Why You Should Always Let Friends See the “Before” Version of Your Home

updated Jan 15, 2021
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When you move into a new space that’s just begging for a makeover, you can’t wait to show your friends the magic you work, right? How cool will it be when you can walk everyone through, pointing out how you tore up the dated tile and refinished the hardwood, or admire the gorgeous on-trend color on the walls that replaced the garish Crayola hues left by the previous owner? 

I’m here to say that while the ‘after’ gets all the glory, you should absolutely let your friends see ‘before.’ Why? There’s just no way to truly appreciate the transformation for anyone who didn’t witness where you started, firsthand.

That’s why, when a few years back my husband and I bought a Victorian in dire need of cosmetic updates (oh, that ketchup and mustard colored kitchen with playroom blue laminate counter and awful homemade pantries!), we didn’t even finish unpacking before we hosted a “Before” Party.

Yep! In those (pre-COVID) days, we invited everyone we knew to join us less than 48 hours after moving in so they could see the job that lay ahead of us. We toured them through the attic that time forgot with its owl-bedecked wallpaper and frighteningly filthy bathroom, the Emerald City green faux-finish painted dining room, the My Pretty Little Pony Purple guest room, and the traffic light yellow, crumbling plaster walled pantry

Truthfully the house was awful. Honestly, that’s why it sat on the market for a year at a bargain price, no less. People just couldn’t see past the cosmetics, despite the great bones, eight fireplaces, and 1887 details like inlaid hardwood floors.

We saw the great bones, of course, and we wanted our friends to see those, too. And we had a blast. We served “renovation food,” i.e. potato chips, Little Debbie pies, canned soft drinks, cheap beer, and other junk food. And we dreamed out loud about all the possibilities. Instead of being embarrassed about how bad it looked, I was thrilled to let everyone see our blank canvas — the starting point that we’d turn into something beautiful.

It actually really motivated me to dive straight into renovations, thinking about how amazing it would be to bring everyone back for the “After” Party. And it gave me a sense of pride that I’d be able to show them in a few months (or years, as the case actually turned out to be) just how big the transformation really was. Bonus: you get a captive audience who can share their ideas for the space with you. 

Also? It was just really nice to share our new home, a place we were super excited to be, with friends and family. It’s so tempting to only let people see your home when it’s in the best shape it can be, but the reality is, many of us — especially serial renovators — never feel quite “done” with our homes. Why deprive ourselves of the chance to gather no matter what the surroundings look like?

Now, I’m looking at this tradition with 2020 (literally) hindsight. Through the lens of nearly a year of such restricted socializing, the idea that I’d ever let something like a less-than-perfect house stop me from seeing friends seems preposterous. Of course, we can’t have big blowout parties these days, but there’s still value in guiding friends through a virtual Zoom tour of your home. Let them see where you’re starting, invite them to share their ideas, and then — once you’re done with one room, or maybe all of them — invite them to peek at the “after,” too. They’ll be excited to share the journey with you, and you’ll have something to look forward to.

What can I say? Everyone loves a good before and after.