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Before & After Archive

See the house improve, room by room.

November 4, 2003

The Backyard

Category: Before & After

Horay, a well-trimmed and prepped backyard!


Interested in the dirty details...?

  • We did do a little bit on our own--read about it here.
  • Actually, getting this done was in large part the work of a great friend and amazing landscape artist--to read about it click here. Thanks Kurt!

April 2, 2004

First Floor Bathroom - Before & After

Category: Before & After

It's hard to believe but, as of today, our first floor bathroom is officially done!!!! After previously stating on this site that we'd be done with it as of last August. It's been quite the adventure...

If you're interested in the "during" that went on in between these photos, check out these links:

July 17, 2004

Brick-Laid Front Steps - Before & After

Category: Before & After

In spite of J's lack of confidence as a project manager, we do actually have a really beautiful front stoop now.

It is the product of a solid contractor, appropriate mortar, the right tinting, and lots of elbow grease. Removing all that blue paint is one job we're glad we hired out.

And now we're very proud of our original brick-laid steps. While they're a little slanted and the mortar doesn't exactly match the original, they are actually the only brick-laid steps we've seen anywhere in the neighborhood. Most other homes have poured concrete steps after being rebuilt over the years, so we're not able to tell how unique our steps would have been originally. It is definitely neat though to know that we have stairs that didn't get replaced at some point over the years.

With so much still in front of us, it's nice to have these small things to take pleasure in. :-)

We'll meet you out on the front stoop.

July 14, 2005

Refinished Floors

Category: Before & After

OK, now we're talking! I can say that refinished floors are definitely right up there with painted walls in the satisfaction department.

The before and after payoff is just so gratifying....

What a difference a day (or four) makes!

You may notice that we actually went with a significantly lighter floor color than it was previously. Actually, the previous floor was so dark mainly due to aging of the shellac that was used--we don't think the floors had ever been refinished since first done 91 years ago.

The contractor did a few samples for us to help us choose, and we ended up deciding that a lighter stain would help keep the second floor very light feeling (and maybe even make the rooms seem bigger)...

Here are some shots showing the four corners of our bedroom at this point, going clockwise...

So, one more major milestone done! Now we just need to focus on stripping and refinishing the trim, build out the master closet, finish off a few trim details, and we'll be ready to move upstairs!

September 6, 2005

How Easy It Is to Forget...

Category: Before & After

A. worked like a MAN POSSESSED all weekend. Arms and legs FLYING! So, I'm a-crawlin' out of my blogging slump to write something.

Specifically, a big thank you to my best friend and helpmate who is SO talented and dedicated. Because, a little over two years ago, we bought this...


(That is our pal, Dave, and his lovely daughter...)


...which, because of extensive water damage to the plaster/raccoons in the attic/other issues, ended up snowballing into THIS about one year in...



...but he has taken us all the way back to THIS!


(It looks even better in person and smells divine, especially compared to Day One.)

It is difficult in the "finish work" stages to get any sense of progress. Tiny details take time and half of a day can roll by while you are still engrossed in the same corner of the same room.

But we HAVE made progress. And I wanted to remind him of what progress he has really made.

(By the way, he is staining and shellacking the wood windows back to their original color. We had two sets of windows on the second floor which had not been stained, so we had a template to go by.)

Have a good week, A :)

November 21, 2005

Quick-Fix Kitchen Makeover, Completed

Category: Before & After

A bit of luck today--Jeannie checked the Ikea website (you can now check what is in stock ONLINE before you make the trip! Thanks IKEA!) and the cabinet set we wanted came in early. So, I took a drive by their store after work tonight and after a few hours of labor, and a little fudging on how it was designed, we have a new cabinet that triples our counter space AND hides the radiator underneath.

With that, our temporary kitchen makeover is done...just in time for Thanksgiving!

You might have seen some of these photos in earlier posts, but we like how things turned out so we're posting them again anyway. A review of the project is down below, too.




