Hi EHD Readers! I’m Erin, the founder of the design blog Apartment 34 and I’m so thrilled to be here today to debut what turned out to be my pandemic project. I know how much you all love a crazy renovation before-and-after story, and I really cannot wait to hear what you all think about this one because (spoiler alert!) she’s going to be a vacation rental that you can come enjoy for yourself! But more details on that in just a bit. For now, let’s dive into this roller coaster of a renovation saga.
As the pandemic raged in mid-2020, my husband and I happened upon a listing in an idyllic setting in the Pacific Northwest just an hour outside of Seattle. This beautiful little corner of the world is adjacent to where I grew up spending summers riding the ferry and playing on the beach with my family, who are all still in the area. With the future looking so uncertain, we were looking for a spot to be closer to our immediate family so we dove in headfirst, thinking we’d undergo a quick three-month spruce-up to ride out the rest of lockdown with our nearest and dearest. The bad juju of 2020 had other plans in store.
Just as we were about to get started, the property suffered major water damage from a faulty dishwasher hookup. Floors and walls throughout the kitchen and living room as well as the rooms in the basement below suffered severe damage. Suddenly this project took a whole new turn. We were left with the only option of doing a much bigger gut job. Needless to say, our three-month “spruce up” was blown wide open. Thankfully this isn’t my first rodeo. I spent more than five years renovating and restoring a historic Victorian in San Francisco so I felt adequately prepared to tackle this turn of events. However, there were certainly more uncharted challenges ahead. I thought you’d be interested in some of the other Covid related obstacles this project faced:
- We only had 20 minutes to walk the property before deciding whether or not to put in an offer.
- I got to see it one more time for 45 mins – still fully occupied by the previous owner – before design began
- The entire project was designed and managed remotely as I’m based in San Francisco
- I only was on site two times prior to completion
- Continual supply chain issues pushed delivers back 12-20 weeks longer than expected
While my contractor and his crew began demoing water-damaged floors, I was sheltering in place, managing Zoom kindergarten, and selecting finishes and furnishings bundled on the couch in my soft pants, wine in hand. So strange to think I made all these design choices more than a year and a half ago already. Aw, the Covid timewarp is a trip.
Anywho, more than 14 months later, I’m finally able to claim the project complete! Let’s take a ride down the bumpy road to get here.
The Living Room
The Living Room Before
While (what we lovingly now call the Hood Canal Cottage) has a truly stunning location – the ultimate spot to unwind and appreciate the area’s beautiful surroundings – the house itself offered little in the way of design inspiration. She is your typical late-1990s American builder-grade suburban house – luckily plopped within a little slice of heaven.
My mission: help this home’s inside match the splendor you enjoy out her windows.
Circle Chair | Floor Lamp | Art | Rug (no longer available) | Coffee Table (no longer available) | Sofa (no longer available)
Redesigning this house was an endless balancing act as we weren’t in the market to make any major architectural changes – as much as I may have wanted to. Instead, I needed to figure out how to work with the existing spaces, but change the vibe entirely. As this house is adjacent to the beautiful beaches of the Puget Sound, it would make sense to define her as a beach house, but I did not want to fall into that cliche. Instead, I wanted to show how you can imbue your own personal style and design aesthetic into any type of space – rather than feel forced into a tired design theme. I set out to achieve what I’m calling Elevated Coastal Chic. I wanted to hone in on a Scandinavian, design-forward influence with perhaps a touch of coastal charm. I can’t wait to hear if you think I succeeded.
The Hood Canal Cottage living room is meant for lounging – however you prefer to do that. Sitting by the fire, watching the sun set behind the Olympic mountains, burying your nose in a good book, or enjoying your favorite glass of wine. I wanted this room to wrap you in a sense of serenity. I tapped one of my go-to resources to achieve the look – the couch, rug, coffee table, and sideboard are all from Lulu & Georgia. You can always head there and find a gem.
I’m also always a sucker for really good chairs – I see them as the jewelry for a room and the Circle Chair from Eternity Modern is certainly that for this space. It was actually the first piece of furniture I selected for the entire room – the rest of my design was really built around the Circle chair.
Accessories in the living room were kept monochromatic and to a minimum intentionally. The joy of being on vacation is to forget about the stuff – literal or figurative – that crams itself into our lives, so I really worked to keep this look as minimalistic as possible without skewing too modern. Stacks of my favorite design tomes and choice decorative pieces from friends, local shops like Shop Coco Kelley and Casa Patina, or artisans I work with regularly, help the space feel curated but also personal.
A few other details to call out – the whole room (and actually the entire house) is enveloped with Benjamin Moore’s Simply White on the walls, ceiling, and trim in a nod to bright white Scandinavian homes. It’s also an antidote to the Seattle gray – it’s a thing. The idea for the house’s wide plank floors also came from my love of Scandinavian design. I was really happy with the warm wood tone (though they’re vinyl floors shhhh!). The flooring really grounds the space and helps play up the other natural wood elements dotted throughout the room. The fireplace mantel was a quick fix to hide old ugly tile. I simply had my contractor build a box surround that I then lime-washed with a lovely hue from Color Atelier to give it a little more depth and texture. The hearth is a remnant piece of countertop leftover from the kitchen! Love little DIY design wins like that.
Now let’s turn our attention to the kitchen, shall we? If you’re standing in the living room and turn 180 degrees you look right at the house’s kitchen- which is a complete 180 from where the space began!
The Kitchen Before
I have a major kitchen obsession – I mean, don’t we all – and I really wanted to see my dream vision come to life in this space. The kitchen area was the one spot where I actually took down walls during the renovation. If you look closely at the before pictures you’ll notice that the original kitchen was much smaller. There was actually a 6’x6’ enclosed space in the right-hand corner of the room that housed the laundry, a sink, and some random storage. But it took up serious real estate and also broke up the only interesting architectural detail of the whole house – the vaulted ceiling that runs the length of the main living area. As soon as I got confirmation those walls weren’t load-bearing out they went – opening up a fully contiguous living, dining, and kitchen space. (The laundry was easily relocated out in the adjoining garage. Would I put laundry into a garage in a primary family home? Maybe not. But in a house used exclusively for short vacation stays, it is not a big deal to do a load or two out there).
Cabinetry | Countertops | Tray | Pendant Light | Art Print | Floating Shelf | Peg Rail
Opening up the kitchen was the game changer and it allowed me to live out my dream – putting a Reform kitchen into a project! I had been fangirling over Reform for years. They’re a kitchen company out of Denmark that started out making custom fronts for Ikea kitchen boxes. I love their elevated but minimal aesthetic. In the last couple of years, they’ve made the jump across the pond with showrooms in New York and LA. I’ve long been smitten with Reform’s Frame line of cabinets, designed by Note Design Studio – another favorite Scandinavian design house. That’s the kitchen cabinetry you see here. This collection is a set of Reform’s own entirely prefab kitchen cabinets and they are extraordinary. The quality is divine and my contractor could not stop raving about how easy they were to assemble and install.
I wanted this kitchen to feel like it was made out of pieces of furniture which is why there are no uppers and the back row actually floats off the wall on both ends. There is ample storage, however, as all the back cabinets are actually double drawers and the entire island is wrapped with additional storage. The induction range sits atop the island with the oven tucked underneath, keeping the sightlines clean. I custom-designed one set of open shelving in the island to offer a little styling moment and to mimic the display of the floating wall shelf I had custom built by Seattle-based studio Walnut+Oak. The black countertops are actually quartz – Black Tempal made by Caesarstone – but they look and feel just like soapstone – one of my all-time favorite materials. I really could sit and stare at this kitchen all day, I love her so much. I so hope you do too.
The Dining Area
Dining Table (similar) | White Chair | Brown Chairs | Stool | Sconce | Art | Vase
Before you ask why there isn’t bar seating at the kitchen island, that was a very intentional choice. I decided to focus on storage in the kitchen area rather than seating because the dining table is right next to it! When I took out the laundry room, I opened up a lovely long blank wall that now houses the dining area. Again – I may have added more seating in the kitchen if a family was living in this home full time, but as a vacation space, it’s nice to actually sit down at the table to enjoy meals – since you’ve nowhere to rush off to! I demarcated the dining space with a stunning sconce by Allied Maker and an equally amazing art piece I’d long coveted from Canadian fine artist Anna Church.
The Bedrooms Before
Now let’s turn to the bedrooms! Luckily these spaces simply required fresh coats of paint and well-curated furnishings to create that elevated Nordic vibe I was going for. I wanted each room to evoke a sense of calming serenity. To achieve that I designed the primary bedroom with a mix of natural materials and textures in complementary hues. Think a lovely wool rug from Nordic Knots, linen bedding from Rough Linen, a Noghuci paper lantern, and marble and stone side tables from Hay Design and Norm Architects all play beautifully together. I turned to Seattle Art Source for the gorgeous Jennifer Gauthier painting above the Rove Concepts platform bed.
The Primary Bedroom
Bed | Linens | Rug | Side Table (left) | Side Table 2 (right) | Sconces | Pendant light
The one nice thing about working with a suburban house is all the built-in storage! Historic homes don’t have so much of that. The primary bedroom had a walk-in closet, but I wanted to make sure I fully optimized the space, so I worked with California Closets to design the ideal spot to keep all your weekender gear organized. I for one love to immediately unpack and make myself at home anytime I stay somewhere – and this closet definitely makes sure you can do that. There’s plenty of space to stash away suitcases and I can even lock the drawers if I want to keep some of our own things private.
The Guest Room
Roly Poly Chair | Cashmere Throw | Rug
Ironically, I eliminated the closet in the cottage’s second bedroom. The room was already quite small. Putting in a queen-sized bed was going to make it feel very cramped so I decided to demo the reach-in closet and design a custom credenza to sit in its place. Seattle-based design shop Walnut+Oak built out my vision perfectly – it gives the room a fun punch of personality and guests ample storage. Another Nordic Knots rug, this time in a bold checkered pattern, and a long-coveted Faye Toogood Roly Poly chair add a fun tension between modern and more traditional pieces. I’ve had nothing but rave reviews from our guests about this room thus far.
Now let’s chat bathrooms. Bathrooms can be as overwhelming to design as a kitchen. So many options – so many choices! The only choice I had with the bathrooms in this house was to start over.
The Bathrooms Before
The primary bathroom proved to be a big game of Tetris. Its existing layout of a tiny tub, itty bitty fiberglass stand-up shower and weird cubbies smack dab in the middle certainly could not stay. But it turned out the fireplace chase from the living room was actually in the primary bathroom – I only wish I knew why – so I had to figure out how to work around that.
And here’s how it turned out! I created an extra-long double shower clad entirely in amazing handmade tile from Clé. Now you get to enjoy stunning views out the west-facing window while you lather up. The floating white oak vanity sits on the opposite wall – the round mirror reflecting the views back at you while you brush your teeth. I used a concrete hexagon tile also from Clé across the seamless floor. As for that fireplace chase? I had my contractor encase the lower half and put a Caesarstone counter on top to serve as another surface for storage. Small simple floating shelves create a spot to display some pretties.
Tile | Globe Lights | Mirror | Art
I took a slightly different approach in the guest bath. The layout stayed exactly the same here. It was such a small space it didn’t make any sense to try to switch things up. Instead, I simply made a massive upgrade on all the surfaces – and a total departure from the vibe in the primary bathroom.
Since the guest bath was already small and windowless, I wanted the design to feel really dramatic and bold. To achieve that end, I stuck to a very graphic black and white color palette. Dark zellige tiles from Clé span the floor and run up the wall to cover an existing bump-out. Stacked cement brick tiles from Clé run up the shower walls to help it feel a bit taller. An off-the-shelf glass partition from Ferguson was a budget-friendly solution for the shower. To soften all the angles and strong lines in this little space, I chose a really fun free-standing cylindrical sink, an oval mirror, and two globe lights from Flos. The hall bath may be small, but she gives a mighty big style punch.
Now let’s turn to kid’s spaces!
The Kid’s Space Before
Book Shelf | Wallpaper | Pendant Light | Rug
I turned the cottage’s third bedroom into a haven for the littles. As the mother of a seven-year-old son myself, I was certainly designing this room with him in mind, but also thinking of all of my friends who have younger children in tow. A simple pine bunk bed (which I may still paint someday. On the fence about that one) allows for sleepovers or siblings to bunk up together while a mini Library shelf from my go-to children’s furniture line Oeuf NYC displays books and choice toys. A custom (removable!) world map wallpaper lines the room’s entire back wall, creating fun storytelling opportunities at bedtime. A cozy braided rug from Armadillo softens the floor. My son runs into this room with the biggest on his face and I truly hope other kids will too.
You might think we’ve reached the end of our tour, but I have a surprise for you. While I call this house a cottage, that moniker is more about how the house feels than its actual square footage. Turns out the house had an entire daylight basement with a bevy of (sometimes random!) spaces that I set out to maximize by creating a great room, a play space, a home office/fourth bedroom, and a couple of random spaces that I found some pretty fun uses for – so let’s head downstairs!
The Family Room Before
I’ve never lived in a house with a great room or family den before, so I was excited to create a cozy little haven for movie nights and family hangout time. That’s certainly not where things started.
Sectional | Ottomans | Media Storage | Rug | Lamp
Thankfully, after a little spit and polish, I now have the sanctuary from the hectic world that I was looking for. To achieve this, I turned to more of my favorite sources, including Scandinavian designers like Skagerak and Nordic Knots rugs, but also one of my favorite American furniture makers, Room & Board. A curved sectional upholstered in a nubby cream boucle from Room & Board offers the ideal spot for snuggling up in front of the TV. My son also likes to bounce off the matching ottomans. The media console is actually a series of three Keaton media cabinets in ash that I installed edge to edge along the wall as a way to mirror the soffit above. It has the added bonus of offering ample storage for games, AV equipment, and even our turntable and a little vinyl collection. The great room is warmed to an extra cozy degree by the Regency Contura gas stove in the corner that also features a Skagerak Cutter Bench and an original print by Skye Schuchman. I look forward to hanging out in this room after putting my son to bed every single evening.
Desk | Bookcase | Office Chair | Rug | Art
There are some dedicated spaces for kids and grownups alike in the basement. Since so many people can work from anywhere these days I turned the fourth bedroom into a dedicated home office with a pullout sofa to accommodate extra overnight guests. The desk faces the waterfront views though so I can’t promise you’ll be particularly productive.
Shelving | Toy Storage | Garland | Rug | Pendant
On the opposite side of the basement, there was a strange doorless alcove of a room that I decided to turn into a dedicated play space. I immediately knew I wanted wall-mounted shelves for storage in this room as it’s a well-known fact kids only play with the things they can see. I had my heart set on a particular set of shelves from Ikea but in the midst of the pandemic supply chain issues, they went out of stock, never to return. Thankfully, I discovered yet another amazing Scandinavian design studio, Moebe CPH based in Copenhagen after they reached out to me on Instagram. Their Wall Shelving system was exactly what I’d been hunting for. I couldn’t be happier with how that wall turned out. Kids can grab puzzles, blocks, and vintage games from the shelves. On the opposite side of the room, I used the Oeuf NYC Toy Store to corral legos, marble run pieces, musical instruments, and other fun odds and ends that kids of all ages and stages could easily dig through, while an easel and art station creates a dedicated zone for creativity. Another Armadillo braided rug adds the perfect soft spot to sit and play during a rainy afternoon.
Wallpaper | Storage Cabinet (no longer available) | Outlets | Wooden Pegs
But don’t think I let the kids have all the fun! There was yet another, slightly odd, fairly tiny space in the basement that was crammed floor to ceiling with junk when we originally took possession. But as an avid yogi and a newly minted Peloton enthusiast, I immediately saw an opportunity to carve out a space dedicated to wellness. I worked with York Wallcoverings to envelop the entire room in a gorgeous grasscloth. I set up my ode to all things “woo-woo” in one corner and also stocked up on some more traditional fitness equipment. I have to tell you, having a room within your own house where you can close a door and workout feels ah-mazing. After more than a year of doing Zoom yoga in the middle of the living room, I love having this special space.
Phew. Well, there you have it. She might not technically be an actual cottage, but the Hood Canal Cottage is most certainly a special little escape. She sheltered us wonderfully during this incredibly hard time. And this past winter family and dear friends were able to finally gather around her dining table for holiday celebrations. I see so many more of those get-togethers in her future.
I’m particularly excited to share the Hood Canal Cottage with other design-loving travelers later this summer. For now, be sure to follow @hoodcanalcottage on Instagram to be the first to learn when our booking waitlist will open. And do come follow along at @apartment_34 too! I will be sharing many more behind-the-scenes stories for this entire renovation process and I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you so much Em and team for inviting me to share the Hood Canal Cottage here today. She was truly a labor of love and I hope you all adore her as much as we do!
*Design by Erin Hiemstra
**Styled by Cassandra LaValle
***Photos by Kara Mercer
Gorgeous space and beautifully done. No doubt.
I am the least critical reader and yet something felt tone deaf about this coming off a pandemic (but that contractor and crew worked through) and a housing crisis (it’s an entire home designed very blatantly as a short term rental).
Lovely but this feels like a misstep publication wise. Excellent design work nonetheless.
I totally agree. I’m also not typically a very nitpicky reader, but this was a painful read for me. I’m actually originally from this area (I’m assuming this in Kitsap or Mason county given the context in the post) and wouldn’t be able to afford a house in my hometown. I appreciate that the refreshed design of the house is very beautiful, but the context in which it was renovated isn’t something I can get behind in our current situation.
Hi Kymberly, I hear you and see where you are coming from. But this is a designer, who in a very uncertain time thought that it would be really special to have a place close to her family and get her share some of her childhood with her son and husband. Then when they aren’t using it, rent it out. They are extremely lucky to have the means to own a second home and they know that. I also know that Erin in no way intended to offend the previous owners. Honestly, I didn’t even clock it when I read it. The real estate photos don’t show it, but as Erin has said in the comments below, the house was in very bad shape when they bought it… and then a flood happened. This doesn’t make it right and is a good reminder as we think about renovations and write about them.
If we’re aiming for kindness, I don’t think excusing what many perceived to be mean-spirited criticism of the previous owners’ decor by publicizing how ill-kempt their home was (in Erin’s opinion) hits the mark.
Appreciate your take but that doesn’t even begin to address “sat on her couch with wine shopping online” to presumably be safe during a pandemic – while obviously having an entire construction crew mingling on the job for her?
Then to continually remind us this is available for rent when people are literally begging for homes to purchase to house themselves? It’s a reach.
Erin has amazing taste and I’m happy for anyone to get closer to where they want to be. Good for her! That doesn’t change my opinion of this particular piece.
I do wish her well. It looks like a lovely space to enjoy.
Thank you so much for your thoughts and comments. I did want to offer a little additional context to consider. While I was designing this house for my family, San Francisco was in a lockdown making it impossible for me to travel to be with them. However, in Washington state, things were not as locked down at the time and my contractor and his crew were in fact grateful to have the work and be getting paid after their industry had initially collapsed at the start of the pandemic. I’ve added my comment below with more insight about what made us decide to offer the property as a guest rental when my family is not there – none of these decisions were made lightly. Take care.
I think you are missing the point about how this project was presented. It was not presented with the context you seem to have or with previous knowledge of Erin. It would be great if you would take the time to digest what is being said here and reflect before invalidating the sentiments being provided to your team as constructive criticism.
Jess, whether or not you “clocked” Erin’s tone as insulting to the previous owners is irrelevant because MANY of your readers did. I am surprised and further turned off by the fact that in her numerous replies, Erin has yet to take responsibility for the-at best-cavalier insensitivity she demonstrated with regard to the people who lived in her home before her.
Very fun to read and see all your hard work in action! I have young kids and would love to stay somewhere this pretty but I feel like we might destroy it in 10 seconds flat! So I will do you a favor and not rent it. 🤣
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Sarah! I realize white furniture can feel scary but with performance fabrics it’s actually really easy to clean so please feel free to come visit sometime. She looks pristine in these photos but every piece was chosen knowing it would take abuse.
The recipe I use calls for superfine sugar or caster sugar and heating it in the oven for a few minutes to make it easier to dissolve when incorporating into the egg whites. This brand is from India Tree and I have found it at Fresh Market in the past.
