Episode #103: (MINI) Are Phase One Makeovers Worth It?

Hello! This week, Laura is sitting in for Emma (who is currently taking maternity leave) and we’re breaking down why we LOVE phase one makeovers—and some of the debate surrounding them.

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Thank you to Allform for sponsoring this week’s mini episode! Right now, ABM listeners can take 20% off their order by visiting allform.com/abeautifulmess.

Show notes: 
-Here are all the phase one makeovers that we reference throughout this episode: kitchen backsplash with stick on tile, faux marble counter (if you want to see the hot and cold comments on this project, look here), Laura’s painted backsplash, here’s the tile counter Laura built for her phase one. Here’s the shelves Laura will have to rebuild. Elsie’s closet and Jeremy’s closet.

Here’s the kit we used for the faux marble counter.

Here’s a photo of Laura’s current bathroom that we talk about quite a bit.

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Thanks so much for listening!

Episode 103 Transcript

 

Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast this week, Laura is sitting in for Emma and we’re chatting about the hot debate on whether or not it’s worth your time and money to do a phase one makeover. This is something that gets debated in our comments section often, and we’re excited to break it down with you today. OK, welcome, Laura.

Laura: Thanks for having me, I’m excited to be here!

Elsie: Thank you for sitting in for Emma.

Laura: Oh you’re welcome.

Elsie: And if you guys haven’t heard, Emma is off on maternity leave, so she will be back in September. And I love this subject matter that we’re covering today because this is like — have you seen these comments go wild before?

Laura: I don’t. Well, we’ll get into it, but I don’t understand what’s not to like, so. We’ll get into that.

Elsie: So should we start off by I can explain like both sides.

Laura: Yeah. Yeah.

Elsie: So a phase one makeover. Let me define it first off. So it basically just means I know I’m going to remodel like this kitchen down the road in a couple of years. But right now I don’t like how it looks, but I don’t want to remodel it like I don’t want to waste too much money. So I’m just going to do a little something that makes it feel more like me, more like my family, and more like a happy place for me to live in for two years. So for me, for my example, we moved into like a nice, very nice, but very boring, nice kitchen, very plain. And what we did was we covered over there was like a mirror backsplash, which is not a good backsplash material in my opinion, anyway, but it was also like a dark black mirror. It was really just not my thing. So we covered over that with some stick-on tile and I quote unquote wasted like two hundred dollars on Etsy for that. And then I did a faux marble countertop, which is like a very hot debate. I actually loved the comments…

Laura: It turned out great though.

Elsie: Yeah. The comments were like very hot and cold. So I used this kit. I will link it in the show notes and I will also link the blog post about each of these projects. But anyway, I did basically a two-day DIY project where it made our speckled dark granite countertop look like a marble countertop. And it, for my taste and for my opinion, is much prettier now. So, yeah, that’s what I did for my phase one. And it, I guess in total was about four hundred dollars. And it is definitely wasted money, if what you mean by that is, will you keep it when you remodel? The answer is no. Both of those things will leave when we remodel in a couple of years. But for our budget and our place in life, I felt like it was worthwhile for me to spend a little bit now to have a happier, more beautiful kitchen, because in my opinion, two years is a long time. So, yeah, now I’m enjoying it every day.

Laura: That’s the question is like, what do you mean by waste? Like, is it money that I’m not going to get back or money that’s not like staying in the space long term? Sure. Is it a waste overall? No. And especially because I mean, I get it. It depends on what type of personality you are for sure. Like, not everybody needs a phase one makeover. Like, would you agree with that?

Laura: For sure and I mean, I think…

Laura: Just based on their brain and how they feel about the space.

Elsie: If you can leave your kitchen exactly how it is, even though you want to remodel it eventually and enjoy it for a few years, do that. Like I wasn’t able to do that. If I could have, I would have.

Laura: Yeah.

Elsie: There’s nothing wrong with just leaving it alone until you’re ready to go. OK, but where the comments get tricky is that a lot of people think that if you like do the work and spend some money on something that you’re not planning to keep like in your long term plan that you’re wasting and that you should have kept that money for the kitchen budget. And like, I’ll just be like, very honest with you. Like, four hundred dollars towards our eventual kitchen remodel is like basically nothing. Like it’s not a thing that would have changed the needle hardly at all

Laura: For a kitchen remodel, no.

