Avoid These 4 Design Mistakes in Your New Home

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So you just bought the prettiest home on the block and you’re moving in and getting settled? Congrats! Now it’s time for the best part … the decorating!

It’s the furniture and home decor that really brings a space to life and tells the story of the people who live there.

4 Design No-Nos We See All The Time

But there are some big design no-nos that we see a lot of people make in their new homes. Even if you just bought the most beautiful house, you can instantly bring it down a notch if you commit any of the following 4 design mistakes.

Don’t worry, all of these have easy fixes (and we even included pretty pictures of the right way to do it!), giving you have a clear visual for avoiding these commonly made mistakes.

1. The “Too-Small-Rug”

Bigger is always better when it comes to rugs!

This design mistake just might be the most common one we ever see: the “too-small-rug”. If you’ve purchased a 5-by-8 or 6-by-9 rug in your lifetime, chances are it was not the correct size for your room.

And we get it, large rugs can be expensive. But using an 8-by-10 or 9-by-12 rug in your room is going to make your space look much, much more high-end.

To make your rug shopping a bit easier, here are the design rules you can follow to ensure you buy the correct size.

  • In a family room, find a rug that is large enough for the front legs of all the furniture to sit on the rug. Even better if all pieces of furniture can rest on top of the rug!
  • Avoid the “floating” rug look when a rug is just sitting in front of a sofa.
  • In dining rooms, rugs should be large enough to fit all chairs (even when they are pulled out) on the rug. This means at least 24-36 inches out from the table.
  • In the bedroom, your rug should extend 18-24 inches on each side of your bed. If you have a queen size bed, an 8×10 should work. If you have a king size bed, try a 9-by-12 rug.

For more tips buying the perfect rug, check out this blog post.

2. The Matching Bedroom Set

So you just moved into a new home and you need furniture, stat! Why not head over to the discount furniture and buy an entire bedroom set for a low low price?

Eek … please don’t do that. Yes, it may sound like a good deal, but we promise you can create a good looking bedroom (on a budget!) without going the matchy-matchy route.

And don’t get us wrong, having some matching furniture is not a bad thing. But you probably don’t want your loveseat, couch, coffee table, and side table to all match. Some of them can match to keep a cohesive look, but if everything is the exact same, you’re going to end up with a cookie-cutter look that lacks personality.

Completely matching rooms you buy as a package are very out of vogue.

Take this bedroom above, for example. It has an upholstered headboard, a leather bench, white nightstands, and a wood dresser. This creates an interesting and layered look!

If you do have matching furniture all over your house, we’re certainly not telling you to get rid of everything. Instead, think about moving things around. Bring a dresser from one room into another or swap your night stands.

You just might love all of your gorgeous furniture a bit more when it doesn’t get lost in a sea of it all being too samey.

3. The Flooded Curtains

Hanging window treatments is an intimidating task. Of course, their main objective is to be functional, but you also want them to look good. And let us tell you, most people are hanging their curtains all wrong!

High and wide. Repeat after us: high and wide. (Check out the image above.)

That’s generally how you need to hang your curtains. Many people opt to install their curtain rod directly above the window and a couple of inches outside of it, which isn’t doing your home any favors. Why? Curtains are the key to making your ceilings appear much taller and the room bigger.

Here are things to consider when hanging.

  • Mount the rod up to a foot on the outside of the window. This allows the curtains to drape down without interfering with the light when they’re open.
  • Hang your rod almost to the ceiling. Go about 4-6 inches below the ceiling and that’s how high they should be.
  • Once you have your curtain rod hung, you can figure out how tall your curtains should be. You will probably have to purchase XL curtains. They’re harder to find, but they’re out there (IKEA sells them on a budget!).
  • Your curtains should “kiss” the floor or you can have them puddle (about 1-2 inches longer than the floor). Make sure your curtains are not too short! For no-sew hemming tips, check out this blog post.

