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No More Home Makeovers!

I’m not the only one noticing this trend showing up on every television network when it comes to remodeling. Bigger renovations, more money, more products, more, more, more. We Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for big home makeovers and a definite desire to keep up with the Joneses.

No More Home Makeovers!I remember watching HGTV not too many years ago when episodes of shows like Rehab Addict were filled with refinishing a built-in bookcase and that was basically it. Now, if Nicole isn’t renovating two full historic houses at once while designing a friend’s master suite, it isn’t enough. I’m not ragging on Nicole Curtis because honestly she is one of my favorite DIY personalities to watch. She has a great sense of historic character and importance.

My big issue is with the networks thinking that all we want or need to see are HUGE projects with massive budgets that are completely out of reach for most us. Seriously, can any of my readers drop $200k on a full home makeover? Maybe a handful only, but most of us can barely afford a budget bathroom remodel.  Even the old guard at This Old House have upped their renovation budgets into the stratosphere.

Do we really need more and bigger home makeovers? I’d like to challenge that idea!

No More Home Makeovers

Dear HGTV, I love you. Seriously I do! You and your sister DIY Network, which would be weird if you were people, but since you’re television networks, I’m sure it’s OK. Here’s the deal girls, I love a big delicious home makeover just like a night out at the fanciest restaurant in town, but sometimes I like a hotdog too. Not a gourmet dog, just a regular 50¢ ballpark dog with all the nitrates in the world.

I can’t eat foie gras everyday! Full disclosure: I’ve never actually had foie gras, but I hear it’s very rich in both taste and cost so it seemed like the right choice here.

Dave Ramsey has a great and pithy quote that he uses about having too much money. He says that you can only eat so much lobster before it starts to taste like soap. Admittedly, I haven’t gotten to that point yet, but the point still stands. We can only handle so much opulence whether it is in food or home renovation and I feel like the makeovers we are being bombarded with have gone so over the top that we are nearing burn out.

I know economic times are good right now in late 2018, and more of us have more money to spend. This is a good thing, but just because we can spend more money doesn’t mean we should. Where are the creative little projects of 10 years ago? The night stand refinishing, a bathroom tile project that doesn’t involve tearing down walls and changing floor plans, a cabinet refacing and painting? There are so many small projects that we could all learn from and tackle on our own rather than feeling the pressure to drop six figures on a kitchen.

I’m a licensed contractor so I know what I am saying sounds contrary to savvy business, but there will always be big projects that need contractors. I’m talking about TV and social media making us feel like we are slackers if we do anything less than a full gut remodel.

Room for the Little Projects

There is most definitely still room for the little projects. The projects that create a huge improvement without a huge budget. Using the cabinet example above, if you don’t need completely new cabinets and refacing will suffice then why not do it? Remember, just because you have the money doesn’t mean you have to spend it or that there will be the ROI to support it.

On this blog, I rarely show you a full room or full house project, but what I will show you are a ton of little projects that you can do yourself. Wanna build a window screen, restore a window, or replace a floor board? Yeah, I can show you that and if you need to do more than one, then just rinse and repeat.

As for me, I’d rather see fun little weekly projects like my friends Sam at DIY Huntress and Brad at Fix This Build That do then watch a full home makeover on a network who says the budget was only $22,000 when I know that in reality the cost should be closer to $62,000.

Tastes are constantly changing and we’ll see where this trend of big home makeover projects goes from here. They may get even bigger in the coming years, but it feels like we may be at the peak soon. Personally, it’s all starting to taste a lot like soap to me.

What do you think? Am I off base and out of touch, or have you felt it too? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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48 thoughts on “No More Home Makeovers!

  1. I’ve been saying this for years. I call those shows renovation porn because like other kinds of porn it gives the viewer a very unrealistic idea of how things work in real life.

