Local developer and home renovator Taylor Gruenwald is turning her childhood home in St. Bernard into a modernized rental property. The 26-year-old graduated from Ohio State Unversity with a degree in city and regional planning and she’s accumulated more than 480,000 followers on TikTok, where she posts tutorials and updates on her reno project. We caught up with Gruenwald to hear about her experience using her talents to renovate her own home and rental.
You’re a young developer and renovating your own property here in Cincinnati. What is that like?
It’s been quite an adventure! I always envisioned myself getting into this type of work, so I’m basically living out my dreams right now. I didn’t always plan on returning to Cincinnati after I graduated from college, but discovering my love of urban planning and architecture during my studies made me realize that this is exactly where I want to be. It is really rewarding to contribute to the revitalization of my hometown and city, no matter the scale.
This was your childhood home! Was there anything important for you to preserve?
My grandparents bought this house over 60 years ago. They were local to Cincinnati and had five children, the youngest of which is my father. My father went on to occupy one of the units as a tenant as a young adult and ultimately purchased the property when my mother was pregnant with me. My parents retained the house as a rental property until last year [and] I decided to purchase it to keep [it] in the family and renovate it like I had always dreamed of doing growing up. It was extremely important to me to retain as much of the original character in the house as possible, so I preserved all of the pocket doors, fireplaces, and original stained trim throughout.
How did you begin as a first-time renovator?
My first job out of college involved property renovation and stabilizing historic structures, so I had the advantage of learning a ton about what gutting a house entails and how to manage and budget for the process there. I also built a network of reliable contractors. I gutted most of the house down to the studs and reconfigured each unit to some extent.
Where did you pull inspiration from? Are you inspired by Pinterest boards? Or do you have a natural knack for what you like?
I grew up watching a lot of HGTV, so I started to develop a sense of what I like and don’t like early on. I am constantly scrolling on Pinterest for inspiration, browsing through pictures of my favorite influencers’ renovations, and creating mood boards. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to replicate someone else’s idea. I enjoy adding my own personal flair to a space and pushing the boundaries a bit, all while staying on budget, of course!
During the design and planning phase, were you thinking “this is what I like” or “this is what will sell?”
I definitely had a combined approach. I had always planned to live in the smaller unit and rent the larger unit out until I needed more space, at which point I plan to shift into that unit. The entire house definitely has design elements and color choices that I personally love, but I kept in mind that a future tenant would need to love the space too. It’s all about balance. I kept as much of the historic architecture intact as I could, while also modernizing the space to create more functionality and visual interest. I made a few bold design choices that I think make the space unique, but combined them with timeless choices and the good bones and architecture that the space already offered.
Do you have any advice for someone in Cincinnati looking to renovate their own property?
Start planning and researching now and set a realistic budget for your situation—when the time comes and an opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to dive in and get your hands dirty! If I’ve learned one thing during this process, it’s that we are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for and YouTube (or even TikTok!) can guide you through just about any DIY project. It’s also okay to learn by trial and error with most cosmetic improvements. For more intense portions of a renovation [such as] structural work, you’ll want to have a contractor on board that you can trust. Ask around for referrals and talk to different folks to find the right fit ahead of time.