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Looking back at this past year, there’s plenty to feel good about—at least as far as our homes go. Google searches around remodeling more than doubled from 2020 to 2021, and we saw the proof in your spaces, from an A-frame office constructed from a kit to an entryway flip complete with faux marble floors. This was the year we all finally said yes to change—even Adrian Grenier completed his sustainable brownstone and Leanne Ford got to work on a new fixer-upper in her home state of Pennsylvania.

We saw renovators overcome major obstacles (like losing power for days) and others push to meet their deadlines, even in the face of material delays and sky-high wood prices. In celebration of all these great updates, we’re looking back at the renovation stories our readers loved the most this year.

The $8,000 Backyard Office 

We can’t say we were all that surprised that a home office topped the list. But ceramist Veronica Ortuño’s work zone isn’t your typical guest room with a desk—in fact, it’s not in her actual home at all. The artist built a work studio–slash–ceramics showroom in her yard from scratch so she could enjoy the feeling of “getting out” of the house while still only being a few steps away from her family.

The Cozy-Cool Bungalow

Robert McKinley is skilled at infusing his Airbnbs with zen vibes, and this project in Montauk, New York, was no exception. He applied a fresh take to bringing the outdoors in by hanging a hammock in one of the bedrooms and installing bark-like Heath backsplash tile in the kitchen as a subtle nod to the area’s wetlands. 

The Underdog Bay Ridge Home

Dana Menussi saw the potential in her Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, fixer-upper from the beginning (it was the sheer width that captured her right away). She took advantage of its unused spots by turning the roof over the living room into a terrace for her bedroom, and adding a skylight to the garage breezeway so it’s now a joyful place to drink her morning coffee.

The Game-Changing DIY

Gone are the days of being intimidated by power tools. California-based DIYer Danielle Guerrero proved to herself that you can take architectural character into your own hands when she decided to turn her plain, squared-off hallway into archways—and for just $35. 

The Doors That Hide Eyesores

Handmade doors is a trend to watch in the new year, from woven cord fronts to cane webbing—and not just when it comes to clothes closets. Designer Naïka Andre disguised a family’s boiler closet with this chic solution that still provides enough ventilation for the equipment to operate. 

The Lake Superior Rental

We love a cabin, just not ones with an old, mismatched washer-dryer set from the ’70s; wood-paneled kitchen cabinets; and a plastic-looking, faux timber parquet ceiling. Julie Arnold brought this Minnesota vacation rental up to speed by embracing simple pine shiplap and a subdued color palette inspired by nature. 

The Fireplace You’d Never Guess Is Faux

Here’s a case for a nonfunctional upgrade. Designer Katie Monkhouse’s clients wanted the coziness of a fireplace without having to pay $5,000 for the gas lines, so Monkhouse installed a marble mantel instead. The sad blank wall is now a focal point (wood logs optional).

The Motel Filled With Thrifty Ideas

Two-dollar-per-square-foot tile never looked as chic as it does at the June Motel. The owners and now seasoned renovators, April Brown and Sarah Sklash, bought the basic squares at Home Depot in baby blue and salmon pink, using it for the kitchens’ backsplash and the double-room bathrooms. A crisp white grout line gives it a contemporary spin, ensuring the tile looks like it’s from 2021, not 1981. 

The Chef’s Kitchen

Layout was a top priority for chef and cookbook author Eden Grinshpan, who considers her kitchen her office. Cue the floor-to-ceiling pantry wall and additional storage flanking the living room archway, which allowed her to keep the stove wall almost bare. Coral-peach marble counters riff off the warm, sunburned vibe of the nearby solarium. 

The Prewar Wonder

Designer and stylist Justin DiPiero didn’t have plans to renovate his Brooklyn apartment until his neighbor had a leak and DiPiero came home one day to find his bathroom ceiling in his tub. The disaster sparked a series of upgrades, from exposing the brick walls in the living room to opening up the kitchen and swapping out the cabinets for streamlined IKEA ones. It’s hammer time.