christine clling

Fixer Upper | Duluth, MN Edition

Be warned: This is a long post. I put together a bunch of before and after pictures so you can see how drastic the change was. We bought this house in June 2016 and have put a lot of work into it, so there’s a lot to share. We saw the listing the day it came on the market and were probably the first ones to look at it; we were there in just a couple of hours. We walked in to a dingy entry way and really weren’t convinced of much at first. All of the plaster walls were cracking, a lot of windows were cracked, and there was a huge hump in the floor upstairs, so we weren’t sure if there were huge problems with it. Everything else seemed cosmetic, though, so we kept thinking about it. And I absolutely loved the 9 foot ceilings, the 6 foot windows, the views of Lake Superior from our bedroom, the character, and the original hardwood floors. After a contractor looked at it and said it didn’t have any major problems and all of those things were from 130 years of settling, we made an offer (yes, it was built in 1888!). The seller accepted our offer without even entertaining any others. We closed in June, just in time to watch our first Grandma’s Marathon from our new house. We continued to live at our apartment until September when it was supposed to be done, until our contractor turned out to not be a contractor and we had to live in a dark construction zone for a while because we had already told our landlord we would be out.

This is what the kitchen looked like: vinyl floors, homemade plywood counters covered with vinyl flooring, and that wallpaper. Somehow we got the vinyl flooring off the original hardwood floors (who would put vinyl over that???) and they’re not in the best condition, but definitely worth salvaging! The cabinets were gorgeous and I’m guessing from around the 1940s, so we painted them white and put shaker style trim around them to make them look updated. We blew out the wall between the kitchen and dining room and added cabinets and a peninsula for bar stools. We moved the stove to the wall on the left and the fridge to where the stove is in the original picture. We added a farm sink from Ikea, a backsplash to cover the peeling paint and plaster, and new hardware and fixtures.

There was a 12×11 room off of the kitchen that they had used as a mudroom/office. We made it into a mudroom/entryway, laundry room, and bathroom. It took quite a while to figure out where to put everything, because it wasn’t THAT big of a space. My favorite part, though, is the shower. It has a rainhead and a spray handle, and a block window in the shower. I love all the natural light it lets in. I searched online for a long time for a laundry sink that would fit in our tight space, and I finally found one that was EXACTLY the right size, with barely an inch to spare!

Here is the small entryway/mudroom we made with the walls from the laundry room and bathroom.

The dining room had carpet on it when we bought it. The ceiling was grungy yellow and there was a 70s/80s chandelier and horrible dirty curtains to match it. The windows in entire house had been painted shut and boarded up with plastic clear panels and it looked like (and smelled like) no one had opened a window since the 80s or earlier. The wall on the left with the wallpaper, (that was actually pretty) is the wall we took down. Now there is a peninsula with bar seating there.


The living room was one of the easiest rooms in the house. We painted the original fireplace surround that had been painted a bad color previously, but kept the tile on the fireplace. Reed wanted to replace it, but I felt bad tearing it out since it was original to the house. Otherwise we fixed the cracked plaster, painted, refinished the floors, added a light fixture, and widened the doorway between this room and the entryway where the picture is being taken from.

I don’t know whose idea it was to paint the banister and door highlighted with white, but it was a horrible idea. And they put vinyl flooring over the original hardwoods here again-terrible! You can see the original doorway in the first picture. When you walked in the front door, the door swung open so it blocked the doorway, making people stuck there until everyone was inside. We widened it and now you could never tell it wasn’t like that, we used trim to match it from other parts of the house, and it feels so much more open. We sheetrocked the ceiling to replace the tile and put in a new light fixture. I mulled for a LONG time about what to do with the stairs. I wanted to restain them but I tried a few different stains and it just wasn’t looking right. Then I couldn’t decide whether I should paint the entire staircase black. I think that would have looked great, and I hope to do that in a house one day, but I decided to go with the white and black combo. Painting those stairs and banister though, with all that detail, took SO long.

This was the upstairs bonus room, above the new bathroom and laundry room that was all an addition on the house at one point. The previous owners were using it as a weird closet so we just cleaned it up and refinished the floors. And took out the weird closet additions of course.

This is the bedroom attached to the bonus room. The plaster was really badly cracked in this room and it needed sheetrock on the ceiling and refinished floors.

I actually loved the color on this house, even though it needed a fresh coat. But when all the leaves grew in it really washed out the house, and I wanted it to stand out more, so we picked a dark blue color instead. This picture was taken the summer of 2016, so now that main level window is glass blocks for the shower.

We still haven’t refinished the front door of the house yet. I really want to sand it down and restain it instead of just painting it but that sounds like SO much work, so we just haven’t done it.

Here are a few more pictures from during the construction:

After we had to fire our “contractor,” Reed was stuck doing the rest of the work, even though he had never learned how to do most of it! He learned by watching YouTube videos and watching other people, and he’s done everything from adding outlets and light fixutres and windows to installing doors and fixing an ancient garage door so we could put off buying a new one. I’m proud of all the work he’s done; our house looks beautiful because of all his hard work!

January 11, 2018


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