We offer up our home tour complete with before and after pictures so that you can see the possibilities in those ugly duckling homes that beg for a loving makeover.
Our story shows that we aren’t perfect, and that the ability to remodel and decorate your home improves with experience. We made some horrible design choices, and we learned through trial and error. You will do the same, but I promise that you can enjoy the adventure and you can craft a beautiful home all your own.
Once Upon A Time, we bought a foreclosure. It had pine green carpet and beige linoleum with little green squares throughout. The first few months we used lamps in every room, and camping lanterns in the bathrooms because all the light fixtures were missing.
Like most young families, we had drained our savings in order to buy our new home and were house poor the moment we moved in. With a Sears Credit Card in hand, we purchased a stove and a dishwasher. The amazing fridge was a purchase we hauled with us from Colorado–we had found it on Craigslist. It had been dropped while being delivered, and needed new support feet so it was a bargain. The only problem? It didn’t fit in the kitchen, so our very first project–even before we unpacked boxes, was to pull out some cabinets in order to install the fridge.
For the record, this has always been my dream home. I felt so honored to be able to buy such a large home with an amazing view, even if it was a bit of an ugly duckling. As we cut our teeth on design, we made mistakes and often had to remodel or redecorate rooms more than once, and you will too. As you cut your teeth on design, you'll make mistakes and often have to redecorate rooms. Click To Tweet Throughout the process, we raised ceilings and children, and slowly learned our style and the fundamentals of home design. By the end, it was the dream home that I had envisioned 13 years earlier when I first walked in the front door.
Welcome to our home. As you can see, we removed all the green carpet and linoleum, replacing it with laminate flooring and beige carpet.
Prior to the invention of wood-look ceramic tile, if you wanted a wood-look floor then you had to install either hardwood floors or laminate flooring. Living in a french country style home, I really wanted a wood floor. We chose laminate mainly due to an emotionally crippling washer malfunction event in our Cheyenne, Wyoming home that left us with warped floors and a hefty insurance claim. We wanted something that was sturdy (at this point our two boys had discovered riding skateboards in the house) and could be easily replaced in sections if it was damaged.
Do-It-Yourself remodel: Crush the learning curve! Click To TweetWe did the crazy and blew my entire tax season bonus on laminate flooring, installing the planks throughout the entire main living and kitchen, for a total of about 2400 sq feet. Talk about baptism by fire! We had zero experience installing laminate flooring at the beginning and tons of experience by the end.
The remodel took a long time. I was creating a home for my family, not an investment. Once that Sears Credit Card was paid off we vowed to pay cash to fix up the house–no debt. If we couldn’t afford it, then it would have to wait. The carpet waited a long time. In fact, we had one green staircase and one beige staircase for over a year, and our master bedroom was green for many years–it even had an attractive wrinkle in the middle of the room.Remodeling takes time. You're creating a home, not an investment. Click To Tweet
The Family Room. This was my first pass at the family room and I loved it! I was so tired of white walls that I painted every wall Sweet Potato–that was the name of the paint. To me, it warmed up a big room. For a while, my chairs were outdoor wicker with Sunbrella fabric. And, as you can see, I didn’t know how to hang my curtains yet.
The room had an odd carpeted landing. At first I thought I’d use it for storage and hang a curtain to hide the boxes, but my boys had other plans and talked their dad into building a railing and a ladder. This loft was incredibly popular with the neighborhood kids who always seemed to be at the house. Eventually the boys outgrew it and it became the Barbie loft.
I never figured out how to style the huge drywall built-in. In desperation, I painted it two-tone. I tried camouflaging the DVD player by placing silk plants on each side of the TV. I reasoned that I couldn’t use live plants in case I spilled water on the DVD player and fried it.
The gas fireplace below the TV had a glass front that was always cloudy, and without a fan to disperse the heat, I could only enjoy a fire for a few minutes before worrying that the TV might melt. I knew that the fireplace had to go when a lizard crawled into it from the rear vent and died. The boys thought it was so cool having a petrified lizard stuck to the glass, but I wasn’t nearly as thrilled.
We finally saved enough money to rip out the ill-conceived built-in, and replaced it with a beautiful floor to ceiling fireplace wall. Click here for the tutorial on the ingenious hidden shelf for the electronics. Kevin must have walked up and down the ladder 400 times in order to rock the entire wall, but we both agreed that it was worth it. Finally, a living room with a statement wall that deserves focus.
We weren’t blessed with an open kitchen in this home, or a kitchen with big beautiful windows. It was naturally pretty dark so my first design decision was to paint the entire kitchen Caribbean Yellow. I loved it. It made me feel like I was on vacation. All I added was some framed art with palm trees and it seemed as if I was on vacation in my own kitchen.
