Our home before to after. {It takes time}

July 28, 2010

You all know how much I LOVE before and after pictures. I could look at before and after pics of a space all. day. long. I love trying to find all of the changes, updates -- all that good stuff.

I even like to look at my own before and afters. ;) I love, love, love looking back at old pictures and seeing how our spaces and my decorating taste has changed.

Looking back at photos is also a great reminder that a space you love rarely happens overnight. I’d venture to say – NEVER happens overnight. I think the design shows so many of us love fool us into thinking our rooms should be perfect rightthisverysecond. It seems to only take them a few days, right?

Well, you know how at the beginning of Divine Design, Candice Olson sits there at her desk, and throws hardwood, carpet and tile samples on the desk and just goes….”Ummm…that one!”

I’m here to remind you it does not happen like that.  :)

And when she flips through a catalog and just points to the perfect, gorgeous lighting fixture, sofa, TV cabinet or wallpaper and just knows that’s the one?

Well, first of all, those catalogs are all from her personal lines, so I’m guessing she knows them like the back of her hand. But I’m also guessing she has a team work on each room with her for at least a week, if not longer (way longer).

And you know the full color sketch of the room that she shows us before and after the space is done?:

Candice Olson tv show sketchThat’s drawn AFTER the room is complete:candice olson

I know this because while at the Chicago Mart a couple years ago, we ran into her former sewing specialist, Edmund Joseph. He gave us the low down. 

Anyway, the point is…even the experts don’t make it happen overnight. It takes a team – and time

I was going through some pictures today and found some photos from the year or so after we moved into our brand new house. I thought it would be fun to show you the then and now and how they got to now. And then I’ll show you the then again. Huh? Ummkay…

Our family room is actually a ginormous room, but because of the poor design changes I made, it is really hard to work with.


family room with corner fireplace before

I don’t have a clue why I thought that would be a good idea. :) The original plan for the room had the fireplace on the long wall, between the two windows. That left plenty of space for an entertainment unit on that shorter wall on the left.

But no…I had to be all changey changey and mess it all up. Gah.

I made some changes to the room last year that helped, and it looks like this now:

corner fireplace in family room

One thing I have learned in the past six years – how to take a better picture. ;)

There are two things that completely transformed this space, in my opinion. One, the molding above the fireplace. It makes a HUGE difference! And it cost all of $50 I believe? SO worth it.

The next was the flooring – we had Pergo floors installed throughout the kitchen and family room and we could not believe the difference! It just makes everything flow. Lurve.

The flooring is another one of those B.D.R. projects -- “Before Dave Ramsey.” We are STILL paying for them, three years later.

We also got new furniture, although it’s hard to tell the difference from this angle. This and the flooring were necessities because we adopted an abused cat with a tendency to not find the litter box. Let’s just say she’s now called “Pee Cat.” She takes meds now to help with this problem, but she will forever lovingly be known as the Pee Cat. ;)

Anyway, there’s obviously a whole host of things that were done in addition to those:

family room changes

And keep in mind this has all been over the past five and a half years – it’s a never ending process, and I love it!

One thing that’s ALWAYS changing in the family room – the accessories. I cannot get them all to my liking. It’s a constant thang with me. :)

One of my favorite changes to the room was FREE and involved our TV cabinet:

wood tv cabinet with doors

Well, I shouldn’t say completely free, because the TV wall mount was $50. But other than that…fareeee!

I hung the TV, took off the doors to the cabinet, painted the back, moved things around, and there. you. go.

:wood TV cabinet for small space

The living and dining rooms look SO different now, they’re a couple of my favorites to look back on:

That was our hand me down furniture, a few college tables, and a family antique. :)

Let’s just say…a certain someone named, I dunno…PEE CAT, struck again. (YES, the cat owes us a bajillion dollars in furniture replacement.)

So years ago we went out and got furniture we could actually pay for, (whoohoo!):

large rectangle on wall with molding

This pic is from last fall, and most of the accessories are already changed. :) My name is Sarah, and I’m a compulsive mover-arounder. I have a whole new look in mind for the sofa table, so be on the look out for that.

Oh, looky there…molding strikes again! So do you believe me yet? It’s cheap, it’s not that hard to install (seriously), and it’s truly the biggest bang for your buck! (Other than paint!)

Here’s a down low on this space:

living room decor changes

I love how the DIY sofa table gives me the ability to accessorize and add some height, texture and light to the space. Fabric on the windows (I made the drapes with hemming tape baby!) went a long, long way in this space too.

We lived with many empty rooms for a very long time -- it’s been a gradual process. And other than the upholstered furniture in our house, the majority of our pieces were discount, handed down, or are Goodwill transformations. We’ve bought very few brand new pieces beyond sofas and our dining furniture.

This is one of my favorite before pics  – the view into our dining area and staircase:

columns between dining and living

I told you our dining room sat empty foreva! I put my great-grandmother’s sewing table in there, hung some shelves, put some shades on the light fixture and called it done.

Till the hives started a couple years later. ;) I showed you this week the changes that spot went through and how it looks now:

buffet without hutch

And the staircase? Well, it’s by far my most favorite transformation in our house! It was true sweat equity – the total cost for this project was around $30 for stain and the flooring for the landing (I had white paint):

wood and white stair redo

I still sing as I walk up them every day. Well, maybe hum. To myself. ;) I love them. I still want to add molding to the staircase wall, and hope to get that done in the next few weeks.

So there you have it! Isn’t that fun? Nothing like some juicy before and afters! They make me all giddy and loopy and dreamy.

Like I’ve said a million times before, my investment is in my sweat and time – molding, painting, making drapes – it’s all relatively inexpensive when done over the years and when I do it all by my big girl self. ;)

Who knows what these spaces will look like a year from now? Is there a space in your house you think back on and can’t believe the transformation? What was the biggest bang for your buck? Is there a room still sitting empty? Do you see what you want it to look like in your head, like me? ;)

Email subscription form header
Your email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide


  1. I think you told me you were going to do a post like this. I had one similiar a few weeks back. I adore all of your gorgeous changes. WOWEE on the amazing staircase and new dining room buffet! Awesome!

  2. I love your transformations! You're right it doesn't happen overnight. I've been fighting with ours for 3 years and I'm sure once I get things the way I like we'll get orders to move. haha :)

  3. I love your transformations! You're right it doesn't happen overnight. I've been fighting with ours for 3 years and I'm sure once I get things the way I like we'll get orders to move. haha :)

  4. Thanks for all these pics. I just moved into my 1st house and also have some empty rooms. Yes it does take time!

    P.S. I changey changed the mantel today about three times already. It's not just you :-)

  5. Someone needs to write a dictionary just for bloggers. It would be ever so helpful!

    Your house is just the cat's meow... LOVE IT!

    Candace Olsen... love her work too, but it's obvious that they are hitting the pocketbook pretty deep.


  6. I loved to see the way your rooms have evolved over time. Design is a fluid process and even spaces designed by professionals change and evolve over time. I believe that if your home is truly lived in the design can't be static.

  7. Oh, I'm so hearing ya on the whole overnight makeover thing! If you can master it, good on you - seriously - though I've been plotting my bedroom reno for almost two years and am only just doinfg it now (mainly because I started a blog and told all my readers I would!).
    The Painted Hive

  8. I love you even more today! BDR!!! My hubby and I are 33 years old and are almost debt free, all because of the Dave Ramsey ministry.He is so awesome. And you are too :)

  9. Ok - one of my favorite things about your blog is your made up words - so tell spell check to get lost! Also, I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey - I also have some expenses left from home improvement. But we switched a few years ago to saving up before buying - much better! Thanks for reminding us about our Decor Guru Candace and her entourage of assistants and funding. And thanks for being willing to share yourself with us - it is what makes the difference between a blog I want to visit and one I don't.

  10. I love it all. And my husband (after my reading the BDR part) has joined the fan club! ha!
    I've been trying to get hardwoods in our downstairs for months... now, another year of saving and we'll have them!

    Lurvey Durvey them all!

  11. Now THAT was a fun tour. I'm with you. I could look through before and afters forever. AND it's amazing how much blogging teaches you about actually taking good pictures, eh? Great post!

  12. Glad to know I'm not the only one moving things around all the time. :) Your transformations look wonderful... keep up the good work!

  13. You certainly have made these beautiful changes look easy, just like Candace!


  14. I think I can safely say I can't pick a favorite room in your house because they're all so gorgeous! I scrolled back and forth between your before and after of your living room like 50 times, I love what you did to the tv cabinet and I love the cabinet behind your sofa!

  15. Love all your pics! Did everybody on earth have your old sofa? ;) I think that was THE sofa/loveseat to have! I had me some BURGANDY silk flower(roses) arrangements "made up" to match my very similar sofa! :D

    BDR~funny!! I love Dave too. If ONLY I had heard of him sooner....

    Another great post, I enjoyed it.

    Oh...gotta love the Y&R on your tv! ;)

  16. sarah, this is a GREAT post! I have been realizing that for me, a project (kitchen cabinet painting, tiling countertops, beadboard dining room, etc) takes about 4 months to complete. I get a lot of inspiration and start a project, and then I slow down. I need deadlines! And friends! And husband to help me... even though i don't usually need him, it's just more fun for me to work on my big projects when he is with me... etc. I have a lot of excuses for not finishing in a timely manner :-)

    Tonight I just finished cutting and nailing my board and batten into the entryway!!! 2:02 am.

    But, seriously! Started that in May, I believe. Now on to caulking and painting (already painted the wall and primed the boards, per your advice.) That will only take me 2 more months!

    Why do you I write you novels in the comment section sometimes?

    Point: my house is gonna rock in 5 years. Thanks for the reminder that these before and afters take time!!



  17. I've always wondered about that ...the images of after are SO beautiful...and now I have it from the horse's mouth: the seamstress-er dude, only 4 degrees of separation!

    (I *also* LOVE Candice...Double pound to the chest atcha C.O. from me too :) She is the best. AND Canadian!)

    To this first-time reader (from someone's blogroll) was hilarious...so much that I'm following you now...'pee-cat' (poor puss!) was most impressed with the molding (and paint) that gives importance to that piece over the sofa. Really nice. The only issue for me is the miters...I guess I'll have to work on it. I'm checking out the link for DIY sofa table, because I think that would be a great thing over at my mom's house, for her family room. There's never enough light or display there. But TV positioning might be awkward. We'll see. Your dining room looks really nice, and I can see why you sing up your stairs...gorgeous.

    Gonna also check out link 'organization bliss'...that's where I'm trying to be at in my process currently. Laters! :)

  18. I have to confess that sometimes when I see a wordy post I tend to glaze... over but not with yours, you're so funny! And combine that with some great before and after pics, you have a winning combination:o)

  19. I love what you have done! I have made mistakes when we were building our house, too. We have this 20 x 20 great room however, it only has one wall that doesn't have a door or window on it! So the furniture sits out in the middle and there is so much wasted space around it! What was I thinking!!

    I love the warm colors of your house. I am on the hunt for a caramel color sofa. Hard to find used in good condition. Yes, we might as well be on the Dave Ramsey plan!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Thanks so much for this post - I needed to hear it for sure! We just moved into our new home a month ago, and I've been feeling that need to get everything done/decorated now! It's been fun, but I think I'm making it more stressful than it needs to be. This is a great reminder that it takes time :)

  22. I love how you lifted the veil on those design shows! They really do make it seem like they just whipped up all those ideas together in 10 mins. I love looking at before and after pictures too!

  23. Hahahaha...Pee Cat. We used to have a dog that owes us mucho money for all the damage done to our carpets, furniture and backyard! Husband is still shaking his head at the bald spots in the grass...talk about pee!

    You don't need to apologize for the moving around thing, that's a good thing. ('Cause I do it too?!?)