4. The “Too-High-Art”

When you’ve just moved in, you probably have a lot to hang on your walls to really make it feel like home. But please read these tips first. Most people hang art way too high! The last thing you want is for your guests to have to crane their necks to see your gorgeous pieces. 

Follow these tips for perfect hanging every time.

  • Don’t go with eye level (if you’re tall, that will make things way too high!). Instead, the center of your piece should be 57-60 inches off the ground.
  • When hanging a gallery wall, think of the entire collection as one piece of art. Therefore, the very top and bottom shouldn’t be hung too high or too low.
  • When hanging above a couch or dresser, go 4-8 inches above the piece of furniture. If you go higher than that, it will look disjointed.
  • For gallery walls, 2-3 inches in between pieces is plenty! No more than that. If you’re nervous about hanging a gallery wall, check out this foolproof way to do it!

Believe in us and avoid these design mistakes whenever possible. With the right furniture, art placement, curtains and rugs, you are well on your way to a great looking new home!

How to Do Noisy Home Improvement When You Have Neighbors

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As two girls who are constantly improving our homes, we’ve completed our fair share of DIY projects.

And in case you were wondering, most home improvement projects come with a fair amount of noise.

While this can obviously be disruptive to the people in your own home, it can be especially disruptive to your neighbors.

Luckily, because DIY projects are sort of our thing, we have some tried and true ways to tackle home improvement projects without making our neighbors hate us. We’ll discuss how these tips vary depending on your living situation, with one of us living in a condo building in the city, the other in a single-family home in the suburbs.

Home Improvement Projects in a Condo Building

I, Casey, live in a five-unit building in the heart of Chicago—and I’m super lucky. Why? Because I absolutely love all of my neighbors.

They all know about my passion for DIY and have come to embrace the noise that erupts from our unit every weekend or so.

However, the reason they love me in spite of that fact is because I’ve taken lots of the following measures to be as respectful as possible to everyone living under the same roof as me, especially with any of my large-scale projects.

Read Your Home Owners Association (HOA) Rules

Every HOA comes with its own rules. You should definitely give that little handbook a read before you start any projects.

Take note of what projects are allowed (sometimes you’re not allowed to make updates on the exterior of your unit/building for instance), what permits are required, and the times when construction can take place. Being up to date on the rules will come in handy when you tackle the next item on this list…

5 Sweet Garage Upgrades That Up Your Home’s Value

Garage additions and upgrades like the five in this list can produce an estimated 65 percent return-on-investment.

Discuss Your Project At Your Next Building Meeting

In our building, we get together every few months to discuss finances, building issues, and other random items that pop up. Most condo buildings do this. Before my husband and I renovated our guest bathroom, we brought up our plan at our condo association meeting.

This was months before we were set to begin our project, but we wanted to get it on everyone’s radar and address any concerns ahead of time.

It ended up working out wonderfully because not only were our neighbors supportive, but we were able to gain insight on a few contractors our neighbors had used in their own homes!

At these meetings, it’s also important to give everyone your contact information so they can text or email you if things get too noisy or out of hand.

Giving your neighbors the go ahead to reach out at any point can potentially save you from headaches when the project begins. No one wants an angry neighbor pounding on their door!

Have a Plan for Extra Trash

In our building, we pay to have our trash and recycling hauled away each week. If our cans are overflowing, we face some extra charges and fines. When you’re gutting a space, you’re bound to have lots of trash, so make a plan to discard all of it.

Our plan was that we were able to pay our contractor to haul away all of the debris. This worked out perfectly because it didn’t hog up valuable space in our building’s crowded dumpster. Make a plan of attack before you start and let your neighbors know that you have things under control!

Always Keep Hallways and Common Areas Clean

Home improvement projects bring loads of dust and dirt into your home. And sometimes? The mess can spill into the hallway and common areas of your building. Be respectful. Keep those spaces as clean as possible. After a long day of DIY, don’t just clean up your own home, tackle those communal hallways too.

After we renovated our bathroom, I made sure to do a deep clean of the hallways and front of our building when the project was 100% finished. My neighbors appreciated it and I felt good knowing that our property was neat and tidy even after such a large construction project.

Stick to a Schedule

Your HOA may have specific rules on when you can do construction work. Ours didn’t have set hours, but we never started a project before 8 a.m. and tried to always finish by 7 p.m.

If we were up early and wanted to get moving, we would only do quiet tasks (getting out tools, taping walls, etc.) and we kept the loud tasks (like using the wet saw to cut tile!) to mid-day.

It’s also important to keep your neighbors in the loop when it comes to the timeline of your project. We thought our bathroom renovation would take four weeks, but it somehow extended into seven weeks. I emailed our neighbors a few times throughout the process to let them know that things were being pushed back and addressed any concerns. The new deadline ended up being a non-issue and I really believe it was because we were so open with our neighbors throughout the process.

Always Say Thank You

When we (finally!) completed our bathroom project, we left handwritten thank you notes on everyone’s front doors. We even went the extra mile and put coffee gift cards into each one. This was a simple way to say thanks for putting up with all of our noise and our neighbors really appreciated the gesture!

Home Improvement Projects in a Single-Family Home

While Casey lives in a condo in the city, I navigate these same noisy projects a little differently inside a single-family home located in the suburbs. Some of her tips are still helpful to consider, but the rules are slightly different for neighborly etiquette when you’re not living in such close quarters.

But even with the extra space a single family home offers, it’s still important to consider your neighbors when tackling large and noisy projects! Here’s how!

Physically Go Talk to Your Nearby Neighbors

Sounds simple enough, but it’s critically important to talk to your neighbors well in advance! Discussing your plans will avoid them feeling off-guard one the project (and noise) starts.

You also don’t want to cause alarm if they start seeing foreign vehicles from contractors or workers parked outside of your home while you’re away at work. Getting them in-the-know before the project starts will actually be to your advantage. Heck, get on their good side and maybe they could field a delivery if you’re running late or let a worker inside if needed. Neighbors want to help – in most cases – especially when they know what’s going on.

Secure a City Permit

Securing a permit, if your city/village requires one, is essential before starting any large-scale projects. (And this will protect you just in case a problem arises from one of your neighbors.) If they are unhappy about the noise, or dumpster placement, or anything else, and then they take action to report you, not having a permit will be a bigger problem than your neighbor’s complaints.

Start Inside Early and Move Outside Later

There have been plenty of times when we are knee-deep in a DIY project that we get up super early to continue. But, truly, saws are very noisy, so we typically wait for that step until it’s appropriate, or we take the time to get everything set up early (even if it is outside) and don’t cut until late in the morning.

Don’t waste time waiting for your neighbors to get up, but don’t go about your business waking them up either!

Let Your Neighbors Follow the Progress

An easy way to keep neighbors in the loop is to invite them in a time or two throughout the process to share your progress! Show them what you’re working on and how excited you are for the progress. Including your neighbors helps them feel special and they will be less inclined to be annoyed if things do get a little noisy or messy.

Overcommunicate

Overcommunicating is always a good idea to avoid confrontation. Don’t be afraid to let your neighbor know when the dumpster is scheduled to get picked up, any problems that may impact your deadline, when a large delivery is expected, etc. The more they know in advance on some of these larger “issues”, the fewer problems will arise. Use Nextdoor. Communicate, communicate and overcommunicate.

Keep Your Contractor up to Date Often

This overcommunication should also be applied to your contractors. Be sure to share with them your expectations on start times, end times, and any other issues that may impact the neighborhood. Don’t go to your contractor only after you’ve heard complaints or it’s become a full-blown problem. Being proactive and communicating your expectations in advance will hopefully help avoid any issues in your neighborhood.

Celebrate Together!

Now it’s time for the fun part! Once your noisy project is over, don’t be afraid to invite some of the neighbors over to check out the new space and enjoy a few cocktails while they’re there. We just had a large landscaping renovation happen that made our streets, sidewalks and overall curb appeal a huge mess for several weeks.

Once our patio was paved and the mess was cleared, we invited our neighbors over to enjoy the new space with some food, but most importantly, to thank them for their patience.

They were all so grateful and gracious, which gives me a lot more confidence to tackle another noisy project soon. Knowing I have their support makes the process a whole lot less stressful!


We hope these steps help you tackle your next noisy home improvement project while still keeping the peace. We’re no Mr. Rogers, but we’re confident you can tackle those DIY projects and still make it a beautiful day in the neighborhood for your neighbors.

The 5 DIY Projects That Will Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal (And Resale Value)

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Sometimes, I like to stroll around my neighborhood and gaze at the front of all of the homes in my area. It’s fun to see who updated their landscaping this summer, whose weeds are out of control, and who decided to paint their home a wacky color.

While I can’t see the inside of these homes, I definitely get a sense for the family’s style and how much pride they take in their home just at a quick glance.

If the outside of your house is looking less than desirable, there are some simple updates you can do right now to improve your curb appeal. This past summer, I overhauled the exterior of my entire house (you can read all about it right here) and it’s looking 110% better.

I’ve documented the DIY projects I pulled off to take our curb appeal to the next level.

1. First things first: Start with these paint projects

If you have the budget and time, nothing changes the front your home like a totally new color.

Truthfully, I’m not in love with the beige color of the outside of our home. When we first moved in, I looked into hiring a team to paint all of that beige brick to white. Sadly, the quote came back at $15,000 … YIKES! Looks like the beige will stick around for a while longer.

But even if you can’t fit the bill or paint the front of your place yourself, there are still other areas you can paint on the outside of your own home, which we’ll discuss below.

Blare your front door color

Your front door can make a huge difference. Our front door was a faded brown color before I decided to brighten things up by painting it a pretty light blue. (The official color is actually called “Stratton Blue”.) I also added a new door knocker that reflects our style and family personality (yep, it’s a gold bee!). Painting the front door only took me a few hours and my entire house instantly looked happier.

These Paint Colors Have the Best Resale Value

Zillow examined 50,000 home sales and found these colors help sellers make as much as $5,000 more!

Want to paint your front door? Be sure to check out this tutorial with 5 tips to get a long-lasting finish.

Freshen up your garage door

While the front door added some much-needed color to our home’s exterior, there was another area in serious need of some TLC: our garage door. The brown paint was peeling and faded, and it was begging for some attention. Plus, garage doors are one of the biggest indicators of a house’s resale value.

Here’s what it looked like after we gave it more life:

I had never painted a garage door before, but I’m happy to announce that it was one of the easiest DIY projects I’ve ever tackled! Two coats of the color “Tricorn Black” later, and now I don’t cringe every time we pull up to our house to enter the garage.

5 Sweet Garage Upgrades That Up Your Home’s Value

Garage additions and upgrades like the five in this list can produce an estimated 65 percent return-on-investment.

Still a little unsure about your painting skills? Here are some of our tips for painting your garage door.

2. Have a porch? Install a porch swing

Porch Swing Tutorial via Yellow Brick Home

If we had a porch on our house, I would without a doubt add a porch swing. There’s just something so cozy and homey about this exterior addition. I like to picture myself swinging away in the morning while sipping my coffee and leisurely watching the rest of the neighborhood stroll on by.

However, our friends Kim & Scott from the blog Yellow Brick Home did add a DIY porch swing to their Chicago porch. They built the entire thing from scratch and let me tell you, it adds so much to their home’s vibe. The monetary cost? Only about $100, and it was a total facelift to their place. You can DIY one yourself by following their tutorial, or if that’s a bit too advanced for you, consider buying an inexpensive swing (like this one) and installing it yourself.

3. Lighting is everything

Take a look at the lighting on the outside of your home tonight. Do your fixtures emit enough light, or does the outside of your home look dark and scary? Maybe your fixtures are a bit weathered and outdated? If so, then simply upgrading them may be the perfect way to improve the exterior of your home.

Exterior lights don’t need to be super expensive (here’s a great list of fixtures all under $200) and you can install the new ones yourself to save even more cash.

This video tutorial breaks down the process to replace your exterior lights with new and improved versions!

Oh, and don’t forget string lights! Both of us have string lights on our patios to emit a soft glow at night. You can just buy a plug-in timer (we use this one) so they go on and off every evening. Why not bring that fancy bistro feel to your own patio?!

4. Rent a power washer for your sidewalk

This is by far the easiest DIY project out of the bunch … rent a power washer and go to town cleaning the outside of your home! I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to see all of the dirt and grime wash away.

I power washed our driveway, the steps leading up to our house, and even some areas on the exterior of our home to get it looking clean and new again. You can follow these steps to get the job done right.

It will only cost you about $30 to rent a power washer for the day, so schedule a day to get this project done and I promise you’ll be happy with the results! Oh, and don’t forget to wear rain boots and ragged clothes. It’s a fantastic protip, but you will be filthy by the end of this project.

5. Modernize your address plate

It’s the small details that really take your curb appeal to the next level. Upgrading your address sign is one of them. I’ve changed up this small detail at every home I’ve lived in, and it made such a big difference. You can purchase a modern address plate, but honestly? We suggest making your own.

How did I make mine? I took a piece of wood, some inexpensive numbers from Amazon, and a few extra supplies, then put together this cool address plate for the outside of our home. It only took me an afternoon and our house was instantly chic!

Here’s the tutorial to create your own modern address sign.


Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to take the outside of your home to the next level. Take a few weekends this fall to get your house looking nice and upgraded (before the dreaded winter arrives!).

Finally, when your neighbors stroll around the hood, they’ll see your house and think, “Wow, their home looks unbelievable!”

 

 

When Your DIY Projects Will Fail

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We love a good do-it-yourself project. There’s just something about improving your home all by yourself without the assistance of a professional that feels so darn good! (Heck, our blog is called The DIY Playbook, so obviously we are obsessed with all things DIY.)

But it may shock you that we firmly believe that there are many instances when you should not do a project yourself. (Ever heard of “nailed it”?)

Yep, we’ve outlined all the times when you need to call in a pro to get the job done below.

Time Will Inevitably Be More Valuable Than Money

Many people assume that just because a project is easy, they should do it themselves. However, even simple tasks take time.

Here’s a real situation we were both in recently. Painting a room only takes 1-2 days. The problem is that it takes an entire 1-2 days of your time, and we were moving.

If you have 1,000 things on your to-do list for a big move, then it may make sense to call in a pro to get it done quickly and efficiently. (Hiring help to move is another bright idea when that to-do list is bursting with items!)

It cost us each about $1,000 to hire this DIY out, but we weighed that against packing up one house to move to another, closing on a home, and finishing things up at your old pad. So yeah, painting a room will only take about 1-2 days and costs roughly $100 in supplies, but sometimes you don’t have an open schedule.

In our particular case, an additional $900 was a resource well spent, because hiring it out ensured that we could subtract our labor, plus have a crisp white trim and fresh paint on the walls as we moved our new items in.

Don’t worry DIY fans; as we’ve designed each room in our homes later on, we’ve re-painted a few spaces with new colors ourselves. From experience, what sounds like a great DIY project is only realistic after you have the time.

Some DIY Projects Have Sneaky Costs

People turn to DIY to save money. And it’s true, often times labor is the most expensive part of a large project. However, there are some sneaky costs that you need to keep in mind before you decide to handle a project by yourself. Here are the two biggest ones we’ve figured out are the worst.

Transportation: This line item is way too often overlooked when it comes to large-scale projects. If you need a lot of large materials for a project, figure out how the heck you’re going to get those supplies home before you consider it worthwhile.

DIY Playbook has lived it. We decided to add a large decorative wall treatment to a guest bedroom, not realizing that we would need 12-foot wooden boards from the home improvement store. We had to rent a truck on the fly (which cost about $75). It made us question the savings.

Tools and Supplies: The more you DIY, the more tools and general DIY supplies you’ll acquire, making this a thing of the past. But the first time you tackle a project, you’ll probably have to buy all.the.things.

We recently completed a large tiling project for the first time and that meant we had to buy trowels, sponges, and a wet saw for the job. That added up to a couple hundred dollars pretty quickly! Of course, the next time we do a tiling project we will be prepared (and won’t have to spend quite as much), but buying all new supplies is something you’ll want to consider.

However, by making that investment in purchasing and learning how to till ourselves, we saved about $2,500 in labor. (Granted it took us two months to get the bathroom done, but heck … that’s still some big saving!)

Think through a project carefully, jot down some numbers, and add everything up before you start a project on your own.

Be Honest When You Don’t Know How

As DIY’ers ourselves, we always encourage people to expand their skill. However, if you’re an average homeowner, there are projects that will be far too advanced for you.

For instance, while we think most people can easily learn how to install a faucet online, we’d advise hiring a plumber to move plumbing lines in a bathroom. Sometimes it isn’t just safety to you and your materials, but not knowing regulation and keeping things to code also matters. The project don’t necessarily have to be too advanced for you to need an expert opinion.

And of course, some projects are incredibly dangerous if you handle them yourself! Gas repairs or extensive electrical work are not DIY projects. Know your limits and hire out when necessary.

Don’t DIY “ASAP Projects”

As a homeowner, you’re bound to run into emergency issues that need to be fixed ASAP. Whether it’s a flooded bathroom or a busted hot water heater, you’ll want to have a professional on call immediately.

When we were renovating our bathroom, we accidentally bumped the toilet valve and it immediately started leaking. Not wanting to flood our new bathroom, we called in a plumber to swap the old valve with a new one. This set us back about $275, but the job was done correctly and in about an hour. Plus, we felt much more at ease knowing our new bathroom wasn’t going to flood from that pipe!

These urgent issues should be handled by a professional. When you don’t have the time to research and buy the correct supplies, you can make a mistake trying to do an extensive repair yourself. If it’s a home emergency, call it in.

Don’t Experiment If You’re Gonna Stare at It Every Day

If there are any perfectionists tuning in, this category is for you. You may be stuck looking at the results of your DIY for years, so if you are someone who may constantly critique minor (or major) mistakes, then DIY-ing a large project may not be worth the money saved.

We recently renovated our guest bathroom (more on that here!) and I stare at all of the tiles in there when I shower. I’ll always focus in on the corners where I know a tile is 1/8 of an inch off from our handiwork. It’s minor, but it really bugs me!

We know this question sounds like a silly one to ask yourself, but DIY-ing is never worth it if you’re not going to love the end result, or even worse, hate it more than when you started.

The DIY Projects We Recommend

There are lots of DIY projects that you can (and should!) tackle on your own. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

  • Changing Doorknobs
  • Painting your Front Door
  • Changing a Faucet
  • Installing a Ceiling Fan
  • Swapping out Light Fixtures
  • Changing an Outlet
  • Adding Cosmetic Woodworking to Walls
  • Installing a Smart Thermostat
  • Fixing a Screen Door
  • Painting a Room
  • Changing out your Baseboard

To DIY or not to DIY? Sometimes the answer is crystal clear. But when you’re unsure, we hope you consult this list so you make the right decision for you (and your home!).

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