House Stalker

Here I was, sitting on my pregnant tuckus Sunday afternoon eating (another) slice of pizza and do you know what my weary eyes stumbled upon? An email from our neighborhood listserve saying there was an open house in the hood. Since it was 2pm, and I was still in my PJ’s, I figured an open house was just the motivation I needed to get my rear in gear and enjoy some fresh, October air.

This house you guys, oh my goodness. For starters, it’s on one of the loveliest streets in Durham (IMO) but this beauty was a winner from top to bottom.

Front Entry Living Room

I’m totally – completely – obsessed, with this kitchen.

Just look at this beauty!

White Cabinets Chefs Kitchen

The details on this space are to the nines.

Vintage Kitchen Sink

Ok, one more. I just can’t get enough 😀 Open concept gorgeousness.

Large Kitchen White Cabinets

Right off the kitchen there is a beautiful dining space and a cozy little living space/den. Being an old house dweller, I can tell you that I long for and extra living space that we could use for TV watch chillin. Maybe someday.

Something like this fits the bill, huh?

Cozy Den Family Room

Even better, there’s a little sunroom off the side of the TV/Dining/Kitchen area. So much space, I wouldn’t even know what to do with it all. I’ve got a feeling I’d be up to the task though, if I really put my mind to it 😉

Sunroom Off Kitchen

All the bathroom’s in the house had the most beautiful tile work. I liked how it offered some consistency throughout the home and really helped to tie the entire property together.

Vintage Style Master Bath

Another detail in this house – all the cabinetry – from the built-ins in the front Living Room to the Kitchen to the Baths were matching, inset, vintage inspired and gorgeous.

There were a total of (4) bedrooms upstairs on this house, and all of them had gorgeous hardware and solid wood construction. The door on the far left of this room actually goes up to a 3rd unfinished floor which would be a sweet spot to add a TV lounge area for kiddos.

Large Side Bedroom

Since they’re my favorite rooms in this house, other than the kitchen (obvi), I thought I’d finish off the tour with one more view into these beautiful matching bathrooms.


Second Full Bath

Want it? Need it? Have to have it? Well the good news is, it’s for sale! The bad news is, it’s just shy of $1 million. I know, right. That’s what we call bad luck in the Sell household 😀

Samantha Says | Giveaway!

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Here are a few of my favorites. You can see the entire shop here!

Moon Print


Botanical Print

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Win:  a $50 Gift Card to By Samantha 
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One Month In

Holy moley, can you believe your ear drums? Believe it or not, we’re totally one month in to this little adventure of home ownership 3.0. You know, after owning 3 homes, in (4) years, one of the most common questions we get from people is if we’re house flippers. My answer, with a little bit of a smirk each time, is not intentionally. It just kinda happened. I can also tell you, at the ripe age of 27, Jay bird and I are pretty ready to slow things down a little bit in the house buying department. Buying and selling real estate has been an amazing way for us to gain some serious equity, and we’re so thankful that all our hard work has translated into something tangible, but seriously after all this work, we’re ready to just enjoy this house vs. move right on over to the next one.

I’ve gotta tell you that Jay and I have both reached a consensus that this house, this one’s for keepers. Uneven floors and leaky basement and all.

Trinity Park Durham

We’re SO EXCITED to have a house that we know we’ll be staying in for a while. Every decision we make about renovations feels more permanent, more lasting. We want every detail to reflect us as a family. Now, that’s not to say that we’re done with real estate. Our general motto is that every 3-5 years, we’d like to buy a property to invest. Whether it’s a vacation rental or a flip, we know that fixing up houses is kinda what we do. I think if I didn’t have my hands in a new property that I’d start to get sorta blue, ya know?

Since I’m all about celebrating victories, big and small in home renovating – I thought it would be fun to take a snapshot view of where we’re at 1-month in.

The biggest change by far was removing the non-load bearing wall between the dining room and the kitchen. This is what this space looked like before.

Taking Out Wall

And here it is, after. Ok, more like here it is “during”. 😉 Psst! Notice the first of the appliances chilling like a villain in the corner!

Drywalling Wall

Big, big difference as far as the flow and feel of the space. We absolutely are counting down the days until the peninsula of cabinets and counter tops get installed. We really couldn’t be more excited to entertain in this combined dining/kitchen space – it’s going to be great!

Since the kitchen had some vintage chic linoleum in there before the wall removal, we decided to rip all that up in favor of adding wood floors to tie everything together in the house, and give a cohesive look and feel to the space.

Prepping Floors for Wood Install

Another change – our floors! Before, we had floors that we’re not only in pretty rough condition – they were also orange! 😉 Howdoya like them apples?

Small Home Office

And here is how they’re looking now. It’s red oak, so it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of all the red, but they’re definitely much more “brown” now, and a little softer on the eyes! 🙂

Minwax Provincial vs. Dark Walnut

For comparison, here’s a shot of our floors next to the stair treads, that we opted not to do in the first round of sanding due to pure exhaustion, really. I know it will be a weekend project in the future though (I’m looking forward to adding in a stair runner, too).

Refinishing Wood Floors

Keeping up with the easy wins, we also painted our living room to make things look a bit more updated in there as well. I’m all on board with the new gray trend in home decorating, so we decided to go with Benjamin Moore Edgecbomb Gray. But first, this is what the Living Room looked like with the previous owner. A bit formal, for our taste.

Living Room Before

This is how it looks after two coats of Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray. We love it.

Edgecomb Gray in Living Room

Another “big deal” bucket list item, was getting our basement fixed. When we closed on the house, the front wall was bowing something crazy. Since your foundation keeps your house up, we knew that we wanted to tackle that immediately. So the fine fellas at RamJack came out and helped stabilize the basement.

How Ramjack Works

Now that we’ve got some of the larger projects out of the way, we’re moving on to some of the little details. See this bundle of fun on the floor? That’s a whole lotta crown and a whole lotta trim that are going up this weekend! We were able to snag a $3 per piece discount buying all the crown at once, so I convinced Jay we should just go for it. He begrudgingly agreed. 😉

Purchasing Crown in Bulk

And all that trim …. here’s a sneak peak at what we’ve been using that for!! (I’m totally in love) I’ll have the full reveal for our wainscoting treatment up on Friday!

DIY Wainscoting

We’re so excited to finally be in our new space, and we’ve got a final count down started for our apartment living departure – less than 2 weeks, people! Overall, we’re super pumped to tackle some larger projects post move-in, and to finally start decorating and making this place home!

Inspector Gadget

House inspections – aren’t they just a barrel of monkeys. Now, being that Jay and I have been through this whole inspection rigamaroll 3 times now, you’d think we’d be seasoned experts and know all the ins and outs of what’s coming to us. You’d be wrong though 😀 One thing I think we both realized during this round of house hunting, was that southern houses are a bit different. Not a ton, but enough for us to throw out a few of the things we thought we had down pact.

The wrinkles this time around – oh …. where do I start.

How about with the basement (aka the bane of my existence). So, before we even put in an offer on the house, the hubster noticed something awry down in the pit of the house. Jay and I have a pretty good system down where I inspect the house for things like layout, neighborhood and general loveliness potential and he scopes it out for all things structural. Thus – he is usually the bearer of bad news 😀

Basement Settling

Do y’all see that? That’s a big old crack. With a serious wall lean. So as I’m all perky and excited and thinking THIS IS IT, I go down to check on the husband, only to find him scratching his head and telling me he’s got some bad news. Oye. Luckily, we knew the problem was fixable, but we also knew it wasn’t going to come cheap. I must have batted my eyelashes enough though, since we landed up putting in an offer on the place anyway. 😀

Believe you me, it wasn’t without doing a fair amount of homework (including getting some preliminary quotes) before we even put in an offer, since we wanted the price to reflect the work that would need to be done to get this house to a place where it would be structurally sound. (Always good…)

Cost to Repoint Fireplace

It’s kind of hard to see in the picture above, but the next issue we ran into with this house was the fireplace. See the bricks up on the top row there – well they are loose as a goose and ready to fall off with the next wind storm and bonk you square on the head. Essentially, the furnace was venting off to one side of the fireplace, which over time caused that particular side to degrade and wear down so the grout is gonzo.

Inspecting Fireplace

Another fun surprise was that the fireplace does not have any type of cap on it right now, so it’s just free flowing air from the sky above us, down into our cozy little living room. Great for Santa, not great for my utility bills. All things considered, the quote we got to repoint the fireplace (grout and fix the top), add a flue and add a cap on top, came in at just under $2,200. I can tell you right now, there are many other things I’d rather spend $2k on. Can I get an amen?

Moving on to other repairs I’d prefer not to spend my moo-la on, let’s talk about windows, shall we? Given that the house has been settling slowly over time (it was built in 1939) and the fact that things were made more severe by the leaning basement wall happenings, the windows in the house – well, they pretty much don’t open. Not a single one. Ok, like one. One opens.

Windows that Stick

In all seriousness, although this is definitely another expense we’ll have to incur down the line, it wasn’t a deal breaker for us. More than anything, I think we figure that we can do this gradually, as our budget allows. Plus, just think how nice brand spanking new windows will feel after having these relics for a bit! 😀

And the windows are definitely not the only thing that sticks. Anywhere that tape went up during the inspection, indicated a door that either wouldn’t open, or stuck enough to warrant a flag. You’ll notice a lot of blue tape in these photos 😉 At least renoing a kitchen falls into the fun category for me … so there’s that.

Cabinets that Stick

When we we’re going through and doing the routine inspection check points, we also noticed that the water pressure got really low when you ran more than one fixture at a time. Like flushing a toilet meant that your shower went from full blast to a wee little trickle. Although I could chalk this one up to old house charm, I really don’t want it to feel like we’re camping when I go to suds up at night.

Another culprit of the water issues could be found in our basement. See the areas of the pipe that are white and green? The copper in those spots is actually starting to thin out, which causes other plumbing issues to boot.

Pin Holes in Copper Pipes

It’s not a huge deal (per the inspector…) but it’s definitely something that we’ll want to fix down the line.

Another down the line change, is our furnace. It’s currently oil burning and OLD, which means it will be getting the heave ho eventually as well. A downside to having the oil furnace is that our water heater is electric as a result (no gas line), which is a much more expensive way to heat up the water. Essentially, what all this equates to is that we will have to install a gas line to run up to the house. The good news – the city does that for FREE!! The bad – we’ve gotta pay for the line once it enter the house – so there’s that 😀

Inspecting HVAC System

Just check out this relic! Old school, man.

Old Oil Burning Furnace

Lucky for us, the outside had much more manageable fixes. The inspector flagged things like this ivy, which he thought was too close to the house and could cause problems down the line by growing up the side and under the vinyl itself. We just need to keep an eye on it. Total cost = Free. 😀

Ivy Growing Next to House

Small things like this bump in our back deck was noted as well. Apparently it’s a trip hazard. Don’t tell Jay, but I want to rip the whole thing out anyway. I’ve got grand plans for a deck like this with an outdoor eating area like this. Swoon.

Bump on Deck

The front stoop also had a few cracks in it, that may or may not have led to some discoloring in the wood below the basement steps (water). We’ll have to keep a close eye on that situation as well, since we obviously don’t want any water damage! Whatever the fix lands up being, I really hope we can keep the front porch as is, since I really like it.

Cracked Front Porch

There was one money saving component on the house that’s definitely the hubby’s favorite feature. See that contraption on the ceiling? It’s a house fan that essentially sucks all the cold evening air in and puts all the hot stuffy air out. Pretty sweet for the southern summers headed our way soon!

House Attic Fan

For all the things that we’ll “need” to fix, we’re looking at right around $10k. Luckily not all of it needs to be done immediately but still – that’s not the best case scenario for buying a house. The good news, is that some of these issues kept other potential buyers away, so our willingness to deal with them allowed us to purchase in a neighborhood we would not have been able to afford otherwise.

As we tackle each issue, I’ll definitely be providing a holistic cost breakdown of how much each project sets us back. For my sanity, hopefully it’s on the low end!

Trinity Park

Call me biased, but I saved the best Durham neighborhood for last 🙂 They’re all lovely – but I literally could not be more excited to formally announce that we’ve found a little corner of Durham that we are going to call our very own. Yes sirree Bob, you’re hearing me right sons and daughters of mother earth, we found a HOUSE. Wooopie woo, frutie too, I’m so happy boom de boo.

It was a long time coming, but for the foreseeable future, we will be parking our little booties at this joint. Gah!!!! Pinch me, hit me, pummel me with a sucker punch. I think I’m in love.

Trinity Park Durham

Now if you’re looking at that house and saying to yourself, well Mary, I thought you were all about fixing up houses – that one looks done!?! I’d be more than likely to agree with you. Based on that house exterior, there is very little that I’d think needed to be done, too. But looks can be deceiving my friends … after the giveaway on Tuesday, y’all have got to come back on Wednesday to see just what I mean. This house was pretty much built in 1939, and not really updated since. Ok, I lied, window valances were added sometime in the 80’s (yep, those kind of window treatments…) 😀 Anyway, we’re still firming up the details on making this pad o-fficially ours, but if y’all swing back on Wednesday of this week, I’ll have a full coverage post where you can see the innards of this little charmer!

Other than the house being so ultra cute, the other thing that completely and totally sold us on this one was the absolutely stunning neighborhood all around it. It’s really a million times prettier than any neighborhood we ever could have hoped to call ours and I think I can speak for the mister as well when I say we’re pinching ourselves like whoa when we think about calling this home.

For those of you that like to get your bearings before you jump on in to anything, here is the Durham map again, so you can see what section of town we’re talking bout. We’ve already toured Watts-Hillandale and Forest Hills, and today we land in Trinity Park.

Durham Neighborhood Map

Lucky for us, this location is right in the middle of all the action. It’s close to the farmer’s market, walking distance to the downtown restaurants and bars and a quick walk to my work, too! Added bonus, our neighbor’s houses look like this!

Durham Real Estate

Yeah, we’re totally slumming it compared to the neighbors. 😀

Here is a view down the block so you can see a walking man vantage point.

Trinity Park Neighborhood

There is such pride of ownership in this neighborhood, and really a long tradition of families owning the same abode and just handing it on down to Jr. which made it pretty darn hard to find a place in this little section of town. Speaking of Jr’s, although little humans are not on the radar in the immediate future, when we do have them some day, this will be the school they’ll most likely be getting their learning on in.

George Watts Montessori School

Adorbs, right? It’s nestled right with all the houses, and only a few blocks away from our new place! As urban dwellers, one of our goals has always been to have our kids school close enough so that they can cart they’re own little booties there each day, vs. us have to do the whole mini-van routine, so finding a school so close to home made us pretty happy. Growing up, I was literally across the street from my elementary school, so I guess that it must have worn off on me somehow.

Here are some more of the neighborhood houses, this one’s kitty corner from the school. Is that front porch amazeballs, or what. NEED.

Homes in Trinity Park

I told y’all about my love affair with ivy covered walkways in my Forest Hills post, so you better bet I stopped in my tracks to snap a photo of this lovely looker.


Pretty much every house in this neighborhood has a porch that’s perfect for some sweet tea afternoon sipping. 😀 Seriously, everyone should move south, couldn’t we all use at least one sweet tea break a day? (Notice … more ivy)

Trinity Park Durham

This brick beauty is one of the quintessential Trinity Park looks. Classic and oh so fabulous. Sans a big old front porch, like many of the others, but I think that stately walkway makes up for it, don’t you?

