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Orlando Bought A HOUSE!! And He’s Here To Talk About His Life, The Process and His BIG Plans…


MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE! Literally the most exciting thing to ever happen in my life just happened! I bought a house! 

And quite honestly, it kind of came out of nowhere. 

If you’d asked me at the beginning of this year what the chances of me buying a house within the next few years was, I would have said SLIM TO NONE. But then, well, 2020 happened and literally everything got flipped upside. In terrible ways but also a few good ones. And then all of a sudden I found myself as something I dreamed of being – an actual homeowner.

Since you read this blog I probably don’t have to explain to you that California (particularly LA) is a pretty hard place to get your foot in the door of the real estate market. I’ve wanted a house since I was, I dunno, seven. But it always seemed absolutely impossible until I did it. But I’ve kind of known it was like that – homeownership does truly seem impossible from the outside, until you do it and you’re like OH THAT’S IT?!? I kind of learned this from watching Emily and Brian buy their first house years ago. Like, LA seemed like an impossible place to find a family home in and then BAM, their careers and real estate prowess aligned and they found a place! 

So I guess I knew in the back of my head that someday I’d probably be able to randomly buy a house but I had no idea when that day was coming or how on earth I’d do it fully alone with no help from family or my wealthy, gorgeous husband (because he doesn’t exist). But in my wildest dreams, I never expected it to happen this year. And then Covid came basically right as I was finishing up shooting my HGTV show “Build Me Up” (which you can still watch on HGTV Go!) and I kind of looked around like, “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?? HOW AM I GOING TO MAKE MONEY???”

Because it can be kind of confusing to understand the way people like me make money (or quite honestly, what my actual job is) let me break it down for you. While I started as a designer, for the last few years I’ve made most of my money hosting TV (mostly HGTV), brand partnerships, and content creation. So, mostly I was paid to design stuff and then yell at everyone about it. But when Coronavirus hit, brands all stopped spending money so one of the main ways I was making money evaporated into thin air. 

Luckily, I had already begun to pivot back to working with design clients again AND had just started making and selling art and home decor products via my website (please go buy them right now!). I realize how incredibly lucky I’ve been this year (and, quite honestly, I have no idea if it’s gonna keep up, running your own little business is ROUGH). But somehow magically as the economy was tanking I managed to continue bringing in an income and because I was spending money on literally nothing, I was able to save a bunch. I actually hadn’t really processed how much money I had been spending on travel, clothing, and God-knows-what the past few years and without anywhere to go or any real reason to get dressed ever, I kind of saved a lot. Thus, this year, I magically found myself in a financial position where I finally had a chunk of change to use as a down payment. 

photo by zeke ruelas | from: “revenge body for the home”: the juicy backstory to orlando’s show unspouse my house

Meanwhile, the city of LA was falling apart around me. Everything that I loved about it was closed (museums, parties, the gym, etc). Restaurants were open, but they were full of people BREATHING DIRECTLY INTO EACH OTHER’S MOUTHS whilst drinking mimosas, spitting into the air. Half my friends had become full-on shut-ins (like me) and the other half were going to ‘Rona Raves’ every weekend. Quite honestly, I’ve had a really hard time processing this year. It’s made me realize that I am extremely judgy and puritanical about some things – mainly following rules that have to do with keeping other people safe. So seeing people party and not take the virus seriously started to REALLY grate on me. And I hated that part of my personality, I hated having to confront my own judginess. But it also pissed me off that people were just acting like nothing was going on, getting on planes to go to Mexico, getting covid, then bringing their covid back with them on the plane potentially infecting (and killing?) people in the process (some friends of mine literally did this and I’m clearly still furious about it). 

I’m a city guy, kinda always have been (even though I grew up in the woods – I’ll get to that) and always will be. I probably have too much FOMO to want to live somewhere that isn’t LA or New York permanently. But, I came to the realization this year that if there were ever a time NOT to be in one of those two cities it’s probably the next 1.5-2 years (please God let this be over by summer!). I simply have no interest in paying LA rent to be trapped inside my apartment as people parade outside my window licking each other’s faces while a terrifying virus ravages the city (sidenote: there are people in high-risk categories in my family who I see regularly, so it’s really less about my own fear of the virus than my fear of contributing to community spread that could lead to someone getting ill or worse). 

