Category Archives: projects

7 things you can do to take your home from builder-grade to custom-built.

We’ve owned our home for almost five years now, and in the time we’ve lived here, we’ve done a lot to make it not just a house, but a home. I tell people all the time that we’ve worked hard to take our builder-grade home and make it more like it had been custom-built just for us.

I have a dream that one day we can do one of two things, either build a home from the bottom up that is completely custom-built to our liking or buy an old fixer upper and completely tear it apart and start from scratch. A girl can dream. Until then, we’ll continue to work away, project-by-project on this little home of ours.

builder grade to custom built

So, 7 things you can do to take your home from builder-grade to custom-built (just like we have done):

  1. Take out the carpet and replace it with something else. As of right now, the only places we have carpet in our house is the kid’s bedrooms and the small hallway between their rooms. This will probably change this year, when we rip out their carpet and add wood laminate like the rest of the house. I’m just not a huge fan of carpet. It gets dirty and just doesn’t look as aesthetically pleasing as wood or tile. We didn’t spend a lot on our “wood” floors since this is not the home we plan to spend forever in, but we know what we’ve done definitely adds some value in the long run.

    put in wood floors

  2. Paint the cabinets. Kitchen, bathroom and everything in between. The only cabinets I have painted in our house are the kitchen cabinets (but the bathroom cabinets are on my to-do list). But can I just say, I LOVE MY KITCHEN and I was only able to say this AFTER I painted my kitchen cabinets. The entire kitchen was instantly upgraded when I did this. You will not regret it, I promise. It adds warmth and depth and just a whole new feel to the room, I know the same thing will happen when I paint our bathroom cabinets, too.

    paint kitchen cabinets

  3. Paint the doors, and by paint the doors, I mean add color. White doors have nothing on black doors. I finally finished painting all of our doors a few weekends ago, until then the kid’s side of the house was still boring white doors. The black I used is not really a true black, it’s more of a brownish-black and it’s also a satin finish. I will never have a house with white doors again, even though I used to think white was so much better than the ol’ wood doors I grew up with in my childhood home.

    paint doors

  4. Add trim, anywhere and everywhere you can think of. When I painted our kitchen cabinets, my husband added height to the top cabinets with an extra piece of wood and crown molding. Then, we added trim around the bathroom mirrors, too. In both places, that extra trim (that really costs next-to-nothing) made a big improvement in such an easy way. I have also seen on Pinterest where you can do the same thing above doors to give them a little more ooomph.

    add trim to bathroom mirrors

  5. Create built-ins, if possible. We had this little (well, not really little) nook in the kid’s playroom. Mike made it a built-in shelf for the t.v. and baskets, board games and whatever other toys we see fit and I can barely remember that space before we did this. It is so much more functional now (although it is desperate need of a new fresh coat of paint after years of little kids banging toys all over it). If you have a space in your home you just don’t know what to do with, see if you can add a built-in of some sort. No easier way to say custom-built than this.

    create built-ins

  6. Pay attention to the details. All around our home we’ve added little touches that make the difference in builder-grade and custom-built homes. We added hooks to our foyer area (but didn’t just through hooks on the wall), board and batten and fun tile countertops to our kitchen, a faux fireplace, heck, even just painting the walls (and in some places, like our bedroom, we did fun things with paint, like adding stripes!) makes a huge difference. When you take all of these small projects, they add up.

    pay attention to detail

  7. Most importantly, make it work for you. The biggest advice I can give anyone trying to upgrade their home on the DIY track, is make it work for you. Find a project that you truly love, and that you feel will not only add beauty but something functional to your home, and go for it. Not only do you have something great when you are done, but the feeling you have when putting that kind of blood, sweat and tears into your home will make you love it even more (even if it’s not exactly your dream home still).

I’ve said it time and time again, this home is not our forever home, but at the same time, I can’t imagine not living here because of all the hard work we have put into it. I just hope, that the day we do put this little gem up for sale, the next owners love it just as much as us.

Weekend projects.

This weekend was our first weekend projects around the house for 2015.

When I woke up Saturday morning, it was raining. The rain was bringing in a very nice cool front, and had brought me a little headache with it. I decided, coffee was needed stat and the urge to make a project list for the weekend came upon me. We started simple for this year.


  1. Fix the kids’ bathroom door.
  2. Paint the rest of the doors on the kids’ side of the house to match the others
  3. Finish the girls’ window treatment.
  4. Clean the garage (this is actually always on my list because our garage is always a mess. Mike took this   and decided to not only clean, sort of, the garage, but reorganized his workbench area).

We’ve had this house for almost five years now, we bought new construction for our first home because at the time the girls were not even a year yet and we had no plans of buying a fixer-upper that would need a lot of TLC or extra energy from us. At that time, it was all about surviving life with three kids age two and under.


