The Mountain Modern Before and Afters

At the conclusion of this week, the Mtn Modern will be officially adopted by the cutest young couple. It is time for a new chapter to be written within the well-insulated walls and on the firm foundation of this thoughtful, well-built home. True to my Storybook endings, I conclude this chapter with the befores and afters of my one and (hopefully) only pandemic project!

As is tradition, we will begin this before and after tour with the exterior- the first impression of the home.

Honestly there was nothing offensive about the curb appeal of this home to begin with- she was perfectly respectable. In fact, from the pictures the previous owners left for me I could see she was quite the looker at one time.

The only problem with the outside was that it did not match the modern feel I was trying to create on the inside. I went back and forth with my decision to renovate the exterior throughout the entire remodel. In fact, I did not decide to pull the trigger on the exterior until two weeks before the interior was complete. My head knew that the exterior remodel was not necessary and would not add anything to the appraised value of the home. In the end, my heart won out. I could not settle for anything but my best for this home- and that meant seeing my complete vision for the home to fruition.

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So I went for it! And I’m so glad that I did!

It turns out both my head and heart were spot on. The new facade perfectly compliments the interior vibe of the home and I truly believe it helped to attract her new home owners. Unfortunately, the appraiser did not have the same affection for her new facelift. My somewhat prideful decision landed this home more on the “flop” side of the flip or flop equation if based on profit alone. Right or wrong, flip or flop, I decided long ago that the “happily ever after” of each storybook renovation would not be determined by profit (or loss) alone but rather the impact her new story would have on her surrounding neighborhood, community, and most importantly the new family she shelters. Despite the fact that we were unable to show her off with our customary community reveal and give her the debut she deserved, her transformation is nonetheless special. Without further dwelling on yet another negative of 2020, let’s step inside!

As you enter the front door, you walk immediately into the living room. Notice in the before picture, a soffit wrapped the perimeter of the living room. It housed a plethora of up-lights and down-lights to add ambiance to the room.

While I appreciated the effort, I decided to let them go during the renovation.

The other BIG change in the Living Room was the fireplace facelift. Before, the home featured a wood burning fireplace flanked by pretty built-ins. But when I had the fireplace inspected by a chimney sweep company I was told it was not safe to use without major repair. Now, normally when I am given this news I simply demote the fireplace from functional to “decorative only” and move on. However, because this home’s story was based in the Carolina Mountains, I could not imagine this home without a real fire blazing on cold winter nights. So I simply had a new modern fireplace built in front of the old.

Because this home boasts a modern open floorplan, this room shares the space with what is always my favorite part of every house tour- the kitchen! Here she is before:

I mean really! Aren’t those some of the coolest cabinets you have ever seen! They kinda reminded me of what you might see in an RV and I seriously contemplated building the design story around them- but when I thought about how that would translate to the bathroom- I abandoned the idea.

Curious about what that arrow is pointing to on the countertop? You can read it about it here.

Out with the old, in with the new! I chose the moodiest dark blue for the cabinets and soapstone for the countertops. Then, I softened up the space with the light ash wood built-in, eat-in kitchen table and shelves. So much light literally pours into this now open, airy space!

If you peek through that pocket door opening to the left of the gas range you can see the new butler’s pantry.

Before, this space was only accessible from the laundry room. And the hot water tank sat loud and proud in the middle of the room.

But now, it functions as an extension of the kitchen and is where I picture the new home owners crafting their coffee and of course, using the microwave.

Aaaaaaand a spot for an extra refrigerator or standup freezer.

Well shoot, I thought I got a picture of the new laundry area, but I forgot! You’ll just have to trust me that now, the hot water heater is hidden inside its own designated closet and the washer and dryer have new cabinetry to house all the cleaning supplies and such.

Because bedrooms can be kinda boring on a before and after tour, especially without furniture, I’ll only show you one example of a before and after bedroom. Just multiply it by 4 in this home. I’m not sure the story of all the holes in the drywall but each room had them.

Aside from the holes, the bedrooms needed little work besides the normal paint and lighting. Aaaaand each bedroom boasted beautiful solid wood doors that cleaned up beautifully and truly became a feature in its Mountain Modern Story.

The final stops on our tour will be the 2 bathrooms beginning with the guest bath. The size and layout of the original bath was great only requiring an update.

Ta Dah!!!

And if you thought that was a fun transformation, check out the master bath. (I used this picture in a previous blog to point out the gift of the toilet paper left by the previous home owners- this was during the height of the toilet paper crisis)

This remodel did require us to borrow some space from the master bedroom and closet but I think it was worth the sacrifice. It now has a private potty room and a new soaker tub.

Whew! This renovation was truly unlike any other I’ve ever done as the world shutdown and tentatively opened back up to a whole new normal. So thanks for going on this tour with me today- I was so sad I could not show her to you in person. If any reno deserved her moment in the sun, it was certainly the Mtn Modern. Nevertheless, she stands proudly at the end of her wooded cul-de-sac as a reminder that beautiful, important things can flourish in even the hardest times.

The Tale of the Mountain Modern

It has been a long minute since we’ve heard from our favorite Storybook storyteller. But you know the saying…”Good things come to those who wait”? Well, there is no shortage of “good things” in this modern renovation tale. As a narrator for this story, please allow me, Sarah, to share the next chapter, The Mountain Modern, in the words of our girlboss, Niki Thompson.

Hello Storybook Readers, the time has come to tell you another little story. Although the pandemic is not central to the theme of this story, I do want to note, for posterity, this is my Covid-19 house…I hope the one and only. I closed on this home exactly 1 week before our spot on the map shut down and I’m about to put it on the market while we are still in the thick of it. Although we were able to keep working throughout this worldwide pandemic, it was not without consequences. Products were harder to come by and took longer to get. Meetings with subs took place 6’ apart. But perhaps most heartbreaking of all, I do not feel it is in the best interest of the health of humankind to host a public open house. So, for the majority of you, this blog site will be your closest visit to the latest edition of Storybook Homes. So stay tuned for future posts with pictures of the finished project! But for now….. let’s get on to the story…..

This story is unique from past storybook homes in that it was inspired by the actual words of its original author.

The day I closed on 40 Brier Springs Road, I unlocked the door and walked inside hoping the quiet, empty rooms of the “before” would spark inspiration for its next chapter. The wooded lot surrounding this home was already pulling me toward a mountain setting, but I was hopeful that something inside the house would give me greater insight into the details of the story. Never could I have imagined that the details would actually be waiting for me in an envelope left on the kitchen counter.

If you look closely you can see the envelope on the counter sitting behind the clorox wipes. And can we just pause to appreciate the fact that the previous home owners left a container of Clorox wipes and a 1/2 roll of toilet paper on the bathroom TP holder 1 week before these items held the equivalent value of gold in our country? I did not take these gifts for granted.

Inside the envelope were Polaroids taken during the homes original construction, a tiny cassette tape that I can only assume has information leading to treasure buried on the property but will remain hidden because I have no device available in which to decode, and a 2-page, typed love letter. Ok, it wasn’t really a love letter, but it might as well have been because on these 2 pages the original builder passionately laid bare what she felt was the most noteworthy features of this carefully constructed home in the following four categories: Structural, Energy Managment, Home Services, and Other Items.

After reading every last bullet point, I knew it was my duty to honor my predecessor’s forward thinking, above and beyond, modern building practices with a new design of the same integrity…the Mountain Modern. I let her words inspire me and I used my imagination to fill in the gaps where her words were missing. Starting with this picture:

See that lady there? The one with the hard hat, living her best life? She is my muse. Because the remaining artifacts did not tell me who the original builder was, aaaaaand I would rather rely on my imagination than go “fact find”, I’m telling myself and you- SHE is the original builder. I want to be her. She just looks like the type that wouldn’t go hide and cry in the attic when something goes wrong on a job-site or ever back down from a salty sub who doesn’t want to do what she says. I call her “Sandy”. To me, she looks like a “Sandy” but maybe it’s because, if I look a bit closer, she also reminds me of my mother-in-law, Sandy. She is a strong woman who takes no crap off nobody. She wouldn’t think twice about taking charge or dropping the hammer on anyone who doesn’t do what they say they will do when they say they will do it. And then clean the heck up after themselves when they do. Oh! To be a Sandy!!

Let me give a few specifics on how Sandy’s meticulous notes spoke into the design of The Mountain Modern on BrierSprings.

Under Structural item 1:

It reads: “The foundation is concrete-filled block on a reinforced footing. All the block have rebar in them tying them to the footing.  The 5’ (not 3” usual) floor slab has 6 gauge (not 10 gauge as is usually used) wire mesh. At the time the framing was done, I offered to pay $1.00 per inch to anyone who found a crack in the slab. Six people swept it and I did not pay a dime”

Oh my gosh…you guys! It was this paragraph, in particular, that made me fall in love with Sandy. That girl was so proud of her slab! I wanted to pay honor to that slab pride. So instead of covering it, I brought in a team to diamond polish it to let it shine in all its glory. During the process the grinding actually revealed the rock aggregate which reminded me of a creek bed winding through the mountain. And I hate to break it to Sandy but over the years, a few minor cracks did occur in her precious slab (which is to be expected). Rather than hide them we highlighted them and I truly believe that they add a certain “character” to the space.

