Living in New York, we’re no strangers to tiny closets, narrow hallways, and “cozy” charm. But, no matter where you live, it can be a real challenge to figure out how to make the most of your home’s footprint. Whether your first home is a cute bungalow, a 50’s style ranch, a fixer-upper craftsman, or an old-school place like ours, we could all use some more space!
When we closed on our first home in 2018–a classic brownstone in Bed Stuy–we quickly realized the challenge that lay ahead: renovating this modest space with an equally modest budget.
However, with determination, creativity, and a little help from The Home Depot, we successfully embarked on a DIY renovation adventure, which eventually morphed into a thriving small business! Now, as the Brownstone Boys, we help folks all over Brooklyn figure out how to maximize their space while sticking to their budgets.
Here are our top hacks to help you unlock the potential of your new home without spending a small fortune:
Breaking Up the Basement:
The basement is often an overlooked area, which, with a little imagination, can add valuable square footage to your home. And as our small business grew, we knew we needed to create more space at our place to host meetings and clients. While our basement had lots of room, with the boiler and mechanicals on full display, it wasn’t inviting or usable. Inspired by the speakeasies of the 1920s, we designed a new slab wall to close off the unsightly mechanicals and create a warm wood look–for less!
Now, with that quick, budget refresh, we feel more comfortable and confident than ever having clients over to our basement workspace. Our takeaway? Sometimes, it’s more efficient and cost-effective to section off an eyesore in the basement so that you can enjoy the rest of the space surrounding it.
The Power of Color:
When your square footage isn’t budging, color can be your best friend in creating the illusion of openness. We know what you’re thinking–white paint everywhere, right? However, for this project, we relied on the opposite: a dark, Hunter Green Rustoleum paint to create contrast in our bathroom reno.
First, we used our RYOBI Portable Table Saw to get the perfect cuts on the door so we could install a frosted window feature with a vintage look. Then, we got to painting with our gorgeous dark green from HD!
Painting a smaller focal point (like a door or window frame) in a darker color compared to its lighter surroundings draws your eye in a way that makes a space feel larger by contrast. We love picking up little tricks like this one that allow you to create the illusion of more space using color and natural light. The best part? No need to bring down any walls to make your room feel bigger!
Unleashing Outdoor Potential:
Whether you have a sprawling, overgrown backyard, a small patio, or even a stoop, you can always elevate your available outdoor space! Especially when the weather’s nice, having a comfortable, welcoming outdoor area will make your home’s footprint feel much larger. When we first moved in, our small, neglected backyard was hardly where you’d want to spend a relaxing evening. But, with a bit of elbow grease and some strategic budget buys from Home Depot, we took our yard from forgotten to unforgettable!
To get started, we brought in this Sun Joe compact push mower to turn our yard into a clean slate. Once everything was cleared up, we grabbed these treated Weathershield planks to create gorgeous planters that would keep our greenery from Home Depot contained and tidy.
The finishing touch? A scattering of clean marble chip landscaping rock by Vigoro.
With just a few budget-friendly changes (and ok, a lot of elbow grease), our backyard has become a favorite hangout spot for movie nights, iced tea with neighbors, and of course, the perfect nap place for Zuko!
Our three C’s for renovating your Outdoor Paradise: clean, curate, and customize!
Strip It Down:
If your first home happens to be an older house (like ours) then you’re probably familiar with painted-over woodwork and finishes, a.k.a the “landlord special”. These bulky, uneven coats of white paint can be an eyesore and give a cluttered, rough look to a room.
When we first got the keys to our brownstone, we knew we would need to do A LOT of stripping to reveal some of the natural wood beauty of our classic home. Wood is nature’s own little trick to make any room feel bigger, thanks to its reflective qualities and elongated grain patterns.
Now, our guests always comment on how the natural wood draws light into our space. This easy DIY brings a touch of the outdoors into your space and adds a great complement to your houseplants or any wood furniture.
Another quick hack–don’t have any original woodwork in your house? You can create the same effect with a great coffee table, wooden bookshelves, or even side tables, like these from Home Depot.
Storage, Storage, Storage:
This Home Depot Hack is for those who are just dipping their toes into the world of DIY and want a quick, cost-effective, and simple solution to free up some space at home. When it comes to creating an open, inviting layout, storage is absolutely essential.
In Brooklyn, we’re seeing a huge trend of folks repurposing industrial, metal furniture like lockers, cabinets, and shelving for storage. It’s easy to find these items online, at rummage sales, or even at the junkyard at budget-friendly prices! Now, you’re going to need a little Home Depot magic to get these pieces from worn down and rusty to gorgeous and space-saving.
With these wire brushes from Anvil, you’ll be able to get old, chipped paint off of every nook and cranny. Once your surface is prepped, you’re ready for a few coats of Rust-Oleum 5-in-1 spray paint in the color of your choice!
We recently worked the same magic on a vintage iron bench we snagged online and we’re so, so pleased with the results.
So, whether you’re a first-time homeowner trying to maximize your space, or a seasoned renovator in search of a new project, remember – it’s all about using what you have to your advantage. And sometimes, all you need is a touch of creativity, the right tools, and a little bit of the Brownstone Boys’ inspiration!
How are we already halfway through this Springs One Room Challenge!? While a lot of work has been done our list of to-do’s seems like it’s getting longer and longer. Last weekend was hot and your boys spent the entire time in the basement making sure framing was complete. The good news is that we’re done with framing and excited to report that new electrical is in place and drywall has even started to go up! Now we are going to focus on the skim coating, finishing the concrete floors, and making sure all items are onsite – ready to go in. We think (and pray) all the above will go in much quicker than the painful process of getting everything cleared and the new framing that went into it. We definitely did not go with an easy space to transform. The good news is, we’re having a lot of fun with it (even having dance parties!) and we’re making some incredible progress!
While we focus less on the construction-y part of the makeover, something behind the scenes we’ve been working on is gathering all our finish materials! We know that’s what you want to see! Our millwork rendering has been completed and in the hands now of our friend Ethan Abramsom who is helping build our row of custom cabinetry. We decided to utilize additional storage for samples and other items so we will do a mix of closed cabinetry and glass to display nicer items. Think of old school apothecary medicine cabinets!
We’re very excited that our “werk table” is almost ready for pickup! A new local favorite, Self Made Build, has been building a custom 7’ walnut table that is extendable. We are adding black brackets to the table to tie in the effect of old vs. new.
We also have been hard at work ordering all our lights, furniture and other finishes that will go in the new space! This can be a time consuming process. There’s a million options out there and we needed a way to find the perfect options and get them quickly. We’re excited to announce that we’re working with ebay on this space! ebay, for years, has been on our favorite ways to source….pretty much anything! Here’s why ebay is the perfect partner for us:
The New & Necessary
There are so many items that we need to find a quick, easy, and inexpensive source for. We need recessed lights, hardware, and door knobs. We were able to find what we needed, save a few bucks, and have it onsite quickly to keep the project moving.
That’s right, we like shopping locally on eBay! It’s especially helpful for items that are easier to pick up or have locally delivered. We sourced vintage doors from a seller that is about an hour away and delivers for free. It’s also a great option for vintage furniture items. We love being able to support our local antique shops, salvage yards, vintage stores from our couch in the evening when we have time.
One of the things we love most about shopping on eBay is all of the one-of-a-kind items. We can find almost anything we want just by searching. And while we love shopping locally, sometimes what we want may not be available locally. It’s just so amazing to be able to shop at an antique store half way across the country or even in another country if we need to. That opens up so many more options and helps us find the perfect items. We searched high and low locally for vintage dining chairs that we couldn’t find, but we found them in Missouri!
With 4 more weeks remaining until our big reveal, we need to get back to work! It’s going to be a long road to get to the end of the race but we are starting to have faith that everything will come together. Your support and energy is helping us get through it all! So a big thank you! We’re also incredibly motivated by the other 19 featured designers and their incredible transformations. Check out their progress and give them a follow! To everyone else taking on the Spring 2021 One Room Challenge, we’re cheering you on from our basement in Brooklyn! We got this!
If you’re wanting to take a look back to see how we got here, check out our past ORC posts