I made a page with information about the third fixer house we bought in February…and forgot to share that bittle in a post or on social media. Oops.
My brain is scrambled. I finished taxes, hired movers to get the rest of our stuff in house 3 (I hurt my back and am out of the game) and finally switched all accounts and whatnots (including our refinishing business) to the new house. It’s been a busy 6 months friends. A cross country move, stint in a rental house, establishing a business in a new state, and searching then buying another house will do that to you.
By the way, I am in love with this next house. It’s different from the other two. Just check out that page to see for yourselves.
So, the whole Pacific Northwest thing we worked hard to make happen…we obliterated that after almost 4 years there and moved with Greg’s new-ish job to Richmond, Virginia. Yeah, it was a tough decision. We’re 2,860 miles away from that life.
A simplified version of what went down goes like this: we couldn’t afford to move closer to that facility (north of Seattle…think where the tech companies and persons live) and Greg’s 4 hour a day drives 5x a week weren’t all that fun after a year. Or ever. He spoke with a few other places-most of which were in Richmond, like all of them that were viable. We hadn’t pinpointed which place to try when Greg’s current company offered him the chance to transfer. Yeah, they have a facility here, too. He loves his job. It’s closer to family. We might actually get to see more than once every few years. If it doesn’t work out, we know a few other options. We took it as a sign and moved forward. I miss the PNW, but Greg, not so much.
For now, we’re excited to make a life here in RVA. We’re looking for our 3rd fixer upper house. We’ve been looking for 4 months. Being mid-November, not an ideal time of year to search, we might be facing staying in this small rental house longer than anticipated. I expected that, though. Can you believe-if you recall we own a furniture refinishing/design business called Em & Wit Design-we are living where there isn’t a garage or basement or workspace of any sort? I know! I do have an office. It inspired me to get back on here and update those of you who have stuck around or those of you who are new. Any newcomers can see the before & after photos of our first fixer upper house here.
We lived south of Seattle, northeast of Tacoma in a city called Auburn. Auburn was…rough. I mean up-and-coming. The location of our 1949 vintage fixer was strategic on our part. We had a feeling it would be a good place to invest our time and we were right (just like the first fixer upper in Northfield, MN). To read more about the house when we first bought it, check out this post from March 2015. You can also simply scroll through the posts to find a few more dedicated to the Washington house. If you’re in it for photos, you’re about to get them in this post. Big time.
I do numbers. Not to be snooty but for educational purposes. We put 5% down and about $42,000 into remodel/repairs with 95% on our shoulders (electrical, basement remodel, loads of landscape work, exterior paint, kitchen and 2 bathroom makeovers, hardwood floor refinishing, new doors, new patio, new porch, etc.). We bought it in March 2015 for $218,500. We sold it in August 2018 for $395,000. That’s nearly a $135,000 profit after the remodel costs. Both of us have full time jobs outside of this. As much as we’d love to, we can’t yet only do houses (and furniture). That’s about double the first house’s profit in the same amount of time.
We wanted to do it again…but the whole moving 50 miles north to be nearer to Greg’s job, knowing many of the affordable fixers were in absolutely terrible neighborhoods wasn’t thrilling. Auburn wasn’t great either. We tried. We tried so freaking hard that we stayed in the house a year longer than we wanted after remodeling it trying to make it work.
Anyway…photos. Before and after! Are you ready?!
Wait wait wait. Both “professional photographers” took crappy photos both years. (We attempted to put the house on the market in 2017 but he got that new job so we stayed. Then we actually listed in summer of 2018.) It’s a touchy subject. Luckily I took my own but even then they aren’t terrific. I kept thinking “oh, I’ll be getting pro photos of this place” so I didn’t take that many in the end. The first photog turned on all the lights (they both did) then edited all photos to be super saturated so any wood tone (like our gorgeous floors) looked orange, bright orange. My entire palette in the house was natural wood, white walls, cool paint shades, matte black accents and his photos turned everything the exact opposite. Makes it hard for buyers to get an accurate portrayal and makes this remodeler nervous. It was my own personal hell after we worked very hard for a few years to finish the house. I had to tell myself to focus on the other parts-like moving yet again across the country, the feelings I had relating to regret, finding a rental in Virginia from Washington state and planning a visit to see family (and dealing with a nightmare neighbor…I’m not going there). And several rooms had the loveliest natural light pouring in. Deep breath. I miss that house. That experience makes me feel better about my own photography skills but sad I do not have them for this place. See? Touchy subject. Here is a blend of mostly my and a few of their photos.
How does this work? I’m a 10 year blogger between 3 blogs and it’s been so long since I made an appearance on any of them that I couldn’t recall the process of logging in and making words appear on a post. It’s apparently NOT like riding a bicycle for me. I’ll jump in and format my info like this:
1) It’s August 2017. Already. Greg started his new engineering job last week. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about unless you follow our Instagram account (the one I said I would use strictly for furniture refinishing…see how well that worked).
