Before + After: My Dining Room

Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Dining Room
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Dining Room
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Dining Room
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Dining Room

Our dining room tends to become our home's dumping ground. It's sort of like our temporary holding place. Too many bags of groceries? Dining room. Massive flea market haul? Dining room. I think this is mainly because it houses a large clean surface - our table. It is far too clean to not clutter up with other things.

This was one of the last rooms we tackled in our house. Three years ago, we moved in with a hand-me-down table and chair set. We even had an old (and really dirty) rug. I LOVED the existing wallpaper, so we chose to keep it. We wound up painting below the chair rail, but it truthfully wasn't too different that what the previous owner had.

We wanted to spruce the space up before our Apartment Therapy tour. That's where Wayfair came in. Our budget was bled dry from our last round of renovations. We needed some affordable and stylish options. 

Dark Wood Dining Table - sold out, similar / Wishbone Dining Chairs / Arteriors Zanadoo Chandelier / Blue Overdyed Rug - Be sure to get the right size!

Design Ideas: Wallpapered Powder Rooms

Michelle Gage // Design Ideas: Wallpapered Powder Rooms
Michelle Gage // Design Ideas: Wallpapered Powder Rooms
Michelle Gage // Design Ideas: Wallpapered Powder Rooms
Michelle Gage // Design Ideas: Wallpapered Powder Rooms
Michelle Gage // Design Ideas: Wallpapered Powder Rooms
Michelle Gage // Design Ideas: Wallpapered Powder Rooms

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

It's no secret - I'm all about wallpaper! Let's skip the story where I attempt to woo you into the idea and get right to it. If you're going to wallpaper, I want to help. 

Shop my favorite wallpaper sites:


Calico Wallpaper

Chasing Paper

Hygge & West

Juju Papers

Rebecca Atwood


Before + After: My Powder Room

Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Powder Room
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Powder Room
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Powder Room

Alright, I will admit it, not every client wants a flamingo powder room. Heck, I have yet to have one make such a request. While it's not for everyone, it is for me. This is the wild wallpaper of my dreams and I am still so obsessed with it. 

To be transparent, wallpaper costs about 7x times as much as paint. There are a few places where your wallpaper really goes the extra mile. Your powder room is one of those places. Since it is such a small space, you don't have to make a huge investment/commitment. This space also allows the wallpaper to be the star of the show.

I've written a lot of articles on wallpaper and bathroom updates. Be sure to check each out. 

28 Simple and Budget Friendly Toilets

9 Powder Room Splurges You Won't Regret

20 Bathroom Wallpapers That Bring The Wow

My 63 Favorite Temporary Wallpaper Patterns

13 Bold Wallpaper Ideas For Your Powder Room

How To Choose The Right Sconces For Your Bathroom

20 Reasons To Be Entirely Obsessed With Pink Bathrooms

Closing Costs + What Happens After Closing

Michelle Gage // Closing Costs + What Happens After Closing

Closing Costs

Home Inspection

As an informed home buyer, you will certainly want to have a professional home inspection as a contingency with any offer you place. This way you can walk away if there are any unexpected repairs. When these things come up, either the seller fixes the issues, comes down on the sale price or they hold their ground and expect you to pay. You can expect them to hold their ground if they have already come down on their asking price or are covering closing costs. As a part of your home inspection, you should also have a termite, radon, and chimney inspection.  These are not included within a typical home inspection, but are small adders that give you a better picture of the condition of the whole home. The home inspection, radon, termite and chimney inspection will run you ~$750.

Upfront Escrow Fees

An escrow account is a legally binding agreement where an institution (in this case your mortgage lender) takes money from you on a monthly basis to pay other agencies or companies. In real estate, the escrow accounts are used to pay for you home owner’s insurance and property taxes. When you close on the house the lender typically collects 3-12 months of home owner’s insurance and property taxes to help cover the portion of the year that you need to pay back to the seller. They may have already paid for the whole year of property taxes and since you are moving in mid-year, you owe them for the time you will be the owner.

Mortgage Fees

Lenders charge fees in the range of $1000 to run your credit, prepare paperwork, process the mortgage, etc. This fee is a part of what is called “closing costs”. These are certainly negotiable. Banks will compete with each other using these fees. We got quotes from 3 different lenders - call them Lender A, Lender B, and Lender C. We decided to go with Lender A. When we emailed Lender B and Lender C to let them know we chose someone else, Lender B came back and offered to waive all lender fees to try to win our business. It did not affect our decision, but can be used if two lenders have very similar offers.

Michelle Gage // Closing Costs + What Happens After Closing

After Closing

Home Warranty

A home warranty is not homeowner’s insurance. It is a policy that covers the core functionality of the house, hot water heater, furnace, kitchen appliances, roof, etc. It usually covers the first year you are living in the home and can help you with repairs for major items. It is a good idea to ask for the seller to buy this for you as a part of your offer. Even if they don’t, you have around 30-90 days after moving in to decide if you want to purchase a policy. This lets you get in the house and encounter any major issues and decide if a policy will pay off.

Investing for Resale Value

As you begin your renovation plans and envision your dream kitchen or sun room, make sure you are keeping your investment in mind. There are some renovations that pay off much more than others. You are not guaranteed to get 100% of the renovation cost back in value in your home. Make sure you are doing the right projects first, if you know that you will not be in this house forever. That way, you can enjoy them now and later reap the benefits of increasing your home's value. 

Alright, that's all folks! You are officially equipped with enough information to go about buying your own house. Now begins the fun part - house hunting!

How To Work With An Interior Designer

Michelle Gage // How To Work With An Interior Designer
Michelle Gage // How To Work With An Interior Designer
Michelle Gage // How To Work With An Interior Designer

Alright folks, I'm going to let you in on a few designer secrets. While there is no real secret sauce, there are a few things that you can do to make your designer/client working relationship serve you best. I'm going to break down some tips on how to be an ideal client. I'm not providing these tips to imply that I need to school people on how to act. I just get a lot of questions from clients on how they can get the most out of their experience. Well, here's how...

1. Have a vision. Many clients will hire a designer for their creativity and ability to see a room's potential. Yes, designers are skilled at that - but keep in mind that you are the one who is most familiar with the space. If you're redoing your tired living room, you probably already have a long list of dreams for the space. If you have a Pinterest board, share it! Ultimately, a designer's goal is to have the space reflect the homeowner. Sharing your ideas sets the project off on the right track.

2. Have a budget. This can be a hard one. If you are working with a designer for the first time, you may not be familiar with what things can cost. However, I encourage you to try your hardest to come up with a budget. If your designer doesn't know where you stand on certain items, you are just making her job harder. You're also setting yourself up for disappointment. Your designer needs to know if she is sourcing you a $2,000 sofa or a $10,000 one. Remember, you've hired someone to design a complete space for you. In order to do so, they need a the complete picture. 

3. Trust your designer. Yes, you should have a vision. You should also trust that you have hired a capable professional to execute that vision. You have to believe that your designer has the space's best interest in mind. What keeps me honest? Well, I always tell clients that my goal is to have the completed space be one that I wish to shoot professionally. In order to put the money behind that extra fee, the space needs to be amazing. That goal is a win win for everyone. 

4. Be decisive. This is especially important when you are using a designer that operates on an hourly rate. Being certain in what you want (and even in what you don't) keeps the project moving along. If you're getting hung up on every little decision, the space will stall. You just need to land on one item to get the ball rolling. That one item can be anything - sofa, rug or even a piece of art. That one decision informs the rest of the room's needs.

5. Be patient. Things take time - especially in the design world. On average, a sofa can take 6-12 weeks to be made and sent to your front door. It could take some time to get a painter out to your space. These are outside of your designers control and unfortunately just a fact of life. Your designer will help you navigate these unknowns.

6. Play a part. If you aren't really concerned with each and every item selected, hand the reigns over to the designer. If you tend to be picky, try to collaborate. I always encourage my clients to participate in the design process. More often than not, the homeowner has been the one to suggest at least one piece we wind up purchasing for their space. Know that your input is valuable. At the end of the day, you will be the one living in the room. 

7. Understand your contract. Be sure to read your contracts terms and conditions. As with any form, don't just sign on the dotted line. You really need to be familiar with how your designer operates. Her contract may have rules on late payments, photography and placing orders. If you have concerns about anything you read, be sure to ask for further clarification. My point - know who you are hiring!

Now, these aren't deal-breaking issues. They can be worked through as needed. However, if you can come to the table prepared, you'll be set up for success. The process takes a lot of focus and determination. I wouldn't say that it's a hard process, but it can be emotionally taxing. You pour so much into a project - as the designer and as the client - and care so much about the results. Even if you pass the project off to your designer completely, you'll need to review designs along the way. Make sure you have the time to dedicate to such a project and be ready to be active in the process! 

Your House, Your Taxes + Monthly Payments

Michelle Gage // Your House, Your Taxes + Monthly Payments



The tax value of your home is not necessarily the price that you bought it for. Most tax assessments are done every few decades so you may be lucky that you have an old assessment bringing your taxes down for the time being. However, know that sometime in the future the county could reassess your property and the taxes could go up.

County, Town, and School District Tax

Your property taxes are usually paid to the county, township, and school district. Most places have the highest taxes due to the school district.  This is due to the fact that almost all of school funding comes from property taxes. However the county and township also get taxes from retail sales and other revenue streams.

These property taxes vary widely from region to region. It may make a huge difference by just being across town. This should be a very important consideration when deciding on a home.

Monthly Payment (PITI)

Your monthly payment is not all paid to the bank. Below is a breakdown of the portions of your payment.

Principal and Interest (P&I)

The principle and interest is the part of your payment that ­­actually pays off your loan. At an interest rate of 4.5%, just less than half of your monthly P&I is interest and the rest of it is repaying the principle. As a portion of your total monthly payment P&I could be only 40% of your whole payment. It is surprising to most people that your mortgage is such a small amount of your monthly payment. Keep this in mind when you are evaluating what you can afford.

Property Taxes (T) – Escrow

The property taxes that I mentioned before are paid incrementally over the year into an Escrow account. This Escrow account is an account that the bank has for you and is required to pay off certain debts or taxes. All year you pay into the account and at the end of the year the bank pays all of your property taxes for the year.

Homeowner’s Insurance (I) – Escrow

Just like the Escrow for property taxes, there is another Escrow account for your homeowner’s insurance. You are required by the bank to purchase a policy that will refund you the money to rebuild the house just as it is if there happens to be a major or minor accident that damages your home. Typical homeowner’s insurance policies run about $1000 a year and come out to ~$80 a month.

Mortgage Insurance

If you don’t put at least 20% down on your loan the mortgage company will require you to have mortgage insurance, which protects the bank if you end up defaulting. Once you have repaid the principle up to 20% the mortgage insurance goes away. Consider this potential added cost. 

Just one more session of Buying Facts 101! In the next post, I'll talk about closing costs. Stay tuned! 

Before + After: My Home Office

Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Home Office
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Home Office
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Home Office
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Home Office

When we moved into our house, there was this awkward little room off of the dining room. The room had gross, red paper tile. Kitchen cabinets hung on the walls. It was a tight space, but there was potential for it to turn into valuable square footage. We envisioned it being the perfect place to keep a computer and the piles of paperwork that comes with being an adult. 

To transform this space, we ripped the cabinets out to make the room feel more open. The floors were replaced with the same slate tile we used in our kitchen. Alex built this super cool shelving unit and the amazing white desk. The desk leaves us plenty of room to work side by side. We truly don't need much storage in this space and the tiny closet we have does the trick. The wallpaper sets the room apart and adds some interest to this otherwise neutral setting. 

We're totally pleased with how the room turned out. It's a small space, but it fits our needs perfectly. I encourage you to attempt a mini makeover like this in your own home. We use this room than I could've imagined when we first moved in. BONUS!

How I Approach Interior Design

Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design
Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design
Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design
Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design

As a child, I was a HUGE Lisa Frank fan. I was a proud member of her club and received monthly mail packs of her colorful stationary and stickers. Her bold, bright and quirky style was right up my six-year-old alley. 

While my tastes have taken a turn for the better, I am still a fan of all things wild and whimsical. There are really no rules when it comes to interior design. Sure, there are some standards that I like to stick to - but when it comes to decor, I always say to DREAM BIG!

I always strive to have the homes I design reflect the people who live there. I guide the design process, but I am all about discovering the client's personal style. At the end of the day, you should come home to a space that looks like you and your family. 

That being said, there are certain elements that I favor. I totally dig a bold wallpaper. I love a good velvet sofa and always try to include vintage elements into the space. I love color and prefer to see more loud tones than neutral ones. 

A space should be a healthy mix of high and low furnishings. Introducing pieces of all price points is an efficient way to flex your budget - no matter what the size! Perhaps we invest a portion of your furniture fund into a dream sofa that is going to last you fifteen years. Then, maybe we skimp on the rug and find a $300 option that we know won't last more than three years. 

If you are in the camp of "buying the right thing once" - I hear you! Maybe you're wondering why we would spend so little on a cheapie rug and then replace it a few years down the line. Hear me out. If you have young kids or pets, no rug is going to hold up too long. Sure, some pricier options may stand the test of time - but if they are bound to get soiled, do you really want them in your house long term?

Accents, like your rugs, are a great place to save a little cash. Decorative textiles tend to be a little bit trendier than furniture styles. You can switch out your rug (pillows, bedding, etc.) when something that you like a little bit more comes your way. You won't feel guilty about this update when the original didn't cost you an arm and a leg.

Back to the vintage thing - I'm all about it - it's in my blood! When the room allows for it, I like to include at least one vintage item into a space. This item can be something that is a star in the space (like a blue vintage sofa) or something that takes on a supporting role (like a bar cart or end table). It takes a little longer to hunt down these vintage treasures, but it is so worth it. Antiques add character to even the most standard spaces. Another area where I like to layer vintage in is through decor. You can always toss in some worn hardback books, capped by brass bookends. 

While I try to attract clients that agree with my design philosophies, it doesn't always work out that way. It is a bit more natural for me to work with homeowners that align with my aesthetic. However, I enjoy the challenge that comes with working outside of my comfort zone. I work with and welcome all design styles. Again, at the end of the day, I want the space you reflect YOU and I want you to love coming home.


One Room Challenge: Get The Look // Palm Springs Project

Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Get The Look // Palm Springs Project
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Get The Look // Palm Springs Project
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Get The Look // Palm Springs Project

It is one week after the reveal of The Palm Springs Project. I am still giddy over how everything turned out. As mentioned in the previous posts, things shifted a bit from our original design plan. I wanted to share these changes and all of the sources we shopped to pull this project together. As mentioned, everything was fairly affordable. Keep in mind, when purchasing products for an entire space, the cost will start to add up. Luckily for us, Natalie had some of these items already, keeping our cost down. She had a great vintage credenza, Moroccan rug and shelving unit for us to use. 

SOFA, $999 - This was the piece Natalie "had to have" - and I am all about a pink sofa. 

PILLOWS, $18-39 EACH - Pillows are the perfect way to add texture to a space!


MOROCCAN POUF, $155 - Poufs are a great way to add a little extra seating into a space, when needed. 

MOROCCAN RUG, $399 - Initially, we debated on two affordable options from World Market. When we couldn't decide, Natalie offered up the one she planned to use in her bedroom. 

END TABLE, $76 - This affordable option looks much more expensive that its price indicates. 

MCM CREDENZA, $399 - Again, this was a piece Natalie already owned and wished to use in her space. It was the perfect fit to sit beside the fireplace.

TABLE LAMPS, $107 - The initial design plan featured lamps that were twice the price. When looking for areas to cut back, I knew that we could find a duplicate. 

FELT LETTER BOARD, $60 - When I had suggested that Natalie purchase this piece for her space, she informed me that she already had it. PERFECT!

WALLPAPER, $599 - This is one of the most special features in the space. We both agreed that this space needed wallpaper, but we didn't want a style we had seen before. We wanted something in the botanical family - but were over traditional palm prints. This style spoke to us. When I showed it to Natalie, she knew it was THE ONE.

BAR CART, $698 - This was the bar cart of Natalie's dreams. Since she is in fact a bar tender, she thought it would be worth the splurge - AND BOY WAS SHE RIGHT. Every other option we looked at fell short of expectations. We were able to secure a 20% off coupon, which alleviated some of the cost. 

RATTAN MIRROR, $123 - Natalie already had this vintage mirror in her possession - we just needed to find the right home for it. 

NEON SIGN, $169 - Every funky space needs a neon sign - especially one that reminds you to stay wild.

S/2 CHAIRS, $400 - Yes, you read that price right - that's the price for both! When our originally selected chairs fell through, these swooped in and saved the day.

SHELVING, $80 - This is your basic, standard shelving unit. Natalie had it. It worked. Done.

CACTUS CANDLES, $28 - An obvious choice for #shelfie styling...

FLAMINGO CATCHALL, $30 - The perfect place to keep your keys and change...

PLANTERS, $29-36 - We both agreed that this space needed to be loaded up with plant life. These quick picks from Target added so much interest to the space. 


