before and after

Before & After: An Ugly Duckling Transforms Into The Belle of the Block

by Caitlin Kelch

When I met Mark and Darin for the first time, I was actually trespassing in their gated backyard, letting my dog, Rex, run around off his leash. I lived next door to their home that had been for sale for literally four years. The previous owner eventually moved out after having the house on the market for a few years, and Rex and I missed her four dogs a lot. So we’d take our lunch breaks in their yard since it, and the two homes next to it, were vacant. My house was the only occupied house on the block for years, so I kind of felt like I owned the place. Our small town is know for its storied, historical properties with huge price tags and my block was often overlooked because it was dotted with late mid-century, one-bathroom constructions.

After finding me in their backyard, I expected that I had not made a great first impression with my soon-to-be neighbors. Wrong! Mark and Darin were extremely friendly and jokingly called me out as the wacky neighbor who occasionally squats in their backyard. My dream of having a network of cool neighbors was about to come true! Darin runs a veterinarian facility and is an avid DIYer with an expert’s touch when it comes to home decorating. Mark is a floral designer and aerialist, with his rig set up in the backyard for my viewing pleasure. Boy, did I luck out. Sadly, I’ve since bought my own first home and moved off the block, but they’re opening a storefront for their floral business, Flower Haus, this month so I’ll be squatting there soon.

This house was Mark and Darin’s first home and they wasted no time transforming their “ugly duckling” cottage filled with an intense amount of knotty pine into the belle of the neighborhood. With no fear or hesitation, they immediately began tearing down walls and opening the two-tiny-bedroom home with its small living room and larger kitchen into a spacious, open floor plan with a brilliant use of Ralph Lauren Home’s Black Dose paint (one of Grace’s favorites). We’ll be featuring their home tour in a few weeks, but for today’s Before & After, I wanted to tease you with a mini sneak peek of some of the work they’ve done so you’ll have a good sense of their labor, accomplishments and the complete transformation.

Click through the slideshow above to see what they started with and how Mark and Darin turned their ugly duckling from a camp bunkhouse into a comfortable living space that’s all their own. And keep your eye out for their home tour in the coming weeks! –Caitlin

Mark and Darin's entire home had knotty pine panels throughout, including a filled-in door frame that separated the small living room from the kitchen. They tore out the pine wall between the living room and kitchen in an afternoon and decided to makeover the oak kitchen cabinets with a darker, two-tone color scheme that would eventually spread out into the living space, all the way to the vaulted ceilings. They chose Ralph Lauren Home's Black Dose for the black paint that covers the remaining pine.
The overwhelming oak cabinetry got a huge style boost with a bold blue on the bottom cabinets and a sophisticated grey on top.
This was the view wherever you looked in the house before Mark and Darin decided to go with a dark shade to enhance the sense of space. They hired painters to tackle the vaulted space and I remember them being a bit nervous while they awaited the finished project. Mark joked he was hoping it wouldn't feel "too Death Star."
The upstairs contained two tiny bedrooms that felt more like bunks than where one would relax at the end of a long day. The wall visible behind the balcony from below was a bit claustrophobic even with the high vaulted ceilings in the main part of the house, so Mark and Darin quickly tore down the walls to enlarge one bedroom and to create a painting nook in the remaining space of the second bedroom. The upstairs now feels like a loft with views of the beamed ceiling all the way to the front of the house.
The view of the upstairs walls before they were removed. The bottom wall separating the living room and the kitchen has been removed in this shot, already opening up the space as a whole.
The new view and remnants of the once standing bedroom wall.
To keep the momentum going before the knotty pine went dark, they experimented with different staging scenarios like this faux mantel to help imagine the possibilities of the new upstairs space.
The "before" view from the balcony before the black paint covered the knotty pine. We'll see the entire transformation in an upcoming Sneak Peek!
Darin (left) and Mark (right) mugging for the camera during a well-deserved break from home renovations.
Mark and dog Sherman relaxing in their newly painted home.
After transforming their first home, Mark and Darin are embarking on a new adventure and opening their first storefront in Shepherdstown, WV for their floral design business, Flower Haus. Here Mark is creating some custom bouquets at their Mother's Day pop-up shop in a local restaurant. Smart, right? They sold out in two hours.
The exterior of their home, before and after. They tackled the overgrown bushes when they first moved in and sculpted the most beautiful design in the large bush at the left. They removed some of the others and replaced them with living things that bloom in each season.
This is a showstopper of a chicken house. Darin created this out of an old $20 wobbly swing set, a recycled screen door and some extra lumber. He added functional, decorative touches like a faux terra cotta roof and a chicken swing.
The view from the front of the chicken house.

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    • Wow, someone was sure into that knotty pine! I love how you transformed this place!!

  • Lovely home in an even lovelier town! I will be sure to stop in Flower Haus next time I’m in Shepherdstown.

  • Mark & Darin know how to bring out the best in things! Great before & after story. My you live happily ever.

  • Beautiful results: opening up that upstairs wall, as well as the downstairs, made such a difference. The kitchen looks beautiful. They definitely have an eye for design, whether flower arrangements, landscaping, or homes for humans and chickens!

  • It’s amazing how they made the little bungalow into such a wonderful home. Caitlin, I really enjoy your writing style and the way you told their story.