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. says

    This is great! Since you started the blog.. what.. a year and half after buying the house even going back into the archives still gives you a “we did a whole bunch of stuff as soon as we moved in” feeling.

    Keepin’ it reeeeal real. Hah.

  2. says

    You have gotten a ton accomplished in 8 short. You should be proud.

    As you get older and smarter and tastes change, you’ll see that reflected in your houses. I’m don’t remember how long you’ve said you’ve been together but I bet some of your first home decisions will crack you up in 10 years. It definitely did that to us.

    • says

      Haha, totally! John didn’t want to paint that brick in the den (because in NYC exposed brick is so hot, haha) but I finally got through to him that in that den it wasn’t hot. Haha.


  3. Megan Wahl says

    I think it looks great for only being 8 months in! We are 2 years into our 1964 rancher and have only painted 3 rooms and we definitely have the “sparse” thing going. It all is a labor of love and it takes time to find your unique house style. At least that’s how I explain to visitors why we still have paint splotches on the walls and rooms without baseboards! :)

  4. says

    Such a great dose of reality to add in the whole timing part of a home renovation. We’re so impatient to finish everything that we never realize just how long it actually takes! I’ve been in my apartment for a year now and am still working my way through the decorating process. While my personal style continues to evolve, my to-do list and timeframe for being complete just keeps on getting longer and longer!

  5. bridget b. says

    wow! what a difference. your style definitely evolved over time. quick question: how did y’all get rid of the scallopy front parts between the porch columns of your house in the first picture?

  6. says

    I think this post is perhaps one of the most hopeful. Perhaps one of the reasons why I love to read your blog is to see how “normal” people can have a beautiful home that is truly them. Sometimes I agonize over decisions when we try to slowly buy new pieces, or lament all the hand-me-down furniture. This post makes me less afraid! Perhaps with a little luck and lots of work, we will have a home that truly reflects us. At least it’s always home. :)

  7. says

    I loved this and giggled the whole time! We just bought our first home in April and while we are working on it daily, one of the biggest things I am realizing is all the empty space. A lot of it has to do with having an 18 month old and not wanting to leave glass vases around. I can’t wait to look back in 4.5 years at the pictures on our blog now and see how far we have come. Hopefully it looks half as good as your first home.

  8. Cheryl E. says

    We’re still renting, but we’re looking forward to buying our first house in the next couple years. Thanks for the encouragement that it takes time to build confidence and that it’s ok to make mistakes. Great post!

  9. Liz says

    Aaaaamazing! This gives me hope for my own space, to go along with the inspiration I get from your regular line-up of posting. I’m not buying a house anytime in the near future, but my rentals always need some pep and my style is SO not cohesive… it’s frustrating. If I owned my loft I would make some major changes (especially in the bedroom, which I can’t even bring myself to sleep in due to the space being so strange and light-lacking).

  10. Sharyn says

    Thanks for the reminder that it takes time for a home to come together. We’ve been in our house almost a year now and I get so cranky that it’s not perfect yet. Patience, patience.

  11. Veronika says

    You know what? This is the best post ever for me! why? Because i started following your blog since January 2011 and your first house was already done and the new one was looking great too. I mean yes you take one step at a time with the new home but all those steps seem perfect ideas, so classy, so high end…you know you guys have a design eye as they say it! And then I looked at the before after of your old house and I felt so insecure…I was like “OMG I’ll never be able to do such well thought out rooms, they’re genius” And though I LOVED you blog from day one I just made a default thought that I’ll never be able to do what you do. But this post just changed it all! Hey you guys really learned as you went. I feel so much more confident now! YAY! We all can do it too! lol
    Sorry for the loooong comment, but I just had to share my excitement.
    Thanks for the great post!

    • says

      Haha, it’s true! We always say that if we can do it, anyone can. We’re so not special. Haha. We just take things one step at a time and definitely have our share of learning moments when we step back and haaate how something looks. Haha. Live and learn!


  12. Celia says

    Hooray there’s hope for me! We live in an apartment so we’re very limited as far as painting and switching out light fixtures or spray painting brassy handles/chandaliers, etc., but we have a lot of hand-me-down furniture (like all of our bedroom furniture except the bed) that just needs some TLC. I’m slowly starting to appreciate the fact that making a house your home is a constant, evolving process. And that’s ok. Thanks for sharing!

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