Our Most Stupid Mistake Ever

Even if that title read our mostest stupidest mistake ever, it still wouldn’t begin to describe the event that I’m referring to.  It was a decision that turned into a bit of a nightmare, to say the least.  And what was that decision you ask?  Buying this house.  Now that doesn’t sound so bad does it?  Well, have you ever seen the movie The Money Pit?  We had our own little version of the money pit, but didn’t start out with the huge, beautiful house that fell apart.  We started with the ugliest house you could find.  Oh, we were so young and stupid, so optimistic and stupid, so naive and stupid – well you get the idea. 
We bought this house at a very questionable  time – 3 months after we were married.  We got married in June of 2003.  We ran off to California and eloped (sorry to say this out loud, but I hate weddings.  Not that I hate if any of you want to have a wedding, just please don’t make me have one.  I’m not going to get started on this, as this could be a whole other post).  We got married on Friday the 13th – that should have been our first clue.  Anyway, back to the story.  I think we may have been high on California or something (we’re from MN), but when we got back we knew we had to make a decision on where to live.  I had a house in Willmar and Joel had an apartment an hour away.  We decided to try to find something in between, as I was dragging my feet at moving away.  We ended up finding something closer to (my) home, but the compromise was that it was on a lake (which Joel wanted).  The only way we could afford to live on a lake was to buy a fixer-upper.  We figured we could handle it.  After all, we had remodeled my basement when we were dating and had been dubbed “the crafty couple” – (I quilt, Joel builds furniture, and together we fixed up a house).  We just had that – “we can do it attitude”.  That attitude got us into trouble.  We decided we could live with this –

Front Exterior of our wonderful, new home


Beautiful retaining wall in front yard









Beautiful retaining wall in front yard

We thought  we could  just go one room at a time

Kitchen on move in day

And live in it while we fixed it
Doesn't it look like the 1970s came to visit, and then threw up all over our kitchen?

Doesn't it look like the 1970s came to visit and threw up all over our kitchen?


And I could work in it while we fixed it



 And we can totally redo this house for $5o,000


Fireplace in upstairs living room

Fireplace in upstairs living room


And it should only take a year or so.  We can do all those things ourselves!   (I watch HGTV, so that should be no problem)



Master bedroom

Did I mention, young and stupid?  Things didn’t really work out as we had planned.  The house needed so much more work than we first thought.  We began to realize the full extent of what we had gotten ourselves into.

Master closet complete with mirror style (walls and ceiling)


 It turned into doing sections of the house at a time (it’s kind of hard to carpet one room at a time, or drywall one room at a time, or trim one room at a time, etc.  It’s not very efficient!)



Master bath - please notice that as a guy, you have to stand to the side of the toilet to pee. Very tiny!


And dusting off your dinner before you ate it, or dusting off your clothes before you put them on, or moving the table saw from in front of your bed before you can go to sleep, etc. 

Dining Room


 And storing my quilting under a plastic tarp, or sewing at the dining room table (if I could find it), or asking a quilt shop if I could call them back as an air compressor is blaring in the background. 




So, things didn’t really go as planned and I won’t tell you what to multiply that $50,000 by.  Let’s just say I should never be in charge of estimating the cost of remodeling.




And after all that, working every night and every weekend (practically) for 4 years straight until you think you can’t take it anymore!  Sounds like fun right???   WRONG. 


 Thanks goodness we knew lots of people with valuable skills and knowledge.  Our parents were such great help, with all their past experiences with houses.   We had a few friends that were carpenters, or building inspectors, or an electrician or plumber.  And, just when we thought we couldn’t handle anymore, my brother quilt his construction job and got his contractors license.  Now we knew someone that could take over the rest of the jobs that we didn’t have the energy or will to finish. 


As 2009 begins, I am so grateful that that time in our lives is over.  We survived and learned a valuable lesson.  We are NEVER doing that again.  We are also enjoying the results of our sweat equity, despite the fact that we have spent our life savings on it.  We now have a home to call our own, full of memories – maybe more bad memories than most people’s homes have, but they are fading.  I’ll compare it to childbirth –  Though I have no personal experience with this, everyone says it’s torture, but you soon forget it.  That feeling of living through something that has gone terribly wrong, isn’t there anymore.  We are just grateful to be done and  to have what so many others don’t.  There are so many people living in other countries who will never have the “opportunity” to remodel their own house.  It’s not so bad after all, right? .  .  .  .  .  .   To be continued.  .  .  .  .


P.S. – I can’t say that I recommend watching HGTV.  It helps encourage that “can do attitude”.  It encouraged me to do things that I may not have had any business doing. :-)

About Heather Peterson

Quilt pattern designer
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41 Responses to Our Most Stupid Mistake Ever

  1. rachel says:

    oh my!!!
    i can’t wait to read the rest of this story.

    i’m young and have that stupid “i can do it” attitude. i’ll have to remember this post before i bite off more than i can chew.

  2. Dawn Heese says:

    You are truly a woman of vision to look past that kitchen. Do you ever wonder what the previous tenants had in mind with the mirrored closet?

  3. Jen says:

    I want to see the “after” photos! The attitude is great and those before pics… all I can say is WOW! You need to show some “after” photos for sure. My neighbor is into “fixers”. Her current house – and where she and her husband plan to live to their dying day (her words) – had a sunken ceiling in the living room with squirrels nesting in the space above that. the house is now beautiful. Still a work in progress but they are almost there!

  4. Yvette says:

    You can’t leave me hanging like that. I want to see the final pictures!

  5. mariajhmom says:

    Oh. My. Gosh. I’d forgotten how bad it looked. I don’t remember if it smelled bad too. I do remember the mouse skeletons.

    Please show the after photos or we’ll all have nightmares!

  6. Jane Weston says:

    Can’t wait for part II! Such a lot of work!!

  7. Pat says:

    The inside reminds me of my folks house in the 1970’s. Can’t wait to see the finished photos. That had to be a lot of work and dust!

  8. Carrie says:

    What a cliffhanger….I am so glad you took before pictures, and I am looking forward to the after pictures. Besides no street appeal the insides were awful…. WOW you must have in IN LOVE or something to take that house on…… but really good for you for sticking it out…..

  9. Mary-Kay C. says:

    Yep, that’s one ugly house. I have to laugh. When we got married Brett wanted a fixer-upper but with 1 son with asthma and allergies we decided our 1st house had to have a/c, a garage and at least 200amp service. So we bought a house with all that and then preceeded to tear it apart, room by room. We have lived here for 21 years and it’s still not done. We could have gotten a brand new house for the amount of money we put into this one. But it’s done right and won’t have to be re-fixed.It’s just so much fun!!! NOT! I’d rather quilt.

  10. I am glad to see other people have made the same mistake we have made. HA!

    We have been working on our 1890 Victorian for the last four years. Working on a home and living in it (with three small children) was not our best decision. We are almost there. Almost. Once we are done, it will be worth it. I love our house so much!

    We have decided to remodel our kitchen this summer, but have decided to leave it to contractors. I don’t think we can take another summer full of do-it-yourself remodeling projects.

    Also, I have seen your “after” pictures. Your house is lovely!

  11. Nancy L says:

    Your pictures brought back memories of our “fixer-upper,” but we didn’t do it ourselves. After it’s done it’s worth it, it’s just getting to that point that is the problem! Since I know what your house looks like now, all your hard work has paid off! It lookds great! Thanks for sharing the old pictures, I hadn’t seen them. You are very brave to have tackled that!

  12. cindratee says:

    I have to agree with your wedding feelings.

    You did have quite a bit on your plate with that house, but it has many good elements….. do we get to see it finished?

  13. Chris@catsonmyquilts says:

    Having seen some of the pictures inside and outside of your home on your blog, you have done an amazing job!! You have made a HOME.

  14. Nancy says:

    Oh my goodness. When I saw the “Z Brick” in your kitchen and you made the remark about the 70’s throwing up all over it I laughed until tears were rolling. We bought a house that we also figured we would ‘change’ a few things in. “Z Brick on one wall of the living room was the first thing to go. Little did we know, it would take the sheet rock with it. Lord what mess. Also they were living in the house when we looked at it so lots of little things were hidden. Like the fact that they used a staple gun to attach any wall paper that wouldn’t stick down right. Pulled about a thousand staples out of the walls and had to put new sheet rock there too. However, our changes didn’t compare to yours and I can’t wait to see some ‘after pictures also. One more thing…you spoke very profoundly when you said to never estimate the cost of remodeling. It does tend to get away from you very quickly.

  15. Kathleen says:

    You are two brave people. I’m so glad you stuck with it and survived the process. The photos you’ve shown on your blog show a very beautiful HOME that you can be very proud of. Look forward to seeing more.
    And you’re right about HGTV….they do a great job of convincing us unsuspecting souls that we can do it all….no problem!
    Congratulations on completing this huge undertaking. (And just think….you did all this work on the house, AND turned out wonderful fabric and patterns for all of us. You are indeed one talented lady, with a real “go to” attitude!!!)

  16. Linda says:

    A lot of marriages don’t survive building a house, let alone remodeling – THAT was quite an under taking!! Congrats on a huge accomplishment!! Have you fixed the retaining wall?? LOL!!! Just kidding, that would have been least of my worries!! All I can say is – Bless your heart!!!!! You worked it out AND designed some pretty fabulous quilts too!!!

  17. Rachel says:

    Wow Heather, I sure hope you’re going to post “after” pictures (and that none of those above were “after”). I agree that HGTV can be dangerous – it puts all kinds of crazy ideas into our minds!

  18. Sharon Dimberg says:

    Wow, that was one huge project you tackled. You have shown some pictures on your blog of various rooms in your house and they are gorgeous. Also, my sister Judy has stopped out there with quilts for you, so she said first hand your house if “Beautiful”.

    Sharon D.

  19. Vickie says:

    Wow … looking at those before pictures, and seeing what you have accomplished, my hat off to you girl. You are not only extremely talented with fabric, thread and color. But your skills in creating a home from a house are amazing. Can’t wait for the next post :)

  20. Erica says:

    Seeing little snippets of the finished product in your previous posts, I have to say WOW!! My hubby and I have that ‘can do’ attitide, and now I’m a little worried as we are moving and planning on buying this fall. I just don’t know how you ever saw past that kitchen, I don’t think I could!!!

  21. Mel says:

    Oh, my! What was it that drew you to the house in the first place? Please don’t take offense, I jsut don’t think I could see any potential in all the brown and drab of the place.

    ….SO, where are the pictures of the ‘AFTER’???

  22. Christiane says:

    I think that was a really hard time and I understand that you wanted to giveup more then one time. When you buy an old house. Or how I call it, a house with character you never really know what you get in the end. Me and my boyfriend have decided to remodel the house of my grandparents. That house is over 150 years old and you nver know what you find “in side” it. Because every generation has remodeled it after there owen impressions. I would´nt do this if I would´nt do it if I wouldn´t have a father how is constructor and an cousin how is constructor, too.
    I´m looking forward to see you after pictures. I´m sure you did a great job.

  23. Julia says:

    Can we say “Cringing”!? Oh my goodness! I CAN NOT believe you decided to renovate that monstrosity!! With each photo that went by, I was literally cringing. I am so impressed that you guys did it! And I CAN’T believe you left me hanging!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHH! I want to see it now! (Insert Verucca from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory)

  24. Please, please, please post the after photos so I can get the before pics out of my mind…lol

    I’ve fixed up an old house and it’s not for the faint of heart!

  25. Karen Holland says:

    Boy, do I hear you, sister! My hubby and I have been through a similar experience! We thought we would buy this house and only live here for 5 years and sell it. Well 16 years and three kids later, we are still here! And we are still working on things! Oh, well. My hubby is a carpenter and my parents have done the whole house building/remodeling thing, so we had a lot of experience on our side. I would agree with the previous post, “fixing up a house is not for the faint of heart!” And it always costs WAY more that what you figure!

  26. sister-in-law andrea says:

    oh heather…i forgot how tacky the house was…especially the nasty wallpaper i helped strip off the walls!!! Well it went from a “who would buy that” to “that’s my dream house”

    PS do you still have the light bulb fixture from the kitchen?

  27. Jan says:

    Man, can I sympathize. We have done the ugly house fixer upper 3 times. (I must say, none were QUITE as ugly as yours LOL [ one must take that beautiful lake into account too], but one was 150 yrs. old and not very well built at all) Are we done with all of that? Oh yea! We are living in an RV right now until we can get something brand spanking new! Fixer upper days are OVER!

  28. sista inlaw says:

    Well it could have been worse…buy the way do you still have tha ceiling tile up in the master bedroom???

  29. And then a miracle happened?

  30. Camille says:

    Oh. My. Gosh. It really IS as bad as you said it was! But still, it makes it just that much more impressive that it looks so fabulous now.

    Now, the after post?

  31. Leslie L says:

    Wow, that kitchen wallpaper is just too much! We remodeled our kitchen last summer (using a contractor) and that was enough to live through. I have to say, I think childbirth was easier than what you went through!! How on earth did you keep your business running through all of it? Anyway, from some of the other pictures I’ve seen on your blog, I have a feeling the results are stunning. And the view certainly is. Can’t wait to see part 2 of your story…

  32. Ellen says:

    WOW!! I too have seen some after pics on your blog and they are quite lovely. What I got tickled with is you said your brother “quilt” his job to become a contractor! tee hee hee! I think you type the word quilt one too many times in your life! Love your work sweetie!

  33. kala says:

    LOL…awesome life lesson!! At least you’re still married…that says something. Maybe the 13th wasn’t so bad after all

  34. Nancy E says:

    Oh, please show us what the house looks like now!

  35. Bev C says:

    Wow, that Brown kitchen was awful wasn’t it? I wonder what the previous owners were on when they chose that. I can’t wait to see some more photo’s. You must be proud you did it yourself. I hope you have a wonderful weekend

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  37. Kay Dungavell says:

    Happy Anniversary,
    I sell Real Estate -so I have seen this episode before!!!.
    I would love to see how it ended up. I am sure you are very proud now that it is done. Your right it is like Child Birth – it gets so you only remember the good part –
    Congratulations on the 6 years and the good job done.

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