New homes come with many modern conveniences, but there is a depth of character in old homes that is hard to replicate in new construction. It is no secret that I have a love for older homes, so I’m excited to bring my friend Paige back on the podcast to chat with me all about why we both choose to live in old homes. Not only do we talk about why we love them, we dive into how you can approach your own purchase and renovation. Even if buying an old home is not on your radar, stay tuned until the end of our conversation because Paige gives some incredibly valuable budgeting and planning advice that can apply to anyone’s home!
In this episode, we cover:
- Why would someone want to buy an old house over a newer one?
- What to look out for when taking on the restoration of an old home
- Weighing whether an old home purchase is right for you
- The factors that make an old home so charming
- How our mindsets have changed in regards to building homes today
- Designing and furnishing your home in a way that honors its original craftsmanship
- Major red lights and green lights when evaluating an old home for purchase
- The trouble with trying to force modern home features into an older home
- A few modern upgrades that are truly worth it
- A genius budgeting system that helps you tackle your goals and plan for the unexpected
- A foolproof method for breaking down large projects into attainable, daily action steps
With over ten years experience making a home, author and mom of seven, Lisa Bass, shares her love for from scratch cooking, natural living and all things handmade. As a full-time blogger and homeschooler, Lisa also mixes in a little mom life and business tips.
Nearly every mother experiences fear throughout her parenting journey. As Jennifer and I discuss in this episode, there are often new fears that emerge at every stage of parenthood. We may fear failing our kids or fear for their safety, but the reality is that fear creates a suffocating environment in our homes. As a long-time homeschooling mother of seven, Jennifer shares her journey of recognizing the impact of fear on her family and how she used the power of story to overcome it. This is such a rich, grace-filled conversation meant to encourage you as you fight fear and embrace joy in your mothering.
In this episode, we cover:
- How fears in motherhood change from season to season
- The most common sources of our fears as mothers
- Transforming our families by exchanging the power of fear for the power of joy
- Using the power of story of overcome fears
- The gifts we give our children by prioritizing reading aloud as a family
- Creating an environment in which our kids can pursue their unique interests
- Reconnecting to our own passions and interests in the midst of mothering
- How mothers can model a life of joy in our homes
- What to read and how to create time for reading aloud
Thank you to our sponsors!
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Thank you to our sponsors!
Toups and Co Organics uses nourishing, organic ingredients to create simple and safe skincare products. Toups and Co is offering my listeners 10% off any one purchase with the code FARMHOUSE. Visit ToupsandCo.com to order today. And check out my interview with the founder of Toups and Co, Emilie, to find out more about this amazing company and their products.
School of Traditional Skills is your shortcut to self-sufficiency, the simple way. Glean homesteading wisdom from a variety of instructors without ever leaving your home. Use my link bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills to take advantage of this amazing learning opportunity. Make sure you check out my class on lacto-fermenting vegetables!
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Paige and her husband moved to their 1906 farmhouse in 2017. They have spent the last five years renovating their home, trying to bring it back to what it was originally. Paige loves historic design, antiques, and general DIY.
Sewing for Beginners Course with Paige
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I’m having on my friend Paige from Farmhouse Vernacular. She has been on my YouTube channel before. She’s been on this podcast before. We’re going to talk about our favorite topic or one of our favorite topics,—especially together, our favorite topic—that is old houses. There are some great moments throughout this that are practical, but then also us just basically nerding out about old houses. So join us for this conversation.
Lisa Bass My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from-scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way.
Lisa Bass Hey, Paige, how are you?
Paige Sander I’m good. How are you?
Lisa Bass Good. So, I’m pulling up my outline, but it feels kind of formal for my friend Paige, but—
Paige Sander Oh, I know.
Lisa Bass Can’t we just chat? Which we can, but I want to make sure we hit on all of the—
Paige Sander We’ll go way off subject if we just chat.
Lisa Bass Yeah, which we might anyways, but that’s totally okay. So let’s start with intros. For those who don’t know you, let’s talk about your— or tell everybody about your YouTube, your Instagram, your blog. You also have a podcast that goes deeper into what we’re going to be talking about today. So that’s another good thing to check out.
Paige Sander Yeah. So I’m Paige. I run Farmhouse Vernacular. I’ve got a YouTube, a blog, Instagram, podcast. Pretty much everywhere. And I started it because about five years ago, my husband and I moved to some property in rural Kentucky with a farmhouse built around 1906. And I just started documenting and sharing, and it’s just kind of expanded from there. And I like antiquing and thrifting, and I talk a lot about efficiency. One of the things I’m most known for is my super bold color choices because I can’t do neutrals to save my life. So I always go really bright and really bold with all of my rooms. And yeah, that’s kind of how we interacted. We met on Instagram.
Lisa Bass Yeah, yes, we did. Many years ago at this point. And your podcast is Vernacular Life. I think you said that. Did you say that?
Paige Sander Yes. I did not say that. But it is The Vernacular Life Podcast. And we talk about anything and everything that could go on in our farmhouse. So we talk about efficiency, we talk about chickens, we talk about baking, sewing. Pretty much anything that I’m interested in, I talk about on the podcast.
Lisa Bass Yeah. All like things that my audience is very interested in hearing about. So all good stuff over there. The question that I’m looking to answer today is—well, loosely—why would you want an old house? So this is something that you’re really into talking about. I think we could chat a lot about it. So yes, that’s the question. But now we’ll get into some of the specifics. So for those of you who don’t know, I grew up in an old house, and my dad knocked it down and built a new house when I was 12. And all I ever knew about old houses was that they were cold and drafty and uncomfortable. Actually, my mom’s favorite story is in our old house, one night she was— we were all really cold, and she went over to check the tree—the Christmas tree water—and it was frozen inside the house. So obviously my dad has this bias about old houses and he actually carried that into my adult life and told me not to buy an old house, that the numbers didn’t really make sense, that kind of stuff. But obviously I didn’t necessarily fully listen, mostly because when we bought our first house, the budget really only accommodated an old house. And then ten years later when we bought this house—our even older house than the previous one—at that point I just loved old houses, so I didn’t really know that I loved them when I was 22 and buying our first house. But by the time I was 32 and buying this one, I definitely knew. So, yes. Before we talk about anything negative, why did you seek out an older home?
Paige Sander So I also grew up in an old house. I grew up in a family house that was built on family land in I think about 1924. It was built for my great grandparents as a wedding present. And after my parents graduated college, they were up in Milwaukee and Virginia and they were all over the place and they needed somewhere to live, and so they came back to Kentucky to live in this family house. And so it was just very normal to me to have this kind of old house chaos of— you know, my parents put a dormer in one of the rooms. And of course, in the middle of putting a dormer in where they have to literally cut the roof open, like there’s a gigantic storm and there’s always just always something going on in old houses. So I think I grew up with that sort of feeling normal and feeling very comfortable, that kind of chaos. And so when my husband and I graduated college, we actually tried to buy a farmhouse right out of college, but we had no credit. Not bad credit. But we didn’t even have anything. We had no credit cards. We had nothing. So we couldn’t get a loan on anything that was kind of sketchy, which a lot of old houses are. And so we ended up buying a kind of a subdivision house built in 2015, lived there for about a year and a half. And it just didn’t speak to my soul the way old houses do. There’s just a warmth and a character and a coziness and a homey-ness that old houses have. So when we were looking for kind of our forever house and our historic property, we absolutely wanted an old house because of the charm, because of just the history and the warmth of it that you can get it in new houses, but it’s harder, I think.
