Making the Most of Thrifting when I am Limited on Time

On Saturday, I took Vi on a little mommy-daughter date for donuts and thrift store shopping. LJ had been sick with a stomach bug for a few days last week so this was a nice way to spend some quality time together and focus my attention back on Vi while Justin and LJ hung out at home. Obviously a two-year-old’s attention span isn’t huge, so we only spend about 20 minutes in the store. We were able to score a brand new “pop it” for Vi (she is obsessed with these!) and a small puzzle for LJ for a total of $5. It was totally worth it and we had so much fun! She was so excited to get home and show off her purchases.

This got me thinking about thrifting and the time I spend in stores. I feel like thrifting can sometimes seem a little intimidating for people because unlike a regular store, every single item in a thrift store is unique and there is SO much to sift through. It would take hours to look at every single item. And while I love spending an hour browsing the racks and stacks, more often than not, I don’t have that much time. Usually, I have 20 minutes or less to pop into a store in between running errands and sometimes I have as little as five minutes.

Is it still worth it to go even when I don’t have tons of time? YES! I think frequency is just as important as duration; spending 5-10 minutes total browsing my top sections 3 times a month can be just as rewarding as spending 30 minutes in one store once a month. (Side note: I’m talking about when I have 5-10 minutes by myself; I rarely go with my kids because that’s often more work than it’s worth). I have learned to be strategic about these short trips – I don’t have time to sift through racks of clothes or stroll aimlessly. Instead, I have my top sections that I prioritize, and then if there’s time leftover I can branch into other areas of the store. Today I thought I’d share the top sections I head to when I have limited time to try to maximize every minute. These sections are where I find the majority of items that make my home feel unique (and bonus that they’re so budget-friendly!)

Here are my top six sections for thrift store shopping:

Glassware

Glassware is a quick section to check out in just a minute or two; even though there are typically a lot of items there, the fact that they’re all clear makes it easy to skim through and spot the differences. I can pretty quickly scan these items and notice if there’s anything that sparks my interest – usually I’m just on the lookout for things like glass storage containers and Pyrex (I’ve found several nice Pyrex bowels and baking pans over the years), but lately I’ve also started looking for specialty drinkware. Justin just recently asked me to look for martini glasses and I was able to snag a pair of these cute stemless glasses for $1!

Picture Frames

All of these frames were purchased secondhand for $16 total!

I almost always stop in the picture frame section and spend a minute or two looking through the selection. I like to have a variety of frames in different sizes on hand at home so when I’m updating a room or just wanting to refresh a space with a change in artwork, I have options ready to choose from. Thanks to the ability to spray paint any frame a different color, I’m not too worried about finish but I do look for quality, size, and style. I particularly like finding options that can be added to the gallery wall around our spiral staircase: 8 x 10 or smaller in unique styles and a mix of metals. I don’t always walk away with a new frame but because I shop this section so frequently, I do collect enough to maintain a nice little stash of 10-15 extra frames at any given time.

Decor

There’s usually a catch-all “decor” aisle that has all the little tchotchkes we put in our homes. If I have more time, I’ll analyze everything, but if I only have a few minutes, I’ll specifically skim the shelves for decorative bowls, brass candlesticks, and containers that could be used as planters. The little metal bowl in the picture above was thrifted, as is the book it’s sitting on and the gold frames on the wall!

Books

Books can take some time to sort through and I can’t always devote the amount of time I want, but if I have five minutes to spend in this section I’ll at least glance through it. I like finding large coffee table books that I can stack with decor on top, antique books with yellowed pages and lots of character, books that I’ve actually read or would like to read, or just books that I really like the look of. The picture above is just a small sample of the books I’ve thrifted over the years – I’ve found everything from antique hymnals being sold at a flea market for $1 a bag to bestsellers that look brand new being sold for $3. I try to be purposeful with my book purchases; they’re not just to fill shelves. Each one I bring home is one I specifically chose for a reason and I love the collection I’ve curated over the years!

Games/Puzzles

This is a more recently priority for me, but I now try to skim the game and puzzle section if I have a few extra minutes. Justin and I have always loved games and puzzles, so it’s so fun to be in this stage of parenthood where Vi and LJ are now interested in them too! Most thrift stores will make sure that all the pieces are included, or they will note what is missing, so you can make an informed decision on whether a purchase is worth it or not. These days I’m searching for little puzzles for LJ or fun family games for the four of us! I also like looking for 500 or 1000 piece puzzles that Justin and I may enjoy, but I will only purchase one if the store has checked that all the pieces are there.

Furniture

Of all the sections, this is probably the one I actually purchase from the least, but I still always at least glance at it. You just never know when you’ll find the perfect little side table, bench, chair, etc. Sometimes inspiration just strikes! There are some “eventual” furniture purchases I want to make (vintage nightstands for our bedroom, a long credenza/buffet in the dining room, a storage bench in the guest room), and while I’m in no rush for them, the little list is always in the back of my mind as I browse furniture. Even if I don’t make a purchase, this section is fun to look through and get inspired by.

A few more things I keep in mind while thrifting:

1-I do have a little collection of picture frames and small decor in storage, but I try not to purchase anything else that I can’t immediately use or have a place for.

2-For those things I don’t immediately have a place for but can’t pass up, I try to think of at least three ways I can see myself eventually using the item before purchasing. An item with only one specific use that I can’t even use right now will likely just sit in storage for a long time and that’s not my personal goal.

3-Focus on what can’t be changed (or can’t be easily changed). Lampshades can be changed, but the shape of a lamp can’t. A picture frame can be painted, but the elaborate scrollwork around it can’t. A book cover can be removed, but the size of the book remains. The more I’ve focused on things I can change and things I can’t, the better scores I seem to find. You have to be willing to look beyond some things that CAN be changed to see the hidden gems that a thrift store can hold.

Do you enjoy thrifting? If so, what types of items are you most often on the lookout for?

Friday Features {3.18.21}

It’s been a while since I’ve done a little Friday Features post but today felt like a good day for one. I occasionally like to do these posts with the little things that have happened lately that haven’t warranted a full blog post but I still want to talk about – some of the small tweaks that have happened around the home, a couple projects I’m planning, and a few personal family things. It’s basically a little round-up of life lately!

Thrifted Side Table

Back in 2020 when we renovated our office, I thrifted a vintage yellow chair that was love at first sight. I envisioned a little round side table with some character tucked up next to it, but all I had at the time was a small square table we picked up in the early days of our marriage. I decided to put the square table there as a placeholder while I searched for the perfect round table. While I haven’t necessarily been diligently searching this entire time, I have been keeping my eye out online, at yard sales, and in thrift stores ever since. I squealed when I finally saw this $30 table posted a couple weeks ago in a Facebook yard sale group. I asked my sister if she would be willing to pick it up (it was for sale in her town – 500 miles from me!) and she brought it out last weekend. The long search paid off: this is just what I envisioned for the space and I love it so much!

Wallpaper in the Kids Room

A few weeks ago I made some upgrades to the kids’ shared bedroom including new beds, bedding, and artwork. I mentioned that I have some other plans up my sleeve and one of them is…wallpaper! I am going to take this wall behind the dresser and add a fun wallpaper to bring some playfulness to the space. I selected one of the four options shown above and it is scheduled to arrive in the next two weeks. I’m excited!

Window Treatments

Another change happening in the kids room is with their window treatments. I ordered blackout blinds for each window and installed them (myself!) a few days ago. I decided to just take the curtains down to see how it looked without, and I think it reaffirmed the need for curtains, but I need to find different ones. The ones I had previously were only 84″ and the curtain rod wasn’t extendable so they were really limited – I think something I can hang high and wide will really help the space. I think I found some that will work so it’s just a matter of waiting for them to arrive and see!

In-Law Visit

My in-laws came to visit this past week! We haven’t seen them in person since Christmas so it was great to get lots of quality time together. The kids loved getting to play lots of games, show them all their toys, and have them be part of their daily lives. It was a great visit and we’re feeling thankful! I was especially thankful that the extra hands meant I had some help with the kids and could start working on my sister’s nursery dresser while they played with the kids šŸ˜‰

Pandemic Reflections

Speaking of my sister’s nursery dresser, this week I’ve been reflecting a lot on the last nursery dresser I made back in March 2020. Yep, you read that right. March 2020. I was working on a nursery dresser for my brother and sister-in-law when the pandemic began. My in-laws were visiting at the time. We watched on TV as everything shut down – no March Madness, no sports at all, nothing. Our travel plans for the following week were cancelled. It was a pretty confusing and scary time! And now here I was, the exact same weekend two years later. Working on a nursery dresser with my in-laws in town. Except this time, we were two years into a global pandemic. It was surreal to say the least.

Google Photos has been showing me lots of photos from two years ago and I have to say, it’s a bit triggering. Looking back on what life was like, knowing what was to come and we just had no idea . . . it’s a lot to process. I think most days, I’m looking forward instead of looking backwards. In the little people years, the heavy demand of life with two small children means I am often just trying to do the best I can each day, getting through one day at a time. But the days are long and the years truly are short, and milestones like this cause me to pause and look back. On the one hand, I cannot believe it’s been two years of a pandemic, and on the other, it feels like we’ve been doing this forever. Two years of navigating the ever-changing public health recommendations, two years of sifting through information to try and make the best decisions for my family, two years of weighing risk before deciding on activities (masks, indoor vs. outdoor, size of gatherings, number of cases in the area, ability to distance, etc.) A missed Thanksgiving due to testing positive. Easter over Zoom with my extended family. Tears of relief when I walked in to finally get my vaccination. Learning what an N95 is and how to give myself an at-home COVID-19 test. Every runny nose and slight cough has become something to monitor closely in my kids. And seeing pictures of my kids just before the pandemic hit makes me really realize how much of their young lives have been encompassed by this. They haven’t experienced many things I thought they would in these little years – beginner sport activities and playdates with new friends and library story time and trips to the science museum and traveling to new places in the world. There are so many things that they don’t think are strange but just a part of normal life: people wearing masks, stickers for where to stand six feet apart, dividers separating us from the cashiers at the grocery store, etc. I think I don’t always process something as I’m living it, but taking a moment to stop and think about it does bring me a little shock.

There are so many things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for our health and that when we did test positive last year, our symptoms were all mild and short-lived. I’m grateful for the ability to work from home. I’m thankful for our home and the safe place to live and stay during this wild time. But it’s also been a really stressful, anxiety-inducing, scary, and sad two years filled with political bickering, misinformation, confusion, and the tragic loss of many many lives. The pandemic years have changed our lives and the world we live in in so many ways and I know this whole experience will continue to be something I have to process for many years to come.

Baby #3 Reveal!

Our reactions to opening the envelope

And to end on a more uplifting note, we had our gender reveal while my in-laws were out here! While we didn’t find out in advance for the first two kids, since this is more than likely our last pregnancy, we decided to find out this time. Justin and I found out first and then decided to have a small reveal so we asked my parents to come out while his parents were here too. We kept things very small and low-key and had the kids open a box with colored balloons inside. It was fun and we are all very excited! I’m hoping to share that news here soon so stay tuned. šŸ™‚

Thrifted Dressers: My next project(s) and a look back on past transformations!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I’ve gone through a bit of a thrifted dresser saga lately.

One of my sisters is pregnant and she asked me if I would thrift a dresser and fix it up as a changing table for her. I of course said YES and started searching for a dresser. I spent a few weeks searching local thrift stores and online selling sources only to keep coming up empty. That’s often the nature of the game with thrifting – when you’re looking for something specific, it pays to be patient!

Finally, I found a picture online that looked like something I could work with: it was the right dimensions and a fairly basic shape. The seller was asking $50, which I normally would have tried to negotiate down, but due to my own pregnancy and needing help lifting, I needed her to hold it a few days for me and agreed to her asking price. (Mistake #1: this dresser was absolutely overpriced and should have been negotiated down). Unfortunately, Justin and his dad went to pick it up (Mistake #2: I should have gone with them to see it myself before paying) and when they brought it home, it was not what I expected. There was damage that the seller didn’t disclose, including a big chunk taken out in the front corner, marker drawings all over, and a piece missing from one of the sides, and the top and sides were planked, not smooth like I was expecting (Mistake #3: she only posted one picture, which was of the front and had things piled on top of it and I did not ask to see more).

The dresser gave a rustic cabin vibe, which was not at all what I wanted for my sister. For a few days, I tried to convince myself I could still make it work, but the truth it, it’s just not the right style for what my sister wants. So, I’m going to pivot and just fix this dresser up a bit by sanding, repairing, and staining it black and then sell it once again. It would be great if I could turn a small profit on it, but if not, I’m going to at least try to come out even and chalk this up to a lesson learned!

Thankfully, my aunt, who knew I was searching for a dresser but didn’t realize I had already found one, texted me a picture of one she saw in a local thrift store and it was absolutely perfect for what I wanted! I asked my parents to pick it up (the store was over an hour from my house but only 10 minutes from theirs) and they brought it out. It was priced for $20 and is going to feel like such a steal when I fix this thing up! I love the streamlined look and midcentury vibe which will go perfectly with my sister’s artistic and eclectic style. I plan to sand everything down, repair a wonky back leg, paint everything to match her nursery color scheme and possibly add some hardware. This baby is going to shine!

The reason my sister asked me to do this at all is because I’ve now fixed up three dressers for nurseries. I thought it’d be fun to look back on these past projects as I prepare to jump into this next one!

LJ’s Nursery

Way back when I was pregnant with LJ, I decided that instead of a changing table, I wanted to just have a regular dresser with a changing pad on top. We had bought a midcentury dresser on Marketplace (I think for $30 if I remember right) a few months before and it was perfect for the nursery. I cleaned it up a bit, painted everything but the wooden legs a neutral blue (Sherwin Williams Slate Tile) and voila! I loved it and it only cost me the price of paint and some time. It worked perfectly with a changing pad on top and now translates well to the “big kid” room for LJ and Vi.

Vi’s Nursery

When I was pregnant with Vi, I knew I needed another dresser for her nursery. This time I found a dresser on Craigslist for $10! It need quite a bit of sanding, then I primed it, gave it two coats of deep green paint (Sherwin Williams Green Tartan), and swapped out the hardware. Then Justin used dowel rods to create legs and give it more height to be comfortably used as a changing table. I also had him add a stained board to the front because the piece of plywood that was there was very flimsy and cheap. With the additions I made, the total cost of the dresser came in at just under $50 and once again, it worked perfectly in the nursery!

My Niece’s Nursery

When my sister-in-law became pregnant with her first, I offered to gift her and my brother a dresser to use as a changing table as well. They eagerly agreed and I started the hunt for the perfect dresser. After a lot of searching, I came across a very ugly dresser on Marketplace and negotiated the price down to $15. This thing was in rough shape and needed a lot of repairs, but I got to work sanding, replacing a side, and patching chipped veneer. I then primed and painted it (my SIL’s choice was Sherwin Williams Fading Rose) and spray painted the existing hardware. Once again, the total clocked in at just under $50 and they had a whole new look to the dresser!

Side note: one thing that has been a little surreal with working on my sister’s nursery dresser is that it’s been exactly two years since working on the one for my brother and sister-in-law. This is the project I was working on when the pandemic started and the world shut down. It’s such a strange feeling to be essentially doing the same thing two years later, but our world has changed so so much. It’s been on my mind a lot this week!

There is something really thrilling to me about taking an old dresser of diminished value, fixing it up, and giving it new life! It’s more sustainable for our planet than always buying brand new, it’s a great way to customize a specific look you want by choosing paint color, hardware, etc, and it’s incredibly satisfying for me to see a transformation of something unwanted to something beautiful and functional. I’m excited to jump into my now TWO dresser projects and see what I can do. I’ll be sharing real-time updates on Instagram so if you want more frequent updates on these projects, be sure to follow along there!

New Beds for the Kids’ Shared Room!

Sometimes I plan home projects months in advance, and other times, I dive right in when inspiration strikes. And on Friday afternoon, inspiration struck!

I have been hunting on Marketplace and in thrift stores for a dresser to upgrade as a gift for my sister’s baby nursery. While my search hasn’t found the right dresser yet, when I popped into a thrift store on Friday I found something else: two matching vintage wooden headboards. And instantly, I knew what my next project would be.

We only have three bedrooms upstairs: one for Justin and I and one for each of our kids. Now that we’re having a baby, the older two will need to share so the baby can have the nursery. We went ahead and moved Vi into LJ’s room about two months ago just to see how the transition would go and they have both loved sharing a room! It’s been on my list to make a few small upgrades now that the room is shared, starting with matching twin beds, so finding a pair of cute wooden ones in good shape (and for just $15 each!) bumped this to-do project right to the top of my list! And bonus: my kids were already spending the weekend at my parents’ house so I was able to get started right away.

This blog post from about a year and a half ago shows how I transitioned this room from LJ’s nursery to a “big boy” room, but for the past two months the room has looked like this (mess and all, my kids always pull books off the shelves!):

Functional, yes. But a bit uninspiring for sure! My plan was to just get the twin beds in place and freshen up their bedding . . . but as it happens with so many of my projects, once I got into this one, it started spiraling into a bigger project. So now, the room looks like this:

First of all, I love the headboards! They’re simple and cute and I love that they bring a warm vintage touch to the space. I am not crazy about the metal bedframes on wheels that came with them, but they will work for now. The bedframes are meant to be used with a box spring but we wanted to keep the beds nice and low for our kids (plus box springs aren’t recommended for their memory foam mattresses) so we decided to create a version of a platform bed. Justin cut slats out of scrap oak wood and secured a 2-inch dowel rod to the center one for additional support. It worked like a charm!

For bedding, I wanted something coordinating but not matching. I found these sheets for Vi and these for LJ, both of which went well with matching mustard yellow comforters. I topped them off with matching striped throw blankets in different colors. It love how fresh and colorful it makes the space – perfect for little kids!

I also decided to change up the artwork. Vi has been calling this room “LJ’s room” despite the fact that she has slept here for two months. I thought by moving some of her artwork over (and all her clothes, so the dresser is now split!) it might help her feel some ownership in the space.

I also swapped out the vehicle artwork over LJ’s bed to better coordinate with the artwork over Vi’s. Now each side of the room really seems to better reflect its occupant.

In addition to finally painting the baseboards the same color as the wall, I also decided to squeeze in a final project of changing up the storage in the room. We had a wooden bookcase housing all their books and toys but unfortunately, once Vi’s bed was in place the wall space wasn’t big enough to accommodate it anymore. Instead of thrifting or building from scratch, I decided to opt for the quick and easy solution and bought a ready-to-assemble cubed cubby system to function as a combined nightstand/bookcase. It fits perfectly under the window and houses all their books and toys while freeing up the wall at the foot of Vi’s bed. It’s strange, because it’s the same amount of furniture in the room, but the placement makes the room feel bigger now!

While this is all I was able to squeeze into the weekend, I’ve decided to add a couple more projects to the list of updating this room. Even though eventually we’ll have to swap around rooms again (depending on the sex of the baby), that is at least 3 years down the road so I might as well make some small changes to make this room fun in the meantime, right?

Much as I love the curtains, three out of four are now blocked by either a bed or storage unit and it feels like visual clutter so I’m going to swap them out for blackout blinds. I also want to add sconces over the beds, a few book ledges on the wall by the closet, and I have a special idea I’m considering for the dresser side of the room. For now, I’m just excited for my kids to get home in an hour and see their new space!

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Eider White and Nordic Bleu

Bedframes: Vintage

Vi’s Sheet Set

LJ’s Sheet Set

Yellow Quilts

Striped Throw Blanket

Black Cube Organizer: Brightroom brand at Target (not online)

First Project of 2022: Leveling Up the Guest Room!

Almost exactly two years ago, we finished up the first renovation in our home: the guest room. Hosting friends and family is very important to us so we wanted to prioritize having a nice space for them to stay. We certainly did not anticipate that we were about to enter a global pandemic, but even though the room hasn’t gotten quite as much use over the past two years as we expected, we are still glad we decided to focus time and energy on renovating the space.

20191028_125657-1

I don’t really subscribe to the thought that a room is ever truly “finished” – our home is ever evolving and I even when a renovation is complete, I still enjoy making tweaks and leveling up a space over the years. I shared in the fall that I was wanting to do a little update to the plain white walls in the guest room by creating the look of wallpaper with a stencil; you can read all about the inspiration here and the progress here. In this post I debated between keeping it an accent wall or continuing around the whole room and for my first project of 2022 I’ve officially decided to continue it around the whole room.

I won’t lie, because I’m using so many different colors in the pattern, this is going to be a time consuming process. It’ll certainly take much longer than the laundry room stencil, which was one color and could be rolled on with a foam roller. With my work-from-home job plus my two small children keeping me pretty busy right now, I’m going to just be carving out time here and there to work on this when I can. I’m not going to put a timeline on it either – we don’t have any scheduled guests coming yet in 2022 so there’s no pressure at this point. I’m excited to see the space slowly transform!

There are a few other things I want to tweak and update in this space. For one, the boob light has got to go! This is something I didn’t change out in our original renovation and it’s definitely time for something new (one of my 2021 goals was to replace all the boob lights in the house and this is the last one remaining!) I’m also going to update the bedding (I regret choosing a comforter set with lots of decorative pillows – too impractical for guests!) and possibly add a bench at the foot of the bed. One of my 2022 goals is to update the flooring in this house, which includes the carpet here, although that likely won’t happen until later in the year.

I’ll be sharing some of the real-time progress on this project on Instagram, so be sure to follow along there if you want updates in the moment!

A Round-Up of all our 2021 Projects

As another year draws to a close, I wanted to stop and take a look back on all the projects, both big and small, that we took on this year. Sometimes I look around my house and it seems like there are still so many things I’d like to address – it’s so nice to stop and reflect on how far we have already come! 2022 was an especially big year for changing the look of our main floor and it’s wild to remember how it looked at this time last year. I’m really proud of the transformations! There were also a few projects that we took on for other people, and it was satisfying to see them fall more in love with their own homes after some simple updates.

Here’s what we tackled in chronological order:

Dining Room

The first project of the year was giving a facelift to our dining room. New furniture wasn’t in the budget (nor did it make sense in this life stage when we are just as likely to have play doh, markers, and glue sticks all over the table as we are to have plates and food) but some paint, new curtains, updated trim, and a new light fixture made a huge difference!

DIY Date Night: Play Kitchen Shelf

Justin and I used some scrap wood to create a little shelf to hang above our DIY play kitchen – it made for such a fun date night at home!

Gallery Walls

I created three different gallery walls throughout the house this year. Each one is unique and each makes me so happy when I walk by!

Cookie Decorating Space

Creating a functional and cute space for my friend who has a cookie business was such a fun challenge! Justin and I worked hard to make sure this space checked all her boxes and we all love how it turned out.

DIY Dog Bowl

This was a small project Justin built, but I love it so so much. I was just telling him the other day how great it’s holding up and how glad I am that it’s an attractive solution to having our dog bowls in the main area of our house.

Geometric Accent Wall

Justin and I tackled this geometric accent wall for someone else and it was a pretty straightforward and simple weekend DIY!

Justin’s Office Makeover

A fun Ikea hack to combine three tall Vittsjo shelves into one large storage unit was just what Justin’s ahh . . . lackluster . . . office needed to make it feel organized and professional.

Phase One Kitchen Renovation

I have so many dreams for this kitchen to improve the function for our family, but a full gut renovation is years and years away for us. In the meantime, it was WELL worth investing some time, effort, and about $1000 total to update this space to make it feel more like us.

Primary Bedroom

I tackled this renovation for the Spring One Room Challenge and even though it took longer than the eight week challenge to complete, it was worth taking my time to make intentional choices in creating this little haven for Justin and me.

Ikea Hemnes Hack

And speaking of my bedroom renovation, one of my favorite projects was transforming this plain Hemnes dresser from Ikea into a dupe of an $1800 dresser I fell in love with.

DIY Dress Up Clothes Rack

I created this simple clothing rack to store Vi’s dress up collection and it made for not only a fun project but a great 2nd birthday gift!

Jenni’s House: Built-ins + Kitchen Update!

One weekend and several gallons of paint and we transformed my sister’s kitchen cabinets and living room built-ins!

Guest Room Stencil (ish)

I started creating the look of wallpaper in our guest room with a stencil and took a pause from this project to decide if I wanted to leave it as an accent wall or continue all around the room. I’ve decided I want to continue around the room so stay tuned for that project in 2022!

Laundry Room

My final project of the year was our laundry room update, complete with stenciled wallpaper, DIY shelving, painted trim, and some functional storage updates.

I’ll be taking a break from the blog for the rest of 2022 to enjoy the holidays with my family but I’ll be back in the new year ready to take on new projects!

One Year Later: Still in love with our home office!

Every now and then, I like to take a look back on past home renovations and projects – kind of like the DIY version of a childhood celebrity “where are they now?” article. I usually love a project right when it’s finished, but the true test is how I feel with the benefit of more hindsight. Are things holding up well? Do I wish I had done something different in the project? Are there ways we could’ve improved on it? It’s fun to check back in and see how things have gone since the project wrapped up. Way back in February, I shared what I love, what I regret, and what I still hope to do in our guest suite (read that post here). Then in July, I shared how our basement kitchen renovation has held up so far (read that post here). Today, I wanted to look back on a project I finished in November 2020: our home office!

Justin and I renovated our home office for the Fall 2020 One Room Challenge and “challenge” was definitely the right word for it. This was the most complicated and extensive renovation we’ve ever attempted to do on our own. It really stretched both of our abilities and was difficult and exciting at the same time. You can read all about it in my ORC posts (Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, Week Six: The Final Reveal).

The super cliff notes version of the renovation is, we went from this:

to this! And we did it ALL ourselves!

Don’t tell the other rooms in my house, but this one is without a doubt my favorite one. To say I’m proud of Justin and I for tackling this renovation is an understatement. There were so many complex things we needed to talk through and figure out, especially because the room had a bay window and lots of angles to work around. We did it though and it feels so rewarding even to this day.

A quick note before jumping in to my thoughts on the room today – I recently decorated for Christmas and decided to just keep those decorations up rather than take them down for the follow-up pictures. So there’s a little festive touch to this update!

What I Still LOVE!

Honestly, I still love and am so so happy with the majority of this room. I’m so glad we decided to go with Ikea Sektion cabinets for the base of the built-ins. They provide so much storage space and were relatively easy to install. I love that they came with soft close hinges too; it’s such a nice feature to not have slamming doors. I’m also SO glad with our decision to use Semihandmade door and drawer fronts on the cabinets. They are high quality and elevate the look of the cabinets so much!

I’m also glad I splurged on aged brass knobs and drawer pulls from Rejuvenation. It feels like the finishing touch, the jewelry of the built-in, and it also gives a higher-end feel to the overall unit. Between the Semihandmade fronts and Rejuvenation hardware, the cabinets definitely feel like they were custom and not ready-to-assemble.

I love that I decided to do planking on all the walls and ceiling. It gives the space so much character, like it’s been around for 100 years instead of just 20. I have zero regrets on deciding to go with a monochromatic look and paint the entire room, ceiling and built-in included, Treron by Farrow and Ball (and I’m still so obsessed with that color).

I also still love my vintage yellow chair, bought secondhand from a thrift store, tucked in the bay window area, just waiting for me to curl up with a good book! I love the modern desk mixed in, the double layer of rugs, the bookshelves full of books and mementos, the crown molding and wide baseboards, and the black painted windows framed by tall linen curtains. Honestly, every time I walk into this room, my heart still does a little swoon.

What I Would Change (if I had a time machine)

As much as I adore this room, there are a few things I wish we had done differently. We struggled to find a board that was the right size for the top of the cabinets, and we ended up piecing together some edge-glued pine boards from Lowe’s. It was thinner than I wanted, but much cheaper than butcherblock so we decided to go for it. After we finished, we realized Menard’s had edge-glued boards that were wider and thicker – these would’ve given a more substantial look to the top of the cabinets/base of the bookshelves. I wish we had known it sooner; I definitely would’ve preferred to use the Menard’s boards! I also made a mistake and wiped down the boards we used with a damp cloth before painting, which gives the wood a rough feel now. I should’ve sanded it down (or used a dry tack cloth instead!) so it stayed nice and smooth.

We also should have included more small pieces of scrap wood to the underside of each shelf prior to attaching the thin plywood base underneath. In a few spots, the plywood has bowed a bit and is visible now; I wish we had placed more spots to attach the plywood with the nail gun to prevent future dipping!

I also wish we had included a small piece of trim on the very ends of the cabinets. There is a small gap between the wall and the cabinet and we should’ve closed it. It would’ve been easiest to do before we added the top and bookshelves, but I still think we can do it if we take off the door front. That might be a quick 2022 project!

Lastly, I wish I had taken more time with filling nail holes. There were hundreds and hundreds of nail holes in all the planking and it became tedious; I just wanted to get through it and start painting! The price to going too quickly or lowering the level of diligence is many of the nail holes have a little dip you can still see. Even though it was so so tedious, I wish I had taken a little more time to make sure the nail holes became truly invisible.

Even though there are a few things I wish we did differently, overall I am still so THRILLED with this room! When we update the main level flooring we will be updating this flooring as well, but other than that, this room still feels so good and I truly believe I will love it for years and years to come.

Phase One Renovations & How They Help me Love my Home NOW

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.

Phase 1 Bath 2

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.

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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.

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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!

ORC Week Eight: Laundry Room Reveal!

We made it to the end of the laundry room renovation and I am so thrilled with how this room came together!

It might be little more than a laundry hallway, but the view sure has changed from eight weeks ago. I can’t believe how dark and dingy it felt looking back!

I’ve said it multiple times throughout this process, but many of my decisions were based on keeping this project very budget-friendly since this renovation is somewhat temporary. Justin and I still plan to eventually gut the adjacent bathroom and expand the laundry room, which will also create a true mudroom space. Since that remodel is still a couple years down the road, I wanted to find inexpensive ways to update the existing space in the meantime, making it more functional and beautiful.

I loved the look of wallpaper but found that a gallon of paint and a couple $12 stencils gave me the look of wallpaper for much less. You can read the full tutorial here.

I took down the cabinet + rod combination that previously hung above the washer and dryer and replaced with some simple shelves. I cut down, stained, and sealed two 1 x 8’s and Justin installed them on top of simple black brackets. A mix of baskets + decanted jars and bottles keep all my laundry supplies looking chic while staying within easy reach.

I felt pure joy in taking down the two ugly boob lights and replacing them. The hallway light got replaced with a simple low profile mount and the light above the laundry was a simple DIY dupe. An inexpensive white shade got a couple coats of spray paint and elevated the look for less! You can read more about that process, and the process of making and installing shelves, in this post.

The mudroom nook also got a few simple upgrades. An accordion rack gives me extra hooks for all the jackets and coats my kids have and a shoe bench with built-in storage provides plenty of space for shoes, gloves, and hats.

Since that bathroom is rarely used, I am borrowing the hooks in there for some extra bag storage (you can see a tiny glimpse in the mirror!) It also helped that I cleared out the adjacent closet to create space for the dog food and purged all the shoes we weren’t using! And speaking of the closet, all the doors and trim got painted SW Blonde in a satin finish and I upgraded all the hinges and levers to matte black. Justin also swapped out all the receptacles and switches for white ones and I replaced all the switch and outlet covers with painted wooden ones. Little details make a big difference!

I know there are likely some people who would make the argument “Why go to all this trouble if you’re just going to redo the laundry room in two years? Why not just live with it the way it was?” And on the one hand, I get it. But on the other hand, two years is a long time to live in a space that doesn’t work well for us and I don’t even like to look at. We use the mudroom portion daily and the laundry portion at least once a week, often more. Over the course of two years, 100+ uses as a laundry room plus 700+ uses as a mudroom . . . that’s well worth the time, effort, and approximately $400 I spent on this entire reno. I could’ve spent less and chosen fewer things to update (the most expensive part was actually new door levers!) and it still would have felt fresh. It’s also worth saying: a lot can happen in a year or two and who knows if we’ll be able to proceed with our plans in the future. The good news is, a full remodel doesn’t feel urgent now. If the two year plan for the laundry room becomes a five year (or longer, or never!) plan, I’m now okay just living with the room I have.

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I’m thankful to the One Room Challenge for the motivation to push through and get this room finished! If you’re interested in checking out all the other guest participants, you can do so here.

Sources

Wall Color, Trim, & Door Color: Sherwin Williams Blonde (eggshell on walls, satin on trim and doors)

Stencil Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Stencil

Shelf Brackets

Accordion Rack

Bench

Rug

Low Profile Flush Mount

Semi-Flush Mount (shade is spray painted Krylon Fusion Matte Pale Sage)

Art: Flower Print, Abstract Print, Do Less Print

Clear Jar

Gray Ceramic Box

A look back on our DIY journey

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. šŸ˜‰

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!

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

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!

Playroom toy storage 1

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!