Why we hired a designer for the first time

April 20, 2020

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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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

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After a eight-month renovation to our new home, we were looking forward to a little downtime. We planned a summer of projects we could DIY. And with our house structurally where we want it, and we were excited to get our hands dirty making all of the inspiration we’ve gathered into a reality.

And then our contractor found mold in, essentially, all of our exterior walls. There were outdated materials (Styrofoam under stucco) and causing a host of issues. The runoff on the roof was causing extra mold to gather in the corners under the stucco. The garage overhang is moldy. We thought we had time to plan for and budget for our exterior, but it just rose to the top of our list. This affects our health, so it’s priority one.

You might be asking, “Why didn’t you discover this in our home inspection?” Because it’s not something that we ordered. (You can!) When we had our home inspected, there were no signs of mold, so we didn’t order an additional testing of the walls or exterior. We live in a very dry climate, too, so it’s usually not an issue. But in retrospect, I wish we had the stucco tested.

Our contractor is currently removing all of the mold and is applying house wrap while we decide what to do next. We’re nervous because we’ve never done an exterior before. A little overwhelmed because we still have a heap of decision fatigue from the last eight months of our interior renovation. And truthfully, we didn’t even know what an exterior would cost. We have a budget, and we’ve considered the possibility of doing this in stages: replace the stucco… and then the stone… and then the roof. It started to feel like a Frankenhouse.

So, for the first time — we decided to hire a designer.  We know we’re fish out of water on this one. We know we can’t afford to redo it if we don’t get it right the first time. We know we’re experiencing major decision fatigue after the renovation we’ve undergone. Also — this is the outside of our house! Way more people will see the outside than the inside! In addition to making sure that it’s safe and designed correctly, we want for it to look really nice (of course).

We reached out to three designers we love and respect: Katie Hackworth, Jeffrey Dungan, and Studio McGee.

We gave them our budget, showed them current photos of the house and these inspiration photos I collected on a Pinterest board here:


We also told them that we love the look of stone, but we want something dark and moody. We told them we’re planning a balcony outside of our bedroom, above the new dining room. We like the front porch, but we’re not married to anything really. We told them we needed help getting our home to place where it’s safe, and can look its best for the money we have right now. We asked: Is this even realistic with our budget?

This is what they said:

“Do you plan to keep the existing ledge stone?” Katie Hackworth asked. “I love the look of stone right now, but yours looks too manufactured. (Please excuse my bluntness!)” (Totally excused, and we completely agree.)

“Shutters only work if they match the windows they are paired with,” Katie said. “Either remove completely or create new ones that mimic the window openings. They would make a statement!” We’re not super into shutters, so we’re fine to forgo this line item on the budget.

“Do you plan to keep the existing composite roof material?” she asked. “A cedar shingle (more streamlined than a shake) would be gorgeous. Might break the bank though. Maybe down the line.” A roof feels like something we should budget for. We want to invest in quality materials and do this right.

“There’s a lot wrong with it,” Jeffrey said. (gulp) “I would suggest taking off any soffits at the eaves and doing cut rafter tails like the images you sent me. It would be a tricky bit of framing, but it would help a lot and made easier if you rip the roofing off (and you should).” Well that settles that.

“The house has really good bones,” Studio McGee said. (Whew!) “And the landscaping is dreamy! You are onto something with the new windows and I can totally see this being something very special!”

In the end, it came down to budget, our location, and their availability (We needed it done ASAP before it gets cold again). We’re excited to announce that we’re working with Studio McGee to design our exterior! We’re grateful to Katie Hackworth and Jeffrey Dungan for lending their expertise and will continue to admire their work. (We’ve been in talks with Katie for the last year because we initially hired her to help us rebuild the cabin, but we decided not to rebuild after all).

So, this is where we are in the process. We’ve had two design calls with Studio McGee and they sent over a mood board at the end of last week. (I know. Pinch me):


After we approved this, they are now working on a design board with actual materials and finishes for the exterior. They let us know it would take four to six weeks of design work, and they would work with our contractors and recommend the right vendors for the job. They let us know that they’re the ones who get the labor lined out. What a relief!

We’re brand new to this process, so we’re taking lots of notes, and we’ll take you along for the ride. We have lots of questions, and we know you do, too.

For starters: Would we have bought this house if we knew about this mold? Yes, actually. However, we would have negotiated this project into the price of our home, and we would have prioritized this crucial construction first, had we known.

Do we wish we would have scrapped the whole thing and started building? Still no. We like to renovate. We like to see a home’s potential realized. Reduce, reuse, recycle… and renovate. We’re in it for the long haul.

Since we decided to hire a designer, I have felt a weight lifted a bit. I know it will still be stressful time, as all renovations are, especially right now. But we feel like we’re in very good hands. Happy to answer any questions in the comments!

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What do you think?

  1. Heather Lawson says:

    My house has gorgeous real redwood siding as accents, and we are painting it a moody color next week -Iron Ore from SW. We also have black windows and copper lights. Sounds like we have similar taste! Also being from IF, I hope to drive by your house when it’s done!

  2. Jenn says:

    I had to look up who Katie Hackworth is, but as soon as I saw her portfolio I recognized her amazing Washington house I have looked at so many times in Sunset magazine. The backsplash in her dining room so good. How come you did not use an architect for your exterior? It would never occur to me to use an interior design firm for such a humongous project.

    • Julia says:

      Studio McGee does exteriors as well and have architectural designers on their team! It came down to availability in the end. All of these people we would have LOVED to work with.

  3. Joseph says:

    The design looks nice.

  4. Monica Burton says:

    I’m wondering what credentials you look for when hiring an interior designer/decorator?

  5. JL says:

    Julia, with the changes to the exterior and remaining windows, how will this affect your yet-to-be-scheduled kitchen reno? You’ve spoken about your plans to relocate the cooktop/oven over to the opposite wall and add windows on either side of the hood. Are you able to relocate or expand your kitchen windows within the scope of this project? Or, will you wait and incorporate any window replacement (and exterior siding, if you remove an existing window) when you tackle the full kitchen renovation?

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      Great question. We’re putting the kitchen reno on hold for now. These are uncertain times, and we’ll need the help of contractors and tradesmen to get the kitchen we want. For now, we’re not planning any projects inside for which we’ll need to work with a third party.

  6. Susan says:

    I know this must be a stressful surprise. We’re going through something similar – leaks with excessive rain and it looks like it’s the cedar shake siding not the roof. And it’s not just one spot. I’m terrified that the entire house will be moldy underneath. We have such a unique home with rooftop decks and 30 ft suspended planters/design features, that it now feels like an (expensive?) opportunity to do it all together at once. But oh man I’m saving and just have no idea how the budget/cost will shake out.
    Thank you for sharing this journey, I’m sure I will learn so much (and will be taking copious notes for when we are ready to move forward!)

  7. JL says:

    Julia, with the changes to the exterior and remaining windows, how will this affect your yet-to-be-scheduled kitchen reno? You’ve spoken about your plans to relocate the pantry, move the cooktop over to the far wall and possibly add windows on each side of the hood. Are you able to relocate your kitchen windows within the scope of this project with a minimal amount of invasion inside the house? Or, will you wait and incorporate any window replacement (and exterior siding, if you remove an existing window) when you tackle the full kitchen renovation?

    BTW, I saw this terrific house that had the hood placed directly in front of the window! I hadn’t seen that before and it looks really cool. See here:

  8. katie says:

    Oh, Julia, I’m so sorry. We just lost our home to mold and know the havoc it can wreak on all areas of life. Hopefully, your health will improve once the remediation is complete. Your design plan is just dreamy!

  9. Erin says:

    I love what you guys do as well as SM! We are looking at re-designing our exterior as well but how do you come up with a realistic budget? It seems overwhelming and if you don’t want to share your budget can you possibly give ranges for certain things? Thanks!

  10. Rachel says:

    Since you have all the siding off the house, this is a great opportunity to add insulation to your home by putting a layer of rigid foam board under the new siding! It would help cut down heating costs a lot in your cold climate! Have you thought about that or built it into the plan?

  11. Sarah says:

    Studio McGee is, perhaps, my favorite designer of all time. You are in such good hands! Your innate sense of style and design + their expertise is going to create the most incredible exterior! I can’t wait to see the finished product!

  12. Soda says:

    It’s a great opportunity to put stone on the chimney and big window for maximum impact and put accent those dark doors and windows with that moody siding.

  13. Ashley says:

    You mentioned your budget a few times… with out being too intrusive as a follower, I was hoping you could give some more information about how you even came up with what your budget for the exterior is? I have a fairly good understanding of interior room renovation costs, but I have no clue what it costs to have a NICE exterior! You home seems a little larger than average perhaps, but would a ballpark budget on a 2500sqft home for an exterior (based on the inspiration you’re working from) be $20k? $50? Does it cost more to reno vs a new construction build? Help! I’m lost!!!

  14. Liz says:

    I work in the home inspection industry… you are correct. It wouldn’t have been found in a home inspection as home inspections are visual — not invasive. If your readers are concerned, they can order air quality testing. With an indoor and outdoor sample, you can find out if there’s mold and, more importantly, what type of mold.

