Published on May 4, 2020

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Photography by Chris Loves Julia

Half-open walls, tarp-covered furniture, dust—so much dust. This is the reality of living through a major renovation. The only upside is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But today, many are frozen in a rubble-ridden world. With residential construction largely being deemed a nonessential service right now, homeowners have had to stop their projects without knowing when they can pick back up again. In addition to coming to terms with the financial uncertainties, there’s the matter of simply getting by in a space that’s partially under-construction. 

You might not be able to make your undone house feel homey, but it can feel livable. Have kitchen cabinets but no counter? Use an old tabletop as a prep surface. Sick of staring at massive white tarps? Grab some spray paint and turn them into large-scale works of art. After consulting a few seasoned renovators about the quick fixes they make when living through a renovation, we rounded up six ways to survive in limbo.

Pick Up a Paint Roller

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Photography by Chris Loves Julia

You might have to wait to call in a carpenter or a pipe fitter, but painting is one job you can tackle on your own if you’ve got the patience to properly prep a space and have quality blue tape on hand. “Getting as many interior walls done as you can instantly makes a difference,” says Pieces Home cofounder Jenny Kaplan, who recently completed a year-long remodel in Kennebunk, Maine. If walls aren’t an option, consider the kitchen cabinets, a bathroom vanity backsplash, the treads on the stairs, or even the front door. As long as it’s not the color of plywood, you’ll feel much more relaxed.

Hang Lighting 

Partially exposed ceilings didn’t stop Leanne Ford from settling into her Los Angeles fixer-upper. One easy update anyone can make is swapping out the light fixtures (or even worse, solo bulbs) for more contemporary ones. Even if you have to temporarily uninstall them down the road when it’s time to finish the drywall, a warm glow will set the mood at night. 

Break Out (Some) Decor

Assuming there’s no debris floating around right now, take the plastic off your furniture and use it. Creating just one small living area with a rug, a chair, a plug-in lamp, and a small table goes a long way. You can even go so far as to hang a piece of art into a piece of framing, says Chris and Julia Marcum from the blog Chris Loves Julia (the couple is nine months into a full home makeover). 

Hide Ugly Appliances with Textiles 

Before Ford’s new appliances and Lauren Liess–designed cabinets arrived on the scene, she was washing plates in an old, drab dishwasher that sat in the corner of the kitchen by itself. When not in use, the designer tossed a chic blanket over the eyesore.

Raid Your Storage 

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY CLAIRE ESPARROS

Old furniture you could never figure out what to do with can serve a purpose now. When Kaplan set out on her reno last summer, she cleared out one of her storage units, knowing that the furniture she actually wanted to use in the space wouldn’t arrive for months. “We needed the basics to function,” she recalls. This also inspired them to get creative and repurpose items to save money where possible. For instance, she and her husband took a vintage chest, repainted it, and used it as a table in the living room. Now the box holds an Eny Lee Parker lamp and happens to hide unsightly wires. 

Embrace (and Capture) the Mess

While all you can think about is feeling settled in a put-together house, don’t forget to document this time. Take pictures and start making memories. “Have a movie night in the ‘someday family room’ and throw a game night on the floor or a pizza picnic,” says Julia. “Don’t wait to love the space.” 

It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.

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