Published on November 3, 2019

There’s something satisfying about a good before-and-after. It’s as if months of planning, renovating, and deliberating over every design detail fade away and all you’re left with is a neat snapshot of the transformation. Don’t let that fool you though, says Leanne Ford. The HGTV star and author of Work in Progress says that for every impressive finished project, there’s a myriad of trial and error and, inevitably, mistakes. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“[Steve and I] may take different approaches, but we have one thing in common: We’re both 100%, certifiably, undeniably unafraid of failure,” Ford says of her relationship with her brother, costar, and now, coauthor. “In fact, it seems we’ve failed our way right into success.” 

With two seasons of Restored by the Fords under her belt, we asked the designer to share some of her favorite projects and the lesson she learned from each—so you can hopefully tackle your own renovation as fearlessly as they do. 

Changing the layout should be a last resort

“You don’t always need to change the layout of a kitchen to make a big impact,” Ford advises. The solution for this redesign was to focus on finishes and fixtures, upgrading counters, cabinetry, and appliances instead. Ford also found a way to brighten up the space by removing the upper cabinets, which increased the natural light and made it feel larger.

… but sometimes it’s necessary

White kitchen with red dinnerware. Pin It
Photography by Reid Rolls

Some projects call for a bigger overhaul. “This kitchen needed help in every way,” Ford remembers. The siblings adjusted the layout and replaced everything—think cabinets, appliances, counters, and even floors—to create a welcoming, open-plan space. Wall-mounted shelving and custom glass-front cabinets visually doubled the small galley, as did her signature paint color. “The all-white design keeps things bright, easy, and offers a clean slate,” she adds.

Embrace original architectural details

“My friends call me the ‘house whisperer’ because I always try to listen to the house when exploring how to best evolve its style,” says the designer. Ford’s knack for modernizing original features was the perfect plot twist to convert this entryway into a stunning first impression. “The spiral staircase in this midcentury Spanish villa was the architectural highlight of the home, and though we loved it, it was unsafe and totally illegal in 2019,” Ford recalls. They used the shape and layout as inspiration to create an updated version that combined black-and-white tile with a clean, curved stairwell.

To make a space feel larger, less is more

White kitchen with open shelving.Pin It
Photography by Reid Rolls

Ford recommends removing nonessential ingredients to open up an old kitchen. The heavy combination of dark wood cabinets and a large peninsula made this space feel closed off, so the designer simply gave it room to breathe. “Instead of moving walls around, all we had to do was reconfigure the cabinets,” shares Ford. 

“In life and in design, it’s important to relax and keep it loose,” she muses. For anyone out there in the middle of a home (or life or career) renovation, perhaps the designer’s own encouraging words frame it up best. “We are all works in progress,” Ford says. “Sometimes things have to get worse to get better!”

Explore more of Leanne’s interior designs:
A Bathroom Remodel Set Me Down a New Career Path at Age 30
The 411 on This Week’s Restored by the Fords
How Leanne Ford Made the Most of Her Biggest Bedroom Ever

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