Now, because I am the least efficient storyteller ever and incapable of keeping it short, here is where the story gets even DEEPER. I grew up in one of the most magical places on earth, a place that haunts my soul daily and dreams nightly. I grew up in Yosemite National Park. If you’ve been following along for a while you probs know this. But if you haven’t you’re probably like “WHAT? IN THE PARK???” Yes, I grew up in a tiny cabin underneath Yosemite Falls. And I didn’t truly appreciate it until my parents retired and had to move (the homes inside Yosemite are rentals for current park employees only so once you retire you have to GET OUT). 

When my parents left the park in 2014, it kind of felt like losing a member of the family. Yosemite had been so ingrained in my personality that it felt weird not to have any sort of ties to the area anymore. Over the years I’ve come back a number of times and it’s always felt super weird to stay in hotels. For me, this is an area I come “home” to, so not having a “home” to cook dinner and relax by the fire in was very strange. 

Ever since my parents left, I’ve dreamed about buying a house in the area where I grew up. There are a number of communities outside Yosemite National Park (and some within) where you can own a home: Yosemite West, Wawona, Foresta closeby, and further out Mariposa (where I went to high school) and Oakhurst. I’d always thought it would be nice to own a home in Yosemite West, about 40 minutes from Yosemite Valley where I was raised, where some of my friends from grammar school lived, but I’d never seriously looked at properties in the area until this year.

Now, since this story has gotten kind of long, let’s recap:

  1. I have always dreamed of owning a house.
  2. LA is expensive and I’m probably a lot less rich than you’d imagine.
  3. I basically lost my main income source and had to figure out new and old magical ways to make money this year. Wheee!
  4. I ended up saving a ton of money, enough for a down payment, by doing literally nothing fun all year long.
  5. Coronavirus took away all the things I loved about LA and turned my friends into irresponsible idiots.
  6. I grew up in Yosemite and missed it.
  7. I wanted to get out of LA until Coronavirus ended.

Honestly, at this point the story can be solved with simple arithmetic. If you add all of the above together you end up with the following:


Like many design lovers in Coronatimes, I’ve spent quite a bit of time fantasizing about moving to a far off place while browsing Zillow every night. So when I came across a rare steal in the town of Fish Camp, just two miles from the Southern Gate of Yosemite, I jumped on it and drove up to take a look.

When I saw the house, I fell in love with it immediately. Sure, it’s kind of a strange ’90s box. But it had many attributes that are VERY hard to come by in this area:

  1. Size (3000+ square feet)
  2. Flat lot (many of the homes in this area are on dark, steep hills meaning that they have to be super vertical, often up to four or five stories tall)
  3. It was in relatively good condition structurally, meaning I could spend money on fun things you can see rather than boring things like rebuilding a foundation.
  4. It had land (half an acre) with space around it.
  5. It would make for a great “before/after” story (hey, I love a Cinderella story!)

Okay, so here’s how this whole house deal went down. I found the listing and was immediately like OH MY GOD I NEED THIS. Somehow, I’m guessing through Zillow, I reached out to a real estate agent who met me at the house and showed it to me. I found out when I toured it that someone had already come in over asking, which was annoying because the asking price ($595K – a steal by LA standards) was at the higher end of my budget and I wasn’t sure I could go any higher. I felt pretty discouraged but I’d heard that writing a letter could help and also being super easy to work with (ie not making a ton of demands of the seller) could be really helpful if you truly wanted the house. So I basically told them I wouldn’t come in with a ton of contingencies and that I’d make amazing use of the house and carry on its tradition of being a place for family to gather (previously, this house was a shared vacation house between siblings). 

needed to blur out the sensitive personal info so one comes to murder me!

From start to finish, the buying process was 2.5 excruciating months. Which, in the scheme of things I know is ridiculously short. When you think about it, it’s actually kinda wild that the very first house I ever looked at, and the one I really wanted because of the size/lot/etc ended up working out. Both of my siblings bought houses in Sonoma County near my parents in the past two years and had a much different experience, getting outbid over and over and having a really hard time finding homes within their budgets. So I consider myself pretty lucky that I looked at a house, inquired about it, and somehow magically ended up getting it.

Oh, one thing I’m not mentioning here because honestly just thinking about it exhausts me, is that the second I closed on it, it nearly burned down in a terrifying wildfire. You can read more about that in the post I wrote over on my blog.

So, what’s next? Well, the end goal with this house is to create a large space where my family can gather and be close to Yosemite, to have a physical tie to the place that holds such an important place in each of our hearts. I KNOW THAT SOUNDS SO CHEESY BUT IT’S THE TRUTH I’M SORRY OK??? My eventual goal, and to be honest I’m not TOTALLY sure when this is going to happen because I spent literally all my money buying the house, is to renovate this house to look as if it were built in the same year the house I was raised in was built, 1929. 