Under Structural Item 3: 

“The brick is anchored to the footing and is tied to the walls every 24 inches. Portland cement mortar was used instead of common masonry cement.”

I decided not to hide the brick with paint and played off her pride in cement mortar by surfacing the linear fireplace surround, vent hood and outside modern decorative features in a cement/concrete compound. I thought this also added to the Mountain Modern feel.

Can I take just a second to introduce one of my favorite features of the renovation that I mentioned above? The linear fireplace. The original home had a wood burning fireplace but when I had the stove and chimney inspected I could not justify the cost for repairs. Normally, in this situation, I just deem the fireplace “decorative” and move on but I could not imagine a Mountain Modern Home without a functioning fireplace so I had this gas unit built in front of the existing fireplace. This little upgrade to the home is as useful as it is beautiful. We use the one in our own home constantly during the fall and winter. With the height of the ceiling and the openness of the living/dining/kitchen area, it provides ambiance and warms the space without overheating. Even though the fireplace turns on with a flip of a switch instead of the strike of a match, I added a wood stack cubby next to the fireplace to add to the woodsy mountain modern “feel”.

Saving the pic of the finished fireplace for the “after” post but here is a pic of the “during”:

Next Under Energy Management*:

(*I did not really do anything to add to this but she was very proud of her forward thinking energy saving strategies that I thought I would share them with you too.)

“The walls are an R-24 and the ceiling is an R-30. (This is the same as a good quality ice chest). The floor slab has 1” of perimeer insulation.  All corners and cracks received foamed-in urethane before the sheetrock went up.”

Sandy! I am not worthy! I don’t have any idea what you are talking about but I’m duly impressed. 

“All exterior walls are 2×6 studs (not the usual 2×4) and have a full 6”  batt of fiberglass in them, plus 1” of extruded polystyrene board (not styrofoam) for a total insulation value of R-24.”

Again hats off to Sandy! Let me add to this that we also found that Sandy insulated the interior walls too! 

Under # 5 The Heating and Cooling Systems:

The following is probably the most impressive part of her “Energy Management” strategy. 

“Water furnace, closed loop water source heat pump. Operates air conditioning or heat on less than $1.25 per day. The largest electric bill has been $108. The smallest has been $67.00 (insert me- Now readers remember this was written back in the early 90s so don’t get too excited). There is no Freon, so there is no expensive condensing unit outside. The heat removed from the house in the summertime is put into the hot water tank first. The rest is dissipated underground via the two 285 ft deep wells that the closed loop runs through.”

Bottom line, this house has a geothermal system!!! What?!? This was a total shock to me when I purchased the house. I walked around the house 3 times looking for the outside unit and couldn’t find it so I thought it had been stolen. Then, I had Freyaldenhoven walk around with me and he too was scratching his head until we opened up the outside storage room and found the box on the wall.  I still had no idea what it was but the friendly Freyalenhoven rep enlightened me. At that time, I knew this was going to be the best news of my day or the worst. It was awesome to have but if it needed replacing it would tank my budget. When he crawled up in the attic he was able to locate a serial number for the attic unit. He left with the promise to contact me to let me know if it was still operational. Well ladies and gentleman, he called me later that day and said (you are never going to believe this)…The unit was replaced in 2019!!! Score!!! It was the nicest gift any house has ever given me. Not only did it not need to be replaced, that unit was now going to be a major selling feature of the house. Thank You, previous owners! I did not take this gift for granted! 

Under “Home Services”:

Sandy was very considerate to make sure cable and phone lines were plentiful. I’m sure Sandy never imagined a day that gesture would be irrelevant.)

Under Other items:

#2 “All of the interior doors (except the closets) are 36” wide and SOLID CORE.” (Emphasis mine)

Thank you, Sandy! I thought the doors were beautiful so we just cleaned them up and put new matte black hardware on them. I think they add a lot to our Mountain Modern vibe.

Unfortunately, the acrylic tubs and barber sinks did not make it thru the renovation. But I think Sandy would be pleased with the replacements.

Now, let me give you a few additional elements that I, Niki of Storybook Homes, added to the developing story to further articulate the natural, Mountain Modern vibe. 

The ash wood highlights…

White Ash is particularly grown and harvested in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I wanted to feature this light and hearty mountain hardwood. Ash is found on the custom created, eat-in kitchen table. I chose Ash plywood for the oh-so-convenient butler’s pantry. I also had my Dad build a custom Ash top for the dining table. I did not do a ton of staging in keeping with the Mountain Modern design which highlights natural elements found in building materials, open spaces and sweeping structural design. However, I thought it was important to design and bring in the custom table to show the future homebuyer that there is indeed a designated dining space. This is in addition to the eat-in kitchen table installation. So much space for friends and family!

Since I already revealed the kitchen on social meeting, I’m going to break protocol, just this one time, to show you a picture of the Kitchen. Here, you can see an example of that beautiful Ash wood. (The rest of the “after” pics should hit your screen within the week)

The bold color choice…

The moody, deep blue, almost black cabinets and soapstone countertops remind me of the shadows cast by mountains over the valley as the sun is setting. It invokes a desire to be outdoors, maybe hiking, camping or just enjoying a warm fire on a cooler evening, roasting s’mores. With the intentional, almost secluded outdoor spaces created around the Mountain Modern, outdoor living is easy and it’s a “must”.

It’s time for us to draw the Mountain Modern chapter to a close. I, Sarah, the narrator, have seen this newest Storybook home and it definitely does not disappoint. In fact, next to my own Storybook cottage, this is one of my very favorites. The attention to detail and the “extras” make it extremely attractive to buyers with excellent taste. With 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, situated at the back of a quiet, established culs-de-sac, it’s perfect for a growing family. Right off Tyler Street, it’s in close proximity to schools, the library, the Tucker Creek trail system, local shops, coffee and grocery stores. I couldn’t imagine a better place to begin writing a new story!

Intrigued? Have we “peaked” your interest with The Mountain Modern?

For more info or to schedule your showing, give Niki Thompson a call at 501.472.3310.


Tile Installation and overall fix it man and rescuer of all the problems- Edwardo David

Painter Extrodinaire- Nick’s Painting

Cabinets- Jeff Perry

Electrician: JD Hall Electric

Plumber: Lucey Plumbing

Interior Framing: Julio

Carport/Front Porch Framing/Artist- Erik Menzie

Countertops: Countertop World

Effice Surfacing: RJ Plastering

Built-in Table and Front Door Carpenter- MBR woodworks

In the Kitchen with Storybook Homes…

Welcome to Niki Thompson’s Kitchen! Niki is the Founder and Designer behind Storybook Homes.

If you’re reading this, you’re on a journey with us through life on this planet. Through the ups and downs, there are people, places and moments that we value. Crafting a beautiful, functional kitchen, the heart of the home, to be able to tell your best stories is the goal of each Storybook Homes Kitchen. Above all, we want our homes to help you tell an overall meaningful story with friends, family and neighbors. From special celebrations to weeknight meals, the kitchen hosts both the large and small moments and everything in between.

Is there truly a better place to initiate the plot than in the kitchen? Intentional, well-designed, uniquely detailed kitchens build community and encourage storytelling. Let’s begin ours.

Many of you have anticipated this story…the Storybook Storyteller’s own story (no pressure, Niki!). And I, Sarah Henry, get to weave this tale. As you’ve driven down Carl Stuart, I’m sure you’ve imagined what the layout and design concept must be behind the beautifully modern painted brick and stained wood exterior. Well, here’s a snippet of what we’ve been waiting to share.

The mid century modern vibe is strong in Niki’s kitchen. As the owner and designer behind Storybook Homes, Niki had a clear picture of what she wanted in her own home kitchen. Her idea of home cooked meals in the context of a gorgeous space and a place large enough for family and friends and baseball teams to gather inspired the design and renovation. With a nod to history but with obvious modern conveniences, each choice from floor to ceiling was intentional and filtered through Niki’s unique design concept. The black and white contrast. The warmth of the precisely stained wooden floors and cabinets. The white marble countertops both beautiful and utilitarian.

I spent hours daydreaming about how I wanted my kitchen to both look and function. I knew that the kitchen was one of the first things you would see when you walked in the front door so I wanted to make sure it had enough “wow factor” to distract from the inevitable dirty dishes. And because the kitchen shared the open concept space with the living room, I wanted the cabinetry to feel more like furniture. Besides the gas range tucked in its alcove, I was mindful to keep all other appliances hidden behind cabinetry from the living room sight lines.

Niki Thompson, Homeowner/Girl Boss Designer and Founder of Storybook Homes

The openness of the kitchen is stunning and encouraged by the absence of walls and the slope of high ceilings. The abundance of natural light floods through bare windows trimmed in a bold black making it easy to conserve energy and at the same time, grow herbs and plants perched on the open wood and metal shelving. The design highlights and celebrates functionality in style.

The sleek cabinetry was built by Jeff Perry, a name you may recognize from previous SBH projects. The mid century modern style is characterized by highlighting natural design elements such as wood grain. The absence of hardware is intentional and allows the precision and artistry in woodworking to shine.

Built-in custom organization keeps everything in its place.When and where you can, customize these details. They are an easy and convenient upgrade.

The Designer behind the design…“Nothing gets my heart more a flutter than a good organizational system. Thanks to pinterest for the ideas and Jeff Perry for the implementation. Now every item has its place within the drawers of this kitchen.”

The view from the handcrafted concrete dinner table is gorgeous. A thoroughly modern staircase leads to the upstairs bedrooms and ultimately, across the enclosed breezeway to the “man cave” located above the garage. A pot filler makes cooking convenient at Niki’s “dream stove”. The industrial details like the coated steel vent hood and stainless commercial stove keep the look of the kitchen stylishly modern where the mid century modern style could trend more nostalgic. No nostalgia here, guys. Industrial beauty and function reign supreme.

To the right of the stove is the laundry and mudroom. Again, tons of light from the windows!Step to the left, and through the doorway is a pass through, true Butler’s pantry. Let’s explore.

This hardworking little nook of a Butler’s pantry boasts another dishwasher, sink area, open wooden shelving, a coffee bar and refrigerator. This is a wonderful convenience for large families or for those who entertain often. Again, if you have the space and room in the budget, this little addition makes a world of difference and increases the value of your home immeasurably!

Regarding the Butler’s pantry, Niki says, “Honestly, as a Registered Dietitian I am more qualified to cook in the kitchen than design one. Up until about 5 years ago, along with weight management consulting, I also cooked healthy meals for families as a side gig. The worst part of that job was the clean-up! It would often take me at least 3 runs of the dishwasher to clean up after my weekly marathon cooking session. It was during that time in my life that I vowed one day I was going to have a home with 2 dishwashers. The butler’s pantry was the perfect spot to make that dream a reality. I know that it seems a little extravagant not that I’m just cooking for our family of four but I’m here to tell ya- I run that second dishwasher ALL THE TIME!”

Here’s a little gem of a recipe that Niki, the Registered Dietitian, uses consistently in her home during the summer months. It’s perfect for a family of 4 but easily doubled to feed a crowd!

Arugula Pear Salad is refreshing and full of flavor and packed with good fats and nutrients.

Ok, Storybook Friends…the time has come to bring this kitchen design tour to a close. But the ongoing story doesn’t have to end here! As many of you know, there’s another modern Storybook Home renovation in the making. The Mountain Modern in BrierSprings. Best completion estimate is end of July. If you like the look of Niki’s own kitchen, you’ll love the one in BrierSprings. And THIS home is available! Think of it as an incredible return on a wise investment. Niki has seen the future and this next story’s outcome, much like each home she designs, is bright.

The developing Mountain Modern…

Storybook Homes needs a buyer with extraordinary vision and a deep desire to invest in a home that writes a unique and incredible story. Let me introduce you, dear reader and Storybook Friend, to the Mountain Modern. Originally and carefully designed and built in 1990, this home is nestled into a wooded lot in the back of a quiet cul-de-sac in an established Conway neighborhood. It honestly feels like you’re in the mountains of Colorado. If school zones are an important factor in the purchase of a home, you’re in luck. This home is zoned for Julia Lee Moore…one of the best in Conway! Convenient to shopping and coffee, the Tucker Creek Trail, the Faulkner County Library and Bell Urban Farm, this home is close to everything. Just imagine being the first in line on a Saturday morning to purchase the stunning but elusive Bell Urban Farm fresh floral bouquet. Winning!

Logistically, this home boasts a new geothermal unit. It is extremely energy efficient. The original owners took great pride in the construction of this home and really went the extra mile. The bones are good! It is literally “built like a tank”. From the pictures provided to Niki at closing, it appears that the original builder was a female. One who took charge while showing up professionally with her stuff together and in her trusty hard hat. What a coincidence that 30 years later, another girl boss would be writing this home’s next chapter?

Back to the developing Mountain Modern storyline…If you like modern design like Niki’s own home on Carl Stuart Drive, you’ll love the open concept, clean lines and simple design of this house. Each Storybook Home is unique but there are some features in her home that she loves so much that she decided to share them with this one. Two of those features include both the linear fireplace and the butler’s pantry with extra fridge storage. According to Jae Curtis of, a few unique design features of the Mountain Modern is the unique exterior with sharp, modern edges, an uncluttered layout, natural light from large windows and texture over color…building materials such as glass, wood, stone are emphasized. It is among the newest trends and the most sustainable lending itself to minimal to maximize the built in extras.

The complete story includes extensive interior and exterior renovation including a carport addition. This majestic Mountain Modern will include within its 2233 square foot footprint, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. A Master Suite with a woodland view. The exterior of the home will make a bold modern statement that will lead seamlessly to the interior. It is the complete package. And it’s almost finished!! The interior is 98% complete. The updated exterior is over halfway done and more than meeting expectations. This project is special.

A precedent has been set with Storybook Homes. When you invest in a Storybook Home, your investment is met with a guaranteed delivery of all that you expected and more.

If you would like more information about this project give Niki a call at (501) 472-3310 .

Quarantine Clean the Deck or Walk the Plank!

When Niki first mentioned the title of this week’s installment (the second, if you’ve lost count of days, nights or time, in general) in her creative Quarantine Cleaning Games, I was all in. With my mind’s eye, I imagined a swashbuckling, high seas adventure in which scurvy (but cheerful) pirates, in full costume, danced and sang while cheerfully scrubbing the deck of their pirate ship! At the end of the musical number and after the many, but hilarious, near disasters, the deck shone and sparkled in the sunlight and the pirates collapsed in an exhausted but satisfied heap as they surveyed a hard morning’s work…accomplished in the 7 minutes it took to sing and dance their way to ship-shape. Alas, mateys, this is not the “deck” that our dear friend had in HER mind’s eye.

Ahoy! It’s time to locate and shuffle your trusty deck o’ CARDS and play along!

If you’re anything like our family, you can only handle so many hours of TV and/or screen time. We’ve pulled out games that we haven’t played in years. In the middle of our kitchen table is a bowl of accessible, quick and easy games…UNO, Tenzi, Phase 10, Bananagrams, Skip-Bo, Blink and the 3-4 decks of playing cards we’ve collected (but never intentionally purchased) from different places over the years. It’s kind of fun to remember where we got them…a vacation, signing up for a credit card, a “convention”. My chosen deck is a thousand years old. It was randomly acquired by playing a game at a Blockbuster in the 90s. I spun a wheel and “won” a deck of cards…an old promo item for the movie, “Honeymoon in Vegas“. Anyone remember that movie? Nicholas Cage, James Caan, Sarah Jessica Parker…yeah, me neither. I digress.

Onward! To the game!!

Last week’s game, “Clean B-I-N-G-O“, debuted a Creative Covid Cleaning Costume but this week, we assume you’ve mastered your attire and we dive right in. The video is quick, entertaining and helpful. Along with the video, I’ve attached the printable for you to fill out with your chosen tasks. “Clean the Deck” is not only an engaging game to get things done, it’s also a fantastic way to get your workout in. The rain will not stop already. Our gyms are closed. Why not try something different? Pushups, Push-outs, Mountain Climbers…Yep. You heard correctly. The “Clean the Deck” card game combines cleaning with exercise OR another healthy habit of your choosing…for example, if you dare, drinking 8 oz of water every time you draw a club. Apparently, Niki drew 6 clubs which meant she drank 48 oz of water throughout the afternoon and spent the night traveling back and forth to the bathroom which just happened to be remarkably clean.

This game could get SUPER challenging and interesting, friends. For example, you draw a 2 of hearts…2 is clean the toilet in the master bath. A heart is 10 mountain climbers. You clean the toilet. You do the mountain climbers. You move on and draw another card. You draw the 10 of hearts. A 10 is organize a drawer or clean the kitchen counters. And yep…another 10 mountain climbers. You get it done and keep moving. Next to each number and face card, there are blanks for 2 chores. If you’ve drawn a 2 of hearts and spades and happen to draw a 2 of diamonds or clubs, you choose the chore (or a reward, just sayin). If you’re up for an extra challenge, invite the family to play along by having them choose the chores for each number/face card, draw a card or do some pushups, every now and then, as they’re working hard in their virtual classrooms. It’s Health and PE, fellow homebound educators!

