My husband and I bought our house seven years ago. We wanted something affordable and close to downtown; a starter house that we could transform into our home. We knew what a gem our historic home could be, but we had no idea what we were in for.
We decided on a cute bungalow in St. Elmo. We had the city in front and national forest in the back. It was perfect. In winter (when I was six months pregnant), we noticed our house had no insulation and we were freezing. I didn’t know how I could bring a newborn home to a frigid house. I was having doubts about our purchase, and a new house in the suburbs was looking a lot more inviting. My husband talked my high hormones down and assured me our house would be warm very soon. So we started tearing down the plaster and lath walls and found lots of surprises like really bad wiring.
Old houses are such a mystery; you never know what you will find behind a wall.
I was in my nesting phase and was terrified to bring a human home, and our construction added to that stress immensely. So we had to get this project moving quickly. When we started in her nursery, we found a wall that was completely rotted, and clearly not conducive to keeping a baby alive and healthy. Karin, my baby, got new insulation, walls, flooring, and windows. Being pregnant while living in a house you are remodeling is incredibly hard. Once she arrived, the work on our house took a pause. I was a germ freak and I was trying my best not to kill her, so dust was not acceptable around her. I was afraid everything and anything was going to kill her.
Oh the memories. Our house was slowly turning into a playground. We were running out of room.
A year later, Mother Nature forced us to resume our work. The tornados of April 2011 changed our lives. My mom was watching Karin at our home when she heard tornado sirens, and they hid in the bathtub with a mattress over their heads while six trees fell on our house, destroying our roof. Thankfully Karin and my mom were unharmed, however our house was not safe to live in and we moved in with my parents. My husband, the talented visionary he is, opted to add a second level to our tiny home adding more square footage and a new roof. He did 95% of the work with his own two hands.
Our entire house was gutted, our roof pulled off and a second level framed. We moved back into our house a year later with the upstairs unfinished. I had a makeshift kitchen with 2x4s as my cabinets and subfloor as my countertop and a hotplate; our sink was not hooked up at this point either, so I was washing dishes in the bathroom. Oh, and while Karin’s room was finished, our room was not, so we slept in our bedroom which was now the stairs and laundry room. Who knew I would love someone so much I would sleep in a laundry room.
Thinking back it seems impossibly hard, but it was just the next step and I became incredibly grateful for the little things, like a kitchen sink.
We went from a 900 square foot, two bedroom, one bath home to an 1800 square foot, three bedroom, three bath home. Our remodeling journey is not over, but I see the end in sight. We have the two new upstairs bathrooms, our outdoor living space, and our concrete countertop in the kitchen left to finish.
People ask, “How did you live that way?” and the truth is I have no idea. I just did it and it was absolutely worth it seven years later and I would do it again. At the beginning of this journey we were in our 20s. I was in healthcare and my husband worked in logistics. Our house helped us find our path in life: I work in real estate now and my husband owns his own custom furniture business.