Queer Eye:  Design Features to Fix or Nix

Ever since my husband, Dewey, and I have been together, buying a home has been our dream. Flash forward 15 years (yes, we’ve just celebrated our 15th anniversary, time flies!). We finally have that house on the hill with the view. A home we’ve always wanted, and Redfin allowed us to finally check that “dream home” box off our list.

Buying a home is exciting. Though, it is easy to get stuck on existing design features when touring homes to buy. As an interior designer, I’ve learned which elements of the home are easy to change.  I’ve also learned which elements take more effort and investment. When redesigning homes on Queer Eye, we often can’t change the foundational details of the home. However, we can alter certain design elements that cosmetically give the entire house a new look.

I’ll walk you through specific design elements to help you find your perfect home. Let’s break down design elements that are quick to fix, worth the fix, and those you should nix.

Quick to Fix when Buying a HOme

Painting is a quick fix when buying a home
Personalize kitchen cabinets with paint ~ Photo source: Tessa Neustadt for Bobby Berk

Paint – Think Beyond Just the Walls

It’s common to change the colour of a home’s walls, but don’t forget the cabinets. Changing the cabinet colour is one of my favourite projects. The new colour gives the kitchen a totally different feel (I’m currently loving black cabinets!). When buying a home, rather than looking at the colour or finish of the cabinets, look at the door style and structure. If you like the style of the cabinet doors and the structure is solid and sturdy, they can be refinished or painted to your own personal taste.

Adding character to blank walls is a quick fix when buying a home
Add character to blank walls with crown moulding and trim.

Add ‘Character’

We’ve heard it before, “oh this home has so much character!” Guess who else can give the house character? You! While you might think that phrase means there is something innate or exceptionally original to the home, ‘character’ can be added at any point of the home’s lifetime. If a home has blank walls, special features like crown or floor moulding, built-in bookshelves or wainscotting can be added over the weekend by a handyman or carpenter.

Swap the Front Door

The front door sets the tone for the rest of a home. What happens when you’re touring a home with a door you don’t like? If the front door is a standard size (around 80” x 36”), swapping in a new door can be done quickly. Just ensure it’s the same size and thickness as the old door. You could also opt for a fresh coat of paint or door knocker. This will give it a new look without replacing the entire door.

Updating light fixtures is a quick fix when buying a home
Updating light fixtures will significantly change the look and feel of a home.

New Lighting = More Lighting

If you’re not a fan of the light fixtures in a home, remember that most can be replaced. Replacing the light fixtures enables you to add more lighting and significantly change the look and feel of a home. I’ve done this simply by replacing a pendant light which had one bulb with a chandelier which had multiple bulbs. This maximizes the amount of light emitted from the fixture. My final trick is to put everything on a dimmer. The fixture will not only produce more lighting but enables you to dim to whatever brightness you like, creating that perfect glow at any time of the day.

Worth the Fix When Buying a Home

Refinishing hardwood floors is aesthetically pleasing and a great investment.

Refinish Hardwood Floors

I love a gorgeous hardwood floor and learned that refinishing hardwood floors, although inconvenient, is one of the best ways to invest money back into your home. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the results of beautiful floors! If the hardwood is in good shape, but not your ideal aesthetic, have a professional come to refinish them. Replacing hardwood entirely can be very expensive, whereas refinishing them to a different tone or colour can cost a fraction of the price and will still look stunning.

Change Kitchen Countertops and Backsplash

When touring homes, don’t panic over countertops or a kitchen backsplash you don’t love. People are always surprised to learn replacing countertops or backsplash is less labor-intensive than expected. If you’re not experienced replacing countertops or backsplash (because few of us are–slowly raises hand), there are plenty of companies who will take care of the entire process for you from initial consult to final installation.

New plumbing fixtures can be found at a very reasonable price point.

Update Plumbing Fixtures

Faucets, sinks, showers, and plumbing hardware shouldn’t deter you from purchasing a home because none of these features are permanent. Updating unattractive or out of date plumbing fixtures in your home will make your home more appealing to future buyers–and you! Plumbing fixtures can be found at a very reasonable price point and scheduling all of them to be replaced at once instead of separately can reduce the overall cost.

Most fireplaces can be redesigned to suit your tastes.

Fireplaces:  Hot or Not?

If the facade of a fireplace is throwing off the vision for your potential home, it most likely can be changed. Redesign options can be as simple as painting over brick, or more advanced like adding decorative tile or a new mantle. If you have an older home, I love the look of exposed brick from the original fireplace to give your home more character. If the fireplace is a deal breaker, it’s possible to completely remove, but it can be expensive.

Nix Instead of Fix When Buying a Home

Fixing a kitchen layout can be expensive and time-consuming.

Kitchen Layout Matters when Looking to find your perfect home

We spoke earlier about how easy it is to change the colour of cabinets, but fixing a kitchen layout is not quite as simple. By this, I mean the footprint of the kitchen. Making a change that involves moving plumbing and electrical can be expensive and time-consuming. When touring a home, imagine how you use your kitchen on a daily basis and if the layout will work in your favour. I love being in a big open kitchen with lots of island space as everyone always gathers around!

Adding natural lighting is a significant financial investment.

Buying a Home with Natural Lighting is a Priority for Many

Natural lighting is on the top of almost every person’s wish list–especially mine and Dewey’s! Lighting is dependent on the design of the house which is difficult to change without a major renovation or adding windows. When touring houses, visit the home at different times of the day to see how the natural light changes. Real estate agents will typically turn on every light in the house. So, before you buy, visit during the day and turn everything off. If the house has minimal natural light, it may not be for you unless you’re willing to make a significant financial investment.


For many of my clients (including myself), storage is essential for living an organized life. While I can make design changes to implement storage solutions for clothing and household items, it’s tough to magically create space for larger items like bikes, paddleboards, or skis. When touring homes, analyze closets, the crawl space, cabinets, laundry room, pantry, and the garage. If the home can’t hold your lifestyle, it’s time to let go.

Changing exterior siding can get very expensive.

Exterior Siding

I take such pride designing the inside of my home, I want the outside to be just as beautiful. If you feel the same, you should be aware of what it takes to change the exterior of a home. If it is just a matter of colour, then painting your home is a feasible option. However, changing from stucco to shingles, or from wood siding to rock can get very expensive. Knowing this, if you’re not willing to make a significant investment, you may want to ‘nix it’ and keep touring to find your perfect home.

By Bobby Berk, design expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye | Produced by Redfin

Redfin, a Seattle-based company founded in 2004, is a full-service real estate brokerage that uses modern technology to make clients smarter and faster. They are currently servicing both the Vancouver and Toronto markets.

Does your new home have some design features that are in need of a fix? Connect with Bonded by eRenovate™ Pros by using the eRenovate Post My Project tool, and enjoy Peace of Mind with the eRenovate Guarantee which offers $25,000 Deposit Payment protection and 88 Day Workmanship Guarantee.

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