A Check-In on Our Pre-Christmas Checklist + Will We Be Home For Christmas?

December 19, 2019

We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 




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Last month, November 13th, we laid out all the projects we had lined up to complete before Christmas in this post. At the time, we were making plans to move out for two weeks and group a lot of these tasks together to really expedite things. I didn’t realize how much time had passed since I wrote that list. And here we are, a week before Christmas, the end of our third week living in a hotel and I thought I owed you an update on the progress of things.

Lay Heated Flooring System in Dining Room

When we rebuilt the dining area, we added HVAC, but because the floors will be tile, we also decided we’d like to heat the floors. We are using a system from Warmly Yours and it’s here and ready. We are told this will be installed and thinset applied before Christmas (we’re told tomorrow actually!) so it can cure and then the tile can be laid.

Lay Tile in Dining Room

The tile is here, but won’t go in until after Christmas, sadly. I’m really looking forward to this one. (See our dining plans here.)

Epoxy the new Balcony

Check! The balcony is epoxied! Though there is still some flashing to be added to make it more water-tight around the edges.

Add Railings to the Balcony

This hasn’t happened and I don’t foresee it happening before Spring. We met with someone about the railings and I’m not sure we were the best fit to work together. He had ideas about how it should look and we found ourselves compromising a lot to make his job “easier”. We ended the conversation basically saying we had a lot to think about. And the more we thought about it, the more we feel like we can take our time here and make sure we get something we really want and like. Our bedroom doors will be bolted shut until that happens!

Add Spiral Staircase from Balcony to yard

Nope. and I foresee this happening at the same time as the exterior railing in a few months.

Install new windows and doors in Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Closet and Breakfast Nook

Check! And perhaps the most exciting thing that has happened in the last couple weeks. I have a full post coming about these (we’re waiting on some trim) but it has really changed the whole vibe of the house. We went with the Pella Architect Series Wood Windows in black (on the interior and exterior).

Add double-sided gas fireplace in between Living Room and Dining Room and build out the fireplaces

I won’t lie, this fireplace has taken a lot of energy from a lot of parties. There are so many codes that have forced it to be rebuilt THREE times so far. Between making sure the firebox has enough support to making sure there are now TWO exhausts instead of one and then making sure they are small enough to fit through the ceiling–whew! I’m so grateful for our contractors who work through all of these rules and make sure that our design is safe and up to code. This fireplace is going to be plastered and won’t be done or operable by Christmas, but just seeing through it to the dining room has been such a big wow moment–we’ll take it and hang our stockings on the frame proudly.

Add built-ins to living room

The original plan was to have one arched opening in the living room, leading to the dining room and one arched built in on the other side of the fireplace. On the day they were framing in the built-in side we saw it opened for the first time and we made the decision to leave it open! It flowed so well and we’re so excited about it!

New electrical in dining room, living room, music room, hallway and master closet.

I try to share a lot about how awesome our contractor and sub-contractors are because they deserve a lot of praise. But I also want to set proper expectations that that won’t always be the case. We had to replace our first electrician because he no-showed multiple days in a row putting our entire team two weeks behind. It was a hard decision because we actually liked him, and it meant having to have an extensive walk-through with a new electrician pointing out where we wanted every outlet and switch and can light, but we could no longer trust the first one and it was affecting every aspect of the renovation. Fortunately, the new one brought in was a POWER house and completed nearly ALL the electrical in 3 days (for reference it had been 3 weeks with our first electrician and the dining room wasn’t even finished yet).

Add sheetrock to dining room, Master bedroom, closet, music room, hallway and living room.

I was really worried this wasn’t going to happen. Obviously sheetrock can’t go up before insulation, and insulation had to wait for electrical, but we were so so behind with electrical. Fortunately, yesterday we had two guys show up and they rallied!!! I am not sure if everything will be mudded and taped by Christmas but walls are nice and really allow us to see all the new spaces more clearly. Plus having an insulated home again will be so, so nice.

New siding on exterior addition

I haven’t even HEARD anything about this. Our exterior in the back is tarped right now and I think the focus is on the interior and we’re happy with that.

Order and Install lighting

I’ve ordered some lights but not all and I am kind of okay with that in some areas. I feel like lighting is a really integral part of the design of a room and I just don’t have the brain capacity to design every room we need lights for right now. I kind of get why people put in cheap temporary lights sometimes!

Trim out Dining Room

This hasn’t happened yet (duh, drywall is still going up) but we have talked extensively about what kind of trim we want in here and it is still like this big, scary thing for me. Like, wait, I have to decide this right now?! We’ll be doing box trim in the dining room and I think it will be just enough to make it feel really special.

Add beams to Living Room ceiling (and possibly dining room)

If you’ve been following along on stories, the beam placement for the living room was giving me grief until we decided to move the lighting (fortunately this was before the electrician came and it was in the bid to update the living room electrical anyway). We haven’t installed or seen any beams yet, but knowing there will be three: centered on the fireplace, and between each arched doorway– it feels so right. We also decided to do several small white beams in the dining room (I think 5-7!) and I can’t wait!

Paint Master Bedroom and move back in to our room!

We’ve been sleeping in Faye’s room since the day after Halloween and she’s been in the spare bed in Greta’s room while they work on our bedroom. Of course it would be amazing to be in our bedroom by Christmas. I don’t think it will be painted, but it officially has insulation and drywall and I think we’ll be in!

Lay new wood floors in entire house.

We hired separate contractors, our good friends The Snell Brothers (they did our master bathroom in our last house and some of the work on the cabin) to lay the floors throughout the house and they have been burning the midnight oil making sure we have floors by Christmas.

Lay new carpet in the girls’ rooms.

Yes! Made such a huge difference. This was one of the must-dos while we were living in a hotel. Check out photos here.

Extend stone fireplace to ceiling in Master Bedroom.

Our bedroom went under MAJOR construction during all of this with the addition of balcony doors, a master closet and the removal of the tray ceiling. I expected our room to feel better once the tray ceiling was gone, but I can’t express how much more open it feels! We gained well over a foot around the perimeter of our room making the whole height 9′. Extending the stone hasn’t happened yet, but our contractor assured us it’s a “couple hour job” and will likely happen at the same time as the fireplace, since it’s the same stone mason working on both.

New Railings on stairs inside.

This is happening currently! You can read the whole thought process and a lot of inspiration images here. But because this wasn’t in our original budget and that’s something we’re very mindful of, this week, we decided to shift gears and update what we currently have. We found this inspiration picture (below- from here) and knew we could achieve something similar. The thing is, I don’t mind our railing and actually really like our newel posts. The things I didn’t like were the color of the wood (the creamy glazed finish) and the ornate birdcage metal balusters. I think this is such an important exercise when improving anything in your house. (It’s the reason we’re keeping the stone fireplace in our bedroom–I realized it wasn’t the stone I didn’t like, fun update on that in the new year!)

If you don’t like something, try to break down specifically what you DON’T like about it (and maybe what you do, too) and see if you can work with it! We’ve decided to paint the railing and newel posts a lacquer black and replace the balusters with tapered wood ones painted in the same black. I think it will look totally updated but still really classic and save us thousands of dollars!

Organize Garage.

As soon as all of our garage organization pieces arrived, so did everything else. So currently the garage is too full to even organize it. So this won’t happen before Christmas, but Chris really wants to spend time on this over our break once the flooring materials are cleared out. (Clearly we know how to take a vacation from work. Haha)


We aren’t going all out this year, but if we do make it back into our home, having a tree up (I ordered a 12′ one from Balsam Hill!) and stockings hung would make it feel really magical for our girls so that’s our goal.


As you can see, we haven’t checked off very much of this list. And yet, looking at pictures from a month ago, we’ve come so far! We feel the progress, we see the progress but it’s not reflecting very well in this list.

Will we be home for Christmas? This is the question we keep asking ourselves. Our thoughts are kind of all over the place right now. We feel like we can be back in our house before Christmas. The major construction things (floors, insulation, walls! haha) should all be done by then but it’s still unclear of the state things will be in next week. We know it will be some time before the house is finished, and we’re no strangers to living through renovation, but Chris and I sat down yesterday and discussed what we feel like we’d need/want to move back in.

We decided that if the house is warm and safe and we can clear some of the dust from the air, we’ll move back in. That’s our criteria. Our goal was Saturday, but we just got word that our hotel is booked solid after Friday so we won’t be able to extend our stay anymore. Eeeeek. We have some family we can stay with for a couple nights if need be–We’ll keep you posted!

Just wanted to say thank you for all of your support and encouragement. It’s such a wonderful quality in a person and we feel that from all of you. Thank you. Thank you.

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What do you think?

  1. Amanda says:

    How do you keep your to-do lists/ punch lists/ cost & budget organized? Do you use a program, template, self-created excel spreadsheet, etc? I’d love to know how you keep your projects organized, from the big strokes to the details. I feel like I am drowning in lists and sticky notes!

  2. katie says:

    Christmas is a whole season… not just a day. Doesn’t matter where you are, but who you’re with. It’s all good :)

  3. That’s a ton of progress for one month! Being flexible through renovation is the best way to be, and you guys seem to really go with what will work for you. Can’t wait to hear more about the banister!

  4. Seriously, I know I’m not the only one enduring this madness……

    Can you do something about the way your page loads? It takes way too long for all the assorted photos and ads to pop up, in the meantime I have read halfway down your blog and suddenly it pops me up to the top again. I love your blog but this makes me want to skip rip my hair out.

  5. Kate says:

    Isn’t it great and invigorating when you start to see a tiny sliver of light at the end of a loooong renovation tunnel?
    I love the idea someone posted of interviewing the contractor.
    And thank you for saying you understand the temporary cheap lighting! It’s a hard decision and makes me feel better for slacking on updating our cheap gross fixtures ????

  6. Dani Rico says:

    I’m so excited to see this house complete just because I loved your old home. The changes so far have been amazing but I’m excited to see how that the living room will come together.

  7. Julie S says:

    Aw, I love you guys. Sounds like a bunch of really real life this Christmas – ha! Depsite the par-for-the-course contractor woes, it sounds like you also have some really great people on your team and I hope you DO get to be home for Christmas!

  8. Christina says:

    This is SO MUCH progress! It’s incredible to see it come together every day in Stories but then seeing these pictures it’s even more dramatic. I’m so glad you decided to add the doorway to the dining room instead of a built-in. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself, but now I’m certain it will help the dining room feel less like an addition and more like An Integral Part Of The House. Thanks, as always, for taking us along on the highs and lows!

    I hope you and your girls have a magical Christmas. I keep thinking of the memories they’re going to share. “Remember that one year we were living in a hotel, and then we finally got back into the house and Mom and Dad made it all so special?” I think even if you’re not living back in the house quite yet, taking the time to put up the tree and stockings and spend time there as a family will create such beautiful memories. Merry Christmas, Marcums!

  9. Pia says:

    I love that you write stuff. Not just the pretty pictures but also progress pictures and text.
    That’s why I always come back to this blog.
    Thanks for sharing and Happy Holidays!

  10. Fran says:

    You’ve achieved so much! Feels so wrong of me, but I’m just hanging out to see your new (old) front door!

  11. Christy says:

    So much to celebrate! I appreciate the authenticity in your journey. I’m sure it has been HARD, but your grace and positive attitude is shining through. I can’t wait to see it all come together!

  12. Jen McIver says:

    Thank you for sharing the reality of where you are in your renovation journey. It’s refreshing and a great reminder that transformation is often messy and doesn’t happen in 30 minutes or less. Love what you’ve done so far and can’t wait to see what’s in store in 2020!

  13. Claire says:

    The progress must be so refreshing! Love the staircase update and so happy you decided to leave both openings on either side of the fireplace- it looks amazing! ???? for your Xmas move-in. We were in a similar place with our house a couple years ago and ultimately we stayed with family bc it just wasn’t ready. I was disappointed at first, but we had such a lovely relaxing Christmas without riffling through boxes or worrying about the dust that I’m sure it was meant to work out that way. Things will come together for you too!

  14. Janie Claiborne says:

    Congrats on all the accomplishments. We have been building so ai know how slow things can go. Patience and appreciation for steady, quality work is our goal.
    Merry Christmas!

  15. Jamie says:

    It is looking so lovely! I was so excited to see that you are reusing parts of your stair railing. I was watching your stories last week and I kept thinking that it was a shame you couldn’t just pull the old spindles out and put wood ones in. Its going to be beautiful!

  16. JL says:

    Julia, thanks for the update…those black taper top balusters are so SEXY! For the bedroom balcony, one option you may wish to consider is a preassembled railings system that can be put in quickly as a phase 1. That way, you can open your doors, enjoy your balcony, feel safe and take your time finding someone to design exactly what you want in a year or two.

    I can’t wait to see all of the hardwood floors laid. I love seeing how hard your contractors are working to help you keep to your timelines. It’s been heartwarming just hearing your excitement about the living room window and the decision to keep the second arch open around the fireplace. Stay hopeful, we’re cheering you on!

  17. Jill says:

    They seem to be working so fast that it’s like seeing a movie of your renovation. Enjoying living vicariously through your project and design decisions so much!

  18. Mimi says:

    I don’t know the sizes but the fireplace opening in the bedroom looks so lost with all the stone. I would possibly bring down the wall of stone and add a wood mantle. If you are worried about too much wall– put up your frame tv or the lovely artwork you own or just some greenery and twinkle lights for winter. Granted you know the sizes of the opening of the fireplace and the wall of stone and what you want most in your bedroom.

  19. Sandi Fletcher says:

    I was thrilled when you indicated that you are reworking the staircase railing, I feel that “we” so often are quick to remove and replace when we could rework instead. This is one of the reasons that I follow you, you are creative without compromising design.

  20. Haley says:

    I’m so glad you discovered Hudson!. I worked there until my daughter was born in May. Jill (the owner) works really hard and I think it shows in her results.

    I’ve been loving following your reno. Fingers crossed for a New Years dinner for you in your new dining room!

  21. Shell says:

    Beautiful! It’s a lot to deal with at one time. You guys are smart to find small ways to make Christmas enjoyable for your family. Good luck and we’re rooting for you!

    Also when we were remodeling our house last year, new steel railings were on our list too. However, when the budget winded down on other things, I decided to paint mine temporarily – black handrail and white spindles. It surprisingly looks great and I’m not even sure we’ll replace them in the future!

  22. Patricia says:

    I need to take a nap after reading about all the progress. I thought just doing a kitchen was hard or adding a dormer and new bathroom. Even finishing the basement man cave (with sanding dust sucked into the furnace intake and blown all over the house three days before Christmas). I am a total lightweight. Following your gigantic remodel is all the excitement I need.
    Much more fun to watch it on the internet instead of living through it. And cleaning up. And doing it with three little girls.

  23. Kendall says:

    For some reason I thought you weren’t adding any railings to the INTERIOR and I was thinking, “well you do you but this seems…unsafe”. Haha I was so relieved when I got to the end of the blog and realized it was the EXTERIOR railings. Phew!

    • Joanna says:

      Kendall – I read it that way too at first, lol!! I had to re-read it and was then like “Ohhhhh, now that makes sense” ha ha ha. Glad I wasn’t the only one! :)

  24. Jillian says:

    Love love this update. So in awe of what you’ve taken on, and how you’re working through it with open hearts, gut instinct and being in service of your family. ❤️

    Really appreciate your comments around nailing down what bugs you about something (rather than changing the whole thing). We have a fireplace and kitchen that if we made some tweaks to, would be totally fine for now! ☺️

  25. Vicki says:

    Great idea about the staircase! Loving everything you are doing. Staying tuned in for additional progress. It is going to be so beautiful.

  26. Charlene says:

    I love all of the changes you are making, and love that you are taking us all along for the ride. I can’t wait to see your results. Also, I hope you share just how you paint your banister. I have plans to paint my banister black, but would love some direction.

  27. Amanda says:

    You’ve progressed so far! I love this update! I can’t wait to continue watching this during. You all are doing amazing.

  28. Cici Haus says:

    I love the new staircase idea! None of the inspiration pics felt quite right (for me, obviously!) until this one. I LOVE it. The perfect mix of modern and classic, clean but interesting. We’re getting close to this “everything at once” portion of our renovation and I’m honestly terrified, but seeing you do it has helped! Can’t wait to see it all finished.

  29. Every year you guys bring in a project. I have followed along for years (since Greta was a baby) and love, love, love watching you guys. Your style is so fresh and modern, but also comfortable and classic.

    I am so excited for you!! Wishing you the very Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest, most blessed New Year!!

  30. Kim says:

    The view from the front door that sees all the way out through the back dining door to what will be your patio…it totally pulls you right in – what a fabulous, celebratory home this is going to be! Thank you for being so completely honest in the setbacks, the stress. You have felt like a small bright light of honesty and authenticity in the world of instagram/blogs/etc.

  31. Lindsay says:

    This is a crazy amount of progress! So exciting to see. I LOVE the decision to make 2 arched openings rather than built ins on the other side – I think it will feel so much more balanced. I can’t wait to see how this all comes together, and I hope you have an amazing Christmas in your home, even if it’s not done. You will have so many memories of the crazy year you put your tree up Dec 23rd because everything was under construction. All that matters is that you’re together!

  32. Kate says:

    That was a lot of words but wow!! What progress has been made. The house is coming along beautifully. I love that you’re taking the moments to reflect on on what really works and trying to keep what you can of the home. Here’s to hoping, wishing and praying you get in before 12/25.

  33. Julia, this is all so thrilling! It looks like you have made a TON of progress. I hope whether you’re home or not you have a wonderful Christmas!!!

  34. Marina says:

    This is SO much progress! So much to be excited for. Best of luck with the next few days of work, fingers crossed for you here in Philly that you’ll be back in your home for Christmas. If not, just go all Home Alone in another hotel ;). Happy Holidays!

  35. Elizabeth Reynoso says:

    This is the worst part of renovation…when it feels like it’s almost done but there are so many little things to do! I’m excited for your family!! I hope everything works out and you have a wonderful Christmas even if you are camped in one room in your beautiful home!!

  36. Arli says:

    You’re getting there! It’s going to be sooooooooooo gorgeous.
    Merry Christmas.

  37. Tara says:

    Thank you for the blog-post update! I stopped following on Instagram (I’m on a spending ban, and you post too many good deals!), but you guys are in my thoughts! Merry Christmas!

  38. Lisa says:

    Thanks for this post Julia! I’ve loved following along here and on Instagram. I’ve never tackled a reno like this before but seeing you do it makes it feel possible! One idea if you’re interested would be to interview your contractors for the blog or on video. What’s it like on the other side of this kind of project? What makes a good client and how to make the most of this relationship? Congrats on your progress and wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas no matter where you are!

  39. Kelly says:

    I’ve SO enjoyed following along on this journey, and am very anxious to see the finished spaces (as I’m SURE you are as well, haha)!

  40. Karen says:

    All this is so exciting! And just think – there’s decorating on the horizon(ish)!!! I can’t wait to see the dining room floors, this is on my “potential list” for my girls’ bathroom and the adjoined laundry room. Our contractor said his customers have a “two year cycle” – he’ll do a big reno at their house, and then two years later they return for another phase. That actually held true for us – we completed our kitchen reno summer of 2017, and we’re now planning the pool reno this winter. I wonder if when this part is all done for C&J, they can really hang tight with their kitchen (which looks great, but nothing beats a dream/just renovated as I want it space), or if they’ll decide to go for it now…..time will tell!

    For us, after living through an extensive interior renovation (including the kitchen, I cooked in the laundry room for THREE months), I learned it WILL take longer than you think (and longer than the GC plans or tells you, ha!). For our project, the tail-end was soooo painful – in the kitchen, the cabinets were in, the island was built – but where were the dang countertops? It was WEEKS of nothin’. Well, I later learned our contractor wasn’t happy with how the marble fabricator cut the backsplash, so they had to start over (which included them buying a new slab, on their dime). Of course, the quality and extra time that ate, looking back now was of course so worth it – 2-3 weeks hold time, but for years of the right decision. I recall I planned one party too soon, before the reno was done, and had to cancel it. Just gotta hang tight! But just like being pregnant – it is ALL WORTH IT IN THE END!

  41. Maya says:

    I’ve been checking all night (morning for me here in the Czech Republic!) to see this update! You guys have been doing SO much, and I love the decisions you are making. I think one of the most inspirational things about your blog is the way you are able to take something that looks ugly / dated, pinpoint EXACTLY what is making it that way, and change it. I bet you inspired a lot of people to give low-ceilinged ranches more of a chance with your last house, and I think this time you’re showing people how to take all those awkward spaces from those big houses people loved to build a few decades ago and make them elegant, intentional, and timeless yet cozy.

    I am so exited to see the next steps here!! Please keep the Instagram updates going, I think we’re all fascinated by just about any progress right now. :) Fingers crossed your house is comfortable-ish by Christmas!

  42. Annet says:

    I have loved following along on this journey and appreciate you sharing the good and not good! My List def feel like that – wait I worked all day and only can cross off one thing?! – but you really have come so far. The floors look amazing, the red carpet is gone and of course the windows!!!

  43. Mara says:

    Amazing progress! So excited for all the updates.

    Hi, my name is Mara and I am addicted to your insta stories.

  44. Heather says:

    Your honesty with the ups and downs of your projects (ie your life!) are truly inspiring to me. It helps me to look at my own unmet expectations in a positive way. Find the good. Thanks Chris and Julia and Merry Christmas!

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