When I was finally ready to remodel rather than just redecorate, it took several projects and phases to realize my vision.When it's time to remodel, break it into phases and clean up in between! Click To Tweet
Project # 1: Add an Island
The kitchen had problems that it took me a while to uncover because I was inexperienced. I couldn’t figure out why the kitchen felt “off.” I drew my entire kitchen to scale on a piece of graph paper. It showed me that the kitchen was both too big for a comfortable “work triangle,” and too small for the standard size island needed to increase the prep space. In short, it was designed for two people to work back to back. No wonder it felt “off.”
We sort-of solved the problem by building an island to intersect the middle of the kitchen. I say “sort-of” because it increased the prep space and allowed two people to work together while facing each other, but the island had to be skinny in order to allow the minimum 36″ of aisle. Also, a shorter island would have kept the work triangle unblocked, but looked funny in the big kitchen, so we opted to break a design rule (only slightly) and make the island long.Even a colorful room will feel restful if you follow the design rules. Click To Tweet
This shows that design rules exist to make our spaces feel “right.” Even a colorful room will feel restful if you follow the design rules. You have my permission to break a design rule here and there, but you have to be careful and do it right.
We finished off the island by adding drawers for potatoes and onions, and topping it off with butcher block to provide a nice big work space. We picked up the butcher block at a yard sale for $16. It was a great size, but was damaged in the middle, so we cut the butcher block in half and inserted a plank of wood in the center to join the two pieces. Then, we drilled two holes in the plank and dropped in stainless steel storage tins, turning a problem into additional storage. The end result is a great work space that’s big on function and storage.
The island utensil storage wasn’t planned. It was born of necessity. We saved $500 by working around the damaged butcher block. So be open minded when buying discounted building supplies. A great deal forces you to at least consider alternative possibilities, often with beautiful results.
Project #2: Counter tops
Which leads me directly into my second project–counter tops. I knew that my old faux granite laminate counter tops had to go, but I wasn’t in a position to pay the $10,000-$15,000 I was quoted for granite. In fact, my counter top budget was a measly $750. My budget forced me to look at a number of unusual possibilities. I considered tile, marble tile, and painting the laminate, but settled on bamboo plank. It was an unconventional choice, but I loved it and I loved the price.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that it was harder to clean than I had expected and it was labor intensive to fill all the seams and holes.
Project #3 Two focal points
At this stage of the remodel, the kitchen was functional, but the surfaces were largely some type of wood. The kitchen was so neutral that it was boring. By nature, it’s a boxy kitchen. The total effect was like looking into a wooden crate. It needed some focal points to make it visually interesting.
The house had a series of arches throughout, and so I repeated that in the kitchen by having Kevin construct two large plywood arches–one above the new stove and one on the large wall of the dining area. These arches pulled double duty, adding architectural interest and giving me a place for much-needed additional lighting. We had long since replaced the ceiling fan in the center of the kitchen with three pendant lights, and coupled with the additional can lights in the arches, the entire kitchen now had a lovely glow.
We finished the arches with stone tile, and one wall in the kitchen with the stacked stone we used in the adjacent family room fireplace.
Under the stove arch, we flanked the larger stove with two cabinets that I painted turquoise to match the glass tiles on the wall behind the stove. This is another area of the remodel where budget forced creativity.There will always be areas of a remodel where budget forces creativity Click To Tweet
I had my heart set on a glass tile wall behind the stove, and on the adjacent dining room wall. Initially, the plan called for a small arch around the stove, and a smaller arch in the dining area flanked by built-in bookcases. However, the arches were too small for such a large room. We could make larger arches, but glass tile was one of the most expensive materials in our remodel, and larger arches resulted in larger walls of glass tile.
We had to cut costs somewhere to be able to pay for the larger glass tile walls. I turned to Craigslist, setting up a search for a used gas stove, and another for stone tiles. Then, I religiously checked them every day to see if a new listing popped up. This kept me from falling into the black hole of all the new listings that didn’t relate to my immediate need.Stay focused by searching Craigslist once a day for the specific items you're looking for Click To Tweet
Bingo! After a couple of weeks I’d found a builder with some leftover stone tiles and a homeowner who was ready to part with their over-size gas stove. This delay costs us two weeks, but saved us almost $700 compared to retail and gave me the money I needed for my larger glass tile walls.
HI! WE’RE KEVIN AND TRISHA
Two complete remodels, and one house flip under our tool belts–and we can’t stop. We design and build it all together: marriage, homes, vacations and kids.
We think everyone with a desire to build can create a home that’s perfect for your family. If you need encouragement, know-how or ideas, you’ve come to the right place.
We want to help you dig in and do-it-yourself!