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House Tour: The Investment House We Almost Bought (+ How We Would Have Designed It)


It’s a small world. About a year ago a house came on the market in our neighborhood near our mountain house. It was this adorable fixer of an A-frame – so much charm, so little work (compared to our house). Brian and I had dreams of doing a budget DIY reno as an excuse to live up here for a summer at some point (yes, we’d do it ourselves), and this one was PERFECT. It was so close (walking distance), needed some work but mostly cosmetic and stuff we could learn/do ourselves, and its potential was huge. Big windows, cute A-frame ceiling, deck, open layout – just CUTE. We came THIS close to buying it before we asked ourselves the most important question (and needed to have some solid answers) – WHY?? Here was the thought process.

But first, here is a little video we made with an inside tour…

  1. It would be a great investment to Airbnb out as a vacation rental. We weren’t that keen on renting out our mountain house, but we KNOW that because of the location near the beach and its charm, we could rent this out for vacationing families for sure. But as we looked at the numbers and the time it would take to manage, we did worry that unless it was fully booked or we charged a lot more on holidays we might not cover our mortgage. Which would be fine if WE were using it too, but just as an investment it made us nervous. But I also know I would give it away to friends, family, my team, readers – and likely we would not cover our mortgage because of that too. So for us maybe doing it just as an investment wouldn’t be enough of a reason.
  2. It would be a fun project! I really wanted to do a DIY budget project and had a concept for it (see below). But Brian basically reminded me that I had JUST finished the mountain house – a project that truly took me to the brink mentally and us financially (also I’ve never been so grateful for a project as I am right now). Sure, I like creating work for myself but would this really be “fun”? Or is it just the idea? Or am I addicted to creating challenges for myself that ultimately aren’t good for me and our family? Ok fine, maybe doing it for FUN wasn’t the right answer (besides, having a relaxing summer writing my book, hanging with my family might be the real fun that I need).
  3. We’d document it for the blog and social content! Well, I love putting fresh projects out there, full of new ideas and I don’t want private clients. This is still true, but as Brian and I talked about it over and over, “content” doesn’t have to always sacrifice my mental health and our bank account. Besides, we just did a mountain house and if it were say in the desert or on the beach (ha) that would be one thing, but we realized that if the only reason left to do this was to be able to document a project – something you guys would be invested in – then another mountain house was definitely not going to be it.

Of course, then my business manager told us we couldn’t afford it, so we didn’t get it. It wasn’t right for us, it wasn’t going to pay for itself, it wouldn’t be an escape for our family, it was going to financially put us in jeopardy and create so much work and stress that I truly didn’t need. It also started to feel gross, where I was practicing overabundance in a way that was truly not necessary. The family that bought it is using it for their own getaway AND renting it out so it makes sense for them. We walked away and felt good about the decision.

Cut to last month when I saw it on Apartment Therapy’s Instagram – totally transformed but I recognized it. And get this, it was bought by a follower Casie Wilson, @Wilsonhaus. A dedicated reader in fact! I was so happy, jealous, impressed, all the things. So I reached out and here we are. They weren’t up here at the time but gave us the code and Brian and I (and the kids) snuck in and checked it out (and jumped on their trampoline). As I walked through we kept saying “oh that’s what we were going to do!” over and over although ultimately we had a very special and different plan for it (keep reading).

So we’ll start with the before and walk through what they did and what we had planned to do:

Here’s what it looked like when we saw it – the first day on the market. This area does EPIC garage sale weekends (4th of July and Labor Day weekend – literally everybody has one) so we were just at their garage sale when they were hammering the sign into their yard. We asked to go in and fell in love.

Our Plan for This House:

Here was our plan – this would be a 100% no waste project, where NOTHING would be new except mattresses/sheets, paint and maybe some appliances (I’ve never bought used before so I didn’t know about that). Everything else would be either thrifted, vintage, reclaimed, leftover from projects, kept as-is, found on the side of the road, or DIY’d – including the faucets, tile, etc. The other exception would be to paint it all white, but even with that I was like “I bet I can find a source for leftover white paint then just mix it all together.” It would absolutely be a budget project that Brian and I were going to DIY together, and I’d have days and days of thrifting ahead of me. In fact, my brother and his family were going to come live with us for the summer and do it with us (My brother Ken has to get on camera at some point in his life). It was going to be a real-time documentary project – not a year-long wait for the reveal, but a daily video/stories and updates. NOTHING WOULD BE NEW.

