Griffin Before & After: The Bathrooms

The bathrooms were a huge part of the 3022 Griffin renovation.

Let’s jump right in and start with the powder room, shall we? It was carpeted, for one thing, and the sink and toilet were way too bulky for the space. We gutted the room, refinished the hardwoods, and found a smaller toilet and sink that fit much better.




Upstairs in the hall bath, we ignored the advice of everyone who told us to get rid of the clawfoot tub and instead had it refinished. We ripped out the tile and installed fresh new white hexagons, installed wainscoting, repositioned the toilet to improve the flow of the space, and found an adorable little pedestal sink that doesn’t interfere with entry into the room. We splurged on a beautiful chrome antique-inspired faucet for the tub. This is Erica’s favorite room in the house.

DSC_0948-2_thumbDSC_1183_thumbDSC_1300_thumbHall Bath

That room was a big project, but nothing compared to the master bath—which didn’t exist when we bought the house. We took a dark, awkward room on the back of the house and converted it into an ensuite bath and laundry closet. This involved tearing up the tiles, refinishing the floors, and installing a new tile shower and large vanity. The room is truly unrecognizable from its original state.


DSC_1083_thumb.jpgDSC_1184_thumbDSC_1304_thumbMaster Bath

Griffin Before & After: The Kitchen


Ah, the kitchen. One of the most cringe-worthy parts of this house, originally. There were the super-shallow, avocado green wood cabinets. The beautiful but hard-to-access corner sink. The weird layout. The almost-nonexistent counter space. This is the room that took the largest part of our budget and time.

We completely rewired and replumbed the space. Ripped up the green tiles and refinished the hardwoods underneath. Installed new drywall. And then we installed the cabinets, counters, backsplash, and fixtures ourselves. Would we do that again? Maybe, maybe not. But we are very proud of the transformation and grateful to the family members who helped us make it happen.

DSC_0935_thumbDSC_0936_thumbDSC_1177_thumbDSC_1293_thumbKitchen 2

Griffin Before & After: The Exterior

Front 2

The day we’ve been impatiently waiting for is finally here: Listing Day!

It’s been a long, long time since we started this journey on a frigid December day. We had more than a few people act like we were crazy for taking on a major renovation project, but we saw the potential in this house from Day 1 and we couldn’t wait to bring it back to life. We had some surprises along the way, and it took much (much) longer than expected, but we learned a lot and we’re excited to do it again.

When we bought it, the Griffin House was hiding behind a cluster of prickly, deep-rooted bushes. Todd worked hard to remove them with the help of a few friends, and we replaced them with sculptural grasses, purple-hued bushes, and rosebushes. The exterior got some new shingles, a new door, and a fresh coat of paint with a subtle green tint. The backyard got some love too with a lot of cleanup (so many leaves!), a privacy fence, tree-trimming, and repairs to the shed.

She looks a little different, wouldn’t you say?





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What Wows You? The Little Things


As we’re finishing up the big things on the renovation—the electric, plumbing, floors, painting, etc.—we’re starting to turn our attention to the smaller details we hope will impress potential buyers. Sometimes the smallest features can make a home stand out. For us, things like antique-style crystal doorknobs, soft-closing drawers, and an ice-maker on the fridge helped win us over.

We knew when we started the renovation that we’d be budgeting a bit for these details, and we’ve been brainstorming a list of things we plan to include. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

  • A smart thermostat (likely a Nest)
  • USB-compatible outlets
  • Dual-flush toilets
  • Under-cabinet lighting
  • 6-burner gas stove

So what are we missing? What are some smaller features that help a home stand out in your mind? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Finding Fixtures: Balancing Vintage Style with Modern Needs


via Simply Grove

In our own extensive real estate browsing, we’ve noted how light fixtures can have a huge impact on the feel of the space, so we knew we had to get them right. Cheap, outdated fixtures can really bring down the look of a place, while attractive fixtures, carefully chosen to fit each room, can be a major focal point. We worked hard to find light fixtures that fit the home’s historic vibe while giving an occasional dash of modern style—and fitting within our budget. Because as much as we’d love to outfit the whole house in Schoolhouse Electric lights, that’s just not in the cards.

