Welcome to Berrybrier!

I bought a house! AHHHHHHHHH!! That is the sounds of my brain doing somersaults with my stomach. It’s a lovely feeling. But, truly, this is an incredibly exciting thing I’ve been wanting for a looong time. To have a place of my own feels fantastic! We closed on August 18th and I’ve been up to my ears in dirt, dust, and tools ever since. It’s the best thing ever. I finally feel settled in to my own home and you can bet that I’ll be tearing up DIYing the heck out of this place. In fact, I’ve already gotten started, but before I share that, I’ll give you a look around the place!

This moneypit house is a real fixer-upper and not in a cute Joanna Gains farmhouse-y style. As in, this house needs help. BIG HELP. And I’m here to lend a hand! Pretty much everything needs fixing on this place, and yes I do mean everything. Name something that could need to be repaired on a home and this house needs it. Although to some, that could be completely daunting, I’m just looking forward to many years of projects ahead! Which is excellent considering that’s all I’ll be doing for the next long while.

From the very first moment I saw the first pictures of this house on Redfin, I knew it was my house. I literally gasped aloud and got a strange feeling in my gut. THIS was my house. I knew it. After seven months of looking and putting in offer after offer, I had found the one. It checked all the boxes: pre-1940s, 2+ bedrooms, a big yard, room to grow, good location near shops and restaurants, easy commute, plenty of projects. Y’all are going to think I’m crazy when you get a look at these pictures, but something about this house is just so right. Enough preamble, though! Let’s dive in.

That very first image I ever saw of the house looked something like this one below. Basically, you could tell there was a house and that it was blue, but mostly all you saw was greenery!

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At some point, someone really loved this yard and planted tons of wonderful things like walnut trees, redbuds, hydrangeas, asparagus, mint, dill, parsley, fuschias, roses, etc etc etc. That person has not lived in this house for a loooong time though and in the last many years, this yards have become completely overgrown. It’s a mess! But a glorious mess full of glorious surpises like late blooming Magnolia trees and hidden troves of bricks!

You walk to the front door of the house through the driveway, which isn’t ideal, but I’m unlikely to be able to afford to change that any time soon. So everyone who comes over is greeted by the sight of my lovely garage. Don’t mind the doors. That’s just what they look like when they think they’re “closed.”

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The garage is basically falling down. But don’t worry, it’s not the garage’s fault. The garage has a terrible parasite: poorly planned additions. Yup, that’s right folks, the garage has not one, not two, but three additions! Awww, bless it’s little heart, it is still  hanging in there.

If we walk down the driveway to the back of the house, you get to meet yet another fun add-on: an octagonal deck and it’s multi-material roof. Now this is beauty, ladies and gentleman. Oh and yes, it is also basically falling down.

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Does the above picture confuse  you a little bit? Here, let me help. This should explain things better…

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Still confused? Me too. Let me try to state a few facts to help clarify. The above picture shows two of the garage additions: a workshop and a chicken coop. The structure coming out of the garage is the roof that covers the deck. It’s made of corrugated fiberglass, plywood(??), and a whole lot of screws. The supports for this little DIY roof, descend into the garage and chicken coop roofs, essentially ensuring that all water will collect there and all the things will rot. It’s a fantastic design. Truly, I could not have thought of it myself. The octagonal deck is made of 8 sides of different lengths varying from 15′ to 2′, just because, why not? The stairs of the deck descend into the corner of the garage and end about 4″ from it. As far as I can tell, this is designed specifically so that when you fall down the stairs your skull will crack completely open. That’s just my interpretation though. Also, this deck? Covers seemingly perfect condition original concrete steps. God, I love this house.

On to the backyard. This – and no sarcasm here – is what truly won my heart. This yard is bursting with potential. Potential and a whole lot of berries. On the far right is a huge magnolia tree that provides plenty of shade for a future table and chairs. Beyond that? All berries. Yup that huge mound of greenery is all RASPBERRIES!! AKA the best thing on earth except for chocolate. I spent my time touring this house eating raspberries from the backyard and it was heavenly. I cannot wait until next summer! You can also see a falling down fence, 1940s laundry line, and the huge chicken coop window in this picture. Why your chicken coop needs such a large window is a little beyond me, but I am assuming it’s so your chickens can torture Portland’s raccoons and coyotes.

