Megan Hopp’s Rollercoaster Ride Into Homeownership + What She Plans To Do With A $25K Construction Budget


Out of the blue Suburban: A Pandemic Story

Let’s take a bit journey again in time to February 24, 2020. I’m celebrating my thirty third birthday at one in all my favourite West Village spots, Marie’s Disaster, a historic piano bar the place the drinks are inexpensive and the singing is LOUD. One in every of my dearest associates is a pianist there, and I’m simply so completely satisfied to be surrounded by associates, singing Sondheim, and consuming an unknown quantity of white wine. It’s a magic New York Metropolis night time the place the whole lot is excellent, and it doesn’t escape me what an ideal match the life I’ve crafted so far in NYC is in that second. I’ve not too long ago wrapped up a change on our rent-controlled residence in Park Slope, the place we plan to remain for a great lengthy whereas. My fiance and I are planning a marriage for the next summer time, and I’m doing issues like having a customized outfit constructed by the good designer whose studio is in an outdated manufacturing facility constructing in Gowanus. Professionally I’m on a roll, and after years of pounding the pavement and cobbling collectively probably the most weird and generally horrifying mixture of labor, I’ve a gradual stream of high quality tasks that simply continue to grow. It’s been 7 years since I landed in NYC with no job, a sublet that was proper above STOMP the musical with an infinite wood fish on the wall, and a coronary heart and spirit that whereas hopeful have been additionally frankly shattered. The 7 years it took to get to an evening like Feb. 24 2020 have been lengthy, winding, and grinding, ups and downs-mostly downs, too many random roommates to depend, 6,572 first dates (you realize what I imply), and an entire lot of bank card debt. BUT I used to be right here, I used to be completely satisfied, I used to be singing present tunes, and all could be nicely…

So I’m not going to bombard you with particulars in regards to the starting of my pandemic expertise, partially as a result of all of us have our tales and largely as a result of I left NYC just a few weeks into lockdown to go stick with household for “just a bit bit,” and the immense quantity of compassion and in a weird method marvel I’ve for many who stayed within the metropolis all through everything of this time fully outweighs my understanding of what it meant to be in NY throughout this pandemic.

What I’ll share is a fast overview of how we determined to maneuver to Alexandria, VA, the place we are actually. After two weeks of not leaving our 600 sq ft residence (which solely had one door to the toilet in it – hey zoom calls) together with wild rumors of bridges and tunnels closing, my now husband and I made a decision to lease a automotive from Hertz and drive to Ohio to go stick with household for 2 perhaps three weeks. Two months later we determined it was time to test on our residence and provides our household a little bit of their home again. On the drive residence, we stopped via Alexandria the place good associates dwell to do our first “covid buddy bubble.” We have been determined for buddy time, and a change of surroundings. Whereas in Alexandria it was time to face the music that lockdown wasn’t ending any time quickly, so plans wanted to be made. We formally canceled our wedding ceremony that was imagined to be in Hawaii that summer time (an actual bummer), and we would have liked to determine the place to dwell – our Park Slope residence simply wasn’t viable for the each of us to work out of. Whereas trying to find inexpensive leases exterior of NYC in Connecticut or upstate (which didn’t exist as a result of EVERYONE was doing this), it hit us that perhaps we didn’t must dwell inside commuting distance of NYC throughout this time? Bounce to us discovering a really tiny townhouse in Alexandria for an unbelievably inexpensive value that we figured we might be in for say three, 4 months max. We made the choice to formally signal the lease on our drive again into NY to test on the residence, which then became packing the residence and pulling away in our U-Haul one week later. As we settled into our momentary little rental home for an undetermined period of time because the world stood nonetheless and chaos continued to swirl, life additionally someway continued to press on. We saved our authentic wedding ceremony date and swapped our vacation spot bash for a really small yard ceremony. Then what are you aware – I grew to become pregnant.

photograph by emma hopp

I don’t should inform you that some rearranging of life and issues occur when a brand new human joins the celebration, and with COVID nonetheless very a lot in peak scary mode (no vaccines, and many others), a bit more room and room to breathe felt just like the match. So we purchased a home! We purchased a home within the actual neighborhood of the buddies we initially came over and who hosted our makeshift wedding ceremony of their yard. If you’ve been renting in NYC with none plans to depart, shopping for a home with hundreds of sq. toes for lower than 1,000,000 {dollars} makes you are feeling like your dwelling preparations have immediately hit Daddy Warbucks standing. We dwell in a townhouse so whereas our outside house is a small paved courtyard – you might inform me I dwell on a farm and I wouldn’t know the distinction. To say I used to be excited to design an entire home that I owned for my new household of three is the understatement of the century.

Every part about our new life nonetheless feels a bit odd and unfamiliar to me, reminiscent of the quantity of house we have now in the home, the fashion of the structure is much extra conventional than something I ever thought I’d dwell in, driving a automotive daily…however don’t get me unsuitable shopping for giant containers of La Croix at Goal and hauling it residence in my Prius is BLISS. Our home is an enthralling townhouse with white-washed brick and a stoop I can hang around on with my son the place we will level out canine and stuff like that toddlers love to do. The home was inbuilt 1969, which comes with some actual perks for my part. I’ve all the time been an outdated home gal, and so the hardwood flooring, crown molding, and wood-burning fireplaces have been MUCH appreciated. I truly all the time assumed that my first residence buy could be an absolute fixer-upper, this might not have been much less the case. Being that we had a new child son (like three weeks outdated new), it simply wasn’t the time in life to completely renovate. The home was in pristine situation, as the previous house owners had taken such stunning care of it, the finishes merely weren’t my fashion, and there wasn’t an inch of wallpaper to be discovered! 

So right here I used to be able to embark on the transformation of this residence and located myself going through the laundry checklist of obstacles and choices that I work with purchasers on daily all day, the primary hurdle after all being finances. Now, that is one thing I need to be actually trustworthy about, as a result of on this trade I believe there’s a actual lack of transparency with regards to speaking about JUST HOW MUCH adorning a house prices. Up to now I had solely ever designed NYC rental residences for myself, which suggests a.) you merely don’t want that a lot stuff to completely design a small residence, and b.) as a result of I knew my time in these areas inevitably would have an expiration date, I by no means had any want to spend that a lot on items and supplies except I knew I might make the most of them sooner or later. This residence nonetheless was the alternative situation in all regards, whereas this home most likely isn’t our ceaselessly residence, it’s someplace we are going to most positively be for a stable chunk of time, and in proudly owning it, it’s a possibility to have the work correlate with the worth of the home itself. 

I began off the method by making a “life like dream checklist” of tasks I want to do in the home, issues like “furnish your entire home,” and re-tile the entry touchdown. I knew I clearly couldn’t afford to completely renovate the kitchen, however perhaps I might swing getting the cupboards professionally repainted. I introduced over my contractor (Luxor Enhancements) who I work with within the DC space, to stroll via a hopeful punch checklist, and he in return supplied me with an itemized value checklist. My husband and I made a decision we have been in a position to spend as much as 25 thousand {dollars} on development charges (that is simply the labor – not the supplies), and as such, we edited down the checklist to incorporate a logical mixture of must-haves and eradicated issues like built-in window seat cupboards in my son’s nursery that finally simply didn’t make the minimize.

Beneath is the ultimate scope of labor I landed on alongside a take a look at the place we began in every room. The checklist under displays an quantity of labor on the house I felt might meaningfully remodel the house for the least amount of cash attainable, all whereas conserving as many options of the house as they stood.

Widespread Area:

  • Wallpaper Partitions & Ceiling
  • Get rid of Can Lighting
  • Add Two Flush Mounts 
  • Swap Chandelier
  • Paint Stairwell
  • Furnishings & Decor


  • Transfer Ceiling Lighting Areas & Swap Fixtures
  • Wallpaper partitions
  • Range Hood (we saved the prevailing one and constructed an ornamental field round it to avoid wasting cash!)
  • Paint Kitchen Cupboards
  • Cupboard {Hardware}
  • Furnishings & Decor


  • Ground Tile
  • Wallpaper Partitions
  • Paint Entrance Door
  • Swap Ceiling Mild
  • Furnishings & Decor

Main Bed room:

  • Take away Constructed-in Bookcase 
  • Wallpaper Partitions
  • Swap Ceiling Mild
  • Furnishings & Decor


  • Wallpaper Partitions & Ceiling
  • Swap Ceiling Mild
  • Furnishings & Decor

Visitor Room:

  • Wallpaper Partitions
  • Furnishings & Decor (this room we used all beforehand owned furnishings except for one chair I bought for $3 at Goodwill)


  • Wallpaper Partitions
  • Paint Fire Brick
  • Substitute Sliding Door with French Doorways
  • Carpet
  • Swap Ceiling Mild
  • Furnishings & Decor

What ensued subsequent was a tireless collection of months crafting the design and sourcing supplies and furnishings in probably the most cost-effective and intelligent method attainable. I lived at my native thrift shops, scoured Fb Market endlessly, and linked with some actually wonderful distributors who have been enthusiastic about collaborating with me thus enabling me to obtain some wonderful items and product for lots lower than if I have been buying off the shelf. 

You don’t want me to inform you that the previous few years have been unprecedented with expedited decision-making, strikes, and life decisions at a rapid-fire tempo, and landed us all in fully unfamiliar territory. Whereas my skill to choose up and transfer and shift my setting to the altering wants of our household was and is a privilege I’m nicely conscious of, the uncertainty of this new life-style and environment hasn’t been with out its challenges. Working via the creation of this residence I’ve realized loads about myself, how I relate to design on a very private stage, and what perhaps wants to alter sooner or later. Keep tuned as I share the completed house and all that went into it!

Opening Picture Credit: Design by Megan Hopp | Photograph by Kelsey Ann Rose


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