Hello and welcome to the Grit and Polish! 

I’m Cathy and I’m obsessed with old houses!  Thick wood moldings, leaded glass windows and hidden hexagon tiles are the things of my dreams.  To put this obsession to good use, my husband, Garrett and I began renovating old houses around Washington state in 2008 and haven’t looked back since. We manage many of these newly-renovated homes as Airbnb’s and longer-term rentals. 

Our Story

Garrett and I got our start in renovating quite by chance.  Eight months after buying our first house, a 1916 craftsman “fixer” in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle, I got laid off from my engineering career.  Garrett had just gone back to school for his PhD in BioChemistry, and we were left with a big mortgage and no way to pay it.   So we rolled up our sleeves and came up with a plan to ‘house hack’ our way through the recession.  We finished out our basement and found renters to cover the mortgage.  Garrett and I moved into the 400sf cottage in the backyard, which at the time was more like a hobby space with a sink and toilet.  Small-space-living was an adventure, but we found out pretty quickly, that we liked being landlords (and even better, we liked the renters paying our mortgage).  A few years later, we saved up enough money to buy a second house and then a third and a forth. We’ve held onto most of these houses after renovating and living in them and now rent out the Wallingford House, Bryant House, and Dexter House (an Airbnb). We also sold the Ravenna House in 2018 (more about that here).

In 2016, after renovating for almost a decade, we quit our jobs in Seattle and moved our family to an old Farmhouse in the country. We now call ourselves ‘early retirees’ and spend our days with our kids, managing our rentals, working on this blog, and baking sourdough bread. You can read more about our path to ‘early retirement’ here.

In 2017, HGTV’s cameras followed along as we renovated the Porch House and our pilot episode for ‘Master Plan’ aired in 2018 (more on that here).

The Grit and Polish - Tacoma Hood Vent Cathy and Garrett Smile 1.2 2000.jpg


I, Cathy, am the designer behind this renovation duo but I also get my hands dirty with pretty much everything during a renovation.  I love old houses, sleeping babies, and baking for my brood. Garrett does most of the construction work on our houses with help from his dad.  He also manages our rentals, flips a mean pancake, and is a walking encyclopedia for pretty much any animal you’ve ever seen on the Discovery Channel. Garrett and I met in the 7th grade when his family moved to my hometown of Ellensburg, WA and ten years later he asked me to marry him (spoiler: I said yes!). After ten years of living and renovating old houses together in Seattle, we are happy to be back in our hometown with our two boys and baby girl, living in my dream home, a 1912 farmhouse in the country. Life is good!


Our Homes and Renovations over the Years

The Farmhouse

The Porch House

The 6 Day Kitchen Reno

The Bryant House

The Ravenna House

The Dexter House

The Wallingford House

The Tacoma Garage

head on over to the blog

and catch up on the lastest project