It’s a "Before" Blog

Hi Friends!!!
Oh it’s been too long, but I’m hoping this next project will have been worth the wait! If you are a Storybook Homes follower you know that over the last year I have been working on custom projects for real clients, myself included:
First, there was the demolished and rebuilt Nantucket traditional house on Oliver:
Then there was my mid mod house on Carl Stuart:
I know I still owe you a complete “after package” on Carl Stuart but we moved in prematurely before the punch list was completed so there are a few more things I’d like to take care of before I post pics- you understand, right??
And currently, I am in the final days of the New Orleans Greek Revival house on Davis…
(come back soon for the after pics on this one)
While it has been a fun experience working with real-life people to help cultivate and create the homes of their imagination; I have desperately missed the creative process of letting a story dictate the design and renovation of a home. I mean, I did try to keep a vague story running through my head throughout these client projects, simply to help maintain a cohesive style, but the final design choices were made by the client, not the story- lucky for me my clients had great taste. I just find that when I focus on telling a story rather than pleasing a client I am more inclined to think outside the box and take greater design risks. Now granted most of these “risks” are not for everyone but it’s often these story led ideas in a storybook flip that captures the attention and the heart of the perfect future homeowner- it’s just cool how it happens. 
So when the mother/son realtor team, Chris and Cindy Bell, contacted me about a potential flip I jumped at the chance to go look. At the time, I was in the final days of the Oliver project, Carl Stuart was barely in the dry, and Davis was patiently waiting in the wings to get started, so I knew there was no way I could start another project. But I figured, if the price was right, I might be able to afford to let it sit for a while or even allow a renter to move in until we were ready to renovate.  Unfortunately, the renter idea was squelched before we even made it inside the house. The front door was broken and permanently ajar and the side door looked like it had been kicked in.  Inside we were greeted by the sweetest elderly couple. It was obvious their declining health had not allowed them to keep up the day to day maintenance of their home for quite some time. It was truly heartbreaking, the floors were sinking in multiple places and 1 side of the house seemed to be tilting away from the rest of the structure. They had held on as long as they could but needed to move to a safer and healthier environment.  With the help of the Bells and the couple’s bank, we were able to purchase the house at a price that allowed the couple to move on and gave us a workable budget to do the necessary renovation.  So without further ado let me introduce you to 143 Oliver:
 
She’s pretty big for a Storybook home at just under 2100 sq feet.  You wanna go inside??
I’ll take you in through the front door (the sweet couple had a new door installed before we closed):
The front door leads directly into the living room.
A fireplace!!! It doesn’t work, but I still love that it’s there.  
 
To the left of the fireplace you enter into the dining room:
Sorry, I neglected to get a picture of the dining room before the demo started. That lath and plaster debris is evidence that our dumpster costs and dust counts were high throughout the demolition. 
 
Through that small door is the kitchen:
That reminds me… I asked the demo team to save that hutch for me. Hmmm, I don’t recall seeing it for awhile…
On the other side of the house was a hall with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms:
Then past the kitchen, there was a pantry area and a cool enclosed porch looking area:
And then there was another small bedroom in that area:
Outside there is an attached storage area that I heard used to be part of a dairy farm. 
Believe me, I almost let myself get lost in a dairy farm story but I did not trust myself with all the cowhide possibilities. So rather, I waited for the space to be completely cleared out and gutted before I started looking and listening for the story this home wanted to tell. 
Over the last 6 months, we have ever so slowly been putting this house back together. In fact, it has been my lack of attention at this house that motivated and wrote her story. And oh I LOVE the sweet story she tells- I hope to get to share it with you before the end of the summer. In the meantime, thanks for spending a little time with me today. I hope it’s not too long before we can do it again.  
♡-Niki
PS- If you’re curious…. The new floor plan hosts 4 bedrooms (5 if you count the office) and 2 baths. Projected price: Somewhere around $250k for the house with a fully furnished and decorated package yet to be determined by Waterhouse Market. Open House Party projected to be Late July or August! Can’t wait to see you!

Storybook Ghostwriter Edition

Welcome to a special edition of Storybook homes. If you have been following Storybook Homes for any amount of time you know that my Dad ALWAYS comes to town to help me on at least 1 special project per renovation. 
Here he is helping me with a feature headboard wall at Bruce.

Ta dah!
He built a vanity top for Oliver:
And helped me with the pine shiplap at Donaghey.
 
Here are some action shots of him working on some special trim projects at Caldwell.

And the fruits of his labor:

He built the master vanity at the cinder block house:

And here he is working on one of the most tedious jobs to date- the wood wrapped entry wall at Lee Street.

Those are just a few pics that prove, not only is he an incredible Dad that sacrificially gives up his time and joints (climbing ladders and crawling on the floor is tough on an old man) to help make his daughter’s design dreams come true, BUT ALSO, that he has some serious carpentry skilz. 
Sooooooo when Dad announced that he thought he might like to try his hand at flipping I was pumped and confident that he would do an incredible job. Plus, I was looking forward to being able to help him for a change in appreciation for the many times he has helped me. 
It took him almost a year to find a property to flip near his home in Harrison, Arkansas that met his criteria for price and degree of renovation needed; but late last summer with the help of his favorite realtor, Laura Ragland with Weichert Realtors, he found a house that checked most of his boxes.  
35 Mimosa Drive in Harrison Arkansas

The house was structurally sound, just in need of some cosmetic updates.  Plus it was a great size, in an established neighborhood, close to schools, and had recently undergone a major price drop after sitting on the market for awhile. Laura was able to negotiate a price that was in Dad’s comfort zone and by July of last year he and his oldest grandson were swinging sledge hammers at the old floor plan. 
Because Dad forgot to get “before” pics before diving into demolition, (Like father like daughter) I borrowed some pics off the old realtor listing to give you a brief “before” tour:
When you walked in the front door you entered into a closed off formal living room:

On the other side of that left wall was a small dining room:

Through that cased opening you can see the kitchen…

Beyond the kitchen was a nice size gathering or family room:
On the other side of this classic ranch style house there was/is a long hall
with 2 kid bedrooms (no good pics of bedrooms) and a guest bath:

 And a master suite:

Complete with single sink vanity and fiberglass shower:

BUT now……
When you walk in the front door you are greeted with a Dad signature feature wall:

And that formal living room has been opened up to the kitchen:

And speaking of the Kitchen…. What a transformation!!!  
 
Dad borrowed some space from the old dining room to expand the kitchen and converted the rest of the old dining Room into a Laundry/Pantry room. This was a genius use of space, if you ask me, because the old Laundry was located in the garage. 
Here is a view of the new gathering room:
And now down the hall…. don’t you just love a freshly painted house and those new hardwood floors.

The guest bathroom was overhauled:

And the bedrooms were refreshed with new carpet, fan, and paint. 

The master suite received a total makeover. 

And the old master bathroom was expanded to include a large walk-in shower, double vanity and private potty room.

What do you think?!?! Did he do a great job or what!!
I’m so proud of him that I thought he deserved to have his very own Storybook Homes For Sale sign.

If you love it too, you should call the number above because according to Dad this was his first and last flip so there won’t be another opportunity to own a Ghostwriter edition SBH in Harrison again!
Yep, I wish I could tell you that Dad fell in love with the reno biz but that is not how this story ends.  The job took triple the time he thought and (as is ALWAYS the case for me) went quite a bit over budget.  That, along with the everyday surprises and frustrations that come with renovating a home, led to his decision that flipping homes is just not how he wants to spend his retirement years.
Whether you are in the market for a new home or not, please stop by Dad’s Open House this Sunday, February 24, 2019 from 2pm-4pm to pat him on the back and tell him what a great job he did. 

OPEN HOUSE
35 Mimosa Drive
Harrison, AR
February 24, 2019
2pm – 4pm

Coming up Next at SBH

Ladies and gentlemen SBH is about to embark on something that we have never done before. Something that has the potential to launch this gig from hobby status to a real legit business. Something that could change the direction and pace of our lives as we know it.
We are about to attempt… TWO PROJECTS AT THE SAME TIME!!! 

What?!?! you say. I KNOW! Crazy huh! It’s like I’m a real contractor or something. But just think… If I can pull this off then I could potentially do a flip (my true love) and a contract project (aka a project that actually provides a paycheck) at the same time thus keeping me and my creative side happy and Rory and his profit/loss spreadsheet happy. I realize that this feat is nothing to real builders who can crank out entire subdivisions in their sleep, but I have been extremely nervous to try more than one project at a time because I know how much time and energy goes into ONE SBH. When I multiply that amount by two it does not fit within the 24 hour/day allotment of time much less leave room for family, friends, food and/or freaking sleep. (Sorry for the expletive, I was going for a literary alliteration there with the “fs”.) BUT I am still riding the high of my successful contract project on Oliver and 1 of the 2 projects will be our own home on Carl Stuart so I’m thinking now is the perfect time to give it a try.
And do I ever have the perfect client/contract project to work on! This young man approached me last April when I first put the word out I was looking for a pre-reno buyer at Oliver. Unfortunately, he was about a week too late to get in on that project, but about a month later he contacted me about a house he found on Davis. He asked me to look at the house with him to see if I thought it had storybook potential. At that time I was in the early stages of working with my very first clients (at Oliver) and still unsure if contract work was for me so I was hesitant to even go look at the property but my love of old houses and curiosity to peek inside this particular one got the best of me and I agreed to a walkthrough. Well, I should have known better…. it’s impossible for me to go inside an old abandoned home and not start daydreaming about what I could do to help give it a fresh new story, and this one had enough quirkiness to send the imagination in overdrive. But despite my infatuation with the house and it’s potential I was nervous to take on another client project and was prepared to give him a recommendation for another reputable contractor when he said the following words that I am apparently powerless to say no to: 
“I wouldn’t want to see the project until it’s finished- I want you to surprise me.” (the yellow highlight represents rays from heaven shining down on that statement) 
Ummmm, Seriously- all the control, a dramatic reveal, AND a guaranteed paycheck….. I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. I agreed to take on the project with the understanding I would not be able to start his project until I finished Oliver. We finished Oliver on Friday, Aug 24 and started demo at Davis the following Monday.
Although he wants to be surprised and has given me free rein on all the design decisions, he did share with me his love for the French Quarter of New Orleans and requested the design reflect that style. Now, normally a request for a specific style would stress me out because I like to let the house dictate the style BUT I’m super pumped about trying a new genre and after spending time with Davis it turns out he (the house) speaks fluent Cajun! Plus! I have always wanted to go to NOLA and I’m thinking this project will be the perfect excuse for a field trip.
Although demolition is already done, I did remember to take some before pics before we knocked down any walls. So here is a little lagniappe for your blog reading pleasure. Let’s geaux… (oh my goodness, this is going to be fun)
Here he is: 705 Davis

Recognize him? He sits proudly across the street from First Baptist on Davis Street and has been there since 1937. For an 81-year-old he has held up pretty good. He currently occupies 1624 sq feet of livable space which does not include the obvious add-on to the right of the property or the creepy attic space bonus area.

I did not get a picture of the creepy attic space so you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

Part of our renovation plans for this house involve demolishing the current lean-to structure and rebuilding an addition more in keeping with the original style of the home… kinda like this:

Before we move this tour inside I’ve got to show you the back/side yard:

That space right there is going to be home to the coolest New Orlean’s style courtyard. I’m dying to tell you more but I think I’ll keep it a surprise for now.

Let’s go on inside, shall we.

Inside the front door, space is plentiful but a little awkward. There are only 2 bedrooms but 3-4  living rooms.

Here is a picture of the floorplan I sketched out to help you navigate this tour.

You enter thru the front door into room 1:

This front door location was one of the biggest obstacles to figuring out the new layout. Currently, it opens into one of those 4 living spaces I told you about. I wanted to create a defined entryway but struggled to figure out what to do with the space the entryway would create to the left of the door. Don’t worry, we figured it out, but not without several sleepless nights. 
Room 2, (pic taken from room 3) takes you to another living area. This one is small and narrow but has the most character thanks to a cute fireplace and built-in. It is also where you enter the home from the carport. 
Room 3 Is living area 3 (pic taken from area #2). 

#4 could also be considered a living area but most likely was used as a dining room because of it’s proximity to the old kitchen.

I’m going to go ahead and give you that map again so you don’t have to keep scrolling back up before we continue on our “before” tour.

