the photo journal + misc. news of Emma Kisiel

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Just a few more things to note in this last post about the house (for now), since I didn’t really get to show details in the others.
β€’ The front door creates these amazing rainbows in the living room at a certain point in the afternoons, and it reminds me of my apartment in Denver (the first place Nat and I ever lived in together), where the prism-cut glass windows high up would create rainbows all over the place, and that makes me so happy.
β€’ Probably the very coolest (albeit not very glamorous) change we’ve made to the house/thing about owning your own house is that we (Nat) cut a hole in the dining room wall and installed a cat door so the cats’ litter box is in the garage. I suppose one could wonder why we didn’t just install a cat door in the door to the garage – the answer is that the litter box is in its own large tub, so the cat door leads to essentially the cats’ tiny “litter box room,” a plastic tub with a lid on it. We obviously do everything we can to avoid one being able to tell there’s a litter box at our residence. (Also, you can see the white floor in these pictures.) Oh – and the cats’ food is up high so the dog can’t access it!
β€’ Our fence on one side is what you might call a hot mess! That gate is barely hanging on there (in fact, the day we got the keys the whole gate was just on the ground). Our neighbors on that side are great (all our neighbors are great!) and we’re going to work on a new fence together over the next couple weeks!

The biggest surprise in all of this is the relief I feel knowing this space is my own. I didn’t realize until we moved in to this house and started getting set up that I had never really felt like I could put roots down anywhere while renting, especially in the Portland area. I was always certain our rent would go up and we wouldn’t be able to afford it, or we’d have to leave because the owners wanted to live in the house again. But now, on top of being able to paint and pull up carpet and change landscaping and cut a dang hole in a wall, I can frame art knowing it can stay where I put it forever, and I can buy furniture of weird dimensions knowing we don’t have to worry about whether or not it’ll work in our next place in a year or two. I’m so happy. I love being this home’s owner.

Home – Before & After Part 2

We don’t just have three bedrooms and a bathroom (duh); here’s the rest of the house: before and after!






Living room and small dining area/mini office – there’s a fourth (non-conforming – no closet) bedroom off this area that we’re using as a dining room, but if we were to use it as a bedroom (or something else), this little spot where my grandpa’s roll-top desk is sitting would be our dining area. It’s been like a mini office for me; I sometimes sit here and use the laptop or work on mailings (the most official way to say “put return address labels and stamps on things”). One of the first things we thought about doing, I think the very first time we even saw the inside of the house, was knocking down that wall the desk is now up against to open up the whole space. Someday!

This is the room I think it’s most fun to look at because of the before photos – in the house’s listing, there were several iterations of how it used to look (1 / 2 and 1 / 2 / 3). It’s so interesting to see how others have laid out furniture in this space. It’s kind of a funky space; Nat still feels like we need more seating…





Kitchen – not a lot done here yet, obviously. Of course we’d like new counter tops and ~back splash~ and maybe cupboards, too. SOMEDAY, lol. I was pretty bummed about having a galley kitchen, but we’ve been cooking a ton lately (got Home Chef last month!) and it’s been working out really well! One grand idea is to knock out the top half of the wall behind the fridge and oven so that that area is more of a peninsula and you can see out to the living room (OPEN! CONCEPT!).

One thing we did do was replace the light fixture, which came to be called the “Harry Potter light” when we were marathon watching all of the HP movies and wanted to be in the dark save for some ~moody lighting~. I kind of miss the super red light it gave off. Not the fact that it looked like a lava lamp. (I should take a picture of all the fixtures/hardware we removed throughout the house in the first days there. It’s a huge bucket’s worth!)





Fourth bedroom/dining room – This room looks so different, as you can see! We pulled up the carpet to find… I can’t remember if it’s vinyl or linoleum. Our house was built in ’64, so I think it’s vinyl. Anyway, it was the worst color, and we couldn’t think about flooring options at the time (the hardwood throughout the house needs to be refinished, so when that happens we’ll probably add hardwood flooring in this room) so I insisted we paint it – white. It felt like everyone was telling me not to! Blog posts like this one gave me the confidence it would be an okay temporary solution. So far, it’s great!

We spent a few weeks searching for wall-to-wall shelving before deciding to just customize IKEA’s IVAR unit. Our last house had such sweet built-ins, which we appreciated after having them in our first rental house. We have a lot of little “knick knacks.” I love the way everything looks here. One of the cabinets below holds board games and the other ones have yet to be filled up! There’s more art in here now, too 😊




Second bathroom (laundry room) – This is off the dining room, and from here there’s access to the garage. This is a weird space. It definitely wasn’t a bathroom originally. But we were adamant about buying a house with (three bedrooms and) two bathrooms since this is a long-term commitment for us (I originally wanted to buy one house and live in it for the entirety of my life, but since this isn’t my “dream house” [but it had everything we wanted and amazingly WE COULD AFFORD IT] our mortgage loan officer was able to convince me that it’s okay to just live here for… 5-7 years) and we did not want to add a bathroom ourselves. The grand plan here is to make this space two rooms – a little bathroom and a laundry room/mud room – essentially having the shower and the laundry trade places. For now, it’s the wonky second bathroom and place where my incredibly expensive washer and dryer live! 😜




Backyard – just because I happened to have a few photos that work as before-and-afters. We had done virtually nothing to the yard at this point, but isn’t it nuts to see what a difference four months makes?! The yard is huge and lovely and private and not lawn-type grass (the best part, tbh). When my dad gets in to town a week from today (!), he’s going to help us with some landscaping and fencing, and give me insight about keeping pigeons.

Part 1 here, in case you missed it!

Home – Before & After Part 1

I suppose I should probably talk about how Nathaniel and I came to be homeowners before I jump into these pictures about how we’ve changed the place in the first few months we’ve been here. It wasn’t necessarily part of the plan (we had just – August 1 – signed a one-year lease at our adorable little house in SW Portland); we sort of just kept taking the next step to see what would happen – and two months after we first saw the house we were moving into it!

Because I am me and I have notes about almost everything, I can say that we first went to walk around the house on November 5. We walked the trail through the park behind the house and fell in love with the area, so I got in touch through Zillow a few days later. On the 12th, we got to see the inside and didn’t think too much of it (we had never really looked at a house with the intention of making an offer before; in fact, we had only toured the inside of four or five homes for sale in the Portland area), but the realtor said we could begin the pre-approval process that day. We were like, “Sure! That’ll be a fun experiment!” Aaand then we got a call that night letting us know we were pre-approved. That was a huge surprise! But now that I know more about the process, I kind of understand that that pre-approval didn’t really mean much. It was definitely encouraging, though.

On the 25th, with both sets of our parents in town for Thanksgiving, we looked at the inside of the house again and walked around the neighborhood. The next day, I got an email from Zillow saying the house had been listed as a rental. This wasn’t a huge surprise as the house had been on the market for a couple of months and it had been a rental for at least the past few years. But two days later, we learned that the house already had a tenant! We made an offer that night (the 28th). The next day, the owners countered with 15 above our offer – 5 above their asking price. Apparently, renting the home was better cash flow for them. We came back with our highest offer (up 10) and it was accepted!

We had an inspection on December 1. Three big things came up but they definitely weren’t deal-breakers – it was the fact that the house was in complete disarray that totally threw us off. Not only had the tenants already moved in, it looked like they were in the process of moving out. We were so disappointed and felt so bad for the family that we could only imagine was now displaced after having just moved in – and around Christmastime.

The next three weeks were a lot of appointments about mortgage options and insurance (the house is in a flood plain so we needed flood insurance), and vacating our rental. In the end, we lost our entire (huge) security deposit on the rental – but so much of it had nothing to do with breaking our lease. That’s a whole other story that I’m just glad is behind us. On December 29, we signed all the documents, and officially closed on the house on January 2. We got the keys in the evening and pretty much immediately went to work (mostly ripping vinyl decals off the walls and peeling up so many layers of shelf-liner all over the house).

I have to acknowledge that we were so, so fortunate to have financial support from both our families – and to have Nat’s parents come out to help us paint and move! None of this would have been possible without their help. The four of us painted every single wall and ceiling (closets included) – white (you can see we had walls that were dark purple/black, bright red, bright orange, lime green, pink, and yellow). And now you can see the before-and-after: bedrooms and main bathroom edition! The “before” photos were taken right before Christmas and the “after” photos were taken on April 19, so we’ve actually made a few more changes in the six weeks since then.





“Master” bedroom – all of the bedrooms are pretty small (I like that!).





Guest bedroom – we’ve had guests twice already and it checks out ☺️





Office – Nathaniel built shelves for my At Rest pieces in the closet and it worked out so well. I sold the huge flat file I had just bought! It was too big.



Bathroom – this is the one we use every day. There are a lot of ~renovations~ we’d like to do in here, but we have THE REST OF OUR LIVES to do it!!

Pictures from the rest of the house coming soon.