Elsie: And for me, like I can see some people if you had spent like two thousand dollars, like maybe your mini makeover’s two thousand dollars, that’s where I feel like it can get a little more like, hmm, I’m not sure, you know.

Laura: Right. Yeah.

Elsie: And I could understand that, like Laura when you first moved into your house in Nashville, do you remember how you, like, rebuilt your counter and you did quite a bit of work for something that you knew you weren’t going to keep? Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Laura: Yeah. I mean, that’s probably my biggest, like phase one, because every other room in the house was kind of like you could paint the walls, change some furniture, and that was like good enough while you were kind of figuring out what you wanted, but when there’s like so that you hate, that’s like tiled into the wall or is like a whole cabinet or, you know, that’s the stuff that’s harder to live with and for me to just kind of block out and forget about. So it had like a brown backsplash that was very like, you know, big-box store like 15 years ago, something that they grabbed off the shelf and not my taste at all. And so one thing that I did there was we painted it and we can link that blog post in the notes as well. It’s kind of like a boat paint. I believe it was like a marine paint, but it worked really well. And it wasn’t an area that was getting, like touched a lot or handled because it’s a backsplash. And so it like looked perfect, basically.

Elsie: I honestly think you could have done, like that type of paint. You could have done it in like a shower or something that like it like the backsplash almost didn’t like need it to be that hardcore, would you say?

Laura: It probably didn’t. It’s just something that I found and I didn’t know how long I was going to leave it exactly either. And so I wanted something that was going to be, you know, not like last two months and then peel off.

Elsie: Painting tile is a great solution. I don’t think people realize that, like, you can paint tile and it does last not as well as new tile, but I mean…

Laura: Right.

Elsie: It does last.

Laura: Yeah. And it’s a and it depends like if it’s a high traffic area, it is a little more risky for sure, but especially places you’re not touching. It’s like go for it. And if you know you’re going to replace it at some point, it’s going to make you feel better. So that was like a huge thing to get that painted. And because I knew it was temporary, I did like a fun color, which honestly, I might not have done that color whenever I was actually putting in like I did a white tile when I did like the real tile later on because I wanted something a little more like neutral to change over the years. But since I knew it was temporary, I did something fun. And then we had another area that had like a big ,I think that was a black granite countertop as well. And so we took that off and I just built like a little countertop instead and tiled it almost like a big board that had the sides trimmed out with tile on top. And I did it in like a white subway. And again, it was a temporary thing. It took me like a day or two to build on a weekend, just a little bit of tile and some wood. And it made the space so much brighter and happier. And some of the things we did in the phase one, we got to keep, though, like painting cabinets. We kept a lot of the vintage cabinets and just kept them painted. So it was something that was like in the phase one that we were doing the work in the money, but it ended up getting kept for like the final results as well. So sometimes you do have things in your phase one that aren’t wasted at all because they end up in the final product. You’re just like doing them now.

Elsie: Definitely, yes. Kind of a mix. That is a great point. OK, so when we did our little backsplash recently, I got kind of an unexpected result from it. And what it was is that I think now that I have lived with that and kind of like, I don’t know, like it’s been a few months and I walk in there every day and it seriously makes me happy every day. I love it so much. And it’s a boring kitchen, like it’s not like a bad kitchen. It’s just it’s really boring. It just doesn’t really have any features about it that are like, you know, except for just like, oh, nice appliances. Nice, nice. But it’s like the word that you would use is never like cute or cool or interesting. It’s definitely only nice. So anyways, after living with that pattern-y faux-tile for a few months, now I know that when we eventually do remodel that I’m definitely open to patterned tile in that space, which I did not think before. Like I definitely love an all white kitchen. Love it. It’s classic, it’s beautiful. But after living with this in this space, I kind of feel like maybe I don’t want it to be all white just because, you know, it’s so big. And I really like how the pattern fills up the space. So I would suggest that, too, is that when you’re doing a phase one, try something like a little bit different that’s like kind of on the edge for you and see if you don’t grow to love it, you know, because sometimes living with something can really change your perspective about it.

Laura: Yeah, that’s your chance. I mean, you know, my job is doing DIY, so I might, like it a little more than other people, but I like learning new skills and learning how to do something that I didn’t before. And a lot of those phase one makeovers are when I learned to do something new because it’s like I needed something done kind of fast and cheap. So the answer to that is usually DIY and doing it yourself. And so that’s really whenever I learn to do a lot of that stuff, too, because if I’m going to have like the final product to be like these nice cabinets or these nice Boltons that I’m buying or having somebody else build, if I want them to be perfect, like I’m probably going to save that for like the final result. And in the meantime, I’m going to learn so do a built in shelf where I’m going to learn to take this and turn it into that. And so I think for me, it’s also kind of a time to learn some new skills as well. But I enjoy doing that. So that might not be everybody’s thing.

Elsie: I’m curious. We should do a poll how many people like would do any kind of DIY in their home versus no. Like for me, it’s like I wouldn’t use power tools, but I would totally do like something like painting a faux wallpaper or painting the faux countertop was fun. Like things like that do it all day.

Laura: Yeah.

Elsie: Learning to build my own dining room table. Not gonna happen. Let’s talk about when we’ve done phase one makeovers in the past because we’ve kind of done it a lot. Like it’s kind of like most of the time, especially since we’re DIY bloggers, we have the added benefit of if we do a phase one makeover, it’s like content and it’s actually a lot of times more popular than the big expensive one because it’s like, you know, it’s more doable. And that is a lot of times the renter-friendly, things like that. So anyway, let’s talk about when it’s been worth it and if it’s ever been a waste.

Laura: Well, my kitchen that I was talking about was definitely worth it because that took a space that had a lot of really dark choices and made them a lot brighter and didn’t have a lot of windows in there. And just kind of the way it was like trapped in between two rooms. So it was just so much brighter, so much happier because especially with kitchens, they’re expensive. If you’re doing renovations in a kitchen that’s like that and bathrooms are going to be your most expensive thing. So while we were saving up for that, it just really lifted my spirits and made me feel so much more connected to the house and like it was my space where I lived. So that was totally worth it. I still think overall they’re worth it all the time. The only time it was almost not worth it was when I did these like built in shelves in this one area, like I did all this painting and did all these like shelves in this one room that we have here in this house by the fireplace. And it’s kind of like the main feature of the room. And I spent a lot of time and it looked great. And then a couple months later, we realized we wanted to do this like a mantle on the fireplace, which was going to like come over to the shelves. And the shelves I had built were in the wrong spot in order to do the math. So we’re going to like have to do two shelves instead of three. And so I was like I just did all this work. And now because I’ve — I didn’t have, like, the room plans totally done in my head, you know. And so when we, like, sat down and did all that…

Elsie: There’s no way you could.

Laura: I know. I know. But it just like I felt like I, like, wasted all that work and time. But in reality, by the time we actually, like, get the mantel in there, it probably will be almost a year from building the shelves. And I’ve definitely been using them all year. It’s like where most of my Christmas decorations were in that room, like it got used quite a bit. So in the end, yes, they’re not going to stay. And I wish maybe I like had that plan from the beginning. But in terms of me enjoying them, they definitely weren’t a waste. Like, I enjoyed them for a year and I loved putting pictures and Christmas trees and twinkle lights and whatever else I had up there. So it’s like…

Elsie: That makes me so sad because for a while that was like your main photo spot in your house. And it’s like the thing I’m the most attached to.

Laura: I know. Well, there’s still going to be shelves there. It’s just…

Elsie: You just have to redo them?

Laura: I would have — I just kind of have to redo them. Yeah. So there will still be shelves.

Elsie: I don’t think that counts as a phase one makeover because it’s just really specific, you know, it’s like…

Laura: Yeah.

Elsie: Just a coincidence that you’re I guess the thing that maybe the one thing about it is that when you do build, like when you do big decisions without knowing your full room plan, then you do have a little more risk with them.

Laura: Yeah, that’s true.

