One of my favorite books when I was a kid was In a People House. It starts like this: “Come inside, Mr. Bird,” said the mouse, “I’ll show you what there is in a people house.”
Together, mouse and bird explore the wonders of a people house. They open every door and peek in every room because all the people are out for the day and no one had security systems back when this book was written.
The opening line was the highlight of the book, which quickly disintegrated into a litany of sight words for emergent readers, including bureau drawers and baked beans.
It was not exactly Dr. Seuss.
But I read it over and over again because I loved the idea of being able to explore a house when all the people were away.
I still do.
Maybe that’s why I love Better Homes and Gardens magazines and Pinterest and taking walks at night when everyone’s windows are lit up and I can peek inside and see how they arrange their pictures above the fireplace.
There’s a word for that. It’s called nosy. Or, if you’re into psycho-babble, you might call it voyeurism, although I hate that word because it sounds like bon voyage! and I don’t understand what looking in people’s windows has to do with going on a cruise.
Anyway, my perfectly normal and not-crazy curiosity about people’s homes made me think that there might be some other perfectly normal and not-crazy people out there who also like to look in houses.
And perhaps other perfectly normal and not-crazy people like you might like to look in a house like mine, especially since we’ve been hard at work renovating it and turning it into the house of our dreams just in time to sell it.
But we haven’t sold it yet! For now, it’s still ours, and you can take a look. In fact, you don’t even have to wait until it’s dark and the windows are lit up. You can come right in.
Our house looks like a two-story house from the outside, but in fact, it has four different levels.
When you walk through the front door, you enter the main living area: kitchen, dining room, and living room. That great room was one of the reasons we loved the space. We’re not formal dining room people, or formal living room people. Formal living rooms are places children hide when they feel the urge to eat an entire bottle of gummy vitamins in one sitting.
Not that I would know.
We wanted one great big room where the gummy vitamins remained in sight at all times.
Unfortunately, the builders of this house decided to break up the great room concept by putting a non-weight bearing 3/4-height wall right down the middle of the kitchen and living room.
This is our house when we bought it.
I can just imagine the builders standing in this room and saying to each other, “You know what would make this house even better? A strange and completely pointless 3/4-height wall to divide the kitchen and the living room so children have a place to hide when they feel the need to eat an entire bottle of gummy vitamins all at once.”
And because their wives were not there to whap them on the heads, they did just that.
The previous owners did not know what to do with that pointless wall, so they used it as a growth chart and marked their kids’ height on it.
Almost as classy as that gold ‘n brass light fixture which nobody seemed to hate as much as me. Am I a lighting snob?
The rest of the room had a lot of potential, but it was dated and cheap (sounding like a snob again…) as you can see from the pictures below.
Every time I visited the house before we moved in, I would speak to that room in Veggie Tale and say, “We’re going to knock your wall down!”
However, we were not intending to knock it down right away because other house projects were more pressing and we had a limited budget. But I happened to mention my vision of a wall-less room to an eccentric handyman who was working for us until my blood pressure forced us to let him go because eccentric is another word for crazy and crazy people do strange things to your house when they own power tools and copies of your house keys.
Case in point: I pulled in the driveway one day, walked in the front door, and found the entire room was white with drywall dust. The wall that I had hated was gone–overnight! Wires dangled from the ceiling and a very large man was up on a very small step stool with a can of spray texture in his hand, looking as guilty as a handyman who had just knocked down my wall without asking.
“Greg!” I said in a way that may or may not have been louder than I intended. “What have you done?”
“I–I–” he stammered. “I know you didn’t want to knock the wall down yet, but I had to do it!”
Turns out, Greg is an insomniac, and instead of taking Melatonin like normal people, he gets up in the night, drives to other people’s homes with a sledge hammer, and takes out the walls that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
I almost went into labor.
We had already spent that year’s “fix up this dump” money and I was about to deliver twins right there in the middle of the drywall dust because I had no idea how much time or money it was going to cost to restore my kitchen/dinning room/living room to usable condition and did I mention I was due to have twins within a month?
So he didn’t charge me anything for it. All it cost me was four weeks of bed rest and twice-daily hugs from a blood pressure cuff.
Looking back, it was worth it, but if you had mentioned it to me at the time you might have seen why high blood pressure and pregnant women don’t miss.
But it was totally worth it. Having that wall down completely opened up the space and allowed my children to run daily laps around the kitchen island like they were training for some kind of spastic marathon.
So that was great.
After the wall came down, we worked hard to transform the room, but it was slow going because we had another room that took priority (you’ll see that another day).
In fact, we finally wrapped up our great room renovation just a couple weeks ago. Now, it looks like this:
Ahhhh! I love it so much! Indulge me while I show you many more pictures of the exact same room.
You will recall I transformed that awful fireplace surround a few months ago and told you all about it in this post.
So much better! Good-bye, faux granite!
Here’s one shot of the dining room table, which looks out onto the back deck.
Notice how we ditched that brass ‘n glass “chandelier” and replaced it with this one we got at an overstock store. I don’t remember the price tag but I remember it was under $50 and it was my husband’s birthday present to me.
He just didn’t know it when I bought it.
Also, I didn’t crop this shot so you could see that we have spent every spare cent on building materials and nothing on furniture. Only two of our dining room chairs match, and both of them have broken backs.
But I’m not really regretting the choice to focus on home improvements when the before and after shots look like this:
It hardly looks like the same room, does it? Of course, we put a lot into it. But the cabinets are actually the same (even the island!), and so is the flooring. We did replace the carpet, but the Pergo had to stay for budget reasons.
Tomorrow, I’m going to tell you how I refinished those dated golden oak builder grade cabinets to make them look classy and new. The best part? It cost less than $100, including hardware.
I’m totally serious.
I’m going to talk about the counter tops too, which are granite, and explain why we put them in and how we got them on the cheap. Or at least, cheap-er. Because that almost killed me.
So, I hope you’ll continue to join us for more of what’s inside our people house. There’s a lot more to see!
*If you’re just joining us on this house tour, be sure to check out yesterday’s post on the outside of the house!