The River House – One Shade of Grey

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Before blogging further on the interior transformation of The River House, let’s take a look at its miraculous exterior transformation. For if any project encapsulates the impact that paint can make, it is this one.

And as always, I am starting with the current state of affairs and showing the project’s “after” perspective. I think it is far more shocking to see something pretty and say, “My isn’t that pretty,” and then dazzle, amaze and shock people by showing them what something used to look like and have them mutter in disbelief, “What the? No freaking way!”


Here she is now from the river bank in the back yard. Soak that sight in . . . ah yes. Such a stunner.

But this was not always the case.


Built in 1997, the cedar shakes in their natural state more than likely made a rich statement and reflected the natural beauty of the river setting the first few years after it was constructed. Unfortunately, the original owner (a sweet elderly lady) decided to freshen those shakes up a wee bit and had the entire house painted in a hue that can only be described as, well . . . orange.

Subsequently, the first time we drove up to The River House on that brisk house hunting winter afternoon, I oohed and awed over the setting but cringed at the color of this monstrosity. (Case in point, the following no way/that can’t be real photo is one I took of what is essentially the front yard. Pause here for your own oohing and ahhing. Done? Ok. Carry on.)

Front Yard of The River House (I walked down the bank one winter morning to capture this fantastic image)

The house sits in a development of 8 homes that the river wraps around, the result is intoxicating front and back yard views from every home.  The beauty was so marvelous that I moved swiftly past the pumpkin situation with a flippant hand gesture and muttered something like, “Nothing some paint can’t fix . . .”.

The River House – Summer

No matter the season, the setting of this place is magic, even if it was really really orange.

Feast your eyes.

It was both gorgeous and hideous, like a Joan Rivers grin.

When we purchased it in March 2014, just over 3,000 feet of its total 5,000 was finished (the basement and the bonus room above the garage were an untouched canvas).  And yes, with that much room to hang our hats our friends referred to it as our “starter castle”.  My own mother got lost the first time she visited.

I had to rescue her from the pantry.

But because what was finished was so significantly in need of updating and attention, the price was extremely reasonable for such a large home on such a fantastic lot. It also had been sitting on and off the market for the past several years, buyers just couldn’t envision its potential.

Thankfully, Cowboy and I could.

In the spring of 2015 after living here for a year (and completing several interior projects that I will showcase on this blog going forward, just hang tight) we decided to finally embark upon the transformation I lovingly referred to as “One Shade of Grey”.

Somewhere underneath this traffic cone color pallet was a striking Martha’s Vineyard-esque calming grey abode. I just knew it.

And so it began. The power of paint.


I think the most compelling shift was how amazing the back of the house turned out.

Forgive the explosion, this was mid-paint job and everything was shifted around and piled in the backyard. I have this habit of starting a project and one third of the way in rushing to get my phone and proclaiming, “I almost forgot to get a before shot!”

This was one of those times. Hence the stack of crap.

The pergola had been painted orange and blended in like a redhead in a pumpkin patch. Painting it white contrasted the architectural feature and the result was absolutely stunning when complete. (It helps that the crap is also back in order in the after shot.)



This is now the perfect space for summer napping, wine sipping and day dreaming. I work from home for a technology company and I am camped out here with my laptop every chance I can be. I even won an award from my company for a fun photo contest they held for best home office. I sent them a picture of this amazingness. And yep, shockaroo, I won!

My prize was a beer cooler with my company’s logo on it.


Another feature of this back porch that  Cowboy and I love are summer meals enjoyed with our daughters at the patio dining table.

Many a juicy grilled burger has been savored at this table while listening to the birds sing and our teen girls chatter on about life.

Our painting project turned our pumpkin into the fairy tale we knew it would be.

The River House – Summer View
The River House – Summer

If you are astute you just noticed the one thing left that took a little longer to paint. Do you see it? <Insert Jeopardy theme music here>

You got it. The chimney. Our painters were too chicken to tackle our Mt. Everest incline roof line. (Cowards.) So you know who braved the shingle mountain and painted it for me for my birthday. Best candle on a birthday cake I’ve ever had.

And so let this story be an inspiration as to the old realty adage, “Location, Location, Location!” In other words, buy the worst house in the best neighborhood. Look beyond the present to the potential.

For if you do? Fairy tales can come true. And magic can unfold.

For about $30/gallon.

The River House – View from the river bank in winter . . .
Our family spent two summer tubing from our front yard to our back yard . . . magic happens if you but first imagine it.

Design Elements of The River House Painting Project

Exterior color is not the time to express yourself, I don’t care how much you like the look of lavender and green together. Keep resale value in mind, as well as your neighbors, and choose a neutral shade. Do contrast your trim with your overall color in a complimentary color choice (white, black and cream are always safe bets) to emphasize architectural features (like we did for our pergola).

Design Tip – Pinterest is, once again, your best friend as you consider color schemes for either a fresh paint job or siding make over. I checked out loads and loads of cedar shake houses online before settling on this medium grey shade.

Design Tip – You can always paint the exterior yourself (it isn’t that hard, just time consuming and potentially dangerous depending on the scale of your home . . . details.) So go ahead if you’re bored and want to spend your weekend risking your life on a ladder. Cowboy and I contracted our painting out. We determined our time was too valuable and we’re too middle aged to balance precariously twenty feet in the air for hours on end, paint brush in hand.

Design Tip – If you go the contractor route like we did – get at least three quotes if you don’t already have a trusted painter. Estimates vary widely so do your due diligence duty and shop around. (Recommendations from friends are a great place to start, the best painters often don’t advertise. They work solely from their local reputation. They are also usually booked out several months in advance so start planning early!)

We did all of the above and the entire project was three weeks from start to finish and went off without a hitch.

Thank you for stopping by The River House! Tune in next weekend for the story of the Cyclops bathroom. It was the stuff fun houses are made of . . .


Peace, Joy & Blessings, 


Want to follow the entire story of The River House? I publish stories weekly – sign up to Follow my blog and you’ll be notified the nanosecond I post the next before and after chapter in the saga!

Note: The River House, in all its “after” glory, is for sale! Cowboy and I had it appraised this summer and were flabbergasted by the appreciation of the value as a result of our hard work. We knew we were increasing the value all along, but by how much? Come again? Sold!

We accepted an excellent offer shortly after listing it but our buyer’s home sale has fallen through. There’s now a small window of opportunity for another buyer to step in – are you the one? Call Laurel Mahan at ReMax reality at 701.238.114 for details on how to own this little piece of heaven we call The River House.

(And you know what this means? Oh yes – another house to transform! Cowboy has nicknamed our new home The Lighthouse. We have some exciting plans for our new space as well that I can’t wait to document here. Lots of great things to come in this next chapter for our family. Sign up today to be a follower and come on the journey with us!)






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