Skip to content
home | decorate | our house: then + now

our house: then + now

    The house a few doors down from us is for sale. It is a duplicate of ours (don’t you just love how builders do that?!) and looks the same as it did when it was built 8 1/2 year ago. As I was walking by, I peeked at the flyer and it made me smile to see the photos – my how our house has changed over these 8 years.


    It’s easy to forget all the progress we’ve made when we still have an ongoing list of what updates to make, so I thought it would be fun to compare a few before and afters just to see the difference.

    I’m actually using the professional photos from the current listing (with permission from our good friend who is the agent) because a. they are really good and b. i can not find the original photos we took when we bought the house (boo!). Like all great real estate photos, these make the house look slightly better than it does in real life, and my after photos are quick ones taken by me, so don’t judge too harshly :)

    The only difference between the neighbor house and ours is the cabinets (ours were medium-dull-toned), the tile (greenish-gray – which you can see in this post) and we have a second window next to our front door. Otherwise, it’s a match.

    Here we go!





    changes: painted walls white, added hardwood floors, taller baseboards, changed light fixtures, painted interior of front door, hung curtains for privacy, painted wallpaper in office





    changes: painted walls white, added molding to divide tall walls, resurfaced fireplace, added built-ins, new mantle, installed hardwood floors







    changes:  removed upper cabinets, added open shelves, painted lower cabinets, added beadboard backsplash, extended counter top and island, granite countertops, under-mount sink + new faucet, changed lighting, added built-in bench, painted door, painted walls and ceiling, added crown molding, new stove, dishwasher, refrigerator and added beverage cooler, installed hardwood floors. Whew.





    changes: painted walls, new hardwood floors, wood-wrapped openings in walls, new light fixture, taller baseboards installed

    Obviously the before and afters look different because of the furniture and art on the walls, but just going through the list reminds me that we’ve really done a lot with this house! It truly feels like we’ve made a standard builder-grade home into one that reflects our style.  I like to call it making builder-grade better. 

    For more photos of our house, click here.

    63 thoughts on “our house: then + now”

    1. I love the home you’ve created – what a difference! Have you shared details about the wood wrapped wall opening you show in the dining room photo? I’ve love to check out that post. thank you!

    2. Hi Emily,
      I am in the process of choosing new countertops, and I love the granite in your kitchen. What is the name of the stone that you chose?

    3. Hi Emily!
      You have such a beautiful home! Wondering if you happened to have a tutorial for how you did the top of your fireplace above the mantel? It looks like shingles? I would love to try that on our fireplace at home!
      Thank you, Mindy

    4. Emily,
      I absolutely love your style, your blog and your heart! Amazing job on your home! I also love your prints, my fav is the fruit of the Spirit (bought a few years ago) which is hanging on my painted brick wall in the kitchen! Happy New Year! Blessings, Suzanne

    5. Your before/after photos are amazing! I think it is a great reminder that with vision, any so-so house can be made to be spectacular. You must have the most wonderful house in the neighborhood. So warm and welcoming (just like you!).

    6. Amazing! I especially love how your kitchen turned out. It looks like a place for family and friends to hang out together.

      And GO HAWKS! :)

    7. HI! love following your beautiful home for inspiration! I am wondering where the hanging blak and white fixture in your office is from! thank you!! xx

      1. The pendant in my office is a drum shade pendant from potterybarn kids (it used to hang in my son’s nursery) that I recovered with ikea striped fabric and twill tape for the edges. Super easy makeover!

    8. Seeing the comparison photos really makes me feel a bit better about a builder grade house. Our home now was upgraded by the previous owners and they did a great job. Some homes in the neighborhood still look like they did 20 years ago which made picking our house that much easier. Upgrades win hands down, everyone likes a bit of personality UNLESS they know how to do that themselves. You were not kidding when you said your agent friend had great pictures taken of the house that is for sale. I mean I know your house is the one to note but those photos of the house for sale are nice! (random things I notice)…Thanks for sharing!

    9. So beautiful Emily! The changes make it look so cool and clean. I wish I could tour it in person! Or move in that house that’s for sale down the street! Looking forward to seeing your house decorated in Better Homes and Gardens — can’t wait! xo, Chelsea

    10. What a fun post! I dug up the photos I took of our house on our very first walk-through when it was up for sale and couldn’t believe how much we’ve made it “ours” in the 9 years since we moved in. I love how open and airy your house looks with the walls all painted white.

    11. Your house is beautiful! In fact I just sent this link to my husband and said I want to do everything she did, to our house! lol
      My question is, what did you use for your baseboards?

    12. If you mind me asking, where did you get your light fixture in your dining room? I’ve been looking for something similar and I’m having trouble finding one that I like. Thanks, and I love your home. It looks so clean and classic.

    13. Hi Emily! Your house is beautiful! We still live in our 1940’s North Seattle bungalow and always seem to be working on projects too. We just got similar dining room chairs to yours. Do yours have cushions? Or have you tried anything? I can’t tell from the picture and have been debating that for a while now. Currently my son sits on a folded fleece blanket:) Classy.

      Thanks for your wonderful blog! And Go Seahawks!

    14. What a great home you have made for your family. So personal & inviting. I love seeing your posts & yes, I will admit to trying to replicate some ideas in our house. Thanks for the update!

    15. Your home is lovely and your interior design skills are stunning. Well done. I may have missed it, but did you include the real estate link? If you did not, will you please forward my email to the real estate agent? The home is intriguing on “e-paper” and I want to learn more! Thanks. xx

    16. That is so amazing! I think the “befores” must be the standard around here in the PNW because we have a lot of the same in our house. Love how fresh your “afters” are!

    17. Love your style! I’ve been wanting to paint our walls white from the boring beige they are now, but my husband has been hesitant….can’t wait to show him your before and after photos! Think it’ll make him finally ‘see the light’! Thanks!

    18. Hi Emily. I love your style. You guys have done an amazing job. Can you tell me where you got the dining room chairs and if they are comfy :) I love the look!

    19. Your house is beautiful! I love the overall greyscale look you’ve chosen. It makes the quirky art pieces and decorative touches stand out even more! It somehow looks homey and fabulous all at once!

    20. Love love love what you did to your home! It is gorgeous! Please tell me how you attached the silver servers to your dining room wall. I have one in our dining room and I have hung it on a ribbon, but it doesn’t hang flush to the wall (it has little feet) and sticks out. Please tell me how I need to fix that!

      Thank you so much!

    21. While I absolutely love your home’s decor I still gotta ask and wondered if you guys asked yourself these question before signing on the dotted line for a cookie cutter builder home.

      .1 The living room view while very nice with those large windows still can’t ignore the fact that the neighbors two story homes all around the backyard make it feel a little claustrophobic.

      2. Any two story home is pricey enough why buy invest so much time and costs (labor & material) into upgrades if you won’t be getting back dollar for dollar on everything given that the neighborhood will always be cookie cutter builder grades.

      You have said in previous posts how you don’t see this being your forever home but then why continue to year after year – in what seems like forever – keep remodeling it?

      1. Great questions, and yes, we have talked through them. Here are our answers:

        1. When we purchased our house 8.5 years ago, we had just sold our darling, but in-terrible-shape 1920’s craftsman in Seattle. It had a sagging foundation, plaster walls, no dishwasher and rodents in the creepy basement. When we walked into this huge house and saw how new and clean it was – all for less than what we sold our tiny seattle house for – we were sold. We had searched and searched for the next place to raise our family and this felt like it. The houses surrounding us didn’t seem like a big deal then because of what features we were getting in exchange. NOW, it’s the main reason we would not have this be our long-term home. We just weren’t thinking about it then. Plus, we really didn’t expect to still be here 8.5 years later :)

        2. We have invested in our home and it may not pay off dollar for dollar when we sell. We realize this and have proceeded with the changes even still.

        Our philosophy is that we want to enjoy our house to the fullest in this moment. So if that has meant doing some diy to make it feel more like ‘us’ – that feels worth the time and money to make it happen.
        It is also our hobby and a part of my job, which adds an extra element to the mix. I don’t have a large shoe collection or fancy bags or do a ton of traveling, but instead we do house projects. We’ve had better homes & gardens here a few times and that certainly would not have been possible if we had left our house alone. So maybe we won’t have a dollar for dollar return on investment, but we feel okay about it for the experiences and enjoyment we have received instead.

        As for resale, we’re hoping our house will be set apart with the upgrades and sell for more than matching houses down the street. We’ll see if the time ever comes where we want to sell.

        This may not the best advice for everyone trying to decide if they want to put money into a house that they may not get back – so it’s probably just a case-by-case decision.

        1. Emily, I really agree with this philosophy. Not everyone does, like my husband to an extent, and many really do think just about resale. To each their own, and that’s certainly a legitimate concern, but being conservative and always thinking about resale resulted in our living in our first (very builder-grade) home for 6 years never really thinking of it as our house. I regret that, and with the house we are in now, I push harder to make what changes we can afford, for that very reason. My home needs to be my refuge, but it can’t if it feels like I’m always making design choices for a someday-maybe-unknown-future buyer.

          And of all the changes you made, I feel that wrapping the openings in the walls with wood makes one of the biggest differences. It’s so subtle, but when I’m in a house that has it, I always notice it. I honestly never thought of adding it in later.

        2. I too live in a 1920’s home (rodents in the creepy basement and all!) I totally agree with both your points. I’ve looked at newer homes and while I’m not for builder grade, they are so much more appealing after being here for 10 years with peeling plaster. All our money goes into repairs to upkeep the house from deteriorating versus spending money on the fun stuff like decorating! We also are looking to jump ship since we can get a newer home for cheaper. I love the charm of old homes and hesitate with moving into a cookie cutter neighborhood, but your home decorating is inspiring and shows you can make a house a home. Sometimes you just need to step back and realize what will be best for your family, like a basement with a playroom or a neighborhood full of kids. You can only worry so much about value. I’m in a suburb of Chicago and values have dropped so much I want to cry, but it’s life and you can’t live worrying about. Just enjoy the moment, enjoy the home and have fun decorating it. I can’t wait to see what else you do. Thanks for all the inspiration.

        3. Emily,

          Your home looks amazing!! How I wish I had a tiny bit of your talent and could make my space my home!! It makes me sad to see people live in a house for years then upgrade a few things to put it on the market. I love to see people enjoy the money, time and effort spent! And you’re right, it will set it apart from the others when you do decide it’s time to move on.

          Love reading your blog!

    22. When we casually browse homes for sale in our area, my husband and I tend to dismiss builder grade houses because of their lack of personality. You have shown me just how much personality can be infused into an otherwise plain house! Wonderful before/after contrast! Thanks for sharing!

      1. Right?! Every house is workable – just takes putting some personality back in with things like molding and floors and upgraded lighting – these are not always the fun things to change, but they form the foundation and make a huge difference!

    23. WOW! I love and have always admired your distinct style. I feel like I have design ADD, but you have really honed in on exactly what you like and your whole house is so Emily! :) It’s beautiful and looks like anything but a builder grade home. Beautiful!

      1. I love your improvements to your home. They look awesome. Wish I had your flair for decorating. I don’t think it looks builder grade either. It looks great. Home Sweet Home.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *