A special announcement

If there’s one thing you can count on from this blog, it’s no shortage of big changes and newsworthy updates! Today’s announcement may sound familiar if you’ve been following the blog for a few years… watch below to find out what it is!


For those who can’t watch right now—here’s the short story:

I’ve officially decided to start offering design services again! Lucas and I have been talking a lot about our goals as investors and the life we want to build together, and figuring out what we really love to do—what drives and motivates us.

Over the past several months, it has become clear to me that my passion is interior design. Three years ago I launched my e-design services, but that was right before a chaotic time in my life and I had to put everything on hold a few months later. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d ever design another house again, but life is full of twists and turns—and here I am. And there’s no place I’d rather be—doing what I love, with the person I love, in a city I’m beginning to love. When you’re this passionate about something, you want to share it with the world and channel that energy into helping others.

As of now, the plan is to focus on local clients in the Tampa area, but I’ll also be taking on a select number of e-design clients monthly. If you’d like to learn more, check out my new Design Help page and click the fill out a consultation form to get started! To all my Tampa friends, I’d love to work with you, and please spread the word to others in the area!

In today’s vlog I gave a quick update on our two properties along with a preview of our single family home, and next week you’ll get the full walk through tour before demo begins! We’re still making slow progress on the 5-unit bungalow, but things are moving in the right direction.

There’s new updates constantly over here, so the best way to keep up is to follow me on instagram and facebook. And as always, you’ll get the full show on my YouTube channel, so make sure to subscribe so each episode reaches your inbox!

Next up: A Before Tour, our plans for the house, and demo day! And so it begins again…

All About Financing!

We’ve officially been here in Florida for three weeks now, and somehow it feels like months—I guess that’s what happens when you stay as busy as we have!

Last week we shared that we went under contract on a single family home here in Tampa, and by the next day we were under contract for another property—a 5-unit apartment bungalow!


It’s adorable, right? We found this place months ago and have been talking to the agent and lining up financing so that we could jump on it as soon as we landed in Florida. The seller hasn’t been the easiest to work with, which is why it has taken so long and we don’t expect this deal to be over for another two months—if it even makes it that far. There are a lot of obstacles with this one, and we’ll share more about that in an upcoming episode.

The real game changer here is the single family home, which popped up on Zillow one night last week, and within 18 hours we were under contract after a bidding war!


It may not look like much, but this modest little home sits just off the river in one of the best neighborhoods in the city—one that we think is going to take off in the next several years—and we wanted to get in while we had a chance. This place needs a complete remodel down to the studs, but I’m preparing for a full-scale Jenna Sue Design renovation, and don’t mind spending the extra cash because we can picture ourselves settling down and starting a family here after we get married in September.

In this week’s vlog episode, we’re talking all about financing—how investors are able to buy properties, why bank loans are a little tricky for us, and how we’re making it work anyway:


I’ll break it down for you here on the blog too.

There’s a handful of ways that you can get started buying real estate:

1. Through a bank

This is the most obvious method of course, and for good reason. Bank loans are the cheapest money you can get, with current mortgage rates in the 4% range (this is historically low, people, and it’s about to go up!) But not everyone will qualify. You must be able to prove an income that falls into standard debt/income ratio guidelines (some banks are stricter than others) and there is a limit to how many mortgages you can have in your name (usually up to 10, sometimes less). If you have a decent job without a ton of debt and you want to buy real estate—you’ve hit the jackpot! This journey would be infinitely easier for us if we fit into that mold, but unfortunately, we don’t.

This formula doesn’t always work with say, folks who are retired, or self-employed and take a lot of tax write-offs. It certainly doesn’t work for Lucas, who quit his job last year, nor I (self-employed). We simply don’t qualify for a traditional residential loan.

Notice I said residential—fortunately, commercial loans are treated a bit differently. A house becomes a commercial property when it has 5 or more units, aka an apartment building. The bungalow barely makes the cut with 5 small units between 2 buildings. After we tirelessly ran the numbers and put together a pro-forma package to present to the bank, we were able to convince them that it was indeed a good investment. With commercial loans, the banks put more emphasis on the property as an investment rather than your personal financial situation or history as an investor—although that does weigh into their decision. Since we’re new investors and new to to the area, it’s a bit of an uphill battle for us to gain their trust, but so far our efforts have paid off! We still don’t have the official approval yet, but we’re expecting everything to go smoothly on that front.

But there are so many banks, where do I start?! Your best bet is the small, local banks and credit unions. Why? You’ll be able to develop a personal relationship with them where you’re more than just a number. Over time, they’ll come to understand your goals and trust you, and therefore be more willing to fund your deals—unlike a highly regulated big bank, where everyone is a number that has to fit into their calculators and guidelines. We’ve already opened up a business account with a local bank here, and hope to start laying the groundwork for a long-standing relationship.

2. Private Investors

Not long ago I read a quote that said “your net worth is in your network” and it really stuck with me. I’m learning this to be true in all aspects of life, and real estate is no exception! It’s all about connections and who you know. So many successful investors have taken their first steps with other individuals who trusted and believed in them.

