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Our Home Exterior Renovation



When we first bought this house (built in 1964) it was covered in cheap, horizontal 90’s vinyl siding. But I was 8 months pregnant and was seduced quickly by the beautiful light and space inside so I ignored it. I can do denial really well when inspired. Over the last couple of years, however, I grew to hate the ugly exterior. It was covered in vinyl siding, and cladding in a mid-century house in vinyl is like putting polyester, camel-toe provoking, jeggings on Meryl Streep (WHO WE ALL LOVE EVEN MORE RIGHT NOW AMMIRIGHT??). It just doesn’t fit, it cheapens everything, and it was REALLY embarrassing. Take a gander:


That pic really establishes me as a tastemaker in the design community. I’m shocked no one has reached out to give me a star on Hollywood Blvd for my amazing day-to-day beautiful lifestyle making. Again you can’t see how exactly terrible it is, but it is. Keep looking:

emily henderson_exterior home renovation_before_2

Those photos don’t even show the true crime. It was warped, dirty and so cheap. I was so smitten with the inside that I ignored the exterior thinking that I could fix it eventually but meanwhile it wouldn’t ruin the perfectly lit photos inside.

emily henderson_home exterior progress_1

Every day when I parked my car I was bummed. I apologized to everyone who came to visit – clients for photo shoots, friends, family, the fed-ex dude….


It was not the house that a designer owned. But changing it wasn’t an easy fix. Nay. It was going to be a beast in a few ways – super expensive, really daunting to design and produce, and extremely disruptive to our lives. Of course what ended up happening was literally twice as bad as I had projected, but that’s not totally unusual for larger construction projects.


I finally convinced Brian to let me tackle the exterior – and he is super happy now that I did. I hustled hard while I was pregnant with Elliot and we saved/allotted the money to this project, specifically. Of course we had no idea how much it was going to cost ..

Lets backup and start with the design process. For this house we had a few different options:

1. Paint the current vinyl siding a pretty color. That would be a $15k bandaid that would be like putting a spray tan on a stab-wound. Maybe it’s slightly less noticeable than it was before but the result would have been still depressing.

2. Put on new vinyl siding: $20 – $25k. That’s a really expensive, barely better, solution that doesn’t really address the real problem. Listen, that horizontal vinyl siding is all wrong for this mid-century beauty.

3. Demo current siding and replace with either wood or stucco. $50k – $75k. We received a few quotes and they were all in that range with a few contractors saying they wanted nothing to do with it due to the insane scaffolding situation that would need to be installed. You could tell that even they were daunted by the project. Golan took it on and started almost immediately. He and his crew were on it.

First I had to find inspiration – just saying ‘wood and stucco’ isn’t very specific. What kind of wood? What color and finish of stucco? I found some homes on Pinterest that I was super attracted to and they fell into two categories:

DARK SIDING_emily henderson_home exterior progress_

It’s all the rage. That dark siding is so chic, but I was afraid that with my verticality it would be a bohemeth, that it would be overwhelming and ultimately I knew that it wasn’t me. But then I thought, what if we did that same wood profile (really thin with a tiny gap) in white, a la Eichler?

EICHLER_emily henderson_home exterior progress_

1 // 2

Eichler was a real estate developer that built over 11, 000 homes in california in the 50’s – 70’s with many of them being 3″ vertical siding. Like this:



Turns out underneath our stupid vinyl siding there was this same profile because it became trendy then, but ours was unsalvageable because they had spray stucco-d over it like 5 times. See here:


The profile is super simple – just vertical 3″ (sometimes 4″ or 5″) wide wood with a 1/2″ gap in between. But as far as my research went, it doesn’t exist and you have to create that look. I was definitely more attracted to it in light versions (so hard to see the siding in these)

LIGHT SIDING_emily henderson_home exterior progress_

1 // 2 // 3 // 4

We got more specific with the plans.

Obrerlin Exterior FOR BLOG 5

We created this rendering indicating every single material and finish both for our contractor and for the city to get the permits. Right out of the gate Golan (our wonderful contractor) was concerned about pulling the permit– something that usually takes a few hours was taking several days. We thought our request for some flat stucco and vertical wood paneling seemed reasonable but when our permit was “approved” they had a lot of caveats.

Obrerlin Exterior FOR BLOG

The Fire Department and Building & Safety Department had approved only the rear of the house to be stucco, AND required us to use super thick, horizontal HardiPlank siding. They said no real wood. While HardiPlank is a durable material and great for some applications, it did not go with the style of house at all plus it’s like 3 times the price of wood. I wasn’t going to spend all that money we had saved to make it look like a new-build. I really wanted to restore it to its mid-century design.

