Honey, We Bought a Fixer Upper!

If you’d told me I would end up buying a 70’s home, much less a fixer upper, I would have laughed you out of the room. But what a fool I would have been!

Here we are now—having bought when the COVIDey housing market still ran hot—proud owners of a 70’s ugly duckling (pricey by Knoxville, Tennessee standards—our former home for 18 years, but not so by Colorado standards). But make no mistake: we are happy to have secured this diamond in the rough (no bidding involved!) and relieved to have a place we can call “home.” Now, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get to work on renovations.

If you haven’t read the story of our journey from Tennessee to Colorado via an almost year-long RV trip, check out this post: Serendipity Has Its Way.

Colorado home renovation in progress

Somehow, we seem to move during the summer, when the heat is at its worst. At least this time we only had to go about half a mile in between locations and we had help from neighbors.

In the South, no one in their right mind wants a home without air conditioning. In Colorado, they use “swamp coolers,” which function well in a dry climate, while A/C tends to dry out the already too dry air. Our new house doesn’t come with either. It does, however, have a whole house fan, which did very little to cool off the 97F air during the day (but did OK at night, in the 60s weather). Needless to say, one of our first new home purchases was a portable A/C, which we installed in the bedroom, so we can get some sleep.

The Kitchen

The kitchen scared me a little. When I started scrubbing down the cabinets, I had to question if the brown residue coming off was the brown “antiquing” faux finish or just grime. Maybe it was a bit of both, but either way, yuck. I found a stash of white primer from my RV reno project and I covered up most of the faux finish, which made the cabinets look a little bit better and brighter. I used liner for the interior and carefully unpacked a limited amount of dishes and glasses.

The Bathroom

The only bathroom upstairs is what I can call “50 shades of brown:” dark brown lower cabinets, blonde uppers, middle brown trim, dark brown door, brown and tan floors and shower tiles. It’s lovely!… not. So, even if I know we’ll replace everything in that bathroom eventually, I put forth the effort to minimize the brown. I painted the trim and door white, I covered the dark brown base cabinet with a nice grey-blue (the same color I used in the RV kitchen: NYPD blue by Behr). The walls are getting a lively and light coat of Behr Breezeway (a beachy sea glass color).

The Main Bedroom

Let me start by saying that we have a nice large-frame king size bed with the amazing Purple mattress. Word to the wise: the Purple mattress doesn’t move easily. It took four people and wrangling the mattress into a giant burrito tied down with ropes to be able to move it. Once in the room, the frame took up most of the space but we were able to fit in our two night stands. When my husband ran into the bed frame the first time he walked in the dark, two things resulted (well, three if you count the bruise): we put in a night light, and we decided that we need to expand the bedroom.

The Guest Bedrooms

The two guest bedrooms are nothing to write home about. Similar in size, they sit opposite of the main bedroom and bath.

The Living Room

The living room is right off the entry way and screams for a focal point. But the hardwood floors are nice.

The Sunroom

The sunroom is really the highlight of this house. It’s big and bright and relaxing. I was able to fit in my dining table fully extended AND have additional seating. For privacy and extra lushness, I added linen sheers which billow softly in the breeze. Ahhh, I love it! The carpet that came with it and the 80’s light pink/peach with geometric teal motifs bookcase, not so much.

The Yard

Not too big and not too small, the yard is partially private and is a nice continuation of the sunroom. The bonus: the many different types of hummingbirds that come to the feeders, a curious squirrel, and a screechy hawk nesting nearby; and our fur babies really love it. There is one eye sore that needs to go: an abandoned non-functioning hot tub.

The Basement

The downstairs is a full living area, complete with a kitchen, bath, and wood burning fireplace. There is also a bedroom/office area in the back. The bad thing is the crazy floor finish that is—you might have guessed it—brown. The wet look finish was really meant to be for exterior flooring and on the concrete floors in the basement it looks like turpentine. And it smells like it too. The first step was cleanup: mop in hand, I wiped and rinsed; next, seal up with epoxy and add a vinyl plank floor.

Another small victory that made a huge difference was getting a washer and dryer, and moving the connection back inside the house (it was placed in the garage for easy access, but against code—water pipes can freeze). We were lucky to get a nice refurbished Kenmore set from a local outlet, which included one year warranty, delivery and installation (if you see the steps to the basement, you’ll understand that’s worth the money). David had to make room for the appliances, which meant taking out part of the kitchen cabinets. I was upstairs when I heard a big “thunk and clash:” apparently, the cabinets are not super sturdy, so they collapsed with little incentive.

Even if now it looks like a dreadful dungeon, the basement actually has the potential to become a delightful den.

The Sconces

The sconces deserve their own section. There is a good collection of them, a walk in time, over several decades: from brass and glass, to marble-like glass, to clay. One of them I affectionately call “the friendly alien.”

The Renovation Plans

Maybe I’ve been watching too much HGTV, but as soon as I saw the house, plans of grandeur started forming in my mind and a long list of projects ensued:

  • Exterior: replace the siding and paint to match (not sure what yet, either a blue-grey or an off white, given that the roof is brown); add wood tone beadboard to the front porch roof and dress up the porch pillars; paint the front door and replace the storm door (no more brown!). This would give that house more of a mid-century modern look.
  • Open up the living room to the kitchen area to create an open plan and maximize the space.
  • Update the kitchen cabinets and add an island with seating.
  • Update lighting—and retire the sconces.
  • Keep the hard wood flooring for now with option to replace it later.
  • Add built in bookcase and electric fireplace in the living room.
  • Create a main suite by expanding the bedroom and transforming one of the guest bedrooms into a bath (complete with a stacked washer and dryer).
  • Add new flooring to sunroom, main bath, and basement.
  • Completely redo the basement kitchen (add a pantry and a bar area).
  • Update the existing baths.
  • Add storage wherever possible, including in the basement and garage.
  • Paint, paint, paint: walls, doors, trim.
  • Landscape: plant evergreens in the back yard for privacy, add a shade tree, and plant an edible garden, plus a few decorative flowers and bushes.
  • Add air conditioning (we are hoping to limp along for the rest of the summer without one, but get this done next year, early).
  • Add a spectacular deck, partially under a pergola, and a firepit; maybe throw in a water feature, who knows?

That’s the gist of it. We already started on some of the projects and luckily, our neighbor is a contractor, so he is able to help with CAD plans, suggestions, and sweat equity.

Hopefully, in a few months, we’ll transform our brown shoebox into a belle!

Let the fun begin!


6 thoughts on “Honey, We Bought a Fixer Upper!

  1. This is really awesome! We’re in the middle of some renovations with the dumpster rental and everything, so I’m constantly looking for the inspiration to keep going! You have had a big project, and if you guys can do it, I can too! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love it! I was raised by “remodeling parents.” Every house we lived in was a fixer upper. We probably renovated 20+ houses during my childhood! You are living my childhood!! LOL!

  3. Looks like a fun project. I got the work yesterday that I can close on that horrendous property behind my Alpine house. I will be converting it into my back yard. See Y’all Soon!

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