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A Home Goes From Builder Grade to Custom Charm with DIY renovations

A Home Goes From Builder Grade to Custom Charm with DIY renovations

This California home shows how to use DIY renovations to breathe life into the bare bones of builder-grade architecture for custom charm.

Before Ana Ochoa, an attorney and blogger at Sunrise Valley Farm Co, moved into her suburban Southern California home with her husband and pup, DIY renovations were an unknown territory. She’d never tiled a backsplash or used anything more than a handsaw to create custom charm.

Book wall at Ana Ochoa's home
Ana’s inspiration for this book wall came from a similar installation that she saw in her husband’s uncle’s restaurant in Medellin, Columbia. Impressively, she DIYed the entire piece using 60 paperback thrift store books, coffee (to dye the pages) and a projector, which she used to project an image of the horse so she could draw it on the pages.

However, she knew she wanted to transform their builder-grade home into the vintage farmhouse of her dreams—and was determined to learn as she went. “I’ve always loved home styling and crafting, but this house was my first foray into real home renovation,” she says. “Now I’ve tried pretty much every power tool out there.”

“Just go for it,” she says. “My DIY renovations’ motto is ‘Everything can be fixed.’ So if you make a mistake or don’t like something after the fact, you can always change it.”

Builder-Grade home turned into vintage farmhouse with DIY renovations

As she journeyed through DIY renovations and interior styling, she decided to share her experiences for other aspiring home renovators through her blog and Instagram account, Fiddle Leaf Interiors. “I’ve also always loved writing, so combining that with my love of DIY renovations was really the perfect match!” she says. Here’s how she turned their neutral, basic home into a charming, customized farmhouse.

DIY renovations

From Basic to Beautiful

Originally everything in the kitchen was painted a dismal shade of brown, from the cabinets to the counters and backsplash. “It was a brown cave,” Ana says. “Because the kitchen is so small, it looked even smaller with all the dark color.”

kitchen makeover

Despite their lack of experience, Ana and her husband jumped right into a kitchen makeover and did it all in six weeks to create custom charm. “It was challenging and was the first real major renovation we’d ever done, so there was a learning curve,” she says.

Breakfast nook table
When it comes to styling her breakfast nook table, Ana says, “I always try to have a floral centerpiece. There’s just something so lovely and welcoming about fresh florals.” As for the individual place settings, she loves to layer for custom charm—placemats, chargers, dinner plates, salad plates, napkins and silverware are all elements she uses. “I just pile it all on top of each other,” she says. “I think it creates a lot of visual interest in the place setting itself while keeping the rest of the table less cluttered.”
Theater chairs placed beneath two emotive art pieces
Since Ana needed extra seating that fit her entryway, she knew just the solution. Theater chairs! “It took me several months to find affordable ones, but it was worth the wait,” she says. She placed them beneath two emotive art pieces. “I’ve always loved silhouettes ever since I was a kid,” she says. “These canvases are a take on a classic silhouette but with more movement and interest.”

The list of kitchen changes is staggeringly impressive. They extended the cabinets to the ceiling; changed the sink, faucets and hardware; refinished the counters and installed a backsplash.

Then Ana styled the kitchen, giving it the custom charm that’s so synonymous with farmhouse décor. Copper accents—“I can never have enough copper,” Ana says—introduce metallic texture to the space, while additional stylistic elements like a metal cow hanging from the peninsula and swivel chairs with wooden details bring earthy interest.

Faux wood look for her pantry door
In order to capture her vintage farmhouse style with custom charm, Ana created a faux wood look for her pantry door. First, she painted a taupe-colored chalk paint on the door and wiped on some brown antiquing wax in the direction that wood grain would naturally go. Then she wiped off the excess wax and dry brushed on some white paint, which she removed with a paper towel. “The touch of white gives the ‘wood’ that aged and weathered look,” she says. The door is now the bearer of holiday-themed sentiments on its chalkboard section.

Stylistic Changes for Custom Charm

While the kitchen got a full renovation, the breakfast nook shows the power of Ana’s styling abilities. Her changes to the nook were mostly cosmetic, yet it looks nothing like the bare-bones space it used to be. A rugged table is a visual treat and, at the same time, a sentimental piece. “The table was an old Spanish door and used to belong to my parents,” Ana says. “I used to do crafts on it while growing up. Eventually, my parents got a different table, but I asked them to keep it for me. I’m so glad my parents indulged my 9-year-old self.”

breakfast nook

Behind the table are hanging racks, which Ana installed in anticipation of her growing copper cookware collection. “The racks are useful for hanging breadboards and any larger items that take up a lot of cabinet space,” she says. Since she frequently makes charcuterie boards when entertaining, it’s important to keep the breadboards easily accessible, along with a colander. These details combine to create a breakfast nook that’s beautiful without being fussy and is just the place to begin the busy day with a hot cup of coffee.

The kitchen counters
The kitchen counters look like wood, but don’t be mistaken! They are actually a concrete overlay that Ana and her husband did over the top of the existing granite for custom charm. “Since we didn’t have the budget to replace them, it was one of the only ways I found to repurpose our current countertops,” Ana says.
Hanging racks on the wall of the breakfast nook
Since the kitchen has a small footprint, Ana installed hanging racks on the wall of the breakfast nook as a “stylish space saver.” There she both displays and stores larger items that she often uses for serving or cooking for custom charm.
A cabinet with vintage ironstone and stoneware collection
A cabinet in an upstairs nook is a charming home for Ana’s vintage ironstone and stoneware collections, which she’s been curating for several years. “I’ve gotten all of these pieces from thrift/antiques stores, resale apps or as gifts from family (usually my mom),” she says.

No Longer Blah

The pre-existing master bathroom was the epitome of blah, with a fiberglass tub and shower, dingy white cabinets with no hardware and cream Formica counters. Ana and her husband changed everything from top to bottom. They installed an acrylic tub in place of the old shower/tub combo, tiled the shower and sink wall, and added new mirrors, lighting, sinks, counters and fixtures.

A faux brick wall in the guest bathroom
A faux brick wall in the guest bathroom showcases the German Schmear technique. “Our fireplace is done in a similar style, and I’ve always loved the warm look of German Schmear,” Ana says. “I wanted to carry that into the guest bathroom to tie the spaces together. I like having some cohesive elements throughout the house to keep things flowing visually.”

“Our renovations prove you can have a luxurious master bath that packs a style punch in a small space,” Ana says. “We don’t have the advantage of a giant master bath here, but it still feels luxe and classy and relaxing.” Copper sinks, along with wood components and white tiling, create a serene escape that’s full of vintage elegance.

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Living room with old fireplace

The master bathroom
The master bathroom balances a variety of tiles, including a printed tile floor, subway tile walls, and a small alcove featuring Arabesque tile. Ana, whenever she’s designing a space and wants to make sure everything goes together (like a range of tiles, as seen here), creates mood boards. “For the master bathroom, I played around with different looks,” she says. “Ultimately I decided on this one.”
The shiplap wall behind the bed
The shiplap wall behind the bed was one of the first DIY renovations that Ana and her husband tackled. “Thinking about doing the entire room seemed overwhelming, so we stuck to one statement wall,” she says. “Plus, I liked the idea of having it on only one wall for added visual interest.” The project turned out so well that it emboldened Ana to try more challenging DIYs for the rest of her home.
The mirror, bench and potted plants on wall.
Ana uses this mirror to try on outfits. The bench is rustic yet practical as it’s the perfect place to put on shoes. Potted plants on the wall are a nod to Joanna Gaines. “When I bought them, I was all about the ‘Joanna Gaines hanging plants on the wall’ trend,” Ana says. “I still love them!”
Ana’s dresser
Heirlooms are always a wonderful way to incorporate a family’s story into the everyday. Such is the case with Ana’s dresser, which belonged to her grandmother, and she gave it a unique treatment. “The top drawer was the only one that is bookmatched, and I really wanted to highlight that specifically. So I painted the rest white and then sanded and stained the top drawer to make it really pop!” she says.
master bathroom
Ana selected a color scheme of grays, whites and woods, with a touch of greenery for the master bathroom in order to keep things neutral against the patterns and textures. She also opted for dual mirrors over the copper sinks, saying that it feels more custom than a single mirror and also lets the subway tile really shine on the wall.
Ana, her husband, and their dog, Napa
Ana, her husband, and their dog, Napa, have created their own home-sweet-farmhouse in Southern California.

Through DIY renovations and styling, Ana shows exactly how to attain a custom look, even in a basic-build home. She hopes others will be empowered to create their own dream homes, right where they live. As she says, “Just go for it. My DIY motto is ‘Everything can be fixed.’ So if you make a mistake or don’t like something after the fact, you can always change it.”

 A barn door
A barn door was a natural option to close off the bathroom from the master bedroom, especially since the wall it hangs on was just a big, gray boring space before. Ana built it herself and stained it English Chestnut by Minwax. “It’s my go-to stain for almost everything in our home,” she says. “It’s rich and bold without being too dark.”

Updating Builder Grade

Ana’s home is an example of how to customize builder-grade architecture. Here are her five top tips for working around basic builds without doing major renovations.

DIY renovations

“I’ve always loved home styling and crafting, but this house was my first foray into real home renovation. Now I’ve tried pretty much every power tool out there.”

  1. Paint. Paint can do wonders for a space, and you can really paint anything—from the walls and floors to the cabinets and furniture. You can even add paint to materials like tile, brick and concrete for a custom look.
  2. Wall treatments. Add an easy accent wall like shiplap, board and batten, faux brick or beadboard. One reason old homes have charm is because they’re full of molding and extra handcrafted details. “You can add that very easily to a builder-grade home for very little money,” Ana says.
  3. Think outside the box. “I never anticipated I’d be able to get rid of our ugly brown granite countertops with just a little bit of elbow grease and some concrete,” Ana says. Now their concrete counters are perfectly farmhouse (and are holding up well over 2 years later). “There really is a project/solution for everything,” she says.
white kitchen
Ana has always loved white kitchens, and she knew white would make hers look bigger, so the entire space (which was originally painted an ugly brown) was redone in bright whites. Dimension was added with shiplap wallpaper and Arabesque backsplash tile.

4. Change the light. Lighting can add so much character to a space without breaking the bank. “You can buy an easy converter kit to convert can lights into hanging fixtures,” Ana says. “We did this over our kitchen sink and above the table in our breakfast area, and it added much-needed character to the otherwise boring and builder-grade space.” Adding wall sconces is also a great trick to bring in Old World charm. Plug-in sconces can be an easy way to bypass the need for hardwiring.

5. Shop your home. Use furniture and accent pieces to tell a story. Sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve already got to get DIY renovations. “Using your own personal style, you can transform your space with pieces that you already own,” Ana says. Add a few bouquets of flowers and greenery, and your house will instantly feel more like home.

Ana’s home
While Ana found the home lacking in personality when she first toured it, she instantly fell in love with the spacious yard. “The lot is about a quarter of an acre, which for Southern California is very rare unless you’re spending a pretty penny,” she says. She turned the yard into an entertaining-friendly space with black and white chairs, market lights, an outdoor table and buffalo-check pillows.

Need more ideas for DIY renovations? See DIY Kitchen Remodel Tips and Renovation Delays: A Construction Reality. Of course, don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest for your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration!

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