Lipstick? Or Boom?

June 5, 2022

By Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch, MBA

One of the most difficult remodeling decisions is: How far should I go?

Maybe just a little something will perk up a room and make it feel fresh and new. Often, though, a major overhaul is the only way to scratch your remodeling itch.

It’s not so different from looking in the mirror and deciding that all you need is a fresh swipe of lipstick to make yourself look better. But have you ever taken a good, long look and felt tempted to call a cosmetic surgeon and schedule something a little more drastic?

Lipstick? Or boom?

If your kitchen just needs a little lipstick, maybe you’ll have your cabinet doors painted a crisp, modern shade of white; you’ll buy shiny, new appliances so they all match each other; you’ll finally tear up that cracked tile floor and lay some weathered wood planks; and you’ll brush a clean coat of color on the walls. Done.

But if you look long and hard at the room and you really want something drastically different or bigger, it’s time to plan to tear out a wall or two; reroute your plumbing so your sink and refrigerator can go where you’ve always wanted them; add a patio door—and a patio with a second kitchen outdoors; and finally get that gorgeous natural stone countertop that you’ve had your eye on since your kids were in diapers.


How far to go? If you’re remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, the answer to that question has its roots in the reason why you’ve decided to make changes.

Here are four questions that I like to ask homeowners to come to JEB Design/Build for help:

  1. Are you finding it uncomfortable or inconvenient to prepare meals in your kitchen or to get ready for your day in the bathroom?
    A kitchen designed long ago without a proper “work triangle—a configuration of your refrigerator, stove and sink that makes it easy to get from one to the other with little effort—can be a pain to work in. A bathroom with a single sink is no fun to share with a spouse in the morning when you’re both in a hurry to get out the door.
    In either room, a too-small space will slow your progress, make your family feel cramped and leave you feeling frustrated.
    Did you answer yes to Question1? Boom! This is a major project that goes far beyond cosmetic touches.
  2. Do you plan to live in your home for at least five more years?
    If you’re moving soon, your kitchen and bathroom will need a heavy application of lipstick, but you probably won’t want to invest in tearing down walls and reorganizing the plumbing.
    In my experience, your remodeling investment will pay for itself if you stay in your house for five or more years as home prices rise. So if you like your neighborhood and you plan to keep your home for a while, go ahead and rip out the wall between the kitchen and the den so the cook can be part of the pre-dinner conversation. Go ahead and install that breakfast nook you’ve always wanted. Boom!
  3. Is your home stuck in the ’80s? Or worse, in the ’70s?
    Let’s me just say “boom!” right off the bat.
    Chances are, you need more space, brighter lighting and so many repairs that you might as well simply replace instead of fix.
    The look of the kitchen or bathroom is out of date, the tub is too small and nobody uses it anyway, the appliances are beige or copper or green, the ceiling looks like the dregs of a bucket of popcorn, and you’ve never really liked the décor or the layout.
    Plus, something’s broken.
    In fact, a lot of homeowners tell me they embark on a major renovation because of something small—like a broken ice maker in the refrigerator. That tells me that they’ve been wanting to overhaul the kitchen or bathroom for a very long time, but were waiting for an excuse.
  4. What can you afford?
    I’ve been married for 40 years and have lived in the same house for most of them. If I’m going to work on my own house, I’m going all the way.
    If you’ve worked your whole life, raised your family, and scrimped and saved for college tuitions, it’s time to do something for yourself.
    If your kitchen needs work, get what you really want. Get what you’ve always wanted.
    If you’re young and just starting your family, maybe you’ll have to settle for lipstick for a few years. But after your kids are grown, you’ll realize that you deserve to splurge on the place where you plan to spend your golden years.

Give yourself permission.

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is the president of Re-Bath in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-216-4525 or by visiting