When Chris and Julia Marcum, a marketing consultant and blogger, respectively, made the move to Idaho three years ago, there were a total of just six houses available for sale in their price range. Coming from Pittsburgh, PA — where Julia grew up and where they bought their first house — the lack of options initially brought some worry. “When buying our first home [in Pittsburgh], we looked at close to 90 homes, so there was a stark contrast in the sheer number of homes available that being picky about the style of home wasn’t so much a luxury,” Julia explains. “It wasn’t like moving to Pittsburgh and having to choose between boroughs or a Craftsman or Victorian.” But as the couple pulled up to this 3,200-square-foot Rambler-style home, the mature trees that lined the quiet street gave them hope. And while the outdated interior may have scared some off, Chris and Julia reveled in its potential to become the perfect family home to raise their two daughters, Greta (six) and Faye (two), as well as Charly, their Saint Pyrenees.
Upon moving in, they made a few immediate changes to help it feel like home, such as hanging art, tossing cozy throws over the side of the couch, and filling their home with plenty of new friends, “but I think what really helps a house feel like a home,” Julia begins, “is when it starts functioning the way you function. Maybe that’s having a small, convenient workspace on the main floor so you can be with your kids while answering emails.”
The largest project they took on, one that immediately brought the house into “forever home” territory, was the kitchen renovation they tackled in just seven weeks by themselves. After saving for it for nearly two years, they were anxious to get started — and not only did they gut it completely and re-jig the layout, but they also removed the adjacent bathroom and replaced it with a laundry room. “It was freeing, scary and exciting,” but now that it’s done, the space functions for the family better and brings them pride to be able to welcome dozens of friends over and treat them to a good meal. “I’ve always been a homebody and Chris loves to entertain, so we have people over several times a week,” Julia shares. “Almost every morning, at breakfast, our six-year-old, Greta, will ask ‘Who’s coming over for dinner?’ and it makes both of us smile proudly. Opening our home to others is a big part of what makes our lives full.”
While many rooms have a new lease on life thanks to Chris and Julia’s hard work, there are still areas on the to-do list, namely their master bathroom. “The layout leaves a lot to be desired, with a toilet closet in the middle of the room and a tiny shower shoved in the corner — it’s going to be a ton of work, and we’re taking our time to work out all the details before we’re at that point of no return — without a bathroom!”
Julia and Chris have learned to “look at checking each item off the list as a victory instead of waiting for a whole room or our whole home to be ‘done’ before celebrating,” Julia says. “‘Hey! That paint color really works!’ Celebrate. ‘That piece of art works so much better in here.’ Celebrate. ‘We finally replaced that terrible boob light.’ Celebrate. We’ve had a lot of those moments of panic and uncertainty, sometimes resulting in do-overs, but mostly we surprise even ourselves.”
For the couple, looking at where this house came from three years ago (generic, dark, and outdated) to now (family-friendly and functional, bordering modern and traditional), and knowing they did it all themselves for their family, puts a smile on their faces every day. “Our house was pretty ordinary when we moved in… But I think what makes this home special is that we made it special,” Julia shares. “… I feel like every home deserves love.” –Sabrina
Photography by Julia Marcum