From what we have all have seen on home improve shows, you really can make any house into exactly the home you have always wanted: all it takes is tearing everything out down to the studs, knocking out every non-loadbearing wall, and installing all new cabinets, appliances, flooring, and drywall. Just kidding. Well, sort of. Though if you watch home improvement reruns often enough, there really seems to be a similar path that most major remodels take that results in the most beautiful home exactly perfect for the family moving to their “forever home.” But like most everything on television, what you see on a show is almost never practical in real life. The majority of us don’t have the time, money, access to skilled labor, and county permits required to make a house the perfect home of our dreams. What all of us need to hear, though, is that not having all of those things is okay: it’s okay to learn to love the house you have without adding shiplap to every wall or turning your galley kitchen into a cooking studio fit for Gordon Ramsey.
Turning the house you have into the home you love in three steps: add in what you love, remove what you absolutely don’t like, and simplify the rest.
This may seem simple, but it’s true. Those initial days of empty rooms, piles of moving boxes, and eating takeout on folding chairs are not an accurate reflection of what a house will look like when you turn it into your home. Chase away weird smells with candles in your favorite scents or fresh air from wide-open windows. Turn on music that makes you happy. Find something funny to make you laugh. While those are all intangible things, adding in that what you love makes a difference. Then you can start adding in the tangibles.
Divide what you want to bring into your home into two main categories: what is easily removeable and what is more permanent.
Rugs, furniture, lamps, or houseplants all make a huge difference in the feel of a home. They add personal style, and can hide or distract the eye from the parts of your house that you maybe wish you could change. A well-placed rug or two is a less expensive option than reflooring. If re-wiring is not on your list of to-dos, adding in lamps can add brighten a room without enough light or soften the harshest fluorescent overhead light. Items that are easily moved from one home to the next are the perfect opportunity to really display your personal style. Maybe you like bright colors, or unique themes – instead of painting anything electric blue, accessories in your signature color will leave your walls a clean slate for the family who comes after you.
When adding in more permanent additions to your home, stick to the neutrals or classics; there are colors and designs that stand the test of time, and there are those that do not. We’ve all watched Home Alone wondering what Kate McAllister was thinking with that plaid wallpaper and dark green tile in the kitchen. If your customization and renovation budget includes the money for new paint, wallpaper, or flooring, consider what will look good five months, five years, AND fifteen years from now. Creams, greys, real wood flooring or subtle tiles, really any neutral allows you to freshen your home while keeping it ready for the next owners, too.
One of the perks about frequent PCS’ing is the opportunity to live in many different homes and discover what you like, and what you absolutely cannot stand in a home. As with most things, I have found that it is the small things that add up to unbearable levels of annoyance; the good news is that means they are usually things that can be easily fixed or changed.
Window coverings are usually top on my list of things to notice, measure, and change. Vertical vinyl blinds are one of my least favorite things to look at on a daily basis, and while I understand their practicality, I have to get rid of them. Installing sturdy curtain rods, or maybe subtle rolling shades, will change the room’s atmosphere immediately, and do not require a permit or specialty tools beyond a screwdriver, stud finder, and level.
On the last remodel my husband and I did, one of the first things to go in the kitchen was the microwave. I haven’t needed one in the last four houses we have had, I certainly don’t need one now. But I do need more cabinet and counter space; pulling out the microwave cost me nothing (except the dump fee), and I just used a scrap of wallpaper to line the cabinet it emptied and made a perfect place for all of my tea and coffee accessories. While removing the microwave may seem like an extreme move, especially if you’re considering reselling your home fairly soon, consider what you CAN remove that will make the biggest difference to your personal preferences.
Regardless of what the media may make it seem like, there are parts of a living house that cannot be edited out no matter how much it’s an eyesore or annoyance. Every house I have ever lived in has had an ugly circuit breaker box somewhere prominent. They’re necessary, and you can’t have electricity in your home without one, so find a way to blend it in. If you’re painting, consider painting it the same color as the wall, or use the correct patch of wallpaper to “hide it in plain sight.” Easy access is still key – you know Murphy’s law will mean you need to access a fuse the minute you put it behind a carefully mounted painting. Cords are another reality that is often edited out of “perfect world” images. Take the time to bundle and wrap cords to get them out of sight, or at least not in a tangled web.
Look for the problem areas in your home – the laundry room and pantry are two of the roughest parts of my home. If the problem is something you can fix, consider doing it: add wire shelving to your pantry or install overhead cabinets in your laundry area. If it is an area of frustration to you, chances are it will be a point of frustration for the next owners, and they will appreciate the time you took to address it the functionality of those areas.
Learning to love the home you’re in does not mean turning a blind eye to everything that you don’t love, or immediately ripping out drywall and kitchen cabinets. It can be as simple as bringing in a new rug or throw pillow in your favorite color, or as permanent as ripping out shag carpet for a durable neutral flooring. Consider your budget, what you already own, what you can do yourself, what will be timeless additions, and make a priority list of what you would do first, and you’re well on your way to making the changes that make a house a home. And don’t forget to insure all these wonderful improvements you’ve made. Armed Forces Insurance serves the needs of the U.S. military to find the best insurance coverage at the best price!
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