Lisa Bass It’s expensive to get that in a new house. You can, but it needs to be almost custom.
Paige Sander Yes. Absolutely. I mean, most of the just builder grade houses, there’s a lot of differences in floor plans, there’s a lot of differences even in how houses are constructed from the way that they frame things which means that the rooms look different. So there’s just a lot of differences in modern houses that I think make houses feel different, and I like the way old houses feel. So that’s kind of why we were looking for something maybe 1915 at the very earliest—or newest, I guess—and then we were happy to go back to 1700, 1800, whatever we could find.
Lisa Bass Yeah. In Kentucky. Yeah, here in Missouri, too. What we have is about as old as you’re going to find. And there’s a difference too in a nice old house. And some old houses probably do need to be torn down, or maybe that’s actually not true. You can talk about that. But in my dad’s opinion now, after he has witnessed this house and we’ve had it for about four years, he realizes that there are nice old houses. So what would be some of those things that you would look for in knowing whether this is a nice old house or this is a money pit and it’s only ever going to be cold and drafty and frozen Christmas tree water?
Paige Sander So the thing with old houses is that you can pretty much do anything. The limiting factor is always money. And I would say that this house—when we bought it—a lot of people would have considered it a tear down. Actually, when we were gutting the dining room—which is one of the more recent rooms we finished—there was writing on the wall from like the 80s, where someone said, “Sell this place, move out as quick as you can. Like this is not worth it.” You know, 40 years ago, just because I don’t think it was built well to begin with. I don’t think it had a very good plaster job. And then nobody ever took the time to really maintain it and keep it going. So by the time we bought it, I mean, the foundation was a wreck, the plumbing was a wreck. The electrical— like absolutely everything about this house needed to be redone. But we completely fell in love with it. I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the staircase. And I figured everything else was just incidental if I loved the staircase.
Lisa Bass Yep. My house too.
Paige Sander Yes, you have a great staircase. It just depends how much work you’re willing to put in and how much money you’re willing to put into it. Some of the obvious things are, you know, is the foundation good? Is the roof good? Is the water heater new? Just kind of your standard run of the mill things with old houses, but underneath that, any house can be saved. It’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to do to it.
Lisa Bass Yeah, well, in some— well, I guess this is the case with your house, though— they had even stripped a lot of the character out. And so you just looked at magazines—like old magazines and old books—and figured out what would have looked right in your home. Because I think that would be my dad’s argument for our old house is it wasn’t even a cool old house at that, like it was done so many times over the years. And so even if you would have restored it, it still,—unless you added in those character things—it really wouldn’t have been a cool looking house even still. Or it would have been, but it would have taken a lot of effort.
Paige Sander Yes. And that was really the issue with this house was that there was virtually nothing left. We had enough door trim to do—I think—four doorways, and everything else has been ripped out. There were no mantles. The floors were in terrible shape. The staircase was fortunately untouched. It wasn’t painted, it wasn’t anything, but everything else was just destroyed. So I had to go hunting through a lot of listings of houses that haven’t been restored from similar eras to try to figure out what it was supposed to look like. I looked at a lot of old catalogs. I looked at a lot of house plans from the day, trying to figure out what the trim would look like, what the layout would be, how the kitchen would look, how everything would look, where the closets would be, what kind of doors would it have? And I had to do all that because my goal with this house was not to make it look like it did in 1906. It was to make it look like it might have looked if 1906 people had today’s standards of indoor plumbing and heating and electric and things like that. So it’s not a wonderfully intact old house, which is why I’ve never said I’m doing a restoration because I’m not. There isn’t enough here to restore. It has literally been a renovation from the start to finish because we’ve had to put so much back.
Lisa Bass Okay. With all of that being said, though, what you did have was you had a nice shaped house and you had windows that lined up properly. I know you’re really into windows, and ever since I’ve listened to you talk about windows, I notice the goofiest windows on newer homes. So you did have something because I think people might be thinking, “Well, then why didn’t you just build a new house?” Well, you had— you did have something to work with there.
Paige Sander Yes, there was a lot here. A lot was taken out, but there was still a lot left. And just as a brief overview for the windows, houses of this time period were built with something called balloon framing, which means that the studs that make up the walls of the house go from the foundation all the way up to the attic in one continuous run. They don’t do that anymore because it’s kind of a fire hazard to not have fire stops in between the two floors. But that’s how things were built up until about 1920, 1930. So this means that if you’re going to put a window in a stud cavity, it makes more sense for the windows to be centered so you’re not cutting into too many studs. So if you’re going to only cut one stud, it makes sense for the windows to be stacked so you’re only cutting that one in the middle instead of cutting multiple of them. But in modern houses, they do something called platform framing where they build the first floor and then they put a platform on top of it, and then they build the second floor. So they can put windows wherever they want, but it’s usually one of the telltales that a house isn’t old if the windows don’t line up that way. But the windows were something that we didn’t have. Someone had ripped them out. But when we renovated and when we pulled down all the walls, we were able to find the original dimensions of the windows, which were huge. They’re six feet tall and almost three feet wide. They’re enormous. And so we were able to replicate those with the windows that we put back. The whole house has fir floors. The original fir floors, we’ve been able to find salvage things to replace that. We had two full rooms of tug and groove beadboard planks, and we were able to salvage all that into one room for the kitchen. So we had a lot. And I also just love the closed floor plans of old houses. I love that everything is a defined room and you don’t have these big sprawling spaces because it just feels better to me. I like corners because you can put chairs in them. So I generally like the way that closed floor plans are. And the house just it needed so much love and attention, but it was a good house. It was a good location. The property was beautiful. The price was right. And so we just kind of overlooked everything that was bad with it so that we could get the house we wanted and then just build it up into the house of our dreams.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And you make a good point about the location because most properties that have a lot of privacy, that have a lot of acreage, a lot of times an old house will sort of come with the property almost just as like a freebie, I find. They don’t usually give a whole lot of value to the house. And so a lot of times, that’s just what you’re going to find whenever you buy a property is an old house. And so being able to appreciate it. In your case, maybe you would have picked a different house, but that one had all that acreage with it and it had an old barn and a lot of things that you just can’t pop up.
Paige Sander Yes. And that was one of the reasons that we purchased it specifically is because we were looking for around 20 acres, and we found this house attached to over 50 acres in our price range. And that was way more than we ever thought we could possibly get. So the house itself, when we had an appraisal done, the full house —it’s a four bedroom, now it’s two baths, but at the time it was one bath, like 2,000 square foot house, a decently big house. It only appraised for $90,000. So it was in terrible shape, but you kind of had to make a trade off because we knew that we were never going to get land like this for this price. And we also knew that we could fix the house. And we didn’t have any kids at the time, so we had all the time in the world to just put our love and energy into restoring this house. And the end result will be a really nice old house on very nice land.
Lisa Bass Right? Yeah. You had that big picture in mind from the beginning and at that time you had more time than you had money probably. And maybe that’s somewhat shifted with— you know, as you age, that definitely shifts. That’s what shifted when we bought this house. That flip flop finally happened 15 years into marriage—we’re going to be here in like two months—and so that happened, and so we sought out an older house that didn’t require quite as much as yours did. It required some make up, but it had been very taken care of over the years and maintained, and a lot of the character was intact. And so yeah, I think it depends on where your priorities— at least our— when we were first married, 100% cheap house. We had time, not money.
Paige Sander Absolutely. Absolutely. So if you have the time and are willing to do a bunch of Googling and learn new skills, then you can make a house that looks pretty rough look much much nicer. But if4 I were doing it again right now in this stage of life, this is probably not the house I would purchase just because I know that I will not have the time. We have two more rooms to renovate and we’re staring at them thinking, “I don’t know how we’re ever going to get these two rooms done, much less the exterior and everything else we want to do.” Knowing how much time you have versus how much money you have is a very good thing to know when you’re looking for old houses.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And being realistic. And maybe you have neither and maybe an old house that is somewhere in between— like our first house, it was on a quarter acre in town. It was very cheap, but it also wasn’t in terrible condition. It was kind of like in between. We couldn’t get 60 acres and a house with it, but we are able to get a house that needed some makeup and stuff like that.
Paige Sander Yes. And there’s a huge difference between houses that just need paint— which I feel like your house kind of fell into that category of it needed the floors redone and it mostly needed a good paint job and probably a good cleaning. But the majority of the house was okay. That’s not how this house was at all.
Lisa Bass No. You needed new electric, plumbing, everything, right? Like the bones of the house.
Paige Sander Absolutely everything. I mean, we take every room completely down to the studs, strip everything out, and then put it all back. And I’m a big lover of plaster. I would love to save all the plaster. I would love to not be doing this gutting. But because of the bad renovations that have been done over the years, things have just been slapped on and slapped on. So we had to undo all of that. But there are definitely houses that are not in this bad of a shape, that are just ugly, that might just have carpet and a bad paint job, which is much less daunting than gutting an entire house.
Lisa Bass Yeah, but you bought it before— now you’re at that stage, you don’t really have the time, but you got a lot of those major renovations out of the way before taking on a lot more in your life. So that makes a lot of sense. I remember whenever you first— or when I first bought my house because you bought yours before I bought mine. We were messaging on Instagram and I was like, “See, yeah, the house you bought? I would have done that like ten years ago, but now I’m at the stage where that would not work.” And I’m sure you understand now as a mom that that’s not—
Paige Sander Oh yeah. It absolutely wouldn’t work now. There’s no way with kids and running businesses and just— there’s not enough time in the day to spend 14 hours a day like we used to on the weekends renovating rooms. So fortunately, the last two rooms we have are simple. There’s no plumbing, there’s no major structural work. It’s just bedrooms. We’ve done the kitchen, we’ve done the bathrooms, we’ve done all that stuff. But it’s going to take us probably as long to finish the house as it has to do as much as we’ve done so far.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yep.
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Lisa Bass Okay. I have a fun question. I’m sure that you saw this one and you were probably like, “Ooh!” What is your dream house? And I put the little caveat, you don’t actually have to limit it to one, but I would love for you to nerd out on talking about houses here.
Paige Sander Okay. So I’m going to twist this question slightly because as far as I’m concerned, this is my forever house. I’m never leaving. It’s perfect. I love everything about it, but—
Lisa Bass Yes, I don’t mean moving. I just mean like if we can dream because I could dream something else up here on this property. This is great. But if I was dreaming—
Paige Sander Yes, if we’re dreaming, there is a house and it’s actually abandoned and it is out where my husband grew up. And I believe this house was built in about 1905-ish. It is brick and it’s right next to a Lowe’s Home Improvement store, and so we call it the Lowe’s House. I don’t know what it actually is called. But it is massive. It is three stories. The attic is like 15 foot ceilings. It has multiple staircases. And that house is so well preserved. There’s nothing in it. There hasn’t really been a 70s remodel, there hasn’t— it’s just the trim and the plaster and it is in— it needs help.
Lisa Bass Have you been able to see it? Like the inside?
Paige Sander Yes, we— I’m not going to advocate for what was done in college.
Lisa Bass Okay.
Paige Sander But I have seen the inside of that house, respectfully. But it was a house probably built, like I said, around 1905, maybe five or ten years, give or take. And it is just the most wonderfully magnificent house. The front doors— it has double front doors that are on an angle. And you walk in on like a 45 into this massive front hall, and there’s these sweeping stairs that go all the way up around the corner. And the rooms have 14 foot ceilings on the first floor, 12 foot ceilings on the second floor, so many windows. If I was dreaming, that would be the kind of house that I would love to just pick up and put on my property here. I’m just going to take that whole house and I’m just going to pick it up and I’m gonna stick it on here. And it’s not even just saving the old house. I would love to figure out how to make that house work for modern times, because if you look at a lot of old house plans— like I love Italianate houses, I love folk Victorian houses from about 1850 to 1900 is really my favorite era, but a lot of them don’t have layouts that are really compatible with what we expect in modern houses. So they might not have a bathroom, or if they do, it’s one very tiny bathroom. And I grew up with one bathroom. You can do it. But if you’re going to build your dream house, you probably want more than one bathroom. So I would just love the challenge of seeing how to preserve that house and how to not knock down the walls and how to keep the pocket doors intact and restore all of the beautiful old windows. How to do that and make that house functional again. Yeah, because so many people— and this is ultimately the thing about old houses, it is more work than a new house. It’s going to be, especially if you’re going to do a super extensive, intense renovation process. It’s going to be more complicated than a new house. But I just think you’re going to get more character, you’re going to get a better experience. You’re going to preserve a house that was built really well. I mean, if a house is 130 years old and it’s starting to fall apart, okay, understandable. But when we lived in our 2015 built house, it had problems within the first two years, like significant problems, plumbing problems. And so to have a house that needs some attention after 130 years, it’s not really that surprising. And I just think it’ll be a richer house to live in if you restore an old house versus build new.
Lisa Bass Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Is the house you’re talking about, is it brick?
Paige Sander Yeah.
Lisa Bass I’m just imagining it brick but maybe it’s not.
Paige Sander It is brick, yes.
Lisa Bass Okay. Yeah.
Paige Sander It’s brick. It has— on the back of it, there are double porches. There is a porch on the ground. And then there’s a porch that you can access from a hallway upstairs. Two porches, looks out on beautiful farmland. Might just scoop that house up and put it on my property. And most of the dream houses I have— because especially around this area, you drive around, you see a lot of dilapidated houses, a lot of houses that have just been abandoned, big, beautiful horse country type houses where people just don’t maintain anymore. And most of my dream houses involve just taking one of those and just bringing it back to life.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah, that sounds so fun. We have one that sounds somewhat similar to the one you’re describing. It’s a three story brick home. I mean, it’s like 15 miles away. And we drive by it all the time. And my daughter calls it our Vicki for Victorian.
