We purchased our first home June 2018 when we were only 24! Buying a home was always a huge dream of ours, and I always knew I wanted a fixer-upper.
Fixer-uppers are NOT for everyone, but we love it! We love the process of dreaming up new ideas and then working together to make them happen. We also ALWAYS finish what we’ve started which I think is a personality that can make or break the experience.
We didn’t have a massive budget to redo every room of the house Joanna Gaines style – I wish! But we were (and still are!) willing to do the work and live in our home during the process! Here’s the process of our realistic home renovation.
PURCHASING OUR HOME
Everyone is going to have different priorities when buying a home. We wanted an older home in an established neighbourhood with a BIG backyard. Those were our only non-negotiables. We were able to look past ugly wall colors, mismatched floors, etc to find a home in our price range. Actually, the uglier the paint colours the better! Hahaha
We also purchased our home knowing it wasn’t going to be the home we lived in long term. We have always planned on being here 3-5 years, fixing it up and then either renting it out or selling it for a profit.
BEFORE + AFTER PHOTOS
I wish I had taken wayyy more before photos! I even remember thinking “I need to go around and take photos of EVERYTHING the day we move in” but then it never happened!
*After* feels like a generous term – a lot of these photos still feel like “during” to me – we still have lots of plans and dreams for this home in the next 1-3 years! But this is the current process of our realistic home renovation!
LIVING ROOM / DINING ROOM
The day we moved in vs now! The whole house felt dark + dingy but that’s SO easy to change with some paint! We installed a faux brick wall which was such an easy + inexpensive way to transform the space. I’m a fan in adding character + texture to a space instead of *stuff *.
This is the main place I wish I had a proper before photo! We impulsively tore down this wall 2-3 days after moving in, and it completely transformed + opened up the entire house!
We lived with it in the state of the photo on the left for a good 6-12 months – electrical cable, floor gap and all! It honestly bothered everyone else way more than it bothered us LOL.
I don’t really have before photos of the living room but it was basically just a big empty space with smokey yellow walls and poorly installed orange floors.
We redid all of the flooring about 14 months after moving in. We decided to put the same laminate throughout the entire house (including bedrooms) and we’re so happy with that choice! You can find more info about our flooring at the end of this post.
The faux fireplace was my Christmas present last year! I pretty much only ask for home renos as gifts these days ?
The previous owners of our home had several pets so the carpet in the master was in poor condition. We tore it out approximately 17 seconds after getting the keys to the house! There was tile leftover likely from the 80s (It was pretty gross TBH) that we lived with for over a year before replacing the floors!
This was one of the easiest room transformations in our realistic home renovation. Paint truly is magic!
We aren’t really sure what the previous owners were thinking, but they removed all the doors, shelves, clothing rods, EVERYTHING from all of the closets. So when we moved in we literally did not have a single place to hang anything ??♀️. However it was nice being able to customize our closet!
This isn’t even a proper before photo because we had already painted the walls at this point! Earlier this year we installed a double desk which was the BEST decision!
We still have dreams to put in a new Ikea kitchen eventually! But for now I painted the cabinets just using leftover paint – the tops are the same colour as the walls and the black paint is leftover from the black wall in the living room.
My dad + husband built the kitchen island for my birthday this year. It’s helped so much since we have so little counter space!
Here are some posts about our kitchen!
We tore out those white pantry doors, made the door opening smaller and installed a barn door (below). When we redo the kitchen I’d love to do floor to ceiling cabinets on the wall by the fridge to add tons of storage!
The entryway was one of the first spaces we redid! We tore everything out but then actually reused some of the wood! To be honest, this space NEVER stays this tidy because this is the entrance we actually use every day. So it’s full of jackets, dog leashes, keys, and 2393252 other things. It drives me crazy, but it’s real life!
We haven’t done any major work on the backyard because we LOVE having tons of grass for our dog to run around. We’ve mostly added a few veggie gardens, and the chicken coop!
Next summer we hope to add a spot for our fireplace + chairs!
MAKING OUR HOUSE A HOME
I can’t help but make my house feel like HOME – there’s just something in me that naturally nests, no matter where I live.
I’ve never been one to purchase lots of trendy / seasonal items, or stroll the aisles at Homesense looking for new decor. I hateeee clutter, and I hate spending money. Almost all of our decor pieces were either handmade, gifts or items we actually USE.
When I do make purchases such as rugs, bedding, etc I always try to buy something that will be practical + loved for many years! I usually opt for neutral colours that are easy to wash + keep clean!
PAINT IS MAGIC
Painting is MAJORLY underrated. It is actual MAGIC at transforming a home. If you don’t have the budget for anything else, prioritize painting your home. It will make wayyyy more of a difference than any piece of furniture, decor, or knick-knacks.
- Do it BEFORE moving in. It is 10000x easier to paint before you’ve started moving in. Take 3-4 days and just paint everything at once. This also helps make an older home feel like YOURS, as well as helps get rid of any stagnant odours from previous owners.
- We always choose low VOC (low chemical / odour) and make sure we can air everything out for a few days!
- Do it yourself. Hiring someone else to do your painting will cost 8-10x more than if you just do it yourself! I promise, it’s so easy!
- Buy paint on sale. Paint frequently goes on sale for 30-50% off! We painted every single wall of our 1200sf home and it cost us about $350 because the paint was 50% off. It’s worth waiting for a sale, or buying the paint a few weeks before you know you’re moving!
- Color match designer brands at cheaper stores. Did you know you can take that trendy BM paint colour to your local paint shop (our paint was from Dulux paints) and they’ll match any colour! Often you don’t even need the paint swatch, they can just look it up in their system.
ANYTHING IS FIGURE-OUT-ABLE
People always tell us “we could never do xyz”. But the truth is, SO many skills can be learned easily!
I can’t even keep track of all the things we’ve taught ourselves to do. From installing laminate flooring to building a chicken coop!
There are some things (like electrical work) that we still feel better about hiring a professional, but SO many things you can learn on Youtube or Google!
DO IT SLOWLY
It can be hard to not compare our progress with the people on social media who buy a home and renovate the entire thing in the first month. Unfortunately that wasn’t in the cards for us, but that’s ok! I hope our realistic home renovation inspires you to do things at your own pace!
We’ve actually loved the process of slowly working on projects and watching our home change. I know I would be bored out of my mind if I didn’t always have projects to work on!
If you’ve budgeted for major renovations as soon as you move in, that’s AMAZING! But if you have to take things slower, that’s also great!
We basically always have a savings fund for our next project. Next up for us is new windows!
HOW I DECORATED OUR HOME
I always describe my style as boho / eclectic minimal which is basically an oxymoron. I love white walls, but I also love pops of colour. I don’t like things to be super matchy, or neutral. Honestly, I’ve just leaned into what I LIKE and don’t really pay attention to what’s trending.
I’ve been obsessed with home decor for as long as I can remember. Not AT ALL because I need my house to look a certain way to impress other people. But because my home is my safe place and I want it to be a space that reflects our personalities + lifestyle.
Most of our furniture is thrifted or from Marketplace! I’m super picky with furniture and like timeless pieces and ONLY ever real wood – none of the fake laminate stuff haha.
I am NOT a pro-thrifter by any means, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is to be patient and wait for what you really want!
I love refinishing / restaining wood furniture. I honestly cry a little bit when perfectly good wood furniture gets painted haha.
INVEST IN THE BIG THINGS
There are times to thrift and then there are times to save + invest in the things you really want!
I’ve always felt like a nice couch really elevates a space. You definitely could get lucky and find a new-ish couch thrifted, but it was something we wanted to invest in. Our sectional was the very first large purchase we made together, we bought it several months before we even got married / moved in together!
I think basically anything in our house that is fabric (bedding, curtains, pillows, rugs) were all purchased new. I’ve always had allergies, and I’m so sensitive to laundry detergents + fragrance that I’d prefer to just start with new items – just personal preference.
SHOP OUR HOME
WHITE: We did Benjamin Moore White Wisp throughout our entire home. I would say it’s a true white and doesn’t really have any undertones.
Teal Bedroom: Benjamin Moore Oasis Blue
Black: The black wall in our living room, kitchen cabinets and our chicken coop are all Dulux Black Magic
Greige Trim: We decided to do a greige (grey/beige) colour on our trim since our walls are already white! The colour is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
When we started looking at flooring we wanted 1) Low maintenance (Not hardwood) 2) Hides muddy pawprints (medium brown colour) 3) Affordable.
We’ve had our flooring for just about a year and we’re OBSESSED. It has held up perfectly even with our very active dog, lots of spills, and just daily life. I would 10/10 choose the exact same flooring again.
I actually first saw this flooring in an Ikea showroom! I immediately loved the colour and the fact that it didn’t show dirt or footprints! I figured if it held up in a high traffic area like Ikea it would hold up in our home – and it absolutely has! Did you know that every Ikea showroom has a little plaque with the paint colour + flooring details? So convenient.
I hope you enjoyed the transformation of our fixer upper!