For those interested, here's a recap of what we did:

It will still be several years before we can afford the full out kitchen renovation we've got in mind, but at least until then, we don't feel like we're living in squalor while we wait. :-)

December 14, 2005

Christmas Tree Before & After

Category: Before & After


After our little mishap the other night, we decided that the tree really is a metaphor for our experience with the house.  And so, we present our 2005 Christmas tree...before & after!

The Christmas tree before.  Notice the leaning, the lack of any typical ornamental detail, and the leaky tree stand.  (Yes, that's painters tape on the window behind.  My, what sharp eyes you have Grandma!)

The Christmas tree after.  Notice the new, stable stand (with 'easy pour' feature, no less), the squared up tree relative to the original structure of the sun room, and the decorations chosen to specifically compliment the original intent of the Christmas asthetic.

And as a bonus for family and friends, it's the mom to be.  :-)

June 9, 2006

Three Years (and 11 Days) of Progress

Category: Before & After

Believe it  or not, it's now been three years since we closed on the house.  In fact, it's eleven days past the exact anniversary--whoops!  I guess time flies when you're having fun so much going on.

No, actually it really has been fun this past year.   In fact, it's been the most rewarding year by far given how much of a turning point it was.

Anyway, to continue a tradition we've done for the past two years, here's our mini-capsule of everything we've done in the last twelve months and a little about what we hope to accomplish in the next year... 

Once again, the changes inside were far more substantial than the ones outside.

May 29, 2003May 29, 2005

Progress Made

  • First off, the biggest change to the house is that we now live upstairs! While our punchlist isn't quite completed, the master bedroom upstairs definitely more livable than the crazy room that we were living in last year at this time.
  • Second, an even bigger change to life is that we now have Grace with us to help to take care of. Thankfully, the nursery is also upstairs and right next to our bedroom so that she doesn't have to be exposed (much) to all the stuff that's still unfinished downstairs.
  • Staying with the upstairs theme, last year our new shower had just been installed but it was still six months away from being used. We finally finished most of the master bathroom last November, and we've been loving it ever since.
  • It's all a blur now, but we practically got a Master's degree in stripping and refinishing trim last summer. Man, that's messy work but the eye candy is awsome.
  • We had great help refinishing the floors upstairs and they look great too.
  • After living out of boxes and tiny closets for two years, we've got the walk-in closet we've always wanted.
  • It's been sitting mostly done for almost a year now, but it's far enough along that we're getting good use out of our laundry chute.
  • Outside the house, the big progress a year ago was that we'd standblasted the blue steps and exposed the original brick-lined front stairway. This year we complimented it with a new front door. (The mailbox is new, too!)
  • Finally, while we took a pretty significant break from renovation work after Grace arrived we started making progress again a few weeks back. After a productive Memorial Day weekend, we're now almost done renovating one of the bedrooms (which will be our office) down on the first floor.

Beyond the house, we had lots of fun on our related hobbies, too. has grown from a simple little website a year ago to an ever-growing community of over 260 houseblogs documenting their home improvement projects worldwide.

Also, we had fun two months ago covering KBIS when it took place here in Chicago, including our little speaking gig talking to publishers and marketers about what the heck these "houseblogs" are that they've been reading about. ;-)

Looking Forward

  • We're hoping to finally finish off that second floor punchlist...we need doors up there! :-)
  • The first floor will become our major focus, and if we're lucky at this time next year we'll have a fully restored living room (with a fireplace!), dining room, and fully functioning office.
  • A repeat from last year's list...I'm going to finish up the household wiring project this year. No, seriously.
  • Jeannie's already got a jump on painting the front entry way with our new color choices. If we're ambitious, we may get a good portion of the house trim done.

Thanks to everyone who follows our trials and tribuations here. Having you come along makes the ride more fun!

August 12, 2006

First Floor Bedrooms and Hallway -- Floors are done!

Category: Before & After

First, a trip back in the old time machine to see how these rooms looked when we first took possession of the house...

The downstairs hallway (with Coco, we miss her so): 



The bathroom in this hallway (yes, the tiles were already gone when we bought the house):


The bedrooms:





THEN!  Just before my family arrived on Thursday?  We were frantically working away at nailing the baseboard back on and trying to put things together...with NEWLY REFINISHED FLOORS! 






We still have more work to do in these rooms but the new floors and paint make them look SO MUCH CLEANER AND BRIGHTER!

Whoo!  And HOOO! Loving that pretty red oak. :)  Yeah!

(The downstairs bathroom was the first room we completed in the house.  You can see the "After" shots of that room in detail here and here.) 

August 26, 2006

The Renovated Maple Kitchen Floor

Category: Before & After

As a reminder, here was the kitchen floor we lived with for three years.





Dangerous (nails! splinters!), disgusting and impossible to clean. 


Mark from Nature Flooring tore up the soft, splintery pine in the corner by the back door and installed reclaimed vintage maple from another project so that it matched the rest of our maple floor.  Then, he sanded everything down.  (I took these pictures through the a back window. That is why you can see a faint reflection of everything on the back porch--including me--in the glass.)




And after he was done sanding and coating it?




Would you like the close up before and after?  Well, here it is.  Before:




And after:


It's bare feet and baby knees in the kitchen from now on!  Whoo hooooo! 


September 7, 2006

Temporary Kitchen Before & After

Category: Before & After

We spent Labor Day Weekend (other than the block party) attempting to squeeze the over-sized fridge back into the kitchen.  No longer would it be sitting in the front sunroom, announcing to the world what a poor diet of frozen foods and leftovers we subsist on.




To get the fridge to fit, we had to take the doors off, put it on a dolly, and roll it in there.  It was a tight squeeze, coming and going. 


This is a picture of the kitchen "before" when we first purchased the house.  The picture doesn't really convey its griminess.  I washed the kitchen floor many, many times when we first moved in because the first few times I was making mud.  I wish I was being overdramatic.  Unfortunately, I'm not.



The kitchen survived our initial move into the house, then received a quick and dirty temporary makeover before the baby was born. 

And here is the kitchen now.  Yes, it is still a temporary kitchen until we have saved up the money to renovate it, but it is a much nicer kitchen than it was for the first three years.  And safer for a baby!





Yes, of course it would have been more efficient to have lived with the mess and have done the kitchen all at once when we had the money.

But, as I said to my friend Parker once, "Life is a process, not a product." And we are going to enjoy WAITING for our dream kitchen so much more with this temporary fix.

April 23, 2007

The Master Bath (Almost) After Photos

Category: Before & After

These are NOT quite after, because there are some details still missing. But it came to my attention that I had not posted any photos of the master bathroom since we've moved upstairs. Probably because Miss Grace showed up early and I never got around to it. And then, I forgot. Please forgive me.

If you don't remember what the master bath looked like BEFORE we worked on it, here is something to jog your memory.


Here are the rest of the BEFORE photos. Click on the pictures in this old entry to make them larger.

I started to take some artsy, close-up photos and then quickly realized that I hadn't deep-cleaned the bathroom this week. So, um, you'll get the artsy close-ups later. These are the less artsy, FAR AWAY photos. That don't show the water spots.





I KNOW! Crazy different, isn't it? Who knew it could possibly look so good??? Seriously?

Big props to the winner of our Open Source Bathroom contest, Kristen from the American Bungalow Forum. She came up with the layout. We also drew inspiration from Diane's Divine Bath (another AB Forum participant). I think there was also something from a page out of a Pottery Barn book and catalog as well.

I love taking showers in here. Love it. All of that natural light and steam. I try not to think about how it reminds SOME people (remaining nameless) of a sixties go-go dancer booth.

Grace has a big fan of the tub since Day One. That probably goes without saying. (Look how little she used to be!!! Awhhh...)


