My Home Renovation: Hello Lovely Fixer Upper {week 40}

40 weeks ago, we began dismantling a sad fixer upper.

40,000 DIY projects later, we have learned
more than we ever cared to know.

It is taking us so long, I think Lowes actually
borrowed the whole “sometimes all a house needs
is a little love” campaign from my posts
and mission to love this house back to life.
…and for the record, sometimes a house needs beaucoup cash and temporary insanity.

If you have a sense of humor and
40 hours to spare, scroll on, friends.

The simple plan?
Love one neglected cottage back to life
and stay married.

The reality?
Revival is expensive and triggers migraines.

The beauty of grace, sweet grace?
The interiors are happily beginning to breathe,
and we are more in love with each other.

This  is not the final reveal.
That is at least a month away,
but I snapped the photos below
15 minutes before that dreaded
cocktail party last week
(just for you and despite the fact
rooms are not yet styled/zhushed
to blogworthy standards.)

If you have been reading this blog
since I lived in the European country house,
you will notice I have thus far
bought ZERO new stuff for
this cottage and am striving to
use what I already own.

Brace yourself for the hemorrhage of update photos!

We filled in the open stringer staircase,
installed some planking, and added carpet.

We expanded the door opening between
the kitchen and dining, and I plastered the ceiling.

We added a new fireplace surround, put in a new
subfloor and hardwoods, and painted endlessly.

“Let’s live like freaks with shrinkwrapped everything and chaos…” said no one ever.

mmmmmm. interior quietude looks good on you, quirky cottage.

Oh, how I miss my Bella Luna.
This carpet? Not so much.

Oy. All sorts of structural issues with the floors,
and I am married to a perfectionist.


What a difference expanding that doorway made.

The old kitchen may have looked okay,
but some of the drawers were not functional,
the cabinetry had laminated fronts, and at
20 years old, it was ready to be retired
to the basement workshop.

Very true to European cottage style!

For the kitchen design,
I gave us a larger peninsula and stole space
from the breakfast area to expand the work area.

I found the vintage doors at an antique store.

I totally recognize the chandelier is undersized,
but it is a sentimental piece as is the harvest table
beneath it which is way too big for the area, and
we are still debating how to deal (it is our family
kitchen table and sooooo many memories made here).

I still have to address the window seat to make it
more functional…for now, RAWR.

What a shame that water damage to beautiful
maple hardwoods meant they had to go.
We salvaged much of it to use for something special.

As I said, the harvest table is too big for the space,




Okay. The main bath. 

Don’t get me started on an endless

string of disasters from its inner guts

(the leaking fixtures were located directly above our electrical

circuit box below…are you friggin kiddin me?)

to ventilation issues to…ohhhh, never mind.

It is coming along.

Let’s head upstairs now.

It is a one and a half story, so upstairs are two bedrooms,
one of which became an office.

Here is the master in progress.

This painting with gold leaf is by me,

and yes, I believe in custom white linen

slipcovers for boxes of tissues…

My sweet marble lamb wears a rosary
(from the Vatican) blessed by the Pope.

That little pillow on the bed does look ridiculous.
Promise I’ll get to the details eventually.

A sketch by Melissa James…we
celebrated Thanksgiving together years back,
and after dinner, I handed her a photo and a pencil.
A few minutes later, this. I knowwwwww.

Remember the outdated master bath?

The only thing worse than outdated and broken is…

Rubble and nothing.
Just a reminder, we LIVED in the house through this.

Remember the trio of Madonna cone bras?
The fact the light switches were located
outside of the room?
The critters in that attic crawl space under
the counter?
The monstrous woofers and tweeters in ceiling?

The above mess magically morphed into a sweet
little bench and a perch for one of my first abstracts.

Yes. We’re fancy. We brushed our teeth here for months.

Why why why were we surprised every fixture
in this bath leaked for forever as well?
If a thing could leak in this house, it was leaking.

No more! We repaired and addressed it all.

We added a brand new furnace, central air, and a
state of the art (read: costly) water softening system.

And remember I told you we had a vintage
leaded glass window from Europe to use to
bring natural light into the spacious new shower?

Boom! It’s pretty unique.

We decided to wing it as far as a glass door
versus a shower curtain versus nothing.
And a shower curtain is the winner!
(Look mom, no hard water stains to scrub off a glass door!)

More decor to do in the upstairs office, but it is functioning well.

Back downstairs,

my studio needs a ton of attention,

but I LOVE the southern exposure and the


And this week, we are tackling the downstairs
family room and guest room which our eldest
(a high school English teacher) is occupying
this summer before starting law school.

My husband continues to inspire me with his
grit, work ethic, and brilliance whether he is
swinging a hammer or winning in the courtroom.

* * * * *
Thank you for journeying with me.
You will all be invited to the reveal
if we survive this next chapter which
will involve a whole lotta weed
(probably limited to the landscape variety).

Please come join me
in this DIY adventure by
clicking here for all my fixer upper update posts!
(And thanks for subscribing here so you don’t miss an episode.)

Peace to you right where you are.



  1. June 4, 2016 / 4:10 pm

    Third times a charm..lets give this one more go (no coffee today can't you tell)!
    OK This is STUPENDOUS!! HGTV are you listening..think you need your own show….so impressed with what you have done. What a beautiful, calming home you are creating. I am so excited for you……our homes are our safe haven from this mad world, and I am so happy that you have such a beautiful nest to call home sweet home….BRAVO!

    • June 4, 2016 / 7:02 pm

      oh tina, i just love you. i will whip this into better shape and send my audition tapes to Bravo and rest of the networks who may have room for a nutty downsizing emptynesters saying yes to slower living. xox

  2. June 4, 2016 / 6:28 pm

    I am obsessed with you house and the simple elegant way it is decorated. LOVELY!!!!


    • June 4, 2016 / 7:00 pm

      thank you for these lovely words!

  3. June 4, 2016 / 8:20 pm

    To say you gave this home a whole new life and story is an understatement. Breathe! It does indeed, the serenity is so apparent and it is so YOU. Love it all and your personality and touches speak loud and clear, but in a very quiet voice of course. I am so happy for you and your hubby, it is a work of art. Love it so much!! xo Kathysue

    • June 6, 2016 / 6:35 pm

      i hope it will become a work of art. that is a lovely thing to say. xox

  4. June 4, 2016 / 10:51 pm

    I could move right in. I. Love. It. All.
    Invite me over and I'll help you with the "weed".

    • June 6, 2016 / 6:36 pm

      now you're talkin. love that idea. xox

  5. June 5, 2016 / 12:49 am

    Michele, I am always in aew when I visit your blog! Your house looks fabulous. Coudos to you and your husband for loving this place back to life.

    • June 6, 2016 / 6:35 pm

      merci, lovely elizabeth.

  6. June 5, 2016 / 12:27 pm

    Hi Michele, You and your husband are amazing!!!!! What an inspiration you are……..this is a gorgeous renovation, every room simply beautiful and functional. Right down to the rosary blessed by the pope that hangs on the sweet lamb:) You have a very special cottage, it's just wonderful.

    • June 5, 2016 / 5:19 pm

      he is amazing. so excited to be getting closer to the fun parts of decorating and adding life. your art in our home for example will bring a rich layer of elegance and healing. my lamb is more special than i can say and is now my reminder of bella luna. thank you for noticing, friend. xox

  7. June 5, 2016 / 6:22 pm

    Your inner peace shines through in all your posts. You inspire me! Can't wait to see more!

    • June 6, 2016 / 6:36 pm

      thanks for reading, katherine!

  8. June 6, 2016 / 9:10 pm

    Came over from Gwen Moss…You have a lovely home! So much love has gone into it and it shows. Bravo!!

    • June 13, 2016 / 5:59 pm

      so happy to have you here! thanks. xox

  9. June 7, 2016 / 12:26 am

    So absolutely beautiful!

