My Humble Beginnings

Before After

Hello everyone! This is my first blog post on my website. Let me introduce myself. My name is Michele. My husband Paul and I live in sunny Southwest Florida, and are both Ohio transplants. The day after we married ten years ago, we moved into his 750-square-foot bachelor condo located in a 55-plus retirement community in Port Charlotte, Florida. This was long before the crazy fad of tiny houses. After two years of living in that really small residence we decided to take a leap and purchase our first home together. We sat down with our real estate agent to discuss all the qualities we wanted in a home. The list may have been long, but at the time it all seemed reasonable…at least to us. We wanted a house with a pool, located in a close-to-everything neighborhood, near golf courses, with a pleasing exterior, an open floor plan, high ceilings, and something that wouldn’t require too much work. One more must-have on our list was stainless steel appliances. Ah…anything else? Yes, just one more thing. All this had to fit within our budget.

My husband and I ended up looking at about 36 houses. Truthfully, we looked at so many houses that we kind of lost count. When we FINALLY saw THIS particular house, you would have assumed it was Halloween and not late summer. Spiders had skillfully woven wicked nets from a porch column to the front door which spanned five feet. As I was about to enter the front door, I sidestepped quickly to avoid a big eerie spider. Eww…! As if the scary spiders weren’t enough, this bank-owned house was being offered “as-is”!

The minute the front door swung open I expected the realtor to lead us into a foyer. But no, there wasn’t one. Once inside the three of us were standing in an open and gracious great room. As soon as Paul and I made it to the center of the large room I felt my heart leap. I knew this house should be one hundred percent ours. My excitement grew when I saw the look on my husband’s face. That’s when I realized we both knew this was it.

“It” was an image we saw when we stood in the middle of the room. Wall-to-wall glass sliding pocket doors allowed us to look out to a pool inside a covered lanai and a backyard. We both felt a little bit uneasy when we first saw the green pool. The nasty green water was due to algae and scum. The pool had been disgraced simply by neglect. We were told the house had been abandoned for more than a year and half. But what our eyes landed on was actually what was on the OTHER SIDE of the unkempt pool. There was an amazing yard with richly wooded landscape. After completing the tour, we agreed this was “the one.” Although we knew the house was going to require lots of elbow grease and a whole lot of love. This property and its location was exactly what we were looking for. This abandoned, neglected and unloved house had good bones. As an interior designer, I could see past the dingy disrepair. I could imagine the endless possibilities. I felt excited about this house. I couldn’t wait to make it our home!

The rest, as they say, is history.

Let me introduce you to this Mediterranean style home. It was built in 2007, with 1,818 square feet under air. The open-floor plan features three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, high ceilings and French doors. The property totals 10,000-square-foot and was filled with a mature landscape of many shrubs and tropical trees. The property setting is second to what truly sold us on this place. It was peaceful, had lots of privacy and a strong connection with nature. It can seem like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but we’re only a few miles from downtown Port Charlotte, a city of about 54,392 residents, a quiet residential town with a substantial percentage of retirees and winter residents.

My husband and I felt as though we struck Florida real estate gold. We purchased the house after the economy bottomed out. That was a time when there were plenty of short sales and foreclosures. My primary goal was to breathe new life into the house and create a comfortable, relaxing space. I wanted to do all this without spending a bundle. Paul and I are real people with real checking accounts, so doing all the things that I wanted at once was just not something we could pull off. We didn’t have oodles of cash to spare, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have big dreams.

In today’s blog I’m writing about our great room. It’s the largest room in the house. As I mentioned earlier there wasn’t a foyer or reception area. The great room opened to both the dining room and kitchen. Crown mouldings accentuated the high ceilings in all three areas. We planned to keep the existing 20” x 20” neutral color porcelain floor tiles. We were starting fresh so decorating every single room in a home this size felt exciting and daunting at the same time. Especially when there are countless options available and so many decisions to make. So how did I go about making choices? With a bunch of small steps. I wanted to create a room that brings everything together without a lot of fuss or great expense. This room is large enough to serve as a living room, family room and a place to eat light meals, all rolled into one. I chose to decorate with a tropical decor using palm leaves. After all, this is southwest Florida.

After using a measuring tape to get exact measurements of walls, doors, windows and the ceiling height, the first thing I did was draft a floor plan. I wanted to make sure certain furniture pieces fit before we purchased them. I knew one of the biggest challenges would be the placement of furniture. There was only one wall in the large room leaving me with a big, empty canvas. Every room needs a focal point — it’s a basic design principle. Your eye needs somewhere to land, and a focal point draws you into a room. The main focal point already existed: the architecture of wall-to-wall glass doors, making it the star of the room. This focal point draws the eye outward, to the beautiful pool and foliage. I knew if I placed an entertainment unit on the lone wall it would create a second focal point. This focal point gives the eye a place to “rest” within the space. Paul and I considered purchasing a sectional to float in the middle of the expansive room. If we placed the large sectional in the center of the room, it would emphasize both focal points. We wanted to have plenty of room to stretch out and put our feet up. The classic sectional that we had our eyes on was super comfortable with power recliners. It would blend fun, function, and provide a lot of comfort. Therefore, we pulled the trigger and ordered the sectional.

Before After

The great room was basically a big, dirty white box. I wanted to do away with the previous owner’s personal tastes and put my own stamp on the room. Painting the great room is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to transform the room. Therefore, the next step was to pick a paint color. I placed the four-pound paint wheel against the fabric of the sectional. I selected Behr Vast Desert UL170-17 for the walls and Behr Ivory Lace UL160-12 for the ceiling. I didn’t want to paint the ceiling with typical white because I wanted the crisp, clean white crown mouldings to “pop.”

I love how the sliding glass doors give us easy access to fresh air and sunshine. I chose not to cover the wall-to-wall glass doors entirely because I wanted to invite natural light to illuminate the space. Luckily, I was able to find picture-perfect floor-to-ceiling window treatments with grommet-tops right off the shelf. While keeping the drapery panels left open, the gentle folds frame the sliders effortlessly. The linen hue panels complement the rooms new paint color.

One of the coolest things about an area rug is it instantly defines a zone in a room. I was thrilled when I found the perfect tropical palm leaf area rug. The handcrafted large palm fronds created exotic splendor in the room. Shades of beige, cool sage, light apricot, and sun beige create a colorful display for our floor. The rug placement worked beautifully with the scale of the coffee table, accent chair and end tables. There was nothing that brought this room together quite as spectacularly as this big, beautiful area rug. It was the perfect finishing touch.

Speaking of tables I did not want to buy “suites” of furniture. Ages ago I used to have living room tables that were all the same shape, wood specie and color. Everything was “matchy-matchy.” Today I wanted an eclectic look, a blend of different styles combined, that would complement each other. I wanted a room that looked collected or acquired over time. The entertainment unit, end tables and coffee tables have a tropical look with a mixture of pine, bamboo, rattan and glass.

Finally, let’s not forget about plants. Paul and I love how this house is surrounded by so much beautiful foliage. I wanted to bring some of it inside. There’s something about fresh green hues that our lovely mother nature offers. Also, green plants are more than just décor—they can also absorb toxins, purify the air, and minimize stress. Layering greenery from a palm plant, to potted houseplants in the corner of this great room brings the outdoors in. This is a nod to Mother Nature.

Well, let the pictures speak for themselves. There really is no place like home.


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