Anyway, here are some of the materials we used to put this thing together:

Paint - Restoration Hardware Atmosphere Blue

Subway tile - American Olean Greenwich Village in Designer White

Floor tile - American Olean unglazed ceramic hex tile in white and unglazed ceramic mosaic tile in midnight blue

Tub - Salvage

Built-in cabinet - Salvage, original to the room

Beveled mirror glass for built-in - Clark and Devon Hardware

Medicine Cabinet - Van Dykes

Toilet and Sink - Kohler Memoirs

Lighting above sink - Discontinued Pottery Barn Sconces from eBay

Lighting next to built-in cabinet - Rejuvenation Detroit sconce in brushed nickel

Faucet, sink and shower handles - Chicago Faucets, in these styles

Showerhead - Downpour showerhead with adjustable arm

Tub Faucet - Clawfoot Supply three-ball legtub faucet with gooseneck spout

Beadboard and trim - Stock pieces from Lee Lumber

Outlet covers and switchplates - Restoration Hardware Aluminum (Wow. They used to be HALF this price or even less!)

I think that covers it, unless you see anything in there that I didn't mention.

I don't miss turning on the shower with a wrench. Nope. Not at all.

May 14, 2007

Forgotten Film and Photos of "Before"...the Master Bath

Category: Before & After

I forget what I was searching for when I stumbled upon these old movie clips that we took of the HouseinProgress right before we closed on it. I think we took these during the day of the inspection while an architect friend of ours was giving us his opinion on the house.

Since I posted the After shots of this bathroom here and here recently, I had forgotten just how bad it was when we first saw it. What potential did we ever see in this place? Really? Because looking at this video, my first impulse is to run screaming in horror.

Here are some long forgotten still photos just in case you didn't catch all of that:


The moldy, laminate shower surround.


The metal shelving with all of the boxes and stuff being stored in there.


The textured, filthy vinyl floor over plywood.


The built-in buried under layers of brown paint. The wallpaper that covered the doors.


The water damaged ceilings.


The pink! How could I forget to point out the pink.


The closet where we found all sorts of mouse poop.


And this really crazy spackle job that attempted (poorly) to fix a hole in the wall. Not enough spackle? Just throw the bag in there! This was our first glimpse into how repairs had been handled in the past all over the house.


What were we thinking? Really? These photos just prove that we were completely out of our minds.

May 15, 2007

More Forgotten Film: First Floor Bath

Category: Before & After

I'm obviously having too much fun with iMovie since my parents are in town and playing with Miss Grace. I'm taking a break from the much talked about, hardly blogged about windows project. I promise I'll write that up soon.

In the meantime, here are the before and after videos of the first floor bathroom. This is the first room we ever finished in the house. I used to go in here and close the door when the rest of the house became SO overwhelming. Just to remind myself that the rest of the house would be nice. Eventually. Maybe. If not, at least I had a nice bathroom.

Video after the jump

The marble windowsill is for Greg at Petch House. The latch is not on the medicine cabinet right now because I am fixing it and haven't replaced it. Our early readers voted on the tile design for the bathroom.

We had to replace the floor tile when the original stuff couldn't be saved. We were going to use unglazed hex, but because of high traffic and budget, we went with the glazed tile. More sensible, I know, but unglazed would have been cool...if I didn't have to clean it.

May 16, 2007

The Forgotten Film of the Upstairs Bedrooms

Category: Before & After

Yep. Still more forgotten film. This time of the upstairs bedrooms and hallway. Unfortunately (or fortunately), YouTube does not allow you to smell the "before" version. Or taste the dust on your front teeth. Or hear the pitter patter of little raccoon feet in the attic above.

But you sort of get the idea.

The closet units and paper sconces are from IKEA. We might build custom built-ins up there someday when we have more time.

The bed was a wedding gift, except for the mattress which was a desperation purchase. Both from Room and Board.

I know, I know. I haven't built the interior windows for the hallway. But I did restore the original 94 year old wood windows in the master bedroom. The skylights are Velux.

And there is no art on the walls, though I have tons of choices for what to hang. I just can't decide.

The rug is a deeply discounted floor model from Chrome Yellow in Chicago. The night tables are garage sale finds. The desk is a Craigslist score ($15!) and the Aeron chair is from a company that I worked for that had a really bad business model and perished in the dot com crash of Aught-One.

