On Slow Renovating

On Slow Renovating

Our incomplete living room.

I’m sure y’all have heard of the slow movement– slow food, slow fashion, etc. It’s a whole thing. (Check out the Wikipedia post if you’re interested.) But what I haven’t heard much about is slow renovating. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately because, well, I’m living in a house that we’re slowly renovating.

If you turn on HGTV or even browse home design accounts on Instagram, it seems like everyone is renovating rooms in their homes or their entire homes(!) in a few weeks. WEEKS, people! We’ve now had our small home for about a year and we don’t have even one room completely done. For a long time, I was embarrassed and frustrated that we couldn’t get it done by ourselves in a few months. Then, I was frustrated that we didn’t have the time or money to just pay someone to do it for us and be done with it. I felt like I was going through the five stages of grief, people.

But the more I think about it, the more thankful I am for the slow renovation process. Taking our renovation slower than we had anticipated has given us a chance to make back the money we’ve spent on our home renovations. We haven’t had to take out a home renovation loan and I’m proud of that.

It’s also allowed me to think long and hard about what our needs are and what our style is. The longer we live in this home, the more I realize, it would be nice if we had a small dresser here, or it would be nice if we had a place for coffee cups there.

Honestly, George and I don’t always agree on a style for our home either. I like ultra-modern pieces and he likes more farmhouse. I want us both to be happy and comfortable in our home, so sometimes it takes us a long time to come to a happy medium.

I am also grateful that I’ve been given time to gather pieces that mean something to me. I’m not just going to a big box store and picking out a bunch of meaningless stuff all willy nilly. I’ve had time to search out pieces that I love and in some cases, I’m still looking for the perfect piece to complete the room. And that’s ok.

I’m tired of just seeing the before and after house porn pictures. The middle part is important too. Home renovation is a process and it takes time. So let’s all just slow down and enjoy it.

What do you think? Are slow home renovations just frustrating or should they be celebrated? Chat with me in the comments.

14 thoughts on “On Slow Renovating

  1. George Downs

    LoL! This story hit home, you don’t know what slow is. Our 1st renovation wasn’t complete for 11 yrs. but in my defence ours was a disaster when we bought it so bad in fact that the banker when seeing it said “do you, kids, really know what you are getting into,” he said he couldn’t loan us the full mortgage but he would hold back 25% for 3 months and if we satisfied him with the improvements that he would release the rest. When he returned he was very impressed with what we had accomplished and was happy to give us the remainder.

    Progress slowed a bit as we were both working and money had been thin after the 3-month blitz. I attacked one room at a time and would get each 90-95% complete and move on to the next. One time killer was that the house was built in the late 1800’s and I guess there were no building codes and builder had no clue what he was doing, all the studs were differently spaced which led me to think rulers may have been scarce back then, also the studs were full 2″x4″s.

    It remained about 95% completed for 11 years. we made other updates to some of the initial repairs as money and time allowed but when we decided to sell we finished everything! by the way, we sold it for over 8 times what we paid for it. Those real estate investors were right: buy the cheapest house in a good neighborhood fix it up and sell it as one of the best (not the best) and you will succeed.

    We had done the same thing with other houses during those years,
    with good results as well.

    Reply
    1. melanie Post author

      Wow! What a story. I can relate a bit because our home, while not as old, was a rental and wasn’t loved for a long time. I hope it doesn’t take us 11 years though. :/

      Reply
  2. lwc

    yes, u r so right. We are urged to want more all the time. We are urged to change kitchen styles like we are with fashion. Last year’s trend is out of date as soon as it is purchased. It is disgustingly wasteful. Think of all of the stainless appliances and granite counter tops in the landfill in a few years and all of the bathtubs now being replaced with “soaking” tubs. It is the reason most furniture, appliances, etc., are just cheap crap and not made to last.
    If you live in an older home, you can let that be somewhat of a guide for your renovation. Not that you cannot have modern in a craftsman, but at least try to honor the architecture/period somewhat…..or not. All i know is that if you chase trends, you will eventually be lost. Oh, and try to look at things with a wabi-sabi mind-set. It has helped me through the years to accept the imperfections and sometimes the outright deterioration of our home. 🙂

    Reply
    1. melanie Post author

      I totally agree. We had our bathtub refinished instead of getting a new one for that reason. It seemed wasteful to get a new tub, when the old one just needed some love. Refinishing wasn’t much cheaper than a new tub, but it fits the architecture of the house better than a new one!

      Reply
  3. Courtney L

    We also bought our fixer upper a year ago. I go through phases as well. I think most of my frustration comes from spending thousands of dollars on projects that can’t be seen. For example, we had to replace all of our a/c ducting under the house. Last winter we got an unusual amount of rain and we discovered several drainage problems around the yard that needed to be addressed. Meanwhile, we still have a bathroom filled with green tile and ivy wallpaper. That being said, we’re so grateful we have our home and we just love it so much. I am also being very slow and thoughtful about the changes we make. We are paying cash for all of our updates and doing everything we can by ourselves. Because we plan on living here for a really long time, we want to make sure the changes we make will hold their value. We were just able to have new windows and exterior doors installed this week and it feels positively luxurious! (After the countless hours spent scraping off wallpaper, popcorn ceilings and painting every room in the house ourselves.) Now we are going to save up to have the exterior of the house painted. The green bathroom will just have to wait a bit longer.

    Reply
    1. melanie Post author

      I can understand the frustration in projects that can’t be seen. We spent a lot of time and energy in redoing all the drywall in the house and adding new insulation. Most people won’t even be able to tell (at least in pictures) but I do have some pride in knowing that my house is warmer and a little bit prettier now. You can’t build on a crappy foundation, right?

      Reply
  4. Christine

    Hey, look at those beautiful floors, and that great white paint! I think what you are doing is meaningful, and it’s so great you have no loans. Keep on with your slow renovation!

    Reply
  5. Ray

    I think that as frustrating as it can be, slow renovating is the best way to go when you plan on living in a home long term. Only by living in a space you discover how you navigate it daily, really. I advocate for slow furnishing too, since the same concept applies to rental apartments..just get the essentials, and then figure out what you *really* need (and where you need it!) by living in it..also tell your order to the universe and wait for it to show up in your researches 🙂
    I for one know I won’t have another big ikea piece in the house we will buy for our family..rather I hang and store stuff in the office for 6-12months until we find a good solution. Not always aiming for perfect, but good.
    You know, I think that here too, it comes down to contentment. We get frustrated at were we are in life and think we need to be further down the road. We always fall in that trap. We’re just fine where and how we are right now, as long as we just keep going…
    Good luck and don’t hesitate posting even small steps of your jurney!!

    Reply
    1. melanie Post author

      Thanks Ray! I totally agree with the slow furnishing. I’m trying to find pieces I truly love and at a price point I’m comfortable with and that takes time.

      Reply
  6. Brett Hastings

    My husband and I have been renovating for a little over 2 years now and I’d say we’re about 66 percent finished, so I feel you!! While hiring a contractor to get it all finished right from the start would have been a luxury I’m happy that we get to live in our space and figure out what we can do to make it best suit us. I’ve been thinking for months about our next bathroom remodel and I’m confident that when we get to that point (hopefully before the end of 2018 lol!) I know I’m going to be happy with it and all the finishes are going to be carefully curated. In the meantime I’m enjoying the spaces that are finished. I think when I relax in my living room at the end of the day just knowing that we spent every evening for over a week hanging, mudding, sanding, and spraying all the drywall makes me enjoy the space a little bit more!

    Reply
  7. Rachel

    I’ve been following your renovations over the past several months. You’ve made a ton of progress! I hope you’re enjoying your new home and life in Asheville!

    Reply

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