Duplex Renovation: Living next door to my big sister

There’s something so addicting about renovating a house, am I right?

It’s a strange addiction, the kind that you feel like you are going to kill over in the middle of, but then you see the finished product and you think…. “let’s do it again.”

(Living room before) 

(living room after)

I hate that I am waiting till just now to start sharing photos, so you have to see all our furniture in it (which every piece except one, which is from a flea market, is a hand-me-down OR my father in law and hubs built)

But to say we have been busy since May is an understatement.

We bought this place in May 2017 from the sweetest family, making us only the second owners of it since 1955.

A couple purchased it as a duplex for their daughters, who lived side by side for years in this sweet place.  If I am not mistaken, the cousins who sold it to us lived in this space for a part of their childhood.

The closing was emotional, seeing that we were purchasing this home after years of it being in the same family.  I felt so honored to be entrusted with something so special to another family.

Getting to meet these folks made all the difference in the way we saw our new home.  Being the history nerd that I am, I often try to envision what this place was like in the 50s and 60s, the 70s and 80s, and so on.

At the time of the purchase, the street we live on now was the end of the city limits in Montgomery.

Today, I would dare say we are hardly “midtown”.

(Bathroom before)(Bathroom After)We kept the original mirror/medicine cabinet.

In the removal of ALL that pink and blue tile, we discovered THOUSANDS of razor blades. Y’all, there are no words for the amount that were piled up the wall of the bathroom.

In my research and questions asked, I was told that in the 50s, men would shave their faces and discard the razor through a small slot in the medicine cabinet, depositing it into the wall (no insulation, so room for piling). There is something so sweet about that cabinet and the history that we get to hold onto from the time when the place was built.

It’s a good thing we are tall, because short people can’t see into that mirror well, but we love it, so that’s all that matters right?

(Kitchen before)

(Kitchen After)

This tiny space was actually quite the nightmare to renovate.

We pulled up laminate floors that had probably been there for decades, leaving behind the most insane amount of glue and residue.

You may think that so little floor would require little work, but the large commercial sander we rented indeed wouldn’t do the work needed to the floors, so we are talking HOURS on all fours with hand sanders to get all of it up.

(Master Bedroom before)

(Master Bedroom After)

This room, we stained half of it before we realized that stain was not going to “fade into the color we wanted it to be” and had to completely redo the sanding, staining, sealing, re-sanding (a lighter grade sand because the polyurethane bubbled) and then seal it AGAIN.

If you ever want to know what it feels like to lose your mind, rip up some old carpet, then rip up all the staples and nails from that, sand down glue, and then do the listed experience above.

(Guest room before)(Guest Room After)

Within about a month or so of renovating this space, my sister and her husband were on the hunt for a new house.  Their landlord was selling theirs and they needed to find a new home quickly.

With a toddler and pregnant with another, my sister was a little anxious to find something else sooner than later.

  Her landlord ended up selling said house and so my sister and brother-in-love took up our offer to live on the other side of our duplex.

We renovated both sides (unfortunately I have not taken any pictures of Side B, but it’s pretty similar.)

We started working the day we closed, May 3, 2017 and we finished and moved completely in on August 5, 2017.

Longest months ever.

But totally worth it.

I find it fitting that of all the offers that went in on this little place, somehow Cody and I were the chosen ones. Not only were we picked, yes the cousins that sold it to us actually took some kind of favor to us, but I feel like I am carrying on the legacy that this family left behind. 

Living side by side to one of my sisters, watching my now two nephews grow up, feeling safe and secure when my husband travels out of town because I know that I am technically sleeping under the same roof as family is such a blessing.

Can you say God moment? 

It’s such a good space and time.

A time where I can hear my *almost* three year old nephew playing outside and giggling. 

A time when I can walk next door to visit with sister after work.

A time when we can make Saturday morning breakfast and share it with each other.

A time when we can have supper together and hang out with our friends down the street without turning the ignition.

We can carpool to church and family events because honestly, it’s just more fun that way.

We can sit in the backyard (which is huge by the way AND fenced in #blessed) and swing or let the dog and toddler run wild.

We are living out a season of life we may never experience again, and it is sweet. It is so incredibly sweet. 

p.s. Can I have a triplex so all three Plunkett sisters can live next to each other? That may be a project for another day 🙂

P.P.S. I am still in contact with one of the family members that sold this space to us. Isn’t that fun? She is coming over to visit in December and I already have an entire LIST of questions about this space. I can’t wait to share more stories about duplex life past and present. 

Photos of family: Nalin Crocker

Stories that Stretch


The shape us, they stretch us, they essentially tell the tale of our lives.

I love them. The way they weave and wave and they give us pages to go back to, to remember.

They give us memories that are so good you want to store it away in a drawer and stumble upon it when you piddle instead of clean.

Stories take my heart places that nothing else can.

Stories bring an emotion every time they’re told. But the ones that grab us are the ones that are unexpected, the kind that inspire and light a match under your fanny to choose the path that seems crazy only to find yourself living in the craziest blessing.

This story today, the story of a friend I met on Instagram, is one that I am daily blessed by.

I never thought that I could meet a complete stranger over my phone screen and feel completely inspired and blessed.

Meet Ashley Petrone.

Or on Instagram, Arrowsandbow

A California girl.

A believer, wife to her sweet hubby, and mama to three awesome kiddos!

I stumbled upon her IG page when we finishing renovations on our duplex, looking for inspiration for decorating in small spaces and found this adorable family that decided to renovate an RV and live in it while building their home!

It seriously may be the #worldscutestRV.

What made you decide to get an RV and renovate it? 

“Before the RV, we lived in a 5 bedroom house in SoCal. We bought land at the beginning of the year and plan on building a house. While building, we had so many options on where to live. We could move into an apartment, but we would be paying more than our old mortgage for 1/4 of the space. We thought about a Tiny House, but they were also a bigger investment. We decided to go shopping for an RV and when we saw ours, we were sold. It had 3 bunks in the back and was perfectly old inside. I knew I was gonna rip it apart so it was a done deal! We figured while were building we can save money and travel and just experience life in a different way.”

Ashley has an eye for design and turned this place into an absolute dream space.

In my own personal experience renovating and moving into a smaller space, I knew that a lot was going to have to change and I was going to have to figure out a new way of doing things.  Watching Ashley’s instagram stories on life with a spouse and three kiddos in such a small space was helpful and so inspiring!

Tell me about your renovations.  How long did it take? Did you do it yourself? What design/space efficient hacks can you share?

The design of the RV took 3 weeks, Dino and I are kinda nuts like that… when we go, we go hard! I designed it all and we did most of the work ourselves. I designed it with the intention to make it feel like home. I knew we were going to be misplaced for a while and I didn’t want us to feel misplaced. So while its designed and styled while, I shopped with a major budget and everything in there was a bargain. I’d say when living tiny the best advice I have is less is more. Such a cliche but so so true. More just stresses you out. So every time I bring something in, I get rid of something. 

How have you seen the Lord work through this opportunity to live in an RV with your family?

“Gosh the Lord has used us and this experience in so many different ways. Just the simple fact of living tiny with a family of 5 is a struggle in itself. But through struggles, we grow. I have already seen how much He has shaped, molded, softened, and used us in amazing ways. My husband and I were just talking the other night. We were sitting by our fire pit outside, looking at the stars and just kinda laughing at how awesome this experience is. Like how random that were doing this. But its not random at all. When I look back at the last year of our lives, God has carefully guided me and I have fervently sought after Him for wisdom. He has led me to create a blog and a page where I thought I was just gonna share design tips, little did I know He had other plans.”

Ashley continued to explain how amazed she was that her instagram and blog has led her to share with other women about living minimally, contentment, being vulnerable, and being a joyful mom! Her words: God’s like.. nah kid… I got more for you.

What is life in an RV with 3 kids like? Do you feel like this is such an awesome space for them to play outside more? 


“Life in the RV with 3 kids is crazy. The boys try to wrestle in here and the whole thing shakes! lol! So we really try and spend a lot of time outside. And living in here has really shifted how we spend our time. While before we were more homebodies, now we are kinda forced to explore and get out. All in all, we would not change a thing about our living situation. I am so thankful for this time and what it is teaching my family.”
The fact that I am sitting in my home in Montgomery, AL and getting to glean from the kindness and wisdom from this beautiful soul ALLLL the way in California is beyond my understanding.
But man, I sure do love that we are in a time where our stories can reach across a nation.
That they can touch us, move us, and ignite us, into trusting God with all of ourselves.
That it is indeed possible to live out of your comfort zone to live in the center of where God needs you to be. No matter the town or the place.
Alabama or California, a big city or small towna duplex or an RV.
Ashley, your story, though still being told, is stretching across the nation to touch more people than you know. It is an honor to know you and learn from your God given wisdom. Thank you for letting us dive into the pages of your story.

It’s Your Adventure

Three years ago… and a few months, we got married a week and a day after we graduated college.

Sounds like foolery to those who marry when they’re “secure”, but we married for love… and we had no money.

We adventured to California on the dime of loved ones who managed to bless us with the adventure and it was one for a life time.

When we were deciding where to go, I remember thinking to myself, “I want to go somewhere I have never been and likely won’t be able to go to again for a long time.” So California it was. An excursion to set off the adventure of marriage we were about to embark upon.

The honeymoon was over quickly and reality set in faster than we could grasp.

