Decorating Tips, DIY

Renovating Done Right

January 21, 2011

I heard from reader Manfung Cheung yesterday who runs Dutch design blog Inrichting Huis in Rotterdam because he wanted to share with you the renovations that he and his partner Lydia La recently completed in their city apartment. They decided to buy their first home — a two level flat in an old mansion that desperately needed renovation and their personal touch.

Renovating Done Right

You can see all of their before photos here, which I think is a great way to begin this post — to see where they started because oftentimes we approach a big project and it can seem daunting and we wonder if it is really worth the effort or not.  Manfung and Lydia prove that a little elbow grease goes a long, long way. These photos are of their beautiful new space which is light and bright — a requirement for some who want to avoid winter blues and even depression in cities that are known to be rainy and gray, as Rotterdam doesn’t have the best weather — it’s not Hawaii!

Renovating Done Right

Renovating Done Right

Renovating Done Right

Renovating Done Right

Manfung knows that it is vital to live in a home that fully supports you and allows for personal growth — he calls it a, “necessary foundation for happiness and success in life”. Large amounts of money and tons of space are not required to be happy — that is a bonus — the only requirements to make a house YOUR home is to find inspiration, connect to resources, get creative, tap into your personal style and be motivated enough to get up and do something about it! Kick your own butt! ha ha!

What a great house – thank you Manfung for writing in and sharing your space with us, especially before the weekend as many jump on DIY projects over the weekend — your home inspired me to work on my own tomorrow after I go to the flea market. I particularly love your collections, your wood floors, that darling mini blue SMEG and the Never Grow Up poster.

So tell me, when you start a renovation project, or even a decorating project, what are some of your fears? What often stands in your way? If you have any projects that you’re putting off, why? Perhaps together we can inspire one another to get a move on like Manfung did. Maybe even Manfung can help you with some of your dilemmas, so please comment below.

(images: inrichting huis)


  • Reply Jenny January 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Love the apartment! I have a large stereo similar to the one in the top photo…in my tiny apartment. I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should keep it or get a smaller one. I’m still not sure if I really have room for it, but I am inspired to get creative and stop trying to ‘hide’ it! Thanks!

  • Reply Holly January 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I think that for the most part finances stand in our way.
    We would love to renovate our kitchen but know that it will cost a ton. I always read about little renos that can be done for very little but our kitch is configured in a certain way that we would have to rip out cabinets and shelving to make a darn of a difference. We would love to tear down the wall between the dining room and kitch to open it up and brighten the area. We live in an oldie but goodie house… some day.

  • Reply Giulia January 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    We bought a 1950s split level a little over a year ago and renovations were part of the deal. We knew we had to do some big stuff such as new furnace and roof, which are the ones that eat up your budget and are not pretty to look at. But the difficulty of renovations are the continuous underestimating of things. Be it budget, time (we are doing all renovations ourselves and it is taking sooooo long) or scope. What we thought were little updates and fast wins (false wood panelling in the family room) turn out to take much longer (no insulation behind it) and be a lot more costly. Renovations are a trial in patience, I find. We are done with our mudroom, our family room, are on to our kitchen and I guess our ugly fireplace will just have to wait a while.

  • Reply juliette January 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I’m terrified to cut into ‘good’ fabric when I sew! I’m so scared I’ll screw it up and then can’t replace it, so I’m definitely a measure 20x before I cut sort of person. That paired with the fact that I don’t like to use patterns and would rather come up with my own creation….yeah, obviously it takes me a while to get cranking on a new sewing project!

    One thing I’ve started doing that helps is to ‘practice’ on old clothes or curtain remnants before cutting into the good stuff. Very ‘Sound of Music’, lol =P

  • Reply Danielle January 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    That renovation came out beautiful! Black and white checked floors have always been my favorite, there’s something so nostalgic about them. The skateboard peppered throughout the house are a unique touch, they’re all painted so nicely.

