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Budget-Friendly Home Makeover: Our Winning Strategy Revealed

Hello, everyone. We are a somewhat newlywed couple who have been dating for a long time and are now in our fourth year of marriage. Although we’ve been married for four years, we’ve moved a lot, and this is our third home. We lived in a leased apartment for two years, then moved to a second leased apartment. However, due to the frighteningly increasing housing prices, we decided to “catch the last train” and bought a house after living in our second apartment for a year.

As we had often admired beautiful homes on Instagram and Today’s Home, we decided to take on the challenge of semi-DIY interior design with a vague sense of confidence. The process was by no means easy, but the joy of seeing the changes I had planned was immense.

1. Blueprints and Planning

My husband and I are both working, so finding time for semi-DIY interior design was extremely difficult. I was constantly worried, thinking, “I have no knowledge of interior design. Can I do this?” I once consulted a turnkey company but couldn’t decide easily as the budget difference was over 10 million won (about $8,500).

When I was at a loss, the COVID-19 situation worsened in February, and I started working from home. Having more time due to work at home, I bravely decided to go for semi-DIY. After stopping by at 8 a.m. to meet with the construction workers, I visited frequently during lunch and after work to check on the progress of the interior design personally. It was possible because the two houses were not far apart.

Our apartment is an old building, with the living room and one bedroom already expanded, but the rest of the house has never been renovated. So, we boldly decided to demolish everything. We proceeded with a complete demolition, except for the window frames.

The construction details are:

  • Complete demolition (except for window frames)
  • Woodwork (replacement of all doors, arch doors, 9mm door lines, art wall leveling, door frames, moldings, etc.)
  • Electrical work (rewiring and replacement of lighting and switches)
  • Wallpaper and flooring
  • Bathroom (tiles and sanitary ware)
  • Kitchen (sink and island dining table)
  • Installation of an intermediate door

I searched daily on DIY sites and blogs and contracted with a company that fit my budget. I visited Euljiro weekly to see and purchase switches, handles, wallpaper, tiles, flooring, and electrical boxes. This work took a lot of time, but I saved much money.

Since we lived together before, it was nice to plan the interior design in alignment with the preferences and lifestyles of both of us. Initially, we planned to go for an all-white, pristine house, but we reconsidered, wary of it feeling overly cold and the cleaning involved. Thus, we adjusted our plan to incorporate warm wood accents. There are a variety of wood colors, but we picked the walnut color, which we like because it calms down the overall tone.

I’m a bit embarrassed to see this now, but I was so serious about lighting that I even planned electrical work like this and worked hard. The preparation period was not long since we started the interior work right after purchasing the house. Moreover, because it was my first time doing semi-DIY interior design, navigating through numerous unexpected situations and variables was challenging, and there were moments when tears were shed. However, upon completion, my attachment to our house deepened even further, infused with a sense of accomplishment and affection.

Now, let me introduce you to my house. Though it may not be perfect, I ask that you view it with kindness and understanding.

2. The Before and After of the Living Room

One side of the living room had an assortment of art walls made of bricks and cherry-colored wood, so we decided to demolish them right away! The opposite side of the wall also had cherry-colored wood at the lower part, and the floor was in a state of heavy contamination due to aging, so we proceeded with a complete demolition.

On the opposite side, cherry-colored wood was at the bottom, and the floor had become heavily worn due to aging.

This looked like after the floor and art wall were completely removed. It felt refreshing to remove all the cherry colors. After demolishing the art wall, leveling the uneven surfaces before putting on wallpaper is essential.

We aimed to create a clean and sophisticated atmosphere in the living room. How does it look?

The right side of the living room was originally a storage space, but after demolition, we debated between a storage cabinet and a picture frame. I created a photo zone, thus installing a large full-length mirror.

We chose the Salt Beige from the Donghwa Maru Natus Jin Grande series after debating between Sahara Light and Salt Beige for the flooring. The floor color changes according to the lighting, so we’re very satisfied. The left side is daylight color, and the right is bulb color, so the atmosphere changes greatly depending on the lighting.

The sofa is the Campo Slim from Casamia, which we have used since we moved into our previous house. It’s so soft that we’re very satisfied. My husband takes a nap on it every day. It’s that comfortable. The walnut accent in the living room is a storage cabinet, and the top is used as a mini home cafe.

I wanted to install a ceiling fan, but at first, they told me I couldn’t because the ceiling was too low (which caused me a first meltdown). So, I even returned the ceiling fan I had already bought, but then they suddenly said the ceiling wasn’t as low as they thought and the installation might be possible, so I repurchased it (which caused a second meltdown). The circulation is stronger than I thought, which is excellent for ventilation, and above all, it looks very pretty.

3. The Before and After of the Kitchen

The kitchen had never been renovated, so it was very old and had many broken storage cabinets.

Additionally, two large, old-fashioned cabinets were right in front of it, contributing to a somewhat cramped appearance. After clearing out everything, I put a lot of thought into designing an efficient kitchen layout.

I had two plans for the kitchen: 1. a face-to-face kitchen or 2. a kitchen without upper cabinets.
I had initially considered building a face-to-face kitchen layout, but realizing it would require significant construction work, I ultimately opted to retain the existing structure. Anticipating that removing all the upper cabinets in the kitchen would result in insufficient storage space, I decided to forgo installing the upper cabinets only in the area facing the entrance.

I did the kitchen tiles with splice pieces. I wallpapered cleanly over the tiles and applied film to the windows.

Doesn’t the space appear much larger after removing the two cabinets? I debated whether to go all-white or incorporate walnut for the lower cabinets in the kitchen. Then, when I decided to place an island dining table, I thought, “This is it!” Adding walnut color to the island table provided a focal point amidst the white kitchen. The combination complements the beige flooring, imbuing the space with a cozy ambiance. The kitchen, complementing the beige flooring, exudes a comfortable atmosphere.

And finally, we got a dishwasher! Yay! When I requested the kitchen production, the part I emphasized the most was the angle between the wall and countertop. It would be too ugly to see if they didn’t align well, so I told them to meet at the right angle. Fortunately, they have done it well, so I’m satisfied.

One on the left is the sink faucet, and the other on the right is the water purifier, which makes a perfect pair. Initially, I was drawn to the water purifier, but installing that specific sink model was impractical. The technician said a new model would be installable, so I waited about two months. Eventually, I got it installed! Anyone who previously faced installation challenges should consider requesting reinstallation with a new product!

I installed upper cabinets on the right side of the kitchen for storage purposes. Nowadays, many people have either aesthetically pleasing or concealed hoods. I asked for the upper cabinets to be the same in their sizes. Some people have varying sizes of upper cabinets to accommodate the hood, resulting in differences in interior space when the cabinets are opened. Please consider this when making your inquiry!

The wall above the island dining table appeared bare, leaving a sense of emptiness. Initially, I planned to install a wooden shelf matching the color of the dining table, but due to budget constraints, I opted for a Rareraw instead!

I plan to buy and put a drip coffee set on that shelf later. That cute flower pot is the focal point of the shelf above the kitchen table.

4. The Before and After of the Bedroom

I aimed to make the bedroom minimalist, transforming it into a dedicated space solely for sleep. Therefore, I only furnished it with a bed, without any additional furniture. Striving for a hotel room aesthetic, I purchased a bedhead when I moved in.

I endeavored to fashion a hotel-inspired bedroom ambiance, pairing a walnut headboard with white bedding.

It’s so nice to be able to control the lights on and off on both sides, so there’s no bickering over who would turn off the lights.

I also installed a currently trending archway, which softens the space and adds visual interest to the room.

Have you heard of “shape-memory curtains?” They’re curtains designed to retain their pleats, meaning they stay creased without being ironed. I purchased them based on a recommendation, and I highly recommend them because the curtain pleats remain complete and neat.

Having a beam projector across from the bed is fantastic for watching movies or YouTube videos, especially with blackout curtains. It creates a cozy atmosphere perfect for both entertainment and sleep.

I’ve decided to pay for a flight to Paris for this summer vacation.

So, I’m binge-watching “Emily Goes to Paris” again. Yay!

5. The Before and After of the Study Room

The study room is extended, so it’s pretty spacious. I removed the old flooring, installed the same wooden flooring as the living room, and applied white film to the window frames.

The room was larger than I thought, so I didn’t know what to fill it with. So, at first, there was only a big desk and an iMac. I aimed for a sleek and relaxed vibe in the study room, opting for aluminum blinds and coordinating the lighting with the iMac in matte gray.

I couldn’t stand empty walls, so I ended up installing a system shelf with the full support of my husband, who let me do whatever I wanted. The shelf was very expensive, but its sentimental value made it worthwhile. I intended to keep it minimalist for later when I decorate it as a baby room, but I guess I can put baby books on it.

The study room is decorated with a Nessino lamp purchased with a slight mid-century modern concept in mind. I didn’t dare to go for bold colors at first, so I started with orange, the most vibrant color in our house.

I stored books and knick-knacks neatly in the storage cabinet and decorated its top with potted plants and a mid-century-style frame. I plan to change the atmosphere with new frames when I get tired!

The table that previously served as both a tea table and a dining table before we moved in has found its place in the study room. Additionally, I’m utilizing the Cinema Beam between the study room and the bedroom.

6. The Before and After of the Dressing Room

Initially, I debated whether to convert this or the current study room into a dressing room. However, considering the ample sunlight in the study room, I concluded that a dressing room would be more suitable in a space lacking natural light. Despite its narrow dimensions, I meticulously measured and planned, outfitting the room with system hangers.

The dressing room is quite packed, almost suffocating upon entry due to the lack of space. While it effectively blocks sunlight, I aimed to create a clean ambiance by installing white blinds.

I usually hang clothes on an open hanger and keep seasonal clothes in a closet, so I placed a closet on the opposite side. Next to it, I got this closet with a similar height to the air dresser to give a sense of unity.

No matter how much you organize your dressing room, it seems like a space with no ends.

7. The Before and After of the Living Room’s Bathroom

The bathroom in the living room was designed with 600×600 tiles, with a gray and walnut theme in mind to evoke a hotel-style ambiance. Unlike the bathroom in the bedroom, this one boasts a darker yet more sophisticated atmosphere, with all fixtures and tiles in a matte finish.

This bathroom is a mix of both love and frustration for me. There were many problems.

Jokingly with my friends, I said, “With this much effort, I should sleep in the bathtub.”

My husband had said he wanted a bathtub and would take a bath every day. He’s only done it once so far.

But, for all the hard work, this bathroom turned out beautifully.

I have no regrets. It’s such a pretty space that I never tire of looking at it.

Having a vessel sink with storage space underneath is both beautiful and practical. I love it.

As I chose it based solely on pictures, the sink turned out to be larger than expected, which was a bit disappointing initially. Nonetheless, it remains one of the spaces I am very satisfied with.

Of course, I matched all the fixtures, and even the toilet paper and towel holders are matte.

I am a sucker for matte finishes.

Upon closer inspection, the tiles have a subtle terrazzo texture, adding a touch of luxury and charm.

8. The Before and After of the Bedroom’s Bathroom

I wanted the bedroom’s bathroom to have a warm feel. The top was made with Temba board tiles, and the bottom was constructed with toned-down beige tiles. I like matte. I chose the tiles and fixtures to be uniformly matte.

The bedroom’s bathroom does not have a separate shower booth (because I wasn’t confident keeping the sparkling glass clean). I use the bedroom’s bathroom, and my husband uses the living room’s bathroom.

I installed an LED mirror in the bathroom, which I find perfect for those early-morning wake-ups or late-night visits. I often only turn on the mirror light, making it less dazzling and pleasing.

The bathroom cabinet is white, with towels on top and toiletries below. It’s small and can’t hold much, so I’m packing it efficiently.

9. Hall Area

We unified the door trim to the commonly used 9mm! The door trim and frame look thinner, giving the house a clean and more spacious look.

I care about lighting, so I put up the hallway lights! I installed the hallway lights straight from the entrance to the full-length mirror. There is even a point light right above the mirror at the end!

10. The Before and After of the Entrance

I appreciate the layout of the house, particularly the long front hall.

I tried to maximize it by removing all the wooden floors in the center and replacing them with tiles. I made a door frame in the middle, and the windows were installed with white film.

If you’re considering having an inner door, I strongly recommend it! Especially in winter, the temperature difference between inside and outside the door is quite big. I loved the combination of the wooden frame and bronze glass so much that I decided on the inner door in one go.

I made a shoe cabinet with the same walnut open box as the inner door and put perfume on it.

It’s the perfect place to spritz before you go out.

I decided to go with beige terrazzo tiles for the entrance.

I wanted to do terrazzo. I chose these tiles because I wished for tiles that would not go out of style.

In conclusion

After dedicating a month to interior work and another month to furnishing and filling the spaces with furniture, we were grateful when the editor proposed an online housewarming party. It felt like a reward for our hard work on the interior. As I took pictures, memories of the decorating process flooded back, prompting me to clean even harder. I feel nervous and excited at the thought of many people seeing our house.

While our house may not be perfect, we poured our hearts into decorating it. Please view it with kindness, and may you all live happily in your beautiful homes, too! Thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy post.

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