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Considering A Renovation? Read This First

First, I’ll state that I am in NO way shape or form an expert on renovation or design. To be clear, my knowledge of home renovation stems from obsessively watching HGTV for the last 10 years and having a big brother who was a contractor for 20+ years. I have my Pinterest boards, love strolling through design showrooms on weekends and have two amazing friends, Keki and Ann, who inspire me daily. If you want to hear from real experts, they are your gals.

Aside from that – it’s the blind leading the blind. Wanted to throw that out there to check your expectations of me. However, since I just went through (well, still going through) a renovation, I thought I’d share some of my beginner tips!

I live in Chicago, which is an expensive city, so we just bought our very first home. YAY! When we signed on the dotted line, I couldn’t wait to move in and call it home. Finally! No more sharing a bathroom with three boys. I know, right! Torture. Go pee on your own toilet seat now! Just saying. No more sharing walls – even though my neighbors have always been pretty cool! And, no more tight living quarters for my boys. Thank you sweet Jesus.

But, before we could move in we had a LOT of work to do. The house had great bones, but was outdated and not our taste. The 90s were an interesting time. Lots of browns, dark greens, mustard yellows and in this house – a lot of teal. Since I just crawled my way out of the “baby stage” of my life and no longer have to change 1000s of diapers a day (okay, sometimes it just felt like 1000s) – those are colors I don’t care to see for a very long time. So, we changed everything!

What we’ve done so far and some (wanna be pro?) tips:

Paint the inside of the entire house.

  • HIRE someone to paint your ceilings unless you want to be at the chiropractor every day the rest of your life. WORTH the money. You can paint the easy stuff: bathrooms, inside of closets, small bedrooms, etc.
  • If you need help painting, ask for a recommendation on a neighborhood or mom Facebook group! You can find someone who does side jobs and get a deal. I paid a fraction of what it would normally cost to do my main floor because I gave the business to an independent guy who just wanted some extra cash.

Gutted and redid our kitchen.

  • Facebook Market Place – USE IT! It would have cost us $1000 in demo with our kitchen contractor to remove our old kitchen, so I posted it on FB Market Place! I prefaced with ONLY contractors or experienced handymen to remove, that way they didn’t destroy the walls and/or plumbing. Someone came with his team who renovates properties and removed our old kitchen – granite and all! I made money and saved the $1000 it would have cost to demo. There are also non-profits that will come and take it out for free and use it to build homes, etc.
  • Go small. We love supporting small businesses! We used Boca Cabinets (if you live in Chicago – they are amazing!). They were several thousand less in pricing than other big box stores and we got a great product.
  • Pay people in cash if you can! We had saved up for renovation so had cash for the larger items. If you pay in cash you avoid the credit card transaction fee and they will pass that savings on to you.



Refinished the fire place.

  • We hired someone to do this, but I think after a few YouTube videos we could have done it ourself. We ended up doing most of one of our bathrooms and several other jobs ourselves – after learning how to do it on Youtube! You can do a lot more than you think you can!



Remodeled Guest Bathroom.

  • Negotiate! Contractors (or anyone in sales) usually throws out the higher prices because they are ready for you to bring it down. A lot of people take the first price and consider it the final. I’ve been in sales my whole life – so I love to negotiate a deal! You want to be fair and pay people for their hard work, but you also don’t want to be ripped off. The worst they can say is no! I didn’t pay any of the original quotes on any work in this house. Just ask, “Is the best you can do?”, or get several quotes and see who will match the lowest one.
  • Use the same contractor, or his connections, for multiple jobs. This will allow for more negotiation – and you won’t have to worry about scheduling issues.

Ripped out all carpet and put in hardwoods.

  • We (my husband, my 7 year old son and myself) ripped out all the carpet. Easy peasy and saved on labor!
  • Paid in cash to get discounts for hard wood.
  • While you’re doing the floors, might as well replace all the base boards and shoe. It makes the house look instantly better – and updated!

My stairs are my favorite thing in the house. I just love them!



Replaced all doors.

  • We did all our shopping during black Friday sales – so paid almost half for all the interior doors, closet doors and appliances AND carpet for our basement. Wait for those sales around the holiday times.
  • We removed all the casings ourselves and painted all the doors, again, to save on labor.
  • SELL all your old stuff on FB MARKET PLACE! I’m telling you – we sold all our old appliances, closet bi-fold doors, trim, etc. on FB. We were making money as fast as we were spending it.

Repainted all our outdoor decks.

  • Must easier and cheaper than sanding and staining.
  • A good ole’ power washer can make a world of difference, too.

Remodeled our guest bathroom.

  • Did demo ourselves and hired a handyman to help install new vanity, toilet, and lay the tile.

We still have our two upstairs bathrooms to finish, which we will get to next year. We did all of the above in three weeks, you guys. Three weeks. It was mayhem, but we made it happen and I still can’t believe this is my home. Now, on to filling it and putting in the final touches.  This is where my blogger and IG design friends come in!

My last bit of advice is to have fun and keep your eyes on the prize. It’s all worth it in the end, I promise! You can check out the process and more before and afters on my Insta Stories under “Home”.

Share your renovation secrets with us in the comments!





About Me


Holly Rust

Chicago Boy Mom – Author – Side-Gigging CEO On The Go. Social Media Maven. Eternal optimist. Lover of travel, food, style & beauty. Follow my random thoughts, favorite things and life shenanigans here. Be sure to follow me on social, too! Links below.

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