It has been five years since we bought our Northern Illinois fixer upper after downsizing from twice the square footage and land. The years have flown…maybe because there seems always to be another project on the horizon or another son moving home temporarily, or because (and this is the most likely), the renovators are getting old so time passes quickly! Before & After: Our European Country Style Fixer Upper is a walk down memory lane with our DIY transformations.
We renovated the whole house entirely ourselves, with the exception of the hardwood flooring, new HVAC, new windows, and new roof. Hope you enjoy seeing how far we have come!
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Before & After: European Country Style Fixer Upper
Fixer Upper Overview
The marketing photos for this home didn’t look like a disaster when we saw it online. In person was another matter! It was bank-owned as a foreclosure, and corners were cut everywhere.
To minimize their costs, they even installed low quality taupe carpet over existing pet-soiled padding.
All the hardware and faucets had been spraypainted white (no, I’m not kidding!), and the walls were a sad yellow-white. There were critters in the attic, a shower/bathtub leaking into the electrical box, water damaged subfloors, and a jungle of weeds for a view.
We Viewed it Years Earlier!
One slight advantage we held in entering this mess of a project? We had toured the property 12 years earlier when the original owners were selling.
It had been lovingly cared for inside and out so the gardens were lush and beautiful. At that time, the home was not within our budget, nor did the floor plan make sense for our young family.
This time around in its forlorn, neglected state, we had no competition for the home! Not even the neighbors wanted anything to do with it since they watched its steady decline over the years while it was rented.
French Country Courtyard Dreams
Clearing away overgrown, straggly bushes and weeds made room for a peaceful, pea gravel courtyard you can see RIGHT HERE. The siding on the house is light stone grey, and I went for a tonal look on outdoor furniture purchased from a friend. It is painted a 50/50 mix of FARROW & BALL Cornforth White and Hardwick White.
European Country Fixer Upper Before & After
European Country Fixer Upper: Front Door Before & After
Replacing the front door was actually not a priority since I knew that simply painting the existing steel door could make a big difference. It was after we worked with Pacific Entries to replace most of the hollow core interior doors with solid, rustic alder planked doors that we realized we could transform both the interior entry and exterior porch in one fell swoop!
We still haven’t upgraded the exterior lighting at our home, but what a huge difference. We love giving this place an identity with French Nordic cottage and European country farmhouse style.
Eventually, we would like the river rock walls topped with a natural stone, but since the tops we inherited the place were eroded and nasty looking, my idea was to remove the old top and replace with low cost concrete as a temporary solution.
For under $40 (the concrete pavers were under a dollar each from Home Depot), this solution has served us well even 4 years later.
European Country Fixer Upper Entry
I’m not exaggerating when I say the tile near the front door was the precise color of an awful bruise. Fitting since the whole house had been walloped. We still haven’t upgraded the bifold closet doors which I despise, but things look a lot better!
Staircase Woes & Cheap Fixes
The stairs were the open riser type I associate with the Brady Bunch, and they can be charming in the right contemporary project and when they are wood, not wrapped in cheap carpet. We needed a budget friendly fix!
We closed the risers, installed a linen-hued durable carpet, and painted everything white except for the handrail. I sanded most of the existing stain and varnish from the rail and then rubbed on a clear wax.
European Country Kitchen Transformation
The marketing photos of the kitchen in the house revealed natural maple hardwood floors and white cabinets. Except the hardwood had been destroyed from water damage.
The vinyl cabinets were also worn out and well past their prime! Countertops were new navy blue laminate, the sink was a new white cast iron model, and both the white range and microwave were brand new.
We salvaged the cabinetry we could and moved it with the countertop into a basement workshop. Every single thing we could re-purpose in this fixer upper was incorporated into the plan. But I wanted stainless appliances so someone else got to enjoy the white ones.
Before & After Kitchen Renovation
As is often the case, things got far worse in the kitchen before they began to get pretty! Here’s the breakfast dining area of the kitchen before we were forced to demo the flooring (no worries – we salvaged the usable boards!) and redo almost everything except the window seat.
Things Get Worse Before They Get Better!
Care to see how things got worse? And just so you don’t think I’m making it up that the whole house was painted an awful antique white…look at the contrast of old vs new BENJAMIN MOORE White I painted the whole house. We even painted the two story vaulted ceilings ourselves!
In the old kitchen design, upper cabinets flanked the window over the sink and felt too heavy for me. The ceiling fan was old, loud, wobbly, and ridiculous.
Polished marble subway tile taken to the ceiling brought an airy, serene, contemporary look but it did cost us storage. I tried to make up for it by installing ceiling to floor cupboards (a very English country look) on the frig and oven wall. Here’s how that wall looked before we installed cabinets and appliances:
The step back cabinets to the right of the ovens (above) contain a cool appliance garage (on a hinge which lifts straight up) so I can hide away the toaster and Vitamix (only the best machine in the world!).
Cooktop or Range?
This was my first cooktop (see above), and while it functions well, I kind of miss having a range, mainly because I love the look of a traditional style kitchen.
We Moved the Frig
In the kitchen’s U-shaped design before, the refrigerator was located across from the sink wall. I chose a French Door Frig and moved it to the corner, adding horizontally installed wood beadboard (and no cabinets, hooks, or any clutter) to the former frig wall. (And yes, when we viewed the house, they didn’t even bother repairing an old broken kitchen drawer which was just plopped down on the breakfast bar.
A simple but smart addition to the breakfast bar: horizontal installed solid wood beadboard which I painted white. It takes all sorts of abuse and wipes clean far better than drywall!
White Quartz for Countertop
You can read about my journey to find the right white countertop RIGHT HERE. I didn’t use any sponsors on any of this kitchen renovation so you don’t have to wonder whether I’m pushing a particular appliance or surface in here. We spent a ton of money even with doing the work ourselves!
The mirror was just a placeholder since we wanted floating shelves which are still all the rage with the cool kids and the ongoing modern farmhouse obsession. Still no shelves, but I’m okay with it.
Can you believe how dark this kitchen felt? It needed love!
Hope you enjoyed this before and after! The post RIGHT HERE continues the tour of our fixer upper’s great room and master bedroom. Take it for a whirl too!
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Peace to you right where you are.
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