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OK, so for mine, I really think most of the time it’s worth it. Although I do have a situation where it’s not. So in my current home, our kitchen and our main bathroom, we did some pretty extensive phase one makeovers because we basically just took what was there with no contractors coming in and made it cute. And I’m happy we did it because we’ve recently been talking about pushing back our renovation like a whole extra year. And I kind of knew that. I always knew that could happen easily, you know, like that. That’s like a normal thing that happens, you know, where you’re like, oh, I just need a little extra time here. So, yeah, I’m really happy that I did the main bathroom. We added some stick-on wallpaper in our water closet, I’ll link to that. We really made our closets adorable. And I don’t know that they’ll get to stay when we do our big renovation just because it’s like — the likelihood that we’ll reconfigure is very high because I know we’re going to change the ceilings and everything. Like the whole, the closets are like basically perfect and the whole rest of the bathroom is like not. But I won’t regret the things we did because they yes, we spent some money, but not a lot like we spent a budget that we were comfortable being like this is a two-year thing just to make it feel good for now because those two rooms, specifically the kitchen and the main bathroom, did not feel great when we first moved in. And now they feel like pretty good. And I don’t think I’ll be sad to wait that extra year if that’s what we choose to do. And I think that’s really the main thing that I feel like is a big benefit for me is that the phase one makeovers make me feel like I won’t jump into a renovation because I’m anxious. I think if I didn’t do anything, I would be more likely to rush. And I don’t want that, you know, especially with, like a major kitchen renovation. It’s not something I want to jump into without the proper planning phase before. So the thing that’s a waste, this might be like an unpopular opinion we’ll see. But for me, the times that I ever felt like really guilty for wasting something is always the same thing. It’s mid-priced furnishings and furniture. So when you first move into a space, you want there to be like function in every room and, you know, furniture and basic things covered. And a lot of times when I’m in that phase, I’ll turn to my mid-priced shops that I love. You know, the Urban Outfitters, Wayfair, CB2. Yeah. Anything in that category. And I have found that if I buy decor pieces like or furnishing pieces way before I plan the room, it’s for me it’s usually a mistake. It’s not good for me to do that. So my thing is now is if I need to get a filler, I think it should be like a thrift or a Facebook marketplace priced filler, not like an even Urban Outfitters, I think is too expensive because, you know, if you spend like two hundred dollars on a chair, that might feel like a good price compared to, like, the six hundred dollar chair, you know, that’s on Westelm. But if you’re sitting at your curb two years later, you probably will still feel guilty. So.

Laura: Right.

Elsie: Yeah, I would stay away from mid-priced filler pieces.

Laura: Yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely true. I mean, because wasting a little bit of like paint or, you know, little bits of stick on tile that’s different from like you bought all your furniture. That wasn’t really what you wanted. Like that’s not as helpful.

Elsie: Yeah. If you’re not sure what dining room chairs you want, get them from a thrift, you know, paint them. Like a fun color, live with him for a year and then buy the ones that you put thought into. That’s my suggestion. So, Laura, you moved last summer. Wait, did we both move last summer?

Laura: Yeah, well, end of summer.

Elsie: Summer/fall. I moved in August. What month did you move in?

Laura: August, September.

Elsie: Ok, so let’s say in our current homes, which rooms are we doing the phase one and which rooms are we waiting to go all in?

Laura: So I would say the expensive rooms are being — we’re waiting to do like the full thing, which is usually what we do. I guess I usually do kind of like, bedrooms, living room, dining room, they usually get coats of paint and decor and rugs and we switch out light fixtures, which is huge for phase one makeover is like just easy switching of fixtures can be a really big boost to a room. But, yeah, the kitchen and the bathroom are both going to be like, just do it all at once. Like, there’s no point in trying to split that up because there is so much to do in those rooms and we’re doing our kitchen now. But honestly, I think our bathroom is going to be a while and I’m trying to decide if I need to do a phase one in there or if I’m just going to, like, leave it, because it’s one of those rooms that is like, so crazy and has so many crazy things about it that are like hard to…

Elsie: Okay name a few.

