Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to share his architecture and design ideas through speculative projects. His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

An Architects Home and Studio Project

An Architects Home and Studio Project

One of my ongoing personal projects is my house that I’m constantly fixing and renovating. When I purchased my house at the age of 25 in June 2015, I had two months left on my apartment lease to renovate over 50% of the interior before officially moving into my home. In the summer of 2017, more fixer upper and necessary renovation projects were done. Thus, I’ve decided to dedicate one of my 30x30 projects to this never-ending renovation of my own house and studio. Here’s what I’ve learned from these home renovation projects.

Houses require constant fixing and updating

Living Room Before Renovation

As soon as I purchased my house, I walked into the front door and was welcomed by the smell of cigarettes. The family that lived in the house prior to my purchase was all smokers who preferred to smoke in bed or on the sofa. So the chemicals from the cigarettes stuck to the walls, ceiling, carpet floors, curtains, and everything else in the house. In fact, the color of the walls, doors, window shades, and trim were all a slight tint of yellow.

So, I immediately started my home renovation by ripping out the carpet throughout the house. Then, I scrubbed all of the surfaces in the house and painted the walls with a primer that is known to create a sealing layer over any surface. After that, I scraped the popcorn textured ceiling off and replaced all of the window blinds.

This initial home renovation took 2 months to complete and the interior of the house was unrecognizable. Rather than going through all of the details, you can check out renovation photographs and learn more about the projects, including costs, on the project page here.

After this laborious renovation in 2015, I noticed that the basement floor beneath the bathroom tub on the first floor of the house was always wet after I took a shower. I knew that there was a leak and I decided to put off a bathroom renovation project as long as I could. At the end of the spring in 2017, my water heater broke and water was spilling over the top onto the basement floor. After an emergency fix, I decided that the summer of 2017 would be a good time to renovate more of the house.

The more I look at my house, the more issues or exciting projects I’ll find. This never ending cycle of fixing and updating a house is both thrilling and upsetting. When you plan for a renovation, the project is exciting. However, when something breaks and needs to be replaced, it’s upsetting because it wasn’t part of our plan. So be sure to plan ahead and keep your priorities in order.

Living Room After Renovation

Your home, your choices

At the beginning of my journey as a homeowner, I was renovating the house and living in it alone. Every decision that had to be made regarding the layout of the attic studio space, the type of lock for exterior doors, and the finishes for every room were all made by me. As homeowners, we have the ability to make changes to our house whenever and however we imagine.

Although this might sound like a fantastic way to live, there are times when it’s difficult to make a decision and asking someone else for their opinion can speed up the process. For example, choosing the finishes for a bathroom can be intimidating because it’s expensive, but it’s also permanent. You can’t apply tiles to a mortared wall, let it dry, and then decide that you actually wanted a different color tile. You’ll have to go back and redo all of the work in that area. If you’re the one doing all of the work, you’ll quickly learn the challenges of constantly changing your mind midway through a renovation.

Breaking a wall is the fun part, rebuilding it is not

Attic Studio Before Renovation

On the first day that I had ownership of my house, I remember walking up to the attic where there were 1/8 inch thick medium density fiberboard (MDF) panels as the wall finish in the bedroom. I knew that I wanted to update this to drywall, so I took a hammer and put a hole in the MDF to see what was behind. Turns out, there was batt insulation between the studs and putting a hole in the wall did absolutely nothing.

As excited as I was to start all of the renovation projects from removing the existing carpets to gutting the attic bedroom, I quickly learned that renovation projects take a lot more time than I expected. After pulling the carpet off of the floor and discarding the underlayment, there were tacks along the perimeter of every room that needed to be pulled out and safely discarded. Then, there were staples that had to be pulled. After that, I had to replace missing areas of the wood floor with matching wood and sand all of the floors to prepare it for staining and sealing.

Every renovation project appears to be easy in the beginning, but there will be days when you feel as if you’re not making any progress at all. So before you put a hole in the wall, take some time to think about the time associated with the project you’re about to embark on.

Attic Studio After Renovation


There are so many lessons I’ve learned from being a homeowner and the never-ending renovation projects. Although there were many times of pessimism and doubt during the renovations, I could only look back at each project and laugh at some of the challenges that I had to overcome. If you’re interested in learning more about my home renovation projects including the time each renovation took, an approximate cost, and see some photographs, you can check it out here!

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