This looks beautiful and shows how doable it is to transform an outdated house into something modern. I am confused about the lighting in the kitchen and living room. It looks like she eliminated all the recessed lighting. I can’t imagine that small pendant over the kitchen sink lights up the space enough. Is this just a photoshop trick and it really all still exists?
Hi Amy! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Good eye! We did photoshop out the can lights as it just looks cleaner. Truthfully, I would have eliminated the cans if I’d had the budget for it as I really don’t like can lights and we’re actually probably going to add one more sconce in the kitchen to offer a little extra lighting over the counters. What doesn’t really show up in the pictures is that I put in a very large paper lantern pendant in the middle of the room that does give off lots of light.
Hi Erin! Thank you for sharing this space! I also love that you used LVP! I’ve been wanting to learn more about LVP. Would you mind sharing the source for the floors? Thank you!
please consider other alternatives — see my note on the problems with LVT below
Hi Emily and aforss – thanks for your thoughts on the floors. I selected a product from Torlys that’s actually primarily a cork floor with a layer over the top. They also could be installed floating rather than require any glues. I appreciate you sharing additional information about LVT though. I’m always learning more and different products out there.
Gorgeous! Great job Erin!
My favorite piece is the custom credenza. The wood grain is quite lovely with the cutie knobs.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment Karen! Walnut+Oak really did a great job with that piece. I had so much fun designing it. You can’t see the chubby little legs in the picture very well but it’s one of my favorite parts too. The knobs were an Anthropologie find 😉
Erin, lovely work on the reno of the house. It has a very peaceful and beautiful vibe now. Your focus on the physical layout of the structure and the conscious changes you made to adapt it to be particular to a vacation rental were interesting.
However, may I delicately encourage you to not be quite as disdainful to the prior decorating? While it may not be according to your particular taste (or even that of the regulars that follow this site), the prior owners seem to have kept the house well and decorated according to their own liking. Calling their choices “a bit of a scary place” and statements such as “words tend to fail me when I look at the before images of this house” come across as very judgmental and elitist. I believe one of the underlying values of this blog is to decorate with what makes you happy (“pretty looks good next to pretty”, etc), and I’m guessing the prior owners did that. Those statements really changed the tone of the article for me and were a turn off that almost made me stop reading.
Also, can we acknowledge that it’s quite the privileged position to be able to purchase a second home to use “exclusively for short vacation stays” and that most of your vendors (Reform, California Closets, etc.) may have given you a significant discount on their products–I would actually be curious about that, knowing how much renovations costs have generally skyrocketed during the pandemic due to supply chain instability and higher labor costs. I’m sure the previous owners of this house used it as their primary residence and had many treasured family memories here.
Yes. Words do matter.
Words can hurt and be debilitating.
Which is why we should also be kinder to the home owner. I’m appalled by the tone of these comments. Writing a home tour is really hard. I know – I’ve wrote 900+ of them for Design*Sponge. Sometimes you try to be funny and it doesn’t land. I still remember getting raked over the coals for a $50 wood dresser that I painted. Luckily, I had some defense in the comments. I hope this Emily Henderson and team consider moderating comments on home tours . You can say what you think, but be kind about it. This is someone’s real home. She is not an anonymous person. This is her real home and is sharing with her real full name. Please consider her feelings as well as those of an unnamed seller.
It’s not “her real home”, it’s a short-term rental.
And she’s a professional designer. And the vast majority of negative comments are about her ridicule of the previous decor, not her design choices.
What I remember Design Sponge for is that the founder/leader actually seemed to make good on her commitment to promote equity and inclusivity. Maybe instead of blaming readers who express disappointment in the blog and genuine pain about making home in a society with little safety net for so many, we can focus on the power that design platforms have to shape and lead communities proactively.
Grace was always a fierce defender of home owners in the comment sections — and got A LOT of criticism for it. But she ALWAYS made sure the comments were constructive, kind and inspired discourse. It is possible to have critical discourse and still be kind.
Maybe we are using different definitions of “kind,” but 95%+ of the critical comments on this post come across as respectful to me. From your multiple comments, Amy, it really seems like you would prefer no one express any disagreement with Erin’s post (both the tone and content).
BW – Thankfully, the comments I was addressing– those with overly personal attacks — have been removed.
This is the first time I’m aware of that “before” photos on this blog are pics of the items and decor of other people. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I was the previous owner and all my stuff was on a blog with this kind of reach for all to scoff at.
I had the same response to the writing as Allison, aforss and Shannon. While the bathrooms and kids spaces are a definite improvement, I really liked a lot of the colourful aspects of the before pictures. The afters are definitely more cohesive in a design sense but the before would have worked for me as a vacation rental too, I’m pretty sure.
What a lovely home this turned out to be. Nice work, Erin!
May I make a suggestion? I once read something (I think it was at the old DesignSponge website) that stuck with me: “Always remember that your ‘before’ is someone else’s ‘after.'” When I look at the photos you describe as “a bit of a scary place,” I see a home someone cared about and put effort into creating, even if it might not be to your taste. To me, “scary” is broken, dirty, a safety hazard … and the before pics aren’t any of those things.
Someone else put care and attention into a house that they cared about, and now you’ve come to care about the same house and put work and love into it too. Both of those things are worth celebrating!
