Before & After: Hard-Won Homeownership, Infuriating Contractors & a Dream Kitchen

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When Kristen and her husband became homeowners they decided to shoot for the stars and attempt to complete their renovations before move in day. Unfortunately fate (aka their contractor) got in the way and they had to move in while finishing up their projects. Luckily Kristen kept things in perspective and when all was said and done she had a stunning kitchen to show for it.

From Kristen: Owning a home is something my husband Shawn and I have been wanting and working toward for years. Each of us are self-employed business owners (he is in real estate and I’m a custom pet portrait artist) so the path to a mortgage approval has been a long and frustrating process. We were finally approved late fall 2015, put an offer on a house in December and by April 2016 we had closed on our first home.

We knew the house needed a lot of work but I loved the layout potential and fell in love with the backyard view of just woods, a hard find in the neighborhoods where we were looking!

So, we included a rehab budget in our loan in order to try and complete it all at once and prior to moving. We created a master plan which included knocking out all the walls to make the small rooms one large open concept, gutting the kitchen and master bath, replacing flooring, repainting and generally updating everything. The next three-plus months were spent gaining a hatred of our contractor as well as a firsthand dose of gutting and renovating a house. The completion date was pushed back numerous times and we ended up moving in while renovations were still in progress.

While the entire process from mortgage qualification to renovation was quite painful, it was beyond rewarding to see all of our ideas, designs and visions come to life. I have been concepting for my “first home” as long as I can remember, so a huge obstacle for me was simply editing literally years of magazine clippings, ideas and Pinterest pins.

I worked hard to source items from small businesses. I found many of our light fixtures and hardware from Etsy (along with our coffee table and several decor items), ordered handmade tile for our bathroom and kitchen backsplash from a small company in California. I worked with two local woodworkers for reclaimed wood shelves and a mantle, along with a beautiful handmade sliding bedroom door. I also designed custom stair railings and a pendant light fixture with a metal working friend.

Once the renovations were complete, it took me awhile to decorate and begin to layer in our personality. We really enjoy traveling and I’ve used that as a bit of inspiration (along with my new found love for plants). We love displaying our photos as well as bringing back small things to remind us of our journeys: tile from Portugal and Italy, an antique door knocker from London, street art from places like Cape Town, St. Lucia and Barcelona, to name a few. And thank goodness for Target and TJ Maxx!

I put a blog together to keep friends and family updated throughout the renovation, and it ended up being my own cathartic “journaling therapy” to help my stress and keep things in perspective by forcing me to see the humor and big picture. Please visit for more before/after shots and an inside view of our renovation process from start to finish of our 1,500 square foot home!

Thank you, Kristen! You can see more on The Bowen Bungalow.