The smartest changes we've made to our home

April 12, 2017

I've been thinking a lot lately about some of the best changes I've to our house over the years, especially because we'll be in this house for 13 years as of the end of the month. A few years ago I shared a similar post so be sure to check that out too. I'm including a couple projects here that I included in that post just because they are SO GOOD. ;) But it's fun to look back at my thoughts then and now. 

These are some of the BEST changes (large and small) that we have made to our house over the past decade or so. First up...expanding our front steps. We did this a couple years ago and are still kicking ourselves for not doing it earlier:
Widening steps on front porch

You can go here to see how small they were before. I look back and don't get why the builder makes them so small -- they were almost a hazard they were so narrow. I cannot even tell you how nice it is to have the wider steps going up to our front porch. 

Now we're able to have the flowers/plants on there and still have plenty of room to get up and down. And Halloween is SO much easier now! No worries that the kids are going to fall off the steps!: 
Creating wider steps in front of house

This time of year is the only time I will miss our azaleas! They were so beautiful for about two weeks! You can see how we changed up that landscaping last fall here

I think I've mentioned this next one once or 500 times, but it's worth saying it again because I think a lot of people shy away from doing this. We used to have a laundry/mud room right when you walked in from the garage and it just did not work, in any way, the way it was set up. When we finished our basement years ago I knew I wanted to move the laundry down there. EVERY day I'm so thankful we did that: 
Basement laundry room with shelves for storage

Every. day. :) I cannot express how wonderful it is to have a dedicated laundry space! Even though I'd love to have it near the bedrooms upstairs, this was the next best place for it. We have a finished basement though, so it's no big deal to sit down there (in comfort) and fold clothes. 

When we moved the laundry downstairs we were able to make this a proper and pretty mud room and I love love love it: 
Laundry room turned mud room with white beadboard

All these years later it still feels like a luxury to walk into this bright, pretty space when we arrive home. I still remember how that cluttered laundry area made me feel. It wasn't a good feeling. ;) 

We ended up adding a laundry chute down from our master bathroom to the basement, and at first I wasn't so sure it was worth it. I talked about that here. But then I purged our house, redid our closet and got our clothes under control and now I'm so thankful for the chute. It is AWESOME. 😍 I would do it again in a minute: 
DIY laundry chute

Another big project I talk about a lot (because it made such a huge change in our house) was taking a leap and knocking down a wall between our family room and office. Here's a before photo of that room: 
Corner fireplace in family room

Look at my little baby. Goodness. :) I chose to put that fireplace in the corner when we built specifically because I thought it would be cool. I was wrong. I hated it. ;) 

I made small changes to it over the years that helped, but the day we knocked down this wall was one of my happiest: 
How to knock down a wall

It opened up SO many new possibilities for half of our main level. We were able to expand our kitchen quite a bit later on and we doubled the size of our family room
Family room and kitchen great room

Our office is now up in the loft and works so well for us, so we're not missing anything down here. If you are handy and the wall you are taking out is not a load bearing wall, this doesn't have to be an expensive project. Especially if you're going to do things like flooring after the fact. The bigger ticket items in our room were creating a new fireplace and patching (and restaining) the floors. 

Years later I've been making small updates in here -- you can see some of them in my post from earlier this week
Gray fireplace in family room with built in storage

One project I walk by daily and am still grateful for four years later was a super simple one. I used a very simple method to make our master bathroom window private
Easy way to create a private window for bathroom
I loved the big window and all the natural light it allowed in the room, but I felt like I had to be covered every time I walked by -- day or night. I used a really inexpensive trick to make it private and it's still looking great! I love this small change -- it's such a small thing but I love not worrying about the neighborhood seeing me in the bathroom. ;) 

Speaking of windows -- our next phase after the family room (that took about six months to complete because we paid as we went) was to start the kitchen. We started with moving our back door. Before our kitchen table and back door were in the same spot in our bay window and it was incredibly tight. We moved the door and I'm still so thankful: 
Creating a window seat in kitchen

Because I was able to build my dream window seat when that door was gone: 
Window seat in bay window

I would do that again a million times over -- not only because it's beautiful, but because that was such a tight spot before and now everything is spread out. And because we moved the family room down quite a bit, it made much more sense to move the door to between the family room and kitchen. It just functions so well

I love all of the DIY projects I took on in the kitchen renovation a couple years ago, but one of my favorites was the simplest. I took down some cabinets and also removed the microwave from above the stove: 
Moving microwave in kitchen

 When I built on to our old island I made a spot for the microwave:
Microwave in kitchen island

Functionally, adding to the length of the island and moving the microwave are the two best decisions I made during this reno. I like that the microwave is no longer the focal point of the room (now the pretty vent hood is):
DIY vent hood

And I love having the microwave lower. It's also a nice bonus that our son can easily use it now too. Because we sold our old microwave, we broke even on this project (minus the vent hood). I shared more about our thoughts on moving the microwave in this post if you're thinking of doing the same. 

There you go -- some of the BEST projects we've taken on in our house over the past 13 years. Some are more expensive than others, but we do all of our bigger projects over time to spread out the cost (because we pay cash). When I walk by or use any of these on a daily basis I still think about how grateful I am that we were able to make these changes. They make our house function so much better and it doesn't hurt that most are prettier too. 

I hope some of these inspire you in your home! I can't wait to see what I'll be writing about in a few more years. ;) Do you have a favorite project in your home that changed how you live in it for the better? I'd love to hear! 

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  1. Oh my gosh, I tell you this ALL the time but I seriously LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your house! You amaze me with all the incredible projects you tackle yourself, and you inspired me to buy some more power tools so I can take on more of my own projects as well! First one I'm trying out my saw on? Replacing the lattice in the deck gate that the darned bear tore apart Sunday night - wish me luck!

  2. what exactly is the small change you made to the bathroom window - you never say!?!?!

    1. Click on the link and it takes you to another page to show how she used plain contact paper on the window for privacy.

  3. I have been looking at buying the round coffee table you have in your family room from world market. I have noticed that it has floated to a lot of rooms. Is that because it is so versatile? I am just trying to decide if I will like the round coffee table. I have a somewhat small room, which is why I am considering the round.

    1. I had a beautiful glass & brass coffee table but had to sell because of family member with vertigo. I saw this world market table she uses and ordered it for my small living room. Looks great works great. Easy to move for parties. And if you have world market membership you can use coupon discount.


  4. I've followed along on all these changes,and love them all. I can't ignore the bookcases in the dining room, the foyer wall,the wood wall going to the basement,the basement fireplace and kitchen bar. I have a had time choosing a favorite. I loooove your house.

  5. Would you please us how your laundry chute where you put clothes in. We used the same idea with pipe and was wondering if you had ideas for a finished opening.


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THANKS so much for reading!