Before-and-After: Mid-Century Phoenix Ranch Remodel (Architectural Photographer)

While we were renovating Nathan’s bachelor pad (a 100-year old bungalow), we were also renovating and selling my bachelorette pad, a pint-sized 1957 ranch in my beloved Sunnyslope neighborhood of Phoenix.

This is the picture-story of that house. Its story is also my story, for in and around that house pivoted everything in my life for a decade: good and bad, happy and sad, joyful and painful.

I bought her in all her {very} imperfect glory in 2004, fresh out of grad school, when anyone could get a loan. Remember that? Even me, who spent the prior decade traveling the world and not saving money. I financed 100%; I had only been employed full-time for 4 months, had credit card debt, student loans, and a car payment! Things have changed. Today, I would have been laughed me out of the room. But, I digress.

I got the keys on my 27th birthday. That’s me below, moving my extremely small collection of belongings – curated from yard sales – out of my parent’s living room.

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-2The house was in total shambles, and yet I was over the moon with joy and pride. Here is how she looked that first week, which also happened to be the week I ran a half marathon (hence, the signs left on my porch by my supportive family):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…single pane steel casement windows with broken cranks and cracks, leaky doors, weeds a mile high that my dad optimistically mowed, dead trees, overgrown bushes, sagging cabinets, broken evap…

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_Backyard2But for me, she was the perfect place to start. I knew her potential! Especially that back porch – which still had the original aluminum awning covered in little retro starbursts. Otherwise, though, she was a little rough around the edges at first:


Many hours were spent on that porch, including the end of my first date with Nathan, and then, a year later, the night I walked around the corner to find him down on one knee with a ring and champagne and candles.

After many projects, when I sold her this May, the back porch looked like this:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-19No more dead trees; new windows, doors, pavers, and grass.. But still the same lovely awning and the same bones inside. 20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-17

Outside and in, it took patience and vision to make her shine. When I took possession, it was hard to see past all of the flaws. It helped that I was totally naive about how much it would cost to remodel; I thought I’d spend like $5,000 and she’d be all redone. It makes me laugh now…

There were literally holes. The bathrooms were particularly bad; we even found old razor blades behind the master bath medicine cabinet when I had the cabinets removed. (Apparently, a few decades ago before disposable razors and electric razors were the norm, medicine cabinets contained little slots for this purpose – once a blade was dull, you just dropped it down behind the cabinet! It is kind of fun unearthing little historic idiosyncrasies like that in old houses – kind of like the milk door in our Wyoming home.)

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_OriginalDamageLike most houses of that period, the walls were plaster, not drywall. There were so many cracks and holes from neglect over the years, it took a crew 5 days to repair the plaster throughout – walls and ceilings.

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_PlasterRepairAnd those steel windows! There is only one way to get them out, and it involves a crowbar, brute strength, a lot of broken glass, more than a few curses from the contractor…20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_Windows…and then, more plaster repair. But it was worth it.

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_Windows2Next up: the doors! All of them, inside and out, including a new custom solid wood front door, which I designed myself. Does anything sound more satisfying than the solid “thunk” of a solid wood door?

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_Doors2Bye, old yucky doors.

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_Doors1Bye, weeds! Hello, desert landscaping. (Thanks, dad.)

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_FrontYard2Hello, cute house! I knew you were in there somewhere…

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_FrontYardHere is a shot of the front room as she looked when I bought her, then after the new windows, doors, fixtures, hardware, and some paint:


And again, from another angle, the front room when I bought her, then after the first round of renovations:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_Living Room

Such a transformation!

I lived in the house from 2004 until the summer of 2009, when Nathan and I got engaged and I moved into his house in Goodyear. Between 2009 and 2014, we rented the house. After the tenants vacated, the house needed another major facelift.

So, just before selling her this year, she was deep cleaned, repainted, and recarpeted. For all of the interior paint, we used the “money color,” as my contractor called it, because the neutral tone throughout helps with resale. He was right; it sold in less than 24 hours. The trim was all Swiss Coffee again.

Here is the front room of the house this May:20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-4The kitchen was probably the room I was most proud of, because I did much of the work myself right after buying the house.

I removed all of the upper cabinet doors, and had the cheap plastic inserts replaced with clear glass. I then spent a month of weekends cleaning, priming, and painting the cabinets white (Swiss Coffee), replacing all of the hinges, and adding Emtek knobs. At the time, I loved lime green, so I painted the walls behind the cabinets lime green. I also replaced the lighting (throughout the house as seen previously). The cabinet project probably only cost me $200, but it completely transformed the house.

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_KitchenHere is the kitchen as it looked when we sold the house this May:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-6In 2004, the master bedroom (below) walls were still a wreck from window replacement, and there was old paint visible where I stripped cheap crown molding. The door is the one we removed from the carport shed; I wasn’t crafty enough to figure out anything cool to do with it besides just lean it there for a while. I eventually just threw it out. It’s the thought that counts, right?

By 2009, the master had new doors, windows, hardware, vents, switches, lighting, and paint.


And then more new paint and new carpet in 2014:


The master bath was awful, just awful, when I moved in. While living there, I could never do as much work on either bathroom as I wanted to. (See previous comment about my naiveté.) I made the most of the tiny, yucky master bath as I could when I lived there, replacing the cabinet, vanity, hardware, lighting, and paint. But, when it was time to sell, it had to be gutted, or I knew it would be hard to sell the house.

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_MasterBathSo, here is the master bath after final renovations in 2014:


The guest bath didn’t start out much better. Here is how it looked in 2004 (below left) and again in 2009 (below right) after a new vanity, lighting, cabinet, paint, and fixtures:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_GuestBathIn 2014, the guest bath was also gutted. To remove the old iron tub, the contractor literally had to cut it in half. My beloved back porch became a dumpster for the tub and huge piles of other junk removed from the house.


20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter_GuestBath2A new tub, new tile, new paint, and here is the guest bath in 2014:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-9The whole house just sparkled like new:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-13Here is the middle bedroom, which I used as an office:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-12And the back room, my guest room:

20140717_BlogPost_212_BeforeandAfter-11I miss her.



Life is funny, you know? I was both very happy and very sad in this house. I lived there during the classic quarter-life-crisis years, when I was a young professional, a tortured single, broke, and often lonely.

So, as a result, I filled the house as frequently as possible with friends and family and laughter and parties. And now, looking back, the bad memories just fade away and I remember the good times. Like hosting a singles-only Valentine’s Day dinner party, or frequent yard sales when everyone stopped by for donuts and coffee, or hosting a surprise shower for a friend, or a sleepover with my niece Hannah, and how people brought me dinners and cards and flowers when I was recovering from surgery.

Since the first party there, on my 27th birthday with friends and family (below), among us there have been marriages, divorces, babies – lots of babies!, people becoming famous, new jobs, quitting jobs, moving away, cancer, remission, comings out, bad internet dates, fights, forgiveness, new hairstyles, new professions, and always, lots of love.


Before handing over my keys this May, I sat one more time on the front porch with some of this house’s most frequent visitors – some of whom were there that first day in 2004 – and drank some champagne out of paper cups, and reveled in the memories. I felt grateful for this building, my temporary home.

But mostly, I felt grateful for the people who I still have with me.

And that’s what counts.

“I know they say you can’t go home again.
I just had to come back one last time…

Won’t take nothing but a memory
from the house that built me.”


P.S. Thanks to my contractors and vendors! Please let me know if you would like contact info – these are all recommended:

  • General Contractor: Sergio Sanchez, Sunnyslope Residential Services (paint, flooring, misc)
  • Windows: Republic West
  • HVAC: Buenos Air
  • Medicine Cabinets: Pottery Barn
  • Landscaper and Realtor: Ron Baumann (dad!)
  • Lighting and Fans: Hinkley’s Lighting
  • Glass (Kitchen Cabinets): Sunnyslope Glass & Screens
  • Note: The door company I used is no longer in business…but they were good. Support your local businesses, or that is what happens. 😦

About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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2 Responses to Before-and-After: Mid-Century Phoenix Ranch Remodel (Architectural Photographer)

  1. edillow says:

    That is a whole lot of work! So fun to see all the transformation. We’ve bought and sold twice in all the moving around and it’s been hard to leave the houses we’ve worked so hard on, too!


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