The Longest Year (Alternately Titled : How We Learned To Love Our House) | McGowan Images Blog


The Longest Year (Alternately Titled : How We Learned To Love Our House)

A year ago.

It’s been a year since we started this project.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that at least with regards to the renovation of our beloved little house, it’s been a rough year.

And really, in general, the time since early September 2014 has been insane. We’ve built important new relationships, and lost relationships we never thought we’d lose. We’ve traveled. We’ve had family triumphs and family emergencies. Mack and I have lost a TON of weight… and differently from the last 5 years of yo-yo dieting. New friends didn’t recognize us in two year old pictures last week, and that was awesome.

And in that way, it seems pretty fitting that our tiny house has undergone such a massive transformation in the same year.

Originally, we were NOT expecting to be talking about this project in September 2015. We hired & planned last September, started construction in October, and were resoundingly assured that everything would be done by Halloween 2014.

So, obviously, I could talk for several paragraphs about the things that went wrong, and the things that were upsetting… yada yada yada.

But you know what? That doesn’t help anything. It’s in the past, and over. There are things we wanted to do that didn’t get done, like re-siding the house, landscaping, a garage, some master bedroom work… but those can happen in the future. What DID get done is completely beautiful, and what matters is that we ADORE our home right now. Oh, yeah, and one more thing matters… showing it off on the blog. 😉

When we can sit out on our beautiful deck in the evening, after the kids have gone to bed… when we entertain in our gorgeous kitchen… when we’re watching movies in what feels like a much larger living room with gorgeous custom uplighting and killer custom shelving… when we walk on our beautiful new floors… that’s when we remember that we totally did the right thing.

In 2008, this house was someplace we were living “for now”.

In 2009, we planned a small renovation that didn’t happen, and ended up just slightly retooling the bathroom.

In 2010, Dorothy was born, so we built the office cabin on our property and decided we’d stay for a couple years.

In 2013, we started the process to build a new house… met with the builder, had the plans, the whole 9. We changed our minds the night before we signed the loan papers.

In 2014, we started the process of making this house… this little house that we used to hate and felt stuck in… we started making this house our Forever Home. The only place Dorothy will have ever lived, and the only place Jack will ever remember living. The home where we started our marriage, and fought to save our marriage. The home we made entirely our own, while also paying respect to the 100+ years of history these walls have seen.

For reasons practical, and financial, and largely sentimental, Mack and I have no interest in leaving this house. I mean, life changes… we know that. We can’t predict what our reality will be in 20 years.

But for now, our future is in these walls. There’s still work to be done… (anyone want to trade siding labor for wedding photography? 😉 ) but we are happy. We love this little house. It’s OURS. It feels like us, it looks like us, and we yearn for it when we travel.

We’re so glad, so very very glad, that the discontent of a few years ago has vanished into memory. This is our home, and we’re proud of it, and we’re so enjoying this new season in life of filling it to the brim with visitors, friends, family, parties, and laughter.

And now… I know the reason you’re reading this blog. Let’s have some photos, shall we?

This is what our house looked like when we started our renovation process a year ago:


That was the living room. We had done the best we could with art & furniture, but the weird half walls and drop beams everywhere were just WEIRD. The only way to fit ourselves into the space was to completely obscure the huge window I loved, and the little sort-of-a-hallway between the living room and the bedrooms was just a lot of wasted space.

This is the living room now:


Gone are the useless sort-of-a-hallway and the stupid drop beams. In their place, a killer media wall constructed with black iron piping and wood reclaimed from the original walls of the house. Gone is the strange divider between the kitchen and the living area. In its place is a gorgeous custom bar with mercury glass cabinets and barstools built by Mack. Gone is the exercise bike and bookshelf that honestly were just trying to fill weird cubbies that would otherwise house only cobwebs and collected laundry. In their place, the awesomesauce custom barcart that Mack built.

Gone also is the dim lighting, replaced with custom fully controllable LED uplighting that is most often just a soft pretty white, but can be programed to any color of the rainbow and changing cycles, so it’s perfect for parties or movie nights.

Before the year is out, we hope to complete this wall with our custom “McGowan Adventures” map, by collaging it with framed prints of our favorite travel photos.

This is now not just a space where people lazily land… this is a space where our family LIVES. It’s where we relax and unwind. It’s where we read. It’s where we entertain friends sprawled all over on barstools and couches and the lovely little storage bench that Mack built. It’s beautiful and we love it. You can also check this useful reference if you need more storage space to store your valuable items.