There’s different ways to structure personal loans, but a promissory note is the simplest way to go about this. My first private investor was with the Cottage House Flip, and it worked out great! She loaned me money which went toward the purchase of the house, and I was able to pay her back with interest once it sold. The great thing about this deal is that you and the investor get to decide the terms and come to a mutually beneficial agreement. It’s a win-win situation, where you gain temporary financing, and the investor gains a safe and high return.

Lucas and I have been open about sharing our real estate journey, and that has led to awareness and trust within our network of friends, family and colleagues. We’re working with a handful of them now, which is how we were able to purchase the single family home. Each investor will get a promissory note outlining the rate and terms, and they’ll be paid back once we refinance the property and pull our equity out. This is a tried & true method that has been used for investors for years, and I’ll go into more detail on this strategy in a future episode/blog post.

3. Partnerships

Similar to a private investor, a partnership is more of a joint venture where equity is involved. This is a great way to get into a deal with no money out of pocket. Often times, one partner will fund the entire deal, and the other will be responsible for doing all of the work (acquisition, rehab, management/sale) and they’ll split the profit share equally (this happens all the time!).

We definitely see ourselves working with partners in the future, as our capital will be tied up for a while with these two properties. There is less reward, but also less risk, and it’s a nice way to make valuable connections and scale up quickly.

4. Hard Money

Hard money has a negative connotation, and it certainly has its pros and cons. Pros: it doesn’t take much to get approved (they can overlook low credit scores and lack of investor experience), and you’ll get the money fast. Cons: Because it’s a riskier loan in their eyes, it’s very expensive—we’re talking at least 15% interest, sometimes with thousands of dollars in fees. I like to think of hard money lenders as a last resort, and it’s nice to know they are there to fall back on. They aren’t inherently bad—as long as you factor in the costs into your calculations and the numbers still work, then you shouldn’t worry about using one!

5. Creative Financing

This is where investing can get a little fun—like solving a puzzle! There’s endless ways to go about structuring a deal to make it work. Seller financing is a long-time favorite of investors (that’s where you work out a deal directly with the seller to pay them monthly installments instead of the bank) and there’s lesser-known ways to invest like using a Solo 401k or Self-directed IRA. We’re still learning the ins and outs of these and haven’t personally experienced them yet, but the more you know, the more opportunities you’ll have!

We plan to employ every strategy we can to make these deals happen, especially given our handicap of not being able to qualify for a traditional residential bank loan. The best way to become great at what you do is to think outside of the box, and come up with creative solutions to make your dream happen. We’re working on that little by little each day, and we’re certainly making plenty of mistakes, but that just shows that we’re trying to figure it out!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s episode and learned something new! I can dive into any of these topics and go on forever, so leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to chat about next week! We’ll also be doing a video Q&A soon, so I’ll be adding questions to answer later 🙂

Keep your fingers crossed for us with these two properties… there’s still so many unknowns and a lot on the line! I’ll be updating as much as I can over on instagram and facebook, so make sure to check there in the meantime.

See ya next week!


DreamStone Diaries: Episode 1 – We bought a house!?

Okay guys… we’re off to a crazy start here in Florida. We’ve only been here two weeks, and it feels like months. Our days are jam packed with meetings and research and house hunting and evaluations and networking… not to mention trying to record it all and edit it down into a vlog so you guys can come along for the ride and learn from our mistakes experience. Our heads are spinning… but in the best way possible 🙂

Grab a comfy chair and enjoy our first vlog, DreamStone Diaries – Episode 1:


By the time you read this, there will be even more updates and news to share. It’s a real life drama that’s unfolding every hour. Honestly, we’re just along for the ride on this rollercoaster and trying to keep our sanity. At least I have someone to hang onto this time around! Lucas has been amazing throughout this business-launching stage, and I really couldn’t pull this off without him (spreadsheets and I don’t get along). I’ll have to step up and put my strengths into play as soon as we get the keys to this first house, which is scheduled to be the day after Valentine’s. Eek! So much to plan, so little time.

This is the part where I need your help—with so much flying around right now, what do you want to learn about or see more of? What topics can we address in the next episode that you want answered from a real, honest perspective? We’re just getting started and we certainly don’t know it all, but we’ve learned an incredible amount compared to just a few months ago and want to help you guys too!

Drop me a note in the comments below, or find me on Facebook, instagram or email at jenna@jennasuedesign.com. More excitement, coming right up!



The DreamStone Homes Vlog

As promised after my recent announcement about our new company, today is the debut of our very first vlog! Click to watch:


This past week has been a complete whirlwind (how has it only been 7 days since we landed in Florida?!) and it’s just the beginning.

On top of unpacking, getting situated, 16 hour days filled with calls and meetings and paperwork—we’re attempting to document the entire crazy process to share with the world. We hope that this will help others on the same path or who are simply interested in learning about real estate investing, starting a business from the ground up or the rehab & design aspect. Also, it will be fun to look back in 10 or 20 years and see where we started 😉


Now we want to hear from you—what do you want to see and learn about? We’re basically guinea pigs here, trying to figure it all out from scratch. We’ve made a lot of progress since last year, but we’re committed to dedicating our lives to becoming experts on the whole spectrum of real estate investing (including rehab & design, of course!). I don’t see this discussed much in the blogosphere, so we’re hoping to fill that niche as best as we can.

Reach out to me on instagram, facebook, or leave a comment below with any questions or topics you’d like us to address. Nothing is off limits, and we’ll be doing ongoing video Q&A’s with our answers.

Is it weird that I’m more excited about this than the day we left to travel the world for 8 months? Maybe that just means this is really what I’m meant to do. Big things are coming… I can feel it!




My Top 10 Design Trends for 2018

There’s nothing like being taken out of your natural habitat and exposed to incredible design from all over the world to re-energize your batteries. After spending most of last year immersed in cultures I’d only dreamed about—from ancient Greek civilizations to the Renaissance masters to iconic Asian temples, you can bet I took a ton of notes and inspiration back with me.

Of course, I also kept an eye on what was happening back home (thank you Instagram & Pinterest) and the result has birthed a new design style—an extensive catalog of images that have caught my eye fused with mental snapshots from around the globe.

Truly, I’ve never been more pumped about interior design in my life (absence makes the heart grow fonder?) and I am chomping at the bit to get started on a new project.

I needed a place to collect my thoughts and inspiration, so I created a 2018 Design Pinterest board and today I want to share the top 10 design ideas & trends I’m most excited about for the new year!


1. Mosaic & Patterned Tile

If there’s one thing that consistently stood out throughout every single country we stepped foot in, tile was it. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the most universal design element. Even in the most lackluster places, you can find hidden gems in tile with unexpected colors, patterns and placement.

The moment that sparked it all for me was walking into Pompeii in Italy, the archaeological site that was essentially frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. We’re looking at mosaic tile that was laid in the 6th century BC, folks. I was completely captivated.


Tiny bits of stone carefully placed to create these intricate designs that tell ancient stories—how could you not be inspired from the civilization that started this trend? I spent hours on the hunt for these masterpieces, running around snapping photos of every tile floor I could find. You bet I’ll be replicating some of these in my future work. Even outside the village in the city of Pompei, you’ll find mosaic on the sidewalks:


The pattern possibilities are endless!


One trend that has particularly caught my eye are words/numbers, specifically in an entrance:


So fun, right? Unique touches like these are really what make a place special and memorable. Even without taking that extra step to spell something out, I’m loving the idea of “tile carpets” or sections of floor with a tile inlay, particularly in entrances or bathrooms (bonus points if it’s mixed with wood!)


Beyond that, I’m always on the hunt for show-stopping tile like this:


Except that I have yet to find anything like this that isn’t outrageously expensive… if you have a source, please let me know!

2. Molding/trim details

I’ve always been vocal about wall/ceiling trim and molding being the holy grail in the bang-for-your-buck category, and my conviction in that has only been strengthened after traveling. Now I want to take it a step further, past the shiplap, beadboard and traditional moldings. It’ll be an uphill battle to achieve the look I want on a limited budget, but it’s a fight I’m willing to stay in ’til the end.


I blame Morocco and India for these new high standards. You can’t walk a block without passing beautifully carved wood and plaster accents covering every building. Square edges just don’t cut it for me anymore.


With that said, I don’t see myself figuring out a way to recreate an entire Moroccan riad on the cheap anytime soon, so I’ll have to start small and work my way up. Even something as simple as adding a wood appliqué to a small section of wall or furniture makes a world of difference (spoiler alert, I already have a project in mind!)


Ceiling medallions are an easy and fairly inexpensive way to add architectural interest (tip, you can apply them to more than just ceilings):


I just love how creative you can be with this! Just think of all the flat and plain surfaces that can be transformed. Ahh, the smell of possibility…

3. Non-traditional cased openings/doorways

You know you’ve seen too much when the sight of a plain doorway wrapped in drywall and paint makes you die a little inside. I don’t wanna live that kind of life anymore. It’s time to step up our game in 2018, folks.


I know, this is one of those things that your house was either blessed to be built with or not. I plan to seek out homes that specifically have these unique details, but I understand they’ll be few and far between. I haven’t priced out what it would cost for a contractor to do that sort of custom work, but there are other ways to add interest to those plain openings. Like a transom window hung horizontally and/or vertically, for instance:


And the ever popular reclaimed wood:


I’m a huge fan of this casing that incorporates carved corbels, rosettes and an aged paint technique. I can see this being a fun and relatively easy DIY!


Even something as simple as a rounded or arched doorway—if you can swing the cost, it will elevate the look and feel your room tremendously.


4. Non-traditional doors

Sticking with this architectural interest theme, I’d be crazy to leave out doors. Transforming boring doors has been my mission for years (remember my DIY door tutorials here, here, here, here, here, here and here?) and now the bar is set even higher.

You know how I said that tile was what most consistently stood out in every country we visited? Well, I just changed my mind. Doors win that title, hands down. I love you America, but the rest of the world is killing it with their doors.


These aren’t just the doors of fancy churches or palaces either—they’re typical homes and abandoned buildings and everything in between. Every door is unique and has history and character. That’s what we should aim to bring into our homes.

I’m particularly drawn to arched doors, but of course those are exponentially more expensive (both materials & labor) so I may have to curb my expectations on that for a while.


Not just exterior doors, but in unexpected places like a cabinet pantry:


Places like salvage yards and flea markets are the perfect hunting grounds for these pieces, but they often don’t come cheap and I’d imagine the labor costs involved will be even more. Anyone have experience with something like this? I’d love your feedback on the costs!

5. Special sinks

I’m pretty sure every sink I’ve ever purchased has been a classic white vessel or farmhouse, but in 2018 I’m looking to break out of that pattern. Leave it to Greece, perhaps my favorite country in all the land, to make me change my ways. Rustic and stone is all I dream about now…


There are so many amazing possibilities once you leave the world of white ceramic. Concrete is something I’ve been considering for a while…


This mediterranean style beauty has me wishing I was back in Portugal…


Or how about something completely outside the box, like an outdoor garden basin?


I could sink shop all day long. The trickier part will be striking that balance between price, form and function. I’ll be designing real life houses, on a real budget for real people, so something’s gotta give. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out!

6. Built-in ranges & hoods

Have you noticed the trend of large wall surrounds being built around stoves? I can’t get enough of it.


Maybe it’s not a new thing and I’ve only just caught on, but I’m obsessed. Talk about a focal point in the kitchen.


There’s so many different ways you can play around with this arrangement and style—including hidden storage on the inside, rustic or fancy molding or shelving on the outside, or a simple and clean smooth finish. I can not wait to implement this.


7. Integrated/custom appliances

I’ll just lay it out there: I’m over stainless steel. I’ve never really been much of a silver girl, but the general US population has demanded stainless for the past decade so that is what we do without thinking twice. But you know what SS? It’s 2018 and your time is up!

Ok, I wish it were that easy. It’ll take a lot more than one person to change the minds of a collective nation, so in the meantime I’ll look for ways around it. Unfortunately, the ways around it = big bucks, so I’ll have to ride out this stainless steel wave until manufacturers start providing affordable options, or I win the lottery and can afford $7,000 stoves.

But in the meantime, a girl can dream…


Lacanche, help a sister out!

Colored ranges are my jam. How are we able to choose every color and style of flooring, cabinets, counters and tile under the sun—but we’re stuck with giant boxes of reflective metal that don’t match anything? This is an epidemic, people.

Beautiful ranges are one thing, but then we still have refrigerators and dishwashers to worry about. In a perfect world, those would all be integrated (faced with panels that match your cabinets):


Of course, this is also quite expensive and I have yet to find an affordable alternative. Hopefully this post will start a movement, or at least a call to action for the manufacturers to provide options to those of us on a budget. If nothing else, I’m putting this energy out into the universe and maybe it will manifest… 😉

8. Antique glass mirrors

Those mercury glass style mirrors have always stopped me in my tracks, and I was able to try it out for myself with a DIY project at the Cottage House Flip:

It turned out to be my favorite mirror of all time and I was completely sold on this antique finish look. There’s plenty of DIY tutorials out there, and the greatest part is that you can even turn any window into an antique mirror! If these photos aren’t enough to make you run to your nearest hardware store to grab the supplies, I don’t know what is.


I like them in unexpected places, like built into a bar area:


Or behind a night stand:


And how insanely good is this copper beauty?


You’re only limited to your imagination!

9. White walls + Gray trim

Ok, so I might have stolen this one from Mrs. Joanna Gaines… or maybe I did this in the Cottage House Flip last year before she did? Classic chicken and egg situation 🙂

But watching it appear time and time again on latest season of Fixer Upper has me sold. Gray walls & white trim have been the default for the past several years—why not switch it around? In the words of the wise Sheryl Crowl, I think a change will do you good.


Isn’t it a breath of fresh air?


The gray accent doesn’t have to be limited to the trim—it can carry over to doors, shelving and other accents. It doesn’t have to even be limited to gray either, but I’d caution choosing a non-neutral color because painting over trim if you change your mind later is a huge time commitment.

10. Brick + Stone

If you followed the Cottage House Flip, you may remember what a big impact those brick pavers made:

I used them in a bathroom, laundry room and even the kitchen… and I could have kept going! The pavers are great because they’re thin and you can lay them anywhere, just like tile. They work well in any room too, both indoor and outdoor. You’ll see a lot more of these in my future.

Another material I’ve dabbled a bit with in the past is stone, in the form of pebble tiles in my old bathroom:

I can’t get enough of that earthy look so those will also be making a comeback at some point.

For future designs, I want to experiment with new materials, like the rough stone walls I fell in love with in the south of France:


I’m all about chunky, textured, imperfect surfaces. These work beautifully in small doses or as accent walls, in any room:


Budget will likely be a big factor in how well I can execute my vision, but if the option is there, I’m taking full advantage!

It was hard to narrow this list down to 10—I could go on all day about everything I’m obsessing over! A few more things I’m loving right now are brass, mixed metals, natural wood tones, black and white, vintage oriental rugs, antique furniture, carved wood anything, wallpaper, and minimalist fireplace mantels.

