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Home Improvement VA :: Before + After

When we’re not working or cooking, we’re home makeover and DIY junkies. We can’t be in a house for too long before we’re planning ways to overhaul our space. After living in our house here in Virginia for five years, we were able to make a lot of changes – and we want to share a few of them with you in case they get you inspired!

This shouldn’t come as a surprise in this market, but our house went on the market on a Thursday morning, and by the end of the day, we had some solid offers, one of which we accepted, and that Saturday morning we signed the contract paperwork. We’re crossing our fingers that all goes well, but it looks like we’ve sold our house and the new owners will close about the time we’re driving south to Florida!

Even though it’s a hot market right now, we’ve done our best to show our house in its best light – and to make the most of the updates we’ve done to it. For those of you who know us well, you know we can’t move into a house without giving it the HGTV treatment. One of these days, I’ll dig out the before and after on our Hawaii place and show you how much we did there, but for now, I think the before and after photos of our current house will tell our story and our home style very well.

So here we go – let’s look at some before and after pictures of our Virginia home!

Mudroom :: Before + After

So this is what we started with. This is what you saw when you entered the house. The mudroom isn’t small, but the dark tile and dingy carpet and dull builder-grade white walls were not my cup of tea.

We changed out the tile for brighter marble-look tile, brought some warmth to the walls with better grade paint, and swapped the gross carpet for hickory treads with white risers to match the flooring we put in on the second level {remember back when we overhauled our master bedroom?} The result? Much brighter!

We also added the little built in to the left of the door in that slightly awkward nook, and we repainted the front door from red to a deep blue.

Dining Room :: Before + After

The layout for our downstairs is unusual. The main area was actually designed to be a second living room {our main living room/media room is upstairs} with a dining room tucked away on the side of the kitchen and a breakfast nook of sorts in front of the door. I found that whole set-up awkward, and not nearly big enough for the kind of entertaining we wanted to do. Besides, when you have a 10-foot dining table, you have to be creative with the space.

My husband calls our redesign “Viking Farmhouse.” Probably because we envisioned the fireplace at the end of our dining table, added in a dining-hall style light fixture, and…basically modern farmhoused the hell out of everything.

It’s a style I love. Simple, clean, easy to DIY, and doesn’t involve a lot of expensive materials and techniques. We won’t be hanging rusty farm tools off the walls anytime soon, but we definitely like the vibe, and how it also plays well with the Scandinavian styles I grew up with and love.

Again, down here, we replaced the stairs {yes, we bought a house that had blue-painted stairs in it} with the hickory and white riser combination we love {and if I had time, I would have restained the bannisters to match, but hey, gives the new owners something to do}.

We ripped out the cheap laminate wood and dark old tile and put in engineered vinyl plank, which is now my new favorite flooring – it looks like legit tile but it has just a little bit of give, which is helpful when you spend a lot of time standing in the kitchen noodling with recipes. We built a wine bar, changed out all the existing fixtures, and – my favorite upgrade – faced the fireplace with shiplap and installed a mantel. We also added the peg rail by the back door.

This is probably where we spend the most time in the house and where we entertain, so we wanted to make sure it was bright and functional!

Kitchen :: Before + After

As a passionate cook and foodie, people always, always, expect me to go in and tear out the kitchen and do something totally different. But you know what? Sometimes the kitchen is just fine. You do not have to go in and rip out the cabinets and reconfigure the space if it’s just fine.

I won’t lie. Personally, this kitchen is not my cup of tea. If we were going to stay, I would have ripped out all the cabinets, put in a butler’s pantry, put in a lot of open shelving and hanging racks, put in a side-by-side Sub Zero fridge and freezer combo, and put in a six-burner gas chef’s range. But that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and the number of people who come in the house and go, oooooooh, the cabinets, was enough for me to not want to sink $30-grand into a kitchen renovation.

Let me tell you, it’s awesome what you can do with updated appliances, new hardware, a backsplash, and a little paint. Now it feels like us, even if it isn’t my dream kitchen.

New appliances, new flooring, backsplash, paint, new hardware. The cabinets were solid wood and in great condition, so I wasn’t getting rid of them, although I wish I’d had time to bleach the oak a little. So we brought in a midcentury modern meets farmhouse feel with the colors and the textures.

Added bonus? If the next owner comes in and wants something totally different, I won’t be heartbroken that they ripped out a dream kitchen upgrade.

Backyard :: Before + After

Probably the biggest change we made was the backyard and side of the house. We have a huge amount of space, but it never felt like it because we had that little tiny patio. Years of apartment and condo living made it feel like that was it, and the rest was common area that we couldn’t landscape or do anything with.

Not so. Our property was that entire back area, and we got it surveyed and fenced when we had Marcus so that he’d have somewhere to run and play. And the resulting space made us realize that while we don’t have a huge backyard, we definitely have one of the larger yards in our development!

You wouldn’t have thought we had that much space in the original picture, would you? I sure didn’t.

