Elsie’s Forever Home Q+A

Hi everyone! When we shared our new home with you, I knew you would have a lot of questions, so I figured it was easiest to round them up into one LARGE Q+A post. Feel free to skim through if you’re not ultra invested enough to read my novel-sized Q+A. 🙂

That said, I’m so glad you’re curious because I love to talk about this stuff! With this new home, I want to be more open and share each phase in more detail than I have with our past homes. In the past, I focused mainly on “saving” the excitement for big reveals, but this time I kind of just want to document the whole process. I am so excited to dive into this several-years-long renovation with you, and guess what—it’s already begun!

I divided the questions into sections by topic!

Why move? 
Q: Why wasn’t your last home your forever home?
A: The primary reason we moved was to be close to school options for our children. There are so many options in the Nashville area and we spent a long time researching and touring different options. We also had some specific considerations since our children have special needs. In the end, we found the best option for our family!

We absolutely love our current home and after a three-year renovation, we are very attached to it. From a blog audience perspective, I totally understand if you were attached to it too. I’ve been that way with other blogger’s homes before. It’s a thing!

We brought our current home to its maximum potential (considering the home values in the area). So it’s exciting for us to move to a new home with a ton of untapped potential and lots of room to grow. We don’t plan to spend our entire life renovating, but we didn’t feel ready to be past that phase quite yet. We love the process and it’s extra exciting renovating from our new perspective, as parents, this time!

Q: Are you selling your current home or keeping it to rent out?
A: We will be listing it for sale after we move out. We will be leaving the living spaces staged, so moving pretty minimally with all our personal things, our children’s rooms and our work space things until our current home has sold.

Q: Is the new home larger or smaller than your current home?
A: Our new home is smaller than our current home. Our current home is around 5,000 square feet and our new home is around 3,500. However, we feel that the layout is perfect for us for the time being (with no wasted space) and we are planning to do an addition to our new home in the next 1-2 years. After the addition, the square footage will be about the same, with more outdoor living space. The homes are very similar in a lot of ways, which makes us feel instantly “at home.”

Q: What will you miss most about your current home, besides the memories, of course?!
A: So far, the thing I have the most sadness/anxiety about is just leaving a fully complete home for a home that needs a lot of work. I receive a lot of comfort from our current home and we worked for years to make it our safe, hygge, happy space. We will do the same in our new home but it will be a process. I think it’s normal to feel sad leaving a home you’ve put so much work into.

As far as features, I will miss the rainbow book wall (I hope whoever buys the house will buy more of the books too because they look so cool) and I will miss the playhouses we built in our backyard. But we’ll find a new place to put rainbows in our new home and I’m 100% sure we’ll build a new playhouse—they’re the MOST fun!

Q: Can you do a final home tour of your current home before moving?
A: Yes! Here it is! 

House shopping 
Q: How long did you shop? How long did it take you to decide it was “the one”?
We shopped on and off for about a year, but pretty seriously for about six months. We saw maybe 15-20 homes in person and hundreds online in that span of time. We bid on two houses where we were outbid before this one.

We initially saw this home a few months back and we passed on it because we wanted a more walkable neighborhood (my husband runs a LOT) and this neighborhood has a lot of hills. But I kept seeing it when I was searching the area and thinking maybe we should take a second look. Eventually, they did a price decrease and that kind of put us over the edge to go take a second look, and it was love at second sight, I guess.

Q: Do you bring a builder/expert before you commit to buying a home?
A: Yes—I bring my friend with me almost every time. He’s got a ton more remodeling experience than we do. He helps me make decisions from a money standpoint, since I can be very emotional about house shopping. He talked me out of like four houses along the way. 🙂

Q: What’s your favorite feature of the new home (what sold you)?
A: We love the front of the home and the view from the back deck. It feels very private, but is also in a convenient location for our life with two kiddos. We love that it’s built in 1965 and looks really mid century from the front. The interior has almost no original features (besides the stone fireplace, which we are keeping), so I like that when we remodel we can infuse mid-century design inspiration, but there’s really not very much to “preserve.” It’s a great blank canvas for my favorite era of design!

Q: Did you have to sacrifice anything on your “must have” list?
A: Like I said above, we wanted a neighborhood with sidewalks where we could walk with our big stroller and in the end we decided to sacrifice that. But we are OK with that because there are beautiful state parks, farmers markets and lots of walking trails in the area. In the Nashville area, it was impossible to get every single thing on our list.

Q: What was on your “must haves” list besides schools?
A: Our list:
-Room to improve
Meaning we were paying less than the maximum house price in that neighborhood, so the improvements we did would add dollar-for-dollar value to our home (obviously not all improvements add dollar-for-dollar value, but we wanted the big money we spent to be able to return if we needed to sell). For this reason, we didn’t look at almost any homes that were already fully remodeled.

-Layout and space for Jeremy and me to both work from home.
This was by far the most difficult and frustrating “must have” on our list. We passed on dozens of homes that would have been perfect for us if my husband didn’t need space for a home music studio. It was a challenge for sure.

-Historic charm
We mainly looked at historic homes from the 1920s and earlier and mid-century homes. We also looked at some homes built in the ’80s and ’90s, but in the end I did feel more “at home” having an era to anchor my designs to. I’m so happy we ended up finding a 1960s home.

-Features we love, but also a blank canvas.
We specifically wanted a home with some charming original features, but that also was in need of a big renovation. I love that the home we chose has bathrooms that aren’t original to the 1960s, but they’re also not new, because I can remodel them all with zero guilt.

Q: Did your children help you choose the home? Will you let them help decorate their new rooms?
A: We took our kids house shopping a lot on the weekends and to open houses, and our kids enjoy doing it. That said, at their ages they have almost no input about which home we choose. The only input is that Nova only likes homes with swimming pools. Haha!

As far as decorating their new rooms, I let Nova choose from several themes and we are doing the theme she chose (!!!!).

Q: Favorite era for homes, and why?
A: I like historic homes (from the late 1800s-1940s) as well as mid-century homes. Those are my two favorite styles, but they’re also the only two types of homes we’ve ever owned.

Design/Renovation Questions 
Q: Will you be renovating while living there?
A: For small updates, yes, like, when we remodel all the bathrooms we will be living there. We’re planning to always be remodeling something for the next 3-4 years, one room at a time.

When we do our major addition we will have to move out for at least a few months. We’ll probably stay at our bnb in Nashville during that time, but we haven’t planned that far ahead yet. We’ll probably just do whatever is easiest for the kids’ school schedule.

Q: What are the first rooms you want to do?
A: We are starting with the kids’ rooms and moving on to the main living spaces. I’m the most excited to update our deck in time for spring. We haven’t had a porch in a long time and I know we will use it a lot with the kids (and yes—we’re adding baby gates to it for sure!).

Q: Will you be keeping the same color palette? How is your vision for the new home different from your current home?
A: One of the biggest things I learned from our current home is my love for neutrals. So I will be continuing to design with a lot of neutrals. I love how that frees things up to bring in a lot of seasonal color and decorations. I want to make some very bold choices, just not with wall colors. 🙂

Q: Are you going to paint the exterior white again?
A: 100% yes. I’m counting down the days! I know there will always be someone who thinks we should not paint it, but I’m following my heart on this one!

Q: Are you planning to make any bold design choices?
A: Yes—I am considering doing a sunken living room and a round fireplace (Jonathan Adler-inspired) in our bigger remodel. But in this first year I think it will be a lot of settling in, making things cozy … those are my top priorities. And wallpaper!

Q: When can we see before/after photos?
A: Soon! We’re already working on our first room (Nova’s bedroom) and I decided to share the before photos along with the room inspiration as we go.

Q: Does this home need a lot of work to be livable?
A: The home is livable as-is and we are not gutting anything except the flooring and the wet bar in the basement. The kitchen is actually really nice, even though it’s not what I would have picked and it doesn’t really go with the era of the home. It’s still clean and nice and will be great to cook in. There are also three bathrooms that look to be ’80s or ’90s remodels. They’re not super nice or new, but they are clean and white, so better than a lot of homes we looked at. I’m SO happy we chose a home that comfortable to remodel slowly. With two small kids, I love that we can take a break between rooms anytime we need it.

Q: The home looks mid-century, will you be keeping the original elements or changing the style?
Yes—it’s from 1965. The elements that are really well preserved are the exterior and the stone fireplace. We will be keeping both of those elements and improving them as well as adding a LOT more ’60s-inspired design as we renovate and decorate room by room. We are matching the original flooring throughout the home (there was carpet in the basement that we are replacing).

Q: If you could go back to your very first home renovation, what would you tell yourself?
A: In our first home, we didn’t refinish the floors because they were already wood and I assumed it would “cost too much” to change the color. Looking back, it’s the biggest thing I would have done first. Refinishing existing hardwood is a lot less expensive than other floor changes, but I didn’t even know it was a possibility.

Q: Are you painting all the rooms white or doing more color this time?
A: We’re painting a lot white before we move just to start fresh (a lot of it is light gray right now, which is one of my least favorite wall colors). As we go, I will add more texture and design to each room. I still feel really drawn to neutrals, but I want to add more natural wood and pattern to the new space. I am still working on my official color scheme, but it’s mostly neutrals and greens.

