Home Tour: Depression Era Bungalow Remodeled on a Budget


The first house that I ever purchased was a 1930’s bungalow that had been empty for three years. It was a mess inside. One room was painted entirely black while another was painted with red sponge paint. Some windows had been covered with drywall from the inside, even though you could still see them from the outside. There was old, grimy carpet in the bedrooms and only a stove and a few stock cabinets in the kitchen. It was less than ideal. That’s how I was able to purchase it for a pretty reasonable price and, even though I was living on a pretty tight budget, I was able to slowly transform to be cute and functional again.


Remodeled on a budget, a 1930's bungalow cottage.


The pictures below were the listing photos I used to sell the house so they show the finished product of the slow, D.I.Y. flip. There were definitely more things I wanted to do to the house, but I’m really proud overall at all that I was able to accomplish on a budget and with the help of my boyfriend (now husband) and parents, who are also rehab dorks.


How to stage the outside of your house.

The house originally was all white except for black shutters. I painted the pillars, shutters, and door a bold blue to add a pop of color.     


Originally, the outside of the house looked pretty good, but it was also very boring. It was entirely white except for black shutters. There was an old wooden handrail with chipping paint and little to no landscaping. I couldn’t afford to reside or paint the entire house, so I decided to add color by painting the pillars, shutters, and front door in a rich blue color. We also purchased a wooden porch swing at Menards for less than $50 and painted it with white exterior paint. I think every porch needs a porch swing. It just adds so much charm. Along with those improvements, we repaired some concrete steps that were cracking and Michael made a new handrail that I painted with some more of the white semigloss. We also added landscaping along the walk and the front of the house.


Painted porch swing on a 1930's bungalow front porch.

It would be a crime for this large front porch not to have a porch swing. I bought an inexpensive wooden swing from Menards and painted it with white exterior semigloss.


How to stage a front porch to attract buyers.

I was on a definite budget with this house so all of the furniture in this picture was actually found or given to me. The wicker chair was a perfect place to read and the table and chairs created a second dining area in the Summer.


You enter into the living room from the front porch. This room originally had ugly track-lighting, and was painted black. The previous owners had also put drywall over one of the windows. Who does that? I wanted to brighten the room so I picked a light blue color which completely transformed it into a cottage-like atmosphere. I also purchased an old brass chandelier and painted it with blue spray paint to use as the main light fixture. It was actually great to use in the living room because it was dimmable and perfect for watching movies with low light. Of course, we also carved out the window and rebuilt it to match the other woodwork in the house.


How to inexpensively stage a house.

The finished living room in a calming blue with the cute blue chandelier.


Inexpensive and effective staging ideas to sell a house fast.

From this angle, you can see down the hallway and just barely see the built-in bookshelf that we added to an odd alcove.


There was a small room off of the living room that was originally painted a dark green. It had a small closet so it was considered a bedroom, but I decided to use it as a home office and workout room. I painted it a light yellow to make it feel larger. I also added shelves on the sides of the french doors to store office supplies, books, and workout equipment. Though the picture below shows the room as staged, originally I had a treadmill and desk in here. I faced the treadmill toward the shelves and would put my laptop on one of the shelves to watch shows as I ran. I’d then move the laptop back to my desk on the other side of the room when I was done. As you can tell, even though it was a small room, I ended up getting a lot of use out of it.


How to stage a house to sell.

Off of the living room, there is a little bedroom, but I used it as an office and a workout room. I added floor to ceiling shelves just by purchasing some shelving tracks and brackets, and it was a perfect way to store office supplies as well as workout essentials. 


There were two similar-sized bedrooms on either side of the hallway. I used one of these as a home art studio and one as my actual bedroom. The studio had originally been painted with red sponge paint, making it look like someone had been murdered in there. I painted it in the same pale yellow as my office. There was also a filthy carpet in this room that I removed. I then painted the subfloors with porch and patio paint and it took the room from murder scene to quaint retreat. I originally had a workbench and shelves in this room, but I took them out and used my futon as a bed so that I could stage the room as a bedroom.


Cheap ways to stage your house

During my time in this house, this was my art studio. As I got ready to stage the house, I took out my work benches and used my old futon to stage it as a bedroom.


The other bedroom also had horrible carpet that I pulled out as well as some questionable wall paint. I painted the walls a simple gray and painted the floors with some more of the porch and patio paint. I also added storage by building two shelving units on either side of the bed. I put a clothes rack and some shelves behind curtains and then I installed some inexpensive IKEA Arstid wall lights to act as reading lights on each side of the bed. It was a really comfortable space when I finished and I added a ton of storage space in the process.


bed with added lighting and extra storage.

I changed a lot in this bedroom, from pulling out the stained and hideous carpet and painting the subfloors to adding built-in bedside storage and lighting. The result was a relaxing bedroom retreat.


Staging a house to appeal to buyers.

The closet doors were originally a tannish wood grain. I just painted them a neutral white and painted the knobs gray.


The kitchen was almost completely transformed. Originally, the cabinets in the picture below along with a laminate countertop and the old stove were all that made up the kitchen. There wasn’t even a refrigerator. The first thing I did was to paint the original cabinets white. I also moved in a hand-me-down refrigerator that was almond colored. I also found (yes found) a rolling dishwasher as I was jogging. Someone had placed it on the curb with a sign that said “Free”. I actually pushed it from that curb back to my house. I must have looked absolutely crazy. I cleaned it out and used it as a rolling dishwasher for a year or two before we actually converted it to an in-cabinet dishwasher. You can see it below next to the sink.

Eventually, I was able to afford a few upgrades to the kitchen. I installed a subway tile backsplash as well as a stainless steel farmhouse sink that I found on sale. We also purchased inexpensive butcher block from Menards and used it to create new countertops. I also purchased a new over-the-range microwave to replace a rusty old vent hood. I also added a little IKEA cabinet in the corner for more storage.


Kitchen remodel on a budget in a 1930's bungalow.

You can see the butcher block countertops and subway tile backsplash we installed, as well as the rolling dishwasher that was converted to go next to the sink.


Inexpensive ways to stage a house.

I kept the original cabinets and stove, though I painted the cabinets white and added hardware. I also purchased a new microwave to replace an old, rusty vent hood.


I added everything that you see below on the other side of the kitchen. I found the upper cabinets at the Habitat Home Store and I purchased some lower cabinets at Menards to go with them. We added the countertop and backsplash to create more prep space. The refrigerator is the original almond hand-me-down that I painted with white appliance paint. Then I made a built-in banquette to create more storage space and to provide a dining area in the kitchen. I had a small kitchen table to which I added castors so that it could be rolled out and back as people sat down on the banquette. Overall, it turned into a very functional kitchen with quite a bit of storage space for such a small house.


Staging your kitchen.

Everything on this side of the kitchen was added after I purchased the house. I made a built-in banquette so that there would be a dining area in the kitchen. I also added extra cabinets on the other side of my refrigerator (which I also painted white).


I really didn’t do much to the bathroom. I purchased a tub and tub surround that Michael installed. I also added a pedestal sink and painted the walls a muted green and the mirror and doors white. I also added some storage with shelves in the laundry closet.


Like many older houses, the bathroom in this bungalow was small. It also housed a closet for storage and laundry though.


Closet washer and dryer.

The closet added more storage space and a convenient way to hide away the laundry. I added some fabric bins to stow away toiletries and other supplies.


There was a small mudroom as you entered the house from the back. I painted the floors in here with the porch and patio paint. I also added some built-in shelves in the back behind the curtains. The curtains were also placed there because they hid the kitty litter boxes. Finally, I added a pegboard and a small metal cabinet for easy tool storage.


Mudroom in a 1930's bungalow.

From the kitchen to the back door, there is a small mudroom. I painted this room (floor included), added storage, and put up some curtains to hide the kitty litter boxes. This became a perfect kitty room.


We also put a ton of work into the back yard. We added a privacy fence, a vegetable garden, a patio, an urbanite walkway, and we planted an evergreen tree. We also laid down some crushed limestone right outside of the fence to make a parking pad because this house did not have a garage. The patio was small but perfect for my needs. It had enough room for a table and chairs and I could still do my yoga on the other side in the mornings. I also made a whimsical urbanite walkway by breaking up the old concrete and laying it in a winding path. A french drain also wound through the walkway, creating a dry river bed. Finally, we had a designated vegetable garden that I actually miss quite a bit now.

Though I had to work on a pretty tight budget, this house was a labor of love and I feel good knowing I left it in better shape than I found it. I also learned a lot by doing many of the projects here. I’ve taken that knowledge and applied it to our new house, which needs even more T.L.C. than my first. I’m glad I get to use that knowledge and I’m sure I will learn even more as we continue to tackle our 1920’s Victorian.

Backyard patio and walkway in an old house.

I installed a patio and urbanite walkway in the backyard, and also painted the door, storage shed and shutters the same blue as the front of the house.


Staging a patio area.

The house didn’t have a garage, but we added a fence and created a space for a parking pad that was accessible from the back alley.

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