With the exception of our living room, main floor half bathroom and a basement utility room, I have now updated, in one way or another, every space in our house.
The thing is, the house is still far from being done.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my house and the updates that we’ve made. Each project, each gallon of paint, each change big or small, has made this house feel more and more like a home that truly reflects us. That being said, nearly all of the updates I’ve done so far in this house are “phase one” renovations. In other words, they were just the first step towards updating a space. When we first moved into the house, every room was painted brown. There were a ton of orangey-brown wood finishes and boob lights. The bones were great and I loved the layout and the possibilities for our family, but it didn’t yet feel like us. It actually felt like I was living in someone else’s home for a while and that was an uncomfortable feeling.
We poured a lot of money into the first big transformation (the guest bathroom + bedroom) and while we love how it turned out, we realized just how expensive a full gut renovation of a space was. We knew we had big plans for this house, but we were going to have to go slow with the major renovations and save up + budget for them over many years.
In the meantime, I didn’t want to live for years in a house that didn’t feel like me, so I rolled up my sleeves and started with some smaller phase one renovations. One of the first spaces I did this for was Justin and my bathroom. Our bathroom had dark brown walls and carpet when we moved in. Not me at all! We ripped out the carpet and put down an inexpensive peel and stick tile. I painted the walls and vanities, updated the hardware, swapped out the faucets, and gave everything a fresh layer of caulk. The room is honestly still far from where I’d like it to be, but it was worth doing these minor updates to bring it to a place that felt fresh and reflects us more right now.
Same thing with our kitchen. Someday, I plan to fully gut and renovate the whole space. But since that is likely at least 10 years down the road, a phase one renovation (painted walls and cabinets, updated backsplash, new light fixtures, matching seating) was the perfect solution. I now enjoy being in my kitchen! There are things I want to change and we will still remodel someday, but I’m so much happier in the meantime.
I could go on. The kids’ bathroom is a phase one until we have the money to update the vanity, flooring, etc.
The laundry room is a phase one until it can be expanded into the adjacent bathroom space (which we plan to gut) to create a large laundry + mudroom.
I spent $0 (yes, zero!) updating that bathroom off the laundry room to look nice until the day comes to remodel.
Phase One doesn’t just mean it’s temporary until a huge gut remodel happens. It’s more like a starting place that can be leveled up over time. The kids’ bedrooms are phase ones until they’re a little older and have bigger beds and more say in how they want their room to look. The dining room is a phase one until we can add a wall to separate it from the kitchen a bit more (and update furniture and maybe add wallpaper!) Even our bedroom is technically a phase one. When we eventually update our en suite bathroom and closet, it’ll involve some layout changes that will extend into the bedroom. This won’t be a “completely start this room over” change, but it will alter the shape of the bedroom and I’ll be rearranging the furniture, actually hardwiring the sconces, etc.
With the exception of the guest bathroom and basement kitchen, we also want to change every square inch of flooring in this house. Carpet, vinyl, laminate – it all needs updated! That’s a project we’re going to have to tackle slowly but we’re hoping to start in 2022. As the flooring goes in, there are some smaller changes that we’ll make at the same time (removing a hall closet, adding a wall in the dining room, etc). Our house is truly going to be a labor of love over many, many years.
I understand that some people might argue that phase one renovations are a waste. Why spend the time, effort, and money on something if you’re just going to change it again? Or why not put more money into one big renovation instead of spread it out and spend smaller amounts on multiple renovations. I spent about $1000 on the kitchen update, $600 on the primary bathroom update, and $400 on the laundry room update. So taking just those three rooms, I’ve spent about $2000 on updates over the course of two years. And while that is a good chunk of money, it would not have been anywhere close to enough to completely gut and renovate any one of those rooms. It made a lot more sense to me to have three updated rooms that reflect our taste better while we save up more money for complete remodels in the future.
It’s also worth mentioning that a lot can happen in the coming years! Yes, we plan to renovate more, but we can’t know for sure that we’ll be able to when we want to, or even at all. It might be five, ten, or fifteen years until we can tackle the large renovations we dream of. Smaller, more manageable transformations have helped me fall more in love with our current home. It feels more like us and honestly, putting a little time, money, and effort in now has made me way happier with the spaces as they are. Phase One updates make the bigger renovations feel less urgent. For example, if the two year plan for remodeling the laundry room becomes a five year (or longer, or never!) plan, I would be content with the room as is now.
I walk around my house now, and while it may not be “finished” (is any home ever?), I feel content seeing my family reflected in every space. It’s not perfect, but I love it. It doesn’t feel like I’m in a stranger’s house anymore, it feels like our home.
Bottom line for me: don’t wait for a huge, expensive renovation to fall more in love with your home. Part of the reason I do so many DIY projects is because it allows me to stretch a small budget to maximize a transformation. Maybe it’s just updating a throw pillow case or adding some artwork. Maybe it’s painting a room or installing a geometric accent wall or learning how to swap out a light fixture (or spray painting the one you already have). I literally spent ZERO dollars updating a bathroom with leftover paint and supplies from other projects, so I know it doesn’t have to cost a lot to change a space. Small changes can make a big difference and I believe it’s worth it to love where you live!