How Jenni Radosevich of I Spy DIY Flips Houses

Read about her road to renovating 100-year-old houses and her top tips for developing your own decorating style. (Hint: It's not on the Internet!)

Jenni Radosevich standing in renovated kitchen
Image courtesy of Jenni Radosevich. Photo: Image courtesy of Jenni Radosevich.

It all started with thrift-store clothes. As a young girl, Jenni Radosevich, the blogger behind I Spy DIY, would repurpose the garments to mimic designer fashions. The native Midwesterner has stayed true to her DIY roots, but now she's carrying out projects on a much larger scale. Last year, she tackled a home remodel in Milwaukee and premiered in an HGTV pilot show, My Flippin' Friends. Her latest venture is a weathered 140-year-old home with board-and-batten siding and original wood floors. We got the lowdown on the project, why she loves working with old houses, and how she feels about so-called design rules.

How would you describe your design style?

Everchanging? It keeps evolving as time goes on, and with each old house I renovate, I like to let any original parts of the house guide the look and style. My latest renovation is a big 1875 red house that we nicknamed the Barnhouse, so there are hints of deep red and rustic wood in the interior.

Who or what inspires you?

I honestly have tried to step away from looking online too much and have been going to thrift and antique stores to guide my inspiration. With the Barnhouse, I have been looking at old European homes to spark ideas.

What are your go-to colors?

I have been experimenting more with dark colors recently. A guest room in my last renovation is a deep green (Hostaleaf), and I am painting a bathroom a dark blue (Blue Metal). It has been fun to step outside of my comfort zone of white.

What is your favorite piece of decorating advice?

I think right now it can be tempting to see a room you like online and copy it, but add things that are uniquely you. Goodwill and local antique stores are a great place for special finds. Also, experiment with paint—it can make a big impact and it's not permanent!

What has been your biggest renovation challenge?

Working with super old houses can be challenging, but I love having to work with the sometimes strange layouts or quirks of an 1800s house. I think it would be way more overwhelming to design a house from scratch!

What is your proudest DIY moment?

My first renovation was an entire gut job of an 1895 house, and we completed it in four months because it was being filmed for an HGTV pilot! It was a crash course in renovation, and I got my hands dirty every day working on it. We didn't get a whole season, but I was beyond proud of having completed the house and how it turned out.

Do you have any design rules?

I find myself breaking the rules I thought I had to design by all the time. Mixing metals in the kitchen or bathrooms, using different woods, stepping out of my color comfort area: All are okay and exciting to try!

What are your favorite sources for finding decor?

I have some brands I love to work with, like Kohler, The Tile Shop, The Home Depot, and World Market. I also think it's important to find local makers, shops, and antique stores and support all the entrepreneurs in your city. Some of my favorites in Milwaukee are Antiques on Pierce, URSA, Specter, Form Fine Goods, Covet and Ginger, and The Loom House.

How has your style evolved over time?

So much! Six years ago, I was attempting to make my 350-square-foot apartment in Manhattan look somewhat cute, then I moved to Milwaukee and now I am renovating and decorating entire houses! I am still learning as I go, and I ask a ton of questions to everyone working on the house. It's amazing how understanding things like refinishing old hardwood flooring can direct how you design a space. I am finding that I really love highlighting the original character of the home.

What are you working on right now or what are you most excited about?

We are just finishing up the Bay View barnhouse renovation, and I have been taking my readers along every step of the way on Instagram stories. It has been so fun to get their feedback, and I can't wait to start sharing the before and afters as we finish them!

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