BEFORE & AFTER Budget Makeover
When you have champagne taste, on a beer budget ...
Think eBay, Craigslist and Home Depot ... and a little elbow grease. All right, now when we started this project ... it was honestly because my carpet was so bad ... my carpet cleaner Frank, who I am on first name basis with for a reason, told me "Michelle ... it's time to be done. I cannot clean it anymore ... it had a good life ... you could have replaced the carpet for less money then you've spent trying to clean it at this point." I knew if we started, it would snowball into paint and counters ... but it was so gross I couldn't go on ... it was embarrassing to have people over. And there was NO WAY I was going to spend less and just re-carpet it. I WILL NEVER HAVE CARPET AGAIN, so help me God. So if I was ripping it out ... I was going for all wood or tile.
So ... I realistically did some soul searching and came to a few conclusions: If we did it ourselves and were frugal ... I could conceivably see how new flooring and some paint could REALLY give this place a facelift ... and I truly do love coming home to a pretty house ... queue angels singing when I walk in ... I work HARD and sometimes you need to see a reward to keep motivating yourself to work that hard. For some that might be a nice car, but for me, that meant I needed to spend some money on tile and paint. It helped knowing that I'd recoup it when it comes time to sell, but I really wanted to have it be pretty enough where I WANTED to invite friends over and could stop buying Febreeze by the gallon.
Removing the old carpet was a breeze. Removing the old tile ... was a mess. People divorce over this stuff I'm telling you! But laying the new tile and painting was SO easy and I wish I would have done this years ago ... and I'm still married ... so you know ... thats great news! My cheapness sometimes is so silly. Basically, yes I am paranoid about the future like everyone else ... but you have to enjoy and make the best of what you do have ... sometimes that means you have to invest in your own happiness ...
So these are the photos are from when we moved in ... Remember I am a reluctant "blogger" and these photos were never really meant to be published on the internet ... so cut me some slack. But in 2009 ... this was a really nice house in my standards ... the house was only 4 years old and the carpet was in PRISTINE condition. I hated the drapes ... but you know ... they worked and even then I was painfully aware of the snowball effect ...
So here's what we did and what you REALLY need to know: Pinterest is a liar. They make it seem like you can paint your kitchen cabinets in a weekend with time for a picnic ... they also have this magical way of showing a DIY video and a lady picks up a paintbrush and magically it fast forwards to the finished product 5 seconds later ... but everything in the middle is cut out.
So here's some REALITIES: it's a lot of work to remodel stuff. But if you are psychologically prepared ... and know going in ... a realistic timeline and whats involved ... it's not that bad.
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We started by moving the furniture to one side of the house, ripping carpet out ... then shuffling to the other side. SO EASY. Thats why there are no Pinterest DIY's on this ... they aren't necessary. The hardest thing we did was remove the old tile so we could have it be one level to start over with some type of new flooring. Removing tile is messy. It's also hard to chip it out. You can rent a machine to help ... but KNOWING it'll make a huge dusty mess will help you protect your furniture and stuff appropriately (unlike me, who casually threw a piece of painters plastic over it and called it a day) and prepare for it to take TWO of you a solid 3 days to chip out 1000-1500 square feet. You can totally do it in a long weekend! Totally worth it and doable ... but I personally like knowing what I'm getting into so I can plan accordingly. As a matter of fact ... you can hire someone to do this. Get a bid and see how much your time is worth! You literally may make more money per hour working in your actual profession ... then it would cost you to pay someone to do it. I wish I could have done this! But my husband is a contractor, which needs a whole entire blog post in itself ... but basically that means a few things for me: he'll be damned to pay someone to do what he can do himself, he thinks he can do everything better, he over commits and ends up never having guys to do his personal house because he is busy and his paying customers are his priority ... and finally he is ALWAYS tiered after work and doesn't want to do MORE We started by moving the furniture to one side of the house, ripping carpet out ... then shuffling to the other side. SO EASY. Thats why there are no Pinterest DIY's on this ... they aren't necessary.
The hardest thing we did was remove the old tile so we could have it be one level to start over with some type of new flooring. Removing tile is messy. It's also hard to chip it out. You can rent a machine to help ... but KNOWING it'll make a huge dusty mess will help you protect your furniture and stuff appropriately (unlike me, who casually threw a piece of painters plastic over it and called it a day) and prepare for it to take TWO of you a solid 3 days to chip out 1000-1500 square feet. You can totally do it in a long weekend! Totally worth it and doable ... but I personally like knowing what I'm getting into so I can plan accordingly. As a matter of fact ... you can hire someone to do this. Get a bid and see how much your time is worth! You literally may make more money per hour working in your actual profession ... then it would cost you to pay someone to do it. I wish I could have done this! But my husband is a contractor, which needs a whole entire blog post in itself ... but basically that means a few things for me: he'll be damned to pay someone to do what he can do himself, he thinks he can do everything better, he over commits and ends up never having guys to do his personal house because he is busy and his paying customers are his priority ... and finally he is ALWAYS tiered after work and doesn't want to do MORE construction things on his day off.
