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OUR SOUTHERN EXIT: Leaving Louisiana - Pt. 1

April 2022: Our journey out of southeast Louisiana after living there as a transplant for 15 years.

Written by Mollie Johnson 10/22/2023

Closing The Final Chapter on Our First Home.

When my husband and I bought our house in 2009, it was exciting. I was in my mid-thirties, always a renter and wondering if I would ever achieve my dream of homeownership. The term "starter home" never crossed my mind. Neither did "forever home". Growing up, those terms were not part of my vocabulary. To me it was just "home" and a blessing from God.

Closing day! My husband, me and our realtor, Danielle Musso.

This was our kitchen prior to moving in:

This next photo was controversial at the time. Think back to 2009 in the south. The seller was one of three builders in the neighborhood. He offered to add a fence and install engineered hardwood as a perk to entice us to buy. We asked if he would also be willing to paint the oak kitchen cabinets prior to move in. You would have thought we asked him to remove all of the plumbing! He and his wife thought my request was ridiculous. You want to PAINT oak?! And you want them painted WHITE?! After much resistance, they agreed to do it. But they had eliminated any confidence on our part, so we sent our own paint crew in to do the work and the builder provided the paint. Thankfully, I traded design services with a local contractor, so there was nothing out of pocket. Again, that was 2009. After the Louisiana Flood of 2016, everyone was rebuilding their homes insisting on white kitchen cabinets . . . thanks to Joanna Gaines for popularizing painted cabinets 3 years earlier when Fixer Upper first aired. It was refreshing to see this change from dark, heavy gold and brown interiors to light and bright.

I couldn't do anything about all of that tile, but it didn't need to be perfect. It was a brand new house and we were happy to call it ours.

Our first Thanksgiving in our new house (2009).

We spent 13 years improving and maintaining the home. I didn't make any changes with future buyers in mind. That would have just been boring. Despite many contractors and handymen thinking I was a little weird, I was confident in what I wanted. Living in this house helped stretch me as a designer as much as working with all of my clients.

It served us well while working and raising our son. The house was 1,400 sq ft of comfort. For the first several years, I did very little other than paint. I painted a lot, actually. It's an affordable change that I could DIY as often as my mind changed. Mostly, due to zero budget, we didn't really change any of the fixed elements until around 2014 or so. By then, the house no longer felt brand new; therefore, it was easier to change some of the things I felt were untouchable during the "new" phase, i.e. lighting, fixtures and finishes.

When I participated in The One Room Challenge in 2019, I decided to paint our kitchen tile backsplash, in addition to our walls and cabinets. Again, there was no room in the budget to rip out and replace tile, let alone anything else. So, after some research, I prepped, primed and painted the backsplash. We loved it! It was definitely better than before and gave more definition between the cabinets and countertop. It held up for the rest of our time there (another 3 years.) No regrets!

I painted the walls Pure White and started prepping the cabinets.

While priming the cabinets, I decided to paint the backsplash.

Voila! The end result.

Click here to read Part 2 in this series.


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