If you missed our new house news, head to this post first and you’ll be all caught up, but to summarize… we bought a big family home in Michigan and we are going to do our best to turn it into our dream house in the woods, where we can raise our littles. We are trading the palm trees for pine trees and 1,200 square feet for 4,300 (!), in hopes of giving our kids the best childhood we can offer. And if we hate it, well at least we have an exit plan. We are keeping our LA house and renting it out, for the time being (my business will still also be based out of LA), which is helping us rationalize buying a house over the internet, while we were sleep deprived from a newborn and a toddler, and moving our family across the country. So now, let’s get onto the house!

The house was built in 1980 but has the mid-century modern lines I’m drawn to, along with unique features like a 5 foot round skylight, spiral staircase, 22 foot ceilings, a reading loft, and a screened in porch. I fell in love with the project house’s architecture, the peaceful wooded setting that feels miles from anything but is just minutes to downtown Grand Rapids, and that it’s ready for us put our stamp on it. The previous owners were the original owners and they had vision. They worked with an architect to build their own custom dream home and their attention to detail is spot on. The bones of the house are incredible (unique homes like this are much fewer and far between in Michigan, in comparison to California) and while I am calling it #samuelfamilyfixer, it isn’t a major fixer like our a-frame was (thank God). Which means we, hopefully, won’t be having to sink a ton of money into the structure of the house, but all the bathrooms, and kitchens (yes that’s plural) will be getting full renovations, we will be putting new flooring throughout and there will be some walls moved and adjustments to the floorplan made. So, if you didn’t think driving across the country with a baby, a toddler, and two dogs was enough madness, we are adding living through renovations to the mix.

As I mentioned, we still haven’t seen the house, so I’m sharing a tour using the listing photos. I’ll post a full empty house tour once we see it for ourselves and can take some pics!


This kitchen technically doesn’t neeeeed renovation. I actually love l.o.v.e. love the cabinets BUT, we do want to open it up to the living room by dropping that wall of tall cabinets and then expand the kitchen to include that breakfast nook so that it fills the space and flows right into the living room. I am planning to save all the cabinet doors and possibly use them somewhere else in the house or for a future project. It does look like the range could definitely use an update but overall it is a great kitchen and I hope to make it even better (and more us). How good is that rug/runner in front of the sink though? I kinda wanted to ask if it would come with the house.


Right on the other side of that wall of cabinets is the family room which, as you can see, if we took out that run of cabinets would flow right together. One of my favorite features of the house is the loft area (hello kids play space) and the half-moon shape nook that houses the spiral staircase leading to the lower level. The wood cladding and the cut-out in the floor, how awesome is that? I am going to have to get creative on how to child-proof it but it is definitely staying. Right now I am hoping to make that lofted area in to a play space for Archie so we will definitely have to figure out a safer railing situation.


Hello amazing HUGE room with tall wonderful ceilings. To give you an idea of the scale of this room, those are full sized sofas and that is a full sized grand piano in the corner (not even a baby grand). I have no idea what I am going to do with all this space but I can’t wait to get in there and start figuring it out. One thing I need to make a decision on soon is the flooring and I am so torn about it. I don’t love the look of wood on both the floor and the ceilings and I do love the wood on the ceilings here, so while installing some wide plank light-ish wood flooring would be the most cost effective and easiest way to go, I feel like then I would have to paint the ceilings, which I don’t necessarily want to do (even though I love me some white paint). I won’t be making this decision until I see it in person because in these photos the wood reads pretty orangey, it is after all that 80’s, probably pine, wood, but it could look totally different in person. In a perfect world I would keep the wood ceilings and do terrazzo in the main living spaces but it may be cost prohibitive given the large amount of square footage. Oh decisions, why is it so much harder when it is for yourself?


Look how grown up I will be with my very own dining room. We can even throw dinner parties where everyone gets a chair.


The master bedroom won’t need much outside of some new flooring and a lick of paint. Seeing the green through the windows alone is getting me excited about waking up in this room.


