The First House

Let’s Go!

Today is our anniversary! Brandon and I have been married for nine years. We’ve been parents for four of those years, and homeowners for six. It’s been good.

I’ve been trying to push him toward a new adventure for us and our family, but we weren’t in agreement. I wanted us to pick up and move to San Francisco for a year.

I love it there! You will too, and the kids will think the streetcars and trolleys are the best things ever! Plus they haven’t settled in with school yet! You’re home now, and I can work from anywhere! We’ll just rent the house out while we’re gone! We could afford it for a year! It will be fun!

And so on.

Brandon is more practical.

It’s an expensive city. It’s hard to find a nice place to live, especially when you’re new to the area. We have a dog and three cats — that’s not attractive to renters. We have a lot of stuff. Our family is here.

And so on.

Eventually, he relented, but it was not an excited let’s go! kind of thing. More like fiiiiiine, let’s go. I was disappointed. I’m not going to drag us all out there if he isn’t into it. An exciting year in another city would be marred by resentment, don’t you think? If we’re going to make a big change, we need to all be on board.

Brandon and the Kids

I’d been looking at real estate listings for months, finding amazing homes in the Chicago area that were way out of our price range. I wasn’t really looking for something, just browsing the same way you might watch House Hunters. Of course, it’s all too easy to type in our town, start narrowing it down by budget, number of bedrooms… You know. Just to see what’s out there.

Then I went on that Housewalk, and oh boy.

There are still things to do to this house, and I think Brandon would be happy staying put. It’s a great house, and we’ve made it really nice over the last six years, but there’s only so much we can do before we start to over-improve a property. If we knew we were going to stay in our home for another six years, we wouldn’t worry about it, but I’m ready for new projects. A new adventure! And when I talked to Brandon about it, he agreed that he was ready too. We’ll be looking for a new home, here in Oak Park, but hopefully in one of the historic districts.

Brandon and August

We’re going to see what our house is worth (I have an idea, but I’d like an expert’s opinion), and we’ll start preparing to sell. I mean, I love pink paint in my living room, but I’m pretty sure that’s only going to appeal to a very small segment of the market. I think the Edison chandelier in the bedroom is probably pretty taste-specific too.

Our house should be ready to hit the market in a month, if not sooner. I’ll be sharing our progress here, of course. We’re excited!

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  • Catherine
    May 22, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Congratulations on your anniversary and your house news! I found your blog last year, so I’ll be excited to watch as you move into a new place and go from there. :)

  • Rosemarie
    May 22, 2013 at 11:39 am

    If you decide to get rid of the bedroom lighting – keep me in mind.. I have lusted over that for years and haven’t purchased yet!

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 11:52 am

      We’ll take it down and replace it with something nice, but simple, then see if it will work in our next house. If not, it will be up for sale!

  • Jessee Maloney
    May 22, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Congrats on your anniversary!!
    I completely understand how you feel about your house and I hope your next place is as enjoyable to “play with” as this one! I’ve been reading this blog since the start and I have LOVED watching you transform your house into a home. I can’t wait to watch it all over again! Good Luck!!!

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Thank you! It’s going to be so much fun. (And wow, we go way back! The Switchboards were the best.)

  • Brandon
    May 22, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Happy anniversary, Sweetheart.

  • Melissa
    May 22, 2013 at 11:53 am


  • Kristin
    May 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

    We play the “let’s move to San Francisco/Boston” game quite a lot, but it’s not so easy to pick up and move when you have kids. I’m excited for the new house! If anything, it’ll give you lots to blog about!

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      I’ll admit, it is nice for the kids that all of our family is here. I’m excited about a new house too, though!

  • modern jane
    May 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

    So exciting.. We are the opposite. I think my fiancee would love to move or build something small, modern and innovative. I’m more content in our cozy home and am more resistant to change. I wish I were brave like you! Happy anniversary!

  • Ashly
    May 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Hey Momma, I’m officially calling dibs on the Edison chandelier! ;)

    Every time I do a home tour, I get myself really amped up and inspired. I wish you luck and am VERY excited to see what the future holds for you and your family!

  • christina @ homemade ocean
    May 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Ahhhhh! How exciting!!! Congrats :)

  • Jess McCloud
    May 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Get it girl!
    I will live vicariously through you till we move back out west (where I’m from).
    I hope all transitions are smooth and as pain free as possible.

    So excited for you all!
    As a kid who grew up on the Pacific, I can tell you 1001% that your littles are going to love it.

    Best of luck,
    Jess and Scout :-)

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      We’re staying in Oak Park — I’m not sure if I was direct enough, so I added an extra sentence to the post above to clarify.

  • Bethany
    May 22, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Happy Anniversary, and many more!

    A new house and move is exciting stuff, but I really hope that someday your husband will embrace the adventure of living in another city while your children are young. Past elementary school, it’s gets complicated (I think), but the earlier years….oh the places you can go!

    We are from Pennsylvania, but lived in NYC for a year with a 3 and 5 year old, and then Paris when they were 5 and 7. My husband was the initiator, and I was resistant a bit for the first move, and then totally embraced the second. I too come from a very close family, but both my husband and I went away to college and did not return to our respective home towns. So maybe that made it easier for us? And it’s so much easier now with the internet to stay in touch. We did this in the early 90s! Before…GASP…Instagram and Twitter and FaceTime. When a phone was really just a phone!

    Anyway, I look forward to your home search. And hope you still embrace pink when you find it!

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      That’s how I look at it. And OH I would love to be in Paris for a year!

  • Jessica
    May 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Oh, wow! Big news! Looking forward to watching it all pan out, Nicole! (I’m excited for all the design projects that will likely come out of it, of course!)

  • Amanda
    May 22, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I love your house. Do you live in north or south OP?

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      South Oak Park.

    • Amanda
      May 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Bummer:( I am in the market for a home but my son is already in grade school and I am on the north side. Nothing good on the market right now so I would imagine your place will go quickly. Best of luck.

  • Kelley
    May 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Okay, first.. the comment by Brandon made me “AWW” out loud. Just had to say that.

    Secondly, my husband (our anniversary is on Sunday! May is the best month for weddings) and I decided over the weekend that our “forever-home” will only last us a few more years after perusing the real estate listings in the town that my husband grew up in. We still have quite a few more projects to check off the list before its ready for sale, but it’s exciting to have a goal in mind :) I’m excited to see what new house you land on!

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Brandon is sweet.

      The whole “forever home” thing is tricky. I think I like the process of fixing them up and starting over again too much to ever definitively say that we’ll stay somewhere forever!

  • Nicole L
    May 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    So exciting! I’m very eager for my little family’s next adventure, we’re just not quite there yet – looking forward to living vicariously through you! And happy anniversary!

  • Lauren @ chezerbey
    May 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    How exciting! I’ve been having similar feelings about our home lately too (crazy, I know). I think we’ll stay put for a few more years but it’s fun to dream about the next step. Good luck! If Chicago is anything like Seattle it’s a great time to sell.

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      It feels like the market is starting to pick up again, so hopefully this is indeed a good time.

  • tracy
    May 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Congrats!!! So happy that you’re coming to San Francisco. You’re gonna love it here :)

    • Making it Lovely
      May 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      No, we’re staying in Oak Park! I wish we were heading out there, but we’ll find another place we love here, I’m sure.

  • Meg
    May 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Happy anniversary to you both!! (How sweet is it that Brandon left a comment?! Am I the only one who’s uber impressed by that?) It’s so weird that all of my favorite bloggers have made similar real estate choices lately — and the fact that my hubs and I are doing the same. Good luck and happy hunting!!

  • Amber @ Wills Casa
    May 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Happy Anniversary (again)! When we sold our house last month, Nick wanted to move us to Brooklyn for “a while.” I was the Brandon in the family and vetoed the decision. We have 2 dogs and another baby on the way. I had to be the one to rain on that parade no matter how awesome I thought it was.

    Can’t wait to see the progress on the house and how selling goes. Real Estate is crazy in Texas right now, so hopefully the same is true for Chicago! Of course that means finding a house is a nightmare around here.

  • julia-lifeonchurchill
    May 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Happy Anniversary! I’m eager to read about your house sale. We bought 5 years ago and are considering putting ours on the market soon. Horray for changes, big and small xo julia

  • Patricia
    May 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Happy Anniversary! I love that your husband commented on your post! So sweet.

  • dawn
    May 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I’m originally from the Bay Area and I often long to go back home, but my hubby gets intimidated by the cost of living and lack of real estate available (which I admit is craaaaazy). So instead, we take lots of extended vacations out there. Btw, Chicago is a wonderful city, especially in the summertime :) Whenever our friends and family visit from California and beyond, they always comment on how awesome it is! Good luck house hunting!

