top of page
  • Writer's pictureDakota J.

From Rags to Riches: Our First Remodel

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

– Thomas Jefferson

In the early fall of 2016, Jeffrey and I decided to start consulting with a bank and realtor about then possibility of buying a house. After gathering some information, we set off with our relator and some members of our family to take a look.

That first weekend of house searching felt a lot like an episode of House Hunters. We looked at three properties:

  1. a move-in-ready townhome

  2. a home with not-so-great updates

  3. a home with no updates whatsoever

I liked option 2. My husband liked option 3. Thinking that we were not going to be able to choose between either of those, we almost even settled on the townhome. The third option was a 1983 split-foyer home with absolutely no updates at all.

To be completely honest, I hated the house.

The amount of work that I perceived it to need seemed daunting and impossible. How were we ever going to be able to do some of the work or even afford to do it?

That day, Jeffrey’s grandma told him to take me to Lowe’s (a home improvement store) so that he could show me some of the ideas that he had for the house. We spent the afternoon walking through the store. We looked at light fixtures, counter top options, flooring, paint, and window treatments. This helped a lot.

You see, what I was missing was the vision. Jeffrey, fortunately, was able to walk through the house and see its potential. I, on the other hand, was unable to look past all of its outdatedness.

Outside of the house’s outdated appearance, another visit with my father, grandfather, and grandmother helped me to see the “good bones” that this house had. Sure, when you just looked at the current paint, popcorn ceiling, laminate counter tops, dated fixtures, and linoleum flooring, the house looked very dated. But beneath all of that were some good bones and a lot of potential. My family helped me to see even more what the potential of this property would be.

After our second visit to the house, I was convinced. We went to lunch with my family. We discussed price point and how much we could afford to put into the remodel. On the following Monday, we submitted our initial offer on the property, and after a week or two of negotiations, we finally came to an agreement.

We closed on the house on November 10, 2016 in the afternoon.

By the time we went to bed that night, we had removed all of the carpet and popcorn ceiling from the main level of the house. In the first week, we repainted the entire main floor of the house, and started to install new bamboo flooring.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of all the work we did, but I am writing this post as a sort of “digital scrapbook” of all the work we did. I’ll share some information on some of the updates, but I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty details of everything.

Dining Room & Kitchen

While you cannot see it very well, the chandelier in the original dining room was some kind of birds with the “feathers” making the lights. It was atrocious, and I couldn’t wait to get rid of it! (It became a running joke that I was going to gift it to someone when we replaced it!)

Photo compare: Dining room (L: before, R: after)

In the kitchen, we repainted all of the cabinets, had quartz counter tops installed, and titled the backsplash. We also removed all the linoleum and installed porcelain tile floors. These updates really brightened the kitchen up!

Photo compare: Kitchen (L: before, R: after)

You will also see that we partially removed a wall and made a breakfast bar with a four-inch piece of walnut with a live edge!

Photo compare: Kitchen (L: before, R: after)

Obviously, we replaced all of the outdated appliances with new, stainless steel, Whirlpool appliances. (The dishwasher, though, is Samsung.)

Photo compare: Kitchen (L: before, R: after)

Living Room & Spare Bedroom

We don’t have any original pictures of the living room, second bathroom, or spare bedroom, but here you can see all of the updates that we did in those spaces. We also installed a feature wall with barn wood that we scavenged ourselves (with permission) from a fallen barn.

Screened-In Porch

On the screened-in porch, we removed the carpeting and created a barn wood feature on the ceiling. We also installed an outdoor ceiling fan and sunshade, which really help during the summer months!

Photo compare: Screened-in porch (L: before, R: after)

Master Bedroom & Bathroom

The master bedroom got new paint, a new light fixture, and new flooring. We also painted a blue accent wall, which is one of my favorite features.

Photo compare: Master bedroom (L: before, R: after)

We also updated the master bathroom with a new sink and vanity, tiled shower surround, and new toilet.

Photo compare: Master bathroom (L: before, R: after)

The Pet Bedroom

The “small” bedroom on the main floor of the house became our “pet bedroom” which is home to our two dogs (Charlee & Rosco) and our two cats (Oscar & Tyra).

Photo compare: Spare bedroom (L: before, R: after)


The outside of the house didn’t get much of an update except for removing the ugly bush in the front and the diseased Ash tree. While we were sad to see the tree go, we now get a lot more natural light in the front living room.

Photo compare: Front of house (L: before, R: after)

Photo compare: Back of house (L: before, R: after)

Basement / Lower Level

The lower level of the house had concrete floors and drywall. It was also plumbed out for a bathroom. We created a fourth (non-conforming) bedroom, home office / bar, and updated bathroom and laundry room. The floor is a porcelain tile that looks similar to our bamboo flooring on the main level.

While the majority of this work was done in the first four months of owning the house, we only recently finished all of the door and window trim. We recently put the house on the market as we will be relocating to Champaign, Illinois. We will miss this house and Iowa City quite a bit, but we are so excited for our new adventure! We have so much to be proud of in this home, and we hope the next owners will appreciate and love all of the work we did.

Be sure to follow my blog so that you can hear about our move (mid-pandemic) and the new adventure we are going to be on in Champaign!

12 views0 comments
bottom of page