Behind-The-Scenes of Our Feel Good Makeover
Last week, I shared the big reveal of LaTanya’s new home with you. Thank you for all of your love for her new space. I still can’t get over some of those before and after pictures. Amazing!
Because that post was already so long, I wanted to share a bit more of the behind-the-scenes in today’s blog post. I think it’s entertaining to hear the crazy stories and long days that go into those perfect before and after images. Plus, I have an awesome video to share with you that tells more about LaTanya’s inspiring story.
If you’re just catching up, read these posts first to get up to speed on this project.
Our Feel Good Makeover – Video
I hired a production crew from One City Films to capture the entire experience from start to finish. Jason, our videographer/producer/editor, and I used to work together at WGN, and he has since started an amazing production company. I knew he would be the perfect person to tell LaTanya’s story well and showcase this feel-good makeover. You can view everything below, or click this link to watch it on YouTube.
I do want to warn you to have the tissues handy because you will absolutely cry watching this. I’ve watched it dozens of times and I still tear up every time LaTanya shares more about her story and the living conditions she endured during her struggle with addiction. She is such a remarkable person and is now a friend for life. It’s a five-minute video, but TRUST ME, it’s worth watching every single second of it. One of the best things I’ve ever been a part of.
The Whirlwind Weekend
Now, let’s rewind a bit and share more details about the weekend. My mom was out of town on a girls’ trip during our makeover weekend, so it presented us with the opportunity to have LaTanya stay at her condo while we took over her apartment! It worked out great, but we did miss Jan and definitely could have used her help and manpower!
Luckily, my assistant, Lindsey, flew in from Kansas City for the entire weekend. She slept in my office (such a trooper) and was by my side for our long 12-hour days. Before the project, Lindsey told me she loves to build things, so we had her put together every single piece of furniture for the rooms. She was so fast and it made the project go so smoothly.
Of course, the week of the big makeover Rory’s school was shut down because of a Covid case in her classroom. Finn was planning to come help for at least one of the days, but without daycare, we needed him to stay home and watch the kids. I’m so grateful that he kept everything running smoothly at home so I could just focus on work. And I am extra grateful that we all stayed healthy!
Friday – Day One
On Friday, we started by opening up the mountain of boxes in LaTanya’s garage. It took me, Kim, and Lindsey about two hours to open each and every box – we had over 100 – and we just threw the boxes in a pile to break down later.
By about noon, my family started arriving to help out. My brother, Harry, moved all of the heavy items inside and up the two flights of stairs for us. We were so happy he was there to help with all of the big stuff.
My sister, Liz, and sister-in-law, Sarah, arrived in the afternoon, and we had them tackle the ever-growing pile of boxes. They were rockstars, breaking them down so quickly for us!
By the end of day one, we had the light fixtures installed, curtains up, and the main furniture pieces in the room. We were way ahead of schedule and left feeling great about the progress we made. Although, we were all sweaty and dirty…so very sweaty!
Saturday – Day Two
On day two, we ran into one issue. The sideboards that we chose from Amazon Home were way too small and dinky for the dining room. Our plan from the start was to attach two of the sideboards together to create one long one to really fill up the blank wall. We were more concerned with the width of the sideboards and didn’t realize that they were pretty short. Lindsey put them together; we stood them up and we all said, “Hmmm, that’s not gonna work!”
Building the DIY Sideboard
We ended up buying 6″ furniture legs for the bottoms of the sideboards. Then Scott cut down the overhang, where the two sideboards met at the top, so we could push them together.
We secured them with screws on the inside and then used a primed MDF board on top. Kim had the cream color of the sideboard color matched at the store and we attached the new top with liquid nails.
In the end, it worked out so well, but it was our only real “hiccup” from the weekend.
Hanging All The Things
My duty was to hang all the things. From the triptych art, to the sconces, to the fiber art, and more. The triptych art was the toughest…getting all three pieces level, even, and straight was a challenge. But, wow, it was even more beautiful than I thought it would be – especially at that price point!
We then ran into the sconce snafu, where our puck lights didn’t work inside. (They were too large for the sconce shade.) The sconces looked too good to eliminate them all together, so for now, they’re just decorative. It took a couple of hours, but I was able to get everything hung and up on the walls, and that’s when the rooms really started to take shape.
Sprucing Up Other Areas of The Home
I had two friends come to help, Kristin and Molly. I kept telling our team how they were the perfect additions because they’re both design savvy, with DIY skills. Score! We tasked them with sprucing up the rest of LaTanya’s home.
We ended up buying much more than what you saw in the reveal post of the dining and living room. We got this desk and office chair, a Dyson vacuum, new dishes for the kitchen, and even new bedding for her bedroom. I had some extra decor, shelving, and art that I wasn’t using in my home, so we brought that over too.
Kristin and Molly got to work organizing, cleaning, and decorating the other areas of the home and we really couldn’t have done it without their help!
Getting Rid of The Boxes
We had so.much.cardboard and trash to get rid of and no real plan to remove it from LaTanya’s garage. The last thing we wanted to do was leave her with a mountain of trash in her backyard! We ended up hiring the company, Trash Warrior, to come out. It was fine – the cardboard was removed and taken to the recycling center, but it was hard to get an accurate price for the large amount of cardboard we had. When the small truck arrived, it was already almost full and we were nervous our load wouldn’t fit. Luckily, they somehow squeezed all of our cardboard in!
By the end of Day Two, we were 100% done with the makeover. That meant that Sunday was all about capturing every photo, video, and reel and, of course, revealing the space to LaTanya! We were even able to go out for a nice dinner and ice cream to celebrate and chat all about the next day.
Sunday – Day Three
On Sunday, we arrived early so Kim could take all of the pictures for our reveal posts. We also wanted to make sure we got plenty of videos and stories to share on social media. LaTanya arrived at 11 am and it was showtime!
As I mentioned in my reveal post, LaTanya’s reaction was a lot of tears and hands covering her face in amazement.
I think she was super overwhelmed as we were all throwing so much information at her. “Look over here.” “Did you see this?” “Here’s how you work your new TV.” It was information overload!
We had Scott write up a little cheat sheet for keeping all of the new plants alive, and he was also on tech duty to get her phone setup with the speakers and new TV. We also made sure she was all settled into her office, so she would be ready for work on Monday. It was A LOT, but also incredibly exciting.
LaTanya kept finding new goodies here and there, especially as she explored the rest of her apartment and saw what we did to the other rooms. We got a few texts from her that evening as she hopped into bed. She didn’t realize we got her new sheets and a mattress topper and was just so excited about these new discoveries!
Our ABC News Segment
On Monday, we were invited to do a segment on our local ABC channel, here in Chicago. We were honored to share more about the makeover weekend and LaTanya got to speak about the important work she does for Cara Collective. You can watch the full segment here.
My Favorite Project…Ever!
This entire feel good makeover is one for the books! While I’ve helped people in the past with their spaces, this one felt different. LaTanya was so appreciative and grateful and the changes that we made will, hopefully, improve her life in every way. Plus, we even have plans to continue to see LaTanya since she is now a big part of our journey. (We’re having a girls’ brunch day!)
I really hope that I can continue to do more projects like this. I know it was a win-win for everyone…LaTanya received a beautiful new home; we had a blast designing it; and this community got to see a breathtaking before and after. I had the best time working with Kim and Scott (we worked so well together…I think it’s our Type A personalities!) and we all said we want to make this a yearly project!
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.