I’ve always known I wanted a fixer-upper. I’m not afraid of things being chaotic for a season if it means my husband and I can live in a place that really feels like us. My mom was incredibly hands-on with my childhood home. Weekends were for trips to the home improvement store 30 miles away. The secret to living in a house that needed some love, I learned, was to do it in stages and keep the other areas of the house (even if they need updates too) as livable as possible. The house Austin and I just bought in January is much more of a renovation project than my home growing up, but the lessons of small steps and first-things-first made this project seem feasible when we first saw it.
After four months, there’s not a single room that looks the way it did when we moved in — some for better and some for worse (for now). While we knew it wouldn’t be a five-week start-to-finish project like an HGTV series, we have been surprised at how quickly some of the most intense rooms have been transformed. We’re still in the thick of renovations but only two rooms are left to be finished on the first floor, and that feels like such an accomplishment. There will come a day when I don’t have to pull up the rug in the kitchen for fear it will get trashed by all of the building materials and plaster-covered shoes going in and out. There will be a time when we get ready in a bathroom that doesn’t have plastic sheeting covering up asbestos insulation and rotting wood surrounding the shower. Some day soon we will have kitchen cabinets that don’t grind fine metal shavings onto all of our cookware. But even with those daily annoyances, we already feel at home in our space (and we know it’s a privilege to live in a home we can fix) because before we moved in, we made a plan to make some low-priority projects the first ones to be done.
The bright orange walls, yellow trim and popcorn ceilings in our living room and dining room were refinished in the two days after we got the keys. Cosmetic updates could have been the least of our concerns with some of the major trouble going on in the rest of the house. There were holes in the ceilings of a few rooms, leaking pipes and illegal electrical, but we painted the living room, dining room and our bedroom first. The third day after closing, movers brought over all of our belongings. Since Austin and I knew that the months (and potentially years) to follow would be full of plaster dust, plastic doorways and a list of projects that would seem endless, painting the main living space before our furniture arrived was our chance at normalcy (in a small way) during our big undertaking. Having a clean, comfortable space in the middle of our chaos has been invaluable. We’ve been able to rest and retreat from the mess and anxiety of unfinished projects.
Attitude and realistic expectations have played a huge role in how we’ve coped with the ongoing projects, especially since we both work from home. We don’t have set timelines on when each project will get finished. Apart from our plumbing and electrical updates that we hired out in February, Austin is doing most of the work himself and with family. Doing it this way allows him the ability to focus on his business deadlines rather than a reno deadline. And when I need extra quiet to write or work, I can run to a coffee shop or indoor projects get put on hold for the afternoon.
It’s not always convenient to live inside a renovation but we’ve honestly loved our time so far. We’ve been able to make the living spaces livable and accept that the in-progress rooms will get done when they get done. –Lauren
Photography by Austin Day
Couch — West Elm Antwerp
Chairs — Article Luxu Chair in Cedar Green
Rug — RugsUSA
Coffee Table — Capsule Home
Lamp — West Elm
Shelves — Joshua Moland
Shelf Brackets — World Market
Curtains — IKEA
Table — CB2
Leather Molded Chairs — West End Salvage
Side Chairs — Wayfair
Light Fixture — CB2
Rug — E-Carpet Gallery
Lamp — CB2
Mirror — West Elm
Credenza — IKEA
Cloud Print — Max Wanger Print Shop
Desert Print — Austin Day