Our homes have been there for us in so many ways this past year. We’ve turned our bedrooms into classrooms, kitchen tables into home offices, and our front stoops into date-night destinations. All this transformation has turned many of us into amateur DIYers, tackling long lists of home projects we may have otherwise neglected for years. Philip, the North Carolina-based home-improvement blogger and engineer behind Philip or Flop, has been right there with us, documenting the work he’s put into making his home a place where his family is happy to spend so much of their time.
Like many parents today, Philip and his wife have spent much of the past year working full-time from home while their two daughters, ages 5 and 8, attend school remotely. The experience has given him a new appreciation, he says, for having a comfortable space where the whole family can find room apart when needed and still come together with one another throughout the day.
Before the pandemic, entertaining was often one of the first things he and his wife considered when they were planning out their home, he says. “It was, ‘How are we going to invite people over and have a dinner party, or have friends for a game night?” Now, with those activities on hold, he says, “We’re thinking more about what makes us comfortable and what makes us enjoy our own spaces more.”
Connection, for one, has never been more important — whether it’s offline at the dinner table or online with classmates, family members, and Philip’s more than 360,000 Instagram followers. Keeping up with it all requires a reliable, affordable wireless plan like Total Wireless’ no-contract, unlimited family plans (which, unlike most home renovation projects, don’t come with any hidden fees).
Here’s how Philip is making his home an amazing place for his whole family, his number-one tip for first-time DIYers, and the budget-friendly ideas he recommends for busy parents. As for how to budget for all those tools and two-by-fours? Moving to Total Wireless can save you up to $1,200 a year when compared to a four-line, postpaid plan from the leading carrier, which means those extra bucks can go into your home DIYs.
On the “one-room schoolhouse” where his kids have done their remote schooling:
“They called it a ‘morning room’ when we bought the house because there’s windows on both sides and it’s nice and bright in here. It’s a space I made over early this year, right as the pandemic was starting. We didn’t anticipate it being used as a schoolroom… I just thought, okay, maybe we’ll just sit here once in a while.
There’s a big desk that’s sitting across here where both of our daughters do their schoolwork, and we’ve lined the room with other school-like activities for creating and making art. We’re going to get some chairs in here now that they’re going back to school. It’s a nice place to sit and have coffee or read a book. But it’s definitely going to be used going forward as a homework space for the girls when they come home, just because they’ve gotten used to it and they work pretty well in here. So it’s our sitting room-slash-morning room-slash-homework room now.”
On why “open concept” might be over:
“Before I re-did this room, it was open completely to the breakfast room and the kitchen. And I decided, let’s close it off so we have a dedicated space to have the kids do their homework. It’s the last thing I did because we were kind of on the fence. Little did I know it was going to be an actual schoolroom for almost a whole year.
In the past, it’s been a trend to tear down walls, but when I did this renovation, so many people were DMing me or commenting on my posts, ‘We’ve been thinking about taking our open space and making some more defined spaces as well.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if, after this, there’s a complete step away from open floor plans. Walls give you some privacy and the ability to have a little bit of alone time, even when you’re with your family. It also makes sense to have spaces where you can physically work from home, and then you can leave those spaces to enjoy your family time.”
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On the easy, affordable DIY projects that’ll transform any space:
“People say, ‘Where do I start? I just bought a new place and it needs a lot of work.’ If you’re talking about the most affordable DIYs, paint is the biggest one. With a couple five-gallon buckets of paint, you can change a very dated, dark space into one that’s a lot more inviting. You can paint it to suit whatever makes you happy — it doesn’t have to necessarily be a light color. A lot of people are trending into moodier colors these days. Paint is pretty simple and doesn’t require a lot of capital cost in terms of tools. Buy a couple of nice brushes, some rolling gear, and a couple of drop cloths, and you’re set to go.
After paint, the next thing is light fixtures. You can find great light fixtures online for $40 or $50, and there are so many of them in the home. If your home is more dated and the light fixtures are out of style, replacing those is a pretty quick thing. Even for most people that don’t have electrical experience, you can learn how to turn off the breaker, match up a couple of wires, and replace a light fixture without hiring an electrician. If you’re not comfortable, though, hire an electrician or have someone that’s knowledgeable come train you.”
On the tip he gives all beginner DIYers:
“Do you know the saying, ‘measure twice, cut once’? It means if you don’t take that little bit of extra time to make that extra measurement, you could waste a piece of wood. And it’s just one piece of wood, it’s not a huge deal, right? But you can take that ‘measure twice, cut once’ mentality and translate it to a whole project. So that’s doing the research on the different things you’re going to be working on, doing the preparation to make sure that you’re doing things in the right order, buying the right materials the first time.
Especially if you’re starting off, things take longer than you expect. You can get frustrated pretty easily and feel like, ‘Why did I do this? Why did I get myself into this?’ And so if you spend that time upfront to mentally prepare yourself and write out what steps you need to do and do the research… that’s key.”
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On picking a project and sticking with it:
“I always tell people, figure out what room you’re most interested in first, and go for it. Start on that room, and finish that room — don’t even do the 95% thing, just finish it. And then move on to the next space. That really makes a DIY experience more enjoyable because you don’t feel like, ‘What did I get myself into? I destroyed my whole house before I’ve realized how much work it was going to be.’
And that’s the other thing: when people underestimate costs and they start more rooms at once, they’ll find themselves not being able to afford what they envision. And if you do it room by room, even if you run over a little bit, you haven’t spent 5X [your budget] because you’ve only done one room.”
On staying connected with friends, family, and hobbies:
“We have a small circle, but it’s important to stay connected to those people through this time, and mobile devices are essential. We use a lot of different messaging apps and video messaging apps to stay connected to mostly family members that are not in the immediate area, and some friends as well.
My oldest daughter has been really interested in crafting and building things for her dolls, so she’s been watching a lot of video tutorials to see other kids that are building stuff. Recently she’s gotten a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, which we’ve been encouraging. She’s made lip balms and body scrubs and used an online neighborhood group to promote her new business. That’s something she probably wouldn’t have done if we weren’t trying to help her find new creative outlets during the pandemic.”
On the best memory he’ll take from this year:
“We’ve traditionally always had dinner together, but one thing we’ve tried to do consistently when we’ve been home is to sit down for lunch together as a family. Just having that extra mealtime to converse and connect has been really great.”
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