Last week, we did our first ever surprise flash makeover and it was probably the most fun and fulfilling day in YEARS. It wasn’t about pillows and lamps. No, it was about creating a moment that, hopefully, will have a lasting positive effect on a family. I believe that the state of your home reflects and affects the state of your mental health. When mine is in not pulled together or in disarray, guess what—so is my brain. I cry more often. I’m more impatient with my kids, which makes me more ashamed and full of disappointment and guilt. Alternatively, when it looks beautiful, clean, cohesive and stylish, I live through life with more ease and joy, and that gets carried into your relationships and your career.
That was our wish for Liz, a single mom of 4: a moment, a week, a month or a year where she can breathe and feel proud. You can read the post for details or watch the video of the surprise and makeover which is VERY FUN, I promise.
It was like Extreme Makeover, “indie-styling” edition. It was half of my team (5 of us), with Brian shooting the video and only 7 hours of design time. It was run-n-gun with no experienced TV producer to make sure it actually worked or flowed, BUT IT DID. My experience with makeover shows came into play and between Brian, myself and my awesome team, we produced this pretty darn seamlessly.
The back story: Last month, we threw the flash makeover idea out there on social media, asking people to nominate anyone in the LA area that could really use a holiday spirit boost. Amanda wrote in and told us about her friend Liz who was “the hardest working person I know.” A single mom of 4, a hairdresser in Castaic who worked so so so so so hard to take care of her kids, give them what they needed and was insanely busy driving them around to a million activities.
There are no resources or time left for herself or her house at the end of the day. I can’t imagine the emotional, physical and financial responsibility it would be to take care of four kids—an 8-year-old, two 10-year-old twin boys and a 16-year-old girl. BY YOURSELF.
I seriously think that single mothers deserve their own holiday.
So two weeks ago, Velinda from the design team snuck into her house (with the help of Liz’s friend Amanda), took measurements and pictures and assessed the pieces in person. Here’s what the space looked like before:
When I first saw the photos, I remember thinking that Liz had done a decent job! Considering she had four kids to tend to, she had things going in the right direction with a great sofa, bookshelves, TV unit etc. But there is always room for extra love, styling and organization, and that’s really what we intended on doing.
So, we put forth a plan to tackle the living room and dining room, using a lot of what she already had, then bringing in some new pieces to zhuzh it up and take it to the next level. Put that finishing flair on the space we know Liz wanted (she’s a reader!), but just didn’t have the means to manage.
They had an elderly dog who had just passed away and he had badly soiled the carpet. We couldn’t do this makeover without replacing the carpet. Full stop. It’s a decent expense that wasn’t in Liz’s budget, and we knew it would be a transformation she needed.
The rest of the room could use updating and styling: the coffee table was fine, but could it be better? The TV console was fine, but could it be better?
For the dining area, there were some chairs that needed some love, a ceiling fan that was dating the space, curtains that made it feel smaller, but the table was totally fine.
So then we (Brady, Velinda, Emily B. and myself) came up with the design plan. We then “shopped” from my storage unit (like some pillows from The Citizenry project from last year), I shopped the flea market, we ordered a ton online and at the end, did a big shop at some affordable major retailers. No sponsors and nothing gifted. We wanted it to be fast and budget oriented, which meant we wanted to do this one on our own.
IT WAS THE JOB OF OUR FANTASIES.
We surprised Liz at 7:40 am, after ensuring that she would be dressed and ready. Hilariously, Amanda spied on her all morning and even followed her to school and watched her drop off her kids but she lost her on the way back and we didn’t know her status. Typically if this were a real show, there would be producers making sure people were in place, but we didn’t have that so there was DEFINITELY a 10-minute period where Liz was unaccounted for and we were like is she coming home? What if she went to work early? What if she had a Target run? What if today was the day she decided to drive to six flags and ride the roller coasters by herself?
But then we snuck into the neighborhood and saw her car…
YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO.
She was shocked, overwhelmed and so sweet. It’s really, really weird to have a bunch of people (some with cameras) crashing your house with oddly huge smiles on their faces, staring at you. She was so lovely and excited and gave us carte blanche to do whatever we wanted with the space. The only thing she loved was the sailor painting (a family heirloom), which we loved, too. Other than that we knew we’d keep the sofa, but had freedom with the rest of the pieces.
SEVEN HOURS LATER…
We finished around 3, feeling pretty darn good. She had picked up her kids and they were all waiting for us at Amanda’s for us to text. They came back, nervous but were so cute and excited and frankly VERY well-mannered. I made them pinky swear that they wouldn’t look through the window. They closed their eyes until we had them inside the room and we dramatically counted ONE, TWO, THREE before they opened their eyes and saw their new space.
As you can imagine, it’s really weird to see your home done differently, with a couple people with small but still weird cameras on your face. It’s more than shock—it’s kind of an out-of-body experience, I’m sure.
But strangely I was used to that from Secrets From A Stylist where people would mostly just stare and look around for a while (editing showed immediate screams, but that rarely happened).
I’m not sure what was more moving: a mom tearing up because her life just got a bit easier as her pride for her home ballooned, or her 10-year-old son trying to wipe his happy tears away before we could see them.
We were moved, and I cry just thinking about it.
The carpet made the biggest difference, obviously. We had it coordinated earlier in the week and chose a pretty and fresh neutral. After realizing the amount of wear and tear it will likely get, we actually left her a huge navy blue rug to go under her sofa. It looked SO much better without it so we didn’t shoot it, but I was like “I can’t leave this mom of four with a light carpet” and we had the rug as an option anyway.
We kept the color palette pretty muted and calm—a lot of cool tones and added some vintage wood pieces to give it some soul.
We printed out photos of her family and framed them in our favorite IKEA frames, which made her cry. I wish the wood versions had been in stock (or do they not make them anymore?) to help warm them up, but maybe having it all white keeps it really simple, and with less contrast, the room will feel less busy.
The curtains were switched out for affordable readymade Roman shades. If these had been a natural texture or a light gray that probably would have looked even better but the white versions fit our needs of fast, affordable and simple.
We restyled the bookshelves with less stuff and put a lot of the more colorful books in the bins to help it feel cleaner. We used a lot of the pieces she already had, just edited them down and then we framed a lot more of her family photos.
The desk area was streamlined with a white desk, two storage drawer units and a tall cabinet for their printer and more storage. Some of the kids; art was sprinkled in which made it feel personal and homey. We had that piece of art leftover from The Citizenry in my storage unit so we nabbed it and it found a pretty home on that wall.
We added floating shelves to add more storage and display more family photos and art.
In the dining room, we kept the table but switched out the chairs. Now we didn’t want to spend too much on new chairs that were upholstered, so we bought four IKEA chairs and then I had two of my dining chairs left over (they were plastic wrapped in my garage) that we thought could be the head chairs. I wanted to give her the option of comfort or the older kids who do homework there. I think the six matching black chairs might have looked better, but speaking from someone who likes to be comfortable, I think that the two king chairs look good.
We replaced her big rectangular mirror for a round one, knowing that the space really needed a mirror for light over there.
We hung her sailor art, but took off the frame which felt both too big for that space, but also a little dark and dated. It brightened it up a lot. The rug made a huge difference and hopefully, the fact that it’s dark in a flat weave will be enough to stay clean under the dining table. I’m on the fence about rugs under dining tables, but it just really made this space feel so much happier and more inviting.
My team did SUCH an amazing job. We were done early and even able to take all the after photos before Liz and her family came home.
Let’s look at some side-by-sides so you can see the full impact of our small changes:
TV & Storage:
A huge thanks to Amanda, Liz and her family for letting us raid their house for the day. While, of course, they are so grateful for everything we did, it’s actually such a gift that we get to use our platform, resources and experience to help someone who needs it. I’m not saying that facetiously; imagine if what you did could easily change someone else’s lives? The kids were so happy and proud, swearing to NEVER wear shoes in their house. Liz said that she had never had people over because she was embarrassed and now she was going to throw a holiday party. House-pride is intrinsically tied in with your self-confidence and really hope that we helped give Liz and her kids the big boost in both that they deserved.
Hopefully, we can keep doing these for obvious reasons: it’s what we want, what families want and hopefully you guys enjoyed it. I know that I am always inspired by people paying it forward and it reminds me to, so that was another goal. We have this platform and “influence,” we HAVE to use it for good. If you live in LA and know of a family that deserves a surprise makeover, then please nominate them by emailing info and photos of the space to firstname.lastname@example.org. Because we like the idea of it being a surprise, if YOU personally feel like you deserve a styling boost, have a friend nominate you!
If you are into these surprise makeovers, please share it—the more viewers and readers who engage or like this will help us determine how many resources we can dedicate to these, because that’s all we really want. Feel Good Flash Makeover FOREVER. 🙂