REWARDS. REWARDS. REWARDS. A nap. A snack. An episode of Tiger King while eating a snack. It’s whatever. You get it. You know how to treat yo’self. Jokers and Instruction Cards bring the welcome rewards. Tip: for those of you who like to “bend” the rules, add a couple of Jokers from another deck. This is YOUR game.

Until next week, enjoy the quick video. Print and fill out the “Clean the Deck” printable. Shuffle the cards or stack the deck. Just have fun while getting it done!

Whistle While You Work…Quarantine Cleaning Fun

Hey Friends! How you holding up??? It’s a weird time for us all, I know. One day, last week, after my 3rd nap in the same day, I thought to myself “I should really take advantage of this extra time and blog.” So I sat down, opened up wordpress, and…… nothing. Turns out a side effect of having quarantine related work withdrawal is major writer’s block. (No joke, those last 5 sentences took me 4 hours to write.) Sooo, rather than allow the ole blog to continue to sit stale, I asked my good friend, Sarah Henry, if she would mind stepping in for a few weeks to share her writing talents with the Storybook readers. And guess what?!?! Not only did she agree, she had an idea for a full series before we even got off the phone. She thought it would be fun if I shared some of my cleaning games with you!….. (I’ll pause this paragraph in order to allow time for your excitement to catch up)……..

My cleaning games are one of those things in my life that I don’t realize are “different” or “abnormal” from the normal population until I see my friends’ reactions when I casually mention one in everyday conversation. I mean, how do the rest of you get thru the drudgery of cleaning your homes week after week after week for your whole entire adult life FOREVER and EVER?? If you didn’t have a good answer for that question, you’re in luck! As long as this quarantine doesn’t last longer than 32 weeks, I have enough games to share to last your entire sequestering!

Here is how I’m thinking this will work: each week Colby and I will shoot a video demonstrating a new cleaning game, then I’ll send the video over to Sarah who will use her gift of words to write up a blog to coordinate with the game. Then (if you so choose) you can brighten our days by leaving a comment or picture on this blog (or any of our social pages) letting us know if you tried the game. What do you think??? Will you play along??? Sarah, you ready for this?!?!?!

I am! Quick question…Do you whistle while you work or give a little whistle and have someone else clean for you? Whatever your preferred method to get the chores done, one thing is for sure, our fairy godmothers are sheltering in (a far off) place and we are left to gaze lovingly into the faces of the beautiful but messy people and pets we share our homes with…indefinitely.

Completely confused but also curious? Keep reading…

If you’re like most of the modern world, you’re accustomed to a tight, busy, if not completely filled but fulfilling schedule. Sometimes working from home but mostly, on location. If you have precious cherubs at home, they are most likely at childcare or school during the day and your evenings are filled with practices and various commitments. Then, a global pandemic invades the kingdom, giving you a bad case of whiplash. Said pandemic brings all things involving groups and gatherings to a screeching halt and forces us to hunker down in our homes. It’s fine for a few days but then, you notice that the space you’re all sharing is dirty…really dirty. Significantly increased time at home is making you hyper aware of everything. All the people. All the clutter. All the towels and clothes in the floor. The shoes at the back door. Dishes in the sink. Pet hair everywhere because Spring. It is endless. You make a bold but feeble attempt to wave the Xbox controller like a magic wand to clean up the place but alas, it doesn’t quite work that way for you. You resist the urge to play a solo game of Just Dance to avoid the inevitable. Instead, you hide the controllers and you call your people to you. They come running. Ha…another bold but ineffective attempt. You scream louder like the house is on fire and they trickle in slowly. They’re now staring at you like you’ve lost your mind (because indeed, you have)…so now what?

Still curious?

I’m glad you asked. Allow me to open a different kind of storybook for you, Storybook Homes fans. I have observed firsthand how our favorite designer, the fabulous Niki Thompson, crafts the most creative games for herself when she’s cleaning her own gorgeously renovated home. I will reveal to you a few secrets from our fave and hopefully, to coax all the people under our roof to pitch in with the housework. Share the load with a smile (fingers crossed, it could happen?). Over the next few weeks, or until we are able to leave our cozy homes, join me for a series of time-tested and perfected cleaning games appropriate for ALL ages. These games are sure to make a dreaded task fun and challenging under the craziest of circumstances. Believe me, some days, a roll of the dice or the flip of a card with the promise of a reward is the only motivation to get the job done. The game possibilities are endless and it has taken Niki years to develop, test and refine the games featured in this series*. However, I asked her to choose only the best of the best to film and roll out for you good people (Because honestly, she has enough material to last months beyond this quarantine.). We are kicking off this series with a Thompson classic …C-L-E-A-N Bingo. Print out the card, label each square with a task, choose your rewards and let’s get to work!

*This Storybook Homes series is filmed, produced and edited by Colby’s Productions.

Sponsored by “comfy socks”, stretchy pants and the cozy sweatshirt/t-shirt combo.

141 Oliver

141 Oliver is the second new construction home to join our Storybook collection. With it’s completion, I can confidently tell you that while renovations will always have my heart, there is something to be said for new construction. I mean, after the initial holding of my breath while waiting to see if what I drew on paper actually framed up to look like a house in real life, there were essentially NO surprises. It was soooo easy! The house practically built itself. Aaaaand I did not cry one time…like not even a sniffle! HOWEVER…. as enticing as a drama free construction site sounds, I desperately missed the story inspiration only an old home can give. You’d think the control freak in me would love the blank slate that new construction provides- essentially allowing me to take the design story any direction my imagination desires to go; but I have found, without the history of a past home and it’s previous owner’s design choices to study, I have a hard time committing and truly connecting to a story. It made me realize just how valuable demo time is to my creative process. While I usually have a general story theme nailed down before the first wack of the sledgehammer occurs, it is during the long weeks of digging thru the guts of a home that the details come out and the story comes alive in my head.

So, while 141 Oliver was still navigated by a story, the details never quite made it past the theme/outline phase of the process. Basically the story stayed 1 dimensional just answering the necessary questions to help create a cohesive design. Crazy thing is, despite the ho hum story-line the house still came out with its own unique character and I found myself, once again, saying “I think this might be one of my favorites.” Who knows, maybe this means I’m maturing into a real designer/contractor and will one day be able to wean myself off a story altogether …. Nah! What’s the fun in that!!!

Even though I don’t have a typical storybook tale to tell, I would like to share with you the fictional facts I told myself about 141 Oliver so you can see how they played out in real life. And as a consolation prize for not getting a real story…. this post is going to reveal all the final product pictures!!! (Let’s be real…. that’s what you really want anyway.)

First off, I started with this information: 1) the lot was skinnier than a typical old town Conway lot and 2) the house would be residing in the historic overlay district of our city. With this information alone it did not take long for me to fall in love with the idea of building a shot-gun replica popular in historic cities like Charleston and New Orleans. Honestly, I tried to convince myself it was modeled off of a Charleston style shotgun since I had already completed a New Orleans inspired project the year before… but I had so many people drive by and tell me that it reminded them of New Orleans I gave up and admitted I had landed back in the French Quarter.

To make the home feel “historic” I added architectural details to the house that would have been reminiscent of an early 1900 shotgun like the curvy corbels on the front porch (huge thank you to Erik Menzie and his team for making that dream come true), the functioning custom Shutters (Jimmy Bishop) and the trim detail around the windows and doors (Marty Tabor exterior, Chris Bise interior).

With the classic shotgun elements in place, I looked to the fictitious homeowner to help determine the individual flavor of the house. Because the lot size dictated a smaller size home (around 1200 sq foot to be exact) I decided to design with a single gal in mind. I pictured her as a free spirit, artsy type which meant the home would have a young, funky, modern vibe with a vibrant personality.

To me one of the best examples of how this played out was in the color scheme. On the outside I chose a serene light green for the siding that would sit nicely next to her neighbor, Cindedwella. But then tried to go with the unexpected for the shutter and door color. Normally I like to play it safe by choosing complimentary paints found on the same color strip but for 141 Oliver I tried to think more like an artist and ended up with 3 different shades of green- 1 sagey, 1 blue green, and 1 hunter greenish and somehow it just worked! I then brought the door color inside and splashed it on the cabinets and eating nook.

I loved how this funky almost black green color functioned as a neutral. We pretty much ignored it when bringing in the staging and no matter what color we paired it with…. it just worked.

Speaking of Staging, I must take a second to once again thank Donna Benton of Waterhouse Market for bringing in all the furniture, art and accessories to help make this story come alive for the Open House.

Ya’ll, she decked this house in ONE DAY! While I tend to overthink every design choice I make she just seems to have a natural knack of knowing exactly how to decorate a space to feel both magazine worthy and livable. I am so beyond thankful she continues to agree to share her time and talents to make these storybook debuts so special.

One of the nicest comments I heard at the open house was that “while the house was small in size it lived big.” I think this was accomplished by giving the living spaces extra tall ceilings and eliminating wasted spaces. Plus Donna did a great job showing how furniture could be arranged to make the most out of a small space.

