Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Recently, an acquaintance of mine dropped me a line to say she and her husband had recently bought an older home in a great location. The house was faded beauty, great bone structure, but in need of a facelift, and more importantly for them, it needed a personal style overhaul so it could feel like their new place as opposed to just the new place.

She knew that kind of renovation would require a lot of planning. Certainly more time and energy than she could give it in the few moments out of the day she wasn’t either working or studying for her MBA. Her husband wasn’t much good for it either, as his job required a lot of travel. “It’s going to be at least 3-5 years before we get to the serious overhaul,” she wrote. “But we’d like some low-stress, economical ideas to help us settle in until we get around to the big stuff.”

So, I get asked this, or some variation of this all the time. Sometimes by people who get moved around a lot for job reasons, sometimes by landlords to quickly and cost-effectively update a vacation home or rental, sometimes by renters themselves and sometimes folks like my friend above, who cannot commit to a major renovation right now. Doing what I like to call a “faux-reno” is generally easy, inexpensive and effective. Here are a few places you can start:


It is amazing what a good solid cleaning will do for the inside of a house. Wipe, scrub, scrape, soak, rinse and repeat. Do what you gotta and clean every surface of the house needs to be cleaned. Send the dust bunnies running for cover, evict Charlotte from her web, polish up those shower taps like they’re silver spoons, make the baseboards shine!

Get Naked

Make things very simple for yourself. A little minimalism can make a home feel new again. Strip any wallpaper. Remove those gloomy, four-decade-old window treatments. Vamoose all remnants of the previous owners. Even those ugly gold plastic switch and outlet plate covers.

Put on New Coat

Keep your cost low and avoid a game of 52-paint chip pick-up by painting all the interior walls a super simple neutral go-with-everything color. This will give you a nice clean pallet to live with while you envision your larger renovation. If the house has painted trim, consider giving all the trim a solid fresh coat of White Dove.

Turn Over a New Leaf

Grab the biggest outdoor trash bag you can find and fill it with every throw pillow on your sofa and on your bed. Ditch the old placemats and table runners. Eighty-six the old powder room towels, kitchen rugs and that decorative whosit your mother-in-law gave you five Christmases ago. Set them aside for a bit. What worked in one house might not in the next. Try something new. Start with a clean slate and add back bit-by-bit.

Goodwill Donations
Don’t bother stocking the linen closet with the sheets you’ve had since college. There’s no need to hold on to all seventeen, mismatched multi-colored bath towels. Commit to a house with only white linens. Simple, relaxing and a clean, bright canvas you can work with.

None of these are permanent solutions. They are temporary, superficial fixes– the home rehab equivalent of lipstick on a pig—and not meant to take the place of the real deal. No amount of clean towels and new switchplates will change the fact that your bathrooms need to be overhauled and your kitchen was last updated during the Carter administration. But when you cannot get to the big stuff, these can, at least, get you through until the time is right for hardhats.

And with that, I’ll be taking my own advice and getting the windows cleaned at House of Sally. Springtime looks so much better without last winter’s fingerprints in the way.

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