Published on August 24, 2019

black cabin exteriorPin It
photography by sarah lawrence

Sarah Lawrence was understandably skeptical when her contractor told her that he would have her Colorado cabin fixed up in just four weeks. “I struggled to believe it, but sure enough, he got it done with time to spare,” recalls Lawrence, who, together with her husband, Hunter, runs the photography studio The Lawrence House. One month. Many of us struggle to finish our book club’s pick in one month, but yet the couple, along with their contractor and a few very helpful friends, pulled off an entire remodel in just 30 days. 

“We helped demo for the first week before the contractor started, and he was super-helpful in letting us know small things that we could pitch in to help keep costs down,” says Lawrence. Those “small” tasks included ripping out the old flooring, installing new light fixtures, painting the baseboards and trim, and taking down the upper kitchen cabinets. But the couple didn’t just skirt extra costs by picking up a hammer. They also put a lot of thought into the features and finishes they wanted to splurge (and save!) on. Their all-in budget for labor and most of the materials? $34,000. Here, Lawrence walks us through some of the best decisions they made along the way. 

Save: The Farmhouse Sink

Lawrence had been eyeing a Shaws Original sink from Rohl that cost $1,500 but decided to buy a similar-looking option from Home Depot to balance things out. Her savings? $1,000. “We’ve had it for a few months now and it’s wearing really nicely!” she says. 

Save: Custom Cabinetry 

Because the new farmhouse sink was bigger than the metal one that was previously there, Lawrence had no choice but to tear out the cabinets underneath. But instead of having new doors made for under the sink, she got creative with covering the empty space.“I just bought a linen curtain from Target and a friend helped me sew it to be the right length,” she shares. “It feels more European to me, which I love.” Replacing the upper cabinets with floating shelves really opened up the room—and also saved them from shelling out for more millwork. 

“We also didn’t put in a backsplash or enclose the hood, which helped us save some money,” she continues. “I would love to add a few of those things in the future, but for now I am really happy with the choices we made.”

Splurge: The Kitchen Faucet 

close up shot of a kitchen farmhouse sink with brass faucetPin It
photography by sarah lawrence

We’ve long lusted after U.K. brand deVol Kitchens’s dreamy designs, so we weren’t surprised to learn that Lawrence had been, too. “Once I saw that it was possible and shipping wasn’t that crazy, I knew we had to have some of its lovely pieces in our home,” she says. The number-one item on her wish list? The company’s aged brass Ionian faucets. The antique-looking spouts retail for $750 (each!), and the couple purchased two of them. “I’m convinced if we ever move to another house, I will be taking these with me!” says Lawrence.

“If we ever move to another house, I will be taking these with me!”

Splurge: Paint 

neutral dining room with farmhosue table and black pendantPin It
photography by sarah lawrence

For the master and guest bedrooms, Lawrence partnered with Portola Paints, using its Roman Clay on the walls for a natural, weathered finish. “I also wanted to make sure I was still using a high-quality paint in the other rooms, so we splurged a little by going with Benjamin Moore,” she says. In the living room and kitchen, they used the brand’s White Dove in a matte finish, and swathed the doors and trim in Gargoyle, a moody brownish gray. “We didn’t want any shine, and this matte paint doesn’t scuff when used on the baseboards,” she adds. 

Save: The Ceiling 

dog sleeping next to an x shaped console tablePin It
photography by sarah lawrence

Out with the dingy office ceiling tiles, in with the wood—faux wood, that is. While the Lawrences originally planned to cover their ceiling in real planks, when they learned that shiplap MDF (medium-density fiberboard) runs at just 60 cents per linear foot, they switched gears. “It ended up costing 60 percent less and still gave us the look we were going for,” she says. In the end, the new tongue-and-groove ceiling only cost them $500 total, whereas real planks would have landed them in the $1,300 range.

“It ended up costing 60 percent less and still gave us the look we were going for.”

Save: The Bathroom Vanity 

In the formerly pumpkin-orange bathroom, the couple opted for a unique alternative to a traditional vanity: a piece of furniture. “We had originally envisioned two pieces of floating wood for our bathroom, but it was going to cost us around $1,800 for the labor and materials,” Lawrence recalls. So she started driving around Denver, hunting for the perfect piece, and stumbled across this $800 table at an antiques store. Their contractor added a $380 sink from All Modern and…voilà! 

Splurge: The Kitchen Hardware

soap stone kitchen counters with blue shaker cabinetsPin It
photography by sarah lawrence

Because the couple didn’t make any drastic changes to the kitchen’s footprint (by keeping the existing walls, they saved $3,000 in electrical expenses), Lawrence made the most of the smaller upgrades. Enter deVol’s aged brass handles. The drawer pulls sell for $75 each, but Lawrence attests she hasn’t “regretted spending the money for one second.” In the rest of the house, the photographer installed oil-rubbed bronze door handles (the ones she bought go for $107 at Home Depot).

Up next? Getting back outdoors. “We plan to add in landscaping over time and hope to have a greenhouse and sauna within the next year or so,” Lawrence shares. The magic really is in the details.

See more stories like this: 
A Sneaky Addition Took This Bathroom From Dreary to Light and Bright
What Happens When You Renovate a 150-Year-Old Brownstone?
My Husband and I Quit Our Jobs to Fix Up Homes (With Zero Renovation Experience)