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Here’s another view of the backyard looking towards the front. Here you see a huge rosemary bush, tons and tons of mint, a redbud tree, some parsley, and plenty of bees & butterflies. It’s really gorgeous if you can get past the flaking paint on the house. Yup the house needs painting. And a roof. Somehow I can afford this? I am surprised too. Luckily the windows are all updated! They’re double-paned which is pretty essential here in the Pacific Northwest. They are dark green vinyl exterior, wood interior windows which although it’s not my first choice, I’m pretty happy to have updated windows. I get to pick a really awesome paint color for the house’s siding to coordinate with the hunter green exterior windows and I can paint the inside any thing I want!

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Let’s go inside shall we? Here is the foyer! I am obsessed with this multi-paneled door. I think it is absolutely gorgeous and just needs to be sanded down and re-stained a darker walnut tone. That will make it look far less orange and 1980s. The foyer is open to the living room. Originally, this part of the house was an exterior porch that was converted into living space in the earlier part of the century. You can see the transition of the flooring. When they enclosed the porch they decided to keep the downward slope of the floor (that all porches have for drainage). That, my friends, is called “character.” The light fixture is kind of hideous, but also weird and beautiful, so I’m keeping it. The opening on the right to the dining room.

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The floors in the house are softwood – fir. They’re gorgeous and miraculously in good shape! The living room is relatively spacious and gets great light through south and west facing windows. The fireplace is an “update” from the 1960s or maybe 1970s. I’ll be completely reworking it down the line, but for now, it’s a functional fireplace! Which means s’mores! And fire! The pyro in me is just too pleased.

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This picture explains some of the flow of the house too. Standing in the corner of the room by the fireplace you can look out of the big front window to the front jungle yard and almost see the front door tucked in the niche in the corner. The dining room opens to the living room and you can almost see it on the right.

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The dining room is a little less bright since it has more northern light, but it’s a great size and fits my round table with room to grow. There is also a closet which we can’t close the door to, because it gets stuck shut. Which it is right now. Stuck shut, I mean. Just add that to my to do list, mmkay, thanks! Shout out to my dad about to walk up the front steps carrying tools though!

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Next you go through this teeny hall that has the basement door on one side and this strange hall to the lower floor bedroom on the other side. This is from the end of the hall looking towards the living room. The ceiling in the hall here drops lower because of the stairs. This lovely accordion door could be closed if you wanted to hide the kitchen from view. But yeah, that door already bit the dust. No thanks, accordion door!

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The weird little hall to the bedroom is kinda gross, but there’s a big closet at the end. This will end up being my closet because there isn’t actually a closet in the lower floor bedroom. PFffft. Closets. Whatever. So last year.

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The lower floor bedroom will end up being my bedroom. The other two I will be renting out. This room has nice high ceilings, picture railing, and northern light (good for sleeping). It also has a 24″ wide door to Portland’s smallest powder room.

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If you ever wanted to wash your hands while peeing, this bathroom is for you. Your knees literally tuck right under the wall mounted sink. In a bathroom this small, you’d better add 1970’s faux-paneling though. That’s the cherry on top. Truly, it’s precious, vct flooring and all. Plus look! The previous owner left us toilet paper.

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Let’s go into the kitchen. Look at these cabinets! The wallpaper! The old cast iron sink! This room is pretty dim from the roof that’s over the back deck, but I have a quick fix for that. It’s called demo. I wanted to try to keep these cabinets, they’re not in bad shape at all! Two weeks into the house, and I’m not positive they’re salvageable though. The flooring in this room though? The exact same as what my Oma had in her kitchen!

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Here’s a shot of the room that helps with layout. I took this standing on the landing of the stairs that lead to the upper level of the house. Look how cute the glass cabinets are though! SO MUCH POTENTIAL!

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This is one of my favorite details of the house. a little paint, a little crown moulding, and these will be cute cute cute!

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But why talk about the cute when we can talk about the ugly? Let’s go into the bathroom! Space planning these bathrooms was an issue. They’re also located in part of the house that was originally the back porch and it’s only about 54″ wide. So clearly you should put a ginormous bathtub in there, slap sheet vinyl on the floor AND the vanity, paint the walls dark magenta, and buy a pink toilet to match. It’s only right!

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Okay, let’s move on. The stairs! They’re not so bad! I mean the railing is black because it’s apparently NEVER been cleaned, but other than that, they’re quite pretty and not super narrow like most added to this era of home.

