Getting Ready for a Reno? Check Out These Design Resources First

What to know before you renovate.
By: Erin Loechner
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You know the idea that a goldfish only grows as big as his bowl allows? In a world full of massively large fish bowls, Husband and I decided we wanted to keep our goldfish teeny weeny. And by goldfish, we mean (a) our mortgage, (b) our household duties and (c) our clutter. And although there may be very little glamor involved in owning a tiny home, it’s certainly the right lifestyle for us.

Colorful Victorian Home With Porch and Small Garden

Colorful Victorian Home With Porch and Small Garden

A mix of red, green and yellow paint colors create a charming exterior on this Victorian home with ornate molding. The front porch is surrounded by a decorative, colorful railing and looks out over a small garden with shrubs and topiary.

Photo by: Photo by Janet Loughrey

Photo by Janet Loughrey

With that said, small spaces present their own set of design dilemmas, and Husband and I embarked on a research-heavy adventure to find out exactly how to utilize the space that we did have. One of the incredible benefits to renovating is the amount of information available online. From kitchen planning to renovation checklists, the opportunities for a feasible and efficient remodel are incredible.



Table Styling Pairing high-end books with vintage books found at flea markets.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brian Patrick Flynn

Of course, we began our research the old-fashioned way with a few great books on the subject. On our recommended reading list:

I can’t sing the praises of these books enough. The knowledge we gained from reading about real homes, real spaces and real lives was enough to make me fantasize about living in a home a quarter the size of ours — just to see if we could handle it.

Luxury Mobile Cabin With Wood Exterior

Luxury Mobile Cabin With Wood Exterior

The crew at Escape Homes has been constructing cabins for many years and recently decided to go mobile. The result is the Escape Traveler, a luxury cabin that qualifies as an RV.

Photo by: Escape Traveler

By far, the best advice we received from each of these books was this: Every family is different, and every home should reflect these differences. I’m not talking personalization, although I do love a good monogrammed pillow every now and then. What am I talking about? Customization.

If your family is crazy busy and rarely sits down for a meal, why do you have a complete dining room set in your kitchen?  If your entire roster of friends and family lives close by, why do you need a guest room? Ask yourself questions about your lifestyle and answer honestly. Whether you desire a long stream of guests or a sit-down dinner with your family each night, the presence of the space alone won’t change your lifestyle. Yet, by catering each space to your activities and thinking in terms of areas rather than rooms, your livable space will increase tremendously.

Living Room After

Living Room After

After the renovation by the Property Brothers, this family living room has a bright, sunny look.

From: Buying and Selling

Photo by: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Once you’ve settled on your general floor plan (based on your needs, not wants), it’s time to start planning. Here’s where the internet comes in. And although I’m not quite ready to sing a love ballad to The Internet At Large, I will say that online tools have been incredibly instrumental in the continued success of our renovation.

Digital Document Storage: Evernote

Digital Document Storage: Evernote

When we humans move from point A to point B, the most important papers can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Scan the most important documents and use Evernote to store and retrieve them effortlessly. Now you'll never lose your movers' contact info, the contract you signed with them, your new cable account number or other vital pieces of information.

I’ll do my best to break down my favorite tools in terms of use, i.e. space-planning, organization and home inspiration. Here we go:

Space-Planning Tools  

Kitchen Planner
Self-explanatory and worth its weight in gold. We’ve planned (and re-planned, and re-planned again) our layout multiple times with this handy tool.

Traditional White Kitchen With Wood Accents and Iron Chandelier

Traditional White Kitchen With Wood Accents and Iron Chandelier

The three points of the frequently mentioned work triangle are the range, sink and refrigerator. Appliances can be broken up with the classic shapes; for example, the cooktop and wall ovens might be in different areas. Two sinks are important for a two-cook kitchen. This white kitchen is accented with a marble backsplash and a wooden countertop on the island highlighting the bar stools and exposed ceiling beams.

My Deco Space Planner
Not sure if your sofa will fit in that tiny living room? Craft a basic floor plan and lay out your existing furniture to get a feel for the space you have and what you need to make room for. Genius!

Silk Sofa Highlighted by Bird Patterned Pillows

Silk Sofa Highlighted by Bird Patterned Pillows

Carpet Calculator
Find out how much product you’ll need in two super-simple steps.

Plush Carpet Samples

Plush Carpet Samples

Choosing wall to wall carpet is a challenge with samples of this size.

Photo by: unknown


Paint Calculator
Another simple tool to calculate how much product you need to buy. Type in room measurements, heights and preferences and receive an instant estimate.

Organization Tools



Checklist and pencil

Photo by: Creatas


Home Renovation Checklist from Real Simple
I love this checklist, mostly because of the final line item: “Carve out an oasis for you.” This is key during a renovation, so if you can’t phase your project to avoid construction dust, loud noises and general interference, I’d suggest staying elsewhere in an effort to sustain any sanity you may currently possess. Trust me on this one.

Budget Checklist from
Want to get a breakdown of how much your renovation will really cost? Follow a few simple tips from Trusty Guides, along with a helpful budget template you can download to track your own progress.

Home Inspiration Resources
Need a landing pad for the endless inspirational images found on blogs, sites and the like? Keep your finds in one spot with an easy, visual pin board at (You can see my favorite interior images at my pin board right here!)
Fashion gurus flock to to pull together mood boards of their favorite outfits and accessories, but this also makes a great inspiration resource for your dream home. Craft an online inspiration board (for free) with a few clicks of your mouse.

Small Bathroom Ideas

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Architectural Distraction

Designers Mark Edge and Amy Wikman collaborated to turn Mark's narrow yet tall master bathroom into a classic, masculine retreat. By cladding the walls with dark paneling and freeing the sink from closed-in cabinets, they minimize the space's shortcomings and shift focus to its architectural interest.

Bold-Colored Bathroom

As this 6-foot-by-7-foot Atlanta bathroom demonstrates, sometimes bold color is all you need to make a big statement. Although this space receives no natural light, the bold Kelly green walls give it fresh personality. The ultra-white floor and wainscoting counterbalance the green's intensity.

Less Is More

In the main bathroom of her family's Georgia home, author and stylist Amy Flurry took a less-is-more approach. Although the space is narrow, the eye is drawn upward to its generous 10-foot ceiling, first by a splash of cobalt blue concentrated on the center of the walls, then up toward the ceiling with a classic chandelier.

Grounded With Graphic

The basket weave-pattern tile in this bathroom by designer Betsy Burnham demonstrates how a statement graphic and high contrast can pack visual interest into an otherwise tiny space. Although Betsy uses graphic tile on the floor, she keeps the walls simple and bright with a smart choice of white subway tile.

Packed With Pattern

When remodeling daughter Carson's tiny bathroom, Betsy mixed contrasting yet coordinating patterns. The cheerful Katie Ridder wallpaper is much larger in scale than the mirror's snakeskin framing, allowing the two prints to coexist harmoniously, while the unstructured pattern of the Roman shade strikes a balance by accentuating the black and white tones.

White on White

Playing with available natural light is key in small bathrooms. When remodeling son Will's modest en suite bathroom, Betsy used a white-on-white color scheme to reflect and refract light from the tiny window all around the small space.

Hard-Working Hardware

Although it's often a DIYer's afterthought, hardware can make a huge impact in a small space. By keeping cabinets simple and light, then splurging on high-end, statement-making hardware, Betsy played with shape, sheen and scale to pack style into this bathroom without taking up valuable space.

Go With Glass

For the remodel of his midcentury-modern Atlanta home, designer Keith Brown camouflaged the bathroom's size by maximizing all available natural light through windows and a glass partition. By keeping the shower area open to the rest of the bathroom with a generously sized interior glass wall, the otherwise darkly decorated space feels spacious and airy.

Floating Free

To make his master bathroom feel slightly larger in space, Keith repurposed an IKEA media cabinet into a floating vanity. The creative spin on a traditional fixture freed up floor space, creating the illusion of more square footage.

Open Entry

Located just off his master bedroom, Keith's master bathroom feels much larger thanks to its open entry. The absence of a door opens the rooms into one another, making them feel like one large space and allowing light to flow freely between the spaces.

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