Paige Sander Yeah.
Lisa Bass And we want it. Like, we’ll pay anything for that Vicki. I mean not really, but if somehow it ever goes for sale— it’s in an area that could be an Airbnb because it’s like in a very nice location for a town, not on a farm. But yeah, it’s a three story. It has several porches. The trim that’s on the outside is something I’ve never seen before. It just has it everywhere. There’s like, trim on places I never even expected, and there’s this little tiny window on the third floor that’s like— I don’t even know what’s behind it, because I’ve never been in this house. But it looks like it must be the coziest room. The porch is off the back. Yes, it reminds me of the one that you’re talking about. So elaborate, huge brick Victorian house.
Paige Sander Mm hmm. And I feel like with old houses— and I say this a lot on my various channels as I’m renovating, is that my house talks to me. And if I try to do something that he doesn’t like, I’ll just get this feeling of like, nope, not right, try again. And I never had that in the new house. The newer house that we lived in, it just didn’t ever tell me what it wanted to be. It didn’t ever give me a sense of how to make it more cozy or how to make it more homey. And I feel like old houses kind of have that naturally. They have these little areas. Like we have a hall in our house. We have an upper and lower hall. It doesn’t really serve any function. It’s not a bedroom. It’s just a pass through place. But there are little corners in the hall where you can put a chair or you could put a little bookcase and you could sit and read or check your phone or something. And I feel like old houses have so much more potential for little moments like that than new houses. And some of it is just how they were built. Some of it is just because they were built slower, so there was more time for thoughtfulness in the design process. But I just find that old houses have those little curl up with a cup of tea spots. Much more than new houses.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s what I was going to say when you said the time and the thoughtfulness behind it. I think that a lot with our current house. Somebody really cared about designing this house. I think it was probably built by the person who was going to live here and they cared. They were very intentional with it being artistic, too, not just functional. Because there’s lots of spaces in our house that serve no purpose. Like you said, your halls. We have a large entryway. We have a little landing at the bottom of the steps. We have one at the top of the steps. They’re not for anything except just to put pretty things like a painting or put a desk or wallpaper. Sometimes in my modern head I’m like, “Why waste this space?” This house is 2400 square feet, but yet in some ways we’re lacking bedrooms. But that’s because there was just this space that was just for nothing except to just be pretty.
Paige Sander Yeah, absolutely. And it’s interesting you say that that house was built by the person who was supposed to live there or who did live there, because I do know this house was built, I think, around 1906. And the man who built it lived here until he passed away in, I think, 1944, somewhere around there. So he lived here for 40 years, which in the context of how people live in houses today, that’s a very long time. Like today, there’s kind of this sense of not quite disposability, but you move into a house and then when something changes, you move five years later and then you move three years later and you just keep changing houses to fit your needs. Whereas with these older houses, they were meant to withstand multi generations. And so you just change how you’re using the house to fit how you need it to work instead of picking up and moving again. Because picking up and moving in 1900 is a very different process than moving in modern day.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So don’t you think that’s why they put so much more effort into the design? Because they never had any intention— they were saying, “Okay, this house is going to have to serve me for the next, you know, maybe my entire life.” And whenever you build your forever home, you definitely do put certain details and extra money and thought into something like that. That’s something— that’s not a place where you ever skimp.
Paige Sander Right. Absolutely. And so I’m imagining that most people, it would be a real fortune to be able to build their own house. And so if they’re going to build it, they’re going to take the time to figure out where do I want this to be? And what size do I want this? And how do I want this room to be laid out? And just because things moved slower—you’re not going to be able to order all the lumber and have it delivered in a week; you’re going to have to order it and wait multiple months—you really have time to kind of marinate on how you want to use this house, how it’s going to serve your family, where your children are going to sleep. When you’re building your forever home, you take more time to figure out how exactly you want it to function for your family. And you think about it in multiple stages of your life, not just this immediate stage. And so I think because older houses were more likely to be built as forever homes, there was just time taken to make sure that they were really, really exactly the way that people wanted them. Yeah.
Lisa Bass And whenever people didn’t build houses like that, they basically put up a shanty. You know, I think that was the difference.
Paige Sander Yeah. You have one little house that was two rooms and it was thrown together and it was torn down in 20 years. But the fact that these houses are still here is because they’re good. They’re not necessarily good because they’re old. They’re old because they were good. They were built well.
Lisa Bass Ooh. That’s a quotable.
Paige Sander That one wasn’t mine. I’ve heard that elsewhere before. But they’re still here because they were built well and because they were built with people in mind. And I think if you’re going to buy an old house and you’re going to try to make it work for you, you can’t go into it expecting it to function like a modern house because it’s not. Your closets are going to be smaller. You’re going to have these weird spaces like halls, but it doesn’t mean you should knock down the walls and take up the hall space with a new room or something, because that’s not how the house was supposed to function. Working with the house is going to give you a better experience than trying to force your will on the house.
Lisa Bass Mm hmm. Yeah, I totally agree with that. And even— we had a 1920s house before we have this one that was built in the 19th century. And even the same furniture and decor is not even close to the same. So it needs to—
Paige Sander I remember that when you moved in. You had all this furniture and you’re like, “It doesn’t fit anymore.”
Lisa Bass No, it was so wrong. And I’m still figuring it out. I’m having to add more color and wallpaper because even just doing neutrals— because that’s so safe. And in my last house, it was safe, it was easy, and it worked. And here, it doesn’t. And so I’m playing with all of that now.
Paige Sander Well, and I think— there’s no basis for this, but if you think about when your last house was built, it was the craftsman era, the 1920s. Things were kind of rebelling from the frilly Victorian era. So things were simplifying down. And even if they weren’t necessarily using the very light, airy neutrals, they were still color blocking. They still had one color on the wall, and the trim was one color and there wasn’t a ton of wallpaper and there weren’t all of these patterns. So replicating that even in a new color palette in your house would make sense. But the Victorian era was pattern on pattern on pattern. I mean, you would have carpet and wallpaper and wallpaper on the ceilings and then you would have patterns on your furniture fabric and you would have drapes and you would have all of these different patterns and textures. So when you put very neutral colors and no patterns and no textures in a Victorian, it’s almost a clash. So I think once you start working with the house—and like you have been, like you added your wallpaper to the staircase—it just brings that alive in the house again because the house is like, “Ah, I recognize this. This is how I’m supposed to be.” And you don’t have to go all the way as insane as Victorians were, but working with the house that way, I think the houses sing, in my opinion.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and there’s just certain details, in my house like the tall ceilings, when it’s white, there’s just nothing to stop your eye. It just is white with white and it doesn’t— yeah, I’m ready to do the pattern on the pattern on the pattern. I should probably like pull the reins a little bit, but that is definitely what I’m loving lately.
Paige Sander And it looks great.
Lisa Bass Thanks. I mean, I have a lot more to add, that’s for sure. But even my earlier pictures of my house just look so boring to me now and so empty.
Paige Sander Yes.
Lisa Bass But there’s an element of collecting over time. Just the other, my sister came— my youngest sister, so not my sister, Laura, but my youngest sister. She’s into design and decor like I am, except for she has a mid-century house and she does everything very mid-century in the house and she loves it. She goes to the antique shops and marketplace. She’s obsessed with it about like I’m obsessed with this house. And she walked into my house and she was like, “Your house makes my house feel so empty.” But in a good way. She was like, “I think I just have a lot more to collect.” And she’s 11 years younger than me, so I’m like, “Well, this is 10 years of being as into this as you are now for 10 straight years.” She’s like, “That makes sense.”
Paige Sander Yes, absolutely. And that was how these houses used to be filled. Right? You couldn’t go to IKEA and just furnish your entire house in one trip. You had your grandmother’s table, and this set of chairs from your mother, and this neighbor moved out of their house and didn’t want to take their dining set or whatever. And so you would collect things over time and that would look a little bit mismatched and sort of collected as opposed to curated. And so I think that fits with the style of the house.
Lisa Bass Mm hmm. Yeah. I’m finding it more and more. So okay, whenever we were talking about the dream house, what are some of—I guess you kind of talked about this—but what are some of the main styles and features that you love? What are some—when you’re thinking about a dream house, like pocket doors or trim or a staircase—what are some of those things that get you?
Paige Sander So it kind of changes inside and outside the house. Inside the house, I am a sucker for kitchens. Historic kitchens. I don’t care how rundown they are, kitchens, pantries, built-ins, all of that kind of stuff, sort of the nitty gritty workings of the house. I just resonate with them so much more than the fancy parlors and the fancy trim. And I love that part of it. But if I’m going to see an intact parlor or an intact kitchen from 1905, the kitchen is much more interesting. But on the exterior, my favorite style is a style called Italianate. And they were from about 1850, 1860—maybe a few years in either direction, depending on where you are in the country—and they’re very distinctive because they’re very square. Well, not square, as in the whole house is square, but there aren’t all of these turrets and angles and curves and bay windows. That was more of a high Victorian thing, maybe 20 or 30 years later than that. But the Italianates are usually brick. They are very symmetrical. They kind of have low rooflines, as in they don’t have roofs that stick up really tall. They have beautiful, beautiful trim work on the outside. A lot of times they have these super tall, skinny windows that go to the ground and have arches on top. If we hadn’t purchased this house, we would have purchased an Italianate because we both—both my husband and I—just absolutely love the style. And it just feels good, the way that they look on the outside. So I love the Italianates. And then if we’re inside, definitely love the kitchens.
Lisa Bass Yeah. I actually this Google searched Italianate and they look a little bit more like they wouldn’t be on a farm, like they’d be more in town.
Paige Sander Yes, some of them are in town. If you find them on farms, you will find them on 500 acre, 200 acre estates. This was much more of an estate type house as opposed to just a country farmhouse. If you were going to build an Italianate and build it out all the way, you were pretty well off. They’re not quite as common as just your normal farmhouses.
Lisa Bass Yeah, they are beautiful. And I—like you said—I don’t see them very much. I’ve definitely seen them around, but not as common as, like, the basic farmhouse like you and I both have.
Paige Sander Yes. I don’t think we have similar layouts, but the overall shape of our house is kind of this L with the wings. That’s a very, very common farmhouse style.
Lisa Bass Yeah, definitely.
Lisa Bass If you are listening to this podcast, you likely are interested in self-sufficiency and old-fashioned skills for a country lifestyle like we’re talking about here. If that is the case, I want to introduce you to the School of Traditional Skills. This is something that I have the opportunity to be a part of. Last April, a camera crew came here to our farmhouse and shot an entire class on fermenting vegetables. That same camera crew led by the Homesteading Family—so Josh and Carolyn from the Homesteading Family—went on to film with Joel Salatin to talk about reclaiming pasture, talked about meat chickens with Justin Rhodes, gardening, pork curing, keeping milk goats, all different types of topics when it comes to gardening, from raised beds to extending the season. You can find all of this over at the School of Traditional Skills by using my link bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills. This is a membership based school where you can access all of these classes, and they’re going to continue adding classes. So they have, I think— I forget how many they have planned per year, but they’re going to continue to add experts and new skills that you will have access to. So everything you need to know, they are deep dives. So when they came over, we went deep into fermenting vegetables, into troubleshooting, the benefits, the tools, the problems you may have, everything. And all of the rest of the classes have that same level of deep dive and then also very high production level. I’ve never had this many cameras and lights in my kitchen, so they’re very beautifully done classes that are packed full of information. Again, you can go over to the School of Traditional Skills by visiting bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills and check out the very impressive list of classes, everything from Sally Fallon Morrell, who founded the Weston A. Price Foundation, who wrote Nourishing Traditions, to Joel Salatin, Melissa Norris, Anne from Anne of all Trades. There are so many experts that are already over there that you can learn from in these very high quality classes. I will love to see you over there.
Lisa Bass Okay. So with old houses, let’s talk a little bit about money. What are some of the things that you look for when you’re considering price? So Zillow, Realtor, appraisals, they seem to go by square footage and location. But what are some of the hidden things that are huge value ads or major red flags?
Paige Sander So going from this house, a major red flag to me is if there is no original trim, if there is no original anything. In this house, everything has been covered up by wallboard from— there was a giant renovation in 1979. There was carpet everywhere. Carpet itself isn’t a huge red flag. But the fact that there was so much original missing— if you don’t have a passion for tracking that down and replicating it, that’s going to be a giant money pit. And you’re probably going to spend all of this time renovating, and it’s not going to feel like an old house because a lot of that character is missing. So if you’re willing to put in the work, it’s totally fine. If you want something that’s a little bit more user friendly, I guess, you would definitely want to look for something that has the original trim. Even if it’s in rough shape, even if it’s painted a terrible color, if it has the trim, you can restore it.
Lisa Bass And don’t you think that’s something that Zillow and Realtor, they don’t give any money on the appraisal for that? That’s just something that you know and you care about.
Paige Sander Yes. And it’s not necessarily going to translate to dollars and cents, especially when flippers come in and they rip everything out and they just get the house for as cheap as possible because it looks really rough. This is just something that if you really want the feeling of living in an old house, the trim is a huge part of that because the trim was so large, it was so chunky. If you rip all that out, you’re going to take away a lot of the charm of the house and a lot of the character. As far as red flags, kind of the normal stuff. Are the gutters terrible? Is the roof need to be replaced? Does it need a foundation? Those are kind of your standard red flags in houses. I will say that with this house, all of those were terrible. The foundation was awful. We need a new roof. The gutters are terrible. We had to have the foundation jacked up within two months of buying the house. So if you are in love with the house and it has some of these major issues, try to figure out how much it’s going to cost first, because we did that. We looked at the house. We pretty much didn’t care what the inspection said. We had an inspection done, but we didn’t care about it because we were so in love with the property. But before we put down our closing costs and we actually purchased the house, I called around to some people to try to understand what the ballpark of fixing the foundation was. It’s like, are we talking $10,000? Are we talking $200,000? Just trying to get a little bit of a ballpark so I could understand whether or not it would make sense for us to buy this house. So old houses, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into the purchase, I think, because you just see it and you fall in love with the staircase or you fall in love with the windows or you fall in love with the light at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday in the kitchen. And there’s a lot of those intangible things. And if you are willing to work for those, you can have a really, really, really great house and you can overcome any red flags. But the red flags will always cost money.
