If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my stories yesterday and how I took a little trip down memory lane. It all started when I packed up my fall decorations and decided to finally clean out the very bottom of the bin.
I found some paper decorations I made for a Halloween party Justin and I hosted back in 2013. I had created cute little black and orange pennants with construction paper, ribbon, tape, and a marker. I also created little construction paper food labels and spray painted a mason jar orange and filled it with dried plants from our yard. They were simple and most importantly: very very inexpensive. I saved them and used them for three straight years!
It might seem silly, but this discovery really got me reflecting back on our marriage and specifically our DIY journey. When we first got married, Justin was in school and did not have an income and I was supporting us both on a very humble teaching salary and picking up extra childcare jobs to pay for our needs. We were renting a house, trying to pay off a ton of student loans, and didn’t have extra money for home decor. All that being said, I was still passionate about creating a nice, cozy, comfortable home for us however I could and for us at the time, that meant inexpensive DIY.
Today I wanted to reflect back on some of our DIY journey and the projects that Justin and I have done along the way. Sometimes people ask me how we know how to do things and the answer is: we learn as we go! We started out knowing very very little and have learned so much through trial and error. We started with very small projects and went bigger and bigger as we gained confidence. It’s been a journey, one that started out of necessity and now is more of a passion.
Just a quick note: these pictures are not good. Haha! I took them with crappy cell phone cameras, bad lighting, strange angles, and no staging. I wasn’t trying to make them look blog-worthy, I was just documenting our life! So…apologies in advance. 😉
Pallet Flower Boxes (2014)
Justin would drive around and find old, abandoned pallets, bring them home, dismantle them, and use the scrap wood for projects. In fact, this Flower Pallet Box from seven years ago might have been the very first DIY tutorial on the blog!
I wish I would have blogged about more of our projects back then, but I’m glad I at least have this one to look back on! At the time I had no idea that I’d eventually be sharing so many other home projects on this blog.
Kitchen Island (2015)
In our rental house, we had a big open space in the middle of our kitchen that just begged for extra workspace. Justin collected a bunch of pallet wood, splurged on one nice edge-glued piece for the top, and created this awesome working island for me. This was one of my favorite pieces he made – I loved it so much!
Bathroom Counter Storage Jars (2014)
I needed a storage solution for the bathroom counter and got creative with canning jars and some discounted drawer pulls. I actually think I must have been planning to do a blog post about these, because I had taken pictures of each one of the steps. I’ll spare you that and just show you the first and last picture of this little DIY.
Side Table + Wooden Tray (2015)
When we were first married we did not have the money for any new furniture so every single piece of furniture in our first home was either a hand-me-down (and usually it had been through multiple people before us) or made by us. Every single thing! We didn’t have any side tables for our living room, so Justin made one out of wood he salvaged from old pallets. He also made a cute wooden tray for us to corral things on our little ottoman. I wish I had a better picture, but at least you can get the idea here.
Wine Racks (circa 2015)
One of Justin’s favorite things to make back in our rental house were wine racks out of pallets. He made several of these (and even sold a few!) We still have ours, although we haven’t determined a good spot for it in our current house. A friend just sent me this picture though – they still have theirs up after 5+ years!
Dining Chairs (2016)
A couple cans of some spray paint and discounted fabric from a going-out-of-business sale allowed me to finally update these hand-me-down chairs!
Necklace Holder (2016)
I really wanted this necklace holder I saw on Anthropologie, but it was $40. Justin made me a gorgeous dupe that honestly looked the same for a tiny fraction of the price!
First House Kitchen Renovation (2016-2018)
fter three years of renting, we were able to buy our first home. We were so excited! We finally had the ability to make some changes to the actual home we lived in, and we had some (still small) means to make some updates.
This kitchen renovation process was slow and steady. We waited for sales and replaced appliances one at a time. We painted the walls. After about a year, Justin borrowed a friend’s tile saw and learned how to install a backsplash. We had the cabinets painted. We took our time, budgeted carefully, and were happy with the end result (although I still wish we had been able to replace the fluorescent light – now we know how easy that would have been!)
Shower Upgrade (2016)
The first house had a sliding shower door that we didn’t like. After watching a YouTube video, Justin felt confident with how to remove it and just went for it. We caulked the holes, added a shower curtain, and loved the space so much more! In this bathroom we also painted the vanity and updated hardware. It was my first venture into choosing a dark color for cabinets and I think this vanity is what started my love affair with moody colors!
Painted Buffet (2016)
This used to be in my grandparents’ home growing up and when they moved, asked if I could have it. The piece looks cool, but wasn’t in very good shape so I had the confidence to try going bold with a color. It made for such a fun TV stand + toy storage!
Nursery Furniture (2017)
LJ’s first nursery included a thrifted midcentury dresser. We bought it for $30 and I painted everything but the legs and spray painted the handles. Justin made the triangle shelf hanging on the wall!
Updating with flooring + paint (2016-2017)
We painted every surface in this home – walls, trim, baseboards, doors, most cabinets, even the stair railing! We also updated a lot of the flooring and removed all the wallpaper. It was done slowly over time and I started to gain more confidence making decisions and honing in on what I liked. This was a process and a true labor of love and it really made me become passionate about starting to document our renovations.
There’s so much more that I could share, but I think that gives you a good idea of our DIY journey. Looking back, I’m so glad we decided to have the courage to try new things! We honestly did not always know what we were doing and we’ve had so much trial and error along the way. There were just things in our homes that we wanted to add/change/remove/etc and we came up with plans to tackle whatever those things were. Every single project taught us something and our skills and confidence have built up over the years.
Nowadays, Justin can easily swap out all different kinds of light fixtures and build a full dining table. We know how to plank an entire room, install crown molding, and update window trim. We made an entire wall-to-wall builtin bookcase! We’ve wallpapered when we had the budget and I’ve stenciled when we haven’t. We’ve installed butcherblock and I learned how to paint laminate and tile. Our DIYs have certainly scaled up, but I’m also still in awe of how much a simple can of spray paint or a few pieces of scrap wood can do. DIY has been a part of our home-making journey from the beginning and honestly, I don’t see that changing any time. There is still much more to come!