0 comments / Posted on by Erin Gates

There is no turning back now.

I own a house.

An old one. One that has a big hole in the back of it right now and a missing bathroom with old, ominous pipes and chunks of tile and wood being carried out of it. It looks somehow older than it did before we bought it, and every time I look closer I find something else to worry about. This windowsill is rotted. The lawn is lumpy. This room is smaller than I remember. A fence costs HOW MUCH?  For most people, renovating a new house is stressful.  For a raging perfectionist with an anxiety disorder who happens to be a decorator/stylist/designer/what-have-you it can feel like end of the freaking world. Even when it’s going well. Which it is.

Our construction team from Wellbuilt Company has been great so far. They are moving fast and problem solving quickly and efficiently. So it’s not that that is causing me to double over in panic and question everything (I feel like I am at the point that I am even wondering if the world IS actually round). It’s all the change. And the risk. And the money.  As I’ve detailed here before, I am not a big risk taker. I suck at change.  And I am super conservative with my money.  Some (ahem, Andrew) would accuse me of hoarding it for the end of the world. In my checking account. Getting no interest.  I was brought up to save save save, never spend too much and to live well within your means. And this is a fantastic lesson to have instilled in you, especially in a world where I see girls buying bags that cost the amount of a major appliance on credit so they can impress people they don’t know. So writing checks for a renovation (even a fairly priced one) has me sweating bullets.  What if business slows? What if the housing market tumbles viciously again? What if Andrew loses his job? What if I hate it in the suburbs? What if the house sinks into the earth? (I actually HAD that thought yesterday). What if we don’t make our money back when we sell?

What if.

What if.

What if.


I have to stop. This experience will test me, as a person, a wife and a designer and in the end I am sure I will be a smarter person, a better designer and a stronger woman.  I will still have savings, and the money I’ve spent won’t be gone but actually better invested in Boston real estate. We bought in an A+ location, and we all know that is the most important thing when buying property. Especially when I have a fiercely talented dad who has his own architectural firm to help me make the most of my tiny, old house in exchange for hugs and smiles. And my mom who can turn my lumpy yard into a magnificent lawn and garden with a little Miracle Grow, a trowel and some sweat (and maybe some cosmopolitans). And a husband who holds my hand when I cry and tells me it’s all going to be amazing. And a team of contractors who work their ass off for me. I am very, very lucky.

But most importantly, I have myself. Who knows exactly what to do but also can be rendered clueless by the internal demands to never, ever make a mistake.  I simply have to get over that and start enjoying this process, trusting my instincts and finding the excitement and joy in tearing things down and building them back up in the name of a beautiful new life. I just need to source a little more patience, a lot of courage and some really fantastic cabinets.


You’ve seen the full bath already, but here are our before shots of our 1941 center entrance colonial. Only one family built and inhabited this house, and thankfully, took loving care of it.  But it was covered in old wallpaper, soaked in the smell of smoke, and in desperate need of paint and updating.

The entry is TINY, as is the WHOLE house,  but that’s what you get buying in one of the most expensive towns in metro Boston within walking distance (were talking a BLOCK) to shops, parks and restaurants and still being 10 minutes from Back Bay. We’ll be opening up the walls into the dining room to make it feel bigger….

Can’t wait to get me a black banded sisal runner on these stairs! (Up top is Todd, my contractor, doin’ his thang).

Toward the back of the entry is the powder room, which I hope has a wood floor under the linoleum (if not, we’ll add) and I am looking for an amazing wallpaper to use in here to make this TEENSY space feel special. New toilet, pedestal and vintage looking faucet all coming from the fab Waterspot and the light will be recessed since the ceiling is pretty low. We also are taking out the coat closet to the right of the powder for now and adding a very important pass through hallway to  to aid in the flow of the space in general. There will be a full glass door out to the back yard back there too which also allows in much more light. Right now it’s just dead space. And we’ll open the wall to the right that goes down to the finished den in the basement with another fireplace (which I forgot to shoot) and the basement-basement which you don;t need to see. No one does.

To the right of the entry is the living room with is long and narrow and a bit of a design challenge (stay tuned for layout tips on tricky rooms like this). Because of the size we do have to put the TV over the fireplace, but what can you do.  Also hope to stain these floors super dark walnut and add some limestone herringbone tile to the fireplace surround.

Looking back towards the entry we just need to paint and square off that door opening. Otherwise, it’s great!

Through the glass door is our cute sunroom- I hope to vault the ceiling and add a round window up high and replace all the sliders with mullioned glass sliders that look more like french doors as well as a painted wood floor or slate tile. I expect I will spend an amazing amount of time in this room.

The kitchen. Livable for a bit but we have BIG plans for this after we finish the full bath/ pass through/ random other updates that are happening now. The window above the sink is great and will look out onto a patio for eating and grilling. Through that door is a mudroom that leads to the garage. We have big plans for this too- including coat closet, pantry, laundry and storage.

Taking this whole wall down between the kitchen and small dining room.  We will add a counter with bar stools and great pendants to open it up and add more cabinets!

I hope to finally get to use some grasscloth in my own home and maybe some painted white paneling below the chair rail.

The current master bedroom is a decent size. Not doing a whole lot since we have a master suite addition planned for next year (or the year after, we shall see how the $$$$ flows).

A BIG guest room.

The third bedroom/ office has this half door that leads to another full bedroom over the garage. We need to raise the roof and floor and this room and the garage room (and a smidge of the big guest) will become a fantastic master suite!

The outside is cute enough, but we’ll paint the (now green) shutters, garage door and white front door a glossy black and eventually add a gorgeous portico and small sitting patio off the sunroom with some trellis with wisteria vines.  New bushes and planting will be needed all over.

Our side yard and shed. Yep, Andrew got him a SHED! And a lawnmower! And weed whacker!  Rawwwrrrrr! I forgot to take a pic of the back yard, but it’s long and private and we’re adding a white picket fence around the perimeter. I am such a suburban cliche!

Already all that wallpaper is down. Can you visualize it? I can. :)

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Interested in participating? E-mail erin@eringatesdesign.com


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