From “home” back to “house”

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”  — Proverbs 14:1 

We spent the first nine months of our marriage in a tiny apartment saving up  –we slept on the floor on a bunch of blankets to avoid spending money on a bed– and dreaming about a house. I think the most “homey” touch we added to that apartment were a few pictures on the walls, but we never really settled.  New to the area, we drove around and inspected different corners of the community, visiting new friends for the chance to snoop on houses in their neighborhoods as much as the fellowship. We spent those months eagerly waiting for our home.

There are fond memories from our time in “The Apt,” like warm evenings when Aaron fished in the pond stocked with baby blue gills and an energetic Weimaraner from the neighborhood ran out of his yard to join me on country runs. (With country dirt roads, a gym at the complex, and few friends to distract us, we exercised a lot despite the eau de piglette near the farms.) We connected with our next-door neighbor and a few other residents we’re still friends with today, and I swiped the pumpkin from the main office door on Halloween when it was inappropriately defaced. (We still laugh about it today – not suitable for blogging content though!) I certainly wouldn’t miss paying for laundry, living on the third floor, buzzing guests in and out, neighbors who smoke out of their sliding glass door, or paying rent into a financial abyss, but the boring box apartment was a rite-of-passage and I stress-cried a lot the week we moved out.

Buying a new house meant adding in Lowes as a line-item on our budget; painting and repainting (I was young, it was our first time picking colors, and this was in the days before Pinterest, people!); searching for just the right accessories at Goodwill; sewing curtains; and spending every spare moment dreaming about or working on projects to improve our charming -though dated- mid-century bungalow. I poured a lot of grief into these projects through the years and most of our family visits involved more demolition than relaxation. Sometimes the enormity of the project felt overwhelming, but it has been a very rewarding endeavor.

stage 14

And now that we’ve agreed to sell it soon, there is a funny paradox of completion – other than the absence of a crib in the back room, all the dreams have been realized! It’s as beautiful as I knew it could be. And yet, we have to think of this season as stewardship in a new way. It’s not really my home anymore. I’m a steward of this place for a new buyer, and I completed so many nit-picky  projects of care to present the best vision of the home to complete strangers who traipsed through to judge it in hopes that they would make a high offer to purchase from us.

stage 8

I think selling the first house is a rite-of-passage on it’s own, especially when I know the turnaround on another house will likely be faster and not as dramatic. It is good to know these efforts in building up my home have been the fruit of wisdom, and that God will give us the strength we need to build up the next place (though, likely, with less remodeling) while eagerly awaiting the final home He is building up that is not temporal or changing.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” -John 14:2-3

stage 13

The Bathing Suite

I’ve been dreaming about a bathroom remodel for a while. For a little over four years, to be honest. I describe the original bathroom as an example of everything that was wrong with bathrooms in the 1950’s on a jumbo scale. We wanted to get this done last winter, but quickly discovered it was impossible to think about projects while I was teaching six academic classes and thirty-three piano lessons every week.  So it sat all alone and ugly for a while longer than we wanted, and spring break turned into a bathroom disaster when our one working shower’s tile walls started coming off in sheets. This conveniently occurred just before hosting six adults and a toddler for a weekend in our two-bed one-bath home. A sheet of orange plastic protected the bare plaster in the stall from getting entirely soaked when we showered.


The plastic sheet stayed there for three-and-a-half months. Shameful.

My birthday weekend included some help from my dad with our new tub/shower combo tiling situation.

Then eventually, piano recitals came, and classes ended, and it was summer. And it was time to buckle down on this debacle. (Yes, this doesn’t look any better, but it’s always darkest just before dawn.) DSC05381

After a difficult season that included blood, sweat, tears, Aaron declaring he doesn’t know if he can remodel anything again ever, and another visit from my parents (we are terrible slave drivers), we no longer have a plain old bathroom. No, we have a Bathing Suite.

Suite 1

The bathtub is now also a shower with tiled walls, with no further awkward questions about the efficacy of bathing in a dark, slimy stall.suite 4


The brown fake tile from the walls was ripped off, and because I was not ambitious enough to get the plaster underneath smooth enough to paint, I hung beadboard-imitation-paintable-wallpaper on the bottom half of the wall. In retrospect, I’m not convinced this was the best course of action. I bought it before we made some other final decisions that might have pushed me towards actual bead-board paneling, but it’s done and it’s fine.