To bring in the artist funky style I went with a long neck wall sconce for the dining nook light instead of a more common chandelier or pendant.

Big thanks to Pevia Electric for going the extra mile to retrofit this wall sconce and the ones flanking the kitchen sink from plug-ins to hardwired fixtures. (Cabinets by the one and only Jeff Perry.)

I chose a freestanding table for the island instead of traditional cabinetry for a more eclectic feel- stereotypical of most artists. And let us not forget the library ladder…. ah the library ladder….

Big thanks to Brent Rhodes for fabricating the library rail and ladder.

Not sure how this exactly ties into the story other than my single lady probably wasn’t 7′ tall so she needed a way to reach the top cabinets in her 10′ tall kitchen and library ladders are just fun. Plus it knocked off “do library ladder” on my 40 year old bucket list. This has been a dream of mine since first watching Belle roll around the Beast’s library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Other ways I added a younger touch to this otherwise historic feeling home was in the tile work. I used basic over sized subway tile in the master and brought back the basic 80’s square tile in the guest bath but had David install them both in a more modern way.

And how fun is that pegged chair rail in the guest bath?!?! This little free spirit could hang all sorts of tchotchkies like Turkish towels, hanging plants, soap on a rope, etc.

The other two bedrooms were left empty during the open house so the pictures are kinda boring but I’m going to leave them here just as proof that this 1200 sq foot cutie was able to fit 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths. The only picture I neglected to get was the laundry room- but trust me it’s in there!

Well there you have it. More of a picture book than a novel this time but I hope you enjoyed the visit. I’ve got some exciting projects in store for the spring- I can’t wait to tell you all about them!

Big Thank You to Makenzie Evans for the Beautiful photos!

Cindedwella: Before and After…. and After

Well this is embarrassing….. Here I am just days away from putting a for sale sign in 141 Oliver’s yard and I just realized I never wrote up a before and after blog for her block mate- 143 Oliver- also known as Cindedwella.

Seriously! If anyone knows the importance of before and after pictures it’s me! I mean, the ONLY show I flip past on HGTV is House Hunters (unless it’s House Hunters Renovation) because who wants to watch someone just shop for a move-in ready house?!? No thank you. I’m only interested in the shows that show me the transformation- the before and afters. So in an effort to keep you entertained and thirsty for more, I’m going to pack this post FULL of before and after pictures. Aaaand if that was not exciting enough I am also going to share pictures of how Cindedwella looks today after her new family moved in and made her their very own.

The Henry family moved in just a couple of months ago, but I swear, you would think they had been there for years the way Sarah Henry has already made the place feel like home. You recognize that name?? Yes, that is Sarah Henry, formally of Redeemed Home Goods, and resident artist for Storybook Homes.

Isn’t she the cutest?!?! Anyways…. Sarah fell in love with 143 Oliver when she came over to get color inspiration for the custom rugs she painted for Cindedwella’s Open House.

After taking her on a quick tour of the house, I thought she was just being her normal sweet, encouraging, and complimentary self when she told me Cindedwella was her dream home and would be perfect for her family. It wasn’t until I saw this facebook post the very next day that I realized she was serious about possibly moving.

That “hypothetical” facebook post sparked a ton of interest (I mean, of course it did- look at that adorable front porch) and within a matter of weeks the ball was rolling to move the Henry Family from Davis Street to Oliver (because once you’ve lived in old town it’s hard to leave). At this time I want to turn the blog over to Sarah for just a second so she can say hi and then I’ll start the before and after and after tour. And since she is a special guest, I’m going to let her speak in a special blue font so you will recognize when she is talking vs me. Take it away Sarah!

Hey, there! My turn to insert a bit of our family story…I’ve always said that each season writes its own story and this one is definitely one for our book! This specific story begins with a tragedy on Davis but ends in triumph on Oliver. Quick recap: my beautiful backyard art studio burned down in December 2018 damaging the back of our home and leaving a gaping scar on our backyard. As you can imagine, it was a shock and not surprisingly, a discouraging setback. The long and difficult process of repairing the damage to our home and rebuilding the studio initiated some really big questions. Was our current home of 3+ years meeting our family’s changing needs? Can our home be remodeled to meet those needs…do we even want to attempt it? What would it look like to sell our home and move? Where would we move? Whew…so much there.

Because our kids attend our amazing local schools, we definitely didn’t want to move too far and change our current school zone. And because I (not necessarily the hubs) adore old homes, I began to casually glance at homes for sale in our neighborhood on Zillow over the summer. Just like the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, I began to “try on” these homes (virtually, of course!). Some were too big. Others were too small. Many were just a “no”. None were “just right” for our unique needs and season. Until…that fateful August morning when I walked through that perfect shade of blue door with its charming, reglazed glass and EXHALED.

Seriously, one big, glorious exhale. So much open space. High ceilings covered in bluebirds, mid-flight, greeted me. White walls combined with white floors commanded me to remove my shoes and stay awhile. The most gorgeous master bathroom invited me to sink into the massive clawfoot tub poised atop whimsical gray and white marble floors. I took it ALL in and knew this would be our next home. The kitchen with its refurbished antique, single basin sink with double drainboards took me back to my great-grandmother’s home in the mountains of North Carolina. A memory I’d forgotten until that day. The peaceful front porch with its custom built swing. The transoms and built-ins throughout and surrounding the clean, white fireplace. The CLOSETS. The custom penny tile in the hall bath. The tastefully updated, cheerful metal awning over the stove and the refinished….EVERYTHING. The space for old friends, new friends and family from far away. I’d wanted an elusive Storybook cottage since the summer of 2016 when we moved to Conway. And this Storybook cottage was indeed, “just right”.

That morning, I wandered around inside this story in the making as its Storyteller was visiting with a curious client…the crew was still painting, installing and working feverishly toward the reveal of the home that would become known to us as “Cindedwella”. I’d heard our favorite Storybook Curator tell of this massive project she was in the midst of completing but I had yet to visit 143 Oliver before I was tasked with creating art specific to its story. I began to imagine a NEW story, OUR story, within its walls. This cottage literally checked every imaginary box and promised a fresh, new chapter to the story our family was writing only 3 STREETS AWAY.

The next step was to convince the hubs…so I tentatively “listed” our house on, you guessed it…the Facebook. Out of that informal post, a sweet family who had previously owned Davis for many years immediately responded. Their story wasn’t finished there, and we celebrated their return to their beloved home as we packed and moved to our new one.

Fast forward to this day, as January comes to an end, past the hard parts of closing a final chapter in a home you lived a lot of life in and loved well. Past the packing up and moving all of your little life to a new home with the same main characters. This new “just right” place is the long-awaited exhale after you’ve held your breath for way too long. The next breath you draw is a deep one…the fresh air of expectancy inside a cozy, new space…indeed the start of a brand new chapter in a story where the plot changes, the characters evolve and a familiar setting gets an update. I can’t wait to see how this story unfolds.

Sarah!!!….. Seriously?!?!?! ……. that was an awesome intro. I kinda hate to bring my voice back on here after that…. But I did promise these nice folks some pictures so let’s go ahead and get this tour rolling.

First up I want to remind you what the exterior of this home looked like when we first met Cindedwella.

Pretty rough huh. Not exactly a porch you want to hang out on. I remember worrying for the safety of the previous home owners because the front door would not shut- it was left permanently ajar.

But now she welcomes all with her new pretty pink door and the porch is so spacious and inviting it really serves as a second living space for the home. And check out that sliding screen door. Big thanks to my Dad for building the screen door, porch swing and table for the open house staging of this front porch.

…and after with the Henrys.
A cheery winter welcome to our home!

Before we head inside, I’ll show you the other side of the house that occupies this corner lot. Here was the before…

What you can’t really see in the picture above is that a large portion of that exterior wall was leaning away from the house and had to be aligned back up during the renovation. We also tore down the wonky metal carport, added a brick skirt around the house, put on a new roof and gutters, poured a new driveway, landscaped (I will never look at pine needles the same again), and of course gave the entire house a new coat of paint. Ohhhhh! And I personally reglazed every last one of those window panes- it took me the entire length of Where the Crawdads Sing and 1/2 of Before We Were Yours on audible to finish them.

And now

Let’s go inside, shall we. Through the front door we enter into the living room.

Here’s that wall on the left as she was staged for open house.

…and after with the Henrys.
(All “…and after” pics were shot in the afternoon with my iPhone XR and are unedited.)
The family loves to be cozy. Our style is warm and personal, collected, rustic, eclectic and functional. A blanket ladder holds our favorites. A darker wood and of course, a few plants, welcome guests and also grounded this space with a warmer palette.
And side note: we ALL love our cheerful pink door!