So, we had to fight and this set us back a while. Meanwhile they had already demo’d and scaffolding was up, so getting into our house was was like the final challenge in a double dare episde … with an infant and a toddler. We couldn’t get up the front stairs so we had to go up the side stairs then through the guest suite then up the front stairs OR go up the side and underneath three sets of scaffolding (practically LIMBO-ING).


If this had just been for a few weeks we could have handled it, but by month 3 we were going insane and were practically shut-ins because coming and going was so difficult.

Back to the permits.

I’ll spare you the details, but after hours looking over state fire codes and many trips to the Building & Safety Department, Remi (my lovely project manager of this job) realized that there had been two major oversights– the fire zone started two blocks up the hill from my house, meaning that there was no need for us to use HardiPlank. YES. And since the house was not actually historically protected, the city could not say “no” to our design.

The aesthetics committee was afraid we were going to stucco the whole thing which would have been a design mistake (but one that many people would have done as it would have been so much cheaper/easier). Thanks to Remi pushing hard, they approved our design and we could finally get going.

PROGRESS_emily henderson_home exterior progress_

First they demo’d off the old siding. They found that there wasn’t any insulation (insane) so we added that ($), then they found that there were flaws in the footings and strappings so we essentially rebuilt the foundation ($$$$$). SO FUN!!! They added insulation, plywood, waterproof paper, plywood and then that beautiful wood.


Of course when we came home that day after so much of the wood was up Brian and I both were like … should we just keep it as wood??? But that turned out not to be the best option because A. it was prepped for paint so there were nail holes all over that sucker that would have had to have been filled, sanded, etc. and B. We still would have had to seal it which would have darkened it and what we liked about it was the light wood look. We decided that sticking with the original plan of painting it would be safer.


Next we had to deal with the masonry/cinder blocks. Now many people thought we should smooth them out but after staring at enough mid-century houses (mostly Palm Springs -style) we decided original is better, so we simply repaired, power washed and painted them. It was this big chunk as well as the huge, crazy tall chimney on the other side of the house.

We sampled many colors and stared at them for an ungodly amount of time in different times of the day. In that photo, above you can see the sample board of the stucco leaning on the top. We ended up going with the top right which I was surprised about but Brian really liked it and I’m not going to argue with a gray/blue on our house. We wanted to mix tones without being too high contrast nor too similar so looking accidental.

On to the stucco:


We decided to mix the wood and stucco to create movement, texture and to save some money. I have no idea if we ended up saving any money by doing it, but I do like the very smooth texture very  much. We did it in the back of the house, on some of the deck and the area below the master bedroom – behind the stairs.

We went with a pre-tinted stucco as opposed to stucco-ing and then painting after, so we didn’t have full control over the color, but we loved the dark gray that the stucco manufacture already made and it produced a higher end, more organic look.  After the whole house was complete I secretly wished that we clad the whole house in white siding because I loved it so much, but after shooting the stucco I realized how much I loved it.

On to the garage – what I like to call ‘the ankle of the house’. So boring, but when done wrong can RUIN everything else.


It’s hard to see how bad it is there, but it was just a sheet of plywood and it had to be manually pulled with FERVOR. The door shaped hole it it was for us to get in and out during the scaffolding. We needed to completely replace the door, which is another really fun way to drop $5k.


We chose to do the siding on it (as opposed to a standard metal accordian door), but we applied it horizontally, instead. We LOVE it.

Now she looks like this:

black sconces

Oh, one more annoying detail. So there was that curve on the ground (which you can see). So the options were to dig it out with jack hammers, taking weeks and ruining any sort of napping schedule we had for those kids, plus (and most importantly) it would have cost $4k in addition to the cost of the garage ($3500).

OR we customize the bottom with the curve (which was $1500 more than standard and was included in a $5k cost). Yes, having it be a straight bottom would have been better but not worth that extra $4k, certainly.


Oh its so pretty and functional now. I LOVE IT.

Now onto the front door:


It was wood veneer which meant that we couldn’t refinish it and replacing it would be super expensive so we painted that sucker (a beautiful Newburyport Blue) I loved it on the inside which looks like this and was in pretty good condition and I wanted to keep it wood.


Of course after we had it painted I came back and it still had that gross rusted brass stuff in the middle and on the ground so I called a handyman to fix that and install the deadbolt (that we had forgot about). Now she looks like this:


Let’s chat lighting. The pendants that hung on the original house were awesome but they were so discolored from years of dirt (they were acrylic). Finding identical ones proved to be super difficult – they needed to be big, simple and graphic but I wanted new, not vintage and I didn’t want to spend $3k each. We ended up finding them via Hip Haven, who replicates mid-century style lighting. They were $750 which wasn’t nothing but was far cheaper than anything custom and we could still customize the length and the stem color.

mid-century pendant

(We took these photos before we styled out the spaces).

