Looking Back: Our Shoestring Renovation

By Lauren Mitrick Wood


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Growing up, dad always had a project in the works. It could have been building a planter box for my mom to grow a garden, a sandbox for me to play in, or something as simple as swapping a light fixture. "Lauren, I need the hammer. Pass the phillips screwdriver." (Oh shoot, is that the flat one or the one with the grooves?!) Whatever it was, I was always there to lend a hand. When I was in high school my parents started flipping condos in the Gold Coast and guess who was there to help? Little ole me, of course! I basically spent the summers with the construction crews ripping out kitchens, hanging drywall (man that stuff is really heavy), and helping select fixtures, faucets, lighting and tile. I followed in my parents footsteps and after finishing college earned my real estate license. Several years went by before I met the man of my dreams and we bought our first home together. It was a small one bedroom that was about 800 square feet in Sandburg Terrace and it was a total dump. While Charlie was a bit skeptical, I had already figured out the color palette and how to double the size of the closet by taking out parts of the walk-in closet wall and adding chic sliding doors...zing!


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We paid $189,000 and put down 5% which left us $35,000 to reno. It was a lean budget and included A LOT; renovating the kitchen, bath, reworking the closets in the primary bedroom and the entryway, creating a wine/coffee bar, making a second bedroom out of the existing dining room, new floors, new lights, and of course paint.


Goodbye closet doors, hello cozy bench!

To put our budget in perspective, some people spend $35,000 on ONE bathroom. Here we were trying to recreate a whole apartment with the same amount of funds most people use on a bath...eek! How were we going to do it? Sweat, blood and tears were only half of it. We didn't hire a GC, we ran around town picking up tile and flooring (delivery chargers were way too much for our tiny budget), we scoured the internet for sales on lighting and we jumped in and helped wherever we could. You would be shocked what you can find on sites like Amazon and Menards. Lights like this and this are trendy and affordable.


Of course I said yes!


In the end I remember Charlie saying, "If I never have to step into a Home Depot again I will be delighted." He was SO over it, but in the end he was happy as a calm in our new home. So happy that he even proposed! I think the pictures speak for themselves...









If you want to show off your renos, big or small, submit your Transformation HERE! We'll be sharing them on our Instagram page. Below you can see how we were able to create a second bedroom where the dining room used to be and how swapping tile, lights, paint and a vanity can make a huge impact in a bathroom. Our favorite place for affordable tile and flooring was Floor & Decor.


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1643 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Chicago, IL.

Tel. 773.480.5078

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OLIVE WELL IS A TEAM OF REAL ESTATE AGENTS AFFILIATED WITH COMPASS, A LICENSED REAL ESTATE BROKER WITH A PRINCIPAL OFFICE IN CHICAGO, IL, AND ABIDES BY ALL APPLICABLE EQUAL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY LAWS. ALL MATERIAL PRESENTED HEREIN IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. INFORMATION IS COMPILED FROM SOURCES DEEMED RELIABLE BUT IS SUBJECT TO ERRORS, OMISSIONS, CHANGES IN PRICE, CONDITION, SALE, OR WITHDRAWAL WITHOUT NOTICE. NO STATEMENT IS MADE AS TO ACCURACY OF ANY DESCRIPTION. ALL MEASUREMENTS AND SQUARE FOOTAGES ARE APPROXIMATE. THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO SOLICIT PROPERTY ALREADY LISTED. NOTHING HEREIN SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL, ACCOUNTING OR OTHER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE OUTSIDE THE REALM OF REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE.