The evolving duck house

I used to say, “I have an ugly house.” Now I just say that I have an ugly-duckling house.

I clearly recall thinking when we first looked at the house, “I’ll grow to like it.” I think that’s very different from thinking, “I see what I can do with this house,” or something similar. It should’ve been a red flag, but it wasn’t.

We jumped on the house for a variety of reasons. It’s in a neighborhood we really, really wanted to be in, it was in better shape than other homes in the area we looked at, and homes here at the time were going fast because the market was hot back then.

So we got it. And I hated it. We moved from a cute condo to an ugly house with foundation problems. And I sulked for 3 years. The ad for the home when we first read about it said, “Brand new carpet!!” It was one of maybe 2 houses we looked at with carpet. I just didn’t get why someone was advertising that with such aplomb.

The house was built in the early 70s when popcorn ceilings riddled with asbestos and dark wood paneling were the bomb. The previous owner had made some updates, and for sure, I’m not complaining. But I have to say that many of them were done very poorly. Like, she repainted the whole interior of the home. She painted the whole thing, except for the two bathrooms, cream. I don’t mind splashes of cream here and there, but when your entire house is bathed in it, it just looks filthy.

It wouldn’t have bothered me quite as much if it was done well. Which it wasn’t.

I regret not taking more pictures, but I didn’t see the point back then because it was just so ugly. The front entry way actually has some really nice wainscoting. But the moulding had drips dried on it and the character of the moulding was so marred because it was caked in paint. I don’t know how else to describe it aside from picture someone with a 5-gallon bucket of paint they just threw against the wall with the lid open, then kind of spread it out with their hands.

great room before

Before: Ugly shot 1. Entry/front room. The week we moved in, adding to the ugly.

Great room before 2.

Before: Ugly shot 2. Front room/”formal dining area”.

great room/dining area before

Before: Ugly shot 3. Front room/”formal dining”.

The inside of the front door, which has stood half stripped since November, was also painted in a similar manner with hair and dirt visibly stuck in the layers. The window trim wasn’t sanded before repainting, so there are visible missing chips of a layer of paint, and a lot of the newer paint is now chipping. The painting was obviously done in a hurry and on the cheap. I often think that she must’ve paid some kids in the neighborhood to paint it for pizza and beer.

We have two living areas, the “front room” and the smaller “middle room”. The smaller living area has sloped ceilings, which is nice, and a ceiling fan. We’re not getting rid of it because we live in Texas and it’s beastly hot in the summer, even with the AC on, so sorry decor police. It had a brown fan with the biggest light fixture I had ever seen in the shape of a large white ball. If it sounds remotely cool, it was not. It was the biggest eyesore in the house and the ceiling looked like it had a malignant tumor growing out of it. I really wish I had taken a picture so I could share the offensive nature of this light fixture.

The guest bathroom was painted in a shade of blue that was love at first sight for me, Restoration Hardware’s Silver Sage. It was in the garage and the outside of the can had more paint on it than the inside. There was a significant amount left, so I painted the breakfast nook with it.

I loved it so much that I wanted to paint part of the great room with it. After doing some research on paint, I settled on using Benjamin Moore’s Gray Wisp.

I know every home blogger, contractor, and their mom loves BM. I hated it. I cursed every moment that I spent painting with it and swore never to use BM ever again. The first coat looked like I put water tinted with a little paint on the wall. No matter how quickly I went, there were lap marks all over the wall. You can call me inexperienced, but I had gotten better results on the first coat using Valspar and Behr. I probably should’ve just taken it back and asked for my money back, but I didn’t know any better then.

I’ll admit that it did look great with a second coat, but I haven’t changed my mind yet.

So it stayed like that for 3 years and I hated it. I hated my kitchen with its laminate counters, dirty-white cabinets, and lack of storage. Especially when I saw a lot of friends remodel their kitchens with their beautiful, shiny granite counters. I hated it so much that I neglected to really notice the several neighbors who brought us dinner and baby gear when my son was born, would often watch my son at a moment’s notice, have dinner with us, stop to chat when we were all outside…all because I was so obsessed with how my house looked.

My husband brought up several times the idea of us moving if I hated it that much, and every time I’d say, “Well…but I really like the neighbors…”. I’m not sure what changed my mind, but one day I just woke up and realized how good we have it here. I was being petty and ungrateful and I really just needed to shut it. You can always change the interior of your house and organize your kitchen more efficiently, but you can’t really change your neighbors that easily.

This is already way too long. So my husband out of the kindness of his heart, after looking at our budget, decided to get me wood floors for my birthday in 2011, and it is my birthday present for the next 5 years.

We went with a fellow named Tom Manion, and if you’re in the Austin area looking to redo your floors, he is fabulous. We briefly considered doing them ourselves for about half an hour, then came to our senses and realized we just didn’t have the bandwidth. Which was fortunate because it took about 17 bags of concrete to level our floors. We went with laminate floors from Shaw. So that removed about 75% of the ugliness factor. Well, in my opinion, because I hate carpet that much.

I painted the wainscoting (here is a picture at the bottom) and installed the chair rail myself. I decided not to repeat the picture boxes on the other walls because I’m lazy and those walls are covered by couches anyway. I had some more oops paint which I used to paint the far walls. It is ‘Seascape’ from Valspar. I will one day paint the remaining wall, the long one with the windows, white, and perhaps install more moulding. That, along with dealing with the popcorn and replacing the octopus light on the ceiling, is for another day. Until then, I will continue to choose to be happy in this home and neighborhood.

Install chair rail

Chair rail in progress

living room after paint moulding

The ugly duckling room today in real time with sleeping cat and kid gear