DIY Easy Door Upgrade Tutorial

If you didn’t get enough door makeover inspiration last week, today is your lucky day because I’ve got another tutorial for you!

Step by step guide on how to update your flat panel doors with just trim and paint—easy weekend project!

Before we get into that, how about a quick flip update?

I’m happy to report there’s been some nice progress, as the carpeting has been completely removed and we now have recessed lighting downstairs.


The kitchen is down to the studs and hopefully that door will be gone and replaced with framing next week.


It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, though. My electrician discovered the wiring isn’t to code and he’s going to have to install new breakers, and run a gas line to the kitchen for the stove.


Not only that, but when the wood paneling was removed from the ceiling & wall to run the wiring, most of them broke and I have no replacements so it’s looking like I’ll have to hire a drywall guy to redo the kitchen ceiling.

I’m also dealing with huge work estimate increases that came out of left field today, so this has not been the best week. It’s all part of the process though and what I signed up for, so let’s just head upstairs and focus on the good parts…


Like my fabulous new doors! I actually did a quick tutorial for these earlier this year, but now I have a super helpful video:

Just like the closet doors, the bedroom doors also started as flat panel wood:


Since I had 7 doors to makeover (6 bedrooms and a bathroom) and only a day or two to complete everything, I needed the fastest and easiest solution possible. This option definitely fits the bill.

Before starting, I measured my doors and laid out my plans (in Illustrator):


I know that’s a whole lot of numbers—so let’s break it down. The 1-6 represents each bedroom (they have been assigned a number from the beginning to make my life easier). WC = Water closet aka the bathroom. The numbers on the doors are the width of each door.

Above the door, I’ve listed out the cut list and number of pieces needed in total (for both sides). The 28″, 29″ and 30″ doors all had the same cut sizes to keep things simple, as did the 35″ and 36″ doors. You’ll notice there’s 8 identical horizontal pieces, 4 longer vertical pieces and 4 shorter vertical pieces for the different size rectangles. I aimed for approximately a 5″ gap around the door edges, although this varied between doors.

In total, I bought 35 pieces of 8′ trim, and at around $5 per trim piece, that brought each door total to around $25 (not including materials/paint).

Now that we’ve got our numbers down, let’s move on to the process!

I chose this wood molding from Lowe’s, because I liked that it was flat on one side:


With my cut list in hand, I proceeded to cut all 112 pieces with a miter saw (luckily my dad was there to help out for a few hours!)

I listed these tips in my last tutorial, but they’re worth repeating:

  1. Measure to the outside of the cut, triple check your mark and use a saw with a laser
  2. Cut on the outside of the laser line, not directly on it to account for blade width
  3. Make sure the saw base is locked into the angle you set it to so it doesn’t shift
  4. Make sure the trim is lying flat and flush up against the gate
  5. Pay attention to the direction the molding is facing!

Here’s what the molding looks like for one full door:


Before beginning, I marked the center of every door 5″ from the top, along with the center point of my top trim piece so I knew exactly where to line it up:


After applying a thin bead of liquid nails, press it into place. The first piece is the most critical, and once it’s straight you can tape it into place and move right along.

The easiest way to align the vertical pieces is by measuring where it falls at the top, and then marking that same distance farther down on the door.




Repeat the process for the second vertical piece, and then slide that lower piece in to complete your first rectangle:


Duplicate those steps for the lower box. I wanted a 5″ gap between them, so I simply marked 5″ from both edges and aligned my top piece:


Easy peasy!


Make sure to wipe off any excess liquid nails before it dries, and use painters tape to keep the trim from shifting. Once they’re stable enough, apply a bit of caulk in the seams before painting.

After getting my rhythm down, I was able to complete each door in under 30 minutes—so this can definitely be a weekend project (especially if you have help!)

If you follow me on instagram you may remember my real-time updates…


After returning the next day, I was ready for a full night of painting. The color I chose was Valspar’s Cracked Pepper (which I hear is their richest black) and it went up so smooooth on those wood doors.


With my favorite short handled brush for the detail around the molding, and a foam roller for the flat parts, I knocked them all out in a matter of hours (using one thick coat or two thinner coats for full coverage).


Then I found these antique brass beauties on Lowe’s and fell in love:


They are currently my favorite thing in the house.


I live for the little details.


And this concludes the story of how my doors rose to greatness from humble beginnings.


Already a vast improvement from just a few weeks ago, right?


Now to get rid of that wallpaper! Fresh white walls, coming right up.

Next week I’ll be back to share all the details of my future kitchen! I’ve got some new and exciting plans in store, and I’m anxious to see what you think.

As always, you can stay up to date via instagram, snapchat (@jennasuedesign), Facebook and my YouTube channel. Have a happy Halloween weekend!


