How I Met My House

By Kate Riley April 20, 2010

My friend AnNicole over at Our Suburban Cottage is having a party tomorrow called ‘How I Met My House’.  I prefer to be fashionably late to parties, however this time I’m showing up early due to some delays with my latest project.  But I brought jalapeño poppers, so I’m sure I’ll be forgiven.  :-) 

So here is the story of how we met our house, but first, let’s take a little detour.  When I was growing up, I would whiz past this amazing property on the freeway on my way to school each day. 

This is not my house. 

kj tasting room

This is the Kendall Jackson Tasting Room and it’s one of my favorite properties in the entire universe. 

Oh my word, I could just stare at it all day.  Those arches, those French doors, those keystones, those dormers, that rose garden, I can’t stand it, it’s just so beautiful. 


kj roses


What does this tasting room have to do with my house ?  It inspired us in many ways when we first built our home over a decade ago, down to the exact color of the stucco. 

So here goes.  It was a dark and stormy night.   No, it was 1999, and I was finishing up law school and we were planning our wedding.  On top of that, my fiancée and I had an insane grand idea to buy a piece of land and build a house at the same time.  But we’re just certifiable like that. 

We found an affordable piece of bare land, and put in an offer.  That night, we dreamed up the floor plan to our home on a cocktail napkin while we talked all about building a house and a family together.  With a very limited budget, we decided that we would add on to the house later when we had more kids.  Yeah, that’s what we will do, we will add on later.  That was a completely crazy idea, we should have just waited and built the house one time only.  But we were eager newlyweds, excited to build a home together and we really didn’t think it through. 

The first time around, we hired a builder who made a lot of decisions on our behalf, and the original home was completed in early 2000. 

Here’s our home in 2001:

house before remodel copy

Fast forward to 2006 after two babies. 

“Hey honey, remember that idea we had that we would add on more bedrooms when we had kids?  Yeah, yeah, let’s do that!”

So in came the big equipment. 



There’s my mister clearing the new foundation. 



And the inside of the house.  Oh the horror !  I can’t bear to watch. 



It got so bad that we moved into a rental nearby just to stay warm through the winter.




scaffolding 2 

Here’s my munchkins at 2 years old and 5 months old midway through this insane excursion.  What were we thinking ?  And notice how I turned my single stroller into a double by stuffing one kid underneath.   Desperate times call for desperate measures.




When we moved back into our home in early 2007 it was still in a very raw state and we had *ahem* run short on funds.  There were no cabinets or countertops, no master bath, no balcony railing, no patio, no rear yard landscaping.  There was construction debris everywhere, and I was one crazed momma trying to keep my munchkins away from danger lurking around every corner.  Thank goodness they survived with their limbs intact.  I can’t say the same for my mental state.

Over the last three years, we’ve slowly finished the house as funds allowed.  It wasn’t until 2009 that we finally installed the master bathroom – you can read all about it here

So here is our house today.  Despite the madness, we are in love with it.

cg house front

And that is the story of how I met my house !  Now I need a strong cocktail because I’ve just relived it all again.  :-)  

Oh, and one more thing, I strongly discourage anyone from adding on to their house when you have a toddler and newborn child who don’t sleep through the night, especially when you’re acting as the general contractor for the entire project.  We forgot to factor in that teensy little detail in our decision to add on. 

And don’t forget about the big party over at Our Suburban Cottage.  If you’ve got a story to tell, be sure to link up tomorrow ! 



  1. This is soooo awesome Kate.I grow up in Kenya ansd went through the same “insane excursion” with my parents doing this on an 8 acre piece of Land they purchased.They named it Sunday View Farm becuae built that thing for about 6 years ,when he time only on SUNDAYS.
    Aaaahhh! The memories. My Mum finall couldn’t take it any more and moved us all in ,without cabinets or doors (…eehh they put the doors up ..very fast :-).
    This is so refreshing to see and learn .God bless your babies for having gone through that experience.
    The end product ….PRICELESS!
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. It was worth the effort & wait! You have a very lovely home. We live in Philadelphia in a 3 bedroom townhome that is quickly becoming too small due to the birth of our twin boys. We can’t add on to the home, so a move is in our future! Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. Your house is very beautiful and grand. We bought ours brand new and finished. Well except for the basement which has been an ongoing project for the last 16 yrs. We have done everything our selfs. Ya Crazy.

  4. I loved reading this post! It’s so fun to see how your house came to be…and to see your man and your babies.

  5. Love the “double” stroller! :) We bought our 1970s brick rancher on a whim at a steal with hopes of adding on soon afterwards. Oh, but then life happens and we found ourselves unexpectantly expecting our 3rd child. Needless to say, ALL our plans were put on hold and we’re hoping to finally get back to our plans later this year. Then maybe I’ll have an ending to our story!

  6. All I can say is WOW. We (well I) am dying to add on – the kitchen is just barely functional and our ‘mudroom’ is a 6×9 passthrough to the garage which houses our washer/dryer. I’ve had the plans all laid out for 3 years but after the real estate market sank we’re still waiting. Some times I think we should just say to heck with it and get somebody out here to start the foundation for the addition & we can work on it from there. Am I crazy?? Now that the little ones are bigger, I’m thinking we could do it – at the very least act as our own GC’s (did you get advice from anyone or just manage it all yourselves?) We have UBuildIt out here that helps you work through the process (for a fee, of course) and they have lists of subs – I’m wondering how much it would save…guess I’ll keep wondering until I research it!

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE your double/single stroller :) You are one brave mama!
    Have a great week!

  7. you have a gorgeous home! wow! that is a ton of work! must have been those raging hormones that made you decide to add on~aren’t ya glad now?

  8. Wow – you’re participating. YAY! Since you showed up early you can help me finish cleaning and preparing the hors d’ oeuvres :) . Oh, and we can share a bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay…mmmm. Love that stuff.

    Your house look incredible (inside and out). It’s so fun to hear your story of how you and hubby made your plans, and have continued to make your home work for you as your family grew. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Thank you so much for a good morning laugh… enjoyed the story but the picture of the single stroller turned into a double is priceless!

  10. Such a wonderful home Kate and I love the story behind it, drawing your dreams on a napkin, so romantic! I feel your pain! When we knocked our wall out we moved it with my sister (2 bedroom condo) with a 2, 4 and 6 month old. It was crazy for a month but you look back and it was all worth it! Hope you have a great day!
    Take care

  11. Kate the exciting thing about this is not only the amazing tranformation….but that you made your dream come true!! Your babes are darling!!

    Art by Karena

  12. Your house is beautiful and looks worth the wait! I must admit though, my favorite part of this post is your creative single/double stroller. Excellent. Whatever works I say.

  13. The jogging stroller photo makes me laugh so hard!! Creativity is born out of necessity, right? ;)

    As someone who had addition built while living with a two year old and a 6 month old, I can wholeheartedly agree with you about the craziness of a project like that! Your home is BEAUTIFUL!!!!

    I’d love to have you weigh in on my Decorating Dilemma if you have chance to stop by this week. Funny enough, several bloggers linked to one of your projects when they were giving me some tips. I’m interested to hear what you think.

    Hugs to you! I know you’re working hard this week.

    Okay…off to enjoy my twenty-fauxth birthday. ;) ;)

  14. Great story! That fact that you have such a long history with your house will help your love pass the test of time. I would love to build my house from the bottom up some day, but I couldn’t imagine the amount of time and patience it would take to tackle such a major project. I will say: you and your hubby make an excellent team! I’m sure that helps a lot :)

  15. Fantastic real-life “story!” Loved your nonchalance story-telling style -you hooked me right in! Especially with the photos to share the process too. Thanks for your fabulous post. :)

  16. Oh my, what an adventure! Your house is lovely though. This looks like a fun link up, I’ll have to check it out.

  17. Kate,

    All of us at Kendall-Jackson loved reading your story. Your house is charming and we are flattered that you used the Wine Center as inspiration. Maybe we could all get together soon at the Wine Center and open up a bottle to celebrate the completed remodeling… just as long as you bring some of those jalapeno poppers :)


    P.S. If you want to throw your own house party, let us know and we will be there.

  18. I love how you added the curved details around the windows & front door…It really adds alot to your house, and I have always admired it when little glimpses of it would appear in you stories. Absolutely stunning home, inside and out.

  19. Kate, I love your exterior! Don’t think I’ve seen it before, so maybe this is the first time you’ve showed us. What a great story, love it. ANd yes, you are nuts for adding on all those rooms after the fact. But, wow did it turn out beautiful.

  20. Yay! what a wonderful story, you crazy woman(with a toddler and a nweborn!). We live in a 3 bedroom, and have 2 children, so I told my hubby, no more kiddos. I don’t even want to think about an add on like that! Your home is gorgeous! So have you gone over to check out my post called “Happy!” passed on? You really should. Your surprise is waiting :)

  21. Perfect timing for this! We just sold our house and haven’t been able to find anything that we like. So… we’re contemplating BUILDING! I’m terrified, but I know that in the end it would be SO worth it!

  22. You have a gorgeous home, but from reading your post, it sure did not come easily. I don’t see how you kept your sanity with 2 young children and construction. I know you are loving your beautiful home now. Love & blessings from NC!

  23. It’s lovely, and what a wonderful story to boot. House love makes you do crazy things. It’s so much fun!

  24. Kate, you had me at Hello. LOL Really, I am in LOVE with your story and you have totally made your house a HOME. It has history and memories and love to fill every nook and cranny. Thank you so much for sharing.

  25. Kids change our lives and living situations don’t they. Your house is lovely. Ours is yellow too :-)

    Please drop by for a great giveaway you and your kids will love. Happy Earth Day!


  26. Can’t imagine living with babies while renovating! God bless you (and your marriage) for surviving that one! But it looks so worth it. Your house is amazing. I want to see how your grapes are doing this year!!!

  27. What a cute story! I can relate as we built and contracted out our old house, with little ones in tow. You have done a beautiful job and now can enjoy the rewards. Looks beautiful and I can see the resemblences to your dream house.

  28. Kate, what an honor to have somebody from KJ to post a very warm comment. No wonder they are my favorite wine makers.. I’d say that KJ has class! I’d frame that comment if I were you.

    Is your hubby a builder or contractor? Looks like you are getting a good size addition.
    Good Luck in all your future endeavors and keep up the great work you do with this blog.

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