It’s a holiday rental, not a home per se.
I’m a bit at a loss as to how to respond to this comment. Many people clearly didn’t find Erin’s commentary funny, and almost every critical comment is respectfully expressing their opinion. I doubt she meant any harm, but there’s no possibility for growth or learning when people aren’t permitted to voice disagreement.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment SLG. I do truly believe that what constitutes “good” design is entirely in the eye of the beholder and that all that matters is that your space brings you joy. There’s never a “right” way to design a house. I certainly have strong opinions about what I like and do not. I’m feeling so sad that people are taking my disdain for dated components of this house so personally. I have nothing against how the previous homeowner chose to decorate – I’m a tried and true color-phobe obviously, but if someone loves bold reds go for it! What I was really trying to speak to and what it is my job as a designer to evaluate are the built-in components of a project – countertops, cabinetry, layout, light fixtures, which in this case were chosen by the home builder more than 30 years ago and were both incredibly dated and of really poor quality. I do regret if I didn’t make that more clear. Truly appreciate everyone’s feedback!
What a beautiful house!
I am always disappointed when I see installations of vinyl floors, aka LVT. LVP is an environmentally taxing choice in its manufacture, can leach toxic chemicals including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in spaces where it is installed, cosmetically has a relatively short lifetime (can’t be refinished, so scratches through the pattern printed on top are forever) and has no route for responsible disposal. More discussion of the environmental costs here: https://www.greenbuildingsupply.com/Learning-Center/Flooring-LC/Why-we-dont-sell-luxury-vinyl-tile
I will also say that I have never been fooled into thinking it is a wood floor. There are lots of non-fake alternatives to wood floor if it doesn’t fit your budget or space.
This comment is a spot-on reasoning that calls us all to CHOOSE for the FUTURE of our collective children , and the planet! Not all cgeap choices are good choices.
I agree, this flooring was and will be for a long time (in land fill), a poor choice. Especially since it’s a rental and everything done there is tax deductible.
There is no Planet B. 🌏
I think a linoleum might be good better for the environment and health. Although it might seem an outdated choice, there are new products that could be appealing. I feel the same about composite and vinyl decking.
Maybe it’s because I’m a PNW native and half Scandinavian, but this gorgeous, gorgeous place makes my heart ache in the best way. You killed it.
This is absolutely beautiful. I was wondering, would you be OK to share your budget? TIA!
This make-over is beautiful. I appreciate the aesthetic greatly.
However, as an investment property, the flooring choice particularly, was not great at all.
Short-term and forever in land-fill.
I’m affected by the ridiculing tone about the house that was someone’s home and frankly, not falling apart, defunct or terrible. No mold, rot, falling in ceilings, etc. until after purchase when something then went awry.
For me, the tone and choice of wording to degrade what was a well-kept home, spoiled it for me.
Otherwise, a pretty holiday house for sure.
Hi Rusty! Thank you so much for taking the time to read share your comments. What I didn’t dig into in detail in the post was the fact that home overall was actually in significant disrepair and had not been well taken care of well at all. It was built very cheaply nearly 30 years ago to begin with, using the lowest quality materials that were clearly falling apart. There was mold and rot in places, the roof was leaking, the floors were a mess, the entire place smelled of so strongly of dog as multiple large animals lived there, outlets and switches didn’t work properly, tile grout was covered in dirt and mold…the list goes on. Then there was just the 30 year old design aesthetic as well. We’d originally planned to just clean the house up and make updates slowly overtime until the flood. Then it made more sense to do all the work at once. Thanks for helping me realize I should have made that all more clear!
Thank you for sharing this! I have dreams of redoing my home and in my dreams they look JUST LIKE THIS! I live in the PNW as well – Portland, and this gives me such good ideas. I love the fireplace, kitchen cabinets, furniture, etc. Well done!
I agree with a lot of previous commenters: this post just doesn’t sit right with me. There was really nothing wrong (and frankly a lot right) with the before, so the over-the-top criticism reads pretty unkindly. It also hurts my soul a little to see the beautiful wood floors ripped out and replaced with the same gray laminate every house flipper in my city seems to use. That’s a lot of waste for an unsustainable product that won’t last as long, just because you like the color better.
I’m one of the earlier critical commenters, but in her defense, I think the water damage ruined the existing hardwood floors in the kitchen and living room?
Hi Francesca and Sara. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. This house actually never had hardwood floors. It was built very cheaply in the late 90s. so actually the ruined floors were also a faux wood. We used a flooring product by Torlys in the replacement as they’re actually a cork floor with a faux wood top that are incredibly durable which we felt made the most sense in the wet and muddy world of the Pacific Northwest. You can also a floating install which doesn’t require glues. We certainly have no plans of ever ripping them back out as I’m really happy with how they look and feel underfoot. I hope that helps offer more context.
Do you mind sharing a link to the exact flooring you got? Thanks!