Traditional Brick Home in Trinity Park | Durham, North Carolina

A lot of the homes in Trinity Park are pretty formal looking (like the one above) so I really like this craftsman bungalow below that’s rocking a lime green exterior. With bones that beautiful, this house could pretty much pull off any color combo!


Pretty nice little hunka chunka Durham, right? Can you see why we fell in love with this city?! I’m so excited to show all of you guys our new pad on Wednesday!! It needs a fair amount of elbow grease, but I’ve gotta tell you, I’m so, SO in love with it!

On the Hunt

Ya know, coming from the Ann Arbor Real Estate market (which is red smoking hot) I think Jay and I both thought that it would be easier to find a place to live down here in Durham. Although we had to wait it out a bit when we bought both our homes in Ann Arbor, it’s actually taking us quite a bit longer to find a pad here in NC. We’ve been scouring the market for a while now, and I’ve always had my eye on a set of reno’s going down near one of the downtown hot spots, called 9th Street. I knew we’d never purchase these homes since an investor was decking them out to the nines, but one of the units just came on the market and I just had to share all the amazingness with you guys. Buckle your seatbelts, it’s a beaut.

Flipping Real Estate

See that cute little blue number on the right? That’s the house – adorable, right?! (Keep in mind, I snapped these photos before it hit the market, so that front door and awning had not been painted yet). Y’all ready to see the AMAZING interior?

Right off the bat, you walk into a beautiful and open Living Space, complete with refinished floors and lots of natural light. I’m totally smitten with that glass tile around the fireplace as well.

Staged Living Room

Here’s another angle. Delicious. Love the double windows up front.

Staging Living Room

Off the Living Room, you’ve got hands down, one of the prettiest flipped kitchen’s I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

White Shaker Cabinets

MEOW. Look at those cabinets, the backsplash, just all of it.

White Kitchen Shaker Cabinets

So many perfect details.

Subway Tile Backsplash

I love that this house has a mud room off the back as well. With all the houses we’ve owned so far we’ve had rinky dink entries that definitely would not accommodate a space for a bench or any type of storage.

Small Mud Room

Capping off the downstairs, there’s a small little hall bath. Perfect for guests.

Small Hall Bath

Upstairs, you’ve got a roomy and gorgeous Master Suite. I’m a neutral’s girl, and usually find myself putting whiteish colors up on the wall, but man alive am I loving this seagreen color in the master.

Bedroom with White Oak

Here’s the room from another angle.

Bedroom with Dormers

Another one of my house bucket list items is actually having a bedroom big enough to put a pretty little bench in (it’s the small things, right?) So far, all our bedrooms have been so dang small that it’s really not possible to add a bench in.

Window Seat in Bedroom

Keeping it classy, they added a jaw dropping on suite. The door and that vintage chic hardware is just killing me.

Traditional Bath

You just can’t go wrong with a traditional subway tile pattern. It looks perfect against that light gray up on the walls. Notice the marble inset shampoo nook, too?

Bathroom with Subway Tile

And a grand finale for this grand tour of a grand old house is glorious little backyard. Although the landscaping is all new, it will fill out over time and make this a wonderful living space.

Side Porch

They even thought to put in some raised bed gardens! A renovation after my own heart. You can see from this back vantage view, that this house is divided into two identical duplex units, so everything you saw on this tour, is duplicated over on the left.

Raised Bed Garden

The dreamer and schemer in me would absolutely love to do renovations just like this one where no detail is overlooked. As someone that’s on the hunt for houses often, there is nothing that makes me cringe more than a poorly done flip with builder grade all over the place. Ahhh, but first, I’ve gotta find a place to land my booty – then I can worry about flipping some real estate! 😀

Rolling me Down the Highway

People, we’ve got some HUGE news to share. Gigantic. Life changing. I really can’t even believe I’m writing this post right now – everything still feels so abstract it’s hard to put my hands around it and accept that we’ve got a totally new future ahead of us.

See on Monday, this happened.

How to Sell Your Home

And instead of buying another house in lovely Ann Arbor, we’re moving on down to the land of the pines and setting up shop in Durham, NC! WHHAAAAAAAAA??? I know. That’s what I keep saying.

Let’s travel back a few weeks, and I can tell you our tale. See it all started when our attic looked like this (aka NOT done).

Drywalling Attic

My engineer of a husband got a call from a recruiter down in North Carolina, asking if he’d like to interview for a position with a company down in Research Triangle Park, basically a science and technology hub located close to Durham. We kind of looked at each other and shrugged. I mean, on one hand our attic looked like the photo above (scary). On the other, we’d always wanted to relocate to North Carolina and it kinda felt like exactly the right thing. Like we should at least try for it and see where we landed.

And in all honesty, we still haven’t completely landed. See Jay is still interviewing for that job. He’s had FOUR interviews with this company (including an in-person interview, where we drove down to Durham), and we are still waiting (on baited breath) to hear back from them.

But something else happened. While my husband was going through the interview process with this company, I thought I should probably start looking for a place to work, too. Just in case his job worked out. And as luck would have it, the exact position I’m working at right now opened up at Duke University. Since I work in a pretty niche job market (promotion of alternative transportation i.e. walking, biking, transit, etc) – it was pretty insane that a position like this just happened to pop up exactly when I needed it to. And guess what, I got the job. This is where I’ll be working. SOMEBODY PINCH ME. No, I take that back, SLAP ME.

Duke University Campus

I really couldn’t possibly be more excited about it. The job is part-time, which I feel is just right for this phase of my life. As you all know, things have been picking up a lot with interior design clients and of course there is the blog, so I feel like I’ll be able to finally find a bit more balance in my life, vs. working a full-time job, and then working at all my other side ventures practically full-time, too. I’m so excited to take all that extra time and put it back into growing a business that I absolutely love. Seriously, I’m SO EXCITED.

Durham North Carolina

Durham is such a cool city, too. We were not sure what to think about it, since we’d heard some mixed feedback from people. Now don’t get me wrong, Durham is so not Ann Arbor. It’s much more gritty, but in the best way possible. The city has got character and there are so many really, really cool things happening there. A lot of the neighborhoods are transitioning in the city right now, which I think will be a great opportunity for the Mr. and I. You all know that we don’t mind getting our hands dirty every once and a while, so moving into a city with so much activity and rejuvenation going on feels like a completely new and fresh adventure for us. We absolutely adored living in Ann Arbor, but it’s a city that has most definitely already arrived. In Durham, that growth and energy is just happening, so it’s very cool that we have the potential to be a part of that.

Historic Homes in Durham

We’re still not sure exactly what the future holds, but we know that as soon as the hubby has firm employment, that we will be on to the next house renovation in no time flat. And if you know me, you know I’ve already picked out that house! 😀 We are so hoping that the job he’s been interviewing for works out, and if it does, we should be in the next house by mid-April. Please cross your fingers for us!!

I know, from the deepest part of my heart, that this is the right path for Jay and I. We’ve dreamed so long about relocating down to North Carolina, so to actually have this be a new reality for us is just a beautiful thing. Even though we are so, SO excited, that doesn’t mean it’s not bittersweet for us. Michigan has been my only home. It’s where my family is. It’s where some of the best friends we’ve ever had the honor of knowing are. I’ll miss (so much!) being able to spend an afternoon with my Mom and sister, or going over to my parents house on a fall evening and watching football, or spending Thanksgiving saying grace with my hands clasped in a chain of 30+ relatives, all of them a part of me. I’ll miss the amazing group of people we’ve met in Ann Arbor, truly just incredible, hilarious, sincere human beings.

But if there is something I’m realizing as I get older, it’s that things won’t always, and can’t always stay the same. If you want something – you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there and fight for it, even if it hurts sometimes. There are so many things we will miss about our home in Michigan but I know it’s time to start the next chapter. And as bittersweet as this transition is, I know amazing, amazing things are so close to happening for us and that just excites the be-jesus out of me! We’re so excited to enter this next phase with open hearts and minds and can’t wait to have all of YOU along for the journey!