Holiday Tradition - Fixer Upper Edition

by Theresa Pham

Our holiday tradition was unusual and unexpected. We had lived in our starter home in the suburbs for 7 years before we decided to, and were able to save up just enough money, to move into a small fixer upper in the city. The market was tanking at the time so this was our only opportunity to get in on the real estate run. We weren’t sure we’d be able to take on a reno project considering we had never done one before. With our starter home, it was a newer 90s home with a nice layout that pretty much set the bar for all the future homes to come. In this space, all we did was added personal DIY touches to it like built storage benches, outdoor kitchen and curtain installations, stenciled and mural painted the walls, refurbished old furnitures for interior decors, and installed all 3300 square footage of floorings throughout the interior and exterior of the house, among many other minor touches. [the back story behind all the DIYs is because we were SO BROKE! The same year we bought our home, we also got married and paid for our own wedding. Then not but a year later our earnings were further depleted by the initial rounds of IVF treatments in an attempt to have children. So we didn’t have a choice but to get creative with the beautiful things that we wanted but couldn’t afford.] By the way, I shot my very first women’s wear collection here.

Into the first fixer upper - a 1920s bungalow, we hired some contractor help. We opened up some walls, completely gutted the kitchen and master bath, and refinished the floorings throughout the house. Not to mention having to rework the foundation, plumbings, electrical and the entire backyard. Oh and did I mentioned i had to cram about 3000 sqft of furnishings, including an oversized solid wood dining table, king size bed and a grand piano, into a place half that size?! Boy did I have to get real creative with making a small place with lots of stuff in it look larger and cluttered-free! Once it was done it was so charming! It reminded me of a cute little flat in upstate New York. I wanted to capture so many memories here (not knowing that we had to leave so soon), including family holiday photos amongst the nooks and crannies of this place. I chose the Navy color front door as our setting because I had never painted a front door blue before but it just seem so fitting for the style and space. Not to mention I had just the right outfit for the setting too!

Needless to say, I shot my very first Mommy & Me collection in this lovely quaint home. Capturing these essences not only freezes the wonderful moments but its a sweet reminder of all the things we created and built, together.

So we kept going! Within a year and a half we found a gorgeous Spanish Mediterranean (fixer upper) home nearby that sat on the market a year, put in an offer and scored a steal deal on it! We put our cottage up for sale and got a higher than list offer the same day we listed! We moved out of there and into our Spanish Mediterranean home within 3 weeks time!!! That was the first and last time we spent Christmas at the cottage home.

From then on we kept the tradition going knowing we’ll most likely not last more than 2 years at one place. At the Spanish Mediterranean home, as usual, we picked the cutest and most interesting spot around the house to shoot our family holiday photos. We knew the likelihood of us having another stunning 13 feet boxwood wall was slim so it was an easy pick as a backdrop for our shoot!

Sure enough, not long after we completed renovation on our Spanish Mediterranean house Shaw found another badass property to work on - this time a classic ranch style! We were outta the Spanish Mediterranean and into our latest Ranch style fixer upper within another 3 weeks time and celebrated Christmas just once, yet again.

Alas, here we are with our latest and greatest fixer upper. It’s my most favorite and the one I’m most proud of because of the amount of work put into it. This one was a complete gut reno job throughout the house! And there are just so many areas in and around this house that makes for great family photos, starting with “the old” fireplace (the only remnant of the home to survive renovation), and “the new” French door we replaced that opened up the foyer space making the entrance that much grander.

If we stay to celebrate another Christmas here I envision the kitchen area to be the next setting for our annual family holiday photos, as many personal touches went into perfecting this space.

I hope this was a good read for you and THANK YOU for following along with me on my journey!

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest 2020!!!