Sunday, April 19, 2009

Viva Las Vegas!!!

We didn't always live in the Jungle. We used to live in the Plains. And before that we lived in the Valley. And once, we lived in the Desert. And not just ANY desert...the raw, beautiful, and rugged desert known as Las Vegas.
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Not Henderson. Not Summerlin. Not Aliante.
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Las Vegas proper. Right off Pecos and Bonanaza.
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Just a couple miles south of the temple. Just a few miles East of Nellis Air Force base.
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Straight smack in the middle of the barrio. Seriously.
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We didn't know that when we bought the house. We were moving from Chicago to Las Vegas, and totally freaked out about the rising costs of Vegas home prices (this is back when that whole "housing bubble" thing was gaining momentum), and every time we went on-line to look at homes, it seemed they had gone up another $10,000.
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Then, the day before we left for out house-hunting trip, my oven busted. The heating element inside it actually CAUGHT ON FIRE. Since it was an electric oven, I guess it was a pretty serious possibility that the fire would race right back through the wiring and into the wall or something. I didn't know that, though. I saw all the flames in my oven, and thought: "Hmmm...I probably shouldn't open that," so I left my mom (who had traveled all the way out from California to babysit my 4 oldest kids while Jason and I and 4-month-old Nicolette were out of town) to walk five houses down to my neighbor, Mike Johnson (no relation), who was a firefighter. I explained the issue...as I spoke his eyes got wider and he looked at me more and more like he doubted my mental capabilities...and he yelled at his wife, Lisa, to : "CALL 9-1-1!!!", grabbed a fire extinguisher, and bolted back to my house, cursing and muttering under his breath about me leaving my kids in a house with a fire.
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(Hey - in my defense...I figured it was contained. I had no idea about the whole wiring thing.)
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By time I got home (he was faster than me), he had already kicked the kids outside and was surveying the damage. He decided that it would be better to wait for the Fire Department than risk opening the oven and battling the blaze with just an extinguisher. He didn't have to wait long, as the fire department pulled up, sirens screaming (to the absolute DELIGHT of my children), 30 seconds later. I HAD turned the oven off (contrary to his beliefs, I wasn't a COMPLETE idiot), and after a few moments, the fire had lost enough steam that the department was able to open it, use Mike's extinguisher to put it out, and then three very manly firefighters pulled it out from the wall and took it to the curb (there was no saving it).
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So now I was faced with leaving my mother in a strange house in a strange place with four very little and very hungry grandchildren for three days with NOTHING to cook for them on (the stove was attached to the oven, and we didn't own a microwave back then). Crap.
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I stood in the front yard, contemplating my dilemma, and ignoring the shouts of the firefighters who were trying to get my kids to climb down off the fire trucks (hey - it was a big jungle gym to them). Suddenly, a light bulb went off...hey - let's call my Relief Society President!! Isn't that what they're for? Maybe she could arrange to have some meals brought in!!!
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I called my dear RS Pres, a spunky lady named Becky Dastrup, and instead of offering meals, she said: "Well - I've got a great big electric skillet. Can you use that?"
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It wasn't exactly what I had in mind...but, hey...it worked.
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So I drove out to Becky's (like living here in South Florida, our ward boundaries were HUGE), and while I was in her house, she said: "Ya know, Shan, I've been thinking. Mike (her hubby) has an uncle who is or used to be a Bishop out there. I'm not sure where...but maybe he could help you look for houses?" (It was no secret that Jason and I were struggling with our on-line house hunt, and we didn't even know WHERE to start looking in such a big town).
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I agreed to let her call him, and went home with my borrowed skillet.
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The next day, on the way to the airport, Jason's cell phone rang. It was an older gentleman who identified himself as Bishop Dastrup. He was the Bishop of the Coronado Hills Ward, and he apparently really wanted us to move in his ward (I can NOT imagine why, or WHAT Becky said to him). He also mentioned that his Relief Society President was getting ready to sell her home.
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The next day in Vegas, we went out with our very spunky real estate agent, and looked at house after house after house...each one dumpier than the next. We were totally discouraged. I decided to try calling the Relief Society President that Bishop Dastrup had mentioned (her name was Nita).
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She was VERY surprised over our call. Apparently, they hadn't officially decided to move yet, and had only confided in the Bishop that they were CONSIDERING it. But she agreed to let us see her house.
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It was late at night when we went to see the house. It was close to the Strip, a plus for Jason's commute, and in an older part of the neighborhood. The house itself was old, but in much better condition than anything we'd seen so far that day. It had some really great things, like fabulous custom cabinets (her husband was a master cabinet maker); and some really crappy things, like two ANCIENT air conditioners that barely puttered along. It was only 1,700 square feet, but compared to our 1,057 square feet in Chicago (yes...that's right...7 people in 1,000 square feet sharing a single bathroom), it felt palatial.
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But Nita was thinking of asking for almost $20,000 more than we had. We explained our situation, thanked her for her time, and went back to our hotel devastated.
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The next morning, she called. She (like us) had spent a long time on her knees, and decided that if we sold it between us, and didn't use real estate agents, she could sell it for less (since she wouldn't be paying a commission). She felt inspired that we were the people who needed to buy her home. We were floored.
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So, we bought her home. We went back in the daylight, and saw that we might be the only white people in the area (good training for Miami...and there was nothing better than coming home at night and smelling all that authentic Mexican food wafting out everybodys' open doors...just remembering it makes my mouth water!!). The schools were rated very low (thanks to the large number of ESL students), but we could tell the teachers and principal were VERY dedicated to being educators. And the house had lots of great pluses, and was pretty much a blank canvas for us to let loose out home makeover passions.
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We spent 18 months in Vegas. There were definitely a lot of drawbacks...but out of all the houses we've owned, this one got the most love and creativity. We decorated it FOR US...not for whoever might buy it next (unlike our home in Texas...which was our favorite STYLE and LOCATION, but NOT our favorite to re-model).
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And Bishop Dastrup? He is still my very favorite Bishop in the whole world...just THINKING of him swells my heart up to 10 times its' size with love. He is truly one of the greatest men (and a good friend) that I have ever known. The times I would sit in his office and chat are some of my favorite memories.
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By time we got done with our house...it was a CRAZY kaleidoscope of colors...and I loved every piece of it (and so did anyone who came over to visit, after they called me "brave", that is). And although real estate agents rolled their eyes when they came in and saw all the colors, the house sold in under 24 hours.
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So, I'm telling you this story because I came across some pictures of our home in the desert..."before's" and "after's". I thought I would share them with you. You'll have to excuse some of the print quality...they were all taken with a throw-away camera, and apparently one of them...the one used to take the "before's", got wet...so there are water spots on the photos. But I'm sure you'll get the general idea...
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So, I want to welcome you to my past, and invite you in...
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...and yes, that really is Brigham with a big smile on his little toddler face, barely doorknob high...
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This first set of pictures is the Master Bedroom...
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We scraped the ceilings of popcorn and ripped out all the 70's dark wood paneling. We re-textured everything, and re-painted the room in a soft sage green. I used a darker olive to create the stripes in the vanity area. We installed a new mirror, new lighting, and new facets and hardware. We also put in beautiful beadboard wainscoting and a gorgeous thick chair rail (we had help from our wonderful neighbor Steve, who was by far the most excellent handyman and all-around good guy that we have ever come across)...which you'll see more of in subsequent photos.

