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Remodeling Stef's lil' red house into a home

In 2020, after several years spent living and working in Europe, Stef Dollak — a senior digital marketing manager at the maker community marketplace, Etsy — decided to return home to Hamilton, Canada, to settle closer to friends and family. On a quest to invest in her first home, she fell in love with a little red house that had tons of charm and bucket loads of potential.

They say it's always handy to know a trustworthy tradesman, so Stef could count herself lucky in having two in the form of her dad and brother. Together, operating as a construction firm, her family took charge of the heavy-lifting construction work that would see her new house transformed into a new home.

Both Stef and her husband Joel — who met during the remodeling process — were keen to chip in, too. After long days working their respective jobs, they’d visit the house during evenings and weekends to support as many home remodeling tasks as possible. Let's hear about Stef's journey, including her kitchen remodel...

A lil’ red house 🏡

"When I purchased the property, it was a little red house. I thought it was so cute – a tiny home with an endearing charm! I found out the previous owner had lived in the house for over 60 years, even celebrating his 100th birthday there, so I knew the place would come with good vibes.

Fast forward a year and the little red house is now a big white house! We kept the original structure, then recycled and reused a bunch of the materials that were original to the house. I kept all the features that drew me in to begin with, maintaining the property's special character despite its huge transformation."


A makers-inspired space 👷‍♀️

"I’ve worked for Etsy for just over 8 years now, so I'm at somewhat of an advantage in that I'm on the site daily, seeing new items listed all the time. Supporting the maker community (both locally and globally) is important to me, so I wanted the majority of my home to embody that.

Shopping internationally from Plank Hardware wasn't a daunting experience at all. I lived in London for 4 years, so I still continue to order items online from the UK (hello, Maltesers) that I can’t get here in Canada."


An easy hardware choice ✨

"We chose the PEARCE Pulls in solid brass for our kitchen hardware, because the angular lines brought a sense of definition and boldness to our kitchen that we didn’t have before. I think it turned out great and the hardware definitely gives our kitchen the oomph that it was missing."

Stef's D.I.'Why' ⛏

"Why DIY? If you do it yourself, you’ll hold it closer to your heart. For example, on weekends, my husband and I would come to the house (when it was still very much a job-site) to sand and stain the wood that we pulled out from the original framing. We then used that wood as exposed beams in our kitchen and main bedroom.

Every night, when I look up at the beams, I feel so happy knowing that we repurposed them ourselves! It really feels like we too are now part of this home's history."


Pick up a pencil ✏

"Transforming your vision into a reality is a big task, sure. We found that drawing our plans out helped us a lot. We sketched our kitchen and breakfast booth area dozens of times before we landed on a final design!

Also, pulling together physical samples creates a more tangible experience; hardware, fabrics and textures, paint swatches, etc.

Moodboarding allowed us to, quite literally, feel the space come together. We also used Pinterest and built many Etsy Collections to help us organize all of the items we wanted to buy. We were then able to visualize how items would look together, side-by-side, in one room."

Break for iced coffee 🧊

"This is a pretty basic answer, but iced coffee will always be my pick-me-up brew when working on a big project! I’ve recently been making a version of Starbucks Iced Brown Sugar Shaken Espresso at home and it’s honestly so good."


Must-follow interior muses 🛋

"Here's three of my favorite interior accounts..."


Sarah of @sarahshermansamuel


Amber of @amberinteriors


Autumn of @autumnhacheydesign

The home remodeling soundtrack 🎵

"We actually listened to a ton of oldies like the Bee Gees and Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as some Canadian classics like Blue Rodeo and the Arkells. My husband, Joel, is a huge country fan, so there was a bunch of country tracks played on the job-site, too."



Thanks to Stef for joining us for a TEA BREAK (or iced coffee, in this case). Why not follow her remodeling journey at @lil.redhouse?