5 Years in a Fixer Upper: Before & After Reveal

This month marks five years since Eric and I moved into our mid-century modern fixer upper! The first time I saw this house, I saw a one-of-a-kind charmer that I wanted to call home. It was easy to gloss over the 1,000+ square feet of ivy, 50-year-old carpet and dimly lit kitchen with 1980s appliances.

I’m glad I saw past the cosmetic issues because this is a special place, but I can’t say every part of the restoration process has been a dream.

Sometimes I pine after home listings offering those three little words I long to hear: MOVE. IN. READY.

When we first moved in and started planning our remodeling projects, I read that it’s a good idea to look at your home restoration in terms of a five-year plan. Assume it will take five years to accomplish what you want, and divide your end goal into yearly projects to get you there.

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So How Realistic Is the Five-Year Plan?

Some people fix up their homes in five years or less (according to Pinterest). If you have a healthy amount of free time and money, that definitely helps expedite the process.

For the rest of us, five years might be more of a starting point, especially for a bigger fixer upper. But you can still get a lot done in that time!

As Eric and I celebrate our five-year house-iversary, I wanted to share what we’ve done so far, and what we still want to accomplish. Wherever you are on your home improvement projects, I hope you enjoy this before and after progress report and keep finding happiness in beautifying your fixer upper.

Restoring your fixer upper? See my home improvement guide >>


Completed Fixer Upper Projects

Major joy is sparked when I see these parts of the house with no projects in progress. Pop the champagne.

Living Room

This was one area that drew us to the house. We removed the carpet and added hardwood floors right away, which took this space to 90% complete. We also had the fireplace doors plated in satin nickel. Décor wise, I think I need to collect some art to hang above the couch over time, but structurally I consider this room good and done!

Mid-century modern living room update before and after

Shop This Photo: Orla Kiely Multi Stem Pillow | Yellow Corduroy Pillow | Boho Mod Fringe Blanket | Marshmallow Sofa

Exterior Siding & Stain

Two years ago we repaired our cedar siding and had our house stained to a dark brown. This was a huge step in creating the mid-century modern lodge look that I was going for.

I’m glad we prioritized getting this done within the five-year plan, before the siding could take any more weather damage. This update should last awhile.

Mid-century fixer upper ranch with new siding stain before and after

UPDATE: Check out our latest accent paint and curb appeal updates

Breezeway

Right away I added concrete planters to spruce up the breezeway. But I kept losing plants because it was too dry, too shady, and I forgot to water them enough. So I recently finished up my breezeway for good with artificial plants. No more dead plants!

Retro breezeway update before and after

Guest Rooms

I feel happy with this guest room just as it is now. We removed the carpet and polished up the hardwoods, then added paint and the mod cat decor that so clearly belonged in this room.

Retro mod guest room update in fixer upper house before and after

Shop This Photo: Mod Cat Art by Donna Mibus | Orange Hipster Cat Pillow | Turquoise Cat Pillow

Our basement guest room is also in good condition. Once I settled on a paint color, this room was simple to fix up by adding travel posters and bedding.

I Love Lucy Craft Room

Creating this craft room was an undertaking that wasn’t complete until year four. The wood panel walls had to be patched and painted. The musty basement floor was cleaned, deodorized and painted.

We replaced the flickering lights with mid-century globe lights. Then we built the storage table and wall units to create a space worthy of holding pretty yarn, fabric and all the crafts.

Retro I Love Lucy craft room makeover in fixer upper house before and after

Shop This Photo: Lucille Ball Poster | Mid-century Modern Counter Stool | Yarn Storage

Massive Ivy Removal

My yard as a whole is still a work in progress, but I feel like I need to acknowledge my ivy removal project as complete. With the help of solarization, we got rid of the invasive ivy in the yard for good. Now I can focus on growing happy plants with no evil ivy.

Huge ivy removal project in fixer upper backyard before and after

Fixer Upper Rooms in Progress

These parts of the house are SO CLOSE to completion. They were almost complete within the five-year plan!

Entryway

The entryway got a lot of love this year. We finally fixed up the previous wallpaper damage, painted the door and added new Sputnik wallpaper. Eventually we want to refinish the stairs, and Eric is planning to strip away the shine on the slate to give it a matte look. Then we can call this area done!

Retro entryway makeover with Sputnik wallpaper before and after

Dining Room

The dining room got a new George Nelson light, paint and hardwoods. I plan to keep this room nice and simple. The only lingering project is the liquor cabinet, which you can’t see around the corner on the left. We took out the ’80s floor cabinet early on, but that spot needs a new floor, and maybe a couple of additional shelves.

Colorful mid-mod dining room with Bubble Lamp

Office

We both spend about nine hours a day in our home office. This is an area that needs to be pretty, and it’s come a long way.

We gave it a modern light, a new day bed and a mid-century shelving unit. There’s also a mod cat painting above my desk, featuring my two cats.

Mid-century home office and shelving unit

The final thing I want to do in here is replace the steel desk with a huge built-in desk that extends from the bookshelves and all along that left wall. I just have to get Eric on board with this plan.

Upstairs Bathrooms

I love our pink and aqua mid-mod bathrooms. They are only missing a few last touches, like a metal finishing strip and backsplash on the counter in the aqua bathroom. And a fresh shower tile job for the pink bathroom. Maybe that’s a little more than a “last touch,” but it’s getting there.

Modern Shower Tile for a Mid-Century Bathroom

Master Bedroom

I would call the master bedroom done, except the bed is the focal point and it’s just not bringing it. I’m looking for the right headboard to give this bed some personality. This will probably turn into a DIY project.

UPDATE: Here’s how I finished styling this cozy minimalist bedroom

Simple mid-century modern bedroom with gray, taupe and wood tones

Future Projects

These are the big remaining projects on the house to-do list. Luckily the main floor of our house is almost done. These rooms are mostly in the daylight basement, except for the kitchen.

Kitchen

We gave the kitchen a mid-century modern style floor and new appliances, as well as fresh contact paper and other little updates. I love the 1960s wood cabinets. But the overall layout is on the awkward side, so we’ve got some plans in the works.

Della from MidMod Midwest has great ideas about how to update these square mid-century kitchens here.

Retro 1960s kitchen with wood cabinets
This is the last photograph of my kitchen fully intact!

Just a few days ago we decided to start our major kitchen remodel. We opened up the wall above the counter facing the dining room (right side of the above pic). Oh so much light is now flowing into this previously dark kitchen. Now we have to patch up the drywall and replace our countertops and backsplash tile.

UPDATE: See my new glitter laminate kitchen countertops

Rumpus Room

The basement rec room is the future home of our tiki bar. This will be a fun project involving retro tiki lights and lounge seating!

Replacing the floor will be the biggest part of this project. Even though these retro floor tiles are just my style, they are cracked, brittle and chipping all over the place, so we’ll be covering them up.

UPDATE: Check out the cork floor planks we installed

1960s basement rec room

Basement Bathroom

The basement bathroom shower has dark brown tile and grout. I feel like I’ll never be okay with that. We also want to give this room a more era-appropriate floor.

We’re making progress on the new built-in you can see below. I also painted the vanity using some of our house colors to give it a more retro look, and we added mid-century style lighting.

Fixer upper retro bathroom makeover in progress

Laundry Room

So here’s my scary basement laundry room. I know that a beautiful laundry room is a novel idea, and we’re really lucky to even be living in a time with washers and dryers. But have you seen all of the stunning laundry rooms out there these days?!

Fixer upper basement laundry room before update

My fellow bloggers Karen at Decor Hint and Kristina at My Semi Designed Life both gave their laundry rooms gorgeous makeovers. It’s enough to make me think there could come a day when I don’t dread stepping into my dungeon to do laundry. Goals.

Landscaping

I sketched out a backyard design early on, and the yard is starting to resemble my sketch! We created a pea gravel area with new raised garden beds, added tiered beds along the fence and replaced tons of grass and ivy with mulch and new plants.

Backyard with sandy fire pit area, mulch and plants

The deck and stairs to the lower part of the yard were rotted. We ripped them out and added new stairs last summer. Eric also built a mid-century modern gate, and we added a breeze block wall for privacy, with help from Eric’s brother and dad.

In addition to the never-ending battle with weeds, there are a few remaining projects in my yard. I’m still working on adding more paver stepping stones. I’d like to level out the fire pit area and create a built-in fire pit. And now that we have stairs, we’re planning to finish the lower area of the yard with a new smaller deck.

I just have to walk the line between maintaining the landscaping I’ve already done, and squeezing in new projects to get this yard in shape. We’re getting there!


Keep the DIY Dream Alive

So where are you on the five-year plan for your fixer upper? I know it can feel like you’re drowning in DIY projects and your inner perfectionist can’t go another day staring at that dingy carpet or busted wall. I’m with you.

Fixing up a home can be such a long process, and the five-year plan isn’t always realistic. Just keep working. Throw in a margarita once in a while. And come cry into my inbox on the bad days.

Someday we’ll be able to call our homes move-in ready.


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10 thoughts on “5 Years in a Fixer Upper: Before & After Reveal”

    • Thanks, Lauren! I have thought about adding a little greenhouse, maybe after we finish the rest of our big remodel projects and I’ll have more time for gardening!

      Reply
  1. Love this! It’s amazing how much you guys have accomplished in the 5 years when you see it in all this “Before” and “After”…looking back..all your hard work has been totally worth it!! I so enjoyed taking this trip down memory lane with you..you guys have and are doing an awesome job on remodeling your mid-century home!!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Judy! I love to look at the before and after pics, especially of the ivy. Anytime I get discouraged about fighting weeds, I just remember all the ivy I destroyed. Weeds are no match for me!! 😀

      Reply
  2. You guys have done a great job! You have a beautiful home.
    I love your craft room. So cute! I wish I was crafty. Does it still have wood panel walls? I can’t tell in the after photo. Love the new color!
    I need to fix up my apartment! I hope your blog will inspire me to get organized.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lauren! The craft room still has wood panel walls, we just painted them mint. I usually like one or two wood panel walls in a room, but this room was so dark with all four wood walls, and there were tons of holes, so it needed paint. Mint is one of my favorite colors! I figured the craft room was a good spot to be brave with wall color! 😀

      Reply
  3. Tara, you and Eric have done such a great job of updating and personalizing your home. Keep up the good work. I’m proud of you.
    Dan

    Reply
  4. Wow, the transformation from what you started with to now is amazing. Each space has such a welcoming look to it and it’s clear you put a lot of effort into it all. This makes me wish I had taken some before photos of our house before we gave it a minor update – mostly painting throughout. I have to say that I absolutely love the fact that you have a standup of Boba Fett in your office.

    Reply
    • The Boba Fett was Eric’s and I think it makes a fun office accessory! I took a bunch of house pictures when we had our home inspection, so that has been nice to refer back to and track progress. Thank you, Sarah! 🙂

      Reply

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