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  • Writer's pictureKatie

How I Found Interior Design

Welcome to Shiawassee Street (Part 1)

This time of year, Facebook starts reminding me of posts from the house that solidified my love for interior design and renovation. Every time I see one of those FB Memories, it reignites my excitement for design + reno and makes me want to start tearing down walls and changing things up (if you have ever been in my house, you know I have ongoing house projects at all times).

Let me tell you a little bit about this house that started it all for me and how it came into my life. In 2016, I was going through a divorce and needed a new start and a new home. After remodeling the kitchen in my previous home and completing a budget friendly makeover to my up north cottage, I decided the next step for me was to get a fixer upper to keep me busy and have something to focus on as I started over.

Boy did I find a fixer upper. I have always had a love for old homes because of the character and bones that come with them, so I started looking for a home in a special downtown Lansing neighborhood - The Westside Neighborhood. The majority of the homes in this neighborhood were built between 1900-1920. At the time, about half of the homes in this neighborhood had been restored and updated to beautiful homes. The rest needed some love. And I found the one that needed the most love.

The house:

Painted wild and crazy colors both inside and out, overgrown plants and a falling down fence, and covered with a blue tarp on the roof to prevent even more rain from coming in, this house was one of the worst in the neighborhood. I'm not sure I really knew what I was getting myself into at the time but I was ready to start the transformation and jump head first into figuring out how to renovate this place. You can see the huge smile on my face the day I closed on the house at the same time you can see the giant blue tarp on the roof preventing additional water damage from occurring! I really did not know what I was in for!

At some point, a very eccentric person had lived in this house as the choices in colors were anything but ordinary. The main floor included a kitchen, dining room, living room, sunroom, and small room off the kitchen with a powder room inside. The living room as you entered into the front door had yellow walls, an orange ceiling, black trim, and even gold glitter accenting the fireplace.

Heading into the dining room, the walls, ceiling, and crown molding were a deep purple. In the kitchen, the walls were shimmery olive green paired with a bright purple ceiling. The cabinets were black, gold, and tan with a pebbled gray countertop. Everyone has their own style but this surely was not mine!

The upstairs had 3 bedrooms and 1 full bath. The stairway and hall leading upstairs carried the same bright purple as the dining room. The bathroom had pink tile that had both light and dark olive green paint on the walls and trim. The grout between the pink square tiles had been painted black in half of the room and white in the other half.

Two of the three bedrooms had water damage from the hold in the roof, one of which had a giant hole in the ceiling where you could see out to the blue tarp. At some point wallpaper had been put on the ceiling and it was just falling off to the touch.

Needless to say, it was terrifying! Everyone that came with me to see this house told me I was totally insane in buying this house... but I had a vision. I absolutely loved the super thick wood baseboards and door casing, the dining room built-in, the cute little sunroom with all of the windows overlooking the front yard, the giant rooftop deck on top of the garage with the original sliding garage doors, and so many other little slices of character peaking through the scariness that it had become over the past 100 years. I was ready to help this character come back out and enhance it with a new design.

My Experience:

So I decided to buy this house in August of 2015 and started on the renovation journey, mostly while I lived in the home, and while working full time running a Meijer Distribution Center. Almost all of my nights and weekends were devoted to upgrading this house and my days were filled with daydreams about how I wanted to design the house. I had no design background at the time other than styling my first home in Grand Rapids, a kitchen and living room renovation in Lansing, and a budget friendly facelift to my cottage in Cheboygan.

I did have some DIY and renovation experience, however so this wasn't 100% new to me but there were a lot of things I had not done before. And everything I had done before was always with the help of someone typically more knowledgeable than I was! To give you a little bit of a quick background some of the renovations I had done before included:

- Demo

- Tiling floor/backsplash

- Laying laminate flooring

- Tearing off and putting on a new roof (of a very flat pitched ranch home)

- Lots and lots of painting (walls, cabinets, trim, furniture... even appliances!)

- Drywalling (although I was not very good at it and did not like it one bit!)

- Making doors/furniture pieces (although I did mainly the finishing part of staining + poly)

So I was not totally clueless going into this renovation but I clearly had never done anything to this magnitude and definitely not mostly by myself (although I did have a lot of help along the way, my family lived 4 hours away so they could not help as easily)! For those of you know me or have read my bio on the MCDW website, you know that DIY and renovation is kinda in my blood and I have grown up watching my family do many updates to our family homes growing up and many times I was forced to help. Whats funny is that my brother and I were both forced to help on some of these renovations growing up... this is probably what started my love for this, yet it did the opposite on my brother and it caused him to absolutely hate DIY and renovating his own home!

Up Next:

The first steps for this massive renovations were to get good tradespeople in to do the major parts of the home that I could not do myself. This included an entire new roof including a flat roof on the rooftop deck, new furnace and AC, and a full re-wire (had original knob and tube wiring). The structure of the home was still good and plumbing was addressed later as the kitchen and bath were remodeled!

Over the course or a little over a year working on this house, I absolutely fell in love with interior design and home renovation. I loved the design process and figuring out how to make the house a home while maintaining the character and some of the original style of this 100 year old home. Please continue to follow along throughout this 10 part series to see my entire year of renovating this house! There were a lot of adventures and mishaps along the way including lots of demo, refinishing the original hardwoods, tiling the entire bathroom, a total kitchen transformation, a unique addition to the laundry room, a new use for a vintage dresser, and a lot more! You can also skip ahead to see the final product on this renovation on our Projects page if you just can't wait!

- Katie

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