We borrowed the crib in Grace's room (thanks Dave and Carol!) The dresser was a custom piece built for me by Cassona (back when I was single and had more cash, but it was still pretty cheap for a design drawn on a napkin). The armoire is borrowed from Grace's Aunt Kjerstin. The rocker was a Christmas gift from our Secret Santa (it's a discontinued Room and Board rocker.) The art in Grace's room is Paper Source paper in Target frames. And the rug is from Target.

The red oak trim is all original and was refinished with shellac. Aaron's big project last summer :)

I love our upstairs retreat. I just wish it hadn't taken three years to finish it!

January 17, 2009

A Nice Reveal of the Living Room and Dining Room

Category: Before & After

We've been tidying up the house and moving furniture around to accommodate the twenty or so people coming to eat oatmeal and watch the inauguration of the new president on Tuesday.

I snapped a few photos. It's so often we look at this house and fret about the things still left undone that I have to stop and reflect on how far we've actually come.

Here we have the new dining room table and chairs. Our first set ever. I am in my forties and this is the first set of dining room furniture I have owned that hasn't come from Goodwill and the alley. I feel! (Note to self: Need to reinstall radiator, replace missing french doors, reinstall window stops, get real curtains instead of these temporary dime store ones. And, for Pete's sake, hang something on the walls.)


This time with the flash on. Though it makes the colors wonky. (Note to self: Call Wes and ask him his advice about fitting new light fixture into weird antique fitting in the ceiling. Stain and shellac sideboard in the garage, move piano to the back room. Feed the fish.)


The living room fireplace where I am usually huddled against the firescreen since the Snowpocalypse has begun. (Note to self: Finish shellacking woodwork, save up for new living room furniture--with slipcovers, hang something on the walls.)


The sunroom where we've temporarily stashed our old dining room table to create more seating ($35 from a Goodwill in West Lafayette, Indiana! Refinished it with help from my dad. It's about ten meals away from collapsing entirely. I had to take it apart in order to fit it into the trunk of my old Honda Accord back in '88 and it's never been quite stable.) Also, Aaron--who is always serious in photos--and Grace--who never is serious in photos. (Note to self: Finish shellacking benches, call to check on order of light fixture in sunroom, and curtains in here would be a nice touch. More pillows. Finish the tech cabinet/ eNook. Completing the storm windows project BEFORE Snowmageddon would have been good.)


Here are the photos that I wouldn't normally post. But, since we're sharing. The TV that is temporarily in the place of a radiator. Our awful and extremely old couch. The evidence that I bribed my child with her trampoline, a showing of Totoro and a cupcake in order to get a chance to take photographs without someone trying to "help me". (Note to self: Get TV into back room after you've figured out the heat thing back there. Reinstall radiator. Let's not talk about the awful couch. Rugs? Artwork? Make that happen.)


The last photo is a bonus pic for my mother who wanted a picture of Grace. She is visiting a retirement community in Florida where she is getting sucked in by the plentiful 4:30 pm dinner buffets and the social whirl of shuffleboard. She's having too much fun driving a golf cart like a maniac and terrorizing the octagenerians. You'd better straighten up, missy, or they'll be kicking you out soon!


January 19, 2009

Yeah, but what did it look like BEFORE?

Category: Daily Diary

Sorry! I was so excited about how spiffy the place was looking that I forgot to post the "before" pics. So, if you really want to see how far we've come, click for the rest of the post and PREPARE TO BE AMAZED.**

**Amazed that I didn't run down the street screaming, never to return.

5yearson_lookback1.jpg 5yearsonlookback2.jpg 5yearsago.jpg 5yearsonlookback3.jpg

January 23, 2009

I Used to Hate This Closet

Category: Daily Diary

I am not a fan of closets only because I am not a fan of hangers. Not just wire hangers, any hangers. They make your clothes and coats hard to find, they get tangled, they get stuck, things get crowded. I hate hangers.

