House Tour: Lisa and Ryan Demo, Build, and Build Again!

House Tour: Lisa and Ryan Demo, Build, and Build Again!

Jill Slater
Aug 13, 2008

Name: Name: Ryan and Lisa
Location: Linden, NJ
Size: 483 sqft studio condo
Years lived in: 8 months


Lisa first wrote us in January: "I just bought my first place with my boyfriend. It's only 483 square feet, so it's a total challenge to be clever with storage!" She and her boyfriend had just bought a studio. It would be their first time living together and their first owned home after a decade long relationship! But it wasn't easy...


In the midst of a completely DIY process of demolition, a water pipe burst in the kitchen when Lisa and Ryan were elsewhere. The fire department came but not before all the boxes of yet to be installed wood flooring was destroyed. In what they probably thought was a helpful solution, the fire department pumped the flood into Lisa and Ryan's new bathtub. But the water mixed with all the mid-reno sheetrock and concrete dust and filled the pipes to the point that they were completely blocked and ruined.

Lisa and Ryan somehow regained composure and stripped, puttied and repainted all the kitchen cabinets, again! They bought new Pergo strips for the entire studio's floor, and they had to rip out the new pipes in the bathroom and install another set along with retiling, again, the bathroom walls.

And in the end, Lisa, an interior designer, is thrilled with their new home. She said it was very hard not to splurge on fancy new furniture to replicate the world in which she works. Instead, Lisa and Ryan incorporated some favorite family heirlooms, other family's heirlooms from flea markets and rounded off with some great craigslist finds and with art they have created themselves.

AT Survey:

Style: Vintage industrial modern

Inspiration: Practicality--when living in a small space, it's important to invest in pieces that are necessary and have multiple uses.

Favorite Element: Our sneaky storage solutions. We use every available space for concealed storage – spices on the inside of cabinet doors, kitty litter box in the linen closet, vacuum behind a leaning mirror, kitchen table that expands to sit 8, folding chairs behind the sofa…AND The chest/ side table in our living area. Ryan's grandfather made this out of wormy chestnut from his farm in Pennsylvania when Ryan was a child. Sentimental pieces like this make our house a home.

Biggest Challenge: Space (this is a given) and water (our hot water valve burst which stripped the newly refinished cabinets and destroyed our newly purchased wood floors) WATER! About one month after we starting renovating, our hot water valve burst under our kitchen sink. (It's still a mystery how it happened...) The steam literally stripped the wood including the kitchen cabinets we just "refaced" ourselves. Our neighbor called 911 because she thought our condo was on fire. Not the best way to meet your neighbor for the first time!

What Friends Say: Everyone says how calming/relaxing it is here. They also ask, "What else is behind that couch?" because of our sneaky storage.

Biggest Embarrassment: The phone call at 6am from the fire department telling us that our hot water valve burst and flooded our apartment and the adjacent units (not the best way to meet your neighbors). We weren't living here while under construction, so it was quite the surprise on a Sunday morning to hear this.

Proudest DIY: Everything. Not one surface is the same as when we purchased it, but we're most proud of the kitchen, bathroom, and flooring. If a couple can get through construction, they can get through anything.

Biggest Indulgence: Stainless appliances.

Best Advice: Quality over quantity - advice we're trying to live by. Oh, and hire a plumber instead of trying to fix it yourself.

Dream Source: ABC carpet and home, and the NY flea markets.

The studio in all its BEFORE glory!


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And check out our archives of past House Tours here!
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