Room Renovations: Beginners Guide to Create Your Dream Space

April 20, 2023

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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Having never really used a drill before, let alone a saw, my kids thought I was crazy when I came home and told them I was going to renovate our stairway. But per “Nicole fashion”, when I make the decision to do something, I go all in!

Pulling back a corner section of the carpet, I discovered to my delight, our stairs were made with real, quality wood. As opposed to OXB wooden stairs. Yes! Off came all of the carpet and so began my journey of room renovations.

Header image

Furniture building, interior design, and room renovations all became my happy place. They were my escape from the reality of our situation following my husband’s wakeboarding accident. A place I could go for a couple hours and immerse myself in something creative.

Woodworking and design truly became my therapy. It was what I needed during this hard time. God gave me a passion for something that I never in my life imagined I would ever be interested in. Isn’t that just like our God? (You can read my full story in this post).

In time, what was my therapy became my joy and my passion. Since the stairs incident, (HAHA!) I have completed several more home renovation projects….Here’s an extensive list of the different rooms I have conquered:

Multi-room renovations:

Single room Renovations:

Minor room renovation:

  • Foyer

A beautiful modern foyer with a sideboard table, pictures and a large black vase after room renovations are completed.

Of course, when you dive into things like I do, you also learn as you go. Needless to say, I have learned a lot from those earlier room renovations to the more recent ones.

Some of the things I have learned are:

  • The importance of assessing the space and my goals I want to accomplish with the space
  • Being realistic when setting a renovation budget
  • Planning the lighting and electrical in advance
  • Having a plan of action if something goes wrong
  • Perusing my favorite resources for ideas and inspiration
  • Having a plan for the design and color scheme I want to use
  • Being mindful of the layout and furniture placement
  • Executing the renovation with realistic expectations of my skills
  • Adding the finishing touches

Because jumping all in without a plan is usually not the best plan (hindsight is 20/20), I’m breaking down all of these pointers listed above and sharing them with you.

I want you to have great success in your room renovation journey. It can be so rewarding and so much fun, when you go into it with a plan. So, let’s get started.

The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them.  –David Hicks

Room Renovations: Creating Your Dream Space

Assessing the space and setting goals

Before starting any project, it’s important to assess the space and determine what the goals are.

Identifying what changes you want to make and ensuring that your project is tailored to your specific needs and preferences is step one. After all, you are the project manager of this DIY room renovation project.

Assess your space

Take a good long look at the current layout of the room. Is it functional? What design changes (if any) need to be made to make the flow of the living spaces better?

Are there any structural issues that need addressed before moving forward? If so, take care of those first!

This was the process I went through to change the footprint of my kitchen during the major remodel I took on last year.

I wanted this peninsula gone…

white kitchen with honey color hardwood floors

I was tired of our kitchen feeling so crowded. So, my neighbor and I removed it completely…

Open space in a kitchen with a mismatched floor and a huge black and white rug

So much better without it. Our kitchen feels much more open and we’re able to move around without constantly bumping into one another…

Muted view of modern kitchen makeover reveal with a wildflower planter display after room renovations have been completed.


Are you looking for more functionality? More storage? And/or merely wanting to update the aesthetics? Do you have a timeline you need or wish to meet in completing this project?

I am definitely a visual person and prefer to write these all out. I also love the feeling of getting to mark things off my checklist. Keeping a running tally of what needs done and what’s been finished is a great motivator when tackling room renovations.

Along with my checklist (mentioned above), I also like to keep a calendar of my timeline. I’ll set realistic goals for myself for each stage of the project and cross it off when I meet that goal.

If I don’t complete a task at the time I’ve given myself, no worries. I’ll push things back and re-evaluate the realistic timeline of completion.

Always anticipate the unexpected. Some days things go very smoothly and other days, not so much. But that’s ok. Keep going!

And I can’t stress strongly enough….Be realistic with your timeline expectations!

Corner cabinet removed and black painted shiplap walls added. A full view of the entire open space

Room renovations project: Setting a budget

Setting a realistic budget is one of the most important steps in planning a successful room renovation. But the key is: REALISTIC!

When planning your budget, it’s good to over budget rather than under budget. As I mentioned before, expect the unexpected.

Without a budget, it’s easy to overspend or lose track of costs, which can quickly bring a halt to your renovation plans.

How to set a room renovations budget

  • Create a detailed list of all the materials you’ll need for the project.
  • Determine which parts of the project (if any) you plan on hiring out. Make a list of the contractors you’ll need.
  • Make a list of permits you’ll need to pull (if any).
  • Research prices for each item in your materials list.
  • Decide if you’re going to hire a general contractor and ask for a ball park estimate.