DIY Closet Door Trim Tutorial

If you’ve been keeping up with my instagram stories, you know what a crazy, busy, DIY-filled weekend I just had (still recovering from it). 14 interior doors trimmed and painted over the course of 2.5 days—about 20 hours in total spent (literally) running around the house trying to beat the clock—that’s the drawback to living 4 hours from a flip and being on a tight schedule. I was a woman on a mission, and let me just say: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

DIY Door trim tutorial & video

Sorry, I’m just relieved it’s over (and surprised I was able to pull it all off). There were two projects this weekend—the DIY closet door update (which I’m sharing today) and a second style DIY door trim for the bedroom doors, which I’ll be sharing next week.

Originally I planned to tackle the closet doors last weekend and the interior doors next weekend, but my sister is coming into town from Florida next weekend and I didn’t want to spend 15 hours working at the cottage instead of with her, so I pushed myself to get it all done at once. You hear that, sister? You’re welcome. Also, I had to stop every 20 minutes to take videos and pictures and snapchats and update you on instagram, so I did this for you guys, too 😉

Okay, back on topic! Here’s the latest video update from the flip including the closet door tutorial, so you can see exactly how it all came together:

Before we get to the doors, a quick update on the rest of the house: the carpeting has been removed downstairs!


Now the house is almost entirely orange wood or wood-like materials. Awesome.

The future kitchen:


The living room has been converted into a makeshift work space:


Hey there, beautiful fireplace:


Not much else happened, aside from meeting with several contractors, getting the work schedule lined up, and kitchen design finalized (I’ll share those plans in a couple weeks!)

On to the tutorial!

There are two bedrooms with flat panel sliding closet doors. I’ve never been a fan of the look but new doors are most definitely not in the budget, so molding and paint was the answer (it’s the answer to a lot of things, surprisingly).

I’ve done my fair share of flat panel door transformations in the past—you may remember this first one:


Then the Ikea wardrobe door hack:


And one of my most popular posts ever, the plain to paneled door:


And then the quickest and easiest of them all:


It was time to add another door style to the collection. These sliding doors are a bit limited as far as molding options, because a) there’s a narrow gap where they overlap, so your trim can’t generally stick out more than 0.25″, and b) there’s a track along the top and bottom so you can’t add any trim there. I actually didn’t even consider that second point until I had bought all the trim and had to change my design plan on the fly—oops.


Once you have the right size molding, you can create any design you’d like with it. I considered going with one or two rectangles to keep things nice and simple and match the bedroom doors, but ultimately was drawn to an “X” formation. Gotta keep things interesting, right?

I found this molding from Lowe’s that was the perfect size, and a great price at just 60 cents/foot:


Tip: look them over carefully and make sure to select the straightest ones, and always buy an extra or two! My design plan called for two 8 foot pieces per door (I had 7 doors total). That makes each door cost just under $10 (not including paint/supplies).

Then I grabbed the rest of my supplies (and posted it on instagram):


The caulk was for my other door project, but you will want to have some spackle or wood putty handy.

First you want to mark your door at wherever you want your pieces to end. With my design, I chose 2″ from the top and bottom to clear the tracks, so I marked all 4 points of each door. Then I held my trim piece across it and lined it up corner to corner, tracing the angle of the cut:


No fancy tools were used here, so if you’re looking for a specific science with numbers and such, spoiler alert: this isn’t the right tutorial for you. That level of craftsmanship is above my pay grade, folks.

I’ve come to find that with these types of projects, you really can’t tell if the measurements are off by a little when it’s all said and done—and I tend to be a perfectionist, so I’ll let you be the judge.

Anyway, once your molding has been marked in both places, it’s time to cut it. I used my miter saw for this, which was quite the challenge since the angle was larger than the 45 degree max—so I had to attempt to hold it in place with one hand and try to prevent it from shifting while operating the saw with the other:


Not gonna lie, this part was not fun at all. I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, so feel free to consult your local carpenter. Fortunately there’s this brilliant invention known as a grinder, which solves almost every problem in the world (see the video above for reference).

Now that your first piece is cut, apply a line of liquid nails to the back and line up each edge to your door marks, like so:


Then you’ll want to tape it in place while the glue dries, so it doesn’t shift. If your trim is warped and won’t lie flat, tape will not fix this—you’ll have to nail it in either via nail gun or a small brad nail and hammer.


Wipe off any excess glue using any combination of a sponge, putty knife or wet rag:


I did all of my long pieces first.


Now, onto the first cross piece. I wanted mine to cross at the center of the door, so I measured and marked that location:


Then I lined the second piece up to my marks, traced the angles, glued & taped it in place—same process as the first piece:


And the same thing for the final cross piece:


Now you can sit back, relax, and let the liquid nails dry overnight:


For the second bedroom I cut all my pieces at once—here’s what the trim lineup for 3 doors looks like:


And here they are, pre paint:


The next day, it was time for paint! I had tested a few soft grays (all Valspar) the week before, and made my decision pretty quickly…

valspar light gray paint

Modest Silver was the winner. It’s a soft putty gray—not too blue or yellow.

I found it best and most efficient to use a brush to paint around the molding…


And a smooth roller for all of the flat parts.


Look at those beauties.


The color reads pretty white on screen, but they’ll look more gray once the surrounding walls are painted white.


I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.


See the black door? That tutorial is coming next week! Let me know if you have any questions below, and catch the live updates on my instagram stories & snapchat (@jennasuedesign) as I return to the cottage this weekend for more. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of the tours & tutorials!

See ya soon…


Mortar Wash Brick Fireplace Tutorial & Cottage Flip Update

It’s time for the very first flip update! Last week I shared the Before Tour, so now that we’re all up to speed on what we’re working with, let’s talk about everything that happened last week.

I’ve documented & recapped it all the in the Cottage House Flip Episode 2:

First, there was some demo. Remember the kitchen?


Here it is now:

img_1772 img_1771img_1769

Ahh, nice and open concept. We also have our first unexpected cost…


See that column of wood on the left protruding between the two outlets? Someone put a metal vent there before the wall went in, and instead of moving it they just built the wall around it. That means the entire wall has to be furred out and I’ll lose a couple inches in the kitchen. Not the worst news ever, but still, extra expense #1 of the renovation.

Let’s move onto the DIY portion.

I figured the fireplace would be a good place to start. Here’s what I was working with (after the left wall of brick was demo’d):


And here’s what I was envisioning for the bricks (via Atlanta Homes Mag):


Don’t you just love that weathered, old world charm? Very European looking. It’s a mortar wash technique, also known as German Smear—you may remember JoAnna Gaines using it on a Fixer Upper:


Hers had a bit of a different look than my inspiration picture, but still the same concept—using white mortar to smooth out the brick while still allowing it to peek through in places.

Just to clarify, this is very different than white washing, which is simply painting over the brick with a diluted coat of white paint. I was set on this mortar wash look from the beginning.

Before I could begin, there was some prep work involved. The creatively painted green, yellow and black bricks weren’t going to cut it:


I could have left those completely covered under the mortar, but I wanted a clean slate to work with and thought I’d give removing the paint a try.

I found a handful of options searching online, and ended up with this stripping gel:


I also brought a grinder, an electric sander and miscellaneous scraping tools.

After letting the stripper gel do it’s thing, I used a stiff brillo pad to scrub the residue and was left with this:


It kind of worked. There was still some stubborn paint that wouldn’t budge, and an underlying brick discoloration, but it loosened most of it.

The fastest method was definitely sanding and using the grinder, but that ate up the paper real quick and there were some bricks that simply wouldn’t cooperate (refer to the video to see the process in action).

After around four hours of work, I decided to throw in the towel and call it ‘good enough.’ It was time to move on to the mantel!

The first thing I knew I wanted was big chunky reclaimed wood framing the fireplace. I’m fortunate enough to have a lumber yard within 10 miles of the cottage, so I stopped in to find the perfect match. Within minutes, I had made my selection and had them cut it to size:


I went with one large horizontal mantel, flanked by two vertical pieces on either side of the brick to make it feel more finished.

I had loaded up my dads truck with all of the necessary tools to hang this mantel, and was planning on meeting my demo guy at the cottage to help me install it. After reading a tutorial online, I purchased some 5/8″ steel rods, 5 minute epoxy and a 5/8″ masonry drill bit. Turned out my helper couldn’t make it, but I had two contractors on the way to give me an estimate and asked if they had time to help with the mantel. It couldn’t have worked out better—these guys went straight to work and they were awesome.


After setting the vertical wood beams in place, they drilled four holes through the brick and inserted the steel rods.


They didn’t trust my Gorilla Glue epoxy and picked up some of this adhesive instead for securing the steel into the bricks:


Then they drilled corresponding holes into the mantel:


Before slipping the mantel piece on, they coated the back in Loctite construction adhesive for extra security:


And up it went!


While the glue was drying, they kept it propped up and level to ensure it wouldn’t shift from the weight:


Then it was finally time for mortar washing!


The first step is locating white mortar, which isn’t as easy as one might think. Home Depot is the only retail chain I know of that carries it, and it wasn’t in stock within over 100 miles of me so instead I ended up at True Value, hoping to find an alternative as I tried to explain my mission to the store associates.

The closest thing we could find was white thin-set mortar, which came in at a whopping $19 compared to $10 for the recommended white cement mortar at Home Depot:


So I sucked it up and paid the price, hoping it would work out (fortunately, it did).

Back at the cottage, I mixed the mortar with water until reaching a consistency somewhere in between yogurt and peanut butter.


To apply it, you’ll need something that’s flexible enough to get into the grooves but stiff enough to spread and not fall apart. I found that a large stiff sponge worked best, but in hindsight I think a grout float might be ideal.


The existing mortar was really quite deep, and my goal was to level out the surface so it required a lot of mortar. Thick mortar also takes longer to dry, so I found that I needed to leave it on for closer to 45 minutes to an hour before sanding it off.

This took a lot longer than expected. Even with my sister helping, it was about ten hours in all. I later learned that it’s much more time consuming if your bricks are super rough and uneven, as mine were.