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The bedrooms on the second level are both under the eaves and just so cute. They both get fantastic light and are super cozy. And by cozy, I mean hot as balls right now, but you get the picture. The plaster is looking not so great on that back wall because someone plastered over wallpaper, because… well I’ve already said it.

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The closets in this room are a little funky, but that’s just vintage. A little rehab-ing and it will be completely adorable. Look at the gorgeous door though! Five panels!!!! I love it, love it, love it. Also the daisy flower heat register? THERE IS NOTHING MORE CHARMING.

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The other bedroom is where I am currently sweating sleeping, because I’ve given the lower floor bedroom to my parents who are helping me jump start the renovations on this place. Yay! Parents! The closet in here is a little more spacious and a little less funky. The room is a sweat sweet blue color that will be great in the fall or whenever Oregon decides to no longer be 100+ degrees. It’s just a tad hot at the moment. But my tried and true method of sleeping with a washcloth full of ice is doing the trick.

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And that’s it! That’s the house! I can’t wait to share all that I’ve been up to in the last few weeks and all that I’ve been dreaming about starting in the months to come. Get ready for oversharing and lots of learning experiences. Like this one for instance: I recently learned that I look like this after spending 3 hours moving bricks in 100° heat.

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I promise, give me a few months and this house will be almost as beautiful as that face. If that’s even possible. And if the spiders I keep finding EVERYWHERE don’t eat me first. Only time will tell!

Oh! And I named the house. Or I named the property. I am a total nerd, but I’ve always loved when people named their homes. This place is officially named Berrybrier. I’ll get into all the reasons later, but a good part of the origin starts with that out of control raspberry bush in the backyard!

So what do you think? Am I totally crazy, in over my head? Probably. Did you buy a fixer upper? Have tips for laying brick patios? What is your house called?

 

 

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New Digs in Portland

Get ready to dive in! I am really excited to jump into my new house in Portland. There are lots of budget and rental friendly upgrades to be made here. The layout of the space is great and allows lots of flexibility. You probably saw the beginnings last week in the video house tour I shared. Here are the first pictures of the space right when we moved in. I’m talking the day after the first night we slept here. Prepare for some crazy, for boxes, and cleaning supplies, and general dirtiness. Get pumped for a brain dump of ideas that may or may not manifest! Deep breath. Ready? Let’s go.

When you come into the house through the front door, there is a decent sized entry area. The space opens up into the hall with a small nook immediately to your left. This entry area gets no natural light unless the door is open. The door on the right in the below image is a coat closet. Which makes me feel fancy! Somewhere to hang coats that’s not my bedroom? How novel! You can see someone put a cheap, tape on mirror on the door. I had begun ripping that down before even snapping this pic. One of the weird things about the house is all of the flooring transitions. The entry is sheet vinyl, the hall is luxury vinyl tile and the closet is carpet. The sheet vinyl is original and a previous tenant decided to rip out the carpet that covered the rest of the main space about 5 years ago, replacing it with the LVT. Apparently he decided to leave carpet in the closet. And to leave the carpet sticking out about 1.5 inches from the closet. Picture me rubbing my temples and sighing. That I need to fix. I’d love to get a carpet to help disguise the sheet vinyl in the entry as well and smooth the flooring transition. There’s a boob light in here and I believe that box on the wall is the doorbell.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The little nook is immediately to the left of the door and is recessed back just a couple of feet. The wall on the right is the wall with the entry door. The back wall of the nook unfortunately has an electrical panel on it. I’m considering a few ways to hide it. I have a large 36″wide mirror I’ll be hanging here which will cover half of the panel. Maybe I’ll paint the wall a deep shade of green or even black so the panel recedes into the darkness hiding it from view. Right now, I’d just love to have some sort of console table to stick the mail on and an ottoman to sit on when I put on my shoes. We don’t wear shoes throughout the rest of the house and I have no talent for balancing on one foot while slipping the other into a boot. So really the lack of an ottoman is a safety hazard. Multiple times I’ve slipped on shoes, walked the half-block to the bus and tied the shoes on my way into work. I’m just classy like that.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Once you come inside the house you’re greeted by a long skinny hallway with lots and lots of doors. The first door on the left is the coat closet, the second door (the pocket door) on the left is a little half bath, and the third door on the left (the bifold doors) is the laundry. On the right is the entry to the garage which has helped to shape this funny architectural foot print. At the far end you can see the slider door to the backyard.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The half bath is a pretty decent size. There’s a nice big window which provides plenty of natural light (something lacking in this home!). The toilet seat has got to go though. I can only take so much faux wood! The sheet vinyl floor has water damage stains which will hopefully disappear under a small rug. The blinds work great though.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The other side of the powder room has a pretty big built-in vanity. Excuse the mop, again we were cleaning everything! The towel ring is well located and I don’t mind the Hollywood lights above the mirror. The vanity top is green laminate that I can definitely make work. A little art and a rug and this room will be pretty much complete.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Further down the hall we have the laundry nook. Three cheers for on site laundry!! Lugging clothes around is not my favorite. The laundry came with a small shelf which I’ll probably replace with two more sturdy ones; this guy is bowing pretty badly at the center. The washing machine is being supported on one side by a stack of cardboard. I’m going to pretend I never noticed that because I don’t want to address that issue. No thank you! This room is convenient to the kitchen though so it’s become a great place to store cleaning supplies.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The kitchen is pretty 1980’s builder basic. It works just fine. The appliances are newer and work great, a lovely benefit. You’ll notice the flooring switches back to sheet vinyl in here as well as in the laundry and powder rooms. It’s a bit crazy! The kitchen is kind of dark since there are no windows. We pretty much always have the lights on when we’re in here. Which is often true for any kitchen, I suppose, as you need lots of light to cook. There are three of the same white boob light in this room. This light repeats in our bedrooms, the bonus room, the hallways, etc. The builder clearly liked it (or it’s pricetag!) a lot.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

When you reach the end of the long hall from the front door you look over the dining area and straight out the back slider. Usually we don’t display our handheld vacuum like this, but we pretty much owed it a golden throne after all the cleaning it did on the week we moved it! Those curtains are gone now. They made the room seem a lot darker. Because the back of the house faces east and has a few large leafy trees, the house is pretty dark overall. Optimal natural light inside comes between 10 am and noon… right when I’m never home. Whomp, whomp, whomp. Taking down the dark curtains allowed a lot more light to stream in and really lightened up the space. I’m considering replacing the curtains with white ones on brass rods hung higher and wider than these are, but I’m not completely sold on the idea of white curtains on white walls yet. And yes, I think I’m leaving the walls white since painting once now and again when we move out would be so much work! The white isn’t bad, just… white.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The main living space is actually pretty big, but unfortunately the same tenant who installed the LVT floors decided half of the living space should be a faux wood laminate (Are you drinking every time I mention faux wood laminate on this blog yet? You’ll be drunk soon, I promise!). It looks pretty decent, but it chops the space up. Boy, is the laminate easier to clean than that LVT though! Fewer cracks, smoother surface, my vacuum runs right over it. The living area has a big opening to the kitchen which allows us to chat with guests or each other while we cook. The bar height counter extends about 8 inches which would be barely enough to have people sitting there on stools. The window mirrors the slider doors and gives the space some symmetry.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Once you turn towards the right you can see how all the spaces open up to each other. The closer wall at the end of the kitchen is recessed about 2 feet from the other wall, randomly, making the closer half of the kitchen shorter than the half with the refrigerator. The laminate ends just under half way along that wall, but 1.5 feet to the right of it… it’s very strange. We’ve decided to permanently leave all these boxes here to cover up the transition. Kidding! Kidding! Sort of… Anywho, the third type of flooring on this floor is the carpet on the stairs. It’s original I think… and gross. The landlord is talking about replacing it with laminate down the line.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

There’s a window in the stairwell. It faces north and is a bit lower than the half-wall that serves as a railing on the second floor. That half-wall (here on the right) thus blocks a lot of the light from streaming into the bonus room. Which is why the next few photos are so heavily edited!

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

At the top of the stairs is the bonus room! We have a small counter and another closet! I’m dubbing this closet the craft closet. I can’t wait to fill it with all sorts of paints and canvases and sewing things. The room is pretty big, so – as I said in the video – we plan on putting a futon bed and a desk in here. That huge, flat box is the futon frame. The faux wood laminate wood work capping the half wall is chipped slightly in the corner. Any ideas for hiding that which don’t involve paint?

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If we turn towards the left, we get the little hall to my room. There’s another closet on the left which we’re using for linens and camping supplies; to the right is the door to the main bathroom. You can see old shower curtain rod in the foreground, which I removed pretty darn quickly and replaced with one from Target, whose box you can see in this same picture.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The bathroom was pretty basic when we moved in and I immediately removed the rod and replaced it, hanging up the shower curtain from the Berkeley Bungalow in the process. I’m not positive it will get to stay in here though. The gold of the curtain clashes with the blue and red flecked (purple) laminate counters. I’ve also tucked a kitty box by the toilet.

Finally, there’s my bedroom! My room gets a bit more light than the living area since it’s on the second story. You walk in and there are closets to the left side and an off center window on the wall in front of you. Since you see this view from the bonus room and it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the room, I will have to find a new place for the hamper and make this view something yummy instead.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

When we first moved in, I slept on the futon mattress until the majority of my belongings came up from California. This part of the room is pretty blank. The vaulted ceiling makes the space seem much larger. It’s really a good sized space. Oh, and yes, that is an upside down clear storage box I used as a nightstand. And yes the futon is just in the middle of the room.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The wall across from what will be the bed wall has all the closets! Yay for tons of closet space! Maybe the hamper will even fit in there if I reorganize a bit. It’s a lot of closet directly across from the bed though, which is not exactly an ideal view (especially considering I’m bad at closing the doors!). The alternative would be to have the bed face the window, with the headboard against the wall where my phone charger is plugged in above. But as much as that view would be great, I much prefer the symmetry underneath the ceiling vault.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Because my roommate’s room is her private space and I won’t be sharing it on the blog, this concludes the house tour! Welcome to the Duplex! I can’t wait to share where we’re at now and all the little transformations I have planned for the future!

 

Radio Silence – No More!

I haven’t posted in a long time. Too long! What have I been up to? SO MANY BIG THINGS. I’ve been crazy busy in all the best ways. I got a new job at the beginning on June – a new job in Portland, Oregon! So I finished up my last few weeks in Oakland, packed everything I owned, bought a car, and moved 10 1/2 hours North! Then less than 12 hours after I arrived in my new home town, I started my new job. In the past couple months I’ve been getting to know Portland better, making new friends, and staying really busy. This move has been so wonderful and I can honestly say, I’ve never been so happy in my entire life. I wanted to blog, to share all the details, but I kept getting caught up in life. Now I am once again more settled and can’t wait to get back into the swing of things!

So, new job, new city, new home! I made a video tour of the house right before we moved in, just to share with you all! Here’s the lay of the land at the house I’ve lovingly dubbed “The Duplex.” Yup, I’ve moved from the gorgeous Berkeley Bungalow and into a 1980’s duplex. The house is complete with all your favorite faux finishes: laminate counters, laminate wood trim, laminate base boards, laminate doors. Basically if it can be made from laminate, this house has it! It’s hilarious. And a challenge. The Berkeley Bungalow barely needed any help. The Duplex is screaming, “HELP ME! SAVE ME!” And I’m here with my paint brush in hand to do just that.

In this video I share the house literally right after we were handed the keys. I unpacked my car of cleaning supplies, helped my roommate bring in her kitchen things, then made this video. I was literally discovering things about the house as I shot the video. Example #1: the main flooring on the first floor. In the video I say it’s ceramic, I talk about how weird it is that it wasn’t grouted. I am a now embarrassed. I’m an interior designer! It’s not ceramic tile, it’s LVT or Luxury Vinyl Tile or Impossible to Clean or Bad For Indoor Air Quality. You pick the name you want to call it. I was totally thrown, because after my then-soon-to-be-roommate toured the Duplex, we asked the landlord what the flooring was and they replied, “ceramic tile.” I believed them for about 36 hours before investigating further and realizing it was most certainly not ceramic. The landlord didn’t know, the LVT fooled her! LVT is tricky that way as manufacturers get better and better at disguising the product as a different higher quality material. Needless to say, it was a disappointing discovery. But, the lease is signed and I’m making the most of it! The LVT and the laminate faux wood flooring were both installed about five years ago by a previous tenant.

At one point I mention the previous tenant’s curtains. I imply I’m thinking of keeping them. I don’t know what I am talking about. Those were goners! I never intended to keep them around (though somehow they did stay for a couple of months). They’re hopefully now in someone else’s home courtesy of Goodwill. The house is much lighter and brighter without them.

Other things? In this video I get really excited about the neighbor’s dog, I mistakenly call a stair rail a “stair ramp,” and generally talk about what’s going on in the new house. So without much more talk, I’ll introduce you to the Duplex:

 

It’s all very exciting over here! I’ll have some pictures of the space and some three month in photos to share in the coming weeks!