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Tour Of Our New (Old) House. Or, “What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?”

Quick side story before we begin: When we arrived in Virginia on Friday night, I had Justin name our WiFi connection “MuffinsAreTasty.” (Bonus points if you get the reference.) On Sunday morning, our neighbor brought us muffins, still warm from the oven. Coincidence? Or was she feeding into what she could only assume was a fetish so strong that we’d named our WiFi connection after it?

Either way, coolest neighbor ever.


As you may or may not know, depending on how closely you follow along on social media like Facebook, I had a really hard time with this house hunt.

Like, really hard.

The only person who had it harder was my realtor. Bless. Her. Heart.

(I’ve been in The South for over 10 years now, so I can say that with zero sense of irony.)

As people who sold — by owner — our DIY house within two weeks and managed even to turn a modest profit (you know, if you don’t count all of the money we poured into that sucker), we had high expectations when it came to purchasing our second home. At first, we wanted something that didn’t even need updating. No hard projects — maybe some paint and a little wallpaper removal, but that was it. It didn’t take long to realize, however, that a non-fixer-upper just wasn’t in the cards for us. Anything that didn’t need work was either way too cookie cutter for our tastes, too expensive for our budget, or not in a great location.

And as with any proper house hunt, location should always be the number one factor. After living in the boonies for so long, we knew we wanted to be within walking distance — or a very short drive — from amenities like restaurants, shopping, and parks. And while Williamsburg is a beautiful city, Justin’s commute would’ve been long and the older homes we liked were just not within reach. (Maybe if we’d moved in the spring there would’ve been a broader market, but we had to work with what was available.)

So eventually we focused more on the area of Newport News. The thing about house hunting is that it’s rare for one house to fit every “want” on your list, so a little prioritizing has to occur.

And without further ado, here’s what we ended up with based on our own priorities (great location, one-story home, nice yard, structurally sound):


It’s a 1957 all-brick ranch with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. It’s approximately 2,000 square feet, including an addition that was added to the back (I’m not sure when), which houses the master bathroom, the half bathroom, and a large sunroom.

Our biggest compromises were the single car garage and the size of the bedrooms. We’ve been spoiled with a huge garage, and now we have to work out that whole car shuffling thing. And the bedrooms are a tight fit, but nothing we can’t handle. Oh, and the kitchen. The kitchen is… well. We’ll get to that. There are three main reasons we bought this home over all of the others we looked at, and we’ll get to that as well.

Eventually I’d like to work out a floor plan so you can really see what we’re dealing with here, but for now you’ll have to settle for the shots I hastily snapped before we trashed the place with boxes and started ripping up carpet.

Oh, the carpet.


When we walked in the door, we were immediately assaulted with mint green carpet directly to the left.

It wasn’t in horrific shape, but it was definitely stained. Before we bought the place, we pulled up a heat register to peek at what was underneath, and it appeared to be hardwoods. That helped us overlook the mint.

Turning back towards the front door, we have a lovely wallpaper mural of an Italian(?) courtyard, complete with marble flooring they likely laid directly over those gorgeous hardwoods.



That hallway leads to the bedrooms and also has a doorway into the kitchen. But back to the living room, pivoting to the right of the wood-burning fireplace is the dining area.


Who doesn’t love a carpeted dining area? This, of course, is where the carpet was stained the worst. (And unfortunately, it wasn’t just food and drinks.)

Now. See that doorway with the “closet doors” to the left? That’s not a closet. That’s actually… uh… this room:


I’m not sure what this room was originally intended to be, but the previous owners were using it as an office. To the right there’s a door going to the back yard, and to the left there’s a door going to the garage. The obvious choice for us is to turn this into a hot tub room.


It will be a laundry room. Duh. That just plain makes sense. Especially because the current laundry room is in the garage:


Here’s the garage looking back towards what will become the laundry room:


And just a little further to the left:


As you can see, the garage comes with what was very likely the original 1950’s kitchen inside the home, complete with yellow Formica countertops. The good news is this means the kitchen has been updated since the home was built. The bad news is it likely hasn’t been updated since I was born. But we’ll get to that.

Heading back into the office/laundry room, this is what it looks like facing back towards the dining area:


If we head up those stairs and straight across the dining room, we’re met with the kitchen:


A lovely nod to late 70’s/early 80’s decor, the kitchen features very dark wood cabinets with brass ring pulls, olive-green laminate countertops, and mauve and mint wallpaper. (Don’t worry — this isn’t the only room with the mauve/mint/floral wallpaper scheme.) The stove is probably from the 80’s, but the giant microwave was replaced in 2011. Whew. So you can tell where modern cooking priorities lie.

Turning back towards the dining area (see that office/laundry room on the other side?), you can see what was probably once the window over the sink is now a pass-through into the sunroom addition, letting in some much-needed light:


It’s actually an eat-in kitchen, as you can see from the photo below (I’m actually standing in the eat-in part).


The problem is that putting a table here would place an obstacle directly in the path from the hallway to the sunroom. If we pivot left, we can see the door to the hallway with closet doors directly across the hall:


If we pivot right, we see the doorway to the sunroom:


And this, dear readers, is the first reason we bought this house:


A bright, airy, sunroom!


It’s a little awkwardly shaped, but I’ll take it. To the right of the windows is a half bath. Does anyone see more mauve and green floral wallpaper? (That weird sticky-outy wall is part of the master bathroom on the other side.)

Turning back towards the kitchen, we can see the pass-through and a long laminate countertop:


And heading back out the doors, we have reason number two we bought this house:


Kids, meet our deck. Our massive, spacious, wraparound deck. (It’s also accessible from the dining room.) And the yard, while definitely not as big or private as our last, is pretty lovely, too:


Turning back towards the house, we can see they did a really nice job of bricking-in the addition to help it match the rest of the house:


Now. Remember that hallway to the right of the front door?


The first doors on the right are a closet. The first door on the left leads into the eat-in area of the kitchen. The rest are bedrooms and a bathroom. A lovely, green bathroom:


This bathroom, once likely the only bathroom in the house, is very tiny. And very green. But it has a full tub/shower, the tile is in pretty great shape, and it’s certainly functional.

Then we have the yellow bedroom:


And the purple bedroom:


And the very, very mint green master bedroom:


It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but the green is definitely of the mint variety and more prominent than it looks here. It’s also the color of the window trim. And the baseboards. And the crown molding. And the closet:


(This looks yellow from the light, but trust me — it’s green.)

Luckily, we have more mauve floral wallpaper in the bathroom to break up all that mint:


So. Obviously we bought another fixer-upper. As I type this, Justin is updating a slew of two-prong outlets and there’s a wad of mint-green carpeting and rotted padding lying in the garage. My hands are blistered from pulling staples out of the floor, and the master bathroom wallpaper was half-ripped down in a Day 1 frenzy I’d rather not talk about.

Instead, I look into our dark (but probably custom) kitchen, at the thick chair rail molding in the hallway and hardwired sconces near the fireplace, at the meticulous way those 1950’s cabinets were installed in the wood-paneled garage, and I see the love that’s gone into it. And I see the potential if we put a bit more.

And, finally, I remember the third reason we bought this house:


Just a short walk away… location, location, location!


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Katie, even though you’ll miss your gorgeous kitchen in Sanford, the potential in this house is huge, and I think you’ll be very happy with your move!


I am SO missing that kitchen. But while this one’s not new and not laid out as intuitively, it’s definitely workable and doesn’t necessarily need to be gutted like the last. You’re right it has potential – just a lot of work as well! When are you coming to help strip wallpaper? :)


Sometime after you paint the guest bedroom!


Love seeing your new home! Gorgeous sunroom. Needed sunglasses while viewing the Yellow Bedroom! You’ll make enjoyable memories in your new place! Congratulations!


I’m pretty sure the yellow one’s going to be my office since it’s nice and bright. (Can’t imagine working in that laundry room/office space. So dreary!) But yes. I’m definitely ready for it to be less… yellow. :)


FUN! LOVE it – it’s going to be so awesome once you get your hands on it! I really want to jump on a plane and have a painting party right now. Seriously. I could bring the kids and make them tear off the wallpaper while we drink wine and watch (that’s right – kids are super useful once they hit about 5)!!!


When are you coming with my work crew??!! At the very least, they could keep the dogs busy in the back yard. I’m ready whenever you are!


Retro awesome. :) We have THREE lazy susans!


I will not sleep a wink tonight, because in my head I’ll be painting walls, stripping wallpaper, painting cabinets, stripping wallpaper…nothing better than a good fixer upper and you have potential galore! I just found your blog, so I haven’t seen your previous home, but I can’t wait to follow along as you tackle this one. I just wish I could help!


If you come visit, you could strip wallpaper for REAL! Now accepting applications. ;)


LOVE it!! Can’t wait to meet it in person! :D


Just let me know when you’re on your way! I’ll have the vino ready. Seriously… Total Wine is less than two miles away.


you’re like… a house fairy (go with me here) you alight on old run down house after old run down house and make it beautiful!


I love how much faith you guys have in us. It’s heartening. And like… a LOT of pressure. ;)


Not only can’t I wait to see the house, but also what you guys end up doing to “personalize” it. Maybe I can pick up some tips then when I get around to addressing certain things at my place.

And the sun room!


You know you are welcome any time! Justin has a wealth of knowledge from the *last* honey-do list I had him complete. After this place, he’ll be at expert status. ;)


Great bones to this place! Idk if you ever saw our current home but its comparable in age/style. Of course, we’re renting so we picked one that already had all the updates but its going to be so beauts when you get through all that work!! I like the possibilities!!! It’ll be super cute.


No! I never got to see your new place It sounds awesome, though! If we could’ve found a place like this as a rental (an affordable one), we totally would’ve gone for it. Rent here is just sky-high though… way more than Fayettenam!

Colleen Brynn

That sunroom is definitely worth it! I can see you will be very happy there. But yes… oh, that wallpaper!!!


And the sunroom is just a really awkward shape for furniture placement. I know. First world problems. But at least the wallpaper can be removed. :)

Melinda @ Love Melinda

Great potential! Yay for you to see past all the wallpaper and nasty carpet and to see the possibilities. The journey begins!


Sigh. Another journey. I’m still recovering from the last one! :)


I can’t wait to see what you do with it! Thanks for the tour and the retro throw back! :)


Thanks, Laura! I’m still torn about those ring pulls… would be so cool to keep, but I’m not sure I could pull them off. :)


You could hide sooo many bodies in those cupboards! Wait … you’re by a lake, too? Oh boy.


By a river! Scarier, but still pretty cool.


Oh, I can’t wait to follow along with your renovations! I think that sunroom, deck, and lake access are all great reasons to buy this house. I can tell it has great bones too under all that green! My husband and I are hoping to buy next summer and we’ll probably end up in a fixer as well. It’s a bit anxiety inducing, but I’m also excited to have a house that feels more like us and less cookie cutter. Anyway, I’m looking forward to some house inspiration by way of your updates!


Aw, thanks Marina! It seems like a lot of new people are watching — it might provide enough motivation to *not* procrastinate. :) We’ll see if we can pull it off!


Just think, you have blog fodder for months!


Ha! I’d rather have TRAVEL blog fodder. :)

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