Scott thought I was crazy when I did the initial design for our back deck, which almost quadrupled the size of the original patio. He didn’t think we’d have much room left for anything, let alone a playspace for our little dude or the garden I wanted {you can see my trough kitchen herb garden on the side – we started kitchen herbs for the new owners in lieu of a full vegetable garden}. But when the fence went in, we were amazed at how much room we had.

We built the little playset for Marcus when quarantine hit and we didn’t think playgrounds would be safe. He loves the playground and while we’ve started going back to the regular playground {he’s old enough to understand wipes and hand sanitizer and not putting stuff in his mouth now}, he still loves to play in the yard.

Media Room :: Before + After

Believe it or not, this was the room that made us want to buy this house. Fourteen foot ceilings, lots of bright windows, a fireplace, and a wall made for a big–make that enormous–screen TV for the media room my husband wanted. It was the perfect blend of living room and media room, but we all just didn’t know it yet.

We hit the jackpot when we headed to our local La-Z-Boy gallery. They provide free–yes, free–in home design services and we just connected with our designer, Tanner. He’d been a Disney employee for a long time and when we talked about wanting to model our living/media room after Wilderness Lodge, he got exactly what we were thinking and selected some amazing pieces for us.

Add to that Scott’s design for the fireplace, an awesome fan and lighting, a media shelf Scott designed from raw edge cedar, and my dad’s painting of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that he created back in the ’70s and gifted to us recently, and we had our dream living room and theater combination.

There’s a lot of Star Wars going on in this room as well. A Blackspire blanket, a painting that looks like wintry mountains until you see the star destroyer hidden in the clouds, the signed collector’s Boba Fett helmet, a beautiful commissioned Boba Fett piece drawn and colored by one of my former NCOs who now teaches art and art history at the collegiate level, and a few other odds and ends.

I wanted this room to be my husband’s retreat and reflect his personality, but still be a place we could all gather with family and friends, and I think it hit all the marks there.

Primary Bedroom :: Before + After

So…yeah. This is our bedroom. Carpet. Boring walls. Awesome his and hers closets that you don’t even get to see. I really don’t know why they thought this picture would sell the space. So let’s look instead at what we did with it.

You saw a lot of the changes in the new flooring post and the board and batten post but let me remind you that a few things make a major difference. The new flooring was a must – the carpets were gross. But the white board and batten with color on top made a tremendous difference for so many rooms in our house. And the new owners can change the color to whatever they want.

We didn’t splurge on the flooring and board and batten as much as we did on the closet organizers. The closets are awesome. We had his and hers closets for the first time in our lives and we really wanted to make them work for us. So we called in Closet America after visiting a home and garden show and they designed the beautiful closets you see in the pictures. Lots of space, lots of shelves, lots of drawers, everything we need, where there was previously just wire shelving.

We didn’t do a whole lot to the bathroom except change out the fixtures and build some shelving to add some warmth, which we’ll leave for the new owners. Who knows if they’ll fit anywhere in our new house?

Laundry :: Before + After

The last makeover we did that I’ll share is the laundry {we did more makeovers but nothing really dramatic}. The picture above is what we had when we moved in. No washer or dryer, gross linoleum, and boring cabinets.

We went out and bought washer and dryer units, but were determined to makeover the laundry room before they arrived and make it something that was both functional and welcoming. Here’s what we created.

We painted the cabinets, added board and batten, put in tile, painted the walls, and added an accordion hanger-dryer set-up. Add a little art and some faux plants and you have a space that’s a whole lot more elegant than what we had at the start.

Scott has had the old-fashioned print that hangs in the laundry room forever, and we loved it there. Looking forward to hanging it in our next laundry room – where I’m hoping to put in my dream butcher block folding table and hanging racks. That might actually encourage me to fold laundry, a task I avoid whenever possible.

So that’s the overview of our home! We’re very excited to pass it off to a new owner but at the same time, so much of our life has happened here – five years of life in which Marcus was born and we both went through several jobs and things culminated in an offer for us to stay in the Army and still move to Orlando, just to keep me doing what I do in the people analytics realm {pinching myself}. We’re going to miss it in a big way, but we’re absolutely looking forward to our next adventure!

What was your favorite part of our house makeover? What would you have done differently?

About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.


  1. It is nice that you have learned how to do things yourself, and that is cool. I hope that your new house will be as good, or better than the last one. I wish you the best, sister.

  2. I love basically all of your changes and am super impressed with two things: 1) that you did so much of this yourself; and 2) that you had the vision in the first place. I have absolutely NO eye for this sort of thing. Want to come to my house and offer some tips? 🙂

    1. Hey, as soon as I can figure out how to convince a 3YO that he should wear his mask for the duration of a plane flight (or as soon as we get rid of the masks altogether) we’ll come up and visit! We’d be happy to make some recommendations! I also want another chance at doing that NOLA half with you guys one of these days!

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