Before and After: A Major Fixer Upper Got a Major DIY Update

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

Before: Living room with chipped walls and gray carpeting

Name: Erica Leader, husband, and two boys
Location: Portland, Oregon
Type of home: House
Size: 3,500 square feet
Years lived in: 6 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My husband and I bought our first home in summer of 2015 in Portland, Oregon, knowing that we wanted to live in this neighborhood, have a house we could grow into, and wanted a space that we could make our own. We were able to get into the area we wanted by buying a major fixer upper from a man who had lived in the home for 50 years!

We weren’t the highest offer, or even the second-highest offer, but in our letter to the seller we emphasized that we really wanted to take care of the home and make it ours, not just demo something to fit with the times or flip it for a profit. It must have appealed to him as he accepted our offer! We started demo right away with our amazing general contractor, found out we were expecting, and after a long construction process ended up moving in with our newborn when he was five days old.

The house was a labor of love and actual labor. Over the years (and two boys later), we’ve attacked various projects in different stages, and our almost 100-year-old home is full of a mix of DIY and hired work. A home is never really done, but we feel like it’s finally in a place that makes us proud and we want to share it! The journey of the past six years was so inspiring and exciting to me that I ended up leaving the world of advertising, changing careers, going back to school, and turned to a career in interior design where I work at a local shop in town. First and foremost this space had to be functional and livable for my little family.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Clean, bright, designed for family

What is your favorite room and why? I truly love each room as we’ve touched a little (or a lot) of every space, but if I had to choose I think it would have to be the kitchen. I’m a big cook and as the saying goes — it’s where everyone ends up! It used to be an old-school, closed-off room with doors at both entrance points and even had a giant, old, unused hood that fed into the old chimney from when the kitchen used to be powered by a wood-burning stove. In our remodel we opted to not have an island in the middle because it’s usually a busy thoroughfare with the kids. Or even adults who have taken to just sitting on the floor to play cars with the boys. From the sink or stove, I can see into the little breakfast nook or watch the boys play at our dining table. It doesn’t have the highest-end appliances or the fanciest fixtures, but it’s highly used and like many other families, the heart of our home.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? As I mentioned I love to create and my husband is a good sport and supportive partner helping with all of my “Oh this will be an afternoon-turned-all weekend” DIY projects. Our latest was creating these slat-type doors for my closet. We framed out an awkward soffit years ago and put these much-too-long IKEA curtains on a rod in front of it to act as a “door.” I’d been pinning the popular slat wall look for a while, and finally, we took the jump one weekend with 70+ furring strips, a borrowed Dremel sander, and two cans of stain to create the closet doors I’d been longing for!

Any advice for creating a home you love? For me, creating a home that I love meant that I had to think of the long-term goals for the house. Even though I fell in love with the ‘Millennial Pink’ and mud cloth pillows that were big when we were going through our initial demo, I pulled back realizing that I wanted a home that would stand the test of time. Being a neat freak, I also knew that I wouldn’t love open shelving in my kitchen in the long run, so even though I love the look and can appreciate it for others, I went with more traditional cabinetry for our home. I focused on creating a clean, timeless background setting in all the rooms with a more neutral palette and lots of different wood tones. I am enjoying layering in different colors and textures through furnishings, souvenirs, and family heirlooms that add that level of character that truly makes your house unique. Plus it’s way easier to swap out a pillow than repaint a wall! In my home journey focusing on the basics, being honest with myself, and then taking time to add in the fun pops of color has brought me joy.

This submission’s responses were edited for length and clarity.