Friday, August 12, 2016

#ProjectCheekwood: The Before

Let's start from the beginning... if nothing else this will help me appreciate how far we've come in the renovation even though when I walk through the house it seems like it's getting worse by the day 

I'm sure in her hay day, she was a good looking dame of a house. The siding is in decent shape but the shutters, roof, and windows are all being replaced. 

Plaster walls and ceilings, original lighting (which in this case also meant original electrical wiring)

This is to the left of the entryway and is our future master bedroom. We are closing in the casement off the entry and taking down the wall to the original music room to extend the space.

Another view of the formal living room, for the new master bedroom we will update the fireplace surround and refinish the mantel. The french doors to the left of the mantel are the entryway to the new master bathroom. The wall to the right of the fireplace is gone now and is the new master closet. 

This was off the formal living room and will be the future master bathroom with a few square feet added. 

The dining room was to the right of the entry way and will be the future living room.  The wall to the left is gone now and this room is extended into the existing butlers pantry to make it larger. 

The butlers pantry was off the formal dining rom and is now going to be part of the living room. See the floor change? Hear about all the walls coming down... this is the part where things get expensive. 

Now this is where it gets really expensive. You see those floors? We thought we found gold underneath them when the walls started coming down, but it wasn't hardwoods, it was rotten hardwoods/plywoods. You see that ceiling? That's a money problem too. We had always planned to replace it with sheetrock, but when it came down, we found major plumbing/rot issues on the guest bathroom. 

There were about 100 hooks in the ceilings and we haven't been able to figure out what they were used for. Drying meat? Hanging herbs? Either way, the ceiling was dropped into a different slope so that' s been brought up to the 9' height as the rest of the house. This wall where the washer/dryer is has been blown out. The wall to the left we were all thinking and praying was going to be OK behind the plywood, but oh no, it all had to be replaced. Mo money, mo problems. 

You see that fire extinguisher? For some reason, there were about 20 of those things posted all over the house. To the right not this is the existing powder room. Too tiny to even photograph. It's being extended and reworked where someone can use the bathroom with the door closed... not possible before. Everyone needs a little privacy. 

Note the two fire extinguishers. 
This house is the traditional four square and all four bedrooms and two bathrooms were upstairs.

It's actually a little bigger than it looks in this photo, but this will be Maines bedroom. Closet is to the left of the photo. 

Weird/tiny bathroom and no closet. We are reworking the closets in the entire house and extending this bathroom to be the kids bathroom. 

The tiniest master bathroom... we are extending this and stealing a little square footage from the kids rooms to make their new bathroom larger. 

This will be Tilley-Gray's room. The walls (minus wallpaper) upstairs are in good shape and luckily we can do the electrical through the floor and the ceiling since those are both going to be open. 

Tilley-Gray's new room


The bumper stickers are from the 1980s. I feel like these are like a scrapbook of some teenage life and feel bag about getting rid of them but 100% am not using them. Toss them? The bumper stickers are pretty epic in this room. 

We thought we would be able to salvage this bathroom... the one spot in the house that we could lipstick. It actually is full of rotted floors and walls and is now down the studs. 


Such a mess, right off the kitchen. It has boat awnings on it that my drapery workroom said they made 15 years ago. This whole porch was ripped off and we are starting from scratch. 


We've got big, long term plans for the yard, but so far we cleaned up the pool and actually have been able to swim. 

A few questions I've gotten over and over these past few weeks: 

How did you REALLY find the house? Did you REALLY want to renovate?
We purchased this house in a little bit of a round about way. Gray and Baxter (Gray's brother) looked at it a few years ago. Gray, knowing good and well not to show it to me because of the price it was then and how much work it needed, didn't really tell me any details except it needed a lot of work. Fast forward after two more moves and living in a home we knew we bought as an investment and were so ready to sell, I still REALLY needed to be convinced and didn't walk through it with Gray until Channing, our architect took a look at it first. Gray and I work really well together once we have a plan, but he's knows a little bit about a lot of things and says exactly what he's thinking immediately. When he walks through a house (or sees things he knows he can fix) he just starts talking a million miles a minute, and I'm the very opposite. I like to take my time, quietly, and then talk about ideas a little later. Once we both walked through it separately, Gray and I both knew it was the house for our family. That's the best (and only) marriage advice I have y'all... architects and interiors designers are worth every penny. 

