The best things I’ve ever done

August 21, 2014

Our recent family room renovation has had me thinking lately…about the things that I’ve done in our house that have made the biggest difference. Some are little that only cost a few bucks. Some are bigger, but all are projects that I look at every time I walk by them and say “I’m so glad I did that.”

There are a lot of them, but these are my favorites. :)

This one is just “looks pretty” item but it was so easy and cheap! Last year I added some $10 hardware to the garage door to make it look more like a custom carriage door and less like the basic one that it is. I LOVE how it looks every time we pull up to our house:

diy carriage door hardware

It’s such a little thing but it makes me so happy. They’ve held up well too – no rusting at all. I’ve heard these kits went up in cost a bit but I believe they’re still under $30 – not too bad.

One that wasn’t so cheap but was still cheaper than paying someone were the DIY bookcases in our dining room. They are the first thing you see when you walk in our house and they make a BIG impact:

DIY built ins with kitchen cabinets

Our plan all along was to make this less of a dining room and more of a lounging space – but I’m playing with the idea of a larger table again. We’ll see. I’m SO proud of these built ins – not only because they’re pretty but because they are a perfect functional solution for us. The added serving ware storage is an extra bonus.

Another cheap and easy project that I am SO glad I did – adding some privacy to our bathroom window:

covering window for privacy 

privacy window

It took months before I stopped ducking when I walked by it at night, but now we’re used to it and I LOVE that it offers privacy but still lets the light in. And it was just a few bucks! I thought I not being able to see outside might bug me, but it doesn’t at all.

Of course a BIG one, the project that got me thinking about all of these – the removal of the wall between our family room and office. Oh that was a happy day!:

removing a wall

It’s come a long way since this photo but this shows where the walls were. From the very first day all I could think of was that it should have always been like this – and I knew it was the right decision. This project is the most expensive of all I’m mentioning here, but it’s nothing compared to the estimates we got to add on to the house. (And it was a whole lot less mess too.) You can follow along with the progress on this room here.

Years ago I wanted to brighten up our kitchen and I started by covering the black outdated tiles on our backsplash with white beadboard. It made a HUGE difference in this room:

beadboard backsplash

Yes, someday I will paint the cabinets, but in the meantime I can’t believe the difference it made in this space. All for less than $50 if I remember correctly. And yes, it’s held up incredibly well, I have no complaints! As long as it’s painted in a glossy white paint that you can wipe up easily there shouldn’t be any water or mess issues.

Another big project was our master closet storage that I created out of kitchen cabinets:

closet system with kitchen cabinets

Our closet was truly the thorn in my side for years and years – an utter disaster area and I was so fed up with it. I wanted more storage but wanted it to be closed storage – not just shelves that I knew we would clutter up like before. The cabinets have worked BRILLIANTLY. Ugh, why didn’t I do it earlier?? I still have plans to add shelves in the corners for even more storage. Again, the cost of the cabinets was way, way less than a custom closet system.

And finally, I know I mention it a lot but ripping the carpet off our stairs was one of the BEST things I’ve done, both for looks and functionally:

taking carpet off stairs

It is SO much easier to clean wood stairs than carpet! Just last week we had a drink spill down the steps and it was so easy just to wipe it up. All I do is vacuum them once every week (or two!) because we have three cats and a dog and you do see the fluff balls after awhile. Many have worried about how slippery the wood stairs are and I can tell you without a doubt that our carpeted stairs were more slippery than these. We each slid down the carpeted stairs a few times – it hasn’t happened once with the wood (knock on wood!!). This is just the case for our home, but I still think in general it’s easier to slip on that curved edge of carpet.

Because we had real wood under our carpet this project cost me less than $50 – I just needed some wood for the landing, stain and supplies. It was one of the cheapest projects but also one that was a lot of work. Pulling up the carpet and tack strips was no joke – but so worth it in the end!

There you go – my short list of the things that have made the biggest difference in our home, both in appearance and function. Function is HUGE for me – if it’s not going to work well for our family I’m not going to do it no matter how pretty it is.

Are there things you’ve done to your home that you think made a big difference? Things you want to do that you know you would love?

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  1. Isn't it always so nice to go back and see the projects you've done and take that pride in it? I'm literally juggling three finishing touches projects to hopefully get the house back to normal after a summer long redo. I can't wait to get to your stage! :-)

  2. This is a great list! I love the fact that you've included projects large and small. And it's fun to see that I've been following along for so long that I remember when you did all of these. :)

  3. I've been considering doing the same thing with our garage.

  4. I had forgotten that you installed the beadboard over your existing tile backsplash. My husband and I are planning to do two phases of kitchen reno at the house we just moved into in July. Phase 1 would involve replacing the counters and there's a HUGE chance we'd mess up the tiled backsplash at the same time. Covering it with beadboard like you did would hide any damage AND give me a more polished half finished look that would last the 5 or so years until phase 2. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. I loved the hose hook you had outside for your garden hose. I found something at Lowes that worked but my hubby had to put a pipe underneath to raise it up a little but it worked out beautifully and I wouldn't have thought to do it without your picture so thank you very much. We are at a standstill waiting for the contractor to come back and do more. I actually shake because I can't do anything until they are done.

  6. I really like all your updates, but please consider not painting your cabinets! They are so warm and inviting :-) I think your kitchen is the perfect example of an updated-looking kitchen with wood cabinets.

  7. I did a similar post and the privacy film on the bathroom windows and wood stairs were my favorites, too. I love that they aren't that expensive either!

  8. I love your house so much! It all looks great. Very jealous :)

  9. You have done so many beautiful updates. My garage doors are looking a little worn these days and I love your idea of adding the hardware! I may do that!

  10. Love the list!!! Great pics of your home's transformation.

    I personally love that we put patio doors in place of our standard windows to the back yard/deck. Should of done it years ago, but so glad we did it ourselves and we use it everyday!

  11. I love this list! Are you really going to paint your cabinets?? I gasped. They are soooo beautiful! Such a rich color. I just had a neighbor buy all new cabs, very similar to yours. Yes I'm trying to talk you out of it :) .

    1. Hey Mandi! Yes, I plan to add to them (DIY) so the new parts won't match. I do love their color but they are really beat up as well -- but it's mostly because of my big plans for the room. :)

  12. I absolutely love your blog, and your home. Our tastes are very similar so I get lots of ideas. Thank you for all you do to inspire us, your faithful followers. Have you considered painting a thin line of black paint down your garage door between the handles to make it appear there are two doors? You might try black electricians tape first to see what it would look like.

  13. Don't paint your kitchen cabinets. They're beautiful. Ours are painted white (previous owner did that), and I think they would be easier to keep clean if they were the original look.

  14. Those are all fantastic improvements. My fav - the bookcases.

  15. Marilou Patricia SandeAugust 24, 2014 at 3:12 AM

    Love your ideas! Your home looks great! I will be back often

  16. I loved your dining room built-in so much that I asked my husband to build me one too! We're in the finishing stages (so excited) but looking for the right lighting. Would you be able to tell me where you bought your lamps?


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