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In Renovator’s Notebook, homeowners open up about the nitty-gritty of their remodels: How long it really took; how much it actually cost; what went horribly wrong; and what went wonderfully, serendipitously, it’s-all-worth-it-in-the-end right. For more tips to nail your next project, follow @reno_notebook.

Year built: 2010

Budget: $2,800

Top priority: Turn a barely used guest bedroom into a creative studio.

Camille Styles has been baking a lot of cookies: chocolate orange shortbread linzers, snickerdoodles, chocolate peppermint snowballs, and, most recently, gingerbread cookies (the Austin-based lifestyle blogger and her team tested 200 recipes to find the very best ones). All of the sugary goodness is documented on her website and in her free holiday cookie e-book—and it couldn’t have happened without a key renovation. This fall Styles turned her rarely used guest bedroom into a picture-perfect studio for recipe development and content creation for both her site and her newly launched home brand, Casa Zuma. Even though there aren’t any appliances or plumbing in the room, it’s dishing up plenty of inspiration for regular kitchens. 

The guest bedroom, before it became the studio.
Another view of the old guest bedroom.

“I’m a big believer in using your spaces to maximize what is the [current] biggest game changer in your life,” says Styles. Funny enough, when they built the house 12 years ago, the guest room had originally served as an office as Styles grew her business. Then she invested in a separate workspace downtown and the spot went back to guest room status.

While it was technically the only one in the house, Styles notes that with both her and her husband’s families living close by, it sat mostly empty. But just before the pandemic, she and her full-time team of five (plus 15 contributing editors) went back to working remotely. “We were spending more and more time at my house, gathered around my dining table and shooting food in my kitchen, which gets the least amount of natural light,” recalls Styles. “Plus it was tough when my kids got home from school and we were all in the space together.” 

Once the seed was planted to turn the sun-drenched bedroom back into a photo shoot/prep/storage zone, Styles sketched new design plans while sitting on a flight from New York to Texas. In her own words, she shares how she did it all on a tight $2,800 budget. 

Save: Basic (But Deep!) Drawers

I spent a Saturday going way down an IKEA cabinetry rabbit hole, and I was super-excited to find a finish that looks like real shiplap, because I wanted a slightly rustic, almost farmhouse kitchen feel. I bought four sets of IKEA Sektion drawers with Hittarp fronts (now discontinued), and my husband and his dad assembled them. I’m a huge fan of deep drawers for storage: These are big enough to hold pots, pans, stacks of plates, and big piles of tablecloths and napkins. 

Splurge: Counters That Can Change With Your Mood

A must-have was prep space where we could cut and chop, but it had to look nice so we could photograph and shoot video content in a way that was really going to read as a home kitchen. While at IKEA, I also ordered a perfectly sized concrete-finish countertop, as well as an ash-wood–finished surface for the top of the drawers, so I could have options to switch out when I want to change the look. Then I bought a second laminate-concrete one in a smaller size to go on top of the bespoke island. The total, including the Sektion cabinets, came to $750. 

Save: A Stone Shelf in the Sale Section

I found the marble shelf on clearance at Ballard Designs for $338 and ordered sturdy steel brackets from Etsy for $17 each. In my vision, I wanted the four brackets to be spaced out evenly across the wall, but once we started drilling, we came across studs in two spots, so we had to get a little creative. If there is one thing that I might change down the road, it will be to invest in mounting the brackets behind the Sheetrock. 

Splurge: The One-of-a-Kind Island

The $1,495 island was my biggest investment: It was custom-made by a maker whom I found on Etsy who crafted it to match the dimensions of the IKEA counter I bought for it. It’s a beautiful, classic piece that I’ll keep forever. It’s one of the things that does make the space feel like a kitchen, because we can have barstools around it; it’s a collaborative space where we can sit down in or do craft projects. 

Save: A Removable Pendant Shade

Rug, Zara Home; Drapery, Graber; Stools, Saffron & Poe; Custom Island, Etsy.

I replaced the ceiling fan with a simple pendant lightbulb and added a lightweight braided straw lampshade to it. I wanted a really textural, earthy, wild fixture, and I found this woman who sells Moroccan shades on Etsy for around $40. We have it mounted with string in a way where we can take it down and remove it if it’s in the way of what we’re shooting.

Sometimes even when my team isn’t here, I’ll walk back there and just hang out (or, lately, wrap Christmas presents). It’s nice to have a place to shut the door and just be creative. 

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