The other question I've gotten that's surprised me, more because it's such a bold questions is:

How can you DO THIS to your KIDS? Moving so much will stunt their development. 
Writing about our renovation and including snippets of Tilley-Gray and Maines is public, yes, but I can't believe how many people have commented on the number of times they have moved and how we are such bad parents.  I moved dozens of times (30 to be exact) when I was growing up and as much as I hope that this house is a long-term home for our family, I don't think it defines the kind of parents we are or will define how Tilley-Gray and Maines turn out.  They  have loving parents and are surrounded by a community of friends that are like family that love them.  I like to think that a house or the things that are inside it do not shape a childhood, but more the parents, the people, and the experiences they have. If anything, our kids are adaptable and grateful and that's at the tip top of important traits for me.  

Are they going to film another episode?
I have to say, I'm so so thankful for the sweet comments and encouragemnt we have received about the house. The experience we had with PieTown was awesome and I'm not sure if we will film another episode or not yet, but if you'd like to see more, let them know so!  When the crew left, they were all pretty excited about the project and hopeful that more would come from it.

Where can we see the show?
If you missed it, I don't have a link yet to the show. Once I do, I'll be sure to share. It came on again tonight at 8pm so you'll have to just look out for it on HGTV!

So that's the before and a few questions... up next the first draft of plans. What do y'all want to see? Selections? Budget? Let me know! 


  1. I haven't been able to catch the show yet but I love following along with your plans on insta and seeing a more detailed plan here. I can't believe how rude people's comments have been! My jaw dropped reading that. People are crazy. Can't wait to see more!

  2. Shame on people for questioning moving your kids around! I rarely comment on posts but I had to speak up at that one. You said it perfectly - it's the parents that shape the children's development and provide them with a warm supportive and stable home - not the need to be in the very same home. To those people I say:do you criticize military families for having to move? Are military children going to have stunted development? Certainly not! And don't get me started on how growing up in the same house all one's life doesn't do a bit of good if the parents don't make it loving. Home is wherever good parents are. I applaud you for continuing to live your life and raise children - I can't wait to see what you do with this house. For a laugh I recommend you watch Money Pit with tom hanks - my husband and I quote it all the time.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this process! I love watching it unfold. I'd like to see it all... updates, budgets, plans, selections and anything you'd like to document!

    I started following your blog before Tilley-Gray was born and am excited to see you pick it back up. If there is one thing that I've learned from what you have shared about your life on social media it's that you are a loving wonderful mother first. You are also a very talented designer, but you clearly love your children and family. Those who can't say anything nice, should say nothing at all.

  4. What an exciting project! The house reminds me of the "Father of the Bride" house, and I love it! I don't usually comment on blogs I read (I have read your's for a long time and love your style!), but I had to after reading this post. I can't believe that people who turn to you for inspiration, design, fashion, etc would have the audacity to tell you how to parent your children! You are giving your children a unique and special life. They are learning how to make something beautiful and live life to the fullest. They clearly have loving and talented parents, and they could not be more lucky.
    I love everything you are doing, and your children will be nothing short of successful, special and well-rounded too! xo

  5. I never comment but read that people judged you for moving?!! We moved recently 3 miles from our old house! You would of thought we moved to Africa my kids were a mess. I at first felt bad and we live in a "bubble" community where everyone seems perfect and does the perfect thing for their kiddos always. Then I realized if this is the ONLY change they will have in their life they are doing OK!! Some kids will have to deal with a lot of change, sad change divorce, death, etc. I tell them moving is an adventure and a home doesn't make you a family. No matter where you are and you are together, that is what matters. Love your blog!! Melissa(Sammamish, WA)

  6. Bring back the FiFi Cheek blog!! Hope y'all are having a wonderful Wednesday!

    Zelle | Southern Style 

  7. Nicely written article. Thank you for this. The international tourist who wish to travel to Kenya should apply for Kenya visa application online. Applying online saves time and provide you the best services where you can check the Kenya visa photo requirements and other information very easily.