Journalist, Author & Detroit-Home Renovator

Pictures! Finally Some Before + After Images of Detroit House

Maddie dog takes to Stacy's bed.

Maddie dog takes to Stacy’s bed.

It’s hard to believe that Karl and I have been living in Matilda for two months now.

We aren’t moved in, mind you — all of our stuff is still in storage — but we have a little one-room crash pad with a working shower and laundry. So we feel like we’re living large compared to where this project started.

To refresh: This time last year Matilda was standing, abandoned and alone, with no power, heat or water. She was down on her luck, a moldering old lady of a house.

Today we have heat and can wash our dishes and clothes. She no longer sags.

We’ve spent a fortune on her bones — things hidden in the walls that you never see — and are finally on to the fun stuff. We’re not going for high-end finishes, but we’re not going for the cheapest options, either. For example, I refuse to have hollow core doors. I just do. So we’ve found antique doors for cheap that we are installing. It’s about the same price as a new door from Home Depot, but with 90 gazillion times the character.

Progress had slowed down in January as our contractors were away finishing another project. But they are back now with a vengeance and focusing on the trim and detail work. We’re also waiting for the stair guy to return and finish the banister and balusters.

The house is in a state of absolute chaos right now, where it seems like everything that could be torn apart is. But I know from experience that it has to get undone before it can come together. Each piece is tied to another, so once the puzzle pieces start connecting it *will* come together quickly. We’re just in that OMG phase where Karl is vacuuming the house like 8 times a day trying to keep up on the dust.

We bought the house last June, just six weeks before Detroit entered bankruptcy. I suspect we’ll finish this phase of the house about a year later, and just as Detroit is scheduled to emerge from bankruptcy. It’s an interesting set of bookends, kind of like A Year in Provence, but different 🙂

Anyway… here are some of the progress photos.


This is the before and after of the front entry way. We are still waiting for the front door to be repaired, repainted and installed, but it’s almost completely DONE. In the before photos, there was no powder room or closet; the new layout features both. The doors and wainscoting came from an old church that was scheduled from demolition. Rather than have these beautiful historic pieces, we bought them to reuse in our house.

As you exit the entry way, you walk into the main hallway of the house. Originally, the two doors you see were just closets. But because we put a closet right in the entry way, our contractors turned this into a built-in library. It’s still in progress, but I’m so excited. And check out the trim around the doors and entryways. How gorgeous is it?


And this is what we found in the guest bath when we bought the house, and where it stands now. Still a bit of work to be done in here, but it is coming along! Sorry, Stacy: I thought we’d have a door for you this visit. I lied. Love you!


This is the vintage sink we found and installed in the guest bathroom. I had no idea how low those old sinks are. Guests will have to reach down!

This is the vintage sink we found for the downstairs powder room.

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New stair rail coming along …

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The stair banister is in progress.

Front door is coming along…

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More church trim being installed.

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Hallway trim.

5 Responses to “Pictures! Finally Some Before + After Images of Detroit House”

  1. Nick Kaebnick

    I think it looks fabulous! I’m glad that you realize how this have to “come apart” in the renovation stage before they came come back together. Like I’ve been saying, it will be all worth your year of sweat and ?tears. Just a week ago, Barron’s weekly magazine on the front cover said something like “Detroit will rise again”, then went on to elaborate on that. You bought at exactly the right time. Your home will appreciate by leaps and bounds, I think. Congratulations and good luck.

    Nick Kaebnick

  2. Althea

    I love it. I’m currently looking for a house…thank u for the tips
    Please keep me up to date. My Mom died & left the house. My sister and I have decided to sell, didn’t know that it can take up to a yr…Please write back when u have the time

  3. Mac Farr

    Very possible that sink was from a children’s bathroom. Our house on Seminole had a pedestal sink very similar to that that was very low in what was the bathroom off of the nursery.


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