Happy Birthday to my Baby Sister Elizabeth; Before & After

Maria and Elizabeth

It’s my sister Elizabeth’s birthday today (July 3)! You’ll know her well if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, because not only is she one of my best friends so she gets mentioned a lot, but we’re always working on decorating projects around her house.

When people ask me what my hobbies are besides decorating, well besides spending time with my family (which is why I live in a small village in the country one hour–if you’re driving very, very fast–east of Vancouver) decorating is one of my favourite ways to pass the time.

And writing this blog is definitely a creative outlet for me as well. If it wasn’t, there’s no way I would still be writing it 10 years later. I love that I never know quite what I’m going to say until I get to the end of the post.

Since her house has been on my blog so many times, I thought it would be fun to do a round-up for her birthday.

Elizabeth’s birthday lands on the July 1 long weekend and she’s always on a camping trip with her family, so it doesn’t feel much like a birthday. I feel for you if your birthday lands on another holiday!

First, let’s rewind to the first apartment I decorated for her back when she lived in a bachelor suite in an old heritage building on the west side of Vancouver.

I wish I had more photos, because this part would be way more entertaining, but this was long before the blog and also long before I had a clue how to take good photos.

Here’s the before (above). Elizabeth had previously been a flight attendant and had brought back the rug you see on the wall from a trip to Turkey.

I immediately replaced the standard rental drapes with wood blinds from IKEA that related to the hardwood floors.

And we picked up the sofa and chair on a payment plan from a nearby big box furniture store. Since the room had to be painted back to white when she moved out, I decided to create a wainscotting effect by painting just the lower half of the room. This way it would be easier to paint back to white when she moved.

After

The ottoman she already had along with the art. A couple of cream pillows and the room immediately became way more inviting. Before you judge this room too harshly, keep in mind, this was 18 years ago 🙂

It was 2001 when the 90s influences of orange beige and gold colours was still around (right before the brown trend arrived in Vancouver).

She met her husband Bill (above) when she lived in this bachelor suite

Fast forward to 2012, Elizabeth and her family had moved into their current home.

The kitchen had been renovated during the brown trend with mocha glazed creamy cabinets paired with a dark travertine backspash that was obviously meticulously chosen to coordinate with the brown and gold laminate countertops. A very common, novice mistake.

Before

We replaced it with the ‘cheapest tile there is‘ which is what the tile installer called it, and made a huge difference!

See the entire kitchen here (photography by Tracey Ayton)

The same year we moved into the neighbourhood (see the before pics of our house here) and this was how young my sweet nephews were (William, 4 and Markus, 2).

This was a photo I snapped of both of them on moving day. They were so happy and William kept repeating how our old house was way too far away (downtown Vancouver) and it was sooo much better that we were here!

And it certainly was!

Then the summer of 2013, we did a little outdoor decorating after her husband picked up this sectional for their patio outside:

Before

After (see the entire post here)

William and Elizabeth (found this adorable photo I had to post)

Then at the same time, I suggested we get rid of the Tuscan gold beige colour in the family room and paint it a fun turquoise instead. William (above) loves red and they were on a budget and Elizabeth didn’t want a neutral sofa, I suggested a red sectional from IKEA  (the boxes had already arrived when I took this before pic). You can see her old sofa in this photo as well.

Before

It was easy to get her husband Bill on board with the idea of a new flat screen installed on the wall to replace the lumpy old entertainment unit (above).

Here’s the after photo:

After (photographed by me and not that well I might add 🙂

Then in 2017, four years later, the red sofa was kinda trashed and now lumpy and uncomfortable, so I suggested we upgrade from IKEA to a REAL, grown-up sectional, and that’s what they did:

Photography by Barry Calhoun

Here’s the entry, before, we upgraded to custom drapery:

Before

after |  See all the photos here

In 2017 I also decorated my nephews room.

They have a lot of lego that needed space, so Markus and William now share a room.

After

And then in the same year (2017) we squeezed one more season out of their patio furniture (we also moved it to a better location on the patio):

Before

After (along with a photo William and Markus):

Last year Elizabeth didn’t even buy flowers for the pots in the back yard because the pavilion had not survived the winter and the outdoor sectional was toast. She said they barely did any entertaining as a result. This year William asked her many times when they could go to the nursery for flowers because he worried the same thing would happen again.

Happily, this Spring, Bill assembled a new pavilion that should survive a few winters. We ordered a new sectional with Sunbrella fabric that should last much longer than their old one and MaryAnne White specified some new plant material for the beds and those photos will be posted soon!

Okay, moving on to the 2018 project. The transformation of the library room.

The before and after is so dramatic and she suffered so long with their old 80s (NOT VINTAGE) black leather furniture that this room has now been named the most beautiful room in the world.

