Renovation Realities: An Introduction

Renovation Realities: Chronicling what it is really like to live through a DIY Home Renovation.

This post may contain affiliate links or be sponsored content. All opinions are unbiased and ours, despite any compensation that may be received. Please see our full disclosure for more details. Thanks for your support and happy reading!

As you may recall, we bought our apartment in June 2015, and before that had been searching for the perfect pad for nearly 7 (yes, seven) years. Of course, some of that time had been spent lazily leafing through the New York Times Real Estate section over Sunday brunch. But every winter we would start the search anew. As city dwellers are all too aware, however, the rental rat race defers many a dream. As soon as a couple finds a place they love, you begin the offer/contract/board approval hazing process. What they don’t tell clueless lovebirds is that start to finish closing in New York can take up to 6 months (or more)! By the time you’ve settled on your perfect slice of real estate, your management company is knocking on your door trying to get you to commit to another 2 year lease at the promo rate. We were on and off the hamster wheel more times than we would have liked, including putting a very competitive offer that was almost accepted a year earlier. All in, it took us about 3 years of earnest searching and negotiating to find the right place.  We were picky and frugal, a dangerous combination.  But sites like Apartment Therapy, Remodalista, and Pinterest, all assured us that we would be alright. Would they be right? Renovation realities.

We wanted a 2b/2br (and two full bathrooms, not those punk booty powder rooms). We needed ample storage space and to be close to a good train line and very close to Manhattan. And we didn’t want to pay for anyone’s renovation. Definitely not Tarek and Christina. Not even Chip and Joanna. A solid building with good financials and a unit with great bones and space were all that was required. We didn’t really care about neighborhood or fun things to do.  Those amenities would come eventually if we played our cards right. To be clear, we were speculators.  We were looking for the next Fort Green, LIC, or Bed Stuy,without having the venture further into Brooklyn or Queens. And it all had to come in under our measly (by NYC standards) budget. So the Bronx called. And we answered.

We entered into contract in May and the day before our lease expired, we were handed the keys to the castle. But when we moved in a little over a year ago, our place was more like White Castle than Kensington. Here are a few of the listing shots.

Renovation Realities 1Renovation Realities 2Renovation Realities 3


Keep in mind, that these are professional broker photos. That is, objects in photo are much prettier than they appear (in real life). Not to say that the apartment was a trap house (hey, we actually toured a unit that most assuredly was). But we had moved into a basic builder grade combo of four white lifeless boxes.

Renovation Realities 4That decision was purposeful. She was the beauty (design) and he was the braun (execution). We loved the blank canvas we had worked so hard to buy and were excited about sketching out our future together. In the last year or so, we have nailed, scrubbed, and painted our way to our dream home. There are so many projects half-or to be finished, but we are doing it our way. In fact, the only project that we’ve gotten outside professional help on was installing new electrical. Ouch! And that’s the only pro help we plan on using. Yes, even through a complete kitchen and two bathroom gut. Renovation realities.

Renovation Realities 6

By doing things ourselves, we’ve stayed within a strict (low) budget and been able to use high end materials and finishes. We’ve also been able to perfect the outcome, and not just get things done. What could have been a few months project, however, has stretched into a year and beyond. But I wouldn’t trade this time working together for anything. Sure we may have had an epic blowout or two over the position of crown or the use of sunrise versus pineapple yellow, but we’ve also grown closer as a couple committed to completing this project with excellence. So we invite you to review our journey to date, as we document our DIYs, Pinterest fails, and general trials and triumphs . And we encourage you to continue to follow where the next hammer and nail takes us.

Happy Renovating!

Have you ever taken on a massive renovation project?

What was the most difficult part? Any tips on how to stay sane throughout?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)