What have I done?

Please pardon the grammatical massacre that is about to occur. I do not have time to write something clever or worry about punctuation or run on sentences (not that that is ever high on the priority list here at two-story sister). I just need to vent my worries and concerns about our Carl Stuart home before too many of you drive by and think “what in the world?!?!”
First of all…. Just so you know, as I stood before the almost finished framing of the garage + bonus room addition an hour ago, I too thought “What in the world?!?!” Followed immediately by “What have I done?!?!” Here is the deal…. it’s too late to turn back now, so I feel like I should at least explain why I thought this would be a good idea….. so at least you can sympathize and still want to be my friend.
You see….From the beginning, I have felt that this house had a hint of a mid-century vibe. I think it stems from the low pitch hip roof.

Here’s a better picture of the roof taken during demolition.

I’ll admit it bothered me a little that the house was built in 1978, not exactly “mid-century,” but then again sometimes Arkansas can be a little behind the times in design, so I could see how a mid-century house could pop up close to the 80s.  
So just like that a mid-mod story started taking shape in my head.  The challenge was the current footprint did not meet our family’s long-term needs, so we decided we needed to expand.  This led to the decision to add on a second story. The problem with this decision was it would mess with the roof line that inspired the original design story. So I had to come up with a new roofline that still complied with the mid-century style. 
ENTER the monoslope or shed roofline.  

Photo cred: Pinterest

VERY mid mod but NOT something we see every day in our neck of the woods. So then I lost many, MANY nights sleep trying to decide if we should go “all in” on the design story with the monoslope roof or play it “safe” with a gable style roof. On the one hand, I LOVE to try new design styles and like to challenge myself and others to not be afraid to try new things. But on the other hand- the hand with ALL my fingers, (yes, I was born with only 4.5 fingers on my right hand- freaky I know, one day I’ll show you but for now try to stay with me) I feared this highly visible house would stand out too much and read “showy.” But then again, we aren’t exactly in a subdivision so if ever there was a place to try out a new style this would be it.  In the end, we decided to go for it.
Aaaaaand now I am second guessing this decision.  The garage addition looks HUGE and really dramatic (thus “showy”)! I am trying to not go in full panic mode by telling myself that it just looks massive next to the low pitch of the current house and that it will all make sense once the main house is renovated. But it didn’t help when Rory, who is usually the one to calm me down and assure me everything is going to be ok, said, “maybe we should just bulldoze the whole thing and start over.”  I’m just going to go ahead and declare this a no sleep night. sigh.
I have more to say, but for now, I will leave it at that. 
Thanks for listening. 

Little House on Duncan Street

Hi, there. Let me re-introduce myself since it’s been awhile. I’m Niki, the storyteller of Storybook Homes. Thanks for joining me here at Two-Story Sister…… Although, now that I think about it… I guess I need to look at changing the name of this blog since Sister has been officially adopted by another family and I currently am writing to you from the shared office/living room space of our rental home. As you can imagine, leaving a beloved home that was personified into my third child over the last 9 years, was VERY difficult. As we made our final walk thru our empty home each room flooded me with random memories: 
Wrestling Matches with Rory and the boys in our bedroom.

Back to School Pictures in front of the ever-changing mantel:

Boys anxiously waiting at the top of the stairs each Christmas morning for permission to come downstairs to see what Santa had brought.

Meals prepared in my dream kitchen:

All the birthday parties and sleepovers.

The Adventures of Super Fido.

And the birthplace of Thompson Bro Films and Colby’s Creations.

(Did you watch that video? I do realize that I watch it thru my mommy lense but every year my boys get older that video gets both more precious and hilarious to me.)
Not to mention all the memories of the renovations and weekend projects we conquered over the years- truly no room was left without our family’s mark. 

(Dear New Homeowner, Underneath the carpet in the playroom you will find this blue and white checkerboard that my boys never fully appreciated.)

Yep, Sister was very good to us and we will miss her dearly.
But for now, we are happily settled into our small rental. Ironically, Rory purchased our current home with the intention of letting Storybook Homes flip her but the story I had planned for this home did not fit within a workable budget so I stepped aside and let Rory and Cole take full control of its renovation with the goal of adding it to Rory’s rental portfolio. It wasn’t until they were days away from putting a “for rent” sign in the yard that I had the idea that WE should move into the home while we renovate Carl Stuart. 
Not going to lie, downsizing to 1/3rd the size of our previous living quarters has not been without its challenges BUT I think this phase of life will be soooo good for us.  For one, it is showing us what is necessary and what we can live without…… and what we thought we could live without but now desperately wish we could dig out of one of the buried boxes in the storage building. 
In the weeks leading up to the move, I thought about how I would set up our transition home.
One of my favorite blogs is “The Nesting Place” where the Nester lives by her tag line “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”. I have always admired the Nester’s mantra and remember being particularly inspired by how she applied this philosophy during the period of life she and her family lived in a rental home. She did not let the fact that she did not own her home stop her from creating an inviting space that she happily opened up to friends and family. I always told myself that if I ever moved into a rental I too would make sure to make the most of our space and take the time to decorate no matter how long we might live there. 
Well, guess what? Turns out I am not the Nester. Since moving in I have not hung a single picture on the wall and because I sold all of our beds and bedding in our “Sister Estate Sale” our mattresses are sitting on the floor with what looks like prison-issued blankets and pillows.

But don’t worry! Although these pictures seem to imply I have taken a break from our storybook home and that I am “just getting by” during our transitional time in the rental, this could not be further from the truth. My home is still telling a story…. it’s just a different type of story than your used to on this blog spot.
You see, from the moment we moved in, my motivation shifted from “The Nesting Place” to “Little House on the Prairie.” If you grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books or watched the TV series you know that the infamous “little house” was not known for its’ decor but rather for the love that filled the home.  Despite the modest home, there was something enviable about the cozy little house Caroline Ingalls created and the simplistic life they led. I’d call Ma’s style “Utilitarian” or even “Tidy.” And that is what I am going for here on Duncan Street.
Now if I was being completely honest, this style was chosen out of necessity due to the small space restraints of our rental. However, by simply giving our living arrangement a story it has given purpose to our set-up and has allowed us to fully embrace and enjoy- TRULY enjoy, this phase of living. 
My end goal for setting up house here on Duncan Street was to be neat and functional. I made sure each item we brought in served a purpose, or even two. The only fluff that made the Duncan house cut were the items of decor I was nervous might get damaged in storage. 
Instead of running out and buying cute throw pillows and curtains for our new digs I shopped for plastic storage containers and command hooks to keep us organized. 

We stack our chairs cafeteria style when not in use to give us access to our makeshift pantry. 

The no dishwasher has afforded our boys the opportunity to learn the lost art of hand washing dishes. Aaaaand the NO Frills refrigerator has introduced them to ice trays and the joys of cracking the trays just right to free every last cube. 
Speaking of chores… Just like the Ingalls sisters, our boys have assigned chores to help keep our home functioning and tidy. Now, the Thompson boys have had chores for YEARS, the difference in Little House chores and past chores is I am actually “letting” them do them. You see, in the past, I rarely made it past week 1 of my boys color-coded laminated chore charts before my OCD tendencies would set in and I would take over their chores so that everything was done just right. I know! I know! This is terrible parenting and one day I will have to answer to my future daughters-in-law. (This is also the reason I have never been able to find a house cleaner.) BUT! I am determined to let this Little House style of living train me to allow others to help out around the house. So, in addition to keeping our individual rooms clean, each member has a list of weekly rotating chores. 

It’s been AMAZING! While it used to take ALL DAY every Saturday to give Sister a thorough bath, last weekend we had the entire Little House whipped in 2 hours! What freedom!!!
This loosing up of control has also trickled over to my boy’s bedroom decor. Colby is so proud of the cardboard box furniture he created….. and I have just let it goooo.

Seriously, I am going to emerge a whole new laid back person at the end of this transition period!
The biggest challenge to our Little House is that it only has 1 bathroom.
But this problem has been remedied by assigning each family member a set “PNT” (private naked time). The rules of PNT are that you can have the bathroom to yourself during your designated 10-15 min PNT but once that time is up, the family is free to walk on in to take care of business. 

