The bigger the risk, the greater the reward: When Sanders Monsees bought his first home in 2015, he was banking big time on that trusty adage.
“I saw potential in the open layout of the house and its high ceilings—I thought that with some demo work we would basically have a blank canvas from which to begin,” he says. But the idea of tackling a fixer-upper as a first-time home buyer? “It scared me to death,” Sanders admits—an opinion his then girlfriend-now wife, Mary Margaret, shared. “I was terrified of this house when we first saw it,” she laughs, noting that the siding was riddled with rotten boards, the roof was a rusty red hue, and the interior walls were painted a somber black. Even so, the two-bedroom, one-bath 1935 Charleston Cottage found a soft spot in Mary Margaret’s heart (she has a master’s degree in historic preservation, after all), and two days after stepping foot in the house, they bought it.
The list of renovations needed was long—everything from the termite-nibbled foundation to the rusted roof needed mending—and only seemed to grow. But after months of hard work (the couple spent nights and weekends working on any and all projects they could DIY, from tiling the backsplash to installing doors) and with lots of teamwork (“We got engaged during the renovation process so it put our partnership to the test fresh out of the gate,” says Mary Margaret), they were through the thick of it and ready to make the house a home. Paint colors were picked, lighting was hung, and their eclectic collection of furnishings, art, and books was moved in just in time for their wedding day last October. Since, they’ve been putting the finishing touches on the design while easing into marriage.
As for what they’d do differently looking back? “Nothing!” says Mary Margaret (once the skeptic of the two when it came to the house). “We’ve poured our blood, sweat, and tears into this little piece of Charleston. While there are still projects to finish, we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
(PS: What’s a fixer-upper story without some before shots?! Here they are via Zillow.)