Quick recap-he lost his job, the one that moved us to the PNW, in December. A few people lost their jobs with the CEO stepping down and some changes were made. It took 5 months for him to find another engineering job. During those 5 months, we did other contract design jobs and finished remodeling our current home. It’s ready to go on the market. We did 95% ourselves. We were exhausted. It looks pretty snazzy.
This antique folding wood table recently sold. In other news, I’m gathering more plants to add to my collection because I’m a crazy plant lady these days.
Anyway, we tried to make it work to be full time real estate investors and attempted to start a business with an acquaintance in the realm of commercial reupholstery…didn’t work out. Full time real estate investors will come later. We’re working on it. We attempted to pair with an established upholstery business in Seattle (residential/commercial upholstery being Greg’s engineering career for 9 years) but you’d be surprised to learn just how messy the place runs (feels like they could fall apart with any minor issue). Sooo, we parted ways (and felt a lot better about our work ethic compared to them). For half a second we thought we were moving to New Hampshire, but decided to stay and take the position north of Seattle. We worked too hard to get here to leave less than 3 years later.
2) That said, we are in the midst of looking for our next fixer upper home north of Seattle (the 3rd!). Many of our furniture refurbishing clients live in that area, so that is exciting! We had to pause putting this house on the market until we find another, which has taken months and months in the past, as you might recall in past posts. We are just as picky about our fixer homes as we are with furniture. Again, you know. Greg does have a 4 hour daily commute, though, which is going to get old fast. Traffic sucks here.
3) We are taking on only a few client projects at this time. I am doing a few of my own projects, soon to be on the market. They will be available at our Auburn home shop (25 miles south of Seattle). Keep an eye on our Instagram account, Etsy shop or Seattle Craigslist. I will let you know when that location changes and when we’re taking on more client pieces.
4) Here are the current available pieces (as of 8/10/2017) for our Seattle/Tacoma area shoppers. $750 for the antique pine armoire, $350 for the blue dresser, oak buffet is $550. Find their details here. Email emandwitdesign at gmail if you are interested or have questions about refinishing your own project piece. Love to help!
5) Most importantly around here, I will be back to share the photos, before and after, of finished house #2. It’s a beauty.
This is what we’re up to, have been for a while. A sort of rebranding. Em & Wit Design. Well, we’re still the Wits, but we’re also Em & Wit. Read on, friends.
Before moving to our current house (project), I toyed with the idea of switching things up. New side of the country-Midwest to the PNW, new house to fix, goals achieved, new goals created, things of this nature.
Over the years, here at the Wits, the website became more about remodeling our homes (we’re on #2 working towards its resale in a year and doing bigger things) versus our furniture refurbishing. I knew I wanted to separate those parts of our lives because they have grown into two different beasts and it can be hard to follow. For both you and the two of us.
One of the five newest pieces
While finishing some home improvement projects over our last year, I tried thinking about the details. What I wanted to put out there, what I didn’t, the look, I wanted to create space in our house for a shop, etc.. We weren’t tackling furniture whatsoever during that time, which I felt guilty about, so I justified it by planning this feat. I wanted to say hey, Washington, we’re here and we’re pretty cool.
Another piece recently finished
I purchased domains, absorbed info about rebranding, designed a few site options, collected some pieces to refurb (we currently have 5 new pieces freshly finished and waiting to be revealed), researched the market, tested for our demographic, etc..
I aged these handles myself
It’s trickier getting people to come where we’re located than our last house in Minnesota (which had its own issues). #traffic And the city we’re in does not have a terrific rep, not much going on here, but it tries. It’s getting better. What a city slogan, huh?
You probably won’t be surprised, but figuring out a name was one of the truly difficult parts. Until a few months ago. That’s when Em & Wit Design popped into my head. It’s a mix of my maiden name and (of course) Greg’s family name, both shortened.
Speaking of new names, you can follow our newer Instagram account-emandwitdesign (we are still at the old too).
Once that was settled, the new website came along (I’m still tweaking it). Em & Wit is the place all about our furniture refurbishing. The Wits is now strictly house talk. Which brings me to this…
I left off in February (!) and it’s now June, almost July. I last told you about our kitchen being nearly done and the master bedroom being finished.
We even found time for a weekend getaway in April driving up the Washington coast around Olympic National Park. Absolutely beautiful. I’m so glad we moved.
We have since tackled the exterior, ripped out pretty much all of the old landscape around the house, sanded the siding, removed/repaired (still doing this part) the gutters and simply have been working to give the house more curb appeal. We are, oh, about 75% finished and about to build a new front porch (we’ve been without for over a month which is our solution to solicitors).
