Our New (Old) House

In the fall of 2011, my husband and I bought a new house.  Well, new to us: it’s a 1968 ranch on an acre lot.  And the previous owner wasn’t really into home maintenance.  We’re working our way through the house bit by bit, making it more the house it was meant to be.  The list here represents our to-do and to-dids, and lets you follow our progress room by room!

Curb Appeal

This 1968 ranch is pretty standard from the front.  We like how broad it is once we got rid of the bushes that had threatened to take over.  We’re planning to change the facade and mod it up a bit, to accentuate the mid-century parts of the overall plan and de-emphasize the boring-er parts.  (Boring-er is SO a word.)

To Do:

  • replace mail box with a sleeker design–something like this but less expensive
  • mulch and plant under the trees to the right
  • build a bed beneath the crepe myrtle by the mailbox
  • remove most of the ivy on the left (it’s full of snakes)
  • put in a parking pad for guests & deliveries at the side of the drive so they’ll stop blocking us in
  • add foundation plantings
  • re-design the entire front section facade with wood and glass for a mid-century mod feel
  • replace the front door with a wooden one that has bubble glass insets
  • remove the shutters
  • paint the brick a mossy green


This entryway is wide, about 6′ x 10′.  When we first bought the house, it was covered in navy blue paint and navy paisley wall paper and it made you want to turn around and leave the house.  Fortunately, we have vision.  The wallpaper was all primed and painted over, and the trim is in the process of being painted (as it is in the entire rest of the house).  The existing table was a kitchen table and then a sewing room table and is now a metallic silver-painted wood.  Seasonal displays rotate through this space, but we have yet to find the right art for the wall.

To Do:

  • locate a really great piece of art, in large format, for the entryway wall
  • consider updating the table if we find another fabulous piece of furniture
  • replace the light fixture
  • glue down the teensy bits of wallpaper that insist on peeling

Living Room

Like a lot of ranches from this period, this one has both a formal living room and a more casual family room or den.  We didn’t want our formal living room to be that room that no one goes in and that gets wasted–which, judging from the dusty piano, it was when the former owner lived here.  It’s a quiet place with no television that has plenty of floor space for putting up train sets or laying out quilts to baste or playing a board game.  The children like to play here when I’m sewing in the dining room right next door.  Over time, I’d like to see an enormous tree in a planter–and I mean HUGE, since this room has nine foot ceilings, I want a giant tree that hangs over the sofa like a canopy.

To Do:

  • re-cover brown sofa with yellow herringbone twill (?)
  • locate large tree for the mustard-yellow pot
  • locate ceramic or glass hanging/wall-mounted mini-planters for a living plant display on the wall
  • build terrariums (terrarii?)
  • re-cover orange chair with textured nubby green
  • locate large-format art for above sofa (or paint mirror silver and use that?)
  • remove/replace eyeball light fixture
  • consider adding an area rug
  • locate Eames chair for the corner by the wall unit
  • hang art on wall instead of resting it against the wall
  • repair the broken side lamp
  • select fabric for the drapes on either side of the sofa
  • hang drapes from the curtain rods (adjust rod length?)

Dining Room

When we first moved in, we thought we’d finish the basement right away, but didn’t realize just how many boring and un-sexy repairs we’d have to do (replace the heating unit, replace the AC unit, replace all the windows…).  That plan is on hold while we finalize the design we want and stash some cash to cover it.  In the meantime, my temporary home studio in the dining room is my on-going studio in the dining room.  My plans for this room are for when it becomes an actual dining room in which we dine on dinner.

To Do:

  • locate a fabulous mid-century dining table that seats 10-12, and whose wood will look nice with the teak wall unit in the living room
  • locate a credenza to match said table
  • add two upholstered end chairs at the head of the table
  • add a very cool carved wood bench on one side of the table
  • large potted plant/tree by the window
  • hang white linen drapes from the curtain rod
  • add something sculptural to the wall opposite the entryway


This hall was long and PINK when we moved in–from baseboards to trim.  It got painted right away, but I don’t love the way the grey I chose plays with the light in this area over the course of the day.  It is isolated and gets zero natural light, so we want to change the color and re-paint in an effort to make it lighter and more welcoming.

To Do:

  • re-paint with a different shade of grey, adding very wide horizontal stripes in an even lighter shade at the same time
  • re-frame the travel photos in white frames and add mementos and family photos
  • move all photos to only one wall to expand the width of the hallway visually

Hall Bath/Powder Room

This is easily the hugest powder room on which I have ever set eyes.  We’re thinking over the long term that we’ll add a full shower in here, simply because otherwise, there is no publicly-accessible shower in the entire house; we’d like to have the option of adding a bedroom by finishing the attic, so that our children don’t all have rooms next to ours as they get older, and if we do, we’ll need a bath to go with it.  So any changes we make in here have to be in keeping with a potential major renovation down the road.

To Do:

  • remove support wood leftover from taking down the plantation shutters
  • paint vanity something less depressing
  • replace toilet seat with one that doesn’t have applique
  • hang stained glass windows on wall opposite toilet
  • add to the stained glass display with more pieces
  • new towel rack and guest towels
  • create a simple semi-sheer window shade
  • replace the light fixtures
  • bath mat in front of sink (?)
  • add soap dish and display items to the counter top (fresh flowers?)

Family Room

The den is in the back of the house, with the hall on one side, the sunroom on the other, and the kitchen at one end.  When we bought the house, it was a brown panelling box with NO natural light, and the most awful drapes that actually had an uplit valance.  Seriously.  The “built-in” shelving was janky and sad, and the furniture in the room was vastly oversized for the space.  We wanted to update the room and make it more useable for our family, so we removed one wall from bar-height up, took down the drapes, and painted everything in sight.

To Do:

  • add actual built-in bookshelves above the built-in cabinets
  • paint the back of the new bookshelves a darker stormy blue
  • arrange white ceramics on new bookshelves
  • hang drapes from the curtain rod above the sliding doors
  • add two more bar stools with slip covers
  • stain bar to match the mantel
  • sew two additional floor pillows
  • add more plants in various spots where they’re least likely to die from lack of sunlight or watering (or both)
  • paint coffee table a deep blue
  • paint candlestick side table (gloss black?)
  • replace/remove eyeball light fixture
  • consider recessed lighting
  • new tree for the corner by the arc lamp
  • re-cover the cream sofa with something stain-resistant
  • consider additional art for the mantel


This is the heart of the home, and the heart was sick, sick, sick when we first bought the house.  We re-painted cabinets, painted over awful wall paper, changed the footprint of the room, added all new appliances, and ripped up the linoleum floor.  We added a new backsplash, but I’m not sure it’s the right one, so we’ll see how that lasts.  We took out all the windows and put in new ones.  We updated the laundry area from the dismal thing it was before.  The wall we took out of the den is shared here, so now the kitchen and den are open to one another, which has transformed the entire house.

To Do:

  • consider replacing the backsplash with the glass one we originally considered
  • replace the light fixture in the breakfast area (over the yellow table)
  • choose fabric for Roman shades over all windows
  • sew and hang Roman shades
  • paint inside the cookbook cubby
  • add a desktop computer to the desk area?
  • locate a lovely glass-front display cabinet for the corner, to show off my Travel Ware from Obscure Destinations
  • paint above cabinet the perfect shade of green


The previous owner was using this room as a TV room and office–to the degree that he had even drilled a hole through the tile floor to drop an extension cord down to the basement below.  I know.  We knew from the very beginning that this would be a beautiful playroom for the children while they’re small, and eventually a “conservatory”-style garden room when they’re older.  Originally, I wanted to build in bookcases up to the lower edge of the windows all around the room, but I’ve let go of that dream since we moved in and I see how the space is used.  Now we’re focused on getting the room to function well and stay organized.

To Do:

  • clean out all the toys and re-arrange them so they actually get played with
  • re-cover the diaper boxes with vintage maps and line with muslin for toy storage
  • sew the fabric draped on the wicker chair cushion into an actual pillow cover
  • paint wicker chair?
  • remove the “exterior” lights and replace with small speakers
  • hang vintage German toy museum print
  • paint walls and brick to match the den
  • paint the ceiling a light blue
  • replace ceiling fan with a white one with larger blades
  • create a wire line to display kids’ art
  • replace dead plants, add new larger one in copper pot
  • large potted kumquat tree

Girls’ Room

The carpet in all the bedrooms was criminal, so that all came up almost as soon as we moved in.  The girls’ room, which the two youngest girls share, was meant to be sweetly feminine, but the ribbon wallpaper was sad and dated, and the closet had a creepy mildewy patch on one side.  We’ve repaired the wall in the closet, painted over all the wallpaper, and painted the ceiling.  It’s nearly time to swap out the baby’s crib for a toddler bed, so most of the changes planned for this room center around that transition.

To Do:

  • commission a matching iron-and-steel bed frame for L (for after the toddler bed, when she moves to a twin)
  • sew bed skirts for both beds
  • matching postage stamp quilts
  • touch-up wall paint where L has colored on the walls that I JUST PAINTED
  • replace light fixture with ceiling fan
  • re-paint M’s dresser and sand down drawer sides; replace knobs
  • locate “matching” dresser for L; paint
  • hang remaining flower photos (consider new frames)
  • create mini-quilt display over doll house
  • lengthen curtains and replace ties
  • re-paint bookcase to use as table between beds
  • locate two small side tables to use on either side of beds, as buffer against the walls
  • small lamps? one more small lamp for bed side tables?

Boy’s Room

This room had something funky in the walls–literally.  We painted every room in the house, all of which had wallpaper, and this was the only one where it just. didn’t. work.  Plus, once we turned on the heating, there was a funny smell that made me not want to tuck my child in this room at night.  We ultimately had to simply tear out every wall, remove some mildew from behind the wall shared with the bath, and then re-drywall the whole thing.  The smell is gone, thankfully, and the paint job is flawless.  Plus, the navy blue high-gloss trim is gone, and that’s a relief.  The remaining tasks center around replacing his toddler bed, which will be handed down to his sister, and moving him into a twin bed like a Big Boy.

To Do:

  • locate a leather twin headboard and bed frame
  • sew twin bed skirt from Kona in marine
  • lengthen and broaden curtains with Kona marine
  • sew Roman shade from discarded curtain
  • re-paint bookcase and move next to closet
  • sew reading pouf to place next to bookcase
  • locate dresser for below high window
  • frame vintage travel postcards to create a salon wall
  • new small bed-side table
  • new lamp for bed-side table

Kids’ Jack-and-Jill Bath

This is THE smallest Jack-and-Jill bath I have ever seen, and the way it was arranged when we first moved in made it seem even smaller: sliding shower doors, giant vanity with towel rack, and a door that opened IN so that you felt trapped.  We replaced that door with a pocket door, tore out the vanity and put in a pedestal sink, and popped those shower doors off.  When we had to rip out the drywall in the boy’s room, we replaced the tile in this bath, too, since they share walls.  So anything left to do in here is aesthetic, thank goodness.

To Do:

  • sew new shower curtain
  • locate a toothbrush holder and soap dish
  • new wall cabinet or storage solution for above toilet
  • small flower vase
  • mirror for above sink
  • hang towel rack inside shower through tile

Teen Room

Teen Bath

Master Bedroom

Master Bath

Back Deck





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