Kay Volmar: How She Renovated a 1912 Florida Cottage Into Her Forever Home

On this episode of The Better Buy, Kay Volmar discusses virtual house hunting and how to stay positive–and on budget–when embarking on a long-term home renovation.

Blogger Kay Volmar for The Better Buy Podcast
Photo: Photo: Courtesy of Kay Volmar

The Better Buy, a new podcast from Better Homes & Gardens, explores all things home—from decorating and DIY to renovating and budgeting. Each week, we'll talk with homeowners from around the country about the highs and lows of home ownership, and share stories, advice, and practical tips you can put to work in your own home. We're on a mission to inspire and empower you to create your dream home. New episodes every Wednesday!

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On This Episode

Host Mélanie Berliet talks with Kay Volmar (@onceupona1912) about virtual house hunting after discovering her dream town in Florida, moving cross country, and embarking on a long-term renovation (seven years and counting) filled with highs and lows. She shares her tips on where to splurge and save money to stay on budget, and how patience and positivity kept her going.

Meet Kay Volmar

Kay Volmar was on a family trip to Walt Disney World when she discovered the small Florida town that would become her home. After months of virtual house hunting from her home in New York, she found a home built in 1912 and bought it sight unseen. "I'm a firm believer in searching for a home based on your lifestyle and the location, and not necessarily the home," says Volmar. For the past seven years, she's been using her DIY expertise to restore it to its former glory by preserving historical details while also modernizing spaces with her signature sophisticated, simple DIY style–and documenting it all on social media.

Advice from the Episode

Kay shares the important lessons she's learned while tackling her renovation project.

Kay Volmar

We still had a house in Long Island. The house in New York had not been sold yet. So number one, I was limited financially. Number two, I wasn't completely sure what was going to happen on the inside at that point. And number three, I had not been able to find reliable contractors to work with. So I decided to approach it like that age old adage, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' So the first step was to work on the front porch. After switching out the door to one that was a little bit bigger and doing a couple of other modifications on the porch, I decided to paint the door a very happy color (Waterscape by Sherwin-Williams.). What that color did was give me hope. It kind of reminded me, every time I pulled up of what the house would eventually become. … I knew I wanted it to be a happy place, a vibrant place, and a very light and airy place. And that's what the color represented. It represented happiness and hope.

—Kay Volmar

Where to Start with a Home Renovation

  • Take a renovation project one small step at a time to make it more manageable.
  • Kay began her project by painting her front door a happy color.

Kay Volmar

I believe that good art is worth splurging on. I think that there are certain statement pieces – preferably ones that are not trendy at all, things that are a classic, that need to be splurged on. I adore art. I live in a very artistic town and I believe in supporting local artists. If you find a good piece that's special, that resonates with you, I say splurge on it and it will stand the test of time. Comfortable seating is number two, because I'm a big time lounger. Like, we lounge a lot at this house. I have a really great fluffy couch that I love to take naps on. Couches and mattresses are things that absolutely should be splurged on because these things affect your life.

—Kay Volmar

What Is Something Worth Splurging On

  • Good art is always worth the splurge.
  • Places where you sit are also worth the investment. Consider investing in good couches and mattresses.

Kay Volmar

What makes a space feel more welcoming is how you feel about your space. If I feel completely comfortable about my space, I think I'll give off that energy to people who come into my home. It's all a matter of creating a welcoming space based on what you envision to be welcoming for yourself. There are homes that I may go into that are what some people may not consider professionally designed, but, my goodness, the warmth is there. The vibe of the family, the hospitality of the individuals who I'm coming to see. I think that is more important than what you do aesthetically.

—Kay Volmar

What Makes a Space Welcoming

  • Your space is all about how you feel in it. It's important to be comfortable!
  • The feel and vibe of a home is more important that the look.

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