My plan is to change every single surface in the home, from the windows and doors to the siding and even the finish of the interior walls. So, basically this project is gonna be super expensive and I’m gonna need to get some big paychecks to afford it (read: it might be a while). To get an idea of the vibe of the project, head on over to my Londo Lodge Pinterest board:

I really want to make this place, which currently feels just like a big, boring box, into a place that evokes nostalgia, that feels like an old, historic home. I want it to be a place my family gathers for holidays or that my parents and siblings feel free to come use for weekends away. And maybe someday I want it to be an heirloom property that goes to my future child that doesn’t exist or to my niece and nephews.

The first phase of move-in has involved a LOT of learning. For being a first-time homeowner, I chose kind of a difficult house. Here’s a list of some of the things that make it challenging:

  1. It’s on a well. So when the power goes out (which is not uncommon here) the water stops flowing.
  2. The only thing that is connected to any sort of municipal grid is the electricity, so I have to make sure water and propane systems are operating/refilled/maintained.
  3. There is no trash service, so I have to drive my trash and recycling 45 minutes to a dump where I dispose of it myself. You can apply to get your own dumpster (which I did) but it’s $260 a month and there’s a super long waiting list. 
  4. It’s on a septic system, which had to be rebuilt before I moved in because tree roots had grown into it. Oops. 
  5. It has central heating, but the heater malfunctioned the first time I turned it on and had to be repaired. Another few thousand dollars down the drain…
  6. It’s rural so services (ie handyman, delivery, general help) are difficult to come by. You can’t just look something up on Yelp. Our version of Yelp is going to the general store and asking the people who work there if they know anyone who can help you.

The list kinda goes on, but I won’t bore you. I actually like the distraction of all of this problem solving (most of the time). But the point is I chose kind of a hard house as my first one, so it’s taking me a minute to get fully settled in. For example, I spent the afternoon today chopping wood, then stacking it, then moving a small portion of it into the garage so it would be easy to grab to add to the fireplace (this is a big ass house, it’s hard to keep it warm when it’s 9 degrees out!). 

My plan, as it relates to You Personally Reading This Blog Right Now, is that I plan to make the house cute ASAP by doing a series of mini-makeovers throughout the house that work with the house as-is but spruce it up with paint and some new furnishings (which I plan to keep for the final, renovated look). I’m doing this A) Because I view this house as kind of a fun design lab to play with ideas in B) Because I know a lot of you out there, including literally me right now, can’t necessarily afford to fully renovate their homes and I want to provide some tips on how to work with your house in its current state and C) Because I can’t help myself, I literally can’t resist playing around with the design of my home while I wait for a bigger renovation.

So, FOLLOW ALONG WHY DON’T YOU? I’ll be documenting this whole journey here on Emily’s blog and on my blog as well! Okay goodbye!

Fin Mark


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Orlando, I love literally everything about your story, from the mind-blowing experience of growing up in Yosemite, to your lovely letter to the home’s former owners, to our shared frustration with the ‘rona ravers of the world, to the vision of you dashing out to the garage to snag more firewood to warm your toes on those 9 degree nights, to envisioning how you might make this house sing in the short run. I am so invested in your journey and so excited to see what happens next!


Completely agree. What a refreshingly different post on EHD – just love😍


Hear, hear! I’m torn between wanting the universe to rain brand partnerships down on Orlando because he deserves wonderful things, and just being so excited to gather inspiration from the kind of creative magic that a tight budget will generate.


Oh I so agree about this, too. Brand partnerships are a mixed blessing for sure, but in this case, I’m dying to see what Orlando can do with this relatively uninspired starting point. (Though how a house in the woods THAT IS YOSEMITE ADJACENT could ever be anything but a dream come true, I can’t say.)


Agree on every front! Absolutely LOVED reading every word and can’t wait to see more! (AND, who in the world grows up in such a magical place??!!!??!!)


Ooooohh, he is sooo adorable! His writing, his realness! This is te best kick-off for a wonderful serie. What great news on the blog!


This is so exciting, and I wish you ALL the best! Can you tell us if Build Me Up will be back – it’s a fantastic show!

Seriously, you are one of the best storytellers. Thanks for sharing and congratulations! I look forward to following along with the transformation. The Pinterest board is soo good!


oh my gosh! so happy for you! i can’t wait to see what you do with it! we have a lake house in GA and are on a well also….and septic….and it’s crazy the things that come along with that.(repairs/pump outs, etc.) but…your location makes up for it!!! congrats again!!!


So excited for you! This is going to be an awesome journey. Sounds like learning to compost could help with those trash runs. And in general, saving our earth (now that we’re Biden/Harris giddy and can refocus on real problems like climate change) is always a good thing.

$260/month x 12 months = $3120/year and there’s SO MUCH MORE FUN STUFF to buy with $3100 than a dumpster rental! Just sayin’…..and there’s gotta be “a guy” in town who makes trash runs for a few folks?


Composting!! YES!!!
I wondered about how much stuff could nit go inyo landfill with a little mindfulness and foresight.


I think he meant that he would have to rent a dumpster to dispose of renovation materials while he fixes up the house. You can’t compost carpeting! Otherwise yes, 100% pro-composting!

Hi! A lot of people have recommended composting! Sad thing is, up here because of bears and other wildlife it is EXTREMELY expensive to build the infrastructure (basically, large locked underground tanks so animals can’t get to it) to do it safely in a way that doesn’t harm the wildlife. And Mariposa county doesn’t have a composting program as far as I know. I’ve been doing a TON of recycling, but so far haven’t been able to find any viable composting solutions.


I’m sure you’ve done way more research than I have, but any chance something like this would work?


Check into Jora composters. They are designed in Sweden and fully insulated for cold weather continuous composting. They are made of steel and can be padlocked. I live in Florida and pests are a problem here, these seal really well. The nicest and most efficient composter I have ever used. If there is enough space in your garage, you might be able to keep the composter in there, away from bears. And if the garage is accessible without going outside, that’s much better when it’s 9 degrees out!

Fires are toasty, up to a point. When it is a lot colder outside than inside sometimes more heat goes up the chimney than is being generated by the fire. Have you considered a wood burning or pellet stove? I grew up in Ohio where my dad spent a lot of time splitting wood, and my uncle had a wood stove. You have a really exciting house and property, congratulations to you!!! I ordered a new address plaque for my house after your recommendation, so thank you!


How exciting!! So happy for you! And for me too, because reading about your mini makeovers is going to be great 🙂


I looooove Orlando and love his writing voice. Happy to follow along here and on his blog.


What a fun read. And YES!! to Reason No. 2 of why you’re styling the place now: “Because I know a lot of you out there, including literally me right now, can’t necessarily afford to fully renovate their homes and I want to provide some tips on how to work with your house in its current state.”

Can’t wait to see you work your magic on your new home. Congrats!


There’s an enormous place in my heart for 70s/80s contemporary, and I’m SO excited to follow along here. Also, this house is just begging to be charcoal. The trees would pop so much and it would look so gorgeous!


Anyone else get a little teary reading that letter? I love all of this, and read this post even though I know the whole story from following Orlando on instagram. He’s so funny and so talented! I can’t wait to see more!!


I was right there with you, Barbara! Orlando’s realness is my favorite thing on instagram, and I’m so happy to follow his next exciting project!


The title says “LANDO LODGE” and it’s “LONDO LODGE”?!!

I’ve been following along on your blog Orlando and I’m moved by your strong commitment to your family and the clear love you gave for them!

I grew up in a forrest town too (so I get the connection to cpuntry thing, like IndiIndigenous peoples have), when I go there (Denmark Western Australia) I yearn to buy a cottage and move there, BUT I also experienced a serious bush fire there and I’m so scared of bushfires that I cannit do ut, so onky visits for me.

I’m soooo looking forward to learning, following along and being inspired by your adventures (plural), because there are sure to be many.,

Congratulations and I can’t wait! Yaaay!


K, so we all know that I make numb, can’t feel ’em, dodgy finger typos, but really? This is way too many. Sorry!


I honestly could NOT be more excited about this. I’ve spent the last six years renovating my (much smaller) home from top to bottom. It sounds so long, but it’s flown by, and every little successful project brought me joy and fueled me to keep going. It was also a much needed distraction from hard times, even pre-COVID. Orlando, YOU ROCK and I can’t wait to see your genius at work in this new house! Congratulations!


So happy for you Orlando!! I love the why and I love that you’ll have something truly yours now.

I am also a corona-prude, I could have written that section. We need more people thinking of OTHERS and not brunch. You’re doing it right even though it’s hard/isolating. Hugs.


‘We need more people thinking of others.’ Hmm ok. Well, for a virus with an average death age OLDER than average life expectancy I think we can discount changing a whole society’s way of acting consider the majority who died would’ve perished from a flu or co-morbidity relatively soon anyway. This C-19 is within the realm of a strong seasonal flu (WHO and CDC say it’s around 0.01% mortality) and the CDC released figures showing around 9,000 Americans died of C-19 alone. Most people who catch it are either in a care home or via nonsomical infections in hospitals. So, you may think you’re thinking of others, but destroying livelihoods (over 100 million thrown into extreme poverty and global poverty increasing for the first time in 22 years) means you are also condoning – indirectly – increased suicides, human and child trafficking, poverty and misery for all those who aren’t middle class and don’t have middle class jobs which allow them to comfortably sit at home and ‘wait it out’. My business died in March through no fault of my own – it was through Government regulation of a virus that is less lethal than the 1957 and 1968 flu… Read more »


It can both be true that we need more people thinking of others when deciding their behavior AND that we need more governmental support to provide financial help to those who bear the most direct consequences of asking people to stay home while we ride out the pandemic.

But to describe Covid-19 as “within the realm of a strong seasonal flu” is incredibly irresponsible. Emily and team, I hope you’ll consider deleting the above post for its misinformation. As we’ve all learned the hard way, misinformation can spread quite quickly online.


It’s not only old people who die, and it certainly isn’t mostly old people getting long covid that is likely to negatively affect them the rest of their lives. As someone who already has a fatigue and pain chronic condition, I don’t wish anyone in my place.

Margaret Mead said that the first sign of a civilisation was a healed femur. It meant that the community has cared for, protected and fed someone who was not able to hunt and kill food themselves. I believe in that. And I include you, as a business owner in the groups that need our support. There are no easy answers with the pandemic, there are best intentioned and science-led actions to try to balance the negative impacts.


I’d like to address a few of your points: 1. Lives vs businesses is a false dichotomy. We don’t need to choose to protect only one or the other, we need better support systems so that we can protect each other from transmissible diseases while also supporting livelihoods. 2. Letting people die who would have died soon of another cause means that you don’t value their lives. Are young, healthy people the only people who deserve to live? 3. As you said, there are many indirect consequences as well, including depression, suicide, other conditions that go untreated because hospital capacity is full or people don’t want to go to a hospital during a pandemic. Controlling the pandemic faster will bring these consequences down too. 4. The 9,000 figure is misleading. There are 1.3 million deaths worldwide (250,000 in the US) of people with COVID-19. It’s extremely rare for someone to die of one cause, especially when it’s an infectious disease. You also have to understand how death certificates work. For example, someone dies of pneumonia due to COVID-19. The primary cause of death will be written as respiratory failure. Then, there will contributing factors listed on the form, including COVID-19,… Read more »


Accidentally voted up this comment. In actual fact, I don’t know how you can compare this virus, with 240,000 deaths in our country and the year not even over yet, to flu years that had fatalities of 70,000 and 100,000 respectively. In my county, fatality is at a strong 2%, no one is getting 0.01% mortality rates. Your opinions as to how important it is to protect the lives of older people whom you think were going to die anyway are duly noted, but at least get some facts on board.


Janet, that’s so cold. Many older grandparents are caring for grandchildren or other family members. They are valuable and remsin being essential members of the whole society and especially their own families. Those who are too old to work, they teach society compassion, and they remain an important link between now and tje past. Besides many younger individuals get sick and continue to suffer even aftercthey recover. Their kids and families can’t always cope without that parent. Just like one person already said, if we did more in the first 8-10 weeks, we would have mire freedom and economic recovery niw. If everyone did their parts social distancing and wearing a mask, we’d continue the downward trend. People’s selfishness is awful. Our country and the entire world is worse for people who don’t care about others.


I disagree with your reasoning AND your misspelling of nosocomial.


Janet, you should be absolutely furious that our government has not seen fit to extend sufficient support to people such as yourself who are suffering grave financial consequences. It is an outrage and an indelible stain upon the moral fabric of this country. But the quarter of a million lives (perhaps it will be as high as half a million by the one year mark) lost to this disease are also evidence of an outrageous failure of leadership. Yes, the majority of deaths have been among those over the age of sixty (I wonder if you’ll still value your own life when you’re sixty!), but it is also worth noting that the average COVID fatality represents an estimated loss of eleven years of life. What price would you put on another decade, for someone you love? For yourself? That you, like much of our national leadership, have attempted to render the utterly incommensurable quantity of life itself in fiscal terms suggests not merely a failure of imagination, but a failure of humanity. If you consider concern for the other people’s lives “sickly,” why on earth would you expect anyone to spare a thought for your failed business? I’m sad for… Read more »


Wow, Janet. You are misinformed but even worse, you are a coldhearted b*tch. Every single life lost in the US has been a preventable tragedy and a failure of our leadership, and to talk about it this way is deeply insensitive to those grieving.


I am sorry you lost your business, that must be really difficult and have I can understand that anger and frustration maybe at the forefront of your message. I do however feel it needs to be highlighted that many things you wrote in this paragraph are inaccurate. Although you have mentioned the CDC and WHO, that your conclusions are again inaccurate. I have put an article from John Hopkins University that helps to differentiate and I feel make it more clear why Covid-19 should not be viewed as a strong seasonal flu. There are similar pages on the CDC and WHO websites as well but this one is well laid out in my opinion. I don’t know if you will read this, but it’s useful for anyone, as the symptoms can be similar, and a lot of miss information about this topic is in circulation, I hope it can help. Your points on the adjacent effects of Covid-19 from interventions aimed at decreasing the spread and mortality, are valid, and in fact there are many more that can be listed, especially in lower and middle income countries. But that doesn’t mean though that this virus can be willfully ignored,… Read more »


The failures you’re seeing now are a direct result of people being stupid, yes stupid, at the beginning of the pandemic. From the leadership all the way down. There are under 50 new cases a day in the country I live. Contract tracing is serious. Like more serious than most Americans would accept. Being tested is not an optional thing-when there was an outbreak of a dozen people, 10 million people were tested. Mask wearing was enforced at the very beginning. What’s the result? My kids go to school with no worries. Nothing is closed. Restaurants, bars, parlors, raves of thousands of people, concerts, they’re all happening. The economy has bounced back. I literally never even think about COVID unless I read the news. This is what life could be but to drag it out so slowly like the US is doing is just mind boggling. I spent a few months earlier this year back home in the states and couldn’t wait to leave and come back to a “normal” life given what I was seeing.


Your business died because your government didn’t want to spend the money to bail you out. It had the money to do so and chose not to.


OMG i canNOT wait for all of this!!


Orlando, I started following this blog just as you were leaving, and ohhh my, what I missed. I effing love you. What you wrote coming to grips with the judge-y side of your personality during this pandemic resonates SO hard with me. I can’t wait to follow along on your journey!!


So so excited for this Orlando! I’ve been following along on Insta, but I’m so happy you’re sharing here too!!


Orlando, your writing is such a joy to read! Your grammar, spelling and voice are heads and shoulders above most blog writing. You clearly love the craft of storytelling in addition to your day job.

Also, you seem like an awesome, lovely person. Thanks for the lift this Friday, and congrats on the house- may it host many thousands of happy hours with those you love!

Roberta Davis

It will be so fun to watch what you do with this house. I also recently bought a pretty big house that is not all that old, but getting to be dated, and I will watch with interest, how you transform your place without major reno $ being spent. But yeah, wild fires. But then again- you grew up there and the house you grew up in is still there.


Everything about this is refreshing, honest, and adventurous. Thank you for allowing us into your space and your thought processes. We are rooting for you!


Obsessed already with this project. We just bought a 600 square foot condo in Montana (and 200 of those feet make up the loft bedroom), and decorating that tiny space has been so fun. I can’t imagine what it would be like with 3000 sq feet!!!! I’m here for it! (Orlando, do you know Mandy Mohler’s artwork? Could be fun for various spaces in the house!:

This is so exciting, I can’t wait to see what you do with it Orlando- it’s going to be amazing!!!


Congratulations! I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I hope it includes some of you mom’s Kokeshi dolls🙂


I look forward to reading and seeing more.I know I’ll enjoy this series 🙂 When it comes to heat look into those German fireplace inserts that burn wood (or gas) and are supper efficient. American fireplaces are open and lose a lot of heat. In Europe they make different inserts with glass door that are fully closed and are super safe and efficient. Have one where you spend the most time so that you don’t have to heat the whole house. Personally, I wish there were more houses in the middle price pount that are slso nice. It’s either huge or very small with no charm at all. A 1500-2000 would also have so much potential, but would be much more reasonable to remodel and maintain.


Hello, this sounds very interesting – do you have sources for the “German fireplace inserts”? We have a currently non-working fireplace, but since we are spending way more time at home, would like to make it a working fireplace … Thank you!


From Wisconsin, don’t know that I have ever seen an open fireplace there as they are all inserts with doors. We installed a Jotul cast iron insert which heats incredibly well but beware- high temps mean that your chimney may need upgrades and you need any wooden (combustible) mantle to be very large to maintain a safe distance from the heat. We had a salvaged mantle but needed to rebuild it to pass code, which was a pain.


Congrats on the house! I just refugeed out of NYC and bought on a lake I’ve been coming to since I was a kid – 1968 Mies van der Faux complete with a fun water feature in the basement ( rocks and a spurting rain ‘ fountain’ that goes into a French drain…but seems OK LOL)
two things to learn from my mistakes and near mistakes :
1. Don’t forget to do lead and asbestos tests BEFORE you go nuts and scrape things. Unless you enjoy the drama of scraping your popcorn ceiling first then testing expensively after and waiting to find out of you poisoned your home and gave yourself cancer. Hint : its not as fun as it sounds.
2. It is probably best to buy some cords of seasoned wood- burning green wood is not a great idea.
Have fun!


Ands ALSO – forgot to say your story and writing is LOVELY and I can’t wait to hear more!




Can anyone with real estate experience speak on the concept of the “letter to the owners”? When I was trying to buy a building a few years ago, my agent encouraged me to write something personal about how I intended to use the space, my roots in the community, etc. But a friend of mine recently purchased a house and she was told that it’s now an unspoken rule that the letter is frowned upon because it can allow the homeowner tho discriminate based on the potential buyers background or personal story.
Anyone have thoughts? If I was selling my home, I’d like to know that the new owners were going to cherish it and not flip it or something. But I can see how a letter that hints at a potential buyer’s ethnicity, income level, sexual orientation, etc could allow for discriminatory housing practices.


The letters are a nice idea but generally if you aren’t white and heterosexual, it might hurt more than it helps. Of course, that’s a reflection of other peoples’ prejudice, not anything the buyer did wrong, but buyers who don’t fit that mold might choose to withhold information to avoid discrimination (and therefore violation of the Fair Housing laws on the seller’s part). However, withholding information can be difficult when your name indicates your ethnicity, or when it’s clearly two men with children buying a home. It’s also worth noting that discrimination is often more insidious and subtle than “throw out this offer because I don’t want a Black family buying this house,” which is clearly illegal. I think potential buyers should consider the context and the location and decide whether they think it’s safe to write a letter or not. If I were selling I’d request that no letters be sent, just to avoid any potential of subconscious bias affecting my decision. Sending love to all the POC and LGBT+ folks who have had to deal with this 🙁


When we bought our home in San Jose 7 years ago, there were multiple offers, the highest ones being from investors who wanted to make the house a rental. On suggestion from our realtor, we did write a letter, and unexpectedly, we did get the house. The realtor said the (aging) owners preferred selling to a family who wanted to raise their kids in the house, so we got lucky. (I am white and heterosexual and this is California’s Bay Area, so I of course don’t know if it’s always a good idea to write a letter, going back to Isabelle’s comment.) Isabelle makes a good point from the seller’s point of view to request no letters to avoid any unconscious bias.


I’m in the greater Chicago area and I’ve never heard of this practice. I bought a house without a letter. I’m in a diverse community and I’d be willing to sell my house to anyone who would pay for the entire value of the house. We spent over 70K on this house just fixing walls, new roof, cleaning it up, remodeling a bathroom, painting, replacing a huge wall of windows, replacing electrical, building a laundry room and updating a patio. It’s not much in terms of the overal functionality of the home, but a lot in terms of interior quality and extending it’s life. I’d sell to anyone who would pay for all that and the appreciated value of the house, which is about the same as the cost of all upgrades. :))


Letters worked great for our family, a multi-racial mix, and I’d say most people would presume my husband is black based on his name. (He is.) I think it’s possible we wouldn’t have been successful buyers of the two different family homes we’ve bought if we hadn’t connected with the sellers that way. We loved the houses and wanted to raise our kids there, and we did–eight years in one, and seven years and counting in our current home.


I LOVE Orlando! He’s not just an incredibly talented designer who is hysterically funny, but he is also a thoughtful, insightful, reflective, talented writer. So happy for him & thrilled to follow along!


The rural version of Yelp cracked me up. That’s exactly what we do when need someone in the very small Washington coastal town where my husband’s family has had a home since 1939. Head to the local hardware store (15 miles away) and ask who we should call for a plumber, etc

Sarah M.

I love his description of LA and the ‘rona. Hilarious 🙂


But only true in some areas. Others (like mine) are as judgy as Orlando!


I didn’t realise it was so big when I saw it on your blog. Marry me so I count as family and can come stay! I
loved Yosemite when I visited from the UK a few times. I wash my hands and wear masks and you’ll think the British accent is cute 😀

Chris Loves Julia are finishing up an external reno that looks similar to what you’re going for.

Liz on the Frugalwoods blog writes about their life in the wilds of Vermont, which includes great ideas for cutting, storing, seasoning wood. She’s also a fantastic writer.


I literally read every single word of this post (which is rare for me)… congratulations and can’t wait to see what you do with it!!


Orlando, I love your writing, you always make me laugh! I love this house and am so excited to see the process of you making it your own. Also, I am so jealous of where you grew up, it sounds so dreamy!


This is so exciting! I can’t wait to follow along with your renovation. Your letter was lovely. We are actually in escrow right now for our first house and got it because of the letter we wrote, too. The original owners had lived there since 1975 and the house was dated but PRISTINE. They took such good care of it, and put so much love into it, and we wanted to continue that tradition and make new memories for our family. They loved the letter so much that they took our offer even though they got another one that was higher.

We’re in a similar boat with renovations so we’re going to do a bunch of small things to make it cuter while we figure out plans for bigger renos down the road. It’s a little scary but mostly just exciting. Good luck 😀

Michelle Seage

Excited to follow along!


Everything you said! Love this post. Love this house. Agree on all fronts. I haven’t seen my family for a year and my in-laws for even longer all due to Covid. Fortunately I’m happily married and my kids are close by (college and working). If I could create a place to gather – I’d be all in. I can’t wait to follow along on your journey.

Jordan G

Cannot wait to follow along! I feel like the architecture of this home suits your design aesthetic really well and it’s going to be so chic and awesome yet fun when you are done with it!


At first glance I thought this was a “before” pic of Emily’s mountain house!

Orlando, your letter has me in big snotty tears and I respect VERY MUCH everything you wrote about your approach to the pandemic.


Congratulations, Orlando! I am so happy for you, and reading your post made my day. That area is beautiful! This is exciting on so many levels, and I loved your heartfelt letter to the owners and your compassionate temperament. Most of all, I love that you are going to share your preliminary “makeovers” with us, since renovations right are but a dream in so many ways. You are so creative and talented, and I can hardly wait to see what you do. I would love to completely renovate my house, but the reality is that small projects that make an impact (and that I can do myself) is what must suffice for now. I think that is more of an intellectual and aesthetic challenge, so I applaud you for doing this and for sharing. I have missed your posts! Best wishes!


Long time fan so well aware of this story through you’re insta and blog but love you and your writing so much I read the whole thing. You’re house and renovations are literally my favourite things on the internet!! Loving following along!!


You’ve got this.
Following a dream creates stories and you tell a story really well!


OK, I’m counting Emily AND Orlando getting new homes (and us getting to watch them fix them up) as two of the things I’m going to be thankful for in 2020. Come on 2020, you can finish much stronger than you started!


Uggh thank you for being such a considerate funny honest open human ❤️ Cheers to your new adventure and as ALWAYS love reading your posts. Hilarious, relatable and honest.


My nephew-in-law works in a covid unit, too (he cared for the very first covid patient in their hospital & was on TV when the man was discharged), so I know what you mean. In my pocket of L.A., there aren’t as many covidiots, but there are a few, and I’m as judgy as you!

I really liked your letter to the sellers, too. Sincere and not cheesy. What more can you ask? I really look forward to your journey with this house. Best of luck!


Thank you for this post…i’m on the verge of buying a fixer upper (2668 sq ft worth) and would love to follow along for inspiration! For the trash maybe that’s what you do when you buy your groceries? Take a bag or two every time you go into town? Maybe the proximity is off but I think you can make this work. I need to make an inspiration board….


Congratulations! It looks like it has so much potential. Maybe you can turn the beautifying/DIY design into a show? I know I’d love to watch that. Good-luck and I can’t wait to see what you do with the place : )


Orlando!!! 🙂 YAY! I already know it’s going to be so lovely.


Congratulations, Orlando!!! I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store. Thanks for sharing with us.


yay orlando!!! so happy for you! and buy a generator!!!!!

Vicky Thomas


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