Since we are in the dining room (#4) let’s go ahead and go thru the door to the kitchen (#6):

It was a galley style kitchen and I absolutely adored those cabinets. Unfortunately, we lost the cabinets during demo because they stubbornly refused to come off the wall in one piece. This homeowner desires an open layout so we will be relocating the kitchen to the old dining room (#4) during the renovation but have some really fun plans for the old kitchen.

#5 & #7 represent the 2 bedrooms of the house:

#8 is the main bathroom of the house:

#11 is the hallway that led to the bedrooms and bathroom (#8) and housed the stairs that led to the creepy pictureless attic bonus space.

I’m thinking #9 was a laundry area and also housed the hot water tank.

And finally, we will end our tour with #10 the bathroom lean-to addition.

And now that you have a better understanding of the old layout forget everything you just saw because pretty much the entire house is getting rearranged during the renovation. Numbers 1-4 will be opened up. Number 6 will be moved to number 4, Number 6 will become number 9. Numbers 5, 7 and 8 will be combined to become an awesome master suite. Number 9 will become a guest bathroom for two new bedrooms that will be added where number 10 used to be.  It’s going to be fun!

Oliver- B&A

It’s Before and After Time for Oliver!!!
Ummm…. Is it fair for me to classify this post as a before and after? I mean, if you remember, this was the house we ended up demolishing due to ZERO footings. BUT! In my defense, because we did not realize the home was sitting on sinking dirt until the week before we were due to start reconstruction we already had the floorplan mapped out to fit inside the original footprint. The future homeowners had approved the new layout and did not desire to make any changes so we essentially built back the original structure with an added carport. Therefore, because we honored the original house I feel justified in claiming these are before and after pics. Soooo now that I cleared that up, let’s get going with the pictures already.
Here is a shot of the house in the before stage: (remember Oliver was a duplex in its former life)

And here he is now!

Isn’t he cute! My biggest fear about tackling a new construction project in old town Conway was that the end product would not have the charm of an old home. But I think by adding the wood trim around the windows and doors and topping the brick columns with the precast concrete of old this house could pass for historic. In fact, Mr. Homeowner paid me the biggest compliment when he shared that someone who had visited his new home thought the house was a remodeled 80-year-old and was shocked to find out it was new construction. 

Speaking of homeowners. If you remember, this was my very first project working side by side with clients and I was just a little (ok a lot) anxious about giving up 100% control. This fear was further escalated when I realized having homeowners on board meant their preferences would (of course) be driving the design ship instead of the Ken and Barbie story floating in my head. Without a story I couldn’t envision the end product, therefore I felt a little lost at first. But then, guess what? As I got to know the homeowners and their likes and dislikes they BECAME the story and I could totally see them and all their furnishings and treasurers living in the space. That, and I kept picturing the homeowners living in Nantucket. Not exactly sure why…. I have never been to Nantucket nor do I have any idea if “Nantucket” is or has a particular style, BUT if ever I was unsure of what direction to take in this project I just pointed North East and suggested finishes I thought would be found in a coastal Nantucket home.  
I truly could not have asked for a better couple to work with. They were gracious and understanding when things did not go as planned, and timely and decisive when it was time to make a design decision. They were very supportive and respectful of my ideas and yet were not afraid to speak up if something did not fit their taste or if they had an idea of their own. I found that I really enjoyed having someone to bounce ideas around with and was surprised at the relief I felt from not being responsible for all the design choices. I would simply present 3 or 4 (or 30 when it came to paint colors) options and they would make the final call.  In the end, we created a home I think we were all proud of.  (Here at SBH it is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition.)
They moved in about a month ago but graciously welcomed me back so I could take you on a tour of their home. Let’s go inside…..

Remember how dark, dingy and closed off the duplex entrance felt… (Seriously, what’s with the footprints on the ceiling?!?!)
Well now you walk right into their open living/dining kitchen area:

Can you believe they already have pictures hung?? No lie, we lived at Sister AT LEAST 4 years before I hung anything on the wall. 
I usually like to save the kitchen for last on our tours but since it is peeking out behind the couch, I’ll go ahead and take you in there. 
Another fabulous job by Jeff Perry the cabinet guy. I think that is my new favorite vent hood- very Nantuckety. And shout out to my new friend Brent Rhodes of MBR Woodworks for the BEAUTIFUL oak island top. Mrs Homeowner says it is her favorite part of the entire home. Check out Brent’s portfolio of projects on his FB page: MBRwoodworks. So excited to have found Brent, I think he is just the guy I need to implement a few ideas I have had floating around in my head…. stay tuned. 
While I have you here, take a look at that antique door. I’m going to totally pat myself on the back for that one. It was not always such a glorious shade of antique wood. No, that wood only emerged after a gazillion hours of stripping and sanding layers and layers of paint by yours truly. 

Did I mention I did this in the hot July sun. Take a good look because this will be the last antique door I EVER strip. Alright, I’m done. I’m leaving my pity party… on with the tour. 
One of my favorite spots in the home is the little sitting nook to the left of the island.

Even while Ken and Barbie were still living in this story I had pictured ticking stripe chairs flanking that front window. I mentioned this to Mrs. Homeowner at our first meeting and the very next week she ordered this fabric to recover the chairs above. Love, love, love how they turned out and I think they fit even better inside this Nantucket story. 
Before we leave the kitchen let me remind you of the before kitchens:
Unit 1

Unit 2

Before we head down the hall let me give you a close-up of the dining area:

Waterhouse Market took the homeowners existing antique dining set and gave it a makeover for its Nantucket debut.  

I looked high and low for the perfect chandelier that would harmonize with the kitchen lighting without being too matchy matchy. Found this one at Conway’s very own Hambuchen Lighting.  Ya’ll that place is a treasure. Such unique lighting and surprisingly affordable. 

First door to the left down the long hall is the laundry room/pantry.

Not sure that the duplex had a designated laundry area so no before picture for that one. 
Next, let’s look at the guest bath. Here’s a before to set the mood:
And here it is now:

Couldn’t break the tradition of my Dad joining in on our project- he built the vanity top for this bathroom.

And remember that old clawfoot tub in the duplex? It too got a makeover. 

Flanking that guest bathroom is two guest bedrooms.

And finally, we enter the master suite where we are greeted by the adorable Temple (Shirly Temple that is).

Through that Navy Blue pocket door you will find the master bathroom:

I had a hard time getting a good picture that captured the layout of the bathroom. So I’ll just tell ya the shower is to the right of the vanity and the potty is hidden behind a wall across from the shower. 

If linen-like tile and a chair rail of subway tile do not scream Nantucket I don’t know what does.
Because I forgot to get shots of the backyard and porch it looks like this is where the tour will end.
Thank you to all the subcontractors who helped this project come together. And thanks so much to Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner for entrusting Storybook Homes with your home.

Carl Stuart Update

Well….we are at the 3-week mark of put-back-together mode at the Carl Stuart house and Wow! what a rollercoaster it has been. Thank you for all the kind words of encouragement after my last post. I was in a paralyzing state of fear and panic after I saw the height and drama of the garage/bonus room but your kind words helped me off the ledge. Since starting we have had to hire 2 different crews to take off the roof, wait out a couple of rain storms (roofless) and switch framing companies, but I think we are on the right track now. 
Here are a few pics to keep you in the loop of the progress:
Just to remind you, here is what we started with:
Stats: 1800ish sq feet 3 bed, 2.5 bath, Ranch Style with hints of mid century architecture.

Here is a little clearer, close-up picture of the house after demolition had started:
And now….

The second story addition has gone up. Now I am just waiting for the right side roof trusses to be installed before I decide how I truly feel about the design. I have a feeling this will be a house you either love or hate and I fully expect there will be members in both camps, and that’s ok, I just pray that Rory and I both end up on the love side.
Behind the main house is the garage/bonus room addition that cost me many nights sleep. I think it looks less monstrous now that the second story has been added to the main house, so I’m feeling a little better about it.
Here is a glimpse of the bonus space above the garage:
And now for a quick tour of the inside of the main house:
Welcome to the kitchen and living room:

 It currently feels nice and airy.
This is my feeble attempt at saving the hardwood floors from rain damage:

What do you think the likelihood my tarping will work?? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
And here is the mudroom/master suite side of the house.

See all that tape? That is my attempt to show the framers EXACTLY where I want the walls to go. It took me HOURS. I have no doubt the framers were laughing at me in Spanish. They basically framed up an entire second story in the time it took me to lay out the master bedroom, bathroom, and laundry room. But here’s the deal…whereas in new construction if you need more space you can just bump out an exterior wall on the blueprint before construction begins, you don’t have that luxury in a remodel. You are confined within the exterior walls the house gifts you, so you have to make every inch count and each wall work double time. This is actually my FAVORITE part of renovating an old house. I LOVE the challenge of making the most of every square inch of space. Hopefully, by the end of this week I will get to see my imaginary tape walls come to life. Stay tuned.

What have I done?

Please pardon the grammatical massacre that is about to occur. I do not have time to write something clever or worry about punctuation or run on sentences (not that that is ever high on the priority list here at two-story sister). I just need to vent my worries and concerns about our Carl Stuart home before too many of you drive by and think “what in the world?!?!”
First of all…. Just so you know, as I stood before the almost finished framing of the garage + bonus room addition an hour ago, I too thought “What in the world?!?!” Followed immediately by “What have I done?!?!” Here is the deal…. it’s too late to turn back now, so I feel like I should at least explain why I thought this would be a good idea….. so at least you can sympathize and still want to be my friend.
You see….From the beginning, I have felt that this house had a hint of a mid-century vibe. I think it stems from the low pitch hip roof.

Here’s a better picture of the roof taken during demolition.

I’ll admit it bothered me a little that the house was built in 1978, not exactly “mid-century,” but then again sometimes Arkansas can be a little behind the times in design, so I could see how a mid-century house could pop up close to the 80s.  
So just like that a mid-mod story started taking shape in my head.  The challenge was the current footprint did not meet our family’s long-term needs, so we decided we needed to expand.  This led to the decision to add on a second story. The problem with this decision was it would mess with the roof line that inspired the original design story. So I had to come up with a new roofline that still complied with the mid-century style. 
ENTER the monoslope or shed roofline.  

Photo cred: Pinterest

VERY mid mod but NOT something we see every day in our neck of the woods. So then I lost many, MANY nights sleep trying to decide if we should go “all in” on the design story with the monoslope roof or play it “safe” with a gable style roof. On the one hand, I LOVE to try new design styles and like to challenge myself and others to not be afraid to try new things. But on the other hand- the hand with ALL my fingers, (yes, I was born with only 4.5 fingers on my right hand- freaky I know, one day I’ll show you but for now try to stay with me) I feared this highly visible house would stand out too much and read “showy.” But then again, we aren’t exactly in a subdivision so if ever there was a place to try out a new style this would be it.  In the end, we decided to go for it.
Aaaaaand now I am second guessing this decision.  The garage addition looks HUGE and really dramatic (thus “showy”)! I am trying to not go in full panic mode by telling myself that it just looks massive next to the low pitch of the current house and that it will all make sense once the main house is renovated. But it didn’t help when Rory, who is usually the one to calm me down and assure me everything is going to be ok, said, “maybe we should just bulldoze the whole thing and start over.”  I’m just going to go ahead and declare this a no sleep night. sigh.
I have more to say, but for now, I will leave it at that. 
Thanks for listening. 

Little House on Duncan Street

Hi, there. Let me re-introduce myself since it’s been awhile. I’m Niki, the storyteller of Storybook Homes. Thanks for joining me here at Two-Story Sister…… Although, now that I think about it… I guess I need to look at changing the name of this blog since Sister has been officially adopted by another family and I currently am writing to you from the shared office/living room space of our rental home. As you can imagine, leaving a beloved home that was personified into my third child over the last 9 years, was VERY difficult. As we made our final walk thru our empty home each room flooded me with random memories: 
Wrestling Matches with Rory and the boys in our bedroom.

Back to School Pictures in front of the ever-changing mantel:

Boys anxiously waiting at the top of the stairs each Christmas morning for permission to come downstairs to see what Santa had brought.

Meals prepared in my dream kitchen:

All the birthday parties and sleepovers.

The Adventures of Super Fido.

And the birthplace of Thompson Bro Films and Colby’s Creations.

(Did you watch that video? I do realize that I watch it thru my mommy lense but every year my boys get older that video gets both more precious and hilarious to me.)
Not to mention all the memories of the renovations and weekend projects we conquered over the years- truly no room was left without our family’s mark. 

(Dear New Homeowner, Underneath the carpet in the playroom you will find this blue and white checkerboard that my boys never fully appreciated.)

Yep, Sister was very good to us and we will miss her dearly.
But for now, we are happily settled into our small rental. Ironically, Rory purchased our current home with the intention of letting Storybook Homes flip her but the story I had planned for this home did not fit within a workable budget so I stepped aside and let Rory and Cole take full control of its renovation with the goal of adding it to Rory’s rental portfolio. It wasn’t until they were days away from putting a “for rent” sign in the yard that I had the idea that WE should move into the home while we renovate Carl Stuart. 
Not going to lie, downsizing to 1/3rd the size of our previous living quarters has not been without its challenges BUT I think this phase of life will be soooo good for us.  For one, it is showing us what is necessary and what we can live without…… and what we thought we could live without but now desperately wish we could dig out of one of the buried boxes in the storage building. 
In the weeks leading up to the move, I thought about how I would set up our transition home.
One of my favorite blogs is “The Nesting Place” where the Nester lives by her tag line “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”. I have always admired the Nester’s mantra and remember being particularly inspired by how she applied this philosophy during the period of life she and her family lived in a rental home. She did not let the fact that she did not own her home stop her from creating an inviting space that she happily opened up to friends and family. I always told myself that if I ever moved into a rental I too would make sure to make the most of our space and take the time to decorate no matter how long we might live there. 
Well, guess what? Turns out I am not the Nester. Since moving in I have not hung a single picture on the wall and because I sold all of our beds and bedding in our “Sister Estate Sale” our mattresses are sitting on the floor with what looks like prison-issued blankets and pillows.

But don’t worry! Although these pictures seem to imply I have taken a break from our storybook home and that I am “just getting by” during our transitional time in the rental, this could not be further from the truth. My home is still telling a story…. it’s just a different type of story than your used to on this blog spot.
You see, from the moment we moved in, my motivation shifted from “The Nesting Place” to “Little House on the Prairie.” If you grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books or watched the TV series you know that the infamous “little house” was not known for its’ decor but rather for the love that filled the home.  Despite the modest home, there was something enviable about the cozy little house Caroline Ingalls created and the simplistic life they led. I’d call Ma’s style “Utilitarian” or even “Tidy.” And that is what I am going for here on Duncan Street.
Now if I was being completely honest, this style was chosen out of necessity due to the small space restraints of our rental. However, by simply giving our living arrangement a story it has given purpose to our set-up and has allowed us to fully embrace and enjoy- TRULY enjoy, this phase of living. 
My end goal for setting up house here on Duncan Street was to be neat and functional. I made sure each item we brought in served a purpose, or even two. The only fluff that made the Duncan house cut were the items of decor I was nervous might get damaged in storage. 
Instead of running out and buying cute throw pillows and curtains for our new digs I shopped for plastic storage containers and command hooks to keep us organized. 

We stack our chairs cafeteria style when not in use to give us access to our makeshift pantry. 

The no dishwasher has afforded our boys the opportunity to learn the lost art of hand washing dishes. Aaaaand the NO Frills refrigerator has introduced them to ice trays and the joys of cracking the trays just right to free every last cube. 
Speaking of chores… Just like the Ingalls sisters, our boys have assigned chores to help keep our home functioning and tidy. Now, the Thompson boys have had chores for YEARS, the difference in Little House chores and past chores is I am actually “letting” them do them. You see, in the past, I rarely made it past week 1 of my boys color-coded laminated chore charts before my OCD tendencies would set in and I would take over their chores so that everything was done just right. I know! I know! This is terrible parenting and one day I will have to answer to my future daughters-in-law. (This is also the reason I have never been able to find a house cleaner.) BUT! I am determined to let this Little House style of living train me to allow others to help out around the house. So, in addition to keeping our individual rooms clean, each member has a list of weekly rotating chores. 

It’s been AMAZING! While it used to take ALL DAY every Saturday to give Sister a thorough bath, last weekend we had the entire Little House whipped in 2 hours! What freedom!!!
This loosing up of control has also trickled over to my boy’s bedroom decor. Colby is so proud of the cardboard box furniture he created….. and I have just let it goooo.


Seriously, I am going to emerge a whole new laid back person at the end of this transition period!
The biggest challenge to our Little House is that it only has 1 bathroom.
But this problem has been remedied by assigning each family member a set “PNT” (private naked time). The rules of PNT are that you can have the bathroom to yourself during your designated 10-15 min PNT but once that time is up, the family is free to walk on in to take care of business. 

Overall, we are perfectly content in our Little House and hope that this story will teach us to appreciate a more simplistic life and not take for granted some of the conveniences our new home will provide. Now if only I could convince my boys to trade in Fortnite for a quiet game of jacks or marbles.  
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Coming up: 
Carl Stuart Update- my hopes and fears…. mostly fears. 
The Oliver Reveal! (family moves in this week!) 
And Future Projects

Farewell to Sister and HUGE Estate Sale

Well guys, it is almost time for the Thompson’s to say goodbye to our two-story sister. We are set to close in less than 2 weeks! I’m not ready to sit down and really process my feelings about leaving our beloved home, all I know is that when I have allowed myself even momentary brain space to think about moving my eyes get a little blurry and a lump starts forming in the back of my throat…. so I just don’t think about it.  Luckily, the Oliver and Carl Stuart projects are keeping my mind fairly occupied so I haven’t had time to take a sentimental walk down memory lane with Sister. . . yet. 
What I have been forced to come to terms with is the fact that, in addition to Sister, I will also be leaving behind my farmhouse style. Oh, this makes me sad! Farmhouse/Cottage Style is my absolute favorite. It is the style that I naturally gravitate toward and is the style that I think most closely reflects my character/personality. But, as much as I have fought it, Carl Stuart is destined toward a different path. I kept trying to convince myself that our new home had cottage roots buried deep within its history but the longer I spend with C.S. the more evident it has become that it has an entirely different style story to tell…. more on that at a later time. 
So that means I no longer will be using my farmhouse furnishings and decor. 😢 So sad for me, but if you too love the cottage/farmhouse style, this could be an exciting opportunity for you! Next Weekend, Friday and Saturday (July 27-28), 7am – 5pm.  Sister will be hosting a HUGE indoor estate sale. Basically, the plan is to move everything out that I am planning to keep to our rental so that everything left in the house will be available to purchase. (items previously purchased by new homeowners will be marked SOLD). 
I will also be bringing leftover furnishing and decor from past projects from storage to add to the mix so the inventory should be plentiful. 
I have started packing, sorting, and pricing, therefore currently my house looks like this:
So I’ll go ahead and sprinkle some old photos on this page to give you an idea of what might be available at the Sale.
  
