Tips + Advice

Guest Blog: Whitney Hawkins of Whit Speaks- a Southern Lifestyle Blog

We're super-excited to bring you a special guest post today from design enthusiast, Whitney Hawkins, of Whit Speaks, a Southern Lifestyle Blog.  Featured on notable press platforms such as Buzzfeed, Southern Weddings and Style Me Pretty- Living, Whitney is your go-to source for inspiration for home decor, style, weddings or travel!

Whitney and her husband bought their first home less than a year ago, and while it had beautiful features and a lot of potential, the home needed a ton of work- new lighting being one of the top items on the list. She reached out to us for help with lighting selections that aligned with both her taste and budget. We've had so much fun working with Whitney and we just love her refreshing + unique style! She gave her home such an amazing, drastic makeover in such a short amount of time, so we wanted to pick her brain about her home renovation experience and bring you some awesome remodeling advice to help you prepare for your next home project. So without further ado, read on for Whitney's recommendations for successfully executing the perfect home remodel. You'll want to take notes! 




My style is a bit of a mix, but Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam is someone who’s style I adore - both in home decor and fashion! I love how she pairs classic feminine style with unique southern or vintage touches.

Instagram is one of my favorite social media platforms but I try to be really intentional about the number of accounts I follow. It’s so easy to get bogged down seeing 1000s of perfectly styled photos, so my favorite accounts to follow are @EmilyLey, @TheEverygirl_, @JoannaGaines, and @Carly.

Before anything else you need to make a realistic budget. It’s so important to give yourself extra room because you just never know what could happen once you start the renovation! We planned on a 20% contingency, and ended up spending almost the full amount as we discovered little problems here and there.

My husband and I also found it important to consider the trade-offs of hiring other people. When a project was super specific and would take a LOT of YouTube videos for us to learn, we found that it was best to bring in a contractor. It was a huge relief to know that important things (like knocking down a wall or  waterproofing our shower) were done correctly, to code, and SO much faster than if we had done it ourselves

LISTS! We had a few separate lists going at one time that we kept in the kitchen while we were working on the house. 1: A shopping list so that when we made our frequent trips to Home Depot we wouldn’t forget anything. 2: A to-do list for my husband and I, noting who was to do what, and when. 3: And a to-do list for friends and family who came to help. It was awesome having a pre-made list of small tasks that people could tackle in an hour or two. Plus it allowed them to “pick their favorite”!


It was probably the most time-consuming, but I loved all of the painting! My husband is the handyman so we put him on most of the structural jobs (plumbing, siding the house, electrical) and I was in charge of the painting and paint-prep. It was extremely rewarding to see what a magic eraser and a few coats of paint can do to a house! 


I think people generally underestimate just how much time and money it takes to renovate a home. My husband and I work opposite shifts (he works Thursday-Sunday and I work Monday-Friday) so we almost always had someone spending the entire day on the house. Plus, every evening we would both squeeze in a few more hours. We did this from early May to the last week in July - that’s a LOT of time spent!

Then, add up all the little things we forgot we would need to buy as first time homebuyers (a garden hose, new locks for all of the external doors, lots of air filters… you get the idea).

I try to design from my own specific style. I love maximum simplicity, but with a dash of southern personality. I made a private Pinterest board for every room in our house and saved photos, DIY tutorials, and color/pattern/tile swatches. Seeing everything together helped me pick out recurring themes in my inspiration. For instance, almost all of the kitchens I pinned had dark wood floors, so I took that as my cue to go for dark floors!


Without a doubt, hosting our families for Christmas was a dream come true! The whole time we were renovating, I kept imagining how it would feel to finally fill our home with the people we loved. On Christmas Eve, with our house packed with family and yummy smells wafting through the air, it truly felt like the run-down house we bought was our cozy home. It was the ultimate reward for our hard work!

I recently purchased a brass and white ceiling fan for my office and I love it! My office is over the garage, so in the summer it gets SUPER toasty warm. I love that I found a fan that blends function and beautiful style.


The Ellis Pendant! I love, love, love it!!


I’ve used lighting a couple different ways throughout our house. I used it as a focal point in our breakfast nook because it can be seen from our front door, kitchen, and living room. In our master bedroom, I chose a ceiling fan that made a big visual impact, paired with smaller lights to blend into the background. It’s nice to have alternate forms of lighting (that are dimmable!) to make a space like our bedroom feel like a retreat.

I think they best thing we did to stay on budget, while still choosing stylish lighting upgrades, was to pick a few statement pieces (spread throughout the house) and then fill in with simple, complementing fixtures elsewhere. Working with the experts at Lighting Connection made my decisions SO much easier, especially at the beginning of the design process when I hadn’t narrowed down what ