Hey there, 2021!!!

Happy New Year!!!! It’s literally my FAVORITE time of year! And never have I ever been more excited to see January 1!!! After one of the most difficult years for everyone on planet Earth, I wish you could see the biggest, goofiest grin on my face right now while I’m typing. I’m always overwhelmed with gratitude for the fresh start each new year brings but ESPECIALLY this year. Right now, where I stand, the possibilities are endless and I haven’t done anything to mess it up… so far.

So anyway, I thought it would be fun to review the hopefulness of last year’s goals and resolutions to see what, if anything, I was actually able to accomplish. I am going to spare you all 10 sections of my typed 8 page 2020 goals and resolutions and simply zone in on the SBH section for this blog:

2020 Storybook Homes Goals and Resolutions

  • Blog post every other week.
    • I just counted and there was a total of 10 blogs published in 2020 so I’m going to call this a miss.
  • Social Media post weekly.
    • This seemed soooo doable, but again was a total miss. I just can not seem to remember to stop working long enough to take a picture. That’s why, mid year last year, I brought my friend Sarah Henry on board to help with the social media and blogging. When she came onboard the tone of the blogs elevated, the frequency of the social posts tripled, and my guilt of never posting was lifted. But alas, she had to go and get a big girl job and, understandably, her creative energies needed to shift to her classroom and away from SBH for awhile. But I’m not letting her get away completely, once she is fully settled into the teaching world I plan to lure her back on a very part time basis with maybe special projects over the summer.
  • Grow Instagram and Facebook to 5K followers.
    • Nope. Thanks to Sarah I know that I did grow significantly in both categories last year but neither platform has hit that goal… yet.
  • Update Website.
    • I’m going to give myself a “kinda” on this one. I did switch my blogging platform from blogger to wordpress last year and dropped the cheesy @blogspot.com web address for a more sophisticative and easier to find storybookrenovations.com but it still could use quite a bit of attention. But again-time.
  • Complete 3 flips.
  • 2 Custom Client Projects.
    • YES!! In fact, I completed 3 (2 bathrooms and 1 Master Suite) and started another HUGE one in 2020. I also started offering design consultations in 2020.
  • December off.
    • No, Sadly I had more projects going December 2020 then I have ever had in my career.

So 1.5 out of 6……hmm….. I know I should probably be disappointed but when I look at the goals I achieved (or almost achieved) vs those I didn’t, I realize where I fell short was the “story” side of the business but if I think about all the people who are now starting their 2021 in their newly renovated house I feel I delivered on the “home” side of Storybook Homes and really that’s what this business is all about.

So before I officially say goodbye to 2020 I want to share some picture highlights from 2020 projects:

From the Oliver Shotgun:

This was my second new construction project and I was thrilled with how this house jumped from my sketch pad to real life:

Every square inch of this thoughtfully planned out 1215 sq foot home is usable space, including the upper cabinets stretching to the 10 ft ceilings thanks to the….. LIBRARY LADDER!!!

This project allowed me to scratch “do library ladder” off my bucket list.

I also kinda loved the eating nook with that light!:

But perhaps the biggest highlight of this project for me was getting to know her new home owner. She was brand new to Conway when she moved in and since then has become a good friend to me, a cheerleader for Storybook Renovations, and an active member of the downtown community. A true treasure to her neighborhood.

Next up on our highlight tour is a never before seen renovation. I am so proud of how this one turned out that I asked special permission from my private client to show you a few before and after pics of this master suite renovation. So here ya go:

Before: Master Bathroom

Not bad at all! Just didn’t function how my client wished. She also had a nice size master bedroom:

During the renovation we simply rearranged the space to give her a nice soaker tub and relocated the potty to it’s own private space on the other side of the bathroom.

And we expanded her Master bedroom into a smaller room to give her a spacious master closet.

In addition to her Master bedroom we also did a refresh on the entire upstairs of her home. After we wrapped up this renovation, the homeowner extended this new style to the remaining areas of her home. She sent me pictures of a few of the projects she tackled and Wow, her home is beautiful! Aaaaaand a little birdy told me that this home “might” be for sale very soon. So if you like what you see, keep your eyes out on the local real estate pages.

This year, I began this new thing! In addition to the master suite just mentioned, I decided to take on some other “select” client projects…because why not? 2020!! There has been interest for quite some time and I never really had the time to consult. However, I began doing these limited design consultations focusing on layout (not decor).

From these consultations, we completed a total of 3 client projects including 2 master baths and 1 master suite.

Again, these were completely “off the radar” and the only evidence of these fun projects are satisfied clients!! It was a wild year. We moved from one project to the next and no blogs were written for these.

In the midst of private consultation projects and just general craziness, I started the Mountain Modern. Ahhh the Mountain Modern. I love how this one turned out especially the exterior:

Here are some of my other favorite moments of this design:

One of the biggest design consultations of 2020 was for my first celebrity clients for what has been affectionately sired, “Beaglefork”. The home is a diamond in the rough on Beaverfork Lake tucked away on the outskirts of Conway. I can’t wait to see how everything comes together for the homeowners and their humans in 2021!

Here’s a sneak peek/teaser of the Beaglefork “Before”:

Guys it has already come soooo far!

Aaaand I can NOT believe I have not found the time to tell you about my other project! Ya’ll in 2020 Rory gave me my DREAM project for my anniversary. And when I say “gave” what I really mean is he allowed me to buy it when he really wanted it for himself for a rental. After begging and pleading with him to let me adopt it into the Storybook Family, I finally resorted to telling him it was the ONLY thing I wanted for our 20th Wedding Anniversary. He very reluctantly agreed to let me take ownership. Ya’ll THIS HOUSE has ALWAYS been my FAVORITE house in all of old town Conway and I have dreamed about renovating it for at least 10 years. It is my Bucket List House. There is soooo much more I want to tell you but its story deserves its own blog so I promise to make that happen soon. But for now I’ll just drop her pretty before picture here:

Stay tuned, this one has 6-8 weeks to completion.

So while 2020 had its fair share of challenges (I’m choosing to spare you the negatives), there were also some pleasant surprises that I’m still just so humbled and honored by! Receiving the “best of” in the remodeling category in Faulkner County was such a highlight as was a feature article in At Home on our Davis Street house. Overall there were so many great projects and “wins” to celebrate. Which brings me to my:

Goals and Resolutions for 2021

  • Blog post monthly- surely I can do one a month
  • Social media post weekly- Niki, just stop for a second and take a picture! It literally takes 3 seconds. You can do it!
  • Grow Instagram and Facebook to 5K followers- can ya’ll help me with this one?
  • Project List Goals:
    • Caldwell
    • Beaglefork
    • Townhomes (Rory project I’ll tell you about later)
    • Finish Air B&B (another Rory project I’ll tell you about)
    • Cross Street Flip
    • Mill Street New Construction
    • 2 client projects
  • Last Client Project started by July- so can be finished by December
  • December off- I will have a Senior next year and I want to soak up our last Christmas with him at home
  • 1 Design Consult a Month
  • Find another flip for 2022
  • No crying- I’ve got to get tougher and stop letting these projects and subs get to me.
  • 1/2 day off on Fridays to do SBH business- I usually spend 1/2 my weekend paying bills, updating budgets, etc and I really want to be intentional with family time.

Thank you for your continual support throughout this extraordinarily unique season. I’ve really had to ramp up my social media game to remain connected to all of you as we’ve been unable to host our celebratory SBH open houses! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we’ve had our last one on Oliver. From hanging in there with my quarantine cleaning games to participating in our first featured online series of outdoor spaces and favorite rooms from former SBH projects, you, my faithful friends, have engaged and encouraged with each blog and post! It’s my prayer that 2021 is kinder to all of us and writes even more Storybook stories with the happiest endings.


Remember when I was renovating Cindedwella and all of the princesses came over and I completely choked because I fear the famous… (no? you can read about that disaster here)? Anyways….. you can imagine how nervous I was when I was asked to renovate a home for these gals.

That’s right!, “THE” sister beagles! With over 5k followers on Instagram and legendary notoriety among the patrons of Hounds Hideaway, these ladies and their other four-legged friends have reached a level of fame that I can only dream. So when Lacey, aka Human Mother, reached out to me to see if I would be interested in renovating a home they had found on Beaverfork Lake, I was tempted to tuck my tail and run…. but then she sent me this link to the listing …..

And…..well…. my love of old houses won out over my fear of the famed. I mean did you see those rock floors and the fairy tale wooded lot? And what about the 70’s rock adorning the exterior and interior fireplaces.? This house had all the right kinds of ugly to make my heart go aflutter (I mean that in the nicest way- ugly is a term of endearment when I’m looking for a home to renovate).

To prepare for my initial meeting with the Sisters, I studied up on famous beagle architecture:

From my research, I concluded that beagles appreciate minimalist, industrial design that is highly functional and adaptable with elements of surprise. Hmmmm, not sure how that will translate to the house on Beaverfork but I decided to just approach our initial walk-thru with an open mind and hope that the Sisters had a few ideas to help guide the overall design of the house.

On the day of our walk thru, I couldn’t have been more nervous. But as soon as I walked thru the door I was nearly tackled by friendly greetings from not only The Sisters, Yellow and Brown, but also their canine friends Gunner and Jetta who also reside in the Vance home.

After introductions, I went total fan girl and asked if we could take a quick selfie before we started the tour.

Pardon my face, I was still a little star struck at this point. I would have asked to take the picture again but I got the feeling Yellow was a little annoyed. I mean, I get it, her life is constantly stalked by the pup-arazzi, the last thing she probably wanted to do was pose for yet another human picture.

The second the picture was snapped the four of them went straight to business and began sharing their ideas and expectations for the renovations. (And I had been worried they might not have ideas- HA!)

I hope you can read my writing- I was writing down their ideas so fast, I swear smoke was coming from the lead of my pencil. I’m sure I missed a few things but here is what I managed to jot down:

I honestly have no idea if half these things even exist and as I’m sitting here reviewing the list, I wonder if I even heard them correctly. I mean, what is a toad eradication system? And who in the world is the Kitty Cartel? And if this list wasn’t overwhelming enough…. near the end of our meeting Brown slips me a note and tells me it’s from the cat (apparently there is a cat in their posse who could not be bothered to come to the meeting but sent his list of demands).

Oh geez, what have I gotten myself into!!

In an effort to guide the design meeting into more familiar territory I pulled out my Sherwin Williams paint deck to see if we could at least nail down a color theme.

At this, I got the distinct feeling that Yellow and Brown were sneaking “bless her heart” glances my way. I wasn’t sure why my efforts were getting the cold shoulder until Gunner finally spoke up and informed me that dogs are colorblind.

After this revelation, I quickly packed up my fan deck and suggested they take me on a tour of the house.

The tour allowed me the opportunity to not only get to know the house but it also gave me greater insight into each of the dogs personalities. For example, before we even made it thru the main floor of the tour, Jetta caught the whiff of a rabbit outside and was off on the hunt. I’m not sure if she was successful in her hunt but I do know the effort must have worn her out because I later found her snoozing in the sun on top of the old hot tub cover. I get the feeling she will be spending a lot of time outside and made a mental note to do something special for her out there.

As far as the sisters, Yellow and Brown, from what I can tell they are almost always together.

Let me just tell you, these two are clearly the Boss Hounds of the group. What they say goes, and I get the impression the rest of us are just tolerated to do their bidding. They were not shy in letting me know I was not their first pick for the job- but apparently Nate BARKus was tied up on another Oprah home makeover. The only reason they called me was because their friend Pickles from the NOLA House on Davis gave me a good referral for the work I did on his beagle abode. I tried to win their favor by throwing out a few ideas that came to me while we were walking around but every idea was met with this look:

I’ll admit my “beaglese” is a little rusty but I don’t think you have to be fluent in the language to interpret that look! The chronic pleaser in me was just about in full-out panic mode when a leftover cookie fell out of my pocket and the entire vibe of the meeting changed. Suddenly the two were looking at me like I hung the moon and I swear I could have recommended a room dedicated to clipping nails and vaccinations and they would have been on board. From that point on anytime I felt like I was losing them I would drop a crumb and lead the conversation back to how my design would ultimately lead to them getting fed. Without a doubt, the kitchen/pantry will be where I focus my attention for these gals.

While the beagles in this group take center stage and I’m quite confident will be responsible for converting the entire Beaverfork hamlet into a Beaglefork nation, it was the non-beagle member of the clan, Gunner, that I felt an immediate connection to. He seemed a kindred spirit, if you will. I’m not sure if it’s the gray in his whiskers or his laid back demeanor but I just get the feeling that he is wise beyond his years and will be a valuable mentor throughout this renovation process. In addition to helping me out with the whole colorblind issue, it was Gunner who climbed into my lap and whispered “don’t worry…they’re all bark and no bite” when I was feeling especially overwhelmed with the demands and judgy eyes of the Sisters.

I want to make sure I design a special space for him to sit and pawnder the goings-on of his world.

Almost as an after thought, all four of them agreed I should throw in something nice for their Humans especially the human puppy who they can always count on to share her snacks and snuggles. I assured them I would keep them in mind;)

Needless to say, this should be a fun renovation and I am so honored they have entrusted me with the project. If you would like to stay up-to-date on the progress of this renovation I would encourage you to befriend Human Mother- Lacey Vance on FB and/or Instagram. I’m personally living the renovation and I still find myself getting excited to read her progress reports on the house- she is quite the writer and storyteller.

Aren’t they the cutest?? Missing from this family photo is Human Puppy, Scarlet, and Harry Pawter the cat.

As I close, I will leave you with some more “before” pictures of Beaglefork:

Living Room
Living Room
Dining Room
view from kitchen into sitting room and sun porch
sitting room off kitchen
sun room
Living room
Hall to master and guest room
main floor guest room
guest room
master bedroom
master bathroom
screened in porch
stairs to basement
basement fireplace and bonus space
1 of 2 downstairs bedrooms
extra room
future surprise space! For the Humans
safe room
back of house view

The Mountain Modern Before and Afters

At the conclusion of this week, the Mtn Modern will be officially adopted by the cutest young couple. It is time for a new chapter to be written within the well-insulated walls and on the firm foundation of this thoughtful, well-built home. True to my Storybook endings, I conclude this chapter with the befores and afters of my one and (hopefully) only pandemic project!

As is tradition, we will begin this before and after tour with the exterior- the first impression of the home.

Honestly there was nothing offensive about the curb appeal of this home to begin with- she was perfectly respectable. In fact, from the pictures the previous owners left for me I could see she was quite the looker at one time.

The only problem with the outside was that it did not match the modern feel I was trying to create on the inside. I went back and forth with my decision to renovate the exterior throughout the entire remodel. In fact, I did not decide to pull the trigger on the exterior until two weeks before the interior was complete. My head knew that the exterior remodel was not necessary and would not add anything to the appraised value of the home. In the end, my heart won out. I could not settle for anything but my best for this home- and that meant seeing my complete vision for the home to fruition.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is briersprings-mock-up.jpg

So I went for it! And I’m so glad that I did!

It turns out both my head and heart were spot on. The new facade perfectly compliments the interior vibe of the home and I truly believe it helped to attract her new home owners. Unfortunately, the appraiser did not have the same affection for her new facelift. My somewhat prideful decision landed this home more on the “flop” side of the flip or flop equation if based on profit alone. Right or wrong, flip or flop, I decided long ago that the “happily ever after” of each storybook renovation would not be determined by profit (or loss) alone but rather the impact her new story would have on her surrounding neighborhood, community, and most importantly the new family she shelters. Despite the fact that we were unable to show her off with our customary community reveal and give her the debut she deserved, her transformation is nonetheless special. Without further dwelling on yet another negative of 2020, let’s step inside!

