Our House

The Middle Is The Worst, But Will Later Be The Most Encouraging (And Why You Should Take Lots Of Pictures Of Your Remodels)

Every once in a while, I’ll have thoughts run through my head like, “We’ve been in this house four-and-a-half years. I can’t believe I don’t have more done!

When I have those thoughts run through my head, it’s always nice to take a moment and look back at old pictures. And I’m not necessarily talking about just the “before” pictures of the house, although those are encouraging, too. But just looking at the “before” pictures compared to the “now” pictures doesn’t really tell the whole story, does it? If you’ve been through an extensive remodel, and especially if you’re doing it yourself, you know exactly what I mean.

Sure, the “before” pictures can look bad, with old, outdated cabinets and finishes, cracked drywall, and old hardwood floors that need to be refinished. But even as bad as a room starts out, sometimes it has to get worse…way worse…before it can start getting better. And looking at those process pictures can be so encouraging when you start to feel down about how long a remodel is taking.

For example, yes, the before of my kitchen was bad. The cabinets were old (and not in a good way), and some of the cabinets were beyond repair.

The floor was covered in asbestos tiles, and the ceiling was covered in polystyrene tiles that were hiding thin and cracked drywall. And it was a closed in box with a wall between the kitchen and what’s now the breakfast room. There was also a solid wall between the kitchen and the living room.

Anytime you start out with a room that looks like that, the “after” is going to be encouraging. But remembering the process of getting from the before to the after, and remembering just how much worse it had to get before it could start getting better, can be even more encouraging.

Shortly after moving in and realizing just how unusable the kitchen was in its original configuration, my father-in-law helped me remove some upper cabinets and move the lower cabinets around into a somewhat workable configuration. That ivy and brick wallpaper wall is where the opening from the kitchen to the living room is now.

And then my brother helped me remove the wall between the kitchen and the breakfast room and install a load-bearing header.

And at some point, I moved all of the original lower cabinets into what’s now the breakfast room to make more room to work in the kitchen (and because I couldn’t move those huge banks of cabinets into the garage by myself), so even with the wall between the two rooms gone, things started feeling really cramped and closed in for a while.

Then the ceiling came down…

And with the attic exposed, my brother-in-law said that was the perfect time to remove the huge furnace ductwork from the attic.

Those things, and a thousand others, are parts of the story that you don’t get from just seeing “before” and “after” pictures. But those pictures of the process can be so encouraging to look back on, and can make you realize, “Oh yeah…that’s why this has taken this long, and that was only one room! I had to do similar things to every single room before I could even think about getting to the decorating process!

Looking at the before…

Are these asbestos vinyl tiles?

…and the after…

…only tells a fraction of the story.

There hasn’t been a single room in my house so far that hasn’t gotten worse before it has gotten better. That’s just the nature of remodeling a house. And I think most people are aware of that, especially when it comes to rooms like kitchens and bathrooms where a complete tear out is necessary before it can be rebuilt.

My hallway bathroom is pretty small, and yet the amount of work and time necessary to get it from “before” to “after” was comparable to what my kitchen required because both were complete tear outs before I could start making them look better.

The original bathroom was dated, but at least it was usable.

But it had to get much worse and go through at least a couple of months of being totally unusable before it could start getting better. Just the process of removing all of that floor and wall tile felt never ending.

The mess was overwhelming at times, and the clean up was exhausting.

Looking back at the process makes me even more proud of the work I did, and makes me appreciate the “after” even that much more.

Looking back at the “before” and the “process” pictures is very satisfying when it comes to rooms that I’ve finished, but lately it has been even more helpful when it comes to rooms that aren’t finished. I’m a little disappointed that we’ve been here four-and-a-half years and I’ve never had a completely finished living room. I can blame part of that on my horrible 2016 and my very bad decision to try to turn that room into a dining room. I lost a year of progress during 2016.

But besides that, there really has been a ton of work done in the living room, even though it has yet to be finished. And I need to remind myself of that from time to time. The room started off looking pretty outdated…

12 x 12 Polystyrene (Styrofoam) ceiling tiles in my home

But it got worse…

And then it got even worse…

So while it still may not be finished, looking back at the process is encouraging. And I can be quite pleased with the progress, even as I look at a not-quite-finished room with lengths of fabric with raw edges draped haphazardly over curtain rods and fabric quickly wrapped around pillow forms…

It may not be finished, but by gosh, it has come a long way.

So the moral of the story is this. If you’re remodeling your house, take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. Before you rip anything out, get pictures from every imaginable angle and every detail you can think of. I always feel like I’m taking tons of pictures, but I always wish I had more. And there are always certain angles I seem to overlook (like the angled “before” view of the front of my house from the garage/studio side), so really make sure you have all of the angles and every view documented.

But remember that it’s not just important to get “before” pictures. Take tons of pictures of the process also. In those process pictures is where the true story — the whole story — is told. And when you’re two or more years into a house remodel, feeling discouraged and wondering why the heck it’s taking so long to finish, those process pictures are the ones that will give you a tremendous amount of encouragement.

You can take a moment, put your hammers and saws away for a bit, and just sit down and look back through those pictures to see just how far you’ve come. Sometimes that’s just the thing I need to brush away the discouragement and frustration, and regain my enthusiasm and momentum. It has definitely been just the thing I’ve needed from time to time this year as we’re heading towards the five-year anniversary of purchasing this house.

And by the way, if you’d like to see how the whole house looks now, you can click here to see the video house tour that I posted a few days ago.

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rebecca B
    April 4, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Wow, the “before” pictures are certainly depressing. I would have headed screaming for the hills. And the “after” pictures are INSPIRING! My across the street neighbor is currently doing the same thing as you. Stripped everything out of the house, flooring, fixtures, etc …. and installing brand new everything. Except she is not living there while she is doing it. And her son is a contractor.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 11:20 am

    You are my inspiration. Not that we are moving walls, at least not yet, you give me the motivation to keep going. I love reading your ideas and your different thought processes. Thanks for giving me the energy to keep going!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Love this so much. I’m going to show this to my hubby as he was upset with me for taking photos last week of the chaos that is our forever house…..it’s so bad at this point, that the before pictures look good. LOL We can’t even live in the house….but someday it’ll be amazing and perfect for us. LOL I love that you took before, during and after, because you’re right…..just before and after really don’t tell the WHOLE story!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I know how far you have come, I have seen it. Amazing afters! I would have had a hard time closing that ceiling back up and not making it vaulted ceilings.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Kristi, your progress is amazing and so far absolutely breath-taking and so inspiring. We have a 32 year old house that we had built in 1985. We have done lots of work over the years since tastes change and the decorating styles of the 80-90’s were the ghastly! Cutesy wallpaper in every room that needed to be stripped and 5 kids, along with two teething puppies taking their toll on mouldings. Not to mention cheap commercial grade wall-to-wall grunge colored carpet in virtually every room. I’m still working on it, slowly replacing doors, moulding and flooring. Your step by step processes are such a help. I’ll be repainting my oak kitchen cabinets using your great tutorial as a guide. I love, love, love, your teal kitchen but I have Peacock Verde granite countertops and Italian terra cotta floor tiles that I have to consider. The cabinets will be a soft “greige” the walls Ben Moore Carrington Beige. Not your wow factor, which is just gorgeous, but I think it will be pretty in its understated softness.
    I’m following along and continually marveling at your progress, vision and skills.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been discouraged lately by the lack of progress we have made on our house since we moved in last May. I guess I could have slapped some paint on the walls, bought some new furniture, and called it a day but in the end, turning it into a home that is perfect for my family is going to take a lot of time and effort but be completely worth it in the end. Thanks for your inspirational words.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jo Anne
    April 4, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Two questions…when it seems overwhelming where do you get the strength to blaze through to completion. I think a lot of us get overwhemed and stop through a lot less.

