See inside West Fargo home transformed one DIY at a time – INFORUM

August 28, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized

WEST FARGO — For Katie and Daren Sullivan, building a new house made sense. Personalizing each room with DIY projects has allowed them to customize the space and add character typically found in older homes.

One example: the chair rail detail in the entryway and throughout the upstairs hallway. It’s a feature older homes embrace, but new homes lack. Using basic trim from a local home improvement and a coat of paint, Katie and Daren added visual interest to spaces many people may not pay attention to.

But that’s what makes their house distinct — no detail is forgotten, no space unattended to.

Fortunately, they haven’t made many mistakes. Better yet, they’ve learned a lot from the entire process and want to share their experiences. That’s why Katie launched a home and lifestyle website,, where she shares DIY projects, inspiration and more from their experiences.

After announcing the launch of the site in early August, Katie was overwhelmed. “We were really surprised by the response. People in this community are so supportive and want to follow along with your journey,” she says.

A project blog readers can see photos of is their office. It would have been an enjoyable space just with its ample light from the large eastern-facing window. But the Sullivans saw a blank canvas opposite the window that could serve both form and fashion.

They researched ideas for creating a floor-to-ceiling built-ins in an affordable way and decided IKEA Billy bookcases (which run about $50-$200, depending on the size) would do the trick nicely.

By customizing even those products using extender kits, Daren created what many might assume were built-in bookcases that highlight the home’s 9-foot ceilings and create a focal point in the room.

“It would have been really expensive to have these built custom for the space,” Katie says.

The bookcase wall is actually a double wall because of the HVAC system housed behind it, so Daren was able to cut through it to create deep filing cabinet drawers. He even thought to create a small desk for their nearly 2-year-old daughter, Eva, so she could enjoy the space with her mom. An adjacent edgy black wall highlights the crisp whiteness of the bookcase with dramatic flair. Crown molding Daren installed regally frames the entire space.

The DIY projects continue in the kitchen and living room. Katie enlarged a black and white photo she took while on vacation in Europe and had it framed affordably with plastic instead of glass.

The kitchen table first belonged to Katie’s parents, but Daren and Katie sanded it down and repainted it to match their style.

Katie says they are considering transforming the built-in bench into a library nook. They’ve added that to their never-ending list of potential home projects.

In the laundry room, the couple tackled one of the most intense projects yet: wallpapering the ceiling. Alexandra Floersch

Prioritizing projects comes down to scheduling. Daren works full-time as a dentist at Tronsgard & Sullivan, so what they can tackle is determined by his availability. He’s always had an interest in woodworking and custom cabinetry, and he has found the projects to be a fun release from his daily duties.

“I get to do something I don’t normally do,” Daren says. “Our house is not fine china. If we get into a project and we’re in over our head, we can have an expert come fix our mistake.”

Katie has a background in journalism and marketing background and now stays at home with her daughter, which makes blogging on Pretty Domesticated a good fit. “I have a habit of teaching myself things, like graphic design and HTML coding,” Katie says. “I love being home with my daughter, but I love being creative, too.”

As for the inspiration for the site’s title, Katie says it simply describes their lives right now. “We don’t always have it all together, but we do try our best. The theme of our house, life and the site is that we aren’t pretending to be the best.”

Katie says that because so much of her inspiration for various projects has come from other sources, she hopes to feature other homeowners who have customized their space with their own DIY projects.

“A lot of people have houses nicer than ours or larger than ours, but your house is what you make of it,” Katie says.

Katie Sullivan enlarged a photo she took while on vacation in Europe and had it custom-framed for their living room.

Katie’s DIY tips

• Purchase inexpensive books and remove jackets or recover with decorative or plain paper. “The books are usually no more than $1 and look great in a bookcase or stacked on side tables,” Katie says.

• Purchase affordable staple items through IKEA, but considering picking up at the store because shipping can cost as much or more than the item. Other favorite suppliers include Room & Board, West Elm, One Kings Lane and Pottery Barn.

• Custom-frame photos inexpensively at Michael’s.

• Shop on Minted or Etsy for original, affordable artwork (as well as the print shop on

• Invest in a few custom, statement pieces through companies like Jute Home Company in Alexandria, Grain Designs in Fargo and Restoration Hardware.

• Shop at local stores like McNeal & Friends, Eco Chic Boutique and Home Goods for a variety of decor to fit different styles.