Making a House into a Home

It’s not about how big the house is, 

It’s about how happy the home is. 


I have never been keen on the thought of being tied down to one place. I love to travel and I always thought that buying a house would inhibit me from seeing the world like I want to, believing that owning a house meant that I wouldn’t have enough money to travel. However, after living in six different apartments in seven years being on the brink of a new decade in life, I began to really think about setting down some roots, to have one place that finally felt like a home.

As I began the home search, I found that trying to buy a house by myself on a non-profit salary left my options very sparse. I could choose from a decent house in a terrible part of town or a house that was falling down in a decent part of town. I wanted to make sure that I felt safe in my house, so I began looking into the decent areas of town to find a “fixer upper.” With the help of my family, and being a little handy myself, I thought that this would be my best option.

I found a house that was definitely a fixer upper, but it had good bones. It was solid, in a great part of town and had the character and charm I was looking for–underneath all of the wallpaper.

I have to admit that even thought this wasn’t the biggest or most gorgeous house, when I signed my name on the line as the new owner, I felt like I had just purchased my dream home. And in many ways it was. Though the thought of purchasing my own home terrified me, I always hoped that by the time I was 30, I would have something I could call my own. Closing on the house one month before my 30th birthday, made it feel like a dream had come true.

With the dream came a ton of work. There were holes in the ceilings, holes in the walls, an overwhelming amount of wallpaper in literally every room of the house and no updates made in years.  But the hardwood floors were almost perfect, the archways were beautiful and there were so many small quirks that I was excited about what this house could be. I was a bit apprehensive that we could do it all ourselves, but with such a small budget for renovations I didn’t have much of a choice. So we jumped right in. I was pleasantly surprised how much one coat of paint can completely change a room and how new decor and small updates can really bring an old house new life.

Below are a few of the updates that we have done so far. Though this isn’t anything you would see on HGTV, it was a few things that I could do with the help of a few family members, some elbow grease, a little drywall and a LOT of paint.

I absolutely love this wood burning fireplace, but it looked a bit dated with the red brick. If you know me, you know that I am a sucker for a good book, so these built-ins are what dreams are made of, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the glossy brown. I also adore these great beams that give the house that character that I was searching for.
So I whitewashed the fireplace to take away some of the harsh red tones, painted the built-ins and mantle a matte white, and painted the brackets on the beams black to really make them pop! I painted the walls and beams a light grey, kept the ceiling white and added a window treatment.
I love the natural light in my dining room, but the all white walls kind of made it look like a hospital and the chandelier was dated.
So I painted below the chair rail blue and put in this cute rustic chandelier to tie in the black and brown of my dining room furniture.
Yes, that is correct. There was wallpaper in the kitchen. As well as a large “butcher block” that took away a significant area of usable space. This kitchen is small, super small (which doesn’t bother me at all, because in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “I use my oven for storage.”) but I needed to make use of all the space I had. 
So, I decided to take out the additional cabinets and remove the butcher block (and add some storage in the dining room) and buy a much smaller stove. These small changes literally doubled the size of the kitchen.
I have to admit, when I first walked into this house and saw that backsplash and countertop tile, it hurt my eyes. But once the floral wallpaper was removed, the tile didn’t actually look that bad. 
The tile grew on me and I decided to keep it. I matched the blue in the tile and decided to also keep the existing cabinets and just paint them to match (this is also the same color blue that i used in the dining room). To my surprise it gave the tile look kind of a Spanish modern look, rather than the old and dingy look it had when I first walked in.
IMG_1884 (1)
My bedroom was my favorite room to work on. This lovely wall paper just wasn’t quite my style, but with three windows, three closets and all of the original doors and hardwood floors, this was a beautiful room even before I got ahold of it. I’ll take a small kitchen as long as I have ample closet space! 
IMG_1885 (1)
They had already started to remove the wallpaper when I moved in, so it was just a matter of finishing it. Little did I know, there were four layers of whimsically decorated wallpaper underneath the layer you see here! So it was a slow process. 
I (not me, my brothers and dad) removed the wallpaper and I chose this mauve color paint for the walls. I have never had the opportunity to choose my own paint colors, so I let my creative side come out (as you can see throughout this post, I’m not a huge fan of white). I bought the vanity and ottoman from a flea market, restored and painted them, had the mirror from an old remodel that was done years ago and used photos that my dad took for the wall art. 
This little reading nook is my favorite part of the room. There wasn’t a lot that I could do with this space, so I put a chair I inherited from my grandma next to the jewelry box my grandpa made me and added a little disney inspo on the wall. I also have such heart eyes for these closet doors. They all match and are the originals from when the house was built back in 1920!
To top it off, my bed fit perfectly in this cove. With little room for a night stand, my dad made me a floating shelf that we attached to the wall that I included some cute little decorating pieces I found from Target. 
IMG_1886 (1)
Y’all. What? It’s hard to have a vision for something when you are working with this. Even with all of the bad, I loved the black and white tile floor and I didn’t mind too much the teal and black tile on the walls.  
So I went with the black, white and green theme that we already had going on. I painted the walls a light mint color, painted the window pane white, put in a new light fixture and sconces and threw in a black shower curtain to tie everything together. Simple, yet much improved.

I think the biggest thing I took from this small reno is that you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to make some significant changes. If you’re considering taking an old house and updating or fixing it up, I would encourage you to do so. As long as there are no significant problems (aka plumbing, electric, roof, foundation) there are so many things that you can do with a few friends (or family members) to brighten up an old house.

And the best part is that I can still travel. Keeping my costs down on renovations and updates meant that the majority of my money can be saved to circle the globe, while also allowing me to have a spot, that is all mine, to come home to.

The things I did are definitely not everyone’s taste and I’m sure the designers and interior decorators out there are rolling their eyes right about now. But it is exactly how I pictured my home to be. Partly because it’s cozy, inviting and pretty accurately represents me. There’s not a theme and nothing matches (an illustration of my life perhaps?) but there are books in every room, relics and souvenirs from all of my travels, photos of those I love and furniture passed down from generations. All of the things that mean the most in my life.

It has become a place that there is always a spare bedroom for anyone who needs it. A place where people can come over without invitation or calling ahead. It is a space that encourages laughter, creativity and community. A space where everyone is welcome, conversation is shared and many dinners and drinks are consumed.

It was a very proud moment for me to see where this house was and how far it has come all by the work of my own hands and the hands of my family members. Maybe there will be bigger and better homes in my future. Maybe not. But for my first home, this is definitely a dream come true.



American Beautiful






(*all before images taken from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s