Photographer and Events Director Erin Hassett and her husband Casey found the perfect home in Kansas City, MO. It had just enough old-world charm and classic beauty that Erin put an offer in immediately after the couple’s first walk-through. Shortly after that, the two put their ranch-style Detroit home on the market and were geared up to make the move from Michigan to Missouri when something unexpected happened: they lost the offer. What’s more, they lost the offer to a couple that was prepared to do some serious renovation work to the original integrity of the house (bye original hardwood floors) and strip the structure of the quirks that had captured Erin’s imagination.
Devastated, Erin eventually made peace with the fact that she’d lost her dream home, and she and her partner began perusing the real-estate market of Kansas City once again in the hopes that they would find something that even came close.
Find out how Erin and Casey ended up successfully buying the house that originally drew them to Kansas City, and take a look at the beautiful progress they’ve made painting, remodeling, and DIYing their way through their first year living together in this historic, Midwestern home.
What was your first job, and how did you land it?
For my first job ever, I was a waitress at my parent’s favorite Chinese place at 14 years old! I worked in the service industry all throughout high school, college, and even a bit in post-grad. My first professional job was as a teaching assistant in the special education department of a Kansas City elementary school. I was in a kind of job-hunt slump after moving to Kansas City, and wasn’t having a lot of luck looking at marketing/communication positions. I had always loved working with kids, so I was applying to schools in the interim. It was a wonderful first foray into 9-5 life for me. I initially applied to be an admin assistant at the school, but the principal conducting interviews hand-picked my resume to interview for the teaching assistant position. She was a big advocate for me and my professional growth during my time in that position.
Have you always been interested in photography? What are some of your favorite subjects to shoot?
Yes! I never really had the equipment to properly explore my fascination with photography, until my darling husband surprised me to literal tears with my first DSLR on a trip to Detroit for my 22nd birthday. That sealed the deal, and I’ve been learning and growing ever since. It was this gift that eventually led me to my current position, as I was a freelance content creator and social media manager for Parlor prior to their opening. They actually scouted me, which is a huge honor! I joined the team full-time a few months after the opening and haven’t looked back.
I love shooting portraits, couples, real estate, and lately I’ve been dabbling in architecture. People are infinitely fascinating to shoot, and I used to despise taking photos of scenes without people in them. However, as I’ve been growing, I’ve been pushing myself more and more to street-style shoots, which don’t necessarily need people to anchor the image and instead rely on composition and overall tone. As I’m completely self-taught, this has been a great learning tool for me as I keep trying to discover what makes me capture images of which I’m truly proud.
The previous paint jobs had apparently been done sans-painters tape, and there was olive green paint splashed all over the sides of the woodwork in every space (sometimes even splashing over entirely onto the front of the frames). It took Casey an extra 4-5 days to gently scrape the paint off the sides of the door and window frames without ruining the finish or gouging the wood itself.
What was something about becoming a professional photographer that you didn’t expect?
How difficult marketing yourself can be, especially as an introvert. It’s one thing to take photos you love, it’s quite another to make people in your circles care about those photos. As you grow within your industry, it really does become a 40/60 split of actual shooting and editing vs. your social media strategy, keeping up on your website, interacting online, admin work behind booking sessions, etc. I’m still not great at the website/blog side of things, my Instagram is a lot more up-to-date currently!
You’re a Midwest girl, which we love (our headquarters are in Chicago!). Tell us about the move from outside of Detroit to Kansas City? What was the biggest adjustment you had to make?
Truthfully, not having Coney Island diners on every corner! I’m constantly craving those unique foods, and if you’re from Michigan you know exactly what I’m talking about. Aside from that, the experience is honestly pretty similar in both areas (aside from the sweltering Kansas City humid summers). Midwest is best!
The largest way I describe the difference in the two cities is Detroit has an identity ground in a somewhat gritty but beautiful ‘Detroit vs. Everybody’ personality, which I love! Kansas City is just the epitome of stereotypical Midwestern niceness and hospitality. Both cities are home to vibrant cultural shifts towards growth in community and general creative opportunity, and I love being able to dabble in artistic endeavors in both spaces.
Finding the wall hanging in the living room for $20 and the burl wood credenza in the dining room for $120 are two of my proudest snags. I’m always coming home with little add-ons for the various corners of this place.
Tell us the story of this new home in Kansas City. Did you run into any issues during the buying process?
Oh, did we ever! We had lived in and owned our previous home for almost exactly one year to the day when we decided we were ready to sell. It was a 700-square-foot ranch in the suburbs, and it just didn’t suit our lifestyle. Luckily, the area was highly desirable, and the work my husband put into it saw us walking away with a sizable profit. He had me play house hunters one day with our realtor during a day of showings, and this house is the first one we walked into. I was HOOKED. Coffered ceilings, a sweeping staircase, a huge stone front porch, untouched woodwork, honeycomb tile with colored border in the bathroom, a third story, a walk-in master closet, over 100 years old (maybe full of ghosts?) We made an offer that night.
Unfortunately, our suburban house wasn’t quite far along in the buying process, and we lost the house to another bidder on the first go-round. I was absolutely devastated. I legitimately mourned for a full day, convinced this house would always be the one that got away. We wound up continuing our search, and I quietly resigned myself to “it’s not over ’til it’s over.” I had a weird moment of clarity where I had a feeling that something wouldn’t work out with the offer that outbid us, and wouldn’t you know, about two weeks later we got the call from our realtor! The other bidder wanted to make extensive renovations (my untouched woodwork, no!) and the total cost was too high, so the house was all ours. I cried again, but this time happy tears!
What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to buy their first home?
Don’t fall for flip houses without some serious inspection. Take someone you trust with serious knowledge of building integrity to showings with you if you don’t have that knowledge yourself. My husband had worked in construction for a few years, and his trained eye saved us from some seriously bad flip projects that were chock full of cut corners — even as I was infatuated by the subway tile or a pretty set of french doors. You have to be incredibly critical, no matter how nice the seller is and how pretty it may be! (This is especially prevalent if you’re in an area like us where you have a lot of historic homes that may be in need of some repair.)
What drew you to this house?
The age and the state of preservation paired with lovely neighborhood. Our neighborhood is only about eight city blocks, and quite a few of the historic homes had been abandoned and torn down in the ’60s and ’70s, leaving many of the remaining homes with lovely green space. Our neighborhood feels full, homey, and lush, without the packed-to-capacity feel that some of the other midtown neighborhoods can have.
So, you moved in last year with your husband, Casey, congratulations! What were some of the first renovations and improvements you made to the home?
Thanks so much! When we got into the space, we knew we had some painting to do and some light fixtures to replace. The home also had carpet on the staircase between the first and second story, and all throughout the second story, but we knew the original hardwoods were in pretty good condition underneath. We had done even more extensive work on the first home we had bought the year prior, so this all felt like a cakewalk. Casey is incredibly knowledgeable and talented when it comes to almost anything to with home repair and maintenance, thank goodness! So we were able to do the lion’s share of the work on our own. We painted every room and space, and he switched out just about every light fixture in the home with pieces I sourced from Etsy, Ikea, and West Elm.
The only work we hired out was when it came time to actually sand and refinish the floors. We had a few nights of mattress-on-the-living-room-floor home campouts, and it was so worth it. Refinishing the floors was our one big splurge, and it made a world of difference in an already lovely space. I’m incredibly pleased!
Were there any quarks to the space that you had to design around?
Structural quirks, no, but painting the living and dining room turned out to be a larger task than we originally bargained. The previous paint jobs had apparently been done sans-painters tape, and there was olive green paint splashed all over the sides of the woodwork in every space (sometimes even splashing over entirely onto the front of the frames). It took Casey an extra 4-5 days to gently scrape the paint off the sides of the door and window frames without ruining the finish or gouging the wood itself. He did an excellent job, and you’d hardly know it now!
How have your initial design concepts changed since you started renovating the home?
The first few places we lived in KC worked very well with a mid-mod style, especially the ranch home we first bought. But we knew that buying a home that was built in 1904 with so much history wasn’t going to be a good fit with all of the clean lines and minimalism. We initially thought of art-deco style, but as our budget went to other projects, we decided to tone back just a bit. We still try to keep some richer elements in the space, like with the tufted West Elm sofa, Turkish rugs in the living and dining room, and the dramatic paint colors in the office and dining room.
Is there a home improvement project you’re particularly proud of? If so, please, tell us about it!
Since most of my contributions to the home improvement was painting walls, I’m going to say my favorite project has been the ongoing curation of pieces for the space! Finding the wall hanging in the living room for $20 and the burl wood credenza in the dining room for $120 are two of my proudest snags. I’m always coming home with little add-ons for the various corners of this place.
Do you have a favorite room in the home?
I really love our dining room. It’s the first time we made a bold paint color choice and the contrast it creates with the ceilings, the brass light fixture, and the antique credenza just makes me happy every time I see it. Entertaining and making dinner for friends at that table over candlelight with a bottle of wine and records spinning in the background are some of my most cherished memories in this home so far.
How has sharing a home with your husband changed your style? Do you guys have similar taste?
I’ve always had a love for antiques and knick-knacks. You show me a beautiful cloche for displays, a good textile, and a weird art piece and I’m sold. He’s a lot more pragmatic about design in that he reminds me if I find a cool knick-knack, it should have a space to land in our home. (Basically reminding me that we need to buy furniture on which to put the things I find!) Because of him, our home has functionality and not a collection of 13 different cute chairs that were a great price, and our walls aren’t dizzingly covered in art. Between the two of us, things have always come together so well, and he’s got great taste! We’ve never ever had any big debates about decor, and we both wholly enjoy every space we’ve made together.
Refinishing the floors was our one big splurge, and it made a world of difference in an already lovely space.
Where are some of your favorite places to find decor pieces?
There is a local thrift store that has more furniture than clothing, and I’ve scored some real gems there! The credenza in the dining room, dining room rug, and dresser in the master bedroom have all come from there. I also have a few favorite antique stores outside of Kansas City metro that I’ll frequent for pieces.
I also love CB2 for new pieces. Their products always tend to skew more “design” than “trend” and I really appreciate the genuinely unique pieces they offer. Our bed frame is from CB2 and I have not one complaint about the service and product, it’s a gorgeous piece!
What are the next home improvement projects you’re going to undertake?
We’d like to tackle outdoor improvements next, possibly replacing the siding with something more appropriate to the timeframe of the home and some landscaping. Inside, we’re debating opening up the dining room to the kitchen (century homes typically have the kitchen hidden away to keep the dining room a more formal space), and turning the butler’s pantry into a powder room! But that’s a huge change, and truthfully I like keeping the kitchen mess hidden away when we’re entertaining. It allows me to be a lot more present, as I’m not worried about getting dirty dishes in the sink right away — because hey, who’s looking?
What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
It’ll all be OK! Having a dream job at 22 is a rarity. You have so much space to grow, don’t rush it! Your art is going to be bad at first, just make it and keep learning. You don’t need to be anyone but yourself. Take care of your mental health, needing medication isn’t a sign of weakness — you’ll be so much better off for it. You’ll get there, kid!
Erin Hassett is The Everygirl…
Best way to end a long day?
A good sour beer and baking something sweet!
Most recent book you’ve read?
Severance by Ling Ma
The album you could listen to on repeat?
How about I give you three because this question is so hard!
Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
Sprained Ankle by Julien Baker
Beach Bunny (they don’t have any albums yet, just a few EPs and singles on Spotify and they’re all great!)
I am a true sucker for Christmas — decorating happens midway through November and is a full-day, multi-room affair.