Living in the great room


A few evenings ago, when I was driving home and saw five or six deer cross the road and turn down our street, I went inside and quickly scooped up the kids to show them the spectacle. Two of them were still standing in the neighbor’s driveway and the others were further back behind the house. I love the deer in Kalamazoo, maybe just because it’s something I never saw in New York and I see them all the time here. While we were standing out in the street we noticed some family friends who live a few houses down standing in their driveway also watching. We chatted briefly and she told us that on Sundays when their daughter and her family come over for dinner they often talk about stopping by to say hello, but it always looks as if no one is home. That’s partly because I never turn the porch light on. (Is that unneighborly? I have no idea, it just seems like a waste of energy if we aren’t expecting anyone, but maybe I’m totally unaccustomed to neighborhood customs). But it’s also partly because we kind of live in the back of the house.

When we bought this house we were especially impressed by the way the great room extended the kitchen and added a whole new living space to what would otherwise be a pretty small 1950s ranch. The couple we bought it from added that room almost as soon as they bought it, a big 14 x 24 room that connects to the kitchen, with six skylights, six windows looking out into the backyard, and sliding glass doors on two sides. What’s interesting is that when we first set foot in the house, I actually thought that the great room felt much smaller than I’d expected it to feel, given the photos we’d seen and the dimensions. I now think that was because of the colors and the odd furniture placement.



We hated the floors, and the salmon pink was not our style, but we knew that this room really made the house. Everyone who comes in, starting with all of the folks who did work before we moved in, comments on how unexpected it is (the front elevation is nothing to write home about) and how it’s by far the best room in the house. We were so excited to put wood floors in here and to paint and decorate it the way we wanted it. It feels huge now, and in the evenings we’re pretty much always here and/or in the kitchen, so the house always looks dark from the street.

We went a couple of months without a sofa in here because we ordered something from a custom shop (Joybird, which we’ve been really happy with). We love it now that it’s here and the room feels so much more complete. The kids love it too, clearly; we do a lot of reading here.




Originally I really wanted a sectional because I wanted to be able to spread out, but after way too much deliberation we decided that it might not fit the room properly and wouldn’t give us any flexibility to rearrange. We ultimately went with a sofa and ottoman, and I’m really glad that we did.


Before we moved in, Kristin couldn’t stand that green countertop / bar that extends out from the kitchen. It matches the one under the far bank of cabinets that you can see in the photo above. Both were added during the addition (the rest of the countertops in the kitchen are cream colored). She was dying to rip out all of the countertops and replace them so that they matched, but that wasn’t in the budget. Once we got this room painted and put together my mom pointed out that with all of the blues and greens, the green counter isn’t quite as ugly as it once seemed. It sort of blends in, which is a happy accident.



The teak furniture came from my parents’ house (we love having a space big enough to leave the leaf in all the time), the rug came from West Elm, and the bar stools came from Wayfair (we love that they’re wipeable, because kids).

We cannot wait for summer when we know that we’ll be doing a lot of indoor/outdoor living from this room. We have some inherited patio furniture that needs welding and probably a coat of paint (my parents had it as far back as I can remember), and we have a swing set promise to fulfill. Until it’s warm enough for all of that we’ll just enjoy the days growing a tiny bit longer each evening, and the way this room brings the winter sunlight indoors.

Vivienne’s Room in Pictures

I’ve had high hopes of taking and sharing a whole lot more “after” photos of the house, but every time I set out to do it (in a photos-of-the-room sort of way, not photos of kids who happen to be in a room) I realize that something still feels incomplete and decide that I ought to wait. But you know what? We will always be making changes and there will always be time for more pictures, so I’m just going to start sharing rooms as they are even if they could be improved upon.

We really didn’t buy much of anything for Vivi’s room with the exception of paint, bedding, and art. We inherited a bed from the previous owners and decided that we would paint the headboard to make it more fun (which was a nice early project when we weren’t doing much work on the house ourselves – it felt like we were actually making something beautiful with our own hands). Her dresser went with Jonah’s crib (which has since been given to a Syrian refugee family in town). Someday I’m sure we’ll have fun picking out furniture for a new version of her room (given her personality I suspect she’ll care about this sooner than most) but for now we’re actually really happy with it.

This was her room before we made any changes at all. It had laminate floors that didn’t match any other rooms in the house (they were using it as an office) and sort of a moss-green wall color (which honestly wasn’t objectionable, but in such a small room we wanted to go a bit lighter).


And here’s where we ended up:






The pictures on her walls are Elly MacKay, whose work is lovely on the surface but even more interesting when you read about it. She basically creates scenes out of layers of paper in a tiny theatre and photographs them.

Her walls are Benjamin Moore Peach Cooler, and we put the same carpeting in all of the bedrooms, so that wasn’t chosen specifically for her. Her quilt is from Land of Nod, and I love it. And we painted her headboard (which was wood before with some dark green accents…I can’t find the before picture right now) Benjamin Moore Pinot Grigio Grape.

The baby cradle at the end of her bed was a gift from my parents before I was even pregnant with Jonah. We’d been struggling to get pregnant and my dad bought it from this wonderful antique store that had a sad ending here in Kzoo. Despite there being no baby yet, he declared “to become, act as if” and that was that; we had a cradle well before we had a baby. Ultimately Jonah never spent a night in it since we ended up co-sleeping, but it’s become a wonderful place for dolls.

I feel like her room could use a few more personal touches, but we’re pleased with how it’s come together so far.

Home Sweet Home


We are finally, after so much waiting and hoping that it would all feel worth it, living in our new home. We moved in a week ago Monday, one day before America made one of the worst decisions in recent history and we were suffocated by rage and despair as we watched the election returns in our very own living room. It’s been a pretty heavy time for Kristin and I even though we’re so happy to be in this home, so we’ve been juggling a complicated bunch of incongruent emotions.

Surprisingly, I was actually feeling sort of anxious and sad as we prepared to leave my parents’ house. It had been SO hard moving in with them and trying to figure out how we all fit in that space, but by the end I was actually pretty content. I’d loved having my mom around to do crafts with me, the kids were happy in the space, I loved the view of the night sky from their yard and the view of downtown Kalamazoo from their balcony. My mom even said that she was going to miss us, which was a lovely surprise. The kids loved having Gigi and Papa Doc right there, and I knew that they would miss them each morning. Something about leaving felt like the end of an era that may have been somewhat unwelcome at the start, but which was an important and meaningful part of our journey back home.

Part of my fear had to do with the new sleeping arrangements. For a year now, Jonah has slept with me, or I’ve slept with him I suppose. I can’t even explain how that began exactly, because he’d been sleeping independently before that. Regardless of how we got there, that’s where things were, and Kristin was sleeping with the twins. We’d been preparing Jonah for a major change once we moved into the house, but we weren’t at all sure that it would go well. He knew that he and Jude would share a room and that Vivi would have her own room. The first night it was a challenge, but surprisingly it wasn’t a total horror show. Now that we’re a week and a half into the transition I’m pleased to say that things feel fairly good. Jude has actually struggled the most, and as of last night he’s sleeping in Vivi’s bed with her instead of in his own bed in Jonah’s room. That seems to calm him a bit more, and results in more sleep for all of us. Jonah and Vivi have been champs with the whole thing, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

The kids really love our house – they especially love the basement because it’s 100% their space, as evidenced by the fact that it looks like this most of the time.


I’m actually surprised by how quickly we’ve all begun to feel at home here. It really feels like our home; there’s been virtually no period of getting used to the space (well, I suppose you could say that we had roughly three and a half months of getting used to it, but it’s all a matter of perspective). That said, it does feel like we may be unpacking boxes for the next thousand years or so. Kristin keeps reminding me that it’s only been a week and a half, and that we haven’t even had a true weekend yet because we spent last weekend on the east side of the state for K’s parents’ 40th anniversary. Sometimes though, it feels like I can spend a couple of hours sorting through crap and feel as if I’ve made no rewarding progress whatsoever. There was something lovely about having access to so little of our junk for three months. Now that we have it all back, we kind of wish it were gone again (see basement photo above).

Very little in the house is “after photo ready” so to speak, but my desire to post some photos is keeping me from giving up on the unpacking. So I don’t have a whole lot to show you right now. The half bath, however, is pretty much done and we’re really pleased with it. If you remember, it looked like this when we started:


My dad pulled out the sink and toilet and replaced the hardware, we had new mosaic tile put down, I painted the walls with paint that we’d originally selected for the kitchen but never used, I painted the oak mirror with a white enamel, and we chose not to put the medicine cabinet back up. We chose new sconces and my dad put them up, and he put the toilet and sink back in for us. We took down the blinds and I applied a privacy film to the glass so that we could still have some natural light from the great room while providing a bit more privacy. Eventually we’d like to hang some sort of art in here, but for now there’s nothing on the walls. It’s so much more us and such a pleasant surprise project that we hadn’t intended on tackling.


We didn’t paint the trim or the ceiling, so those are still cream, but that can wait. The bulbs in the sconces are a bit much (LEDs are no joke), so we may need to downgrade the wattage a bit so that no one is blinded when they flip on the lights. We’re so thankful for my dad’s handywork, in fact he’s put in a crazy number of hours here since we moved in. I know that we can’t call him every time we need something done, however, so I’ve been trying to follow along and learn.

We had a couple of good friends over last Friday night, which was sorely needed companionship at the end of a rough week, but also an important milestone in our journey. We have a space where we can host now! And our kitchen and great room feel so well suited to it. I’m hoping to become much better at hosting friends than I’ve ever been before. I look forward to taking more photos as things get unpacked and every corner isn’t full of boxes and paper and chaos, so I promise to do that. For now here’s a photo of the great room sans furniture, but with our lovely new floor finally complete.


Flooring – Nearly There

Things are getting very close, and I’m more than ready for the construction zone to transform back into a home. The carpet went in yesterday and the wood floors are finished in both the living room and kitchen. The great room floor is in progress and we hope that it will wrap up by the middle of next week.

We planned to move in most of our stuff from the garage (where it’s all been living since early August) into the house this weekend even though things are still under construction. That’s proving to be more challenging than we’d anticipated, however, because the two rooms that would be most convenient to house boxes while we sort through them are essentially off-limits due to tools and what not being strewn about. I was also surprised to find myself feeling completely overwhelmed by having all of our stuff back. Despite the challenges of living out of suitcases in someone else’s home for three months, there was something freeing about having so little stuff to worry about. Suddenly we’re opening boxes and trying to decide where to put things and it all just feels like way too much. I’m terrified of throwing things together in a haphazard way and never achieving a higher level of organization than we were capable of in a two bedroom apartment. I’m trying to just breathe through the anxiety and trust that it will all work out, just as it has so far.

Here are a few photos from today. Even though the kitchen floor is also finished, I didn’t take a photo because there were tools and all kinds of renovation nonsense all over every surface of the room. I love this wood flooring so much and I can’t wait to see it in the great room.


We have the same greige(ish) carpeting in all three bedrooms, and a different style of carpet (a bit better for high traffic) in the basement, but in a very similar shade.


I think that the cafe shutters in the boys’ room are probably coming down. We debated, but they just make it so dark and they don’t add a lot. Plus I think the beds will be too high for them to function.


I’m really loving the color in our room, especially with the carpet. I can’t believe that I was so unsure about this one.


I’m obsessed with the new half bath floor. Obviously this isn’t anywhere close to finished, but the floor gets me excited to complete the project.


The basement looks so different without the pink shag (the carpet is greige, but the weird lights and pine walls give it an odd cast). Jonah was playing down here after unpacking some toys today and it made me so happy that the kids have a playroom.


More to come when the rest is complete!

Home Projects Underway

We’re one week into the renovations and we could not be more excited about this house. I truly feel like everything is falling into place in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. Going into this I kept telling people that the house needed so much cosmetic work; that we would have to live with bad countertops and outdated bathrooms for who knows how long. But even my feelings on all of that (and some of the circumstances) have changed.

Paint is SO transformative. Once the salmon pink started disappearing it started to feel like an entirely different house. Even the main bathroom, when painted white (eliminating roughly five different wall colors in one room) looks pretty nice! The retro tile hardly bothers me anymore. I even ordered a new pink toilet seat today so that we can work with the bathroom rather than against it. The red oak flooring looks amazing (the living room is almost finished, the kitchen and great room happen next week hopefully), and the carpet goes into the bedrooms and the basement next Friday.

While he was pulling up the tile in the kitchen and great room, our flooring guy asked if we wanted him to take it up in the half bath as well, since we have a dumpster anyway. We waffled because we didn’t intend to do anything with the half bath yet, but pulling up the tile in the adjoining room led us to believe that there might have been a leak at some point and we wanted to investigate. Not only that, but we didn’t love that tile to begin with and there was a chance that there was something more interesting underneath. When my dad looked at it he told us that he could put tile down for us in a day or two, and that the tile and grout wouldn’t be terribly expensive, so we decided to ditch the old tiles. There wasn’t anything but subfloor underneath, but we did find the toilet leak (which we had repaired) and now somehow we’ve  found ourselves in a whole half-bath renovation that we had no intention of beginning.


We decided that we wanted to go with a mosaic tile of some sort, so my dad brought these home and we chose the honeycomb on the bottom right. Initially we thought that we would just redo the floors and leave the rest until a later date, but Kristin decided that she was willing to pull down the wallpaper. My dad pulled out the toilet and pedestal sink and took down the mirror and medicine cabinet, and also got all of the wallpaper removal supplies earlier today and asked our painter how to get started taking it down. Before he could talk him through it, however, a handyman showed up and needed my dad to show him some projects around the property so he told the painter that it would have to wait until tomorrow. When my dad returned 20-30 minutes later the wallpaper was gone! The painter told him that it was our housewarming gift. We can hardly believe it. We still need to scrub the paste off of the walls, but the tough part is over.

Here’s a photo of the bathroom before everything was torn out, just for reference.


Next week my dad is going to put up beadboard, we’ll change out the faucet and toilet seat, and put the toilet and sink back in. At some point soon Kristin or I will paint with some paint we didn’t end up using in the kitchen. We may even change out the sconces over the sink. Then today we discussed the possibility of removing the old window over the toilet. That wall used to be an exterior wall before the great room addition went on, and they left the window for some reason. I love having natural light there, but the window with the sash does make the whole project look a little bit unfinished and weird. You can see right into the bathroom from the great room, so there are cheap blinds on the window which don’t add anything at all (well, besides privacy). Today my dad suggested that we could remove the window, drywall part of the bottom, and add a transom at the top to bring in light but take the window above eye level. We love that idea so we’re going to explore it this weekend. Expect some “after” pictures in a few weeks.

On to the things that are even further along. The bedrooms look amazing with new paint. The green in the boys’ room is pretty bright (Benjamin Moore Cedar Green) but I think that it’s going to look fun and playful with their Hanna Andersson bedding. Kristin chose the blue for our bedroom (Benjamin Moore Mozart Blue) after we went back and forth for a long time. I worried that it was just too dark, but finally conceded because she’s never chosen her bedroom paint color before and I have. Honestly, I think it’s going to be beautiful. And Vivi’s room is such a pale peach (Benjamin Moore Peach Cooler) that you barely notice the color, but I think that it’s great in a tiny bedroom.




The great room is completely transformed by paint. We went with a super popular neutral for all of our connected common spaces (Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter) and we love it. When it was recommended to us I initially worried because I’m not a big fan of greige. I prefer a true grey over a beige any day, but to my surprise it looks pretty grey in our space, and I really like it. I’m realizing now that I don’t have a good picture of it besides the wall next to the blue, so I’ll share more another time, but just know that three of the four walls in this room are grey. The big wall that separates the great room from the kitchen is a very dramatic dark blue (Benjamin Moore Hidden Sapphire) and we both love it.


Oh, and initially we’d planned to paint the kitchen this sort of medium teal called Azure Water. I’d been unsure about it all along, even when I bought it, but Kristin felt great about it so I went with it hoping that I’d be pleasantly surprised. When we were over earlier in the week, I was talking my mom through some of the colors and she told me that she thought that, from the great room, seeing three different paint colors (grey, dark blue, and the kitchen teal) would really chop up the space in a negative way. We made a snap decision to stick with Revere Pewter in the kitchen and we’re both so glad that we did.


Now that the salmon pink is gone, I hardly even mind the outdated, mismatched countertops. It all just looks much better. Now we may use Azure Water (since we already bought it) in the half bath above the white beadboard. I think that it will make a lot more sense in there.

And then there’s the living room. That room is also Revere Pewter, and we decided to paint the limestone fireplace (because it just didn’t have much pop) Amherst Grey from Benjamin Moore’s classics line. We really like it. I’d like to paint or change out those fireplace doors at some point, but that’s for the future.


The floors in this room are almost finished, and we love them so much. They’re prefinished red oak in a natural/satin finish from Infinity Wood Floors.


That used to be carpet! I love this SO MUCH MORE.

We cannot wait to move in, but to be honest I’m kind of loving the experience of watching it evolve day by day. We couldn’t be happier with our crew, and my dad has put in so many hours of free labor on top of what everyone else has done. Oh, he also took apart one of the kitchen cabinets to prepare for our dishwasher, which is crucial.


Did I mention that they found parkay flooring under the tile in the kitchen? That led to a big debate about the elevation of rooms (they aren’t all the same) but we sorted it out. The afternoon that Brett (our flooring guy) called to ask if I could come over to the house to look at a few things, and walked me through a few oddities that I needed to make big decisions on, there was a distinct moment in which I almost started to laugh because I was sure that this was an episode of House Hunters Renovation. Don’t they all have that “uh, we didn’t expect this so now what do you want us to do?” moment? Fortunately this one didn’t cost us thousands and wasn’t too agonizing, it just slowed the work down for a bit.

We had to decide whether to pull out the parkay that the tile had been laid on top of, or just to go over it again. The matter was complicated by the fact that the toe kick in the kitchen is weirdly low, and would be even lower if we put flooring down on top. No matter what we chose there would be an elevation change from one room to another, it was just a matter of where we wanted it to be. Initially Kristin and I thought that they ought to take it all down to the subfloor, but then they did a core sample in the former eat-in-kitchen. They found old linoleum under the plywood, which my dad suspects could be asbestos based. If we pulled it out and that proved to be true we’d be in an abatement situation, which obviously no one wants. We ultimately decided to leave the floor undisturbed and just go over top again. There’s probably a good reason that they did that fifteen years ago.

The paint should wrap up on Monday and we hope that the flooring will be finished by next Friday (fingers crossed). We have our sights set on the weekend of the 29th to move in, but we’re keeping an open mind just in case things take longer than expected.

Looking for the “before” pictures? They’re here.

Finally Almost Home

We closed on the house this week! The brown house is finally ours (well the bank’s, but you know what I mean). When Monday morning came I could hardly believe that the day had arrived, and then somehow the waiting that took place between Monday at 10:00 a.m. and Wednesday evening (when we actually took possession) felt like the longest three days ever. It might have been the most agonizing wait of this entire process.

We decided that we should have a pizza picnic at the house on Wednesday night, so we took the kids over in the pouring rain and celebrated while sitting on the floor of the great room. The waiting wasn’t 100% over because the movers ended up leaving a few of her items behind and her cleaning lady was still there, but we didn’t care – we were home.


Kristin kept saying again and again “I love this house,” and we’ve talked a lot about how it’s not huge, but it’s just right for us. I think that it’s going to be full of truly useable space, which was really important to me in our house search.

On Thursday our paint was delivered, and this morning I went over after dropping the kids at school so that I could take some “before” pictures. Our flooring arrived this afternoon and the flooring guys are already tearing up the old flooring, which is incredibly exciting. Our painter starts on Monday morning, and we’re desperately hoping to be in before Halloween, but we’ll see how all of these projects unfold.

So here are a whole bunch of “before” pictures (click to expand the gallery). I don’t have a wide angle lens I’m afraid, so apologies for the chopped off corners of rooms. Stay tuned for changes!

Two months in (and change)

At the end of September I realized that we’ve been in Michigan for two months now and while that doesn’t feel like very much time in some respects, it feels like an eternity since we left New York. Things feel so different now than they did in the beginning.

When we first arrived, the countdown to getting into our own home felt impossibly long, and now we’re just five days from closing. For the last week or so I’ve been doing all of the new homeowner things which, in practice, involve waiting on hold for an agent and standing in line at city hall, but have honestly felt somewhat thrilling. Driving home after switching the water service into our name the other day, I looked around me and felt SO good about being able to call Kalamazoo ours. All of the wonderful, charming things about this town, along with all of the frustrating things and all of the boring or regressive things that make me miss New York, it’s still all ours; it’s our home now, and we feel more committed to it and proud of that than I ever could have imagined. If anyone had asked me a year ago if I was sure that we would feel certain about this decision being right this quickly, I would have crumbled with uncertainty and indecision. When we chose Kalamazoo we knew that intellectually it was the right move right now, but we weren’t at all sure that the emotion would follow as quickly. But on so many occasions in the last couple of weeks, even Kristin (who was far less sure than I was) has said to me “I’m so glad that we moved here.”

The kids seem so happy in their new school. Jonah tells me every morning that he’s glad that it’s a school day. K and I love all of the teachers there, and they truly seem to care for our kids and enjoy having them there. I worried so much about what a “big” center would be like, and that it might be impersonal with a rotating cast of staff, but some of these teachers have been there for twenty years, and a couple of the people who founded it forty years ago are still involved. I love dropping the kids off each morning, something I rarely got to do in New York, and I find myself lingering a bit not because I’m concerned but because I like stealing a few extra glimpses of their school lives and chatting with their teachers. They really seem to be blooming with so many new experiences and opportunities throughout each day. The school really puts an emphasis on independence, and we’re seeing that in the kids.

I’m adjusting surprisingly well to working from home full-time. I miss my colleagues tremendously, but it’s not as lonely as I’d worried it would be. I do miss our friends a great deal, and I think that’s probably going to show up even more once we finally move into our own house since we’ve imagined what it will be like to have friends over in a space that’s large enough to do so. I suppose friendships are the one area of my life that I’ve neglected almost completely over the last couple of months. We’ve seen one set of friends exactly once, and another set twice, and I think that’s it. We’ve just done so little reaching out. Kristin has made some effort to make new friends, but I’ve been dragging my feet and we’ve fought about it on at least one occasion. I guess I just miss my New York friends; I didn’t have to overthink everything when I was with them, I was comfortable and knew what to expect and it was easy and joyful. With new people I’m either disinterested or socially anxious, and it takes me forever to get to that effortless hangout place. I prefer to make friends accidentally, organically, but of course that’s impossible when you work from home and are terrible at making an effort. I’m sure that some part of this is also because we’re not in our own home, so inviting people over isn’t really a thing right now.

There are many more things on my getting-settled wish list that are still unfinished (most of them not yet begun) but I’m feeling rather hopeful about where things are headed.

Pushing through decision paralysis


The countdown to our closing date is finally beginning to feel real and as a result we are finally making some design decisions and committing to them. We have been all over the place when it comes to interior design, and while that might sound like we’ve been arguing about it, we’ve honestly been traveling all over the design map together; we just couldn’t get past the fear of making the wrong decision (well OK, I couldn’t) and every time one of us raised a potential concern it sent the other one into a fit of doubts. Kristin has been to a wholesale flooring place so many times that when I dropped by last week I got the sense that they know her almost as well as their contractors.

For flooring we started at laminate, and then decided that we wanted real wood, which started at hickory and then maple and then a variety of grey stained maples and oaks, followed by teak, and finally we landed at the most basic of basic: natural red oak. We’ve been to the paint store twice with different flooring samples, asking the awesome design specialist there to choose a paint palette based on our flooring, and now we’ll have to return again with this new floor but we don’t care: we’re excited about it. We both wanted something with more of a matte finish, and while neither of us has ever been a huge oak fan, we loved the almost invisible finish and lack of shine on this particular flooring. Plus it turned out to be the cheapest thing we’d considered, which was a huge bonus. Our flooring guy told us that given the age, location, and design of our house, he would have guessed that either red or white oak would have been original to the house, so we’re feeling good about a choice that works with the house instead of trying to force it to take on a different look. The wood will be going in the formal living room, the kitchen, and the great room, in addition to the hallway to the bedrooms.

We’ve decided to put down fairly inexpensive carpeting in the bedrooms because they won’t be high traffic areas, and because it feels warmer. I honestly never thought that I’d put in carpeting by choice; I’ve never liked it, but somehow it felt like the right move in this house. Plus it’s way cheaper than putting in wood floors and then buying area rugs.

We also finally decided on bedding for everyone. Sally at Douglas and Son told me that she wouldn’t even talk to me about bedroom paint colors until I brought her the bedding. The only problem was that we couldn’t make up our minds about bedding, and Kristin disagreed with the whole idea of choosing bedding in order to choose paint (my dad is with her on that, but I still think they’re both wrong) but she let me do things in that order anyway. We’d been in a bit of a stalemate over Vivi’s room, but the dust finally settled when we realized that the design she liked wasn’t available in a twin duvet cover, so we came to a bit of an eclectic compromise: I got the quilt I wanted and she got the dog patterned pillowcases as an accent piece, even though they don’t exactly go together. Vivi’s bedding is coming from Land of Nod, the boys are getting bedding from Hanna Andersson, and ours came from West Elm. I’m sure that we could have gone way cheaper if we’d wanted to, but it felt important to me to try to pull these rooms together from the start in the way that I want. We’re inheriting a bed for Vivi from the seller, so that saves us some money, and both the wood and carpeting ended up cheaper than we’d anticipated, so I think it will all shake out. We’re excited for things to arrive so that we can take a giant pile of blankets to Sally and ask her what colors we should paint the walls.

And while some of the main area paint colors might change, we think that we’re pretty much there at this point. We’re using a greige in both the great room and living room, but painting a dark blue accent color on one wall of the great room and painting the drab limestone fireplace in the living room a dark grey (probably also a greige if I’m being honest, but we both hate that word). We’re probably using one of the medium blues in the kitchen, and leaving the cream colored cabinets alone (for now). So lots of cool paint colors but warm floors, so we hope that it will balance out.

