As a stay-at-home mother to 2 girls and 4 dogs, I spend a lot of time looking at my walls, ceilings and house, looking for ways to make it exquisite, but not “over-done”.
Growing up in the outskirts of DC, in a neighborhood where all the houses were old, unique and filled with antiques passed down in the family, I thought this was the norm. Not until I ventured out into the real world, did I realize that it is a lot of the same shortcuts by builders: repeating the same plans to avoid architects’ fees and devoid of most architectural elements in the hopes of increasing their bottom line.
After graduating from the University of Virginia with my Bachelor’s degree in economics, and spending a brief time in the Fiji Islands teaching computer science, I spent years in the tech world, traveling (seeing amazing – and different – architecture), working horrendous hours, but reaping the rewards.
Determined to provide a better life for my two, beloved Jack Russells, I started shopping for my 2nd house, but also determined not to reek of “new money”. (Nouveau riche was something whispered in my youth pointing out the tacky and a definite no-no!) My husband’s favorite saying when someone gloats too much after scoring a touchdown is, “Act like you’ve been there before.” It’s the exact same principle.
After 1 1/2 years of looking, I found a beautiful, historic house with plaster molding, high ceilings, and numerous fireplaces – gorgeous. It was one hour away from my office…without traffic. I had to pass. It’s been featured on HGTV since – Elway Hall in Warrenton.
This was the case every time. I found myself ready to purchase houses based upon crown molding – and nothing else! I knew I had a problem 😉 Since I couldn’t find what I wanted, I decided to build what I wanted with the historic features I love. I found 19 acres along the Potomac River and began designing. Building was a painful, two-year ordeal and our builder was just awful and unscrupulous. As he tried to gouge us on pricing and quality, we thought it best to get him out of the house asap and do the all finishing details that I wanted, like ornate moldings, with others.
I did not mean to become a DIYer. I could not have been a least likelier or experienced candidate! However, It seemed that every time a company saw our house, the price went up substantially. It started when I was trying to get our living room painted. The painter came over and quoted $10,000. Seriously. That just put me over the edge. If I wanted that kind of pricing, I could have stayed with my builder! After I told him he was nuts and he must think I’m stupid, he said, “Well, less for one coat.” I told him it would be no coats and showed him the door.
That launched it – I painted that room myself – and have painted every room in our house by myself at least once, sometimes 3 times! To get anything done, I had to bring multiple companies in for quotes and I was in the midst of that already fixing my builder’s mistakes. So, I started researching…
In researching – and discovering and obsessively watching HGTV and This Old House – I found how so many details were actually so easy to incorporate. I began to look at everything in my house a new way and spent all my time scouring the Internet.
I’m going to show you some projects that we did and are going to tackle in our house, and how to do them, as well as easy architectural elements to add to your house to make it distinctive and set it apart. We’ve had triumphs (who-hoo!!) and failures (grrrr….) along the way, which we’ve learned from, so I’ll point out our shortcomings as well.
I still get a thrill when someone asks me how long this house has been in my family or what the history of it is!! But I’m not done, much to my husband’s dismay 🙂 Please feel free to send me your stories, accomplishments and questions.
P.S. This is what the passenger seat looks like when I take/pick up my children to school 😀