Long nights working jobs that paid nothing and squeezing by on rice and beans and a newly discovered sweet potato recipe that still never gets old

We would go to Wal-mart to buy pop tarts and coke and come home to watch an episode of Parks and Rec as a date night.

We sold rainbow cleaning systems and I waited tables for extra tip money to put towards groceries.

We figured out how to roast coffee and realized it was a cheaper way to have coffee in our house, and that “hey, maybe we could sell it!”

We had to decline social trips and events because bringing the side dish cost us more than the meals we were eating at home.

We renovated a house and sold it not long after to pay off debt, moving us in with my parents.

We renovated another house and finally moved into it a month ago, making that move the 5th move in 3 years. We know most poeple timeline their lives according to the year, but the Bells do it according to what place we lived.

I have about a million more stories where these all came from. I am happy to share with any who need a sense of relief.

What does this even have to do with California?

Well, kind of everything for us.

Because our lives have felt like chaos, and not just a few days of chaos, but years of what feels endless and non stop. A lot has been hard, a lot has been laughable and a lot has been rewarding.

But we have been tired.

So, a few months ago, while I am sanding floors, sealing them, and doing it all again, trying to hold back exhaustion tears, and my husband lays it on me “hey, i’ve been saving money for a  couple of months and for your birthday, I am taking you to California.” Words can’t describe what my heart felt. But, joy and dancing, to name a few.

So, almost two weeks ago we packed our bags and flew to California for an adventure that neither of us really knew we were about to embark upon.

We rented a car and drove to San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and shamelessly played the full house theme song. We spent 30 minutes parking for a 5 minute stare at the Painted Ladies houses.

We drove up to Pointe Reyes National Seashore and let the ice cold ocean burn our toes with its freezing temperatures and didn’t care one lick.

We spent the night in Bayside, CA at an Airbnb that puts any southern cottage to shame with its charm… murphy bed and all.

We drove up the coast, I would point and Cody would pull over so we could dip our toes in more ocean and breathe cold air that let our southern lungs rejoice in our moments away from the scorching south.

We hiked all day in the Redwood Forest and touched century old trees that seemed unreal at their enormity. I felt like every few steps we would stop and gaze. For the first time in 3 years I saw the adventurous look on my husband’s face again.  The one he carried in college when paychecks came from mom and dad and the greatest stress was calculating our chapel absences.

We drove towards Redding and were stopped by forest fires closing off roads for hours, so we stopped at a bar in Big Flat, CA with the population of 36 people and a pup named Olive.  The bar was no longer a bar, but a place with frozen food and a microwave, hotpockets and ramen noodles it is! 

We talked to the owner and sat outside with our paper plates and hearts that only wanted to listen.

We made it to Redding late and woke up with the sun to catch the early service at Bethel Church, a place I have longed to visit since the days when I streamed their sermons through my iPod nano.

Our flight home got canclled because of Hurricane Irma and we were rerouted to L.A. for a night.  An opportunity to spend the whole evening with a friend we feared we wouldnt see for years.  A hike up Pointe Dume and sunset over the pacific before heading back to Alabama.

We felt full of adventure and exhaustion, but the kind that sends you home with renewal and vision for what’s to come.

I felt like I finally had my turn to have adventure or explore, the kind that I watched other young people and couples experience through a phone screen, envying what they had.

Finally, it was my turn to have the experience and the places to go and see. But coming home, driving down interstates that are slow paced and foliage is the median, laying my head under the roof a duplex that the two of us poured literal blood and sweat over, seeing my nephew running down the driveway to see “RaRa and DoDo” after our time away, when I go church and faces hug me and ask how it was “out west” and my mom makes pot roast for Sunday lunch, I stop and I realize … this. this is the experience I want.

Sure, I wanted and I think we both desperately needed our trip to California. We needed a breather.  Thank God for a husband who pinched our pennies to make it happen!

But it’s the simple, the small, the even frustrating moments that I want.

I even want the ache. Because when I ache, I know I’ll smile too. When I cry, I know I’ll laugh too, and that’s the adventure that I crave.

Isn’t it funny how when we are in season of mundane, hardship, or disappointment we tend to think we are in it alone? How the enemy isolates us and tells us we are the only ones.  Can I get an amen??

I know that ache. The kind where you feel it in your gut.

I know the exhaustion, the kind where you feel like there is no light at the end of your tunnel.

I know the envy, the kind where you often question if God sees you or if He just wants you to cheer everyone else on in their excitement.

But adventure is in your now. And I hope you know it. I hope you know it’s in the life you are facing.  The school you are struggling through or the job you feel swamped by, the children that you are rearing or the loads of laundry you are folding.  It’s in the coupon clipping and Sunday lunches.  It’s in the rice and beans and rainbow cleaning systems. It’s in it all. It’s your story. It’s your adventure.

I would really love to encourage anyone who needs encouragement today! Email me and let’s chat!