And just for fun, here are a few colors that are high on my list for 2018…


Woodlawn Colonial Gray is the accent color I used all throughout the Cottage House Flip. It took a lot of trial and error to find that perfect shade of pale gray, so I’m sticking with what works! I also used Dark Kettle Black on all of the doors, and it was the richest black I could find. I loved the results!

Tender Shell is an interesting one—a photo of a subtle pinkish-taupe door caught my eye the other day, and I can’t get it out of my head. This color would be fun on a piece of furniture or an accent somewhere.

I’m all about the sage greens this year, both dark and light. I haven’t tried these two colors out in person yet, but will be experimenting with that soon!

I’ve also been on the hunt for a pale mushroom gray, just like the cabinets from DeVol kitchens I posted under #6 above, and Brown Buzz looks like it could be a worthy candidate. I want to try these on kitchen cabinets myself, or any piece of furniture, perhaps even walls.

If you’ve used any colors that are a close match to any of the ones listed above, please let me know! It’s always helpful to see results from others first.

Whew… how’s that novel for my first design related post in forever? I’m finally able to let out some of that pent up inspiration over the past 10 months! This is just the beginning, my friends.

Coming up next, the debut of our new vlog! We’ve kept the camera rolling these past few weeks as we packed up & moved from California to Florida, and officially launched our real estate business here in Tampa. There’s so much to talk about! In the meantime, you can catch me over on instagram & facebook and stay in the loop about everything. Make sure you’re following my 2018 Pinterest board for more design inspiration, and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’ll be the first to know when our vlog goes live later this week! <3


Day 1 Of Our New Lives!

Hello from Tampa, Florida! The three of us (including our kitty, Susie) survived yesterday’s long travel day and are settling in to our new temporary home. Our car and belongings are still en route so we’ll be living out of backpacks and on an air mattress for a little while—but of course we’re used to that 🙂


Earlier this year I mentioned our big plans to travel and then move to Florida to start a real estate investment company, but I wanted to share more details around that decision.

Most of you know I’ve been doing this home renovation thing for a while, and it’s always been a goal of mine to become a full time investor, which is why I finally made the leap last year with the Cottage House Flip.

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 6.28.57 AM

Lucas had a career in technology sales, but after he took a break and spent some time traveling on his own, he realized his work was no longer fulfilling. Investing in real estate was always an idea in the back of his mind, and with my experience and background, joining forces and starting our own company together just felt right.


Introducing the next chapter in our lives, DreamStone Homes. We’ll be buying and rehabbing properties in the Tampa Bay/St. Pete area, both as flips and buy & holds.


Why Florida? Well, largely due to the investor-friendly real estate market. As much as we love California, the availability of deals are slim to none, and the cost of entry is outrageous. We considered other markets like Austin and Chicago, but in the end decided we’d rather live in Florida. Lucas went to college there (UT) and some of you may remember that I lived in Jacksonville for a few years (my sister still lives there).


We love the weather, the beaches, the city amenities and low cost of living. I don’t think we’ll end up staying here forever—mostly because I crave change too much—but we believe it’s the perfect place to jumpstart our business. We haven’t purchased any properties just yet, so we’ll be living in an apartment until we find a place that makes sense to move into.


As always, I’ll be taking you guys with me on this journey, which now involves much more than renovating/decorating and traveling. Starting and operating any successful company from the ground up is quite the task, especially when there’s no Plan B. Failure is not an option for us!


Just like I DIY’ed my way through rehabbing 4 houses, we’ll both be doing the same while trying to learn the ins and outs of RE investing. We’ve spent months researching and putting our plan together, and now it’s time to execute. Through this blog (and our new vlog, coming next week!) we hope to help others on this same journey, or who are simply curious about how this all works, by sharing our experience and lessons learned.


It’s such an exciting time in our lives, and we hope to be able to look back one day to relive our humble beginnings and remember where we started. We really hope you’ll join us on this new adventure, and please reach out to say hello and let us know you’re there with us!

In the next post I’ll be sharing my design plans and obsessions for 2018. I’ve got a ton of pent up inspiration from our travels and can’t wait to show you what’s on my radar for the coming months!


If you have any questions so far, please comment below or reach me on Instagram or Facebook. We’ll also be doing some Q&A in the vlog so we may just answer your question there!

I hope your 2018 is off to a great start! The sun is shining here in Tampa and the future looks bright 😎


2017: This is Our Year

As we ring in the new year, I can’t let 2017 go without pausing to reflect on the incredible journey it was for us. I spent endless hours documenting our experiences—through words, photos and video, and over the last month I’ve sorted through it all to create the highlight reel. Here is Our Year:


In 2017, we left our lives behind in California to see the world. Over the course of 8 months, we traveled across 5 continents through 20 countries with just our backpacks.

There were moments of awe and sadness, times of fear and illness, and days of pure bliss. There were challenges to overcome, lessons to learn, and a lifetime of memories made.

We returned with a bond stronger than ever, a deep sense of gratitude for life and pure excitement to begin a new chapter together as a family.