DINOSAUR PRINT, $49 - The photo that you see printed is actually a shot that Natalie took while in Palm Springs. We framed it through Framebridge and knew it had to live over the fireplace. 

NUDE PAINTING, $140 - We are both big fans of "stranger art" and knew that we needed a piece for this project. Originally, Natalie wanted one that was twice the price. When I presented this option to her, she snagged it right away! This particular style is one-of-a-kind, but the seller has more wonderful options in her shop. 

METALLIC BASKET, $44 - Every giant cactus needs a metallic basket to live in. 

We looked at A TON of options when sourcing items for this space. Be sure to check out the additional products we previewed over on this project's pinterest board.

Design Ideas: Best Bold Backsplashes



source: @hunterkenihan

source: @hunterkenihan





Happy Monday! Let's dive into the work week with some kitchen inspiration. 

After completely overhauling our kitchen last spring, I have become absolutely obsessed with ceramic tile. When sourcing options for clients, I can't help but gravitate towards something with a fun shape and color. 

When creating a compelling kitchen design, you want to choose one standout element. In our own kitchen, we chose a scalloped shape in various ocean tones. It's a feature of the space that gets a lot of attention. The bold backsplash is balanced by the white cabinets chosen. 

You can select patterned tile - or create your own by repeating certain colors. Of course, you can also stick to one striking shade and keep it monotone. 

Here are some of my favorite tile sources to get your design journey started:

Mercury Mosaics  - TONS of colors and shapes to choose from

Cle Tile - PERFECTLY printed options

Tabarka Studio - VIBRANT collections, inspired by worldwide travels

Nemo Tile - GREAT glass options

For more kitchen backsplash inspirations, click here and here. 

One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject

Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Revealing The #PalmSpringsProject

Guys, I cannot contain my excitement for this reveal! I am thrilled to share the "after images" of our One Room Challenge. This was a true collaboration between myself (designer), Natalie (client) and Kyle (photographer). After being introduced via Instagram, I hired Kyle to shoot my living room. A few months later, she reached out to see if I had any new spaces wrapping up. I didn't. The One Room Challenge was right around the corner, so I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating on it. The only issue was that I didn't actually have a space to makeover. My home was completely done. That's when I reached out to Natalie. We had connected on Instagram a few months prior and I bookmarked her in my mind as a person I'd like to work with one day. She favors quirky and colorful designs, like myself, so I knew we'd be a good match. As luck would have it, she was in the process of moving into a new home and was in need of some design expertise! 

We completed the entire project virtually. I worked on the designs from my studio in Philadelphia and Natalie received deliveries at her home in Jersey City. Our styles blended perfectly together, so working over email was a piece of cake!

Since Natalie had incurred a lot of expenses with her move, we wanted to keep the costs for this makeover modest. Her budget gave us plenty of room to get our desired look, but we kept things balanced by shopping through affordable retailers like Target, Article, Wayfair and World Market. If you wish to peep more of our potential product picks, hop on over to the Pinterest board.

During this six weeks, we made minor changes to the design plan. We wound up coming in under budget, so we added this glam lucite and brass bar cart, instead of a metal one we had been eyeing. We snagged a 20% discount code and within days, Natalie's dream bar cart had arrived! To avoid painting, we brought the WOW in through this colorful wallpaper. It went with the whole Palm Springs vibe, but it wasn't any of the same old palm print styles we were used to seeing. Bonus, it was removable, which is a renter's dream. The wallpaper was originally intended for the opposite (fireplace) wall, but we were short some so we flipped the script - AND I'M SO GLAD WE DID! Hiccups happen in design all the time. It helps to be nimble! 

Once the space was set, Kyle came out to shoot it. Together, Kyle and Natalie spent the day capturing the perfect shots you see here. Everyone played such an integral role in the process and I am proud to say that this was a dream team collaboration. We are all so thrilled with the results and hope that you dig the space as much as we do! Cocktails, anyone?

Did you follow along for the full six weeks? To catch up on the previous posts, click here.


Before + After: My Kitchen, After Photos + Sources (and what the heck it costs!)

Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, After Photos + Sources (and what the heck it costs!)
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, After Photos + Sources (and what the heck it costs!)
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, After Photos + Sources (and what the heck it costs!)
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, After Photos + Sources (and what the heck it costs!)
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, After Photos + Sources (and what the heck it costs!)

Let's jump right into Part Two of My Kitchen Reveal. We tackled this project about a year ago and it's finally time to share the sources we used to complete this design. Let me preface by saying, Alex did ALL of the work himself. While I'd like to say that I was right there with him after work ripping out cabinets and tiling the backsplash - it was all him. The one thing we did hire out was patching a roof leak in our ceiling. Truthfully, that could've been excluded from the budget since it wasn't a part of the design (or plan) - BUT - it's real life and that was something we needed to tackle as responsible homeowners (and ones who didn't want to watch our kitchen renovation get poured on). Same goes for the dumpster. That was a cool couple of hundred bucks that we spent JUST TO THROW OUR GARBAGE AWAY! Home-ownership, while rewarding, is pretty pricey, people.

Here's a snippet of our sources and budget breakdown (ya know, the good stuff):

Cabinets - local company, $9500

Granite Countertops - local company, $7500  

Custom Tiled Backsplash – in partnership with Mercury Mosaics 

Flooring - Lowe's, $550

Sink - Lowe's, $300

Lighting - Wayfair, $600

Hardware - Anthropologie + Lewis Dolan, $650

Refrigerator - Lowe's (Whirlpool), $2000

Oven - Lowe's (Whirlpool), $450

Dishwasher - Lowe's (Whirlpool), $300

Microwave - Lowe's (Whirlpool), $200

Dumpster - local company, $450

Ceiling Repair - local company, $1500

Additionally, we spent about $1000 on miscellaneous tools at Lowe's to get the job done. As you may have guessed, we practically live there. The Lowe's team knew us by name after this renovation.

Keep in mind, your budget breakdown can differ from ours quite a bit. You could spend more money on the appliances and less on the countertops. You might not have a roof leak that requires repair and you may choose to invest in a contractor to manage a labor team. This is just a glimpse at how we did it.

Note that these are all round numbers to give you an idea of what you can expect when renovating your own kitchen. I tried to include all costs - taxes, shipping, warranties - to give you a better idea of the true total. Again, my husband did all of the work himself, so we saved AT LEAST $15k on labor, if not more. We also didn't remove any walls or change the room's layout. Sure, we thought about it, but that costs a sh*t ton of money that we didn't think was worth the investment for this space. When tackling a large and costly renovation, study your neighborhood. We were careful not to price ourselves out of ours. If we spent more than our final cost of $25k, we would start to see less of a return on our investment. Kitchens are one of those spaces where you usually wind up getting the majority of your investment back when you sell. If you are looking to tackle a kitchen renovation, I'd LOVE to hear about it. I hope this post gives you some valuable tools to take with you for a project of your own! 



Your Mortgage Explained

Michelle Gage // Your Mortgage Explained

Lender Choice

No matter who your agent refers you to as possible lenders, you have the freedom to choose any lender you like.  As an informed buyer you should certainly shop around and get a quote from at least a three lenders. There are many other factors to consider, besides the bottom line dollars. You should be considering the customer service aspect since you will almost certainly need help over the 30 years of the loan. Direct lenders who fund and own the mortgage for the life of the loan have a lot going for them. Mortgage lenders can buy and sell your mortgage like an investment and halfway through your payment term the mortgage company could change along with changes in policy. A direct lender develops a relationship with you all along and you can always call back into the same office for help.

Mortgage Rate

The mortgage rate changes daily at 3pm. It can easily swing up or down depending on the market. The fluctuations up and down are not very significant when it comes to your monthly payment. The most important factor in getting a good rate is a good credit history. Most banks will give you the same rate. There are advertised rates on most lenders’ websites, but you will not have a real interest rate until they have a better idea of your assets and credit.  Even then the rate is not locked in until closing. This could play in your favor or against you depending on the swing of the market.


As you narrow in on what home you can afford and are getting more serious about your home purchase, you should apply for pre-approval for a mortgage from a lender.  All you need is a preapproval to place an offer, but necessarily THE preapproval from the lender you end up choosing. Be aware that being preapproved weighs most heavily on you income and credit score. If you are a low earner or have a spotty credit history you need to be prepared to only be approved for a small amount or not be approved at all.

Down Payment

With the loan market as critical as it is, you will almost certainly need some amount of a down payment. Without anything down you will almost certainly not be able to be preapproved for a loan. On average mortgage insurance will run you about $50 per $100,000.  Besides the mortgage insurance, putting more money down upfront limits the total interest you will pay on your mortgage. With an interest rate of 4.5% every extra $1000 you put down at closing saves you $800 in interest over the life of a 30 year loan.

One Room Challenge: Are We There yet? The Unstyled Shots...

Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Are We There yet? The Unstyled Shots...
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Are We There yet? The Unstyled Shots...
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Are We There yet? The Unstyled Shots...
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Are We There yet? The Unstyled Shots...
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Are We There yet? The Unstyled Shots...
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Are We There yet? The Unstyled Shots...

Alright guys, we're almost there. It's week five! This project is wrapping up quite nicely and I am SO excited to have this space shot. We did have some last minute changes - as is common with interior design. There were a few tweaks to the original design plan.

We chose to skip the lamp selected for the sofa's end table, in favor of some plant life. Instead of choosing between two new rugs from World Market, we stole the pink flokati from Natalie's bedroom. It's size was right so we didn't need to purchase the larger jute layer. We didn't wind up installing the Ikea pendant - it just wasn't a needed change and it came down to a decision on time/priorities. Natalie chose to splurge on the bar cart of her dreams - this stunning one from Anthropologie and the space is better for it.

Lastly, one of the biggest changes made was with the wallpaper. We were sent a little bit less than we needed for the fireplace wall and chose to change its home. I honestly think this was for the best. That wall was attracting all of the good stuff! It had all of the character and great props. The back wall was feeling a little overlooked and now that we had a stunning bar cart, it needed a great backdrop. The switch was very welcomed and I actually think it improved the overall design. I can't wait to see shots of the sofa with that wallpaper in the background. 

The shoot is happening today and I unfortunately won't be able to make it, due to a family emergency. To fix this, I created a visual guide for the final styling of the space. Kyle, an amazing local photographer, is going to be there to ensure that the space is photo-ready! I can't wait to share the results with you next week. Stay tuned if you love wild wallpaper!

A Peek Into My Home With Apartment Therapy

Michelle Gage // A Peek Into My Home With Apartment Therapy

Hey, guys! I've been keeping this secret for some time now and I am finally letting the cat out of the bag. This has been in the works since November so this secret-keeping hasn't been easy. My home is currently being featured on Apartment Therapy! If you are ready to gawk at loads of vintage goodies, I suggest you click here

One Room Challenge: Progress Photos + Some EXCITING Changes

Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Progress Photos + Some EXCITING Changes
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Progress Photos + Some EXCITING Changes
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Progress Photos + Some EXCITING Changes
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Progress Photos + Some EXCITING Changes
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Progress Photos + Some EXCITING Changes
Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: Progress Photos + Some EXCITING Changes

Welcome to week THREE of the ORC!

While Natalie focuses on moving into her new home, she is also taking on the huge task of placing all of these orders to get this room ready for a big reveal. PROPS to Natalie!

Most of the orders have been placed - some have already arrived. Peep that pink sofa, guys!! Those chairs are killing it in the corner. Natalie styled that little vignette under the window with a set of trunks and I am full-blown obsessed.

Last week, we were having a hard time landing on the right rug. Natalie dug up one that she planned on using in the bedroom and it saved the day. Using an existing rug allowed us to save some green. We put that extra dough towards a BANGIN' BAR CART. Natalie had been eyeing this one for a long time. As a mixologist extraordinaire, we knew she had to have it. All of the other bar carts we found paled in comparison - as the price tag would suggest. After acquiring a 20% off coupon, the dreamiest bar cart was put on order. Now we wait. 

I am dying to get into this space and style it out. Every few days, she sends an email of some fabulously stylish treasure she's unearthed from her moving boxes. Prop styling is my JAM and she has plenty to play with. 

Next week, I will be out of the country and you will be hearing first hand from Natalie all about what this process is like for the client. She has been a dream client - she has creativity dripping from her fingertips and is totally trusting of the process. I'm so excited for her to share her point of view.



Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress

Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress

Let me start this post by saying that this renovation was a long time coming. When we first visited this home - as perspective buyers - we were instantly intrigued by this space. It was quite large and obviously hideous. EVERYTHING needed to GO! The floors were dirty and sticky. The appliances appeared to be original to the house. The counter tops were held together with tape. However, the most hated feature in this space had to be the tan rubber baseboard. It was a breeding ground for grime and gunk. 