Now for the accessories:


We went with these simple, black, midcentury inspired sconces from Rejuvenation (as well as the numbers and the mailbox). I love, love, love them. They are peppered around the exterior of the home and provide great light, nice contrast and edge up the design of it a bit

black sconces






And then up on the deck, as you know it looks like this now and its really just so pretty.


I think that, right there is a ONE million percent improvement.

Wanna talk about the fun/terrifying stuff? How much this project cost? Let the nausea begin … Man, I really don’t want to make public this information but I promised myself I would be transparent and put the answers out there before you all ask the question. If you aren’t interested in how much super laborious exterior construction projects cost, and are uncomfortable with people spending money, please skip this next section.

I think it broke down like this:

$50K for scaffolding, demo, insulation, plywood, paper, siding, prep, paint, and stucco. It took 3 months. Our contractor, Golan, was FANTASTIC. Despite the permit issues that were uncontrollable he really did a great job of keeping us on schedule and making sure we were happy. He also kept us at that budget, and while some things (below) had to be added, he didn’t all of a sudden inflate that cost half way through.

$8k for the wood for the siding. Golan provided the other materials, but the actual wood itself had to be purchase.

$3k for the paint, although Benjamin Moore gifted that, THANK YOU.

Stucco … ugh, i’ve probably blocked it out….

Garage: $5k

Moving the air conditioning compressors: $4k.

Landscaping – plants $2k, labor: $1K (it’s not amazing but its wildly better than before)

Painting door and installing hardware: $500

Handyman to fix door issues: $200

Door hardware: $800 (gifted from, THANK YOU)

Sconces/lighting: $750 for the pendants (they generously gave us a discount) and the sconces would have been $2500 for 7 (Rejuvenation generously gifted those beauties). Don’t hate me.

We also fixed a bunch of the footings and strappings in the foundation for $8k, replaced sliding glass doors ($2500) and hired a greeter to welcome me home every night and tell me that we made the right decision and that it will pay off in resale.

finished exterior

Anybody who has ever come to our house is shocked by how much better it looks. How fresh and new  yet totally original and vintage. I became proud. We finished this project 7 months ago ( I just didn’t want to show the exterior until we weren’t living there anymore) and those last months made me proud to own the house and even more proud to be able to sell it in a state that does the era and the architecture of the house proud.


It was a process. A long arduous, annoying and expensive process, but I’m here to say that it was TERRIBLE to live through but so worth it. I never had parties with anybody that wasn’t a close friend because of the exterior. Now that we have left that home i’m so bummed I didn’t have one big farewell blow out now that it was totally done (I blame the ‘two toddler’ situation). I hope all this info can help any of you looking to make major exterior changes to your home. It was a lot of information (and money) but hopefully worth it for my soul and for resale.

Here are all our resources if you are also interested in this kind of midcentury look:

Exterior Mood Board 062316

1. Globe Pendant | 2. Rounded Top Mailbox | 3. Eichler Inspired Siding in Douglas Fir | 4. Atlanta Mortise Handleset | 5. Thorburn Semi Flush Light | 6. Iris Planter & Chevron Stand | 7. Modern House Numbers | 8. Charcoal Smooth Stucco  | 9. Aura Exterior Calm | 10. Aura Exterior Newburyport Blue | 11.Aura Exterior Boothbay Gray | 12. West Slope Doorbell | 13. Thorburn Wall Sconce

Check out more posts on my home: Guest Bathroom Sneak Peak, Guest Suite/ Home Office Progress, Projects In My Own Home, Master Bathroom Reveal, The Master Bedroom – Where We Are Now.

Fin Mark


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Wow, what a transformation! I read a real estate article recently that money spent on curb appeal Has a good ROI. I know it always makes me feel better to improve the exterior. It’s a terrible feeling coming home to house you can’t stand to look at. I hope you make the money back when you sell. It is gorgeous!

The grand total cost is a bit expensive but the result pretty damn gorgeous.


so… that cost more than my family makes in a year. but it looks awesome! congrats!


It cost more than I paid for my whole house (which, to be fair, is a townhouse in a cheaper area).


We just built a house for twice that cost, yeah. A 5-bedroom, 2,5 bathroom house.


Yeah, and you probably live in the sticks.

Insert eye roll.


Umm. Not loving Meryl right now. Please don’t assume. Very disturbing to have someone so beloved to me be an A hole. Love the blog though


Money shaming! So fun!


Guys, she lives in California. The labor costs are much higher and labor costs are already high. We just had a metal roof put on our house in Ohio by the Amish and it cost $25,000. That cost didn’t include gutters just the roof and they didn’t even do the whole roof. Some of our roof is rubber because the shallow slope.