Sure – here you go Mary! https://residential.torlys.com/collections/everwood-evertile/everwood-premier/
I’m surprised here by all the criticism of the tone of this post. I found it a funny read. Obviously having a second home is a luxury, but in this case, Erin explains that they were desperate to be closer to family during the pandemic. Which I think is very understandable and relatable. What an amazing, lovely job.
this comment section reminds me of med school. one time i was super early to a lecture and sat in the back of the lecture hall while an academic clinician read off a powerpoint to a small group of faculty. at the end, the faculty members gave about 20 minutes of feedback, e.g. ‘the med students want bullet points,’ ‘ the med students need clinical examples,’ ‘their exam will focus on the pathophys,’ etc. they were super-preparing each lecturer so that the med students wouldn’t destroy them in their teaching evals. i wonder if one of the staff members on this team who is familiar with the readers here could possibly read guest blog posts and give feedback for tone, reader interest, reader passion, etc so that guests aren’t destroyed in the comment section?
I think EDH should at least read, and when appropriate edit, shared posts. But more to spare readers inappropriate content than to protect the bloggers who create it.
I can see both sides; hard to be perfect in every post here.
But majority of people don’t have a second/vacation home so it is hard to stomach. Lots of people can’t even afford to go on a vacation. 🙁 sucks
The picture of the kitchen made me gasp! It is striking and serene….well done.
Will someone at EHD please moderate this conversation. The inaccurate piling on of this designer is awful and is serving as a cautionary tale to not share their work here.
What’s inaccurate? People are being critical, yes, but also respectful. Certainly the tone and content of this post struck a nerve for a lot of readers and it’s probably useful for EHD to see how it landed.
Maybe some of the comments seem inaccurate now because the original post has been edited and the offensive parts removed. While this is a big improvement, the omission I find glaring is the lack of apology (or even acknowledgement) from the author for the tone that caused all the upset to begin with. I would have expected EDH to demand more.
I’m also having a hard time with the fact this is a vacation rental. I have spent the entire pandemic trapped in a too small house with two adults working from home and two kids and am completely priced out of my community by transplants who swooped in and bid everything up by 30-40%. I see things like this and I can’t even appreciate the design because it’s just so tone deaf and frankly disrespectful. Turning something into a short term vacation rental when so many can’t even afford to find a place to live right now is just so icky. Especially since this place is clearly set up to be a home for a family and isn’t anymore.
I feel like the author had good intentions but sometimes I think people loose sight of how their actions affect others. I hope they will reconsider the short term rental and sell, or even rent it under a traditional 12 month lease. They obviously don’t have to, but they should at the very least consider how damaging short term rentals can be for a community.
Short term rentals have degraded our neighborhoods and have made it difficult if not impossible to buy a home in a preferred neighborhood where capital investors/out-of-towners with a lot of money purchase homes and turn them into “hotels”. It is a huge problem and I hope that somehow, some way they will be banned.
i thought the owner of this blog (emily) has a second home that she’s now using for vacations and short term rentals?
I love how you’ve designed the house to feel cozy using whites & neutrals. The black storage cabinet in the family room is one of my favorite pieces…I will be searching for something similar!
HI Friends – Erin, the designer, here. I am adding a comment as I felt compelled to offer some additional context given all the feedback readers are sharing in comments about important issues. I so appreciate everyone’s passion and insights and feel rather badly that I offended and that you might think Emily doesn’t have the same concerns or cares we all do. I recognize the deep privilege that my family was able to purchase a property during the pandemic. While you have no insight into the private circumstances as to how that was possible or why it was necessary, regardless, I recognize we were deeply fortunate to have the opportunity to make that happen. It is not taken for granted by me, or anyone in my family. I also hear the feedback about turning a “family home” into an Airbnb in a tight housing market. To clarify, the house is not located in a “family” neighborhood. In fact, it is located in a rather rural area mostly occupied by retirees or others with (often palatial) second homes, without any public accommodations for visitors in the near vicinity. The little cabins I grew staying in as a child were knocked… Read more »
I’m trying to buy a home right now (it’s rough) and the majority of the homes in our budget are not in the architectural style that we like. I appreciate that this post shows some ideas on how to make updates to the home for more modern styles. I would love to see some pictures of how the dining room and kitchen relate to the entire space. Thanks for sharing!
I’ll be sharing a lot more on my blog and instagra in the coming days KC! Stay tuned.
Thank you for responding Erin. I know it’s not easy to face criticism on the internet, although I think it has been very respectful and even productive all around. I also think what is not up for debate is how beautifully you have designed this home. Stunning work!
Respectfully, I think it can be very tricky to be a guest on someone else’s blog with an audience that has been shaped over years with specific values. This post is an introduction to you and unfortunately I think that beginning with saying that you were only on site twice and were “selecting finishes and furnishings bundled on the couch in my soft pants, wine in hand” creates an impression of you that readers who know you might interpret one way, but that readers who do not know you interpret another. I think you did a beautiful job and that kitchen is a stunner. But as yet another regular reader who lives in a city where I have been priced out of the housing market in large part due to short-term rentals, I do cringe when I see yet another house set up for that express purpose.
Just to add to some of the other comments about tone deafness, I think part of the problem here is the writer purchased extremely expensive furnishings, sparing no expense and with no concerns about affordability…and doesn’t really seem self-aware of how privileged she and her family are. There’s also no vintage or secondhand at all. It all just feels pretty different from the EHD ethos.
Thanks for the comment Jenn. I really love vintage but because I was stuck in a lockdown in San Francisco when needing to furnish this house for family, I sadly couldn’t shop vintage as much as I would have wanted to. It was a challenge for sure. Many of my accessories and decor actually are vintage or are pieces I already had. I’m actually also hunting for the perfect vintage pieces to add to the project now, but I’m very exacting when it come to vintage that I like. If you have any great sources pls send them my way!
I want to apologize for my earlier, very unkind comment. The tone of the post struck me wrong, but my tone was much worse. Erin, I’m truly sorry. It’s far too easy to say nasty things to a stranger on the internet and I’m really sorry I did that. Thank you, EHD, for removing it and I promise to never post an unkind comment again. I love this blog and appreciate people sharing their homes and work.
Wait, did someone from the blog actually email and tell you to apologize? Your comment was fine. It’s ok to be blunt sometimes.
No, not at all. It just had been bothering me that I left a pretty snarky comment that I would never say to someone in real life because it’s hurtful and unnecessary. So I went back and saw that it was removed, which I think was the right thing for EHD to do.
I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for your kind words here. I do not take offense at people’s reactions – I should done a better job of offering everyone context behind all my design decisions. And I am judge-y about dated design – it’s probably why I’m a designer. I want to make every space I step into a dream space. Trust me, it drives my husband crazy. My comments about the before state of this house were not coming from a place of being unkind but rather judging the evolution of design from the 90s to the present day. But I totally get how it came off snarky. I can be snarky. No hard feelings at all! Take care and thank you for taking the time to read.
I like very much this before and after post.
Actually I don´t understand so much criticism about the house being a rental house. It looks like envy to me.
This is an excellent example of sustainable rehab because few walls were demolished.
I don´t understand either the criticism on Erin commenting the bad decor before.
This is a blog on home deco, right? If a house decor cannot be labelled as ugly, and ugly this is, what are we doing here?
Thank you, Erin. It´s very beautiful and short rental business is a perfectly legal business. We all like to go on vacations with our families and friends.
I hope your rental is doing very well.
Just a reminder that we’re all reading a post on a DESIGN blog. Design isn’t a need – it’s a want, and I think most of us come here for escapism. While EHD always tries to be socially aware, at the end of the day, it’s not the job of a design website to save the world.
The idea that ya’ll are criticizing the blogger, and to some extent, EHD, for posting about this house is ludicrous. This is what a design blog does. This isn’t a house-flipping blog, but this also isn’t a website about discount scores at Goodwill. You all choose to come here and look at upscale design all the time. Erin isn’t he only person on planet earth with the means to renovate a house or own a second home. Stop making her feel guilty about trying to find a silver lining for her family during the pandemic just because not EVERY person can afford to do the same thing. I can’t afford a second home, but far be it from me to judge others who can.
Some of ya’ll are insufferable.
Some of us’all started reading Emily’s blog when she lived in a rental and because she reviewed her scores at the flea market.
“Insufferable” is exactly the right word. Erin, thank you for being gracious enough to respond, but you’ve done nothing wrong. I think people are just amped up with anxiety over current events and don’t have an outlet for their stress, seems like everyone is going a bit mad lately. Let’s all give the writer the benefit of the doubt, please, and think twice before posting cruel comments. (And yes, even politely worded comments can be cruel.) Erin, thank you for showing us these beautiful photos of your home. I love the style and found so much design inspiration!
Love it. Question about the braided rug: Is it too “bumpy” for play with things like game boards, puzzles, or Legos? We’ve been considering it for a playspace but didn’t know if would accommodate the play stage my kids are at. Thank you!
Hi Eden, The Armadillo braided rug is only a bit bumpy. It might have too much texture for a puzzle to lay perfectly flat but we played many a game of chutes and ladders and hungry hungry hippos on the floor with no issues!
I love how super soft it feels.
Thank you for your reply!
I think this post has certainly struck a cord and a lot of the conversations being brought up in the comments are very valid and worth exploring. Not everyone can afford a second home and a reno of this scale. That said, I love the design personally and think the aesthetic is beautiful. I wonder if more “real life” type content can help balance things out a bit? It’s probably not a stretch to assume that “most” of us that read this blog can’t afford to do renos such as this one, but we can all certainly be inspired by it and apply elements of them to our homes. I was very lucky to have bought my first home right before crazy pandemic pricing began and my husband and I have been slowly (so very slowly) chipping away at renovating it to suit our needs and aesthetics. We can’t afford to do everything at once and do most of the labor ourselves so it’s slow going but probably much more realistic than what the average reader of this blog can relate to. I know there used to be posts dedicated to real readers’ renos and projects, is that still a… Read more »
BTW, I hope this blog keeps on showing us beautiful and aspirational interior design. This is why I come here everyday.
I do not come here for being lectured on whether it is “ethic” renovating a house for short term rentals.
I love beutiful inetrior design and I am thankful for so many things I have learnt here.
This house is gorgeous, and the kitchen is absolutely stunning. I was reading the post on my phone and had to zoom in, to see the detail up close!
This is so beautiful!!!! I don’t know which room is my favorite:)
Amazing job. This is a design blog. There is no need to pretend that the “before” looked good just to save people’s overly-sensitive, PC feelings. And if a contractor wants to work during covid, they can!