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FAQ - renovate or wait? are "Phase 1" Remodels worth the time and money?

We bought our first home at the ripe old age of 24. Steven was just getting out of law school and we were living off of my Interior Designer entry level salary. I had no shortage of ideas for our home, but a major shortage of funds. It felt like we had roughly $14 to spend on our house. Clearly it was a bit more than that, but money was tiiiiight. Designer that I am, though, I was bound and determined to make our house into a beautiful home. We got scrappy, painted everything, swapped out some light fixtures, changed out hardware, and did all sorts of small things right away so that we could make it our own. Even if that meant that some of the updates we would be making would eventually get torn out to make way for bigger things.

Some people call that putting lipstick on a pig. Others call it a big waste of money. We call it:

The Phase 1 Refresh.

A Phase 1 Refresh is all about creating small, impactful changes now that allow you to enjoy your home, even while dreaming and planning for bigger changes down the road. Far from being a waste of money, it's about intentional changes that improve the look and functionality of your home, infuse some happiness into your days, and allow you to love the home you're with.

Today we're gonna break down 2 types of renovations, Phase 1 Refresh and a Phase 2 Renovation, and help you decide which may be right for you!

One of our most recently completed renovations, Project Shoreview, is a classic example of a Phase 1 Refresh that preceded a major Phase 2 Remodel. It was just featured as Houzz's Kitchen of the Week and is an incredible case study to illustrate why a small refresh might be just the ticket for your house.

Here's what the home looked like when our clients purchased it. Get ready for a trip to brown town.

YOWZA. I feel like I'm inside some sort of lodge - slash - bandaid? Very dark, very dated, with a choppy layout. But the size and location were perfect for our clients. They jumped at the house and immediately set after making some key updates.


Our clients had a vision for what they wanted for this space:

  • Update the flooring (white carpet in a high traffic area. Everyone's dream!)

  • Add some color to the sea of brown

  • Fix the choppy layout

  • Update the dated fixtures and finishes

They began with a Phase 1 Refresh. Instead of sledgehammering the entire kitchen and starting from scratch, they opted for a few lower cost and HIGH impact changes to make the space, how should I say, less cringey.

This Phase 1 approach has some major benefits:

  • A lower up-front cost as they moved into their new home.

  • Bought them TIME to figure out what they truly wanted for their space as they lived in their home over a period of time. Sometimes what you think you want isn't actually what you want in the long run.

  • Allowed them to be happy in their home for many years instead of daily existing inside a space that drove them crazy.

Here's what the home looked like after the Phase 1 Refresh:

A lot better, right?!?

The wallpaper is gone, cabinets are brighter, backsplash is neutralized, wood flooring installed in the living room, and updated lighting went a looooong way.

While there were still things they wanted to change in the long run (the choppy layout, 90's appliances that were systematically dying, and countertops), this refresh bought are clients some time and gave them a space that they could love and make memories in during the “in between” time.

When you can't take it anymore, a Phase 1 Refresh might be just what you need.

This approach allows you to make lower cost updates to your home so that you can enjoy it NOW and not put off loving your home until some undefined “later” that, let's be real, sometimes "later" never comes. We never did get around to that major remodel on our first house, but instead moved as our family grew. I'm so grateful that we made the updates we did when we moved in so that we could enjoy our home and not sit waiting for some future state.

We've all done the thing where we intend to make updates, but then life gets in the way, and the only thing that pushes us to make them is when we sell the house! And we lament that somebody else gets to enjoy the updates and we should have done it sooner.

That sucks. Let's try this instead and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

The key is to make intentional, high impact updates now, but not spend so much on them that you are unwilling to make the big changes you really want later. You might choose to DIY this phase, or call in some help. There's no right or wrong here. Hire a contractor or subcontractors as needed, and call in a designer to help you make some strategic choices, or give it a go on your own!


Back to our clients at Shoreview. Fast forward a few years (and some dollars saved). They were ready to get after it and create the home that they'd been dreaming of. They'd gotten the ROI out of their Phase 1 Refresh and enjoyed the space for nearly a decade. Now that the timing was right, it was time for the BIG SHOW - The Phase 2 Renovation. For that, they called in the big guns.

(We are the Big Guns, in case you're wondering).

phase 2 full kitchen renovation

phase 2 living room full renovation

phase 2 entry way full renovation

I mean, WOW, right?? In this Phase 2 Renovation, some major changes were made. Everything is updated: the cabinets, fixtures, finishes, appliances. The layout is maximized and optimized. We added special features customized to our clients' style (peek at that pantry door 🥰). Our very happy client said “This is so good! We are sharing it with our friends and family with the enthusiasm of a proud stage mom.” Best compliment ever, by the way.

When you're ready, a Phase 2 Renovation can give you the home of your dreams. For a renovation of this magnitude, you're definitely going to want to call in the professionals. You'll want a designer and contractor team who can make sure your getting the most out of your investment. On the nuts-and-bolts side, that your house will continue to stand up and that it meets building codes. On the experience side, you want to be sure your home reflects your style and is designed to suit your needs. Let the experts bring your vision to life and layer in the unexpected "wow" moments, the insider sources, and all of the awesome options that are out there that you'd never even think to include.

Our Shoreview clients did it right. They made some quick high-impact affordable updates, enjoyed their home for nearly 10 years, and then got the home of their dreams.

Here's the thing: nearly all of our clients tell us they wish they had done something sooner and not waited so long to become proud stage-moms of their homes.

Well, even if they didn't say it exactly that way, the sentiment is there.

If a full blown project isn't in the cards for you right now, consider a Phase 1 Refresh to help you love the home you're with until the timing is right.

If you have a Phase 1 Refresh or a Phase 2 Remodel cooking in your mind and you're not sure where to start, grab our Free Project Planning Guide. It will walk you through everything you'll want to think about before you begin - setting your style, budget, assembling the right professionals, schedule, and so much more. Grab yours here.

Alright! Get your paint brush ready and get after it!

phase 1 light remodel


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