These 4 Local Pandemic Projects Will Make You Want to DIY
We asked readers to show us the DIY home projects they took on during the pandemic. Here are four of our favorites.
A Blank Canvas
When Amanda and Eric Gaccione moved into their brand-new Charlestown home in February 2020, it was bare: no paint, no decorative accents, no frills. They wanted to design everything themselves — and possibly save money in the process. When the pandemic hit, they had plenty of time to work on their projects.
For the nursery, they knew they were having a boy — little Nash is now seven months old — which helped narrow down color choices. Amanda found a changing table on Facebook Marketplace, sanded it down, and gave it new fixtures and a fresh coat of Sherwin-Williams Shade-Grown, along with her childhood rocking chair, which her parents brought up from her native Pennsylvania.
She designed bookshelves, which Eric built, for the many baby books received at her baby shower and used white wainscotting to create an accent wall. An Allen and Roth ceiling light with a rattan shade adds warmth, and a forest green wall hanging from Etsy shop the Twisted Thread Co. ties the room’s elements together.
“It pretty much took the whole nine months” to finish the room, Amanda says, who chronicles her home design projects (and a little baking, too) on Instagram at @backrhodeslifestyle. “We ended up finishing up days before baby Nash arrived.”
For the dining room, the couple made their own shiplap, cutting boards and fitting them together.
“It was probably the harder way to do it, but it was definitely a money-saver,” says Amanda.
She painted it in Iron Ore from Sherwin-Williams and added wine riddling racks found on Facebook Marketplace as planters for succulents and air plants. It’s where they relax, have family meals together and host friends, and the dark gray hue perfectly complements the living room fireplace.
Joanna Munoz and her partner Luis Joia knew they wanted to start with the basement when it came time to renovate their circa-1921 Rumford home. It was the end of March 2020, and everything was shut down. They knew they could tackle everything themselves; in fact, the only help they had was hiring someone to cart off an old oil tank.
“We’re not very handy people at all,” says Munoz. “But we watch a lot of YouTube videos. I said to Luis, ‘I think we can do this.’”
Munoz incorporated design elements from everyone — including their thirteen-year-old son, Aidan — into the room. She wanted something nice and cozy, thus the bright walls done in Sherwin-Williams Alabaster. Aidan loves green, so she painted over the original beadboard wall in Rock Garden by Sherwin-Williams. Luis wanted a big TV.
To add a sense of space, they removed the drop ceiling and painted the rafters and a brick column to match the rest of the space. They built walls and added storage, and Munoz covered the bare floors with Floorigami peel-and-stick carpet tiles.
They all love the space. It’s a great spot for the three of them to relax, watch movies and just hang out. Aidan, especially, loves all the room he has for gaming and Legos.
“My son is obsessed now,” Munoz says with a laugh. “I rarely see him; he’s always downstairs, playing with his Legos.”
Munoz is already working on her next project: renovating her garage into a workspace where she can complete projects year-round (read: not sweating in the summer and freezing in the winter) for her furniture-refinishing and interior design business, Painting by the Penny (paintingbythepenny.com).
From Chaos to Calm
After two months of isolation thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, in May 2020 Kristen Smith accepted an unsolicited offer on her three-bedroom home in Burlington, Vermont.
“It was getting lonely up there,” says the Smithfield native. “I loved it — it was wonderful, but when a pandemic hits, you realize who you need around you.”
Her parents started house-hunting for her in Rhode Island, and she decided on a tidy 1986 home in South Kingstown. The area held special meaning; her family often frequented Roy Carpenter’s Beach during her childhood years. She scooped it up.
It was July 2020. On the twenty-seventh she closed on her Vermont home. On the twenty-eighth, she closed on the South Kingstown house. On the twenty-ninth, she started a new job.
“It was chaos, honestly,” Smith says. But it was also when the transformation began.
“Once the closing happens that’s when the fun starts for me — I can bring all my ideas to life. I’m really passionate about DIY projects. It’s a lot of work but very rewarding.”
On the day of the closing, she had a “Champagne and shampoo” party: Her family came over, toasted her good fortune, and started washing the walls. Within three weeks, the mustard-, ketchup- and relish-hued walls were painted.
“I moved in and started painting everything black,” she says. “My friends all make fun of me because I love the color black so much.”
She pulled up a rug in the living room and spruced up the red oak flooring underneath. She wanted more of a lighter, Scandinavian look to match the area’s beachy vibe, so the contractor added white dye to the polyurethane during the refinishing process. She crafted a black shiplap wall in the living room with hooks, a bench and storage space underneath for visitors to hang their belongings.
You can see more of Smith’s home DIY projects and repurposed vintage finds on Instagram at @sabledandsmithed and, of course, under the hashtag #paintitblack.
The turning point came when Hannah Hazelton’s eight-year-old niece admitted she was too scared to use the bathroom in Hazelton’s North Smithfield home.
It looked, she said, like a haunted hospital.
That got Hazelton thinking. If her niece was too scared to use it, she wondered, how many adults felt the same way?
So in April of 2020, she and her husband Jarrod got started. They were both working from home and had time to tackle the project. They’re no strangers to home improvement jobs: They’ve been redoing their home, the 1851 Jacob Morse House, piece by piece for years.
“A lot of it is undoing poor restoration that was done in the 1940s, 1970s, 1990s and 2000,” Hazelton says. “We’ve been peeling away layers trying to find the original house.”
She knew right away that she wanted to save the mint-green tile on the walls and the circa 1920s tile floor, revealed after Hazelton scraped off a layer of vinyl flooring from the ’90s and another layer of linoleum.
“That was a big surprise,” she said. “So many people with vintage tile bathrooms completely gut them. There’s so much charm in there. Why not work with it instead of against it?”
She looked for vintage pieces to complement the room on eBay, scoring sink fixtures, wall sconces and a gilded mirror. She ordered a black sink online from Kohler, and almost went with a black toilet as well, but just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She settled instead for a black toilet seat.
The star of the room, however, is the stunning wallpaper. Hazelton went with a handprinted 1920s motif from Bradbury and Bradbury flocked with colorful birds and flora. The result is a moody, elegant space that perfectly accentuates the room’s historic undertones with a soothing — and decidedly not spooky — vibe.