Q: What is the absolute first thing you felt you MUST change in the new home?
Floors! In our current home, we had whitewashed floors and they were so beautiful AND functional because we have one dog that sheds a lot and it totally hides it. The first thing we did was remove any carpet, add hardwood where needed and have it all whitewashed the same color.

We’re also doing some construction in the basement for my husband’s studio. Since producing is his full-time job, we wanted a functional workspace for him right when we move.

Other than that, we are really not doing much before we move in.

Q: Will your style change in this home?
A: My style is always evolving, but also I loved our current home and will do many similar choices again if they make sense. I feel like it will be a 50/50 mix of bringing in my tried-and-true and trying some new style and ideas.

Q: Are you keeping all the same furniture and decor?
A: We are planning to keep a lot of it, but furniture never translates 100%. For example, our brand new dining room table doesn’t fit in our new dining room, so we’ll see if the buyers want to purchase it. If not, off to Facebook Marketplace it will go.

Q: Will you do anything to make this home more green?
A: Yes—we are excited to try mineral paint instead of latex for our exterior and brick. We’re planning to invest in a whole-house water filter. We’re going to look into solar panels. We are going to shop a lot more vintage than new for the furniture we need.

Q: What trends are you leaving behind at your old home?
A: Hmm … I still love all the trends I did five years ago, but I’m also excited to try new variations. Like, we won’t do another pink front door just because we want to switch it up. And since we used mostly white subway tile, I’m exploring other tile options for our first couple spaces. But there are so many things I am still so set on—light floors, brass everything, Turkish rugs. I’ll change out a lot of art, I think!

Q: Will you share boring details like permitting, etc.? (It’s not boring to me!)
A: I’m always open to sharing more details, but I get insecure that these details are boring to most people. But I will say that other bloggers being super detailed has taught me SO much. So for that reason I would like to share more.

Q: How do you plan to manage a remodel with two little kids?
A: Our previous remodel was a bit rough (both on our life and on our budget). I learned a lot of lessons that will help me be a better project manager for this remodel.

Our children are our absolute first priority, and there is no part of our renovation that is on a strict timeline to make our home livable. So basically, we are just going to do it slower and save more money before each step to keep it less stressful. I now know that basically all major renovations go over budget or over timelines in some way, so we are expecting those overages. (booo!) And the biggest thing that will help is just not trying to do too much at once.

Money Questions 

Q: Do you consider buying property an investment?
A: Yes, usually. But a primary home isn’t always the most amazing investment since it’s such an emotional and personal purchase. It’s tough to be completely math-driven like you would be on other investments. It’s also a lot easier to spend more (sneaky) money over time improving a home you live in, because you are there every day noticing more things that could be improved. And, of course, since you need your home (to live in) and can’t just sell it anytime you need cash, it’s only good as a long-term investment—not short term.

Still, I think if you live in a city where you can buy a home and your mortgage is relatively the same price as what you’d pay in rent, I think it’s a good investment. Just remember to factor in all the little costs you wouldn’t pay renting (HOA? taxes? lawn care? inevitable repairs?) and if it still feels comfortable, you’re golden!

Q: What is the cost of the housing market in Nashville?
A: I love Nashville and we plan to stay here long term. The housing market is a bit tricky. The city has recently grown a lot and so have the house prices. In a trendy neighborhood, 700K gets you a surprisingly modest home—especially if space is a big priority to you. There are also lots of neighborhoods that are considered “up and coming” with lower price tags. Our current home is in one of those areas and we were able to get a pretty large home for the price of a tiny one in a trendy neighborhood. The good thing about Nashville is there are lots of neighborhoods and suburbs to choose from, and for the most part it’s all pretty close together. A million dollars definitely does not buy you a “mansion” in Nashville, like it would in my hometown in Missouri.

Q: How did you determine your budget for purchasing the home? How did you determine the renovation budget?
A: First, we set our budget for the maximum mortgage payment we’d want to pay each month. We knew if we wanted to go over that we’d need to pay more cash upfront to maintain a smaller mortgage. Next, we got pre-approved for the ballpark budget we wanted to shop within.

Once we found a home we loved, it was time to set our renovation budget. We looked at what remodeled homes were selling for in our neighborhood and we subtracted from that what we paid for our home. This is the amount that is “safe” to spend on improvements because we know the neighborhood can support these improvements from a resale perspective.

Q: How much is your budget?
A: Eh. That’s probably a bit personal and does it really matter anyway? I will share our budgets on makeovers and individual purchases though, because I think that can be helpful.

