Note: This post was born from an updated Before & After page that we heard people were having trouble finding (since it wasn’t at the top of our blog feed). So here it is, forever immortalized as a chronological post. And now, since we’ll continue to update our Before & After page over time, we have this post frozen in time, which is nice to look back on. Wish we had done it around 6 months in and at the year mark too.
We downsized to this 1,400 square foot house in Northwest Florida on May of 2020 after a fast, furious, and long-distance three-month renovation. You can read more about how we found ourselves craving a pared-down lifestyle for our family here and here (that last one is a really good synopsis of what led us to this exact spot). But onward to the before & after pictures!
NOTE: We created this Shop Our House page to help you hunt down any furniture/accessories that you see in our house, along with our paint colors.
We kept all of the same cedar siding, black metal windows, exterior doors, and metal roofing…
… but updated the decking, railings, front steps, and gave everything a fresh coat of white paint! You can see this post for more photos & details on the exterior renovation.
Then we started layering in all the tropical landscaping and it evolved to this. We need to take more photos and do an updated blog post soon.
Here’s the side of the house as it looked when we bought it back in Feb of 2020:
And here it is all painted, with new horizontal railings on that second-floor deck. Removing the steeply pitched steps to the upper deck instantly made us feel safer (someone outside being able to access our second-floor windows & doors just felt off). And even small changes like removing the guard rails that cut through those wide steps that you see (while maintaining the railings on the outside ends) made a big difference too!
There’s more that we did to this area (fences, ferns, and a firepit – oh my!) but let’s pop inside for a second and head back outside again later on in the tour.
The kitchen involved some large renovations and some small projects to get it to its current state. This is what we were starting with:
We gradually updated the room in a few affordable ways, like hanging new lighting & DIY shelves and painting the cabinets (you can also see a full tour of how our kitchen is organized). Then we scored an awesome deal on secondhand appliances & tweaked the room’s layout and later added an Ikea pantry that we built in around the fridge, which we moved to the opposite wall (blog post about that coming soon!).
By shifting the fridge to the other side of the room, you can actually see that side window now! It used to be almost entirely blocked from this vantage point by the fridge (scroll back up a few photos to see what I mean). Plus we gained an entire pantry full of storage around our newly relocated fridge. Win-win!
In order to enjoy a comfy little sitting area on this side of the room, we closed off that wide doorway that you see below. You can still enter that room via the door next to the loveseat in the next photo (it’s our bedroom – so that extra-wide doorway wasn’t necessary). You can read more about the sitting area here & we’re planning an updated post all about the kitchen now that we added the pantry, so stay tuned.
This room is deceptively large, so along with having room for an eat-in kitchen table, we love that we gained this casual bonus hangout spot (since our big family room with the TV is upstairs, we tend to gather in here when someone’s cooking or when friends drop in for a coffee or a drink). It’s also great to have when someone wants to hang out or read without hearing the TV upstairs). Having two common areas in the house that aren’t open to each other (meaning that the sound doesn’t travel between them very much and one kid can do homework while the other watches cartoons or does a big part project) is key to feeling like we’re living large in a smaller footprint. If we had one larger adjoined space as our only shared area in the house, we’d feel a lot more cramped & on top of each other, I think!
The stairs that lead to our upstairs family room and second-floor deck had cool vertical planking and got lots of natural light thanks to a window above them in the family room. But the wood treads had some finish issues after we had them redone, and it didn’t match our wood floors downstairs (more on that here).
We ended up adding a really nice textured runner (and painting the treads to solve the finish issue), which gives our dog Burger some much-needed traction. It’s an indoor/outdoor rug, so it’s super durable (more on that here). Don’t mind this older shot of the kitchen before we added the pantry – we’ll take an updated photo eventually…
The Family Room
The only room upstairs is this large multi-purpose room that we use as a TV/movie room, home office, and kids’ crafting area (thanks to the pandemic it was a virtual-learning spot too). It’s by far the largest room in our house (two 8 x 10 rugs can fit in here without touching!) so it’s awesome to all get to enjoy it – and for it to perform so many functions for our family. Here’s how it looked when we bought the house. Note that scummy mildew along the top of the ceiling…
And here it is more recently after some simple floor refinishing and a fresh coat of paint (those big windows and cool paneling were already there!). You can see more of this room in this post – and see a few updates we later added in this post. We’ve also made some other changes up there, so we’ll have to take more photos and a video for an updated post.