    Two…if I remember right you were thinking of doing a wet room bathroom. Is that on hold, changed, done?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      April 5, 2018 at 9:56 pm

      I think Kristi was considering the wet bathroom for their master, which hasn’t been started yet.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    CB MacDuff
    April 4, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    In all honesty, I for one have been nothing but impressed at the pace of your work! You for the most part have done this by yourself – yes you got help here and there, and hired some contractors, but WOW the sheer volume of work that you have performed has been nothing short of incredible to watch!
    You have been and continue to do beautiful work! I say good on you! Your followers love your blog for a reason!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    Your house is adorable. I hope you ripped out everything at once not one room at a time!!! Did you live there while doing that? Please tell me how many sq ft your house is. I did a 880 sq ft house and completely gutted it and since it is rearranged it is a perfect size house. Not big but not tiny.
    I enjoy your ideas.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Everything you have done is beautiful!!! And the majority you’ve done by your talented self. I think you might get bored when it’s all done.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      April 5, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      She won’t have time to get bored. I’m going to fly her out to southern California and have her work on my place!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sheila F.
    April 4, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    I am so happy that you have taken time to remind yourself how much you have accomplished! You deserve to take time to glory in your success. You are an inspiration to many of us. That can be a heavy weight at times. Not to mention your added responsibility of assisting your wonderful husband! You truly are an Amazing woman! Thank you for sharing. Now, GET TO WORK ON THOSE DRAPES! LOL😁😂🤣

    Sheila F.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Just this morning I was looking at pictures of my before kitchen and wishing I’d taken more! It’s all finished now and I did take some in between the before and after. I always find it funny how quickly I get used to the new, no matter how bad the old was!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Catherine from Michigan
    April 4, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    This comment is not about your current posting. I was wondering why in a past posting you mentioned you would be replacing your kitchen appliances? Are they not living up to their claims? Just curious. We have a GE Profile washer and dryer that have not held up and it got me to thinking about your appliances.

    I don’t know how you learned all of the skills required for the home improvements you’ve made. You are truly a wonder woman and an inspiration!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    You have done an incredible amount of work in the years you’ve been in your new home. It is looking so good. Whenever you get down and think you’re not accomplishing enough, take some time and go through this post and really look at each of these photos and appreciate what you’ve done. As you get other areas of the home complete, add them to this. You should feel nothing but pride at your hard work!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Martha K Gish
    April 4, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Yep, you have to tear up, to fix up. I so enjoy your posts and the house is beautiful! And I have learned some things along the way. Thanks you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Laurie LaCross-Wright
    April 4, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    I sooooo needed to read this post today. Thank you. I am forever in awe, Kristi.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    I don’t know for sure when I started following your blog…..but it’s been quite a long time. When you put these pictures up, I’m going, yep, I remember all this from then. Absolutely amazing to me what you’ve done in such a (short) time considering how much you have done all by your lonesome self! You have a gift and are able to utilize it. Fantabulous job!!! 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    April 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Agree, those many pictures really help to inspire you to keep going. They can also be helpful down the road, if you need to locate wiring or plumbing!
    I took copious amounts of photos as all of our (three) homes had been built. The first house, we were in for 27 years, and we relied on the photos often when remodeling. I made a scrapbook, and indicated important info – measurements and how much/what brand/color of paint used. 2nd house we only lived in for 7 yrs., so I left that info for the new owners, as well as manuals for appliances and a detailed hand drawn mapping of the plants/shrubs, so they would know what was growing where. Current house, we relied on construction pics to locate a missing outlet that drywall covered, and a floor vent that got covered! We also can tell where studs are and wiring/plumbing is located. It all comes in handy at some point!!!
    I hope you can plug along on your projects – you have done sooo much to make that house shine again, and if you ever get discouraged, just tell us! We will be here supporting and helping you to rally again! I only wish I lived nearby, so I could come help! 😀

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Laura H
    April 4, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    When I read this, I am amazed by how much you have accomplished in the amount of time you’ve had especially since you’ve done so much of it by yourself. You should be so proud of yourself!

    We’ve lived in our house about 24 years and have lived with a lot of things I’ve wanted to change in all that time. We did change some things over the years but left the majority of big things to do later on. We were raising 3 sons and they were very hard on the house. We did not want to fix it up only to have them tear it up so we have left it until they grew up and also, because we didn’t have the money to do it all. They’ve been grown for a long time now but things have cropped up that have delayed us getting it done. We’ve had things come along that have caused us to use our money for other things so had to save up again, having to help other people in our family by letting them move back in with us which caused us to stop work and now we still have one son who has moved back in and now has custody of his son so they are here. I take care of him everyday so it is almost impossible for me to get much done everyday as I would like to. We started the real renovation 2 years ago but it has been start and stop over and over since then as circumstances have changed. Maybe one day, we we actually get it all completed. That is my hope, anyway.

    You have done an amazing job on your home and I feel that you have accomplished so much in the time you’ve had among all the other things life has thrown at you.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    You have done an amazing job.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 4, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    You have done a tremendous amount of work and it shows. Your home is looking beautiful. Just think how fantastic it will be once completed. Break out the champagne!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 5, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Hi Kristi. Your house is amazing and so are you! What app do you use to do mock ups of your house?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      April 5, 2018 at 8:50 am

      I use Paint Shop Pro, which you can find on Ebay or Amazon. It’s a photo editing program that is like a very stripped down and basic version of Photoshop.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ann Trapp
    April 5, 2018 at 11:23 am

    I think I have been on most of this journey with you. It makes me want to work more on my home. Thank you for the motivation that you give me. One step at a time is all you can do.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 5, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Hi Kristi,
    Delurking to say it has been a pleasure to follow your remodeling journey since 2014. Normally my own taste runs toward vintage and retro, but I agree, what you had wasn’t worth saving…it all looked dingy, dark, and cramped. What you’ve done has breathed so much fresh light and life into that home, despite all the “labor pains” (yes that is a pun) you had to endure. I love all the color and pattern you infuse into your home, plus watching the DIY journey. Came across your blog because we have a condo that was in need of (mainly cosmetic) renovations; and yes, we were living in it when we redid the floors. We haven’t taken many pictures or gone all out since this will become a rental condo once we sell it, but our colorful yet safely neutral “after” condo is a huge improvement from the outdated, blah off-white state it came to us as. You certainly have been an inspiration! Thanks!

    PS yes, I kinda like the brick-and-ivy wallpaper you uncovered but your current kitchen is the best!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 5, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    The differences between your “before”/”during” photographs, and your “after” photographs are nothing short of miraculous! Every time you do a recap it amazes me not only how much you’ve accomplished, but of the arduous process you went through getting from “before” to “after.” It reminds me of the quote attributed to Winston Churchill “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Your pics are like “before,” “hell,” and “after.” I don’t trust my own tenacity to get through something like that, I know I’d get discouraged in the hell phase and probably give up and end up living in a wrecked house. Heck, I’d have never even started with your before, which again amazes me at your vision for this home! It truly does not even look like the same house. You are a miracle worker!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mrs Mike
    April 6, 2018 at 7:26 am

    You’ve really breathed new life into your home from the inside out. It’s really a lovely home, not just a decorated house. I always find your posts so encouraging, even when you hit a frustrated moment. Thank you for taking the time to share your creative inspiration and inspire all of us who follow your posts. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 6, 2018 at 9:45 am

    I am always amazed at how much you have accomplished in this house!! You are amazing! I can’t wait to see what the next five years brings! Happy house Anniversary.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon C
    April 12, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    These ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos are truly amazing. You would not think it’s the same house. You have done an absolutely amazing transformation of these rooms Kristi. You have incredible forth sight into turning ugly duckling rooms into beautiful swans that are all so magazine worthy!!!! You are a true inspiration to all of us and it’s our incredible luck to be able to follow your home renovation progress.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 28, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    It’s AMAZING what you’ve done (mostly by yourself) to your house!