OMG, it still sounds like my dream project because despite loving the house where I’m sitting in right now SO MUCH. However, the financial and emotional stress of it definitely wore on us and I just don’t want to do a big fancy renovation ever again, really. This little house would be full of charm and soul and be super eclectic and eccentric – more quirky cabin than “scandi chalet,” BELIEVE ME. And such a good story about what you can do without creating any waste in the world. THAT was my plan and I still really want to do it at some point because I know that I can make it look rad while being environmentally friendly.

But as far as design-wise I didn’t have a plan because you can’t if you are going to thrift everything. We were also going to paint it all and we thought white for the main space, but could have done color or dark for a bedroom or two. And we knew that we were going to just sand/refinish that GORGEOUS flooring. But besides that, no real structural changes, no window replacement, nothing major – spend as little money as possible on the remodel and then thrift my heart out.

Obvious potential, right? Huge windows, cool/strange architecture, open plan, etc.

It’s a sweet 2 bedroom, 2 bath with a loft. It was on the market for 380k when we looked at it and it’s walking distance to the beach club which is huge for real estate up here.

I didn’t know what we were going to do for the kitchen – keep those cabinets and try to make them work? Paint the tile? I think we decided to get rid of the island, and upper cabinets, bring in a reclaimed island that would also act a kitchen table (kinda like what the new owners did!).

This bathroom was one that was recently renovated so we didn’t want to have to rip it all out. Instead, we were going to work with the tile – embracing the stone. I don’t mind the stone, but what dates it a bit is all the different directions and borders, etc. But it truly would have been a waste to demo out when its all one color and can easily be designed around. The vanity would have gotten a paint job, and likely kept the same stone top.

The loft above was their den, but we would have brought the TV down to the main floor and used this as a playroom and the murphy bed = extra bedroom. It was pretty dreamy up there with treetop views and felt like you were in a treehouse.

The bedrooms both were cute – the paneling was already white and the beams were dark (which we would have painted). They were simple rooms that didn’t need a lot – just fresh paint, sanded floor and decorated.

1 Year Later – How the Wilson’s Renovated

They painted it a warm white which I LOVE although I might have painted the exterior dark (cause I love a dark house).

Main Living Room and Kitchen

That fresh coat of paint absolutely transformed the house – and if you are a wood cabin lover (I hear you, I live with one) just know that it was pretty old, dated and kinda gross. Sanding and refinishing the walls is FAR more expensive than spraying it all one color. And remember that in the summer it’s really hot up here so yes, it’s a cozy winter cabin but it’s also walking distance to a beach so it can play that vibe really easily, too.

I spot my favorite Target chairs 🙂 I loved how they kept it so light and coastal. They have 2 kids and their goal was to make it EXTREMELY family friendly – for themselves as well as their future airbnb families.

They opened it up and made the kitchen the entire length of the wall, as an L instead of the island/bar/counter thing in the middle.

I remember us thinking, “where are we going to put the TV because there really isn’t a good place for it”. You can see where they put it right next to the fireplace in between two of the rafters – and it’s totally fine (mostly because it’s The Frame so if you have to put a TV in an awkward location at least have it be The Frame.

They used Sara Sherman Samuel’s Semihandmade kitchen cabinet doors over IKEA’s (here is a post about that) and it looks so cute and fresh. And then just added a simple shelf along the top.

How excited would you be for this to be your airbnb??

Master Bedroom

They kept it super simple in the master bedroom – but by painting the dark beams it make it feel so much brighter and bigger. The architecture is just so sweet.

Loft Area

That murphy bed blew Charlie’s mind (understandably). I love how they left the inside the. natural wood to make it more of an accent. That loft space is such a transformation.

This is why Brian and I were so excited about this house – the paneled walls, big windows and soaring ceilings + pretty floors make it really easy to dress up. You’ll notice that everything is super simple in this house – not to say that it wasn’t a lot of work, but you can keep it so simple because of the built-in charm.

How cute is that little kids hidden area? Kids love a nook, and right now ME, TOO.

Downstairs Bedroom

Apparently we aren’t the only ones who wanted oval wicker headboards… love these and they work perfectly in this room.

Dark Bathroom

This was the bathroom with the dark tile which is still there, but they tied it in with that adorable forest bunny wallpaper – SO CUTE. And they just painted the vanity, switched out the knobs, counter and faucet. The countertop is from Concrete Collaborative, by the way. I think it turned out so cute and I appreciated that they leaned into it with the wallpaper so much – it makes that room such an experience to be in, regardless of the tile.

Light Bathroom


I did a quick interview with Casie with all my burning questions (assuming you’d be into them, too).

1. How much did you spend on the updates?
I should know the exact dollar amount, but I haven’t done the math yet. I’m guessing we spent about 30k. This includes boring exterior fixes we had to do for wood rot issues, painting the house inside and out, refinishing the floors, re-plumbing, and remodeling the kitchen 🙂 

2. How long did it take and was it longer or shorter than expected? 
Umm… it took MUCH longer than expected. When Will and I first started making plans for the house, I said, “Let’s do an IKEA kitchen!” It’ll be cheap, we can do it ourselves, and probably get it done in 2 months! Ha! Boy was I wrong! The entire renovation ended up taking us 7 months to complete. It was 7 months of driving up and down the mountain on as many weekends as possible and during school breaks. We tried to give our kids lots of “play” time, and go on adventures in between working on projects, which definitely slowed things down. Also, I’m not the best at things like, measuring, so there were MANY trips to IKEA to return and rebuy kitchen parts. All in all, I’m thankful it took longer to renovate, and that we were able to spend so much time at the cabin as a family. Rather than it just being an “investment,” it became an adventure for us all and gave us so many beautiful memories. 

3. What were your biggest challenges/any surprises (good or unfortunate)? 
This is gross… One of the first times we stayed at the cabin, I noticed that the toilets were always brown. I thought it was just dirty from the old owners, but it turned out, we had lead pipes that had rusted and we needed to replace the plumbing on the ENTIRE house! We definitely hadn’t planned on this, and that was the big reason renovations took so long for us. We booked our plumber to come and help with the kitchen, and he found the rusty pipe issue. But by the time he was able to come and help with that, winter had hit, and the snow stopped him from being able to finish all the work. We finally got all our plumbing done in January, and had to patch and paint lots of holes in walls. We finished all our renovations this February, but if it weren’t for the plumbing issue, we would have been ready MUCH sooner. 

4. Do you have regrets and what were your best decisions? 
YES! I regret not measuring twice before I ordered all of our cabinets! Since we live 2 hours away from the cabin, I couldn’t just go and measure myself. Also, I had to wait a week in between going up because our kids had camps, husband had work, yada yada yada… This was a very expensive mistake and took way more time than it would have if I had just waited the week to double-check everything. On the flipside, my best decisions were Every. Single. Rug. in the cabin. My husband jokes that I just wanted to start an Airbnb so I’d have an excuse to buy rugs. He’s not wrong. I love them ALL! Especially the stair runner. Another favorite is the instant hot water faucet in the kitchen! You never have to microwave water for hot cocoa, or ramen, or wait for water to boil for your pour-over. It’s the most used part of our whole kitchen!

5. Did you do any of the work yourselves or hire out?
We hired out the exterior wood fixes, painting, plumbing, and countertop installation. Everything else we did ourselves. It was definitely a labor of love and also felt like a weird team-building exercise for my husband and I. It forced us to work together, cheer each other on, and trust each other. But also, I feel like I need to say, building an IKEA kitchen with your husband is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who says it’s easy is feeding you LIES!

6. I (and likely all the readers) would love to know the kitchen sources (countertops, cabinet color/maker) I should admit that I was DEFINITELY inspired by Mandy Moore’s kitchen. I loved the green and pink and white, and definitely used that as inspiration for our cabin kitchen. The doors are from the Sarah Sherman Samuel line at Semihandmade, Beadboard in Agave. Countertops are from Concrete Collaborative in Alabaster Mixed Chip, Faucets are Newport Brass, Knobs are Schoolhouse Electric

7. Lastly, I would love to know how easy it was to strip the floor and paint the entire thing white?
I can’t speak to painting since we hired that part out. But stripping the floor was a breeze… at least all the videos Will sent me looked like it was! He rented a sander and brought two very good friends up to the cabin. They sanded down all the old stain in a day. We paid them in beer. Everyone was happy. Will went back to sand the floors the next weekend with a finer grade paper, but since the hard part had already been done, the rest of the sanding was fairly easy. He vacuumed very thoroughly in between, then applied two coats of sealer. That’s it!

Now for the ever satisfying Before and Afters:)

A huge thanks to Casie and her family for letting us sneak into your house, play with your legos as if our kids have NEVER seen a lego, but seriously having a change of scenery was awesome for an hour.

Also, I want to say that I seriously couldn’t be happier that this wonderful little fixer-upper ended up in your hands. It turned out SO special and you (and the people that will stay) are going to create the best memories in this home. xx

Question for the obviously FAR future… would you guys be into our original idea with Brian and I DIY renovating a house? I think it would be so fun (and challenging). Maybe someday:)

All “after” photos by Amber Thrane

Fin Mark


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Amy Kelly

YES!!! Please do that. Would be awesome to see what you guys could pull together zero waste by yourselves…

I love the outdoor design and furniture ideas, that really make my morning and evening much better.

Thank You


But is it within walking distance of the beach?


Wow, that house has really been spruced up (geddit?!). In all seriousness, the Wilson’s did a really great job, the warm scandi cottage finish is beautiful. And yes, do the DIY Emily!


Yes!!! Would love to see more DIY/risk taking that you would do in a cheaper renovation with Brian!

Jeff Harry

The house is looking amazing, can you tell us about its price and location. I also want to visit this or any other nearby house like this one.

Obsessed with this! I grew up near a lake and it’s always been my dream to purchase an old (small) lake resort with teensy cabins to turn into my Wandawega meets Dirty Dancing dreams. My husband and I are currently looking for a little A frame to make that a watered down reality lol. I LOVE the idea of y’all doing a budget reno, it’s exactly the kind of project that is attainable and inspires me that I can do it too!

Leigh H

Great house, yes please DIY a similar house!!

1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this house! I want an A-frame so bad. I’m usually team don’t-paint-the-wood, but this is amazing.
2. YES, you should definitely do a fixer upper DIY style with no waste. I would be so into it!
3. I REALLY wish we could have seen the after of the dark bathroom with the dark tile in the shot so we could have seen how it looked all together.

Love when you do house tours!


You can see it a little better in the video!

ahhhhhh, yes, perfect! thanks. LOVE that you guys didn’t rip out all that new stone and just chose to work with it. yay for less waste in the world.

Jean Paget

This house has been done so beautifully, I love how fresh and light it is.


So satisfying to see a makeover DIY done just. right. So light and airy and cozy at the same time. And yes, these are my favorite kinds of DIYs where you mostly work with what you have, probably because it’s more relatable for me.


Please do a DIY/no waste project! And this renovation is beautiful. Thank you for sharing


Wow, what a darling reno. I really thought I was over the whole “all white with pops of color” look, but I just love this and it has a whole freshness that is so appealing for a vacation home. Really super magical and I don’t know if it’s COVID or quarantine or whatever, but I just want to curl up there and read fairytales to my children and eat wholesome food. Nice job!


Yes!! We would love that!! It’s been hard to relate to this blog for a while (even though I still love it! Forever fan here.) because of the big budget, contractor renovations. The bloggers that keep me riveted are the one who take us along for every detail of their hands-on renovations of their homes. I check Instagram every day to see what Chris Loves Julia and Daniel Kanter have on stories. It’s so fun being in on a project in real time.

Julie S

100% agree.




Love the zero waste DIY idea!!!


You should definitely do a DIY/thrift project – maybe not a whole house, though? I’m sure you could figure out a way to do a one-room project for a friend 🙂


I like the ONE ROOM PROJECTS idea!!!
Most of us really will only manage a single room, so this makes it much more real and attainable.

A whole house can be exhausting for readers too.

I think idea would undoubtedly be healthier for you, Emily. Learn those lessons and choose differently. ?


Absolutely wonderful. Casie, share your rug sources! Love the nook rug in particular.

Jaclyn Wright

I love the rug in the room with the wicker headboards!!

I always love hearing about your thought process for decisions like this, and really loved the interview with the current owner at the end. I didn’t know that an instant hot water faucet was a thing but it sounds like a worthy investment. Would definitely be into you and Brian DIY renovating a house when you’re read to take on that kind of project! Maybe sometime after your book is done (which I CAN’T WAIT to read, btw). 🙂

OMG Emily, this is so exciting to read! It’s like every blog-reader’s fairytale! Haha! Thanks so much for sharing our space and all the kind words. It’s so fun to hear what you would’ve done, and I love that the plan was so similar! It feels so validating 🙂

Also, Yes! Pleeeeease do a DIY reno! I’d love to see what you end up doing and would be so excited to follow along!


Fantabulous job Casie!


Casie, PLEASE tell us where all of your amazing rugs are from! I love them all so much!



Haley Wilcox

This reno makes me so sad! A-frames are such an iconic part of MCM design and nearly all of them feature natural wood interiors. I know budget was a concern, but painting over all the wood drastically took away from the home’s historic character.


I agree. While they did a great job, I really wish they hadn’t painted all of the wood paneling white. It was so cozy and truly had that cabin feel until all of the white!


I would have stripped the ceilings and left them natural.


Hmmm, I can see both sides of it. Leaving the wood paneling or refinishing it in natural tones would definitely have felt more true to its original era, and maintained a sort of cozy warmth. On the other hand, painting it white is affordable and makes it feel so fresh, light and Scandi-country in the most charming way. All that dark wood can start to feel oppressive to some. Admittedly, I’m one of those people who tends to believe a fresh, clean coat of white paint can improve almost anything, so that’s my bias. 🙂


Definitely yes – I hope you do that someday!


You must feel like a proud mama as Casie seems like your protege. A wonderful transformation! Simplicity is KEY in a rental b/c everything needs cleaning in between each stay. I would LOVE to see you and Brian do something like this but please have your people negotiate a Netflix deal first. This has to be a series so we can see you work together and resolve conflicts. It would be so good.


Such a fun post. Thank you! Was the brown bathroom tile painted? I was confused by that. Also, would love to know more about how you can make a vintage rug into a stair runner. Stay well, everyone!

Kim B

This was the most fun post!! So fun learning about your (Emily’s and Brian’s) consideration of the project and why you decided against it. And that it was bought by Casie and her family and they did such a wonderful job!!! (And let you go in to shoot!)

Thank you for sharing.

I’d love to know where they bought the stair runner? It’s beautiful!


I’d love to see sources for the kitchen faucet and hot water tap. In the middle of an IKEA kitchen reno as we speak…

And I would devour a post on a zero waste reno. LOVE this idea!

Roberta Davis

This is great! And I think $30k investment is amazing considering what they got. Casie is obviously a terrific designer on her own, although I’m thinking there’s a lot of Emily influence in this place, too!

Roberta Davis

What you’re talking about sounds a lot like flipping, and I think there are some pretty unforgiving financial realities for being successful at that. What I have liked about your work is that you do it for real people to live in, rather than doing it to sell. It makes a difference in the choices and the amount of money spent. I think flippers’ houses are pretty soulless, generic and sterile (necessarily, since you want to appeal to the widest population of potential buyers) compared to what you do. You are sort of the opposite of a flipper!Better to come and help your loyal followers transform their spaces! Not as clients so much as canvasses to showcase your work and style.


This is such a fun project! Thank you for showing it to us! Amazing job, Casie!


LOVE this renovation!! It (calmly) screams peace and tranquility.


+1 for a request on rugs/ stair runner sources!

Pretty! Renovating a little A-frame in the woods is a life dream for me. Maybe someday. 🙂


The stair runner was my favorite part even before reading Casie’s interview. Seconded by that bunny wallpaper. Now I’m questioning my whole life because I thought I hated wallpaper (every drop dead gorgeous wallpaper), and I’m not one to get all ooey-gooey over animals either (I don’t dislike them. I just am not drawn to them), but that wallpaper is way cool.

Why does give me such a strong urge to watch the Haley Mills Parent Trap?


That was an amazing re-do. Creatively done. Leaving all the good stuff and painting all the boring bits white. I’d love to stay there. It’s just the right size.

Julie S

This is lovely! It’s very Scandi country house to my eye with all that white… I think I would have done fewer white furnishings if it were my place but I can’t deny it all came out great the way they did it. Love the antler things they kept from the original lodge-style decor. How about your mountain house overgrouting guy take care of their bubbly stone foundation and fireplace!? I wish we had a photo of the bunny wallpaper + tile in the same view too. I have more questions! Are the kitchen appliances new? I love before and afters! Emily, I’d love to see a quirky budget house reno from you. Frankly I don’t care about ZERO waste (sometimes things really, really need to go) but low waste, yeah- good looking budget friendly renovations that don’t rip out everything to start from scratch are always the most relatable and interesting posts and I will never tire of reading them. They feel so much more accessible so I’m really glad to hear you never want to do a big fancy renovation ever again. I guess aspirational homes don’t get my creative juices bubbling the way more down to earth… Read more »


This was sooooooo fun! Also a dream of mine, casie! Way to seize the day and show me it can be done with three small kids (me too). Your website is great too – would love even more resources under the shop tab if possible (that gorgeous stair runner for example and master bedroom duvet).

Em, YES to your q; would LOVE to see you renovate a house like that and think it would be super interesting if it was a house in your mountain neighborhood just to contrast with the super profesh and fancy stuff in your mountain house.

Another great Monday morning thanks to the EHD team (and casie ??)!


I’d love to have an A-frame mountain house. Casie did such a great job. I’d also love to hear her rug sources.

A DIY by you and Brian would be so fun, especially all the thrifting for furnishings and materials. Hoping you find a way to do it without threatening your financial security.


This house is adorable!! So much inspiration there! I’d love to see you and Brian do a modestly priced DIY fixer-upper.


I would LOVE to see you and Brian do a budget DIY reno. Please find one soon!


I loved this post idea. So creative!!! It was fun to hear why you didn’t do it, and then what she did! It’s really beautiful.


Wow, looks AMAZING!

Yes, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see you do a budget remodel. All thrifted/reused/found pieces? Yes, please!


Hard yes to y’all diy’ing a house! I am not a huge fan of a lot of the ‘attainable’ renos I see, so it would be amazing to see your take!


I am so impressed by the work they put into this and how they completely transformed this cabin for around $30k. Blown away at their dedication and love the design choices they made. Obsessed with the staircase runner.

Loved this story SO MUCH!!! I would love to do this very thing myself and it was so much fun to hear this story, see all the pictures and the amazing transformation! Beautiful job!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

Deborah Flanagan

Amazing! Rug and stair runner sources please.


This was a great post. It was amazing to see the changes they made. Also inspired me to paint our pine ceilings.


Loved it! I scanned through all the comments, but did not see the interior paint color noted? did I miss it? If not, I would love to know the white. Looks fabulous!


I just have to put my two cents in about painting that perfect little mid-century gem all white. I live in an A- frame in Lake Arrowhead – it was built in 1970 and it has oak flooring and orange tone wood on the ceiling. I love it. California’s golden light works beautifully with it. It just looks so damn cool that I just want to get out my record player and listen to The Doobie Brothers! People, please consider the style and history of a home before you remodel or it will never seem quite right. Now that my rant for the day. Let’s still be friends. We don’t all have to agree with one another.


It was cute, but now it’s just blah and cookie-cutter. It looks like every Instagram house out there. No imagination. No original thought. Just the usual cliches. In the winter, it’s just going to disappear. Kinda disappointing.


Oh my, I have not had that experience at all, with white interiors just “disappearing” in the winter. Speaking as someone who lives in bleak, gray Chicago, where we have barely any sun at all 6 to 7 months out of the year, I’ve had more than one person come into my house in the middle of one of our long winters and ask in wonderment at how I manage to make my home look so bathed in sunlight. It’s the soft, warm white that covers all my walls, furniture and kitchen cabinets and counters. I’ve done other colors in other homes, but there is nothing like white to maximize the light and keep things bright and cheery in a gray climate.

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