We’ve been doing lots of home projects recently, but I haven’t shared much of our progress – mostly because I feel a huge amount of self-imposed pressure to make everything “perfect” before I share it. Between the Instagram highlight reel and Pinterest aspiration, it feels like every image should be perfectly finished and styled when I share it publicly. But that’s just silly! I love it when home bloggers share the not-so-pretty progress posts along with the finished product. Plus it’s fun to get a peek behind the curtain and know that our lives aren’t 100% perfectly curated. Besides, my house will never be perfect. As much as I love my home, it’s a tight squeeze for four people, there are kid toys everywhere, not enough storage, and I wish we got about 200% more natural light than is even remotely possible for a 1920s row house. But we’ve done a lot of work on our home, and I’m really proud of how far we’ve come. So today I’m partnering with SunTrust Mortgage to share one of my favorite spaces in our home: our backyard!
The funny part is that a backyard wasn’t even on our list of must-haves when we bought our home, but has turned out to be a saving grace when it comes to our two very young children. There is enough room to hang out and entertain, space for our girls to play, and a couple of small gardening areas that have become my own personal happy place. And even though we aren’t 100% done with the space, we love spending time together as a family out here!
Owning a home is a huge financial and personal milestone. I remember feeling just so overwhelmed when we first started looking for homes, from the mortgage pre-approval process to writing an offer to the home inspection process. We put in several offers on other homes just to be seriously outbid, and many of the homes that were theoretically within our budget would have required major work that we just couldn’t afford. Knowing our budget limitations ahead of time really helped us stay on track. SunTrust Mortgage has a team of experts that are committed to helping future homeowners find a mortgage that fits their life. SunTrust provides the resources and tools to help inform borrowers who aspire to become homeowners or are looking for their next home. Understanding the process helps build confidence! Click here for more information and to download your guide to buying a home!
When we first started looking to buy a home, our “must-have” list was actually pretty simple: all we wanted was to find a single family home with at least two bedrooms and stay in our beloved (but very competitive) Capitol Hill neighborhood. Beyond that, we had to be really flexible! We had a very strict budget, so we quickly discovered that we needed to let go any dreams of a third bedroom, along with central air conditioning, or a finished basement. When we saw our current home for the first time, it met our very minimal must-have list, so we put in an offer right away. The interior had been updated a little bit, there were two nice size bedrooms, a good size kitchen (by DC standards), and it kept us in our neighborhood! The interior design wasn’t exactly our style, but the location made it totally worth it to look beyond the current aesthetics to see the potential in our little home. Plus, it came a major bonus hadn’t been on our list: a backyard (with a garage!). The backyard looked a little different back then, so we had to use our imagination a bit to envision all of its potential. Here’s a little before and after for you!
The before: A dark rear entrance cover that leaked and was unfinished on the inside, and made it really difficult to use the outdoor space effectively. No gate on the stairs to our unfinished basement (hence all the potted plants to block my kids from falling down there). And some super scary, dangerous stairs up to the unfinished attic above our garage that took up a ton of space.
After: Goodbye entrance cover, hello wisteria-covered pergola! And yay for a gate blocking the basement stairs! We also removed the scary stairs and replaced it with a wood ladder, although we still need to add a hand rail along the sides.
We originally bought our home in Spring 2013 – so we’ve been here just over four years! During those four years, we’ve tried to tackle one big home project each year. Each project has given us an opportunity to add more of our style to our home and build on the potential we saw at the very beginning. Our first year in the home, we added built-in bookcases to our living room to give us some much-needed storage. The second year, we had Alice – so no home projects! In 2015, we embarked on our bathroom renovation. In 2016, we removed a weird little structure over our rear entrance and built a pergola in its place, which has dramatically improved our ability to use the space. And earlier this year, we finally had central air conditioning installed in our home! Yay! It’s definitely the biggest investment we’ve made so far in our home, but it’s soooooo worth it to finally have a temperature controlled home in the hot and humid DC summers! A kitchen renovation is next on my list if we can figure out a way to swing it.
Back to the backyard! We spend a lot more time out here since we added the pergola last year, and it’s so wonderful to have a space for the girls to play while we drink our morning coffee or run around in the sprinkler on hot summer days. We even hosted the girls’ birthday party in our backyard last year! We keep a bucket of chalk by the back door, a mini trampoline and water table outside during the warm months, and frequently bring a play tent outside to turn the backyard into their mobile playroom. We also love watching for birds (we spotted a cardinal last week!) or looking through the garden for our resident preying mantis.
Even with all the progress in the backyard, we still aren’t 100% done out here. One of our boundary fences (which we share with our neighbor on the southern edge of our property) is rotting and needs to be replaced. I’d also love to add some sort of door to the garage – maybe a sliding barn door that we could use to close off the garage when we have company? We’ll get there eventually. In the meantime, you can usually find me out here tending to the flowers or hanging out with my girls.
Photo Credits: before/after photos by Nole Garey, all other images by Yetta Reid Photography
This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust Mortgage. All opinions are my own. At SunTrust Mortgage, we make it a priority to learn all about your unique circumstances. Confidence starts with a conversation. Talk with a SunTrust Mortgage expert today.