Here are a few of our finalists that fit the bill for being attractive, functional and affordable. Obviously, we didn’t use them all in the reno—you’ll have to wait for the “after” pictures to see which ones we chose!

Department of the Exterior: Outside Improvements

We’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning up the exterior of the house and building a new privacy fence for the backyard. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane: This is what the house looked like when we first bought it:


It was hiding behind lots and lots of old bushes, plus the home’s original wood screens and lattice were deteriorating badly. We debated just a bit before deciding to pull out all of the bushes, and we’re so glad we did—it really opens up the yard. Here’s how it looks now:


As you can see, we also changed up the lattice under the porch. We’d seen a similar treatment on other homes in the neighborhood, and we liked how it gave them a little more modern look without going overboard. Once it’s painted black (along with the porch floor), it’ll match well with the house numbers and light fixture we’ve chosen, which are both a bit more modern as well. The style of this house is very versatile, which makes details like these fun to play with. Here’s a better look at the fence, which has totally transformed the big backyard of this great corner lot:



We’re not quite done with the exterior yet. We’ve been waiting for a stretch of sunny days to get the house pressure-washed and the trim painted, and once that’s done we can do some landscaping and add our new fixtures. We also got a more period-appropriate front door that will bring some sunlight into the foyer—I just have to decide what color to paint it. Red? Cobalt? Something else? We’ll keep you posted.

Laying the Groundwork: A Very Messy House Update


If you’re wondering why we haven’t posted in awhile, the answer is simple: Because the house is currently in shambles. Our contractors have been hard at work doing all the nitty gritty details like upgrading the electric and plumbing, installing new HVAC and removing the radiators, and framing out new closets and the master bath. It’s not pretty work, but it’s the most important part of this renovation project.

The Kitchen. 
HVAC going in in the dining room.
Upstairs hall bath
Framing in the master bath/laundry closet
Todd and Matthew are slowly pulling out the old bushes.

The contractors still have quite a bit of work to do by our March 31 deadline (yeah—they’re really pushing it). Here’s what’s left for them to do:

  • Tile the bathrooms and install sinks/toilets/showers
  • Drywall the upstairs ceilings
  • Paint the exterior
  • Finish the electric/plumbing/HVAC
  • Refinishing the hardwood floors
  • And a bunch of other stuff

Once they’re done, we can take over. Here’s what’s on our punch list:

  • Painting the interior
  • Installing light fixtures
  • Building privacy fence
  • Installing the kitchen (that’s a biggie)
  • Landscaping

Who wants to come help??

Tips for Choosing a General Contractor


I wish I could say that Todd and I are doing this entire renovation ourselves, but we’re smart enough to know our limits. Besides the fact that we both have demanding full-time jobs, neither of us are the handiest people in the world, so we knew we needed to hire a general contractor to manage the bulk of the work.

Turns out, that’s a little easier said than done. Having never worked with a contractor before, we weren’t even sure where to start looking for one. We also didn’t know how to make sure we were choosing the right one—especially considering that we are essentially putting our investment in his hands, not to mention giving him a big chunk of our funds. Luckily, we learned some things along the way. Here are our tips for finding a contractor, whether you’re doing a small project in your home or a full-scale renovation.

Ask for references. We started out by asking our realtor for some recommendations. Because we specifically chose to work with a real estate firm that’s familiar with home renovations, they had quite a few good contenders in their rolodex. It was a great place to start.

Do your own research. We didn’t want to just blindly take the advice of others without seeing what else was out there, so we did some investigating of our own as well. I looked at local “best of” lists, Houzz, and just browsed Google for sites that appealed to me.

Get multiple quotes. A good contractor will put a lot of effort into creating a thorough quote for your project, and at times I felt guilty for asking potential contractors to spend so much time on something when we might not hire them. But remember: This is how they sell themselves. It’s all part of the process. Get at least three quotes so you can compare them and choose one that works for you.

Don’t automatically choose the lowest quote. We had one contractor who came in with a quote about $25,000 above our budget. But when we told him that we were thinking of going with someone else, he magically dropped it $20K, then another $10K. The price was right, but we felt like he had given us the runaround, and we questioned how much we could trust him.

Find someone who’s comfortable with your type of project. We are renovating a historic home, and it was important to us that we found a contractor who was aware of the needs of this kind of project. One guy seemed perplexed by many standard features of the home, as if he’d never been in an old house before—immediate rejection. Another suggested doing away with several historic features. Nope.

Go with your gut. You’re going to be working closely with this person for several weeks or even months. You really should like them and trust them. If something about them rubs you the wrong way—whether they seem condescending or dishonest or inexperienced—then don’t feel bad about eliminating them from the running. Do your research, trust your instincts, and you’ll find someone to help you get the job done.


Great News for the Neighborhood


When we were hunting for a house to renovate, we always took into account the surrounding homes. Were they in good shape? Were any being renovated? Had any recently sold? For the Griffin house, we were encouraged by a home that had recently sold for an above-average price on the next block, and another that was undergoing a full renovation two doors down.

As we’ve started our own renovation, we’ve watched the house at 3018 Griffin come to completion and hit the market. The renovator, a local realtor, did a great job of maintaining the home’s historical integrity while still giving it a beautifully modern look. He priced it much higher than we expected—$324,950—and we held our breath to see when and if it would sell.

We didn’t have to wait long. The house sold within a day, for above asking price. This is good news for the person who put so much care into this renovation, and very encouraging news for us! Check out all the photos of the house here.

In related news, Zillow recently ranked Richmond as the fourth hottest housing market in the country for 2016.

Demo Days


After receiving a few quotes from contractors, we realized we could shave thousands of dollars off of our renovation costs by doing most of the demolition work ourselves. The last few weeks have been spent pulling up tile, toilets, walls, wallpaper, and more. I’ve got to give credit to Todd, who has done the vast majority of the work himself. (Apparently, he enjoys it.)

kitchen before after.jpg

The kitchen was the biggest demo project. We tore out the giant wooden cabinets, appliances, the sink (saved for later), and part of the walls to make it easier for the electrician to install new wiring. We also pulled up the tile floor when we realized there are wood floors underneath. We’re hoping to restore these, seal them, and keep them for a cohesive look throughout the house.

DSC_0956-2_thumbDSC_1087-2_thumb.jpgNext up, Todd and Erica’s step-brother Matthew tore up the ceramic tile in the upstairs bathroom and found… more tile! This second layer will be nearly impossible to get up, so our contractor suggested that we just tile over it. (We’re thinking of going with something vintage-looking, like this.) And yes, we’re refinishing and keeping the clawfoot tub. We’ll also be installing wainscoting to cover up a thick tile-like wallpaper.


This room may not look like much (in fact, a friend affectionately dubbed it “the murder room”), but this will be the site of one of our biggest projects in the house. Because it’s not really usable as a bedroom (there’s no closet), we’ll be transforming this into a master bathroom, upstairs laundry, and storage space.


We were beyond thrilled to find wood floors under the brown tile. We’re thinking of leaving the wood floors in the master bath rather than tile over them. Thoughts on wood floors in a bathroom? (Here’s an example of a local reno that I loved.)


Also, under the weird orange fabric wallpaper, we found even weirder greenish paint and several layers of wallpaper. Look closely and you can see the tape where we’ve mapped out the double vanity and laundry closet.

With that, most of the demo is done and we’re just waiting to start working with our contractor in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we’ll be shopping for fun things like light fixtures, faucets, and paint colors. Stay tuned!