Without setting foot in them, Monica Pedersen has been in perhaps a million American homes -- maybe even yours.
As a designer on HGTV's "Designed to Sell," Pedersen shows viewers how to add value to their homes while working within a tight budget. On "Bang for Your Buck," she showed which remodeling investments were likeliest to pay off.
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And here, she offers advice on low-cost kitchen and bath renovations, revealing a surprise about her own kitchen in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb.
Q. What are the best low-cost updates for the kitchen and bath?
A. In the kitchen, a new countertop, a new faucet and a new sink. This mini makeover is not invasive in terms of construction and can be done in a day. Adding an apron-front sink is an affordable option that totally changes the look of your kitchen.
In the bathroom, switch out the hardware. The finish people are gravitating toward is polished nickel. With a product like Kohler's HydroRail, you can also convert a normal showerhead installation to a spa-like experience with multiple water sources.
Q. What about removing the tub altogether? Some say this hurts resale value.
A. I'm asked that all the time, it's crazy. But people are afraid to do it. I've done that on "Bang for Your Buck," so I've asked Realtors and they always say as long as there's a tub somewhere in the house, you're fine.
Q. Do you agree with the conventional wisdom that the kitchen and bath are the best rooms to remodel?
A. For resale value, absolutely. Those are the rooms we spend the most time in, and as a buyer, you don't want to plop down a bunch of money to bring them up to date -- that factors into your decision. But setting resale aside, I think those are smart updates anyway. You spend so much time in those rooms, you might as well enjoy them.
Q. Describe some features in your own dream kitchen.
A. I'm still waiting for my fantasy kitchen! I live in a 1920s Tudor-style home, and back then, kitchens were utilitarian. It's not a great space, but I've had the cabinets redone a creamy white and added some pretty molding pieces. For my fantasy kitchen, I'll need to blow out a wall. But I'm so busy doing other people's projects that I haven't had time.
Q. And once that wall's blown out?
A. I have island envy. Islands are so mainstream now. They've turned into the kitchen table, they're great for entertaining, they're a great place for kids to do their homework. Eventually I'll get my island. But I do love my old home with all its charm.
A former fashion model and self-described "textile junkie," Monica Pedersen reveals the home accessories she can't live without.
At the top of the list: draperies. "I'm a curtain girl," she says. "I love fabric. It warms up a space."
Her other must-haves, in no particular order, are beautiful pillows, wall coverings ("They're not like my mom's old cabbage rose wallpaper," she says) and sisal rugs.
"I have sisal rugs in my living room and dining room," Pedersen says. "They just make me happy."