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A Cottage: Before & After

A Cottage: Before & After

Updating a Sweet Cottage in Atlanta (A Swell Side Project in 2015)

After three years of renovating our little cottage in Atlanta, I helped a friend update a home they purchased also from the 1940s time period in the most gorgeous little neighborhood. Here are a few photos of the projects we worked on this summer. A final exterior photo showing off the new door will be taken again when the grass is green and there are leaves on the trees! The photo above is the house before we replaced all the windows and the exterior door.

Projects included:

  • Master Bath (full gut and renovation due to water damage discovered)
  • Tiny Hall/Guest/Kids Bath
  • Custom cabinets and Fireplace makeover
  • Replacement windows and new front door
  • Double Door replacement
  • New lighting throughout the home

One of the toughest things with this renovation project was a tight timeline (before the birth of a first baby) and the lack of availability of skilled contractors as this happened while I was also finishing my own renovation. We had to take a leap of faith on cabinetry which was quite a disaster but fortunately the contractor doing most of the work turned out to have good follow through in the end. It was not an easy project but I think we saved tons of money on windows, door replacements (purchased from a salvage yard) and the owner had a great connection for tile discounts. Plus, they didn't have to hire a general contractor, which based on their initial quotes, saved them quite a bit of money.

The down side of not having a full-time contractor of course is having to take on a lot of the coordination yourself; however, I believe as a homeowner this is a great (although stressful) gift of learning to give yourself for years down the road. It is empowering if not downright tearful at times when things are not going as planned. 

The Fireplace





The fireplace is one of the first things you see as you walk in the front door in a very open living space that is connected to the kitchen. A few issues we ran into was the long timeline for custom cabinetry and unavailability of people who can create custom sized cabinets for us...and the expense. I called at least 4 people who were not available for this project.

We did find a cheap shop in downtown Atlanta that looked extremely promising. We gave them our dimensions and planned to paint the cabinets or have a painter paint them. Only problem is they messed up all the cabinet dimensions and the quality of wood in the showroom was not what was delivered. These needed A LOT of TLC. However they were half the price of custom cabinets and available by our timeline (give or take a week and a headache). We tried to use stock cabinets at a liquidation store but we would have had to hack them heavily to make them fit this space. In the end, the contractor helped make these work.

I am not sure if I would automatically go with custom cabinets in the future due to expense for something simple like this requiring unique dimensions, but I think it is a great reminder that when you plan a renovation, time to plan and prepare is the biggest boost for saving money and getting what you want. If you can, give yourself TIME!

I had a slightly different vision for how the cabinets would connect but the tile guy doing the install had a plan that worked just fine. The tile on the fireplace and surround gave this room such a big bright punch. It was selected at Porcelanosa although the link may have a slightly different version than our final choice. The owner had a family discount which was HUGE. Always nice to get quality for a better price.

The Tiny Guest Bath


The vanity was built over an HVAC vent that could not be removed.
Thanks to this closet nook, you could not open the door all the way. It was a TIGHT fit to get in and out of the bathroom. I wanted to do away with it and put a recessed shelf and cabinet combo in its place.

The tub was tricky as the dimensions were odd and we had no idea how much room was behind this. The tile guy was right in that there were several inches to be gained by ripping this all out, but since I did not have that extra space in my bath reno I was nervous about committing to a tub/shower combo replacement. I felt it either had to stay (it was in great condition, just not ideal) to save money or be turned into a nice shower only unit.

Thankfully he was right that there were extra inches in the space behind so the owner could put in a small steel bathtub although her choices were very limited.

Clearly space is limited and unfortunately the flooring had rot underneath and was quite a project to fix for such a tiny space.


A new cabinet face with a working top drawer to cover the HVAC vent that is built in on the right side. The bottom right "cabinet" is just a faux cabinet. The owner purchased the mirror online and I love the tie into the cream floor and tiles in the shower. Inexpensive faucets and hardware from Schaub and Co helped update the space greatly without a huge expense.
And the highlight of this room for me is the Lace White Marble. My countertop guy had a remnant of this and it is my all time favorite marble but I never found a place to use it in my home so I got to live vicariously through my friend's little bath. Since it was a remnant, it was not a huge splurge and the countertop guys do excellent work.

How do you say LOVE? I wanted so badly to use Arabesque tile as an accent in here. We used it in this little nook and as a feature in the shower to keep in line with the classic cottage style but with a little extra pizzazz.

This was a custom sized cabinet that had to be hacked to fit the space and have more height than standard cabinets. We tied in the beadboard that is in other parts of the house but didn't go overboard with it. The tile guy who installed didn't like it but he is a modern kind of guy and modern was not what the house needed in my humble opinion. Now the best part is the bathroom door opens fully.

And this classic little shower/tub renovation is for a kids bath. We purchased the arabesque tile for about $6/sqft online and the rest of the tile came from Porcelanosa. The bath I believe was finally found at Lowe's or Home Depot in the right size for the space. Finding a steel tub in such a small size was hard. Picture framing tiles were purchase at The Tile Shop nearby.

As you can see, this bathroom has no windows. It is on the inside of the home and there was no creative way of adding one. I wish I was more skilled at taking photos without natural light working with me!

Dining Room Light Update


Believe it or not, this is during the light of day! It was also before we installed a new front door with a lot of light. The light fixture was not anything exciting though not horrible but it was off center with the table. Notice the high cabinet against the wall next to the bench in the background is missing.

I saw this light fixture at Kudzu in Atlanta and was in love. Thankfully she was too. I think it is PERFECT. She also bought it during a lighting sale. You can see the new microwave cabinet we installed in the background to line up with some existing built ins.


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