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10 Home Renovation Projects You Have To Try

Remember back in 2009, when I decided that I was the kind of person who should write a website about cooking, DIY, and home decor, and that it should be called "Domestic Bliss"? Yeah, I have no idea what I was thinking either - other than, perhaps, "fake it 'til you make it" - because for the first few years, "faking it" is exactly what I did. At the time, my idea of a homemade meal was store-bought pasta with jarred tomato sauce (to which I'd added onions and mushrooms - you know, to make it fancy), and was SO IMPRESSED with myself for completing "DIYs" such as...swapping out drawer pulls. Putting up a sticker decal was a feat worthy of a full video tutorial, and I thought that my idea of using teacups to serve soup during parties was the height of inspired entertaining.

I still think that serving soup in teacups is pretty neat, but a lot has changed since the halcyon days of wallpaper-wrapped lampshades and green chalkboard refrigerators. I'm still no Ty Pennington, but after renovating two homes and working on a home construction and design show, I now know about 20,000 times more than I ever thought I'd know about how to update a household on a budget. Below are ten of my all-time favorite house upgrades, all of which I promise you are more than capable of taking on yourself.


Layered Up

Gorgeous layered rugs in my friend Elise's mountain home (full tour here)

You know the layered-rug trend that's been all over Pinterest these past two years or so? I always liked the way it looked, but never really thought of doing it myself, because rugs (or at least the ones I usually like) tend to be expensive, and if I'm buying a fancy rug I'd like to see...well, all of it. But lately, my fancy rug is having a rough go of it. Since our schedule switch-up I've been spending every afternoon chasing after both kids, and by the time dinner rolls around I am ZONKED, and - confession time - usually just plonk them down in front of the TV to eat.

I know, I know, TV during dinner = bad, but it also gives all of us a much-needed break. I grew up with two parents who worked full-time in office jobs, so dinnertime was usually our first chance to actually see each other; had we all zoned out in front of the TV while we ate we would have cut down the time available to actually interact with each other by half. But I interact with my children a lot these days. And I also really, really love watching TV while I eat dinner, and I am the boss, and so TV during dinner it is.


Side Yard Makeover: From No Man’s Land To Most Useful Space Ever

...What is this "side yard" of which you speak?

Side yards are not a thing I have any experience with, and definitely are not something I have given much (if any) thought to. Like, ever.

I didn't even have a side yard at our house in NYC (or, I guess I kind of did because there was a space between our house and the house next to us, but it consisted largely of a spricket-and-poison-ivy-infested wasteland. Then I moved out to the California suburbs, and everyone here seems to have a pair of functional side yards. We have neighbors who use the long, narrow spaces that run along the edges of their houses for storage, as dog runs, to hold chicken coops, as play spaces for their kids - all kinds of things.


I Never Thought I’d Hire An Interior Designer…But Here’s What Happened When I Did

When I was about fifteen, my parents decided to hire an interior designer. His name was Val, he charged a small fortune (or at least I assume he did, based on the fact that he essentially lived at our house for two months while he sifted through piles of curtain fabric samples and such), and he did a very nice job, save for the fact that he covered the walls of our kitchen with a paper featuring French quotes about love on the very same day that my French boyfriend broke up with me and utterly destroyed my heart. 

(I walked into the apartment - already in tears from our breakup conversation - took one look at the kitchen walls, and collapsed on the floor, screaming "WHYYYYYY?" To which my mom, to her credit, responded, "Oh, Jesus, Jordan. Get off the floor.")

It's safe to say that I've never been super into the idea of hiring an interior designer myself. I mean, I have my own ideas about what I like, and while I may not be especially good at things like planning and foresight (which means that my decor plans tend to undergo a lot of revision as I discover that, say, the rug that I ordered in no way fits in the room I intended it to live in), I also don't want to spend thousands of dollars for a service that, to my mind, seems a little...I don't know...indulgent?


A Little House Tour (Two Years Later)

Riccione Multicolor Umbrellas, by Gray Malin

Let me take you back to an era many, many moons ago. The Supreme Court had just affirmed same-sex marriage, a record-breaking 195 countries had signed on to endorse the Paris agreement (including the U.S.! Imagine!), and "athleisure" had become a word that people actually used in casual conversation.

Another thing that happened around that time: Our family drove up to a California ranch house that we'd only ever seen in photos, and right there on our brand-new porch, waiting patiently for us, was a housewarming gift: A print of a San Francisco nude beach taken by my all-time favorite photographer, Gray Malin. It took us many days (and months, and years) to wind our way through the process of making that funny little ranch house our own, but one thing that happened on Day One was that the nude beach print went right up on our dining room wall. Once it was hung, I laid down on the floor with a cup of warm champagne and looked at it for awhile - the waves swirling up onto the sand; the rainbow of striped beach blankets; the many, many naked butts  - wondering what what was to come.