Thinking about sprucing up your home?

Now come the decisions — which project to tackle first, how much to invest, and which will stand the test of time? As home improvement bloggers, flippers and residential remodelers, Jamie and Morgan Molitor of construction2style have spent a lot of time strategizing about where best to spend home-improvement dollars. This week, they’ll be offering their insights at Junk Bonanza, a vintage market in Shakopee. We caught up with Morgan, the design half of the Elk River couple, to talk about resale, DIY do’s and don’ts and which once-hot home trends are on their way out:

Q: If you’re renovating for resale, what’s worth investing in?

A: Every client is trying to figure that out. Our first question is what is your budget? You can spend $30,000 on a kitchen, or you can spend $60,000 to $80,000.

If you’re not going to sell for five to 10 years, it’s going to be dated regardless. If you’re going to sell in under five years, you don’t want to put in a lot of color or anything super-trendy. Our big thing is to keep wall colors light and cabinets neutral. Then have fun with the backsplash and hardware because it’s easier to replace and won’t cost so much. If you’re going to be there less than five years, and the cabinets are in good shape, replace the door fronts and save one-third of the cost.

We’re also huge fans of pushing clients to do what they love. You need to be happy in your home. If you’re redoing a bathroom, and you love color, use color for the shower curtain or the rug, or wallpaper one wall, or find a fun mirror and keep everything else neutral.


Q: Which home trends have staying power? Which are on their way to looking dated?

A: First, I don’t like the word “trends.” You should be picking pieces that are classic. Like subway tile. You can get it factory-made in China, or you can get handcrafted, hand-painted tile that will never go out. Light countertops will never go out. Quartz will always be in style.

White cabinets have proved the test of time. Shiplap is out the window — already come and gone. Everyone was doing open concept, now a lot of people are putting walls back up.

Keep paint colors light and neutral. We use Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore all the time. People think they need to paint their walls the [Pantone] Color of the Year but that color is usually bold and prominent. Never put it on walls.

Golds are really tricky. I love gold hardware. There’s a champagne color I recommend. It’s not super-bold gold. It can look silvery. As for appliances, black stainless is really popular but I don’t think that’s going to stick. Stainless steel is classic.


Q: Are kitchens and baths still the rooms that get the best return on resale?

A: Absolutely. In kitchens, you can do really simple things to refresh the space, or you can do a total overhaul. A fresh coat of paint and decluttering — taking out personal things — can go a long way.


Q: Which projects are DIY? Which should be left to the pros?

A: I’m always amazed when people try to do DIY electrical work. That’s the one thing I would not recommend. You can electrocute yourself. Tile can be simple, but it depends. Sometimes DIY tile is uneven. Do a practice round first. Or people forget a simple step like leveling. I saw a house last week where the shiplap started off the ceiling and ended up sideways. People show us DIY projects and ask, “How do I fix this?” Hammer it out and start over.


Q: You talk about not fearing power tools. What’s your favorite power tool and why?

A: A table saw. Everyone’s scared of those.


Q: Do you use one?

A: Yes. And a nail gun, too. They are scary at first. It’s kind of like a gun — it jolts you. But once you start doing it, it becomes second nature. You can use it for putting up trim work or building a headboard.


Q: What have you done to make your house your dream home?

A: Our house was built in the ’90s. It was typical — all beige and golden oak that we’re slowly replacing. We just finished a kitchen remodel. There were three living rooms, so we took one and made it the dining room. I always wanted a big dining room with a giant table. I love to entertain.

The kitchen is where the dining room used to be, with a giant island. The biggest thing is a statement backsplash. It’s a conversation piece. It’s handcrafted mosaic tile — diamond tile that turns into hexagons, then moves into subway tile with little sparkles. Jamie wanted dark cabinets that look almost black. In the backsplash I wanted some black, and a little metallic, but I didn’t want it to be super-dark. It moves into gray and white.

We just redid the basement. It had golden oak cabinets. We painted them deep navy. Before it was beige, and we painted it white and brought in color with pillows in pink and green. I made an eclectic gallery wall. We added a powder room to the basement. No shower or tub, just a toilet and vanity in what was the electrical room. It cost less than $10,000 but it gives us a fourth bathroom, which increases the value by $20,000.

Q: Do you and Jamie have a division of labor?

A: Jamie got a contractor license. He does construction. I do design, and styling at the end. I help paint, hang wallpaper and lay tile, and he does some design. We tag-team everything.


Q: How’d you both get so handy?

A: I’m a handy girl. I grew up in Roseau in the restaurant business. My parents owned the local breakfast spot. My dad and grandfather were carpenters, and I grew up watching them build things in the shop. Mom was super-crafty, always sewing. Jamie’s from Oak Grove, north of Anoka. His parents own a business. He was out in the shop with his parents nonstop. Instead of toys, they’d give the kids a TV, and tell them to take it apart and put it back together.


Q: What will you be on the lookout for at Junk Bonanza?

A: I’m always on the lookout for cool pieces of art, one-of-a-kind things. If people are making it, it’s one of a kind. You can’t find it in stores. Our clients love local things.