Change your home to change your life.

21 min read The culture we live in tells us that we can change our lives by changing our homes. Let’s interrogate this modern urge toward self improvement through remodeling.

According to HGTV, you can never take a house as it is. A change is required. You must remodel it to make it “yours”. 

But … (again per HGTV) there’s ONLY one right way to improve your home. And that is whatever is the most current latest and greatest on Pinterest on Instagram on HGTV and in Dwell magazine. 

Now, in fact, I actually do believe in the transformative power of a remodel.

Planning them is kind of my bread and butter.

But here’s the thing: real, life changing transformations rarely look the same for every homeowner or home. And very frequently there’s nary a subway tile to be found. 

Look, I don’t actually think you’re going to become a better, more organized, more stylish person, once you have finished remodeling your house … no matter how shiny fresh it looks on the day of the final walk through.

So for a remodel that will really transform your life … you need to plan to work WITH your quirks and existing habits. If you plan this kind of remodel, your house can function perfectly for the person you are and your unique style and organization level (or lack thereof).

Plan a truly “change your life” remodel

You need to shift the container that is your house to better enclose and support the life you want to live in it.

Perhaps you’re pushing against the boundaries of your space right now.

You’re not able to have conversations while dinner is being made. You can’t ask about how everyone day everyone’s day. Because there’s not room for everyone to stand in the kitchen together and not be completely underfoot. 

Making a change the layout of your kitchen could change the entire dynamic of your family

It could change the way you check in on your kids, the way you meet your spouse at the end of every day. That’s not superficial. It’s about a new approach to the way kitchen serves you – your family – in your house.

How to change your remodeling mindset

The best defence against the pressure of a superficial trendy remodel is a good offence.

And by that I mean … already knowing what’s most important to you in a good home before you click on a single tile link or step foot in a kitchen store.

Make sure you take time for the important pre-design steps of a great remodel:

  • Asking yourself what matters to your family and lifestyle
  • Getting familiar with the style and structure of your existing house
  • Setting your aesthetic based on the house you have and what mid-century style means to you.

Knowing those things first will help you feel less overwhelmed by all the “you should” energy you’ll be sure to encounter when you push out into the world of home improvement advice, supply and construction!

Watch out for a fast fashion remodel

One more thought on that HGTV classic: the remodel that “updates” your house to look exactly like everyone else’s does right now.

When you plan a remodel like that – one more interested in the aesthetic of the moment – you’ve just stepped onto a treadmill of endless remodeling. Because that “in” style right now will be “out again” in five years. And intolerably unfashionable in 15. Remodels focused only on what’s trending on Pinterest are the house equivalent of fast fashion. So … don’t play that game!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • When a tiny tweak can feel transformative. 
  • Why you and your house are great, as you are. 
  • How to plan a remodel that can actually change your life. 

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

 We’ve made home improvement projects into something of a national pastime. And it’s very strongly linked to the idea that to improve your home is productive, responsible, a moral good. And it’s also a way to make your house evermore your home to imprint your own personality on the house, but contradictorily, all the visual examples we see of Home Improvement do the opposite. 

The examples we see tell us to make our houses more uniform. Houses of every era remodeled by people of every taste need to be wiped clean. Anything that’s particularity is offensive and should be turned into bright white paint subway tile clapboard. I actually do believe by the way, that the right remodel can change the way you live in your home can change your life. But I also believe that when most people go through a remodel process today, following those motions, but not asking themselves why they end up with results that could frankly make their life worse. 

So today, let’s talk about how you can avoid that and how you can change your life for the better by changing your home. Hey there, welcome back to mid monitor model. This is a show about updating MCM homes helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. 

I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast, and you’re listening to Episode 1609. Okay, before diving into that topic for this week, I like to give a free resource or recommend a service or some sort of concrete activity task step you can take to move yourself in the direction of a great, competent, successful choice for your house. And the thing that’s on my mind most strongly today is that I just want you to remember to always ask yourself, why you’re going to do what you’re going to do. 

