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The best DIY projects of 2016. From the office to the kitchen to a HUGE exterior overhaul, it’s time to take a look through a year full of house progress.

You know, it’s funny: when I think back on 2016, I really, honest-to-God struggle with thinking of it as a good year. Between a bad romantic relationship and subsequent breakup, a shitload of writer’s block, and good, old-fashioned* stress, my immediate response is to think of it the way a lot of other people seemed to: as a raging dumpster fire that only the crisp wind of a shiny new year was going to put out.

2017 new years
But thankfully, that still happened.

But then, I took a step back. I looked through my post archives for 2016. I thought about the things I’d accomplished. And I realized: as far as this house and blog were concerned, it may have been one of the best project years I’ve had to date.

The Office

New Decor

I found a few fun things on Etsy to add some personality to my office bookshelves. Aren’t they cute?

brass antique paperweight

Window Casing (in the office & everywhere!)

I also added casing to all of the windows in the entire house. It may not seem like a lot of work at first, but having literally every room finished with trim was a pretty big accomplishment!

add window casing

The Kitchen

Light Fixture (Knock-off)

I added a new glass pendant light fixture to the kitchen that wound up being one of the coolest DIY projects I’ve ever worked on. The whole challenge to turn a bunch of random objects like a salad bowl and a wooden bun foot into what it became has got to be one of my all-time favorite activities.

diy light fixture
Upgraded Drawer Dividers

Once a renovation is complete, organization becomes the next big priority for DIY kitchen projects. Tasks like painting cabinets, installing new counters, etc. had been completed in previous years, and it began to dawn on me how important staying organized was going to be for truly enjoying my new space. These DIY drawer dividers (for $10!) were made in a single afternoon and have paid off ever since! (Confession though: I still need to work on organizing the other drawers and cabinets.)

kitchen drawer dividers

Less Pet Mess

Charlie got a little more organized as well thanks to her new custom-made, no-slip DIY dog feeder.

diy dog feeder

A New Place for Contemplation

The final wall near the breakfast nook had been blank for ages, so I made the space far more useful, complete with a breakfast bar to match the butcher block in the rest of the kitchen and industrial bar stools. This year, I’ll need to add some artwork to make it look more complete, but I really like having my morning coffee here!

breakfast bar

And The Kitchen Sink (literally)

Even though the sink and faucet were installed in previous years, I’d never really covered the details about them. This year, I crossed that item off my to do list and recapped how I decided on each. I also shared a few cleaning tips and source info for how I keep this space tidy.

butcher block sink

The Exterior

This was a HUGE year for my exterior progress!

Mailbox Flowers

In previous years, I’d always just added some seasonal flowers to the mailbox area. This year, I changed things up a little and added some perennials that I have admired while jogging around various other neighborhoods. While one of the plants died off in the late fall, the other three are still going strong and will hopefully bloom bigger and wider this coming spring!

mailbox garden

Cascade Stump Planter

I have/had an old stump in my front yard. I figured I could either get rid of it or try to make it look more decorative. I chose the latter and picked out some cascading flowers to turn it into a beautiful front yard feature.

stump planter

Hiding My Air Conditioning Unit

It took several weeks (and a lot of sweat), but changing the ivy- and pine-needled A/C unit area with decorative stones and foliage added a great amount of color and organization that I can maintain easily. I also added a screen to hide the unit from the street while still making sure that I followed the recommendations to keep air flowing efficiently!

hiding air conditioning unit

Outdoor Furniture

As a way to keep the decorative progress going, I started building and staining outdoor furniture that will eventually go in the back yard. Premature? Yeah. But sometimes you just get excited to go ahead and work on something. In a way, projects like these give me more motivation to work on the projects that I need to complete in order to use them (such as a new deck or outdoor entertaining space — coming this year I hope!).

adirondack chairs

The Enormous Backyard Leveling Project

And, last but not even a little bit least, parts 1, 2, and 3 of my DIY journey to fill in a sinkhole and level out the back yard was started and finished in less than a week! I didn’t manage to get grass in before winter (I tried but failed), so this spring will need some DIY efforts to get things green again. Still, having the ability to walk around the entire back yard without running into vines, sunken holes, and overgrowth has been such a HUGE change! And that backhoe was a lot of fun to ride around on, especially when I invited friends over to help rip out some stumps.

you can level your own yard

The Laundry Room

I know that most of the details I shared about the laundry room makeover weren’t posted about until 2017, but technically, this project was the last big thing I accomplished in 2016. A fully completed room? Not a bad way to end a year! (Sidenote: I’ll be posting more answers to some of the questions you guys asked from that reveal soon!)

laundry room makeover

I also had a number of other goals and projects completed, such as fixing my furnace, my sliding glass door, and hiring a landscaper to help me take care of some of the pesky stuff I hate (because it then allows me to concentrate on more upgrades!). But to really cover everything, you’d just have to scroll back through my 2016 archives. There’s a lot more to be found!

best diy projects of 2016

I’d like to take this time to also thank the sponsors that helped me complete some of these projects, such as Swiffer, Scotch Brand, Liquid Nails, Angie’s List, Compact Power Equipment Rental, National Hardware, and more. It’s always nice to find companies I enjoy working with and really “get” what this blog is all about: DIY projects and helping you guys find some great ideas for your own homes.

Of course, that also brings me to you guys: I big fat puffy-heart love all of you. Even if we don’t see eye to eye, even when you think my decorating decisions are weird, or even if you come here just to take a break from chaos and read about someone else’s comedy of errors that has become my blog life. It’s because of you guys and your support of this blog that I get to do something I love every single day. I get to write, I get to share, I get to teach, I get to be inspired, I get to make sense of a crazy world by connecting with so many people I’ve never met in person… and then sometimes, I actually do get to meet you, and you’re so awesome and thoughtful that I wind up blushing from my awkwardness.

For me personally and emotionally, 2016 was a really rough year. But a lot of you guys reached out, and I was deeply touched by that thoughtfulness (erm, not in a gross way, but you get it). I will have a post about some of that coming very soon, how I got through it (I hope some of it helps any of you who might struggle with similar), etc. And it’s pretty cool to look at these archives and see exactly how this house becomes such a big part of my story. From 2015 to 2016 alone, there was a greater transformation than I even realized until writing this post — so, as much as I look back at the year and get overwhelmed with how emotionally exhausting it was to experience, it appears I may have done myself a huge favor and channeled it in the best way I know how.

And just like that, I’m ready for a new year of change all over again. Bring it on!


*Random factoid: I also discovered this year that I like old-fashioneds. And new-fashioneds. As usual, it popped into my head after using food-related words in my posts.

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  1. What a jam-packed year – I have thoroughly enjoyed following along with your projects this year and look forward to seeing what 2017 brings you – hopefully less emotional shenanigans though. No one needs another year of emotional shenanigans in their lives.

  2. I love the dog bowel holder and will definitely be making that. I also like the plant in the stump, I have done that for clients

  3. I love reading your blog. I’m not yet a home owner but DIY and reno are topics I love to read about and pretend I know more than I actually do. Love the blog posts, keep em coming!

  4. I feel you. 2016 was horrible for me romantically, too (getting cheated on by and breaking up with TWO guys) and some hard/bad shit went down with my family (death and otherwise), and don’t even get me started on the political dumpster fire… but damn if I didn’t actually have the privilege of falling in love, and I got to travel 12 times to amazing places, and I climbed 3 new mountains and became closer to my best friends. It was hard to live though, but I’m a better person on the other side. January was one long hangover, honestly, and a few punches kept coming (the guy I broke up with in mid November got engaged to his side piece on NYE), but I woke up today SO HAPPY to meet February. It’s going to be a damn fine month and I’m feeling all sparkly about it. I hope you are, too.

    1. Sparkly – I like that! Sorry to hear about your hardships, but I think it’s wonderful that you did so many amazing things to spite it! Hoping 2017 will be a spectacular year for you. ❤

  5. Hi Sarah!

    What a great post. I’m a property owner and property manager and I’m always looking for the best DIY projects for myself and my client.

    I’ve gone through so many home improvement websites but your story is absolutely wonderful. I think it’s a great angle :) and now I have to go through everything so I can catch up! I can’t wait to see what in store for 2017.

    Obviously you have good taste but can I ask you were you get the inspiration? I usually look through pinterest. Do you have any recommended books? (more for decor)

    Looking forward to what you have to say :)

    1. I’ve been meaning to create a list of DIY and design books I like! I’ll have a post about that soon. :)

  6. Thanks a lot, SARAH …for this really great stuff…I love to make decoration changes in every three months, your pics n info gave me many ideas about great and loving decoration…Loves your efforts…thanks again

  7. Ah i love your blog post! Me and my family have been watching so much home improvement tv recently and we have all been in the crafty mood! I think our next project is going to be the dog bowls for our two black lab pups! Thank you so much!

  8. Sarah, this post is really beautiful! I would like to say thank you for writing and posting this! It’s very educational ( on my part ) since i am a new home owner and been wanting to design my house. Thanks!

  9. I simply mujst congratulate you on the elevated dog bowl. what a superb idea, i mean how do we know dogs dont get a stiff neck always eating off the floor…superb. unless of course you own a yorkshire terrier…

  10. Looks like 2016 was a great year for your home! I love the hardwood floors…is that a laminate, or hardwood? It’s hard to tell from the pictures. Either way, looks great and really matches the butcher block countertops!

  11. Hey Sarah, I love the pet bowl We have a Chow/Lab mix and she’s always knocking her bowl around and we’re tired of using a mat… Do you think that instead of using a poplar board I could use an old idea table?

    1. You can probably use any leftover wood you like! Just be sure to treat it with a few coats of a good waterproof finish if it’s old or porous (I don’t know about your dog, but mine sure laps up quite a mess when she’s thirsty). Good luck!