DIY Small Home Makeover (On a Dime!)

home exterior
When these owners moved into their new charming cottage, they knew the space would take a little love and a lot of work to become a beautiful and hard-working home for their family. Learn how they made the most of a small floor plan and a small budget.

Before: Almost-There Cottage

This 60-year-old cottage was charming even before renovations, thanks to its sun-filled spaces, large bedrooms, and sprawling yard. However, the owners knew the 1,300-square-foot house required attention and patience before their labor of love became the home they always knew it could be.


After: Charming Curb Appeal

Repainting the home a soft gray added modern appeal to its cottage style. Thoughtful upgrades, such as a window box, a custom-crafted door, strap hinges on the garage door, and lantern-style light fixtures, elevate the home's look.

Colorful Welcome

The bamboo seat, a local find, was the perfect fit for the cottage's narrow entryway. The Kelly green block print design was stenciled on the wall to bring a hint of color to the space. A hanging mirror reflects the natural light coming in through the front door.

Before: Gawky and Outdated

A pink living room? No thanks! That and the large bay window, through great for sunshine, proved tricky  to furnish and dress. The family took their time renovating the room, waiting to see how they used it and how it worked best for them. 

After: Everyday Design

After getting used to the space, the owners decided to turn their large bay into a window seat for the kids and dog to sit on. Curtains were threaded onto painted plumbing pipe -- unlike expandable curtain rods, pipe at that length does not require a middle support, and it's cheaper, too.

After: Pop of Color

Light walls and bright, colorful accents in navy and magenta give the living room a modern appeal that's a far cry from its original pink. Smaller-scale furniture doesn't overpower the small room, but it took time to source. The owners scoured Craigslist, antiques malls, and local shops to save money and space, as vintage furniture is often smaller in scale than much of what's manufactured today and less expensive, too. 

After: Accent Alternative

Though the living room doesn't have a fireplace, it does have a gorgeous carved mantel to set off one wall. The painted mirror reflects a cluster of white pottery; branches painted white give the mantel real fireplace appeal.

Before: Awkward Layout

The family first envisioned the dining room as most people do: a formal space for holiday gatherings. But over time, they noticed the room was being used day in and day out for kids' art projects, parties, and a pass-through to the backyard. 

After: Multipurpose Dining Room

The dining room chandelier was painted a vibrant red to bring out its fun lines, and an electrician moved the fixture just off-center to be positioned over the table, which was shift over to improve the traffic pattern to the backyard through the French doors. The slim table under the mirror was once a wider console table that was cut in half, then set end-to-end and secured against the wall. Medium tone blue walls play up the navy blue accents.

After: Creative Artwork

Collected china plates repurposed as art for the dining room wall showcase plenty of color and personality and complement the ceramics on the table below. The owner used paper templates to find the right arrangement for their collection of cool plate castoffs.

Before: So-Close Kitchen

The kitchen already had a solid layout and worked well enough for the homeowners that they didn't need to work on it immediately, giving them time to focus on other rooms first. The dark countertops and appliances were their main struggle, plus the busy wallpaper above the cabinets.

After: Easy Update

New appliances, butcher-block countertops, black bin pulls and knobs, and a fancy pendant over the sink provided the just-right lift the kitchen needed. Any evidence of the old, dark decor has been replaced with light, bright additions.

Before: Unadorned Hallway

Until renovations started, the small hallway between the bedrooms and bathroom and living areas of the home was just a pass-through where no one would stop to do anything, but would walk through all day long. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to decorate, the owners simply asked themselves, "What would I want to look at?"

After: Spectacular Space

A gallery of family photos, prints, and artwork in a mix of black and white frames creates a happy vignette in the previously empty hallway. Hanging them en masse and nearly to the ceiling makes the space feel taller and puts precious pictures on view for guests and family alike.

Relaxing Oasis

The small master bedroom layout took some work to conquer, and the best solution was to put the bed in front of the window. But since it is directly across from the bedroom door, the room has a distinct focal point. The same shades of blue used throughout the home come into play in the bedroom, but in smaller doses. Pairing the strong color with creamy yellow and crisp white helps the blue feel more serene. Softer tones avoid an overwhelmingly kitschy look.

Art on a Dime

Strips of wrapping paper trimmed in black ribbon craft custom art without a major cash investment. The homeowner hung the paper with 3M Command strips, which can be removed without ruining the paint or wall underneath.

Bright and Airy Bath

The house has just one bathroom and there's no hiding its size. To lighten and brighten the bath, white subway tile stretches up to the ceiling and a DIY extra-long shower curtain is hung near the ceiling to add height as well. The owners had trouble finding a small towel bar that didn't cost a fortune, so they made their own out of copper plumbing supplies -- it was dirt-cheap and fit the space perfectly.

Sweet and Sophisticated

The family's daughters picked the floral fabric on the lampshades for their room to be designed around. The framed silhouettes designate whose bed is whose (they were made by printing photos, cutting out the profiles, and tracing them onto paper), as do the monogrammed pillowcases. White walls keep the small space airy, while a bubblegum pink ceiling adds a whimsy touch overhead.

Creative Corner

A low bookcase in the girls' room corrals their toys in one spot that's easy for them to reach. On the wall above, favorite quotes, personal items, and the kids' artwork create a colorful (and inspirational) wall. The deer head gets different seasonal decorations: tulips in the spring, Christmas lights in the winter. 

Before: Bland Blueprint

The backyard left much to be desired. A rickety stairway off the porch, and a lack of landscaping gave the space a sparse look.

After: Blossoming Backyard

Sturdy, wide wood steps replaced the old set, and a fresh coat of white paint helps screen the view of a nearby house. Fresh plantings, containers, and bright blue furniture give the outdoor space personality.

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