What We Learned From Our First Home Renovation (& What We’re Doing Differently on the Second One)


When we updated our City House 2 years ago, we couldn’t have imagined moving out so soon. Honestly, it’s still really bittersweet and I go through days of loving suburb life, and days of hating it. I’m hoping that, as we make this place our own, the good days increase.

But, ultimately, we love projects. I feel like we picked this house mostly because we wanted something to work on again, and in that way, it feels totally fresh and exciting. But, being that this is our second renovation, we feel somewhat wiser.

So today I’m sharing the things we learned from our first renovation, and what we’re going to be doing differently on the second.

Gradual Changes

The biggest thing we’re switching up from our last renovation is that we’ve already moved in and we’re going to gradually update our new home. In the City House, we started updates before moving in and didn’t fully move in until everything was done.

Given the nature of the changes we made in that house—renovating the whole kitchen, replacing basically all of the flooring, adding significant built-ins—it made sense to get it done before bringing in furniture.

In the Country House, though, we’re moving more slowly and trying to really live in the space before making huge updates so we can understand the way we use the space and how we’d like every little detail.

I feel like, had we lived in the City House a bit before renovating, we might have added some more specific organization in the kitchen, for instance.

Trying Little Updates Before Big Commitments

One thing we’re doing in the Country House, as we move more slowly with updates, is creating in-between options. For instance, we bought a bar cart on Amazon to try in different spots in our house to see if and where we have space for our bar things.

We’re thinking of buying a bar cabinet (like this) but we want to be sure we have the right size, the right space for it, etc. before making a major investment.

We’re going to try steps like this along the way so that, when we make larger investments, we know we’re getting the option that really works best.

Not Redoing the Whole Kitchen

This makes the biggest difference! In the City House, we redid the entire kitchen.

When we got there, the kitchen was weirdly laid out, smaller than it needed to be, and frustrating. The way the island was meant that our dining room table had to be in front of the door to the deck, so it totally cut off that walkway.

Of course, updating that kitchen was the project with the biggest payoff in the City House, so I wouldn’t change a thing.

That said, not having to redo the kitchen in the Country House is so nice. We’re going to update some things for sure, and there will certainly be periods of time where we have to move our dishes around.

But not having to live without a stove and sink for a super long time? Not having a contractor leave our refrigerator unplugged so we lose all of our food? Not having to sit on the floor and microwave my lunch while someone is working in my kitchen? It’s awesome.

Designing for Real Life

This is the biggest thing that we learned from our City House remodel. In that house, we truly designed for the way we wanted to live.

We didn’t create a formal living room because we knew we’d never use it. We put in a bar area because we love entertaining. We had the couch facing the TV because, realistically, that’s the main thing we use the couch for.

While we wanted everything to look nice—of course—we ultimately made decisions based on functionality and how we would really use the space.

This is a design sensibility that I hope we never lose. It doesn’t matter how nice your bedroom looks if you can’t relax there and get good rest. It doesn’t matter how impressive your kitchen is if there’s no storage.

Of course, you should absolutely strive to make your space beautiful, but only after you’ve figured out how you can make it best function for how you’ll actually use it.

Have you lived through a renovation? Let me know what you learned from it that you would apply going forward.

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