Call it a spoiler for the more detailed content in this episode to come, but the way to make changes in your house that will actually improve your life is to start from you, your family, your needs your taste, specifically, the best approach I have to offer you for that holistically is the one I give in the free masterclass which I just delivered last month. By the way, it was such a fun live event, everyone who was there, it was a lovely person, we had great participation, some really great questions to ask. 

And in the end, I decided that the vibes were so exquisite in that live class that I would leave the recording up for a while because it’s it’s just the best, the most condensed way I can give you to fire yourself up with the energy of jumping in taking action on your Home Improvement moves large and small. And I think it has the most concise explanation of why it’s so easy in this culture in this economy, to delegate the decision making part of your remodel to someone else, you might do that because it might feel like they’re an expert. They do this every day. They know more about the process than you. 

But I also explained in that masterclass how that decision to delegate will ensure that it’s going to go wrong in your remodel, that you’re not going to get the outcome that’s best suited for you or the best use of your remodeling dollars, time and energy. We use this podcast I use this podcast to dance through the fields of philosophy around good mid-century remodels and to share specific tips and tricks and methodology but if you’re looking for the framework, the overview the step by step of how it all hangs together in a master plan process, then your absolute best bet is just to rewatch that recording of the masterclass planning a mid-century remodel to fit your life and budget. 

It contains everything I believe about good remodels in the format of an hour long cheerleading session, Pep Talk and how to discussion so that you can make great choices for your house smoothly, effectively. Simply, if you want to rewatch that masterclass, do it today at mid mod dash midwest.com/masterclass Or do it tomorrow, any time of day, any season. It’s there it’s waiting for you. Or per usual, if you would like my help specifically to hold your hand and ask you the right questions to put to you, to your spouse to put you on the spot to do the self reflection that will lead to a truly good remodel and then prepare and share with you the possibilities of a tailored remodel for your home for your life. multiple options that you can select among and mix and match between well then I’d love to chat with you about that. 

And you can schedule a time for us to get to know each other and talk about whether your home and your project would be a good fit for a master plan. You can schedule it at mid mod dash midwest.com/services.

Let’s get into this question because we are always informed by the culture we live in. And the culture we live in right now is very much about selling us this weird doublespeak that that you must remodel your home to make it your home. You can’t just take a house as it is but that there’s only one right way to improve your home and that is whatever is today most current latest and greatest on Pinterest on Instagram on HGTV (Hey there, season topic) and Dwell magazine. 

And I just could not disagree more. I want to talk to you about this. So you’re here because you want to hear me tell you how to make your own choices and I’m going to give you the ammunition you need to stay confident in your own perspective. Let’s do this. Oh, as always, you’ll find the show notes with the transcript and links to the things I’m going to talk about in this episode, including a couple of interesting articles at mid mod detriment. west.com/ 1609. All right. Let’s interrogate this modern urge to change your life by changing your home. To me, this kind of comes down to the same concept as the movie makeover. 

And oh my gosh, we love a movie makeover. Actually, I hate them. My least favorite was the teenager show the sort of romantic comedy set in high school where you’ve got a nerdy character, a girl who wore glasses, and her hair was kind of messy, and she wore maybe, overalls with paint spattered on them, can you? Can you tell which movie I’m talking about here? Then she gets tagged by the popular boy possibly there was a bit involved, and then has a magical makeover transformation where she blow dries her hair and puts on a dress and take off her glasses. Who is that startling beauty? We’re all meant to ask ourselves. Yeah, well, and this is true in every generation, she comes down the stairs in the red dress. She’s All That The Princess Diaries before, after and now Sandy dressing up in leather at the end of Greece, but it is so superficial. 

And this is what I think of a lot of people lean towards in their remodeling choice to try to change their life by changing their house, change your kitchen countertop and become a person with a stylish kitchen. Well, yeah, sure you can. But in fact, if you believe in the transformative power of a remodel like I do, the narrative needs to go a little differently. In those stories, if they were movies, the transformation would come by a great deal of therapy, that would give people the confidence to not care what everyone else in their high school thinks about them. And I don’t actually think you’re going to become a better, more organized, more stylish person, once you have finished remodeling your house. 

