Meg Hemmelgarn chronicles the process of renovating houses on her blog Green With Decor. She’s a big believer in DIY and celebrates the joy of being a homeowner and tackling projects on your own — you can see her handiwork for yourself on her knockout Instagram. We sat down with Meg to find out what her process is when starting a renovation project, how she thinks about resale and why she likes the color green so much.
1. Why green?
I’ve just always loved green, especially the lighter shades you can see throughout our kitchen, bathroom, living room and basically the whole house! Green is a fresh color. I always think you should add a bit of life to a room in terms of plants and flowers (even if they’re faux) to make a space feel finished.
2. How do you prioritize during a massive renovation project?
We’ve always placed high priority on the kitchen. It’s a room you spend a lot of time in every day. Plus, if you’re planning a big renovation, the kitchen cabinets and countertops will most likely be your biggest expenses, so it’s best to know what those costs are and then plan the rest of your budget from there. We knew we wanted nice counters and were OK with spending a chunk of our budget on beautiful quartz counters. You can always spend a bit less on accents such as cabinet hardware or light fixtures and swap them out later when you’re not in the middle of a renovation spending spree.
3. How do you begin a kitchen or bath project?
I always start by playing around with what different layouts would look like and what the cost of those would be. For example, moving plumbing is expensive and might make your layout decision for you. I’m really big on having enough natural light in our house, too, so window placement is always important to us. Then I focus on countertops and cabinets. I do this for a few reasons: They’re the more costly part of renovations, they’re permanent fixtures, and they take up a lot of space in the finished room.
4. How much do you consider ROI when you renovate a kitchen or bath?
We definitely keep return on investment in mind while renovating. In our first house in Cincinnati, we knew it wasn’t going to be our forever home since we wanted to return to my hometown of Milwaukee, so that was always at the forefront of our minds.
Think about the big fixtures in a house that are harder to change — kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities and countertops come to mind. You can always paint walls, switch out light fixtures, swap out window treatments and mirrors; all those small pieces can be updated to a buyer’s taste. But the bigger pieces, like room layouts and functions are what most buyers are interested in.
5. What DIY tricks do you recommend for home upgrades?
Small things make such a big difference. We’ve started replacing some light fixtures to add a bit more character in our house, especially in our home office. I’ve also painted some old furniture, which gives a room a more unique feel. Plus, you can take furniture with you when you move, so it’s an investment in the long term.
6. What are you looking for in a new home?
Moving from Milwaukee to Springfield, Illinois, we’re looking for a house with good bones in a good location, but we like to take on renovations ourselves instead of paying more for a house renovated in someone else’s style. It’s rare to get the chance to make over an entire house for just a couple of years, so we’re going to take advantage of it and have fun. Of course, the flip side is that we’re definitely planning to sell this new home in just a couple of years, so resale has to be a factor in pretty much every decision we make.
7. What’s your favorite project of all time?
I would say my favorite room renovation has been the kitchen in our Milwaukee house. I love the combination of white cabinets, silver finishes and green accents.
In terms of furniture makeovers, this desk is my favorite. It was my grandparents’ a long time ago, and my grandfather was a writer just like I am. It means so much to me that I sit and work at the desk where he built his career, too.
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