  2. I agree! We have lived in our 1931 Cape Cod for 8 years now and finally have the ability to do a small kitchen “facelift”. Installing a dishwasher (bye bye portable dishwasher on wheels) and a small wall of cabinets. It’s not the end all be all of kitchen remodels but the amount of added function to our kitchen will be amazing. I can actually cook and run the dishwasher at the same time!!!!
    We are keeping the other cabinets and repainting them, keeping the flooring and *gasp* keeping laminate counter tops.
    It’s never going to be in a magazine but since I am cooking in there and I will be happy I feel good about what we are doing.
    Thanks for all the knowledge. I have redone 4 windows in our house and every summer will plug away at a few more.

    1. Hi Judy,

      So glad to hear you’ve also been able to restore the windows in your home piece by piece. I hope you continue to have success in your projects.

      You’re totally right! All that matters is that YOU enjoy YOUR space!

      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  3. Adding to the other comments. We bought our old house because it is old! The historic details and patina are absolutely staying. I understand having to update electrical panels or fix old plumbing. But we aren’t looking to update anything. In a few places, we have made changes to remove some ‘update’ and add back in something more respectful of the age of the house. I don’t watch much HGTV anymore for all those same reasons. Thank you for saying this out loud!

    1. Hi Kristen,

      So glad that you love your old house. I totally agree with you! A lot of readers have reached out since this post on Monday and shared their frustration with people buying historic homes in historic neighborhoods because they “want that” but then gutting it and replacing it with cheap, faux materials on the interior. We actually wrote a post similar to this topic a few years back so maybe you’ll enjoy reading that too! https://thecraftsmanblog.com/dear-flippers-please-stop/

      Have a great day!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  4. I remember a show on HGTV years ago. It involved the host, a 30ish white guy with dark curly hair, going to a home or apartment and rearranging the furniture and decor elements for a more pleasing and functional space. He would clear the room and selectively bring back items. Sometimes he’d request the owner/renters permission to gather elements from other rooms in the residence. Rarely would he buy something new. The result was always appealing and so real-life practical for most of us
    That show was my favorite.

  5. I agree about the HUGE reno projects shown on HGTV and This Old House–HOWEVER, I live in a historic neighborhood outside Charleston SC and I bought a 100-year old home last November. Because there was so much deferred maintenance on “this old house” — it has cost me quite a bit just to get her up and running the way she should. That said, I also gutted the kitchen floor to ceiling and installed an entirely new kitchen. 100 year old floors were refinished and they are beautiful. I have 19 6/6 wavy glass windows on the first floor and they are also beautiful but in need a reglazing and paint. So all that to say, that I had to spend a good portion of my budget on “life support” for this house — the fun stuff is yet to come. and YES I am trying to reno a master bath/bedroom on a budget of $20k — reasonable I am told. The biggest issue I find is GETTING QUALIFIED PEOPLE…..arghhh.

    Oh and I did not get a raise, of a tax break and don’t have MORE $$$ to spend than I did a year ago. Thanks and I love your blog.

    1. Hi Maureen!
      So glad to hear you’re loving our blog 🙂 Your home sounds beautiful! Thank you for sharing! We wish you the best of luck on your continued restoration. Since you said you’re having some issues finding qualified people, if you haven’t already, check out our directory ( https://thecraftsmanblog.com/directory/ ) of licensed preservationists across the states and see if there’s anyone in your area. Even if you don’t find someone who specializes in exactly what you’re looking for, someone near you on this list should be able to at least point you in the right direction of someone you’re needing who is also “preservation minded” which is so necessary, as you understand.
      Good luck!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  6. I stopped watching most of the HGTV shows quite a while ago. There really isn’t much information there to be of interest to me.

    I bought a home built in 1954 three years ago and I have learned so much about the value that is ALREADY there from your site. When I need work done if someone starts with tearing out something I thank them for coming and move on. I LOVE my house exactly as it is….original wood floors, plaster walls and original windows! It is a beauty and I plan to keep it that way! It looks like a home that would have been in a Doris Day movie back in the day and is such a joy to me. I treasure it the way it is!

    BTW thanks for the info on the Stud Pop!! They are a miracle in these old houses when the stud finders don’t work at all.

    I look so forward to your posts and have referred quite a few of my friends to your site,

    1. Hi Jan! Thanks so much for commenting and letting us know how helpful our site as been and for referring friends! Us old house lovers have to stick together! Wood floors, plaster walls, and original windows are so special, beautiful, and (surprisingly to some people) energy efficient. I’m also so glad to hear StudPop was helpful with your plaster journey. Not sure if you’ve seen this post we wrote a while back about how to hang things on a plaster wall, but it may be helpful because hanging things on plaster walls can be challenging if you’re not used to it! https://thecraftsmanblog.com/how-to-hang-things-on-plaster-walls/
      Thank you so much for your kind words. We love hearing that our site is helping people!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  7. The original [read creative, innovative and hands on] remodeling shows gained popularity a year or two before the 2008/09 bust of the A/E/C industry [which we all saw coming in marketing!]. At the end of its hey day, developers were hiring architects to basically DB crappy [“luxury”] mixed-use multi-family monstrosities that we are now being forced to rent in urban areas. This same trend happened in the single family industry and lo and behold the media “suddenly” switches from “learning” to “luxury” and the trend to unsustainable living [outside of ones means] became the new American Dream. A vaporous dream as the true statistics on the American economy are NOT good.

    This next looming recession will make people realize they sold their body, mind, and creative soul to the creepy fu*cks controlling the whole damn thing! It’s at that point that no amount of “budgetless bling” can ever replace the enjoyment of concepts and creating. In fact, with a collapse of corporate cons, a new economy that supports rehabilitation [vs developer dicks and ugly DB], artisans, artistprenuers, and small/mid size businesses will finally have a chance to arise as more people engage in erecting a solid foundation for the overall good and best outcome.
    Not an optimistic dream. The truth that we need to commit too??

  8. There is a new HGTV show called “Gritty to Pretty” starting up next month (I think) The lead is a young man that buys the worst of the worst – but still sound houses – then he fixes them. He does not fancy them up, good sound fixed houses. Outside the historic district he does do replacement windows (we are working on that) but 3 houses are in the historic district. He has worked with a credit union so buyer can pre-qualify for one of his houses. When he sells, he prices them below market and the houses always sell in less than a week – sometimes before the MLS listing posts. So he is not really doing DIY, but I learned lot from his pilot earlier this year. This is the link to the pilot https://www.diynetwork.com/shows/gritty-to-pretty

    1. Hi Sharon! Thanks so much for sharing, I’m so glad a show like this is coming out! Thank you for the link!
      Best,
      Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  9. I agree with you 100% and personally, I think they should have a show with three similar houses that take different approaches and budgets to home renovation, just to show that there is more than one way to do it.

    And when I watch any of those shows, I always hope they pick the total wreck over the house with good bones that just needs a little love, and leave that one for someone who will appreciate it, or for someone with a lower budget. I recently watched one such show and they took a beautiful Victorian-era rowhouse and turned it into a contemporary loft. Another took a true Mid-Century Modern house and refaced the “outdated” Roman brick fireplace with tile to give it more “MCM character.”

    Obviously, in many of these shows, neither the designers nor the homeowners have any true knowledge or appreciation of what they bought. Why the rush to transform the house, any house, into something totally new?

    I would also like to see more shows like Rehab Addict that restore and respect the original of houses of all ages. Even “This Old House” is going full gut rehab and open concept and huge additions these days. I think the worst one was a few years ago when they took a Victorian-era house in Cambridge and turned the interior into Swedish Modern. The only thing kept was the exterior, basic framing and the doorbell!

    My rule of thumb is that it is better to repair than to replace and that replacements, if any, should be of equal or better quality than the products they replace. Just because the original, or even a later remodel, is out of style does not make it trash!

