What’s a DIY renovation of an entire home like? Magnolia Network’s “First Time Fixer” shows that it might be even harder than you think.
In the episode “City Slickers to Farm Fixers,” Joshua and Melissa Gustafson renovate a house in Somerset, CA. This 1956 home cost them only $105,000 to buy, but their tiny $50,000 renovation budget quickly balloons to a whopping $200,000—and their six-week timeline stretches to 322 days.
Find out how the Gustafsons take on this huge project, and get plenty of tips on what to do (and not do) when renovating your own home.
Cut costs by repurposing kitchen cabinets
Melissa and Joshua want their space to have a homey feel, so they decide to save a few bucks by repurposing some old cabinets. These cabinets aren’t very pretty at first, but they’re sturdy, and Melissa and Joshua are excited to bring them back to life.
“It’s built out of, like, real wood and not, like, MDF like most things are built out of nowadays,” Joshua says. “So, once we paint it up and put some new hardware on it, it’ll be cool.”
They finish the kitchen with an island that beautifully complements the classic cabinets, enhancing the cottage ambiance for a respectably small budget.
Want a bold backsplash? Try limestone
Melissa and Joshua are bold DIYers, so when it comes time to design the kitchen backsplash, they go big. While most homeowners would settle for some tile, these two decide to make their own 16-foot rock accent wall behind open shelves.
“We’re going to block up these walls with some really cool limestone that we got from a buddy of ours,” Melissa explains.
A lot of work goes into building this backsplash, from planning out the limestone placement to stacking it on the wall. Still, when it’s finished, it gives the kitchen a ton of personality. With this backsplash, it pays to think outside the tile box!
No pantry? An antique can provide storage
Before starting renovations, Melissa and Joshua thought they thought of everything.
“We realized a little bit late that we had no pantry or spot to store any bit of food at all,” Joshua admits. So the couple come up with a smart storage solution that doesn’t require building a closet or finding additional cabinets that match the ones they already have.
“We decided to put an antique piece of furniture right there, that we’re going to make into the pantry area,” Melissa says, pointing to the corner of the kitchen.
They bring in a large piece of furniture with lots of cubbyholes and glass doors. With dark paint and an aged look, it’s a great addition to this classic kitchen and also makes for a unique storage solution.
Bring antiques into the bathroom, too
This two-bedroom home has only one bathroom, so Melissa and Joshua know they need to make this one bathroom really count. They give it an elegant glass shower, a big tub, and a beautiful vanity.
“I found a really cool antique piece of furniture that we converted into a vanity,” Melissa explains. The old cabinet has a dark wood tone with elegant carvings on the doors. It’s a beautiful piece, but Joshua explains that it took a lot of work to get it.
“We spent about three times as much time researching the vanity as we did the house,” he says.
When the bathroom is done, it’s clear that all that extra work was worth it. Maybe the one thing missing from many people’s bathrooms is an antique.
Not all fireplace mantels may be up to code
This home doesn’t come with a fire feature, so Joshua and Melissa put in a small wood-burning fireplace. While Melissa wants to add a wood mantel above it, they do some research and find that the kind of mantels she likes are not up to code.
“Most every mantel picture you see on Instagram, if you live in California, that is not legal,” Joshua warns.
The problem is that many mantels are placed too close to the firebox, making them a fire hazard. So Melissa and Joshua skip the mantel entirely and surround their fireplace with some brick. It’s a cozy look that proves that not every fireplace needs a mantel to look cozy, and that DIY renovators should never forget that safety comes first!