Help! I Wrecked My House Season 1 Episode 4


Project Overview

The Homeowners

Sara & Chris

The Budget


The DL

Sara and Chris bought this home as a turning point in their relationship so they’d have a place where they could live and spend time together. They were excited for it to become their sanctuary where they’d come home from work every day, share time together and just relax. But in that excitement to jumpstart that next step of their lives, Chris jumped the gun on fixing up this 1950s fixer… But like, he REALLY jumped the gun. He and Sara’s retired 73-year-old dad, Larry (a retired podiatrist, guys, not a retired contractor) completely gutted the house with zero construction plan. I get that they wanted to fix it up and make it their own, but for someone with zero formal training in construction, Chris went way too far. They removed carpet, took down a wall, moved gas lines (YIKES!) and Chris USED THE INTERNET TO LEARN HOW TO VAULT THE CEILING. Not a contractor or an engineer. HE USED AN ONLINE VIDEO TO PUT IN A SUPPORT BEAM FOR THE WHOLE ROOF, people… let that sink in. There were no permits pulled for anything of this work, and almost nothing was done to code. And let me tell you here, folks: don’t ever frame your house without an engineer, and never do a project without pulling permits. We have these rules for a reason! I’m not gonna lie, this place really scared me and I didn’t even feel safe being in there. Needless to say, I think Chris realized that ripping everything apart is one thing, but putting it all back together is a whole different story. He’d been working on this for about two months, which Sara said felt like 6 months. Yeesh. And for a crew like mine, this would have been day 1 of construction for us. This whole project had been cause for a lot of fights and anxiety over a place that was supposed to be where they’d move in together, but it was nowhere near a home.

The Plan

This couple needed to stop arguing about this huge mess and hand it off to me so I could make the decisions without their home being a point of contention and anxiety in their relationship anymore. We needed to make sure everything was done properly and to code, make the home structurally sound and safe, and come up with a solid layout plan. Brightening it up and making it feel like the home they dreamed of were next on the list. This was one of the biggest projects I’ve ever had to step in and fix (we increased the budget by $25,000 to get it all done right!), but I was up to the challenge. I really wanted Chris and Sara to come home to a house that’s actually complete, and finally have people over.

The Inspiration

The Living Room

Before this room felt pretty dark and dreary (or was that because it was GUTTED?!), so I wanted to update the fireplace and get rid of the red brick. We also fixed the gas lines that they moved themselves (again, another HUGE no-no!) and of course added drywall to the room. By adding a white 6-inch tongue and groove paneling to the exterior of the brick fireplace and a modern soapstone surround, the fireplace went from being an eyesore in the middle of the room to a cool, slick architectural piece.
There were so many neutral elements in this house that I knew I wanted to bring in some pattern – and the fireplace was the perfect spot for that. Sara picked a clean and simple tile that still brought some interest at the same time and set the color palette for the room. While Chris’ DIY roof framing was actually done pretty well (way to go, Chris! But don’t do it again… ha!), we needed to add a new support beam over the fireplace to keep the whole roof from sagging.
I wanted Chris and Sara to feel like they could flop down on the couch in here at any time and be comfy. Using different neutral colors and textures brings in a more sophisticated feel while being super welcoming at the same time. There was carpet in here before (that Chris took the liberty of ripping out before my team got there), so adding this engineered hardwood flooring gave the space a huge refresh as well.
My whole design vibe for this house was “California Casual,” so I leaned hard into a really clean, neutral palette with lots of textures and textiles. Pops of blue bring in the coastal Cali feel while tying in with the grayish blue accents in the fireplace tiles.
When you choose organic decor pieces that have clean lines, you can still pull off a warm and cozy space that feels modern and airy at the same time.

Sofa  // Ladder //  Pouf // Throw //  Rug // Side Table // Lamp

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The Kitchen

When I got my hands on this kitchen it was – you guessed it – gutted! Chris and Sara’s dad Larry had taken everything out but they didn’t have much of a plan as far as layout goes. Along with finishing up the walls and adding new floors, we added a window to the backyard here where a door used to be.
Since we added a window there, we actually closed off a window on the adjacent wall so we could add upper cabinetry, countertops, appliances and give them an awesome amount of storage. We also put in a huge island with a farmhouse sink, room for seating, and storage – you know, the whole shebang! We set aside $50,000 aside for the kitchen alone – that’s the amount Chris thought we should budget to fix the whole house!

