when-he-comes-home-from-work projects that I did with a lawn chair and a branch cutter. And yes, the mister was shocked to actually see the front porch from the street.

Front Porch, First House (8 Months In):

This was a few weeks after I clipped up the branches. I took a saw to the fully slatted wood screen door and cut a big “window” in it just to break things up. Then I painted it yellow and hung an embarrassingly lame twig and faux lemon wreath from Target. Oh yeah and that thing hanging next to the door was left by the previous owner. It was a wood plaque that looked like a cutting board with a pineapple and the word “Welcome” painted on it. Very country cottage-y. But I loved that thing for a good year.

Living Room, First House (8 Months In):

Oy. That’s really all I can say. The sofa was a hand me down from a family member. The iconic college dorm coffee table was an Ikea find. Everything is way too small and way too far apart. There’s a square of faux-stone linoleum in front of the door. It’s all sorts of horrible. Living with this room for a few years taught us that creating two zones in the long-ish space (a dining area and a living area along with a console by the entryway) filled the space in a more functional and not-crazy-sparse way.

Kitchen, First House (8 Months In):

We were pretty active in the kitchen within eight months of moving in. We got all new appliances (Frigidaire from Lowe’s, which we carried over into our big remodel about eight months later) and painted the cabinets (Brown Bag by Glidden), replaced the hardware (with cheap Ikea stuff) and painted the faux brick backplash (Wishes by Glidden). It still looked like a hot mess in there, but it was our mess. Come on, you know you like those awkward serving spoons hanging from the metal range hood that’s not actually over the stove.

Dining Room (Future Bedroom/Nursery), First House (8 Months In):

We had lots of fun with this room, even though it wasn’t very functional (a room that barely accommodates four people does not a dining space make). We actually built that table ourselves (using a thrift store pedestal base and a giant piece of wood screwed in from below and then painted glossy black). I also spray primed and painted the old chandelier white (it used to be brass) and replaced the long pointy fire-shaped bulbs with modern round ones. But my favorite little adventure in there was painting the area over the chair rail with tiffany-box blue paint, and then using chalk to draw subtle leafy branches on the wall. Crazy yes, but lots of fun (I even used a spray fixative from the craft store to keep it from rubbing off). More on that project here.

Master Bedroom, First House (8 Months In):

Yikes, this room was baaad. Much like the living room everything looked really sparse. And yes, that’s a printer/fax machine hiding on the floor in the corner. Freelance copywriter from home = actually faxing things pretty regularly. But there’s no excuse for having it on the floor in the bedroom. And the too small art and too low bed with nothing else going on to fill things in around them kind of kills me. Thank goodness for living and learning.

Oh yeah, this bathroom phase is like looking back at photos of a really bad haircut in ninth grade. I thought painting the trim black around the window could look really cool and Domino-ish… but no. Not happening. So I painted it white again and removed the swag (which was actually a pashmina that I still wear to this day – and giggle when I remember its past life). Ah, much better.

Guest Room, First House (8 Months In):

So… eight months in meant we painted the room but that’s it. Still no bed for guests. We were saving our pennies and focusing on other areas, but we eventually got a full sized bed as a hand-me-down a few months later. Hooray for sleepovers.

Den, First House (8 Months In):

Bad news bears. Seriously, everything from the white bedsheet that I actually stapled to the underside of the desk in the corner to the crooked-looking painted paneling but unpainted brick makes me cringe. About a month later we painted the two brick walls the same color as the two paneled ones and it started to move towards the room that we know and love (but it still took a while to work up the energy to tackle those beams).

Laundry Nook, First House (8 Months In):

This is a terrible shot of the space that would someday become the laundry nook because it’s aimed at the floor, but I was terribly proud of the peel & stick vinyl tile that I laid down over grody old yellow sheet linoleum (that always looked dirty no matter how hard I scrubbed). Of course about a year later we’d remove those bifold doors to open the laundry area up (and to avoid door wars between the bifolds and the door to the sunroom) and add wood flooring throughout the entire hall, half bath, den, and kitchen. Oh but you might notice that I put little glass knobs on the bifolds to make them more palatable until those later phases. It’s the little things.

Half Bathroom, First House (8 Months In):

We knew that giant boxy sink vanity needed to be switched out for a smaller pedestal sink to make the tiny room feel a lot less crowded, but eight months in we were pretty scared to take that on (a little googling revealed that we had to cut into drywall to find studs to secure the back of the sink basin) so we put it off a few months longer. But we did paint the walls the same tiffany box blue that we had in the dining room (with flat paint, which was a bad call, btw- now I always use semi-gloss in bathrooms & kitchens) and replaced the toilet (it was avocado green when we moved in). And I replaced the knobs and the grungy old fabric on the window shutters (but later removed them entirely because natural light was much needed).

Sunroom, First House (8 Months In):

We actually did a fair amount of work in eight months in here. We got that wicker daybed as a hand-me-down and then got a hand-me-down twin mattress for it (and used regular old twin sheets from Target to cover the mattress and make that odd little skirt in the front). We also used a cheap-o lack table from Ikea to create the scrabble table (we just topped it with a larger tabletop that came with the thrift store pedestal that we used to make the dining table). We also stained the concrete floors a color called “tuscan gold” – which I later grew to hate because it was a bit too orange-y in direct sunlight (so we painted it a glossy chocolate color to tie it into the hardwood flooring throughout the house).

Patio, First House (8 Months In):

This patio was labeled as “needs replacing” during our inspection, so we knew it was on its last leg but thought we could live with it for a little while. But when my mom visited a few weeks before our backyard wedding and said she feared for guests’ safety (and pictured them all breaking their ankles on it) we decided to spend some of our saved-up “house fixing fund” to pay a pro to redo the whole thing over the course of three days (since it was just a few weeks before the wedding and we feared a giant half-finished disaster if we took it on ourselves). Knowing just how hard laying a patio is from doing the one at our current house, we’re still very happy we hired that one out so we could plan the rest of our wedding without that monkey on our back.

Back Yard, First House (8 Months In):

During our walk-through I glanced through the window in the old dated dining room and saw this. And I nearly lost my breath. I remember thinking “all this could be ours?” – I just thought having all this space would be awesome (the deep woods beyond the planted part was also part of the acreage). At first we loved the park-like setup above (and kept it pretty much exactly like this for the wedding (you can see how we set things up here), but eventually we grew tired of weeding the long pea gravel path and pruning the bushes and trying to use the tiny patches of segmented grass for incredibly mature things like extreme frisbee and chasing the dog, so we eventually craigslisted the gravel & bushes (folks dug them all up and hauled them for us in exchange for them being free) and we laid down some grass seed for a nice flat grassy yard in front of those deep woods. And Burger thanked us repeatedly for the trouble.

So there you have it. The state of our first house around eight months in. Thank goodness for the whole learn as you go, trial and error thing. It might not be the quickest way to a complete makeover, but I’m telling you – there’s something to it. Eventually you get there. Heck, it’s still the exact method that we use today (we just know a bit more about what we like and what type of paint should be used on trim and in bathrooms). So rejoice if your house is only a shadow of what you long for it to be. That stuff takes years, at least it does for us. So just keep trying things and learning about what floats your boat and eventually you’ll get there. Oh and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.


  1. miriam says

    Wow! It’s great to see the process and how your DIY/design skills have evolved… and that time really makes a difference. My boyfriend and I have been in our first apartment for about a month, and this makes me feel a tiny bit better about still being sofa-less and having the TV on the floor!

  2. Nikki says

    I loved your half bath in the last house so much that I replicated it in my powder room…with the flat paint that I already had. FAIL! It looks very nice until you get up close and see every imperfection. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that made that mistake!

  3. Anya says

    Thanks so much for sharing the comparisons.. it gives us decorating newbies a lot of confidence and hope to keep chugging along, when we see how your style has grown as you have nurtured it!

    What an exciting week, an earthquake and a hurricane!

  4. says

    Wow – thanks for sharing! I love that you keep it real with the videos and pics like these. Everything is not always perfect and sometimes you have to re-do something over and over to get it right. Makes me realize I’m not crazy….haha!

  5. Britni says

    That was super fun! I’m glad you have gotten the Tiffany and pale blue thing out of your system, it seems to be in almost every room! Haha

  6. says

    So what I get out of this is… I need to start taking pictures of the Little House. Yes, it still needs work. Yes, we’re still using college hand-me-downs. But someday we won’t be embarrassed of the pictures and our lack of DIY skills; we’ll want to look back on them and say “Remember those days?”

    Thanks for the wake-up call! I’m proud of our Little House!

    • says

      Haha- yes. Always take before and during pictures. It’s so far to realize how far you’ve come- and the only way to do that is to remember where you’ve been!


    • Kathy says

      Yes, Sherry, I was going to ask–
      When you took all of these “Before” pics at the 1st house, were you anticipating that you would use them this way??

      I wish I had more of these types of pics of the first year in our home.

    • says

      Haha- I never had a clue! I’m just a hopeless room documenter. I have so many pics of even my childhood room and my dorm room, it’s funny. I guess I’ve always liked to keep track of where I’ve lived and called home.


  7. fd says

    man this makes me feel so much better about my own small unimpressive endeavours. thanks so much for posting this. at the rate i’m going i’ll have something semi-decent in about 10 years. *sigh*

  8. Beverley says

    What a great comparison! It’s comforting to know that you guys needed several years to work towards your current design style. Quick (random) question – Sherry, are those your house slippers in the bedroom shot? If so, you really do have a thing for leopard print shoes, don’t you? :) Hope you guys stay safe during the hurricane.

    • Pamela says

      Oh, Sherry, so funny…your “kicker” statement. I remember an ex-coworker mentioned her husband despised anything leopard, too. Wonder why these guys don’t dig leopard?? (Shoot, nobody’s gonna sway me away from my fabulous leopard spiky pumps…those bad boys are awesome!). Ha.

    • says

      Isn’t it funny? Gals (at least some gals) love it and guys (at least most guys) seem to hate it. But I still think my leopard slippers are purrrfect. Haha.


  9. says

    wow. i feel so much better about my house! we moved in 3.5 months ago and it has a wayyyys to go. much more optimistic now! i’m looking forward to looking back on my own first house. thanks for sharing!

  10. says

    Thank you! It’s so comforting to know that my station in life is essentially what yours was several moons ago…we have our second apartment together now (and I’m currently unemployed) so house-hunting is not even an option and “home improvement” is a sort of iffy, do-we-have-any-extra-pennies-to-spend? kind of deal.

    But you know what? It’s ok. It’s ok to have hand-me-downs (our dining room table is actually from my great-grandmother – totally 50’s with hairpin legs and all – but I love knowing that my dad remembers sitting there on weekend mornings when he was a kis). Our sofa was a freebie that was sitting next to a dumpster (I deep cleaned it, no worries) while I was in college.

    Otherwise, it’s clearance/thrift store/DIY/Ikea finds. The most important thing is that it’s OUR space – we can “make it work” for now with the knowledge that it isn’t “finished” in the long-term sense. Glad to know that you guys started out woefully underfurnished with tacky stuff, too! :)

  11. says

    Thanks again John & Sherry for keeping it REAL. Now I don’t feel so bad about my mismatched apartment bedroom and hand-me-down furniture. You have definitely come a long way from pashmina valances! Haha. Love it.

  12. Sara says

    That was a great idea!!! I loved seeing the comparison at the same time period. Isn’t it funny, it could be years or just a few weeks before we look back and think “ewww! What was I thinking!” That’s the beauty of DIY, you usually just have a lot of time wrapped up and not so much money. So redoing things isn’t so bad!
    BTW, I was pretty inspired by the rocking chair post this week and am planning to sand and repaint my peeling old rocker this weekend! I also found another great outdoor chair on Craigslist that I hope to get repainted as well!! Thanks!

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