Pictured Above: My new house. Let's call this the 'BEFORE' shot, shall we?

Pictured Above: My new house. Let's call this the 'BEFORE' shot, shall we?

On May 11th, I purchased my very first home. This is huge for me - I never thought I would be able to live in Toronto and be a solo home owner by the age of 27.

In 2012, I moved to Toronto and risked all of my money on the tuition for my Bachelor of Interior Design degree. I lived in a home with five other renters, and made my room into my sanctuary, treating it like a tiny 'studio apartment' sans kitchen. If you've been following me since the beginning, you may remember that little room, which was featured on The Everygirl.

Pictured above: My first apartment, as seen in The Everygirl. Photography by Anna with Love.

Pictured above: My first apartment, as seen in The Everygirl. Photography by Anna with Love.

Before graduating, I landed my dream job at Sarah Richardson Design. I moved downtown into a beautiful old one bedroom apartment to be closer to work, again taking a risk by stretching my finances to pursue my career goals. This apartment has served me well, and will continue to do so for at least another year. It was featured on Style Me Pretty Living, and it is still a major a source of joy in my life. During my first 2 years in my new apartment, I scrimped and scrounged was able to pay off my student debt and begin building up my savings account again.

Picture above: My current apartment, as seen on Style Me Pretty Living. Photographed by Mike Caringi for 515 Photography.

Picture above: My current apartment, as seen on Style Me Pretty Living. Photographed by Mike Caringi for 515 Photography.

And last month, I took those savings, threw caution to the wind, and bought a house all on my own.

Here is the catch - the Toronto housing market ain't cheap (understatement of the year), and instead of going the traditional route, I decided to purchase a vacation rental as my first home. I began looking for cottage listings in the Muskokas and Kawarthas, but soon realized that most waterfront properties were out of my single income budget - and non-waterfront cottages in these areas would be far less appealing to renters. Then I got an idea. Growing up, my family rented a cottage down the road from a big beautiful beach. My boyfriend's uncle owns a cottage that we all love visiting about a block away from clear waters and sandy shores. Our good friends have a cottage in the woods close to that same beach. It didn't take me long to narrow down my search area to Sauble Beach, a pretty, family friendly beach town on Lake Huron and near Owen Sound. Here, although freehold properties are scarce (much of the land is leased Native Land), I noticed that the prices were reasonable within a very short trek to the beach. The beach is large, calm, and boasts some of the best sunsets in the world. Who doesn't love packing a cooler and heading down to the beach for a day of fun in the sun? I did some research and saw that summer rentals in the area were going fast, and were going for rates that would help to cover most (if not all) of my mortgage.


I looked for about 4 months, relying on my very helpful realtor Donna (DM me for contact details if you are looking!), and finally found the cottage of my dreams. It is definitely a fixer upper, but it has the potential I was looking for and I wanted to sink my teeth into a healthy project. Most importantly, it was less than a two minute walk to the beach and a seven minute walk to the main drag in town. The property is freehold and was listed for $260,000. It had been on the market for only one day when I submitted my low ball and conditional offer of $240,000***.

My saving grace - I said I would clean out everything that was inside it. It was an estate sale, being sold by an older niece and nephew and was full of the former owner's belongings. This is what sealed the deal! To my surprise, they accepted my offer within an hour!!!
**Yes, I am sharing my real life numbers with you guys in an effort to be transparent and to inspire people who may be thinking about doing the same thing. I want you to have a true understanding of what is involved!

Today, I'm sharing the before pictures. Be warned - they are a bit scary. This is a no holds barred look at how the house looked when I got the keys on May 11th, 2018!


The sunroom was an addition and is actually in really good shape, although it's a little overly 'pined' for my tastes. I think I will keep the pine ceiling as is and paint the walls. I'm so excited to announce that I've teamed up with Beauti-Tone Paints by Home Hardware for the beach house and I can't wait to show you all of the beautiful tones I've selected for the whole cottage. This area will act as the entry as well as the dining space on the end near those mirrored closet doors (which will be swapped out for something a little more classic).

amabel_beachhouse_livingroom_before_2 this a set from That 70s Show? Nope just my new living room! It's on the smaller side but has lots of potential, and I love the open concept. It needs some serious lipstick.


Yes, that is carpet in the kitchen...ick! Don't worry, this whole space has already been gutted. Also, what is that teeny, tiny range?! We are completely redesigning this space to a much more functional layout- I can't wait to share more.


The bathroom is tight, and let's face it - just plain gross. A closet from the bedroom was jutting into the space, leaving almost no room for the vanity. We've ripped that out already too and I can't believe how much bigger the space feels! Also, stained linoleum (from the glue, but it looked like urine), and a very dirty tub means that this space is being completely redone.


The two bedrooms are small but simple and functional, new furniture and paint will go a long way in here. There is literally retro wallpaper on almost every wall in the cottage!

I know we have a long road ahead of us (and by we, I mean myself, and my amazing family and boyfriend who are being dragged into my crazy adventures - I lure them with the beach and then put them to work). Asbestos tile was found under that lovely shag carpeting (but beautiful original pine underneath that!) so the asbestos abatement is happening this week, and while we are at it we are ripping out all of the old peeling ceilings. There was a significant amount of evidence of 'mouse' activity as well, so we are starting fresh with the attic insulation too. After this week - I'm hoping it will be full steam ahead!

If you aren't already following along, check out my instagram @tiffanyleighdesign, and the beach house's new exclusive instagram page @amabelbeachhouse, to follow along with the renovations! I also hope to be sharing weekly updates here on the blog! I've missed you guys.