Is a home renovation right for you? Stephanie from Olive and Tate shares insight from her experience in five homes in five years.

Photo by Kristen Bishop Day

This post is brought to you in partnership with the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show (happening Feb. 22-24 and March 1-3 at The Park Expo and Conference Center). All opinions are our own.

You’ve watched enough HGTV—surely you can renovate your own home, right? It takes a little more work than that, but as we found out from Stephanie, creator of Olive and Tate, there are definitely some do-it-yourself upgrades that can instantly refresh a room.

Stephanie and her husband first found themselves in need of a home renovation when work took them from new construction in South Carolina to a 100-year-old house in northern Maine. And that’s how it all began: “We started on a very small budget to make that home ours. I started documenting that and our adventures in Maine. I’ve never really stopped blogging, so in six years, everything that we’ve done has all made it right onto the blog for everyone to see,” she said.

We chatted with Stephanie to find out what other lessons she’s learned in her experiences in  home renovations.

Q: Five homes in five years. How did you get into home renovations?

A: It doesn’t feel like it’s been five homes in five years. Three of those moves were for work reasons; two were for renovations or flips. The real deal renovations started when we wanted to live in a dream neighborhood and couldn’t afford it. There was this house that had been on the market for 18 months. It was just a time capsule. We just couldn’t figure out another way to get into this neighborhood. A mix of bravery, and stupidity, and ignorance, and naivete, and I thought, “We’ll just renovate it how hard can it be?”

Pre-renovation kitchen. Photo by Christa Rene Photography

We took it all the way out to the exterior brick. If we had had any inkling of what we were doing, we would have never done that. We learned that I had sort of an eye for the design, and my husband had a knack for managing the business side of the project. We can walk in a house and just see what would happen if we, you know, took out a wall and see the changes that would take place in the space. We did it in three months, start to finish. We moved in and fell in love with how you can make a space work for you. After that, we just really got the bug.

Q: Let’s say I’m looking to remodel a room in my house, but I’ve never done it before. Where do I start?

A: Pinterest! Sometimes it’s hard for us to articulate what it is we’re dreaming of. To the average person, you can walk into a space and it feels homey to you, or it feels fresh, but it’s hard to articulate to someone else what gives us those feelings. Pinterest is always my No. 1. I start with an idea board for each project.

The easiest way to sort of start the process is the paint. It’s something you can do yourself, and it’s so inexpensive if you’re doing it yourself. Paint will forever be my go-to when you need to refresh, or you want a change and you don’t know what to do. Paint the walls a fresh new color, grab some new throw pillows, and then you’re talking about a whole new palette change. You’ve given this space a sort of fresh life.

If I’m really renovating and doing a huge project, you have to call in a pro. The contractor is the one who pulls in the craftsmen from around the area where we’re living. I’m not going to be able to whip up some new cabinets. But man, that’s where the home show comes in! It’s like going to the mall. Going to a home show is like experiencing Pinterest in real life.

Post-renovation kitchen. Photo by Christa Rene Photography

Q: What is an easy thing to do to instantly change a room that doesn’t require demolition?

A: Besides paint, the next is light fixtures. Light fixtures are so often overlooked. Lighting and light fixtures can change the look of a space in an instant, and they don’t need to be expensive. Even ceiling fans—ceiling fans have sort of come into their own. Lighting, light fixtures, even exterior lighting can change the look of a space or a house more than anyone gives it credit for.

Photo by Courtney Malone

Q: What have you found to be classic design decisions—updates that don’t need to be swapped out each year?

A: Every large piece of furniture we invest in is what we would consider to be a classic piece. Our couch has very clean, square lines in a light gray microfiber. It has held court in five houses in five years. When you invest in those classic, neutral pieces, you can change out the accessories to play with the space or fit into a new space. You can take those basics—classic blue jean kind of pieces—a leather club chair, neutral fabrics that tolerate life well, you can pair them with anything.

Photo by Courtney Malone

Q: Any advice for how to blend styles with couples?

A: Truth time: When we got together, I banished all his sports memorabilia to the man cave, which was the dining room. I think my strategy is more to find your style as a couple as opposed to your style/their style. A lot of times people don’t really know what that is until they’re walking around and see inspiration. Instead of combining styles, you find a new style and a new start. Every house deserves its own respect, its own vision. I embrace that, and I like that.

Photo by Demi Mabry

Our last house felt very coastal. This house, I tried to just drop everything in and make it coastal, but it just didn’t feel right with the space. Design can take time to evolve. A space can take a long time to get to the point where you’re like, “Wow this is amazing.” I like bringing things in over time. When we travel, we bring things back for our home. Then everywhere you look in your home, you’re reminded of your adventures.


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