In the world of Pinterest and Instagram, who doesn’t catch themselves getting major envy at some of the beautiful, perfect, magazine- worthy homes they see? It makes for nice eye candy while you scroll through, but it can also leave you feeling a little bummed about your own home: ‘My house totally doesn’t look like that’. We don’t all have big budgets to tackle that reno or a limitless credit limit to splurge on all the things to make our homes picture- perfect. And let’s face it, some days it’s worth a celebration that the house doesn’t look like a bomb zone with kids running around as you attempt various chores/ cleaning, etc (‘let them make one mess while I clean another’ sound about right? 😉 ). And having an older home that comes with a few quirks can definitely make the process more interesting and challenging. My friend Piya who owns The Handpicked Home and I both have vintage 70’s homes that came with a lot of personality. Over the past year we’ve worked together on a few projects, but comparing notes on updating an older home has been something we’ve laughed and joked over as we discover bumps in the roads of our various projects.
I’ve loved being a part of and watching Piya and Pav transform the home they bought a year ago and we wanted to share about the process along with some tips for anyone who’s got an older home, or one that just needs a little TLC. It can be exciting to renovate/ redecorate, but it can also sometimes feel overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out what to do. So over the next couple of months we’ll be sharing different tips and ideas from Piya’s experiences that you can hopefully use in your own home that are simple, don’t break the budget, and help make your house your home in all it’s imperfect glory (and let’s face it, probably have a laugh over as well, because what home project ever goes as planned?). Piya and I chatted about a variety of things to do with moving and home renos and she’s sharing about her experience so far below along with some before and after photos to show the progress they’ve made. It’s really amazing to see the difference some paint and creativity can make to a space and Piya’s home is a great example of what you can accomplish, regardless of how quirky your home might be
What was your previous home like compared to your current one? How did you want to make this home the same/ different in terms of style and personal touches?
Our condo in Morgan Crossing was a show suite; it had never been lived in. It was a two-level, two-bedroom, two-bath home with a beautiful, large kitchen that included a gas range and quartz counters. Our house needed a lot of TLC when we purchased it, but Pav knew that I could work my magic to design a space we could both love. The condo was easy to make sparkle because it was already shiny and new! This house was going to be a little more challenging, but I love a challenge. We went from always entertaining in the open-concept kitchen and family room in the condo, to focusing on the seating area in our living room of the new (old) house as an alternative. It’s not worse, it’s just different.
I knew I had the opportunity to have even more fun with our house, like adding wall decals, which I had always wanted to do in our condo but never got a chance to. So even though we no longer had our sparkly dream kitchen, we had something else; something with a lot more character and charm and history that we could make our own. A few months after we had moved in and made some changes, the daughter of the previous owners came by to pick up some mail and when she walked in the door, she was blown away by how great it looked. What a difference a fresh coat (or three!) of paint can make!
What was the timeline from finding the house, moving in, and completing the facelifts?
My husband was on the hunt for a house, right when the market was picking up but still before the real craze of bidding wars and no time for inspections. We were in a condo in South Surrey, beautiful and new; a gorgeous space. Pav (my husband) knew, though, that this was the time to try and purchase a house with a decent size lot when we still could. As White Rock and South Surrey were at the top of our wish list, we started looking there first, but worked our way back to my old ‘hood in Cloverdale where we found her. Older, and in need of some serious love, we made our offer and it was accepted.
Because it was at the beginning of December 2015, we waited to get through the busy Christmas season at the shop, so we rented it out and stayed in our condo until January, when we put it up for sale and accepted an offer fairly quickly. We had until March to move out, which gave us a lot of time to pack and say our farewells (even though it’s always left until the last minute anyway) and we moved into our new (old) house in April. We began painting right away: every single wall and our brick fireplace, and replacing all the light fixtures. The bathrooms upstairs were not holding up, so we decided to renovate those sooner than expected in June, and that took about a month to complete.
Decorating is always an ongoing adventure, especially with a space that’s almost double the size that our condo was. But I wasn’t really finished enough to be truly happy with it until probably September. Things always take longer than expected; shop life keeps us really busy, so trying to squeeze in time for the house can be a struggle – emotionally, too, since I do take pride in making our space less house and more home. There were plenty of frustrations along the way, but it’s looking so cozy and sweet now that it was all worth it in the end!
What drew you to this house?
Most certainly the lot size. Ultimately, our plan will be to tear down the house and rebuild our dream home (yes, we will be those people on the block!), which might also be the only way we are able to afford the space we really want. I am more about quality over quantity, so the rebuild will be about the fixtures and special features over the high square footage. Who needs extra, bare rooms to keep clean? Not us!
What also drew us to this house is the unique layout. It’s a ‘70s three-level-split home but not like any others out there we’ve seen. It boasts a large foyer and dreamy living room, with a dining space along with a bar area we created. An original, three-sided brick gas fireplace keeps us cozy, and the master bedroom even has a walk-in closet! Not the largest walk-in around, but I’ll take what I can get!
What were your priorities/ on your ‘must change this’ list when it came time to renovate?
The bathrooms were high on the list; painting was probably first since it seemed easiest at the time (ha ha ha – Pav will have a laugh over thinking it would be easy) as well as changing the lights. The house also needed updated blinds – we went way too long without real window coverings, but did put curtains up in the meantime for at least a little bit of privacy. Meanwhile, I was finding some additional furniture for the space and planning our feature dining room wall.
We also decided what we wouldn’t be focusing on, which was the kitchen. We figured since we were planning on tearing down eventually anyway, and it already came with stainless steel appliances, there was no use in increasing the value of a room that wouldn’t exist in five years. Five years – that’s the plan: live in the current space for as long as we can and hopefully not longer than five years. We tend to work quicker than we think, so we will see how things eventually turn out!
What do you love/ hate about renovating an older home?
The hate is for the delays; the things that go wrong; the new things that need attention when you’re still working on the “old” things. The love is the satisfaction from seeing your work complete; the joy of accomplishing projects on your own home; the chaos of working on it with your husband – and enjoying the space together each night after a long day at work.
How is this home different from your previous place?
It’s old! It’s also twice the size. There have been a lot of additions made to the house over the last forty years and not all of them were done well. There have definitely been some challenges, but we also saw a lot of potential. It’s unique and homey, and the yard is a huge plus!
How did you make changes on a budget?
We took on a lot all at once, so we knew we had to stick to a strict budget for updating the house. Pav took on the painting (as much as he doesn’t love it) with his parents helping out, to save some money on labor. We did have a team helping us manage the bathrooms, but we were able to use the same group that is currently working on the new build of Pav’s parents’ house and piggyback off of a larger project, so that helped us save some costs as well. Some of our feature light fixtures were a splurge (like the chandelier above the dining table), but because we bought several for different rooms, we were actually able to negotiate a better price which helped us save at least $200 – that was a bonus.
The hardest part is working one month at a time and not being able to buy everything all at once – isn’t that always the case? Pav had to remind me that we needed to wait some purchases out, like bringing sweet new pieces home from the shop (always a struggle) or our dream sofa. Good things come to those who wait – and, for now, we are enjoying the space and the fact that we can take a break from maintenance work.
How do you make your house ‘yours’?
Putting a room together doesn’t come easy for everyone; there are some things to remember about the placement of chairs in a living room or how rugs can make a space warm and cohesive. But, for the most part, do what you love. Does that art make you feel good? Throw it on the wall. Not sure if the cushion matches but you love it so much? Grab it for your couch! Magazines are meant to serve as inspiration, not rule books. You don’t have to worry about making your place “magazine-perfect” so long as it’s perfect to you, and your quirkiness and love will show through to whomever steps through your home.
Can you put a dream rug over existing carpet (which, by the way, you can!)? Do it, if it feels right to you! You’ll make it perfect with your own charm and personalization. I say, don’t be afraid to make some design moves. And, honestly, a fresh coat of paint can make anything, anything, look great. Got a China cabinet or headboard that’s dated but you can’t part with? There’s nothing a little coat of FAT paint (a local chalk style paint company) can’t fix! You’ll be hooked and want to paint everything you own!
What are the quirks and fun thing about decorating an older home vs a new, all- white house? Do you love it, hate it? Or both?
We got lucky with our place; it came with all these rooms that we could do whatever we wanted with. We can turn the downstairs into the man-cave (or Pav-cave!); we can have a bar area for extra seating when we entertain for dinner; we get to have an extra-large foyer that we can make pretty for guests as they first enter our home. It’s not new, it’s not white and pristine – it’s old and a little rickety (in a good way! There can be a good way, right?) and charming as hell!
It was full of wood paneling that we painted white (for our own makeshift wainscoting) but also included cedar ceilings which add something unique. There is a tonne of space (our condo furniture basically fits into one room- our family room) that we get to work with, and also a lovely yard and deck that we can eventually redesign as well. I do miss our condo sometimes, I just loved it so much. But now we get to have an adorable new space to call home, and even though it came with some struggles, we know we made the right decision (especially Pav– I don’t think I could get him to pay another strata fee again!).
What’s next on the list?
Adding to the décor! We also still (still!) have some unpacking to do, so we will complete this hopefully early in the New Year. We are borrowing my Mum & Dad’s couches right now in our living room; we already have our dream sofa picked out so hopefully we can pick that up in January as well. I plan to move the current furniture downstairs, and grab the new sofa along with new coffee/side tables to update the living room to complete it. Working in the environment I do, it’s definitely hard to not bring one of everything home with me every day!
The value of our home is in the lot. With the eventual plan to tear down and rebuild, we focused our attention on cosmetic changes like new carpet for upstairs, paint, light fixtures, blinds, heat vent covers, and, soon, little things like new door handles upstairs for all the rooms and matching light and plug covers. The bathrooms were the biggest job, and while we tried to keep the renovation budgeted, we knew we could spend a little more on things we could keep for the rebuild, like good toilets and shower fixtures, and spent a little less on the tiles, which we can’t later salvage. The soaker tub was new but we found it on Craig’s List (hooray!) and both vanities were from IKEA – we saved on these and I love them! I would not hesitate to keep them for some spare bathrooms in our future new home. If we do decide to update our kitchen next year, we will likely limit it to painting the backsplash and counter tops, just to make them more liveable (and likeable!). I found some pretty great tutorials on Pinterest that would make for a fun project!
What tips do you have for anyone looking to redecorate/ renovate/ do a facelift?
Get a lot of quotes! Talk to as many people as you can about your project list, especially people you already know– there are always great recommendations to be made through word-of-mouth. If it weren’t for the team that was already working on Pav’s parents’ new place, we would’ve worked with the same contractor that built our shop. That was a dream-team!
Also, try out some new DIY ideas (like painting your backsplash in the kitchen!), especially if you’re in a situation like us where you will eventually tear down anyway. They will probably turn out great, and you can spread the word and help friends and family with their DIY inspiration!
Finally, take your time. I had to come to terms with the fact that not everything could be updated at once, and that’s okay – you will learn to love the space and your guests will likely not even notice all the details that you know are still missing. Enjoy the adventure, whether you are doing it with a partner or experiencing it on your own. In the end, it’ll be the satisfaction of your own hard work and dedication that’ll make you smile everyday.
Piya and I have more home- inspo coming to you in the new year! Stay tuned for more in our home sweet home series soon!
The Handpicked Home
1406 Johnson Road, White Rock, BC
Facebook: The Handpicked Home
Photo credit (‘after’ photos): Akane Kondo Photography
Facebook: Akane Kondo Photography