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Our House’s Original Owners

One of our favorite posts in our entire archive is this one about hearing from our first house’s original owners. It was so much fun to see photos of their family in our house back in the 60′s, and we studied every inch of each picture and relished every detail that they shared in their letter.

We were also friendly with the people who sold us our second house, so although we never heard from the original owners, it was really great to know the sellers who had lived there for 22 years! So we always hoped to hear from the original owners of our current house. For a while… nothing. And then it happened! We actually met their daughter-in-law Chris at an event here in Richmond a few months back and big hugs ensued. There’s nothing better than hearing how special a house that you love is to another family, and she gave us permission to share some snippets from a letter that she sent us along with some old photos, so here it goes!

The house you are currently in has had a wonderful history of family memories. My husband’s parents bought it when his dad was transferred to Richmond from Cleveland, Ohio over 30 years ago. They had just become “empty nesters” so they searched for the right house in a perfect location for their future grandchildren to come visit. As a matter of fact, the first of their grandchildren was on the way during their move! It was a crazy time for them, buying the house under construction and moving from 500 miles away. They somehow fit in traveling to Texas for the birth of the first grandson, and saw the births of nine more grandchildren, and one great-grandchild while living there! They were dog lovers and brought their beloved dog, Chelsea, an English Foxhound, with them to Richmond. Sometime after she literally disappeared into the woods one day, another dog (Lady) followed my mother-in-law home. She was well loved and stayed with them a long time.

My husband and I lived in Richmond during the births of all four of our children. Before they were born we acquired our first “child,” a dog from the Richmond SPCA. We took her directly to the house to visit “grandma and grandpa” before even taking her to our own home!

All of our children remember the house as a place we celebrated Christmas Eve every year, plus multiple birthdays and other holidays (this photo was taken in the back porch, which you call the converted sunroom, around 20 years ago).

My father-in-law used to put a Christmas tree in almost every room of the house, and they were always decorated to perfection. He used to play a game with our kids, “find the ornament.” He would spy an ornament on the tree, and the kids would see who could be the first to find it. It wasn’t easy! He had hundreds on one tree alone! 

My mother-in-law was a fantastic cook and had us over not only for celebrations but just because she felt like cooking. The kitchen was extremely well used and well loved by all. She would spend days baking cookies to take to Virginia Beach every year, when some years all three of her children and ten grandchildren would also be there.

There was an antique chandelier hanging in the kitchen that was precious to my mother-in-law. It belonged to her grandmother. She loved it, but it hung so low everyone knocked their head into it at least once in their visits there! It was removed before the house was sold.

The outside deck and back porch were added by them after moving in. They used the porch on a daily basis, him reading the newspaper and her doing her needlepoint pillows (this is a photo of my mother-in-law presenting one of her pillows to my daughter in the living room).

The tree in the middle of the deck (that you have removed) was just a small thing when they decided to build the deck around it. They wanted to keep it for the shade it provided. It really got huge!

It is really nice to be able to see what you are doing to make the house your own. I love the hardwood floors you have put in upstairs and really like the stenciling you did on the master bathroom floor. Your daughter’s room is where my mother-in-law slept during her later years. She would be so happy to see new life there, with the fun girly room you have put together! I also really love how you transformed the half bath downstairs. It is so much brighter and clean looking! I’m looking forward to seeing more improvements in the future. I wish you many years of happiness in your home! – Chris

We’re so grateful to Chris for reaching out and sharing those details and photos with us! It was amazing to hear that the tree on the deck was tiny once. Remember how big it was when we had it taken down?

We realize this letter may not be as touching for you guys, but it was so heartwarming to us. To have a better sense of the life this house has lived and how it has been loved by so many people (filled with grandchildren, home cooking, and Christmas trees) makes us feel so grateful to be here. As a total bonus, we also heard from Erin, one of the grandkids who grew up visiting this house. Here’s her letter:

I’m one of the 10 grandchildren of the original owners of your current house. My mom shared your blog and I am blown away. The house looks wonderful! I have so many fond memories from that house. I am so thankful that you two have moved in and have posted pictures of your updates to the house. Thank you for providing a way for me to still feel connected to the house and for bringing new life to its foundation. – Erin

Amazing, right? It really is awesome to hear from others who are essentially strangers, yet you share something so personal with them: the love of a home.

Have you ever heard from your home’s original owners? Or uncovered anything cool in the house (like this stuff that we found buried under the original cabinets in our first house’s kitchen)? I can’t wait to see if we’ll discover anything when we open up some walls and redo the kitchen! So far all that has turned up is an old water bill from ten years ago in the bottom of the trash compactor.



What Went Where

As promised, we’re back with the details of how we organized the six new shelves and eight new drawers in our office, along with the drawers in my floating desk and the filing/printer cabinet on the other side of the room.

It’s awesome to have so much more storage space, both out in the open and behind closed doors, so let’s spin over to the left and face our new desk/bookcase wall first.

Here are the animated GIFs that John mentioned on Monday. You were on the edge of your seat for these, right? Or were you excited about donuts? I can’t remember. Here’s the bookcase to the left of John’s desk coming together in GIF form:

And here’s the one to the right filling up in fast motion:

Between both sides of the open shelves, we managed to work in eight magazine storage boxes (from Target). We used them to hold our press stuff since we’ve saved magazines with a mention/feature of our site or any column that we’ve written. Now instead of shoving them all into various cabinets in our dining room buffet (where we used to keep them) we finally have them all organized by year with little tabs on that page. It makes it a lot easier to find things.

We also brought out a bunch of books that we had stuffed into our kitchen cabinets, and added a few decorative boxes that we already had (the blue ones are from Bed Bath & Beyond when I was in college, and the cream one is from HomeGoods last year). They’re loaded up with various office supplies that we didn’t want crowding the surface of our desks.

We also included some of our hook designs (some in the packaging, and some out) along with a few copies of our book (the English version and the Korean one) since we figured an office is a good spot to display some of the stuff you’ve made, and if we ever have anyone over for a meeting we can grab a few copies of our book or a product or two from the office shelves.

A too-pretty-to-hide-in-a-drawer stack of notebooks and post-its ended up in the mix too…

… along with an “inbox” for the magazine tear sheets that used to collect on the kitchen table or the back of the couch. I have binders with clear sleeves where I eventually file them, but now they have a drop zone until I do that, which is nice. Even got to use one of our octopus hooks as a paperweight.

There are also deceptively decorative things that are actually up there multitasking for hidden functional reasons, like the spiky yellow HomeGoods vase which is where we stash our wires (extra chargers, headphones, uploading cords for the camera, etc). It’s nice to keep those less-lovely things (like a big mass of wires) incognito, but easy to grab. And the little zebra dish holds magnets for our magnetic frame wall along with a pink vase full of dry erase markers for that zone.

And we finally have a spot for my yellow horse head bookends (remember these?) which add color but also do good equine work (way to hold those books up, stallions).

There are also a few purely decorative objects in the mix, just because they make us happy. There’s my wonky little painting of our first house along with a painting by my friend Lesli of our second house (she surprised me with it as a holiday gift shortly after I painted our first one). And we can’t forget about the awesome replica of our fireplace that Lisa made us.

I also put our little bee painting up there along with a catalog tear-out from Boden that says “Squeeze the day” to add a little office cheer/inspiration – and I found a spot for our family yearbooks. I love seeing that colorful little stack of them, complete with a cup full of Young House Love pencils in every color of the rainbow (a super sweet book tour gift from 2012).

Speaking of bees and stuff that makes us happy, it was pretty hilarious to have our little bumble girl playing dress up and making bead necklaces at her little desk while we sorted and filled our shelves and drawers.

In the drawers to the right of John’s desk, we have two empty ones (room to grow = the best feeling ever) along with one that’s half full of paint decks, and one that’s full of the magazines that I love too much to throw away (like every original issue of Domino) and some catalogs that we reference from time to time.

The drawers to the left of John’s desk are where we have the more office-related things. The two that are closed in this photo are full of design prototypes that we’re currently developing/tweaking, and the top open one is full of tax stuff (receipts, file boxes of back taxes, quarterly stuff to fill out and mail in, etc). The bottom open one has back-up external hard drives, old notebooks full of info that we still need, and a large ziplock bag full of miscellaneous instruction books and warranties for things like our printer, camera, etc.

As for the printer/file cabinet, that’s also full of documents and other tax/work-related stuff. Here’s a shot of it closed (it’s the Ikea Effectiv cabinet, which they discontinued a while back).

And here it is opened up. We keep the paper and our camera case on the top left, our wireless printer lives on the top right, and all of our files are in that bottom drawer.

My floating desk by the window (remember when we found it for free on criagslist?) has four more drawers for me to use, as well as a nice big top that I’m attempting to keep pretty clear except for a few notebooks and two vases full of writing paraphernalia (we use the pencils for book edits).

I put things like my scissors, stapler, and other use-a-lot stuff in the top right drawer, filled the right middle drawer with stationery/thank you cards, and kept the skinny middle drawer and the bottom right drawer empty for “space to expand.” There’s also a cabinet on the left side of the desk that’s empty (more remaining room = happy tingly feelings inside).

So that’s our little where-it-all-went rundown of the office. Only took us a year to find a spot for the stapler and the receipts… but I gotta admit, it feels better than it probably should.

That rush you get when you have a spot for everything is pretty addicting… even if your brain knows it’s only a little while before things start to multiply/explode. I’m soaking it up while I can.

Psst- Teddy’s eight week photo is up (we couldn’t resist that Spoonflower fabric).