A Behind the Scenes Look at Our Concord Cottage Renovation by Elizabeth Coombs

So, I’ve been meaning to share a blog post about this for a while now!  Many of you may have seen some of the post-renovation photos of our little cottage in our hometown of New Albany on Facebook or Instagram, but I thought I’d give you a the behind the scenes scoop on our renovation – the ups and downs and everything in between.

At the beginning of our journey...

At the beginning of our journey...

I’d like to say the cottage renovation was my idea, and I was in it 100% from the beginning, but that just wouldn’t be true.  Braxton and I had talked before about one day buying a second home in our hometown of New Albany, Mississippi since we visit often, and thought that it would be nice to have our own space when we see family.  However, I didn’t think that two months after having a baby (our sweet Lily this past January) that we would even be remotely thinking about moving forward on something like that.  Braxton Coombs was thinking about it though. 

Braxton working on putting Duroc in the shower.

Braxton working on putting Duroc in the shower.

Let me tell you something about Braxton.  When he gets an idea in his head, he won’t let it go until he sees it come into action.  It’s a great quality most of the time - it’s what makes him a great businessman and a great leader.  But boy is he persistent, and he will pester the stew out of you until he convinces you or until you just flat out give up.  I can still remember our early days back in high school when he first switched schools from Ripley, our rival school, to New Albany.  We had a couple of classes together that sophomore year as well as lunch, and he would sit beside me in the lunchroom and poke on my arm to get me to pay attention to him - “Hey, Elizabeth….” poke, poke, “Hey, Elizabeth”, poke, poke.  Like I said…persistent.

Braxton's dad, using a chainsaw to demo the kitchen - persistence runs in the family...

Braxton's dad, using a chainsaw to demo the kitchen - persistence runs in the family...

Now a mother of a 2 ½ year old and a newborn, I was sleep-deprived, exhausted, and to be quite honest, I was having a really difficult time adjusting to caring for two children.  Braxton was trying his best to help, and he was very attentive and sensitive to what I was going through, but his timing was just a tad off when he started throwing around the idea of an investment property as a second home for us in Mississippi.  Somehow, he convinced me to load up the girls to take a trip to “visit family”, and while we were there he talked me into looking at a commercial space as well as a home – both of which needed a ton of work.  Neither looked like a great buy to me, but Braxton didn’t give up.  We returned home, and I thought his whim had passed, but not long after we had settled back into being back home in Atlanta again, Braxton came to me with a different property on his phone.  “It’s got two bedrooms, one bath, and a great yard for the girls to play in,” he said with excitement.  “It’s the perfect amount of space we need when we visit and a great price.  We’d have to put a little work into it, but just think about spending Christmas there this year!  Dad and Tanya have gone to look at it.  Here’s a video they took.  We can Air BnB through Concord Inn when we’re not using it!”

Braxton's dad leveling the kitchen floor.

Braxton's dad leveling the kitchen floor.

Well, needless to say, we bought it.  I lost track of the number of trips we loaded up the girls that spring and summer, going back and forth to work on it.  Braxton, his Dad, and his stepmom, Tanya, worked their butts off on it, and I worked when I could, mainly painting and going back and forth from my Mom and Dad’s between nursing Lily. I also researched and made all of the design decisions and carried poor Lily around with me on shopping trips to Homegoods, Lowes, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls while Allie was in school.  It was stressful, it was hard, and it was exhausting, but when it was all said and done, I think it turned out pretty awesome.

Braxton's stepmom busting up tile in the bathroom - impressive!

Braxton's stepmom busting up tile in the bathroom - impressive!

So now that we’ve covered a little of the backstory, let me tell you more about the design.  The cottage is a 1930’s Craftsman style home and it had original details that we wanted to keep during the renovation project – original hardwoods, moldings, a quaint butler’s pantry built-in, and operable transoms above the doors.  On the exterior, we removed the screens on the porch to open it up and fresh paint went a long way.  Braxton’s dad even built a couple of Adirondack chairs that I painted a light blue to match the porch ceiling and we added ceiling fans for those hot Mississippi summers.

The front porch with the adirondack chairs Braxton's dad built.

The front porch with the adirondack chairs Braxton's dad built.

The footprint of the home largely remained the same, but in the kitchen, removing a partial wall and extending the kitchen into the breakfast area went a long way in making it a much more functional space.  I chose navy cabinets and tried to stay true to the classic styling of the home by choosing a white subway tile backsplash and stone-look tile for the floors laid in a herringbone pattern.  Braxton also built and installed the open shelving on each side of the range and this not only saved money on cabinets, but kept the kitchen looking much more spacious than it did pre-renovation.

The kitchen pre-renovation.

The kitchen pre-renovation.

And After.

And After.

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In the dining room and living room, I continued with the navy and white color scheme, choosing an ikat medallion pattern for the dining room drapery and white Ikea panels for the living room in which I ironed on navy grosgrain ribbon (this house had a strict budget!)  We reupholstered a sofa that we inherited from Braxton’s parents in a navy herringbone, and I transferred a lot of our old furniture from Atlanta that we acquired when we first got married, sprucing things up with new pillows and fabrics.  In the hall, I used a bench that Braxton built with a herringbone patterned top (notice a design pattern here? – no pun intended!) from scrap wood, and I love the farmhouse globe light I found – it casts the neatest shadows in that space!

Dining Room Before

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After

Dining Room After

Living Room Before

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Living Room After

In the hall, I used a bench that Braxton built with a herringbone patterned top (notice a design pattern here? – no pun intended!) from scrap wood, and I love the farmhouse globe light I found – it casts the neatest shadows in that space!

Hall - See those shadows?

Hall - See those shadows?

Besides the kitchen, the bathroom went through a huge transformation as well.  We removed the tub, opened up the wall a bit more and opted for just a shower in that space.  The window proved to be a bit of a challenge, but we didn’t want to lose it because of the wonderful natural light.  We tiled up right around it, added a sloped edge, sealed it with a marine gloss used on boats, and added a frosted film for privacy.  Braxton and his brother, Adam, added wainscoting that we painted a warm gray, and we tiled all of the remaining walls in white subway with gray grout.  I love the white penny rounds on the shower floor and white marble was laid in a brick pattern on the floors.  The jewel of the bathroom is the open vanity that Braxton built, and I chose a round wooden mirror that pairs nicely with the vanity and ceramic white vessel sink.

Bathroom Pre-Renovation

Bathroom Pre-Renovation

Bathroom Post-Renovation

Bathroom Post-Renovation

In the master bedroom, again I reused much of our old furniture from when we first got married and added new bedding, pillows, and drapery to freshen things up, and I think it turned out pretty nicely!  In the girls’ room, I knew I wanted to do two twin beds, and luckily Braxton’s dad and stepmom had some twin mattresses that we were able to use, but I still needed to figure out a way to make the beds cute without spending a lot of money.  I decided I’d utilize Braxton’s carpentry skills yet again, so I got him to build two tall, yet simple headboards that I designed, painted, and added an upholstered insert to. I found a couple of little plug-in swing arm lights that I placed above the beds for reading lights, and I decided to do a white, yellow and gray color scheme to keep it somewhat gender neutral for our Air BnB guests that I knew would stay there, yet cute enough so that my girls would enjoy the room too.  I foresee some sweet little giggles coming from that room in our future!

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

Master Bedroom After

Girls Room Before

Girls Room Before

Girls Room After

Girls Room After

In the end, even though it was stressful and at times I was about ready tell Braxton to sell the house and get rid of it just so I could get some peace, I am so glad we pushed through, got it done, and will be able to enjoy it for many years to come! I can’t wait to spend our first Christmas there – stay tuned for a Christmas at Concord Cottage blog post coming soon!

A Big Girl Room for Allie by Elizabeth Coombs

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It was May of 2016.  We were in Orlando with my parents, taking Alexandria (“Allie”) to Disney World for the first time.  I woke up early that morning and discovered during my morning routine that I was expecting our second child.  With excitement, I went back into the room and woke Braxton to tell him.  As we shared a princess breakfast with my parents that morning in Epcot, we told them that the next time we came, we’d have a second child that would be able to share in on the fun.  They were overjoyed and so were we.

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We soon found out that we were having another precious little girl, and I began trying to think of the best way to utilize space and furnishings for our growing family.  I decided that we would move Allie out of the nursery to make room for her little sister and that she would have her very own “big girl room.”   

I began looking for inspiration and measured the space just as I do for my clients.  I decided that the best focal point in the room would be to put a daybed in front of the two windows, and the twin mattress would be the perfect size for Allie to transition into from her crib.  I had fallen in love with an idea I found where a king headboard was used as the back of the daybed and built-ins were nestled on each side.  The only problem was that the only logical wall for the bed was in front of the windows as I mentioned, and there simply wasn’t enough space (or budget) for built-ins.

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I searched for white wood daybeds, but I couldn’t find anything I liked.  Luckily, I have a handy husband who is great at carpentry, so I drew up a sketch, and he built the bed for me and then attached the headboard to the back bedrail. I pulled the hot pink, aqua, and cream color scheme from a painting that reminded me of Allie’s sweet, yet colorful personality, and I found a beautiful Capiz shell chandelier that was the perfect statement piece in the room. We moved a chest from our master bedroom into the space as we were likely to have to find it a new home anyway once we started on that project, and I found a tufted chair and skirted ottoman where I envisioned reading Allie bedtime stories and sitting to put on her shoes.  Braxton’s aunt hand-knitted a gorgeous hot pink herringbone throw blanket, and I placed a beautiful stuffed horse on the skirted table by the chair that Braxton picked up for Allie during his work travels to India before she was born.

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People ask me a lot, “How does your house always look so put together and clean, especially with young children?”  I just laugh to myself because that is just so not the case. Believe me, my toddler’s bedroom does not always look like this image of perfection – truth be told, the main image was a second run after taking photos with a cranky toddler the day before while her younger sister cried for me to pick her up (she loves to be held – like all the time!). Toys and clutter were all shoved into the nearby playroom, and I shot the photos in my workout clothes (that I did not work out in). I was un-showered, hair in a ponytail, and not a trace of makeup to be found on my poor face. Also, if you saw the condition of my kitchen and family room at those moments, many of you might be appalled!

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I say all of this so as not to give a false sense of perfection – moms nowadays don’t need any more of that.  I’ve been given a unique gift by my Creator to “make stuff  pretty” as my sweet Allie says of what I do, but that does not mean that everyone has that ability or that things look picture perfect and magazine ready all of the time.  If it did, that would be pretty boring and no one would ever have any fun!  I say all of this because I just hope that what I do as an interior designer can make someone’s life better, more beautiful, more functional, and that they know that what they may see personally as their imperfections, God sees as a beautiful mess!

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which was also laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12