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We took out the ugly dark double doors and replaced them with french doors (again, with help from Steve), complete with sheer sage curtains. We also put in a closet organizer.

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We installed central lighting all over the house...mostly in the form of recessed lighting. But in the bedrooms, we installed ceiling fans (you can barely see it at the top of the photo). You can see more of the pretty wainscoting and chair rail, and the framing Jason did around the window. Another fun note is our kitty cat Oreo cuddled up on my bed.

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Here you have a better shot of the gorgeous french doors, the elegant ceiling fan, the wainscoting, and the new window treatments. This room went from oppressive and old to calming and refreshing. I loved it.

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The next set of pictures have to do with the front room/living room in the home. It was old and dark. The walls were covered with a very rough texture...more like the stucco you find on the OUTSIDE of a house (in fact, I'm sure that's what it was).

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We scraped the ceilings of popcorn and re-textured. We installed recessed lighting with dimmers. We primed with a very thick enamel-based primer to help soften the stucco on the walls, and then painted the room a sunny yellow. The laundry room was connected to the front room...I painted it a citrus orange and sponged a darker orange on top of that. You had to walk through the laundry room to get to the downstairs bathroom, which had brown-speckled tile. In every room we scraped ceilings, installed new lighting (a cool pendant in the laundry room and recessed and vanity in the bath). In the bathroom, I painted the walls peanut butter brown to go with the tile and found an adorable Surfer decor that featured Woodys and surfboards and was in the same shade of browns. In the bathrooms, we also replaced both toilets (long story), and replaced MOST of the plumbing. We also re-framed every doorway, framed the windows to turn them into picture windows, and ripped out and replaced all the baseboards. In the below picture...you can see through the front room, into the laundry room, and beyond to the bathroom.

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In this picture, you can see down the hall . We took out the lighting and installed recessed lighting, and you can see the freshly framed doorways and smooth, re-textured ceilings. The closet to the left was destined to be re-fitted with custom cabinets to turn it into more of a linen cabinet than coat closet, but we never got that far before we moved.

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This is my kitchen/dining room. It had some great stuff...for one, it was big. The door in the back led to an enormous walk-in pantry before going into an over-sized two car garage.

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Best of all, the kitchen cabinets were custom-made by the former owners, whose husband was a master cabinet maker. My mom used to say that the "Shoemakers kids never have shoes"...and that was true about this house. There was the potential to have all kinds of amazing cabinetry all over...but apparently, he had only gotten around to installing the custom kitchen cabinets a couple years before...after living in the house almost 16 years. Nita was most devastated to leave those glorious cabinets...and I was most jubilant to get them, and the amazing butcher block island!

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Once again, we scraped ceilings and took out those terrible lights and installed recessed lighting. We left the modest chandelier because it oddly fit. If you look at the first kitchen "before" photo..you'll see that there is no "header beam" dividing the kitchen from the front room. The ceiling had begun to sag in that area, so we installed (with help) a header beam and encased it in drywall to prop up the ceiling. I stripped the walls of the wallpaper, and painted the kitchen a vibrant red.

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On that back wall with the door, I hand painted little swirls all over in a deeper, darker red. You can't see them, but they're there. Again, we replaced all the baseboards and door frames.

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The next room was part of an addition to the house that made up the family room, and had an upstairs that contained an office and another bedroom, which became Kaitlyns room. The bedroom had a balcony that was missing it's railing!! We had big plans for that...but...while we were able to complete the house UP TO the landing on the top floor, we weren't able to finish the bedroom or office up there. This picture is the "before" picture of the family room. And yes, that is little Joseph in the picture, and baby Nicolette sitting in Yayas lap. You also get a closer look at the ugly wallpaper that used to cover the kitchen.

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This picture is more of an "in progress" than an "after". We did the same things as we did in the other rooms...scraped cielings and retextured, installed new baseboards, window and door frames...but because of the second story, we didn't get around the recessed lights. We painted the room a denim blue, which made it very comfortable and relaxing.

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This next picture is a "before" picture of the boys room...the smallest room in the house.

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To maximize space, I designed built-in "floating" bunk beds that fit right into the studs of the walls (I got the idea from something I'd seen in a magazine), and Jason built them out of 2x10s and galvanized pipe. They literally were suspended off the floor and fit right into the wall, supported by the frame of the house. He also built the shelving unit on the end right into the wall and bunk beds. Again, we scraped and retextured, replaced all framing and baseboards, and installed a cieling fan. We went with a space theme, and I painted the walls a dark blue and the cieling a dark grey, and then I painted the furniture lighter shades of grey, with any and all recesses a bright orange, to make everything look very industrial and modern (not too hard with those space age bunk beds!!) and glued glow-in-the-dark stars all over the cieling.

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This next room was really a labor of love...it was my little girls room. This is the "before", and you can make out the little alcove that was the perfect fit for a bed.

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We did everything we did everywhere else, and I also had Jason install a simple chair rail. Beneath the chair rail, I painted a castle "wall" with light and dark grey paints, and painted climbing mosses and flowers. Above the chair rail (or top of the "wall"), I painted the open sky. I continued the sky up to the cieling, painting clouds all over and gluing three-dimensional butterflys right onto the wall. I also found a 3-D sun that I put up above the closet.

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Then I painted a mural on one wall of a distant adjoining castle on a hill with a little forest.

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We framed the window and I sewed curtains. Then, in the alcove, I painted pink on pink stripes, and had Jason install a special curtain rod across the space. I sewed sheer, glittery curtains that could could be closed to enclose the space, and a valance of pink satin that I cut like to look like a Medieval tent. I accented it with dangling pink beads.

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We moved into our Vegas home in January 2005...

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We moved out in June 2006...

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What a difference 18 months makes.

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I miss owning my own home. For the first time since Jason and I were newleyweds, we're renters again. I realize my tastes in decor aren't for everyone...but that's okay...because having a home isn't about what everyone else likes. It's about what YOU like...the way YOU want to live. I've had other homes, and they've all been decorated differently...but I have a special fondness for my Vegas house. It was the one home where we really let loose and just did whatever we wanted...no matter how many people told us we were nuts.

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Sometimes I wish we still lived there. I remember how much fun we were having fixing it up, and I want to go back. But then I remember how much work we had left to do...and lots of it was not cosmetic...but serious over-haul stuff...like replacing roofs and insulation, and fixing that balcony.

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For now - this is where the Lord wants us...and I believe that he'll look after us. Probably in a way we don't expect. Just like how we found a home we loved in Vegas, against all odds. I'm sure he has a miracle for us here, too...I just have to be patient for it.

3 comments:

Marlowe Mania said...

Shannan,
What an amazing transformation. I can't believe the work you and Jason must have put into it, but also the great satisfaction in the awesome job! I'm sure you have tons of memories, I'm just glad you shared them with all the fun photos!!! What a talented friend I have...I already knew that though.
Michelle

Rami, Danielle, Eva, Jacob and Libby said...

You guys really turned that house around! It looked so great. Aren't you glad that you made it out of Vegas before the bust. We sure are.

Tiffany said...

It is fun to see the before and after pictures! I love home improvement shows so, that was kind of like one for me. :) (Seeing as how we don't have cable..haha) Great pics!