As many of you who follow my blog may know, we own a vacation rental bungalow in Northern Idaho, just outside the town of Sandpoint. At only a little over 800 square feet, it manages to pack in a vast amount of living with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a roomy kitchen and living area. The bedrooms and bathrooms are small, but more than adequate.
Over the nearly five years since we purchased this unit brand new, we have been making a few upgrades here and there to increase functionality and storage, and improve the overall quality and feel of the finishes by lightening and brightening. First, we added an extra kitchen cabinet area that provided seeded glass doors for glassware, a quartz countertop perfect for a bar or appetizer setup, two drawers that hold silverware and cutlery (the original kitchen layout had two 8″ wide drawers that wouldn’t hold a silverware tray) and two cabinets below that hold all of the pots and pans, placemats and napkins.
At the same time, we also had a built-in pantry system added to the adjacent closet that has several shelves for food storage, a counter, and three deep drawers that hold tools and maintenance items, decorative items and candles, and wine and alcohol. This closet is able to be locked out when guests are renting, allowing our food items to remain separate from the cabinets in the kitchen for them to use. Both of these additions were done by Huntwood Cabinets, the same company who had done the original install of the kitchen, so everything matched and looks like it had always been that way. Tip: Whenever possible and if available, use the existing manufacturer so improvements don’t look like an add-on.
A couple of years later, we replaced the original dark Formica countertops in the kitchen and two bathrooms with quartz, using the same pattern we had put on the kitchen cabinet area with the glassware storage. Luckily the fabricator still had the same quartz, so again it all blended seamlessly. We also added a row of backsplash in the bathrooms that matched the existing tile accent in the showers, so again, it blended well. What a huge improvement that made, not only in terms of making the countertops feel more durable and high end, but also in the amount of lightness it added to all three spaces as a nice counterpoint to the brown cabinets. Tip: Take existing fixed elements into consideration when making upgrades and selecting color and pattern. If everything flows, it looks intentional and custom, rather than an afterthought.
Those were the end of our upgrades until a couple of weeks ago. The two bathrooms had a vinyl flooring that was also dark brown. May I just say that prior to some of these upgrades, there was waaaay too much testosterone in these finishes. The pattern wasn’t anything special on these floors and they only added to the sea of brown. To make matters worse, two nails had popped up through the subflooring over the years and once cut off, they had left holes in the vinyl. Yay, time for an upgrade.
We went shopping for vinyl and brought home three samples. As soon as I saw this one, it was Ding! Ding! We have a winner! It coordinated perfectly with the quartz countertop, existing tile in the showers, and it was light, bright, and on trend.
And, oh, what a difference! These rooms look completely reimagined, just by adding new flooring. They look fresh and new, light and bright, and the flooring makes both of these diminutive bathrooms feel more spacious. Tip: Use light finishes to make spaces feel larger and brighter, whereas use dark finishes to create a sense of coziness and moodiness. There is no right or wrong answer, it just depends on what you are trying to achieve.
The entire cost of replacing the flooring in both bathrooms was only $987, including vinyl, installation, taxes, and removal and reinstall of both toilets which added $200 (money well spent on the toilet removal and install, I say!) There were a few reasons we were able to keep the costs down and do this so reasonably. First, we chose to stick with vinyl rather than tile. Second, despite choosing a high quality vinyl, the spaces were small so we didn’t need much product. Lastly, because the existing floor was still adhered nicely to the subfloor, they were able to lay the new vinyl right over top, saving time and installation costs.
We could not be more pleased with our most recent upgrade to our Northern Idaho getaway and vacation rental. In my opinion, it is important to keep homes in good condition and make occasional upgrades when possible to keep it looking current, more functional, and well maintained. Statistics show that most home improvements, if done cost effectively and appropriate to the value of the home, will bring a good return. Bathrooms in particular, bring an average yield of 60% return on investment, and kitchens fare even better at a whopping 87% return on investment.
Years ago we purchased our first home, which we lived in for 14 years until we built a new one. In the weeks leading up to putting the house on the market, we worked like crazy performing undone maintenance items, upgrading light fixtures, and installing shelves in a closet to add more storage space. The house had never looked better, and was in tip-top shape for the new owners. For $10 worth of lumber and an hour’s time, we had shelves that would have made our life easier for years. But the sad thing was, we didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of our labor for more than a few weeks. Tip: If at all possible, don’t wait until you’re going to sell your home to do deferred maintenance and upgrades.
That was in 1992, and that experience made an impact on me. I vowed that we would no longer wait to do simple upgrades until it was time to sell the house and move. Instead, as needs and resources allow, we try to keep our house in good repair and as updated as possible…just for us. In other words, making improvements to your home over time not only can improve your quality of life as you enjoy your updated and more functional space, but they are also a great investment in your financial future. And in my book, that’s a win-win.