FAQ: Did I Have Vision For Our House When We Bought It?

This week, I’ve been sharing a pictorial walk-through of our house, comparing the pictures that I took on the day we were handed the keys in August 2013, and showing what those views look like today. If you’ve missed those posts, you can find them here:

I hope to have Part 3 (the final post for now) up tomorrow if I can get all of my photos ready in time. If not, it may be Monday.

A recurring question that several of you have asked on these home tour 2013 vs. 2022 posts is, “When you bought the house, did you already envision what it is today?”

The short answer is, “No!” In fact, those of you who have been around here the longest will probably laugh at that question, as you’ve seen me struggle with ideas, test out different arrangements, and figure things out as I went along. It has definitely been a process.

The first time I walked through the house, I didn’t have any idea what I would do with it. But for some reason, I knew it could be beautiful. Everything about the house that looked awful was just cosmetic — the old drywall, carpet, polystyrene ceiling tiles, bathroom tiles, fixtures, cabinets. I knew those could all be stripped away and replaced with new and updated materials. I knew once all of that was done, it could and would be beautiful (to me).

What really drew me to this property was the one acre of land that the house sits on. It’s pretty uncommon to find a lot this large within the city limits, so when this opportunity came along, I wanted to jump on it. And my thought was, “The lot comes with this house, so I’ll just have to make the most of it.”

Even on the day that we closed on the house, and I was finally handed the keys, I had no idea what I’d do with the actual house. I still felt confident that I could do something with it, but I knew it would stretch my DIY skills far beyond what I knew myself to be capable of at that moment. That part terrified me and excited me at the same time.

But let’s face it. When the front of the house looks like this…

…that can be incredibly daunting to a DIYer whose most extensive project to date had been making some new cabinet doors for a bathroom makeover, using stock cabinets to turn into a living room bookcase, and installing butcherblock countertops in a tiny condo kitchen.

At the time, I had no idea what could be done with this front porch. Or the ramp. Or those concrete steps. Or the vinyl siding. Or the old windows. Or the two front doors. I figured that the only way to get the front exterior looking decent was to hire a contractor to completely redo the whole thing.

Some of you long-time readers may remember when I was contemplating different designs for the front of the house — designs that would definitely require the work of professionals to accomplish.

That still might be a possibility one day (I still love the way that looks), but in the meantime, my DIY skills and confidence great to the point that I knew I could make some significant changes to the front porch area to give it new life. I learned how to beef up the posts and make them look more like columns. I learned how to build the front steps. And I learned how to cover over a concrete porch with wood.

Hopefully at some point this spring or summer, I can learn how to finish installing a fake stone skirting to the rest of the concrete. 😀 That project has been partially finished for about three years now, so I guess it’s about time to revisit it and finish it. 😀

Also, I had initially thought that we’d have to have a wheelchair ramp in the front for Matt, but I knew that the existing one was far too steep and dangerous. That plan for the perfect wheelchair ramp in the back, where there was plenty of room to make it long enough with the perfect (and safe) pitch, was only made possible when we decided to convert the garage into my studio.

When we bought the house, the idea of that conversion hadn’t even dawned on either of us. We naturally thought that the garage would remain the garage, possibly with one side being used as my workshop where I use my tools. I knew it would need some work, like wider garage doors and new concrete since the existing concrete was cracked and unlevel.

The idea of converting that garage into actual indoor space didn’t come along until four years after we bought the house. Now if I can just get all of those cabinets built, I can get my things out of boxes and have an efficient workspace. Hopefully this year I can get to work on all of the cabinets I have planned for this room.

Ikea Pax wardrobes for builtins in studio - entrance wall

The kitchen was the first room of the house that I remodeled (as in, tore down to the studs and rebuilt). And I took on that remodel in 2014, the year after we bought the house. But for that first year, I still thought that I could possibly reuse and rearrange the original cabinets.

This is one of many photos I took as I was testing out different arrangements in the kitchen.

Do you even recognize that angle? 😀 If not, let me help you out. That looks like this today…

Yeah, I had no idea what I was doing at the time. 😀 I remember trying to salvage the drywall on the ceiling because I was afraid of taking it down. Yes…afraid. It wasn’t the drywall that I was afraid of. It was the attic. I have no idea why, but I had an actual fear of the attic, and the idea of having the attic exposed by removing drywall nearly brought me to tears.

Even during the original remodel, I hadn’t even considered opening up the kitchen to the living room. That was another idea that evolved over time. Here’s what that same view looked like after the original remodel…

And then who can forget the circa 2016 “living room to dining room and back to living room” fiasco? 😀 I had the not-so brilliant idea of turning the living room into a dining room, and proceeded to add a ton of picture frame molding to the room of our house that had the most doors and windows of any of the rooms. It’s was ill-conceived from beginning to end.

Thankfully, in November 2016, I finally gave up trying to shove a square peg into a round hole, and decided to turn it back into a living room. And my goodness, am I glad that I made that decision!

I’m sure I could go on and on with way more examples than you’d imagine, but needless to say, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with this house when we were handed the keys. I had no vision for it, and I certainly could never have imagined what it would actually turn into. It has been something that has evolved over the years. And in a way, that’s good. As our needs have changed, our plans have changed. As my taste in decor has changed, my plans have changed. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

So if you’re buying a house, and you want to tackle a fixer upper, just know that it’s perfectly okay if you don’t have a complete vision for what it will look like when it’s done. You can let that evolve over time, as you live in the house and figure out what works for you, what doesn’t work for you, and how you want the house to look. That can take time, and that’s okay.