I ordered the flooring today, we have paint and flooring and repair guys lined up for mid October. We close on the 10th, so it’s finally beginning to feel like a reality. I’d originally hoped that we could have everything pretty moved-in-looking by Thanksgiving, but now we’ve decided that we’ll probably hold off on buying any furniture for the great room, so I’m expecting it to look kind of haphazard and unfinished for awhile. As wise friends have reminded me, our friends will be coming over to see us not our perfect house, so I just need to accept that something will always be incomplete.

Meeting our “blind date” house

Have I mentioned that we decided to buy a house without ever setting foot in it? I don’t know whether blind date is the right metaphor, perhaps it’s more like an arranged marriage, but it certainly feels like a significant enough commitment that it’s like a marriage. My parents saw it, our realtor saw it (but only when she delivered the offer), and we saw photos and video, but we signed the contract putting a lot of faith in the unknown. I don’t know how often people do this, but everyone we told seemed to think that we were a tiny bit bonkers.

Not having seen it is probably another major contributor to our desire to get the move over with. We were dying to see our house. Roberta (the homeowner, along with her husband) sent me a text a day or so before our move to invite us to come by right away. We were so touched by her kindness and her instinct that we’d want to see it immediately. My parents asked if we were all going, but we wanted to see it on our own for the first time. In retrospect that probably wasn’t the best way to see it since we were trying to keep the kids from destroying their stuff the whole time. That said, it was still great. I’d spoken to my mom during our move drama and she said that she’d be surprised if I didn’t cry; she was right.

Jonah was a tough sell at first. We drove up and he declared that he didn’t want to see the new house and wanted to get out of the car so that he could walk back the way we came. We weren’t sure what to do without my parents there to help, but somehow I got him into the front yard, and Roberta won him over and got him inside.


We went into this knowing that the house needed a lot of cosmetic work. The colors are not our taste, the flooring is different in almost every room, but we felt that the layout (what we could imagine, at least) would work well for us. It’s not a huge house: three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, under 2,000 square feet, but it checked so many boxes for us and honestly, that’s probably the biggest house that I can take care of given my lack of housekeeping ability.

I just love the neighborhood. There are SO many trees! The front yard is huge and has these cute little concrete benches out by the huge maple tree. Walking in the front door there isn’t much of a foyer (which we knew) but what’s there has a pretty slate floor and a good-sized coat closet. You walk right into the formal living room (which we’re still figuring out how to use). Right now it has lavender walls and cream colored carpeting.



It’s a good size, so I’d love to figure out a way to make it truly useable space. We’ll see. From the living room you walk into the kitchen, which connects to the great room. When I walked into this kitchen it felt so surreal, because I honestly felt like I was standing in a photograph. We’ve just looked at the photos so many damn times.


The actual cooking space isn’t huge, and it’s not a recently updated kitchen by any means, but the fact that it opens to the great room and that it has that whole left hand side with additional storage makes it far superior to all of the kitchens we’ve had in New York. Eventually we’ll replace the countertops (some are cream and some are dark green) and I’d love to paint the cabinets, but that probably isn’t happening before we move in.

The great room is amazingly bright and airy. It’s the room that I suspect we’ll use as our everything room, hence the question mark on how to use the living room. There are six skylights (I think? – now I can’t remember), sliding doors to the backyard on both ends, and windows along the other wall. It’s a tad smaller than I expected it to feel, but that may have had to do with the odd furnishing and the paint color.



Clearly we have some painting to do (or to hire out, if we’re being honest). The flooring also has to go. (I only took one of those pictures, by the way, which is why the time of day and the furniture don’t match).

The bedrooms are small, which we knew going in. That was one of our big compromises. For some reason, Vivi’s room (the smallest, at 10 x 9) felt exactly the way I expected it to feel, and didn’t concern me at all. I felt the same way about our room, which is 14 x 11; enough room to make it work. The boys’ room, however, gave me pause. It felt really small in person. Smaller than I expected. I honestly wondered how we were going to get two beds in there, but Roberta claims they’ve done it before, so we’ll see. It’s 10 x 11, with a door on one side, a closet on another, and windows on the other two walls, so you don’t have a lot of unobstructed wall space to work with. It’s also painted a dark mauve, so maybe that’s contributing to my perception of the size.

The bathroom needs a crazy amount of work – a total gut renovation if you will, but that’s not going to happen for awhile. It has the original 1954 pink and green tile, with a pink sink, pink tub, and pink toilet. For some reason, the homeowners have no fewer than five paint colors in there – every corner changes to a new sherbet-toned color. We’ll paint it, but the rest will have to wait till we can afford to change it.


Those cabinets are pink, in case you can’t tell. At least it has a ton of counter space and storage underneath. I sort of love that.

The backyard is lovely. We have a big patio (which I didn’t take any photos of, for some reason) with an apple tree that will provide shade for a table and chairs perfectly. There’s plenty of yard for the kids to play, but not so much that the yard work will be out of control. Jonah immediately found the spot where he wants his treehouse/swingset and squatted down to show us.


Fortunately that’s the corner that my dad had in mind anyway.

The basement is partially finished, partially storage space and laundry room, but even the storage area is bright and spotless and wonderful and it’s huge. I am ridiculously excited about being able to store things in the basement. Christmas decorations? Out of season and outgrown kid clothes? So long expensive storage unit across town. I’m also thrilled to have a garage for bikes and other outdoor kid toys. And our own laundry? Amazing. When you’ve lived in an apartment in New York for thirteen years, your bar is pretty low. All of these conveniences that are probably boring to others seem completely remarkable to us.

The finished part of the basement has 1950s knotty pine paneling, a knotty pine bar, and pink shag carpeting. Eventually we’ll re-carpet, but we honestly don’t mind the paneling. It has character.


When Jonah walked into the basement he asked, “Is this where we’re going to play?” Eventually yes, this is where we think all of the toys will live. Maybe not until we can trust the twins to navigate the stairs on their own, but it won’t be long.

There’s also a large (10 x 18) breezeway from the garage that connects to both the kitchen and great room, and we plan to turn it into a mudroom eventually. I’ve always wanted a mudroom. This picture is dark and terrible, but you get the idea.


The half bath is your typical outdated half bath, unremarkable except that it has a window into the great room (since the great room was an addition, and that window used to go to the outside). It will need to be renovated, but it’s going to have to wait.


Overall, our impressions of the house were really positive. Kristin said that it was perfect, and I think she really meant that. It was probably 95% what I expected, with very few surprises. I’m someone who really wants things complete; leaving things halfway done gives me anxiety. Walking through the house as a naive first-time homebuyer was a bit of a reality check about how much simply isn’t going to be done when we move in, and I have to figure out how to deal with that and not get all twitchy about it. We weren’t shopping for a fixer upper (and we’re not terribly handy), but this house just felt right to us. We plan to have it painted and to put in new flooring throughout most of it (with the exception of things like the bathrooms, basement, and mudroom that we plan to do later on), but now I wish that we could paint the kitchen cabinets immediately, which makes me want to do the countertops immediately, and those things just aren’t in the budget. We also realized that we need to paint the trim in at least the great room if not a few of the other rooms (we’d planned to leave the trim for budget reasons), because it isn’t cream, it’s pale pink. So there was more of a sense of “oh, there’s a lot to do here” than I’d expected to feel, but I’m also aware that this is surely just a new homebuyer thing. I need to admit that most houses need some things (or at least some cosmetic changes to fit the style of the new buyers), the projects are rarely “complete” and I have to figure out how to live with that.

Kristin has spent about a billion hours on Pinterest over the past couple of months, so we’ve had about a million conversations about design and colors and what not. Kristin discovered this handy piece about choosing a whole house color palette, so we’ve been referencing that as we go. We picked out a sofa and then abandoned the original idea because the colors weren’t right, and we’ve been choosing and re-choosing paint colors for ages.  We’re sorta thinking that we’ll end up along these lines, but things could change quite a bit.

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We want to put in hardwood floors in some sort of a warm, light tone, but we have no idea what that will be. We’re excited to check out some flooring places now that we’re here. Jonah is excited to plan out his swingset/treehouse with Papa Doc (and honestly I think that Papa Doc is just as excited). Last night he said that it needed four swings, three ladders, three sets of stairs, a fireman’s pole, a slide, and a trap door. It’s a tall order no matter how you slice it.

As we drove to the house, Kristin said to Jonah that since he’s always called our apartment “the red house” (because the exterior wall on our balcony was brick), she wondered what he would call the new house. He stubbornly refused to consider the possibility that it could have a name, since he didn’t even want to see it. When I laid down with him at bedtime, however, he announced to me (unprompted) that the new house would be called “the brown house.” That moment was worth so much.