House For Six

7 Lessons Learned From Our First DIY House

Deme Crinion11 Comments
It's a new year and we have a whole new place to make our own!  I. can. not. WAIT!  However, before I cannon-ball in, I'm taking stock of some really important lessons learned from our last home.

Each of these could stand alone as a post, so I'm going with the round-up here and we'll chat more about these as we tackle our upcoming house projects.

Our last place was a 60's rancher covered in wallpaper from every era.  It needed a serious face lift, but had great bones and a great layout.  You can see it's transformation under the House Tour tab. After years of renting I was so excited for a place to really make our own.  With free reign to do whatever we wanted, it truly was our learning playground.  We gleaned a lot from that experience and know that it will help us make this new house feel that much more like home!

1.  Consider the house as a whole.   It wasn't until I hit the breakfast nook that I really started to figure out my own personal style.  I did what I truly wanted in there going with a fresh, colorful palette.

Unfortunately, at that point I had already done something completely different in the dining room that sort of corresponded to the muted living room.

Even in a home that was sectioned off with a less-than-open floorplan, our place felt very disjointed as you walked through.  This was something we had to address when it came time to meant a lot of repainting and working a similar color palette throughout the house.

When I worked on that home, I only thought about one room at a time and wasn't sure what direction I wanted to take with color or design.  It's something I've tried to think through with this new home before we actually take a paintbrush to the walls...What colors do we love having in our home?  How can I work them into each space for a more cohesive feel?  What sort of backdrop do we want...light/bright?  dark/moody?  A bit of both? What's the overall feeling we want for our home?

I think it's impossible to make every design choice for a room ahead of time, but giving those questions some thought during the planning process will help you make those choices when the time comes to get started!

2.  Don't operate out of fear.   What will future buyers think?  I love this idea but people will think this is crazy. What if this looks nothing like the awesomeness I'm picturing in my head?   Who cares!!  Yes, I had some fails (hello pink chair and my brown conundrum) but had I not taken a few risks, I never would have experienced the big successes.  And my house would probably be all beige....which may be a warm neutral heaven for some, but I now know that color and I were meant for each other.

When it came time to re-do our breakfast nook, I had a vision of stripes and ombre.  I was nervous - it was the first time I went for something bold and out of the box. 

And it paid off.  We ended up with a playful space full of color and character.  I loved every inch of it. 

3.  Function first.  Here's where my sensible better half is the voice of reason.  A voice I ignored too often in our last home.  That house needed a lot of attention when it came to functional issues both inside and out.  But I was so giddy about painting or making curtains that I let those fun projects take priority over the maintenance our house needed.....because painting was a lot more fun than pulling weeds, or plowing through mountains of boxes in the garage.  When I ignored the areas of our home that were creating a chaotic environment in favor of a "pretty" project, it really put undue stress on our family.

The good news is there's a way to compromise.  He wants to fix the leaky toilets and I want to do an amazing paint treatment in the coat closet.  I like pretty and functional, and he just wants things to work and have a place.  So, for the first couple months I'm giving my attention to those areas that will improve the functionality in our home.

Which doesn't mean all work and no play!  After all, I do love to organize. This just means that I'll be focusing on improving the way things look and work in those areas that need the most functional attention first.  For example, the basement bathroom sink that spews water at anyone trying to wash their hands (but could also use some sprucing up in the cabinetry department), and creating a much needed drop zone area to corral all of the shoes, coats, hats, keys, etc. that we trip over every time we go in/out of the house (along with a couple fun ideas to repurpose some furniture we already have and give the coat closet a pretty update in the process).

4.  Consider timing.  I get easily excited.  Once I come up with an idea I can't wait to see it manifest into reality (see #3).  However, taking on a project that is going to uproot our lives (like a kitchen or replacing floors) in the middle of my husband's football coaching season and when my calendar is busting at the seams is not exactly a recipe for peace and harmony in the abode.  Some projects are better to tackle during certain times of the year because of weather as well.  So, this really is a reminder for me to think about the length of time the project itself will take, what time of year we want to address it, and when our calendar can best handle it. 

5.  I'm not the only one who lives here.  Granted.  My man pretty much gives me free reign around here when it comes to changing up the pillows and paint....but we have very different tastes.  I have a whole series coming that's dedicated to this topic of designing for opposing styles, but for now let's just say that we are learning where to compromise in order to arrive at a space that we both love.

My children are now old enough to have an opinion too.  After Mia's very pink room in our last house I was hoping to go in a different direction in her new room.  I had this great fabric and a fantastic plan to incorporate almost all of the stuff she already had without it being so....PINK.

But here's what her walls look like right now..
She really wanted pink and this is her room.  I want her to be happy in it.  We were able to compromise on the intensity of the wall color and she's given me a couple of other requests, like polka dots in the closet and a canopy over her bed.  I picked a couple of fabrics for the canopy and let her make the final decision.

As much as I'm gaining confidence in my own style and tastes, I want our home to be a place where we all love to be.  And that means compromise.

6.  Less is more. This year I had a growing desire to live more simply and to cut the excess from our lives.  We purged and purged some more.  It felt so GOOD to let go of anything we didn't love, use, or mean something special to us.
I can't imagine having to move the carloads of donations we made in addition to the rest of the things we moved across the country.  And yet as we continue to unpack I'm realizing there's plenty more work we can do in that department.   Purging and controlling what comes into our homes is an ongoing process, something that requires regular maintenance.  We've learned that we are so much happier in our home when we surround ourselves with only the things we need and love. 

7.  Take it slow....home doesn't happen over night.  I know we've heard it a million times and it sounds cliche, but it's true.  As much as I would like to make over our entire house in a month, it's just not happening.   It takes time to save for those projects and it also takes time to figure out how you really use a space.  And as soon as you figure that out, a new season of life means that space has to evolve to fit your current needs.  So although we have a much better sense of our personal style and how we want our home to feel this time around, we're not going to rush into any decisions.  We need to try this house on for awhile and see how it fits.  How we move and live in it.  How each room feels.  Then we'll decide how we can improve it through looks and/or function to best suite our family.

I started decorating our last house without a clear picture of the end goal.  I was all over the board and tried out all sorts of crazy ideas.  That process taught me as much about what I didn't like as about what I loved.  We left there more confident in our personal tastes, our overall design aesthetic, and how we wanted to approach the process in our next home.

I could see that progress in our last two big projects - the kitchen and the master bedroom.
Grey and white kitchen reveal

I think we finally hit the balance of bright and airy with warm natural elements and pops of bold color.....without feeling like Rainbow Bright set up shop there.  We're aiming for something similar in our new home and are going to have a lot of fun bringing it all together, one project at a time.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to keep in touch!