Even though the fireplace was not functioning, I always love when a house gifts an architectural focal point. We ended up rebuilding the side cabinets but you’ll see in a minute that the actual fireplace cleaned up quite nicely.

At this time I would like to stop and take a minute to thank Donna Benton of Waterhouse Market for once again bringing her “A” game to the staging of this home. Donna is responsible for all the furniture and decor you see in all the (first) after pictures. She also was responsible for coordinating and inviting our special guest vendors to help make Cindedwella’s Open House extra Special- Sarah Henry with her art and custom rugs, art by Janetta Darley, fresh flowers by Southern Tradition Farms and custom candles by Sweet Home Candles. Gosh that was a fun day.

Here is another view from the living room all staged and ready for her open house.

…and after with the Henrys.
Here’s a shot of the “lived in” living room. As you can see the color palette, although much the same, has changed a bit to fit our family’s decor and style.

Before we go into the dining room let’s first go down that hall we see when we first walk in the front door. It leads to the bedrooms.

That hall also used to house the washer and dryer but we gave this home a proper laundry room and repurposed the space as a little office nook.

Prior to the renovation this home had 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms down this hall.

We took out the tiny bathroom connected to the front bedroom and reconfigured the space into 3 bedrooms with 1 larger bathroom.

…and after with the Henrys.
One of the things that we love about this home is the extra bedroom.
Our families all live out of town and we have frequent guests as well.
This room allows for family and
guests to have their own space! Such a gift…

Take a second to look at that floor tile. I personally plucked out the blue tiles and replaced them with the white tiles to form those cute little whimsical flowers. Of course David get’s all the credit for actually laying the tile. Hey Sarah, can you get a better shot of that floor- I want these fine folks to really appreciate the symmetry and exact spacing of those little flowers.

…and after with the Henrys.
Look at that lovely tile!!

Ok, let’s go back to the dining Room. I failed to get a proper before picture of the dining room before demo started but here it is a couple days into demolition.

In every project I work on I like to incorporate several unexpected moments in the design that deviates from the safe obvious choice- in this home the blue wainscoting is one such example. I knew it was a little risky to stray from traditional white wainscoting (I mean after all this was a spec house) but as is often the case, this detail became one of my favorite features of the home and truly set the tone of the rest of the design and story.

Next we enter into the kitchen- always one of my favorite parts of a renovation.

Before the kitchen was closed off from the dining room and the rest of the house. During the renovation we opened up the floor plan and rearranged the kitchen layout for a more efficient work/entertainment flow.

That plate wall was probably my favorite feature Waterhouse Market brought to the staging,

…and after with the Henrys.
There are so many plants in our home! And the bright light in this kitchen invited ALL the plants! The plates were replaced by framed, colorful bird prints flanking the windows. The prints echo our home’s warmer color palette while including the trim and accent colors. Easily one of our favorite spaces…just look at that gorgeously restored sink!

Funny Story: I had an old metal awning saved in my shop for years just waiting for the perfect house to use as a vent hood. Well, last year, when Rory got on a kick to clear out my hoarding shop, I decided to finally let go of the awning and I sold it on facebook for $75. Fast forward 2 months later, I bought the perfect house for a vintage awning vent hood. After searching for weeks I finally found the one you see in these pictures at a local antique store for close to $200… sigh.

…and after with the Henrys.
A much loved and lived in area of our home. Our home has so much open space for friends and family. The light from the original windows is incredible!

On the other side of the kitchen is the side entry into the house. Before the renovation it hosted a pantry, 2 small rooms and a glassed in porch.

Now it serves as the cheeriest mud room in America.

Just try and have a bad day with those blue birds flying overhead.

…and after with the Henrys.
We are a very active family. Lots of coming and going. We needed a convenient, functional and accessible spot to keep the “things”… And of course the plants.
…and after with the Henrys.
Our little music nook in the mudroom.

This wing of the home, also houses a small office/bedroom….

…and after with the Henrys.
Afternoon light invites you to sit and read in this versatile space. Painting, reading, studying, napping, crafting…riding a bike trainer. This room offers extra space that we needed!

And one of the small rooms and previous porch were converted into the master suite.

…and after with the Henrys.
So much light spilling in! We love the stark white backdrop of our MBR. It feels clean and bright and is such a welcome retreat at the end of busy days.
…and after with the Henrys.
I joke and tell people that this is why we bought this house…but for real.

And there you have it! Oh my goodness that was fun. Don’t you love what the Henry family has done with the place?!?! It warms my heart to see Cindedwella so loved and cared for. Truly the perfect ending to this renovation story.

Cindedwella- the story of 143 Oliver.

once time

There is no more appropriate beginning to the story of 143 Oliver than this signature fairy-tale introduction.  For that is what has inspired this home- a classic fairy tale (Disney version, specifically). Even in its dilapidated state, there was something whimsical about the place. I can remember the first time I walked through the house (it was in the dining room to be exact) the song zippidy-do-dah started playing in my head and I could practically feel “Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder.”

(Ok, I admit, it might be hard to see it in this “before” picture, probably because we had already started demo, BUT TRUST ME the magic was there.)

From that moment on, I knew the story/design would be light-hearted and playful- but it was the circumstances of the renovation that ended up inspiring the details of the story.  You see, we purchased this property about a year ago, but because we were in the middle of renovating our Carl Stuart home and the Davis Street house we were very slow to start working on this one. Even when we finally did start demolition and construction the house continued to get neglected by only getting my leftover attention. Normally, I practically live at the reno site, but with this house on Oliver, I would give a subcontractor instructions and then abandon the job for sometimes weeks before checking back in on her. It was almost like the house was putting itself back together with no love, attention, or help from me- does that storyline remind you of anything?? Are you with me??? Can you see where I’m going here???

Yes!!! It’s totally a classic Cinderella Story! But this version is called… wait for it…. wait for it….. Cindedwella!!! Squeel!!! Did you see what I did there? Cinde-dwell-a- as in “dwelling” another word for house.


Oh my goodness, I’m probably a little too proud of myself for that one.

Annnnyways… once I was clear on the story I knew exactly the direction I wanted to take the design to give it the fairy tale ending it deserved. And with the house solidified as Cindedwella in my head, I no longer felt guilty about the lack of attention I was giving the house, I just told myself that while I was away she was getting plenty of help with the renovation from the neighborhood woodland creatures.  Which have you seen the enormous pine trees surrounding the house? Trust me, woodland creatures a plenty!

I even found myself lovingly referring to her as my stepchild…. until the day I realized that would make me the wicked stepmother…..

The challenge in designing a spec house around a Disney fairy-tale is to capture the whimsy of the story, but with a maturity that allows the average “grown-up” to envision themselves living in the home.  Basically, I didn’t want the finished product to look like a four-year-old princess party. I struggled to find this balance until inspiration struck with the simplest solution- I simply grew up the princess!

Instead of imagining the house for the young girl Walt Disney immortalized in his version of Cinderella in 1950, I pictured what she would be like now, almost 70 years later. I asked myself: What would she be like now? How would her life circumstances and experiences influence her house hunt? What would be her design style? How would she go about the renovation? Oh my goodness, I had the best time with this. In fact, over the last 6 months, if you saw me driving down the road, by myself, with a goofy smile on my face or laughing hysterically, I wasn’t talking on the phone or listening to the radio- I was telling myself stories about Cindedwella and her posse of middle age Princesses.

Now before you cast judgment on my active imagination, just remember around the same time that I was playing with aging Disney characters in my head many of you discovered the viral FB aging app and were purposely aging yourselves and posting your Senior Citizen Selfies on the internet for the world to see.  Which got me thinking…… what would happen if….

Wow! Time has been kind to Cinderella, I’d never guess she was almost 70! I’m thinking she might have had a little bibbidi bobbidi done over the years…if you know what I mean…I’m just saying.

Back to Cindedwella and the story of 143 Oliver…. Let’s dive in.

Sadly, the prince passed away last year and Cindedwella felt like the castle was just too big for one person- so she left it to her oldest son and his adorable family and decided to downsize. She fell in love with the house on Oliver because it reminded her of the simple life she had had with her father before he married her stepmother. She was not turned off by it’s broken down state because she herself was the product of an extreme makeover and she wasn’t afraid of a little hard work. Plus 143 Oliver checked off most of her wish list- a front porch for morning visits with the neighboring birds and squirrels, a dining room to host dinners with her friends, 4 bedrooms so when her children or stepsisters came to visit everyone would have their own room, and an extra room she could use for a craft/sewing room. Gus and Jaq (her best mice pals) had taught her to sew years ago but since living in the palace she had not had the need or opportunity to sew for herself and she was looking forward to getting back into the hobby.

Once she purchased the house she got right to work cleaning out the furniture, knick knacks, books, and other items the old homeowners had left behind.

The work was exhausting and reminded her of her days living with her stepmother and sisters.

Once she had the place cleaned out she called in the big guns to help with construction…

Now, I know what your thinking… “those dwarfs were old to begin with, how in the world are they still working 82 years later?” Well, it turns out that whistling while you work not only improves work morale it also has anti-aging health benefits. I’m telling ya those guys worked hard! They were on the job at the crack of dawn and often did not start their heigh-ho march home until well after dark. Overall, I was very impressed with their work. I just had to keep a close eye on Dopey, nudge Sleepy to work a little harder, and stay out of Grumpy’s way- which is pretty much the norm at all my construction sites.

Once the dwarfs had the framing (including the all new pier and beam foundation and new roof), new plumbing, electrical,  and HVAC systems roughed-in they turned the job back over to Cindedwella to take over the design and finish out. While Cindedwella had a ton of ideas pinned to her “new house” Pinterest board she quickly became overwhelmed with all the choices she had to make. She decided to invite a few of her closest friends over to the house for encouragement and to see if they had any advice or ideas to offer on the design. I happened to be checking in at the job site just as her friends were arriving so Cindedwella invited me to stay for tea as well. I was nervous to accept her invitation because of my phobia* but OH MY GOODNESS am I glad I decided to stay!

* SIDEBAR: One thing you should know about me- I have a fear of famous people. It’s true, If I see someone famous (even just a little famous) I freeze up, my legs become cemented in place, my tongue goes limp so no intelligible words are capable of escaping my mouth, and my eyes become locked on the said famous person while my eyelashes cease to blink. (hmmm now that I think about what that must look like, I’m thinking the ol’ platitude “They are more scared of you than you are of them” given for most animal phobias might apply here too.) I’m serious, I once spotted Paige Davis of “Trading Spaces” in a hotel lobby while I was riding up an escalator. I was so transfixed that I forgot I was on the escalator until the moving stairs and stationary landing collided and I found myself on the ground. Because I am aware of this phobia I try to avoid situations where I might encounter famous people. For example, when Rory and I made our pilgrimage to Waco to visit the great Magnolia Market I made Rory go inside and make sure Chip or Joanna were nowhere in sight before I stepped inside. end sidebar

Let me set the scene for you:

Time: Early Spring around 2 in the afternoon.

Place: 143 Oliver, Conway, Arkansas

Setting: The house has just been drywalled but otherwise is empty except for the table and chairs Cindedwella brought in for the occasion. She has lovingly set the table with beautiful china, fresh flowers, and place cards for all of her friends. It’s the tea party of every preschool girls imagination come to life.

Cast- are you ready for this…..

Snow White- Cindedwella’s BFF. It’s been 82 years since she had her Disney debut. Like Cindedwella she too is widowed. While still beautiful, the aging process has hit her a little harder. She has a slight stoop in her posture (probably from years of leaning over to visit with the dwarfs) and uses a walker. Her black hair is now a shiny silver and she needs hearing aids but refuses to wear them.

Alice (from Wonderland)- It has been 68 years since she fell down the rabbit hole. She moved from the UK to New York in the late 60s and attended the original Woodstock Music Festival. She has never married and currently hosts a weekly podcast on conspiracy theories. She is one of Cindedwellas most eccentric yet loyal friends.

Jasmine- Cindedwella first met Jasmin 27 years ago when she was inducted into the Disney Princess club. They bonded over the trials they both experienced marrying men from different socioeconomic classes. She helped Princess Jasmin better understand the challenges Alladdin might face going from street peasant to royalty. Cindedwella adores Jasmine and has been trying to think of a gentle way to suggest she give up the crop tops due to her middle age muffin top without hurting her feelings.

Aurora: This princess is almost unrecognizable from the sleeping beauty she was 60 years ago. Poor thing, ever since Prince Phillip woke her up from the hexed slumber she has suffered from all sorts of sleep disorders including insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and as of last year- sleep apnea. The years of sleep deprivation have resulted in deep bags under her eyes, weight gain, hair loss, and severe anxiety. Because of this she rarely leaves the palace.

Anna- Ok, to be honest, none of the older princesses can truly relate to this millennial, but Cindedwella thought it might be nice to get a fresh, young perspective on the design of her house so she invited both Anna and Elsa to the tea.  Elsa was unable to make it because she was meeting with the  IOC (International Olympic Games Commission) to make a formal bid for the Kingdom of Arendelle to host the 2026 Winter Games.

I’m going to skip the part where they first come in and Cindedwella attempts to introduce me to her fabled friends. Let’s just say drool was involved and while I heard noises coming out of my mouth, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t words. I could just die thinking about it. I’m pretty sure I overheard Alice asking Cindedwella if she was sure I was qualified to oversee the renovation. Luckily the awkwardness was short-lived because Cindedwella offered to take the girls on a quick tour of the home before they sat down to tea. While they were walking thru the house I positioned myself in a corner where I could just sit and watch their encounter- not creepy at all.

Once Cindedwella had given them a tour and explained the layout of the home they sat down at the dining room table for tea.  Here is a little snip-it of their conversation:

Cindedwella: Well ladies, what do you think?

All the princesses exchange nervous looks. 

Jasmine: struggling to sound enthusiastic Umm, I’m sure it’s going to be great Cindy. 

Aurora:  I can see that the place has plenty of space for you but gosh Cindy, there is a ton to do- it makes me tired just thinking about it. How do you even know where to start?  I’m nervous you are in over your head.

Alice:  And I‘m just curious. Why did you choose such an old house? I mean this house is as old as Whitey over there. Aren’t you nervous about the maintenance cost to keep up such an old home?
Snow White:  What did she say? I thought I heard my name.
Cindedwella:Speaking loudly Alice was just saying that this house was originally built the same year you were released- 1937. In a normal voice. Ladies, I do appreciate your concern, but there is no need to worry. Snow White sent the dwarfs over to make sure everything was structurally and mechanically sound. Everything inside the sheetrock is brand new and should function like a brand new house. And I have Niki to help oversee the remainder of the project. (all the princesses turn around to look at me- none look particularly reassured.) Besides, I really wanted a fixer-upper over a new construction house because I wanted the opportunity to take something old and neglected and transform it into something beautiful.

Anna: Im so excited for you! It will be like your living out your own episode of fixer-upper. What an experience! You should totally document the progress on social media!

Cindedwella: laughing Thank you Anna, but I don’t even have a Facebook account.

Aurora:  What are you going to do on the outside? No offense, Cindy, but right now it looks like the home of a wicked witch, not a princess.

Jasmine:  I didn’t want to say anything, but I agree. I just can’t see you living in a brown house.

Cindedwella: Oh I’ve got plans for the outside. I’m replacing all the broken panes in the windows; beefing up the front columns, putting in a new front door and of course I will be painting over the brown siding. I wanted to replace the vinyl siding with new Hardie Board siding but there were so many surprises uncovered during demolition that I just didn’t have the budget to replace it. And, unfortunately, home improvements are not covered under my Fairy Godmother’s bibbidi bobbidi policy.

Anna:   Oh girl, you gotta let it go! That vinyl siding is going to paint up beautiful.

Cindedwella:  I think your right. And Pocahontas came by earlier this week and gave me some great ideas for landscaping. She suggested I collect a bunch of pine needles to mulch underneath the big pine trees where grass will struggle to grow. It will look great and won’t cost me a penny.

Jasmine: What a great idea! Now your getting me excited about this project. By the way, where is Poky? I miss seeing her.

Cindedwella: Oh, she and John had already made plans to go camping just around the river bend at Toad Suck Park today.  
But enough about the outside, lets talk about the inside. Because I debuted in the 50s I have always loved a retro vibe. I want to  bring that vintage style to my home but at the same time make it fresh and current. I brought you all here today because I value your opinions and I would love to hear your ideas for the place.  

Aurora:  Well I’m neither fresh nor current but I can tell you that florals never go out of style.   


Cindedwella: So true! Maybe I can think of some fun ways to incorporate a floral pattern into my design.  Now what about paint colors? Any suggestions on the color pallet?
All Princesses:  answering in one accord “Pink!”
Cindedwella:   laughing Well of course there will be pink! But what other colors?

Snow White:  You can’t go wrong with white. It’s the fairest color of them all and makes a great neutral backdrop for colorful accessories. 

Jasmine: What about blues Cindy? You have always loved the color blue.

Cindedwella:  I love it ladies! I do want to surround myself with things I love and that make me happy. Any other ideas I should consider in the design or decor?

Aurora: Well, the most important thing to consider is a big, comfy, inviting, beautiful bed with pretty curtains to help block out the sun. she lets out a big yawn.

Jasmine:  And lots of rugs throughout the house. I’m telling ya, a good rug can transport your home into a whole new world.

Alice:  A clock. I know that might sound silly but too many people neglect a good clock in their decor. Believe me it’s the key to never being rushed or late to an important date.