Lisa Bass Yeah, well, your house is different because of the ground attached to it. It almost makes a lot of these things not matter nearly as much because that goes up in value so much. Whereas if you’re just looking at a house in town with a bad foundation, that’s a whole different thing.
Paige Sander Absolutely. And if we were just looking to buy a house— we knew we wanted to buy a house, we knew it was going to be an old house and we were just trying to find one. A house in this state in town, I would never have bought it because it just needed so much work. But there’s all of these other factors like we had four outbuildings, which if you’re buying property, outbuildings are really nice. It’s a lot more expensive to add outbuildings than it is to fix up existing outbuildings. So we had the outbuildings, we had the land, we had the location, we had all of these other things that kind of made all the red flags not matter, like you said.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yep. Do you think— you were talking about the light pouring in at a certain time on a Tuesday? Do you feel like the original designers of some of these old houses created the windows so that way those kind of things happened? Because I definitely think that in my house.
Paige Sander I think so. So we— I mentioned I grew up in an old house, and on that property there was a house that was built pre-1850. We’re not exactly sure when, but it’s a very old house. Nobody lives in it. We just maintain it, prevent it from falling down. It’s kind of a family heirloom. But they positioned that house on top of a hill such that in the summer you get the most unbelievable cross breeze through the house. You don’t even really need air conditioning, and usually you do out here. But because of how the house was positioned, you get a really wonderful cross breeze. And so I figure if they did that in 1849 or whenever that house was built, they must have made some kind of consideration here, and I haven’t even actually thought about this before. But our kitchen is where the original kitchen was, and it’s on the east side of the house. So when the sun is traveling overhead, by the end of the day, the kitchen is cool because the heat of the day sun isn’t hitting it. And that must have been something that they took into consideration because they would have a wood stove, it would be going, that room would be hot anyway. So you wonder if they said, “Hey, let’s not make this any hotter by putting it on the west side of the house.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. I definitely have those thoughts a lot because there is the prettiest light in the morning in the kitchen. And then we have this picture window on the south side of the house, and it all just feels very intentional. Or if not, it was just a happy accident. Or there’s just so many windows in our house—because there were so many windows in a lot of old houses and large windows—that just no matter what way you put it, it just was going to be nice.
Paige Sander Oh, absolutely. And old houses tend to have windows on all four sides. Whereas if you look at modern houses in subdivisions, they tend not to have windows on the side just for privacy from your neighbors.
Lisa Bass Right.
Paige Sander But that’s not really a consideration with old houses. So you end up— some room somewhere is going to catch the light at some point during the day. You might have darker rooms and lighter rooms, but because you have windows all over the place, you’re going to get the light at some point.
Lisa Bass Mm hmm. It’s my favorite thing, because I hate light bulbs. Natural light all the time, except for lamps in the fall at night.
Paige Sander Absolutely, yes.
Lisa Bass I cannot— the overhead blue lights—
Paige Sander Nice cozy task lighting. Now we have overhead lighting and I will only turn them on if I’ve lost something or if I need to deep clean.
Lisa Bass Yup, exactly.
Paige Sander They pretty much never get turned on.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And the kitchen doesn’t even look clean, and Luke’s like, “Well, of course it doesn’t because it’s illuminated and everything.” I’m like, “No, but it’s not that. It’s not that.” At night, if we don’t have that overhead just glaring light, it’s not so much that it’s highlighting the dust and the dirt. It’s that it doesn’t it look pretty—no matter how clean it is—until that goes off and we have like a dimmed chandelier.
Paige Sander Yes, absolutely. The old houses with the task lighting, you know, nice warm light bulbs in those little corners that we talked about, those spaces where you just kind of sit and rest. It’s such a wonderful feeling to walk through a house like that.
Lisa Bass It really is. It’s reminding me that there are some good things about winter because it’s getting dark so early now or a lot earlier. And I know you’re a real big fall girl, like this is— you’re happy.
Paige Sander I am. Fall and winter are my seasons.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I need that to rub off on me because I’m mourning. Like I’m literally mourning summer. I am finding, though, surprisingly, there are a lot of things that I’m really loving right now. And I forgot. Like, oh, I forgot about what it’s like to have to wear a hoodie and little lamps in the corner and you’re actually enjoying it because you’re not sleeping by the time that’s necessary. So, yeah, you need to rub off on me with this fall enthusiasm.
Paige Sander I love the cool weather. It jus, it makes me happy. And then, you know, you’re sitting inside and looking outside and it’s snowing a little bit and you’re in your cozy, warm house. And I just, I love the whole season.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it is actually. I’m kind of excited about it. I don’t even know how this is happening, but there are some parts of it that I’m excited about for sure.
Paige Sander Now, if you talk to me in February, I’m going to be very grumpy, and I’m going to be done with it. But right now, I’m good.
Lisa Bass Yeah. That’s what’s getting me is I hate that.
Paige Sander Yes.
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Lisa Bass Okay, so let’s get a little controversial. What are some renovation mistakes that you see people making when it comes to old houses? I know this is a topic— you do love this topic, right?
Paige Sander I do. I do. I try not to go too hard on it because people get grumpy at me. But yes, old house mistakes. I think the biggest kind of overall theme is trying to make the house something that it’s not. If you’re going to go into a house that is all closed concept, which means that there are individual rooms separated by walls and doorways as most old, older homes are. If you’re going to try to force that to be an open concept house, you might be able to do it. I don’t think it’s ever going to feel as good as what the house wanted to be originally. So if you’re going to buy an old house, instead of immediately ripping everything out, immediately gutting all the plaster because plaster is bad—which it’s not, plaster is great. Instead of doing all of those really aggressive renovations first, see if you can figure out how to live with the house and work with the house instead of listening to HGTV. Because I have the theory that demo is good for TV, and so HGTV has kind of encouraged demolition just for the drama of it. It’s like, “Oh yeah, we’re going to rip down these walls and we’re going to bust through this plaster,” and it’s like, that makes great TV. But does it actually make a better house? I don’t think so. I really don’t think so.
Lisa Bass Yep, I could definitely see that. I always wonder what I was missing because we have all plaster in this house and we had it in our last house, and I’m like, “Why are we supposed to rip this down?” I’ve never really understood what the purpose of that would be.
Paige Sander So plaster is a really interesting material because it actually holds heat and it holds cooler temperatures much better than drywall. So if you heat up your house, the walls are going to hold a little bit of that heat, and it’ll just stay warm a little bit longer. But the reason that we had to gut all of our plaster is because in the 1979 renovation, they drilled holes in all the stud cavities and they filled it with something called urea formaldehyde foam insulation, which is an open cell spray foam insulation. And they stopped using it because over time it actually shrinks. So none of our stud cavities have any insulation, and they’re all half filled with this horrible foam stuff. So the only way to get it out is to fully gut all of the walls. But the plaster, we’ve been able to save it in a couple of places. We’ve saved it on the ceilings up here, frankly, because I didn’t feel like gutting it and then hauling drywall up to replace it.
Lisa Bass Oh, yeah.
Paige Sander We’ve saved it on the ceilings up here. We saved it on the stairwell. We’ve saved it in a couple of places, and it just has this wonderful organic feel that drywall doesn’t have and it will never have. And if you are a singer, you want to sing in plaster, singing in plaster sounds way better than singing in drywall. And it’s just part of the house. It’s part of the charm. And it’s almost intangible. You don’t exactly know what you’re going to lose by ripping out plaster, but I can say that you’re going to lose something. You’re going to lose some part of the house, some part of that charm by taking out the plaster.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s very imperfect looking, but almost in a fitting way.
Paige Sander Yes. And it kind of undulates and it’s sort of organic and not perfectly flat. And it just feels very handcrafted.
Lisa Bass Mm hmm. Yeah. Okay. So on the other hand, what are some modern conveniences, materials, etc., that you think are actually just better? And how can you incorporate them into an old home to make it more comfortable?
Paige Sander So probably the biggest one that we did in this house was insulation. Because we were taking out all of that spray foam insulation, we had to put something back. And the best thing we found is mineral wool insulation. So this is a mineral fiber—a rock basically—that is spun into kind of a big fluffy bat. And it is water resistant. It’s mold resistant. It has a better insulation value than the fiberglass insulation. And so adding that back into the house just means that our heating bills come down. It means that we’re not having to sleep under three electric blankets and giant wool comforters. So the conveniences like that of putting in insulation and actually adding electrical, of course, they make everything better. But I think the insulation—if you can put insulation in the house—it’s going to make a huge difference in preventing that kind of cold, drafty old house stereotype. And they can blow it in from the attic, too. If you aren’t going to gut everything, they can blow insulation into the stud cavities. But I would say insulation is probably our biggest one.
Lisa Bass Yeah. That makes sense. And you mentioned electrical stuff. I find that in our old house, we don’t have enough outlets places. So everywhere—like when we did our Christmas tree, I had to run a huge extension cord under the rug, which people said, “Don’t do that. That’s a fire hazard.” Well, we only do it whenever we’re home and observing it, but there’s just not outlets. So there’s lots of places that— like in our little stair area at the bottom, there’s no light and there’s only one outlet. So there’s not any way to really make it brighter in there.
Paige Sander Yes. And that is a pretty common complaint I’ve heard with old houses that there’s just not enough outlets. So when we renovate this, we put a ridiculous amount of outlets in. Every single wall has at least two plugs, maybe four plugs, as many as we can get. Because I don’t think anyone has ever said, “I think this room has too many plugs.”
Lisa Bass No.
Paige Sander Nobody ever says stuff like that. But I think today, too, we have a lot higher need for electrical outlets than they did when houses were wired originally.
Lisa Bass Oh, yeah.
Paige Sander Because this house, I think, was electrified in the 30s and we don’t have any of that original electric left. But we found evidence of the old ceiling fixtures and some of the switches. And they just didn’t need that much. They might have a radio, maybe a clock or a lamp or something like that. They don’t have these computers and phones and rechargeable vacuums and all the lamps and light up Christmas tree garlands. And that just wasn’t a standard back then.
Lisa Bass No, I could see that. And we actually have renovated a few rooms where we would have had the opportunity to put in more outlets and didn’t. And that’s a regret of mine because there are just places where I’m like, when we had this taken out, why did we not take the time or maybe a little extra money to put a few more outlets in? That is a big tip is if you’re going to be renovating something, add— like you said, there’s never too many of them, really.
Paige Sander Yes, absolutely.
Lisa Bass Okay, last question. More on the money. So you are an engineer and your husband’s an engineer. And so you guys are really excellent at planning and budgeting and being very strategic with things, which is totally not how I operate, but it’s very beneficial. So very— it’s the way you should do things. So can you explain your process when it comes to an old house renovation? So not only how you plan them monetarily, but then also planning out the actual work?
Paige Sander Absolutely. So for the money, we set up two different funds. We figured out how much our budget could afford to spend on home stuff every month. So say it’s $1,000, just to use a nice number. We would take 70% of that and that would be dedicated toward whatever project we’re working on. So we would spend it on the bathroom or the kitchen or any of that. The other 30% so $300, we put that in a separate account, and that was kind of our emergency fund. We would buy tools out of there. If we needed to buy a circular saw, we would buy it out of that fund. If the water heater exploded and we needed to replace that, we would buy it out of that fund. So when you’re renovating an old house, unexpected budget things are going to come up. You’re going to have things that all of a sudden, “Oh, shoot, I need to spend $1,500 on that.” So going into it, we didn’t try to spend everything that we could on the house every month. We always made sure that we were putting a little bit aside for those rainy day pop-up problems. And then when they happened, they weren’t really that big of a deal because we had the money set aside already. And if we were renovating for a year and we saw, okay, there’s a pretty good amount of money stashed in that and we haven’t used it, then we might spend it on a specific tool or we might buy nicer tile or something like that. But it was mostly there to save up for those larger expenses, and we found that that worked pretty darn well for budgeting. Frankly, we didn’t really do much for the five years that we have been renovating so far. We didn’t really do vacations, so almost all of our extra money was going toward our renovation. And so we spent a lot. We spent almost the equivalent of our mortgage again every month trying to get this house looking nicer. But by splitting it up that way, we made sure that we always had a safety net.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that makes sense. And are you keeping a running total or is that— for me, that would be something I’d— with our house, I didn’t keep that because I’d rather not. I’m sure I could go back and figure it all up, but I don’t really want to face that. It seems to me like something you might actually keep a spreadsheet of.
Paige Sander So I think there’s an estimation. The way it worked usually was that we had a certain amount of money we could spend every month, and if we hit that dollar amount before the end of the month, we just kind of stopped working. So we knew that a room would take about five months and that each month we would spend about this much on the room and you could kind of estimate it that way. I didn’t really track it. I know it’s a lot.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Just month to month seems like a good, a nice, responsible thing to do without having to be like, “We spent $200,000 on this house.”
