DIY remedies for problem spaces with Monica Mangin | Home Front

Monica Mangin
Mar 23, 2017

Designer and blogger Monica Mangin is the founder and creative director of East Coast Creative, where she shares DIY ideas, makeovers and upcoming projects. She stars in Lowe’s “The Weekender,” a home renovation webisode series where she helps new homeowners achieve affordable home style. Mangin, who was named Nate Berkus’ favorite DIY’er, is also the resident home expert on “LIVE with Kelly.”

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Designer and blogger Monica Mangin is the founder and creative director of East Coast Creative, where she shares DIY ideas, makeovers and upcoming projects. I think she can handle lots of questions you may have about your homes. She stars in Lowe’s “The Weekender,” a home renovation webisode series where she helps new homeowners achieve affordable home style. Give us your questions. Let's chat. 


Hey Everyone! Monica here! I'm super excited to be chatting about all things DIY and Design! We all have challenging spaces in our homes, so hopefully I can give you some ideas for the tricky ones in your world!  I also share tons of DIY ideas and projects on my show The Weekender. You can catch all of Season 1 and 2 at I love seeing all of your projects and spaces as well, so tag me on Instagram @EastCoastCreative if you post any!  Let's get this party started shall we?!? 

Love my roomy kitchen/dining room, but having the mess within feet of the table puts a crimp in my enjoyment when friends gather for dinner. A cold sandwich and salad menu gets old. Suggestions?

That's a tricky one! The first thing I'd say is that you're friends probably won't mind your mess- especially if you're feeding them! :) I love getting my friends involved in the cooking process at my house, so maybe that's an option too!  One tip would be to really clean up as you go- I'm a messy cook, so this so so tricky for me!- and if you have a high quality, low volume dishwasher your dishes can be cleaning while you're eating without all the background noise.  Ultimately, if you offer free food your friends will be happy to join you no matter what! 

The Former owner of our home had painted the front concrete steps. They aren't crumbling but have cracks and just looks happy. Is it possible to "reskim" concrete steps and make them look better? Or should we keep painting them every few years?

Hey There.  Yes, you likely will want to patch those cracks before they become more of an issue.  The cool thing is that there are so many options for concrete paint these days.  Lowe's Carries a Valspar Concrete paint that I love and you can have it tinted to tons of colors!  I recently completed a front yard makeover for my show The Weekender and I used grey concrete paint on the walkway- totally gave it new life!  You can check it out here if you want to see   And yes, you'll likely want to paint every few years, but hey then you can change up the colors if you want! ;) 

I live in a small house that I'm going to rent furnished while I travel abroad and I need to store clothes, photos and some paintings in a cellar that has a dirt floor but is dry. Are there good, in-expensive boxes or ideas you can recommend?

I grew up in an old, Cape Cod style home with the same type of basement! What I would recommend is to build a very inexpensive, easy shelving unit and then fill it with plastic storage bins.  I just helped a couple with a garage makeover on The Weekender and we built a storage unit out of 2x4s for all their storage.  This same project would be awesome for your basement! The shelving makes it easier to access all your bins, instead of stacking them and having to move them all around if you need something, and the plastic bins will keep moisture out- even in a dry basement moisture can sneak in.  The storage build took me about 15 minutes and is a super beginner level DIY. Check out the Season 2 Garage Makeover episode of The Weekender, to see if that project might work for your space.  We also have the building tutorial online at Thanks! -Mon

My kitchen cabinets are dated (1980s), but still in really good shape. It seems excessive and wasteful to rip out perfectly good cabinets when what they really need is just a facelift. Is just replacing the doors and drawer covers an option? How would I go about doing this?

This is such a good question, because I think so many people are in your shoes!  I have done 2 kitchen makeovers this year already and for both of them we re-used the cabinets bc they were in perfect condition, just kinda ugly!  I would recommend instead of removing the doors, you consider just painting them. There is a new Valspar Cabinet Enamel paint that I LOVE! It give you the look of a factory finish, but it's really easy to DIY. I think with new paint and new hardware you could totally change the look of your kitchen.  Check out these two episodes for inspiration first - Weekender Adulting in Austin + the episode that just launched today with a kitchen in New Orleans. For both I painted and added new hardware, so it will give you an idea of the impact that can have!  Check em out here  Good luck! Can't wait to see what you do! 

I just had a contractor completely remodel the first of two 1950's bathrooms in my house. It is now beautiful and functional. I am kicking myself that I didn't take any "before" pictures. I will take some photos of the other bathroom (baby blue wall tile!) before he starts the demolition.

Oh man- YES, you def need to snap before pics, because sometimes it's even hard to remember where we start with a makeover!  Your bathroom renos sound awesome!!

Is it possible to have two focal points in a room? We have a corner fireplace and have hung a large gold mirror to make it a focal point wall. Couch sits at the opposite end of the room and we were thinking of installing floor to ceiling bookcases to flank the couch ... would that confuse things?

I am a big proponent of breaking design "rules" and doing what you LOVE!  I think that the bookshelves sound great and could be a nice addition to the space.  Perhaps try to keep a unifying color between the two focal points to tie them together.  Since you have a gold mirror, maybe add some gold accessories to the built-ins so it all feels cohesive! :)

Hello Monica: I am interested in succulents. I notice that you use them a lot in decorating. Why are they among your favorites? Are there some that are cheaper and more durable than others? What kind of pots are best to use with succulents?

You've got me there! If you've watched any of my Weekender Makeover episodes you'll definitely see a pattern of using succulents!  I like them for a few reasons... 1- they're affordable 2- They're so darn cute 3- they're easy to keep alive. In my own home I just put 1 ice cube in each 1x a week to water them. Doesn't get easier than that!   I have found that the firmer aloe varieties are pretty durable than some others.  I also think you can get creative with your pots- plant them in mugs, in cool pottery, what matters most is the soil. You want to use succulent soil and add rocks for drainage.  That's the key to happy succulents! :)

We have a 1970's split foyer home. In the more formal living room on the main level we have a couch up against the spindles which needs to be redone and freshened up. My husband and I are debating on turning that into a half wall and removing the spindles or keeping it as is and redoing the spindles. What is the trend going towards? This isn't our main family room as we use the lower level as the tv/relaxing area.

I like the idea of turning that into a half wall- it will help define that space and give you more flexibility with the layout in the room.  Re-doing the spindles would be another option, you could sand and paint them. I recently tackled a two story foyer in The Weekender and we painted the old, brown spindles and it gave them a completely fresh, new look!  I'd say you have two solid options, so either way it will be a great improvement! 

I need 6-8 inexpensive chairs for my dining table. It is a combined living room/dining room/kitchen area. I want them to be comfortable so my guests can sit a long time. I will use them in the living room once we finish eating because I don't have enough seating there. My style is cottage or traditional. I can't pay $200 per chair or even $100. Do you have any ideas?

Hey! Chairs can get so pricy- especially when you're looking at 6-8 of them.  Have you ever considered building some benches for each side and then just buying two chairs you love for the head of the table?  I've done that before and benches are a pretty simple DIY beginner build.  I also did a makeover last season on The Weekender where I mixed and matched chairs.  We used some wood and some metal.  You could start looking at thrift stores and have a cool mixed and matched collection! Hope those ideas help! 

I now have an oblong table, but should I purchase a round one to make the room look larger? Thanks.

Hey! Small spaces can be challenging, but before going out to buy a new table, maybe consider some cool vertical storage in the room.  I recently made a cool pegboard wall shelf until with a homeowner on The Weekender and it added function and style to the space, while also drawing the eye up.  So consider what else you could add to the room before giving up your current table. It might sound counter intuitive at first, but I'm a big fan of working with what you have and making your space work for you!!  Check out The Adulting in Austin Episode to check out the DIY shelf I mentioned!! Good luck!

Hello Monica! You are the best! I have dull light grey kitchen drawers (wood) and don't know what to do. Do you recommend painting them? Or can I liven up my kitchen simply by replacing the hardware??? I thrive in an energetic kitchen for my cooking and other things so I would love to turn things up a notch if possible! Thank you again I watch your show all the time and sometimes spend most of my weekend being a weekender hahaha. HF7830

Hey! First off thanks so much for your kind words! Means a lot!!  Well grey drawers sound kinda cool, so maybe just start with new hardware.  My personal favorite style right now is called Lew's hardware. It's special order through Lowe's and will cost a bit more than standard in stock hardware, but oh my goodness, it's SO cool. Will definitely kick up your style factor. If you want to get a peek of it, it was in the Austin Kitchen from Season 2.  Also, have you considered adding a new backsplash? That's always a great way to add some cool personality and it's a lot easer to DIY than it looks!!  Thanks again for being a Weekender! <3  -Mon

I was going to put extra tiles from my bathroom and kitchen remodel in my crawl space, but can I also store bamboo flooring? Christmas decorations? Paint? It's underground with two tiny ventilation screens so I don't think it ever gets below freezing. Doesn't make sense for things I'll need once a year or never to take up space in my utility room.

We can never have enough storage can we?!?  I haven't personally seen your space, but it if doesn't get too much moisture you should be okay!  I would just make sure that everything is in sealed plastic bins to be extra safe.  It's also a great way to stay organized.  I'd use little white board labels on them to keep everything where it belongs.  I'm kind of an organizational mess, so little systems help me out big time!! 

i love the accessories you choose for decorating. I would really like to know where you purchase the ampersand, orbe, milk white dog, plants, etc. The items you choose pull your rooms together so nicely and seem cost conscious.

Thanks so much- glad you're liking what you're seeing! So, I'm a real gal that has to live with real budgets etc... so I make sure that in my makeovers I'm using realistically priced accessories too!  Lowe's sponsors The Weekender, so I shop there a ton for all my plants and greenery in my rooms- we shoot episodes all over the country, so I rely on the greenhouse staff to help me know what plants do best in what zones of the country and what is hard to kill etc. They're super helpful!  A lot of the room accessories I order online at ATG Stores - they have tons of options! And I always make a circuit shopping trip to Target, Homegoods, and World Market- those 3 are my go-tos!  I 100% believe that things don't have to be expensive to be awesome!! 

I will be moving into a typical beige painted apartments. I really love white so I will paint the walls and ceilings white. Can I get away with leaving the trim beige (windows & doors & baseboards)? That would save me a lot of time.

Congrats on the new place.  White is a great idea to brighten up any space! You can definitely keep the beige trim as is - painting trim is a big job! One idea to make the beige work would be to consider adding one accent wall or area using peel and stick temporary wallpaper. It's my go-to solution for renters looking to add some personality to their space.  In Season 1 of The Weekender I added a crazy cool temp wallpaper for a couple and it totally changed the space. I think it could be a good way to tie in the beige color!  

My house has a formal living room and dining room, which we almost never use. We want to completely redo these rooms, but have no idea where to start. Where can we go to get just some help in figuring out how to make these rooms into useful space in our house? We are fine hiring a designer to come in and just give us some ideas, but I don't even know where to go to start that process. Thanks!

Hi! So many people are in your shoes- especially with the formal dining room. It can feel like wasted space!  First off I think you need to look at your life and ask yourself what kinds of things you do at home and what kind of space would help you do those things even better!  If you have family living with you get them in on the brainstorm together.  Do you love game nights? Do you want a cozy place to read? Do you love plants? Exercise?  Once you have a goal for the space, then hit up Pinterest to get inspired!  I am a Pinterest junkie and love getting inspired there.  I have my personal account- EastCoastCreative and I also have some fun inspiration boards on Lowe's Pinterest page with inspiration from my show The Weekender.  Check those out!  I'd say don't feel boxed in by tradition - create rooms that are just right for you and what you love to spend time doing! :)

If you're going to store photos, papers in the basement, the type of plastic box you use is extremely important. It should be weather tight, i.e. have a foam seal between the lid and the box. I've had good luck with the Ziploc weather tight ones (available at Lowes) and these. (Prefer the Iris ones.)

Thanks for this.

I see a lot of articles on how to refinish outdoor patio furniture but nothing on how to strip and repaint metal furniture i.e. the legs on a coffee table. Most finishes have some depth and it seems like a coat of spray paint wouldn't do that so how would one achieve that finish?

Great question! My trick for achieving a realistic, yet faux metallic finish is to combine spray paints.  You're totally right that just using one spray paint won't give you the depth you're looking for.  In a recent Weekender Season 2 episode I wanted to make a wooden base of a console table look like it had a cool, metallic finish, so I combined 3 different metallic spray paints that I grabbed at Lowe's and layered them together until I had the depth and style I was going for. No one would ever know that it was a DIY trick and not vintage, metal legs! Check out the Foyer episode from season 2 to see the finished table I'm referring to! Good luck! 

I'm renovating the first floor of my house and looking for one color to paint all the downstairs trim. My dining room is going to be BM Jamestown Blue and my kitchen is going to be white cabinets, white countertops, and a spring green tile backsplash. I'm thinking something in the greige family. I love color so it doesn't need to be subtle. I'm also leaning towards oil-rubbed bronze finishes. Thanks!

I LOVE color too!! We've def got that in common! Here's my one word of caution - painting trim is a BIG job and takes a long time.  Unless you're head over heels with a certain color, I'd actually recommend you go with white.  That way if you want to change out the color in your room and add fun accents you won't be tied down to it working with greige.  I've painted some trim black in my own home, and I do love it, so I don't want to scare you off, but if it's the entire first floor, you just might want to go white and use your passion for color in other places.  Recently I used HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams' Marshmallow and loved that white.  Good luck!! 

First off, we have an early 90's marble surround on our gas fireplace, what is an easy fix to take that marble out and replace it with? Next, our living room has a super large, , about a foot from the floor bank of windows. Should we put drapes up simply to protect the furniture and hardwoods, or is it ok to leave it unadorned? thanks :)

Ugh the 90s was a rough time for design wasn't it :)  Ok, so you could definitely remove the marble and replace it with a stone you like better.  One other option that's a bit out of the box is actually to paint it. I know it sounds crazy, but chalk paint (not chalkboard) will adhere to marble and my best friend actually painted hers and then used a super cute hexagon stencil over top. It looks like hexagon penny tile and is SO cute.  That was 6 years ago and it's still holding up really well!  Secondly, I am a big fan of letting in natural light. Maybe you could so something simple on both sides, but for me, I wouldn't want to keep heavy drapes up and closed bc I feel like it would seem dark and a little heavy. Let that light in! :)  I hope that helps!

How do I paint them when the room is carpeted?

Painter's tape will be your BFF!!  There's a new kind I'm loving- it's 3M's Platinum.  It's more of a plastic tape than paper and it is really easy to work with and seals really well, so it will protect your carpets.  I grabbed mine at Lowe's and actually just used it this morning on a kid's bedroom I'm working on! :) It's a great new option! 

How often should they be refinished? Ours in in an area - kitchen/family room that gets a lot of use.

This is really a personal decision. Not personal like secrets between you and your bestie, but personal preference!  Some people love the look of aged, worn floors- to them it represents a home filled with people and love.  However, other people just see it as wear and tear and want to keep them looking pristine... I think it's totally up to you.  If you do go the refinishing route, it shouldn't be something you have to do very often. A high quality poly should protect your woods for years at a time.  Let me know what you decide- I'm curious to know! :) -Mon

Our really old wall to wall carpet needs to be replaced. Because we're seniors we keep delaying the replacement for two reasons--one who is responsible for moving all of the stuff in a room (we have several very heavy pieces) and secondly we have hardwood flooring so is it recommended that this flooring be kept, refinished? or have something like bamboo put on top? Is wall to wall now out?

Hi! If I was close by I'd come help ya! ;)  So, as far as removal goes, you can get an all inclusive package where they come and help you remove all your furniture, they remove the carpet, take away the old stuff etc...  Last year I ordered new carpet from Lowe's my husband and I moved the furniture out, and they did the rest. I like that you can customize the service to your needs.  As far as what to go with... it's a preference issue really. If you like the softness and warmth of carpet, you could go with wall to wall again (there are so many good options in carpet these days!) or you could refinish the hardwoods and add a nice, big accent rug!  I have fallen in love with accent rugs this past year!  I probably wouldn't recommend putting another wood over your hardwood though ;)  Good luck!! 

Outside of blinds in my halfway below-ground basement and sheer panels framing my living room window, I don't have any. I guess people can see inside at night when I'm cooking dinner, and if they got a ladder they could see me sleeping upstairs, but so what? I wake up every morning to sunlight and all the wonderful trees outside. Drives my mother crazy!

When your mom comes to visit, give her some blankets to put on the windows!

Guys, this has been so much fun!! Thanks for chatting with me and I hope I was able to give you some design inspiration and ideas for your own home!  I love connecting with fellow DIYers, so say hi on Instagram @EastCoastCreative - and hopefully you'll check out the rest of The Weekender Season 2!  

You sure know your way around the house. Thank you so much for being on the chat. Next week we will be talking kitchens with designer Erin Paige Pitts. We will be featuring one of her kitchens, a beautiful light-filled space on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in our coverage. See you then.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Monica Mangin
Designer and blogger Monica Mangin is the founder and creative director of East Coast Creative.
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