Before and After: A Compact Townhouse’s Reno Has the Dreamiest Dark Bedrooms (and a Brilliant Budget Art Tip)
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Name: Hill Stark and pup, Romeo
Location: Denver, Colorado
Size: 830 square feet
Years lived in: Less than a year, owned
“This home is a lesson in being nice to your neighbors, especially during a hot real estate market,” begins Hill Stark. “I rented a townhome next door and through the neighborhood grape vine, the owner of this property reached out to me asking if I’d like to purchase it when he was selling last year. A literal handshake-in-the-kitchen deal, which is absolutely unheard of in Denver.”
Hill jokingly says she’s in “data by day, design by night.” I absolutely love my day job. I work in analytics alongside a really great team in the tech startup world that helps to make the internet a safer place (spectrumlabsai.com). In my off time, my creative outlet includes working with my hands, who knew learning how to lay tile or install hardwood floors would be so satisfying. Occasionally I post a good before and after on Instagram.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Laid-back fancy: let’s pair marble countertops with consignment store
finds. I like designing spaces where someone wants to stay over longer than
Inspiration: Heidi Caillier
Favorite Element: The primary bedroom. I love a dark bedroom where you feel swathed in deep, rich colors. It’s better for my sleep, and I love this surprise of color in an all-white space.
Biggest Challenge: The kitchen was a challenge. It’s not a large room and I was bound and determined to have an island for a clean workspace along with full-sized appliances. It really is the workhorse of this cozy home, housing the laundry, too. Opening up the wall between the kitchen and the living room to make a more conversational layout dramatically helped the 140-square-foot kitchen to not feel quite so small and enclosed.
Proudest DIY: I can proudly say I only hired out one small electrical task in this entire renovation; I wanted to dig a little deeper into developing my reno skillset. The entire kitchen felt like a true labor of love. With the help of my dad, we took the kitchen down to the studs, ripped up five layers of old flooring, rewired the electrical, tore down walls, and rebuilt new ones. The kitchen floors, which I sanded by hand, felt like the item that was needed to really tie the two rooms together to feel like one cohesive space.
Budget: Just under $20,000 for renovating the kitchen and modernizing the rest of the home. As this is my fourth renovation in the last seven years, I’ve learned a few things that make budgeting feel less daunting. First you have to make a budget because it will allow you to feel comfortable spending the money you’ve set aside — you’ve allotted an amount and then you can finesse individual items as you purchase them, if you can get an item on sale then the difference saved can go to another future item to be purchased. Be incredibly detailed in your expected costs; create both a high and low amount for each item so that you know what the minimum is that you could probably expect to pay versus your maximum, and learn to love spreadsheets.
I also recommend taking out a credit card that’s only used for this one project; you can pay it off as you’ve already budgeted for this work, and it helps to keep all of your expenses in one place for accountability and staying on-track. It’s also nice to know that if you lose a receipt, stores can usually look up your previous purchases using the card. Try to repurpose items that are well-made and if you’re going to invest in a splurge, stick to the items that are timeless. I reused the existing wooden shaker cabinets and was able to allot the amount I’d originally set aside for new cabinetry to instead go towards more high-end appliances and Carrera marble countertops. The backsplash tile is reminiscent of a glazed Zellige but ceramic, and as the tile felt a bit more trendy than the other surfaces selected I opted to spend less on it since the likelihood is greater that I’ll want to swap that out sooner than anything else in the future.
If really trying to stick to a budget without much wiggle room, be flexible on brands — I saved significantly on all of my appliances by being willing to purchase items that were floor models and being sold at a discount at the end of the season to make room for the newer models. And if you do hire out tasks that require skilled labor, get more than one quote and ask for an itemized list of services as part of the quote.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space
maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Purchase bedframes that give you at least 14” of space underneath; you can store tote bins and out of season items that are easily within reach.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? For an instant gallery wall, repurpose a calendar you like. 12 images that are all the same size and within the same theme, voila. And carry a list of the dimensions of your rooms on your phone/ in your email for easy reference — you never know when you’ll find a steal of a deal and need to purchase something on the spot.
PAINT & COLORS
Framed art — Personal collection, Robert Quill Johnson
This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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