This Home’s Delightful Renovation on a Modest Budget Was Made Possible Thanks to DIYs

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Name: Lillie Fortino, my husband, and my two pups: Bronson, the pit bull, and Bessie, the rejected designer dog
Location: Westport, Connecticut
Type of home: Cape style
Size: 2000 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My name is Lillie and I am an artist and a creative entrepreneur. I live in my home with my husband, George, who is a local artisan butcher, and my two dogs, which both have very interesting rescue stories. I’ve always loved design, and as a creative with her own creative businesses, my home feels like the one outlet of self-expression that doesn’t have a professional undertone. What I’ve thoughtfully placed in my home, and the atmosphere I’ve tried to create, is purely for my husband and I and we keep visitors in mind. I have a rich artistic background and love collecting art from lesser-known artists and bringing it into my home. I’m a total DIYer, and have taken on many fun little projects for my home (faux box beams, floating shelves, accent walls, bathroom renovation, furniture salvage, etc.).

My husband and I love to cook and host guests, and I think what I’m most proud of about my home is that it’s very inviting and informal. My couches are worn in, and hold a beauty in that. Plants are in every room to remind visitors to breathe and relax, and I’ve scattered family heirlooms throughout to make sure I maintain the history and story of my heritage. The large kitchen often serves as a dance floor during parties, and we swapped the original dining room and living room to give us space and the ability to hold giant seated dinner parties (36 guests was our record!). Our home is definitely a constantly evolving entity, but that’s part of the joy! Watching our home grow with us and adapt to us—a real forever home. We have big plans for the future as far as upgrades and renovations, but in the mean time I think we’re just savoring the small progresses.

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room has to be the kitchen. It’s the first room that my husband and I have ever been able to totally gut and start over. As an artist, I do have to maintain a budget, but I think what we accomplished aesthetically on a rather modest budget is beautiful. It’s functional, totally reflective of our personalities, allows me to cook like crazy, and serves as a beautiful social center of the home. It’s where guests first enter our house, and it’s where we say our goodbyes at the end of the night. It’s where we dine and entertain, and it’s where we dance! It has surround sound, some of our favorite pieces of art, and a lot of lovingly DIYed enhancements. There are some things I wish I could’ve added to the renovation but couldn’t because of financial restrictions, but you know what? Everything happens for a reason!

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Oh, that’s a good one! I would have to say the really cool 1970s fiber arts wall hanging I found on Etsy that now lives in the kitchen above the table. My friends looked at me with crazy eyes when I told them I was hanging a giant obscure orange and brown art piece in a blue kitchen, but the colors complement each other so well. I love imagining who the artist must’ve been and what they were trying to communicate with the creation of this piece… I love to think about what other homes it’s lived in throughout its lifetime… and I love to ignore the nay-sayers who hate it and think it’s ugly—because I love it so much! I got it from HulaGrooveBoutique on Etsy.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Eclectic, authentic, approachable, contemporary, curated

Any advice for creating a home you love? Be true to yourself. Select pieces that you love, even if no one else does. Don’t over-clutter your space for visual and emotional health. Collect art (it doesn’t have to be expensive!) that reflects your story. Don’t feel like you need to get everything done at once. Just like a person, a home needs time to learn, grow, and evolve. Enjoy every stage and don’t be afraid of change. Experiment. Be welcoming and try not to worry too much about stains and accidents… life is short and your home is meant to be a comforting and joyful space!

This submission’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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