Here’s the other half of the room as it looked when we bought the house. It was pouring rain when we took this picture, hence it being so dark (and those foggy windows):
Here it is more recently from the same angle. This is such a good demonstration of how adding furniture can help so much with capturing a room’s scale! Doesn’t the room look half as wide in the before shot above? And it appears to only have a sliver of space between the windows on the right-hand wall when there’s really over 70″ for a wide bookshelf with four spacious drawers. It’s wild!
The Upper Deck
Right outside the living room is a large upstairs deck that we all use as an extension of our living area. It was hugely improved by replacing the rotting deck, railings, and rickety pergola.
This is what the deck looks like now, thanks to the magic of new decking, railings, nixing that chimney that popped up in the middle of where our big 8-person table now lives, and a whole lot of white paint. We’ve also added some more seating, a dining area, and some string lights to make this one of our favorite hangout spots! You can read all about the details of this space right here.
Another fun before & after shot of this upstairs deck is this one. I can’t tell you how much better it is without that huge chimney jutting through the deck (when we bought the house it was majorly leaking down into the bedroom below).
And here’s the after shot from that vantage point now. This is one of our favorite spaces in the whole house – for sharing pizza with friends or having a family game night up in the trees. It’s really cozy and makes our house feel so much bigger thanks to this huge outdoor room.
Here is our bedroom as it looked when we bought the house. This house only had one bedroom with an actual door that you could close when we bought it (it was originally listed as a one bedroom, one bathroom!), so we converted this beautiful light-filled space into our bedroom by closing a large extra doorway that led to the kitchen.
We refinished the floors, gave it some fresh paint, and then it just took some comfortable things like curtains, furniture, and a cozy rug to make this feel like a welcoming retreat.
Here’s a before and after view of the bed wall, since it’s hard to see in the photo above…
We added a lot more storage to the room and rearranged things and closed off 2 of the 8 exterior doors (yes we really had that many doors in here, which is why the two on the bed wall in the before picture above are now gone – but the room is still flooded with light). We also added a closet (storage, glorious storage!) which you can read about here. That update really was a game-changer!
We have eventual plans to create an attached bathroom in an existing underutilized corner of the room (you can read more about that plan here). Sharing a bathroom hasn’t been nearly as bad as we expected – so we’re not in any rush.
Here’s another before shot of our bedroom back when we bought the house:
Here’s the same angle now. It really is a life hack to have a puzzle table by the fireplace if there’s randomly room in your bedroom. It keeps the kitchen table clear for food – and provides a fun spot to sit and decompress whenever the mood strikes (John can be found here a lot more than I ever expected. He has become a true puzzle lover).
*And now for a long-winded bedroom-related side note, because the most common question we get about our house is if we ever considered making the large upstairs family room into our bedroom. The short answer is that we did, but ended up nixing it for a number of reasons:
- 1) we all prefer to sleep on the same floor
- 2) that room upstairs is nearly twice as big (it’s the single biggest room in our house!), and we’d much rather share it than take it all for ourselves
- 3) entertaining a bunch of people on the huge upstairs deck would mean everyone would have to walk through our bedroom to access it
- 4) there’s no plumbing upstairs, so adding an ensuite bathroom would be much pricier than the one we have planned for downstairs
- 5) we already mentioned this, but it bears repeating for anyone who is looking to downsize & worries they’ll feel too cramped. We’ve learned that it’s SO HELPFUL in a smaller home if there are two common areas that aren’t right next to each other (someone can watch a movie upstairs or do a zoom call for work while someone else is downstairs at the kitchen table working undisturbed or reading in the sitting area). We’ve also found that when our friends & their kids drop in, the kids all run upstairs to play & we sit downstairs in the sitting area and chat & have drinks or a snack.
You can find more layout tips for a small house (& other general downsizing info) right here in this post. Ok, but on with the tour!
Our house only has one bathroom – and it didn’t even function when we bought it! The sink and vanity had been torn out, there were leaks festering in the walls behind the drywall and the tile, and the toilet couldn’t even be flushed due to the absence of a sewer line. Here’s what it looked like back then:
Before we moved in, we had basically everything replaced (except for the window!) to make this space functional. I gotta say, as much as we like the fun floor tile, and the cheerful accessories, a toilet that flushes really is the best part of any bathroom. You can see more of the room in this post.
The Laundry Closet
We converted a (weirdly double-sided) closet right off the front door into a laundry closet, which actually reminds us a lot of the laundry nook that we had in our very first house.
