A do-it-yourself home redesign can go very wrong or—if the homeowner has a knack for it—very right. In the case of Erin Metrinko, who not only has great taste but a ruthless talent for value engineering, it was the latter.
The four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom brick home in Newark was built in 1968; the Metrinkos, who both work in education, bought it seven years ago from the original owner after the house had sat vacant for a bit. “It was tired,” Metrinko recalls. “Though the owners had taken very good care of it, you could tell it was in need of some love and a new family.” The Metrinkos’ three children were all under 10 at the time.
Metrinko’s husband was hesitant—it took three visits to convince him that this 3,000-square-foot colonial was the right place for them—but Metrinko had a vision. If the job seemed daunting, Metrinko began with small steps: “That’s my message on my little Instagram page: You can just start by painting something. Paint a wall, paint a piece of furniture—just change something and that spirals into: ‘What else can I do to make my house feel happy and more like me?’”
To give the living room depth and character, Metrinko added built-ins from scratch. She found the white sofa at Ikea, and the wicker loveseat was free—she scored it on Facebook Marketplace. The rug came from Overstock. “I am a thrifter,” Metrinko concedes, laughing. “One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.”
But to make value engineering work, you must be decisive about where to spend—as opposed to stretch—your budget. For that, Metrinko looked toward the kitchen. Though the previous owner had remodeled it during the pandemic, Metrinko decided to upgrade its look, first by painting the cabinets and then by opening her wallet—adding a Carrara marble backsplash (from the Tile Shop in Wilmington) and changing out the countertops. “Everything is a mix of high and low,” she says.
Metrinko also made some changes for functionality’s sake: The pass-through from the garage into the kitchen, which formerly contained a home office and the laundry room, is now a butler’s pantry and a mudroom. Another transitional space redo was also part of Metrinko’s vision: The staircase space was wallpapered and the stairs were numbered for a homespun touch. One wall is charmingly covered with vintage plates. The floor is flagstone.
Metrinko adores wallpaper, and she elected to focus on the powder room for what she calls “one of my first wallpaper adventures,” with help from Hygge & West. The powder room was basic when the family moved in, with a typical pedestal sink, but Metrinko’s artistry became apparent when she designed a vanity from a $25 table off Facebook Marketplace topped with fixtures and a vessel basin from Amazon.
Metrinko has no formal design training. She taught herself how to design on a budget by watching videos, scanning social media and reading blogs, “and learning as I go, making mistakes, not being afraid to make mistakes, doing things over again,” she says. With more than 4,000 Instagram followers, @thethirdwhitehouse is likely giving some other DIY aspirants ideas.