Yeah, I live in Iowa, and we had a new roof put on (flat roof on 1,700 sq ft MCM house), a new driveway (not that long), new garage floor, a large tree removed because it was blocking the entrance to the house, and new landscaping (just in the front)…. and it cost us $40k. And that’s in Des Moines, IA. We even did some of the work ourselves. I don’t think she overspent AT ALL. Doing that amount of work on the exterior is expensive. Good news Emily….. we actually just sold that house this fall (right after doing… Read more »


I can’t sit at your door every night until you come home (although that would be amazing. I’m sure you’d invite me in for a quick glass of wine) but you did the right thing. It will pay off in resale. Someone who wouldn’t want to deal with foundation issues and would have NO CLUE how to properly make the outside of that home look as beautiful as you did, will be ever so grateful to not have to deal with it. And then they’ll buy your house. Good job, Emily! I love that you tackle stuff that’s challenging and… Read more »


Wow. You proved here that any mess of an exterior can be transformed with the right vision & talent. Worth every penny (and dollar…and thousands of dollars)…. great job!


Huuuge improvement. Very pretty. You guys must be super super fit with those stairs and two toddlers.


Ouch! That’s pricey but boy is she pretty now. Showstopper even. Does the LA market assure you recoup most of your costs?

I think so. I think if we were to have sold it as is, it would be hard to list it for what we want to. Additional I didn’t know how long we were going to live there so it was for my own sanity, too. I do wish there had been a cheaper option, seriously, but when you find all these little things wrong as you are doing it, your ‘max budget’ just gets away from you.


Lol a quality job in so cal is not cheap. Better to do it right the first time. Did you get an architect? I have a beach house location fantastic. Exterior is generic 80’s. Not sure how to change it.

I dislike Meryl Streep now. Not her place to boycott a entertainment award with her political rant.


Just curious, how did Meryl boycott an entertainment award? And what exactly was her political rant? Not being combative – just curious as to your perspective. It just seems like she was asking people to be kind, which is always a good message.


My gosh, that house is gorgeous. What a process to have to go through. My husband and I want to replace the vinyl siding on our home (it was built in 1979 and is mostly brick veneer with some vinyl on only the front of the home) and I get a headache just trying to figure out which color to do and how much that alone with cost us. It’s WAY more fun to design the inside of the home than the outside, isn’t it? Anyway, AMAZING job, it looks absolutely incredible!


I don’t know if you’ve researched it, but being built in 1979, vinyl COULD actually be the original material used on your house.


It looks beautiful! You should be so proud that you’ve restored it to its former glory. Congratulations!


So beautiful! I wish you guys talked about exteriors more actually, because mine really needs some curb appeal help. Such a cute little brick house but the landscaping issues make it look sad and creepy. 🙁

Allyson H.

Bravo!! What a beautiful transformation!!

Also – I really appreciate you being so transparent about the cost breakdown. It really helps to give perspective for our own major renovations.


This is exactly what I came here to say. Seconded!


I have to second this! I feel the exact same way! Thank you Emily! I know it hurts, but I feel like it’s totally worth it.


Ditto! Thanks for being so open about the costs, process and supplier gifts.


thanks guys. I know there are many people who take that information and think negative thoughts about it (which is why more people aren’t transparent about cost on the internet) so I really appreciate your support and that you still like me even though I spent a fortune on that project.


I REALLY appreciate the $$ transparency! I mentioned this in the survey, but I live in the Bay Area, where construction costs are very high, so it’s really helpful to hear ballpark numbers from someone in a similarly priced area.

Thank you for being willing to share!


Hahaha this made me laugh – of course we still like you!

Friggin awesome post – probably one of my faves, not sure why. Perhaps it’s the transparency??? Anywho, digging it. And the house looks BEAUTIFUL. Well done.

Oh and – Meryl rocks. Of course 🙂


Agree. We completed a kitchen renovation, and I remember thinking kitchens cost what, $50-$60k? Well we ended up at about $100k when added in replacing flooring in half the first floor and a minor update of an adjacent powder room. Renovations are expensive, and I hate renovation shows that undersell the cost of everything (“well, your renovation budget is $35k, so we can renovate the kitchen, master bathroom, and add a deck for that!”)


I have an MCM ranch in Canada. I repainted the thick plank siding (almost the same blue and your “get the look”) and changed out all the windows almost 2 years ago now. Made a HUGE difference in look. It cost tons just to do the windows. I’m AMAZED at how beautiful your place looks. And I LOVE that you kept the MCM style. Everything about it is fantastic. Doesn’t seem like the same house. Incredible.


Gorgeous! Thank you for all the detailed info and the cost breakdown. I’m sure it almost gave you a breakdown to write out those checks, but she sure is beautiful now. Like everyone else, i’m crossing my fingers for you that you’ll recoup the $ in the sale of the house.


Wow that is a STUNNING difference! Definitely takes it from random falling apart looking house to truly designed home. Something very few non-designers could see past I’d say!


Wow- SO gorgeous now. It’s a totally inspiration for our house as well. That’ll definitely pay off in resale- it was a complete transformation.


wow it looks amazing!! I also am super curious how much it affects resale. Even if not in total dollars but if it brings more buyers and makes it sell faster?

I live in a plain, boring, 1960s one story ranch and would love a post on how to make it cuter


I second this suggestion as long as it’s not 50k 🙂

I honestly should update the post and say this: the scaffolding and the sheer insane cliff-side verticality of it really added to the cost. I think if it were a ranch house or a normal 2 story it would have cost less, but it made the labor SO much slower, the insurance SO much higher and the length so much longer. Plus completely having to redo the garage wasn’t something we had hoped to do. What I told myself and Brian through the whole process is that we bought a fixer upper to FIX UP not just to live in… Read more »


The cost will be influenced by the ease of construction, the scope of the project, and the materials choose. The existing exterior finish will also matter. Vinyl siding must be removed, not recovered, adding cost (unless you do it yourself..its not hard to do and with a ranch even easier). If the underlayment, waterproofing, and structure are in good shape (and if you do not want to tear the house back to the studs and insulate like Emily did) then the cost of the reno will be significantly less then Emily’s home. Hardi plank (fiber cement board) is more expensive… Read more »


emily – this is SO SO SO good. hopefully you get triple what you spent back when you sell. i bought a mid-century ranch to be just like you so i am holding on to these eichler/mid-century posts for dear life!


This looks wonderful! I was waiting and waiting for this post. I love the wood and stucco combo. I also love love love that you are true to the style of the house and of your new house. One suggestion I thought I might throw out there is doing a real estate 101 post i.e. how much money to put in a house for improvements vs. how much money you’ll get out of it in re-sale. Many real estate professionals caution against putting money in your house that you may not get out (I’ve been told this as a home… Read more »


I feel like in Emily’s case it doesn’t work like normal because she uses her house for portfolio work. So in a way she does have to keep restyling, way more than the normal homeowner, for professional reasons – like her house is her playground/lab. Also she was in and out of there super quick; to make just your cost to move worth it (actual moving costs i.e. truck, storage, etc but also real estate fees, taxes, etc) you need to stay at least 5 years. Emily has a style and design blog, not necessarily real estate/investment — in her… Read more »

It is very tricky. for me I knew that when we decided to sell if I would have been really embarassed to have an open house in the state that it was before. So I probably would have sold it off-market or not created any content around the sale of it. No designer could put their name on that exterior proudly and publicly. So in order to even announce it as my house I had to fix up the exterior. I’ll talk to my husband about doing a post about this. I don’t know exactly how much we’ve put into… Read more »


Emily, this is why I love reading this blog and one of the many reasons it’s so popular. I had some sticker shock (and mild envy) when I read about your budget – but I love your honesty, and the fact that it makes you uncomfortable to talk about it makes it clear how much perspective you still have, even in the midst of your amazing success. I feel like that in itself – maintaining perspective and authenticity in the midst of LOTS of external (and monetary) affirmation is so, so rare. Go you!



Oh geez for your location in LA and the way the house looks now, that house is totally worth a million. I’d be willing to pay that if I hadn’t just left LA for the north.


I live in Eagle Rock so I know the area your old house is in (although my house probably looks a lot more like your new house) and the cost is not at all surprising. I am definitely going to the open house as soon as you announce it!


Two things: Beautiful work and you should be so proud of yourself for leaving the home 500 per cent more beautiful and true to it’s era than when you bought it. The new owners are going to be so very lucky. And those stairs and toddlers definitely don’t mix. I’m not surprised you moved – you and Brian must’ve had to be super vigilant all the time. The upshot is, you both must have buns of steel and triceps to match after hauling your littlies up and down them every day. Thanks for your unfailing honesty with the cash spent… Read more »


Wow!! This house (and the neighbours) are so lucky you found it! I can’t imagine anyone else seeing that potential. I am also so extremely interested in the streetscape. Those layered houses are so unique and totally Californian!


Seriously! I keep thinking “The neighbors should all chip in and pay her for how she raised their property value by this renovation!”


Best Line: like putting spray tan on a stab wound.

Lovely! The cost/effort/vision is why so many older homes continue to languish with gallons of spray tan…


Also, people install vinyl siding in the first place so they can avoid the continuing cost to maintain wood and stucco. This is easily the best thing that’s ever been on the blog. I LOVE IT!


No, this is not accurate although it is what the salespeople will tell you! The vinyl siding does NOT last forever, it often discolors and frequently leaves very expensive problems hidden and festering. I would bet maybe you, your husband or a relative sells siding?


Ha ha, no! I’ve never even met anyone who sells vinyl siding! All I’m saying is people install it (or keep it) with the IDEA that it is lower maintenance. And it is, but it may bring along other problems, like you mention. I have a small brick rowhouse. It’s ugly and I’d love to paint it, but have always balked at the idea of RE-painting it. Of course, vinyl is totally different from brick, but generally speaking, many people don’t want to move from lower- to higher-maintenance finishes. I suspect that this GORGEOUS renovation will take the property to… Read more »


I agree, that spray tan line made me laugh out loud.


Thank you as always for being so transparent about what things cost. I so appreciate it as a first time homeowner who sometimes has sticker shock from quotes. I have no doubt you will make back the investment (and then some!!) Also, once the sale is done, id love to see the purchase price/total investment to see how you did in the crazy LA housing market. I think you’ll come out of this sale doing juuust fine 😉


This is a beautiful transformation! Just curious if you feel that you will be able to recoup this cost in the sale price of your home?

this is the question of the day – read one of my responses above about why I did it and then stay tuned – I’ll try to do a post about it. xx

I was so happy to see this post pop up. I have been excited for so long to see what you would do with the exterior. Worth it! It looks so good!

What a remarkably extraordinary house you have there Miss Emily. I love it!!! It’s something you definitely don’t see in my neck of the woods. I’m psyched by the idea that you have neighbours living above you!! I give you a big round of applause and thank you for sharing as it made my day.


Good Gawd Woman! I am exhausted and have to lay down now. 🙂

HA. imagine how we felt carrying TWO BABIES at a time around all that scaffolding … 🙂


As someone who works in city planning (right next to permitting) in a locality, I had to smile a little bit about your review adventures, especially with fire!

Cris S.

Truly appreciate the insight into the thought process, painful ‘live through’ process, and most especially, the cost breakdowns. Rare info and very appreciated!


You deserve some kind of award for treking up and down those stairs with a toddler and a baby!


can’t imagine how long it took to put this post together… beautifully done and thank you for the transparency!


You will get it back in resale. In San Francisco you would more than get it back and I imagine LA is similar. You have attracted a whole different level of buyer. And, even if you didn’t entirely recoup the cost ( which you will ), isn’t still a good investment in your professional knowledge bank, and your happiness as a homeowner? If I were a neighbor who had a view of your house I would be leaving thank you notes in your mailbox everyday.


I love your last sentence.

Emily – you did a REALLYODD great job, perhaps your best work yet. I’m in awe of your vision and hugely inspired by your productivity. Seriously well done; you should be proud.

Good luck with the resale.


* really great job. Not odd, no idea where those 3 letters came from!

This is gorgeous! My husband has been pushing to get the exterior of our mid-century ranch painted white and I have resisted (hard). But, maybe, with the blue mixed in… You are giving me a much better idea of where this idea could go. Thanks for the inspiration and nice work on the house.

This. Is. Stunning. I love love love the white.


It’s so much more beautiful now! Can I ask when designers renovate their homes like this, are you paying in cash? If so, how do you save project by project? Or are you taking out a home improvement or home equity loan? I always see huge renovations like this on blogs, but I’m curious about how to fund something like this myself.


Yes, I want to know this too! I always wonder. Is it financed? Do you just have $82k lying around? How does this actually happen. I want to re-do our master bath & we are going to have to save for years & years with 2 well-paying jobs!

GEEEEEEZZZ, is that what it added up to? I purposefully didn’t do the math. Do not tell Brian. We had saved for it for a year at least and I took a couple jobs that I normally wouldn’t have just to get this done, lastly we paid for it over the 7 months in small increments so it was less painful. If he had told us at the beginning that it would have cost that much we probably wouldn’t have done it. We thought we were paying $50k, not $82k. And yes, credit cards were used as well. EEK. I’m… Read more »


Thank you thank you for answering this and for talking about money. People treat money like it’s some kind of secret taboo subject and when we don’t talk about it, it’s much harder to learn how to be responsible with it in my opinion. It’s much nicer to hear how you ended up paying for it and the final cost than to think well clearly everyone is doing it so I can too without actually looking at figures.


I’m adding my “thanks” to you/your family/team for being transparent about the costs and how you paid for it. We had about $55K of renovations done on our house before we moved in, but the costs were rolled into our mortgage. (It’s called a 203K loan.) I’m always curious about how people pay for their renos, though, because it’s hard for most people to save up enough, but the other option is funding it through some sort of debt.


I’m obviously not Emily, but we are in the beginning stages of a large renovation of our home (estimate cost is about $100k), and we are doing a combination of our cash savings (profits from selling our old house + continued savings) and getting a HELOC. I think there will also be an element of paying-as-we-go so that we can put more cash towards the project as costs pile up (gulp).


Ya, we just finished a HUGE remodel at our house. Budget was about $75k, and we came in right about there. We live in Portland, and have only been in the house a year, but had just over $100k in equity (which is NUTS) so we took out the max amount and plan to pay off some lingering student c/c’s (barring that we don’t end up having to replace the garage roof which is currently questionable…) So yes, if you’ve been in your house a while and live in a healthy market, I’d highly recommend looking into a HELOC.


I highly recommend NOT getting a HELOC. It’s not your house if you don’t have the equity in it, it’s your bank’s house. That’s a tenuous situation to be in.

Don’t do renovations if you’re can’t afford to pay cash. Didn’t we learn anything from the real estate boom/bust? You don’t want to be upside down on your house or still have a mortgage when you’re on a fixed income in your retirement years.


This turned out beautiful, I like especially the color scheme. But what an undertaking … we live in a 70s ranch in San Jose, and are updating the back yard, and that alone seems to be quite a project.
One question: did you switch out the aluminum-framed windows (I saw you updated the sliding doors)? It does not get that cold in L.A., but new double-paned windows also keep the heat out a bit as we discovered. Looking forward to watching your new renovation. And thank you for all the ideas you provided for our current place!

Thank you and good question. We switched out the sliding glass doors as they were so janky you could barely open them. We got quotes on the rest of the windows and we decided to not spend the money.They all worked – they just aren’t pretty. WE did, however, paint the aluminum frames in white with the right paint. It looks GREAT actually. We have a window film (gila) to help keep out heat, but i’m sure that double pained would help a lot to. We’ll leave that task to the next owners. 🙂


Emily, what kind of paint did you use on the aluminum windows? I love my mid-century ranch, but can’t stand the cheap-looking windows (and can’t afford to replace them). LOVE seeing this before and after–totally worth the time and money. And those stairs are no joke!


I second this! Which paint is best for aluminium windows?
thank you


Soooo beautiful!! Love the end rustle and all the details you shared.

I’ve been thinking about getting similar porch lights as the black cylinder lights you used but was worried they wouldn’t put off enough light. You seem to indicate they do put off pretty good light?

Yep! On the deck we have globe string lights, too – not sure they would put out good enough ambient lighting for eating, but everywhere else they are GREAT.

It was so wonderful working with you on this project, Emily. Looks great, and so does the new house!


This is one of the cooler posts you’ve done, talk about tackling a monster! I am so envious of the materials you can use in warmer climates (Toronto not so much!) and as per usual, your killer taste and appreciation of using the authentic style of the house shines through!

Awesome 🙂

xo Kendall


Looks AMAZING! Bravo to you for preserving the house’s original design and not going all new-build-y or even worse–all stucco–or even worse than that–all stucco with those weird vertical rows of squares on the corners (shudder). The bits of stucco you did look fabulous–love the gray color. Beautiful project!


Glad the house was in capable hands! It looks great now and it could have been a HOT MESS.

I love the stairs, and that light fixture, and the colors that your chose!


All. Those. Steps. No wonder your legs always look toned!

And the house looks great.


Thank you so much for sharing this. And providing cost!

We bought a house I don’t love the exterior of, but the inside was perfect and it was a home we could grab in an intense market. This gives me hope!

I don’t think I could have left such a gorgeous home after all the work you put in!

And did you SERIOUSLY have to climb all those stairs with two littles? Or could you use what looks life an entrance further up.?

I love all the pity about the stairs. Honestly they NEVER bothered me when I was by myself, but whilst carrying two littles? YES. I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to be selling to a family with two toddlers – only someone like me would look the other way, ignore the stairs (even though I was 8 months pregnant when we bought) and just stare at the light and space inside. But yes, it did keep my legs toned 😉


Littles or groceries, what’s the diff?!

Jess b

I know I’m off topic but NO! We do not love Meryl Streep more. I actually find it rather rude when Hollywood stars speak out on politics. They live a completely different life – one with very few real world problems. How dare they speak for the rest of us when they don’t live like us. They live in a very rich bubble with a very different set of circumstances then the rest of us. So please Meryl spare me your political opinions. And I do feel like some democrats can be making more of an effort to unify this… Read more »


I don’t think you have to check your humanity at the door when you become a successful actor. It’s disgraceful to mock and make fun of someone with a disability as the president elect did. I will never unify behind someone who behaves that way. And I wonder when Americans decided that character doesn’t matter. That the promise of a buck was more important than dignity and humanity. Meryl Streep spoke of the power and importance of empathy and I lover her for it.


Thanks Katie, I agree. I am thrilled Meryl spoke with grace, dignity and truth. I do not intend to get over it. I will speak, write and protest against a man who is unfit. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million.


