before and after, front door
photo: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Expert Advice on Slashing Remodel Bills

When serial house rehabber Kara O'Brien bought her first fixer-upper, in Atlanta, Georgia, she had to prove to her family that it was more than just a money pit. So she strapped on her tool belt and invested in a This Old House subscription and some DIY manuals. "I figured if you could learn recipes from books, you could learn how to fix things," she says. Kara also got her first lessons in resourcefulness, scouring ­salvage yards and flea markets for affordable, period-appropriate mantels and hardware. ­Having started Laughing Sun Renovations in 1997, she and partner Paula Rose now specialize in giving other people's bungalows and cottages the same custom vintage look without busting their budgets. Here, Kara shares some of her secrets.
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