Kitchens are a costly renovation. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Don't be fooled by house flippers on HGTV who completely transform their spaces for $8,000. That's not real life. In real life, sh*t is expensive. Our cabinets alone cost more than $8,000. I'll dive into "what was spent where" in my next post. My point is that we needed to save up for this renovation. After putting our 20% down on the house, we were feeling a bit strapped for cash. We waited two years to tackle this room.

Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress
Michelle Gage // Before + After: My Kitchen, Before + Progress

Alex, my handy husband, tackled this whole project himself - with minimal help. His ability to work his a** off after his 9-5 work allowed us to save a good bit. Labor costs can be pretty close to material costs. With this $25k kitchen project, we probably saved about $15k on labor alone. 

Luckily for us, Alex enjoys this sort of work - though he has since vowed to never tile again. That's the pits! 

To see more progress photos from our renovation, check out #gagekitchenreno.

Determining What You Can Afford When Buying Your First Home

Michelle Gage / Buying Facts

Preapproval vs What You Can Afford

Keep in mind that when the bank preapproves you for a loan amount they are only evaluating your income, debits and current assets. They don’t know whether or not you like to get a Venti from Starbucks twice a day or need to have the nicest clothes. All they care about is making money off of your interest. Do not take what they preapprove you for as your budget. You need to balance your income with all of your other expenses (car payments, electricity, gas, TV & internet) and what you want to save to determine what you can truly afford. It is not just the price of the home that you need to take into account when considering affordability. Property taxes, which vary from county to county, can be as much as 1/3 of you monthly payment. Understanding all upfront and monthly costs is critical to having an accurate idea of what you can afford.

Closing Costs & Down Payment

Knowing what you can afford in terms of upfront payments is relatively easy since it can only come from assets you have right now. You should be expecting an average of 5%-6% in closing costs on top of what you expect to place as a down payment. There are many fees from the bank, but you also usually have to pay for a year of many expenses up front at closing. You may have to pay the taxes for the remainder of the year if the previous owner has already paid for the full year. You will likely have to pay for a full year of homeowner’s insurance up front as well which can run about $1000.

Do not be too afraid of using a painfully large portion of your savings to put down on a house.  All of that down payment is equity directly into the house. If you are young and have many earning years ahead of you, draining the savings is the right thing to do in the long run. It helps to make sure you have family who could help back you up if there is an emergency while your reserves are low.

Monthly Payments

What you can afford when it comes to a monthly payment depends directly on your monthly income after taxes and all of your other expenses. At the end of the day you should also be saving some amount of each paycheck for a rainy day.

LOADS of more information coming your way on the down payment, mortgage and taxes! 

One Room Challenge: The Plan, Products + Budget


Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: The Plan, Products + Budget


Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: The Plan, Products + Budget


Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: The Plan, Products + Budget


Michelle Gage // One Room Challenge: The Plan, Products + Budget

Hey, people! Welcome back to week TWO of the One Room Challenge!

As you can tell by my overuse of exclamation points, I am really excited to report on the progress made thus far. Natalie and I have hashed out the room's plan to Palm Spring's perfection. That pretty little pale pink sofa you see is on order. (Fun Fact: "They" are calling this color millennial pink). The chairs were juuuust ordered, so that means the big stuff is on its way. We are now moving swiftly onto the accent items - which in my opinion - really make the room feel complete. 

If you want to shop this design, all of the products shown (plus a few extras) are pinned here. The itemized budget shows you that we are currently well under Natalie's $3,500 target. Now, she was a little flexible with that number, so we have some room to play. As long as we stay under $4,000, we're golden. The wallpaper hasn't been priced out yet and there is still some art to order and frame. Shopping from sources like Target, Article, World Market, Chairish and Wayfair have really helped to keep costs down. 

So if you are wondering when I will get to explaining why there are two design boards shown, the wait is over. We are stuck on the rug. Everything about this living room has come together pretty seamlessly. We had a hiccup with the original chairs being back ordered and the first choice bar cart being unavailable, but we found even better options later on - counting those as a blessing! World Market currently has two pretty great rug offerings for the room. The first design shows this pink pretty for $200 and the second shows this blue baby for $130. Which do you prefer? We have budgeted for the higher amount, so don't let your decision be led by price. I thiiiiink I have my heart set on one of them, but I could be talked out of it.

Please help, rug emergencies are no laughing matter!! 

Catch up on week one of the challenge here.