    • Kim says:

      Our offer was just accepted on our dream home, inspection is in three days. Would you have a brand or certain type of mold testing kit you can recommend? Thank you!

    • KW says:

      Air quality testing is actually not the preferred method for detecting mold indoors, at least not by physicians who specialize in treating patients with biotoxin illness. There are many types of mold that are not airborne due to their density (and these can be some of the most dangerous like Stachybotrys) and instead settle on surfaces. ERMI testing is much more accurate.

  15. Jennifer Morse says:

    So excited to follow this project and for the reveal! So glad you are able to work with Studio McGee. We are tackling a remodel currently and you guys are such an inspiration. I love what you had to say about remodeling, reusing, etc. Our home is in the neighborhood we love and it has an awkward layout we are changing, but some things I wouldn’t choose if we were building will have to remain. Still, love the process of making something new out of something old.

    • Kim says:

      Our offer was just accepted on our dream home, inspection is in three days. Would you have a brand or certain type of mold testing kit you can recommend? Thank you!

  16. Sarah says:

    I can’t wait! I totally feel you on the more than we can bite off feeling but like what a collab!? The best of all time even!?!?! The mood board is perfection! The blend between cozy cottage and modern mood; its all there!

  17. Erin says:

    Are you changing your patio area at all? We just renovated our house and are now putting a patio on outback and I have to pick stone. I don’t want it to look to traditional. Are you keeping your existing outdoor patio area or changing that too? PS I love everything you guys do and going with Studio McGee I can’t wait to see the end result. I’m sure it will look amazing!

  18. Hardeep says:

    The combination of the magic that you created on the inside, with the addition of what Studio McGee will do on the outside is sure to make this house pure perfection…can’t wait to see!!!

  19. Linda Grubbs says:

    I hate to be redundant….. but you guys and Studio McGee….. definitely a “match made in heaven!”
    Many have said that… and it’s true.
    This will be a fabulous ride to follow. I’m just sorry you have to go through all this.
    The finished product will be worth it , I am sure!

  20. Laurielulu says:

    Gheeeeee, screams giddily……my dream is home styled by McGee and Co, they are my super cup of tea ????. Congrats!!!!! What fun, love the mood boards

  21. Kara says:

    Thank you in advance for your detailed reports on this process! Especially on the cost aspect. We are signing on our cash-out refi on Friday and have a good chunk of change, but have SO much to do to our house, exterior being the first on the list. I am planning on hiring a local architect because we have a weird contemporary 70’s house that I want to totally not look like a weird contemporary 70’s house…. but amazing property. Good luck to us all!

  22. Tiffany says:

    Hooray!! This is such exciting news (well, not the mold part)! I am ecstatic to follow along! My husband is a builder and I consult with our clients as a designer all of the time but I have struggled with the decision to hire a designer for my own upcoming renovation. Studio McGee would be my dream team and I’m hoping to find someone along the same aesthetic here in Atlanta!

  23. Angela says:

    Reminds me of Designers Challenge! Have you ever watched it? OG HGTV! I know it’s going to be beautiful and I’m very interested in how working with a designer goes!

  24. Martha says:

    Yay! I am so happy for you!! I worked with them on two projects and I completely understand the weight off your shoulders! It was such a huge relief when I first talked to my designers over the phone. I knew it would be a great fit to work with them. We kicked it into high gear and made a lot of really important decisions very quickly, but I absolutely love love love where we landed on materials, furniture and every last detail. Both were new builds, so it was literally every single decision. :)

    I can’t wait to see what you all come up with! The board is gorgeous.

  25. Tuere says:

    There is little that I wouldn’t give to have Studio McGee design my home – inside or out. In three years of following their work, I haven’t seen them design something I don’t love. Enjoy!

  26. Lucy says:

    Hey there! First off you guys are so talented and love your sense of style.

    I am also going through the renovation process although I am in a planning phase. Our house is an 1860s white wood siding colonial farmhouse. Seems that everyone I have spoken with over the years says they would put cement board OVER the existing siding (and add insulation during that process. Part of me wishes we could just restore the existing siding but with it having lead paint there’s not any people I have found that will do that. Not to mention the mess and hazard guidelines that would need to be followed.

    On the other hand, adding insulation and cement board will give it a fresh new look. But should they be removing the old wood (in case there is mold underneath)? I’ve had a handful of people tell me mold isn’t an issue unless it’s exposed and disrupted but what are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks for your insight!

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      Oh wow! Good luck on your renovation! We know what you’re going through!

      I have some health problems that we suspect might be exacerbated by the mold, so we’ve got to get rid of it. Can you check if there’s mold underneath your wood? I know it’s costly…

      • Lucy says:

        I’m scared to “check” I’m certain there has to be some there but once it’s open then it needs to be handled and I absolutely do not want vinyl siding for a quick fix. Think I should just cover it? That’s what everyone I’ve met with wants to do but I’m sure that’s easier for them!

  27. Jennifer says:

    I LOVE STUDIO MAGEE! Soooo jealous right now I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to see the progress:)

  28. Emily says:

    Wait! I thought you already designed the exterior of your home?! I remember there being quite a few options. What happened to that? But super exciting to work with studio McGee!!! Can’t wait to see it all.

  29. Susan McAllister says:

    Please let your followers know that checking for mold during home inspection doesn’t always detect the problem. You have to ask if stucco is hard coat or EIFS – EIFS is the worst for mold – it is pretty much banned in the Southeast where there was a class action suit in 1996.

    • Michelle Allen says:

      The photos shared were EIFS – they still manufacture and install this product, but it is now installed with a drainage system to mitigate the moisture issue.

  30. Bea says:

    Do you know any of the colors that those inspo pics or Studio McGee’s mood board has on it? We are looking for the right exterior paint color exactly like that!!

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      As soon as we know the specifics, we’ll share! All the way down to the paint colors!

    • Cassidy says:

      It looks like Urbane Bronze. My neighbors just painted their house UB – sooo pretty!

    • Kerry C. says:

      Bea, if you click on “Source” under the large home picture above (right above “We also told them that we love the look of stone…”) it takes you to the Instagram where that photo came from, and someone asked the OP about the colors – her reply was “We had the siding and trim colors custom mixed in Sherwin Williams paint, but the colors are based off of Farrow and Ball’s Pitch Black and Off Black.” This is the same pic from Studio McGee’s mood board (bottom center). Hope this helps!

  31. Erin says:

    Can you do a post explaining “cut rafter tails” and soffits?

  32. MT says:

    Yay, I love Studio Magee. Match made in design heaven. Can’t wait to see all the beautiful dark moody genuis ????????????

  33. Lindsey says:

    I know you weren’t planning to replace the front windows for a while. Is this fast tracking replacing all the windows and will that he done along with the rest of the outside Reno?

  34. Amanda says:

    I’m excited for you guys! When giving your budget to the designers, did you research to find out if it was realistic? Do you have a budget range? This is my struggle. I would love help with our exterior design, but am intimidated by coming up with a budget that is realistic. Where do you even start with numbers? Of course if i can get a good design at a lower cost that is desirable, but if a little higher budget brings 10xs more enjoyment and beauty than maybe it’s worth spending more.

  35. Match made in design heaven! I’m obsessed with you both! How sweet Shea seems, and I can’t imagine she’s not super busy with their Target launch. You must have a special place in her heart as I bet she moved around some things to be able to help out. LOVE the direction and can’t wait to see the final project. This is just going to be the most beautiful house for you and your girls.

  36. Colleen says:

    Ahhh! I am here for this 100%! Can’t wait to see the process. I’m sure the outcome will be incredibly dreamlike.

  37. JD Deborah says:

    Studio McGee and ChrisLovesJulia…. collab for the record books! Can’t wait!!

  38. Hailey says:

    So amazing! It has amazing bones and you have done a beautiful job thus far. I have no doubt that it is only going to continue with Studio McGee. Great choice! Love the mood board. How exciting!!!

  39. Doris says:

    That mood board, WOW!!! Studio McGee, LUCKY!! (Napoleon Dynamite voice)

    I can’t wait to see the end result and eventually the cedar shingle roof.

  40. Carrie says:

    Can you speak to why you went with an interior designer instead of an architect?

  41. Samantha says:

    This is so exciting….cannot wait to see what transpires! Love following along ????

  42. Love the mood board so much. I feel like I am in a similar situation with all the fixes. After building 3 homes we ended up buying a 100 ur old home bc it gave us the space we wanted in the heart of the town we love-Hinsdale. At what point do we stop spending money. I’m getting worried. We just spend a fortune on new windows and fixing 6 fireplaces $$$ We have radiators and as much as we like them, we think they are not good for resale, and we also want to change the original flooring (nice but very noisy), update the kitchen, but it’s really adding up. How do you know when to stop? The home is solid as we were told in inspection and homes like this in our neighborhood still sell for a good price, but we just don’t know when to stop dumping money into it. I’d love your feedback.

    • Julia says:

      That’s such a tricky question. For us, we plan on being here for the long term and having our family grow up here. We love the land and our neighbor’s house was listed for twice what ours was, so we know we’re not OVER-Improving even still. But do you have plans to move in the next couple months, year? The market can change over the years, so I wouldn’t necessarily be so focused on what others might think or pay and more so on what you can afford and what you would WANT in your home.

    • Cat says:

      Some people (like me!) love radiators! If they’re well-maintained I think there’s someone out there who also would love them too along with the rest of your house when/if it’s time to sell. Radiators are much less drying on skin in winter (my primary reason for preferring radiator heat) but also I really enjoy the look of radiators. They add a lot of functional charm to a home.

      But it’s your home, if you don’t like radiators I’m sure you could convert your home and sell the radiators on. Live with what makes YOU happy!

    • shannon says:

      Another vote for radiators to stay! We love them and see them as a big plus. They are so cozy and add tons of character, and they result in better winter indoor air quality as compared to forced air. If you like them, as you say, keep them! Plenty of buyers also like them, especially buyers who are touring a 100+ year old home.

    • Karen says:

      I feel you on this one! We have renovated extensively at our house over the past three years, with more to go, and I’m ready to NOT spend more money. But now it’s like 75% of our house is ah-maz-ing, and the other 25% is whacky (and tacky!), being the original 1978 build. For me, what’s working so far, is I’ve picked a budget for the rest of the house (area by area) – and we’re going to stick to that. The other phases of the reno I really got what I wanted, and while that was wonderful, I’m also now enjoying the process of working within a budget. It actually helps to cut down on the number of options out there, as we all know sometimes thanks to the world wide web, there are simply TOO MANY choices.

      Before Covid, we signed a contract for our pool to be refinished – so now we have to move forward with that, and honestly – that’s fine, the pool needs to be resurfaced. But for example – our existing coping (the cement “blocks” that line the edge of the pool, what you grab to climb out), to replace those was a $7500 line item. Sure, the existing coping is not what I would have chosen, but for $7500 I can definitely live with it. Then we were working with our contractor to tackle the areas around the pool, and due to Covid, just Friday we committed to some of the work, but less than half of what we were planning. We chose the areas we know we’ll USE, and are important for the integrity of the space (such as the fence between the driveway and the pool area, needed for privacy). Anyways, it’s definitely nerve-wracking moving forward with a construction project right now, due to so much uncertainty with the economy and health/safety of our country in general. But we had this project planned since last year, the money’s been saved, and we are now making monetary concessions considering the situation – so for me, that feels like the right move.

  43. Jen says:

    I am so sorry that has happened. Would your homeowners insurance cover it not not since it was like that when you bought it? It should have been disclosed with the purchase but I guess the previous homeowners wouldn’t have known themselves. Such a bummer but so glad you caught it and I know it is going to be gorgeous when all is said and done.

    • Julia says:

      We spoke with our home insurance and they, unfortunately, would not cover it. :(

      • Christine says:

        This is a match made in heaven Julia and Chris. I follow SMG and remember Shea traveled to England/Europe. I can am sure she will use that inspo for the exterior of your home ❤️

  44. Nicolette says:

    Can’t wait to see the outcome of this! We are in the process of searching for a new home and are going the renovation route in order to be in the area we love at a price we can afford. Each house we are interested we are making a phase by phase plan with a loose budget but we are hoping to keep all our renovations as interior projects because that’s an area we are comfortable in! Exterior renovations scare me a bit just because of how huge the budget can end up being when it’s more than just a paint job or updating the landscaping. Best of luck to you in this!

  45. Kerry says:

    I could not be more excited to see you paired with Studio McGee! Truly a dream! I cannot wait I see what is in store for the #CLJcottage!

  46. Amanda M. says:

    With a designer does their fees go off percentages based on the budget for the job or is it a set hourly fee? So interested in budgeting this out for our home as well!

  47. That mood board is the DREAMIEST. I am so excited to watch this all unfold! (Also can I say how much I love that CLJ posts so frequently? I don’t get this with a lot of my other favorite bloggers so reading your blog posts has been such a welcome addition to my morning routine.)

    Also, hopefully this is not too invasive of a question, but I saw you posted on Instagram awhile back about your lemonade home in Hawaii. Is that project still in the works?

    • Julia says:

      That was our April Fools joke last year!!! Oh no! Hahaha. Not in the works at all. Although it really was for sale.

      • Jennifer says:

        HA, oh my gosh! Note to self to check the date on things. Obviously fell for it because I definitely skimmed a couple Instagram posts and blog posts trying to find updates on the lemonade home… good one, guys!

  48. Caitlin says:

    Longtime followers and admirer who never comments but I have to say I love and respect you all even more for showcasing another approach.
    Most of us look at you as the experts and you always handle renovations like pros which inspires me daily. I truly believe that what makes someone great is when they have the self awareness and confidence to know when it is time to ask for help and guidance. Could be skill, bandwidth or the need bring in another creative perspective to push us forward, help is helpful : ). I can’t wait to see the finished project!

