Ursula Carmona's four-year remodeling project has done much more than create a beautiful home for her family. It has expanded her DIY skills, self-confidence, and comfort zone—not to mention her tool collection.

By Lacey Howard and Kendra Surface
January 11, 2021
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"When you love beautiful things and all you dream about is designing a lovely home but you have no money to make it happen, you learn to DIY," says Ursula Carmona. For the past eight years, Carmona has been the voice, designer, and do-it-herself wiz behind the Instagram account and blog Home Made by Carmona.

And do it all she does. But her skills haven't developed without work, dedication, and some swallow-your-fear moments. "My first time using a power tool, I was terrified," she says. "I had an older circular saw from a garage sale and was worried the blade would fall off and possibly kill me. I made my husband watch from afar (just in case) and made my first cut." Ever since, she's been cutting and Kreg jigging and pocket screwing her way to a beautiful home, tackling ambitious projects like her living room built-ins and her sunny walk-in closet. "From that first cut forward, it has been my goal to grow and challenge my DIY skills."

Credit: David A. Land

Carmona's expertise took a giant leap when she, husband Orlando, and daughters Fiora, Priya, and Sayuri moved to a 16-acre property in North Carolina four years ago. The 2,500-square-foot, circa 1975 house had been on the market for more than a year and needed lots of love, Carmona says. "But nothing needed to be torn down, which made it the perfect project for a novice DIYer." Since the move, she's gotten crash courses on wiring basic electrical, tackling minor plumbing, building headboards, and installing wainscoting. "Not everyone—myself included—can afford to hire someone, and not everyone has a helping hand either," she says. "I want to share the process of a solo remodel, encouraging others along the way."

Painting the walls and fireplace a neutral color meant Carmona could layer on her signature recipe of rich blues and greens in the furnishings and accents in the family room. A tall floor mirror at the back helps amplify the natural light.

Credit: David A. Land

Motivation might be Carmona's superpower. "Everything I do and share is to encourage people who may be where I have been," she says. Her followers inspire her to continue learning and to push past any fear of the unknown (or the garage sale circular saw). "When I power through that fear, I realize that in two days, two weeks, or two months, I will have a new skill and something I can be really proud of—something made with my own two hands."

Taking out most of the wall between the kitchen and dining room (a cased opening remains) helped turn a junk storage spot into an eating area without major construction.

Credit: David A. Land

When designing the living room, Carmona says, "I asked myself, What would encourage us to be closer as family?" The answer: game nights. So she built a board game table with shallow drawers to store puzzles. Carmona chose to paint her built-ins a satin black so the TV would blend in when off.

Credit: David A. Land

"I'm the daughter of an artist," Carmona says, "so art is my weakness." She turned a bare wall under the stairs into a gallery of landscape photos unified with golden frames.

Left: Credit: David A. Land
Right: Credit: David A. Land

Fiora (above, far right) inherited her mom's entrepreneurial spirit and spends her spare time writing a culinary blog, Cooking with Carmona. A large island gives the 16-year-old space to test and photograph her creations.

Credit: David A. Land

This project began with a couple of lower cabinets Carmona found on the side of the road. It's the go-to space for the kids to do homework and proof you don't need a whole room to create an office.

Credit: David A. Land

Carmona admits that experts discourage having work spaces in the bedroom. But for her, the room is a quiet, private space where she can sketch and blog. The desk works as a mini office and nightstand.

Credit: David A. Land

Carmona's boutique-like walk-in closet, with its natural light and statement wallpaper, is a follower favorite. A vanity she made by pairing a gold-framed wall mirror and rescued dresser gives the space a luxurious, feminine look.

Credit: David A. Land

Priya, 15, the resident artist, prints her designs on fabric. Carmona used yardage of Priya's floral design to upholster her headboard. Nailhead trim pairs with golden hardware on the rest of the decor.

Credit: David A. Land

In the laundry room, Carmona customized a prefab storage unit with cubbies on top that she painted to match. Golden hardware shines against the gray.

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