For the record, if I were to buy a fixer upper today, I would definitely have more vision from the get go about what the house could become. I’ve learned so much over the last eight years. I’ve grown tremendously in my DIY skills from where I was eight years ago. I’ve learned a ton of new information, worked with a great contractor on a couple of my own projects, grown in my knowledge about construction, and come to a better understanding of what the possibilities are when walking through a house that needs updating. Maybe I’ll get to tackle a fixer upper/flip someday in the future. That would be fun!



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  1. Oh my goodness…. I think I came in during the “living room to dining room and back again” phase. The front porch I think must have come later. I’m nothing like you…. Not my gift…. But I absolutely LOVE watching the progress — and am inspired to do “little things” that CAN be accomplished. Have a blessed day dear lady 😊😊

  2. The bird wallpaper in the entry was my favorite failed vision but I also really liked the stripes with nailhead trim and the pony walls! The best part of watching you try different things in each room is that we learn it’s okay to scrap a whole project and start over. The second best thing is we often get 2-3 full makeover tutorials out of one space! I love how everything has ended up now.

  3. Kristi, I can’t believe I have followed you for 10 years…I never stick to any other blogs for that long. But I always look forward to what you are doing and how you do it. I am too old to do these things myself but I enjoyed the processes you go trough to find the perfect ways of doing things for yourself and Matt. You amaze me. You have already turned this once drab…complete mess of a house into something beautiful. Who would have thought it would turn into something this beautiful. I hope I live long enough to see the day you have “well most” everything you want done finished. I know there will be changes even after that because we are human and we like change. But congratulations on what you have done thus far!

  4. Hey Kristi, I happened across your blog at some point between the green and teal kitchen. Admittedly I haven’t read every single post as you posted. But every time I think I want to do something I think… I’ll check Kristi’s blog and see if she’s done something like that. And you have not disappointed once. We must be similar visionaries. And the fact that you change your mind and move in different directions as you want… let me say.. I thought I was the only one. But, how on earth do you get the nerve to just do it? I dream it but I’m afraid to go for it. So my house just sits.. blah.

    1. I think it’s just my personality. It used to drive Matt crazy (but now he’s used to me and my ways) that I’d just jump into something with both feet without really making concrete plans. I’m more of a shoot-from-the-hip kind of person. And I also love to challenge myself to do the next thing so that I can continue to learn and grow. I love a good challenge. 🙂

  5. Kristi, it’s been amazing to follow you from condo – present! To be honest, I had no idea your DIY skills were limited from the condo – you’ve made renovating look, not easy, but doable if one is willing to be teachable – whether from YouTube or professionals. I’m even beginning to believe I need color in my house!

  6. I found your blog just as you were in the process of buying the house. I stayed because you talked about doing colorful traditional. (Those probably weren’t the words you used, but rather my interpretation.) I live for colorful homes and wanted to see your process. I would say that you did have a vision: make it your colorful home just the way you like it – regardless of what the process looked like or how long it took. I have really enjoyed the ride with you! I love how you are not afraid to change your mind because it’s not quite right or how you like. I love how you are not afraid to acknowledge that what you picked out first or second, etc was not right for you. When you call it finished, it’s perfect for you. I love, love, love, seeing all the colors in your home! Keep going, Kristi! I’ll keep reading and admiring. Hugs! 🙂

  7. Wow, I did not know you were largely in the unknown when you first bought this house! I’ve been following you for maybe 8 years so I’ve seen all its development. I’m truly inspired! I have the vision develop quickly, but my DIY skills are way behind my imaginings. I’ve started to learn some VERY basic remodeling things and it’s a great feeling! We have been in this house a bit more than 4 years and while we are now looking to move out of state for great reasons, it’s a bit sad to contemplate leaving this more-than-half-done home for some other fixer upper with some of my ideas left undone here.

  8. I am shocked it has been 8 years. I found you when you did the spoon art piece in the condo (maybe 1.5 years or so before you moved to the house), so it’s been a decade for me. I have always been amazed at how fearless you are about doing things and redoing them until you get them the way you liked (I liked all the versions of the now living room/music room dividers you had, which I think were three). I was looking back over your living room yesterday and really liking the latest tweaks with the art above the mantel, the white birds and the new mirrors in your entryway. The lesson to me is to jump in and try something. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like it and you change it.

  9. It sounds more like a case of “the house comes with this lot”! It’s so fascinating to see how you’ve evolved your house, not just style-wise, but how you’re using the different spaces. I’d be curious to know what the original original (ie 1948) floor plan was, without the additions, like where were the bedrooms and bathrooms?

  10. I’ve been following you since the condo days, in fact, just before you moved. This series on your house remodeling journey has just been astounding to see! Your designs, decorating, use of color, and fearlessness to DIY, and to pivot when needed is so inspiring. I look forward to seeing more as you continue. God bless you, Kristi and Matt!

  11. I’m heartened to know that you have changed your mind about what to do with your house—flexibility is an admirable trait, especially with renovations! We are moving to Texas in the fall of this year and we were going to build, but have decided to buy a home with the lot we want and then update/remodel what is there. It took be a great deal of time to let go of the dream of building but following your blog has made it much more interesting to me. Thanks for the inspiration and continuing to be a reno and decorating guru! 😊

  12. It is incredible how your home has blossomed in just a few years. It is beautiful!

    I am no longer seeing advertisements on your blog pages in the Firefox browser… it’s been this way for at least a few weeks now. The ads generate in Chrome and Edge but not Firefox. I don’t know if this is due to something new that is going on with the ads that Firefox doesn’t like, or if Firefox has just clamped down harder on their end. Just thought you should know.