Laura: Like I think the room originally was thick glass tile, you know, like on the walls, kind of like a lot of vintage bathrooms are, which is fine, except that they took like a stucco material, plaster type stuff and did like — you know like those ceilings when they make that texture on a ceiling it’s called, which they called knock down? Knock down ceilings? It looks like that. But on the walls in like a really thick, not uniform way. So they just covered over the tile with like a thick stucco weird pattern. And so you can’t like, you can’t really wallpaper over it. You can’t do, like, stick on wallpaper over it. You can’t do like a half wall of, like, molding because it’s some of it sticks so far out from the wall, like it’s so 3D. It’s really hard to do anything. And even if you just paint it like you still see the texture of it very clearly.

Elsie: Oh man. It just needs new walls.

Laura: So that’s kind of like a tough one. It needs entire new walls, like probably down to the studs, I think, because I don’t know if you can take off the glass tile without kind of like ruining everything underneath it. That’s just like sledgehammer for the whole day. It has a glass tile ceiling,

Elsie: What?

Laura: Which I’ve never seen before. It’s like. Square glass tiles as the ceiling with these little like decorative screws at the corner of each four piece…I don’t know if the screws are like holding it up into the tile. Part of the room is pink tile and part of the room is green ceiling tile. So there’s that..so there’s things like that that are just like they are just really…

Elsie: I think you need to show a picture of this bathroom in the show notes because it’s actually everything she’s saying and more it is likely the most challenging bathroom I’ve ever seen.

Laura: And there was originally like this built-in vanity with a mirror that’s not hung on the wall, that is in the wall like it is in with the tile. And so we can’t, like, take the mirror out, like we could kind of like, well, wiggle out the vanity shelf. So there’s just like a big hole where that is. And the mirror is still sitting there. And they had those like theater mirrors with like the bulbs, like the giant round bulbs, like you would see of like Judy Garland was getting her makeup done for a show, like they had, like, those on the side. So it’s just kind of a crazy bathroom. And I just don’t know if it can even, like, be phased one or if it just needs to wait until it all goes away.

Elsie: I would vote wait until it all goes away. Based on what I now know.

Laura: I think that’s where I am. I think the basement is going to be one big phase one when we get to that, because it kind of has like a — it feels like a church basement sort of where it’s got like wood paneling and textured ceilings that used to have this, like, crazy bar set up in one area and cement walls and cement floors. And it’s just very like it’s not an unfinished basement, but as if we’re not finished, it’s like a little bit finished basement, I would call it. So, and to finish out a whole basement is like crazy expensive. So that’s definitely going to be like a lot of phase one makeovers down there, I would think. But we’re still kind of focusing on the top for a moment. So I haven’t even, like, really started anything down there yet. But there’s a very big phase one area.

Elsie: Ok, so in our home, the rooms that we’re just like leaving, I think I just don’t show them very much. So people don’t really notice that they’re there. But there’s two bathrooms in our upstairs where we’re doing zero, like I — and I really think we probably won’t do anything until it’s like time to really do it. One is Nova’s future bedroom, which is right now kind of just like an extra guest bedroom. It’s like the bedroom that has a queen bed. It has that cute little kids vanity that we built last year is in there. And that’s basically it. It’s just like a plain bedroom. It’s like a really well-lit bathroom. It has a shower…

Laura: Is that the time machine bathroom?

Elsie: Yes, the time machine. Yes, it has a shower only, which I feel like isn’t what I would do for a kids bathroom. So if so, I feel like when the time comes, I’ll probably give her a bath shower combo. And then the other one is the bathroom that’s in the hidden room by my office. There’s a little bathroom back there and it is an ultimate nothing bathroom. There’s nothing interesting about it. There’s nothing unique about it. And someday we’ll do something with it. But at the moment it’s just like, nice to have one there. And yeah, yeah, I was going to do the guest bathroom this year and I had to take it off the schedule as well. So it’s just a boring white bathroom and it’s going to be for a while and yeah. Just more makeovers for next year I guess. OK, so we will put all of the phase one makeovers that we’ve mentioned in the show notes. I think it’s pretty clear, but our conclusion is phase one makeovers are totally worth it worth and maybe you waste a little tiny, tiny bit of money. But if it’s something that makes you happy for a couple of years, I give that a big thumbs up. Thank you so much for listening. We appreciate you all so much. If you have a chance this week, please leave us a review. It’s really helpful. I am so, so, so appreciative. Every time I check in on the reviews, there’s so many. They’re so nice. So thank you. And we’ll be back again next week.

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  • So before listening to this episode I thought phase 1 reno meant under $500/mostly just paint….I think a disclaimer for privilege would have been useful here as I know for myself and other listeners, every penny matters. I know you guys wouldn’t hurt anyone on purpose! Still love ABM!

    • Hi! I agree that $500/mostly just paint is a good phase one renovation. Of course, it is fully dependent on what each persons goals are, how long they are living with the space etc. What did we say that was hurtful? I care very much about this and no, I never want to hurt anyone. Of course!

      Thanks for your feedback.

  • I have a question about less expensive / mid price furniture as a phase one regret! Is it just that it doesn’t make sense to spend the money for a temporary holder piece or does this furniture also not hold up well in your experience?

    • Hi Megan,
      I would say mainly the first one! It doesn’t make sense (for me!) to spend $$$ on furniture before I know the full vision for how I want to decorate a room.

      I don’t think that mid-priced furniture is all crappy and won’t last. I have some stuff from Amazon and Urban Outfitters that we’ve used for about 10 years in our homes! To me, it’s more just about having the plan before spending money.

      • Thank you so much for answering, Elsie! I’ve just moved into my second home and have a substantial decorating / remodeling budget for the first time, and it’s really hard to tell if sofa price differences are all down to quality or if some of it is brand / design instead.

  • Oh my goodness Laura, that bathroom is so much worse than I pictured when you were talking about it. I agree with Elsie, I am not sure how you can phase one it. I can’t tell if it’s a trick of the photos, but the ceiling and bathtub look kind of terracotta beigey pink while the paint on the walls looks like a cool purply-pink. Maybe my biggest issue is the two shades of pink kind of clash. I wonder if for a phase one you could paint over the light pink walls with white to at least reduce the clashing of the pinks until you can gut that bathroom.

    Needless to say, I can’t wait to see this project after you redesign it!

  • I loved this episode of the podcast, and I have to share my phase 1 reno story 🙂

    Eventually we’d love to do a major kitchen/dining room reno which would include knocking down a load bearing wall. This whole renovation would be very expensive, probably $60k minimum.

    So, in the meantime, we’ve decided on a phase 1 kitchen reno. For a little over $2k we added recessed lighting (sorry Elsie, it was so dim even with the light fixture), new flooring, new backsplash, painted the cabinets and all new hardware.

    I was torn on if I also wanted to do a phase 1 dining room, because I wanted expensive wallpaper, expensive light fixture, to add picture frame molding (which we haven’t tackled before), and painting which would be tedious with the built in we have. ABM gave me in the push to just go ahead and do it, and enjoy it, even if it is only for a year or two. This came in around $2k too.

    Let me tell you, that after these two “phase 1” renovations, we are SO in love with how they both turned out that we may not ever do a full blown renovation. Our kitchen is so light and airy – the power of subway tile and paint. Our dining room is so rich and moody – the power of rifle paper co wallpaper and paint. I wish I could post pictures in the comments because I am so happy.

    I am justifying my investment dining room furniture because we just saved a whole kitchen reno. My husband invested in some new tools, learned some new skills, and our phase 1 reno turned out to be our final reno.

    • What a lovely story, thanks for sharing Rose! Wish we could see the pictures too 🙂

  • So I missed the faux marble post. I did it years ago on our first house’s kitchen over laminate countertops and loved it until we renovated that kitchen. Now we live in a new house with a big kitchen that’s pretty nice, some odd angles and blah high quality white cabinets, but we’ve planned to have the cabinets painted and replace the countertops. I like this house a lot but I have to admit there’s a part of me that wants to try it on the granite. I really didn’t think anything could be done to cover ugly granite but I was honestly really happy with it last time. The dumb thing is we have the money to do it, but countertop prices are rising every day so I kind of want to safe $8k.

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