After living four years (landlocked) in one of the coldest places on earth, it was time to thaw out, warm up, and the sea was calling my name! We literally stumbled upon a small coastal town with amazing beaches on the shores of the Atlantic. It was love at first sight. Quaint seaside town—–check, Fantastic beaches——-check, Good schools——check, Great house——uh, not so much. Not even close. Not in our budget!
We ended up in a beach rental overlooking the ocean. It was New Year’s Day. Did I mention it turned out to be the coldest winter in 40 years? Yeah, that’s what I said. There’s nothing colder than a beach house in winter!!! Except of course the place we just left 4,000 miles behind. The first night in the cottage the pipes froze. As cold as it was, it was an amazing experience that solidified my decision to make this place our home.
We would wake to the most glorious sunrises where almost daily the dolphins would put on a show for us, frolicking with their babies right off shore. I would scream and shout and clap and jump up and down like a lunatic. The kids were mortified! I didn’t care. I was in my happy place!!!!!
My husband off to work and the kids off to school I would begin my day on the computer checking out the listings on the MLS.
Calls to our realtor, a few showings a day, nothing looking promising. I would drive around exploring our new area searching out houses and neighborhoods. Returning to the cottage I would spend hours combing the beach. I even started a little “game” of sorts…everytime I would find a lettered olive shell (which is the state shell that is supposed to bring good luck) or a whole sanddollar, I knew that meant we were about to find the perfect house! Later that day I would check the MLS for any new listings or anything I could have possibly missed.
As amazing as it was, the cottage itself had a lot to be desired. For one, it wasn’t home. It was starting to wear on all of us. We had looked at everything in our budget, several houses over our budget and some houses we even looked at twice. Nothing. The off season rental rates were winding down. We were getting desperate. So desperate in fact that we decided to take a look at THE ONE house we hadn’t viewed yet. That’s how UNappealing it was. It had sat empty for over a year. It was hidden completely by trees, there were snakes and bugs…..you can call them palmetto bugs if you like…but to me they are roaches. There were even pine trees growing in the gutters. We left the showing feeling even more desperate than ever. The house was hideous. And, it was at the very top of our budget. Unlike on television we didn’t have the luxury of “upping our budget”. The last thing we wanted was to be house poor.
That night back at the cottage I sat at the kitchen table dissecting every listing on the MLS for the umpteenth time. But strangely, the house we had just viewed earlier in the day was now listed 20% less than before. A quick call to our realtor confirmed the price drop. I reluctantly agreed to go for a second look the following day. Oh, it was even worse the second go round!!! We must have had our rose colored glasses on because we mistook all the pocket doors and smooth ceilings for “good bones”. We began to talk about all the things we could do, things we could change to give the house some character. I wasn’t convinced!
We signed a short term lease on a furnished condo only a mile or so from the beach. I was just certain the perfect house would present itself. Soon.
Instead…….this is what happened!!
Standing in the driveway in the pouring rain, I watched as the men from the moving company unloaded the truck. Piece by piece I watched with anticipation. Finally I turned to my husband and asked “When are they going to unload the good stuff?” After six months of being in storage, our household goods appeared to have transformed themselves into old, worn out, dated, junk!!!! My mood matched the weather. And our “junk” complimented the interior of the house we had just bought! (or was it the other way around?) Oh lucky day!!
Fast forward five years. Five years of blood, sweat and buckets of tears. Every spare second and every spare dime went into our house. We were so in over our heads. It didn’t take long for us to realize that Every. Single. Inch. needed work or replacement. We never wanted an elaborate, pretentious house. Our goal was to create a warm, comfortable, inviting home with the feeling of a much loved, old beach house. Our house is not an old, historical house (with lots of character), on the contrary, it was only 10 years old. It was large enough (we hoped this would be the house our future grandkids come to) on a nice, large, high, dry lot. Not necessarily a given in this neck of the woods. But boy was it UG-LY!!! Remember the smooth ceilings I mentioned——-well, I once had a contractor suggest putting in popcorn ceilings to help conceal the disastrous drywall work throughout the house!!! Whaaaaat?
Everyone has a budget. Us included. That’s why it took us five years to get to this point. We did what we could ourselves. The grunt work, so to speak. We hired a contractor for one phase—and years later subcontracted out another big phase——–kitchen, baths, laundry room and the floors in the entire house. We wanted to add character to a house that had none. Zero, nada, zilch! The word “character” has gotten me into so much trouble, and I have learned the hard way that character doesn’t come cheap! Some fantastic finds from craigslist and estate sales are mixed right in with DIY pieces and pieces picked up at my favorite local haunts. I still have big plans and visions of projects I would like to do. But right now our “To Do List” has a table of contents!!!!!
So, I hope you will enjoy taking a tour of our house, browsing the before and after pictures and hopefully I will offer up some inspiration, share some DIY ideas and how tos and maybe just for entertainment, you’ll read about our hilarious and sometimes not so funny process of turning our house into a home.