Kim Wolfe, the “Survivor” winner turned home renovation specialist, has a unique mission on her new HGTV show, “Why the Heck Did I Buy This House?”
“I help homeowners who have a really bad case of buyer’s remorse,” she summarizes. Since homes don’t come with a return policy, she and her project manager/builder husband Bryan help these homeowners renovate their space so it better suits their needs.
On the latest episode, “Clash of the Decades,” Jamie and Tye West need some serious updates to their midcentury modern house in San Antonio, TX. It’s cursed with a dysfunctional kitchen and an awkward layout.
“It’s a midcentury time capsule, kind of quirky and different,” says Kim.
“I don’t want to take away from the midcentury charm that this house has, but I want to eliminate the dysfunction that’s interrupting my life,” says Jamie.
Kim and Bryan are confident they can turn this house around with a $75,000 renovation budget. Here’s how they stretch every dollar—and find some extra cash hiding in a surprising place—to make what’s old look new again. Even if you adore your home, you might see plenty of design wisdom you’ll be inspired to try on your own abode to make it better than ever.
Reuse kitchen cabinets
There’s nothing wrong with the sturdy kitchen cabinets that came with the house. There were just too many of them, and they were placed so that the kitchen seemed small and cramped, and didn’t fit with the appliances.
Jenny has the perfect solution: “Save money by keeping and reusing the cabinets. We’re just going to replace the doors. It’s a way to really keep the costs down in a kitchen remodel.”
To freshen the look, they paint the cabinets a rich, dark blue and add brass pulls. They also remove the cabinets above the peninsula, completely opening the kitchen up to the dining area. It makes a dramatic difference.
Ditch the formal dining room
There’s a formal dining room off the kitchen that Tye and Jamie mostly use for storage. They never eat there, and the dining table is the place where junk mail piles up. Sound familiar?
“These dang formal spaces! This is happening across the board for me everywhere I go,” declares Kim. “We feel this obligation to these spaces because we were told you should have them, but nobody’s using them. They’re absolutely like a museum, so I think this formal dining room has to go. We need to make it a part of your everyday living experience.”
Since there’s a breakfast area off the kitchen where the whole family usually eats, Bryan and Kim have a lot of latitude in the dining room. They move a wall and subtract space from the dining room and give it to the kitchen. With the kitchen bigger and brighter, the dining room feels smaller and cozier. It’s now perfect for Tye’s new home office and a much better use of space.
Paint the paneling
Jamie loves her honey-colored wood paneling because it reminds her of the house she grew up in. It’s hard for her to see that the ubiquitous paneling dates the house and makes it look monochromatic and feel closed in.
Kim says she can’t leave all the paneling in place, because they’re widening doorways, plastering over the brick fireplace, and adding other features that make it impossible to match the paneling throughout the house.
The solution is to paint the paneling white, but in a light wash so the wood grain is still noticeable. The results look fresh and modern, and Jamie is thrilled.
Shop your garage and have a yard sale
During the remodeling process, Kim finds a support post in the middle of the kitchen that will have to be bolstered with a support beam in the ceiling. That will cost an extra $3,000 that’s not in the budget.
To cover the cost, Kim goes looking in Jamie’s garage to find myriad invaluable items that she knows will sell at a yard sale. There are brass trays, sconces, baskets, lamps, rugs, wallpaper—all sorts of things that could bring in extra cash.
On the day of the yard sale, dozens of people show up, many drawn in by the listings Kim posted online. They end up bringing in $3,425, which also gives them an extra $425 to use for wallpaper in the entryway.
Use black and white to modernize vintage colors
“Black and white is such a fun way to modernize older things, because it does feel textural and graphic and it can kind of lean toward modern,” says Kim.
She decides to add that feature to the flooring, which is a brown tile that the homeowners hate. Kim thinks black and white terrazzo is the perfect solution.
“Terrazzo is making a massive comeback,” she says. “It’s a vintage classic, so it’s perfect for the Wests. It was all the rage in the ’60’s, and now it’s back in a big way.”