  10. June 7, 2016 / 12:11 pm

    Michele, what a home to love, and the art work here and there is the icing on the cake.
    Loved the home tour and looking forward to many more.
    This cottage hom really lives big. And you and your husband are the bloggers Barbie and ken, beautiful couple, beautiful home.


    • June 13, 2016 / 6:03 pm

      and i have the body by Mattel (lots of plastic!) to prove it, dore! thanks, friend. thinking of you and yours and pray that healing and peace arrive to your souls.

  11. June 7, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    Michele I'm finally getting back here after seeing this post when it came through my feed. The minute I saw your home tour I felt so excited for you because I'm one of those who remembers your journey from way back. The cancer. The other home. The big move. In some ways our paths have seemed simiiar and so it's been joyful to watch the transformation of your present cottage. It all looks amazing! And you guys have been such an energy boost for Moi–the slow-mo version of a DIYer. Congrats on all your progress, BTW–I shared your home tour in my latest blog post.

    • June 13, 2016 / 6:05 pm

      such a beautiful surprise when i visited your blog. thank you, leslie. our paths are definitely parallel, and you have knocked me out with your projects and DIY swag. i get tired/bored/irritated with the endless list of projects and unfinished work so it does help to be joined on the adventure. thank you.

  12. June 7, 2016 / 9:21 pm

    Holy Cow Michele – I LOVE watching your progress and your taste in the details is awesome. Your color palette is so soothing and perfect – what a treat to follow the transformation and I applaud you and yours for the journey! LOVE it all!

    • June 13, 2016 / 6:06 pm

      thanks, friend. i am ready for it to be done but wise enough to know it will never truly be finished. xox

  13. June 8, 2016 / 1:27 pm

    FABULOUS!!! I need a new house to restore this poor old one is done! I love how bright and open and yet still you paid attention to detail.. bravo my dear!!!

    • June 13, 2016 / 6:07 pm

      merci, karolyn. take us along on the journey if you are crazy enough to live though a reno…i don't think we will do this again!

  14. June 9, 2016 / 1:41 am

    It is beautiful. You have done a lot of hard work to renovate this house into your home. I much prefer a home that has sentimental pieces over designer. So I like that you have kept those cherished furnishings. I love your farmhouse table painted white. I have one too that we purchased when our first two children were toddlers. I will never ever part with it. There are drawings on the underneath side by each of my four children. I have also whitewashed ours. I was wondering if you have considered placing the farnhouse table where the round black table is? It is difficult to tell from the photos whether there is room. But if there is I can see it there. The bookshelf would have to be moved too. I can see the white table and chairs there with nothing else in the space. The white would flow nicely into your neutral slipcovered furniture in your living room. Then maybe the round table could be used in the kitchen nook. I do not know if it is a piece you would want to paint but I can see it white or grey. The table we have in our kitchen nook is round and is actually a black-brown too, but I have considering painting it white. I love dark wood accents so I am still on the fence about it. You have done a beautiful renovation. Everything is so lovely just the way it is. I hope you don't mind me sharing what I thought about the tables. I know it really has to do with how your home feels for you. Keep calm and carry on. Peace to you. Namaste xx Kerrie

    • June 13, 2016 / 6:11 pm

      i love your suggestions and honor them. i'll keep tweaking and experimenting before the final reveal. it's a quirky home so in many ways i am let off the hook since it was someone else's design, and i'm simply trying to make our furnishings work in the rooms they were never meant to live in, ya know? since it is a downsize where we are subtracting, not adding/buying it is an ongoing challenge to our creativity and imaginations. xox

  15. June 11, 2016 / 6:56 pm

    I've had the best time following along on this journey with you, Michele. It is simply, beautiful. i just love the warm, inviting touches and the sense of calm in each space…it's fabulous, my friend!! So thrilled for you!!

    • June 13, 2016 / 6:12 pm

      merci! thank you for following, and i hope you will stay tuned because there are some surprises yet to be blogged! xox

  16. July 17, 2016 / 12:22 pm

    Oh Michelle! You have done so much and it is so lovely. It must feel like heaven now that it is nearing completion. I wouldn't worry one little bit about that kitchen table! It looks perfect to me.

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