OSBP At Home: Our New House + How We Got Here

And now, a little introduction to our not-so-new house! Aside from Sophie, my marriage, and my business, the house consumes more of my time and energy than anything else, some of it good and some of it really stressful. I’ve already talked a little bit about our plans for the front and back gardens and my office, but I thought it might be best if I shared the layout of our house, a few photos, and the story of how this became our house before delving into the subject any further.


Not our house, but our neighborhood / Photo via The WIHN

Before we bought our home, we were in our third year of happily renting the second floor 2 BR/ 1 BA apartment of a rowhouse in Capitol Hill. It wasn’t a huge apartment and Sophie’s nursery was only slightly bigger than a closet, but the layout worked for us, the rent was affordable, and we really really loved our neighborhood. We figured we could make it work for a little while longer. But in early December 2012, our landlords asked us to move out so they could ostensibly renovate the building. I didn’t want to rent again, so we got in touch with a realtor.


Our old front door / Photo by me via Instagram

What followed was two incredibly draining and discouraging months of house hunting. Capitol Hill is one of DC’s most competitive housing markets, so we knew that we weren’t going to find our dream house in our price range, but we barely found anything at all. Houses beyond our budget came on the market only to go under contract two days later, and houses within our budget required extensive renovations that in reality pushed them out of our budget. We put in two offers on houses that we didn’t really love, neither of which were successful. We started to look at other neighborhoods, but nothing jumped out at us as worth leaving the Hill.


Our new mailbox / Photo by me via Instagram

When we visited our house for the first time, we didn’t love it right away but we didn’t hate it either. It had the bare minimum of what we were looking for (two bedrooms, close to a metro station) and it was in our price range, but it also needs lots of updates and was missing two things that I really wanted in a house: a finished basement and central air conditioning. We figured this was probably the best that we were going to be able to afford in Capitol Hill, so we put in an offer anyway and it was accepted a few days later. Here’s the layout of the house, just so you don’t get lost on the tour:


Downstairs // Upstairs

Totally not to scale (click to enlarge)

Our home is a typical long and narrow DC rowhouse. It was built in 1923, with an addition that we think was added to the back of the house in the 1950s. Our house is not a grand Victorian like the homes in the top photo, but is probably closest to a basic Federal style rowhouse. The house is fairly small at 1200 square feet. It has two bedrooms (one of which I’m using as my office), a den that we’re currently using as our bedroom, and one and a half bathrooms. Please note, all the photos of our house below are from the MRIS listing of our house and feature the arrangements of a staging company. Apologies in advance for all the small images!

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When you enter the house, you step straight into the living room. The living room is narrow and much smaller than the living room in our previous apartment (sigh). We’re still trying to figure out the best layout and seating arrangement, particularly for entertaining. We’re planning to do built-ins along the wall with the shelves, and if we stay in the house long term we’d love to remove the wall between the living room and kitchen to add an eat-in peninsula and open the space up even more.

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The kitchen! This room frustrates me probably more than any other room in the house. We knew right away that it definitely wasn’t our taste, but after living here for a while we’ve also learned that the layout is very awkward and there is a lot of wasted space despite the large room size. The sink and stove are practically adjacent to each other, which means we don’t have much counter space for food preparation. The floor needs to be leveled (it slopes down towards the middle of the room) and the laminate flooring shows every speck of dust and cat hair. Oh, and see the gray backsplash? Yeah, that would be corrugated cardboard made to look like tin tiles glued directly to the brick walls and running behind all of the upper cabinets and appliances. Awesome. Any talented kitchen designers out there looking for a challenge?? I don’t even know where to start with this room.

OSBP-at-Home-MRIS-Dining-Room2 OSBP-at-Home-MRIS-Dining-Room

Moving on! The staging company made the room behind the kitchen look like a dining room, but we were able to fit our little four-person dining table in the kitchen. Since this room also contains our washer and dryer (hidden in the closet on the right) we use it mostly as a laundry/storage/cat room. There is also a half bath in the corner opposite the laundry machines (left).

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Outside! After 10 years of living in apartments without any real outdoor space, our little backyard is one of my favorite features of the whole house. I love that there are areas for both entertaining and gardening. We’d eventually like to tear down the weird and unfinished little rear entrance (left) and build a pergola over the back entrance. And hey, a garage! That was a nice surprise, as these are pretty rare on the Hill. There is a small unfinished storage/workplace above the garage. And I’d eventually like to replace the makeshift wood stairs (right, and so not up to code) with an iron spiral staircase.

OSBP-at-Home-MRIS-Upstairs-Hallway OSBP-at-Home-MRIS-Bathroom

Heading upstairs (from the living room), there is a small landing and the only full bathroom in the house. The photo above doesn’t even capture the craziness of that bathroom, which is another room we’re planning to gut and start from scratch. The shower is tiled with some sort of slate floor tile (maybe this?), which I’m pretty sure isn’t meant for bathrooms because it’s starting to crumble each time we take a shower and there is water leaking into the walls. We’re hoping to tackle the bathroom in the very near future!

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This is the den on the second floor. The previous owners filled the room with wall-to-wall Ikea Pax closet units and essentially used it as a dressing room. We removed most of the Pax units and currently use it as our bedroom. It’s a small room, but it works for now. Above you can see the original exterior wall of the house (right) with a funny little window into the back room.

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The two official bedrooms. On the left is the back room that I’m currently using as my office. The room on the right is located at the front of the house and is now Sophie’s nursery. Both have come a long way since we moved in and probably feel the most “finished” of all the rooms in the house.

So that’s our tiny little house! As I said in my new year goal post, it’s good enough but not exactly what we were looking for in a home. Most days I feel really overwhelmed by everything that we both need and want to do to this house. But I’m trying to be more chill about things and I’m hopeful that I’ll feel better once we get a few small projects out of the way. I think our biggest regret is purchasing a house without a finished basement. We really need a separate area for the cats outside of our living space, much less right next to the kitchen, and I would do almost anything for a dedicated laundry room. We have an unfinished half basement under the rear part of the house that contains our furnace and water heater, and if we decide to stay here long term we could theoretically dig out and finish the basement. But that’s a huge project that would involve a second mortgage-like loan, so there are several giant question marks next to that idea.

In the meantime, there are plenty of things to keep us busy around the house, from cosmetic improvements and electrical and plumbing updates inside to painting the exterior and working on the garden outside. Considering it took me nine months just to share the MRIS photos from our house, I am obviously not a home blogger, but I’ll do my best to share updates along the way!

I’ll be back to regular content next week – and we have a cocktail recipe coming up later this afternoon! Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday! xoxo

Sophie Style: Nursery Decor

When we moved into our house back in March, we made sure to unpack and set up Sophie’s nursery as quickly as possible. We already had Sophie’s crib, a dresser and glider, and the ubiquitous Expedit for additional storage, but we didn’t do much else other than plop some furniture into the room. So while the room is functional, it’s far from finished – or really decorated in any meaningful way. We haven’t even painted! I’ve settled on this card from Rifle Paper Co. as my color inspiration for Sophie’s room, with neutral light gray walls, a mint green ceiling, and accents of pink, coral, teal, yellow, and gold. I have lots of artwork on the way for the walls (more on that soon!), but I’m excited to incorporate some fun new elements into the room – and to paint her bedroom door pink!


1. Rifle Paper Co.; 2. Geometric garlands from Land of Nod; 3. Anthropologie curtains (from a past season and sadly no longer available); 4. Ferm Living wallstickers; 5. Anthropologie hooks; 6. Task lamp from PBTeen; 7. Benjamin Moore paint colors Flamingo’s Dream, Alaskan Husky, Cool Mint; 8. Land of Nod nightstand; 9. pink door (if you know the image source, please let me know!)

{images via their respective sources}

OSBP At Home: In the Office

I’m taking a quick break from NSS recaps today – but not to worry, I’ll pick up again next week the remaining booths! Now that the Stationery Show is over, I’m hoping to turn more of my attention to getting our house in order, starting with my office! We’ve done very little since we moved in, aside from planting our backyard garden, but now that I have a bit more time for other activities I’m anxious to make the inside of our home more comfortable.

OSBP At Home: Office Inspiration

1. El Mueble; 2. BHG; 3. Emily Henderson4. Design Sponge; 5. Stadshem; 6. Lundia

Out of all the rooms in the house, my office will most likely require the least work – no crazy tiles to remove (more on that later), plumbing or electrical changes, or fixtures to change. Just paint, maaaaaybe wallpaper one accent wall, move some furniture around, and get to work! It will be so nice to have a calm little oasis inside the house while the rest of the rooms remain in various states of transition.

OSBP At Home: Office Resources

7. Desk; 8. Filing cabinet; 9. Martha Stewart Cement Gray Paint + Oh Joy! wallpaper; 10. Parsons bookcase; 11. Linda + Harriett quilt calendar; 12. Semikolon storage boxes

I already have most of the furniture for my office, it just needs to be arranged in a way that actually works for the room. My husband built me a desk last summer that is similar to the one above – I love it so much! I already have these CB2 filing cabinets, along with an Ikea Alex drawer unit and a (now discontinued) Effective cabinet to hide my printer and unsightly accessories. The Parsons bookcase will hold my magazine collection and books, along with some brightly colored boxes that serve as my stationery library. Most of the walls will be painted in my favorite shade of gray, but I’ve been dying for an excuse to use Joy’s wallpaper somewhere in the house – the office might be the perfect place! Finally, I can’t wait to hang my favorite prints and calendars around the office!

{images via their respective sources}

OSBP at Home: In the Garden

It’s been a few weeks since we moved to our new house, and although we’re still not completely unpacked I have lots of house-related things on the brain as I dream about all the updates and improvements I’d love to make to our home. I hope you won’t mind if I share some of my thoughts with you from time to time? And since spring has firmly arrived here in DC, I thought I’d start with my plans for our outdoor spaces!

Oh So Beautiful Paper at Home: Garden Inspiration (3)

1. Patio; 2. Rain Spout Trellis; 3. Foundation Garden; 4. Foundation Garden; 5. Camellias; 6. Herb Garden

Outdoor space wasn’t a high priority when we first started looking for houses, but somehow ended up with a house with a bit of green space in both the front and back! Our back yard is more of a patio with a large area of paver stones and a smaller space for planting, but it should be more than enough for my limited gardening skills. We’re planning to fill our space with some of our favorite flowers and shrubs, including lilacs, English garden roses, peonies, and hellebores. I’m also hoping to train a few vines (I’m thinking jasmine and clematis) around the yard and perhaps even create some narrow raised beds for herbs and select veggies along the fence. My goal is to create a colorful and fragrant little oasis for eating and grilling outdoors during warm weather months.

Oh So Beautiful Paper at Home: Garden Inspiration (2)

TOP ROW: Roses, Peonies, Lilacs

BOTTOM ROW: Phlox, Jasmine, Hellebores

In our front yard, the previous owners left us a mystery rosebush (I can’t wait to see what color blooms emerge soon!) against the foundation and some wonderfully fragrant lavender closer to the sidewalk, but there are some bare patches to fill. The front yard receives lots of direct sunlight in the morning, so I’m thinking of doing pretty spring-blooming phlox next to the lavender and a colorful foundation garden under the mystery roses. The yard in front of our old apartment was completely shaded by a giant old maple tree, so I’m excited to have a full sun area to dig into!

Are any of you planning new garden projects for spring?

Quick Pick: Curious & Co. Home Prints

I’ve always tried to make my rental apartments as home-like as possible, but now that I’m preparing to purchase our very first home I’m stepping into a whole new realm of decisions and possibilities. I can’t wait to invest in a few things to really make it our own! I’m also loving the sentiment behind these prints from the ladies of Curious & Co. – a perfect reminder for what really makes a house a home.

Curious & Co. Home Prints via Oh So Beautiful Paper (4) Curious & Co. Home Prints via Oh So Beautiful Paper (3)

Curious & Co. Home Prints via Oh So Beautiful Paper (1) Curious & Co. Home Prints via Oh So Beautiful Paper (2)

Curious & Co. Home Prints via Oh So Beautiful Paper (6) Curious & Co. Home Prints via Oh So Beautiful Paper (5)

Available at Curious & Co.!

p.s. Curious & Co. is offering Oh So Beautiful Paper readers a 10% discount to all orders orders placed by 11:59pm EST on February 28 – just enter “OSBP” at checkout!

Photo Credits: Curious & Co.