Backsplash & Countertop

Marble-look quartz countertops that self-splash up onto the backsplash add just a hint of texture while staying neutral and airy. When you’re looking for a crisp and modern design in your kitchen, self-splash is the way to go.

Cabinets & Hardware

I never saw the kitchen that was here before, because it was ripped out by the time I got here. But to keep with that California Casual style, I went with simple and clean white shaker cabinets. Brass cabinet pulls add just the right amount of “jewelry” to the design.

Lighting & Accessories

Mixing metals with the brass light fixtures and chrome faucet brings in that Cali Casual vibe, along with the light wood floating shelves and window shades that lend those organic, earthy tones.

Installing a white farmhouse sink in this large island and recessing the microwave into the lower cabinets are two things that really keep this kitchen feeling sleek and custom. The engineered hardwood floors in this beautiful color are perfect for contrasting with the white palette in the space without creating too much contrast.
Now the double-sided fireplace, with its tongue and groove paneling and soapstone surround, brings the perfect dose of texture and interest to the kitchen.

Special Project | Functional Floating Shelves

When we closed up the ceiling in the kitchen, it created a slant in two areas. Even though Sara doesn’t like open shelving, I was able to talk her into installing them where the ceiling slanted. Otherwise there would have been a weird empty space there! Instead of traditional floating shelves I made them a step more functional by adding dowel hooks below them. This was an inexpensive way to add more depth to these shelves while making them ready for all kinds of purposes. Plus, Sara loved them – score!

Special Project | Device Charging Drawer

One of my favorite things to do in a kitchen is create a device charging drawer. It’s a pretty affordable, but super custom feature that houses an electrical outlet inside a drawer. This keeps the cord and device clutter off the countertops. It’s a game changer!

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The Dining Room

Before, Chris and Sara had an idea of where their dining room might go in their ripped-up house, but it was hard to visualize anything because of a huge unpermitted covered porch right outside the door. It was dark, dated, and blocking a lot of light from coming into the house. So you KNOW we took that thing down!
The rest of this room’s needs were pretty much cosmetic – like drywall! That’s a good thing to have in a house, you know… I highly recommend it 😉 We carried the same engineered hardwood floors through from the living room and the kitchen to keep everything cohesive.
Now the dining room is light and bright (buh-BYE unpermitted covered porch!), and ties in beautifully with the adjoining kitchen. Now THIS is a great place to have people over and entertain!

Special Project | Wine Wall

There was a big huge wall in the dining room, but I didn’t have the budget to add much to it. I would have needed really large pieces of artwork to cover this wall, and that can be expensive. So I got creative with it. I remembered Sara saying she likes to have wine nights with her girlfriends. So I took some existing wood we already had from the project, and some affordable square stock metal, and bent the metal into wine hooks. I installed the hooks onto the wood, and BOOM: wine holders! We installed these wine holders onto the wall, and now the wall looks like it has a cool architectural element that acts as pretty storage at the same time. It’s all about functional art!

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The Backyard

With the covered porch add-on gone, the backyard was suddenly huge. We just focused on sprucing this space up and making it the perfect place for entertaining and spending time with each other. Chris and Sara even got engaged once they handed the stress of this project over to me and are envisioning having their wedding in this backyard! I think we nailed it, guys!
Working within our budget we set up a grill spot for Chris right outside the kitchen window so he could use it while cooking, making it feel like a true outdoor kitchen.

Special Project | Outdoor Kitchen

We used the same soapstone as the fireplace surround to create a 2-seater countertop for Chris and Sara to use while grilling and cooking outside. This wasn’t an expensive project, but being thoughtful about how the homeowners would use this space made the whole area more functional and enjoyable.

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Shop the Look

If you’re interested in what we bought, we kept most of the products organized in a Pinterest board. In our opinion, this is the easiest way to manage a project.

And here’s a compilation of all of the shoppable links found throughout this entire post: