Published on April 30, 2019

If Chip and Jo taught us anything about fixer-uppers, it’s that we should expect the unexpected. Between hidden fees and major delays, fixer-uppers are no small feat. That didn’t stop designer Whitney Utesch from purchasing one of her own.

The designer recently tackled some major renovations inside her 1920s Indiana abode. One of the most jaw-dropping transformations? Her entryway, which is now a boho oasis. For her, it was important that the entryway capture the same vibe of the rest of the home, even if that meant painting over hardwood or ripping up the carpeting herself. She even became her own general contractor, saving major money. After one and a half years spent remodeling her home, it is safe to say that Utesch is a fixer-upper wizard and now, she’s sharing some of her top tips for mastering the art of the DIY home.

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Courtesy of Whitney Utesch

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Stick to the same palette

Picking the color of the accent wall was one of the easiest parts of Utesch’s renovation. Her trick to narrowing down the choice? Staying within the same color family. “Picking the dark accent wall required very little thought. At the time, the living room walls were a greige color, so I just went with the darkest hue on that same color chip for the accent wall,” she says.  

Be realistic about what you can do yourself

“Quite honestly, the thought of hiring someone to pull up carpet seemed like a huge waste of money since that job in particular takes zero skill,” says Utesch. Taking things a step further, the designer even refinished the original oak floors herself, using a dark walnut stain and saving a ton of money in the process. While the renovation pro maintains that it’s super easy to DIY your own floors, she notes that it’s a time consuming endeavor, so plan ahead.

Don’t worry about what others will think

Utesch painted over the woodwork to take it from an orangey stain to a bright white, and doesn’t regret it one bit—though others had a different opinion. “I receive many harsh words from people on social media when they see the before picture,” she says. But the designer finds beauty behind the massive color-correcting, especially since the architectural detail was kept intact. The lesson: When undergoing a large-scale renovation, stick to what feels right for your personal style. After all, you’re the one who has to live there.

Be conscious about your lifestyle

Utesch is aware of the foot traffic—or more specifically, hand traffic—that her staircase will receive. “I decided to leave the wood finish on the railing since there would be a lot of grubby hands touching it and I didn’t want the white to constantly look dirty,” she notes. It made the most sense for her to opt for a dark-stained hand railing, similar to the floor.

See more before and afters:

Bobby Berk Shares a Sneak Peek of His Latest Before and After
Before and After: Tour a Kitchen That Hadn’t Been Updated Since the ’60s
A Wow-Worthy Kitchen Transformation Plays Up Unexpected Color


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