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2 Easy DIY Projects for a Total Kitchen or Bathroom Refresh

Remember how during last year’s holiday dinner, you optimistically offered your home to host the entire family for the next big get-together?

Fast-forward through the endless winter, the trees blooming again, and back into fall — you’re now only about a month out from Turkey Day. If you’ve been delaying a giant kitchen update or bathroom refresh, the next few fall weekends are the perfect time to make these spaces ready for the upcoming influx of guests (and for your personal enjoyment, too!).

All you need to complete either room upgrade is two big-impact, yet entirely basic DIY, projects: painting cabinetry and changing out your faucet fixtures.

1. Color your cabinets

The beauty of kitchen cabinets truly lies in the eye of the beholder. So if those selected by a previous homeowner still appear in good shape, but just aren’t quite your style, don’t waste big bucks on replacements. Instead, with just a bucket of paint and a free weekend or two, you can give your cabinets a total makeover for very little money.

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First, remove all of the hardware — door pulls, hinges, and knobs — and pull out any drawers, doors, or adjustable shelves to be painted separately. Then wipe down all surfaces twice: once with warm soapy water, followed by a clear rinse to remove any dirt, grit, or grease.

Once the cabinets dry, scuff them up with fine, 120- or 140-grit sandpaper to help the primer adhere, and vacuum up all the leftover sawdust.

Next, brush a coat of primer onto all surfaces, and allow it to dry completely. Lightly sand the primer with 400-grit sandpaper, wipe off the dust, and spread on a thin first coat of paint.

Take a two-day break to allow the paint to dry completely, then repeat: sand, wipe, and paint a second coat.

Once that top coat has dried thoroughly, reattach the hinges and hang the doors. Finally, screw in the old hardware or, for a full transformation, add new knobs and pulls to complete the makeover.

2. Swap out old sink fixtures

Nothing dates a kitchen or bathroom more than an unfashionable faucet — or worse, one that leaks. Simply swapping out this fixture can give your sink or vanity a fresh face while also saving water, thanks to today’s models with built-in aerators that cut water usage by up to one-third.

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Lucky for you, it’s one project that’s easy enough to pick up on your own. When you’re ready to replace the faucet, shut off the water supply via the valves under the sink. Disconnect the supply lines from the faucet using an adjustable wrench or, for better reach, a basin wrench.

Then undo the left rod, remove the nuts from under the faucet, and unscrew the slip nut on the trap. Slide a bucket underneath your plumbing to catch any water that drains out, and unscrew the drain flange from the tailpiece.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for installing the new faucet through the mounting holes in the sink. Then, reconnect the drain: Screw the drain nut all the way down on the drain body, and push the gasket over it.

Apply a small amount of silicone under the flange, and position the drain body on the bottom of the sink, making sure that the pivot hole is facing the back, and then screw the flange on from the top. Tighten the nut and gasket underneath.

Install the drain rod by unscrewing the pivot nut on the drain body and inserting the horizontal rod through the hole in the stopper; replace the nut. Push the horizontal rod down, and secure the lift rod to the strap with the screw.

Finally, reconnect the supply lines to the faucet and give it a go, turning on the hot and cold water for about a minute. While the water is running, check all the connections for leaks and tighten any, if necessary.

Then wash your hands of all the hard work, and relax knowing that your home is guest-ready.

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5 Ways to Make Your Space Feel Like Home

There’s a difference between a hotel room and a bedroom. Even if the wall color and the furniture is the same, personalization is important. It’s what will make the space feel comfortable — a spot you’ll enjoy coming back to or spending time in.

Here are five ways to make a house or apartment feel like home.

1. Choose a theme or style

What do you like? What are you drawn to? Your interests and aesthetic should figure largely in the way you set up a room.

Eclectic? Thrifted? What's your home style?

Find your style by exploring room designs you like, seeing what you enjoy in other peoples’ homes, and by looking at your wardrobe and the other ways you express yourself. Even in a temporary space, small touches can allow personality to come through.

2. Incorporate gifts

An easy way to personalize a space? Add items with meaning.

Natalie Ensor moved from Southern California to Nashville a year ago. When she began decorating her rental, she added pieces that were given to her by friends, especially in her guest room.

“Almost everything in there was a gift, which is why it belongs there,” Ensor explained. “Friends will probably stay here, so items friends gave me are there.”

When Lindsy Read, another Nashville transplant, made the trek out from Washington state with her family, she chose to bring decor that had meaning. The chosen items included a kitchen table a friend built, and shelving she and her husband made to fit a small spot in their former Tacoma, WA home.

A table made by a friend dominates Read's kitchen.

“I like the things in our house that have a story,” she says.

3. Remember your travels

Years ago, Read and her husband lived abroad in France. Small reminders of that year are scattered throughout Read’s apartment.

Ensor also makes it a point to add decor from the places she’s been. “We hit up a flea market or thrift store every time we travel to bring something back with us,” she said.

Kate Gazaway, also a Nashville resident, relies on photography to recall her travels. “I love printing physical photos, because having that tangible memory is so important to me,” she said.

Printed photos from Instagram line her stairwell, and a small vintage case in her kitchen contains more photos — memories she can flip through when she has a moment.

4. DIY whenever possible

Even if you’re not the handiest, items you’ve made or altered will bring a strong sense of self into a space.

“So much of our home, we’ve built or made together,” said homeowner Blair McLeod. “I’ve attached memories to the things that are in the home. I can remember what we were watching or what we were wearing at the time. [They’re] sweet moments.”

The McLeods' dining room table is made of reclaimed tongue-and-groove flooring.

She and her husband bought the 1940s East Nashville home and have slowly transformed it from a 2-bed, 1-bath, one-story home to a 3-bed, 2-bath, two-story home with attached artist studio.

Doing things themselves made the process a little bit slower, but more personalized.

“We collect ideas, and then when we have the time and money, we try to make it happen,” she explained.

5. Embrace (real) life

Your home, like your life, will change.

“When we bought our first couch, that was a huge investment. Now I realize it doesn’t matter in the long run,” said McLeod. “The couch could go at any time, and that would be okay. A house is to be lived in, and for our family to be protected in. The things in it are secondary, and can be replaced.”