And on the less exciting side is the master bathroom. You know me and carpet in the bathroom aren’t friends, for starters, but also in a house so big the master bathroom is relatively small. I have plans to expand it and re-work the layout all together. When we added our master bedroom and bathroom onto our Los Angeles house, we didn’t go crazy with square footage because we wanted the extension to not feel like an extension at all. We wanted it to blend in with the cottage size and style of the house, so even though we built it from the ground up, and could have technically made large rooms, we kept both the bedroom and the bathroom on the small side. But in a house this large you better believe I am going to finally get my dream bathroom, freestanding tub and all (I hope).


On the main level there are only two bedrooms and we almost passed over this house at first glance because of that fact. In my opinion, my kids are too young to be on an entirely separate floor than me at night. But when I saw the size of the laundry room (I’m pretty sure it is about the same size as Archie’s current bedroom) and where it is situated on the floorplan, my wheels got turning and we are planning to knock down a wall in here and steal some space (and some windows) from the garage to turn this into a third bedroom and bathroom on the main level. We will then move the laundry room into the lower level, which isn’t the most convenient but I’d rather my kids close at night than the wash.


This space will be my office for the time being while we get our feet wet in Michigan.


The two downstairs bedrooms are quite large and will be reserved for guests. I want to pinch myself that we will finally have space to host friends and family. Currently visitors from out of town sleep on make-shift beds in my studio, so this will be a nice change to have a dedicated space just for them. Guests will also will have their own bathroom and kitchen to boot… who’s coming over?!


They didn’t skimp on space in this bathroom. We will be tackling the main floor renovations first but this bathroom is on the list for a big update as well.


The layout is a bit funky but the kitchen feels huge, especially for a second kitchen. All that counter space…woah. This will be getting an overhaul but again the priority will be the main floor first.


This screened in porch is another space that I am itching to get my hands on. I think this ranks right up there with the spiral staircase as one of my favorite features of the house. Once we paint over the red (sorry to those of you who like the color red. It is my mom and my sister’s favorite so I don’t judge but I can’t take it in large amounts or almost any kind of amounts. It is just one of those polarizing colors) and swap out the flooring, this will be the perfect spot to hang on the warm summer nights.

There is also another bedroom and another bathroom on the main level that I don’t have photos of, but you know I already have plans for. I am sure some plans might change once we are able to see the house in person but for now I think we have a good start. Once we do reach Michigan I will have to document our first impression of the house and will be sure to share it with a video tour on my IG story so follow along at @sarahshermansamuel!

So what do you think now that you have seen just as much of the house that we have seen. ha Would you have bought it from these photos?

P.s. I’ve started a new category on the blog for this renovation which you can find under the “categories” tab on the right under “michigan home renovation” or click here.

  • Monica

    I really can’t wait to see what you guys do with it all. Such an exciting adventure. If the wood ceilings aren’t too orange, I sure hope you can make the terrazzo happen!

  • You have found the unicorn of houses. I mean, when has an 80’s built home ever been this good?!

  • Elana

    Can’t wait to see what you do with this stunning home.. I’m anticipating lots of inspiration as we also have a 1980’s mid-centuryish (custom/architectural) home in the Iowa woods.I’m especially interested in how you solve the childproofing/bannister issue, as we have a similar one and a baby on the way. And I adore your style, ability to work with many budgets and general attitude! Hope these transitions live up to your dream. From, another Michigan-born, former Angeleno who is now making a family home in the Midwest, wanderer.

    • sarah

      I wonder if it is the same architect! Wouldn’t that be crazy as we live our parallel lives. Our realtor is finding out the original architect now.

    • ELana

      That would be wild, though I kind of doubt it! We live in Iowa City now, and the architect mostly worked locally, I think. His name was Bill Nowysz. The houses have a shared sensibility though! We’ve been in ours almost two years but haven’t done much yet- so I can’t wait to see how you reimagine your beauty! Good luck with your move/road trip! Oh, also, while terrazzo would be gorgeous and solve the problem of matching the ceiling, it would be *so cold* in the winter. Though I imagine heated terrazzo would be wonderful…

  • Can’t wait to see what you do with all of this space and all the wood! It’s so exciting that you bought it sight unseen, I think that’s awesome, not crazy. It’ll be so nice to have so much room! I have to admit, I do find a bit of comfort in knowing as a professional interior designer that decision making is harder for your personal home than for clients — I feel like I’m always so indecisive when it comes to my own home!! (and I mean that as a THANK YOU for sharing that you have a hard time deciding sometimes!)

    Best of luck with the move! It’s such a good time for you to go – my husband and I moved from Phoenix to Baltimore (and now live in west palm beach) a few years ago in november — it was a tough transition going from gorgeous phoenix winter to snow! The summer will be amazing in Michigan!

    • sarah

      Yes! Thank you. It is hard. Sometimes I think it could be even harder as a designer because you know SO many possibilites. ha

  • Virginia

    Just cannot express enough that I can’t wait! It looks like you bought a really interesting house with a lot of great bones and I’m so excited to see what you do with it.

  • Wow! What an amazing adventure you’re about to have. I’m full of admiration and jealousy, and I can not WAIT to follow along with the transformation! Congrats!

  • Ali

    I think it has great bones and so much potential. I love that you took this risk. It will be great! Best of luck!

  • it truly is a unicorn! cannot wait to see you work on this, and very excited for your family.

  • Patricia

    Such a nice house with a lot of potential! Some of the paintings seem interesting!

  • Killer. Absolutely killer. So exciting.

  • This house has SO much potential. Congrats to the family on the new adventure! I’m sure you’ll do amazing things with it. Can’t wait to see.

  • Juliette

    Right on with this purchase! Looks like the guts are good and you can have fun with the rest! I’d love to see some kind of stone flooring put in, but know you’ll make whatever look good! Btw, there are freestanding baby gates for open areas. We entertained getting one around our fireplace. I think I’ve actually seen similar ones used in another bloggers house, Brepurposed. Not the most hideous and can be moved if a photo shoot is happening. Good luck!

  • Elizabeth

    Congratulations! What a fun house! The only thing I would add is to keep in mind that the child proofing situation is super temporary. We just renovated our house in Ann Arbor – bought it when my oldest was just 2 and now they are 4 and 1.5. And the needs are so amazingly different! My 4 year old is totally fine on our back deck that still hasn’t been re-done yet – it was only from ages ~1-3 that it’s most tricky. I agree about the railing and the bedrooms but you may LOVE having the option to have the kids downstairs (or you downstairs) when the kids are a bit older. I also hope you keep the wood ceilings but I hear you that wood + wood is too much. Looking forward to seeing the changes!

  • This is so exciting and I love your vision for this house in I can’t wait to follow along!

  • Shari

    What if you did a vertical slat wall next to the spiral, and had the upper railing be a slat too, then did a cute staircase going up there or even a ladder for the kids? Can’t wait to see what you do! Thanks for taking us along for the ride!

  • I love it and can’t wait to see what you do with it! I feel the same about wood ceilings and wood floors feeling like too much. But what a shame it would be to paint that wood cladding. Is a concrete floor an option? Have fun with this project!!

  • I totally would have bought it! What an amazing and beautiful house and setting. Congratulations on such an exciting move and development project. I will be watching with great anticipation to see what you do with it.

  • I am DYING to see the after! And I am so curious o how you will still be working in L.A. It would be my dream to be able to go back to L.A. for work but still live in a place that’s affordable.

    • sarah

      Me too! 😉 My team will still be in LA to be able to do some leg work for me and then I can fly in and group meetings all together. I’ll also be doing less client work this first year as we renovate this place but will still have a few things in the works in LA! C

  • Andrea

    What a gem! What an opportunity! Jumpy claps for you!

    Sad for your LA friends and community, but as a Canadian who loves your blog and your work, this is a home renovation I can truly relate to – Space! Wood! More wood! We are smack in the middle of renovating our mid-century modern home now and I am selfishly wishing you had done your reno ahead of ours- ha ha. #ideas.

    Hope your new home and community are equally as fulfilling for your family and career.

  • I’m so excited to be following the Reno from the beginning- the house looks super cool, and I’ve heard the Michigan beaches are beautiful- great decision

  • Lori doran

    Ok so Nate & Jeremiah revamped a similar kid loft this season and they put glass (or maybe plexi) Instead of the railing. It was awesome. It had an original fire pole to get down. Pretty cool.

    Love the house, so much potential. I was thinking terrazzo too.

    • sarah

      I saw that one! I love the idea of clear so I can still see from the lower level. Must re-watch 😂

  • I am SO excited to see what you do with this space. Terrazzo sounds like such a great idea if you end up keeping the wood paneling on the ceiling. The terrazzo in Mandy Moore’s home was killer. A note on terrazzo with kids though (which I’m sure you know): it does stain and is easily etched and dulled with dirt/sand. We recently refinished ours (https://www.turningithome.com/2018/06/terrazzo-refinishing-before-and-after.html) and I’m already not sweeping as much as I should be. Thankfully refinishing brings back the beauty of it.

  • Sarah

    This house is amazing. I cannot wait to see what you do with it! I love that wall of kitchen cabinets though. I’m not into super open kitchens. I like a little more separation.

  • Melissa Mason

    I totally would have bought this house from these photos and I honestly think I wouldn’t change a thing about it. The whole house is divine!

  • Amanda

    After growing up and living in the Midwest my entire life, I believe you have found the unicorn of houses here. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.

  • ellen

    OMG…fantastic!! You could have an iron railing fabricated for the stairwell and possibly a matching one for the little ladder to the loft if its necessary. You can buy a retract-a- gate that will attach to the wall & iron railing to keep your baby from climbing the ladder to the loft and put another at the entrance to the basement. They attach to the iron with zip ties and it will only be a few holes in your drywall to fill when its time to take them down. We have a knotty pine vaulted ceiling in our kitchen, and my only complaint is the color casting onto my creamy white walls…it makes the kitchen paint look a bit pink. Its not a big deal, but I’ll probably have it painted white once we have the budget. Can’t wait to see what you tackle first!! You must be SOOOOO excited!

    • ellen

      Also, I forgot to ask you if you were planning to add a mantle to the fireplace in the living room. I’m looking for inspiration…I am currently staring at a whole in my faux fireplace that we installed in our vaulted LR (almost identical to yours) and I’m really digging the way yours is trimmed out. I need to buy an electric insert and chose a stone surround too. We put our christmas tree in this room, so I would love to have a mantle (although i have one around the corner above our kitchen fireplace). I would love to know your thoughts…yours looks pretty great as is!!

  • ellen

    I am also 8m pregnant and can’t seem to spell the word “hole.” (crying/laughing emoji)

  • Wesley Lebeau

    We are packing up our family from downtown Toronto and moving to the sticks in Alberta near where I grew up for very similar reasons. It’s been so heartening to see you taking this leap, and all the other readers who did the same. It’s such a hard decision to make but I’m feeling hopeful (for all of us!).

  • I’m so excited about this renovation!!! Can’t wait to see what color you choose for the exterior! Any ideas so far? Will you be going dark like the cabin or bright like the A-frame? Wishing you all the best on your move.

  • Erin

    Congrats on that amazing house and going back to Michigan!
    I haven’t lived there for 20 years (I grew up in Grand Haven, as well as Traverse City) and lately I’ve been missing the woods and the beach so much. I have it in my mind that I’ll eventually end up back there and build a little modern house overlooking a cherry orchard or something.

    I’ve heard that Grand Rapids has really blossomed, culturally! It’s been so long since I was last there- GR was always where m mom and I made the trek to go to the mall, since obvs. Grand Haven didn’t have one, and to go to concerts.

    Good luck!!

  • Well I thought it sounded incredibly risky to buy a house over the internet but I feel like if I saw this house, I would do the same. It has incredible spaces and potential, and so immersed in nature too! It’s a dream. Really excited to see what you guys do with it.

  • Stacy

    Absolutely dreamy. I can’t wait to see the progress! I think my most favorite aspect so far, are the stairs leading to the loft. So different, yet so rad.

  • Claire

    Welcome to Grand Rapids! You’ve found a home with beautiful bones and so true, these are rare in Michigan. Cannot wait to see your journey of renovation!

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