I remember when I first drove up this old driveway and saw the house that would become our home… do you know what my first thought was?
Back the truck up. It was not for faint of heart. Honestly, I almost didn’t even get out of the car.
But then I shook my head, turned the car off and opened the door.
It had been a long year since moving back to California and we had left a pretty idyllic piece of property and house when we moved back. We had moved from a sweet old 1920’s farmhouse in Minnesota on 120 acres. It had a big old barn, a 3 season porch with all kinds of beautiful old wood windows and a steep squeaky staircase that led to a second story that offered the most beautiful views out across the countryside. All for the price that cost less than a half of what my car cost.
And this house in front of me? It was pretty much at the top of our scrape it together price range in way overpriced California. This little 1940’s cottage on acreage had been vandalized and neglected for over 60 years. It had broken windows, missing or falling ceilings, no sink or in one bathroom and half a dozen different tiles and broken shower in another. There were holes in the walls and single light bulbs hanging from wires to light each room. Well other than the ceiling fan in the kitchen – that had a beer bottle pull to turn it on.
This house… required a lot of looking past things.
To be able to look past the vandalism and gross factor that was left behind- you also needed a lot of youthful exuberance and energy & be naive enough to not think about just how much work it would be to even make it livable let alone pretty.
And I might say- you needed a heavy dose of crazy to want to actually sign on the dotted line and pay a chunk of money to buy it.
And at the time- we had 3 young kids- we were home-schooling and my husband worked in law enforcement & he stayed out of town for 4 days and nights each week. So, putting this house back together again was not going to be quick or easy. We were going to have to work with our budget as we could and work on those days when my husband was home.
Give it a Chance
But back to that moment as I sat in my car in the driveway and looked at this broken house – and after my first thought of turning the car around – my second thought was:
‘Just give it a chance and take a closer look’.
Remember that whole ‘crazy thing? Yep. I definitely had that covered. But there was something happened that first time I saw this house. So I had to take a closer look and see more.
That Certain Something
The house just sitting there in the center of this acreage – honestly it looked so forlorn and sad.
As I stared at it, I felt almost like it was straightening it’s walls as much as it could- in the hope that someone would see past all that was broken – and see the worth it had to offer and give it a chance.
Much like people that are worn and weathered over the years- it needed someone to nurture it. To give it a renewed sense of purpose, polish up that diamond in the rough and fill the emptiness with a family and laughter.
You see, this house and property had a magical energy that I felt the first time I pulled into the driveway- which certainly was not the charm or curb appeal that it definitely did not have. I can’t explain what it was- but I felt it and knew this house was so special.
So I got out of the car & walked up to those kitty corner 2 front doors and I peeked in the windows and got a surge of excitement (remember that insanity thing haha – a diamond in the rough gets me every time ) and I called our realtor and told her –
‘I want to see the inside of this house.’
A Diamond in the Rough
My husband took a bit of convincing -my dad who is a contractor /real estate broker thought it was perfect. He is most likely the one I got the insanity from. haha.
I never imagined I would ever share the outside of the house with you all. I have always been so embarrassed at where we started- but like all good stories- they start at the beginning. So, this is where the house that inspired ‘French Country Cottage’ began.
When I look at these photos- and then I look at this house now- I realize how far it has come.
And I have to be completely honest- I was so embarrassed by the state of the house that I didn’t want to take ANY photos. But my grandmother insisted that I do it.
And I pretty much always listened to Grammy – so I did. Which of course, now I am grateful for them.
Never would even have in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that it would become the start of my business, become two books or be a place that would nurture and encourage me as much as it has while we fixed it up over the years.
Up next – a break down of where we started and details of all the fun along the way. Like when I decided to build detailed moulding to go around the entire house while my husband was at work. And a story about my dad- along with more about the outside of the BACK of the house.
Which- I haven’t shared yet and believe it or not- it looked completely different than the front did with a whole lot of I have no idea what in the world is going on.
And then the cottage exterior… yeah, that was a doozy too.
I hope that if you have a similar fixer up home and are wondering ‘what have I done‘ just like I did Many Many times- that this look back will give you some inspiration and encouragement to know that You have got this and that it Will be worth the work, blood, sweat, tears and everything else that goes along with loving a broken house.
And side note- we are re-doing all of the front landscaping in the next month or so – will be updating the photos when everything grows in 🙂
Happy Monday all.