How Leanne Ford Knows When Something’s Worth Keeping in a Reno

And when it’s worth replacing.
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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.

Julie Vadnal Avatar

Julie Vadnal

Deputy Editor

Julie Vadnal is the deputy editor of Domino. She edits and writes stories about shopping for new and vintage furniture, covers new products (and the tastemakers who love them), and tours the homes of cool creatives. She lives in Brooklyn.