This DIY Modern Home Renovation Was Worth the Decade-Long Wait

A creative couple took years to renovate their 1955 ranch—using the time to protect their budget, perfect their minimal modern style, and enjoy family life.

For one of his first home projects, Jarrod Allen went to the bank, handed over $5, and asked for change: "Can I have it all in nickels, please?" he asked. After years spent emptying wallets, looking under sofa cushions, and asking kids Jude, 12, and Eva, 10, to search their piggy banks, the change finally yielded enough five-cent spacers for him to install the kitchen wall planks.

Nickels for nickel-gap paneling—not every DIYer leans so much toward authenticity, but Jarrod does. As a product designer, he makes a living smoothing technicalities. His photographer wife, Stacy, who chronicles this makeover at Mountainside Home, is equally detail-oriented.

family portrait in modern white kitchen
Laurey Glenn

Perhaps it's no surprise that the renovation of their simple 1955 ranch near Birmingham, Alabama, took 10 years. They talked about hiring help to speed up the process, but other than the few occasions they needed a pro, they learned from each project and took the time to do it themselves. "There would be an unconventional method that would pop into my head that I wanted to try," Jarrod says, "or a really important detail that I wanted to be involved in to have it turn out correctly."

The gradual transformation allowed the couple to research, plan, search for low-cost materials, and learn new skills. There's been an upside to the slow roll, Stay says: "It took us a long time, but I'm thankful for that. It helped that we slowed down to create aspects of our house that are timeless."

After saving their tax refunds for years, Stacy and Jarrod had the money to tackle their kitchen. They kept the project under $10,000 by hiring out only the tiling, electrical, and plumbing work.

modern neutral tones living room
Laurey Glenn

Jarrod and Stacy look to Scandinavia, Japan, and Australia for modern design ideas for their 1,200-square-foot ranch. They built the living room credenza out of IKEA cabinets and mounted it to float above the floor for a clean look sans legs.

Stacy asked Jarrod to help refinish her grandmother's dresser on their first date, and from there a DIY-focused marriage was born. They redid their kitchen for less than $10,000. Kids Jude and Eva get in on the renovating, too. "Both are handy but in different ways," Jarrod says.

girl reading at counter in kitchen
Laurey Glenn

Eva perches at the live-edge bar that Jarrod created from a piece of walnut milled by a friend's grandfather. He mounted it by hiding white brackets in notches he cut into the wall paneling and the bottom of the wood. A hand-rubbed Danish oil application darkens the walnut initially, but the wood naturally lightens over time. To get the look of high-end metallic-tip bulbs, Stacy bought Edison-style bulbs at The Home Depot, taped off the bottom, and spray-painted them with brass-color paint.

modern dining room with three pictures on wall
Laurey Glenn

Jarrod used a nail gun and nickels as spacers between 1x6 boards. The thin shadows created by the spaces give the walls extra dimension. To get clean edges as he wrapped the corners, Jarrod mitered the boards at 45-degree angles.

To make their dining table, Stacy and Jarrod bought vintage heart pine from a local reclaimed-wood store and protected it by applying Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. They added hairpin legs bought off Etsy and Eames-style chairs. Stacy shot the family photos; extra-large mats provide a sleek presentation.

home office in black and white with colorful rug
Laurey Glenn

Wall paneling runs vertically in the home office for a little extra interest. The desk gets hard use by the whole family for DIY project research, materials ordering, homework, and Stacy's photography business. She and Jarrod formed the desk out of a butcher-block countertop, a storage cabinet from IKEA, and a metal sawhorse-style leg.

"I can only work on nights and weekends, so I feel like I need to work until the sun sets. But I've learned there's not a benefit to doing something after there's nothing left in the tank," Jarrod says. "If I stop at a reasonable time, take a shower, and eat some dinner with the family, everything goes better."

bedroom with black accent wall and hanging light
Laurey Glenn

For Christmas last year, Jude got a bedroom redo that included a striking black wall covered in V-groove boards. Jude helped his dad make the concrete side table after they watched a how-to video online. A statement light has huge style impact in the small space and the fixture was just $20.

bedroom with wooden wall grate and hanging lights
Laurey Glenn

On her blog, Stacy cautions readers that their headboard was a complex project involving lots of time-consuming cuts and piecing. They control the sconces with voice commands through their Google Home app, and Jarrod attached chargers under the nightstands to power their phones wirelessly for a minimalist simplicity. Jarrod mounted the maple boards using hidden french cleats that run vertically as brackets.

black and white bathroom with wood counter
Laurey Glenn

The Allens offered the contractor for their new primary bathroom the same approach to timing to ensure they got just what they wanted. "We gave grace on the timeline because we wanted things done correctly. We had waited six years for this bathroom, so what's four months more?" Stacy says. "And since it was an addition, it wasn't happening in a part of the house where we frequented, so waiting didn't affect our daily lives."

The large, light-filled, primary-bath addition was worth the wait. Jarrod and Stacy hired a contractor to erect the basic structure, then they took it from there. Jarrod found a welder to make the shower frame and a painter to powder-coat it, but he ordered and inserted the glass panels himself and installed the finished unit. The couple mounted the vanity cabinet to the wall, and Jarrod fashioned a waterfall countertop out of butcher block.

storage nook with woven plate decorations
Laurey Glenn

For this storage nook, the Allens anchored an IKEA kitchen cabinet to the wall and topped it with a piece of oak. Leftover cuts from butcher-block counters form the floating shelves. "We always order extra countertop to allow for mistakes," Stacy says.

Jarrod coated the porous wood countertop in water-base clear polyurethane. Every six to eight months, they wipe the surface with mineral oil approved for food contact. "That makes it toothbrush-friendly," he says.

coral towel hanging in black and white bathroom
Laurey Glenn

White 6×6-inch ceramic tile from the home center was an affordable choice to cover the walls and tub surround. Dark grout defines the tiles and mimics the grid pattern of the shower enclosure. Large charcoal-color tiles on the floor provide contrast in the all-white space.

Updated by
Cathy Still McGowin
Cathy Still McGowin has more than 20 years of writing experience and has worked as a freelance writer, editor, and stylist. She is an editor at Birmingham Home & Garden.
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