Hi there! I'm really glad you are here. Elizabeth Burns Design is run by me, Elizabeth, with an occasional appearance from my husband, Brian, and probably way too many photos of our sassy Shih Tzu, Lola.
On this little blog of mine, I aim to share with y'all everything I learned while earning my Bachelor of Science in Interior Design, as well as my experience working in the world of retail, buying, and eCommerce. My hope is that you leave here with the budget-friendly tools and resources you need to make your house feel like a home without hiring a pricey interior desginer. I'll cover topics such as:
- PAINT GUIDES to help you find the perfect color on the first try
- "DESIGNER LOOK FOR LESS" series where I source budget-friendly versions of pricey products in dream spaces (I always love receiving inspiration from you!)
- DIY PROJECTS of tried and true personal projects that may be able to help you in your DIY renovation and décor endeavors
- Behind-the-scene info on our newest endeavor - FLIPPING HOUSES - complete with budget breakdowns and potential profit
Ever since I was a brace-faced pre-teen, I have wanted to be an interior designer. After watching HGTV (Trading Spaces, anyone?), the idea of creating beautiful spaces for a living was fascinating and I became determined to make that passion a reality. After high school, I enrolled in a local private college that had a great interior design program. I remember when I met with my advisor, I told her I felt like a pro-athlete signing with her dream team; I was that excited.
I thrived in the design program. I loved my classes, the projects, and being around like-minded creatives. I was able to study abroad in Paris - another long-time dream come true. I was utterly happy and exactly where I hoped to be in life. Then the recession hit. And I graduated. And there were no design jobs to apply for. And my hefty student loan repayment was starting. Uh oh.
So I did what a lot of my friends and classmates did. I looked for ANY job. Luckily, I found one right before my student loan repayments were due. It was in a corporate office in a completely different industry. The interior design dream was put on the back burner and life carried on.
Brian and I got engaged. We bought new cars (complete with new car loans). We got married. We bought a house in a cute little downtown neighborhood (Brooklyn Street House). We got a puppy. We quite literally had the white picket fence. But we always felt like something was missing. And then Brian's grandmother passed away. She was a feisty, 96 year young lady who was tough as nails and baked a mean Japanese fruit pie. Her 1901 house (later dubbed the Myrtle House) in the quiet NC mountains about three hours away was abandoned, and we decided to take on the renovation project.
Our original plan was to renovate it in one year for about $25,000. We would rent out Brooklyn Street House and bunk up with my parents for a year to pay for the renovations. Once finished, we would live in the Myrtle House (I would work remotely) and continue to rent out our downtown home on a path to become real estate investors. Well, $100,000 and three years later, the renovations are finally complete. You could say things didn't go quite as planned.
A lot changed in those three years. The company I was working for was bought, I was no longer able to work from home, and my job-security was uncertain. We had a really bad experience renting out our house to tenants (and a property manager) who didn't take care of it. We had to take out a construction loan to pay for the huge unexpected renovation costs of the Myrtle House. We lived more of our married years with my parents than we did on our own. Every extra penny and vacation day earned went towards the renovation.
Life became very stressful. One day Brian and I had a discussion about simplifying our lives. Is being a landlord really what we want to do? What if we became debt-free? By losing loans, what could we gain? This discussion turned into action. We met with a real estate agent. We listed our downtown house. We sold our downtown house. I paid off my student loans. We paid off our construction loan. We became 100% debt free and owned the newly renovated Myrtle House outright with a nice little cushion in our savings account.
It was a game-changing feeling: freedom. Sure, we don't have an impressive real estate portfolio or live in a sought-after zip code, but what we gained is so much more valuable. We were finally free to live the lives we dreamed of as young adults before the burden of debt. We now live a slow-paced, quiet life in the NC foothills. Brian was able to leave the stressful world of insurance sales to be a Project Manager for a construction company. I now have a new, work-from-home job in the home building industry and can dedicate more time to this interior design blog.
I hope to inspire others to buck the system and say "no" to the expensive things society tells us we need to be happy. By creating and sticking with your budget, you don't have to give up the things that are important to you in your life. I've learned from experience that you can still have a beautiful, cozy home without breaking the bank, and I'm here to help you do just that.
All photos by the lovely and talented Whitney of J Parker Photography