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for sharing- couldn’t agree more. You’re full of great ideas! Maybe you should start your own show 😉

      Best,
      Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  10. Kate Wagner at McMansion Hell has also written a number of articles on this topic. I’d love to see HGTV get back to its roots of DIY and some gardening shows. I’ve noticed that all the flipping shows seem to have led to a generation of home buyers who do not realize that they can buy a fixer upper, do the work themselves, and save a lot of money in the process. I’ve seen some great old houses in my neighborhood here in Portland sit on the market for a long time because they really just need some cosmetic work like paint and floor refinishing. Eventually some flipper comes along and does that work and lists the house for $50k or even $100K more and it’s snapped up. The only home show I still watch is Ask This Old House which has shown me how to tackle a number of small projects myself.

    1. We LOVE McMansion Hell! Glad to hear other people do too.

      Yes, I totally know what you’re saying about the historic homes near you in Portland (was just there not long ago and kept my eyes peeled for the historic homes that I fell in love with) and I know exactly what you’re talking about.

      The saddest is when flippers buy a historic house, replace it with the new cheap, “in” look and really take away from the integrity of the home 🙁 We actually wrote a post on that topic before! Take a look if you’d like! https://thecraftsmanblog.com/dear-flippers-please-stop/

      Love that you’re learning to tackle small projects on your own. It’s so fun and rewarding!

      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  11. You nailed it right on the head. These big renovations only costing x amount of dollars when anyone in the woodworking, plumber, electrician etc. knows you couldn’t get half the job done for that price.
    Which brings me to a subject when customers or potential clients see these prices and are amazed when a quote for a piece of furniture is so high. So I talked to a friend in this business also and gave me the best advice ( before any money is mentioned is educating your clients is the best approach they can see why your quote is what it is) the and I find going through the details as a teacher because the last thing I want is a customer to think I’m talking down to them. Just my two cents. Take Care. Thom

    1. Hi Thom,

      Thanks so much for sharing. We’re definitely familiar with the shock people hear at getting a quote for quality work. We definitely all need to work together to educate our clients on realistic prices for quality work for both our benefit AND theirs in the hopes that they don’t just go with the lowest bidder and get the consequences that often come with it. (We actually wrote a post about that a while back! Take a read if you’d like. https://thecraftsmanblog.com/avoid-the-tyranny-of-the-lowest-bidder/ )
      Best of luck to you! Thanks again for writing.
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  12. I quit watching the shows that are over doing it. I miss the shows that were really DIY, with a real budget and real time lines. I don’t understand folks going in with wrecking bars and sledge hammers to tear out kitchen cabinets when there are Restores everywhere nowadays, not to mention sites like Craig’s list. I don’t see the intelligence of flip it folks breaking glass when the glass can easily be slid out of tracks. Who thinks it’s less costly to make noise and a mess then it is to be methodical? Only folks who need ratings.

    The cost of clean up is more than the few dollars an hour to sweep, it’s the cost of having a dump truck, the environmental cost of putting old but usable items in the landfills, the time and gas to drive to the “refuse recovery center” and the cost per ton to dump it. I wonder what the cost would be if they just took things out whole and either donated to the Restores or put it by the curb with a free sign.

    I’d like to see shows come back to middle class America. Shows that can show the “Average Joe or Jane” how to do actual repair or renovations on a real budget. But I don’t see a lot of the younger folks doing their own work. My college professor was correct when he prophesied in 20-30 years, money will be in the trades, not in an college education. That was about 25 years ago.

    I’m still trying to figure out how everyone is saying we have more money. I didn’t get a pay raise, didn’t get a tax cut, did get higher insurance premiums. And I don’t know anyone who makes under the low six figures a year in a better boat than I am.

