How to Transform the Look of Your Home in One Weekend

Bucks County-based DIY and design expert Monica Mangin shares her design secrets.

A master bedroom in Doylestown | Photo courtesy East Coast Creative

A master bedroom in Doylestown | Photo courtesy East Coast Creative

Designer and DIY maven Monica Mangin might live in Bucks County — “I live in the woods, and I love it,” she says — but she knows all about the unique design challenges facing those of us who live in classic Philly rowhomes. The DIYer-turned-blogger-turned-TV host-turned entrepreneur and owner of East Coast Creative has bestowed her talents and aesthetic on many-a-Philly rowhome, so she knows her stuff.

In fact, last year she launched a home design-focused web series called The Weekender, which featured many homes from right here in Philadelphia. The show feels like something straight out of HGTV — styleless homeowners turn to our expert and host, Monica, for design help, and she completes five projects in a single weekend that totally transform their space — but it comes at a more web-friendly pace: Entire episodes last around 10 commercial-free minutes, and you can find them right on YouTube.

Season 2, which premiers today, branches out to homes beyond our region, but I chatted with Monica yesterday to get the skinny on what she learned about working in Philly homes during the show’s debut season, and to glean tips for totally transforming a space in a matter of days. Her insights below. 

Philly Mag: Do you really do these spaces in a single weekend? 

Monica Mangin: We shoot longer than a weekend timeframe because of production — there’s maybe an extra day on each end to shoot little interviews and B-roll — but every project is done in two workdays. We keep the homeowners around for one-and-a-half of the workdays and then send them away, because we like there to be a bit of a surprise. They want to feel empowered and learn a lot about how to design a space, but they also want a big reveal.

PM: So what you’re saying is, I can actually do these projects in a weekend if I set my mind to it. 

MM: We suggest one room — one room is feasible in a weekend. The tricky part in many homes in Philly is that one room goes into the next and into the next and so on. That was one of our biggest challenges in Episode 2 last year because it was a lot to bite off; the way the open first floor was laid out, we had to do the living room, eating area and kitchen. Our trick is to pick a few projects that are high impact to help make a space feel transformed without a total gut-job. We break it down into five projects, but the idea would be by compartmentalizing your tasks, you could try one or two of them at home and realistically change the look of your space in a day or two.

Temporary wallpaper in a Philadelphia rental | Photo courtesy East Coast Creative

Temporary wallpaper in a Philadelphia rental | Photo courtesy East Coast Creative

PM: What are some high-impact projects that give me the most bang for my buck? 

MM: I’m a huge fan of temporary wall paper; it’s basically grown-up stickers. It’s one of the most fun and playful ways to change a space. You can find fabulous patterns in amazing colors, and it’s all just peel-and-stick. You could do an entry or just a section of the wall.

I also like swapping out kitchen hardware. If you’re not looking to do a full kitchen reno but you can splurge a little, I’d put some money into the hardware. One source I like is Lew’s Hardware. They range from $7 to $20 a piece, so it’s not cheap, but the style is beyond what you’d find from stock items.

Another idea: You can add a bit of character to a space that doesn’t have a lot character to begin with by adding molding on the walls or even the faux fireplace. Go to a salvage place (Editor’s note: We love Philadelphia Salvage Company and ReStore of Philadelphia) and buy a fireplace mantle to create a focal point for your room.

PM: But surely you have extra help. How big is your team?

MM: It’s just me, my carpenter, Matt, and the homeowner or homeowners.

The master bath in Mangin's own home | Photo courtesy East Coast Creative

The master bath in Mangin’s own home | Photo courtesy East Coast Creative

PM: What’s your favorite project you’ve done for the show?

MM: I know I’m biased but I would say my bathroom. I decided to tackle a space in my own house — the master bath — and we installed one of the most epic patterned tile floors, and I love it. It is just so my style. And we did a geometric accent wall in there, too, which turned out great.

PM: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve confronted in Philly spaces?

MM: Space itself is one of the biggest challenges in terms of design but also in terms of logistics. The classic Philly rowhome is long and narrow, and many don’t have any outdoor space where you can prep projects or cut wood or that sort of thing. So having enough space to feel like you can work on your house, even if you don’t own or have the space to store power tools, is a challenge. So for that I would say, utilize all the services they’ll provide for you at the store. Take a picture and take measurements and ask them to cut and prep all the wood you’ll need. You’ll need very minimal tools and once you get home, the projects will come together faster.

PM: Where are your favorite spots locally to find home accessories and decor? 

MM: I love Jinxed, of course. Another one of my favorites is Maggpie. They used to just do rentals, but now they are selling a lot of items, from macrame to furniture pieces. I’ve been ordering a ton of stuff from them recently and bringing it all over the country. I also really like Pineapple on Main in Manayunk. They have a great eye for curating. And finally, Vestige Home. I love their cutting boards, their spoons. As far as accessories go, I just love it.