As you enter the front door, you walk immediately into the living room. Notice in the before picture, a soffit wrapped the perimeter of the living room. It housed a plethora of up-lights and down-lights to add ambiance to the room.

While I appreciated the effort, I decided to let them go during the renovation.

The other BIG change in the Living Room was the fireplace facelift. Before, the home featured a wood burning fireplace flanked by pretty built-ins. But when I had the fireplace inspected by a chimney sweep company I was told it was not safe to use without major repair. Now, normally when I am given this news I simply demote the fireplace from functional to “decorative only” and move on. However, because this home’s story was based in the Carolina Mountains, I could not imagine this home without a real fire blazing on cold winter nights. So I simply had a new modern fireplace built in front of the old.

Because this home boasts a modern open floorplan, this room shares the space with what is always my favorite part of every house tour- the kitchen! Here she is before:

I mean really! Aren’t those some of the coolest cabinets you have ever seen! They kinda reminded me of what you might see in an RV and I seriously contemplated building the design story around them- but when I thought about how that would translate to the bathroom- I abandoned the idea.

Curious about what that arrow is pointing to on the countertop? You can read it about it here.

Out with the old, in with the new! I chose the moodiest dark blue for the cabinets and soapstone for the countertops. Then, I softened up the space with the light ash wood built-in, eat-in kitchen table and shelves. So much light literally pours into this now open, airy space!

If you peek through that pocket door opening to the left of the gas range you can see the new butler’s pantry.

Before, this space was only accessible from the laundry room. And the hot water tank sat loud and proud in the middle of the room.

But now, it functions as an extension of the kitchen and is where I picture the new home owners crafting their coffee and of course, using the microwave.

Aaaaaaand a spot for an extra refrigerator or standup freezer.

Well shoot, I thought I got a picture of the new laundry area, but I forgot! You’ll just have to trust me that now, the hot water heater is hidden inside its own designated closet and the washer and dryer have new cabinetry to house all the cleaning supplies and such.

Because bedrooms can be kinda boring on a before and after tour, especially without furniture, I’ll only show you one example of a before and after bedroom. Just multiply it by 4 in this home. I’m not sure the story of all the holes in the drywall but each room had them.

Aside from the holes, the bedrooms needed little work besides the normal paint and lighting. Aaaaand each bedroom boasted beautiful solid wood doors that cleaned up beautifully and truly became a feature in its Mountain Modern Story.

The final stops on our tour will be the 2 bathrooms beginning with the guest bath. The size and layout of the original bath was great only requiring an update.

Ta Dah!!!

And if you thought that was a fun transformation, check out the master bath. (I used this picture in a previous blog to point out the gift of the toilet paper left by the previous home owners- this was during the height of the toilet paper crisis)

This remodel did require us to borrow some space from the master bedroom and closet but I think it was worth the sacrifice. It now has a private potty room and a new soaker tub.

Whew! This renovation was truly unlike any other I’ve ever done as the world shutdown and tentatively opened back up to a whole new normal. So thanks for going on this tour with me today- I was so sad I could not show her to you in person. If any reno deserved her moment in the sun, it was certainly the Mtn Modern. Nevertheless, she stands proudly at the end of her wooded cul-de-sac as a reminder that beautiful, important things can flourish in even the hardest times.

The Tale of the Mountain Modern

It has been a long minute since we’ve heard from our favorite Storybook storyteller. But you know the saying…”Good things come to those who wait”? Well, there is no shortage of “good things” in this modern renovation tale. As a narrator for this story, please allow me, Sarah, to share the next chapter, The Mountain Modern, in the words of our girlboss, Niki Thompson.

Hello Storybook Readers, the time has come to tell you another little story. Although the pandemic is not central to the theme of this story, I do want to note, for posterity, this is my Covid-19 house…I hope the one and only. I closed on this home exactly 1 week before our spot on the map shut down and I’m about to put it on the market while we are still in the thick of it. Although we were able to keep working throughout this worldwide pandemic, it was not without consequences. Products were harder to come by and took longer to get. Meetings with subs took place 6’ apart. But perhaps most heartbreaking of all, I do not feel it is in the best interest of the health of humankind to host a public open house. So, for the majority of you, this blog site will be your closest visit to the latest edition of Storybook Homes. So stay tuned for future posts with pictures of the finished project! But for now….. let’s get on to the story…..

This story is unique from past storybook homes in that it was inspired by the actual words of its original author.

The day I closed on 40 Brier Springs Road, I unlocked the door and walked inside hoping the quiet, empty rooms of the “before” would spark inspiration for its next chapter. The wooded lot surrounding this home was already pulling me toward a mountain setting, but I was hopeful that something inside the house would give me greater insight into the details of the story. Never could I have imagined that the details would actually be waiting for me in an envelope left on the kitchen counter.

If you look closely you can see the envelope on the counter sitting behind the clorox wipes. And can we just pause to appreciate the fact that the previous home owners left a container of Clorox wipes and a 1/2 roll of toilet paper on the bathroom TP holder 1 week before these items held the equivalent value of gold in our country? I did not take these gifts for granted.

Inside the envelope were Polaroids taken during the homes original construction, a tiny cassette tape that I can only assume has information leading to treasure buried on the property but will remain hidden because I have no device available in which to decode, and a 2-page, typed love letter. Ok, it wasn’t really a love letter, but it might as well have been because on these 2 pages the original builder passionately laid bare what she felt was the most noteworthy features of this carefully constructed home in the following four categories: Structural, Energy Managment, Home Services, and Other Items.

After reading every last bullet point, I knew it was my duty to honor my predecessor’s forward thinking, above and beyond, modern building practices with a new design of the same integrity…the Mountain Modern. I let her words inspire me and I used my imagination to fill in the gaps where her words were missing. Starting with this picture:

See that lady there? The one with the hard hat, living her best life? She is my muse. Because the remaining artifacts did not tell me who the original builder was, aaaaaand I would rather rely on my imagination than go “fact find”, I’m telling myself and you- SHE is the original builder. I want to be her. She just looks like the type that wouldn’t go hide and cry in the attic when something goes wrong on a job-site or ever back down from a salty sub who doesn’t want to do what she says. I call her “Sandy”. To me, she looks like a “Sandy” but maybe it’s because, if I look a bit closer, she also reminds me of my mother-in-law, Sandy. She is a strong woman who takes no crap off nobody. She wouldn’t think twice about taking charge or dropping the hammer on anyone who doesn’t do what they say they will do when they say they will do it. And then clean the heck up after themselves when they do. Oh! To be a Sandy!!

Let me give a few specifics on how Sandy’s meticulous notes spoke into the design of The Mountain Modern on BrierSprings.

Under Structural item 1:

It reads: “The foundation is concrete-filled block on a reinforced footing. All the block have rebar in them tying them to the footing.  The 5’ (not 3” usual) floor slab has 6 gauge (not 10 gauge as is usually used) wire mesh. At the time the framing was done, I offered to pay $1.00 per inch to anyone who found a crack in the slab. Six people swept it and I did not pay a dime”

Oh my gosh…you guys! It was this paragraph, in particular, that made me fall in love with Sandy. That girl was so proud of her slab! I wanted to pay honor to that slab pride. So instead of covering it, I brought in a team to diamond polish it to let it shine in all its glory. During the process the grinding actually revealed the rock aggregate which reminded me of a creek bed winding through the mountain. And I hate to break it to Sandy but over the years, a few minor cracks did occur in her precious slab (which is to be expected). Rather than hide them we highlighted them and I truly believe that they add a certain “character” to the space.

Under Structural Item 3: 

“The brick is anchored to the footing and is tied to the walls every 24 inches. Portland cement mortar was used instead of common masonry cement.”

I decided not to hide the brick with paint and played off her pride in cement mortar by surfacing the linear fireplace surround, vent hood and outside modern decorative features in a cement/concrete compound. I thought this also added to the Mountain Modern feel.

Can I take just a second to introduce one of my favorite features of the renovation that I mentioned above? The linear fireplace. The original home had a wood burning fireplace but when I had the stove and chimney inspected I could not justify the cost for repairs. Normally, in this situation, I just deem the fireplace “decorative” and move on but I could not imagine a Mountain Modern Home without a functioning fireplace so I had this gas unit built in front of the existing fireplace. This little upgrade to the home is as useful as it is beautiful. We use the one in our own home constantly during the fall and winter. With the height of the ceiling and the openness of the living/dining/kitchen area, it provides ambiance and warms the space without overheating. Even though the fireplace turns on with a flip of a switch instead of the strike of a match, I added a wood stack cubby next to the fireplace to add to the woodsy mountain modern “feel”.

Saving the pic of the finished fireplace for the “after” post but here is a pic of the “during”:

Next Under Energy Management*:

(*I did not really do anything to add to this but she was very proud of her forward thinking energy saving strategies that I thought I would share them with you too.)

“The walls are an R-24 and the ceiling is an R-30. (This is the same as a good quality ice chest). The floor slab has 1” of perimeer insulation.  All corners and cracks received foamed-in urethane before the sheetrock went up.”

Sandy! I am not worthy! I don’t have any idea what you are talking about but I’m duly impressed. 

“All exterior walls are 2×6 studs (not the usual 2×4) and have a full 6”  batt of fiberglass in them, plus 1” of extruded polystyrene board (not styrofoam) for a total insulation value of R-24.”

Again hats off to Sandy! Let me add to this that we also found that Sandy insulated the interior walls too! 

Under # 5 The Heating and Cooling Systems:

The following is probably the most impressive part of her “Energy Management” strategy. 

“Water furnace, closed loop water source heat pump. Operates air conditioning or heat on less than $1.25 per day. The largest electric bill has been $108. The smallest has been $67.00 (insert me- Now readers remember this was written back in the early 90s so don’t get too excited). There is no Freon, so there is no expensive condensing unit outside. The heat removed from the house in the summertime is put into the hot water tank first. The rest is dissipated underground via the two 285 ft deep wells that the closed loop runs through.”

Bottom line, this house has a geothermal system!!! What?!? This was a total shock to me when I purchased the house. I walked around the house 3 times looking for the outside unit and couldn’t find it so I thought it had been stolen. Then, I had Freyaldenhoven walk around with me and he too was scratching his head until we opened up the outside storage room and found the box on the wall.  I still had no idea what it was but the friendly Freyalenhoven rep enlightened me. At that time, I knew this was going to be the best news of my day or the worst. It was awesome to have but if it needed replacing it would tank my budget. When he crawled up in the attic he was able to locate a serial number for the attic unit. He left with the promise to contact me to let me know if it was still operational. Well ladies and gentleman, he called me later that day and said (you are never going to believe this)…The unit was replaced in 2019!!! Score!!! It was the nicest gift any house has ever given me. Not only did it not need to be replaced, that unit was now going to be a major selling feature of the house. Thank You, previous owners! I did not take this gift for granted! 

Under “Home Services”:

Sandy was very considerate to make sure cable and phone lines were plentiful. I’m sure Sandy never imagined a day that gesture would be irrelevant.)

Under Other items:

#2 “All of the interior doors (except the closets) are 36” wide and SOLID CORE.” (Emphasis mine)

Thank you, Sandy! I thought the doors were beautiful so we just cleaned them up and put new matte black hardware on them. I think they add a lot to our Mountain Modern vibe.

Unfortunately, the acrylic tubs and barber sinks did not make it thru the renovation. But I think Sandy would be pleased with the replacements.

Now, let me give you a few additional elements that I, Niki of Storybook Homes, added to the developing story to further articulate the natural, Mountain Modern vibe. 

The ash wood highlights…

White Ash is particularly grown and harvested in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I wanted to feature this light and hearty mountain hardwood. Ash is found on the custom created, eat-in kitchen table. I chose Ash plywood for the oh-so-convenient butler’s pantry. I also had my Dad build a custom Ash top for the dining table. I did not do a ton of staging in keeping with the Mountain Modern design which highlights natural elements found in building materials, open spaces and sweeping structural design. However, I thought it was important to design and bring in the custom table to show the future homebuyer that there is indeed a designated dining space. This is in addition to the eat-in kitchen table installation. So much space for friends and family!

Since I already revealed the kitchen on social meeting, I’m going to break protocol, just this one time, to show you a picture of the Kitchen. Here, you can see an example of that beautiful Ash wood. (The rest of the “after” pics should hit your screen within the week)

The bold color choice…

The moody, deep blue, almost black cabinets and soapstone countertops remind me of the shadows cast by mountains over the valley as the sun is setting. It invokes a desire to be outdoors, maybe hiking, camping or just enjoying a warm fire on a cooler evening, roasting s’mores. With the intentional, almost secluded outdoor spaces created around the Mountain Modern, outdoor living is easy and it’s a “must”.

It’s time for us to draw the Mountain Modern chapter to a close. I, Sarah, the narrator, have seen this newest Storybook home and it definitely does not disappoint. In fact, next to my own Storybook cottage, this is one of my very favorites. The attention to detail and the “extras” make it extremely attractive to buyers with excellent taste. With 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, situated at the back of a quiet, established culs-de-sac, it’s perfect for a growing family. Right off Tyler Street, it’s in close proximity to schools, the library, the Tucker Creek trail system, local shops, coffee and grocery stores. I couldn’t imagine a better place to begin writing a new story!

Intrigued? Have we “peaked” your interest with The Mountain Modern?

For more info or to schedule your showing, give Niki Thompson a call at 501.472.3310.


Tile Installation and overall fix it man and rescuer of all the problems- Edwardo David

Painter Extrodinaire- Nick’s Painting

Cabinets- Jeff Perry

Electrician: JD Hall Electric

Plumber: Lucey Plumbing

Interior Framing: Julio

Carport/Front Porch Framing/Artist- Erik Menzie

Countertops: Countertop World

Effice Surfacing: RJ Plastering

Built-in Table and Front Door Carpenter- MBR woodworks

In the Kitchen with Storybook Homes…

Welcome to Niki Thompson’s Kitchen! Niki is the Founder and Designer behind Storybook Homes.

If you’re reading this, you’re on a journey with us through life on this planet. Through the ups and downs, there are people, places and moments that we value. Crafting a beautiful, functional kitchen, the heart of the home, to be able to tell your best stories is the goal of each Storybook Homes Kitchen. Above all, we want our homes to help you tell an overall meaningful story with friends, family and neighbors. From special celebrations to weeknight meals, the kitchen hosts both the large and small moments and everything in between.

Is there truly a better place to initiate the plot than in the kitchen? Intentional, well-designed, uniquely detailed kitchens build community and encourage storytelling. Let’s begin ours.

Many of you have anticipated this story…the Storybook Storyteller’s own story (no pressure, Niki!). And I, Sarah Henry, get to weave this tale. As you’ve driven down Carl Stuart, I’m sure you’ve imagined what the layout and design concept must be behind the beautifully modern painted brick and stained wood exterior. Well, here’s a snippet of what we’ve been waiting to share.

The mid century modern vibe is strong in Niki’s kitchen. As the owner and designer behind Storybook Homes, Niki had a clear picture of what she wanted in her own home kitchen. Her idea of home cooked meals in the context of a gorgeous space and a place large enough for family and friends and baseball teams to gather inspired the design and renovation. With a nod to history but with obvious modern conveniences, each choice from floor to ceiling was intentional and filtered through Niki’s unique design concept. The black and white contrast. The warmth of the precisely stained wooden floors and cabinets. The white marble countertops both beautiful and utilitarian.

I spent hours daydreaming about how I wanted my kitchen to both look and function. I knew that the kitchen was one of the first things you would see when you walked in the front door so I wanted to make sure it had enough “wow factor” to distract from the inevitable dirty dishes. And because the kitchen shared the open concept space with the living room, I wanted the cabinetry to feel more like furniture. Besides the gas range tucked in its alcove, I was mindful to keep all other appliances hidden behind cabinetry from the living room sight lines.

Niki Thompson, Homeowner/Girl Boss Designer and Founder of Storybook Homes

The openness of the kitchen is stunning and encouraged by the absence of walls and the slope of high ceilings. The abundance of natural light floods through bare windows trimmed in a bold black making it easy to conserve energy and at the same time, grow herbs and plants perched on the open wood and metal shelving. The design highlights and celebrates functionality in style.

The sleek cabinetry was built by Jeff Perry, a name you may recognize from previous SBH projects. The mid century modern style is characterized by highlighting natural design elements such as wood grain. The absence of hardware is intentional and allows the precision and artistry in woodworking to shine.

Built-in custom organization keeps everything in its place.When and where you can, customize these details. They are an easy and convenient upgrade.

The Designer behind the design…“Nothing gets my heart more a flutter than a good organizational system. Thanks to pinterest for the ideas and Jeff Perry for the implementation. Now every item has its place within the drawers of this kitchen.”

The view from the handcrafted concrete dinner table is gorgeous. A thoroughly modern staircase leads to the upstairs bedrooms and ultimately, across the enclosed breezeway to the “man cave” located above the garage. A pot filler makes cooking convenient at Niki’s “dream stove”. The industrial details like the coated steel vent hood and stainless commercial stove keep the look of the kitchen stylishly modern where the mid century modern style could trend more nostalgic. No nostalgia here, guys. Industrial beauty and function reign supreme.

To the right of the stove is the laundry and mudroom. Again, tons of light from the windows!Step to the left, and through the doorway is a pass through, true Butler’s pantry. Let’s explore.

This hardworking little nook of a Butler’s pantry boasts another dishwasher, sink area, open wooden shelving, a coffee bar and refrigerator. This is a wonderful convenience for large families or for those who entertain often. Again, if you have the space and room in the budget, this little addition makes a world of difference and increases the value of your home immeasurably!

Regarding the Butler’s pantry, Niki says, “Honestly, as a Registered Dietitian I am more qualified to cook in the kitchen than design one. Up until about 5 years ago, along with weight management consulting, I also cooked healthy meals for families as a side gig. The worst part of that job was the clean-up! It would often take me at least 3 runs of the dishwasher to clean up after my weekly marathon cooking session. It was during that time in my life that I vowed one day I was going to have a home with 2 dishwashers. The butler’s pantry was the perfect spot to make that dream a reality. I know that it seems a little extravagant not that I’m just cooking for our family of four but I’m here to tell ya- I run that second dishwasher ALL THE TIME!”

Here’s a little gem of a recipe that Niki, the Registered Dietitian, uses consistently in her home during the summer months. It’s perfect for a family of 4 but easily doubled to feed a crowd!

Arugula Pear Salad is refreshing and full of flavor and packed with good fats and nutrients.

Ok, Storybook Friends…the time has come to bring this kitchen design tour to a close. But the ongoing story doesn’t have to end here! As many of you know, there’s another modern Storybook Home renovation in the making. The Mountain Modern in BrierSprings. Best completion estimate is end of July. If you like the look of Niki’s own kitchen, you’ll love the one in BrierSprings. And THIS home is available! Think of it as an incredible return on a wise investment. Niki has seen the future and this next story’s outcome, much like each home she designs, is bright.

The developing Mountain Modern…

Storybook Homes needs a buyer with extraordinary vision and a deep desire to invest in a home that writes a unique and incredible story. Let me introduce you, dear reader and Storybook Friend, to the Mountain Modern. Originally and carefully designed and built in 1990, this home is nestled into a wooded lot in the back of a quiet cul-de-sac in an established Conway neighborhood. It honestly feels like you’re in the mountains of Colorado. If school zones are an important factor in the purchase of a home, you’re in luck. This home is zoned for Julia Lee Moore…one of the best in Conway! Convenient to shopping and coffee, the Tucker Creek Trail, the Faulkner County Library and Bell Urban Farm, this home is close to everything. Just imagine being the first in line on a Saturday morning to purchase the stunning but elusive Bell Urban Farm fresh floral bouquet. Winning!

Logistically, this home boasts a new geothermal unit. It is extremely energy efficient. The original owners took great pride in the construction of this home and really went the extra mile. The bones are good! It is literally “built like a tank”. From the pictures provided to Niki at closing, it appears that the original builder was a female. One who took charge while showing up professionally with her stuff together and in her trusty hard hat. What a coincidence that 30 years later, another girl boss would be writing this home’s next chapter?

Back to the developing Mountain Modern storyline…If you like modern design like Niki’s own home on Carl Stuart Drive, you’ll love the open concept, clean lines and simple design of this house. Each Storybook Home is unique but there are some features in her home that she loves so much that she decided to share them with this one. Two of those features include both the linear fireplace and the butler’s pantry with extra fridge storage. According to Jae Curtis of freshome.com, a few unique design features of the Mountain Modern is the unique exterior with sharp, modern edges, an uncluttered layout, natural light from large windows and texture over color…building materials such as glass, wood, stone are emphasized. It is among the newest trends and the most sustainable lending itself to minimal to maximize the built in extras.

The complete story includes extensive interior and exterior renovation including a carport addition. This majestic Mountain Modern will include within its 2233 square foot footprint, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. A Master Suite with a woodland view. The exterior of the home will make a bold modern statement that will lead seamlessly to the interior. It is the complete package. And it’s almost finished!! The interior is 98% complete. The updated exterior is over halfway done and more than meeting expectations. This project is special.

A precedent has been set with Storybook Homes. When you invest in a Storybook Home, your investment is met with a guaranteed delivery of all that you expected and more.

If you would like more information about this project give Niki a call at (501) 472-3310 .

Quarantine Clean the Deck or Walk the Plank!

When Niki first mentioned the title of this week’s installment (the second, if you’ve lost count of days, nights or time, in general) in her creative Quarantine Cleaning Games, I was all in. With my mind’s eye, I imagined a swashbuckling, high seas adventure in which scurvy (but cheerful) pirates, in full costume, danced and sang while cheerfully scrubbing the deck of their pirate ship! At the end of the musical number and after the many, but hilarious, near disasters, the deck shone and sparkled in the sunlight and the pirates collapsed in an exhausted but satisfied heap as they surveyed a hard morning’s work…accomplished in the 7 minutes it took to sing and dance their way to ship-shape. Alas, mateys, this is not the “deck” that our dear friend had in HER mind’s eye.

Ahoy! It’s time to locate and shuffle your trusty deck o’ CARDS and play along!

If you’re anything like our family, you can only handle so many hours of TV and/or screen time. We’ve pulled out games that we haven’t played in years. In the middle of our kitchen table is a bowl of accessible, quick and easy games…UNO, Tenzi, Phase 10, Bananagrams, Skip-Bo, Blink and the 3-4 decks of playing cards we’ve collected (but never intentionally purchased) from different places over the years. It’s kind of fun to remember where we got them…a vacation, signing up for a credit card, a “convention”. My chosen deck is a thousand years old. It was randomly acquired by playing a game at a Blockbuster in the 90s. I spun a wheel and “won” a deck of cards…an old promo item for the movie, “Honeymoon in Vegas“. Anyone remember that movie? Nicholas Cage, James Caan, Sarah Jessica Parker…yeah, me neither. I digress.

Onward! To the game!!

Last week’s game, “Clean B-I-N-G-O“, debuted a Creative Covid Cleaning Costume but this week, we assume you’ve mastered your attire and we dive right in. The video is quick, entertaining and helpful. Along with the video, I’ve attached the printable for you to fill out with your chosen tasks. “Clean the Deck” is not only an engaging game to get things done, it’s also a fantastic way to get your workout in. The rain will not stop already. Our gyms are closed. Why not try something different? Pushups, Push-outs, Mountain Climbers…Yep. You heard correctly. The “Clean the Deck” card game combines cleaning with exercise OR another healthy habit of your choosing…for example, if you dare, drinking 8 oz of water every time you draw a club. Apparently, Niki drew 6 clubs which meant she drank 48 oz of water throughout the afternoon and spent the night traveling back and forth to the bathroom which just happened to be remarkably clean.

This game could get SUPER challenging and interesting, friends. For example, you draw a 2 of hearts…2 is clean the toilet in the master bath. A heart is 10 mountain climbers. You clean the toilet. You do the mountain climbers. You move on and draw another card. You draw the 10 of hearts. A 10 is organize a drawer or clean the kitchen counters. And yep…another 10 mountain climbers. You get it done and keep moving. Next to each number and face card, there are blanks for 2 chores. If you’ve drawn a 2 of hearts and spades and happen to draw a 2 of diamonds or clubs, you choose the chore (or a reward, just sayin). If you’re up for an extra challenge, invite the family to play along by having them choose the chores for each number/face card, draw a card or do some pushups, every now and then, as they’re working hard in their virtual classrooms. It’s Health and PE, fellow homebound educators!

REWARDS. REWARDS. REWARDS. A nap. A snack. An episode of Tiger King while eating a snack. It’s whatever. You get it. You know how to treat yo’self. Jokers and Instruction Cards bring the welcome rewards. Tip: for those of you who like to “bend” the rules, add a couple of Jokers from another deck. This is YOUR game.

Until next week, enjoy the quick video. Print and fill out the “Clean the Deck” printable. Shuffle the cards or stack the deck. Just have fun while getting it done!

Whistle While You Work…Quarantine Cleaning Fun

Hey Friends! How you holding up??? It’s a weird time for us all, I know. One day, last week, after my 3rd nap in the same day, I thought to myself “I should really take advantage of this extra time and blog.” So I sat down, opened up wordpress, and…… nothing. Turns out a side effect of having quarantine related work withdrawal is major writer’s block. (No joke, those last 5 sentences took me 4 hours to write.) Sooo, rather than allow the ole blog to continue to sit stale, I asked my good friend, Sarah Henry, if she would mind stepping in for a few weeks to share her writing talents with the Storybook readers. And guess what?!?! Not only did she agree, she had an idea for a full series before we even got off the phone. She thought it would be fun if I shared some of my cleaning games with you!….. (I’ll pause this paragraph in order to allow time for your excitement to catch up)……..

My cleaning games are one of those things in my life that I don’t realize are “different” or “abnormal” from the normal population until I see my friends’ reactions when I casually mention one in everyday conversation. I mean, how do the rest of you get thru the drudgery of cleaning your homes week after week after week for your whole entire adult life FOREVER and EVER?? If you didn’t have a good answer for that question, you’re in luck! As long as this quarantine doesn’t last longer than 32 weeks, I have enough games to share to last your entire sequestering!

Here is how I’m thinking this will work: each week Colby and I will shoot a video demonstrating a new cleaning game, then I’ll send the video over to Sarah who will use her gift of words to write up a blog to coordinate with the game. Then (if you so choose) you can brighten our days by leaving a comment or picture on this blog (or any of our social pages) letting us know if you tried the game. What do you think??? Will you play along??? Sarah, you ready for this?!?!?!

I am! Quick question…Do you whistle while you work or give a little whistle and have someone else clean for you? Whatever your preferred method to get the chores done, one thing is for sure, our fairy godmothers are sheltering in (a far off) place and we are left to gaze lovingly into the faces of the beautiful but messy people and pets we share our homes with…indefinitely.

Completely confused but also curious? Keep reading…

If you’re like most of the modern world, you’re accustomed to a tight, busy, if not completely filled but fulfilling schedule. Sometimes working from home but mostly, on location. If you have precious cherubs at home, they are most likely at childcare or school during the day and your evenings are filled with practices and various commitments. Then, a global pandemic invades the kingdom, giving you a bad case of whiplash. Said pandemic brings all things involving groups and gatherings to a screeching halt and forces us to hunker down in our homes. It’s fine for a few days but then, you notice that the space you’re all sharing is dirty…really dirty. Significantly increased time at home is making you hyper aware of everything. All the people. All the clutter. All the towels and clothes in the floor. The shoes at the back door. Dishes in the sink. Pet hair everywhere because Spring. It is endless. You make a bold but feeble attempt to wave the Xbox controller like a magic wand to clean up the place but alas, it doesn’t quite work that way for you. You resist the urge to play a solo game of Just Dance to avoid the inevitable. Instead, you hide the controllers and you call your people to you. They come running. Ha…another bold but ineffective attempt. You scream louder like the house is on fire and they trickle in slowly. They’re now staring at you like you’ve lost your mind (because indeed, you have)…so now what?

Still curious?

I’m glad you asked. Allow me to open a different kind of storybook for you, Storybook Homes fans. I have observed firsthand how our favorite designer, the fabulous Niki Thompson, crafts the most creative games for herself when she’s cleaning her own gorgeously renovated home. I will reveal to you a few secrets from our fave and hopefully, to coax all the people under our roof to pitch in with the housework. Share the load with a smile (fingers crossed, it could happen?). Over the next few weeks, or until we are able to leave our cozy homes, join me for a series of time-tested and perfected cleaning games appropriate for ALL ages. These games are sure to make a dreaded task fun and challenging under the craziest of circumstances. Believe me, some days, a roll of the dice or the flip of a card with the promise of a reward is the only motivation to get the job done. The game possibilities are endless and it has taken Niki years to develop, test and refine the games featured in this series*. However, I asked her to choose only the best of the best to film and roll out for you good people (Because honestly, she has enough material to last months beyond this quarantine.). We are kicking off this series with a Thompson classic …C-L-E-A-N Bingo. Print out the card, label each square with a task, choose your rewards and let’s get to work!

*This Storybook Homes series is filmed, produced and edited by Colby’s Productions.

Sponsored by “comfy socks”, stretchy pants and the cozy sweatshirt/t-shirt combo.

141 Oliver

141 Oliver is the second new construction home to join our Storybook collection. With it’s completion, I can confidently tell you that while renovations will always have my heart, there is something to be said for new construction. I mean, after the initial holding of my breath while waiting to see if what I drew on paper actually framed up to look like a house in real life, there were essentially NO surprises. It was soooo easy! The house practically built itself. Aaaaand I did not cry one time…like not even a sniffle! HOWEVER…. as enticing as a drama free construction site sounds, I desperately missed the story inspiration only an old home can give. You’d think the control freak in me would love the blank slate that new construction provides- essentially allowing me to take the design story any direction my imagination desires to go; but I have found, without the history of a past home and it’s previous owner’s design choices to study, I have a hard time committing and truly connecting to a story. It made me realize just how valuable demo time is to my creative process. While I usually have a general story theme nailed down before the first wack of the sledgehammer occurs, it is during the long weeks of digging thru the guts of a home that the details come out and the story comes alive in my head.

So, while 141 Oliver was still navigated by a story, the details never quite made it past the theme/outline phase of the process. Basically the story stayed 1 dimensional just answering the necessary questions to help create a cohesive design. Crazy thing is, despite the ho hum story-line the house still came out with its own unique character and I found myself, once again, saying “I think this might be one of my favorites.” Who knows, maybe this means I’m maturing into a real designer/contractor and will one day be able to wean myself off a story altogether …. Nah! What’s the fun in that!!!

Even though I don’t have a typical storybook tale to tell, I would like to share with you the fictional facts I told myself about 141 Oliver so you can see how they played out in real life. And as a consolation prize for not getting a real story…. this post is going to reveal all the final product pictures!!! (Let’s be real…. that’s what you really want anyway.)

First off, I started with this information: 1) the lot was skinnier than a typical old town Conway lot and 2) the house would be residing in the historic overlay district of our city. With this information alone it did not take long for me to fall in love with the idea of building a shot-gun replica popular in historic cities like Charleston and New Orleans. Honestly, I tried to convince myself it was modeled off of a Charleston style shotgun since I had already completed a New Orleans inspired project the year before… but I had so many people drive by and tell me that it reminded them of New Orleans I gave up and admitted I had landed back in the French Quarter.

To make the home feel “historic” I added architectural details to the house that would have been reminiscent of an early 1900 shotgun like the curvy corbels on the front porch (huge thank you to Erik Menzie and his team for making that dream come true), the functioning custom Shutters (Jimmy Bishop) and the trim detail around the windows and doors (Marty Tabor exterior, Chris Bise interior).

With the classic shotgun elements in place, I looked to the fictitious homeowner to help determine the individual flavor of the house. Because the lot size dictated a smaller size home (around 1200 sq foot to be exact) I decided to design with a single gal in mind. I pictured her as a free spirit, artsy type which meant the home would have a young, funky, modern vibe with a vibrant personality.

To me one of the best examples of how this played out was in the color scheme. On the outside I chose a serene light green for the siding that would sit nicely next to her neighbor, Cindedwella. But then tried to go with the unexpected for the shutter and door color. Normally I like to play it safe by choosing complimentary paints found on the same color strip but for 141 Oliver I tried to think more like an artist and ended up with 3 different shades of green- 1 sagey, 1 blue green, and 1 hunter greenish and somehow it just worked! I then brought the door color inside and splashed it on the cabinets and eating nook.

I loved how this funky almost black green color functioned as a neutral. We pretty much ignored it when bringing in the staging and no matter what color we paired it with…. it just worked.

Speaking of Staging, I must take a second to once again thank Donna Benton of Waterhouse Market for bringing in all the furniture, art and accessories to help make this story come alive for the Open House.

Ya’ll, she decked this house in ONE DAY! While I tend to overthink every design choice I make she just seems to have a natural knack of knowing exactly how to decorate a space to feel both magazine worthy and livable. I am so beyond thankful she continues to agree to share her time and talents to make these storybook debuts so special.

One of the nicest comments I heard at the open house was that “while the house was small in size it lived big.” I think this was accomplished by giving the living spaces extra tall ceilings and eliminating wasted spaces. Plus Donna did a great job showing how furniture could be arranged to make the most out of a small space.

To bring in the artist funky style I went with a long neck wall sconce for the dining nook light instead of a more common chandelier or pendant.

Big thanks to Pevia Electric for going the extra mile to retrofit this wall sconce and the ones flanking the kitchen sink from plug-ins to hardwired fixtures. (Cabinets by the one and only Jeff Perry.)

I chose a freestanding table for the island instead of traditional cabinetry for a more eclectic feel- stereotypical of most artists. And let us not forget the library ladder…. ah the library ladder….

Big thanks to Brent Rhodes for fabricating the library rail and ladder.

Not sure how this exactly ties into the story other than my single lady probably wasn’t 7′ tall so she needed a way to reach the top cabinets in her 10′ tall kitchen and library ladders are just fun. Plus it knocked off “do library ladder” on my 40 year old bucket list. This has been a dream of mine since first watching Belle roll around the Beast’s library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Other ways I added a younger touch to this otherwise historic feeling home was in the tile work. I used basic over sized subway tile in the master and brought back the basic 80’s square tile in the guest bath but had David install them both in a more modern way.

And how fun is that pegged chair rail in the guest bath?!?! This little free spirit could hang all sorts of tchotchkies like Turkish towels, hanging plants, soap on a rope, etc.

The other two bedrooms were left empty during the open house so the pictures are kinda boring but I’m going to leave them here just as proof that this 1200 sq foot cutie was able to fit 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths. The only picture I neglected to get was the laundry room- but trust me it’s in there!

Well there you have it. More of a picture book than a novel this time but I hope you enjoyed the visit. I’ve got some exciting projects in store for the spring- I can’t wait to tell you all about them!

Big Thank You to Makenzie Evans for the Beautiful photos!

Cindedwella: Before and After…. and After

Well this is embarrassing….. Here I am just days away from putting a for sale sign in 141 Oliver’s yard and I just realized I never wrote up a before and after blog for her block mate- 143 Oliver- also known as Cindedwella.

Seriously! If anyone knows the importance of before and after pictures it’s me! I mean, the ONLY show I flip past on HGTV is House Hunters (unless it’s House Hunters Renovation) because who wants to watch someone just shop for a move-in ready house?!? No thank you. I’m only interested in the shows that show me the transformation- the before and afters. So in an effort to keep you entertained and thirsty for more, I’m going to pack this post FULL of before and after pictures. Aaaand if that was not exciting enough I am also going to share pictures of how Cindedwella looks today after her new family moved in and made her their very own.

The Henry family moved in just a couple of months ago, but I swear, you would think they had been there for years the way Sarah Henry has already made the place feel like home. You recognize that name?? Yes, that is Sarah Henry, formally of Redeemed Home Goods, and resident artist for Storybook Homes.

Isn’t she the cutest?!?! Anyways…. Sarah fell in love with 143 Oliver when she came over to get color inspiration for the custom rugs she painted for Cindedwella’s Open House.

After taking her on a quick tour of the house, I thought she was just being her normal sweet, encouraging, and complimentary self when she told me Cindedwella was her dream home and would be perfect for her family. It wasn’t until I saw this facebook post the very next day that I realized she was serious about possibly moving.

That “hypothetical” facebook post sparked a ton of interest (I mean, of course it did- look at that adorable front porch) and within a matter of weeks the ball was rolling to move the Henry Family from Davis Street to Oliver (because once you’ve lived in old town it’s hard to leave). At this time I want to turn the blog over to Sarah for just a second so she can say hi and then I’ll start the before and after and after tour. And since she is a special guest, I’m going to let her speak in a special blue font so you will recognize when she is talking vs me. Take it away Sarah!

Hey, there! My turn to insert a bit of our family story…I’ve always said that each season writes its own story and this one is definitely one for our book! This specific story begins with a tragedy on Davis but ends in triumph on Oliver. Quick recap: my beautiful backyard art studio burned down in December 2018 damaging the back of our home and leaving a gaping scar on our backyard. As you can imagine, it was a shock and not surprisingly, a discouraging setback. The long and difficult process of repairing the damage to our home and rebuilding the studio initiated some really big questions. Was our current home of 3+ years meeting our family’s changing needs? Can our home be remodeled to meet those needs…do we even want to attempt it? What would it look like to sell our home and move? Where would we move? Whew…so much there.

Because our kids attend our amazing local schools, we definitely didn’t want to move too far and change our current school zone. And because I (not necessarily the hubs) adore old homes, I began to casually glance at homes for sale in our neighborhood on Zillow over the summer. Just like the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, I began to “try on” these homes (virtually, of course!). Some were too big. Others were too small. Many were just a “no”. None were “just right” for our unique needs and season. Until…that fateful August morning when I walked through that perfect shade of blue door with its charming, reglazed glass and EXHALED.

Seriously, one big, glorious exhale. So much open space. High ceilings covered in bluebirds, mid-flight, greeted me. White walls combined with white floors commanded me to remove my shoes and stay awhile. The most gorgeous master bathroom invited me to sink into the massive clawfoot tub poised atop whimsical gray and white marble floors. I took it ALL in and knew this would be our next home. The kitchen with its refurbished antique, single basin sink with double drainboards took me back to my great-grandmother’s home in the mountains of North Carolina. A memory I’d forgotten until that day. The peaceful front porch with its custom built swing. The transoms and built-ins throughout and surrounding the clean, white fireplace. The CLOSETS. The custom penny tile in the hall bath. The tastefully updated, cheerful metal awning over the stove and the refinished….EVERYTHING. The space for old friends, new friends and family from far away. I’d wanted an elusive Storybook cottage since the summer of 2016 when we moved to Conway. And this Storybook cottage was indeed, “just right”.