  13. I agree. Smaller is better. I get more satisfaction out of doing things myself if I can. I actually stopped watching home shows years ago once they started ripping out historic features. I hate that

  14. Totally agree. I don’t watch HGTV but I do watch This Old House. I can’t believe some of the things they do when the home owner is really watching their spendingnoe trying for a “budget remodel.” I watch to learn and apply to my historic home.

  15. I’m with you! Your topic is on point with something else that popped into my inbox this morning from a Gretchen Rubin’s Moment Of Happiness newsletter :
    “The real pleasure-seeking is the combination of luxury and austerity in such a way that the luxury can really be felt.” — G.K. Chesterton

    It’s all tied into external pressures toward lifestyle creep. Resist!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that quote, AJ! Reading it impacted me.

      I hope you have a great week!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  16. What you left out was the total makeovers of historic or really old homes. While looking at real estate sites I noticed the trend has become to practically lose all sense of the homes history and origins in respect to its age. Adding a bathroom or upgrading a kitchen is one thing, but when walls come down and the interior turned into an open concept I say enough is enough. Preservation of our old homes and their original architectural style is important. If you want bigger and better, buy or build. Those of us that respect a home’s origins will thank you for not muddling them up any further.

  17. I completely share your views. I’ve been expressing this for the last decade or so. I live in an historic neighborhood which has become trendy. The houses still maintain historic exteriors, but the interiors are trendy and in some cases ultra contemporary. Killer bathrooms, killer kitchens and many walls removed to open up the space. I don’t really see an end in sight and I do believe people should have their homes to their liking, but pershaps those folks should just build new. I guess they want to live in an historic neighborhood, but aren’t truly interested in restoration. The home remodelers are very busy these days in my area.

    1. Oh my goodness we see the same thing in the historic districts here. People are basically like “we want to buy a historic bungalow! Awesome! Now let’s gut it and put in cheap faux wood flooring!” I feel like it takes the integrity (and energy efficiency) out of these historic homes.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! We love hearing what our readers think!

      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  18. What you are seeing, Scott, is really nothing more than the media’s idea of advancement. In the USA, we had a huge housing boom just after World War 2 where many people bought their first houses. Most of these houses were the early models of mass production where many mistakes were made in the construction and the layout of the houses. Then came the remodeling boom that began somewhere in the 1970’s as the original owners moved on and a new set of owners began. New building codes were mandated. This again was duplicated in the 2000’s. The recession put a severe crimp in remodeling, but all along the media was promoting the McMansions with all the bells and whistles, many which were either a facade or never used.
    Just as before the recession, money is now available to almost any that want some. That allows many to recreate the fantasy that they see in the media. Look at the housing prices in many of the urban areas of the country and all you see is it is going up and up. That half million dollar (or much more) house still has most of the original frame of the $20,000 WW2 house. If one can’t afford new, massive remodeling is cheaper. Besides if you paid a half million for the house, it should “appear” to be worth that.

    1. My parents paid about $15,000 for their first home in CA in the 1960’s. Three bedroom, two bath. My Dad and Uncle added a room in the garage that was for my uncle when he was in port but the kids got to use it as a den. It could still hold two cars and the washer/dryer. The homes all resembled base housing. It was sold last at over a million dollars. The only thing that changed on the outside over the years was one new roof, a couple paint jobs by other owner’s and the grass died with nothing planted to replace it..

  19. I think you’re spot on. Years ago I watched these channels because they offered something I could relate to. Small projects, with a fairly broad definition of small even then, that were either fairly doable on my budget then or fairly attainable budget in the future. I’m not a stay at home astronaut, my husband isn’t a butterfly collector, and our budget isn’t $500k – we’re just a family of four trying to get by and give our 1890 built house the TLC it needs along the way.

    1. Haha Carrie I love it “stay at home astronaut and butterfly collector”

      We love hearing that you have an 1890 home! What style is it? We love when our readers share their home journey with us via comments or tagging us on Instagram so we can see! ( http://www.instagram.com/thecraftsmanblog )

      Thanks so much for commenting! Hope you have a great week!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

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