Almost two years ago, we left Austin, Texas, bought a modest Colonial on Chicago’s North Shore, and began Operation Renovation. After moving 1,200 miles, renovating 3,000 square feet, acclimating 2 little boys to new schools, and surviving 3.5 nervous breakdowns, I decided to reveal before and after photos and all the nitty gritty deets.
Full disclosure. We bought this house knowing we would most likely sell it within two years. We kept this in mind when selecting finishes. The goal was to neutralize the finishes to appeal to the most prospective buyers.
For years, I staged homes for numerous Realtors in the Austin area. The tips and tricks I’m sharing with you are absolutely tried and true. So, let’s get started with the home’s exterior, using our Operation Renovation as the perfect example.
Curb Appeal ✧ Operation Renovation
You have one opportunity to make a first impression. A prospective buyer will form an opinion of your home upon first sight. It’s extremely important you clean-up your landscaping, clean the front door and add a fresh doormat.
We began the exterior updates by painting the taupe trim white and adding black shutters. We replaced the white storm door with a black one, replaced the lighting, and hung a new mailbox and address plate. Our landscaper designed a meandering brick path leading to the now useful side porch and transplanted two healthy boxwoods to balance the entry.
This is how it looked before… (See after photo above.)
Living + Dining ✧ Operation Renovation
You want to choose neutral paint colors. Some choose gray, but I prefer beige because it’s warmer. If you’re selling your house during cold months, beige will provide a much warmer appeal.
Our vibe is casual, neutral, and simplistic, so we painted throughout with Sherwin-Williams Accessible Beige, added crown molding, incorporated transitional woven wood top-down-bottom-up Roman shades, replaced the front door, and in keeping with feng shui, painted the northeast-facing door Sherwin-Williams Basque Green. I transitioned the furniture and accessories from our Austin home.
Lighting is super important. Update old fixtures and replace burned out bulbs. The message you want to send is: If I take terrific care of the aesthetics of this house, rest assured I’ve taken care of the plumbing, electrical, roof, etc. If your house appears outdated, it plants a seed that you haven’t taken care of the home and there could be potential expensive problems if they buy it.
Breakfast + Kitchen ✧ Operation Renovation
If you’re budgeting for updates, focus on the kitchen first, then bathrooms. These can be deal breakers. Most people would much rather buy a house with updated kitchen and bathrooms because these projects can be expensive and messy. Again, select neutral colors with classic design. Don’t add too many details and patterns with tile. Keeping it simple will appeal to more prospective buyers.
In the kitchen, we replaced the gray Corian countertops with white quartz, the backsplash with glass subway tile, replaced the lighting, and incorporated new appliances.
I’ve never met a bifold door I liked, so guess who removed all seven of them with her bare hands before realizing the door openings would require custom sized doors and cost five times what standard doors cost? Guilty. As. Charged. Sooo, our pantry and closets are doorless. And it’s the happiest little Scandanavian-style accident ever.
Family ✧ Operation Renovation
I can’t emphasize how important it is to make the house sparkle. Imagine checking into a hotel and there is stuff all over the counters and floors. What if the furniture was dusty or the bathroom was crusty? Yuck.
Approach staging your home with this mindset. Dust, vacuum, clear-off the kitchen and bathroom countertops, conceal all toiletries, tidy the pantry and laundry room, and wash the windows. Prospective buyers will most likely look in your cabinets, closets, and the garage, so tidy these areas, as well. I promise it will make all the difference in the world.
Landing ✧ Operation Renovation
The upstairs landing includes a coat nook, craft storage, and one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done, a graphic wall. Every time the boys hustle downstairs, they touch LOVE on their way down. Be still this mama’s heart.
Master ✧ Operation Renovation
We continued the oak hardwoods up the stairs and throughout the second floor and replaced the double-doors with opaque French doors to allow more light which tremendously opened up this quaint room. Lightening the paint color made a huge difference, too.
I wasn’t sure I was going to like the vanity within the master bedroom, but after painting the cabinets, adding Carrera marble, installing Edison bulb lighting, and adding oil-rubbed bronze hardware, it morphed into an endearing little nook.
Bedroom Two ✧ Operation Renovation
The second bedroom served as the previous owner’s study, but it’s now Thing 2’s room. We utilized the same woven wood top-down-bottom-up Roman shades, added an indoor/outdoor rug (a must for kids and pets), and replaced the dated ceiling fan with a Restoration Hardware pendant.
Bedroom Three ✧ Operation Renovation
This is Thing 1’s bedroom. It’s the least favorite room of the house. I never quite got a handle on it. He was eleven when we moved in and now he’s thirteen. He wanted a gamer themed room, but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. His hormonal wish will be granted in our next home and Thing 2 will inherit this super cool one-of-a-kind Sundance Catalog bed. New paint, window treatments, ceiling fan, and hardwoods make this room sparkling clean and move-in ready.
Study ✧ Operation Renovation
This bedroom was once occupied by two princesses who’ve since moved to a bigger castle. In my all male fairytale, testosterone has run amuck. So there is pink no more and the room serves as our study. Before we left Austin, we enlisted Austin Table Studio to build the standing desk and paired it with linen upholstered barstools.
Basement ✧ Operation Renovation
We carried the hardwoods down the basement stairs, replaced the carpet, and painted all the yellow away. It’s the perfect venue for watching movies, gaming-out, working out (gym is out of view), and ping-ponging.
The big takeaway is to showcase as much wall, floor, and counter space as possible. This will help potential buyers envision their own furniture and decor in the space.
Create positive energy. Get rid of dried flowers, faux plants and trees, and items that are incongruent with the function of the room, like a treadmill in the bedroom, computer in the dining room, or lamp shades in the closet, etc. These are energy suckers and will ruin the vibe of the space.
By simply adding a fresh plant to each of the main rooms you will improve the energy of the space, making it much more inviting. Placing flameless vanilla candles throughout the home and playing jazz at a low volume are additional tips that create a soothing and enticing ambiance.
This might all sound daunting, but your hard work will pay off. This has been the perfect little nest for our two-year stay. We’ll soon be bidding farewell to Chicago. I’m super excited about the adventure ahead. More exciting details coming soon.
Should you have questions, comments, or good juju to share, click the comment button at the top of this post.