Editor’s Note: The idea of purchasing and renovating a home is a dream that many carry, but few of us stop to consider the complications and complexities of the process until we are already knee-deep in drywall debris. Lisa Przystup, a writer, florist, and frequent contributor to Front + Main has been kind enough to share her journey of home ownership with us. Check out the first installment here. Enjoy!
Illustration by Tallulah Fontaine
Photography by Landon Vonderschmidt + Maxwell Tielman
My husband Jonathon and I bought our first home in upstate New York a little over a year ago. No sooner had the ink dried on the many indecipherable papers that two sets of lawyers pushed our way across an impractically wide table we (foolishly, ambitiously) decided that we were going to host Thanksgiving dinner—which was just weeks away—in our new home. This is the folly of bright, young, hopeful new homeowners. Anything is possible! Let’s make some memories! We decided we’d treat ourselves by having someone come in and paint the floors for us. Something about “We need this done before Thanksgiving” was lost in translation and the floors were just drying days before guests were to arrive. Thanks to the threat of noxious fumes our friends and relatives—both freshly minted parents—declined and Jonathon and I cooked a full turkey dinner for ourselves, which, as it turns out, is a great way to enjoy your newly painted floors.
Since then a lot of small, wonderful things have happened. We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing each season at least once (winter, perhaps the most brutal and beautiful, twice). We now know how the light moves through the house during the day into the evening. We (and by we, I mean Jonathon) have learned how to start and keep a fire burning, how to corral the flame for a slow burn that will keep the house warm, even overnight. We’ve figured out the most efficient way to stack wood and planted a magnolia tree in the backyard.
We’ve hosted guests, made memories, had an excavator in our backyard, killed our lionshare of ladybugs and cluster flies, had at least 15 arguments about a pellet stove, had the furnace break and our pipes freeze, bought a new silverware organizer for the kitchen drawer, tried and failed and then tried and succeeded at hosting Thanksgiving, and dug three (or was it four?) friend’s cars out of the insidious ditch at the end of our driveway. Almost a year and a half in we have yet to clean out cobweb filled corner cabinets in the kitchen and our garage still houses a small army of broken-down cardboard boxes. We’ve gotten the house to a place where we can be in it without feeling like we need to pick up a paintbrush or a hammer but that isn’t to say that it’s finished. This point in time feels as good a time as any to wax romantic about each space and where we’ve taken it so far. One thing worth mentioning is that all of the rooms got fresh coats of paint and all the wood floors have been shellacked in a white high gloss epoxy paint. These two things alone really changed the feel of the house.
The heart of the house and the entryway to our home in the winter, the kitchen is where we spend most of our time thanks in large part to the fact that we don’t have a dishwasher, which means we’ve both have gotten to know the view from the kitchen sink window quite well. The current state of the kitchen can be attributed entirely to my husband. When we moved in the walls were covered in country-home-appropriate wallpaper which he attempted to remove three times in three different ways, none of which were successful so he ended up resurfacing the walls by applying a skim coat of drywall compound, letting it dry, sanding it down, applying another coat, letting that one dry and sanding it down again. The effect is slightly textural in a way I imagine plaster would be. He and a friend spent a weekend putting up a tongue-and-groove ceiling (the pièce de résistance of the room if you ask me) to cover up pre-existing ugly acoustic tile and almost all of the delicious meals that have come out of there are thanks to him.
The Living Room
More of a family room than a living room, its main components are an L-shaped sectional—the answer (until we knock down a wall that is) to the room’s spatially challenging width—and two very pretty but drafty antique french doors that have no business in upstate New York. To say that they’re ineffective would be an understatement. This room came together pretty quickly because there was only so much space and only so much we could do. We have our sights set on knocking down the wall that separates it from the dining room but while we wait for a windfall to come in (it’s load-bearing so it’s going to be costly) we’re just fine with using it as a screen for our projecto—our solution to not having a television but still wanting to indulge in movie night from time to time.
The Dining Room
Two words for you: Picture. Window. We really didn’t have a choice but to designate this the room where special dinners happen. In the morning the light streams in and you can sit at the table with your back to the window, soaking up sun and caffinating yourself. It’s a good place. We inherited the table and chairs from the previous owner, the rug too. Add a clean, white linen tablecloth and some sheepskin throws and we were set.
Guest Bedroom Number One (aka the one that got away)
This one almost became our master bedroom solely based on the fact that it was the room we slept in the first weekend we spent in the house (imprinting makes so much sense now). It was a real mattress-on-the-floor-no-furniture-having sort of weekend and I really got back in touch with the early 20’s version of myself—the only thing missing was a complete lack of confidence and a terribly placed nose piercing. As you might have surmised from the title of this section, it is now a guest bedroom with an amazing view of a geographical feature too impressive to be just a hill and not epic enough to be a mountain. In the mornings it’s awash in the same bath of light as the dining room and the unfinished pine bed frame suits it just fine.
Guest Bedroom Number Two
The smaller of the two guest accomodations (the sweeter and warmer for it) this has turned into the room that all of our friends babies/toddlers/kids stay in. I have considered getting some sort of pee-proof bedliner and a diaper pail for the room multiple times as I think they will both complement the antique furniture (side note: we’ve already inherited a Pack ‘n Play because apparently new parents will travel with every single last thing on the planet save for this one item). Both Jonathon and myself have a soft spot for this room—the bed frame was his when he was a child, the dresser we found at a small hole-in-the-wall antiques store run by this dear old woman, and the rug on the floor is from our adventures in Tucson—a wonderful gem of a town.
The Master Bedroom
We figured it would be a good idea for the bedroom that was the farthest away from the other two rooms to serve as the Master. If you think it sounds like we picked it on the sole merit of being as far away from our guests as possible you would be right. Beyond all that it was the room that made the most sense for a grand four-poster bed that we scored on Craigslist. This was also the same bed frame that Jonathon spray painted black. Indoors. On our newly painted white floors. Lesson learned.
The attic is hands down our favorite bedroom. It was already finished when we bought the house (the previous owner had used it as an office) but we saw that it could be the ultimate guest bedroom. We gave all the walls a fresh coat of white paint and the floors a coat of black paint which took a quick six months to dry because we only kind of know what we’re doing. The stairs to the attic are situated so that it’s logistically impossible to get a queen mattress up there so we problem-solved and bought one of those roll-up mattresses that expand when you open them. It is the largest guest bedroom with a seating area and the sort of grand views that you’d expect from a third floor bedroom and when we’re up there it feels like some sort of floating in the clouds magic. That or we imagine it’s our little Parisian pied-à-terre. That or we just exclaim, everytime we’re up there or introduce a guest to it that it’s “bigger than our apartment!” or that “we’d be happy if our house was just this!” Someday when we make all the money we plan on making we want to turn it into the master bedroom complete with its own bathroom. When you own a house it’s important to have dreams.
Read all of the chapters in this series: