These are the items to complete on our condo before we sell! Paint, floor refinishing, and a kitchen backsplash all make the list.
We’re Selling, Now What?
After making the decision to sell our condo – the original yellow brick home! – our next thought was, now what?! Like most of the country right now, homes are moving fast in Chicago, but we were worried that our little condo might not be as enticing after more than a year of quarantine. Won’t people be looking for something… bigger?, we asked our realtor.
She assured us that she had plenty of clients looking for their first home together. A home just like our condo! (As a recap, the condo is 675 square feet with two bedrooms and one full bath.) And when I think back to the time we were hunting for our first home together, we thought we had hit the jackpot when we walked through the door. It’s small, but that makes it manageable. It’s walkable to some of the best restaurants, cocktail lounges, wine bars and green spaces in the city. It has a small back patio, and Chicagoans love a sliver of outdoor space to call their own! And the kitchen – well, the kitchen was packed with cabinetry, and our twenty-something selves said out loud, How will we ever fill all these cabinets?! #citylife
That said, our realtor recommended a few changes to make it stand out from the crowd of condos on the market. While we could leave our 2005-rehabbed-era codo as-is, we’re excited to really make her shine! The list isn’t terribly long, but we also don’t want to underestimate the time we’ll need to put in.
The Condo Checklist
- Remove the wallpaper in the hallway
- Paint all the walls, ceilings and millwork
- Refinish the hardwood floors
- Update (almost) all of the light fixtures
- Install solar shades in the main living area, blackout rollers in the bedrooms
- Paint the kitchen cabinets
- Add a tile backsplash
What We’re Hiring Out
Paint (Walls, Ceiling, Doors + Millwork) | After 8 years of tenants, every surface could use a refresh. We never loved the off-white trim and doors, so were looking forward to giving them a fresh coat of white paint! We hired the same painting crew that got us out of a pickle at the Two Flat, which is the same crew that painted our entryway. What would take us two to three weeks to complete, they can accomplish in a week.
Floors | There’s enough floor damage from previous tenants (dogs, water stains, life in general), that our realtor noted it was worth refinishing. Because the home is small, the cost of floor refinishing felt manageable. We’re hiring the same team that did the most amazing job at The Two Flat (Peter’s Wood Refinishing, if you’re in Chicago and on the hunt!), and we’ll even be picking out a new color! More on that… once we decide, haha.
What We’re Doing Ourselves
Paint (Cabinets) | We are so excited about this one. We’re confident that we can transform this kitchen into something that a future buyer will love with their whole heart. Most of all, we can’t wait to share this budget-friendly process with you! Our goal is to turn a 15-year-old kitchen – in other words, dated but still functional – into the showstopper.
Lighting | Dated ceiling fans and once-trendy fixtures need to go. We’ll be choosing fixtures that feel timeless, while having broader appeal.
Window Treatments | This is our cherry-on-top – not absolutely necessary, but definitely a perk! The window treatments throughout the home (all 4 windows, not kidding!) are mismatched in both style and color. We’ll be adding cohesive motorized treatments throughout.
The Design Direction
Anything we choose for the kitchen will need to mesh well with the black-and-tan flecked granite counters, but that’s a part of the challenge we’re excited to tackle! We’re thinking of putty colored cabinets, a marble backsplash with warm veining, antique brass hardware (or maybe matte back – we’re still on the fence!), brass lighting and dark grey / black accents throughout.
Walls will be painted a creamy white, and all the millwork and doors will get bright white trim. Although we tossed around the idea of contrast trim (you know we love it!), we didn’t want a future buyer to feel frustrated with making our former home their own. For example, if they want an eggplant-colored bedroom, we wouldn’t want our contrast trim choice to prevent them from choosing wall colors that make their heart sing.
We’re also grateful to share that a few of our longtime partners will be joining this journey with us! The Tile Shop, Valspar and Bali Blinds have all jumped on board to help us bring our vision to life. We’re so thankful that they continue to support our small business.
Now that we’re all vaccinated(!), my parents will be coming in from Pittsburgh to help with Lucy while we knock out this checklist. We absolutely couldn’t do this without them, and we’re still pinching ourselves that they could make it happen. Although promises of spending time with Goose certainly helped!
Our tenant moves out at the end of May (I mean next week, where is the time?), and we’re giving ourselves the month of June to complete every last item on the list so we can get her on the market by July. To say we’re excited about revisiting this home would be an understatement, and we can’t wait to take you along for the ride!
Excited to watch the journey!
We can’t wait to dig in!
So excited to see these changes. We just bought a house (yesterday!) with black and tan speckled granite and 90s oak cabinets. Can’t wait to see what you do to give the kitchen and updated look!
Since you’re updating almost all the lighting, I’d love a post or conversation about how you choose a whole house of lighting that plays well together and what sort of lighting is “timeless,” as you put it. I just bought a house, and I think most of the lighting is atrocious, but I don’t know how to go about picking a cohesive yet not matchy lighting scheme– we have multiple angles where you can see different fixtures (kitchen/living room/downstairs hall/upstairs hall, for example, so I want them to make sense together.
Here’s a post about choosing ALL the lighting in the two flat at once!
This is so helpful! Fun fact: in Germany, you take the lighting fixtures with you (even in rentals). Our rental apartment came with two bare bulbs in the hall and one fixture in the bathroom. The rest of the house was pitch black until we bought our fixtures! (and we still have the bare bulbs in the hall…the to-do list is long…)
Whoa! I love hearing how things are handled in different parts of the world. Updating the lightning isn’t something most would do, but I want prospective buyers to walk in and love each and every detail.
So happy for Lucy to get some grandparent time and so excited to watch a budget friendly, quick makeover!
HOW FUN! I love every thing you all do, but excited to see some smaller projects over here – and to see the condo again after all these years!!
Though very basic, I enjoy seeing a general appeal remodel. We have lots of rentals, so we don’t go very bold and I’ll like seeing the broad and timeless items that you pick. I like everything that you do anyway, so I’m sure this one will be no different.
This will be so fun to watch unfold! You didn’t ask for any opinions, but when I saw your kitchen I immediately pictured some subdued sage-y cabinets with the hardware and tile you showed. So there’s my two cents! I’m sure everything you do will be lovely.
Perfect timing. We did a gut reno of our apartment 15 years ago and now it’s time for a refresh. I would love to paint the oak kitchen cabinets, but the hubs is unsure. I will share your progress with him and hopefully convince him that we can do it. Good luck with the renos.
This will be so fun for us. We’re used to making over 100 year old kitchens – not 15 year old kitchens with great bones! We’re learning a lot of restraint and more of a work-with-whatcha-got attitude.
Just curious- when people diy paint wood cabinets like these, do you also paint inside? Or do something else in the interior?
We’ll paint the cabinet boxes, but not the insides. The inside will stay wood toned.
Especially excited to see you work on the kitchen! I have a similar kitchen – great cabinets functionally, but definitely need to be updated. Need a new backsplash. Should try to keep the granite (brown and tan – not my fave) since this isn’t our forever home.
When we bought our first house, wall colors were egg yolk, raw hotdog, and muddy purple. Our realtor said they could have gotten $20K more if they’d painted the walls white. Luckily for my budget, they didn’t. This condo already looks nice to me so I know it’s going to be amazing when you’re done.
It’s going to look fab with your plans & you should make a terrific profit on it – good for you! One tip – raise those upper cabinets to get rid of the gap between them & the ceiling…such wasted space!
We considered that! And then adding shelving below, right? The ceilings in the condo are tall – maybe 9.5′? So it would almost make them unusable at the top. If anything adding smaller cabinets above might be a cool way to bring in additional storage, but we’re working hard to put in the sweat equity as opposed to spending too much more.
here is info from another blogger I follow about adding cabinets on top : https://www.thriftydecorchick.com/search/label/Kitchen%20%28previous%29
I wonder if you could have the granite countertops honed on-site? That might help improve the look. I can’t wait to see your improvements! I own an 800 square foot condo in Logan Square that I’ve been renting out for 8 years, thoughts of selling it occur to me from time to time so this will be highly instructive, I think. I live in CA now, so I wouldn’t be able to DIY it, though…
I’ve thought about honing them onsite, even trying to do it myself! I think we’ll be restricted with time, and knowing when going the extra mile isn’t worth it.
Totally fair! You are looking for biggest bang for buck, not perfection. Looking forward to following along!
I’m late to the party so I don’t remember the condo but it looks like a fun project. My Fella’s brother lives in the Jefferson Park area and has a wonderful small apartment there. Question re the matte black faucet— does it get spotted from hard water? I’ve always played it safe with chrome or brushed nickel so I’m curious about the black. Can’t wait to see the progress!
We have matte black at tree house, and the spotting isn’t any worse than the spotting you’d get on another finish!
I’ve got dark faucets in my kitchen (venetian bronze from the days when matte black was prohibitively expensive – my heart’s desire but I was ahead of the curve) and find they show water spots far less than the chrome in the two bathrooms.
Thank you for the input!!
So excited to follow along! Just bought my first condo and am so inspired by your plans to update, if not totally redo, the kitchen! Loved how you discussed a plan to reduce the visual impact of the granite counters!