This was our kitchen, a year ago… also known as the absolute bane of Mack’s existence:


This is our kitchen NOW, Mack’s favorite thing in the whole world:


Yeah. That’s our microwave. We didn’t want to lose counterspace, so we splurged on this drawer-style unit. It’s magical.

Gone are the cabinets that were about as old as my grandparents. In their place, BEAUTIFUL custom ones that give Mack all the space he ever needed for kitchen storage. Gone, too, is the weird countertop that was uncomfortably low, as if built for a person who was 5 feet tall with very short arms. In its place, beautiful stained concrete at a perfect height. Gone is the sliding glass backdoor that never closed properly. Gone is the single tiny closet pantry, and the weird little corner alcove for the old Craigslist stove, that always made Mack feel like he was cooking in purgatory. Instead, a gorgeous gas range with touch screen, and a vent hood that made Mack swoon. Ugly linoleum… also gone. Killer stainless steel clad backsplashes have replaced that. The sliding glass door is now a wall with a lovely window, and the entire back wall of the house has been rebuilt to feature French doors out onto a patio that didn’t used to exist.

We love our kitchen.

Also, we love that we have a better place to display some of our weird art collection… like street art purchased in New Orleans, and Mack’s cricket bat, which is both an homage to our love of the “Blood & Ice Cream” movies, and a very real weapon in case of zombie apocalypse. All showcased around a killer coat rack that Mack built himself… (How handy is this hunk??)


We won’t be sharing any photos of the master bedroom, because that’s one of the areas of the house that didn’t get addressed at all. We closed off part of the wraparound porch to make a proper laundry room, and that’s now an addition to our bedroom. But we have major plans for that part of the house that we just didn’t get to this go-round, so while we like our bedroom just fine, there’s nothing really to show off in there right now. 🙂

We redid the bathroom when Dorothy was born, because it used to have just a stall shower. And, like the living room with all the extra half-walls, it had a ton of unusable space that ticked me off every time I thought about it. And… well, because we had this thing with bright colors… we painted it ORANGE. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was not.

Now, MERMAIDS. And a tub with jets. Swoon.


This was Jack’s bedroom a year ago… a teeny tiny closet of a room with no closet, but high ceilings, so a loft bed served both to increase floor space and give us a place to hang clothes.


This is Jack’s room now:


It’s also not completed… Mack is building him a bed with storage underneath, and custom shelving, and we’re ordering a full wall map of Gotham City to put on one of the walls. But thanks to an amazing barn-door design by our contractor and an added closet (part of the same addition as our new laundry room, which butts up against it and just took up part of our unused side of the wrap-around porch), he’s got MUCH more room. This fall, finishing Jack’s room is our number one priority, but he already loves it to pieces.

This was Dorothy’s room a year ago:


Because it was the most recently addressed room in the house, given that she’s who moved in most recently, it wasn’t dreadful. The bed took up too much space and left no toy storage, and the closets were overflowed with everyone’s extra clothes and other junk that had no home. She couldn’t play in there and didn’t want to, and we knew it didn’t feel like “her space”, the way every kid should have a safe place.

This is Dorothy’s room now:


Services from Neat Cleaning helped us to have good and beautiful house to live and enjoy every moment .The big bed was rehomed, and in its place, a lifted loft bed that she absolutely adores . The drawers on every side give so much storage, and the dresser chunk in the middle pulls out easily to create an almost instant blanket fort underneath. The yellow that I picked for her nursery is gone too, replaced with crisp clean white and a red wall with Minnie Mouse polka dots that she’s crazy proud of.

The closets have been cleared of everyone else’s junk. Now, she’s got a closet for boxed storage and dress-up clothes, a closet for her every day dresses and coats, and a reading nook.

Dorothy loves this space now. She plays in there and imagines in there, and shows it off to everyone that comes over. That makes my heart happy.

When we originally planned the renovation, adding a big deck wasn’t on our list. But once we realized that our plan for the kitchen necessitated the removal of that hideous and ancient sliding glass door onto a rickety step that led to the horrid chain length fence… well, as Tom Hardy would say, we started to “dream a little bigger, darling”.

This was our yard, a year ago.You’ll also notice this is before the house was painted… we’re really glad we went ahead and invested in that first, since it’ll be another year or so before we get the whole thing reclad in vinyl siding. (one of the wonders of buying a 100+ year old house, but it’s so totally worth it!) And no… that recliner didn’t permanently live on our front porch. We were giving it away and waiting for someone to pick it up. Our house might have been totally busted, but give us SOME credit!


