Shanna's First Home: the grand tour

Oh, our first home.  We bought our house in Summer 2004, just before the housing market went absolutely bonkers, but still in a decidedly sellers' market.  We had looked around a little and had been burned a few times and decided forget it! that we would stay in our condo and save-save-save.  Besides, I was working on what would end up being an 83 day trial in northern New Jersey and living up there in a hotel from Sunday through Thursday: I couldn't answer my mail let alone look for a house.  Well, wouldn't you know it, our house found us.  Long story short, he went to an open house, knew the house was for us, called me on a Sunday afternoon while I was at trial and said, "I found our house.  You will love it.  We have to put in an offer -- today -- or we will lose it.  Can I do it?" I decided to trust him.  Four days later, I returned home, toured the house and instantly fell in love.  We closed just 6 weeks later and have been here nearly 7 years!  I love the house, but I have equal love for our neighborhood: it's a quiet spot tucked into a super convenient area.  There is no traffic, there are lots of families and children and we all look out for one another.  It has been a terrific place to live. 

I wish I had some pictures of the exterior when we moved in.  There was a wrought iron railing and the steps and path leading to the front door were huge flagstones.  In 2006 we replaced them with a wooden railing and a much safer and prettier poured concrete path.  We lucked out in that the former owners did an amazing job with landscaping: all we have had to do is maintain it. 


Now for the inside, which is my domain (note: before we moved in, we made a deal: outside was his stuff; inside was mine.  This is a win-win because I get out of mowing the lawn and shoveling snow and I get to paint and decorate the inside! Hello?!)

Living Room:  As you can see, before, the room was very mint green.  Not to mention on the formal side.  It seems that the former owners used the basement as their den/TV watching area and the upstairs living room was a formal living room.  I didn't see a point in doing that: we aren't formal people and I did not want to waste the space.  Plus, it felt silly to be hiding out in the basement when we could enjoy the lovely upstairs and all that great light. 

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One of the first things we did was take care of that mint green and turn the room a soft neutral, Parisian Taupe by Behr.  It took months for me to pick out the right shade, and seven years later, I still love it.   We hung a wall mounted television to free up floor space, brought in a sofa and loveseat, did a photo gallery wall behind the sofa and brought in white painted furniture to make the space feel nice and bright and airy.  I also removed the draperies, which were heavy and not my taste, and replaced them with sheer linen drape shades throughout the space.

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{Arthur on television; children not pictured}
By the front door, the former owners had a long table and chair.  It was fine, but I needed something a little more functional.


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I brought in a shelf and bench combo to act as an entryway mudroom of sorts.  Our coat closet is all the way across the living room, which works fine for storage and guests, but not so much for everyday coats, hats, gloves and scarves.  So we hang our things here for the most part.  I also brought in a lovely, compact secretary desk that looks like a nice piece of furniture when not in use, but is a fully functional home office.

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Dining Room:  Moving along into the dining room, you can see that before the owners had striped wallpaper above the chair rail and a light taupe below it.  They also had those same floral drapes hanging in the windows as were in the living room.  And a brass chandelier front and center.  This was all very tasteful, but not exactly my taste.

before
Down came the wallpaper and drapes.  I first painted the room a deep barn red color above the chair rail and left the taupe under the chair rail.  We lived with that for a few years until the red made me crazy and I wanted something lighter.  Here's a shot of the red, along with the white curtains I had in there and the chandelier, which I repainted an antique copper.

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And here is the after.  A couple coats of primer and more Parisian Taupe and my dining room became much brighter and much more open-looking and feeling.  I painted over the brass chandelier with black paint to ground the space a bit.  White furniture and airy drape shades complete the look.

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KitchenThis room was also wallpapered when we moved in.  This wallpaper was not at all my taste either (a medium mustard color with a terracotta fleur-de-lis looking stamp on it).  The cabinets are Kraftmaid and white, which you know I love.  Appliances were all white (the fridge had faux-wood grain handles and I painted those suckers with oil based high gloss paint ASAP).  The kitchen floor always garners tons of compliments: it's a terracotta Mexican tile.  In 2007, around the same time that I painted the dining room red, I tackled the kitchen.  I steamed off that wallpaper and painted the kitchen a soft yellow.  Here you can see the before shots of the kitchen.

before

before

before

After living with the pale yellow for a few years, I decided to go with a cooler tone and repainted the room a cool grayish-blue/green called Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams.  We have recently replaced the microwave and stove with stainless models.  Here are the after shots:

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Half Bath:  The half bath has a chair rail and when we moved in, it was taupe under the chair rail and that same pastel green in the living room above the rail.  I was not a fan.  

before
A few months after we moved in, I decided to repaint it a "soft" butternut squash color.  This is when I learned the very important lesson to invest in paint samples before committing to a color.  What looked rich and warm on the paint chip was, in reality, bright! electric! neon! orange! in my powder room.  In fact, I am pretty sure it is the same color that's in Jamie's hallway.   I lived with the color for a year or so before my eyes could take no more assaults and then repainted it the same colors as the kitchen (first yellow and now Sea Salt). You can kind of see the Electric! Butternut! Squash! here:

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Finally, I painted it the same Sea Salt as in the kitchen and went with cooler toned accessories.  I think it's almost spa-like in the after shot.  I framed a print from one of my favorite artists on Etsy and that room was finito!

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The Basement:  We were so lucky to have a great basement from the get-go.  The former owners finished off the basement and used the room as a den.  The before is pretty terrific, actually.  We just find the space more useful as a playroom.

before
We've since turned it into a playroom for our kids.  We have a TV armoire and chair down there, too, for the adult who sits and watches them play.

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Laundry room: Honestly, it wasn't that bad before.  Ok, yes it was.   It's in the unfinished part of the basement and was totally functional: washer, dryer, little wall-mounted cabinet, utility sink.  We had seen some terrifying basements with serious water issues in our house hunt, so this one seemed just fine.  The former owner had hung some large sheets of plastic along the back wall of the room, which is still kind of a mystery to us.  We switched out the old 1970s washer and dryer with fancy, energy-efficient front loading models.  Here it is once I removed the plastic.

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before
I took on this room as a project and with a little plywood, masonry paint and concrete floor paint and a *lot* of mess, I transformed a once kind of scary room into a sweet little finished nook.  My pride and joy in this room, aside from that turquoise floor, is the art on the wall: $.70 at Marshalls.  Yes - seventy-cents! I paid with coins, just because I could!  Here is the much easier-on-the-eyes after:

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Master Bedroom:  When we moved in, the master was painted that same pastel green as in the living room downstairs.  They realllllly liked green.

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This was the very first room I painted - both in the house and in my life, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I always recommend to friends and family when they move into their new homes, that they tackle the master bedroom first thing.  It's your sanctuary, and if you start on the more "public" areas of the home, it's unlikely that you'll get around to your bedroom for some time.  Anyway, digression aside, I removed the curtains and painted the room a soft cream called Cottage White by Behr.  It's served me well for nearly 7 years.  I made an upholstered headboard, brought in some free-standing armoires for more closet space, added lots of white accessories and bedding and voila!

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Little's Room:  Little's is the smallest of our three bedrooms.  When we moved in, it was the owners' three-year old son's room, and they let him pick the color.  Danger.  It was a super bright blue. 

before

before
When I was pregnant with Big, this room became his nursery, and we painted it a soft icy blue called "Icelandic" by Sherwin Williams.  I liked that it could work for a boy or a girl.  Now, it is Little's room and still has that hue on the wall, and I've brought in light pink, dark pink, purple and green to make the room more girly.  I found the rug at the Pottery Barn Outlet for $42 ... it was originally $600.  You read that right!  The rug had a tiny tear in the one corner, but I sewed it up and the furniture hides the flaw.  Here's the super sweet and much softer after:

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Big's Room:  Big's room used to be the former owners' 7-year old daughter's room, which was painted a soft yellow.  Of all the colors in the home when we moved in, I probably liked this one the best.  

before

before
However, when I was pregnant with Little, we had to move Big over to that room, and soft buttery yellow just wouldn't cut it.  We repainted it "Practical Beige" by Sherwin Williams (don't you hate boring paint color names? what's the point?), which is just OK.  It's a little muddy on the wall, but it will do for now.  I went with primary colors for Big's room: mostly reds and blues with a few pops of green and yellow.  I made his curtains by buying panels of navy gingham and adding some navy grosgrain ribbon to create DIY drape shades.

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Full Bathroom:  Our full bath is clean and bright, but it is small.  There's no way getting around that fact.  The former owner put up white wood wainscoting, which makes the room look crisp and clean.  They had painted the room red, which had to go.

before
When we moved in,  I immediately painted over the red with "Smoked Oyster" by Behr.  And recently, I did a major overhaul: I painted the walls an icy blue with a lot of white in it called Rarefied Air by Sherwin Williams.  I ripped out the shower doors and replaced with a lovely curtain.   It looks much better now.   Here's the after:

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Storage Closet:  In the back of Big's room, there is a pretty generously sized storage closet. Before, it was a dark ugly space with no light.  Here's what it looked like.

before

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before
We had an electrician install a light and then I got to work adding walls, pegboard and trim and then painting everything in sight.  The newly transformed space is now my craft room, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.   Here's the bright, sunny 180-degree different after:

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And there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of my home!  Care to see the floorplan so you have a better idea of the flow? Click right here

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