Paige Sander Right. And I mean, by the time we’re done with the exterior and everything, it’s probably going to be a number that’s somewhere in that ballpark. But knowing that number was not going to change whether or not I bought the house, it’s not going to change whether or not we renovate it. So as long as my month to month budget can handle it and we’re still saving and we’re still making sure that we have enough for groceries and gas and all that kind of stuff, I don’t really pay attention to it much beyond that. Now I will say that when we buy things, I try very hard to buy the cheapest thing that I’m comfortable with. Not necessarily low quality, but like when we did the bathrooms, the tiles that I bought for the walls were $0.15 a piece. I was not looking for historically accurate replica tile from 1903 because that was just out of my budget. That’s irresponsible for what our budget looks like. So I would just try to find things—
Lisa Bass You did cool things like making your little pattern with your black and your white. That wasn’t a sheet. That was something that you just did, right?
Paige Sander Right, right. So the floor in the bathroom was made up of this really great penny tile that I found at Floor & Decor. And I think for the downstairs bathroom, it was like $3 a square foot or $4 a square foot, something really affordable. And I laid down all the white first and then I got a sheet of black penny tiles and I popped them all off and I kind of arranged them into a pattern. So I got a nice pattern look for $4 a square foot instead of historic replica penny tile that can run $30 or $40 a square foot. So we limit how much we’re spending month to month, but within that, I also try to be somewhat responsible with the fixtures and the finishes that we buy.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And there’s a lot of inspiration for how you did that and are still doing that over on your Instagram, your YouTube. Those are probably the best places to follow. I guess you’re not making as much on YouTube the renovation content, but you have archives of that as well.
Paige Sander Yes, yes, there’s archives of that stuff. And if you kind of scroll back in the Instagram feed, there’s a lot of stuff in there. But then you also asked kind of how we worked through the renovation. And the single biggest tip that I can come up with is making lists and making them insanely detailed. And I’ve talked about this for a very long time because I swear, this is the only way that we have gotten this house renovated. So when we go into a room and we’re going to start a renovation, I sit down in the middle of the room, and I write down every single thing that I can think of that needs to be done in that room. And I write it down in detail. So I don’t say gut the room, I say pull the trim off the front window. Pull the trim off the back window. Pull the trim off the door. Take down this wall of paneling Take down this wall of paneling. I break it down into tasks that take somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes. And I keep that gigantic list in the room. And I go as far as I can until I’m not really sure, like, okay, are we going to have to do some structural repairs? You know, once I get in kind of that shady area, I don’t do it anymore or I pause on the list, but then we keep updating it. And the reason that works is because when we’re ready to work on something, we come into the room and we don’t have to think about it. We don’t have to think about what needs to happen next. Do we need to rip up this or do we need to paint that? We literally just go through the list and pick something that we want to work on. So all of our energy of renovation can start paying off immediately. We don’t have to kind of get the motivation up to figure out what we’re going to do or are we going to do this? We don’t have to do any of that because it’s already all on the list. So as far as planning a renovation—
Lisa Bass Yeah, and you don’t have to have like five hours. You can have an extra 20, 30 minutes and still go work on it. You don’t have to have a whole day.
Paige Sander Absolutely. One year, as a New Year’s resolution, we decided that we were going to do something called 30 minutes of house. And I started a hashtag with this, and I’ve seen people kind of expand on it for their different projects. But we said that when we’re done working for the day, when we’re done with dinner, we are just going to take 30 minutes and do something productive on the house. And it doesn’t even have to be anything big. It can be, you know, we had a huge weekend and the place is a mess, so we’re just going to tidy it up. Or it can be I’m going to paint this one piece of baseboard, or I’m going to patch just this section of the wall. And we did that pretty much every night. And our rule was that if you got to the end of 30 minutes and you were just done with it, you could stop. But most of the time we were motivated enough to keep going for an hour or an hour and a half. And if you do that every single day, it’s a lot more time than you think it is. And having a list of things broken down into those 10 to 30 minute tasks means that when you’re ready to do your 30 minutes of house, you can just go pick something. And projects get done very, very quickly with that.
Lisa Bass And it sounds so simple, but it’s actually pretty revolutionary. I did something similar to that in our old house. When we first moved in, I had to paint all the trim and all the doors and all the cabinets, every last one, everything, the crown molding. And I picked this— this was before you got on Pinterest or Google and like Googled “trim”. You just literally went to the paint store, looked at it and picked one. And so I wasn’t thinking and I didn’t have any experience with doing my own house. I was 22. I just was like, okay, I need to get some paint. And so I picked—instead of just white—I picked like this very yellowy off-white color, and I went to town and painted everything. And so about two or three years later, I realized that it shouldn’t have been that color. It was like way too yellowy. But the thought of, I’m going to have to literally repaint every cabinet, every door—and there was a lot because it was an old house—every crown molding, every baseboard, every trim, window was like way too much. And so for a couple of years, I was like, well, I guess the yellow is beautiful. I love it. It’s my favorite color ever. And then one summer, I decided that I was going to paint every single day for one hour. And that was something I could do. I couldn’t do three weekends in a row of painting. I had kids at the time, and so I just did that. I did one hour. And so I’d put my little paintbrush in a bag so it would stay— I didn’t have to wash it every time. And I just like set my timer and did an hour, and I got it all done. And then I had my pretty white trim and it wasn’t ugly anymore. And it was something that felt so incredibly overwhelming and impossible to do that I didn’t even do it—and it made me almost hate my house because everything was so yellow—to done just with nothing that was going to be like this huge time commitment. So breaking that down actually is way more revolutionary than it sounds.
Paige Sander Yes. And it does. It seems so simple. It’s like, oh, I guess I could just do it for 30 minutes or whatever. But when you get into that habit, you start to see how much you can get done. And some days, we did it and we would work for 30 minutes and we said, “Nope, that’s it. I’m done. Don’t want to do anything else.” But the floor was swept, the tools were organized. You know, maybe we went in and got some screws from the garage and brought them up for the next project. Just any of those little things, it all has to get done. So whenever you can do it, it all moves the project forward.
Lisa Bass Yep. That’s a really, really good tip. Well, thanks so much for joining me and talking old houses and your wisdom on planning and nerding out on old houses. I really appreciate you joining me. Please share where everybody can follow along or your preferred place that you want to send people to follow along with you going forward?
Paige Sander Absolutely. So if you want kind of more antique and efficiency stuff, we’re over on YouTube at Farmhouse Vernacular. A lot of the sort of behind the scenes day to day stuff will be on Instagram. We do have the podcast, The Vernacular Life, and then of course, you can join our email list if you want to get— I think we do twice a month emails just kind of on updates of everything going on. So that kind of collects everything in one spot.
Lisa Bass Okay. Where do they get on that? Is that on your website?
Paige Sander That, I believe, in any of the YouTube video descriptions, there should be something there to— quite frankly, my team sets it up.
Lisa Bass Yeah. That’s okay. We’ll also put it down in the show notes. So wherever you are listening, it’s on the show notes or can go to SimpleFarmhouseLifePodcast.com and click on this episode and the show notes and the transcript or whatever is right there as well. So thank you again.
Paige Sander Wonderful. Thank you very much.
Lisa Bass All right. Thanks for listening to this episode. I hope that you will go follow up with Paige. She shares so many great tips on efficiency. I love following along with her decor. In the past, she has shared a lot of Christmas tours and fall tours. So go check all those out. As always, thank you so much for listening and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.