But I do believe you can change your life with a remodel. If you shift the container that is your house to better enclose and support the life you want to live in it. Perhaps the life you’re pushing against the boundaries of right now, or the life you’re not really able to live smoothly, you’re not able to have conversations while dinner is being made and ask about how everyone day everyone’s day was going. Because there’s not room for everyone to stand in the kitchen together, make eye contact and not be completely underfoot. 

Making a change the layout of your kitchen, I would argue could change the entire dynamic of your family, the way you check in on your kids, the way you meet your spouse at the end of every day. But that’s not a remove the glasses may flip over experience that’s not about a new countertop, that’s about a new approach to the way kitchen serves you in your house. So whenever the changes feel better a temporary solution, it’s going to feel temporary. And you really want the investment you make in your home to be effective to really get a kick out of the results. 

So I was thinking about this when I reread an article from the Atlantic from a couple of years ago, the title was, do you really need a new kitchen counter? And it’s an interesting think piece on how we conflate our self identity with the appearance of our homes. I’ll link to it in the show notes. But the author Amanda Moll made several points I really agreed with the bottom line is that she wondered if all the attention we pay to shelter magazines and home improvement shows was making us feel better about our homes. And in fact, she found that she had several data points, several anecdotal and research study based approaches which led her to believe that those obsessions make us feel worse. 

She talked to a couple of designers who say their clients really struggle to separate their own identity from the aesthetic information they take in from the whole internet. And they forget to ask themselves, will we like a particular choice? I really find that in my own experience, too. Although most of the people who come to me who listened to this podcast, who worked with us and ready to remodel have already started to push back on that and their own mental state. But I think a lot of homeowners when I chat with just people in the community, I say I’m a residential architect, they say, Oh, great, I’ve remodeled my kitchen. 

And we talked about how it went. And I hear this in their tone and in what they specifically say that they don’t feel confident in their own choices. And they almost dislike or distrust their own preferences. They overwrite their own preferences with what felt stylish or done or appropriate in that moment. She also talks to researchers who have identified that we have now shifted from an idea of individuality, where the home was meant to be a reflection of the owners taste and lifestyle into what she called a professionalization of our homes. One that relies more on expert advice, resale advice, resale value and marketplace standards than on the personal choices of the owner. And I think this is absolutely true. The point she’s making and that I agree with is that this change makes the homeowners who choose to follow that expert advice.

feel competent in the moment they’re doing it. I’m making the right choice for my kitchen because this kitchen designer told me I should but in the end they feel off in their homes, they feel displaced, like they’re in a hotel suite, or in a magazine. And that’s a terrible result. For the time trouble and expense of a remodel to make you feel less at home in your home, I would add something that the article doesn’t get into, which is that putting your house into alignment with the current market trends isn’t a one time solution. 

But instead, it’s stepping onto a treadmill of constantly cycling through necessary home improvements to keep the house aligned with the current moment. It’s a never ending process, and not a great one. This always makes me think of an experience from my past. Have I told this story on the podcast before? I don’t think I have. But I was reflecting on my architecture origin story. And while the first time I ever thought to myself, I want to be an architect, when I grow up, how do I make that happen was in 2003. On a study abroad trip, I’ve been interested in houses homes and the difference between the two of them for a long time. 

And I wanted to know what it would be like to transfer from my major into an architecture program turned out that wasn’t possible. But I ended up getting a graduate degree in architecture. But I forgot and I still do forget sometimes that by that time, I had actually had a job in the design space. One of my first actually my first job other than babysitting was to be the gal Friday and stalk girl. For a local interior design firm. One of the owners was a friend of a neighbor, so it was one of those high school jobs. But I would come in for 10 hours a week, organize and file invoices, refile fabric samples in the stock room, and genuinely do whatever was needed to smooth out the lives of the talented friendly trio of women who worked in the business. 

I thought it was fun, and I liked them all. Even though at the time, I could already tell that there was something about my taste that didn’t quite match the taste of North Chicago suburbs in the late 90s. That sort of overly velveteen Baroque level of detail with gold cord on everything. It was a lot. There were a lot of custom upholstered fabric balances to over the top of heavy curtain windows. And I’d also been raised in a household of hardworking DIY errs, who didn’t count every penny but certainly didn’t expend extravagantly on interior design for kicks. 

The sofa in our living room was my mom’s first adult purchase, reposted by her several times. And fun fact, it’s now the sofa in my living room reposted by me several times. So the idea of a delivery truck dropping off an entire suite of living room and dining room furniture to a house was a little eye popping to me even then. But it wasn’t until I really started to look at the invoices for work completed that were passing under my hand. So I filed them that I was truly shocked. 

When I realized I was filing the invoices for an owner suite remodel back then I would have called it the master suite. And the account was very thick, it was in several file folders. The records were out of order by date. So I pulled them all out of the folder and sorted them chronologically. And I realized that this house with the same owner had had its owner suite remodeled just seven years previously. And in the intervening seven years, every other room in the house had been revamped, the owner was now starting over again, again at the beginning of her remodel, to redecorate the house. 

Over time, I noticed that more than a handful of other clients in this business, were in the process of redecorating their homes, again, themselves. And I could see that for them the process of tossing out or I hope donating everything in a room and starting fresh every decade or so was cathartic felt renewing a form of self care, or maybe just excessive consumerism. Whatever it was, though it didn’t seem to work, it didn’t seem to stick. It didn’t seem to make them happy for longer than it took to go touch every other room in the house and then start over. 

Now, I don’t know the interior lives of those people. I never met them. But I can tell you that as a designer, my goal for my clients is that they do not need to come back and hire me again, to do their remodel over again in a decade. I don’t want it to be out of style. And I don’t want it to be inappropriate for their life and what they wanted to do. My goal and I hope yours is to plan home improvement projects that will really improve your life in measurable ways, but not to make improving your home the metric of improving your life. 

The bottom line here is that we all need to be aware of remodeling fast fashion, which is absolutely what is constantly being perpetuated on HGTV so much of the shelter magazines of home improvement television. And certainly a lot of the work being done by friendly. Those friendly kind women who first employed me is ultimately the house equivalent of fast fashion and the gospel of HGTV is to invest not in quality, but in shine and in quantity. To make your dollar go far as it can by doing something quick right now and not worry too much about its ability to last because you’ll probably want to change your mind about it by the time it wears out. At least I assume that’s what’s going through the mind of the people who perpetuate this theory of design. 

It has industry wide translated into a lack of focus on quality and a lot of contractors who are trying to give the advice that will best please their clients support the idea of spending your money less on purchasing high quality materials that will last by lowering the quality of the materials. So you’ve got room to do more, assuming that it doesn’t really need to last because you as the homeowner probably will want to do something else later. But most of us don’t exist in that space. Most of us, certainly in my wearing my hat as a homeowner, I want to see my hard earned remodeling dollars, and my blood, sweat and tears as a DI wire, go towards something that will outlast my tenure in the house and hopefully will last in a generational sense. 

And I want to make those choices in ways that I’m really going to feel the impact in my lifestyle, not just a superficial aesthetic transformation. So there is unfortunately in this consumer economy, a frustrating amount of planned obsolescence. So we have a strong desire. We’re constantly being advertised to replace things that do work, a new washing machine, a new refrigerator, that’s gonna be so fancy and fun, you’ll want to entertain. 

But these new appliances are the epitome of planned obsolescence. They are not designed to last and they break down in well under a decade sometimes shocking their homeowners but not the repair people who will gladly tell you that well, yeah, refrigerators last about seven years. These days. They don’t make that part anymore. They change the style in the model, and they don’t carry it. Some of that is very hard to push back on. But I would argue that while it may be impossible to find a super long lasting well built refrigerator, you can still make super well built long lasting choices in many of the other parts of your home. 

You can choose counters, choose cabinets, choose trim, choose flooring materials, that are built to last and are made from a place of deep personal preference that you will love for years for decades to come both in quality and in their timelessness. I just want to encourage you that I believe you can change your home and change your life. But you can’t change your life for the better. Unless you start from the question of what am I trying to change. What will that embed visual new life be? What will this change get me? So when you are asking yourself? Can I change my home and change my life? 

Yes, you can. But always start from why. And again, the masterclass that I gave a couple of weeks ago has a great step by step guideline to how exactly to start from the why. And get yourself to a place where yes, you’ve made your choices based on your own personality and your own preferences, not on what some market trend is suggesting may or frankly, they do not know they cannot see the future may not be the right choice for a future owner. That’s not even you. And now it’s time for a little pep talk. 

So on Monday, we had both our regularly scheduled once a month architect office hours, the call for ready to remodel students, that always happens. And also it was the kickoff of a new group of students planning great updates with their new med monitor Mod Squad. Now whenever we have a new squad kickoff, I always schedule a higher density of calls for a while. So we’re going to be doing calls every two weeks for the next few months to get everyone fired up. And so fun to meet all the shiny new faces. And for some of the long standing students who you know, got busy with their lives to come back and re enthuse themselves about their project. I love this group so much. I said it to the group on Monday. And I mean it. 

This is the coolest possible group of mid-century home remodelers anywhere in the world who happened to be available for a live call on Monday night. But the thing that came up several different times for different people on that call, is what I want to talk to you about as our pep talk today. This, this is a strategy for getting yourself unstuck when you find yourself in a position of having an idea and then immediately trying to shoot it down yourself. You go to your pro con list you go to what won’t work about it before you’ve even finished finalizing that idea. This is a type of analysis paralysis. And you can get trapped in a loop of telling yourself reasons why every idea won’t work. It’s absolutely plausible. 

Every idea has costs and downsides and cons. And it’s very easy to find yourself completely frozen in indecision, unable to move forward when this is happening. And a bunch of people had a version of that challenge happening who showed up for the call on Monday. That’s because it’s extremely relatable. Here’s the strategy. Oh, by the way, you could also fall into this unfortunate dynamic externally like with your spouse where you suggest something and they immediately shoot it down. That’s a separate ish problem, although the solution can be the same but right now I’m talking about this sort of automatic self talk when you’re doing it to yourself. 

It’s very relatable. I do this myself sometimes when I’m stuck on a design, and I just can’t sort of get to a yes answer on anything for a client but I have a solution for it, which is this. The reason this is happening is that you’re letting each possibility each design idea become too precious. And the way to trick your brain out of that instant overwhelm, is to overwhelming yourself instead with multiple possibilities. 

So instead of designing an option to its termination point, and then nitpicking, turn off the pro con side of your brain briefly, and instead work on generating ideas, a whole bunch of things that might not work, frankly, it’s okay, if they mostly won’t work, you’re not troubleshooting right now. You’re just coming up with possibilities. So it could be like this, it could be like this, it could be like this, we were talking on the call for one student about roof lines, specifically, in this case, a house with a gable roof. 

And an after aftermarket, an after original construction added flat roof carport that wasn’t carrying water, well, it was feeling kind of insubstantial, and didn’t look right. With the whole roofline of the house, the owner was stuck in analysis, paralysis between two options and constantly back and forth between them unable to decide. So this is a case where I would say try everything, try Shoot the Moon, a butterfly roof. Now, of course, you’re not going to build a butterfly roof, probably. I mean, you could, it would be cool, but you probably won’t, it will probably not be budget friendly, or water management friendly, or seasonal, friendly, or whatever. But come up with a bunch of ideas, some of them quite irrational, some of them possible, some of them very modest. 

And as you wildly overshoot, the number of possibilities you could actually consider, you will see several things one, you’ll be able to remove the outrageous ideas in a really come a non judgmental way. And some of the ideas you were looking at originally will seem more reasonable to you. And odds are, you’re going to come up with one or two more ideas that you hadn’t been getting to in your original ideation process. 

Then, of course, the magic number is three. So once you’ve come up with 12 ideas that could or maybe would not work, boiled them down, dismiss the crazy ones and, and get yourself to three that you can reasonably rationally consider price, think about the strategic, the overall importance, the how it’s going to fit with the layout options, and then get to one. This is the strategy I use when I’m stuck on floor plans. And it works every time as long as I’m actually in the mood. So sometimes it takes the right day of the week, but it is my go to strategy for overcoming analysis paralysis, and it can work for you too. 

All right, for this week’s quick fix or Level One suggestion, here’s another midwinter appropriate upgrade for your home that will not cost you a speck of drywall dust to produce and might be a fun idea again to trade out for your holiday decor. Find yourself some mid-century living room decoration. I highly recommend starting from a coffee table because the list of qualifications for a good coffee coffee table is shorter than those for a sofa chair or a piece of storage furniture. It just needs to be relatively sturdy and aesthetically pleasing. For more intensive furniture purchases when you’re going vintage, you might need to think about re upholstering the quality of chair springs debate with a spouse or partner about how comfortable versus aesthetic pleasing. This is more important. 

But a coffee table or a side table basically just needs to look good and be sturdy enough to hold up against your existing family structure. So I don’t recommend glass to folks with large dogs or small kids. But this can be a really fun way to set your sitting area of glow. And again, it’s fun to think about adding a new aesthetically pleasing element as you take away the Christmas cheer or other holiday decor that you may have been using to fight back those winter blues. 

There are now a bunch by the way of decent quality mid-century knockoff suppliers available you can’t go too far wrong by put just putting the search terms mid-century into all modern.com or CD two. But if you want to splurge you can get a modern reproduction or a vintage piece of furniture from modernica or no or check out your local modern high end furniture store here in Madison. That’s the century house or have some fun searching around for vintage pieces. check out Facebook marketplace for your best deals or your local vintage aggregator shop like mid-century meow in Milwaukee mid mod men in the Twin Cities rewind decor here in Madison or atomic antiques for the biggest local selection. 

Remember that in some cases, the journey of finding this piece is as much fun as the destination of having it. So be actively on the hunt for affordable cool vintage pieces, ideally with a fun story attached. And if you already have a coffee table, think about something else acquiring a new rug to set it off a fun arm chair to augment your existing seating options, or some other table decor. Find some authentically mid-century piece that’s going to make you feel like you want to make more mid-century friendly choices for your mid mod house. 

And if you want some advice on this sort of step one, step two step three approach to creating a room recipe for every space in your house. Check out the ideas that I have for you at mid mod dash midwest.com/roomrecipe and that’ll walk you through start with one thing build on that and then sooner or later you’ll have assembled a full room of mid-century appropriate furniture and other design details. Let me know how this goes for you. 

So the takeaway today really is that you As you can plan a remodel, change your house and change your life, but it’s much more likely in this consumer economy that a person not you is going to plan a remodel that will not change their life for the better, that will end up, perhaps changing their life for the worse, making them feel sort of eerily uncanny valley displaced in their own home, because they make choices for it that don’t align with their values, with their taste, with their comfort with the way they want to communicate and live with their family or their partner or their pet in a space. 

So for you, the way that you can plan a remodel, to change your house and change your life for the better is to start from your why to ask yourself, What’s individual about you, your tastes, your preferences, your lifestyle, and then build from that into the design choices that are going to really make a home out of your house. Now, it may be that there’s not a lot you need to change, I also want you to give yourself permission to not change things about the house that work for you, because it’s in fashion to change those things. 

But also to that, you know, as a result of not changing things at work, have more time energy budget for changing the things that don’t work for you so that you really can create a home that is a container for the life you want to live in it. I know that this is possible, because I’ve seen it happen dozens and hundreds of times, as people have made changes large dozens and small hundreds of times to really tune their homes to the life they want to lead in them. And you can do that too. 

Alright, stay tuned for next week, we’re going to be talking about how to push back on one of the most prominent current HGTV trends of how to uncanny valley your house, which is to try to transform your ranch into a cottage SPOILER ALERT first, you can’t arrange will never be a cottage. And second, when you try. It will go badly. Because you know, see the first point. So that’ll be next week. But for the moment. Take a deep breath. Try not to conflate your whole identity with your house. But do think about what could you do.

If you could change anything about your house? How would it be a better container for your ideal life? To live in it now? And in the future? What does that look like? And if you’ve got thoughts about it, I’d love to hear them so you know, reach out to me in an email or in my Instagram DMS. Meanwhile, have a good week. Bye.