When we moved in July, we knew that we wanted to makeover our entire house. Some rooms, like the kitchen, needed major work, while other rooms just needed paint and decor. However, our time and money are limited. We needed to know where to focus and where to start when decorating our new home. Here is my advice, it’s what we did and it worked great for us!
First, address anything un-safe or un-livable. This should be done prior to move in. For us, the day after closing on the house and the day before we moved in, we had the whole HVAC system replaced. It wasn’t a fun way to spend money, but it was full of black mold and so very nasty.
Now the fun part. When it comes to decorating and design, I suggest that you start with the master bedroom. It might seem unimportant compared to more visible areas of your home, but hear me out. Your bedroom is your sanctuary. Even when everything else is in chaos, it’s so important to have a beautiful, comfortable place to retreat to at night, especially if you are escaping messy renovations or projects elsewhere in your space.
You first new furniture? A king bed and mattress. The first room you paint? Your bedroom. Trust me, you will appreciate it during phase three.
Phase three is all of your public spaces. Living room, kitchen, entry, dining room, deck – where ever you plan on entertaining. You’ll have to prioritize these by budget and time requirements and by how bad they each are.
Finally, work on other more private spaces. Guest bedrooms, kid’s rooms, laundry room, play rooms. You’ll get to them, but you probably want to work on the areas that your guests will see first.
This is the method that works best for us. I would love to hear what you think and what has worked best for you!
When we moved into our new house, we knew that we wanted to make some improvements to increase the value of the home. Well, we never considered adding solar panels but now that I have, we are really hoping that they will be a huge value add to our resale value!
We got our panels through Jon at Vision Solar (let us know if you are in the area and we will get you his info). It is a great set up as it is a zero down financing plan and we own and not lease them. 55% of the total cost is a tax credit (30% federal and 25% state) so we have 2 loans – one for the tax credit and a second one for the balance. They set our payment at the average of our current electric bills, which for us is $145 a month. We will pay that for seven years (except you know I love paying off loans early!) At the end of that period, we will own the panels and no longer have an electric bill. Hopefully, we will actually get a check from the electric company!
We have seen solar panels go up in our neighborhood for the past six months and estimate that about ten percent of the houses have them so far. We really feel like this is the way of the future and that they will be not only a bonus but a must have going forward.
Do you have solar panels? Have any questions about them? I’d love to chat!
One of the biggest questions that we get from readers is how do we decide when to do something ourselves and when to hire out a project or job. That is a complicated question – we love to save money and doing things ourselves can be done on our timeline and for a lot less cash. However, we aren’t contractors or professionals at all. There are some things that we don’t know how to do but we can learn – and some things that we know are better left to the pros.
Here are some questions that you might want to ask yourself when you are trying to decide if you should attempt to DIY a project or hire it out:
If this goes wrong, how wrong could it go?
This is the biggest question for me! For example, if wiring goes wrong, your whole house could burn down. That is very bad. If a paint job goes wrong, you might have to re-do it. Less bad. You need to weigh the possibilities and be able to honestly answer the next two questions to determine the likelihood that something could go wrong. If a project is building something, it’s not likely to go that irreparably wrong or do any long-term damage. If you’re doing physically doing something to your house, that could be a different story.
Do I have any experience in doing this or do I feel comfortable learning it from a YouTube video?
If something seems too complicated or difficult to learn from a video, and we have zero relative experience, our house might not be the best place to experiment. That being said, doing projects yourself is the only way to gain experience that you can put forward toward other projects, so work your way up and build your personal portfolio.
Does this require expensive tools that I don’t have, can’t borrow, and that I probably won’t use again?
Some projects are a good excuse to buy tools that we know we will want to have long term, like a miter saw for cutting wood on every project. Some tools we know we will only need for one project. We were lucky that a neighbor let us borrow his air compressor to hang crown molding, but if we had to buy one then the cost of that project might have been more than what it would have cost to hire a professional. That was a case too where we realized that that project wasn’t actually that hard, so we’re glad we didn’t have someone else do it.
What value do you put on your time?
A lot of projects can be DIY, but doing a project yourself means you have less time for other things. After scraping ceilings in our bedroom and bathroom, we realized it takes basically two full days from start to finish for a room that size. When thinking about doing it downstairs in four huge rooms, we knew that we were looking at a minimum of four full weekends. We put a value on our time and determined a cost that we would feel comfortable paying for that service. When someone agreed to do it for us below that cost, we decided it was worth our time to have someone else do it.
So we want to know – how do you decide if you should DIY or hire it out?
I am so excited to be working on a DIY makeover of our kitchen over the first couple of months. I have previously shared my mood board for this space but I still have a few decisions to make!
While I know what finishes in general I want, I have been trying to decide about some of the details. For example, I had a huge debate over the counter tops and cabinets. Should they all be the same? Should the island pop? Here were my (rough photoshop) ideas:
This is the first option, including recycled glass counter tops throughout (the glass chunks will be waaaaay smaller I just stretched my photo of a sample to fit this pic). The island is painted watery and the rest of the cabinets are white. Is it too much?
this option tones down the look with all white quartz on the main cabinets and only the recycled glass on the island, which is still Watery. It really makes the island pop! But is the white too boring for me? Does the cabinets and countertops being different make the space feel too disjointed?
This option includes all white cabinets and all recycled glass counter tops. It offers the most consistency – but is it too boring? Are the counter tops too much?
The other debated though less time sensitive decision is about the back splash. I love the idea of tiling to the ceiling but Sean wants to just keep it under the cabinets. I see what he means – the peek through window makes it kind of weird on the left side, and we plan on having a lower but not an upper on the far right (probably tiny open shelves instead).
I am so excited to start our kitchen makeover this month! I have tried to break up the DIY to-do list into one major task per month, along with some hired-out tasks in between. The major task for January was removing the wallpaper and painting the walls.
Funny story about this wallpaper that I love telling. Our house was a rental prior to us buying it and the previous owners made a lot of great updates like replacing 90% of the flooring (everything but the kitchen actually) and having all the walls painted a neutral color. We met them randomly before the house even went on the market and they let us tour it. On that tour they showed us the wall colors and floor samples and told us what they planned to have done. Sean pointed at the kitchen walls and said “and remove this wall paper, right?”
And the owner said “Oh no, this is really nice wallpaper!”
I don’t know why I think this is so funny. On one hand, Sean’s not really usually the one to suggest doing anything that will cost extra or take more time, so for him to say to remove the wall paper tells you that it was bad. But the owner really really loved this wall paper. I imagine that she picked it out and convinced her husband to buy it and we know they spent a lot having it hung (we got their invoice in a packet of house-related papers at the closing).
It just screams 1995 to me. If wallpaper is your jam, good for you, but I change my mind too often to handle anything as permanent as wallpaper. This particular specimen was way too beige (warm colors while I prefer cool colors) and honestly just looked like a crap ton of palm trees to me. Like, I get it, we live at the beach. No need for the constant reminder. If only they had planted an actual palm tree in the yard….
I digress. Removing the wallpaper was a job. It wasn’t particularly difficult. I think that our popcorn ceiling removal has put everything into perspective. It took portions of 3 days but we could have done it in two if we wanted to, but we spaced it out and didn’t try to do steps before the previous step was dry.
Day one was the actual removal. We made a video explaining how to do it, but here are the steps:
use a scoring tool to score the wall, using small circles over the entirety of the paper
spray a mixture of *HOT* water + fabric softener all over the walls
let it sit
let it sit longer
peel off large pieces using your fingers
use a flat edge scraper to get any remaining bits
go back through and spritz a little more water on parts of the wallpaper backing that didn’t come off and lightly scrape those off with the scraper
Our biggest problem was, shocker, being patient. At one point early on, I think Sean really decided that this wasn’t coming off and was trying to figure out how to repair the scoring. It came off, it just needed to sit ~ 30 minutes.
We let the walls dry over night before moving on to the next step. Day 2 was really a half day and Sean spackled any messed up bits of drywall and also sanded the whole wall gently. I painted the edges and everything that needed to be hand-brushed, like trip and small areas, with one coat.
Day 3 we sanded the spackle and then rolled paint and did painting touch ups and final touches. This was actually really easy at this point. Everything was already taped, edges were done and it was clear. We discovered a few more pieces of wallpaper backing that were still stuck to the wall when we painted it. It was pretty obvious that something wasn’t right, so we just grabbed the scraper again, scraped it off, and painted over it before it dried. You could tell right away.
In the end, it looks great. Just like with a bunch of the other projects in our house, like the scraped ceilings, torn down walls and extended fireplace, we found ourselves immediately saying, “Wait, what did this look like before?” It’s just one of those things that seems like it was supposed to be that way, so we can’t believe we had to spend three days making it happen, but we’re very happy we did.