    I love Candace Olson, she needs to visit my shack! Especially my basement! :)

  24. How cool! I loved seeing your Before and Afters, Sarah. Yes, Pee Cat is a lucky cat. So is Mr. Darcy, my mom's cat. He attacked my leg a few weeks ago and my cuts still haven't healed. Someone named Mr. Darcy ought to have better manners.

    You've made some amazing changes. The biggest difference for us was ripping out the existing EMERALD GREEN carpet and other non-matching carpets in the house and going with a nice, neutral khaki-ish Berber carpet. And painting and adding chair rail/molding in some of the rooms. :)

  25. Love all your changes. It is fun to look back and see how our homes have changed over the years. Heck mine has changed over the last few months and weeks. Love your dining room pic.

  26. The changes you made are definitely stunning. Homes are like people: some age gracefully, some don't. I just have a good feeling that you made someone very happy today with this post. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Beautiful, beautiful changes in your home. It looks so cozy but not stark & stale like some magazine pics. It's just lovely & you can tell the loving care you've put into it. :-)

  28. Our kitchen was the biggest change in our home. It was custom designed in the 50s, with orange shellac and hammered iron strap hinges. Oh, and peach-painted paneling and grey vinyl floors. BLECH! We added beadboard inserts, framed it with molding, painted them white and updated the knobs and hinges (can we say wood putty!!). We them painted the walls a yummmy red and put black and white checkerboard floors in. I love it, and even though I went a completely different direction in the house we're building, I will miss it.

  29. I adore this post! It's so much fun to see how far your space has transformed. We moved into our house almost 7 years ago and it's still changing. I just can't leave it alone! LOL! (and I really had to LOL at your spell checker comment!)

  30. I once had a client rave about how her designs came out exactly like her drawings. I looked them straight in the eye and gave them the lowdown. I knew without a doubt they were done afterwards, she even gets the cast of lighting exactly the same. Come on!!
    She does do fabulous work though...great post! Janell

  31. I love love your post. We are still decorating our house. Move in date: October 1, 2001. Throw a few job changes and having a couple of kids can really slow down the decorating (& budget). For some reason, we thought getting two puppies early last year would be a good idea. They now live with my in-laws. We are saving to replace the floor in our family room.

    I can't wait to replicate your dining table centerpiece. The only change I want to make to make yours fit my house is to change the fabric to burlap. We are very casual, but I still want something pretty on the table.

  32. this is by far one of my fav things to do... i always look for the DIY or Flea Market do-over mags. They make me soooo happy when i look at them. Of course, i have yet to take the plunge and redo a room. I just recently bought a chair & ottoman from the 60's and shampooed it and took the skirting off to show the nice wooden legs.(all for $10) gives me a little courage to tackle something bigger!! LOVE your blog

  33. We have the loveseat to your living room couch in our bedroom. Nice to see the colors you used with it. We've been in our house for 6 years now and I am starting the redo. Amazing how you change in a small amount of time! Love you site.

  34. I love your blog!! I am swooning over those white shelves behind your couch..where did you find that? I've been looking for something like that for my kitchen.

  35. Looks great! I worked on the set of Extreme Makeover Home Edition and was shocked how they planned the house, rooms and details months and months before. The celebrity designers aren't even the one's who design the room just face people. It was very interesting.

  36. I love seeing the Before before pictures of your house!! And I think we need to petition the spell check gods to add those words!! ;D

  37. I wish I was a compulsive mover-arounder. I am a compulsive lazy-ass and the same seven things have been sitting on my mantle for the last year or so. Sad.

  38. Your house is gorgeous!! And I couldn't have said it better myself! It is comforting to hear that it takes time for ANYONE to complete a transformation. I was naive to think that my house would become beautiful overnight, but it is truly a labor of love. We are just finishing up some big renovations (bathroom, kitchen), but there are all of those little things that are still left to do (pictures, curtains, accessories, etc.). I suppose that it wouldn't be as fun if our houses weren't always a work in progress. Styles change, tastes change and that's what makes all of this so fun and exciting! I love your blog. Thanks for all of your inspiration!

  39. Thank you for this post! We moved into our house last year and I sometimes get lost in feeling like it all as to be done "right now." Thank you for showing that empty rooms and college furniture are ok! It is better to take your time, know what you want, and stay on budget. Dave Ramsey has kept us from getting into real trouble, but sometimes the "I want it now" starts to creep back in. Thanks for pushing it back out again!

  40. OK I got to ask, do you have a shelf along the header between living room and dining room? In the before pic it looked like you had a box up there. I want more pics and to see what you did with that I would think that would be a HARD item to decorate just right! Do tell!

  41. I've been reading your blog for over a year and I have to say that this is my FAVORITE post so far! LOVE IT! I adore the reality of your blog and your ability to keep it real while continuing to inspire. I look forward to reading more.

  42. Hi! I've been reading your blog for a couple of months and I love it! I moved into my house a year ago, and there's so much I want to do!

    I'd like to ask you what's your floor name/color? Love them!

  43. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with a "Pee Cat" that still manages to be part of the family rather than buried under a tree out in the back yard. Thankfully (I guess), our Pee Cat prefers carpet to furniture, but it's inspiring us to rip out all the carpet and paint the concrete while we save up for wood floors (we're in the midst Dave Ramsey, too - $123K paid off to date). Great b/f & afters! And your writing style just cracks me up!

  44. Thanks for the reminder that these things don't happen overnight.

    In regards to good ol' Dave Ramsey--my husband and I have been on his plan since January. We were able to pay off all our debt this June! His plan works! Keep gazelle intense! It's so worth it. The first month we didn't get any credit card bills was so awesome!

    Love your blog. Come check me out over at frugaldecormom.blogspot.com!

  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

  46. Oh my gosh, but I love love love to read your blogs! You make me feel like I too can do this.
    Thank you and keep it up!

  47. I'm sure I've posted this before, but I am so inspired by your staircase! I am having a heck of a time removing one of the ugly and painted-on brass supports on our handrail, which I assume when I finally get it out will leave a large hole in our wall. I didn't think until I saw your picture to put a more molded-looking piece next to the handrail to dress it up. Thank you for the idea!

  48. Whoa Nelly! This post couldn't have come at a better time! I've been freaking out about how long its taking to get a room in order and I'm only on the first one as we just bought our first house. I was under the impression that it takes 1 day to paint and 1 to decorate. So wrong.
    My sanity thanks you. Especially because I was trying to do it like Candice. Sigh.

  49. I have a new house and it's totally the same as your before photos. I have no sofa tables, no drapes, funny colors. I keep getting interested in molding. I think it's time to go for it.

    Love all the photos it's nice to know where you started and and what you have now! Gives us hope!

  50. oh boy, i love before and afters. i kept scrolling up and down to compare. i wanted to tell you about the best, ahem, pee cat solver...it is called urine destroyer. you can't see, but i am making a fist and shaking it, complete with wrestler voice as i say "destroyerrr." i do it every time, the name makes me. it gets the smells out, it really does. get it. destroy cat pee, but not pee cat.

  51. Thanks for this! I have been Ms. Whiney McWhinesALOT about finishing my dining room, I needed a reminder to slow down and breath :-)

  52. Thank you for this post! We moved into our first house only a few months ago and I am obsessed with making it perfect. My husband and Dave Ramsey remind me everyday that it is not possible yet!

  53. Love the changes! Your home is beautiful. I have hives over our Master Bedroom, but I'm still working on talking the hubby into a change.

  54. Love the before and afters! We've now lived in our home 20 years (bought it new)...omg, the changes it has seen over the years! It is fun to look back to the beginning and see how far "she's" come!!

  55. fantastic photos! thanks for sharing. I especially love the white table behind the sofa in your family room!

  56. OMG!!! I TOTALLY have that Pier 1 buffet (your TV cabinet) and matching Armoire piece. We scored them from a couple off Craig's List mucho years ago. We just moved into a new home and I've been wondering what to do with that piece specifically since we won't need to use it. AH HA! You've given me an idea for a TV cabinet. Genius!

  57. Thanks for sharing, this made me feel so much better! Candice Olson is great, but that is not reality...it's nice to see the work of bloggers who don't have a huge team of people behind them! You are an inspiration.

  58. LOVE your blog! I could be silent no more after you metioned the big dave ramsey... yes, I almost spit out my drink yesterday reading your dining room post! I just took his class and it has totally had me rethinking every last purchase... :)


  59. Um,, not only do I want your life I want your house, and your sofa tables,and your molding skills and mostly I just want to be so wealthy that I can offer you an inexorbitant amount of money to make my house look like yours!

  60. I LOVE all of your transformations! I have to say though.. I am so dang impatient that I am one of those that wants everything done right this moment! Haha! Right now I have a ton of furniture in my house that I LOATHE, but it's better than nothing so I'm learning to live with it and change it as I can. Thanks for all of your inspiration! Love your blog so so much!!

  61. Awwww ... Pee Cat ... meds ... must be either Amitriptyline or Fluoxetine (Prozac) .... I work at Just Cats in Alabama .. an all cat veterinary clinic :))

  62. I totally understand the sacrifice made with pets. My rescue finally stopped chewing things, so I got to replace the coffee table he "artistically altered."

    Your space looks great! Looking at my before and afters is the best. I haven't been in my new house a year, but I've still made major improvements.

  63. Wow, what changes! I love before + afters, these 10 minutes at the end of a design show are the only ones worth watching! *lol*

    We've only been in our house since November but have some pretty major before/afters thanks to the wacky colours the previous owners painted!

  64. I think it takes about 7 years to get a house like you like it and then a couple of years living with it and then time to start looking for bargains to rework it! :P Never a dull moment! The first time I saw your corner fireplace I wondered if you were happy with it. Seems like it would make things difficult for sure. Loverly house, thanks for sharin!

  65. Man, my house is definitely taking time. Yours looks lovely. I remember following your blog back prior to the molding on your living room wall... anyhow. You keep mentioning BDR, and my hubs and I love Dave Ramsey! And I'm nosy, so I like knowing people's DR stories. I don't know if it would be out of context on your blog to post on such a thing though... but I'd love to read it!

  66. It is wonderful what you do to recycle furniture pieces like the cabinet under the television. It was fun watching your home transformation. BTW I also had to replace many pieces of furniture due to a pee cat so that really made me laugh.

  67. Oh my sweets, i am a makeover junkie too. Your house is darling, I love all the changes....you have done a wonderful job.

  68. As a Design School drop out, one of the first things they told us was "It doesnt happen in a day". And in most cases while working with a Designer, $1000 wont event cover their fees (Students where supposed to charge $125-$150 per hour) I'm not even kidding.
    Great before and after pictures!

  69. Your living room looks great. I think the only time I tried to finish "everything" was when I first got married. Now, it's here a little, there a little... :)


  70. Your living room looks great. I think the only time I tried to finish "everything" was when I first got married. Now, it's here a little, there a little... :)


  71. 1. Great work. Your home looks fabulous.
    2. Thank you for being patient with Pee Cat.
    3. The only thing that made me laugh louder than your "compulsive mover arounder" line was Oonafey's comment about it.
    (I'd look at compulsive movering arounding as ambition!)

  72. Fantabulous, gigantinormous and uff-da are not in the spell check either. Go figure.

  73. I have just found your website and I feel as though I'm reading my journal! I have been a furniture rearranger since childhood, shifting my bed and dresser in my room every few months! Back in the 90's I watched Christopher Lowell, now I see he was a genius trailblazer. Love thrift stores and NEVER buy anything full price. I study set dressings in sitcoms and movies and LOVE catalogs for great display ideas. Finding the look for less at thrift stores is all about the hunt, which I love! AND I LOVE Y&R! Thx for the validation, creative chicks rock!

  74. Omg! You at hilarious! I literally laughed out loud! I'm so glad to hear somone else is a serial rearranger and cheap!!! Love all your stuff! Just told my DH I want a nail gun! I so wanna do a wood wall treatment!!!


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!