Suite 5

We have a spacious and effective linen closet in place of that old shower, a slim vanity, and amazing flooring. I love this floor so much I would sleep on it. (I suppose that’s not something I should actually say, because I usually sleep in the bathroom if I’m really sick and I don’t want that to happen.)
Suite 3

We saved most of the original towel bars, and I’m really happy with how they fit in with everything else.

Suite 2Clearly, we are bathing in absolute luxury now! I still can’t believe it’s done after years of hoping…


The Great Hall Collage (Home Tour)

A small house is a great blessing, and we have been surprised by much joy coming from the limited size of our home. I’m not the only one to think a diminutive space is good, too! The popular blog Apartment Therapy regularly features “Small, Cool Places” that make our little cabin a mansion, comparatively, and even Leonardo Da Vinci said “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind.” I’ve thought of his quote frequently since living here, and that mental discipline has stretched and improved me many times over during these three years.

In this smallish dwelling, we have just one hallway that twists around from the kitchen, up a few stairs, and leads to the bedroom, linen closet, bathroom and office. This cozy passageway is one of the dearest spots in my home because of the photo project built up on the walls. Inspiration came from a few different sources, but I didn’t really know how to start so I just got some pictures and started nailing them up on the wall.

Collage wall from Pottery Barn, via my pinterest board. I love the different textures on the wall, but I think the clash of black and brown frames is distracting.

source unknown, via my pinterest boards. I love the black frames against white walls with lots of natural wood in the house, just like ours.

When I don’t know how to start something, I either panic and procrastinate forever or jump right in and hope it works out. This hall collage came about because I responded in the second way. Now after three years we have one giant collage that is about 90% done. There are a few empty frames and some empty spots that need frames and artwork. When I look at this, I think I meant to have photos on just one wall, but I had a general idea instead of a specific vision for the project so it ballooned from there. I’m certainly not disappointed with how it turned out.

I left the light buttons on this picture because they are so cool. We turn the lights on and off by pressing round buttons, not flipping switches! This little house has serious quirks, and I love it.

A beautiful thank-you note; The cover of a cult book on prayer; Pictures from Aaron’s homecoming; Take-out cookie fortune: “Your path is arduous but will be amply rewarding”; 1st verse of For the Beauty of the Earth.

artsy cabbage; lots of Van Gogh; pictures from the beach; friends; family; virtus tentamine gaudet; embroidery from my friend J; Mattise goldfish poster; anniversary card; baby ducks; letterpress christmas cards;  honeymoon photography; psalm 51:8; Psalm 91; flowers from the Hillsdale campus.

Wedding pictures; grapes on a card from my friend A; quaking aspens; easter hymn; CS Lewis quote from “The Four Loves” on vulnerability; heartbeat; fake leaf above the door to our bedroom; antique postcards my friend E sent from Paris; college diplomas.

I have learned much about pictures and decorating and arranging in the last few years, so I am really inspired about where this could go in the future. We have a nice mix of art, pictures, quotes and other memorabilia here, and I’m daydreaming about doing this timeline style in another house someday, so the quotes and other art would somehow correspond with what was going on in our life at the same point of the pictures we’re in. I think it would be a really neat testament to God’s faithfulness in our lives, and a tangible illustration that our lives really are God’s artwork always in process.

PS: I will also admit that this post bugs me because it doesn’t feel “real.” I’ve done a fair amount of tweaking since taking these pictures, so I’ll update sometime when it’s “100% done.” Just in time to list the house for sale and remove them all for Realtor staging, you know.

PPS: Did you notice how many photos and cards we have from friends and family here? Those are some of my favorite pieces in our hall, so if you send us something neat it might become a special part of our collage. I’m not begging or anything, just throwing the idea out there for your consideration.

Bathroom (Home Tour)

After getting a look at the decor heights of our lovely bedroom, I thought I’d show you the disaster that is our bathroom. I will admit…. we chose that blue. I was 22 and inexperienced, and I have learned a lot since then. But anyway, some natural aging on the house means I get to make over  our awkward first paint and decor choices! There are tiles peeling off over the tub, so an overhaul on this bathroom is on the must-do list. I’m quite sure it will be easier and much cheaper than the never-ending kitchen project!

Walking in from the hall.

The grodiest shower in the developed world. I can’t even show you a picture of the inside. More grout comes out every time I scrub the tiles, so I’m never sure how hard I should work to get it clean. 

Someone brilliantly put wood trim around the shower door, so we have to be very careful about wiping it off after showers.

The sink is… very special. Also, the vanity is humongous and takes up half the bathroom. They had to make a cut-out so the door would swing open. 

This bathtub is also special. The shower extension doesn’t go high enough for a shower. And those fake brown tiles are peeling off!

I don’t really know when this will happen, but plans for the bathroom include: retiling the bathtub surround and putting in a shower head; turning the yucky shower stall into a linen closet; replacing the toilet; replacing the vanity with something skinnier; and repainting the walls gray.

I think deep-down, I would be more adventurous with color for the rest of the house, but Aaron likes to keep things very neutral since we will need to sell the house in a few years. I’ve heard that restrictions on creativity can actually be a freeing thing, and I think it’s true for how we’re putting the house together. By working to find things we both like, I think our house has a pretty clearly defined aesthetic that neither one of us would have found on our own. (Aaron actually cares about this quite a bit, which surprised me, but I bet if he was on his own it wouldn’t be a high priority.) This co-decorating sense makes it a little easier to pull together new projects, like our bathroom.  I like this first inspiration bathroom better because it feels a little more “grounded” with those black shelves. But no matter how it works out, I keep coming back to the gray-with-rustic-wood combo whenever I look for ideas, so I’m pretty sure we’re going for something like this!

My favorite inspiration bathroom! From Focal Point on my Pinterest boards.

More natural wood with gray! From a YHL Reader Re-design, on my Pinterest boards.

Our Room (Home Tour)

I have some house pictures here. I truly meant to do these posts quite a while ago. I’ve been bugged to share house pictures by several friends and family members who can’t make it out to inspect in person. So here we go!

We’ll start off with the one room of our house that feels “done” to me. This is the only place we have bold color on the walls. Right after moving in, I tried a few greens that did not work. Finally, after wasting $70 on ugly paint, Aaron, who is partially colorblind, picked the color we have now. We love it. I don’t know what I will do when we move. I would absolutely think about using the same color again. My aunt visited last month and told me the green worked because we can see so many leaves in our windows. I think she’s right! It feels like an extension of the outdoors, which is just right for us.

The view coming in from the hallway. I got the blinds on a freak Lowe’s clearance for 70% off and my mom helped me make the curtains.

stepping in

Aaron’s side. I refinished the dresser as a surprise for him a few years ago; also, I spray painted the nasty old fan to look metallic black. The flower painting was a wedding present.

My side. Lots of books and baskets! Also, I made that bedskirt because our bed is too tall for regular ones, which is handy when you have lots of junk to hide. Which we do.

my book basket.

I bought this old record stereo on craigslist from one of our pastors. Painted the bottom, refinished the top, covered the speakers with old canvas. It’s great for storing linens!

My dresser. Antique from Aaron’s family. I refinished it.

Fake flowers from Walmart clearance; calligraphy from my sister; mail holder from goodwill; books; jewelry box; cool dish from goodwill.

There’s a great psychological effect to starting and ending each day in a space you love. I’m grateful to have such a cozy room… but I will confess that it usually has piles of laundry all over the place, which is less than relaxing.

Curb Appeal (Home Tour)

Most of the time I feel pretty discouraged about how much work there is left to do on our house, so in celebration of our 3rd year here, I’ve taken a bunch of pictures to record what we’ve done so far! And first on the agenda? The great outdoors. I’ve gotta say, we must have a great eye for living potential because these before shots from three years ago are really bad.
Here’s what we started with for “curb appeal.” Note the leaning trees, huge bushes, random rocks and lack of grass.

Realtor shot from the street.

We took out those ginormo bushes by the driveway and felled a few trees before my college BFF Esther dubbed this area the “stake-burning piles.”
 After those were out, we had a great feeling of progress, but still no grass to speak of. The trees didn’t get enough sunlight, the garage color was awful, and also, the apple tree was out of control.

Thankfully, it’s looking a little better now, because we took out more trees, Aaron has put forth massive effort on the grass with multiple reseedings and custom grass blends for our shady yard, we overhauled the “retaining wall,” and I stained the peachy colored bricks. We still need to decide if we’re going to put one more layer of stones on the hill or trim the weed barrier so it isn’t visible. The rest of the grass should fill in soon, too.

We’re still in the “Progress” stage, but everything out front is coming together so far! We have some big projects for the other side of the driveway… there is a steep path by the garden (we call it “the incline of death”) that needs some attention, so hopefully we’ll get that solved this summer!