Luckily I came away with a few pointers for anyone else attempting this.

Tip 1: Try to focus mostly on the mortar lines, rather than slop mortar over the entire brick. This also depends on the look you are going for, but I wanted a bit more of the brick to show through so I ended up having to do a ton of scraping and sanding afterwards. It would have been nice if half the bricks were left mostly exposed to begin with, but it’s hard to control giant globs of mortar when your hands are stiff and gloves are covered in it (use gloves, by the way!)


Tip 2: Unless you want full coverage, apply less mortar than you actually want. Even residual mortar will stain the bricks white, and it’s hard to remove completely afterwards. It’s much easier to remove it when it’s still wet (within an hour) so if you notice an area where you want more brick showing through, act fast and scrub it off with a wet sponge.


Tip 3: Wet sponges are the best way to wash the mortar off, but you’ll also want to use something abrasive (like a scraper or brillo pad) to remove it all. Once it has completely dried (several hours) you can use an electric sander (60 grit) to expose more of the brick.


I thought for sure I’d be done Sunday night, but it turns out the mortar needs several hours to dry completely. Each time I’d wipe it down with a wet sponge, it would dry with a white residue. Here you can see the freshly wiped brick on the top vs after it dries on the bottom:


That’s why it’s important to use less mortar from the beginning (and saves time!)

The bricks along the bottom were aligned nice and flat with smooth and level mortar joints, so it ended up taking about 3-4 times less. If you have smooth flat brick joints, consider yourself very lucky because this process should be a breeze!


Overall—still very worth it—especially given the cost of just $50 for the wood and $60 for materials. So glad it’s over though. Project #1, in the books!


Once the carpet is replaced with wood floors and the orange wood paneling is a fresh white, I think this fireplace will shine.


And it’s hard to see past the construction mess, I know. There won’t be any pretty pictures for a while here, guys. Humble beginnings!


In a couple days I’ll be heading back for Project 2—updating the interior doors! I’ll be using my easy flat panel door upgrade on all 7 doors upstairs, so make sure you’re following on instagram and snapchat (@jennasuedesign) for live updates as it unfolds. See you there!


Cottage House Flip: Before Tour & Video!

Last week I shared all the numbers in the Cottage House Flip Kickoff Post, and now it’s time for a detailed Before Tour & Renovation Plan!

I paid a visit to the house the day it closed and spent the weekend clearing out the house, taking photos and shooting video. One thing I regret not doing in past homes is making sure to thoroughly capture the “Before’s”, so I’ve promised to stay on top of it this time.

I thought it’d be fun to document the renovation not only in photos & blog posts, but through a video series so I can take you there with me. I present to you, video #1, the Cottage House Flip Before Tour:

Let’s break down the room by room plans. Starting with the exterior:


Plenty of charm and potential, but a closer look reveals some obvious (major) issues.


This siding has seen better days. The right side of the house is bowing where the foundation needs to be repaired (a $15k fix):


I also plan to replace both lower windows and the door, as their current placement is very random and non symmetrical.

The back side of the house isn’t much better:


There’s dry rot on the porch and the fireplace needs attention:


There’s a lovely wraparound porch, but the railing needs to be rebuilt:


The carpet will also need to be removed with the wood flooring refinished, and I plan to add a beadboard ceiling.


Paint, lighting, furniture and accessories will finish off the space.


Then there’s the other necessities like a new roof, reframing of the windows, adding a ground barrier along the entire perimeter of the house, new retaining walls in the front and new lighting installed should do the trick—but this is all expected to cost over $40k. Yikes. Let’s go inside.

The entry situation is strange. You enter through the lower exterior door which opens to an unfinished/dirt area underneath the house, then take the staircase up to the front porch, then enter through the porch door. You could enter through the back door but there aren’t any steps leading to it—just a dirt hill (there’s no driveway or garage). Things are a bit different here in the wilderness.


Once you walk inside, you’ll find the living room on your left, a staircase straight ahead and the kitchen on the right. Let’s start with the living room:


The above photo is taken from the front door. It’s a decent sized room…


Because there’s no dining room, I’ve decided to split this into two sections, creating a dining area on the left.


The table will be placed where the current coffee table is, along the large picture windows. There will also be room for a reading nook where the couch/bookshelf is along the back wall.

The second portion will be divided into two seating areas. I’ll place the sofa facing the fireplace, pretty much in the same spot they have it now:


To the left of that will be two smaller love seats facing each other.


The fireplace will get a mortar wash treatment on the bricks and a rustic wood mantel. If it fits in the budget, I’ll install a row of cabinets on the left where the bookcase currently is. Oh, and all of the wood will be painted white, leaving the door and window trim the existing wood color (unless I decide I hate the way that looks).

Here’s a view from that corner, looking back toward the front door. You can see the staircase in the center and a sliver of the downstairs bathroom on the left:


In almost every situation I’d try to find a way to knock out any walls blocking the kitchen to make it open concept, but of course we can’t do that with a staircase so the layout is staying as is.


