I Would Have Rather Been at Toys R Us:

7 Remodeling Lessons my Mom Taught Me in the Aisles of Home Depot


As an adult Home Depot and Lowes are places I avoid like seeing my ex at the gym. The reason? My mom would drag me and my brother there every weekend growing up. Slowly but surely this woman remodeled our entire home.

She did so by conducting hours of research at Home Depot or Lowes and then investigating the web for cheaper deals on the looks she wanted. She was a savvy shopper, but ruthless when it came to our boredom.

Ask yourself what elements of your remodel are most important?

The first room to be remodeled was my brother’s while mine was left last…I always knew he was the favored child. My brother wanted it football and dog themed so my mom hand stenciled on footballs and paw prints around his window’s trim. My dad constructed him a desk out of two dressers and an old tabletop, it was very cool. Additionally, he got a bunkbed. The jealousy I felt towards him that day…

The next room was the kitchen.

With everything being gutted, all I remember is eating microwave meals for a month. (I guess my mom thought sacrificing our nutritional health for a while was worth finally getting herself a kitchen island and a trash can you can pull out of a cabinet.)

We also finally got a fridge where the water and ice came out the door, the lap of luxury, I tell you!

She then tiled the whole house — making sure the tile was slightly textured so when we ran inside wet from the pool we wouldn’t slip and “crack our heads open”. I was so embarrassed I resorted to quietly playing with my Barbies instead of dancing; an eight year old’s gotta do what an eight year old’s gotta do. Luckily my mom wasn’t one to shun her baby girl from opening up the “Barbies that would one day be worth something”. Barbies were meant for play not display.

After completing the rest of the house finally came my room. Unfortunately I didn’t get much say in mine as my brother did. I think my mom designed the room she wanted; “shabby chic”. Where was I supposed to put all my polar bear stuff? We did, however, compromise on the paint job. I wanted pink, blue, and white stripes. She allowed it as an accent wall.

Now, why am I telling you all of this?

To offer you some advice. I give my mom mad props for her successes. Her endless Better Homes & Gardens devotion paid off. However, she had both rises and falls. Pay attention.

1. Never pay a contractor in full — upfront. Just don’t do it. Ivan come back!

Ivan was the man in charge of painting both the inside and outside of our home (aside from my brother’s and my room, my dad was the artist). Ivan did the living/dining room, the kitchen, and the outside. And then the man disappeared along with the money my mom entrusted him with. He seemed so nice. With that said, you need a professional painter who not only has a warranty on their services but also their paint. Years later, I’m pretty sure my mom still feels sick about it.

2. Go to a scratch/dent retailer for deals on “damaged” products.

My mom never paid full price for our appliances. She would seek out retailers that sold brand new appliances with slashed prices because of a small “ding” here or there. Trust me, the dings are as insignificant as a scratch on the side of a state of the art oven. You know, the side that goes into the wall so you can’t even see it. They really aren’t “damaged goods” and you can save anywhere between 40–75% off factory prices! It’s a no brainer. Save that money for the TV dinners your family will be eating waiting for their installment.

3. Open your home up with natural light by knocking down walls.

Our dining room was dark and depressing; much like some of my mom’s cooking. So my mom had my dad blow out the wall separating the dining and living room, leaving it exposed to the living room’s natural light from the glass doors and skylights. The area now felt open and light. Don’t be afraid to eliminate walls, unless of course they’re supporting ones. The design was full blown elegant but with some New York ‘tude (my family’s homeland). Ivan actually beautifully finished the pale and then very pale, hand painted yellow stripes in the rooms. She had a fake fireplace put in (this is Florida) to complete the look, juxtaposed to the piano. I was just excited to be able to hang our stockings on a real mantle!

4. Keep an eye on your foundation (especially around the pool).

My mom wanted to retile our pool as soon as we moved in. (In fact, she kind of had to.) The pool’s original tiles would fall freely, and she would request my brother and me to dive in the pool to retrieve them before the Polaris could. She decided on a pattern, a company to install, and everything seemed to have gone swimmingly (pun intended).

However, about four years later, the tiles started to fall in the pool again revealing cracks in the wall that the tilers did not repair.

It’s hard to blame this one on my mom. You would figure as professionals, they would alert the homeowner of cracks that could result in a weak foundation and therefore weak tiling. If you’re considering retiling your pool, a leak detection expert who will examine the condition of your pool and alert of you of any sealing needs. It’ll save you money in the long haul and it’ll save your kids from having to jump in the pool as frequently.

  1. Breathe new life into “old” objects.

My mom utilized much of what we already owned. For example, my wooden dresser, she painted white and sanded down for that vintage look. She then changed out the nobs for “crystal” ones that made the vintage look elegant.

This is also the woman that made my Barbie Dream Home from a book case, sticker wallpaper, floors, and scraps of carpet. She’s very inventive when budgeting is a factor. Don’t be afraid of what you already own; one man’s trash is another girl’s Barbie house.

6. Add dimension to your walls because you’re fancy.

Similar to the pool, the catalyst of our bathroom remodel was the shower tiles starting to shower off the wall. You know, the shower my brother never cleaned because, as a girl, of course my hair was the only one that could possibly get stuck in the drain.

My mom went with the classic beach theme. My dad put up white, beaded wood boards halfway up the wall, resembling a Montauk-esque boat. The wood panels add texture and dimension to our tiny bathroom. This look can also be used with wallpaper going halfway up the wall with molding at the cut off.

I appreciated this remodel because I didn’t have to share a drawer with my brother anymore. There was so much more space for my hair ties!

7. Remember: No one will think the inside of your home is pretty unless the outside is too.

My mom was just as adamant about our house’s external features as she was about the internal. In addition to getting the outside of the house painted, she wanted some new landscaping. My brother’s only chore was mowing the lawn once a week and he was about as diligent about it as I was about unloading the dishwasher; which was almost zero diligence.

With that said, with my dad not living in the house, our yard suffered. That was rough for my dad to watch, especially because our next door neighbor was a frequent winner of our neighborhood’s “Yard of Distinction”. To maintain her new greenery, my brother’s lackluster lawn skills wouldn’t suffice. She needed someone with experience in landscape design who could put my brother out of his only chore.

Our family home is really nice now. Still humble but well-designed.

She managed to put forth the closest thing to her dream home as financially possible. I’ve already come to accept she’ll design my own future home, which I’m just fine with. At least I know I’ll get an accent wall!

Originally published at orlandolifestyle.blogspot.com.

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