  49. Navi says:

    Love your mood board! Just starting our plans for our new house. We are looking at stone and dark siding as well. So excited to see your choices.

  50. Felicia says:

    I’d love to know pricing….and all steps included.

  51. Julie says:

    Thanks for your openness! A post on interiors vs exteriors (both hardscape and landscape) may be interesting! Basically the decisions that need to be made and differences in prioritizing. I was also interested in hearing how you narrowed down your choices for exteriors and how you then choice the ‘final’ pick? SO many amazing designers out there, I would imagine it would be hard to choose! Thanks for sharing

  52. Brittany says:

    Eep exciting!!!!

  53. Kathy says:

    So sorry…that stucco problem has happened to several of my friends here on the East Coast. I’m relatively new to your account – have you ever showed the front of your house? I looked but couldn’t find. Of course I just realized I am assuming those gorgeous windows and doors are on the back.

  54. EP says:

    There are times when it’s really worth it to hire a pro — and this is one of them! Jeffery’s point about the soffits was not even something I noticed until he pointed it out. Those details really make a big difference in the overall look. Can’t wait to see it shape up.

  55. Beth says:

    So exciting! I can’t wait to see what Studio McGee comes up with. I’m sure it will be gorgeous.

  56. Courtney says:

    It’s going to be so dreamy!!! Can’t wait for the ride!!

  57. OMG! This is going to be so good!

  58. Jenn says:

    I’m so sorry about the mold issues you found, I can imagine how stressful that can be! I think it’s great that you chose to work with a designer, the extra support can be priceless! I have yet to see a
    Design from Studio McGee that I didn’t love immediately!

  59. Teri says:

    Great post but could use a little editing… LOVE Studio McGee!

  60. Tiffany says:

    It’s going to be gorgeous! So glad you decided to go with the black and stone! How exciting to work with Studio McGee ????

  61. It’s going to be gorgeous!

  62. Karin Washler says:

    So exciting!!!! Can’t wait!

  63. Rachel says:

    I love it, and not sure your roof is that big of a deal? Its not ugly!

  64. Jessica Merrill says:

    That moodboard makes my heart pitter patter! like, literally! This will make such an ENORMOUS difference in the overall feeling of your entire property, inside and out!

  65. Margaret Azizo says:

    Will you share your budget breakdown?

    • Julia says:

      I think we’ll think on that and decide when all is said and done. The only reason I’m hesitating is because we’re bracing for a very expensive project in a time where money is tight across the board. I’ve shared budget breakdowns a lot in the past and almost every time multiple people say, “Here it would have costed $XXX” so I don’t know how helpful it actually is. But we’re definitely keeping a tight tally and will share what we feel comfortable with.

      • Susan says:

        Ah bummer. Was hoping to at least get an idea of how much an exterior may cost as we’re going through something similar. I have no idea how much is reasonable to save before starting the project. $120k is what I’m aiming to start with before I even start talking to people. I’m in the Bay Area so I guess that will make it pricey either way. We may just get less done than we hope.

  66. Missy says:

    I realize this is personal so no offense if you say no! But would you guys be willing to share end costs with all these projects? Or just a general idea of how much all of this ended up costing? The idea of a complete home renovation sounds so daunting and I don’t even know where to start with what I would be getting myself into cost wise. I also feel like I hear everyone say that it ends up being way more than people budget for or anticipate. I’m curious if that’s been the same with your home?
    (This is going to be amazing by the way. I am THRILLED to see how the exterior turns out!)

    • Julia says:

      I think if it is purely an aesthetic makeover–maybe painting your house!–you can do it for a lot less than what we’re facing right now having to replace so much rotted material. But we’re keeping a tight tally and share what we feel comfortable with.

  67. Tracy says:

    Would love to hear how this process works to have a designer working remotely. How do they know/trust/pick/manage local vendors if they haven’t worked with them before? What if something goes sideways since they aren’t on site during the work? Most of the designers I love are not local and we are looking at a big reno next year, so very interested in this part of the process.

  68. Nicole says:

    So excited for what the future holds and your exterior potential! You have done so much and it looks simply stunning! Do you think you’ll share more about how designer fees work for large scale projects like your and maybe even smaller scale projects? Like other have mentioned, my family has thought about a designer for the exterior of our home but not even sure it’s something we could ever afford! It would be interesting to get your take on this and learn more from you both!
    Thank you!