It’s not too closed off though—here’s the view from the front door looking to the right:


Don’t be fooled by the wide angle lens—this isn’t a very big space. The existing layout makes it worse.


The fridge is awkwardly positioned in the center, obstructing the walkway to the right. So that’ll be relocated just to the left of where the stove currently sits:


Can you imagine how much that will open this up?


The side porch door will be removed entirely so the whole back wall can have cabinets & counter space, and the stove be relocated to that wall as well. (Warning: cell phone photos ahead)


Along the double windows, I’ll build a custom bench seat and add a small table for extra workspace and eat-in casual dining:


And to the right of that, I’ll run additional lower cabinets for more storage & counter space, with a floating shelf or two above it:


The downstairs bathroom will get an update (leaving the existing tub), but I can only spend around $3-4k in here to stay on budget:


That covers the downstairs—let’s head up to where the magic is!


(Yes, this is the original carpet from 1956 and it will all be replaced by wood floors).

We’ve arrived to the hallway with surprises behind every door.


There are 8 doors up here including 6 bedrooms, a laundry room and bathroom. Let’s see what’s behind Door #1…


This is the biggest room of them all (by far). And I am slightly obsessed.


All we need here is to get rid of the wallpaper (white walls), light gray closet doors, new flooring and new bedding/furniture/lighting/decor.


That’s actually the plan for every single bedroom. Upstairs should be relatively easy (famous last words…)


Ugh, all this wallpaper.

Bedroom #2 might be my favorite of them all, because of this awesome little alcove:



Bedroom #3:


I’m digging the wood paneling—can’t decide whether to leave it or paint it gray.


The laundry room is immediately to the left of the staircase.


I plan to replace the door with a barn door to free up some walking space and paint the walls/cabinet.

Bedroom #4 is the littlest of them all, just big enough for a twin bed:




Then we have bedroom #5, currently dubbed The Red Room:



Across from Bedroom #5 is the upstairs bathroom. This is what my bathroom dreams are made of:


If you can’t picture it now, just wait.


It won’t need a ton of work—tile floors, paint, new vanity & a few accessories to be the stunner I know it can be.


Lastly, bedroom #6.


I love this room too, but it’s not deep enough to fit a bed without the door hitting it, so it’ll have to swing out into the hallway.



Can’t you just picture clean white walls, wood trim and a soft gray on the closets? I’m actually excited all of the doors are cheap-o flat panel wood, because that means I get to add molding & paint for a cheap and easy but super impactful transformation. I plan to use this DIY method (it’s one of my favorite projects to do) on all of the doors. The entry doors will be painted black, and the closet doors will be painted gray (at least that’s the plan for now).

And that pretty much covers it! Can you see why I fell in love with the house? Are you able to picture the end results? It might be hard to see now but we’ll get there.

A reader had asked where I start when beginning a renovation—planning, budget, or inspiration? For me, it starts before I even purchase the house. When I walk through each room, I try to visualize the “After”. Sometimes I can see it right away, other times it takes a day or two of creative brainstorming (while looking at Pinterest for inspiration). If I can’t come up with something I love or the amount of work doesn’t make sense (labor costs), then I’ll move on.


Often it’s mostly cosmetic, and I can usually find ways to get the look I’m after in a very cost effective manner. Most of this comes from experience and trial & error over the past eight years.


So in a nutshell, I start with the inspiration/final picture in mind, then reverse engineer the best way to achieve that. Planning and budget go hand in hand, and I’ll shop around for the lowest possible price that will get me as close to my vision as possible while staying in budget.


I use the same general process for a flip vs my own home, except for a flip I have to plan everything at once in a much shorter period of time. And I’m not able to put as much thought or attention to detail into each space as if it were my own, which is tough as a perfectionist, but I have to keep the bigger picture in mind. Just like everything else in life, it’s a learning experience 🙂

Alright, time to get working on my next video & post for you guys. Progress is underway and there’s no time to waste! You can keep up with the adventures on my instagram stories, snapchat (@jennasuedesign) & facebook and make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for video updates & tutorials! And don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions/comments, I love chatting with you guys and it helps me stay motivated during those long DIY days! See ya soon,



Cottage House Flip Kickoff Post!

Today is the day it all goes down, my friends—the long awaited, much anticipated, Official House Flip Kickoff Post!


In this post I’ll be spilling all the details—purchase price, estimated budget and my overall goal and purpose for this renovation. Now, let’s get down to business.

Quick background story so we’re all up to speed: I sold my last home in July after renovating while living in it for ~2.5 years. It was the third home I’ve remodeled over the course of eight years, and after returning to the states after becoming single and traveling last year, I decided to move to San Francisco while rehabbing/flipping homes full time.


The only problem is, I don’t have a spare 1-2 million bucks lying around to flip locally so I spent a few months house hunting back in the foothills/Sierra Nevadas where my last house was, and where my family still lives. My mom is my realtor, I already have a team of contractors who helped with my last house, and homes are affordable, so after carefully considering all of my options (including investing out of state), this made the most sense. I’ll have to deal with an 8 hour round trip commute almost every weekend, but it’ll be worth it.


About a month ago I found and fell in love with a property and put an offer in right away. It’s a 6 bedroom, 2 bath cottage built in 1956 with 1360 square feet. Here’s how it went down:

Their original asking price: $270,000, but they reduced after ~4 months on the market to $250,000. I offered $200k cash and they accepted right away. Woohoo!

Then, the inspection came and along with it a plethora of problems, including foundation issues, dry rot, failed septic tank, needing a new roof, retaining walls, new driveway, tree removal, new siding, etc. On top of all that, they had it advertised as a 1700 square foot 6 bed/2 bath, but the septic tank capacity is limited to a 3 bed/2 bath so it can only be advertised as such, and the actual measurement was only 1360.


With the exterior/structural repairs alone coming in at almost $50k, I lowered my offer to $155k but they made a firm counter at $190k. Taking into account my overall budget, I’d surely lose money at that price and I was crushed, figuring the deal was off. But there’s something about this house I just can’t walk away from, so I countered one last time with my absolute highest offer of $170k, pleading with them to meet me in the middle—and after a stressful few days, they finally accepted. Six days later the deal was closed.


Let’s talk about finances and budgeting.

After cashing out on three houses I had a decent chunk saved up and ready to roll into this flip, along with $40k from a private investor. That was enough to cover the house purchase but not the renovation—that will come in the form of a personal loan I found online. I can use hard money if the personal loan runs out and I absolutely have to, but I’m hoping to avoid the thousands of dollars in additional interest that would cost me.

It’s one thing to remodel a home slowly over time, but an investment is a completely different ballgame. Time is money and every dollar over budget is a dollar out of my own pocket, so I have to be diligent.

I’ve met with several different contractors and subcontractors and am still working out the specifics, but here’s my overall projected budget:

Foundation: $15k

Roof: $8k

Deck repair: $3k

Exterior paint: $6k

Retaining walls: $2k

Exterior window/door updates: $3k

Tree removal: $1k

New kitchen: $15k

Updated bathrooms: $6k

Staging/furniture/decor: $4k

Demolition: $1k

New wood floors: $11k

Lighting & electrical: $3k

Interior wallpaper prep & paint: $4k

Materials/misc: $5k

Loan fees/interest: $3k

Taxes, insurance & utilities: $3k

Total: $93k

As anyone whose ever budgeted for a remodel can attest to, the actual costs are always higher than projected—sometimes significantly—especially with a huge project like this. Realistically, if I stay under $100k I’ll be thrilled.

And to put things into perspective, I’m not doing this for the money. That is the ultimate goal with the path of investing, of course, but this is just a small stepping stone that will lead to bigger and better things. The housing market has been steadily rising for a while and great deals are very scarce, especially here in California. Flipping isn’t what it used to be just a few years ago.

Why am I doing this then? I want a challenge, I need a creative outlet, I crave the satisfaction of turning something ordinary into something beautiful—it’s my oxygen. It’s what I want to do all day, and I can’t imagine doing anything else right now. That is why I’m doing this. And I have this opportunity to take you all along with me, share my journey as I continue to learn and grow, and hopefully inspire some of you along the way. That’s all I want. Any dollar I earn from it is just icing on the cake.


I have a good feeling about this house, and already have the “After” images burned into my mind. I think it will be my favorite transformation yet. It’s going to require a whole lot of dedication and hard work, but I know I can handle it—I’ve faced harder situations and ended up much stronger from them, so now I welcome a good challenge 🙂

We’ve only got one life and it’s too short not to do something that excites you every day. It’s never too late to start, or to start over. Thank you for your continued support through all my twists & turns… here’s to another new adventure!

Next week I’ll go into detail about all the plans I have for each space, share the official “Before’s” as well as a Before Tour Video, the first part of a video series documenting the renovation.

Speaking of videos, I’m sharing some of my favorite ways to transition your home into fall with Wayfair this week:

There’s more collaborations with them on the way, in addition to my own flip update & DIY tutorials that I can’t wait to tackle in the coming weeks.

I’ll be back next week with a whole lot more—hope you’re enjoying the last week of September!



Fall Design & Decor Favorites

In the spirit of the autumnal equinox this week (and since home inspiration has been pretty much all I can focus on lately) I thought it would be fun to dig up some of my old fall home tour photos from the past and share some favorite design ideas.

The living room in my last home was definitely the place I had the most fun with seasonal decor. Its transformation was completed in late October 2014, and I made sure it reflected the cool weather with cozy touches. Like this vintage cabinet…


Most of the items were found at flea markets, with craft store pumpkins, and pinecones from the local forest.

Wreaths are always found in my home no matter the season, and I instantly fell in love with this one from Home Goods.


I also enjoy DIYing them when possible, and this one was made by wrapping bundles of stems from Michaels and wide burlap ribbon for a bow:


After adding a DIY coat rack, the arrangement was switched up again…



And the wreath was relocated, with natural foliage brought in.



But perhaps my favorite spot was the fireplace…


I never got tired of decorating this mantel.


The kitties loved it, too.


You can make any neutral area reflect a season with colors and texture. This DIY cabinet always had an element of nature (or two) on it:


Same with this vintage trunk:


Just a few cozy pieces is all it takes.


And then there’s the kitchen…


I hosted Thanksgiving that year and enjoyed every bit of the planning process.


Just like the rest of the home, a variety of textures were layered with rich colors and natural elements like gourds, pumpkins, pinecones and berries.


Chalkboards make the best canvas to let your creativity out and display different sentiments.


Oh how I miss this kitchen.


Outside, I gave the deck a quick refresh as it was often used to host football parties.


This bar cart was built for storage & functionality while entertaining:



It really was a peaceful place to unwind and enjoy the cooler weather.


To welcome guests inside, I set up a front porch display using more flea market finds:


Along with these simple DIY planter boxes:


And fresh flowers in fall colors:


Decorating for autumn is the best, wouldn’t you agree?


I feel a bit left out this year without a home to decorate (for the first time in 8 years!) but that’s all about to change, because this next house flip is scheduled to close in just two days! Yep, life is about to get real crazy over here.

Work officially begins on the house this weekend, but I’ll be back in a few days with the official Flip Kickoff post including all the details (that means numbers & budget) and what I’ve got planned for this thing.

Prepare for content overload for the rest of the year, and let the countdown begin. Happy fall!


Vlog 27: A Vancouver Wedding (& more updates)

Hello again—I’ve missed you all! A lot has been going on behind the scenes over the past few weeks since my last house hunting post. If you follow me on instagram or snapchat (@jennasuedesign) you may have seen that my offer on House #2 was accepted!


I’m under contract but not completely out of the woods yet, as there’s several repairs and negotiations that need to be agreed upon first before closing escrow. That should all be confirmed this week, and I’ll be making social media updates as soon as I have any news, along with a blog post next week with more details. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

In other news, I recently had the honor of working with Country Living when they reached out and asked me to share my personal journey. It provided a sense of closure to look back on everything a year later, see how much I’ve grown from it and put the experience into words. I feel beyond grateful to have been given this opportunity to share my story. You can read the article here. 


And last but not least, I’ve got a brand new vlog!

Over Labor Day weekend we traveled to Vancouver for my cousins’ wedding, followed by a day in Seattle before heading back home. Vancouver is one of my new favorite cities, and the wedding was picture perfect. A beautiful and memorable weekend, captured in motion…

More house updates on the way, but in the meantime you can follow me on facebook, instagram and snapchat @ jennasuedesign for breaking news and day to day life. Hope you’re enjoying these last few precious days of summer!



House Hunting, Round 2

Well friends, I’m back at it again.

If you follow me on instagram you may have caught that I put in an offer last week on a house. It was House #5 from the first house hunting post. Unfortunately, the sellers and I couldn’t come to a number we both agreed on so that was the end of that. It’s okay, life goes on.

On Sunday I made the drive back up for a quick visit and tour of a few more houses. Here’s what I found…

House 1

I didn’t plan to see this place because it’s out of my price range, however it’s next door to my parents house and has been on the market a while so we decided to take a peek inside.


Talk about a farmhouse dream!



It sits atop a hill on almost an acre of useable land, with a few sheds and a large detached lofted barn.


I would go crazy decorating the inside of this barn…


There’s a large foyer with an amazing brick wall:



A decent sized living room:


With an adjacent dining area:


And a small closed off kitchen. It’s a terrible layout.


Walls would have to be knocked down and rooms gutted.


Off the kitchen is an open bonus room of sorts…


And that leads to an awkward narrow bathroom…


And a laundry room.


There’s also a tiny room (not counted as a bedroom) downstairs by the front door:


Upstairs you’ll find three bedrooms.




And a bathroom:



Verdict: This is a property I’d love to buy, renovate slowly over time and keep in the family for generations. It has so much character, it’s in a great quiet setting and has the potential to be worth quite a bit if completely remodeled, but it would easily cost well over 100k to bring it to that level. And apparently the seller won’t budge on the price. Not worth writing an offer at this point.

House 2

I spotted this on the MLS a month ago but assumed something was very wrong as it’s a 6 bedroom and still in my price range. I had to see it for myself…


Can you just imagine how stunning it would be cleaned up with some fresh paint?

And a few adirondack chairs on this southern style covered porch…


Yep, this place had my heart right away.

Inside, the walls and ceiling are covered in pine, with the living room on your left and kitchen on the right as you walk in.



The stairway is in the center which unfortunately can’t be moved to really open up the space. But I’ve already figured out a new floor plan in my head.


The home is 60 years old and I’m assuming there’s wood under those carpets.



The windows are all updated, so all it really needs is white paint to brighten it up (and lights that work, sorry for the dark photos).

There’s a full bathroom next to the kitchen:


As soon as I reached the top of the stairs, that was it. I was sold.


I mean, look at these bedrooms…


There are two larger rooms on opposite ends of the hallway.


Wood beams and trim in every room.

And there are four small bedrooms, similar in size and layout:


Look at that sweet window nook!


Bedroom #3:



I don’t even mind the wallpaper. (Not that it would stay, but it completely adds to the storybook charm)

Bedroom #4:


How fun would this be for a family vacation home?

Bedroom #5


And finally, #6:

IMG_4238 IMG_4244

It feels like you’re in a dollhouse in the trees. There’s just a feeling about this place.

And the bathroom just needs paint and a vanity—look at that gorgeous woodwork and clawfoot tub:



The ten different types of wallpaper is a little much, but that’s easily fixable…


Verdict: In love. Possibly even more than House 5 from last time. Another place I could see myself keeping for family vacations one day. However, it is more than I wanted to spend and there’s obvious exterior issues, probably some structural as well, that may come at a high cost.

House 3

This one is on the same street as House 2 from my last house hunting post, and the floor plan is very similar.


The deck is new and of course I love those A frames.

However, the inside is underwhelming.


The ceilings are great but the walls have cheap paneling and texture… it just felt flat and pieced together.


Another small kitchen that can’t be opened up unless you remove a bathroom.


The deck space off the kitchen was nice though:


One bathroom downstairs…


And a bedroom next to it.


Upstairs there are two more bedrooms…


But one is more of an enclosed loft and it’s pretty strange:


And one more bathroom:


The verdict: I spent no more than five minutes in this place, knowing pretty much right away it wasn’t the one. Nothing about it spoke to me. Too bad, because it was the lowest price!

House 4

I was sure this one would be my favorite before seeing any of the houses that day. Great location, price, and pictures…


Problem is, the location wasn’t as great as I thought. And the deck is rotted and falling apart.

But the inside was much better, with an open floor plan, wood planks and pitched ceiling:


Divided by the stairwell, there’s a living space on one side…


And a dining on the other.


From the front door you walk into the small kitchen.


And there’s a bedroom on the other side:


Across the living room there’s a hallway with another bedroom:


A laundry closet, and a bathroom:


Downstairs there’s a den with the second bathroom:



The verdict: I like the interior but it’s not a very private or quiet location (we could hear the neighbors dogs barking the whole time) and it’s pricier per square foot. I wouldn’t completely rule it out, but it’s not at the top of my list.

After my offer fell through last week and I found and fell in love with my sweet storybook House #2, I decided to put an offer in on Tuesday. As I write this now (Tuesday evening) it has only been a few hours so I’m still awaiting their response. I’ll be sure to update on instagram, facebook & snapchat (@ jennasuedesign) with any breaking news and post a blog update once I have the details.

Exciting times ahead… send some positive thoughts my way! Oh, and if anyone knows a great deal on a house… drop me a message. I’m keeping my options open 😉


The day that changed everything

One year ago today I boarded a plane with a one way ticket to Bangkok, and as many of you long time readers know, my life was never the same. I still remember exactly how I felt that day. No hesitation, no fear, just ready to begin. I knew it would be a crazy adventure, but I had no idea just how monumental those next few months would be. I have to fight the tears from welling up every time I think back to those first days. Today is more than an anniversary, though. It’s the celebration of one of the most important days of my life—a second birthday, if you will. Sorting through the photos is still bittersweet and I’ve yet to go back and read any of my blog posts during that time. But the gut feeling that told me I had to leave last year is the same gut feeling that stopped me from going back once I had a reason to stay. I trust that feeling now, but I’ll never forget how I felt in Asia. Now that I’m finally able to revisit some of those memories, I felt it was time to acknowledge them by uncovering the photos and videos buried in the archives. Sometimes images and sound can tell a more powerful story than words alone…


I can’t believe a year has passed. Everything has changed in what feels like the blink of an eye. I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled, and I owe it all to this trip—I am where I’m at today because of the experiences gained, lessons learned and people I met. Life is a wonderful adventure when you follow your heart….


Escaping to the Mountains: Vlog Episode 26

With my days now dedicated to planning for my next rehab, priorities have shifted and blogging and vlogging have been put on the back burner, as there’s just not enough hours to do it all. Not to worry, they’ll be back in a big way once the renovation begins.

But these vlogs are my creative outlet and the best way I know how to preserve life’s little moments. So while they may not be weekly events now, I’ll always make time to capture and hold onto the memories. It’s so important to be able to look back and remember the journey.

Last weekend while I was house hunting back in my hometown, Lucas and I took the opportunity to escape to the mountains for the weekend on our first camping trip. Like every adventure we’ve had together, it was beautiful. I’ll let the video tell the story:

These fun weekends off are becoming fewer and farther between as I focus on my goals and put in the time and effort it requires to get there. Over the next week I’ll continue to work on landing that first deal, and you’ll find out here as soon as I have news to share! Until then, you can connect with me on instagram, facebook and snapchat (@jennasuedesign) as I check in with updates.

Wish me luck!