  • Reply Jillian January 21, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    My boyfriend and I just bought a house together – the third for both of us – and immediately tore into it, but I’m experiencing a touch of design paralysis. We need to get it move-in ready quickly, but in design school, they’re teaching us to start with a piece of inspiration (artwork, rug, patterned fabric) and really utilize the process. I don’t have time for that here, and he would probably kill me if I tried. So, I’m a little terrified at the moment. In my last house, we had a ton of construction work before we got down to details, so I had more time to pick out paint and finishes, and here I’m flying a little blind. I was actually excited that it snowed today and we couldn’t go to IKEA to pick out a ton of stuff because I have no vision yet!

  • Reply Kiti January 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I love the apartment, specially the table with wheels in the last photo. I think that even if you don’t have much money, at least you can refresh your house by painting, moving the furniture, just being creative!

  • Reply Lizzie January 22, 2011 at 7:13 am

    LOVE that table on wheels! jeez…painting makes such a huge difference…we live in an apt and we just painted one accent wall – no more than we want to repaint when we move out – and it made a HUGE difference!

  • Reply ARTiculateART January 23, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I really like the white stairs in the house! It just looks different than any other stairs I’ve seen. It’s slightly curvy but slanted looing. The flowers in the silver teapot is really unique too~

  • Reply Julia Seloti January 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Such a beautiful place!!!

  • Reply Erin Fickert-Rowland January 24, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    I love the re-purposed skateboards as focal wall art! I think the biggest obstacles to renovation are 1)the overall design and 2)budget. If you attempt some to DIY some projects for budget reasons , then technical knowledge becomes obstacle number 3!

  • Reply Stacey Sheppard January 25, 2011 at 1:50 am

    I would love to get creative in my apartment but I’m renting at the moment so there really isn’t that much scope for making any big changes. I’d like to do some projects like revamping an old chest of drawers or making my own storage unit out of recycled wine crates…that kind of thing, but what scares me is that space is so limited as it is, in creating more storage, which I desperately need, I will end up eating into what little space I have. I just can’t afford to create anymore clutter. I’ve decided that the only solution is to build my own house so I can have everything exactly as I want it.

  • Reply Justina January 25, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Lovely! Any clue where I can score one of those mini-Smeg fridges? I didn’t know they came in that size and I LOVE small fridges after having lived in Italy for 7 years!

  • Reply Manfung January 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    @Justina: Thanks! That’s not a fridge. It’s a dishwasher :D

  • Reply Edward January 31, 2011 at 4:32 am

    You have a cute lovenest :)…i love the floor wood.

  • Reply Julia February 2, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Very pretty renovations here, congrats Manfung and Lydia.

    We’re in the mood for renovations (bought a place cheaper than expected and haven’t moved in yet), and even if you pay someone for the elbow grease it’s so incredibly stressful! Who knew you could have such arguments over a stupid faucet? Are we alone on this or have you found renovating (either the bones or the cosmetic) can strain you more than your yoga peaceful self thought?

    Sorry for the rant… it’s just that the “after” pictures look so balanced and peaceful… I want to have that too.

  • Reply Desiree Cherisse February 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I wish this were my place LOL

  • Reply jame March 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    …the perfect decorating tip: allow your home to support personal growth.

    We’re currently renovating to do just that, make space for 3 creative adults living under one roof. No arguments over faucets but there’s plenty of opinion regarding color and arrangement :D
    Fortunately, we collectively discover what we can live without and in the process find the talent and contribution of each addition works phenomenally well towards the whole. So far, so good.

    Manfung’s advice is spot on.

  • Reply Natasha March 11, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    that is a job well done:0)

  • Reply Interieur inspiratie April 8, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Great apartment! Super interior :) Love this ! X

  • Reply ron forbisrm February 2, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    need help i have a house built 1835 in downtown lake Geneva Wisconsin lift of foundation and set back down on a new one and make inside look great the house had water damage about 3/4 million of water 5 years ago witch damage the foundation the oldest house in town Abraham Lincoln stay there running for president this location would be a great for your filming with view of the lake and town all in one plus on the main road through town very high ex-poser to WISCONSIN and ILLIONIS .THIS WERE THEY ALL COME TO FOR THE WEEK END

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