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We Bought a House!

I’m not going to lie, guys. December has been insane so far. This year in general has just been so busy and full of changes, but now that December is here I often find myself thinking wait just a darn second, 2013 is almost OVER?! Oh, life! Anyway, between shooting 3 weddings this month (which NEVER happens in December), the holidays of course (go ahead and ask me if I’ve bought or wrapped a single gift yet), two of our best friends having their first baby last weekend (!!!- we are are in love with him already!), and attempting to tackle all the wonderful year-end business tasks that are looming (ugh)… well, let’s just say my holiday is in need of some spirit. Which is why I’m SUPER excited that tomorrow morning I’m boarding a plane to New York City to shoot the wedding of my photographer-friend Cat and her fiancé Joe! That’s right… NYC at Christmastime. I dare you to name a more magical time and place. The last time I was there during Christmas was in high school, with my immediate family, my best friend Amy, and both sets of my grandparents, and it was incredible. This time around, my good friend Mary Margaret will be joining me for adventures in the city and shooting the wedding on Saturday. And Cat just texted me a picture of the snow outside her house this morning and I’m hoping it decides to stick around a few more days. :) I couldn’t be more excited!

And on top of all that, Jamie and I have some exciting news to share: we bought a house!! HOORAY! For those of you who are relatively new to my blog or don’t know me well, this is a big deal for lots of reasons. A little back story: earlier this year, we actually owned a different house in the Crestwood North neighborhood of Birmingham (our very favorite!). It was the first house we ever bought, and for that reason it will always be near and dear to my heart. When we first moved in, we had every intention of staying for at least five years, but as I’m learning more and more every day, you just never know what curveballs life will throw at you. So back in April, when Jamie got an amazing offer for a job in Austin, TX, a city we both had just recently fallen in love with, it just seemed like the kind of thing we couldn’t turn down. Goodness knows we’re not new to picking up and moving to brand new cities where we know no one. So we put our house on the market and were shocked when we had over 15 showings in the first two weeks and received a list price offer at the end of that time frame. We set a date to close in July and carried on our merry way.

Though it was hard to admit, I was really struggling with the idea of moving. As much as I LOVE Austin and adventures with Jamie, and as excited as we were to live a little closer to his family in Houston, the thought of restarting my business yet again, though I had done it before, was exhausting and semi-paralyzing. I couldn’t think about what it would be like to leave our friends (especially my twin/sister wife/bestie Kelly) without weeping uncontrollably. We had grown to love our life in Birmingham, and so we made a really tough decision: we decided to stay.

It’s crazy, I know. Jamie had already started his job in Texas, we had sold the house, the ball was rolling… but at the end of the day, we had to do it. So he started looking for jobs here in Birmingham, had 3 or 4 interviews lined up in no time, and accepted a really fantastic offer with an ad agency. We still had to move out of our house, which was super sad because I had put sooo much work into it, and we had so many great memories there, but the couple who bought it is so great, and I know they love and appreciate it as much as we did. (In fact, I’ve gotten to visit them at the house a couple of times since, which is crazy, but kind of awesome!) And since July, we’ve been sharing an apartment with my brother (who also moved to Birmingham earlier this year to accept a job with Jamie’s previous employer, Telegraph Branding) and saving money to buy another house, and needless to say… we were READY to find a new place to get settled. This time, for a long, long time…. barring an act of God, that is. :) (Have I mentioned that this will be our SIXTH move in less than six years of marriage? Yep, OVER IT! You think having a library’s worth of books and a collection of Ball jars is great… until you have to pack and move them that many times.)

Which brings me to the house you see in the photo above. (Didn’t think we’d ever get there, did you? Welcome to a Morgan Trinker blog post. Member of Over-Sharers Not-So-Anonymous.) We knew going into this house hunt that we definitely wanted to be back in Crestwood (where hipsters and hippies come together, and everybody knows your name), and after falling in love with a farmhouse that was undergoing renovations, only to realize it wouldn’t be finished by the time our lease was up and would end up being at the very, very top of our price range, if not over, I didn’t think we’d be able to find something I loved as much. I have a real problem with falling deeply, madly, head over heels, this-is-where-our-grandchildren-will-visit-us in love with houses, which Jamie loves to tease me for, so every time one of them falls through I’m completely crushed. You know how they tell you on all the HGTV shows not to be emotional about buying a house? Yeah, well, that’ll never be me.

And then, the weekend we were scheduled to look at a bunch of houses with our amazing realtor and friend Tyler Davis, this house came on the market. When we saw it the first time, I admit I wasn’t completely sold. Because I’m a total psycho, I felt like it was too move-in ready. (For those of you who don’t know, interior design is the career I would have in another life, and I consider house projects that require 5 full days of hard labor to be fun. I KNOW.) I really, really wanted to get my hands dirty with the next house we owned and be able to customize it exactly to my liking. There are few things that excite me more than a good before-and-after. But then, after getting some sense talked into me by Jamie and some of our friends, I began to see this house’s potential. For one, it’s on one of the two best streets in the neighborhood. Jamie basically thinks it’s Mayberry. We already know a lot of the people who live on that street, and it really is beautiful. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were still PLENTY of projects that needed doing, but wouldn’t require us to live in a construction zone for months on end. So we decided to make an offer, it was accepted, and we closed this past Thursday and took possession yesterday! It’s officially OURS!

I’m sharing all this, and a bunch of photos I took yesterday, because with this house I’d really like to share more of the process of making it our own. I still don’t know quite what that will look like though. As much as I love and envy my favorite home bloggers, I don’t really see myself maintaining a completely separate blog to document this journey. There are times when I can barely keep up with this one! But then I don’t know if I should mix so much of this into my photography world. Any thoughts on this? I will say I’m super inspired by my friend Gail, who has managed to seamlessly blend her lives as a photographer, writer, mom, and consumer/sharer of good culture into one tidy blog, so I have hope that maybe something like that could work for me too. We’ll see!

But for now, consider this the “before” post! If you’re anywhere near as nosy as me when it comes to houses, you’ll enjoy getting a peek into what the house looks like in its current state. I may do a separate post with inspiration photos and tentative plans soon!

Things that I love about the front of the house: the tin roof (!!!), the large porch with a swing, the stone columns. What I don’t love: the storm windows and security bars totally ruining the original windows of the house. I plan on ripping all of that out as soon as possible! I’d also love to see the front door in a fun color since the majority of the exterior is white and neutral.

When you first walk in, this is the main living space. It was once divided into separate living and dining rooms, but someone along the way had the good sense to remove that wall in between to really open it up. It feels so big and open and bright in person! One of my must-haves for any house is PLENTY of windows and good light, and this one has it in spades. I also love the 10-foot ceilings and the beams. I don’t think the beams are going to stay this dark because to me, they are just way too heavy and I really don’t want them to be the primary focal point of the room. I know I’ll likely be burned at the stake for painting them white, but it’s a risk I’ll have to take. ;) They can always be sanded down and re-stained, ya know! Speaking of white paint, there is going to be a whole lot of it going into this house. It desperately needs some brightening and freshening up.

Can we talk about that fireplace? How amazing is it? Green subway tile… couldn’t be a more perfect fit. I also think painting the beams will help it become more of a focal point in the room. And while I love that someone added in the built-in bookcases, I want to see them extended allll the way down that wall below the windows. In my world, there is absolutely no such thing as too many built-in bookshelves.

When you walk in the front door, to the left is a room that’s considered one of the bedrooms, but will be used as our office. I love that we’ll have a workspace connected to our main living space this go-around, because I hate feeling secluded when I’m working. Plus… just look at all that window light! (DON’T look at the wallpaper border and lace curtains though… they’re coming down!)

And now, the kitchen! I LOVE this space, and not for the immediate reason you may think. While green is one of my favorite colors and all, this particular shade on the walls, especially in conjunction with the hunter green laminate counters, is not exactly my fave. The good thing is that the cabinets, though older, are in great shape, so I’m thinking doing something fun with paint would make a world of difference. And the appliances are newer, which is one less expense and headache. Behind that awkward column is a brick chimney, which I would LOVE to expose (so much character being hidden away!), and I’m thinking about removing those upper cabinets and microwave above the stove and doing white subway tile to the ceiling with some open shelving and a new range hood. And to avoid having to replace the counters, I’m considering trying out a DIY concrete overlay I saw on Little Green Notebook. Looks as good as regular concrete countertops to me, and for CRAZY cheap and no demo required! Might be too good to be true though, we’ll see….

Death to ceiling fans! This sucker is coming DOWN.

This is another one of the upstairs bedrooms. If you’re counting, it has seven windows. SEVENNNNN. Which rhymes with heaven, which is where I am when I’m standing in a room with this much window light.

And this is the upstairs bathroom. I LOVE the size and the shower situation they created, but NOT so in love with the tile choices. On down the road I’d love to replace it with classic (and period-appropriate) white subway tiles on the walls and hexagon tiles on the floors. This bathroom is the very reason I avoid historic homes that have been flipped or had any renovations done. All too often people put builder-grade, way too contemporary finishes into them and destroy the existing character, and of course who wants to rip out brand new things to replace them with more true-to-the-original ones? Not me!

There’s one more bedroom upstairs that I guess I didn’t photograph for whatever reason, but then downstairs, in the finished portion of the basement, there are two more rooms and a bathroom. To be honest, I’m not a fan of basements. I normally think they’re dark and depressing. So this basement was another reason I wasn’t a HUGE fan of the house at first. However, I do realize the value of having the extra space (and the extra bathroom, which we’ve NEVER had!), so hopefully on down the road, with a lot of work, I can make these rooms a lot more cozy and livable. First on that list would be ripping up the carpet (oh, how I dislike carpet), and then hopefully being able to assemble drywall over those stone walls (NOT the kind of character I love) and bringing in some recessed lighting to brighten it up. At least there are a few windows, right?!

And finally, the backyard! When you walk out from the kitchen, you’re on a deck that overlooks THIS kind of amazing view of the neighborhood:

And the yard! It’s hard to tell because these were taken in the dead of winter, but an avid gardener lived in this house previously and had quite the garden out there. Unfortunately, Jamie and I both lack green thumbs, so we’ll probably have to replace a lot of it with low-to-no maintenance shrubbery. Wayyyy on down the road. :)

And that’s it! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this thoroughly exhaustive post and share this exciting next chapter with us! And please give me feedback about how much (if any) of my house-DIYing-geeking-out you can handle seeing here, or if I need to move this party elsewhere! :) Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season so far!


Sarah Becker Lillard - So happy for you + J! Love the house and can’t wait to see what you do with it and I hope I can see it in person sometime soon! xoxo

Amber - Such a sweet home! Congrats and best of luck on making it your own!

Meredith - Wow!!! What a unique and beautiful place! Love that wooden ceilings!!! Congrats Morgan! So cute!

Kelly D - Oooh oooh! Love love love this post! So happy to see you got a new (and lovely!) place to live and work and be your amazing interior designer self in:) Can’t wait to see all of the things you do to make this your own!!!!

And so glad you’re still only a wee 2.5 hour drive away! That drastically beats the whole Texas commute thing!

Brooke - I love it! I’m a big fan of bungalows and the craftsmanship that comes with them – like those fabulous coffered ceilings! Here’s to many, many years in your new, adorable home!

carly - YES!!! Can’t wait to visit!!! :D

Niurka - Just two words for you: THAT CEILING! I am so happy for you two. The new place is perfect. If you find yourself with any free time in NY, please come through for a bite. Lots of love to you and Jamie!


Gail - Morgan I love it SOOOO much! I wish I could swing on by and pop a cork of bubbly with you! Can’t WAIT to see how you make it your own! It has so much great potential!

PS – I have to laugh about your carpet comment though…like, you, pre-kiddo? I LOATHED carpet. Now we’re putting some in to the front living room b/c, no joke, on a recent visit to my parents, Dean LAID DOWN on the carpet. First thing! It broke my heart! haha So carpet it is (the things we do for our kids ;) )

Kristi Chappell - LOVE! I like the rock wall…it’s different! All those windows and hardwood floors are awesome! Congrats!

Kayla Cobb - MORGAN!!! I want to see everything– if you’re not posting them here, I expect private, step-by-step progress updates via email ;)

Ashley - OMG OMG OMG!!!!! THE WINDOWS! THE COFFERED CEILINGS!!! Wow girl, this is stunning!!!! I cannot wait to see what you do with this space!!! It’s so incredible!! :) CONGRATS!

Emma - Gah!! This is GORGEOUS! I love, love, love it. I’m a fan of bungalows myself…. so cute. Nice job!

katie - It is so you! When do we get to see the after pics??
And you have to share everything! Love how you and your home are one. Seriously, can I be you when I grow up? :)

Haley - Congrats, Morgan! It’s a house with lovely bones and I’ve no doubt it’ll be that much more adorable when you’re done. :)

Sarah Robins - oh it’s SO cute! Wish so much that we were still there in Crestwood with y’all. I say leave the beams that beautiful dark and paint the walls in there white–would be so striking and clean at the same time! Can’t wait to see everything you do!

Rachel - Hey! So you might classify me as creeper status, but I discovered your blog when I found out we were moving to Birmingham from Houston. I was very confused by your Instagram posts when I saw that you were moving, but this post clarified. We love Austin as well. My brother and sister-in-law live there, and it is super fun! Although I don’t know you, I’m glad that you decided to stay. We need people like you in Birmingham. More art and cool people= better Birmingham. We rent in Crestwood South/Forest Park. I teach in Mountain Brook school system, and my husband works at UAB. If we ever decide to buy, I would love to live in “true” Crestwood. The houses in that area are awesome, including yours. Anyway, congrats on your new place! :)

Aaron Campbell - What a great house. Super excited for you both. Can’t wait to see what you do with it. I am attaching a link to an idea for your kitchen. Since you don’t have a lot of wall space anyway, and you have such amazing trim, you might want to consider tiling all the way to the ceiling on the two main walls with base cabinets. You can build open shelving and then tile around or you can attach on top. t’s pretty spectacular in an older homes and will really give that bright warm look you seem to be thinking about. Though I hate to see the beams painted white in the living room, I do agree that the wall columns are a bit heavy with the dark on the ceiling. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Thrilled for you both.

Testify: Jamie and Morgan – CrestwoodTyler Davis, The Urban Dweller's Specialist | Tyler Davis, The Urban Dweller's Specialist - […]  She recently posted more details and pictures of their lovely new Crestwood abode on her blog, Morgan Trinker Photography. This entry was posted in Testimonials on December 9, 2013 by […]

Hope - 3 words – turquoise front door.

Sam - I am one of those people who will burn you at the stake if you paint those beams.

But I love the house! I’m so happy for you both and can’t wait to see the place finished with the Morgan touch.

Kimber - Congrats Morgan & Jamie! And I so hope you blog your DIY attacks on the home! I love seeing what you do with your eye & photographer by day/determined interior designer-carpenter by night skills!

Before and afters make me happy! So happy for you two!

Rachel - I am so glad that y’all are staying in Birmingham! I love seeing all of your stellar photos of lovely couples enjoying all the areas that are near and dear to me! Your new house is gorgeous! I recognized it right away since my cousin lives about 4 houses down from you. That is such a cute neighborhood and so convenient to everything. I hope y’all enjoy many years of living there!

elle Danielle - Between the green fireplace and what will hopefully one day be Jamie’s mancave, it is pretty much perfect. Can’t wait to see what you do with it!! xo

Trinker Home Renovation: Progress So Far! » Morgan Trinker Photography | Birmingham, AL - […] I first posted the “before” photos of our home, taken on the day we got the keys last December, I had intended to post and update a lot more […]

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