Now that you have an estimate of the total costs, look at your overall budget and determine what you can realistically spend on this project.

If your budget doesn’t allow for all the items on your wishlist, prioritize your spending by focusing on the most essential elements of the project first.

An example of this would be, if you’re remodeling your kitchen, you may want to prioritize new appliances or countertops over the decorative accessories. You can always add those in later.

Another option would be to DIY certain parts of your project that you would normally spend a lot of money on.

For example, countertops. When renovating my kitchen, I knew purchasing all new countertops would drastically dip into my overall budget. So, instead, I chose to do them myself. I took my existing old countertops and transformed them to look like brand new marble countertops. They are gorgeous! And you would never know they’re not the real thing. (Here’s the post on how I did it, if you want to try this on your countertops).

Marble finished countertops with epoxy during room renovations project

Throughout the renovation process, keep track of your spending and adjust your budget as needed. Once again, unexpected costs may arise. Make sure to have some wiggle room in your budget.

By setting a realistic budget and prioritizing your spending, you can ensure that your room renovations project stays on track and within your means.

Plan the lighting and electrical in advance

Lighting is a very important part of any renovation project. Not only can it directly impact the look and feel of a space, it is also key for improving the functionality of the room.

Good lighting can enhance ambiance while also highlighting the key features of the room. To plan for lighting in your renovation, you should consider the following:

Determine your lighting needs

Before diving into your room renovations, consider how the room will be used. What types of lighting are needed? For example, a living room will require different lighting than a kitchen.

In a living room, ambient lighting is desired for relaxation and conversation. Task lighting might be needed for reading or working. You may even consider installing accent lighting to highlight artwork or architectural design features.

I like to keep overhead lighting off in my living room as much as possible. Overhead lights tend to be harsh and ineffective at setting the relaxed mood a living room calls for.

View of a family room with carpet, furniture and board and batten painted black in the background

However, when I’m working in my kitchen, I have all of my overhead lights on. I, of course, want to be able to see clearly all of my labels and measurements as I’m preparing dinner.

But when the kitchen is closed (as I tell my kids 🙂 ), I like to have accent lighting on underneath my upper cabinets and in my butler’s pantry.

Lighting is often overlooked in a renovation project, but it truly should be one of the most important elements to consider. It sets the stage for the feel of the entire room.

Choosing light fixtures

So, now that you know what kind of lighting you want for the room, it’s time to decide on the actual light fixtures.

Choose fixtures that not only meet your practical needs, but also complement the design style of the room.

Take for example, the pendants I chose for over my kitchen island. Keeping in mind the organic modern vibe I was going for in this space, I looked for a style that was made of a wood texture….

Counter stools pushed up to a breakfast bar

Other factors to consider, besides the design of the lighting, are the size and the color.

Once again, take my kitchen island as an example. One large or very small pendant would have made the space feel out of proportion.

Landing on two pendants, equally sized and proportioned well, is fitting to the space and pleasing to the eye.

Choosing light bulbs

Choosing the right light, can affect the quality of light and the overall ambiance of the room.

LED bulbs are energy-efficient and long-lasting, while incandescent bulbs offer a warm, cozy glow. Consider the color temperature of the bulb, which can range from cool to warm, and choose one that complements the color scheme and style of the room.

Plan lighting placement

Strategically placing lighting fixtures can enhance the overall design and functionality of a room.

Think about where you need light the most and plan accordingly. For example, task lighting should be placed in areas where you will be reading or working, while accent lighting should be placed to highlight artwork or decorative features.

Mid Century Modern nightstand stained and painted for room renovations project.

Consider smart lighting

Smart lighting technology allows you to control your lighting with your smartphone or voice assistant, making it easy to adjust the lighting throughout the day and set the mood for different activities.

Consider electrical

It’s much easier to install an electrical outlet when your project is in demo mode, rather than in finished mode. I’ve made this mistake one too many times.

Take note of where your outlets are and if you need any of them moved prior to starting on your finish work.

This is one step I wish I would have thought through more thoroughly when building my kitchen island. I neglected to add any electrical outlets over there and now wish I would have.

Full view of diy kitchen island with baskets, a plant and modern light pendants

Having a plan of action if something goes wrong

When starting any project, I know in the back of my mind, “If anything goes wrong, I can call Max.” Max is my handyman when a project is out of my realm of expertise and I just can’t figure it out. Or I’ve made a “big” mistake and need to call in the expert.

During my master bathroom renovation, I called on Max to help me replace my ceramic tile. I had never tiled before and he was a great resource to lead me in the right direction of getting started.

master bathroom mediterranea porcelain tile floor with white walls

Who’s your Max? It’s good to have a Max, just in case.

Knowing I have Max on back up when needed, allows me to have more confidence in what I’m doing. I know that whatever happens, if I make a mistake, he’ll be able to fix it.

Will it cost me? Yes. But, the peace of mind makes it all worth it.

Adding a possible call to Max into my budget gives me even more peace of mind, knowing I already accounted for that expense. I estimate high for this and consider it a bonus, when I don’t end up needing his services.

Finding the right design for my room renovations

When renovating a room, it’s important to consider the right design style and color scheme. These two factors can make all the difference in creating a cohesive design and a visually appealing space.

Here are some things to consider when choosing the right design style and color palette:

Consider the function of the room

The function of the room should guide your choice of design style and color scheme. For example, a home office may benefit from a modern and minimalistic design, while a living room may be better suited to a cozy and inviting design style.

Bird's eye view of a family room after living room updates

Look for inspiration

I look for inspiration from a variety of sources. Pinterest and Instagram are the two platforms I head to first. But I don’t stop there.

Oftentimes, I find even more inspiration from my favorite catalogs. Of course, rather than perusing an actual catalog, this usually consists of me going online to my go-to retailers and checking out their site. Some of my favorites include:

As a side note, I love to check these sites out when finding my next furniture build too. I’ll find the one I love, draw up my own plans, head to my shop and build it.

This dupe from West Elm sits in our dining room today and I absolutely love it! (You can check out the plans for how I built it, in this post).

Modern dining table on a vintage rug with black board and batten on the wall in the background

Choose a color palette

Choose a color palette that complements your design style and the function of the room. This is very much dependent on the room you are renovating.

For example, I chose an all white kitchen with pops of color added in. I like the clean palette and flexibility this gives me to add in color where I want. Through my chairs in my nook. Throw blanket and pillows. Plants. Hardware. Wall art. Black cabinets on my kitchen island. Wherever I choose.

Girl in kitchen opening an upper white cabinet door

The details are not the details. They make the design.  –Charles Eames

But my theater room is a stark contrast of my kitchen. With all of the walls and ceiling painted black, this room has a completely different feel than the rest of the house. As it should, since it serves a different purpose.

The dark moody color sets the ambiance of this room to a very relaxing, cozy feel.

Back of a sofa in front of a big screen tv with a winter scene on it

Don’t be afraid to venture out of the norm. Step out of your comfort zone and play with colors and textures. This is your chance to express your creativity. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try something new. It’s truly what sets a room apart and gives it that “WOW” factor!

Being mindful of the layout and furniture placement

The layout of the room and placement of the furniture matter greatly in a room renovations project. They are crucial things to consider in order to achieve the perfect balance of form and function. To get started, I like to follow these tips:

Create a floor plan

A floor plan is a great tool for visualizing the layout of a room and determining the best placement for furniture.

Measure the dimensions of the room and use graph paper or a digital tool to sketch out a layout. This will help you determine the flow of the space and the best placement for furniture.

I personally am a paper and pencil girl. Call me old school. 🙂 But there are many tools out there for mapping the layout of a room…

Choose furniture

When choosing furniture for your renovated space, consider both the style and the functionality of the pieces.

Look for pieces that fit the scale and proportion of the room and that complement your design style. For example, a large sectional sofa may be perfect for a cozy family room, while a sleek and minimalistic dining table may be better suited for a modern kitchen.

Consider traffic flow

When planning the layout of a room, consider the traffic flow and make sure there is enough space to move around comfortably.

Avoid placing furniture in narrow walkways or blocking doorways or windows.

Blocking windows is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. I like to keep my window space open and uncluttered. Allowing as much natural light through as possible, is so very important to me. Therefore, when placing accent chairs, like the ones flanking my family room windows….

Two cream colored modern chairs with a tripod lamp in between. For room renovations project.

And my kitchen nook windows….

Birds eye view of sitting area in modern kitchen makeover

I pull them away from the windows. I allow space between the windows and the chairs, so as not to make the space feel crowded. And still allowing the windows to be the focal point.

Another important point to consider is your traffic flow through a room. A good rule of thumb, is to have a 3 foot clearance in walkway areas. For example, when building my kitchen island, I allowed for a 3 foot space between the island and any wall surrounding the island. This is actually code in several states for any stationary item.

Balance form and function

When choosing furniture and making design choices, it’s important to balance form and function. While aesthetics are important, the space also needs to be functional and practical. Consider the purpose of the room and choose furniture and decor that meets your needs while also reflecting your personal style.

Experiment with different layouts

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different layouts and furniture placement to find the best arrangement for your space. Try moving furniture around until you find a layout that works well for your needs and looks great.

Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love.  –Nate Berkus

A Scandinavian minimalist interior design look with a large dining table and modern chars..For room renovations post

By following these tips, you can plan the perfect layout and furniture placement for your renovated space, creating a functional and stylish environment that meets your needs and reflects your personal style.

Executing the renovation with realistic expectations of my skills

Realistic expectations of my skills

This is the key. While I’m not afraid to try most things when it comes to the DIY realm, I do know my limits.

For instance, when laying my new LVP flooring in my kitchen remodel, I had to move my range away from the wall. Or, I should say, the Mr. had to move the range away from the wall. 🙂

New flooring being laid in a kitchen going through room renovations

It would have been easier to turn off the gas and unhook the stove altogether, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. Therefore, we were very careful with how far out we moved the range and very mindful of the gas connection, staying clear of it completely.

If I would have needed to remove the stove completely, I would have called in a professional to unhook the gas. That was out of my comfort level and not to mention, expertise. Also, might I add, extremely dangerous and not something to mess around with….when you don’t know what you’re doing.

All of this to say, be mindful of your limitations. Follow all safety precautions.

Focus on safety

I can’t emphasize this one enough. When executing your renovation, safety should always be a top priority.

Use safety equipment such as gloves, goggles, and masks when working with chemicals or power tools.

Ensure that electrical and plumbing systems are turned off before working on them, and use caution when climbing ladders or working on elevated surfaces.

Stay organized

Organization is my happy place. I cannot function in a space that is in chaos with everything out of place. So, how on earth do I keep my sanity while I’m in the work zone of my renovation project? I organize what I can.

Making sure that all of my tools have a home and that they always get put away, helps me stay on track and not lose my mind. As for the rest of the mess, I’ve learned to tell myself (over and over sometimes 🙂 ), it has to look really bad, before it looks really good.

Stay motivated

Renovations can be a lengthy process, so it’s important to stay motivated and focused on your end goal.

Take time to celebrate small victories along the way. Step back and admire your work and all that you have accomplished. Remember why you started the renovation in the first place. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or advice from friends or professionals if you need it.

Find yourself a “Max”. Haha!

Adding the finishing touches

Ahhhhh! The best part! Adding the finishing touches to your newly renovated space. All the hard labor is done and now you get to dive into making it beautiful. Here are a few tips for adding in those finishing touches:

Add artwork

Artwork can add personality and visual interest to a room. Choose pieces that complement your design style and color palette.

I love to create my own canvas wall art. This is a great way to not only save money, but also let my creative juices flow and get the look I want.

Here are two great tutorials on how I do this. It’s so easy! I encourage you to go check them out:

Canvas hung with wooden frame around it for room renovations project

Beautiful canvas wall art on the wall with decor on a console in front of it

Focus on lighting

Lighting can enhance the ambiance and functionality of a room. It’s amazing how lighting can change the entire mood of a room. Transforming a room from sterile to cozy, all with the flip of a switch. Try to avoid using overhead lighting as much as possible. Instead focus on these lighting options:

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Incorporate textiles

Ahhhh! Texture! My most favorite way to elevate a space. Textiles such as throw pillows, blankets, and curtains can add texture and warmth to a room.

Choose fabrics that complement your color scheme and style. Bring in a variety of textures for added visual interest and depth.

Create a cohesive look

I’m a huge fan of symmetry. If I add a plant to one side of my fireplace mantle, I’m probably going to do the same thing to the other side. I like the balance that it gives. But that’s me.

You may prefer asymmetry. And that’s ok too. When it comes to decorating and design, while there are some steadfast rules (such as don’t hang a picture too high on the wall), it really comes down to personal preference.

I have a really great blog post of what to do and what not to do when decorating a room. You can check it out here!

Sitting space with a love seat and coffee table

Maintain organization

You’ve put in all of this hard work. Keep it organized and decluttered by utilizing baskets to hide “all the stuff”.

If your house is like mine, you have things that tend to be left out all the time. Such as remotes and coasters (when the kids think to use them 🙁  ). Give all of these things a home rather than leaving them out in the open.

Room Renovations-Wrap it up

In conclusion, successful room renovations requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a willingness to experiment and take risks.

By following the tips and advice outlined in this post, you can create a beautiful and functional space that reflects your personal style and meets your practical needs.

Remember to set a budget, choose your design style and color scheme, plan your layout and furniture placement, and execute your renovation safely and efficiently.

And don’t forget to add those finishing touches that bring your space to life. I hope this post has inspired you to get started on your own renovation project, and I encourage you to share your successes and challenges in the comments below.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

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accent chair
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