The Search for 'Home'

Yesterday we went out house-hunting. Well, it was more of a trip to see what's available in our price range. And it wasn't pretty. (I'm being kind.) I tried searching for a picture to insert here as an example & didn't want to hurt any feelings by using actual listings, so I googled "dilapidated house..." and sadly, I liked the dilapdated house pictures better than what's on the market in our price range. (They have character & potential!) So, here is a picture of the type of house I love:
In Northern Virginia, although housing prices have dropped some due to the economy, it's still a really tough situation for young people like us who want to buy. Our goal is to find the saddest, ugliest house in the best neighborhood we can afford & to renovate. If a house has new cabinetry & granite countertops & beautiful touches, we're not interested because we don't want to pay for someones else's renovations (I think we all know how defined my tastes are) and I'd feel terrible ripping something pretty like this out:

Give me this baby (below) any day!

SO I am constantly reworking floorplans for these tiny little houses & figuring out what we'd need to do to make them liveable & beautiful and then trying to estimate the costs. Here's a typical home here (we would love to get our hands on something like this in a year or so.. maybe sooner if something pops up):

And I'd want to do something like this: (from

or this... (from
I love the idea of changing the pitch of the roof & adding dormers although we couldn't justify this unless the roof needed replacing. Lucky for us, many of the houses in our budget need new roofs... in fact, my favorite house yesterday had a huge hole in the roof that the rain had poured through & ruined the floor beneath too! yay (ok, am I seriously saying I was happy about this??!! yes, because I saw it as money off the price & in reality it's all we can afford.)

This house (below) from Cottage Living shows some great ideas for adding charm to the typical 70s ranch (which is very likely what we'll end up in.)
The homeowners, Tyler & David Colgan, turned it into this adorable little cottage with coach house details:
Check out their beautiful kitchen. A wall of windows over the counters instead of uppers is a must in my dream kitchen.
Oh-so-pretty!And here's a cool little thing they did in the back of their living room. They made his & hers office nooks for each of them. (He's an architect & she's a designer, aww) The doors slide shut when they're not working.
And here's a picture of their adorable little baby girl sitting at her pretty changing table. Such a functional & useful space... we used the closet for Christian's changing area too & it saves so much space in his tiny bedroom!
Well, anyway, I'll be posting more about our search for a house in the coming months. Just to sum it all up- because I live, eat, breathe design & all things houses, I've never wanted any material thing as much as I want a house. haha but I'm dealing ;)


LaurenFaythe said...

I can relate, I remember trying to find our first house and getting so depressed because prices kept going up every week. We finally found it though, fixed it up, and sold it for a nice profit.

I'm sure anything you find will end up being so beautiful after you're done with it. Good luck with your search!

Suzanne said...

Oh wow, Lauren this is such a perfect post for what I'm going through!

We are also in the market for a Northern Virginia townhouse/single family home right now -- just put in a contract on a great home (wish us luck!) -- and we are finding that a lot of sellers are getting asking price or more for their homes if they are half-way decent. The market seems to be saturated with buyers in our price range. :(

Good luck to you! I know whatever you find will be great and I look forward to reading about your future renovations!

Jennifer said...

I can totally relate. I wanted to live in a really charming cottage-y part of town, but we just couldn't afford it. Even the dilapidated houses were at the top of our budget -- which would have left us with nothing to spend on renovations!

In the end, we went a tad (just a couple of miles) further out of town and are in a rancher with a massive yard (which still needs some love!). BUT it's all ours and we love it! Good luck on your hunt!

Blueprint Bliss said...

good luck with your search! and keep us posted. i love the transformation of that ranch house in cottage living! so great!

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

You know what they say...put it out to the universe, and it'll come. Tincture of time.

Like all of your ideas...I remember seeing that office. LOVED it!

alice said...

Good luck with your search, the right house will be there for you at the right time!

I feel your sentiment exactly about wanting a fixer upper... I still remember my realtor's eyes widening in disbelief as I turned down one remodeled place after another... It's about you putting your designs and creations (and sweat and tears and everything else that comes with it)into it!

No.35style said...

I agree with you completely!! I love fixer uppers and that's what we have. So much fun, hard work, but fun! good luck with your search!

Anonymous said...

How exciting to be looking for a house! It can get discouraging but just keep at it. It'll all be worth it when you find THE house. And it goes without saying that you'll make it gorgeous. Best of luck!

Things That Inspire said...

I have a very tired 80s kitchen with horrible gray tile floors. We will (hopefully) be selling within a year, and my realtor keeps trying to convince me to change the countertops, paint the cabinets, etc. I would rather price the house to sell and the person who buys it can change the kitchen to their ideal! I would much rather buy a house with a kitchen that needs to be renovated, and I will not even consider a house that has a newly renovated kitchen that I hate.

I am so glad someone else feels this way, and my hope is that potential buyers of my house will feel the same as us! My realtor says that most people want to just move in with things already renovated, though. What does your realtor say?

I can't wait to see what you end up with! Someone with vision and style can really transform an old ugly house into something beautiful. A good architect helps too...

The Steel Magnolia House said...

We are so on the same page. I actually tore out that spread and have it in my design binder of all the greatest. And did you just see the white house with black shutters I just posted? How about we just move in together! lol

Amber said...

I love that house you featured. I remember it in Cottage Living (I think). I selfishly want you to find a home so we can all watch you renovate it on the blog!! :-)

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...


I'm certain that you will find your dream home. We looked for a year and finally found something that we could afford and loved. We started our search just looking at Dutch Colonials, but there aren't many around us and they tend to be pricey. We finally decided to take a peek at a house that my husband thought was way too small. It turned out to be the perfect home for us. I love old houses with character. We ripped out our entire kitchen and updated it which was fun, but the house still remains true to it's bones.

I love houses with a history. Around our neighborhood there are many McMansions as I call them. All brand new, which is nice, but to me they are a bit cold with no history.

I love the Cottage Living spread you fixtured. It is one of my favorites as well.

ness lockyer said...

I thought prices in Australia were pricey!!!
When we moved into our home from the mainland Australia we were blown away what we could afford that on the mainland we would have to have won the lottery to afford! so keep your eyes peeled and look a little out of where you would normally go, thats how we got this place and now I wouldn't live anywhere else.
Good luck with it,
Ness xx

Sweet Nothings said...

aw, i love the white one with the green windows

Beautiful Living said...

Oh, Lauren, I LOVE your plans! The example from seaman and sons builders was just amazing! AND I have that cottage living spread as well! Haha... I guess that if I never would have found my book of inspiration, I could have just copied yours :)


Devon said...

I totally agree with the comments above...please buy a totally crappy house so we can see your lovely design process at work! I'm so excited for your house-hunting (will you even be kind enough to post some of the 'maybes' once found?)...have fun.

LindsB said...

Ugg, I hate my computer right now- I had this huge long response and it must have deleted itself.

Anyway- congrats on starting to look for a house- its such a fun thing to do! I wish so bad the BF and I could start looking, but its just not that time yet. Even if we could start, housing in the Boston area is out of control- I think we could afford a parking spot (no house, haha) at the moment.

But back on track, I love the idea of finding a place to fix up yourself- its so true about not wanting to buy a place that someone else just fixed up, just do you can rip it all out and redo it with all your choices. And its true, finding the crappiest house in the best neighborhood is the best way to go.

I cant wait to see your journey to the perfect house, be sure take lots of pics to share!! xoxoxo

Lauren said...

Thanks everyone so much for your stories (that give me hope!) & supportive comments & also for being as excited for us as you are :) I will definitely keep you updated on our search & will post pics of maybes when we get a little further into the process!!