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5 Questions To Ask When Planning A Renovation

June 02, 2021

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We moved into this house back in the summer of 2002. It was our second home, built in the late 1920's.

While the bones of the house were absolutely lovely, the kitchen was too small, we needed a family room more than a dining room and the decor was not our style.

We bought it knowing we were looking at a lot of renovation.

And after working on our first home, nonstop for the seven years we lived there, we decided to bang the changes out here right away.

1920s Cottage Drawing

Which was fine in my book. I was so over construction.

And by the summer of 2003, everything but the pool was completed.

A solid decade before I started blogging. The only people who saw those dramatic before and afters were those who came to visit.

However now, closing in on 20 years later, a little bit of updating has begun

Let's face it, two decades is a long time...especially when those decades are spent with a growing family and in spaces that have been used repeatedly.

And now that I have a place to document the changes, well, you know.

So what's on the agenda today? Today, I'm playing in the pantry.

It's a great little space, original to the house, that's tired and in need of a facelift.

And during this very rainy past weekend, I was knee deep in ideas.

So I thought I'd share them with you.

And here's why.

When I started this blog, I did it out of a desire to write, that's my true passion.

But I also did it in the hopes that others would see me, a rather limited, budget DIYer, and say, huh, that doesn't look so hard, I can do that.

However.

As I said, I started writing long after my cottage was completed.

The renovations were presented in their finished forms.

Before and After 1920s Cottage

There was no why behind the designs, no insight into choices made, the rooms were decorated and done.

And most blogs share that way.

They say, Hey, look what I did. Here's a before and here's the fabulous after, with the DIY sprinkled in between.

Unfortunately, I think too many skip the most important part of the process, the part that stops most people from ever starting.

It answers the question how do I begin and explains this why am I doing it this way.

It's the design conception and the plan. It's the reason I tell the stories that make my posts so long - for better or for worse. 

Tales that include my thoughts and 5 very important questions. 

1. What do I want the space to look like when finished?

2. How will I require it to function?

3. What do I want spend?

4. How much time do I have to invest?

5. What do I need to do, step by step, to get there?

Without the answers to all those questions, without a firm idea of my end goal, the project will never turn out the way I want it to, because I haven't defined what I want.

And I truly believe that peeling the curtain back on that part of the redesign, models to others, just how easy it really is to get a space, they adore, in a style they desire, that's as functional as it is beautiful. 

Although, truth be told, I'd choose form over function any day of the week.

The pantry, however, just like my sink skirt, really does have to function well. 

So that's where I started this weekend.

I looked at what I had right now and started thinking about what's been working, what hasn't and dreaming of the baskets and glass jars I would get to organize my dreamy-to-be, cottage style pantry.

Years ago, I posted about a simple clean up in the pantry. But now I needed to address some issues that have been annoying me for years.

For example, the baking supplies were constantly a mess. The flour and sugar were always bursting out of the ziploc bags and leaving a powdery film on the shelf. Ick.

Update! Check out what I found to organize the pantry!

Gold Medal Flour In A Ziploc.

Originally I was sure I'd get glass canisters. Then I shopped and thought about it.

First that meant I'd have glass on the top shelf where some people who were not 5'8" tall, like me, would be trying to get them. Hmmm.

It also meant I'd need to dump the flour into the container every time we got new bag and probably wash it out in between.

Lately, we've been baking and cooking like mad, going through a bag of flour a week. Did I really want to be dealing with an added chore? So now I'm looking at plastic containers that I can drop the bags into instead.

A pivot in my plan.

Next up, the cereal, chip and pretzel bags were tossed on the bottom shelf in a tangle. Messy, especially if one popped open. And over the last year, every last one of my chip clips has disappeared. 

Very suspicious. I'll need more of them and some kind of bin to store all those random packages.

Now, being a cottage style girl, wicker baskets or galvanized buckets would be the way to go.

They look so pretty and if it were just me here, I might be tempted. With kids though, nope, I need baskets I can wipe or wash out easily. 

Not nearly as charming, but plastic is most practical. Another pivot.

While I'm still shopping for these items, I have feeling I'm going to have to make a few more design sacrifices. 

Once I had a better idea of what I needed on the shelves, it was time to think about the walls.

Right now, the walls are painted yellow and the shelves are covered in contact paper. And I was sure I would just do the same thing, until I saw my friend Judith's stunning blue toile pantry makeover. It's truly outstanding.

It's now become my inspiration. However.

I am not going to wallpaper that pantry. Traditional wallpaper is not my friend.

Been there, done that and I know it's way beyond what I want to do. Too much time and effort for this lazy girl.

Then I began looking at peel and sticks, there was a stone pattern and a brick one I was quite smitten with and were available at Home Depot.

Peel and Stick Wallpaper

I figured, I could use either one of them with the contact paper I bought for the shelves a year ago. They'd both give me that cottage core aesthetic.

Although, they're still a lot of work and most of the walls would be covered by boxes of Ronzoni and cornstarch so was it really worth the $75 to do it? 

I mean the inside of the door will remain covered by the kids' memorabilia. I adore every messy scribble up there.

Pantry Door Open

That's never coming down. 

Then it crossed my mind, that perhaps just painting the walls white, from a leftover can in the basement, and recovering the shelves with that contact paper as planned would be good enough.

It'd still be very fitting, very cottage style, very functional.

And clean.

Plus, it go well with a few white plastic bins from Target. Quick, cheap and easy.

Although it wouldn't quite be the Pinterest perfect, cottagecore, mason jar, hanging rosemary on the wall kind of pantry, I had in my head.

So I probably have a little more pivoting to do. But. 

Do you see how this process works? It's meandering and often comes with more questions than answers. At least it does for me.

But the wheels are turning.

My plan is a work in progress. 

I have a road map, I know where I like to go and I've taken the first step. And I hope it encourages someone out there to do the same.

In the meantime, I'll be working on my pantry.

Renovation Plans Where To Start

Hopefully next week I'll have a fabulous after to share.

And a much shorter post.

But I wouldn't count on it.
  1. Sounds like a plan! A good plan. With kids, you just have to sacrifice! At least it will be new to you and it will be something to look forward to.
    On another subject...I know you love the cottage style...do you ever get tired of it and want something else? I mean it’s been 20 years 😊. Also, I know you love red...has that ever changes? Do you think you will ever change that and end up with something different? I love red myself but I’m not sure I could live with it forever, nor am I sure I could last more than a year or two without changing my whole style and decor...lol! 😂 I love almost all styles so I really have a hard time just keeping one. Believe it or not at one point I changed my living room furniture 5 times in one year...yes seriously! I just couldn’t settle on what I wanted at the time..lol..good thing I had a very forgiving husband at that time, I mean how many men would put up with that!

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    1. GREAT COMMENT!! I love it!! I bet a lot of people have these same questions for me...but first, let me say, I hear you with the furniture changes. I think anyone who truly loves decor understands. That's me with curtains. I change them out A LOT! It's my easy way to get a different look and a crafting fix without spending a ton of money.

      As far as the red goes, I was never, ever a red girl. My first cottage was purple, green, yellow and white. Light and airy for the beach. When I moved here (even though it's only across the street) the house called for a different style and red just fit. I thought I would get sick of it and change it up, but I loved it so much. Even now, every time I remove it, I miss it. There's something about the pop that draws me in.

      And cottage style. Ah...I seem to fall deeper and deeper each year. Cottage style can be defined in so many different ways, I never boxed in. Then again, I married I guy I've known since I was 13...so maybe my tastes are just pretty consistent and it has nothing to do with decor! 😉

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    2. FUNNY....your red is actually growing on me too!! LOL The more I come on your blog the more I’ve fallen in love with it. My favorite pieces are the fabric under your kitchen sink and all the ruffles you’ve added, like under an end table I think it was...can’t remember for sure but now that I’ve seen more and more of your home, I’m truly falling in love with it! I never would have thought you had done any other colors, so that really surprised me but at least you’ve experienced other things. It drives me crazy when people have the same furnishings their whole lives!
      You know...it’s strange but I am now in my forever home and I’ve worked so hard to get it just right. I really have a long way to go but I’m definitely getting there. We bought our home 8 years ago with full intentions of remodeling and updating right away. Unfortunately hubby got cancer and it took everything! As I said, I’m getting there now. I’m certainly blessed to have what I have now! Age has taken its toll on me along with health issues so I move pretty slow nowadays but I’m so darned determined to get it done and done right! I can’t wait for that last remodel and update!

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    3. Thank you for all the very kind words. I'm humbled. I'm sorry to hear about your husband. It sounds like you've had a lot of obstacles, but I do hope you are finally able to make your home what you want it to be now.

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  2. What a great blog post! It is so real life. Thanks!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it!! Thanks for letting me know.

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  3. Kim I cannot wait to see what you do with your pantry. What about taking all those beautiful pieces of artwork that the girls have done through the years and make that your wall mural in the pantry. That might look kind of neat as a backdrop for the walls. I know whatever you come up with it will be fabulous. Have a great day. xoxo Kris

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    1. That's a neat idea, Kris! I really should do something with them. Part of me loves that they're where they are, where they place them all with their tiny little hands. The other part of me wants some kind of organization. I have to really think about it...but quick since the painting has already begun! xo

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  4. I love how your mind works! Looking forward to seeing it all come together.

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    1. Thanks Penny!! Always planning over here!

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  5. I would love to have a pantry and can't wait to see what you do. We bought this house as a fixer upper and have done most of it so far. We have decided the next house better not have many fixes because we are tired of doing them. As long as they are minor in the next house that will be alright.

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    1. Honestly Betty, I totally understand. Like you, we've spent so many years doing things in the beginning that I didn't want to do anything for years. Nowe I'm ready for a few minor changes, but nothing structural. I hope!!

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  6. Kim, either way, your pantry is going to be so good! I don't know how I missed Judith's pantry but oh my goodness! That is inspirational! I'm now thinking of whether I could do something like this in my linen closet!

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    1. Isn’t it fabulous? She is so talented…

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  7. Can't wait to see how your pantry turns out, Kim! I understand the need for practical containers. We did all glass one time, and when I found some chipped glass in the flour once, that was the end of the glass! Now I use the Rubbermaid Brilliance series for storage and I love them! They seal really well and are very durable. Plus they look nice. Hope you have a great day!

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    1. Kim, thank you so much for that comment. I love the idea of glass, but I'm just not sure how practical they'd be. I can totally see them getting clinked together or the tops being banged into the base and glass getting chipped...GREAT point. Thanks for the Rubbermaid tip. I'm going to go peek right now! 😊

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  8. I can't wait to see what you come up with. I know it will be a great system.

    I would love to have baskets in our pantry too.

    Reality, not safe for me. I need to grab put on my walker.

    I would love fancy paper but let's face it, it's storage. Besides whose in there but me for 2 seconds.

    I'm a cook and baker. I want function

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    1. I agree, Cindy, function is very important. I’ve already purchased a few containers, but I am excited about the pretty paper, too. I just hope the application goes well. Fingers crossed!

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  9. We ask the same questions. Then we come up with our wish list and start to cut and cut. That is what we are helping our daughter, the new home owner to do. Good post.

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    1. It sounds like a perfect plan, Linda. I wish you daughter all the best in her new home! Cheers!!

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  10. I love a good pivot. Sometimes they lead us to a way better place in the end! ;)

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    1. I totally agree, Libbie!! Here's to a good pivot!

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  11. Planning is so important. It reduces the stress of a renovation immensely but also allows you to understand where you are going and how long it will take to get there. It also reduces the risk of renovation burnout if you can plan ahead. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. When we did our first renovations here, we did start to burn out at the end. I had to make some rushed decisions and I regret them even now. I think taking it slow in the beginning is best. I learned that the hard way.

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  12. I loved reading your thought process as you planned your pantry makeover and I 100% agree with all of your decisions. I love the beautiful pantries I see other bloggers sharing with everything unpackaged and in a glass jar or basket but that is definitely not practical and isn't something that this pretty lazy person would be willing to do. I feel pretty accomplished just to get the food unpacked and in the pantry. :) One thing that I do in my pantry that I love is I use vintage canisters to hold my flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, chocolate chips, etc. The sugar and flour get dumped into the canisters and I throw out the bags. The other products stay in their bags and get hidden in the smaller size canisters. I also use vintage metal picnic baskets to store things like cake decorating supplies and wine. We made three crates with chalkboard labels that hide and organize our dog's supplies. If you want to take a peak at my pantry, here it is (old post, so photos need updating https://www.virginiasweetpea.com/tips-pantry-organization-home-organization-ideas/

    Looking forward to your future posts as you update your pantry.

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    1. Thanks for all the great tips, Paula and I peeked at your pantry makeover. Awesome! I pinned the post so I can refer back to it as I put ours back together. I love your wooden crates. I also love the way you enclosed that nook to create the pantry…I had to go peek at that post, too! It’s a dreamy space. Ours is super tiny, I hope I can get it as organized as yours!

      Have a great weekend, my friend!

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  13. Since we don't have a pantry, ALL pantries are beautiful, LOL! ;P However, it will be fun to see what you do with yours. I have pantry envy. Already.

    Your questions are certainly good ones! I'm asking them to myself as we're trying to decide what to do outside....the clean-up is almost complete, but we need lots of help replanting.

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    1. I wish I could take credit, Ricki, but this pantry came with the house. It's funny, really, since the house is so tiny. The pantry closet is unexpected!! And I wish you luck with your replanting. That's a renovation of a different sort, but equally as challenging!!

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  14. Thanks for sharing these useful tips on planning a renovation. Your blog friend has a beautiful looking pantry! I can't wait to see how you fix up your pantry Kim. I know it will look beautiful when you are finished.

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    1. Oh Julie, isn't her space gorgeous?? I love it...and thank you! I hope mine turns out even half as pretty!

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  15. Great post, Kim! I love the questions! I really should stop and ask myself those type of questions before I start my next project! thanks for sharing your ideas!!

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    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful!! Thanks for lettting me know!

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  16. What a great post! I just can't wait to see the Pantry! Beautiful space!

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    1. Thank you! We're knee deep in the process now, so I'll be sharing.

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  17. Hi Kim: I wish I could grasp the concept of slow and steady. I get too excited at the beginning just knowing that I am going to get it done and I don't stop to think. I am getting better but after 50+ years or so of decorating you would really think I would. When we had red painted cabinets we painted the whole pantry red, shelves and all. The color is still good but the paint has chipped on the shelves so I need to cover them. I tried at one time to have a fancy pantry with no doors at all and it just didn't happen. Too much work when just a door will cover it all. Your inspiration pantry is beautiful and very well done, (and wouldn't I just love to have it) but I think you are on the right track and your questions are well worth considering.. Have a wonderful week..xxoJudy

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    1. So funny, Judy...we just finished putting the paper in the pantry and it looks so, SO good, that I told my husband I'd like to take the door off so I could see it all the time!! Haha. Great minds, my friend, great decor minds thinking alike!! We won't, but I'd like to!! Have a lovely weekend!! xo

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  18. Hi Kim,
    We are in the same boat. We recently changed our boys playroom/school room into a art/sitting room. It is not done yet.. I have photos to hang up and we are still looking for our little fireplace. When it is I will share it on the blog. It was very emotional for me to take down the boys art work. I had to take a week off in between the project.
    I am excited to see your pantry.

    We started our kitchen project by ripping out the tile floor. The original oak hardwood is below :-) we hope to sand and stain it! But right not that project is on hold.. because there is a garden to finish planting. HA!

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    1. Sounds like you have so many good projects going on, Carla. I can’t wait to see them all. I totally understand the emotional part of the change. My kids told me to take down their pictures on the pantry door, it’s messy, but I just can’t.

      Enjoy the garden this weekend and those sweet chickens!! xo

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  19. I would love a pantry! One day... Until then I can enjoy how you make yours over!

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    1. I have to say, I didn't grow up with a pantry, but having one in the last two houses has been a dream. I love the makeover and getting ready to share tomorrow!! Hope you'll pop back for the big reveal!

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  20. I love how you have more questions than answers, I seem to operate in the same manner. I have been living with a kitchen some would turn their noses up at for little more than 8 years, but I know when we finally make the changes, it will be the kitchen we both love. Until then, I keep questioning and by the way, your pantry is lovely!

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    1. I think questions are so important! They help direct the vision and after not asking questions and ending up with a few things I don't love...I ask!!

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