Q: How do you go about saving for a big purchase like a home?
A: We have been working toward this for a few years. Anytime we have a big savings goal, I make a chart to fill in each $1,000 we save. I also make a checklist of money I know is coming in (how much to save from each paycheck), money that is variable income, and extra things we can do to earn money. This also helps me to get a realistic idea of how long it might take us to save.

Nashville specific
Q: Are you staying in Nashville? How far are you from your current home?
A: Yes—our current and future home are both in suburbs on the outskirts of Nashville, about 15-20 minutes from downtown Nashville. Our new home is just on the other side of town, but overall our commute will be about the same to a lot of things (just much closer to school options we wanted). Our new home is about 30-40 minutes from our current home, depending on traffic.

Q: What neighborhoods in Nashville did you shop in? Do you prefer the city or the suburbs?
A: We shopped in town and in suburbs. We really considered everything. I really wanted to move to a particular area of East Nashville for a long time, but we never found the right home for us. We ended up choosing a suburb just outside of town that made a lot of sense for our family.

I don’t want to go into detail on exactly what location we live in for our children’s privacy. So if you recognize the area or just know for some reason, please keep it to yourself. Each time we have ever moved some asshole has posted our new address publicly. Please don’t be that asshole. If you want to gossip about a blogger or be a jerk, that is one thing, but posting their private information is not OK—please respect that!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and support!!!! xx- Elsie

  • I just wanted to say how much I appreciate this post and any upcoming because we bought our forever-ish home in May 2019 and the houses/facts are pretty similar (we’re just in the North GA mountain area). I was eight months pregnant when we moved in so all renovations have been on hold! It’s nice to see what you’re doing because we have some similarities in style but it also helps me solidify choices because we’re different. I can think “Oh, she did green there, seeing it in green confirms we should do it in natural wood.” Thank you for sharing!

  • Congratulations on the new house! And thank you for recognising those of us who will be in mourning for your old house haha. (You’re right, it totally is a ‘thing’! I’m really going to miss seeing your old house; it’s just so beautiful and you did such a great job with it, it’s really inspired me). However I’m also really excited for you guys, and excited to see what you’ll do with your forever-ish home. I hope you all settle in soon and make many many happy memories there xx

  • I love this post, and I’m so excited to follow you guys on this exciting journey! I hope you’ll share lots of (boring) details, I find it weirdly interesting even though I’m probably never going to buy a house or an apartment ever 😁

  • Congrats! I love renovations so I’m always excited when new renos are on the horizon! Can’t wait to see what you make of this new space. I really, really hope there is no assholes ruining this for you (I can’t believe what would drive someone to do this, I know you put your life online but as a Privacy law specialist (in Canada), it really rubs me the wrong way that someone would so blatantly disregard someone’s privacy rights like this (they could be prosecuted for this in Canada).

  • Congratulations on your new home! I’m a blog reader since before you met Jeremy, and I’m just so happy for you and your wonderful family. Thank you for sharing your process -and your boundaries! Wishing you all the best in the exciting time ahead!

  • I’m so excited for this! I am one of those people who fell in love with your current home 😄 but I can’t wait to see how you transform this one.

    If you’re looking for some mid-century inspo, a graphic designer I follow on Instagram is revitalizing this gorgeous home (@baumhausmodern). It’s so dated right now, but I can see the potential!

  • I’m equally mourning your old home and excited for the new! I see the incredible thought and care it took to make your last house a beautiful place to call home. I can’t wait to see what you have planned and most of all, am joyful to think of this space being where Nova and Goldie grow up. Congratulations on finding “the one!”

  • love this! i also love the idea of a savings chart — we are trying to complete our emergency fund this year and i think it will help me visualize our goal and stay motivated!

  • Nothing in the blogosphere could be more exciting than watching you renovate this MCM family home! Yay- congratulations, v v exciting!

  • Will you share floor plans of your new home? I find these the most interesting and they help me understand your renovations better.

    • Hi! Yes, I probably will at some point (we haven’t had them made yet) especially to explain the addition when we get to that phase. 🙂

  • I NEVER comment on your blog, but today deserved one. I am SO SO SO GLAD you did not give more info about your new address. For your family’s privacy and safety that is a great move. I know the audience wants all the info (maybe they can buy the house down the street?) but you should have a home that is a haven for your family and keeping your address private is a great start! Kudos and Congrats!

  • I laughed when you wrote that Nova loved houses with pools. It reminds me when we were house shopping with my then 8 year old twins. They would weigh in with their favorites and I couldn’t understand why they liked some of the houses that were definitely not on my list. I Finally out two and two together that they liked the houses in which the kids bedrooms had televisions because they didn’t have TVs in their rooms. Ha! They were disappointed to learn that the bedroom TVs didn’t stay with the houses.

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