Hello wonderful readers!
After a blogging break following our miscarriage, I am back. Feeling rested and ready to tackle a busy fall with a vengeance. Given that my last post was rather glum, I thought we'd start with an uplifting subject: home renovation. As some of you readers may know, Nick and I took up a hobby a few years back: buying older homes in need of TLC and bringing them back to life. We have found this is a terrific third income source for our family and we love a challenging project that involves creativity and elbow grease. We purchase the homes, renovate the basics while we live elsewhere then live in the property while the final touches are made and while we wait for the market value to increase.
The "worst" house on the best block is always your best investment. Location is everything. If the bones of the property are solid (high ceilings, large rooms, functional layout, sturdy foundation), the rest can be transformed with a good eye and an appropriate budget.
Here are some before & after photos of our most recent project in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia:
MASTER BATHROOM BEFORE
MASTER BATHROOM AFTER
MASTER BEDROOM BEFORE
MASTER BEDROOM AFTER
MASTER CLOSET CUSTOM DESIGNED & BUILT BY NICK
GUEST BEDROOM BEFORE
GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
What We've Learned
You don't need an enormous budget if you have good taste and are willing to put in the time to source knockoff items. When we start out with a property, I pull from my inspiration files and put together a PowerPoint deck with idea slides for each room. The slides cover everything from paint colors and dream finishes to cabinets, tile, appliances, lighting, wallcoverings etc. Once I have an idea in my mind of how I want each room to look, I scour the ends of the internet, discount stores, resale websites and stores, to find pieces that align with my aesthetic plan but cost significantly less.
One of my favorite resources is Restoration Hardware Outlet stores - I absolutely love RH designs - from the furniture to the lighting - but their inventory is on the expensive side. If you can find an outlet store near you (it'll be worth a drive - even if it's 2-3 hours away, trust me on this one), you'll find last season's sconces, pendants that have been discontinued, furniture pieces that were used as window displays etc. for up to 80% off.
Other favorite resources include: Lulu & Georgia, Hudson Boston, CB2, Mitchell Gold, West Elm, Ballard, Birch Lane and Anthropologie. Ikea is great for basics that you can upgrade with paint or fun hardware.
I LOVE the site Copy Cat Chic for sourcing affordable designer-inspired pieces.
Angie's List and personal referrals are the best way to find reliable, high quality contractors and skilled laborers. Check references. Check licenses. Ask to see before-and-after photos. In the last four years, we've encountered some of the best and some of the worst and have lost thousands and thousands of dollars because we were too trusting and didn't do the proper due diligence.
Spend the extra money to hire a general contractor with extensive experience and a really good team. Include your GC in discussions about design and budget as early on as possible so you're on the same page about potential pitfalls.
Cheap labor produces cheap results. It can be tempting to hire an inexpensive laborer to do things like seal exposed brick, paint walls or lay tile - but a bad paint job will stare back at you every day you live in the space and raises red flags for potential buyers down the road. If you want something done the right way, pay the extra money to hire an expert and supervise the work yourself to the extent you can.
Learn as many skills as you can along the way. Over the course of the projects we've done so far, Nick has assisted electricians, plumbers, HVAC experts... The list goes on. He has learned how to handle basic electrical work, plumbing, tiling and is becoming a skilled carpenter.
Our home in Philadelphia was our second project and a labor of love more rewarding than we could've imagined. It's on the market currently and we're looking to see what kind of interest it will generate - if it sells, we're onto the next project!