By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Walking into Janene Neely’s Del Ray home, it’s obvious that Neely has an eye for design and home décor. What’s not as evident is that she’s an avid DIY-er and has performed most of the home’s renovations herself, with the help of her husband, Dan.
The Neelys bought their 1920s Craftsman-style home about a year ago. Since then, they’ve been renovating the home, step by step, with a series of DIY, or do-it-yourself, projects.
Most of the renovations have been small-scale projects – such as redoing the moulding around a window or installing wainscoting along the dining room walls – but combined, the changes have transformed the home, both bringing it up to date stylistically and honoring its original architectural elements.
“For us, it’s really about what the house is trying to tell us,” Neely said. “We want to, in a way, restore it to what it once was or maybe the potential it could have always had, so we definitely gravitate towards … more historically appropriate design choices, but at the same time, a little bit more updated, so it does feel modern and refreshed.”
Since purchasing their home, the Neelys have made changes to almost every room. Spending more time at home because of the pandemic has allowed them to check several projects off of their to-do list.
In the living room, they repainted the walls and fireplace and added moulding around the entryway to the dining room. In the dining room, they added white wainscoting around the walls, put in dark gray wallpaper in an organic marbled pattern, switched out the light fixture and added a decorative medallion on the ceiling. They also repainted both bedrooms and put moulding on the walls in the master.
One of their major changes to the home was a full bathroom renovation, which the Neelys had a contractor complete before they moved in. The new bathroom has subway tile on the walls and basketweave tile flooring – a popular style choice in Depression-era bathrooms.
When it comes to home improvement projects and deciding whether to do it herself or hire someone else, Neely said her decisions often come down to comfort level.
“For the bathroom, we did hire a company,” Neely said. “We wanted to make sure that things were done right with plumbing and tilework. Not to say that we won’t learn one day, but that we felt more comfortable getting a professional to do it.”
As for the rest of the house and the various DIY projects, the couple’s philosophy is “learn as you go.” Neither are professionals, but they are gradually increasing their home design skill sets.
“These projects, learning to build, we know that we might not get it right the first time and that’s okay,” Neely said. “If we don’t know [how to do something], we do a lot of research to try to figure it out and learn how to do it. We’re not afraid because if we mess up it’s okay. We’ll figure out how to fix it.”
Neely described much of her house as a work in progress, and she said she has plans for various projects she’d like to complete down the line.
One of the projects on that wish list is a kitchen renovation. However, since that major remodel likely won’t come to fruition for a few years, the couple has made several smaller, inexpensive changes in the meantime.
“We’re calling it our band-aid renovation,” Neely said, “because we have grand ideas of how to really open the back up, but until we can get there, we’re just updating some things that will make it livable for us for the next couple of years and have our spin on it.”
The “band-aid renovation” involved tearing out a cabinet to open up the space, redoing the built-in seating in the breakfast nook and putting black-and-white, peel-and-stick tile on the floors.
“It had this really ugly fake bamboo floor and it just didn’t feel right in the house,” Neely said. “We wanted something that kind of felt like a vintage vibe to it [and was] inexpensive, because we know that it’s not going to be forever. It’s a bold pattern and probably not something that we would normally do, but I’m all about taking a risk.”
Throughout the home, Neely’s passion for home decor is evident. A former visual manager for major brands Anthropologie and Bloomingdale’s, Neely said she pulls inspiration from her experience designing commercial spaces, as well as watching design shows.
“Lately, we’ve really been into that show ‘Good Bones,’” Neely said. “We love Mina and her mom. And I like the simplicity of Joanna Gaines’ style, although I’m not too big into the farmhouse style, more on the schoolhouse kind of side of it.”
She also pulls inspiration for both décor and design projects by interacting with a community of amateur and professional designers on Instagram. Neely documents her own projects on Instagram with the handle @champagneandsawdust.
“[Posting on Instagram] is just a way to sort of catalogue our story as we’re going through it,” Neely said. “I follow a lot of accounts that I’ve actually learned to do some of this renovating stuff from. … For me, I get inspired by that, and I’m thinking maybe there’s something that I can do that will inspire someone else.”
“Champagne and sawdust” is a fitting theme for Neely’s home: Behind the glitz and glam of what her guests see, there’s a coat of sweat, tears and sawdust.
(Read more: Home profile: Hidden oasis)