Anna:  Maybe a feature wall or some really cool art that can serve as a fab backdrop for selfies! Oh! and a pool to ice skate on in the winter!!
All the girls clap with excitement about the pool.
Cindedwella:  A pool! I hadn’t even thought of that. What a great idea!!
Whoa!!! Umm pool!” The mention of a pool magically untangles my tongue to speak. “We don’t have the budget for a pool.” (Oh great, now they are all looking at me like I just kicked their puppies.) I quickly add “And besides, it does not get cold enough in Arkansas to freeze over a pool for ice skating.” (There, they can’t blame the weather on me.) “But your other ideas are great…. really.” (Ok they can stop staring at me now)
Alice:  whispering so I can’t overhear (I totally could hear) Seriously Cindy, did you check her references?

Cindedwella:  obviously disappointed Oh well, the pool was a fun idea; but Anna I like your idea for art too. Any other ideas?

Snow White:  Don’t forget about Mirrors. Mirrors on the Wall make quite a statement.

Cindedwella:  Oh Ladies, I knew I could count on you. Those are all super ideas. You have helped me so much.  I truly treasure your friendship and I can’t wait to have you back over once the renovation is complete.

End Scene.

Wow! That was incredible. I will never forget that day. Cindedwella took each suggestion to heart and has been hard at work finishing up the renovation ever since. She is so close to wrapping this project up and let me just tell you- it is charming! Every time I step inside I can’t help but smile. It will be the perfect home in which to live happily ever after.

the end.

Would you like to see how this story played out in real life? Cindedwella’s Open House will be Sunday, September 15th, 2019 from 2-4pm. All are welcome. Watch Storybook Renovation’s Facebook and Instagram for more information about this event. House hunting? Be on the lookout for this home’s Zillow posting in the coming days.

We are having an auction!

My name is Niki and I’m a …..collector of treasures. No, um…. let me try that again. Hello, My name is Niki, and I…. rescue forgotten goods. No,…. repurpose the neglected….. store up for future glory….. salvage the dilapidated….
My name is Niki, and I am a hoarder. THERE! I said it.
You wouldn’t know it from being in my home- in fact since our move we have become quite the minimalist. No, where I hide my addiction is a couple miles down the road in my shop/shack on Reedy Road. Prepare yourself and hide the eyes of your children… I’m about to show you a picture of my shop/shack:
Cue Horror Movie Scream.

It’s green in real life, I chose Black and White to make it more ominous- you know how I feel about drama. 

Yep that’s her. I’m sure if you have driven down Reedy Road you have seen her. And if you live in Madison Subdivision you probably assume that nothing good could be going on in a place like this. Especially because I use to frequently come in and out of the place looking like this:

Now, I’m not exactly sure what people wear when they are cooking drugs but my imagination conjures up images similar to the picture above and it wouldn’t surprise me if the good people of Madison Subdivision jumped to that conclusion too. In actuality, I use to frequently sport the mask when I would strip or paint furniture during my “Painted Stache” days (Dad and I’s homemade and restoration furniture business).  And speaking of stripping…
Apparently, my shop/shack had a reputation long before Rory acquired the property. This is a picture of how the side room looked when we purchased it.

I don’t even want to imagine the stories that came out of this place. All I know is when I moved in, the pole came down and the boom boom room became my spray booth for painting furniture.  It was quite functional, for a while…..
The main shop area was once a dream workshop with over 800 sq feet of open space with some built-in workbenches. When I first moved in I just stored our Christmas decor and a few furniture pieces I would pick up at yard sales to refinish and sell at weekend antique events. Here is a pic of the space when I moved in, in 2014.

I had PLENTY of space to move around and work in. But when I transitioned from flipping furniture to flipping houses the ratio of things that came into the shop to those that left the shop substantially increased (or did the ratio decrease? The math is hurting my head- bottom line, more came in than out). Instead of bringing in things that I wanted to sale in a planned weekend event, I started buying and storing things that I “might, one day, maybe, use in a future storybook home.” Then the problem exploded when Rory and I (yes Rory, I’m throwing you under the bus with me on this one) got the bright idea that we should start a salvage business with all the things we pull out of these old homes during demolition. The inventory was endless but our time was not- so we gathered a lot but never had the time to organize and sell- it’s really quite a shame, I had some really cool ideas for the salvage shop, specifically how I would decorate it, you would have loved it.  But alas it never was.
All of that has led to the current state of the shop/shack…
(I can’t believe I’m about to show you this- Don’t judge….shoot, go ahead and judge, I deserve it)

And the current state of the boom boom room:
I think I could have happily continued stuffing items into the shop forever but the place stresses Rory out. I dread anytime he goes to the shop because it is impossible for him to step foot in the place (literally there is no room for even his foot) without giving me a lecture on getting rid of my “junk” (Yes, I do take offense to the use of that word). At one point he even threatened to evict me. So I can’t put it off any longer, I have to clear the place out. I tried posting a few things on FB online yardsale but most people who came to the shop were too overwhelmed by the mess to truly shop. So seeing that I wasn’t making much progress, Rory took it upon himself to come to the rescue and went and hired an auction company. I’ll admit, this freaked me out at first but I find if I focus on what I’ll be gaining (space to move around in, a place to store our tools, money to spend on a new mattress) instead of all the treasures I will be losing, I’m ok with it-kinda. 
But I will say I’m pretty pumped about an auction! How fun is that?!?! I have only been to a handful of auctions but each one was uber exciting! Even if I wasn’t bidding I found myself getting anxious watching others go after an item. Not the bad kind of anxious, more like the kind you get as you are standing in line to ride a new roller coaster. The thrill of wondering if you can win the item before you hit the top dollar amount you have assigned in your head. Then as you approach that number (or even go over) you wonder how much higher your competition will go before they bow out. Just $1 higher, $2, $3.  Then whether you win or lose that item becomes the most precious thing in the world to you, for that moment, because you fought for it. It’s an adventure, I tell ya.
YOU SHOULD TOTALLY COME!!! Even if you don’t leave with a single treasure you should come just for the experience. 
The auction is going to be this Saturday, July 20th at our Shop/Shack behind the fence at 377 Reedy Road in Conway.  The auction will start promptly at 9am but you will want to get there early to register if you want to bid on any items. 
What is going to be up for auction? you ask.
  • Lots of Furniture. Some are project pieces, some are ready to be taken home and enjoyed as is, some were found in homes we worked on, some from yard sales, and some were pieces we had at our twostorysister but just don’t work in our current home. 

I loved the blue circled parson chairs with the ruffle skirt at Sister but they just don’t fit the style of Carl Stuart. Sad Sigh. And I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found that plaid settee that fit the Caldwell Manor story perfectly. My loss your gain.

Oh! and the plans I had for those chairs. I soooo could picture them flanking the ends of a beautiful dining table in the perfect English cottage or sitting in a French Country living room (reupholstered in that scenario).
  • Tons and Tons of reclaimed wood salvaged from houses all over Conway. 

Mostly pine, but you will also find oak, Cyprus, and cedar mixed in the lot. Talk about the pinterest projects you could knock out with those treasures. 
  • Lots of old windows and doors.

Including over $5000 worth of storefront window frames and glass.  Oh and lots of window weights. Men get excited about window weights.  I hear they use them as anchors for their fishing boats. 
  •  some tools and what nots- more whats than nots if you ask me
  • Leftover tile and light fixtures

Some lights and fans are brand new never taken out of the box! What am I thinking?!?!
  • Christmas Decor
I have some beautiful Christmas decor that sadly will just not work in my new modernish home. So if you like whites, creams, burlap, and golds in your Christmas decor you could score big! Plus I have several Christmas Trees- including the one I flocked in front of my church family at the “Don’t get your Tinsel in a Tangle” ladies event. 

  • Tons of decor- knick knacks I had collected for staging along with a lot of farmhouse decor that I had hoped I could make fit in our new home but oh my goodness it just really doesn’t.  I have even tried to tell myself a story about a farmgirl who moves in with a bohemian family in the city in hopes to mesh the two styles together- but it’s like oil and water. I’ve given up the fight. 
Plus rumor has it that Waterhouse Market might be dropping off a few items to contribute to the auction as well. 
Speaking of Waterhouse Market, if we can find a free second in our schedules to get together and play this week, I’m going to see if Donna wants to go Live with me to give us some tips on how to properly auction. She is pretty much an expert, and I think she could really help us newbies feel less intimidated by the process.  How does that sound?!?! 
Ok, so if anything has caught your eye, or you just want to experience a real live auction, or you just want to see a real life hoarding situation- here are the details you need to know:
Date: Saturday, July 20th
Time: 9am – 11am
(be there by 8:30 to register)
Location: 377 Reedy Road
Auctioneer: Shawn Hammontree with 
(click on link above to see more pictures posted by Circle H)
Finally, if you did find something you think you can’t live without, please don’t ask me to presell it to you. I can’t! Even if you are my very best friend or my own mother- I legally can’t. I am under contract with Circle H Auctions that I won’t remove or sell anything before the auction. 
See you Saturday!