  • jbhat
    May 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    I love this news. A new house will be so much fun for you, your family and for US as we watch your progress with it. Good luck!

    And congrats on the anniversary. Here’s to many more!


  • Erin
    May 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    So excited for you on this next step in life! Best of luck! :D

  • Megan @ Rappsody in Rooms
    May 22, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Wow! How exciting! I can’t wait to see all the new projects!!

  • Sarah
    May 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Congratulations on your anniversary! I am super excited to read all about making your new home lovely! Wishing you and your little family all the best!

  • jenn aka the picky girl
    May 22, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Happy anniversary!

    I figured it wouldn’t be long after yesterday’s post. I’ve been in my house four years, and the buying process as a single woman was a nightmare (I actually had a male realtor refuse to sell because “who would help you?”). So I’m not eager to do it again. Plus, I really love my house and have way more I want to do to it. BUT, I also want to move to New York. Badly. Desperately. And finding a job without living there = impossible. One of these days…

  • Carrie
    May 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Currently I am five months in to our “two year adventure” in Austin, TX. What’s great is that we get to experience a new city with our 22 mos. baby, but what is not so great is that when I signed her up for a Mom’s Day Out program, I had to put our Realtor down as our in case of emergency person.

    I think whatever you decide as a family is the right and only decision. Good luck, I look forward to seeing your next chapter.

  • Cara
    May 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Congratulations on the big change! My husband and I currently rent on the north side of Chicago, but we’ve been toying with the idea of buying for a year and a half now, and the thought of buying your place, WITH the pink paint and crazy chandelier, is making me swoon (though I’m guessing it will be out our price range). Good luck!

  • casacaudill
    May 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Good luck! I’m not going to lie, de-personalizing a house for selling is HARD WORK, but in the end it paid off for us, and I’m confident it will pay off for you too.

    • casacaudill
      May 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Also, you’re smart for not moving to SF. We were considering going back across the bay and so I started looking into rentals over there. A 2br with parking & in-unit laundry that allowed cats AND was in a good neighborhood was *starting* at $4000/month. FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS for a rental! I gave up after a week. In the end we found exactly what we were looking for in Oakland for $2700. Yeah, it’s Oakland – not a city I love – but think of the savings.

  • Ali B.
    May 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Yes, that chandelier is taste-specific. No one else will like it, I’m positive of it. That’s why you should immediately take it down and send it to me! And good luck with the house hunting!

  • Nitya
    May 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Congratulations! I hope you find the perfect home.

  • emily @ go haus go
    May 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Staying in OP but in a new house seems like a good compromise! Plus, when the house has been found and plans are being made, I think the San Fran thing will be erased from your mind. Can’t wait to read about the journey!

  • Catherine
    May 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    So exciting!!! Good luck and I can’t wait to follow along. We just moved house last month and it feels great to have more space and a fresh start. I’ve grown so much as a woman since we bought our first home 7 years ago; it’s nice to be able to start all over with how I decorate and handle improvements. I know you have too, obviously (I started following while you were still pregnant with Eleanor-time has flown!), and I’m excited to see all the new things you come up with for the next Balch house! You are always such an inspiration, as a designer and a woman and mother- thanks for letting us all tag along :)

  • Brandon
    May 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    I’ll see if Nicole would be down for a “thunderdome-like” scenario for the edison chandelier, on account of so many of you wonderful people seem interested.

    • Lindsay
      May 23, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Two bloggers enter, one chandelier leaves!

  • AnnW
    May 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Martha Stewart never lifted a paint brush unless she documented it. She also never bought a property unless she made a book from it. You need a new blank canvas. Martha got a really good deal on an antique house in her town, or the next town. She recruited artisans to donate their work for free. Then she sold tickets for it as a show house. Then she published a book about the process. Then she sold the house.
    I loved your post about the house tour. I would like to see more of that. I don’t think you could ever find a place to rent in a big city with four pets. Your husband is right. Sorry. Ann

  • Linda
    May 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Congrats on your get up and move decision! I live in South SF, it’s a bit more affordable than SF proper and about a 15-20 min drive into the city.

  • Brittany Lauren
    May 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Congrats! What an exciting new chapter, especially for the kids! Good luck with the selling and making a new lovely home for your family!

  • Alison F.
    May 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Good for you! My husband and I just moved to the area from Brooklyn and we are planning on renting an apartment in Oak Park. It seems like a lovely area, and I have enjoyed watching you renovate your sweet bungalow through the years. I can’t wait to see what you choose next!

  • Kelly
    May 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Oh how fun! I have always felt like I needed to live in another country at least one year of my life. I totally understand your feelings on wanting a new adventure.

    Moving is so stressful but also super exciting. It is going to be great and I am sure you will find something totally awesome. Of course I’m sure you’ll have people fighting over your current place since it is pretty awesome too!

    And happy anniversary too!

  • Joy | Frock Files
    May 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    That’s exciting news! I’ve been browsing the listings too, but very casually. It’ll be inspiring to see you prepare for your sale — I’m sure you’ll have lots of tips to keep in mind when we do finally reach that point. Congrats, Nicole!

  • Leslie
    May 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Congratulations to you both on your anniversary and upcoming move. I’ve been reading your blog pretty much from the beginning as we bought our home a year or two before yours. Good luck, and I hope you find a fun project home and get what you deserve from your current home.

  • Barbara
    May 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Maybe you could look into doing a house swap with someone from San Fran for a month during the summer when the kids are not in school. Just an idea.

  • Tina Slocum
    May 22, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    Happy Anni to you and Brandon, So happy you’ll be moving out to… Just kidding ;)
    Seriously, I can imagine with your creativity spark, you must be ready for an entire new canvas. Your current home is a perfect combo of style, gorgeous e colors, livability and comfort. The market is going up and my wish is that you sell quickly and find your next home for now. I agree about the forever home…I think that’s the old American Dream.
    There is so much at our finger tips now and the world is wide open with choices.
    Oak Park looks beautiful.

  • bunavita
    May 22, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    happy anniversary, dear!
    may all the happiness surround you

  • Laura
    May 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Excited to read more about this new chapter for you! We just moved into our first (old) house, and it feels like we bought right as the market started swinging back up. 2013 seems like a great year to buy.

  • Jen
    May 23, 2013 at 2:09 am

    looking forward to this new chapter! i convinced my my now husband to move from chicago to the bay area 16 years ago and we haven’t looked back! we live in oakland and for all the naysayers, we absolutely love it here. so if you’re thinking of moving to sf, definitely keep oakland in mind.

  • Valerie
    May 23, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Great decision on staying put in Oak Park… I live in SF and it is entirely RIDICULOUS how much rent is charged for even a 2 bedroom apartment. The city is wonderful though. We’re lucky enough to manage our building, so rent isn’t an issue – but dining out is what breaks the bank. ha!

  • Nicole Hunn
    May 23, 2013 at 8:39 am

    I’ll admit it. As I read through your post, I was hoping for a San Fran move so I could live vicariously! I could work from anywhere, but my husband’s job is here in NY and his reaction to my begging to move out West is similar to your husband’s reaction—plus he’d have to find a new job. But my heart is in California, even though I’ve never lived there. And I don’t know why. It just is. Looking forward to your new blank canvas, though!


  • Meghan
    May 23, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I think some of us go through the pre-school sweats, looking for one last chance for adventure before our kids get stuck in to the school system. I’ve been trying to get my husband excited about taking six months to a year off to go live abroad before our kids are bogged down with like, quadratic equation homework or whatever.

    He too is more practical, which I definitely appreciate sometimes, and really, maybe all I need is a fun vacation to ease my shakes.

    Happy Anniversary! Nine years, wow! Here’s to the new house you’ll be celebrating your ten year anniversary in!! Congratulations!

  • Anna
    May 23, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Congratulations! The move and new projects will be so fun! But all I can think is: you have a dog and three cats?! I feel like I’ve been reading your blog for years and I had no idea! I’d love to see more of them!

  • jo
    May 23, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Home shopping is always fun – much luck!

  • Haeley @ Design Improvised
    May 23, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    How exciting for you! I wish you the best of luck in selling your place and finding a new home. We are in the process of selling our condo in Chicago to make the move to San Antonio for my husband’s new job. We’ve bought a home down there and it’s so exciting to think about all the possibilities of a new space. I told my husband thanks to him, I have a good full year’s worth of new blog content! ;)

  • Alissa
    May 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Congrats on the big changes! You guys would totally love and fit in with all of us delightful and eclectic folks in SF (and surrounding areas) and it would be so awesome to have you in my neck of the woods… But as someone who lives 600 miles from the closest relative, it is a huge thing to move away from family. (Then again, it is only a year…) Buying a new house is the best! Can’t wait to see what you do with the new home, and what you do with the current one to sell it. Best in every endeavor!

  • Suzanne
    May 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

    When we sold our last home I worried a bit about my paint colors (I sometimes joked it was like a skittles package threw up in my house). Young couples would come in and love it. Older men would kind of look at the house with this “what are they THINKING?” expression. :) It didn’t hurt the sale at all. You might have someone that comes along and loves it, and paint is a pretty easy change if it’s not in someone’s taste.

  • Kate
    May 24, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Catching up late, here, but happy anniversary and wahoo! Let open those house hunting flood gates! So fun. I would have LOVED for you to announce that you’re moving to SF – I’m sure many of us out here would be happy to play host and tour guide. However, it is such a crappy time to rent and buy. We’re lucky – we own, and we own a two-unit building so we live in one flat and rent our the upper flat (for a reasonable price – I swear!). That said, the flats are small: two bedrooms, 1 bathroom, no dining room (my biggest complaint since we host dinner parties weekly and OH! An eat-in kitchen for 8 is tough!) but we have a sunny backyard with an old avocado tree – big enough for a swing for our 10mo old son. And we have two car parking. And our own laundry. But, still. I dream of living in more than 1000 sq ft and having a dishwasher. Your post got me looking at glorious homes in Oak Park so perhaps I should try to convince my husband to move there! Except, yes, having family nearby for the kids is important. Maybe we’ll sell our place and get a bigger one and you guys move into a historic and lovely Oak Park place and we can house-swap for vacations? ;-) I’m only half-kidding – growing up my family house-swapped with families in England every other summer and it was an excellent way of discovering (forgive me) nooks and crannies. Best of luck on your search!

    • Making it Lovely
      May 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Ah, I like the idea of house-swapping!

      I know we would have been in a small apartment, and it would have been expensive, but I still think it would have been fun for a year. Still, we’re pretty excited about our plans here!

      • Kate
        May 25, 2013 at 1:25 am

        House swapping is awesome!

        Every once in a while I like to frustrate myself by seeing what our money could get elsewhere. I love living in SF – I married a native and grew up in a small beach town nearby – but owning a decent single family home is really hard to do. We talk of converting our two units into a single family, but that will be a ton o’ work. And we’re not John and Sherry Petersik (bless them!). So yeah. Grass is always (read: sometimes, when you want change and aren’t sure how to make it happen) greener elsewhere. I am sure you’ll find something fantastic you can work some amazing magic on.
        Aaaaaaaand I just looked at properties in Oak Park, everything under 900K with at least three bedrooms. The Thomas Gale House. WHAT? Still too high, really, for us. But damn. Hot damn.

  • Erin @ The Great Indoors
    May 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

    What a fun new adventure! I definitely agree that Brandon’s buy-in is absolutely necessary. My husband and I have both been itching to get out of our current town in Georgia, but we have to wait until he’s finished with school before we can leave. Although we agree on that, we don’t quite agree yet on where our new adventure should start. He says Alaska, I say not Alaska… So we’ve still got some work to do. :-)


  • Ashley O.
    June 3, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I wish you could move to SF for a year. We did this, it was not intended to be a year, it was intended to be longer, but it was the best year of my/our lives!

    Upon moving, finding a place to rent with a dog was unbelievably hard. We ended up going with a company, but still really hard to find. I would have much preferred renting from a person/landlord. All of them wanted to ‘meet the dog’ and we lived in Texas- how was that possible.

    I’m a texas girl, but literally left my heart in SF. I am a big city girl. I prefer SF over NYC any day. I love the west coast.

    Glad you are selling!

  • Mirakel
    June 3, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Saw this today and thought of your post, haha. Most people I know move out of SF when they have kids, it’s not an especially kid-friendly city, but it is great!

  • Nikki
    June 10, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Well, I’m super excited! I love your home and have watched it evolve for years. You were the first blog that I started following. Sometimes it’s just time for a whole new canvas! I can’t wait to see your new adventure unfold. Best of luck!

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