We are all attracted to novelty — it’s human nature. All that is shiny and new offers opportunities for innovation, growth, and progress on the road ahead. Change isn’t without its challenges, of course, and when design professionals are figuring out home improvement tips, they’re quick to express caution. But Jamie Haller, an interior designer and founder of Jamie Haller Shoes, knows a thing or two about avoiding the biggest and most common pitfalls when remodeling a repair shop.
Today, she’s going to take us through the details of remodeling and turning over — all through the lens of one of her recent projects: the stunning Los Angeles Koreatown Craftsman remodel. Her key piece of advice: “Be discerning about the features of your home that you can’t change.” When asked to share red flags of renovations to look for, she emphasized that although “bad foundations and cracks in the wall” did not affect her (in fact, she considered them as an opportunity!), but it is the physical details of the location, the community, and the environment that call for reflection to be considered.
Featured image of Belathee Photography.
But first, if you’ve never bought a home before and are looking to enter a hot market, Haller recommends taking a moment to think and question if it’s a good choice for you. or not. “I really see the flips as a red flag. But for every good hustler there are 10 terrible ones, and the work that I usually do is often of poor quality, bad taste and sometimes unsafe.”
Some key things to consider before deciding whether to flip or not:
- Check license history when depositing. “It’s information that’s easily available and it should be a tell-tale sign or a red flag if the job is done the right way or the wrong way,” says Haller.
- Hire a good agent. Ask around — it may take some time to connect with the right agent, but the effort you put in upfront pays off. “Think hard about who you work with,” says Haller. It is important.”
- Find character. “Look for inherent charm,” says Haller. By this she means original windows, moldings and floors. When you find the character, she concludes, you are well on your way to flipping.
Let’s dive deeper into the red flags to find out. What questions should a homeowner ask themselves before buying a fix-on appliance?
Haller shares a list of laundry questions that every prospective homeowner would wisely ask themselves when buying – window repair on or otherwise.
- How close is it to the street?
- How are the views out of the window?
- Are there trees? Can you plant some?
- How busy is the street?
- Are you near anything unhealthy or unsafe like a freeway?
- Are you too close to the mall or a gas station?
“These are the things that will take your breath away and there’s nothing you can do about it. They will also limit the financial gain for your project,” notes Haller.
On the other hand, once you’ve considered all the potential signs, remember this truth: “You can change anything about a home if you want to,” says Haller. She wisely adds that foundations are fixable problems. Of course, there will probably be some extra cost and time to your project, but seeing the potential and knowing the challenge can be solved will benefit you.
As far as home improvement tips go, what projects and tasks should be prioritized first?
It may come as a surprise (it did to this writer), but Haller recommends approaching your renovation from the inside out, starting with the structural elements of the home. Foundations, frames, then raw plumbing and electrical systems, roofs, doors and windows. Last but not least, she says tackle the finishing work (painting tiles, cabinets) at the end of your renovation.
Haller notes that many people involved in a project want to see where they’re spending money — but that can lead you astray. “I know a lot of people who want to instantly update their bathrooms and kitchens without addressing the structural issues that exist in a home. However, your big investment is at risk if the structure of the house is not good,” she warns.
What’s the easiest (well, most sensible) way to make this happen? Prioritize good testing with people you trust. “Finding good partners you can trust is one of the hardest parts of any remodel,” says Haller.
So we have the structure of the house secured. How do you approach your design plan?
Haller let your emotions guide you, asking yourself the following:
- What do I want to feel in this room?
- Where is gravity in the room?
- Will it come from a color or some element in the room?
- Where will I fall in love in this house?
This process of reflecting and answering these questions gives you a solid framework to start with. From there, Haller will pull out anything that she feels doesn’t support that vision. “If I was working with a Craftsman house and had 80s building rugs, I would tear it apart. If there were textured ceilings from the 60s, I would shave them off.”
This is one of her favorite parts of the remodeling process because inspiration abounds beneath the old floors and opportunity can be found at every turn. and opportunities abound beneath the old floors or behind any door. “I went back to 0 and knew whose house the house was before adding her.”
We love that project process and approach! But if you had to identify any one trick that could transform a renovation or subversion, what would it be?
As with most things in life, you reap the most rewards when you approach anything with patience. “Take the time to really think about it and have a plan,” advises Haller. If you can, she says it’s best to work with an architect, draftsman or designer. And — while she doesn’t like the addition of this — she cautions against making choices based on what your contractor shows you.
“Contractors are not designers,” says Haller. “Do your own research and find your own material or hire someone to help.”
When you approach anything with patience, you’ll have more time to do your research. This, Haller says, is key. “Bad choices masking worse choices is not a good solution. I would suggest saving a little money and hiring someone to help. It’s important to be thoughtful, including on a budget.”
Your favorite way to create maximum impact while keeping costs low?
Of course, staying within budget is the goal — and achieving it is the dream. Haller’s favorite ways to make that happen? She shares her secrets on the areas of focus that can create the most significant upgrades at the lowest cost.
- Paint is #1. The whole house can be changed with a strong paint color palette.
- New floor. There are good options at all price points and bad floors set the tone for everything.
- Bathroom fixtures and hardware. They are interchangeable and easily interchangeable.
- Curtain and light. Both are easy ways to completely turn a room around. Custom pleats are lovely, but really beautiful pleats can also be found on shelves.
- Select wallpaper. Wallpaper is one of my favorite transition materials. It provides emotion and inspiration and goes up quickly. It’s not expensive to buy, and if you want, you can make your own. The wallpaper combined with the new paint is a BIG transformation.
With good taste and pleasing to the eye, Haller says, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. “A lot of the light bulbs in my house are things that I find on resale or recall for $10 and I just love them.”
With a settled budget, what’s your favorite way to save time on a project?
Haller is all about little makeup. Reflected in her list above, she compliments the wallpaper, paint, and lights for their transformative effect. “If you’re not working with a designer, do your research to pick out the right colors. Try multiple options, putting two colors on the wall to choose won’t work. I usually put 10 picks on a wall”.
What is your favorite source for renovating materials and streamlined décor?
Haller steers clear of big-box refurbishing stores and instead finds more inspiration in local tile shops. “If you need to buy electrical tape and HVAC bulbs and filters, go for it.” However, she says, smaller, more specialized stores may be more helpful. “They are experts. They have options at every price point and are usually more than happy to help you come up with a story for your home.”
Keeping small businesses afloat, Haller emphasized.
Below, Haller details more of her favorites.
- Etsy. It’s filled with manufacturers. You can buy amazing lamps as well as authentic vintage.
- Olde’s Good Things and Pasadena Architectural Salvage. I LOVE an architecture. I buy windows and doors, lights and hardware here. Most towns have one.
- Habitat for humanity. I bought a lot from thrift stores. You have to get lucky, but the hunt is fun.
- Tile village lagoon, Tile Heathand Brick Arto. Lots of lovely tile brands have store areas where they sell second quality. Follow your favorite vendors on Instagram and pay attention to what they’re offering.
What projects would you give homeowners the green light to DIY?
“I think it all depends on your ability to ignore the mistakes you might make,” says Haller. She recommends sitting down and reflecting on what you value most: Time, saving money, or the end result that looks good and you’re confident you did the right thing. From there, you can decide what is and isn’t worth the effort.
She further illustrates this: “Sometimes, time is more valuable. The truth is that you can do anything, you just have to learn it.”
YouTube is one of the resources she frequents — but know it can lead you astray. Haller admits: “I changed the lights and shops by watching videos on YouTube. “I was also electrocuted while doing it.”
Below, Haller shares her cheat sheet of what should be left to the pros:
- Anything related to gas or electrical work.
- Stripping paint and wood.
- Mud drywall. (Don’t kill yourself—this is hard!)
- Test. TV shows make swinging hammers against the wall fun, but performing is hard and dirty work.
But even if you leave a project in the hands of professionals, Haller can’t stress this enough: “No one will care as much as you do. Get involved in the process, see the work in progress, and ask questions. “