“My family jokes that whenever someone has extra furniture they say, ‘Give it to Jenna, she’ll use it,’ ” laughs Jenna LaFevor. She refurbished her great aunt’s oval table to use as a bedside table and her great-uncle’s antique dresser and chest of drawers to add more storage space in the master bedroom
Andrew and Jenna LaFevor tore out three walls dividing the living room, kitchen and dining room to create one large dining and entertaining area. The couple laid the hardwood floor, repurposed family furniture and painted all walls on the first floor, including one done in chalkboard paint that Jenna changes with the seasons and holidays.
The guest bath had not been updated since the home was built in 1969, so the LaFevors replaced tile with marble floors, installed an energy-efficient toilet, repainted the tub surround with a specialty tile paint, replaced the old-fashioned vanity with a marble-topped one and painted the walls a soothing gray. The project was featured in the October issue of This Old House magazine as an example of do-it-yourself creativity.
Jenna LaFevor says that, when her mother-in-law first saw the Red Bank home she and husband Andrew were buying, “she cried.”
“She couldn’t believe we were going to leave a new home in East Brainerd for this,” she laughs, recalling that day.
The 1969 two-story brick home in Red Bank was in foreclosure, the power had been cut off and they were touring the property with just a flashlight to light their way. Still, the young couple could see the possibilities. The 1,700-square-foot home was structurally sound, it was just in dire need of an update.
The move was prompted by their jobs; both are teachers. Her husband is a social studies teacher and basketball coach at Red Bank Middle School and, at the time, she was about to start at Soddy-Daisy Middle School.
“We had been looking at homes in Spring Valley, but thought the price range was out of our budget. But then our Realtor called and said this house was in
foreclosure. So we made an offer.
“We closed on the home in June 2011, and we started remodeling the next day,” she says.
What makes this home’s transformation so remarkable is that Jenna and Andrew did 90 percent of the work themselves, handing off only the projects that required a licensed professional. Neither of them had serious experience in construction, home improvement work or do-it-yourself projects, although Andrew had laid tile previously and she had a talent for painting and refurbishing old pieces of furniture.
Not only did they complete the first floor’s remodeling in three months of summer vacation, they stayed within their $10,000 budget.
The living spaces are all on the main level of the home, with a double garage and finished basement below. Since the couple moved in, they have had a daughter, Landry, and Jenna is now a stay-at-home mom. Two years ago, Jenna began a blog — Rain on a Tin Roof (rainonatinroof.com) — in which she describes the remodeling projects they undertook.
Jenna, who describes herself as a junker on her blog, says, “I paint a lot of furniture to save money and work with what I have. A huge majority of items in our home have either been upcycled, DIY’d, crafted or found on sale.”
One example is the massive wooden dresser in Landry’s nursery, which she bought for $75, hauled home from LaFayette, Ga., and has painted a cheerful salmon pink.
Her blog’s description of the bathroom makeover caught the attention of editors at This Old House magazine, and they featured the LaFevor’s do-it-yourself project in the October article, “Charming Change-ups on the Cheap.” Writer Megan Baker called their home a DIY project that gives “high-end redos a run for the money.”
Jenna says the home’s renovation began by tearing out three walls to make one large entertainment space.
“The first thing we did was take out walls that divided the kitchen, living room and dining room to open up the space,” she says. Since the wall that ran the width of the living room was a load-bearing wall, they hired Darren Gallagher to do the tear-out and to install a ceiling joist.
“When the beam was put in, [another company] had his guys put up drywall on the ceiling. They were supposed to come back and blow a new ceiling, but that never happened,” says Jenna.
So the couple bought Behr’s textured ceiling paint and finished the ceiling themselves. Months later, when they tore paneling out of the basement to put up drywall, the company returned for that project and blew in a new upstairs ceiling while there.
To replace all the two-prong outlets with three-prongs in the space, they hired an electrician to rewire the room.
Once the area was opened and cleanup finished, the couple purchased $3,000 in pine flooring that they laid throughout the entertainment room and hallway, its continuous flow of color successfully tying those spaces together. They also installed new carpet in their bedroom and the nursery.
The entertainment space is anchored by a navy-and-white geometric area rug, which Jenna reveals is actually made for outdoor use.
“I loved the pattern and I knew it would hold up to kids and dogs,” she says. Navy and white panels at the windows complement the rug.
A set of matching wing chairs, a sofa and two lattice-back chairs are grouped in front of a television above a blue buffet that was her great-aunt’s. The two lattice-back armchairs were part of a set of six that she bought off the Internet for $25 and repainted. They were missing seats, which she made and upholstered.
The overall effect is fun, youthful and inviting. It’s an eclectic mix of styles that works because they are anchored in the navy/white color scheme, with pops of color added by kelly green accessories.
In the kitchen, Jenna kept the cabinets original to the house, but updated them with a new coat of white paint and contrasting black hardware. Andrew built the kitchen island using porch posts he found at Architectural Exchange for legs, and old barn wood from Jenna’s great-grandfather’s barn to make a rustic bottom shelf. The island’s top is created from 2x4 boards trimmed in chair rail and topped with silestone, which coordinates with new silestone countertops the couple chose for the kitchen.
New kitchen appliances completed their update.
“I’m a big fan of using what you have,” says Jenna, who repurposed pieces to furnish the dining area.
The kitchen table was her great-aunt’s, the corner cabinet was previously her great-grandmother’s china cabinet and she bought the buffet in a yard sale for $10 and repainted it.
When the couple was ready to reboot the bath, they first tore out the old floor and laid marble tile. They chose an energy-efficient, water-saving toilet from a big-box store and purchased a marble-topped vanity at a local liquidators. They updated lighting fixtures, hung a large oval mirror and Andrew installed floating shelves to help compensate for the lack of a linen closet.
After painting the walls a soft gray tinged with lavender, Jenna knew the old beige tile surrounding the iron tub had to go. So she purchased Rustoleum tub and tile paint and painted the tub surround a gleaming white to match the wall trim.
Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...