Before

Now that I’m in Finland which is full of birch trees, I love my sisters birch tree art even more:

Decorating with Pink | Library Room Design | Sideboard Styling | Living Room Art | Custom Drapery | Decorating with Pink & Blue

After

Here’s the other side of the room:

Fireplace before

Turquoise Ottoman | White Painted Fireplace | Custom Drapery | Decorating with Pink & Blue

After

And here is the room which was mostly used as a holding space for clean laundry where folding was always in process:

Before

One of the things that makes this furniture arrangement so perfect is the four wing chairs and round ottoman fit perfectly in the space so that anytime you walk in and sit down you just put your feet up and you’re comfy. Nothing needs to be moved closer or re-arranged.

This is a great idea for a skinny room that really will never comfortably fit a sofa. And a good designer will never specify a love seat which only one person can comfortably sit on anyway.

Since this room was completed we have had many wonderful mornings together along with my Mom and my second sister Lea (who also lives two minutes away).

Decorating with Pink | Wing Chairs | Library Room Design | Decorating with Pink & Blue | Book case Design

See all the after photos here

Elizabeth’s special gift as the youngest (of four girls) in our family is as the peacemaker. She gets along with all of us sisters even when sometimes we don’t get along with each other. She is a devoted Mom to her boys and you’ll always find her in the kitchen making green smoothies and all kinds of yummy food from scratch.

One day when the boys came home, they ran into the kitchen to look for her and immediately declared that “Mom’s not home” when they didn’t see her there.

We often have ‘pizza night’ at our house where it’s just Terreeia and I and the boys, and they love to play Monopoly.

Here they are much younger (above) and this one (below) was taken just before we left for Paris a few weeks ago.

We’re still playing Monopoly. But now they just alternate winning all the time.

Markus, Maria and William

Elizabeth is a kind, loving, thoughtful, human being who forgives quickly and spreads so much love around by making her home a sanctuary for her friends and family.

Living this close to her adds so much joy to my life and I am so grateful!

We often end up buying the same clothes 😉

Thanks my darling Sister for being in my life and being my friend and I hope you have an amazing Birthday! I love you!

Related posts:

Inside Elizabeth’s Library Room Transformation; Before & After

Interesting to Classic Kitchen Counter and Backsplash Makeover

What Everyone Should Know About Blue

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  1. Enjoyed the post and seeing the evolution of your sister’s home. You are lucky to have each other. Darling nephews, two pretty sisters.

  2. How fun! Well that just makes me want to be more like Elizabeth. Happy Birthday! And thank you for the inspiration!

  3. It was fun to see the house through time. So many wonderful changes. So nice to know we can decorate a little at a time and achieve a cohesive look. Thanks so much for the post and Happy Birthday Elizabeth! (she looks so young!)

  4. Mary from Virginia

    Happy Birthday! Love seeing all the before and afters of your sweet sister’s home. Your nephews sound like the best boys.

  5. I love all the rooms/spaces you’ve created for your sister Elizabeth. My favorite is the one you call “the most beautiful room.”

    Everyone needs and deserves a sanctuary room like that to relax in and read a book, to think, or to journal.

    P.S. My childhood home in Ohio had a beautiful birch tree in the front yard. I miss those as we don’t have them here in Houston.

  6. Awwwwwwwwwwww. My six year old rolled along and looked at the last photo. He said, do they often buy the same clothes? 😆

  7. Such a loving and beautiful tribute to your “baby sister!” I am sure she will save this and re-read it often. You are so fortunate to have you siblings and mother close to you. I know that they feel that you are also a blessing to them! Elizabeth’s home is beautiful and the progress even brought you both closer together! Your mom is so proud of all of you I am sure. I always wished that I too lived closer to my family. My oldest sister lived near me in California but the rest lived in Illinois. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the progress.

    Have fun with you mom in Finland and a safe journey home!

  8. Thank you so much for the beautiful post my most generous, thoughtful and sweet sister! I feel so blessed to have you in my life Maria. You have made my home into a place I never want to leave.
    Thank you to everyone else for all the lovely comments and birthday wishes!😊

  9. Happy Birthday Elizabeth! A wonderful tribute to a sister. Loved the photos or renovation very much. I absolutely love the blue and white décor! Wishes for many more years enjoying life together!

  10. Hi Maria!
    I loved seeing you and your beautiful sis Elizabeth and Marcus & William (wow, how they ever grown!)
    What a joy it must be to help her make her home the pretty, colorful place it is today—and she let’s you!
    I have just sold my home. Selling all my furniture as well. You always said that the in a new house,
    the old furnishings don’t always go. (PS: one of those is a loveseat!)
    I’ve had a very difficult year without my Neil, (long story), finally coming out the other side.
    Good possibility I will move back to Florida.
    Whole different palate there, right?

    You are looking pretty as ever!
    Take care Little Sparkle,
    Love, Paula

  11. A beautiful tribute Maria! I confess, I delayed reading this because I lost one of my sisters earlier this year (we were 4 girls in our family too).
    She loved following you and we often talked about your posts.
    Having sisters in your life is a precious gift. I am so glad you moved closer to be with your sister.
    With every good wish.
    ~S