Overall, we are perfectly content in our Little House and hope that this story will teach us to appreciate a more simplistic life and not take for granted some of the conveniences our new home will provide. Now if only I could convince my boys to trade in Fortnite for a quiet game of jacks or marbles.  
Coming up: 
Carl Stuart Update- my hopes and fears…. mostly fears. 
The Oliver Reveal! (family moves in this week!) 
And Future Projects

Farewell to Sister and HUGE Estate Sale

Well guys, it is almost time for the Thompson’s to say goodbye to our two-story sister. We are set to close in less than 2 weeks! I’m not ready to sit down and really process my feelings about leaving our beloved home, all I know is that when I have allowed myself even momentary brain space to think about moving my eyes get a little blurry and a lump starts forming in the back of my throat…. so I just don’t think about it.  Luckily, the Oliver and Carl Stuart projects are keeping my mind fairly occupied so I haven’t had time to take a sentimental walk down memory lane with Sister. . . yet. 
What I have been forced to come to terms with is the fact that, in addition to Sister, I will also be leaving behind my farmhouse style. Oh, this makes me sad! Farmhouse/Cottage Style is my absolute favorite. It is the style that I naturally gravitate toward and is the style that I think most closely reflects my character/personality. But, as much as I have fought it, Carl Stuart is destined toward a different path. I kept trying to convince myself that our new home had cottage roots buried deep within its history but the longer I spend with C.S. the more evident it has become that it has an entirely different style story to tell…. more on that at a later time. 
So that means I no longer will be using my farmhouse furnishings and decor. 😢 So sad for me, but if you too love the cottage/farmhouse style, this could be an exciting opportunity for you! Next Weekend, Friday and Saturday (July 27-28), 7am – 5pm.  Sister will be hosting a HUGE indoor estate sale. Basically, the plan is to move everything out that I am planning to keep to our rental so that everything left in the house will be available to purchase. (items previously purchased by new homeowners will be marked SOLD). 
I will also be bringing leftover furnishing and decor from past projects from storage to add to the mix so the inventory should be plentiful. 
I have started packing, sorting, and pricing, therefore currently my house looks like this:
So I’ll go ahead and sprinkle some old photos on this page to give you an idea of what might be available at the Sale.
(keeping clock, family pics, family verse and a few knick knacks)
  (keeping chalkboard and maybe the baskets)
(keeping buffet)
  (keeping a few knick knacks)
See anything you might like? If not, you haven’t seen all the stuff I’m pulling out of cabinets and storage…..
I’m just going to be real honest with ya, life is CRAZY right now trying to move while finishing up 1 project and desperately trying to get another project off the ground, I am meeting myself coming and going; so, if you leave me a message about a certain item or price there is a real good chance I won’t see it or have time to respond.  If you don’t mind, please refrain from knocking on my door prior to the sale date for an early look around- it will totally stress me out to let you into the chaos that is our current state of home. I’d rather you wait until everything is priced and organized for your sanity and mine.  I hope you understand. I am not planning on early sales but I am not guaranteeing it won’t happen, either. In other words, please don’t get mad at me. (people pleaser problem).
Hope to see you there! Please spread the word.
Two-Story Sister Estate Sale
Friday & Saturday- July 27th & 28th
7 am- 5 pm
1540 Haley Lane
Conway Arkansas

Quick Carl Stuart Update

Happy Summer! We officially kicked off construction at Oliver mid-May and things have been rolling ever since. We ended this week with insulation so that means next week we will be ready for drywall!
Meanwhile…… back at Carl Stuart, crickets are chirping and tumbleweed just blew across the scene. Yep, that construction site looks like a ghost town. We started off strong with demolition and had the place pretty much gutted before school let out, but then the project came to a screeching halt. Just when I thought I was catching on to this construction business I go and ask a silly question at the permit office that ends up getting my permits yanked.
Now that sounds a little more dramatic than it was. It wasn’t like I was in trouble, it’s just that my question triggered the city to ask for more drawings before they were comfortable signing off on the project. Unfortunately, my hand-drafted drawings did not cut it so that meant more time with Bob the draftsman. Between Bob’s camping expeditions and our trip to DC to support Colby at the National History Day competition, it took 3 weeks to revise the plans and get them resubmitted to the city- But I’m happy to report that as of 2pm Friday we have our permits back in hand and will be hopefully moving forward with the renovation by the end of next week.  
Here is what the house has looked like for the past month: (I’ve included the pre-demolition pictures as a reference point)
View from the front door: (Was soooo excited to find hardwood under that carpet, unfortunately, it stopped past the carpet.)
Dining Room: 

Kitchen with wall torn down that separated kitchen from master bath:

This view shows the wall down in the living room so you can see into the master bedroom and vice versa:

Behind the dining room and living room wall you can see into the 2 bedrooms:
And here is what she looks like if you drive by:

We took the bricks off the section of the home that is going 2 stories but tried to save as many bricks as we could so we could reuse them during the renovation. You see that pile of bricks? 

That pile represents pure misery. When we first started I had a goal of rescuing 100 bricks a day. By rescuing I mean finding whole bricks amongst the rubble piles of broken bricks and chiseling off the mortar from around the brick and inside the brick holes. Can I just tell ya? I now have a better understanding of what it felt like to be an Israelite trapped under Egyptian rule with a seemingly impossible brick quota to meet during the pre-plague years. On more than one occasion I caught myself singing:

Pharaoh, Pharaoh

Oh baby! Let my people go! HUH!

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

After about a week chiseling away at the bricks in the hot sun by myself, I recruited the rest of the family to help. With the family by my side, we looked and felt like members of a chain gang.  I used the opportunity to encourage the boys to flee a life of crime and to stay in school. I also tried to convince the boys they would have such a sense of pride every time they walked up to our home and saw the bricks they had worked so hard to salvage….. I don’t think they bought it. 
As of right now we have saved about 800 bricks. By my calculations, we need close to 1500 to patch repositioned doors and windows…. not going to lie, that deficit makes me want to cry.  
In other news, Sister has been under contract for a few weeks and is set to close on Aug 3rd. Obviously, the new crib will not be ready by then so we will be moving into a rental during the interim.  Had REALLY hoped to be move-in ready by the end of September but now I’m just hoping the house will be done by Christmas.
Hope to have a more positive Carl Stuart report for you next time. In the meantime, stay cool and enjoy your summer!

New Home- part 2

Part 2
Last time we talked, I announced we had just purchased a new family home against the advice of… well, pretty much everyone. But then in true storybook fashion, I left you on a cliffhanger by not telling you where the house is or why our friends felt so strongly against the location or why we chose to go forward despite the probable future resale suicide. Well, hang no longer, part 2 will answer all these questions and more.
So let’s dive in. Starting with location: Our new address is….


(I invite everyone to live in a world where you think your announcements require a drumroll)
2759 Carl Stuart Road!!!!

Ok….So, why did this address cause so much concern among our friends?  Let me zoom out to show you the neighborhood:

To our right, you can see Marguerite Vann Elementary. And to our left, behind a thin tree and brush line, we have… Carl Stuart Middle School.

Here is a bird’s eye view of the property courtesy of AR County data.

While living ON the campus of two schools might not be conventional, it was NOT our scholastic neighbors that caused our friends concern. No, 100% of the concerned remarks were ALL in regards to the parent carline that evidently rallies outside my future front door every morning and afternoon during student drop off and pick up times. As a parent of 2 former Julia Lee Moore Elementary and 1 Simon Middle School graduates I have not personally experienced this carline, but based on the reactions of my experienced friends, it must be quite traumatic. Apparently, we will be held hostage in our home every day during the hours of 7:30am-9am and again from 2pm-4pm when Carl Stuart Road converts from a 2-way street to a 1-way conveyor belt of parents lined up on both sides of the street to transfer their learned passengers back and forth from car and school and school and car.

And even if your end goal is not to deliver or retrieve a student, if you find yourself on Carl Stuart Road during the aforementioned hours you will be forced to ride the belt to the front of the line until you have reached the freedom of Salem Road….or so I have heard.
We were wisely advised to witness the carline at least once before signing on the dotted line to adopt 2759 as our own….. but I never seemed to find a good day to go willingly subject myself to traffic, so we did not heed this advice. Plus I knew once Rory was sold on my vision for the property no amount of cars were going to deter him from the plan (especially since his work hours will conveniently protect him from ever personally experiencing “the line”).
Since closing, I have purposely tried to shield myself from seeing the line-up because I do not want any feelings of dread or regret to cloud the renovation ahead. Therefore, I purposely do not arrive at the job site until after the morning tardy bell has rung and I flee the house like the storm is approaching tilted towers at the first site of a parked car in the afternoon. Luckily, we will complete the bulk of the project during the summer break when Carl Stuart Road will pretty much be abandoned…at least on my side of the street. I’m hoping by the time we experience our first Carl Stuart carline we will be so in love with our house and fully immersed in the mission of the property that we will view each carload as a blessing and an opportunity rather than a curse….. anyway that is the story I keep telling myself.
So what is this vision/mission I keep referring to? Well, for you to fully understand I feel I need to give you some background information:

This past January, Rory and I enrolled in a 16-week mission-oriented course called Perspectives. This intensive course walked us through the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic perspective of the world Christian movement and opened our eyes to see that from the beginning of time God has had one purpose- to be known, worshiped and glorified among all peoples. During the first class, we were warned that taking this course had the potential to change the whole trajectory of our lives. Supposedly, many unsuspecting students sign up thinking Perspectives is just a “special” bible study only to find themselves on the foreign mission field 16 weeks later. While Rory and I did not feel called to change our zip code, each week’s lesson made us long to join in God’s purpose and to make our lives count for something bigger than ourselves….we just didn’t know what that might look like for us as individuals or as a family.

Fast forward to bedtime on the day Rory and I first toured 2759 Carl Stuart with the seller. I climbed into bed fully expecting to be entertained all night with thoughts of decor and floor-plans as is customary after I tour any home; but instead, my thoughts raced with ideas on how we might use this home because of its location. The following paragraph will walk you thru the highlight reel of my thoughts that night. I am adding in punctuation for your benefit but as you get deeper into the narrative just know that my thoughts picked up momentum to a pace that would not support even a comma, much less a period in real life. Exclamation points will be used to show excitement, but again, try not to pause too long while reading to get the full effect. If anything, an exclamation point should be a signal to pick up the pace. Ok, you ready?? Let’s do it:

It all started with the simple thought of how great it would be that Cohen could walk to and from school. He could literally roll out of bed and be in his homeroom class in 3 minutes. And how awesome would it be to not have to rush away from a job site every day at 3pm to go pick up kids from school, especially if Colby continues to think riding his bike to school is cool. From here I thought it might be nice to offer our home as a drop-off and pickup location to Cohen’s friends so their parents could also enjoy a little more flexibility in when they took and picked up their kids. AND then out of nowhere I had the idea for Taco Tuesday!! Every Tuesday, kids could come over after school and stay for Tacos until it was time for Tuesday night K-life club! How cool would that be! But wait!?! That would limit the number of kids to only those that could fit in my car. So we are talking 4 kids max… who am I kidding my car will never be cleaned out enough to hold an additional 4 humans. Maybe Rory could drive?, or we both could drive? Or…. instead of Taco Tuesdays and K-life we could HOST OUR OWN BIBLE STUDY!!! (thoughts of Perspectives and the great commission sweep in.) We could host a once a week breakfast and bible study at 7am! Morning would be great because I don’t ever get to a job site until after 8am so there would be no reason a project would get in the way of being consistent. And the fact that kids could just walk across the yard to get to school means I wouldn’t have to worry about maxing out seatbelt capacity. We could have a limitless number of kids.  But what about Colby? His friends could come too, but again, we are limited to how many can fit in my car to deliver them to Junior High. YOUTH GROUP!!! Of Course! Colby is in the youth group and this home is literally just 1 field away from our church. Colby could have all his friends over for dinner before Wednesday night youth group and then they could walk across the field to church. What food starts with “W”??? (I’ll admit, I spent quite a bit of time and brain space trying to come up with a good food theme night for Wednesdays.. to no avail.) Wait just a minute!!!! Our church PARTNERS with Marguerite Vann Elementary, our other neighbor!!! Our children’s pastor is always looking for volunteers to go read with the kids at Vann. Now that I will live so close I could totally do that on my lunch break! Maybe I could read to a little girl. Oh my goodness GIRLS!! Maybe I could host a once a month breakfast and devotional for 3rd and 4th-grade GIRLS from Marguerite Vann! But who would drop their daughter off to a total stranger’s house? Oh- oh-oh!!! THEIR MOMS COULD COME TOO! Oh my goodness, maybe we could even have a TEA PARTY!!! I’ve always wanted to have a tea party. Tea, scones, and Jesus!!! “ahhh” (contented sigh) And then there are the TEACHERS! God bless the teachers. Our home could be a respite. I should get one of those coded locks for our back door and give all the teachers of Carl Stuart and Marguerite Vann the code so on a rough day they could sneak over for a cup of coffee or nap during their planning period. Could they do that??? Probably should talk to their principals. I could at least host a prayer breakfast for the teachers!!! Hmmm, that’s a lot of breakfasts and food. How am I going to pay for all that food?!?! I could have a concession stand outside our house selling coffee and donuts to those dropping off kids in the morning and soft drinks and water for those waiting to pick up in the afternoon? Is that allowed? Would I need a special license?… But what about the nations? How can we reach the nations from our home on Carl Stuart?? Ding! Ding! Ding!!! This house is just a stone’s throw from UCA! We could reach out to the foreign exchange students! I’m sure they would love an opportunity to leave campus and come hang out with an American family. We could invite the exchange students to come spend Sunday afternoons with us and then invite them to walk across the field to attend Sunday night church which is attended by mostly college students. That would give us a chance to learn about different cultures and perhaps share the gospel with students who have never heard the name of Jesus. And then they can share the gospel with their friends and family in their native land when they go back home. I should probably learn some different languages. Wonder if that Rosetta Stone really works?

The next morning as I shared bits and pieces of my late night revelation with Rory (I have learned he does best with my ideas in small doses) I really had no doubt he would love the idea based on our Monday evening conversations driving home from Perspectives and the fact that Rory has such a heart for kids. Rory was poured into by one of his friend’s family growing up and he has always had a desire to do the same for other kids. He has used sports as an avenue to do this by coaching pretty much every sport our boys have ever participated in. He and his coaching buddy, David Tapp, approached each team they coached as an opportunity to better their young athletes in both the skills of the game and in life. Each athlete was taught the importance of having H.E.A.R.T. Being Humble both on and off the field, Giving their best Effort in the game, in the classroom, in their chores etc. Having a good Attitude, Being Respectful to their coaches, parents, referees, teachers, etc. And finally to be a good Teammate. But our oldest son decided sports wasn’t his thang early in life and our youngest is quickly advancing out of Rory’s coaching ability so this outlet for investing in kids lives is nearing an end for Rory and I know this has been hard for him. So when I shared that this house would be a strategic location to be hang-out central he was all in. When I told him how I thought this could be our “mission field” to launch the gospel to our neighbors and the nations…. let’s just say no amount of traffic would sway him from this house. While each warning planted a seed of doubt in my heart, it became fuel for Rory. To him, the location challenge of this house became like Noah’s Arc or David’s slingshot….something laughed at by man but something God could use to show his Glory.

But despite Rory’s steadfastness, the further I got from my night of revelation the more I starting doubting the plan. In fact during the interim of going under contract and signing the ownership papers I spent many more sleepless nights worrying that we were about to make the biggest financial mistake of our lives. This fear stemmed from the following:

1.) At some point, I remembered I’m not a kid person. Yep, this could be a big deal.  I mean don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOOVE my own kids and my boys have some of the sweetest friends on the planet but if given the choice to have a kids sleepover or a quiet night at home, I’ll choose the quietness every time. So if the boys want to have a friend over they know to ALWAYS ask Rory first.  Rory is the fun parent, the one joining the kids in a game of whiffle ball or flag football while I’m the one inside yelling “no running in the house” and “keep your drinks in the kitchen.” Nothing illustrates this “fun factor” deficiency more than the fact that I instigated “the obedience game” at Cohen’s 9th birthday party.

Afraid so. Here is proof…

In my defense, the game was a hit! In fact, I had at least 3 requests to play it again at Cohen’s 10-year-old sleepover. But seriously, this is what I’m talking about- I’m not fun! So even though my heart has a BIG desire to love on kids and provide a safe fun home that welcomes all kids at all times…. my head is afraid I will need a personality transplant to be chill enough to keep an open door at all times. Therefore, my daily prayer since going under contract has been “Lord, Please give me a heart for kids.” And can I just tell you, one of my FAVORITE parts about my surprise birthday party at our Carl Stuart house was seeing and hearing all the kids playing a spontaneous game of kickball in the backyard. It was like I could sense the Lord showing me that he was already at work.

2) Another personality hurtle I know I will have to clear to make this vision a success is my need for a clean house. Honestly, this one gives me heart palpations. NOT because my house is always clean-oh no! NOT HARDLY!!! But because I NEVER invite anyone inside our home unless I have spent at least 1/2 a day cleaning it; otherwise people might see that I am not a “perfect homemaker.” But this plan has all sorts of people in our home at all hours of the day and night so I know there is no way I can keep up that facade.
Ya know…. I use to think “hospitality” was my spiritual gift because I LOVED having people over for dinner but based on the paragraph above I think I am more gifted at “entertaining” then truly practicing hospitality.  Do you know the difference? Entertaining focuses on making the host look good while hospitality puts all the focus and attention on the guest. When someone leaves the home of someone who is a good entertainer they can often feel inadequate or envious. But when you have been in a home of someone who has the gift of hospitality you leave feeling welcomed, served, and loved. That is what I desperately want for myself and this home…. and a housekeeper, yeah that would be nice too (I’m only human).

That is why I absolutely LOVED that Rory chose to host my party at our new home. NEVER in a million years would I have EVER hosted a party in a reno zone. I mean the place was filthy and dusty from sheetrock debris, all the cabinetry had been removed, and insulation was falling out of the ceilings and yet my friends and family were all gathered in this imperfect space and it was absolutely PERFECT.

3) The last fear that threatened to choke out my dedication to the plan was my fear of not following through. I mean, I know myself pretty well; so trust me when I tell you that while I am FULL (practically bursting) with great ideas and awesome intentions, only a handful of these ideas ever make it to fruition.  I mean, HELLO, remember my New Year’s Resolution fetish?!?! Out of the 60+ I make every year MAYBE 3 will take. And then there is my front porch. I am haunted by all the good intentions that went unrealized with my porch. I TRUELY (with all my heart) believed if I put a front porch on sister I would be a better neighbor. I even fantasized about neighborhood sing-alongs and morning bible studies around the porch table. But did I ever slow down long enough to invite one neighbor over for the last 5 years??? Nope! So what makes me think I will fulfill the mission at Carl Stuart?!?! I mean let’s face it, I could have just as easily viewed my current home as my mission field for the last 9 years…. but I didn’t. This terrifies me. So because of this, my prayer for the 1.5 months it took to close was “Lord, please do NOT let this house become just another renovation. If You know we will not use this home to bring YOU glory, please do NOT allow the sale to go through.”  This is also the main reasons I wanted to share this vision with you- I am hoping you will hold me accountable and perhaps join me in praying that this home will be a place that God will use to do a mighty work.  I’m trusting that He will because we successfully closed on April 20th.


In addition to the ministry plans, we have for this home, I, of course, have a plan for its renovation. In fact, knowing the stigma that this location carries we are renovating for the long haul just in case we are unable to resale in the future. We are making sure the renovation meets our needs for many years and stages of life. 

Stay tuned throughout the summer for alternating updates between this project and our Oliver Street New Construction. Thanks so much for letting me stray from the norm on this blog and share a little bit of my heart.

And if you want an opportunity to join us on the mission field…. believe it or not, there is ANOTHER house that shares our proximity to the schools and the epic carline and It’s FOR SALE!! Wink Wink

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Here is a link to its listing.

Our New Home- Part 1

Today is my birthday…. well I should say, “when I started writing this blog post it was my birthday.” If this post goes like all the rest, I will be well into my 40th year of life before I finish it and hit publish.  But anyways, I tell you this because last night Rory, with the help of some of the best friends a girl could have, threw me a surprise party in our future home. It was so sweet and could not have been a more perfect way to kick off this next chapter of my life and home.

Cake Cred to Patty Cakes. Is it not the cutest!?!  Look at that little carhart hat and SBH t-shirt.💓

“Wait?!! What?!?!” you say.
Yes, it’s true…. I am 40 YEARS OLD! Hard for me to believe too….. Huh? What’s that you’re saying? Oh…, that’s not the part that surprised you? Oh!!! You want to know about our future home.
Well ok, but I’m going to need to take you back several months to get you caught up. so let’s get started…..
Last year, after the dust had settled from the sell of Caldwell, and I had brain space to process that we had actually really attempted to sell our beloved home, the idea of moving started to sink in, and it kinda got me excited. You see we have lived inside the walls of Sister for the last 9 years, which is a long time for the Thompsons. Prior to this home, the longest we had lived in a home was 4 years and the shortest was 7 months. Our past moves had been motivated by a need for more space and/or an itch for a new project. But with Sister, we have had all the space we need and thanks to the birth of Storybook Homes my project cup overflowith, so thoughts of moving had not crossed our minds…. until it became part of our back-up plan to stay financially afloat during the Caldwell renovation. (If your new to the blog, you can read about that plan here.)
Once the idea of moving was rooted in my head I pitched the idea to the family. On an excitement scale of 1 to 10 here is how my family ranked on the thought of moving:
Colby- 2,
Cohen – 9
Rory- 5
Me- 9.999
So with an above neutral average I took that as a sign to officially begin our house hunt. To help elevate all excitement levels and to live out my House Hunters fantasies I took an inventory of everyone’s wish list for the new house.

⬜ Within biking distance to school and friends.
⬜ Workspace for Colby’s Creations
⬜ Mancave (excuse me while I try not to roll my eyes)
⬜ Carl Stuart school district because that is where the majority of his friends from sports and church will be going
⬜ Basketball goal (inside room and/or outside)
⬜ Mancave (I’m not even going to try to hold back an eye roll…he’s 10 years old!)
⬜ Tiny House – “we just need to get rid of a ton of “junk” (aka all Niki’s seasonal decor and stock pile of home goods) and live simply” 
⬜ next breath… “I need my own personal office, a personal storage room for all my hunting/camping gear, a large garage with NOTHING but cars in it.” (quotes from Rory)
⬜ New construction (shot to my heart)
⬜ Land for a horse and donkey 
⬜ and of course (say it with me….) A mancave.
⬜ Must be a fixer upper! The uglier the better
⬜ Must be cheap! I want a large budget to work with
⬜ Want enough land for a shop- I’m tired of driving across town to get to my tools
⬜ Close to Kroger! Once you have lived within a mile of Kroger, you can’t go back!

So with my House Hunter wish list, I started the hunt! At first, I stuck with the traditional routes of finding a home: realtor, zillow.com, realtor.com, and drove the city looking for sale signs. But after a few months of coming up dry, I expanded my search to homes NOT currently on the market. That’s right, no home was safe from me trying to purchase it. If it met a large chunk of my family’s wish list, I would AR County data the property to find out the name of the unsuspecting home owner, then I would use my sleuthing skills to track the owner down on FB, and last I would send them a message asking if they would consider selling me their house. While waiting for the owner to respond back I would draw out a dream floor plan based on the perimeter footprint provided by AR County data, and I would daydream about how I would decorate and furnish it. Not creepy at all! Surprisingly, not one person was willing to sell me their house*
* If you were one of the people I approached about buying your home, I promise I am harmless. But should you ever decide to renovate, I have a plan already drawn out and a full Pinterest board I’d be happy to share. 

Because I let myself become emotionally attached to each home I approached, each rejection took a toll on my spirit and I was beginning to get really discouraged. Then one cold morning in February, on an early morning run, I ran across a FSBO (For Sale by Owner) sign. Now, you should know, that I am the most oblivious runner (and driver) on the planet. You could come within 1 inch of running me over and I won’t notice but I can spot a FSBO sign a mile away!
What is crazy about this particular property, was that I had literally been running past this house since my college cross-country days (20+ years) and I had NEVER noticed its existence before. I snapped a picture of the phone number and then I waited and watched the seconds tick by for 2 hours until it was an acceptable hour to call the number on the sign. No answer. I left a voicemail, then a text, then another voicemail just for good measure. Finally at 2pm that afternoon I got a call back from the owner and we set up an appointment to see the property later that afternoon. While on the phone she warned me that the house was very dated and would need some work… I tried to play it cool but inwardly I was doing backflips…. “dated and needs work” are 2 of the most important qualities I look for in a home!
My parents were in town visiting, so my Mom and Rory went with me to look at the house. The house was dated but minus the stained carpet it was very clean by storybook home standards (in other words, it didn’t stink). I tell you what…. instead of just describing it, I’ll take you on a quick tour of what we saw:
When we stepped inside the front door we walked directly into the carpeted living room.

Here is another picture of the Living Room.

The living room is open to the dining area…

and kitchen.

Here is a close up of the kitchen.

Off the dining area there is a powder bath

Then down the hall…

are 2 bedrooms
and a full bathroom

Then back thru the dining area and the kitchen we found the master suite which was obviously a enclosed garage conversion

Stats: a little over 1800 sq. feet, 3 bed, 2.5 bath on 0.41 acres. And to help orient you a little better, here is a rough floor-plan of current house:

What do you think? Could it be the Thompson’s DREAM HOME!?!?! As far as the Thompson Family wish list: it met all of the location requirements, but the current floor-plan checked off very few of the space requests. For me, this was part of its charm. I knew I would LOVE the challenge of rearranging the walls to meet my family’s demands desires.
Rory has stressed to me the importance of keeping a poker face when looking at a house, so without giving any of my excitement away I let the owner know that we would discuss and get back to her in a couple of days. Problem was Rory was leaving on a mission trip the next day so I knew if he hadn’t had an immediate attraction to the house, it would be a whole week before I would even get a chance to launch my persuasion tactics on him. And in the world of real estate, we might not even have a house to discuss in a week. So the second we were out of ear shot of the owner I tried to get a read on how he liked the house. His response was, “Crunch some numbers and see if you can make it work.” Yep, he gives me the same real estate poker face that he gives home owners. I think he feels he has to keep things detached and neutral to help balance out my immediate obsession and passion for every home I tour.
So the second I got home, I sketched out a rough floor plan that would satisfy almost all my family’s wish list (minus the horse and donkey) and then made a speculative budget for how much money it would cost to bring the vision to life. The renovation total plus the owner’s asking price equalled a number just outside our target price range. I presented the numbers to Rory that night before we went to bed along with my rough sketch of what I was thinking the end product would look like. After looking things over he liked it enough to give me his blessing to make a long shot offer that the owner was not likely to accept but would land us nicely in our price point comfort zone.
Now normally after I am first introduced to a house, I will spend a blissful but sleepless night laying in bed trying to keep up with my racing mind as visions of floor-plans and light fixtures dance in my head. But that night, my normal house thoughts took a detour from the cosmetics of the home, and instead I could’t stop thinking about how the house might function. The more I thought about how we might use this house the more excited and convinced I was that this property was destined to be our next home. The next morning as I drove Rory to the church to leave for his mission trip, I shared just a little of my vision for the property with him. He didn’t say much (again with the poker face) but I could see the wheels start to spin in his head, and once again he blessed the decision to submit our agreed upon offer with the owner, but added that he would be praying over it and encouraged me to do the same.
The next day, I met the owner back at the property to submit our offer. Before I gave her our offer I accidentally told her about all the plans I had for the place. I mean I went on and ON and ON which totally broke Every Last Rule Rory has ever tried to teach me about real estate negotiations. I kept thinking “Niki, STOP TALKING” but I couldn’t help it…remember Rory was out of the country so besides the brief conversation we had had on our 6 minute drive to church I had been all alone with my thoughts for over 48 hours so it all just came pouring out at the feet of the seller. So by the time I actually gave her our offer, she pretty much knew we had all but moved into the place. Despite this, she did not outwardly laugh at my offer, but rather she said she loved the vision I had for the property and that she would think about our offer and get back to me.  
The next day, while waiting to hear back from the seller, I started spreading the news among my friends that I thought I had found us a house! Everyone was excited about the news until I revealed where the house was located. At this point, in EVERY conversation, the excitement plummeted and the talk turned to warnings against purchasing the property. Not one person thought it would be a good idea. (Well, I take that back, ONE friend was on board but this friend is as sweet as honey and I’m not sure she is capable of saying anything negative.) But seriously, EVERYONE else I told about the house basically said we would be crazy to purchase this property because of its location. In fact, I had so many negative reactions I was almost relieved when the seller called with a counter offer that was well outside our comfort zone. 
That night, when Rory called from Belize, I let him know about the counter offer, and I also communicated all the negative feedback I had received from our friends. I was fully prepared for him to tell me we just needed to walk away, but instead he asked “Do you think you could adjust the design to make the counter offer work within our budget?” At this point we must have entered the twilight zone because while Rory was trying to make this house work for us, I heard myself argue, “I just don’t think this house makes good financial sense for us.” THIS folks, has NEVER happened in our marriage. It was a complete role reversal. But instead of being swayed by the warnings of our well meaning friends or by my completely out-of-character prudent financial concerns Rory simply reminded me of the vision I had shared with him about the place and suggested that I not be so quick to reject the offer but rather to continue to pray about it until he got home and we could sit down and look at the numbers together. 
Three days later, after continuing to listen to wise counsel from those familiar with the area, I called the seller to let her know I just didn’t think we could make the counter offer work. I did let her know that Rory and I would discuss further when he got home, but I did not want her to hold the house for us.  At this, she offered to drop the price a little more. Now putting us just slightly out of our target range.
That night, I called Rory to tell him that I had tried to walk away because I just did not have a peace about the location, but that she dropped the price to $X amount. As soon as I said the number, Rory said “do it.” I was like, “what?!?!” He said, I want you to call her back and tell her we will take it. To which I, fully embracing my new role as the voice of financial reason in our marriage, responded “Let’s just continue to pray about it until you get home and then we can sit down and really discuss. If the house is supposed to be ours, it will still be there” (although after listening to the onslaught of warnings against the house all week, I wasn’t too nervous the house would be swept up by another buyer before Rory and I had time to have a looooong conversation).
I will share with you how Rory confirmed that this house was to be part of our family’s story as well as my vision for the space in part 2 of this blog. 
But because I already spoiled the ending with my opening paragraph I will let you know we went under contract the day after Rory got home from his mission trip and officially made this house our own on April 20th.

Do you recognize this house? Do you know why our friends might have been a little concerned about its location? 

Oliver Update

Warning: It’s a long one, you might want to bookmark this chapter and come back when you have plenty of time to read or if you’re having trouble sleeping some night. 
Exciting times are on the horizon for Storybook Homes this Spring and Summer, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it; but before I can get to all that, I feel I need to spend some time updating you on Oliver. Remember Oliver?
Back in February, I put out an ALL-CALL looking for a homeowner for this gem. And Guess What?!?! Despite the scary pictures and being greeted by this in person:

We had multiple families interested in the place and ended up shaking hands with the first couple we met. Crazy, huh?!? You know what is even crazier??? We truly thought finding a prerenovation buyer was going to be the biggest challenge of the project! Boy were we wrong…. (blatant foreshadowing folks… read on)
The couple adopting Oliver could not be more perfect. If you have spent any time on twostorysister, you are familiar with my slight control issues. Because of this, I have been VERY apprehensive to leave the flipping model to work with homeowners because this would require me to put someone else’s wishes and priorities over my own (I get it, I get it… their money, their house). Gosh, that looks awful in writing….not proud of this personality trait, however “honest” is another trait from which I suffer so I have this need to share EVERYTHING with you or I feel like I’m lying. 
Anyways…the couple we are working with understand and respect my need for control and are really trying to let me take the lead. But here is the cool thing, they have contributed some really great ideas too! For example, at our first meeting when I presented my hand-drafted plan, they suggested in lieu of the soaker tub we incorporate a larger “doorless” shower. I LOVED that idea! My dream shower is doorless too and I had only put the soaker tub in to satisfy the masses so I was totally on board with this change.
We also moved some closets around to create a doorway to the backyard. Easy Peasy. And they wanted to add a 2 car carport to the plan. After we reviewed the proposed floorplan, I pitched the story idea behind the house design and provided a few inspiration pics to let them see how this might play out in terms of color and overall feel. Here are 3 of the pics I showed them:

I’m afraid this last one might have scared them a little, but you see HE was the essence of the story. For some reason, this house had always conjured up images of Ken and Barbie, specifically Ken and Barbie in Tennis wear. 
This was going to play out in the cutest vintage preppy craftsman. I even had vintage tennis rackets stashed away for staging. However, upon sharing the inspiration pics I learned that she was not a fan of green and was nervous to try out some of my other color ideas. I’ll admit I panicked for a second because I could feel my story slipping away and I was terrified to attempt this project without a story as my guide. But then something happened…. before I left that meeting she graciously took me on a tour of their beautiful home and pointed out some of her favorite furniture pieces that she would like to see incorporated into the design of the house. During that tour it became clear how perfect her favorite things would fit into the space we had just reviewed and I realized that I would not have to navigate this renovation without a story after all…. the new homeowners ARE THE STORY! Their wishes and ideas would form the new story of this house!


I know this seems like an obvious answer to most of you, but it was a real “ah-ha” moment for me. I’m sure this story will evolve throughout the construction process as I get the privilege of working alongside this couple but at this stage of the game, I can reveal that the home has moved from whimsical preppy to a slightly more traditional timeless cottage. It’s going to be great!
(Don’t worry, I’m sure Ken and Barbie will resurface on a future project.)
With the plans approved and a clearer direction for the design of the house, the next step was to submit the plans to the historic commission for approval of the carport. This process delayed the project for about a month but during that month I worked with a real-life draftsman to draw up official plans for the renovation. Guys, I wish I had time to tell you about Bob the draftsman, he is a hoot and when we don’t want to kill each other we have a real good time BUT this blog is already turning into a novel and I haven’t even gotten to the drama so Bob will have to be revisited on another day. 
Fast forward to the Friday before the Monday Historic meeting.  Rory and I scheduled a meeting with our concrete man and framer to discuss the best approach to repair/replace the foundation so we could be ready to roll the second the historic commission blessed our plans and we could pick up our building permit.

From the picture above you can see we were FULLY prepared and budgeted to replace every interior pier and beam and pour new footings inside the house AND we knew we would need to replace some crumbling brick on the perimeter skirt with block BUT what we were NOT prepared for was when our concrete friend starting sticking his metal rod deep into the ground around the entire perimeter of the house and discovered that this home had NO (none, zero, nada, not 1) concrete footing under the entire house. WHAT?!>? How can that be? How has the house stood for the last 90 years on wet dirt? I mean even a 4-year-old knows wise men build their house upon the rocks, therefore their house stand firm BUT foolish men build their house upon the sand and eventually that house goes splat! There’s even hand gestures to prove it! (if anyone needs help with this illustration, here is a youtube link to help you out https://youtu.be/cZlirVKALJ0)

Guys, I felt sucker punched. I just stood there frozen in complete shock as Rory and the concrete man continued talking. I finally came to when I heard Rory say “we just need to demolish and start over” What?!?! Nooooo!!!! We CAN’T demolish and start over! I mean, our storybook tagline is “we give old homes a new story thru renovation and design” NOT we build NEW homes! But even as I argued, I knew that it was just not financially feasible, responsible, or even safe to try to lift this 90-year-old home with its creaky bones to pour perimeter footings under her. Nor would it be even remotely ok to continue the renovation knowing it was not sitting on a firm foundation. So really we had no other options.
I’m not going to lie. This realization felt like a failure. I felt we were tasked with the job to save this house and we had to admit defeat. But if I’m being really honest, what hurt the most was my pride. I can’t tell you how many subcontractors had visited the site and volunteered their opinion that we should just tear the place down. This is a common sentiment shared by visitors at the majority of our prerenovation projects and it used to hurt my feelings and make me doubt our ability to do the work but after so many projects under our belt, I now just smile and thank them for their opinions while I think to myself “you just wait and see buddy, You just WAIT AND SEE.” (Again, not proud of this arrogance, but feel obligated to confess it to you.) So thinking about all the “I told you so’s” that would be coming my way, caused a bad case of humble pie induced indigestion.

Plus on top of all that, I am terrified of new construction! I have been told by a number of real builders that new construction is easier than remodels BUT I know that my strength is in being able to look at something and figure out a way to make it better NOT making something great the first time around! So let it be known. This is NOT an announcement that SBH is branching out into new construction. I have already told myself I am NOT allowed to like it. This is just a very special circumstance. The only thing that makes me feel better about this new construction is that it will be based on the floorplan we already had drafted for the old house.

So, after finally accepting the inevitable, I made the first of my “hard phone calls” to the future homeowners.

Guys, let me pause right here to tell you “hard phone calls” are no joke! It is like the worst! I get physically ill when I have to make one of these phone calls to the homeowners and I have the easiest, nicest, most understanding home owners on the planet! I can’t even watch Chip and Jo make the phone calls anymore without getting sick. 

I think I led with “you are under no obligation to go forward with the purchase of this property” before I went on to explain that we would no longer be able to provide them with a brand new fully renovated 90-year-old home, but rather all we could offer was a replica in the form of new construction. They took the news like champs and let me know they were still all in!

With that phone call behind me, the next hurdle I had to jump was with the historic commission. I had no idea if I would even be able to present the plan now that it had turned into a new construction project. But by this point the clock had ticked past the city’s quitting time so I would have to wait until Monday to find that out…..

Over the weekend I crunched out what I thought would be a worst case scenario budget to present to the future homeowners to show them a side by side comparison of the original renovation budget vs the new construction budget. I did this to make doubly sure they still had no reservations about going forward with the project before I “hopefully” presented the plan to the historic commission….and again they said to march on.

SIDE NOTE: This “worst case scenario” budget would later come back to haunt me when I actually started getting subcontractor and material bids and realized I had no idea how much lumber costs had increased nor what a new slab foundation would cost. Holy Moley! These shocks to the budget resulted in at least 2 more “hard phone calls” to the homeowners which taught me 3 things:

  1. Going over budget with someone else’s money feels a trillion times worse than when it is your own money at risk.
  2. In the future, I am going to take my worst case scenario budget and at least double it before I present it to homeowners.
  3. I am working with the sweetest, most understanding, gracious future homeowners on the planet. Instead of getting upset with me, they actually tried to make me feel better and have on multiple occasions been such a great source of encouragement. And despite the fact that I have given them multiple opportunities to back out they continue to remain excited about this project.
Ok, back to the story. 

First thing Monday morning I called the City to get an appointment with the City Planner to find out if I could go ahead and present my proposal for new construction at that night’s historic hearing or if I would have to reapply and wait until the following month’s meeting. Praise the Lord, he said I could go ahead and present that night since I was planning on building back the same structure in my proposal. Then, that night, although they too were sad to see an old home demolished, the historic commission voted unanimously in favor of our project! Yippee we were FINALLY ready to get this project started!…… or so we thought…

The next day I filed my application for demolition and while there I casually mentioned I would be picking up my building permit the second the house came tumbeling down because I was BEYOND ready to get going on it. That is when the next bomb was dropped. I was told because the project was no longer a remodel but new construction, we would have to have a “licensed contractor” over the project.


What?!?! You see, as a renovator of old houses we do not have to be licensed contractors as long as we only work on homes we own, but apparently, the same rules do not apply with new construction. The rules state that you can only self-contract on new construction if you plan to owner occupy the completed home. This, of course, was brand new news to me. So at this point I had a decision to make, I could either hire a licensed contractor who would allow me to still be the project manager or I could put on my big girl panties and get that license myself- which was already on my long-term goal list I just thought it would be waaaaay in the future when I had more experience and was more confident and ready to branch out from our flipping model to work with clients. But what the heck, I decided to go for it.

The next day I filled out the application and had it in the mail in time to meet the next licensure board meeting. All that was left to do on my part was to take the contractor licensing test. The test was open book and every man I talked to who had taken the test before assured me they did not even crack the book before they sat down to take the test. Well, that is not how this chick rolls. If there was going to be a test, I was going to study for it. I didn’t make a 4.0 GPA in college by winging it folks. (Yes, my 4.0 GPA is completely irrelevant to the story but gee whiz I worked hard for those grades and NOT ONE time have I ever been asked my GPA on a job interview, so when the opportunity presents itself I try to work it into everyday conversations just so I don’t feel it was all for nothing.) Anyways, the week before my test I accompanied Rory on a business meeting in Las Vegas and while he was in meetings I sat in the hotel room and read that book from cover to cover. And guess what?!?! I still needed to use my book for 95% of the questions. But I did make an A (not that anyone at the permit office will ask me about my grade when I go to pull the building permit).

So at this point, I am just waiting for the licensing board to approve me, to be ready to roll. Assuming they do, I’d appreciate it if you would keep the fact that I am a real life Licensed General Contractor to yourself. Just not ready to advertise that…. although I do plan to get my Carhart hat, tool belt, and maybe some overalls monogrammed with G.C. to wear at the job site- you know, just to gain the respect of the other subs on the project.

But in the meantime, while I wait for my license, this happened…

Moment of Silence for Oliver, please.

Thanks. And a big Thank You to the sweet neighbor who sent us this footage because it happened so fast I missed it.

2 days, a broken water line, and a stuck tree truck later this is how she sits…. just waiting for her building permit….

So now you’re updated!

But before I sign off on this forever long blog post, I want to get your take on an idea I had. Because this project is spoken for and our very patient future homeowners will be anxious to move in the second we wrap this project up, I will not be hosting an open house at the conclusion of this project. Which means no dramatic reveal. So in light of this, I’m playing with the idea of letting Colby do a weekly video recap on what happens each week at the project since he will be out of school pretty soon for summer break. He has been trying to get me to do a SBH YouTube channel for over a year, and I keep telling him “no one watches YouTube” but he insists people do. So anyways, I think this would be a good project to try it out on. What do you think? Do you click on video’s when they show up on FB or Instagram?

Just to test it out… here is a video Colby made shortly after we purchased Oliver. You can tell by the twinkle in my eye and the excitement in my voice, I was completely ignorant of the impending doom awaiting this little duplex when this video was shot.

Woo Hoo! Thanks for hanging with me to the bitter end of this loooong blog. You’re dismissed! Until next time….

Coming Soon….

I am in the process of writing up a juicy blog about all the fun things in store for Storybook Homes over the next 4-5 months, but wanted to pause just a second to get the news out that Sister is going back on the market sometime really soon….. just waiting for the frost threats to go away so I can put some flowers in the dirt before I stick the sign in the yard.
If you remember, we attempted to sell her last year during the Caldwell renovation as an insurance policy that we would not go bankrupt with two large house payments if Caldwell failed to sell. But before we even finished the Caldwell renovation we ended up taking Sister off the market because 1) it was just too much trying to keep her show ready while living at the Caldwell project and 2) Quite honestly, it hurt my feelings when no one wanted my baby in the first few weeks she was listed. I know, I know…. that’s ridiculous, BUT when you personify your house and treat it like your 3rd child you kinda take it personally. It was like that feeling you get when your kid is chosen last on the playground or doesn’t get asked to the prom. I mean, Really?!?! Can’t these people see how special she is?!?! 
BUT this year I am ready. I have worked on detaching myself emotionally from Sister this house and have prepared myself that she it might not sell for a while- and that is ok. I get the fact that our home might not be the perfect fit for every family. I do, I REALLY do. BUT just in case you are new to the blog (the blog coincidentally named two-story sister… after this house…but whatever….no biggie, it’s just a house) and happen to be in the market for a nice family home I thought I would give you a little sneak peak of Sister before she is presented to the world on Zillow in a few days. This tour will highlight the before and afters of some Sister’s biggest makeovers. 

Exterior- bye bye Colonial, hello farmhouse.

 You can read about the exterior transformation here.
 I blogged about the kitchen here and here.
Office: Sorry for the terrible before pic, this is all I could find. The office was renovated at the same time as the Kitchen. 

Dining Room- no links

Bedroom: Reno occurred before the blog.

Master Bedroom: No blog post for this one, which is a shame because Rory and I did all the board and batten.

Master Bathroom- now this is a fun renovation read. Click here.

Playroom- Kickin myself for no before pics or blog on this one. It got quite a makeover. 

Living Room: This weekend project was one of my favorite Valentine presents. Click here.

Oh my, those pictures brought back memories, not to mention all the pictures of my boys growing up in this home that I just weeded thru to find some of the before pictures. I may have shed a few tears. It truly has been a great family home for us.

PS. I am also going to be practicing my Instagramming by posting lots of pictures of Sister over the next couple of days leading up to her listing. So if your not following on Instagram, you might want to check it out @ storybookrenovations.
Have a great week!

Donaghey Before and After

I’m so excited to report that it looks like our 1117 Donaghey Project is going to have a happy ending. The most precious young family has her under contract and are set to close in the next couple of weeks. So the last thing I need to do to officially close this chapter of Storybook homes is to document a few before and afters. So here we go……
Starting outside…. 

And my idea to help move her out of the trailer park?

Here is Pepe’s crew making the dream a reality.

And a few more “during transformation” pics.

 And here is the finished product:

Big thanks to Tommy of TPA metalworks for patiently working with me to design the modern metal railing that wasn’t “too tall” or “too short” and to Martin and his team for the brickwork. Oh! and B&B Siding and Windows for the board and batten and new facia and soffits.  

Can I just say, end of winter is NOT a fun time for landscaping! Landscaping is usually one of my favorite milestones in the renovation process.  I am always amazed how a few plants and sod can clean up and breathe life into a home….. but not this one.  Now, this is no fault of Travis, he did a great job, as always. It’s just plants are kinda dead looking and ugly right now and grass is brown. When I ordered red azaleas to surround the perimeter of the cottage, I was prepared for the flowers to not be in bloom yet but I was still anticipating a bright, green, happy foliage that would pop off the dark skirt of the house; so when Travis unloaded these I was less than thrilled. BUT I have been assured that the “happy” green will arrive with Spring, so I will look forward to driving by her in the coming months. I did go ahead and have Travis add in the daffodils just to cheer up the beds in the meantime. Despite the plants, I am thrilled with how the exterior turned out.  
Let’s move inside.
When you walked in thru the front door this was how she looked before…

And after we knocked down a few walls…

And the living room now:
Here she is all dolled up for the Open House, courtesy of Waterhouse Market.

I usually like to save the best for last but since it is peaking out from behind the rooster in the above pic, I’ll go ahead and debut the kitchen/dining area next.
Here is the dining and kitchen before:

Here is an action shot of Rory and I framing up the Range nook.
I seriously don’t know how this house would have been completed if I hadn’t been there to hold that stud in place. I should mention, that range nook project was supposed to be part of my Dad and I’s WWYWWW project for this house but that week Harrison was expecting ice so he had to leave early. But he does get credit for helping me install the reclaimed pine shiplap feature wall in the kitchen.  (Wood reclaimed from ceiling runners found during demolition.) After Dad left, Rory was happy to have an opportunity to use the framing gun, and we knocked that project out in record time.
And here is what that space looks like now:

That blue and white tile makes me SMILE every time I see it! And this picture shows some of the custom art Redeemed Home Goods brought to the Open House to perfectly illustrate the story. And once again Jeff Perry did a fabulous job on the construction of all the cabinetry in the home. The hutch was a crowd favorite at the open house.

I’d like to point out 2 things in the next picture:

First, let’s take a second to reflect on my “Open House Outfit”. Guys, you need to know I am clueless when it comes to fashion. The ONLY time I go clothes shopping is before an open house. I try to find an outfit that compliments each story. For example:
Bruce Street Bohemian- Torn jeans, oversized baggy sweater, wavy hair with loose braids.

Caldwell Manor- Purpleish Flapper Dress

Donaghey Irish Sheepfarm- Plaid shirt reminiscent of an Irish kilt.

(As I type the fact that I dress myself to match my house, it is just now occurring to me how dorky of a practice this is…… not that this realization is going to stop me…… I’m just proud that I recognized it.)
Anyways…. When I was thinking about this Open House I knew I wanted to wear something “sweet” to reflect the “Sherry Style” of the story so I thought of this pink dress I had hanging in the back of my closet. Unfortunately, I did not try it on until the day of the Open House. Had I done a trial run on this outfit I would have realized I looked more like a stewardess than “sweet.” But alas 2 hours before Open House on a Sunday…. I just went with it. 
But more importantly (and relevant) I want you to take a look at that island in the picture.  (I’ll give you a second to scroll back up to look…..) That island was constructed by Rory and me just 3 days prior to the Open House. You see, I had originally purchased a metal cart for the space but when I unpackaged it I realized it had all sorts of dings. 

Plus, the real-life version of the cart did not live up to what I had envisioned for the space. So with a final punch list a mile long, I set off to find a substitution. I shopped every antique and flea market around town looking for something that would fit the space. I finally found some antique spindles at The Peddler and convinced Rory to help me build this island after dinner. 

The next day Donna Benton picked er up and worked her magic mixing the perfect concoction of stain to match the new wood to the old spindles. The new island was delivered to the space just in the nick of time and to me it looks like it was meant to be there all along.

And here is the new dining space:

Ok, let’s move on to the bedrooms and bathrooms.
The 2 kid bedrooms simply got new sheetrock, paint, fans, trim and refinished hardwood floors.


The master bedroom received the same treatment along with new hardwood floors and cute staging by Waterhouse Market and Redeemed Home Goods.
When we purchased the home it had 1 bathroom and this was it:

Here is that bathroom now:

During the renovation we stole some space from the existing house to add a master bathroom and closet here is the result:
So there she is! I am so pleased with how she turned out AND in record time with ZERO tears!
In addition to the talented people I have already mentioned I want to add the following people to the list of credits:
Electrician: Donaco Electric
Plumber: Robert Shearer
HVAC: Maulding Heat and Air
Tile: David and Alex
Hardwood Floors: All Wood Floors
Countertops: Countertop World
Painting: Nicks Painting
Extra Helpers: Cole and Reese

1117 Donaghey- The biography edition

Our Donaghey project is just about to wrap up if this darn rain would stay away long enough to finish up the exterior.  Rain or Shine WE WILL host it’s open house Sunday, March 11th, so mark your calendars… in pencil. With that date looming so close I think it’s time to tell you a little story.

Now before I begin, I want to make sure we are all on the same page. You remember Bruce? The last project we completed? You know… the Industrial Bohemian with the FICTIONAL character also named Bruce. Well, it came to my attention after writing the story of Bruce that a large portion of my readers thought Bruce, the man, was real. To clear up the confusion I spent a paragraph on a later blog explaining that ALL my storybook home stories are fiction so never assume otherwise. Well… guess what?….. This one’s NOT fiction. This one is actually based on a real-life and living person, Ms. Sherry Payne- one of my favorite clients from my other life as a Registered Dietitian.

Yep, its the biography edition of Storybook Homes!!!

Now before I tell you all about Sherry and this house let me clear up one more potentially confusing point: Although this home is ABOUT Sherry it is not FOR Sherry. It is FOR SALE and currently available.

I know, I know it’s a little weird; but I have warned you before I never know where inspiration will strike or what direction a story will go until I walk into a home, and this little home whispered Sherry’s name. Now, I should tell ya, the house did not conjure up images of Sherry from thin air.  Months earlier, Sherry had casually mentioned she might one day want a storybook home. She said it in the same conversational tone that people say “you should put me on a diet” when they find out I’m a registered dietitian.  And just like I NEVER take the diet comment as an invitation to ask someone to step on my scale, I don’t normally start picking paint colors when someone mentions wanting me to renovate their home. I just know it’s a knee-jerk comment said in response to one’s vocation, not something to be taken seriously. But for some reason, the day Sherry mentioned the idea of a storybook home, I found myself revisiting the idea that night as I tried to fall asleep.  So instead of counting sheep, that night, I made a mental checklist of all the characteristics a home would have to have to be classified as Sherry Style. Then I fell asleep and forgot all about it…..until months later when I stepped inside 1117 Donaghey.
Honestly, I think it was the arches that did it for me.

