[ Kari Zick, Fargo ]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Micah J. Zimmerman, Amdak Productions
This month, we're introducing you to Fargo's reigning "Queen of DIY", Kari Zick (yes, we've bestowed her with that title). When you see what she's done with her 780 square foot house, we think you'll agree. After her realtors found her the smallest house on the market, she has since spent the past year-and-a-half recreating every nook and cranny. From lighting to cabinetry, wall installations, Pinterest-inspired fixes, and a whole lot of paint - Zick has transformed an outdated abode into a light and airy, modern-day retreat.
Small Spaces + Savvy Design
"I told my realtors that I needed the smallest house in Fargo; I didn't get the smallest house, but it's pretty close," said Zick. "It's just me, and I liked the idea of this lifestyle - something smaller and a place I could make my own." Zick's prior house was a twin home, and although she loved the layout and the area, it was an older home with thin walls, lacking privacy. Now, she may have a smaller home, but she has a spacious backyard and plenty of privacy. Since she moved in, she has added a trellis and installed a new fence, along with completing a lengthy list of DIY projects to update the home.
The previous owners had completed basic updates to the flooring and trim, but there were still plenty of renovations needed; especially in the kitchen. "The kitchen cabinets were a yellowy oak and I knew I'd have to completely redo it someday, but, in the meantime, I painted the cabinetry so I could live with it. There were cabinets up top, but I tore those down; I don't recommend doing that by yourself," laughed Zick. "I went to Menards, threw up some shelves and thought it was a great place to bring in that trend. The refrigerator is too big for the space, so my plan is to eventually do more of an L-shaped kitchen."
"I had to try and work with the ugly countertop and cabinets, and green is on-trend right now, so I thought it worked well. I sanded them down, took the doors off, and painted all of the cabinetry and the existing pantry. I also added some inexpensive knobs. The kitchen actually turned out better than I had anticipated," said Zick. "For anyone doing their own cabinets, I would tell them to sand, sand and more sand. I didn't use a primer, mainly because it's a temporary fix, but I would suggest priming for a more permanent project and do several coats of poly. I did three coats - the white was at least four."
Using an old picture she had but didn't love, Zick painted out the frame and siliconed the glass so she could repurpose it as a kitchen whiteboard.
Zick purchased this inexpensive dining table for her first apartment, and it's been with her at every home since, occasionally getting a new look with reupholstered chairs she does herself.
DIY Style Files
Originally from Abercrombie, N.D., Zick has lived in Fargo for 11 years and had previously worked in the construction field. She recently started a new career at Tharaldson Hospitality. "I'm trying to be a little more minimalist. I like to keep my style light and natural. When you first live in apartments, it's always 'builder beige', then you get your first home and you go crazy with color - figuring out later that the red wall was not a good idea," laughed Zick. "As I get older, I really like the whites and cool beiges."
Zick finds most of her furnishings locally, picking up a lot of her pieces throughout the years and finding endless ways to reimagine them with new paint or fabric. "I may not particularly like the color or the style of the fabric, but I can always change it; I've done that with quite a few things in my house," said Zick. "I didn't have a lot of experience in remodeling or design, but my mom comes from a huge family where everyone is really talented in their own way; pretty artistic and construction savvy. I've just kind of learned that way and have figured things out as I go."
In the living room, Zick turned to Pinterest for a little accent wall inspiration. To create a modern focal point, she first painted the wall in Onyx to function as a backdrop. For the wood panel, she used an old door that she'd once repurposed as a headboard. Hanging it herself was no easy task, and she had to learn to execute a French cleat system. For the lower storage, she used an inexpensive Menards cabinet, affixed legs, and painted it to coordinate with the wall feature.
Since Zick couldn't find anything to go with her current color scheme, she decided to make her own art. "That was probably my fourth try with art on that canvas," explained Zick. "For the pillows, I buy fabric and sew my own covers. I made all of them, except for the sequined one. I get sick of my pillows, so I have summer decor and winter decor; my summer colors are blues and teals. I even have a zippered cover for the back of the chair, so I can change it out for the seasons. I learned this from my mom; she is a really good seamstress and used to sew all of our clothes. I think if I can do a square, I'm good," laughed Zick.
To create depth in the smaller master, Zick painted the headboard wall in Benjamin Moore's Mysterious, updated the light fixture and created her own organic wall art. "I needed some artwork above the headboard, so my mom and I went scavenging down at the Red River and found some branches to spray paint; I think it adds a little more dimension."
Additional projects included painting the Pier 1 nightstand, lamp and refinishing her old headboard. "The headboard has been with me forever; it's just a piece of plywood that has contact paper on it," explained Zick. "In the past, it's been tufted and leather, but this time, I needed something kind of beachy, so that was my $20 find at Menards. Just to add something fun, I also sewed trim onto the pillow."
The room's last project began out of desperation to solve a small house spacial issue. "I needed a place where I could put makeup on and I couldn't store makeup in the bathroom, so this was kind of my second choice. I had a hard time finding something that was narrow enough and still had a drawer, but I found the table at Ikea and it's held up with brackets. I put contact paper on the top because I had put a big hole in it and needed to cover it up," said Zick.
Be Her Guest
Zick's guest room came with a built-in Murphy bed, but it was crudely constructed and lacked inviting appeal. "It was originally two sheets of plywood with a seam in the middle, and it was stained kind of a weird blue. First, I planned to lighten it up by painting it, but then I could see it needed some dimension," said Zick. "The previous owner had left a bunch of molding, so I used that to come up with a fun design and then changed out the room's lighting."
Give DIY a Try!
"If I had to share any tips, I'd say, 'Don't be afraid, and start off with the little things'," said Zick. "Before you toss it out on the curb, paint it and see if you like it - you can always repaint it. That's basically how I got started - doing small projects like repainting my lamps instead of buying new ones. I mostly do these projects by myself, because I hate asking for help. Sometimes I try to do things just to say I did it," laughed Zick. "There's a lot of satisfaction in just doing it yourself."
Midwest Nest Magazine features home designs in its monthly print and online publication.