That morning, I wandered around inside this story in the making as its Storyteller was visiting with a curious client…the crew was still painting, installing and working feverishly toward the reveal of the home that would become known to us as “Cindedwella”. I’d heard our favorite Storybook Curator tell of this massive project she was in the midst of completing but I had yet to visit 143 Oliver before I was tasked with creating art specific to its story. I began to imagine a NEW story, OUR story, within its walls. This cottage literally checked every imaginary box and promised a fresh, new chapter to the story our family was writing only 3 STREETS AWAY.

The next step was to convince the hubs…so I tentatively “listed” our house on, you guessed it…the Facebook. Out of that informal post, a sweet family who had previously owned Davis for many years immediately responded. Their story wasn’t finished there, and we celebrated their return to their beloved home as we packed and moved to our new one.

Fast forward to this day, as January comes to an end, past the hard parts of closing a final chapter in a home you lived a lot of life in and loved well. Past the packing up and moving all of your little life to a new home with the same main characters. This new “just right” place is the long-awaited exhale after you’ve held your breath for way too long. The next breath you draw is a deep one…the fresh air of expectancy inside a cozy, new space…indeed the start of a brand new chapter in a story where the plot changes, the characters evolve and a familiar setting gets an update. I can’t wait to see how this story unfolds.

Sarah!!!….. Seriously?!?!?! ……. that was an awesome intro. I kinda hate to bring my voice back on here after that…. But I did promise these nice folks some pictures so let’s go ahead and get this tour rolling.

First up I want to remind you what the exterior of this home looked like when we first met Cindedwella.

Pretty rough huh. Not exactly a porch you want to hang out on. I remember worrying for the safety of the previous home owners because the front door would not shut- it was left permanently ajar.

But now she welcomes all with her new pretty pink door and the porch is so spacious and inviting it really serves as a second living space for the home. And check out that sliding screen door. Big thanks to my Dad for building the screen door, porch swing and table for the open house staging of this front porch.

…and after with the Henrys.
A cheery winter welcome to our home!

Before we head inside, I’ll show you the other side of the house that occupies this corner lot. Here was the before…

What you can’t really see in the picture above is that a large portion of that exterior wall was leaning away from the house and had to be aligned back up during the renovation. We also tore down the wonky metal carport, added a brick skirt around the house, put on a new roof and gutters, poured a new driveway, landscaped (I will never look at pine needles the same again), and of course gave the entire house a new coat of paint. Ohhhhh! And I personally reglazed every last one of those window panes- it took me the entire length of Where the Crawdads Sing and 1/2 of Before We Were Yours on audible to finish them.

And now

Let’s go inside, shall we. Through the front door we enter into the living room.

Here’s that wall on the left as she was staged for open house.

…and after with the Henrys.
(All “…and after” pics were shot in the afternoon with my iPhone XR and are unedited.)
The family loves to be cozy. Our style is warm and personal, collected, rustic, eclectic and functional. A blanket ladder holds our favorites. A darker wood and of course, a few plants, welcome guests and also grounded this space with a warmer palette.
And side note: we ALL love our cheerful pink door!

Even though the fireplace was not functioning, I always love when a house gifts an architectural focal point. We ended up rebuilding the side cabinets but you’ll see in a minute that the actual fireplace cleaned up quite nicely.

At this time I would like to stop and take a minute to thank Donna Benton of Waterhouse Market for once again bringing her “A” game to the staging of this home. Donna is responsible for all the furniture and decor you see in all the (first) after pictures. She also was responsible for coordinating and inviting our special guest vendors to help make Cindedwella’s Open House extra Special- Sarah Henry with her art and custom rugs, art by Janetta Darley, fresh flowers by Southern Tradition Farms and custom candles by Sweet Home Candles. Gosh that was a fun day.

Here is another view from the living room all staged and ready for her open house.

…and after with the Henrys.
Here’s a shot of the “lived in” living room. As you can see the color palette, although much the same, has changed a bit to fit our family’s decor and style.

Before we go into the dining room let’s first go down that hall we see when we first walk in the front door. It leads to the bedrooms.

That hall also used to house the washer and dryer but we gave this home a proper laundry room and repurposed the space as a little office nook.

Prior to the renovation this home had 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms down this hall.

We took out the tiny bathroom connected to the front bedroom and reconfigured the space into 3 bedrooms with 1 larger bathroom.

…and after with the Henrys.
One of the things that we love about this home is the extra bedroom.
Our families all live out of town and we have frequent guests as well.
This room allows for family and
guests to have their own space! Such a gift…

Take a second to look at that floor tile. I personally plucked out the blue tiles and replaced them with the white tiles to form those cute little whimsical flowers. Of course David get’s all the credit for actually laying the tile. Hey Sarah, can you get a better shot of that floor- I want these fine folks to really appreciate the symmetry and exact spacing of those little flowers.

…and after with the Henrys.
Look at that lovely tile!!

Ok, let’s go back to the dining Room. I failed to get a proper before picture of the dining room before demo started but here it is a couple days into demolition.

In every project I work on I like to incorporate several unexpected moments in the design that deviates from the safe obvious choice- in this home the blue wainscoting is one such example. I knew it was a little risky to stray from traditional white wainscoting (I mean after all this was a spec house) but as is often the case, this detail became one of my favorite features of the home and truly set the tone of the rest of the design and story.

Next we enter into the kitchen- always one of my favorite parts of a renovation.

Before the kitchen was closed off from the dining room and the rest of the house. During the renovation we opened up the floor plan and rearranged the kitchen layout for a more efficient work/entertainment flow.

That plate wall was probably my favorite feature Waterhouse Market brought to the staging,

…and after with the Henrys.
There are so many plants in our home! And the bright light in this kitchen invited ALL the plants! The plates were replaced by framed, colorful bird prints flanking the windows. The prints echo our home’s warmer color palette while including the trim and accent colors. Easily one of our favorite spaces…just look at that gorgeously restored sink!

Funny Story: I had an old metal awning saved in my shop for years just waiting for the perfect house to use as a vent hood. Well, last year, when Rory got on a kick to clear out my hoarding shop, I decided to finally let go of the awning and I sold it on facebook for $75. Fast forward 2 months later, I bought the perfect house for a vintage awning vent hood. After searching for weeks I finally found the one you see in these pictures at a local antique store for close to $200… sigh.

…and after with the Henrys.
A much loved and lived in area of our home. Our home has so much open space for friends and family. The light from the original windows is incredible!

On the other side of the kitchen is the side entry into the house. Before the renovation it hosted a pantry, 2 small rooms and a glassed in porch.

Now it serves as the cheeriest mud room in America.

Just try and have a bad day with those blue birds flying overhead.

…and after with the Henrys.
We are a very active family. Lots of coming and going. We needed a convenient, functional and accessible spot to keep the “things”… And of course the plants.
…and after with the Henrys.
Our little music nook in the mudroom.

This wing of the home, also houses a small office/bedroom….

…and after with the Henrys.
Afternoon light invites you to sit and read in this versatile space. Painting, reading, studying, napping, crafting…riding a bike trainer. This room offers extra space that we needed!

And one of the small rooms and previous porch were converted into the master suite.

…and after with the Henrys.
So much light spilling in! We love the stark white backdrop of our MBR. It feels clean and bright and is such a welcome retreat at the end of busy days.
…and after with the Henrys.
I joke and tell people that this is why we bought this house…but for real.

And there you have it! Oh my goodness that was fun. Don’t you love what the Henry family has done with the place?!?! It warms my heart to see Cindedwella so loved and cared for. Truly the perfect ending to this renovation story.