New Year, New House

A few months back I was restlessly scanning the MLS (multiple listing service for real estate listings) in Charleston and spotted this little gem of a house in a neighborhood we were hoping to move to. We’d lived in a more traditionally “Charleston” house for our first seven years in Charleston that we had made some nice updates to and felt like we wanted a new project to take on, one a little further “uptown” as parts of Downtown (central) Charleston has become increasingly congested, our former street in particular. And I think having a child changes your perspective on things – neighborhoods, schools, conveniences you don’t think to much about when you don’t have young children, like being able to pull easily in and out of your driveway in a normal sized car (for years I drove a Smart Car partially just to fit in our previous driveway!). So I spotted this little brick single story house built in 1948.

My first reaction wasn’t overwhelmingly positive – I liked the location and thought it had a certain charm, but passed over it a few times before we went to visit it. But after multiple visits I found myself enamored with the house’s original features like amazing and endless closets and built in storage, nice sized bedrooms and easy, one story layout conducive to having a puppy and a toddler who like to chase eachother in circles. And it is still a quick, five to ten minute drive to my shop, a mere 15 or so city blocks from where we were before. Sometimes in real estate, love at first sight is not a good thing. Better to not get to emotionally attached off the bat so you can negotiate with a clear head. So in a whirlwind of arrangements we sold, bought and closed on both houses in less than two months and in October we began giving it a little makeover before we moved in. Here are a few of the before photos:

Daphne and I in the dining room the day we closed (she’s not so sure yet):


The front, wood paneled study – lots of potential!

The kitchen – don’t let the new looking appliances fool you – none of them worked! But we loved the original mint tile…

My daughter Daphne’s future bedroom. Loved the built-ins 

Brown retro bathroom – there is also a blue version of this: 

These are just a few of the rooms we are making over, you can go here if you would like a full “before” tour. While we felt the house could use some updating, this is definitely not a complete renovation. We loved many of the original features and being a designer I especially love houses of this era – the 1940’s-1960’s. They are built in a sensible and stylish way so that you actually need less furniture because the rooms are broken up for you, the flow is well thought out and much of the storage is solid and built in. We entered into this project confident we could tackle the right combination of necessary (electrical, heating and air, floors, plumbing) updates and superficial (paint, finishes, hardware) within our somewhat modest budget for this type of project, rather than attempting a complete rennovation. Finally, we had an awesome Charleston-based contractor who we’d worked with before (Shawn Zogorean) and an excellent design consultant – Olivia Brock of A Lacquered Life and Torrence Mitchell Designs who helped guide us as novice renovators to pick the right paint colors, light fixtures and hardware that are both era appropriate and in keeping with the character of the house. So that said, here is a list of what we have updated/will be updating and a few photos of the changed we made. As we complete each room entirely I’ll share the photos – right now, as with many projects like this no room is 100% “there” yet.

– Removed picture frame molding that ran throughout every room in the house (I’d rather take the time to hang in plaster – I didn’t think Chair Rail molding felt very consistent with the cleaner lines of the house)

– Removed popcorn ceilings in the front of the house – living and dining rooms – hiding a very nasty ceiling underneath that had to be repaired

– Got rid of odd set of interior windows in between our living room and side enclosed porch/laundry room that really went nowhere (don’t need to see my washer/dryer from the living room). This could be opened up one day to make the living room bigger but right now we like the storage porch/mud room…

– Painted everything – every. single. surface. And anything we didn’t paint we will wallpaper. Most of the paint had aged/faded and the previous owner was a smoker – very hard to get that smell out without fresh coats of paint at a minimum

– Floors were refinished – sanded and stained darker

– New HVAC (plus ductwork) & hot water heater

– Updated all light fixtures and electrical

– Completely gutted and renovated master bath which was rotting out and sinking (brown bathroom)

– Updated all kitchen appliances and added a serving window to dining room

– Added french doors to study and centered dining room on doors

– Added new windows in our daughter’s room (broken panes, lead paint issues, etc.) and refinished the top of her desk with solid wood before painting

– Took out some of the built-ins in master bedroom when we re-oriented bedrooms and 1/2 a closet to make room for master shower

– Replaced any and all hardware – cabinet pulls, switch plates, you name it – loved these three go-to sources: House of Antique Hardware, Rejuvenation, and Schoolhouse Electric

– Eventually we will build out the shed in the backyard and create a music studio for my husband – but that is deffinitely a phase 2 as is any other work we plan to do on the exterior…

So, at this point, we’ve pretty much finished about 75% of the things on the list above and things have slowed down a bit as we take our time to more carefully finish the remainder of the painting, furnishing and buying of fixtures. Here’s a little glimpse of my inspiration for various areas of the house:

Good-bye popcorn ceilings, chair rail molding and a weird fireplace mantle:

Taking down a random wall mirror and realizing that was the perfect spot for a pass-through window:

Hi Shawn! (Shawn is awesome)

This has now become one of my favorite features of the kitchen/dining room:

Picking a floor stain (we went with the one on the left and I love it):

 Daphne loves it too:

We got rid of the set of windows that went nowhere:

But we kept one of our favorite details, the mint tile in the kitchen and painted the existing kitchen cabinets white. And this was a labor of three-days-of-scrubbing-love:

Plus, how pretty does the new brass hardware Olivia picked look with it?:

And she also nailed the paint color for the kitchen door that was almost an exact match to the tile (Douglas Fern #563 by Benjamin Moore):

Another color I am in love with that she chose is Farrow and Ball’s Pink Ground – a subtle, 1950’s pink we used on the walls and the trim of Daphne’s room (although I couldn’t resist painting the back of her book shelves hot pink – Eros by Sherwin Williams):

And because we had some Pink Ground leftover (F&B paint is pricey enough you don’t want a drop to go go waste!) we used what was leftover on the fireplace instead of stark white, which I am pretty pleased with:

See? So subtle… Unlike Daphne, in her hot pink Christmas pajamas:

We recently finished lacquering the front study Hague Blue, also a great Farrow & Ball color:

And I am loving the nearly complete master bath which as you can see it WORLDS away from the shades of brown bathroom situation we started with. Seriously, it feels like a luxury hotel bathroom now. We also switched the orientation of the front door since we are using a different bedroom as a master bedroom than the previous owner did:

That’s it for now. It is so nice to be actually living here after three months of relative chaos. This is Daphne and I on the front porch right before Halloween. Sometimes, in a struggle to get things perfect, you forget the point is to actually live there and enjoy it, not just finish everything on your to-do list. I am trying to remember that as we continue working. Since the master bath is so close to being completely finished I will share more photos of that soon. We are still waiting on some of the hardware, towel racks, etc. You can follow along on instagram with the hashtag #ashleyavemakeover or on here on the blog as I post rooms as we finish them. Still, feels great to be in our new house going into 2016!

2 thoughts on “New Year, New House

  1. What amazing updates you did!! And that mint tile in the kitchen is divine! What a fun color to get to work with.

    I am such a sucker for old houses with built-ins. Love what you have done.

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