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      We will absolutely share a budget breakdown and info about fees. This is our first time, and we’re learning as we go. For this project, we’ve learned that our designer fees will be included in the entire budget for the project. However, it depends on the size and scale of the project. We’ve learned that as much as 30% of your project budget could/should be dedicated to “soft costs”: design fees, project management, etc.

      • Maria says:

        This is totally dependant on the project and the designer. For example some designers don’t take on projects under a certain budget because it is usually the same amount of work for a lot less money that wouldn’t cover their expenses. Another thing to consider is that more well established designers ask for higher percentages. There is also a paradox in the industry that is a lot of work in office before you can give an estimate on how much a project is going to cost and they are not going to do that unless they are hired for the job. So you have to essentially trust your instinct, see if the person feels right for you and your project and talk to past clients.
        There are many more factors that influence the fee and that is why there cannot be clear answers and people feel intimidated to reach out to an architect or a designer.
        On the other hand most do free consultations so ring one up and go from there!

      • Susan says:

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! We have an exterior renovation to tackle and this feels like such an unknown to even getting started!

  69. JL says:

    Julia, will the collab with Studio McGee include the patio area? Would love to see a beautiful verandah extending the entire length of the back of the house (budget permitting); including the side with the arched door.

    • Julia says:

      That would be pretty! We have a basement window that’s under the arched window we have to keep open for emergency exit but we are addressing some of the patio!

  70. Belem says:

    I knew it!! I knew it was going to be Studio McGee! I can’t imagine anyone else, honestly, and I know you guys are friends. I cannot wait to see where they take this. It’s the perfect fit! So excited to see it unfold ????

  71. Lauren says:

    I’m so interested to see pricing on this! I look at a lot of dated houses and see the interior potential, but am so overwhelmed and clueless about what it would take to make the exterior equally nice. There are so few resources out there.

  72. Samantha Brothers says:

    We also need to tackle the exterior of our home soon and I’m very overwhelmed with the decisions. Our house is on a corner lot, that’s oversized, but we still live in town, close to neighbors. How much consideration should we give the look of the houses around us when choosing for our home?

    • Julia says:

      Hmm–I think that really depends. Some neighborhoods have HOAs which kind of dictate how a house needs to look. We live in an area where every house has a lot of acreage (we have the smallest at 3.5) where every house is already drastically different–there’s a farmhouse behind us. A big tudor across the street–so there’s less consideration to look like other homes around us. I’ve also seen really eclectic neighborhoods where the houses are close and different. I think it’s up to you!

  73. Cici Haus says:

    I’m very excited for this series – to see how you work with a designer. Please walk us through all the pros and cons, what they’ve taken off your plate, etc. Also can’t wait to see your beautiful home revitalized (and safe)!

  74. Gabby says:

    I’m sorry this happened unexpectedly but at least now you know about it! I’m really excited to see what you and Studio McGee will make together! Also maybe a new exterior will help you even further with the interior mood and design- it really helps set the mood and style of the house. I love that mood board!

  75. Bridey Church says:

    This is going to be fantastic and congrats on the Studio McGee partnership. Sometimes the best thing is knowing when to ask for help for one’s own well being, though I have no doubt it would have looked amazing had you decided to do it yourself!

    I don’t have any knowledge about cedar shake siding, but my hubby is a firefighter and I know that cedar shake roofs are bad news for fire prevention and loss. (Which I know is of special concern to your family at this time). They are beautiful, but may not be worth it. It probably at least warrants additional research if you decide to go that direction.

  76. Jenny says:

    I’m so excited to see how your exterior will turn out! And I’m also grateful you’ll share the process with us. I’ve been considering hiring a designer to help pick roof and paint colors. I know the look I want, but actually picking the colors is much harder. I’ve wondered if we can even afford that kind of assistance — and I know what you mean about only affording doing the exterior once!

  77. Emme B says:

    Congratulations on this decision, it’s going to be beautiful! Excited to follow along.
    Just a suggestion as someone who has been through toxic mold and suffered the health effects greatly. (Multiple autoimmunes, etc) Consider ordering an ERMI test from Envirobiomics to test your interior for mold. ERMI tests the dust in your home (which the mold binds to) and is much more accurate than air testing, which I personally learned the hard way. It’s super easy, they send a swiffer to your home and you have FedEx pick it back up. Best wishes.

  78. Karen says:

    I love your transparency, a major exterior renovation is intimidating to say the least. But the positive note, turning the exterior of your home into the cottage you’ve dreamed of will make in incredibly happy and proud. I love your ideas, and the stone will be absolutely gorgeous. That photo of the dark wood beside the blocky stone makes my knees weak.

    It never occurred to me that stucco wouldn’t be tested. In the South that stuff has become the asbestos of the last 30 years. I’m so sorry it’s bad in your dry climate. Stay healthy.

  79. Anna says:

    Thanks for taking us along on the ride!

  80. Elizabeth says:

    I know this isn’t what you originally planned but I think this mood board only elevates everything you are doing on the inside. Wow, this is going to look so good! Does the 4-6 weeks include the completion of the project, or what is the timeframe to make this fully come to life?

    • Julia says:

      The 4-6 weeks is just for the design and getting all the materials ordered and our crew is on standby. Well, they actually have a few guys already here tearing off the stucco in preparation so I think it will be a few months before it’s done.

  81. Danielle says:

    This could not have come at a better time as we too are getting ready to completely renovate our 1969 forest home! I’m loving the dark moody look too and we have to paint some old cedar siding to hide imperfections. It’s gonna be so good! Can’t wait to see what Studio McGee comes up with!

    • Susan says:

      A forest home sounds lovely! We call our home a treehouse (surrounded by trees, one even goes through part of the roof). I feel like it would be amazing to see all the exteriors people here have talked about!

  82. Jill Spencer says:

    Love Studio McGee! Can’t wait to see the results of this collaboration!

  83. Shannon says:

    This is SO AMAZING!! Cannot wait to watch it all unfold. I was curious if you would be willing to share budget info? I know that is very personal so would completely understand if not, just for our own exterior and being Studio McGee who I also LOVE-would be very interested to know this! If it is an attainable thing for us or out of the question :)

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      The budget blog is coming! Stay tuned! What I can tell you now, though, is that the cost hiring a designer CAN be absorbed into your entire project budget, and there are designers at almost every budget.

  84. Kristen says:

    I love both Katie Hackworth and Studio McGee! I hope you share in detail the process of work with them as I’m sure there are a lot of us who would love to hire them but probably would never be able to. We can live vicariously through you :)

  85. Katie says:

    I’m so sorry you had that shocking discovery – I’m sure that’s a huge budget buster to tackle of a project. BUT this is the best lemons to lemonade design situation ever: working with Shea and team Studio McGee on your exterior?! It must be a bit of a ‘pinch me!’ feeling. What a perfect pairing. They’ll help you to continue to bring your home dreams to life! Congrats on the joint project.

  86. Nikki Young says:

    Studio McGee sounds like the ultimate dream partnership! Will this put all of your pre-planned DIY projects to rest for a bit? Sorry about the mould, but what you’ve done with the house so far is unbelievably perfect!!

  87. Mel says:

    This is so exciting, I can’t wait! So curious to hear more about the process of working with a designer too.

  88. Jayme T says:

    Does this unexpected bump up the priority list mean you’ll have to extend timelines for other future projects? Especially the kitchen?

  89. Kara says:

    I can’t wait to see the final results!! I love Studio McGee and agree with others responses about this being a perfect fit.

  90. Michelle J says:

    How exciting to be working with a designer! Especially Studio McGee!! What an amazing fit! I’m so excited to see it come together!

    • Lynnette says:

      This feels like a case of just because you can DIY something doesn’t mean you have to. I’m excited to see what they come up with! I’m curious what this means for the rest of the windows though – do they all have to be replaced now or can they be done later without disturbing the new exterior?

      Also as a reader I’m so happy you guys are renovating (even with all the issues you’ve run into) because blogs about building are not exciting to read. I love seeing the progress and before and after of a completely transformed space.

  91. That mood board is way too pretty!!! Sometimes it’s so worth it to hire someone to do the job, even though you can technically do it yourself. Sorry about the mould!

  92. Karla says:

    Cool plans, I am glad you will have some one to sign it how you want. I am sorry about the mold. I would have the wood on the roof be inspected right now as well to see if there is mold. To have that much issues on the corners of the house I am concerned with the current state of the roof. I would hate for you to do rest of the exterior and wait on the roof, if the roof has problems. Would hate for you have to pay to replace everything a second time.

  93. SG says:

    I love that 1. you hired an expert to help with this, and 2. that you’re sharing the process with us! Knowing limitations and asking for help when you need it is a life skill everyone should hone.

    Excited to see the progress on this (even if it’s going to test all of our patience, haha)

  94. Kelly says:

    I love Studio McGee and know your exterior is going to turn out beautifully! CLJ and SM are a match made in heaven. I can’t wait to see the progress!

    If I can offer a suggestion (I know you guys probably don’t need/want one) but from someone who does historic preservation work for a living – I would respectfully suggest that when you are re-doing the roof to consider lowering the height of the tallest hip roof section. As long as nothing on the interior is affected, it would really help give the house more traditional proportions.

    I’m sure whatever you do it will look *beyond*!

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