Home Improvement

House Hunting + Virtual Room Makeovers

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

My sister and I are looking for a home for her to buy in the Salt Lake City area. She and her husband moved from California, have lived in Utah for a year, and did a smart thing. They’ve rented a condo while looking around for where they want to live, and have finally settled on a few neighborhoods they like.

So now we’re looking for a fixer for her and I to renovate together, and every few days we’ll go online together and start looking around. After an hour they all start to look the same, our eyes glaze over, our brains start to hurt! It’s been tough to find exactly what we’re looking and in our budget but in our search, I can’t resist doing a virtual makeover in my head whenever I spy a space in need of some upgrades. For example:

The addition of a window seat with a cushion, trim around the windows, and some pretty color on the walls could make this breakfast nook really spectacular. Maybe a bright color on the door for fun?

breakfast nook before

breakfast nook womans day

source: Sarah Alba for Woman’s Day


I spy built-ins next to a fireplace in a home for sale and think, how nice they’d look with glass doors filled with accessories and surrounded by modern furnishings.

styled built in cabinets

styled built ins

image source: Better Homes & Gardens


Kitchen potential! If you paint the walls, remove the smaller upper cabinets and replace with open shelves, remove the cabinet doors, replace the countertops with wood, add some accessories then boom chicka boom – what a dramatic difference could occur in this cobalt kitchen.

blue kitchen before and after

white kitchen with open shelving bhg

image source: Better Homes & Gardens


Great room, bad carpet. Replace with hardwood floors, add patterned window panels, a sofa against the wall and chairs in front of the window, a modern rug. Replace the fan with a statement chandelier, accessorize a bit more, and hello you’d have one gorgeous space.

living room virtual makeover

navy and coral merideth heron

image source: Style at Home

Virtual room makeovers are my new fixation, I love a room with great potential!

We haven’t found the right home yet, this could take weeks or months, we don’t know.  We’re looking for an older home with character and a fixer that requires some cosmetic work so we can get our hands on some real before and afters. I’ll let you know when we find the one !  .



Keeping Your Sanity During a Home Renovation

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

This subject is near and dear to my heart because I have lived it all too painfully, with and infant and toddler underfoot. I remember the year, 2006 to be exact. We decided to add on to our home when my son was still a brand new baby and my daughter was a toddler – we had this crazy notion to extend our home, to add a new kitchen with a bedroom above, and a studio above the garage. And it was one insane year.

In the end it was worth it but OMG there were some bad weeks we lived through (see the link below to our construction photos), which is where these tips come in so handy. You all know contributing writer Liz of It’s Great to Be Home, home flipper extraordinaire and the lady who’s lived through a home renovation herself. She’s back today sharing her tips on how to maintain your sanity during a home renovation and her advice is spot on. Please welcome back Liz!

“Many ordinarily sane people have been driven to the brink of bonker-dom during a renovation. Some may say such insanity is an inevitable byproduct of the messy ordeal of construction, but I say nay – you can keep your sanity and end up with a glorious renovation, all at the same time.

Here’s how:

1. Know thyself. Renovating your house is stressful, regardless of whether you’re doing it yourself, hiring it out, living in your home while it’s going on, or living in an entirely different time zone. Renovating is also messy, time-consuming, and sometimes seemingly endless. For some people, all of those stressors can combine into a stress tornado if you’re not careful, so take every step that you can to reduce the insanity swirling around you. Steps 2-8 will help with that!

black and white kitchen


2. Move out (or at least take an aptly-timed vacation) Construction is a dirty business, and living in a dirty construction zone with drywall dust on your pillow will not make you a very happy camper. Compound the dusty pillow with the fact that you can’t even wash your dusty pillow because the water is turned off and you will quickly understand why I have recommended that you live anywhere else but in your home during the renovation. I hear you saying, "But wait, I’m only renovating our guest bathroom! We have another bathroom we can use and we will be fine!" And maybe you will. If you are bound and determined to live in your home while it’s being remodeled, see #3-4 for further instruction.

3. Find an alternate space where you can carve out the same function. If your kitchen is being renovated, you likely won’t be able to use your fridge, stove, kitchen sink or dishwasher, meaning that if you’re living in your house during this destructive process you will need to find another space in your home to do all kitchen-y things. Maybe that means balancing your microwave on your nightstand or washing your dishes in the bathtub – whatever works for you is fine with me, but you need to have designated zones for cooking and cleaning up or else things will go downhill quickly. And obviously, if all of your bathrooms are being renovated you need to shower at the gym or a friend’s house.

gray walls in bathroom


4. Become best friends with plastic sheets and painter’s tape.  Drywall dust, sawdust, insulation…these are all nasty little particles that want to come to roost on your pillow (see #2 above) and in your air ducts. Do yourself a favor and section off the construction zones from the non-construction zones, using painter’s tape and plastic sheeting from the hardware store, to keep your living spaces as livable as possible. Katie has a great post about how to do this here.

5. Work with the best trades that you can afford. I know, renovations are expensive and it can be tempting to opt for the plumber that didn’t come quite as highly recommended but had a great price. Things may work out fine, or your frugal decision could turn into a budget nightmare as your toilets overflow during a dinner party because the budget plumber didn’t include a sewer test in his bid. The "best" trades aren’t always the most expensive, but they will have the most positive recommendations from your friends and family – go with those guys.

kitchen with coffered ceiling


6.  Plan ahead. One day your electrician is going to turn to you and say, "And where are all of your light fixtures? I’m ready to install them." Unless you have planned ahead and already purchased your lighting fixtures, you are going to have a minor heart attack. The same thing will happen with the painter, the plumber…you get the idea. Go ahead and buy all of your fixtures, appliances, hardware, etc. at the beginning of the project, get them delivered to your house, and have them ready and waiting for each trade as they need them.

chrome pendants above marble top island bhg


7.  Be flexible. Things will be broken, supplies will go missing, delays will happen, and your construction schedule will take a hit. You might wind up without your kitchen for 2 months instead of 4 weeks, or you could be living at your parents’ house for 6 months instead of 3 (I’ve learned that one first-hand).

While these delays are incredibly annoying, most of the time they aren’t life or death if you’ve built in a little flexibility, like making sure you can go month-to-month on your rental until your house is ready, or having a little extra stash of cash on hand, or buying a little extra tile so that you don’t find your shower half-tiled with discontinued tile. Have game plan for your renovation, but also have a few contingency plans in place in case the you-know-what hits the fan.

gray and yellow bathroom


8. Have a drink and complain a little. It’s incredible how much stress can be relieved with a little venting session. Of course, you don’t want to turn into the person that people run away from because all you do is whine about your house, but a few carefully considered complaints here and there are perfectly acceptable. Top it off with a margarita and you’ll feel better in no time.


9. Remember that it will all be worth it when it’s over.  I promise.

Image sources:  Better Homes & Gardens

Fantastic advice!  You can catch up with Liz at her blog It’s Great to Be Home. Her words of wisdom ring so true and the memories come flooding back. Want to see pictures of our home renovation from over six years ago? It took some rooting around through the archives, but I found some old pictures and posted these construction images and bit of story to go with it. It’s all the ugly “before” that had to happen to get us where we are today.

So many of the tips Liz shared today are exactly what we lived through six years ago. I remember buying my first Shop Vac just to get rid of all the incredible amounts of dust, and truly regret hiring the cheap plumber who never did get the bathtub faucet to work properly.

For those of you who have lived through a home renovation, what advice can you share from your experience?