Meryl is an American. That means she has the same exact right as you or I to speak her political opinion. That’s the beauty of America. I also think she spoke on values we should all agree on: respect, human dignity, that we should hold our authorities are accountable. Regardless of political affiliation, these are or should be common values. I also think you misunderstand unifying the country. Loving our country and supporting our systems and elected members does not mean we should excuse despicable behavior that we wouldn’t even accept from toddlers, again, regardless of political affiliation. This shouldn’t… Read more »


Hmm, you know who else lives in very rich bubble with a very different set of circumstances than 99% of the country? The president-elect, who lives in a gold-draped penthouse and was also a celebrity when he started sharing his ‘political opinions’/birtherism lies. But he sure seems to think he can speak for the rest of us–and mock us, and assault us, and demean us (speaking of ‘rude’.) Moving on? No, we’ll be here, unified in the fight for human decency, while he and his racist, misogynistic cabinet try to dismantle it.

Values and human decency – Anyone can speak about those things, publicly or privately.



Man, this is just so gorgeous, light, and California cool. You did an excellent job, and I’m sure you got your $$ back in the sale. Thanks for sharing the whole process — these kinds of posts are so incredibly helpful to those of us who are considering home renovations.


Worth. Every. Cent. Truly the most amazing before and after I’ve EVER seen! You did that house proud.


6 comments?! Is that all? Wow, what a great all inclusive post! Emily you are one in a million. thank you for sharing all that you do. You are incredibly generous with this Blog. I know you no doubt get some payback in your business, as you should, and some freebies from Sponsors, as you should, as far as I’m concerned, you never need to apologize for that. You are worth every penny that comes to you. You bless the lives of your readers, your family and all who surround you. Keep going but always take care of yourself and… Read more »

What a wonderful transformation. And great execution. Love the new siding, the light fixtures, the planter, and all the other details.

We own the Eichler shown in 3 of the 4 pics in the set directly after your “California Eichler Homes” pairing. Would really appreciate a credit/link back to our restoration blog (fogmodern) please. Thank you!

Good luck with the home sale. I’m sure the effort/money/hassle will pay off.

I should add (for any interested readers) that Eichler siding, true to original dimensions, is available from EIchler Siding (dot com), based in Novato, CA. They stock three types of siding used on Eichlers –wideline (like our own), thinline, and plank tex. They come in 4 x 8′ panels as standard, and taller if desired.


Ha! We both think a like Andy – I didn’t see this comment, but I also asked them to credit you for those photos and mentioned Eichler Siding company.

Ouch, I can only imagine some of the cost savings if they’d used the Eichler siding for materials and labour 🙂

OF course we’ll link you up!! and congrats on that house. I believe that we did find the Eichler siding and I forget why it didn’t work – either lead time was crazy or cost of shipping was crazy or something … god, I don’t remember. There was something that made it impossible for us to use, or at least that’s what i’m telling myself now. 🙂

It was most likely cost of shipping. We only bought it because we are basically local to them. Great job on updating this exterior! It helps and hopefully inspires everyone in your neighborhood! I live in and Eichler outside SF. I’m a big fan of yours so it was very fun to see you mention Eichler!


This is nothing short of amazing. What a GIANT headache with the entire set up. I am not surprised by the cost…because that was daunting and dangerous to achieve. Anytime you have a property with less than desirable access you are going to pay. I live in a pre-war neighborhood with a single car long drive way that needs to be torn out and have new concrete poured. Because of the set up of my hood and the property they have to hand truck concrete in instead of backing up a giant cement truck and doing it the easy way.… Read more »




Wonderful transformation! The perfectionist in me would be bummed out every time I pulled up to the garage door though. I would’ve sprung the extra cash to straighten the curve.


Emily! It’s a beauty. Thanks for being brave enough to share those numbers. I know it’s not easy, but transparency is everything with readers. It’s what distinguishes you from sterile magazines with fancy layouts that we’ll never truly connect with on a personal level. We know you get awesome discounts. We don’t hate you for it. It’s just great to know what stuff costs (with and without the emily fairy dust connections) For example, when brady and ginny and others on your team do the makeover posts and post super expensive items (ginny: $800 coffee table tray, brady: $350 chain… Read more »


I always wonder that too, and also about fashion bloggers, who have crazy expensive designer clothes and accessories, working in a field that is not known for high pay. I wish everyone was as transparent as Emily.


Another thing I love about you Emily is how often you show great options at affordable price points. Thank you!!

OF course we’ll link you up!! and congrats on that house. I believe that we did find the Eichler siding and I forget why it didn’t work – either lead time was crazy or cost of shipping was crazy or something … god, I don’t remember. There was something that made it impossible for us to use, or at least that’s what i’m telling myself now. 🙂


Architect here – she took the house down to the studs and insulated as well as restoring the exterior finish. It is much cheaper to just replace the siding. Often new siding is placed over the existing to avoid touching the waterproofing of the home, which is under the siding. Emily’s entire exterior was rebuilt from scratch. Now her house is insulated and waterproof. What an amazing commitment to the home!!!! This home has a second life now – this is like getting an new transmission in a car. It’s still and old car but it will run like it’s… Read more »

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