In addition to the new appliances, we built some nice deep shelves and added lots of hooks to make it extra hardworking.
Our Daughter’s Bedroom
Some of our favorite transformations in this house are our kids’ bedrooms, since we were able to vault the ceilings in both rooms – making these spaces feel so much bigger and brighter than they used to feel.
Yup, this is the same room, from the same angle. Crazy the difference that ceiling change made, right? It wasn’t structural (the roof already had that slope, so we essentially removed a drop drywall ceiling, added insulation, and just followed the slope of the roof with the planked ceiling). You can click here to see more photos (and get a DIY channel headboard tutorial). We have since changed up the side tables and added a desk so we’ll have to share updated photos soon.
You can also see this room in particular had a very colorful past…
… which we embraced by hand-painting a large mural on the newly vaulted wall across from our daughter’s bed.
Our Son’s Room
We were also able to vault the ceilings in our son’s room to follow the slope of the roof, as well as adding more planking and beams to the ceiling, which adds character and some nice dimension. Here’s the before:
And here’s what it looks like these days:
This super cozy room is one of our kids’ favorite spots to hang out together (ever since the beach house bunk room they’ve loved quiet time together in a small space). We built in the bed by creating a simple DIY wraparound headboard, which they hang out on kind of like a daybed.
Here’s another before shot that was taken with the camera swung more towards the right wall of the room:
And here’s the same angle of the room as it looks now:
Every inch matters in smaller spaces like this, so the built-in bookshelf we made is really functional too. That foot or so of floor space along that wall works so much harder for us now! You can also see that we added some horizontal planking along that side wall and painted it a bunch of fun colors. You can see how we did that entire project right here. We have also since added custom shelves to the closet and built in a desk – so again, we have to shoot new photos and share an updated post soon (new drinking game ever time I say that in this post…).
The Outdoor Shower
We weren’t quite sure what to make of this space when we bought the house because it felt pretty grody with so much grime going on…
… but after some pressure washing, resealing the cedar with teak oil, and adding lights, plants, and new shower fixtures, it has actually turned into one of our favorite spaces. The whole family prefers this shower to our indoor one! You can see more of it in this post and we just kept adding more plants from there (so you’ll see that it’s a lot more lush in this updated photo below):
While we’re talking about the outdoor shower, the area that leads to it is kind of like a covered side porch, and this is what it started out looking like.
It has come a LONG WAY, thanks to removing the mildewed screening around it, replacing the rotten floor, rebuilding the railing with a modern horizontal design (like the one we added up on the second floor deck) and a whole lot of paint. And for anyone wondering what our secret is to avoiding mosquitoes without screens – it’s that ceiling fan we added! They hate flying into moving air, so when we’re out there we flip it on and they don’t bother us. You can read more about our side porch update and how we built the hanging daybed.
We also have a covered porch on the other side of the house, which looked like this when we bought the house:
Now looks like this, thanks to lots of paint and a hanging swing that both kids love to lounge on (ok, us too). You can read more about this space here.
We also added a fence to create more of a private courtyard and made a cozy little firepit zone from a formerly unused area that felt exposed to the street. This is the before:
And here’s what it looks like now that there’s a fence to define that area and make a nice little private courtyard:
Here’s another angle from before we painted the house, redid the railings, and added the fence to create this new outdoor space of ours.
It used to just be an area where we never spent any time, and now it gets so much use. We can access this through a gate in the fence near our front porch, or from the wall of glass doors in our bedroom, so it’s really nice to hang out at night and make s’mores with the kids – or sit outside with a cold beverage after they’re tucked into bed.
And in one of our longest-running updates to date (it took about a year from when we applied for the permit to completion!), we also added a pool to this formerly weed-riddled part of our yard. Here’s the best before picture I can find, which was taken right after we added that fence on the right, but before we painted anything:
And here’s what it looks like now that we painted all the fences to match and added a pool with a retaining wall and three fountains that sound better than any white noise machine we’ve ever had (it’s so soothing!). We also added a pool deck with some spots to lounge and planted lots of leafy landscaping that’ll fill in a bunch over the next few years. Oh and adding some more big plants to that large bed behind the retaining wall is next on the list:
So that’s our progress so far on this house, about a year and a few months into living here. We can’t wait to take some updated photos and share the other ways that this house evolves for our family over time. In the meantime, you can check out these related pages for even more info, details, project tutorials, etc:
P.S. And to see the entire makeover of our house in chronological order, this category has you covered!