So after 2 weekends (my husband peters out after 6 hours, so it took us 4 days) we were ready to install the new floors! We went with tile that looks like wood. For a variety of reasons ... mostly price if I am being honest. It's WAY cheaper. I got this particular stuff at HOME DEPOT. It was $2 a foot ... thats actually a GREAT price ... it was porcelain (which is more dense and holds up better then ceramic and doesn't chip) and had a REAL wood grain look ... the actual pieces of tile were LONGER, so it really looked like a plank of wood ... loved the color ... and I read 100+ good reviews online from real customers. Plus tile is between $1-$2 a square foot to install ... OR ... it is pretty easy to do yourself. All you need is a tile saw which is a few hundred dollars ... and I know people who have watched legitimate YouTube videos (not edited) and were basically pro's after a house. You always start in a back bedroom so you can get all of your learning curves out of the way in the least noticeable area. In my case ... I got to use my husbands tile guy ... and we paid $1 a foot ... we got the "homie hook-up" price ... but I live in California and everything is expensive here ... so if you live in Texas ... that may even sound expensive to you! So we spent $6000 in tile and $3000 on installation ... and almost got divorced during demo (just kidding) ... $1000 on grout and thin set ... so basically $10,000 ... I could have done this YEARS ago and been so much happier. I kick myself for not sucking it up and doing it ... we could have skipped dinners out or shopping for a year to save up for this sooner. SO WORTH IT!!!
Why did we go with tile and not wood? I REALLY wanted wood. But for the nice stuff that would actually last us ... it would have been 3 - 4 times as much. This gave me the look ... the durability with all of our pets at a budget price point. This was not my FOREVER HOUSE ... This was the first time I had ever tiled my own personal house ... and one thing I was 100% sure of ... after living in multiple other houses ... I wanted DARK grout. I just don't get why people pick light/white grout when you KNOW after you mop 10 times it looks dirty. I actually remember using soft scrub with bleach and a toothbrush cleaning my "light" grout on many occasions. Go with a dark color ... pull from the wood grain or color variation in the tile you choose. You can thank me later!
Then we obviously painted the walls ... this is truly easy ... it's the prep that stinks ... but I have painted so much over the years I am actually pretty good with a brush (OMG ... big fan of PURDY BRUSHES ... they are a little more ... like a few dollars ... but my goodness it makes a difference) I picked a GREAT color ... and this brings me to my next story: ok ... so when selecting a color for your WHOLE HOUSE or even a room ... buy a quart of it and paint a BIG swatch ... like 2'x3' ... and if it's your whole house ... maybe paint some swatches in brighter and darker areas so you REALLY know. I bought like 7 colors and painted an entire wall so I could compare side by side ... and then took the finalists and did a test run in my darkest bathroom just to be sure. This may sound weird ... but I have paint PTSD ... when I was 21 I moved into my very first house. Excited doesn't capture how I felt. I had an actual notebook I'd beed taping clippings from better Homes & Gardens into ... dreaming of this day. I had NEVER got to paint a room before. I had always lived in rental houses growing up ... all cheap and with ugly white walls and horrible rental carpet ... Gosh, maybe thats really where my dislike for carpet comes from! So when I got to move into my first house I was ECSTATIC ... the FIRST thing I wanted to do was paint it! I literally had JUST enough to put the payment down and paint it ... I was obsessed with this "butter yellow" color ... went to Home Depot and back then "Ralph Lauren" had a line of paint ... I found this gorgeous color named "sweet corn" ... doesn't that sound pretty? I thought I was SOOOO clever and actually took like 12 of the little swatches and SCOTCH TAPED them together and taped THAT up to the wall to help me visualize ... I was certain "sweet corn" was perfect! I confidently handed that paint chip to the painter and drove to work. When I got home that evening ... my house was the color of a post-it note. Not the beautiful buttery color I was wanting ... I cried. Like real tears. I could not afford to repaint it obviously ... so me and my post it colored walls ... taught me a very valuable lesson.
Next pro tip: ALWAYS paint your ceilings lighter. It makes them seem taller ... I mean if you have a house out of Architectural Digest ... you probably aren't reading this ... and if you are ... I am available for adoption! So this is a great rule of thumb for most people. I actually argue with my husband about this ALL the time. When he does houses ... contractors have this term ... it's called "blow and go" which refers to the painter using a paint sprayer that "blows" the color on and it is way cheaper and faster if they can blow the whole house one color. Taping and doing the ceilings a different color costs more. That "blow and go" is great if you're building a track of 50 homes ... but for the rest of us who get to live in them ... now you know why they do it like that or why your painter will want to only do one color ... and when you go to the effort of painting your own home ... you can make an educated choice.
Don't be scared of picking out colors ... they have WAY better resources now! my Gosh, we haver the internet! When I was picking out "sweet corn" I had just got my first cell phone. But even at Home Depot they have the little paint brochures that literally give you all sorts of pairings ... wall, ceiling and trim ... Paint manufacturers have a team of designers making those choices for you ... for every style out there ... if you're not sure ... look there for guidance ... you don't have to reinvent the wheel ...
Painting our cabinets was difficult. Thats right, I admit it. I resent Pinterest for making me feel like I can remodel my kitchen in a weekend. Here's what I can tell you:
If you have a gap between the ceiling and the top cabinet ... it's easy and cheap to fill in with plywood and molding to make it go to the ceiling so it looks more custom. We removed a bank of cabinets that divided our living room ... best thing ever ... open any and everything up that you can!
Clean the surface before doing anything ... like really do it ... think scrubby sponge and soapy water. If this sounds like too much work ... then don't paint your cabinets. This step is just the tip of the iceberg.
Remove all hardware ... fill holes with bondo or wood filler. Let completely dry.
Label EVERYTHING so you know where each door/drawer goes.
Thin coats so it doesn't drip ... or use a paint sprayer if your doing a color - so worth the extra prep because it's easier and faster in the long run ... but we used a product that required painting with a brush and it took a solid 5 days to do our kitchen, laundry room and 3 bathrooms.
Let it dry at LEAST 3 days ... before you actively go back to using them ... so plan ahead for this.
Yes - new hardware makes a huge difference and it's so much cheaper online!!!
We started with dated oak cabinets ... so we could only do so much ... so I chose to paint them black. I'd love to gut it and start over ... but remember I'm going for a quick facelift ... and a new kitchen can cost $30-40k ... I started with a $20k budget ... So painting is the cheapest and biggest impact thing you can do! I love white, or soft grey ... but we have kids and horses and you know ... they'd look dirty in an afternoon. I think Black is timeless and the style of the cabinets is traditional ... so I knew we could get away with distressing the edges which long term would help hide the inevitable scratches we'd end up doing. I used a product called Zar which is a polyurethane ... and it's clear and you take to your paint store to tint it.
Of course this snowballed into solid surface counters. You can get pre-fabs (which are basically granite/quartz) counters that are finished on 3 sides for $200 ... and do this so affordably now ... we spent $5k on the whole house ... with labor and material.
CLICK THE VIDEO BELOW TO SEE MY OLD COUNTERS
I was officially at $20k ... but gosh the house looked great! So I REALLY was invested financially and emotionally so I decided to finish it up by getting new appliances and lighting. I have this amazing tip!!! eBay and Craigslist ... thats right ... I got my beautiful chandeliers for a fraction of the price on eBay ... Most of them were new in boxes and people didn't measure properly or it didn't go ... so I got brand new lighting fixtures for 80% off ... a few were used ... but really ... it's a chandelier ... you'll survive. Then I realized I had to get stainless appliances ... then I'd really be TOTALLY done!!! The white ones looked silly with my black cabinets and technically my cook top had 2 burners that didn't light ... and I do love to cook ... and had seriously DREAMED of having Viking or Wolf appliances someday ... I was starting to really see this huge change and my entire attitude about the house and coming home or having people over was so much more positive ... so when I saw that you can buy yourself slightly used or showroom models for 75% off ... I couldn't resist. I got a double oven and cook top for $4k. Thats a steal for Viking ... and yes they may be slightly used ... but it makes owning them a possibility ... when it really wasn't. Were there any marks ... a few ... But I put more scratches in my first month myself ... so no one will ever know ... which makes me sad saying, because I'm actually proud when I find a good deal ... hence why I'm telling you about this ...
But in total honesty ... I could have bought brand new nice Kitchen Aid appliances for $4K ... but I wanted the name brand ... It supposedly has better resale value and sounds impressive. 1-2 years later ... do I REALLY think the name brand makes that much of a difference? Personally NO. But does it sound fancy ... YES. My mom just got to build her dream home ... and the one thing she splurged on was a Wolf range ... she see's a huge difference - but she's cooking gourmet meals and I'm making enchiladas with canned green sauce and bacon bits ...
Throughout this entire process I told myself that I was doing a basic facelift and one day - 10 years from now - if I'm lucky ... I will build my dream home. Since doing this little makeover ... I've actually realized I love this damn house. I love my neighborhood and neighbors. I love all the memories made here ... good and bittersweet ... I love that we can make the mortgage payment comfortably. Yes I have Instagram envy when I see gorgeous homes and lust after them ... like I really want those iron french doors ... but it's just like the darn appliances ... it may be a touch overrated and having the oven or doors you've dreamed of doesn't always equate to better or happier ... there's nothing wrong with good ole' Sears appliances that work just fine. It took me one set of used appliances to learn that lesson.
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I've had the same furniture for a decade. Really. But if you stick with neutrals and simple timeless styles ... you can change up your accessories and create an entirely new look! And with stores like HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, Wayfair and Amazon ... it's so much more affordable and easy to source ... I mean I can shop for coordinating pillows in bed while eating ice cream ... and they all have such liberal return policies ... since they are all competing with each other for our business ... it's pretty easy to shop!!!