2017 was truly the best year of our lives. We will hold onto this renewed sense of adventure and wonder, and take it with us through 2018 and beyond. Through the words, photos and video captured on this life changing trip, we will never forget how we felt in these moments.

You can catch all of the details, plus journal entries & photos from the entire trip by using the Search tool on this blog. And if you missed any of the travel videos, you can find them all on my Youtube channel.

Thank you for joining us on this amazing journey. It’s not over yet… 2018 will be the year of our new vlog! Come along for the ride as we move to Florida and start very different kind of adventure—investing in real estate 🙂

Cheers to a new year of endless possibilities… let’s make it our best one yet!


My Parents Bathroom Renovation

Since finishing up the Cottage House Flip this past February, I haven’t been able to work on a single house project in nine months—the longest break from DIY/rehabbing since I bought my first home in 2008!

Fortunately, my parents took on a project of their own during this time and I think it turned out pretty amazing—so amazing that I just had to share it with you guys. Their bathroom needed a makeover in a major way, and after two months of work, the final result was unrecognizable.

I wish I could take credit for this one, but the extent of my help was limited to opinions on tile and placing a few orders. Even though our styles aren’t exactly the same, I can always appreciate design with unique and personal touches, and that’s what this bathroom has.

They lived with the Before like this for quite some time…


Then came demo day, and putting it back together…


And here’s what it looks like today:


To help with their small space problem, my dad built a sliding barn door from tongue & groove boards he purchased from Lowe’s (then stained and distressed).

More white tongue & groove boards cover the walls and ceiling, helping the space to feel bright and open.


Dark gray tile set in a herringbone pattern continue the rustic theme, while radiant heat flooring underneath keep bare feet warm on those cold winter days.

A window surround built by my dad from barn wood replaces standard white trim, and ties in with the vanity and flooring.


Sweet farmhouse touches like metal sheep heads and vintage photos show off their mountain-country style.


My mom purchased a vanity online complete with a marble top, and spray painted the handles to match the champagne bronze faucet. The mirror was a $20 thrift store find she painted gold.


The old bathroom had no storage space at all, so they relocated a water heater to the garage and freed up space for custom open shelving.


A furnace still lives to the right of the shelving, and my dad built a custom sliding barn door to keep it hidden yet still easily accessible.


My mom loves color, so she had fun picking out tile for the shower. Classic subway tile set in a celadon green play nicely with flat river rock in varying shades of green, gray and brown.


The old, cramped tub was ditched in favor of a large shower with a wide seat.


Champagne bronze hardware keep the color palette warm and tie into the metals on the sink. Tempered glass doors allow for privacy while still allowing the room to feel open.


I’m such a fan of the way it turned out—how about you?


Thanks Mom & Dad for letting me take over your bathroom for an afternoon!


They’ve even offered to share all of their sources and costs (okay so I convinced them to… I do it all for you guys! <3)

Paint: Valspar Bistro White

All tile from a local store, not found online unfortunately 🙁

Vanity: Jude 42″ French Vanity in Gray (it is more gray in person than these photos show!)

Sink faucet: Delta Linden in Champagne Bronze

Vanity light: Spray painted existing fixture

Barn door track hardware

Delta Linden Faucet & shower head

Delta hand shower system

Kohler shower grab bars

Bronze shower drain

And now for the costs!

Tile: $1850

Toilet: $200

Shower doors: $1300

Radiant heat flooring: $820

Building materials: $2660

Vanity: $1100

Hardware/fixtures: $1500

Labor: $14,700

Total: $24,130

I won’t lie, I was pretty shocked running through the numbers… those labor costs are killer! Apparently they ran into dry rot/framing issues that had to be completely redone, along with all new plumbing which ate up a lot of time and money.  Even still, I’ve averaged around $5k in most of my bathroom remodels and am hoping to spend less than this on kitchens in future rehabs! How does it compare to your experience and prices in your area?

I hope you enjoyed this post—it feels great to be back on the Home Blogging scene, and it’s just a taste of what’s to come in 2018! Lucas and I have some big plans and exciting updates to share in the new year, which is coming up fast. On January 9th we’ll land in Tampa to start our new lives together, and we’ll be documenting the process of moving across the country & settling in over on Instagram & Facebook if you want to follow along!

But for now, we’re enjoying the final days with our friends and family here in California before we say goodbye. I hope you have a wonderful and gratitude-filled holiday season with your loved ones this year. Happy holidays and we’ll see you back here next year!




India: A Vlog & Tribute

After documenting our travels on this blog since April, it’s time for the final trip post! If you missed last weeks’ big recap (including best/worst places and a total cost breakdown), make sure to get caught up here.

I’ve made videos/vlogs for most of the countries we visited both as a creative outlet, and a way to preserve richer memories—beyond words and still photos. I’ve done my best to capture the spirit of each place and what they meant to us, and India was no exception.

India was loud, congested, vibrant, and chaotic. We were walking the line between a dream and a nightmare, where simple words and images fail to do it any justice. If you read the blog posts and cringed, prepare to be taken to the next level with this video. If you don’t ever plan to visit, consider this your virtual ticket (click to watch):


With so much to cover, this video clocks in longer than usual at 16 minutes—so grab a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of wine (I won’t judge if it’s 11am), get comfortable and enjoy! Make sure to watch until the end for my favorite part—a cinematic tribute 🙂 Disclaimer: Sorry for the poor audio in the vlog—we now have a mic for next time!

