Before and After: A Dilapidated House Gets a Lot of DIY Love

published Aug 1, 2018

Jenni of I Spy DIY is all about rolling up her sleeves and turning that DIY home into a permanent address—and she’s got a whole house to prove it.

When she got a tip on a Milwaukee fixer-upper (emphasis on the “fixer”), Jenni had never bought a house before. And this one had a complicated story: Now owned by the city, its buyer would need to pass a proposal process and demonstrate a commitment to the neighborhood. Jenni enlisted the help of an agent who is a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®, to guide her through the proposal process.

From the start, Jenni was able to see the house’s potential, how she could make the smelly, critter-infested house a place she’d want to live in. And frankly, one we would, too. Jenni showed us five of her favorite DIYs…



Built-ins in the living room

“Since there was no character to preserve in the house, I added built-in shelving to create interest. The floor-to-ceiling custom shelving unit displays my favorite accents and accessories: Since I used a lot of white, I relied on the decor to bring warmth and character. I have always loved thrifting, so adding those unique pieces throughout makes it feel very much like my home.”

Upgrading the kitchen

“I got rid of all the upper cabinets for more windows on the back wall and added open shelving, lower cabinets, and a pantry around the fridge. I originally designed the kitchen to have butcher block countertops, but my cabinet guy got me a deal on this snowy quartz, which meant there’d be a lot of white in the kitchen. To warm it up, I added wood cutting boards and floating wood shelves.”

Warmth and wood in the dining room

“A local woodworker, ‘Milwaukee Mike,’ created the seven-foot table from the house’s original 1890s 2x4s, then welded a metal base. A year later I sanded, stained and finished it! The wood’s imperfections add cool character, and the dining area’s modern fixtures and furniture mixed with the warmth of a rug and natural wood add beautiful contrasts. The added windows, wood flooring, and elevated ceilings in the kitchen and dining space now make this before image almost impossible to fathom.”

Removable wallpaper and peg rail in the guest bathroom

“I originally wanted a bold tile design, but because of time and cost, I ended up using more traditional tile and got bold with removable wallpaper. I already had an Insta crush on Chasing Paper (who now lives across the street!). This is their Botany print in tangerine/ivory, but there’s an Insta debate over what color the board is—it’s the ‘Yanny/Laurel’ of DIYs!”

Board and batten in the guest bedroom

“I started with ready-made wood with an adhesive, but I didn’t like it and had to rip it off—which ruined the walls. I’m currently working on a barn renovation with board and batten which inspired me to use it here. I’d been dying to use a dramatic dark green somewhere in the house; the bedroom, with its tall ceilings, was the perfect place.”

Coming in around her budget of $100,000 (after purchasing the house for $24,000), this was Jenni’s biggest DIY ever. But she has no regrets. “It’s about following your gut instincts and not cutting corners,” she says.

This post is sponsored by the National Association of Realtors® and was created by Apartment Therapy’s Creative Studio. Realtors® are members of the National Association of Realtors®.
Thank you for supporting the brands that make Apartment Therapy possible.