It was last September, just about this time of year to be exact, and the six of us were in Iowa visiting family. Matilda was still itty bitty then, and it was our first time having her meet her great grandparents in person since the start of the pandemic. What a special weekend it was to become.

It started out as an ordinary day, well, ordinary for 2020. Whatever that means. The kids running wild everywhere, toys were scattered, and the grown ups in the house were busy planning where to go and what to eat and how to orchestrate all of this during a time when masks were becoming controversial and people we knew were starting to get sick. It was honestly terrifying and we were on the cusp of exhaustion. Andrew and I were still in our PJ’s when he excitedly yelled from the other room, “Babe! That house on *** Boulevard we love is for sale!” I knew exactly which one he was referring to, and it was only for a hot second that I wondered why he was on Zillow, because moments later and I was sitting in front of the computer scrolling through photos of the house we always wondered about. It was the well-groomed French countryside exterior that always made us smile, and brute curiosity that got us giddy when that address popped up in our mailbox.

Were we planning on moving? No, not really. But for about a year we had been slowly making a need-to-do list for our current home, alongside a mental want-to-do list with hopes to tackle everything all at once, perhaps sometime in the next five years or so. Needless to say, this little peek-a-boo at the that house on *** Boulevard changed our the direction of our sails rather drastically, and we had better buckle up because it was about to be quite the ride.

Here’s the thing. While beautiful and likely perfect for whoever would end up buying her, that house on ***  Boulevard was a far cry from what we were looking really for. It was gorgeous, yes, but it had a pool, we have never ever wanted a pool. It also had a lot of higher end finishes that were not our style, so $$$ if we wanted to change that. The layout was, well, not Colonial or Georgian or anything like what we thought it would be. And perhaps more importantly, we weren’t really looking to move. Or so we thought. Because right after we took a little scroll down Zillow lane on the house we thought we’d fall madly, deeply in love with, we zoomed out a pinch and realized {wouldn’t ya know it} the house next door was for sale as well! Naturally, we clicked the link and the rest is history.

We had never seen this home before because, in truth, we were always looking at and fantasizing about the other one. It was also covered in a lot a mismatched landscaping and didn’t really pop. Had it even been there the whole time? But there she sat, a nearly century old brick Georgian with an incredible outdoor space, and nearly the same traditional layout as our home. It had rooms as opposed to an open layout which we love, oodles of character, heaps of charm, and impeccable craftsmanship by whoever made her a hundred years ago.

It was also both wider and larger than our current home, with ample space to accommodate not only our growing crew of six, but both the need-to-do list and the want-to-do list we had been sitting on for awhile now. We couldn’t tell from the photos, but it appeared to be in immaculate condition, a rarity for homes in the neighborhood we wanted to be in. I immediately called our relator who set up a showing upon our return, with one itsy bitsy caveat: it was already under contract. Drat! Of course we missed the boat on this. I could tell from the photos that whoever owned this home had taken extremely good care of her over the years, and despite it already being under contract, we both agreed we needed to see this house in person. If anything, viewing it could give us perspective and some good ideas on what to do with our house, whether that be renovation work or to move on and sell.

The “what would we do with this historic gem” conversation started right off the bat, even before stepping inside. I don’t know if it’s because we are crazy or because we love old homes and historic-inspired interior design, but bringing this charmer back to life in our heads became a little game we’d play with one another. It occupied our drive back home just in case, by some stroke of good luck, the deal previously made would fall through and we’d have a chance at making this home ours. But of course, and much more likely, we could have walked through it and completely changed hearts if it felt off in any way. Which was logically what was to happen. We only had photos to go on, and those could have been misleading. We tend to be very emotional when home buying, honestly – anything buying – and this would be no exception. If it felt off in any way, we’d have moved on. Sure, it looked great on Zillow, and it appeared to check all the boxes, but the feeling of home is intangible and we knew from previous experience that this could very easily been too good to be true. At this point it was because of said pending contract.

None of that happened. In fact, this house felt like home the moment we stepped through the front door. We both felt that spark and were, to put it lightly, gobsmacked. It was better than we thought it would be. Like a warm hug, the walls gave us the feeling of comfort and ignited within, a creative, nurturing, positive energy that we had only felt in one other home, the one we had currently been living in. Unlike many occupants of older homes in the area, the former owners had treated this home like the treasure it was, meaning they didn’t rip anything out that wasn’t original and did a great job honoring the older details throughout. So refreshing! They did, however, add a few things on, and while in the 9o’s it was probably super gorgeous, a few parts of the house, albeit the most important ones, needed a bit of heart and soul. While full of potential, the kitchen and the living room were in need of a complete gut and a lot of love. They felt entirely disjointed and “other,” creating a bit of a confused feeling when walking from room to room. But upon our initial walk through we knew exactly what we would do if this home was ours, as the vision came to life almost immediately.

The other parts that were just not doing it were the primary bathroom and closet, which were both ugly and impractical, along with the haphazard laundry room and “black room” which we’d find out was painted in such a lush, rich, moody color in attempts to hide the extensive water damage that would soon become apparent after a massive rainstorm and walkthrough thereafter foiled any attempt in such deceit. But let me back up.

So we walked through the house, we dreamed the dreams and saw in this incredible home everything we wanted to do in our current home, but because of the lot, the size, the pandemic, and other reasons, should and probably could not. Essentially, there were things we wanted to do to our home, but we didn’t want the process of moving again. We also wanted to add on etc. etc. etc. but honestly, adding on in certain areas wouldn’t have made the less desirable parts go away. So we looked at our options:

  1. Put a back up offer on this house right away and cross all the fingers and all the toes and everything else that can be crossed in meantime and sell our current home.
  2. Stay in our current home, work on those pressing need-to-do’s that old homes almost always require at one point or another, while continuing to look more seriously at homes like this one.
  3. Stay in our current home, work on those pressing need-to-do’s that old homes almost always require at one point or another, and stay put.

We went home that day, put a back up offer on the house, wrote a note to the family who were selling, and then crossed all the things in hopes that the stars would align in our favor. That being said, after sending our offer and letter I made my peace and thanked the universe and God for bringing us this home, because it truly got the wheels turning for better or for worse, and would be changing our course whether or not this specific home was meant to be ours or not. I did not expect what was to come.

I was at Homesong Market unpacking boxes when we got the call. By some stroke of incredible luck on our end, the first offer fell through, the potential buyer was not prepared to tackle this house, or so we heard, and because of the letter and apparent love we had for this family home, they sellers were going to give us a shot. I about fell over. I had honestly stopped looking at those Zillow photos and put a halt on designing the kitchen and various rooms in my head because back up offers do not pull through. They are called “back ups” for a reason! Well, back-up, schmack up. We got the house!

But this would clearly mean we’d have to sell our current home, and given that we would need to do extensive renovating and restoration, we’d need to hire a contractor yesterday. Did I mention that this was all happening in the midst of a global pandemic?  And that we had a preemie newborn at home? And that we were homeschooling? And that I just opened a brick and mortar for Homesong Market? And that in the coming weeks I would get COVID-19 too? 2020 feels like an absolute blur, to be frank. And I know I am not alone in that. It was the year where time simultaneously moved faster and slower than it ever had before, creating this dizzying affect I never want to experience again. Cue emotional vertigo that I am still swirling in, a year later no less.

In the days after we found out that the house was ours we met with out future contractors and did a long walk-through. This prompted more walkthroughs, and after taking their advice to do the whole project at once rather than piecemeal room by room, we signed a contract and work began! This was last November, and after finding out just how much water damage there actually was, our plans shifted and elongated quite a bit, but more on that later. So we had the house, the contractors set up, and now we just needed to sell our home and figure out what to do in the interim. What would ensue was a dot-to-dot of poor decisions, but ones we made nevertheless. I wish I could turn back time but I can’t so here we are, still in a rental living on top of one another, and it’s almost September, a year after this whole process began. Our calendar is marked for a late October move in date and there is still so much to be done. The driveway is being poured as I type and materials that were supposed to be in months ago are who knows where. We had been told we’d be in by late spring, but that got pushed back several times. Alas, October is basically a stone’s throw away, and nearly all the design decisions have been made, down to every single piece of hardware and paint color, so I feel pretty great despite feeling displaced and disoriented.

The kids are going back to school in September, the house will be done shortly thereafter, and by Thanksgiving we should finally, finally have a home again after not being in one since December. I’ll get into all that has transpired over the last year here in the posts to follow, from design, to selling our home, to storage, to how the pandemic affected nearly everything, along with some high notes {interior design – wee and so fun} and some low notes {a robbery – boo and downright horrible}. Because it wouldn’t be a renovation/restoration without both, ya know? But this is the start of our new home’s story!

Am I writing this for cathartic reasons purely for myself, a little bit. Am I writing this for my grand babies, so when they are old enough to read about this old home they grew up visiting, the one they came to for holidays and sleepovers, they’ll know a bit of the back story too? Absolutely. But I am also writing this for those who necessarily do not believe in back up offers and for those who like to read about the process of buying and selling and restoring and designing old homes. And if you made it this far without any photos to accompany this long read, that is likely you! So, I thank you for being here. I promise to include some imagery next time. Hey! I’ve even got mood boards ready to share. It’s gonna get real fun up in here.

 

Lessons Learned:

  1. Backup offers can and do work.
  2. Don’t expect your move in date to be what your contractors say it will be. It’s not their fault, it’s an industry truth.
  3. Do write a heartfelt letter to the seller of the home you want to buy.
  4. Dark {specifically black} walls aren’t always a design detail. Beware.
  5. And lastly, don’t get on Zillow unless you are prepared to move. Joking. Sort of. But I am sure glad you did that September day, Andrew.

xx Amanda

 

  • Sam

    So thrilling! I can back up the importance of writing letters to sellers! We also had a very impractical purchase of a new home, with a toddler and a newborn, with a complete lockdown in our city announced the morning after our offer was accepted. We are in the house, and THRILLED to be here, but we had a laundry list of things that needed to be done to our old house before it could get to market (we were planning to move in the next could of years, but definitely did not plan for it to happen so soon).

    When we finally listed our house, the people who ended up getting it provided us with such a beautiful letter than I cried, and the things they wrote about being excited about were the exact things I was going to miss about living there! Before even seeing all the offers, I had said to my partner that if their offer is even close to the highest offer, we just had to go with them! They’ve been in the new house only a couple months and have already put so much love into it, and have made it so beautiful! It’s fun to drive by on my way to my in-laws! But their letter truly played a huge role in them getting the house!

    AND… I am loving following along in all this house madness! It sounds like quite the experience. I am so sorry for the bad parts, but I can’t wait to see the finished house, with all your beautiful styling in there!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Sam, yes yes yes to letters! Our relator suggested we write one if we were serious and honestly it was the easiest thing I’ve ever written because we felt this home was so right for us. I love that you got one on the receiving end, how incredibly special. Like you, we did not expect to be moving so soon and honestly we wish we were still in our old home while renovating, but we are near the finish line and that is all I am focusing on now. Moving is SUCH an emotional ride! Wishing you all the best and thank you for sharing. I miss blogging and connecting with readers so much, this was a delight to read this afternoon. xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Melissa

    As a longtime reader of your blog I was originally pretty shocked when you said you were moving. It’s not my business at all, but I admit I was disappointed. I love your old house (not as much as you do I’m sure!). I realized you had your own reasons, though, and I am rooting for your new house now! Good luck and congratulations, and I hope things go smoother from here on. What a saga! <3ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Melissa, you and many others! It was and is a special home, and while we definitely miss it, we were at the fork in the road of either renovating/restoring it or moving, and I am so glad we found a home that better suits our needs. There is so much we did not share about our last home that was not ideal on social media because I do not like to dwell on negativity, but I am so glad about the choice we made.

      I have also really loved the design process and feel like this was all meant to happen, haphazard blunders and all. Hoping we are all smooth as well from here on out, and come on October! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Annette

    Looking forward to reading more of your story Amanda. My husband and I are in the mist of a remodel of our home and it’s so reassuring to read the story of others. Here’s hoping you’re in your forever home real soon!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Annette, ’tis the year for renovating it appears! Hope all is going smoothly [or as smooth as renovations can go, that is] for you all. Are you living at home while remodeling? I don’t know what is harder, living through it or away from it! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Tricia

    Oh, I just love this. We are knee deep in some basic renovations on our first home and hoping to move in by September. Fall feels like the best time to settle into a new space.
    Our letter to the sellers sealed the deal – I wrote about the piano that they had, and how I was dreaming of a house where I could bring a piano home after several years of living without one. We got the house, and they left us that old creaky piano. I cannot wait to see what unfolds for you and your home in these next few months.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Tricia, what an autumn this will be for us both! And they left you the piano!! Holy smokes, what a delight. I just got goosebumps reading this. Thank you for sharing! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Amy

    Thank you for sharing Amanda. I have missed hearing your thoughts and reading your beautiful words xReplyCancel

    • admin

      Amy, thank you sweet one! It feels really good being back in this space. Like home. xx AmandaReplyCancel