DIY DUPLEX | Rug Round-Up Under $300

Lucia Distressed Area Rug in Grey/Sunset

You all have been following along on @ISPYDIY Instagram while I decorate the DIY Duplex. I have been getting a ton of questions about the rugs. You know how much I LOVE Loloi rugs! I have them everywhere in the Barnhouse, so I was super excited when they wanted to work together to deck out the Duplex! I picked a few rugs I have used before, because they are just THAT GOOD, and a bunch of new ones. The best news is, they are all under $300 and ALL on Amazon (I made a list for you to shop HERE!)

Let’s jump in with this one in the downstairs bedroom, Lucia Distressed Area Rug in Grey/Sunset. We actually put carpet in most of the bedrooms to help with warmth and noise dampening, but I am a fan of layering rugs on carpet. It finishes off a space, grounds the bed, and especially for a small room like this, adds some visual interest. The high/low pile on this rug is SO SOFT, and depending on lighting and direction it’s facing you can see more gray or peach (most woven rugs look lighter or darker depending on the direction you are looking at it). It complimented the art perfectly in this room!

I talked all about the Loren Collection Vintage Printed rug in the room makeover post for this bedroom HERE. I LOVE it, used it in the Loft at my house, and would use it again and again. The pattern is printed on the rug (not woven) which is great for a couple reasons; it is SUPER durable (with 2 pups we put it to the test and it looks perfect after a year) and the low profile is great if you need a door to swing over it…which two do in this room. The muted pattern with a few pops of blue is gorgeous and could work in so many spaces.

Loloi ll Layla Collection Printed Rug in Taupe/Stone
Loloi EDGE Area Rug Ivory

I have always loved the look of layering rugs, it adds depth and texture to a space. Jute is my go-to for layering, and the Ivory Edge Rug worked perfectly! The jute is more tan, and leather is woven through in shades of grey, which paired beautifully with the blues and grays in the Layla rug layered on top. I picked this one because I wanted to compliment the blues and cool tones in the stained glass window. This rug does read a little bluer in real life, but that is also being highlighted by the blue light coming through the stained glass. Sidenote: buying rugs online can be a challenge, because lighting can affect how it looks, buying from Amazon has the huge perk of a easy return process!

Loloi II Skye Collection Printed Distressed Vintage Area Rug Blush/Grey

I actually planned on putting this rug in a bedroom, but after painting the table this blue color and staining the bench, the blush and greyish-blue colors in the Skye Printed Distressed rug pulled together the whole space. This is also a printed rug, which is great for a dining area, because you don’t have to worry about food hiding in woven areas!

Loloi ll Layla Collection Printed Vintage Persian Area Rug 5’x7′ Olive/Charcoal

The famous rug that EVERY blogger has in their home! I get it, the Layla in Olive/Charcoal is a great rug at an AMAZING price (I have a smaller one linked because the 5×7 is currently sold out). We have two in the Barnhouse (on the landing and entryway). The color is beautiful and it’s indestructible, even when the dogs peel downstairs to bark at the mailman. There are a ton of questions about this coloring of this rug, and to be honest it can really vary depending on lighting and paint color. In my house, it read too green in the office with my Evergreen built-in, but in this blue room all the pretty olive, rust, and blue tone pop!

Loloi Mika Collection Indoor or Outdoor Area Rug, 2’5″ x 4′, Stone/Ivory

For the upstairs bathroom, I did not want anything that competed too much with the wallpaper, so the monochromatic color palette of the Mika Stone/Ivory rug was perfect. I also picked this one because it’s an indoor/outdoor rug so it will be more resistant to water when guests step out of the tub!

Loloi Loren Collection Vintage Printed Persian Area Rug 2′-3″ x 3′-9″ Sand/Multi

Photographing a rug in this little bathroom is tough, but trust me that the blues, reds, and tans in the Loren Sand/Multi are rich and bold! I had a similar vintage rug in here, but got nervous leaving my precious vintage rugs at an Airbnb, so this was a beautiful substitute that pulled together the wall color and wood tones. This is also a printed rug, which works great in the bathroom, because it’s similar to a bath mat.

Loloi Loren Collection Vintage Printed Persian Area Rug 5′-0″ x 7′-6″ Silver/Slate

This is a tight room, so you can just get a peek at the Loren Silver/State rug in the downstairs Master bedroom. The pattern on this printed rug is super sweet, and reads more on the blush side, which would make it SUPER cute in a nursery.


There you have it!! You can shop all the rugs in my Amazon Store HERE! And let me know in the comments if you have any additional questions!



DIY DUPLEX | Thrifted Room Makeover & DIY Faux BeadBoard

Before & After, DIY PROJECT

I’m excited to share another bedroom makeover in our DIY Duplex Airbnb!! I am just so in love with how this room turned out!  I was working on a tiiiiiiight budget, so the majority of this room is thrifted or repurposed items, and the design still feels really fresh and cohesive. Plus, an experiment with a gold paint pen created a budget friendly faux beadboard! Before I dive into the makeover, if you need a refresher on the Duplex project read about the backstory HERE. Now onto a few Before & Afters!

beforeISPYDIY_thriftedbedroom_before1afterISPYDIY_thriftedbedroom8For context, this is the second bedroom in the Upper Unit of the Duplex (Check out the first room reveal HERE), This one was interesting because of the layout. I was working with the closet placement, two doors into the room, and some big windows. Guests usually prefer a queen bed over a full, so I was able to squeeze one onto this wall… with no room for side tables, and just enough clearance at the foot for the hallway door. To make the room work, I opted to leave the door off the closet so guests did not have to deal with an awkward swing, put a bench on the other wall instead of the foot of the bed, and added a little shelf for a light and place to put your cellphone. Might not be the MOST functional if you were living in the room, but works great for short term guests!

The whole design of the room really began with these antlers I found at Farm Girl Antiques. The color in the plaid fabric on the mounting is a mix of green, blue and red-pink, which I picked up in the art throughout the room. Then I decided to play with a couple different plaid blankets and sheets, and was honestly not sure how it would all mix…but after I put the room together it just worked. Oh, how I love that moment.

Let’s talk about this gallery wall, and then we will dive into the DIY faux beadboard. These gold frames from Ikea are a major score, they are only $10 a piece, but the gold looks more expensive (although the glass part is plastic). A reader sent me their Birds of America book by John James Audubon because it was collecting dust. I cut out some pages to frame, and just LOVE how the gallery wall looks! It’s the perfect amount of color for the room. If you don’t have the book, no worries, you can download the bird prints HERE!

ISPYDIY_thriftedbedroom10The faux beadboard was a fun little experiment with a gold paint pen that yielded a pretty darn cute result! One thing I LOVE about the upstairs is all the original trim work, so I painted it Behr Aged Beige so it would pop against the Swiss Coffee walls. One thing I dislike about the walls is the texture, because it means no wallpaper, unless I wanted to skim coat the whole room, which was not in the timeline. So I thought it could be fun to add chair-rail trim 3ft up, paint the lower bit the same color as the trim and then draw on a pattern. 

Steps for Faux Beadboard after the break!  (more…)



DIY Duplex: Your Questions Answered!


You asked, and we are finally answering ALL of your questions about the DIY Duplex! Mr. Yolo and I are super proud of this house, and what we did with the budget we set. The house was so charming to start, and it’s been so rewarding to give this 1890 built home a new life. Plus, it was our first DIY renovation together since getting married. Working with our family, 90% of the work was done by us, so it was truly a DIY renovation!!!

You’ve followed our journey renovating the duplex through setbacks and victories (re-live in over on @ispydiy Instagram Stories under the DIY DUPLEX highlights).. We’ve received a ton of questions along the way, and we are excited to share all the deets!

What was the budget and timeline on the duplex? Our renovation budget was $30K, and we planned to complete it in three months. The purchase price is so relative to location, but we purchased the house for a pretty good price, knowing that we would not need to make any structural changes, and all the walls could remain in place. For reference, we have never bought a house pre-renovation for more than $140K, and the least expensive house was $24K. All our houses are in the city of Milwaukee, in neighborhoods we love and want to invest in.

A little backstory on the duplex — Mr. Yolo bought this house before we got married, and I had only seen it in photos. He planned to use it as a rental after completing the necessary repairs on it. There are two units in the house, an Upper and Lower unit. The upstairs needed a gut renovation, so the plan was to renovate the top floor only. BUT, then I got involved, and the project scaled. (Sorry, not sorry, Love!)


Once we got into the house and took a closer look, we found a bunch of issues with the work done on the lower unit. Just a couple examples: we found laminate flooring over carpeting, trash behind the walls, texture sprayed over the trim work — things that looked ok in pictures, but were mostly band-aid fixes that we were not comfortable with. So the project went from updating just the upper to renovating the whole house. Yikes! Our timeline went from three to six months. (What’s that old saying about all renovations taking twice the time and twice the budget….)

We just finished the renovation before 2020 (woot! Took us 7 months) and after looking at the numbers to renovate both units we ended up around 7K over Mr. Yolo’s 30K budget, plus around 2k-3k to furnish it because we decided to turn it into an Airbnb (more on that later).  A huge reason we could keep the budget low is the fact that we did almost all the work ourselves. I do want to note that once I got involved with the project, I was able to work with my blog sponsors to get discounted or free products, which helped keep costs down even though the scope of work increased. 

How much of the work did you guys do yourselves? In past projects, we have worked with contractors. But with this duplex we set out to do it all ourselves, with help from family and friends. Renovating a duplex is both a blessing and a curse. It’s annoying to have a duplex because you have to do everything twice; however, once you’ve done something once, you can refine your technique on the other unit.

The big ticket item that we hired out was the roof, the house is SUPER tall, so it was best to leave that to the professional…which took a chunk of the budget (around 15K) 

How did we know how to do everything, and how did you get it done so quickly? Mr. Yolo is ah-ma-zing. For the last six months, this was his full-time job. He and his crew (aka his parents and some friends) worked their buns off.

Mr. Yolo has a construction background (former project manager for a commercial construction company), but has learned a lot of his handyman skills from working on his own houses.  I took the skills from doing graphic design at a fashion magazine in NYC and applied them to my renovations to fine tune my design aesthetic. When we don’t know how to do something, we go straight to YouTube and reach out to others who have done it before. There is definitely trial and error, but each time we try something, our confidence grows for the next project! And even though learning takes time, it saves you a bunch of money, plus the time you would be waiting on contractors to fit you into their schedules!  

Hiring out may get you a more experienced and skilled install, but no one will care as much as you do, hence, why we DIY!

Why did you choose Airbnb vs. full-time rental units? Initially, we thought the duplex would be a full-time rental unit. And in the beginning, a lot of decisions were based on that.

Then, we were invited to participate in the One-Room Challenge, and did a dramatic gut renovation of the Upper Unit bathroom. The Challenge elevated the aesthetic of the project, which made us (me) want to elevate the look and feel of the entire house.


We looked at other Airbnb properties in the area, and also at the upcoming calendar in Milwaukee. The city is hosting the Democratic National Convention the year and some other significant events, so we thought that this would be the right time to put this one on the Airbnb market. 

Since we did not have a budget for decorating, I took this as a challenge and got super excited to put my thrifting and DIYing skills to work to make this place as cute as possible without spending too much money. Plus, I pulled every thrifting purchase that did not have a home out of storage; all my years of hoarding paid off! I had the BEST time putting these rooms together and pushing myself to make budget-friendly design choices. It’s truly amazing what you can do with some thrift finds! 

Also, as I mentioned in my Airbnb Tips and Tricks post, it’s less wear and tear on a home to Airbnb it than rent it. It’s cleaned 1-2 times a week, and we can go in and maintain/fix any problems after every guest. Plus, most guests are not cooking, so the kitchen is not being used as much. Choosing to list a home for Airbnb rental versus renting it full-time can extend the life of your renovation. The only downfall is that you do have to put more upfront money into getting the home ready for Airbnb. Even with my thrifting ways, we still spent a couple thousand dollars to set up the Airbnb (mattresses, multiple sets of linens, stocking a kitchen, etc), but, in our experience, the return is higher than a rental. 

Where is it located? The duplex is in the amazing Walker’s Point neighborhood of Milwaukee! I LOVE this neighborhood, lived there for years in the house I renovated, and it’s been so fun to see this area revitalized! The location is great because it is very close to downtown, but also has so many amazing shops and restaurants within walking distance. A bunch of my favorite Antique stores are within blocks. Plus, there are a bunch of breweries, amazing restaurants, and wedding venues! Since the whole house can sleep 12, it will be perfect for events like Bachelorette/Bachelor getaways, getting ready for weddings, and thrifting weekends!

Where in the renovation did you save money? Kitchen budgets can range widely, but we were able to keep the duplex kitchens very budget-friendly. We went back and forth between IKEA and Menards for kitchen cabinets. In the end, we went with Menards because all the bases were assembled, saving us time. The lower unit cabinets were $1,300, and the upper unit cabinets were $1,100.

afterispydiyduplex_KitchenafterOne other way to save money in the kitchen is to install open shelving instead of cabinets, which is what we did in both units. You don’t need a ton of kitchen storage for an Airbnb, just enough for a set of dishes and pots and pans.  Shelving tutorial coming soon. 

We saved a bunch on countertops by using butcher block wood, which is a much less expensive option than marble or granite. We spent about $360 on butcher block countertops in both units.  More details coming soon on the butcher block counters. 

I get a lot of questions on budget-friendly flooring. In an Airbnb, you want flooring that will last over time and lots of visitors. Life Proof Flooring is a good price point for a great product. Unfortunately, we’ve learned the hard way that cheaper laminates show wear and tear quickly. We have some in other homes we’ve done — they’re chipping. Take it from us, stick with Life Proof — that stuff is invincible! Plus it’s super easy to install yourself, I have a post on it HERE! 

What’s your favorite part of the duplex? What are you most proud of? The home was built in 1890, and I wanted to keep as much of the original charm and character. Even though the upstairs unit was in terrible condition, all the original trim work was intact. We were able to paint it and give it a whole new life. Sadly, all the downstairs trim work had been ripped out. Also, the upper unit has the original stained glass windows. I used transparent contact paper to change the color of the stained glass to cooler blues and greens, but the windows themselves remain unchanged. They are so beautiful when the sun shines through!


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