And this little bit of heaven is our backyard now.


The deck is HUGE and holds so many people laughing and having a great time. Mack strung the café lights, and built this awesome picnic table with built-in coolers (thanks Pinterest!). Mack had a firepit custom fabricated, and he buried it back here.

The chain link fence is gone, replaced with a lovely tall wooden fence that makes this space feel like a sanctuary. Our awkward side yard with no boundaries is now a proper space, and neatly encloses our heavy bag and the tire we flip when we work out at home.

We have more plans for this outdoor oasis… we want to rock a path from the deck to the fire pit, and put a lava rock ring around it with Adirondack chairs. After the siding on the house is re-done (I repeat, anyone want to work out some sort of deal that involves amazing photos??) there will be landscaping with crepe myrtle trees and a trellis wall on the west side of the deck, and an arbor ceiling with a fan that will make it more pleasant in warm weather. Hopefully, Dorothy’s playhouse in the front yard will be moved back here soon, and will sit next to the propane tank against the fence so we can see her playing from the kitchen.

And in our dream future, we’ll eventually buy the land behind us that’s completely unused, and stretch this backyard back another acre or two with more trees… a true little garden oasis all our own.

From the front, you wouldn’t think this little house had undergone a massive transformation in the past year. Someday, with new siding and a new roof that was fixed by the highest rated roofing contractor and company in Indianapolis and fresh paint and a proper driveway and landscaping and a rock path from our home to our office… someday, we’ll pull up to the front drive and feel like it looks how we want it to look. Someday.


But the way it looks right now… we’re so proud of it. It’s ours. Every single design decision in this house is intentional, and every bit of our small space is utilized. We have beautiful light and more room to enjoy. We have a home that we feel like we can genuinely live in, and be happy in, forever and ever. We have what feels like an attainable dream of our children bringing THEIR children to visit us in the house they grew up in. We have a place that suits us, the cost of which still allows us to live the wandering gypsy life we prefer.



The house we “ended up in” and “tolerated”… the house we dreamed of leaving someday… now, this is our HOME. And really, from the beginning of this process, that feeling was all we wanted.

  1. Adria says:

    All of the exclamation points!!!!! I L-O-V-E everything about this post! I love how beautifully your house has turned out, I love how big you dream, I love the personal little touches that make it so VERY McG, and I always love a personal blog post – getting to see behind the curtain of those wonderful creative brains of yours! As a relatively new McG recruit turned bestie, it’s hard to remember that you haven’t always been who you are now, and this post was totally fascinating to me! I love all of my McGs (puppies included!)

  2. Tarah says:

    Oh my gosh! LOVE! This is so you, and it’s beautiful! TOTALLY worth the wait! Congrats on your new home!

  3. Jess Poole says:

    Major kitchen envy happening right now! House turned out gorgeous!!

  4. Megan Gray says:

    Holy geez wow. This is so amazing. I can’t even find the words.

  5. Cindy Horne says:

    I love the renovations, it’s absolutely stunning! So happy for you and your family!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Absolutely Amazing!!! Great job you guys and what a home!!!

  7. Ann says:

    So much fun. At least the post was. I know getting here – not so much. McGs I love your home. It IS so you and will be even more fabulous when you get all your “dream plans” finished. Can’t wait to see the continuing story unfold!!

  8. Bethe says:

    LOVE your new house, and LOVE that we have already gotten to enjoy that patio and eat dinner in your kitchen and lounge in your living room. Will says we’re going to use every square inch of our space, if it means installing hooks and shelving up to the ceiling. Because a home doesn’t have to be big to use it well!

  9. Kathy says:

    I know first hand how frustrating the process can be! I think you did a marvelous job of planning and designing. The “little” house looks amazing now!

  10. Dawn says:

    I never saw the house before these renovations, but I LOVE seeing how you guys re-imagined all the spaces! Also, thanks again for the bike. 😉

  11. Vicky says:

    It looks amazing! It doesn’t even look like the same house! I know the process was hard, but man, it looks KILLER!!

  12. Chelsea says:

    Wow… I LOVE your kitchen! What a beautiful home.

  13. Kylie says:

    Oh my gosh, you guys did such a fantastic job!
    I love everything about this new space. Isn’t it so nice to finally love where you live?
    GREAT JOB, it’s fabulous!!

  14. Cassi says:

    LOVE your home!!! It’s so beautiful and cozy and totally YOU!! Nothing better than an old farmhouse full of memories! So perfect!!

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