There was just something so sweet about them, and “sweet” was one of the main characteristics that defined Sherry Style.
So I didn’t fight it.  Even though Sherry was/is not in the market for a new home at this time, I went ahead and let her story inspire the design of 1117 Donaghey with the end goal of creating a home that emulates the characteristics that make Sherry so special while at the same time paying tribute to a remarkable lady. I have known Sherry for 12 years and even though our relationship has always been restricted to the confines of my diet office, I feel confident that I have witnessed the real and raw Sherry and therefore have the authority to write this tribute story. Afterall when a woman (ANY woman) trust you with her weight (ANY weight) there is not much left she feels she needs to hide. 
So here are just a few attributes I have found to be at the core of who Sherry Payne is along with descriptions of how I translated these qualities into the design of this house: (of course you will have to hold tight a few more days to see pictures of how this actually played out, because that’s just how I roll.) 
Female. I know this seems like I’m starting us out with the obvious but Sherry is so much more “woman” than the sum of her X chromosomes; she embodies what the bible describes as the “ideal woman” in Proverbs chapter 31. In fact, within this description of the ideal woman, we see many of the specific qualities that make up Sherry Style so I’ll highlight a few key verses from this scripture as I discuss those traits in a bit. But for now, I want to share another reference to “female” that made me think this seemingly obvious characteristic had to be included as a key component of Sherry Style. 

Gosh I love that song, and that chorus…. well it nearly perfectly sums up who my friend Sherry is to so many people:
Sister, shoulder
Daughter, lover
Healer, broken halo
Mother nature
Fire, suit of armor
Soul survivor, Holy Water
Secret keeper, fortune teller,
Virgin Mary, scarlet letter,
Technicolor river wild
Baby girl, woman, child

Now, it is not unusual for the homes I work on to lean toward a specific gender but in this house, I was particularly intentional about adding feminine qualities to reflect this Sherry trait. Specifically, you will see this in some of the light fixtures. Although this house could be classified as a “farmhouse” to those that did not understand Sherry Style I purposely chose more feminine lighting over the classic “barn lighting” I typically favor in a farmhouse style home. 
Hard Working.

15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household

    and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

17 She is energetic and strong,
    a hard worker


She carefully watches everything in her household
    and suffers nothing from laziness.
Sherry is one of the hardest working women I know. This quality is witnessed at her job, in her home, and in my office. She has worked at Acxiom as a Senior Executive Assistant for the last 28 years. In addition to working a full-time job, for the last 3 years, she has homeschooled her two kids- Marissa, 21 (who now attends college) and Joel Keith, 16. And you should see her exercise logs! This girl is all about her steps. It is not unusual for her to go for a walk in the morning and then hit the gym later that night. She does all this while balancing the day to day tasks of running a house and taking care of her family. And she has done this on her own for the last 10 years after her beloved husband of 16 years, Joe, passed away from cancer. Yep, she’s pretty much Super Woman.

You are going to see this hardworking trait found in the layout of this home. This house is less than 1400 sq feet but it’s open floor plan make it feel much larger.

During Demo when walls were knocked down to join the kitchen, dining, and living space into one open living area. 

Plus this little home is quite efficient with very little wasted space, each area has a specific task and is used well.
You will also see this trait in the kitchen island. I purposely chose a commercial grade stainless steel kitchen cart vs a traditional cabinet style island for it’s “hard-working” versatility and functionality. 

20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
    and opens her arms to the needy.
21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
    for everyone has warm<span class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NLT-17282c" data-link="[c]” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>[c] clothes.

26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
   and she gives instructions with kindness.
If you surveyed a group of 100 people who know Sherry and asked them to describe her at least 99 of them would use the adjective “sweet”. She just drips sweetness. I don’t think she has a mean bone in her body. She is kind and caring and always thinking of others. This is even seen in her motives to maintain her health and fitness. It is not about the size of her clothes for Ms. Sherry it is about staying healthy for her children and to serve others. Sherry does not visit my nutrition office regularly but rather she checks in during times she feels she needs greater accountability. One such season was inspired by her bucket list goal of “going on a family mission trip.” I remember her telling me she was starting to save toward making that goal a reality but that she wanted to make sure she was physically as well as spiritually ready to go so that she did not hold her family and other team members back. That’s just Sherry.
In fact, “sweet” was the one word I kept giving Donna of Waterhouse Market, when she would ask me what the style of the house was at the beginning of the renovation. 
Side Bar: Seriously, Donna deserves a medal for trying to ride the crazy train with me. She works so hard to fill these homes up with furnishings that fit the style and more importantly tell the story of the home. But unlike most clients that will give her a specific style to work with (ex. farmhouse, modern, traditional) she gets things like “Irish Sheep Farm”, “Downton Abby”, and “Sweet” from me. But somehow she gets inside my brain and is able to deliver on each style beautifully and accurately.
I think the entire home is sweet, but it was the arches seen throughout the home that triggered the first thoughts of sweetness.

We lost 2 of the arches during demolition. But I added 3 more in its place during the renovation. 

Joyful. aka Bright and Cheery in home terms. 
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.

Our common friend, Angie Elrod, said this when I asked her to describe Sherry:

 “Sherry sparkles when she smiles. I think I’ll start calling her JOY”
No matter the circumstance. Sherry always has an essence of Joy. One of Sherry’s most used phrases is “it’s all good.” When I asked her about this, she responded:

“It’s the mindset I try to keep.  Even when it’s a tough circumstance…good can come of it.  
Hard day – well it can only get better – it’s all good.  
Oh, there are bad days…not to say there aren’t…but the mindset can really help.”

This trait shows up in the color scheme of this house. It is definitely bright and cheery. It is guaranteed to cheer up even the gloomiest of rainy days. Waterhouse Market and Redeemed Home Goods will also be bringing art and accessories that play off this characteristic.  


30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
    but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

This is probably the trait I admire most about Sherry. When something good happens to Sherry she invites everyone she knows to join her. I benefited greatly from this trait when she first joined my “90 Day Challenge” 12 years ago. After a few weeks of good weigh-ins, my business was booming. Half of Acxiom was calling my office. It was the first time my practice experienced a “waiting list” to get an appointment, and it was all thanks to Sherry spreading the good news of her success. 
And speaking of “good news” this is what is at the core of who Sherry Payne is and what leaks out of her in her day to day life. Once Sherry experienced Jesus 22 years ago she hasn’t stopped sharing the good news of His saving grace with all who will listen. Sherry has a relationship with Christ, not a religion, and this is seen in the enviable ease in which she brings Him into everyday conversation. She doesn’t preach at you, she simply wants to share with you the good news so you can experience it too. Sherry’s good friend Cindy Sinclair had this to say about Sherry:

 “True Friendship is such a treasure! 
Sherry has enriched my life by her presence, commitment, and talents. 
She has a huge heart and her faith shows in everything she does. 
My life is made richer because she is in it.”

“Inviting” is seen in the accent tile I chose for this house. To me, it reminds me of a patchwork quilt that invites you to sit down, snuggle up, and stay awhile. This along with the other traits already mentioned create a home that just makes you feel welcomed.
That concludes the official description of “Sherry Style,” but there are a few other fun features I added to the design with Sherry in mind. For example, I paid special attention to the kitchen because I would want Sherry to have a nice kitchen to prepare healthy meals. I even incorporated special bins for holding fruits and vegetables.
And the fact that this Sherry Style house could be mistaken for a farmhouse was not an accident.  If you get a chance to talk with Ms. Sherry you can’t help but pick up on a hint of a Southern drawl that would feel right at home in a country farmhouse. So I added some old pine shiplap reclaimed from under the ceiling sheetrock and a big farmhouse sink to reflect this side of Sherry.
While the rest of the Proverbs 31 woman is not necessarily reflected in this home. I want to conclude this tribute with what I feel would be one of Sherry’s most prized attributes.

28 Her children stand and bless her.
    Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
    but you surpass them all!”

These are Sherry’s children- her greatest treasures on earth. 
Stay tuned for the Zillow Listing to see pictures of how “Sherry Style” played out in real life. And make plans to see it in person Sunday, March 11th from 2pm-4pm.
In the meantime, If you know Sherry Payne, feel free to use up as much comment space as you would like to let Sherry know how special she truly is.

31 Reward her for all she has done.
    Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.