This house, was one of the spec homes, but we liked the lot it was on, with the golf course right behind us (meaning we’d have no backyard neighbors) and decided on it even though there were certain things about it that we couldn’t change because some of the choices had already been made. One thing that I hated was that the kids’ bathroom door swung out into the hallway. So weird, I know. The builder claimed it was on purpose, but I still think it was a mistake that they just didn’t want to correct. We shrugged it off and figured Mike couldn’t fix it.

Well, five years later, we finally fixed it. It’s one of those projects we do that we say, “why the heck did we wait so long to do this?!” when we are done. Seriously, the hallways feels 100x bigger now and the function of the door is so much better.


As for the doors, when Mike was done fixing the bathroom door, I finally got around to painting the rest of the doors in our house. If you have never thought about painting your doors a color besides white, I highly recommend it. I painted the doors in our bedroom, bathroom, closet and kitchen black a few years ago (not a true black, it’s almost like a brown/gray/black and in satin, no sort of gloss) and will never have white doors again. They just really add a nice punch to the aesthetics of your home.


Almost a year ago now (last spring break) I redid the girls’ bedroom. The only things left to do in the room are to finish the window treatments (big fat check after this weekend) and finish the gallery walls behind each of their beds. Maybe we’ll be done by this spring break.

No need to explain the last one. Garage is still not completely clean (or, to my standards at least). My car is thismuch closer to parking in it again, though.

It felt good to have a project-filled weekend. I’m ready to start making my next list…

A peek into the making of our backyard oasis.

Last weekend we started a big project for the kids. This new clubhouse has been our favorite part of after school during fall since it’s been built. Yes, in just a week, we’ve decided we love it so.

This weekend, after Tucker’s soccer game, we headed to Home Depot again and picked up paint, mulch and landscape bricks to start phase two of our backyard spruce up.

When we got home, Mike finished up the railing on the clubhouse while I painted the shed and outside of the clubhouse to match our house colors. We still have the inside and railing to paint but it’s really starting to come together. The new potted plants might have helped a bit, too.

Then we moved on to another project back there. Over the summer, we had a big blue pool in the backyard for the kids. It started to leak a lot towards the end of the summer, so Mike ended up taking it down. That left us a big circle in the yard of mucky dirt. We decided to turn that area into something fun for fall (and beyond). We used the landscape bricks to build a fire pit. Super easy and it cost about $30. We used the mulch to finish the area off, and I have big plans for Mike to build some rustic bench seats to go around it. We even tried it out Saturday night with a little hotdog roasting & s’more making.


backyard oasisbackyard clubhouseDSC_1407DSC_1413

Tonight, we ate dinner out there and Mike and the kids had fun playing soccer. This is really becoming a backyard oasis for us and the little start of fall weather is really helping, too. Phase three will be painting the rest of the clubhouse, sprucing up the inside with some decorations and then putting a new roof on the pergola. Once that’s done it will be time to just sit back and enjoy our new outdoor space.


My saving grace.

The kids used to have one of those prefab wood playgrounds. It was something my inlaws had gotten them one Christmas at our suggestion. It worked out well for a while, a slide, a few swings and a little “clubhouse” feel to it. This summer though, we realized it was on it’s last leg. MikeContinue Reading

In need of a little project time.

I started redoing the girls’ room during spring break. We painted, rearranged the furniture, and put out their new bedding. Since then I haven’t done much more. A few accessory pieces here or there and that is about it. There is a lot I still need to do, I just haven’t had the time toContinue Reading

Valentines Day Ideas & More.

With a couple of holidays coming up in February (I say that because Mike’s birthday is on Groundhog’s Day & he expects us to celebrate it & his birthday. He really thinks people should be putting inflatable groundhogs in their yard like they do snowmen at Christmas) I thought I’d share some fun things we’veContinue Reading

Laundry room re-do, before & after.

Before the new year even began, I had an idea of what I wanted our first project of 2014 to be. Besides the garage (Mike is horrible at keeping it clean but has vowed to try better this year, we’ll see!) the laundry/pantry is one of my least favorite parts of our house. Until nowContinue Reading

Christmas crafting: reindeer stenciled shirt

Today we are heading to Mount Dora for the weekend. We are going to start with their Christmas Parade this morning, and enjoy shopping & eating around their cute town during the day. We are staying at a charming bed & breakfast (reminiscent of the hotel in Dirty Dancing if you ask me) and weContinue Reading

Lucky Us Printable

Last week I shared the gift I made for Mike for our 7th wedding anniversary. I’ve gotten quite a few requests for the Lucky Us printable, so decided to make it available to you. Makes it much easier than having to email it out to all interested, I’m just so glad so many of youContinue Reading