Hooks? Hooks, I love. Give me a wall full of hooks and I don't care that all my duds are out there in the open for everyone to gawk at. Because I CAN SEE THEM, TOO! Everything. Easy to find. Right there. It's beautiful.

So, it's understandable why I've hated our front hall closet since we've moved in.


Aaron, who is my brilliant organizing husband, decided to redesign this closet. Not just out of the goodness of his heart. But also to put a stop to the pile of winter coats that has been accumulating on the arm of the sofa near the front door because, well, did I tell you that I hate hangers?

He enlisted Grace in his little scheme so I put her in old clothes and let her participate. As I took this picture, I was very thankful that the paint can was not open yet.


Beadboard covered up the mess of wallpaper and falling plaster in the back of the closet. Usually I don't advocate for covering anything up that we can make better, but it's a CLOSET. Then Aaron and Grace worked out a system for painting. They made a good team.


After the paint dried, Aaron installed a series of hooks on three levels: very low for Grace, medium height for me, and very high for himself. He also attached these clever SKAR shoe storage units from IKEA inside of the closet on both sides.


We put shoes in some of the bins and winter accessories (hats, mittens) in the others.


Now everything hangs neatly AND is easier to find. Plus, Grace LOVES being able to hang up her own coat and backpack, as well as being able to find her shoes in the bins.


This helps us to remember to take off our snowy and muddy shoes before we enter the house, to sort out our mittens and scarves, to hang up our coats and keys. It's a really lovely system.


The only thing missing are a few more vintage locker hooks hanging from the shelf above the coats where we could hang coats for guests. I tracked some down online and they look like this or this. (They are SO hard to find, which is a shame because they are so handy!)

These pictures don't do Aaron's work justice here. It's actually pretty AND functional, but I only had my little insta-camera. If you want more photos or more info, just let us know.

Thanks, shmoopy. (Old Seinfeld joke.)

October 27, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

Category: Before & After

As if we didn't have enough going on with the new back porch, new fence and the new basement stairwell, we have another project in the works: our basement.

The basement has never been finished, so for the first time we actually have a clean slate to work with...albeit one that's always been packed with quite a bit of stuff:


The good news is that this 'before' photo is from quite a while ago. In fact, the basement is now cleaned out. (That was the other big use for the dumpster we rented this summer.) We're guessing this is the first time that the basement has been this empty in it's 95 year history.


So, what's the plan for the space? Well...

...after a lot of discussion we've decided to take a very different approach for the basement. We're going to do it in a loft style.

At first we were a bit anxious about the idea, since we've been so focused on using traditional styles for the rest of the house. We've certainly not been as strict as some Name Your Link">others can be in regards to our own bungalow restoration, but we've tried to stay true to the original Craftsman design.

One thing that convinced us was this great blog post on The Loft Look for Less over at WiseBread. They had great thougths on how a loft style, when done well, can fit in to a variety of architectural styles while also easing the budget strains that come from home improvement.

No realtor or design professional is going to recommend putting a modern industrial style loft right next to your formal Victorian dining room. Not exactly good for resale value, right? But consider the use of the loft look as a money saving strategy for the makeover of a basement into a work out space or an attic into a family game room or teen space. These areas don't really integrate with the rest of the house, and at least a more affordable rough finishing with track lighting, MDF board, or spray painted concrete foundation walls will get things started. You can always get more detailed later, if you want.

This seemed like really interesting thinking in our situation. In truth, this is also very consistent with the bungalow's original emphasis on open plan design, design suited to local context, and practical solutions made from simple materials.

It also helped that we came across some interesting photos of loft-style basements, like this one from Rate My Room:


The fact that an open ceiling can help ensure enough headroom in the basement (a classic problem in Chicago) was a great realization. That alone was probably the biggest selling point on the idea.

So, with our overall approach in place we're quickly turning to a whole world of new design choices and decisions ahead of us. It's actually really fun to start thinking about an entirely different architectural style...we'll start posting some of our ideas here in the spriit of sharing. Eager to hear what others might suggest!

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