5 tips for tackling your first fixer-upper from a Charlotte couple that’s completed three

5 tips for tackling your first fixer-upper from a Charlotte couple that’s completed three
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Our Home Tour series is proudly presented by Wyndham Capital Mortgage. Looking to add value to your home? Here are four improvements that aren’t worth it.


Catherine and Jeff Whitaker recently purchased a house in Sharon Woods, just down the street from where Jeff grew up. The house was built circa 1970, and not much had been changed since then. The couple purchased the home with the intention of doing a total overhaul.

This is the couple’s third fixer upper-style home and their largest undertaking yet.

Catherine said decorating started as a hobby of hers, but going through the first two renovations inspired her to pursue a career in interior design – she’s an assistant to Beth Barden at Design Post Interiors.

When the couple bought their Sharon Woods home, there was paneling everywhere and green and brown shag carpets.

Sharon Woods before fixer

Before photos by Catherine Whitaker

Catherine and Jeff’s main goals were to update the finishes and fixtures, and create a layout that works for their family.

She was in charge of the conceptual elements, like coming up with designs and decorations, while he was able to use his handy skills to bring the DIY projects to fruition. You’ll see a lot of neutral colors, wood tones and dark and light contrast.

sharon woods after

sharon woods after

Here are 5 tips from Catherine and Jeff for anyone thinking about a fixer upper:

(1) On money: The couple suggests saving 20 percent of your budget for unexpected surprises – for them it was for two squirrel invasions and particle board removal. They also suggest shopping around. Catherine says they originally were going with Ikea cabinets, but ended up saving $1,500 by going with Premium Kitchen Cabinets in Charlotte — the total for kitchen cabinets came out to $6,500.

(2) On whether taking one on is for you: “If your ideal nights and weekends involve going out, taking walks or sleeping in; DIY is not for you,” Jeff says. Note: Fixer uppers aren’t for the faint of heart.

(3) On being on the same page with your partner: “Not all fixer uppers are year-plus projects, and I love that there is such a range,” Catherine say. “You can find houses that need to be tackled at all different levels. If one partner isn’t sure, my advice would be to start with one that needs smaller cosmetic fixes. Maybe a few weekend projects, instead of one that needs every room or intensive work.”

(4) On how budget influences a project: The couple says prioritizing is key. “I think, for most people,” Catherine says, “it’s impossible to do everything you want in a renovation.”

She suggests starting with what you want to splurge on and then figuring out how much you have left in the budget and where you can save. For example, she says, “In our master bathroom, I fell in love with pricier hardware. We ended up saving on mirrors and the vanity to make the faucets work.”

(5) On navigating the low points: Catherine says everyone who takes on a renovation project should be prepared for things to not always go according to plan – whether things aren’t on schedule or a fixture you thought you’d love doesn’t actually scale well in the space. Her advice? Focus on all of the small wins that eventually add up to be the final picture.

Sharon Woods after

After “after” photos courtesy of Laura Sumrak. Related Agenda real estate guides: Best custom home builders in Charlotte, best architects in Charlotte, and best interior designers in Charlotte.

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