Monday, June 27, 2022 Jun 27, 2022
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Cover Story

53 Expert Tips That Will Transform Your Home

Not ready for a big remodeling commitment? These quick tips are just what you need.
By D Magazine |

Illustration by Tyson Smith

53 Expert Tips That Will Transform Your Home

A little paint here, some elbow grease there, and the occasional light demolition make your house look like new for less.

Advice to Get You Started
1 Remodeling while living in the house with pets? Make contingency plans for your animals if the fence is down in the back yard, create a pet-secure area away from the work site. Workers have a tendency to leave doors and gates open, which can lead to a lost (or worse!) pet.

2 To protect your furniture from dust and debris, shrink-wrap your upholstery (even pillows) completely until your furniture looks like a mummy. Use bubble wrap to protect feet and trim.

3 Remodel with an eye to universal design. Think about how you would cook, do dishes, get in a bathtub, even replace toilet paper if you had a leg in a cast or became incapacitated for even a short period of time.

4 Watch changes that take away from the integrity of the house, Carol Gantt of Gantt Construction Consulting and Design says. Educate yourself on what your house can and cannot be. For example, if you have a house with 8-foot ceilings, there is no way it can ever have ceiling beams and look appropriate. You must choose a style that your house can accommodate. A 50s style ranch house can only be a 50s style ranch house in either contemporary or traditional styles.

5 If you have a limited budget, don’t do construction; keep your changes superficial, Paul Draper of Paul Draper & Associates says. It’s less expensive and can make a huge difference in the look and feel of a room. I like spaces that change with the seasons. Fresh flowers and new pillows every season are a ’duh,’ but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think about it.

At the Front Door
6 Switch out your old front door for one that includes more detail and is made of better materials – “first impressions go a long way.

7 Use antique distressed nail heads to add interest to new paneled doors.

In the Bathroom
8 Quickly update your bathroom by staining the grout around your tile with a grout stain. The results are immediate, and there are plenty of colors to choose from, everything from slate to salmon. You can even have a custom color mixed up for you. Just remember: The darker your grout is, the harder (if not impossible) it is to stain it.

9 For a bathroom with mirrored walls, place antique frames over the sinks, with sconces on either side to take away the builder look.

10 Take off old wallpaper. Even changing out a bathroom’s paper and getting new coordinating towels, can bring new life into an old space.

11 To freshen up an outdated look, Abby Smith of Quorum Design and Construct suggests, “replacing an old vanity with a table that you can tile or cover with a leftover piece of slab that a fabricator might have at his shop. Be sure to have your bowl at hand to place it where you want it before you cut a hole in the table for the drain, and leave room for the faucet.

12 Go to TKO and buy a really great looking bathroom sink that will make you happy every time you use it, Draper says.

13 Alex Guthrie, owner and president of L.A. Guthrie General Contractor Inc., advises homeowners to take an old piece of furniture like a washstand, table, or chest of drawers and convert it to a vanity. Once the piece is selected, head to a marble company and go through their yard to select a remnant piece of marble ($300 or $400), then attach it as the counter. For a powder room in his own home, Guthrie went one step further. “My wife and I bought a washbasin from an antique store and fitted it to the marble for a sink. We love it.”

14 Remove your old shower door and replace it with a new frameless contemporary designed door, says D Home editor-at-large Steve Snider (of Steve Snider Inc.). These doors can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500.

15 If you’re not too excited about replacing the old tile flooring in your bathroom, Gary Vaughan, president of The Vaughan Group, suggests covering the tile with a white epoxy paint to create a much cleaner, up-to-date look.

Get Cookin’ Buy the best kitchen appliances you can afford. Replace difficult shelves and hard to organize cabinets with easy-to-access baskets.

In the Kitchen
16 Change out your porcelain kitchen sink with a stainless steel version, Snider says.

17 Paint the cabinets, Joe Cleveland of Cleveland Partners L.P. says. In the kitchen, a quick change can come from painting the cabinets or re-facing them, which costs a great deal less than gutting the old cabinetry.

18 Give your dishwasher a new face. If you have an older dishwasher model, check to see if it came with a removable front panel, Gantt says. The replacement panels are often screwed behind the front panel of the dishwasher. If not, you may be able to order a new panel.

19 Spray paint the vent hood over your stove. If you can afford it, take it to an auto paint store to have the work done.

20 Rethink your cabinet space. There are two ways to drastically change your kitchen cabinets in lieu of re-surfacing, Gantt says. First, consider removing cabinet doors of the higher cabinets and painting the inside to use the space as a display. In one home we renovated on a low budget, I took the doors off a couple of the cabinets, painted the inside a bright pink, and used it to set off a collection belonging to the homeowner,Gantt says. Second, if you have cabinets with raised panel doors remove the panels and replace them with glass. For even less money, use pierced aluminum screening.

21 In your kitchen or laundry room, remove shelves from some hard-to-organize cabinets and replace them with drawers such as wire basket ones, Guthrie says. My wife and I used this in our kitchen for our plastic ware, he says. We put the bowls in a deeper drawer on bottom and the lids in a shallower drawer on top.

22 Change your countertops – it can get pricey, but it makes a big statement if you’re willing to put in the work. Cleveland recommends limestone; it is cheaper and less intense than granite but still looks great. You can also cover your old laminate counters directly with tile, Gantt advises. It can be done by the homeowner, she says, but make sure you get the mastic made specific to adhere to the laminate. Smith agrees.When we want to get rid of old Formica countertops and don’t have the budget for granite, covering them up with a good looking tile that is less expensive totally changes the look, she says. For one project, the client wanted an updated Tuscan kitchen, so we covered the white Formica countertop and backsplash with a terracotta tile that set the style for the rest of the kitchen and family room. We chose a tile that offers a bull nose edge and corner tile to make a smooth transition.

23 When remodeling in the kitchen, pack away all but the basics, set up a temporary kitchen and fridge in the laundry room or bar area with sink, microwave, George Foreman grill, cutting board, and utensils.

The Fireplace
24 Bob Heath of Cultured Stone, a division of Owens Corning, suggests making your fireplace the star of the room. When the fireplace becomes outdated or smoke stained, it can make the whole house seem ready for a facelift, he says. Refacing your fireplace using stone, concrete, or marble is an easy way to provide a fresh new look without the hassle and cost of a major remodel.

25 With products such as Cultured Stone manufactured stone veneer, homeowners can transform an ordinary or faded fireplace into a dramatic focal point.

26 Replace the fireplace mantle.

27 If your fireplace is brick, cover the brick with mortar to create a solid, textured surface. Make certain that you want a mortar wash because once it’s applied it’s difficult to remove and not as easy to change as a paint wash, Gantt cautions. An even easier way to change the fireplace is to do a paint wash on the brick, she says.

Hot Stuff Transform your ordinary fireplace into a dramatic focal point by tearing out a tired mantle and refacing the area with stone, concrete, or marble.

Paint, Wallpaper, and Wall Options
Don’t have time to knock out walls? Paint a small room with vertical stripes to give the illusion of height.

29 To add depth and character to any room, custom-painted murals are unique options sure to grab everyone’s attention. Nancy Davidson-Harte of N.Y. Harte and Associates does one-of-a-kind murals in any room of the house.

30 Change the paint in a bedroom and then add crown molding in a different color to accentuate the walls, Vaughan says.

31 Paint the inside of a bookshelf a different color from the outside and re-shelve your books for instant drama, Gantt says.

32 If making the commitment of painting a whole room is too difficult, try painting a specific area of a room such as one wall. If your walls have panels, choose to paint only specific panels. In one bedroom, I chose two panels, which were seen the most, and painted them, Gantt says. It gave the impact of color but kept it from being too overwhelming.

33 When wallpapering, continue the paper up and onto the ceiling, Snider says. It changes the look and feel of a room instantly. Wallpaper is back in favor now, he says.

34 Install crown molding to add architectural definition and interest.

35 Create interest by adding squares of molding to the doors around the house, Vaughan says. You can create one large square or two smaller ones to break up the monotony of a flat panel door.

36 Update the existing trim in the room or add a chair rail.

Flooring Help
37 Redo your floors, Cleveland says. Except for walls, floors have the highest impact on the eye.

38 Make old hardwood floors new again by giving them a polyurethane treatment or a re-staining.

39 Remove flooring and stain the concrete slab for a dramatic effect.

40 Cleveland cautions remodelers to stay away from manufactured tile and carpet because they tend to date a home.

Lighting Touches
41 Hang an updated light fixture over your dining room table.

42 Take crystals off your dining room chandelier for a cleaner, more modern look, Kathy Adcock-Smith, ASID, Adcock-Smith Design says.

43 Taking down worn-out lighting and adding recessed can lights can improve the look of the room as well as provide more focused lighting, Vaughan says. Smaller, 4-inch accent can lights can be used to showcase artwork.

Decorating Tips
44 Change up your current furniture. I had two sets of legs made for our Asian-inspired dining room table, Draper says. In the summer, we use the low ones and sit on pillows on the floor for something casual and exotic. In the winter months, when family and friends visit for the holidays, we raise it.

45 Draper also suggests you use woven sisal throw rugs in spring and summer, then change them out to wool and silk in the winter. It really changes the look and feel of the place.

46 Leave some money in the budget for art, furniture, and landscaping.

47 Re-think the use of an existing room or piece of furniture, Gantt says. For example, transform a closet into a built-in desk space or an armoire.

48 Remove the old frames from artwork and update them, Snider suggests. I see so many houses with nice artwork but big-time, ugly frames.

Helpful Odds & Ends
Create an outdoor room from a covered porch, Draper says. Pella Screens are retractable screens that allow you to enclose a porch while allowing breezes and light in. The screens can be used like doors, because they retract. I have a client who did this, and it’s the hit of the house.

50 When it comes to appliances, get the best you can afford. You’ll thank yourself later, we promise.

51 Use windows in your home as a picture frame for the outdoors, Gantt says. Look out your windows and make sure the view is pleasing. If all you see is a 6-foot wooden fence, plant flowering trees or shrubs for a view from inside the house.

52 Replace old blinds with bamboo window coverings (you can find inexpensive options at both Target and Pier I Imports), Claudine Begay of Faulkner Design Group Inc. says.

53 Contemporary is the most popular trend, so eliminating your junk is a logical step to begin redecorating your house, Snider says. Clean out your closets; try to minimize clutter by at least 50 percent.


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