I will not tell you how many samples we tried…
Infact, we need to finish this porch so customers can visit our shop. We briefly (it happens more often than we lead you to believe) went into a crazed state, stemming from bliss regarding the exterior looking much better, and attacked the old porch with hammers until not much was left. Then we woke up, the stairs were gone, looked at each other and said we don’t have the budget to fix this yet, hmmm. Rolling onto the waist-high platform is not going to cut it. Not that I wouldn’t want to see that…
Before (that was an egg someone threw on the window before we bought the place)
For now: new exterior paint in green with a slight hint of blue
The second bedroom is finished. While the master is deep, dark navy, this room is lighter green-blue. Both are cozy.
We decided to switch gears from working outside and began doing minor repairs to the cracks in the walls and ceiling in the living and dining rooms with new coats of paint following. The carpet was finally removed. Donezo.
The trim is painted white, the walls are white. The natural light floods in and this = amazing. I am a fan of white paint + white paint in a room.
It never ceases to amaze us how paint can help almost anything. The white accents and highlights the furniture and art in the room. I added some cafe curtains slightly higher than mid-window thus privacy and light.The floor was sanded and oiled, too. I sometimes go in there and spin in circles with a big smile on my face. (Weirdo style.)
Before we oiled the floor. The pups gave their approval and we used the space as storage for our newly finished pieces. On the market soon, folks.
We finished a few other small projects and are heading back outside soon. Several of our neighbors have stopped by and told us how great the place is looking these days. #homeproud #superduperbusy #superduperlovingit
We really only have the bathroom and hallway to finish upstairs, semi-finish the basement (half will be storage). Oh, paint the garage, maybe fix that roof, oil the garage doors, then some minor projects and we’re good to go. Had I just said that in the first house I would have been stressing, but we’re more experienced now and that message is a relief. Just maybe I’ll bring you guys along with more posts and none of this ‘months of silence around here’ bullcrap. You could always stop by emandwit.com, just sayin’.
I’ll leave you with this photo of our growing stash of pieces (aka dresser jenga) to repair and refurbish in our workshop. Life is good.
I’d like to take the time to share the two rooms we have finished nearly finished in fixer upper house #2. 98% of the kitchen is done and, back in September, we completed our master bedroom. I wasn’t kidding in that last post about keeping updated through Instagram versus the blog. I am much more present there. And my Pinterest account. Like a crazy, design-obsessed person hoarding all the pretties.
Back in November I sold a domain I’d been holding onto, for the food blogger part of me, which funded a good part of the kitchen, including Ikea cabinets in place of using the old that was our original plan. This Ikea experience did not go as well as the last one. With 2 Ikea kitchens under our belts, using two different Ikea stores, I’m going to say it depends which store you use. Minnesota Twin Cities Ikea was better in every aspect versus Seattle Ikea. I’ll just add that the experience started when we went in to order our kitchen and the employee most likely accidentally deleted our design and I had to sit and plan the whole thing by memory. Or our having to unload most of our 300+ boxes ourselves when the “delivery” team arrived. Or the hours we spent on hold for customer service (5 times) versus a rather quick response in Minnesota. To be fair, maybe some of it revolves around the new Ikea store they are building here in Washington.
The old cabinets went to a kind woman whose home had been damaged by one of the northern Washington wildfires. Horrible, awful event. She had started the purchasing process just before the wildfire came, couldn’t pull her offer and didn’t want to lose the money she put down, so her retirement house was in need of serious work before she could even move in. She says she was lucky because her neighbor’s homes were completely destroyed. I can’t imagine.
On to the point of the post, though. Any resource questions or questions in general, direct my way by comment or email. Those who know us know “finished” means the room and not necessarily all the parts of decorating. We are still working on the finishing touches like an eat in dining area and an island. Please excuse the poor quality photos.
What are we up to now? As of mid-March, we will have been in this place, our first Washington house, for a year. We intend to have it finished in the next year (probably slightly longer) and move on to our next adventure. We’re hoping it works out that we go full-time with remodeling houses and start building our own heirloom quality furniture. I’m dreaming and scheming on that idea so hard, people.
We’re working on some furniture pieces for the kitchen (maybe I’ll get some more professional-looking shots in there….maybe). I’m obsessed with old wooden folding tables like wallpaper and Indian event style. I found one on Etsy and the lovely woman, Brenda in Pennsylvania, gave me a great deal and shipped it super fast to me. I was made well-aware of its issues (unlike an antique library table I found not far from here, where the seller did not divulge such important information…more about that later), so we’ll be working on these tables.
I’m working on both bathroom designs. Seeing the kitchen come to fruition has inspired me even more. I have a much better sense of the style and design for the rest of the house. I’m being a little bolder in the future. Maybe bolder is not the right word, but it is different from our last house. Says the lady who kept with the white kitchen with oil rubbed bronze accents and butcher block counters for both house’s kitchen remodels.
We are starting to work on framing the basement bathroom, knocking out the old shower stall, repairing some drawers on 3 dressers in prep for my finishing their refurbishing, and pumping ourselves up for repairing the drywall in the second bedroom followed by removing the texture on the walls in the hallway/dining and living rooms. Finally going to take out this carpet soon!
And omg the moss. No one warned us about the moss. It is causing some problems on the roof of our garage and patio, so that will need addressed when warmer weather hits. I have nearly wiped out a few times from the slick moss on our brick sidewalk. I think a past post was all “oh, I love the soft moss yard we have in front.” I only like it there, in the yard. The landscape, more of it than we did last year, will be taken out in prep for painting the house after a good sand and scrape. That will probably be one of the last things we do due to the budget and priorities, though. I imagine we’ll be working on the inside of the house more than outside this spring and summer, the opposite of last year.
Have you finished any home improvement projects? I’d love to see and hear about it.
It probably could go without saying, but we’re obviously busy elsewhere and not posting much these days. If any of you are truly curious, you can see what we’re up to through our Instagram account (anniewitkamp). Greg and I are probably 70% finished with our kitchen remodel on house #2, so you will most likely see those photos at the top. Umm, it’s pretty and getting prettier. (Sorry to those of you who do not have an Instagram account.) You’ll also see the food I’m cooking, our travels, our pups (recently in raincoats), and other rando bits of life (out of the old raincoat…Washington, it rains a lot…). Instagram is about all I want to handle these days in social media. I’ve simplified life and it’s been terrific.
Oh, and happy new year! Sending good vibes your way.
We’ve been in the house for 1 1/2 weeks now. The rental house was cleaned and ready to go a week ahead of schedule and our deposit already refunded.
So far the two of us have added lighting to the garage, switched out lights in the house, gave away the old by listing them on Craigslist (my old friend), organized every room, purchased oil for the furnace, unpacked, cleaned up the landscape/raked the remaining leaves, bought and used a reel mower, ordered blinds, picked up paint and wall repair materials, bought shelves and tables to work on outside, have had several electricians in to quote switching out the electrical panel (after finding that there was some “foul play” after it was inspected in 1997 concerning the correct service/etc….that has been frustrating to learn especially after having the house inspected previous to purchasing it and none of these visible issues were mentioned…which could cost us 3x what we were previously quoted and credited), bought one of these highly recommended Saatva mattresses, went over design ideas and about a dozen other small things were accomplished.
Greg got this label printer. Like a happy boy these days (as seen on Instagram when he labeled his beer). There have been only 7 trips to Home Depot and a few to Lowes-our trips to Menards are a thing of the past. The schedule is set for projects yet open to change. It’s nice to be busy and making improvements once again. But most of all we’re enjoying the space.
Greg and I are in love with the house as are the pups. We’ve met most of our neighbors, adore that kids play outside almost every day, and it appears to be a dog-friendly area judging by the number of dogs around and that we see going walkies. One of our neighbors is from Minnesota and grew up not far from our last house. How cool is that?
This weekend will involve organizing the garage better so I can get my bum in there to refurb some furniture. I have a wall of dressers and a number of things favorited on Craigslist. I’m also looking for items to make an outdoor theater (projector, screen, outdoor sectional) to take advantage of the beautiful summer we keep hearing about here. I’ll check back later when I have a project worth sharing. (There is no April foolery going on here even though it is April 1st…by the way, this is Greg’s favorite “holiday” so I’m just waiting for some of his antics…wish me luck.)
We're Annie and Greg Witkamp (aka the Wits, aka Em & Wit Design). We salvage, refurbish and design furniture and homes. We're taking a break from an online & social media presence (for the most part). Our time on the blog was memorable and fun, but we're off to other projects and opportunities. Most derived from our shenanigans here. We'll drop in once in a while, but just know we're off chasing our dreams, tackling goals and living a life we enjoy.
Our specialty is wood furniture in rough shape that we come across on craigslist, at estate sales, on the curb, in a barn, you get it. Those pieces are cleaned, repaired, refurbished and good to go for years to come. Sometimes we design our own pieces.
As of spring 2016, we decided to make this website, the Wits, about our remodeling homes and emandwit.com about the furniture. You can shop there, ask us questions, see our newly finished pieces and portfolio.
We sold our second remodeled home near Seattle in August 2018 and moved to Richmond, Virginia. Getting to Washington was a goal that took years to achieve, but we had an opportunity come up and we grabbed hold (again)!
You can watch our journey right here, there, and/or through Instagram.
-To see the projects we did to our first home, check out the home improvement page. To see our current home projects, scroll through the most recent posts. (I need to update that....)