(keeping clock, family pics, family verse and a few knick knacks)
  (keeping chalkboard and maybe the baskets)
(keeping buffet)
  (keeping a few knick knacks)
See anything you might like? If not, you haven’t seen all the stuff I’m pulling out of cabinets and storage…..
I’m just going to be real honest with ya, life is CRAZY right now trying to move while finishing up 1 project and desperately trying to get another project off the ground, I am meeting myself coming and going; so, if you leave me a message about a certain item or price there is a real good chance I won’t see it or have time to respond.  If you don’t mind, please refrain from knocking on my door prior to the sale date for an early look around- it will totally stress me out to let you into the chaos that is our current state of home. I’d rather you wait until everything is priced and organized for your sanity and mine.  I hope you understand. I am not planning on early sales but I am not guaranteeing it won’t happen, either. In other words, please don’t get mad at me. (people pleaser problem).
Hope to see you there! Please spread the word.
Two-Story Sister Estate Sale
Friday & Saturday- July 27th & 28th
7 am- 5 pm
1540 Haley Lane
Conway Arkansas



Quick Carl Stuart Update

Happy Summer! We officially kicked off construction at Oliver mid-May and things have been rolling ever since. We ended this week with insulation so that means next week we will be ready for drywall!
Meanwhile…… back at Carl Stuart, crickets are chirping and tumbleweed just blew across the scene. Yep, that construction site looks like a ghost town. We started off strong with demolition and had the place pretty much gutted before school let out, but then the project came to a screeching halt. Just when I thought I was catching on to this construction business I go and ask a silly question at the permit office that ends up getting my permits yanked.
Now that sounds a little more dramatic than it was. It wasn’t like I was in trouble, it’s just that my question triggered the city to ask for more drawings before they were comfortable signing off on the project. Unfortunately, my hand-drafted drawings did not cut it so that meant more time with Bob the draftsman. Between Bob’s camping expeditions and our trip to DC to support Colby at the National History Day competition, it took 3 weeks to revise the plans and get them resubmitted to the city- But I’m happy to report that as of 2pm Friday we have our permits back in hand and will be hopefully moving forward with the renovation by the end of next week.  
Here is what the house has looked like for the past month: (I’ve included the pre-demolition pictures as a reference point)
View from the front door: (Was soooo excited to find hardwood under that carpet, unfortunately, it stopped past the carpet.)
Dining Room: 

Kitchen with wall torn down that separated kitchen from master bath:

This view shows the wall down in the living room so you can see into the master bedroom and vice versa:

Behind the dining room and living room wall you can see into the 2 bedrooms:
And here is what she looks like if you drive by:

We took the bricks off the section of the home that is going 2 stories but tried to save as many bricks as we could so we could reuse them during the renovation. You see that pile of bricks? 

That pile represents pure misery. When we first started I had a goal of rescuing 100 bricks a day. By rescuing I mean finding whole bricks amongst the rubble piles of broken bricks and chiseling off the mortar from around the brick and inside the brick holes. Can I just tell ya? I now have a better understanding of what it felt like to be an Israelite trapped under Egyptian rule with a seemingly impossible brick quota to meet during the pre-plague years. On more than one occasion I caught myself singing:

Pharaoh, Pharaoh

Oh baby! Let my people go! HUH!

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!


After about a week chiseling away at the bricks in the hot sun by myself, I recruited the rest of the family to help. With the family by my side, we looked and felt like members of a chain gang.  I used the opportunity to encourage the boys to flee a life of crime and to stay in school. I also tried to convince the boys they would have such a sense of pride every time they walked up to our home and saw the bricks they had worked so hard to salvage….. I don’t think they bought it. 
As of right now we have saved about 800 bricks. By my calculations, we need close to 1500 to patch repositioned doors and windows…. not going to lie, that deficit makes me want to cry.  
In other news, Sister has been under contract for a few weeks and is set to close on Aug 3rd. Obviously, the new crib will not be ready by then so we will be moving into a rental during the interim.  Had REALLY hoped to be move-in ready by the end of September but now I’m just hoping the house will be done by Christmas.
Hope to have a more positive Carl Stuart report for you next time. In the meantime, stay cool and enjoy your summer!

New Home- part 2

Part 2
Last time we talked, I announced we had just purchased a new family home against the advice of… well, pretty much everyone. But then in true storybook fashion, I left you on a cliffhanger by not telling you where the house is or why our friends felt so strongly against the location or why we chose to go forward despite the probable future resale suicide. Well, hang no longer, part 2 will answer all these questions and more.
So let’s dive in. Starting with location: Our new address is….

via GIPHY

(I invite everyone to live in a world where you think your announcements require a drumroll)
2759 Carl Stuart Road!!!!

Ok….So, why did this address cause so much concern among our friends?  Let me zoom out to show you the neighborhood:

To our right, you can see Marguerite Vann Elementary. And to our left, behind a thin tree and brush line, we have… Carl Stuart Middle School.

Here is a bird’s eye view of the property courtesy of AR County data.

While living ON the campus of two schools might not be conventional, it was NOT our scholastic neighbors that caused our friends concern. No, 100% of the concerned remarks were ALL in regards to the parent carline that evidently rallies outside my future front door every morning and afternoon during student drop off and pick up times. As a parent of 2 former Julia Lee Moore Elementary and 1 Simon Middle School graduates I have not personally experienced this carline, but based on the reactions of my experienced friends, it must be quite traumatic. Apparently, we will be held hostage in our home every day during the hours of 7:30am-9am and again from 2pm-4pm when Carl Stuart Road converts from a 2-way street to a 1-way conveyor belt of parents lined up on both sides of the street to transfer their learned passengers back and forth from car and school and school and car.

And even if your end goal is not to deliver or retrieve a student, if you find yourself on Carl Stuart Road during the aforementioned hours you will be forced to ride the belt to the front of the line until you have reached the freedom of Salem Road….or so I have heard.
We were wisely advised to witness the carline at least once before signing on the dotted line to adopt 2759 as our own….. but I never seemed to find a good day to go willingly subject myself to traffic, so we did not heed this advice. Plus I knew once Rory was sold on my vision for the property no amount of cars were going to deter him from the plan (especially since his work hours will conveniently protect him from ever personally experiencing “the line”).
Since closing, I have purposely tried to shield myself from seeing the line-up because I do not want any feelings of dread or regret to cloud the renovation ahead. Therefore, I purposely do not arrive at the job site until after the morning tardy bell has rung and I flee the house like the storm is approaching tilted towers at the first site of a parked car in the afternoon. Luckily, we will complete the bulk of the project during the summer break when Carl Stuart Road will pretty much be abandoned…at least on my side of the street. I’m hoping by the time we experience our first Carl Stuart carline we will be so in love with our house and fully immersed in the mission of the property that we will view each carload as a blessing and an opportunity rather than a curse….. anyway that is the story I keep telling myself.
So what is this vision/mission I keep referring to? Well, for you to fully understand I feel I need to give you some background information:

This past January, Rory and I enrolled in a 16-week mission-oriented course called Perspectives. This intensive course walked us through the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic perspective of the world Christian movement and opened our eyes to see that from the beginning of time God has had one purpose- to be known, worshiped and glorified among all peoples. During the first class, we were warned that taking this course had the potential to change the whole trajectory of our lives. Supposedly, many unsuspecting students sign up thinking Perspectives is just a “special” bible study only to find themselves on the foreign mission field 16 weeks later. While Rory and I did not feel called to change our zip code, each week’s lesson made us long to join in God’s purpose and to make our lives count for something bigger than ourselves….we just didn’t know what that might look like for us as individuals or as a family.

Fast forward to bedtime on the day Rory and I first toured 2759 Carl Stuart with the seller. I climbed into bed fully expecting to be entertained all night with thoughts of decor and floor-plans as is customary after I tour any home; but instead, my thoughts raced with ideas on how we might use this home because of its location. The following paragraph will walk you thru the highlight reel of my thoughts that night. I am adding in punctuation for your benefit but as you get deeper into the narrative just know that my thoughts picked up momentum to a pace that would not support even a comma, much less a period in real life. Exclamation points will be used to show excitement, but again, try not to pause too long while reading to get the full effect. If anything, an exclamation point should be a signal to pick up the pace. Ok, you ready?? Let’s do it:

It all started with the simple thought of how great it would be that Cohen could walk to and from school. He could literally roll out of bed and be in his homeroom class in 3 minutes. And how awesome would it be to not have to rush away from a job site every day at 3pm to go pick up kids from school, especially if Colby continues to think riding his bike to school is cool. From here I thought it might be nice to offer our home as a drop-off and pickup location to Cohen’s friends so their parents could also enjoy a little more flexibility in when they took and picked up their kids. AND then out of nowhere I had the idea for Taco Tuesday!! Every Tuesday, kids could come over after school and stay for Tacos until it was time for Tuesday night K-life club! How cool would that be! But wait!?! That would limit the number of kids to only those that could fit in my car. So we are talking 4 kids max… who am I kidding my car will never be cleaned out enough to hold an additional 4 humans. Maybe Rory could drive?, or we both could drive? Or…. instead of Taco Tuesdays and K-life we could HOST OUR OWN BIBLE STUDY!!! (thoughts of Perspectives and the great commission sweep in.) We could host a once a week breakfast and bible study at 7am! Morning would be great because I don’t ever get to a job site until after 8am so there would be no reason a project would get in the way of being consistent. And the fact that kids could just walk across the yard to get to school means I wouldn’t have to worry about maxing out seatbelt capacity. We could have a limitless number of kids.  But what about Colby? His friends could come too, but again, we are limited to how many can fit in my car to deliver them to Junior High. YOUTH GROUP!!! Of Course! Colby is in the youth group and this home is literally just 1 field away from our church. Colby could have all his friends over for dinner before Wednesday night youth group and then they could walk across the field to church. What food starts with “W”??? (I’ll admit, I spent quite a bit of time and brain space trying to come up with a good food theme night for Wednesdays.. to no avail.) Wait just a minute!!!! Our church PARTNERS with Marguerite Vann Elementary, our other neighbor!!! Our children’s pastor is always looking for volunteers to go read with the kids at Vann. Now that I will live so close I could totally do that on my lunch break! Maybe I could read to a little girl. Oh my goodness GIRLS!! Maybe I could host a once a month breakfast and devotional for 3rd and 4th-grade GIRLS from Marguerite Vann! But who would drop their daughter off to a total stranger’s house? Oh- oh-oh!!! THEIR MOMS COULD COME TOO! Oh my goodness, maybe we could even have a TEA PARTY!!! I’ve always wanted to have a tea party. Tea, scones, and Jesus!!! “ahhh” (contented sigh) And then there are the TEACHERS! God bless the teachers. Our home could be a respite. I should get one of those coded locks for our back door and give all the teachers of Carl Stuart and Marguerite Vann the code so on a rough day they could sneak over for a cup of coffee or nap during their planning period. Could they do that??? Probably should talk to their principals. I could at least host a prayer breakfast for the teachers!!! Hmmm, that’s a lot of breakfasts and food. How am I going to pay for all that food?!?! I could have a concession stand outside our house selling coffee and donuts to those dropping off kids in the morning and soft drinks and water for those waiting to pick up in the afternoon? Is that allowed? Would I need a special license?… But what about the nations? How can we reach the nations from our home on Carl Stuart?? Ding! Ding! Ding!!! This house is just a stone’s throw from UCA! We could reach out to the foreign exchange students! I’m sure they would love an opportunity to leave campus and come hang out with an American family. We could invite the exchange students to come spend Sunday afternoons with us and then invite them to walk across the field to attend Sunday night church which is attended by mostly college students. That would give us a chance to learn about different cultures and perhaps share the gospel with students who have never heard the name of Jesus. And then they can share the gospel with their friends and family in their native land when they go back home. I should probably learn some different languages. Wonder if that Rosetta Stone really works?

The next morning as I shared bits and pieces of my late night revelation with Rory (I have learned he does best with my ideas in small doses) I really had no doubt he would love the idea based on our Monday evening conversations driving home from Perspectives and the fact that Rory has such a heart for kids. Rory was poured into by one of his friend’s family growing up and he has always had a desire to do the same for other kids. He has used sports as an avenue to do this by coaching pretty much every sport our boys have ever participated in. He and his coaching buddy, David Tapp, approached each team they coached as an opportunity to better their young athletes in both the skills of the game and in life. Each athlete was taught the importance of having H.E.A.R.T. Being Humble both on and off the field, Giving their best Effort in the game, in the classroom, in their chores etc. Having a good Attitude, Being Respectful to their coaches, parents, referees, teachers, etc. And finally to be a good Teammate. But our oldest son decided sports wasn’t his thang early in life and our youngest is quickly advancing out of Rory’s coaching ability so this outlet for investing in kids lives is nearing an end for Rory and I know this has been hard for him. So when I shared that this house would be a strategic location to be hang-out central he was all in. When I told him how I thought this could be our “mission field” to launch the gospel to our neighbors and the nations…. let’s just say no amount of traffic would sway him from this house. While each warning planted a seed of doubt in my heart, it became fuel for Rory. To him, the location challenge of this house became like Noah’s Arc or David’s slingshot….something laughed at by man but something God could use to show his Glory.

But despite Rory’s steadfastness, the further I got from my night of revelation the more I starting doubting the plan. In fact during the interim of going under contract and signing the ownership papers I spent many more sleepless nights worrying that we were about to make the biggest financial mistake of our lives. This fear stemmed from the following:

1.) At some point, I remembered I’m not a kid person. Yep, this could be a big deal.  I mean don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOOVE my own kids and my boys have some of the sweetest friends on the planet but if given the choice to have a kids sleepover or a quiet night at home, I’ll choose the quietness every time. So if the boys want to have a friend over they know to ALWAYS ask Rory first.  Rory is the fun parent, the one joining the kids in a game of whiffle ball or flag football while I’m the one inside yelling “no running in the house” and “keep your drinks in the kitchen.” Nothing illustrates this “fun factor” deficiency more than the fact that I instigated “the obedience game” at Cohen’s 9th birthday party.

Afraid so. Here is proof…

In my defense, the game was a hit! In fact, I had at least 3 requests to play it again at Cohen’s 10-year-old sleepover. But seriously, this is what I’m talking about- I’m not fun! So even though my heart has a BIG desire to love on kids and provide a safe fun home that welcomes all kids at all times…. my head is afraid I will need a personality transplant to be chill enough to keep an open door at all times. Therefore, my daily prayer since going under contract has been “Lord, Please give me a heart for kids.” And can I just tell you, one of my FAVORITE parts about my surprise birthday party at our Carl Stuart house was seeing and hearing all the kids playing a spontaneous game of kickball in the backyard. It was like I could sense the Lord showing me that he was already at work.

2) Another personality hurtle I know I will have to clear to make this vision a success is my need for a clean house. Honestly, this one gives me heart palpations. NOT because my house is always clean-oh no! NOT HARDLY!!! But because I NEVER invite anyone inside our home unless I have spent at least 1/2 a day cleaning it; otherwise people might see that I am not a “perfect homemaker.” But this plan has all sorts of people in our home at all hours of the day and night so I know there is no way I can keep up that facade.
Ya know…. I use to think “hospitality” was my spiritual gift because I LOVED having people over for dinner but based on the paragraph above I think I am more gifted at “entertaining” then truly practicing hospitality.  Do you know the difference? Entertaining focuses on making the host look good while hospitality puts all the focus and attention on the guest. When someone leaves the home of someone who is a good entertainer they can often feel inadequate or envious. But when you have been in a home of someone who has the gift of hospitality you leave feeling welcomed, served, and loved. That is what I desperately want for myself and this home…. and a housekeeper, yeah that would be nice too (I’m only human).

That is why I absolutely LOVED that Rory chose to host my party at our new home. NEVER in a million years would I have EVER hosted a party in a reno zone. I mean the place was filthy and dusty from sheetrock debris, all the cabinetry had been removed, and insulation was falling out of the ceilings and yet my friends and family were all gathered in this imperfect space and it was absolutely PERFECT.

3) The last fear that threatened to choke out my dedication to the plan was my fear of not following through. I mean, I know myself pretty well; so trust me when I tell you that while I am FULL (practically bursting) with great ideas and awesome intentions, only a handful of these ideas ever make it to fruition.  I mean, HELLO, remember my New Year’s Resolution fetish?!?! Out of the 60+ I make every year MAYBE 3 will take. And then there is my front porch. I am haunted by all the good intentions that went unrealized with my porch. I TRUELY (with all my heart) believed if I put a front porch on sister I would be a better neighbor. I even fantasized about neighborhood sing-alongs and morning bible studies around the porch table. But did I ever slow down long enough to invite one neighbor over for the last 5 years??? Nope! So what makes me think I will fulfill the mission at Carl Stuart?!?! I mean let’s face it, I could have just as easily viewed my current home as my mission field for the last 9 years…. but I didn’t. This terrifies me. So because of this, my prayer for the 1.5 months it took to close was “Lord, please do NOT let this house become just another renovation. If You know we will not use this home to bring YOU glory, please do NOT allow the sale to go through.”  This is also the main reasons I wanted to share this vision with you- I am hoping you will hold me accountable and perhaps join me in praying that this home will be a place that God will use to do a mighty work.  I’m trusting that He will because we successfully closed on April 20th.

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In addition to the ministry plans, we have for this home, I, of course, have a plan for its renovation. In fact, knowing the stigma that this location carries we are renovating for the long haul just in case we are unable to resale in the future. We are making sure the renovation meets our needs for many years and stages of life. 

Stay tuned throughout the summer for alternating updates between this project and our Oliver Street New Construction. Thanks so much for letting me stray from the norm on this blog and share a little bit of my heart.

And if you want an opportunity to join us on the mission field…. believe it or not, there is ANOTHER house that shares our proximity to the schools and the epic carline and It’s FOR SALE!! Wink Wink

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Here is a link to its listing.