If you make it through this whole post, cheers to you for sticking with me! Its a long one. I could have pared it way down, but this is more for myself than for anyone else. It’s been fun for me to sort through photos and reflect on the process that has taken up so much of our time and energy for so long. Here we go…Anchorage Home Remodel
I still remember the first time Jamie showed me photos of our house on Zillow. (Spoiler alert: They were ROUGH and showed nothing good about the home.) It was in the late Summer of 2016 and we had been talking about selling our house in the College Village neighborhood of Anchorage for a while. We made a list of all of the things that we would want in a ‘dream home’ kind of situation. Some of the things on that list were:
-Great direct sunlight all year long (this one was the most important, probably the only non-negotiable on the list)
-A view of the inlet and/or mountains but also a ‘tucked in’ feel
-Not too exposed to neighbors or roads, but not too far from a ‘main vein’ down to the highway
-Hiking trails accessible from the house
-Not too much lawn/more of a ‘natural feeling’ lot
-Close to blueberry patches.
We wrote down things that were super specific and obviously far fetched dream scenarios but we just went ahead and wrote down every big and little thing that we could hope for. Its actually pretty hilarious to read this list now because we got what we were looking for in some very extreme ways. We can literally check off everything from that list. I’ve joked that I wish our list had also said ‘move-in ready home with very few projects’ or something like that, because then maybe we wouldn’t have found one with so much work to do!
When Jamie first showed me those Zillow photos I didn’t even agree to go see it in person because the house was so rough. Looking at it on the map it might have ticked some of our boxes but there were no photos of the view, and it honestly looked like a complete dump. Looking back I should have trusted Jamie and gone to see it then. Jamie is now a realtor but long before he got in to it as a career he followed the market, watched properties as if it were his job and we had invested in multiple income properties as well. He knows a good thing when he sees one, and he knew that this was a diamond in the rough.
We looked at several other houses and even got really serious about one house that just never felt quite right. We eventually realized that every house we saw was compromising on our dream list in some big ways, and that we should just wait and see. We knew that we didn’t want to go through the ordeal of moving until it was just the right thing.
In February of 2017 I agreed to go and drive by this house, the same one Jamie had shown me on Zillow about 8 months before. I remember driving to the house after a heavy snow, we couldn’t even make it up the hill because it hadn’t been plowed. We decided to try another day and bring a realtor who could show us the inside. Since it was going to take some work just to get to the driveway, we might as well be able to get inside too. When we went back we got to the top of the hill but had to hike up the driveway. There were 2 moose hanging out on the property and it was a gorgeous sunny Winter day. When we got inside it was freezing cold (no heat or hot water worked in the house), it was dirty, covered in dead flies and more than half gutted down to the studs. It had been vacant for over a year and we could see that there had been squatters in the house. A big hole had been broken in to one of the exterior walls and patched up with plywood. What wasn’t completely gutted was a weird mixture of a half-done remodeling project and some original fixtures from the 70’s. I walked up the main steps to the living room/kitchen area and looked past everything at the views out the window and remember saying without a trace of sarcasm ‘well, this is it.’
You can fix everything else – and the house actually had good lines and a cool midcentury feel – but those views and the location were unmatched in anything else we had seen. We didn’t realize it until much later but every single highly specific thing on our list could be found in this house – honestly, it still blows me away. Our realtor kind of laughed me off at that point and said he would find us a ‘real house’ that we’d love but I just think he didn’t realize how serious we were, or maybe he just hadn’t caught the vision quite yet.
We got the keys May 1 and Jamie started demo that same day. Aside from plumbing and electrical, Jamie did the vast majority of work himself. Thankfully his dad came in to help often and my dad, our brother in law and a couple of other good friends each came up for a week to help as much as they could. 3.5 months later we had the interior ready to move in. 3.5 months, you guys! I can’t believe how much work was done in such a short time, mainly without a crew. Fall of 2017 was really rainy so even though we had already bought the paint, we had to wait until the Summer of 2018 to start work on the decks and finally paint the exterior. Looking back it was probably a good thing that we were forced to slow down on projects for a while though…I don’t think I can’t really explain how intense that first Summer of work was for us. It. Was. Insanity. Not only were we tackling this massive house remodel but I had my busiest season of wedding photography ever and shot 43 weddings that Summer. What were we even thinking?!
Sometimes it feels like the projects will never be done or, at least that we could ALWAYS keep working on something inside or outside the house. I think that is why it has taken me this long to even attempt to blog this process. I’ve had so many people ask about it along the way and I have wanted to share. I think what has been holding me back is that I want to be able to do a neatly wrapped up ‘Before & After’ post like you see on Apartment Therapy or HGTV. But the thing is waiting for ‘After’ has felt like chasing a unicorn or something – does it even exist?! SO here we are. I decided to start with this giant Before to share the story and the scope of work that we did, and soon I’ll put together an ‘After’ that shows where we’re at right now…90% done but still with a to-do list 7 pages long.
These are the photos I pulled off of real estate websites like Zillow & Remax – I think you’ll see why I didn’t want to bother.
Below are a few photos from after we were in-contract on the house but before work could start:
First Demo Day! (A la Chip and Joanna) We converted a bedroom off the kitchen in to more living space.Who blocks the view like this? Obviously this wall needed to come down! We eventually added a steel post for support here. Starting to rebuild. We framed in a laundry room and bedroom downstairs.Drywall going up. Jamie replaced all 25 windows and took off all of the exterior siding to add extra insulation…and then put the siding back up. Cabinets! Sanding down the original steps to the main living area upstairs and figuring out trim for the funky steps downstairs. Concrete countertops. New slate flooring in the entryway and a glimpse of our new front door and the interior railings we had made by Thor’s Welding. I had to add one photo of myself, right? Early 2018, painting coat number 4 (I think) on the beams…they were sprayed a few times but that oil based base layer kept bleeding through. Spring of 2018 before the snow melted we started planning/prepping to do the decks and paint the exterior. This is what we were working with…
That spray painted concrete block. So. SO. Ugly. Black was something we knew from pretty much day one. Both of us saw the house as black. The old cedar siding was super dry so Jamie sprayed a couple of coats in other colors just to let the wood soak it up. (Check out that astroturf on the upper deck.) We have 1700 square feet of decks on our house and every single inch of that needed to be redone.
New. Main. Deck. We were excited about this day!! New supports under the upper deck and a walkway up to the front door. Tackling the upper deck. Aannnd…railings! We will be finishing these in Summer 2019 but all of the most important ones got finished.The journey continues! Look for where we’re at now in my ‘After’ (is that a real thing?) post sometime SOON.
Our Anchorage Home Remodel | Before
Filed in: Erica's Personal Photography
March 8, 2019
Thanks for reading, Ginger.
That is strange about Mississippi homes! More windows and less shades is the way to go!!
Amazing. Thanks for sharing! That view will be worth everything. And I agree, so weird that anyone would block a view. There are homes along the Mississippi up here that have these teeny windows, and it’s so strange to me.
Thanks so much Kandise! It has been a lot of hard work…thats for sure!
AMAZING! You have all worked so hard, and it’s coming along wonderfully.
haha! If we had known EXACTLY how much work and time and stress was involved we may have looked the other direction from day one on this one. BUT I’m still glad we did it! Truthfully, at this point in our lives we never would have found ourselves in a house like this in Anchorage if it hadn’t been in such rough shape!
Holy moly this is amazing!!! So so much time intensive labor! What a labor of love and SO impressive you did it yourselves. I would have thrown in the towel on that so long ago – lol. So so beautiful! Worth it!!!!