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Renovations are all about decision-making, from paint colors to flooring to light switches. No one knows this more than Leanne Ford, who recently transformed the carriage house on her rural Pennsylvania property into a dreamy guesthouse for family and friends. 

The structure was more than 100 years old, which brought new challenges to her decision-making process. Should she embrace the beat-up floors or replace them with new materials? (Spoiler alert: She kept them.) What about the upstairs walls covered in decades-old wallpaper? (She grout-washed them.) 

Sure, the designer is an expert with an HGTV show, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve reno-expert status, too. Here’s exactly how Ford decides what to keep and what to replace, in her own words.

Think About Emotional Value

If you’re designing a home for resale, I’m not the girl to talk to. But if you’re trying to create a space that you feel attached to, then the first thing you need to consider is emotional value. Does your home’s old wallpaper make your heart go pitter-patter? If so, don’t replace it.

Spend on History

Refinishing old floors might cost you the same as buying shiny new ones, and it might not be as perfect, but if you love a weathered look, then who cares?

Go Dark

When everything in the cottage started to look a little too homemade, a friend gave me this advice: Add black, which makes things feel more luxe. That’s why the countertops appear layered—we put marble right on top of the butcher block. It made such a difference.

Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.