Going through all of the old footage makes us so relieved and grateful to be home. There’s nothing like a comfortable bed, clean air and moments of silence. Don’t ever take the small things for granted!

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season with your friends & family. If you have a moment, leave a comment below or find me on instagram or facebook and let me know what you thought of the vlog, it would mean the world <3





THE BIG TRIP RECAP: Best, Worst, and Cost Breakdown

Now that we’ve been home for a couple weeks and have had a chance to settle back in to a a new “normal”, it’s time to recap our 240-day trip around the world.

We’re covering the highs, the lows, and even revealing exactly how much everything cost! Without further ado, here’s what we came up with…

Top 3 Places

This question is almost impossible to answer because each place is so different. How can you compare an exotic beach to a snow covered mountain, or gauge how much your personal experience somewhere influenced your objective opinion about it? You can’t—but we’ve done our best to narrow it down to the places that really blew us away.

1. Machu Picchu


The more of the world I saw, the more I realized just how special Machu Picchu is. It’s beyond the stunning view you see in photos—the surrounding landscape is equally as breathtaking in person.


Towering peaks shrouded in layers of cloud and fog transport you to back in time to a prehistoric world. It’s a feeling that can’t quite be put into words—you really must experience it in person (I urge you to do so!)

2. The Italian & Swiss Alps

This famous mountain range cuts through multiple countries and when we first visited them in Italy, I was left speechless.


Every winding turn during our road trip through the Dolomites in northern Italy had me gasping in awe. I think it is truly the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been to.

The Switzerland side is equally as stunning, with its storybook scenery of hilltop chalets and bell-wearing cows—if only it wasn’t so expensive!


3. Greece

It’s no secret that Greece is my heaven on earth.


From the food to the blue and white houses to the culture and crystal clear waters, I relished every moment of our 17 days there.


I’ll never forget the memories and feeling of pure bliss on those islands. It’s my happy place, always and forever. And our Greece video was easily my favorite to make.

Honorable mentions: Southern France; Matera, Italy; Huacachina, Peru; Ilha Grande, Brazil


Top 3 Experiences

1. Our Engagement

Of course, this was perhaps the best moment of my entire life, let alone this trip!


It came as a complete surprise and changed the dynamic of the eight months to follow. Read our engagement story here, and watch our Brazil movie to see it on video.

2. Lucas’ Birthday in Carcasonne, France

For Lucas’ 30th Birthday we planned to be in the medieval castle town of Carcasonne, in the South of France. His birthday falls on Bastille Day, which is the French Independence Day, and Carcasonne puts on the country’s second best fireworks show (behind Paris).


It was the first week of our road trip in Europe, and we were both on cloud nine. We frolicked through the castle walls and ate copious amounts of cheese and baguettes, sipped on French wine while picnicking in a vineyard and stared up at the fireworks while daydreaming about our future. It was pure magic, and honestly the best week of my life. Check out our France video if you haven’t watched it yet!


3. Boat trip in Rincon Del Mar, Colombia

This was one of those surreal experiences we won’t soon forget. We were staying in a tiny fishing village on Colombia’s northern coast, and hired a small boat to take us swimming with bioluminescent plankton at night. On the way out, a massive lightning storm followed us across the open ocean. We eventually made it safely, dragging the boat through a hidden passageway to a secret lagoon.


There we snorkeled amongst sparkling blue algae like a scene out of Avatar, as the night sky was lit up by the most dramatic spiderwebs of lighting we’d ever seen. I wish it was something we could capture on photo or video, but that night will live on in our memories forever.

Honorable Mentions: Dune buggying in Huacachina, Peru; all night street party in Porto, Portugal; sunset swimming in the Amazon, Ecuador; sleeping in our car in the Italian alps; local fire festival in Milos, Greece; reunion with friends at Oktoberfest; waking up to the Matterhorn in Switzerland; double rainbow storm in Ella, Sri Lanka; Bride & Groom competition in Pushkar, India


Least Favorite Places

It’s easy to gush about your favorites, but what about the ones that fell short? Here are the spots we wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

1. Jaipur, India

We arrived in Jaipur after a rough experience in Pushkar left me feeling under the weather and jaded towards India. Jaipur was known as the mecca for shopping—filled with a plethora of handcrafted items, pink buildings and palaces. Imagine our disappointment when we saw this:


Polluted, filthy, crowded, noisy and no decent shopping in sight. We did manage to have a beautiful wedding band custom made for Lucas, and the Monkey Temple was a lot of fun but those were the only two highlights. This was a lesson to always keep your expectations extremely low to avoid disappointment.

2. Salvador, Brazil

This was a similar situation for us—I became ill with the flu just as we arrived in Salvador, after raving reviews convinced us to fly there.


The city itself wasn’t horrible, but we couldn’t explore most of it as we were told to stay near our hostel because of how dangerous it was. Armed police lined the streets all day and night, and multiple people from our hostel had been robbed. It was the most dangerous place we visited and just not worth the risk to go there.

3. Tangier, Morocco

Chalk this one up to too-high of expectations, once again. When you think of Morocco, you immediately visualize pristine palaces covered in colorful patterned tile and intricate wood carvings, right? Think again.


Those instagram-worthy places do exist, but they’re usually hidden behind the closed doors of hotels or mosques, many of which you aren’t allowed in, or have to pay to enter. From the outside, Morocco looks like any other developing country, complete with the array of less-than-pleasing smells and sights that come with it. Once we accepted this and adjusted our expectations accordingly, we came to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of Morocco… but I still wouldn’t recommend Tangier as a place to visit.

Top 5 Favorite Photos

Almost an impossible task to pair down eight months into just five photos, but here they are—chosen both from personal preference and your favorites on Instagram:

1. St. Magdalena, Italy


2. Machu Picchu, Peru


3. Pushkar, India


4. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland


5. Lago di Braies, Italy


How much did it all cost?

That’s the million dollar question! We sat down the other night and combed through every single bank and credit card statement over the past eight months. Before traveling, we knew we had enough money saved up to cover our expenses—and don’t forget, I still have an online shop I run remotely—so it wasn’t necessary to determine a specific budget beforehand.

With that said, we’re always budget minded with everything we do in life, and will travel as inexpensively as possible (without completely sacrificing comfort). And while we did spend over 3 months in Europe, more than half the trip was traveling within more affordable countries. PSA: America is one of the more expensive countries in the world, comparably.


Unfortunately, many places aren’t up to date on technology and don’t accept credit cards, so all of our cash purchases (nearly half of our expenses) are unaccounted for. So while we do know how much we spent overall, we don’t have an accurate breakdown by category. Instead, we’ve tried to break it down by country—which still isn’t entirely accurate as some of the cash spent was brought with us from home, or converted currencies along the way. Basically, use this information as a general idea and not a guidebook 🙂

The breakdown below includes everything—flights, visas, trip insurance, accommodations, food, travel, shopping (not including our wedding rings), etc.  Important note: Last year, we both opened Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card accounts and received 100,000 bonus points each. We used the card almost exclusively and by the time our trip ended, we were able to redeem 512,000 points on air travel which equaled $7,700 in flights. We ended up paying another $1,670 out of pocket for airfare. That was a huge savings!

3 Weeks in Brazil: $3400

3 Weeks in Peru: $2425

8 Days in Ecuador: $900

3 Weeks in Colombia: $1187

2 Weeks in Portugal: $2716

10 Days in Spain: $2704

10 Days in France: $1869

4 Weeks in Italy: $6855

4 Days in Malta: $990

17 Days in Greece: $3026

17 Days in Croatia: $2918

4 Days in Munich: $974

1 Week in Switzerland: $1308

14 Days in Morocco: $1726

1 Week in Sri Lanka: $924

3 Weeks in India: $2636

4 Hours in Tokyo: $145

Grand Total: $37,937

When you break that down by day, we averaged $158/day for both of us, or $79/person per day. Not bad, considering rent alone in San Francisco cost $110/day for our room in a shared apartment. When you add in all of the normal living expenses, we definitely spent less while traveling the world.


We certainly could have scaled back and sacrificed things like renting cars for road trips, the occasional splurge for dinner or a nicer AirBnb, or extras like boat trips and excursions—but those became some of our favorite moments and what made the trip special.

Alternatively, we could have easily spent 2-3x as much by staying in comfortable hotels, dining out for every meal and filling our day with activities. This is what you normally do on vacation, which is why it’s difficult for people to understand how they could afford an extended international trip. But you see—this wasn’t a vacation. It was replacing our existing lifestyle with one of a nomads—trading in our apartment for a temporary bed in a new city every few days. By committing to this lifestyle change, we were able to replace most of our monthly expenses rather than add to them.

And there you have it… almost eight months of travel boiled down into one single post. I hope this was helpful to those wanting to know how we made it work, and that our trip has given others inspiration to get out there and see the world! And make sure you read about how we pack minimally in case you missed it.

Can I ask which country was your favorite to follow along with? Did any particular photos/stories convince you to make travel plans? Connect with me in the comments below or on Facebook and Instagram 🙂

Just in case you missed it, here’s the full lineup of the travel videos we made. These were so much fun to create, and a much needed creative outlet for me personally while I was away. Do you have a favorite?

3 Weeks in Brazil (& He Proposed!)


17 Days in Peru: Cusco to Lima


Eight Days in Ecuador


3 Weeks in Colombia: Our Backpacking Adventure!


2 Weeks in Portugal: New 4k Drone Footage!


A Road Trip Through France: The best week ever!


Malta in 4k


One Month in Italy: A cinematic travel film


Greece: A Blue Ocean Paradise


Switzerland in September: A 4k aerial film


Morocco: A Vlog Story


1 Week in Sri Lanka: The Vlog


Thank you all again for following along—I hope you enjoyed the ride! As always, if you have any questions about anything related to this trip, feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to answer and share my experience with you!

Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season…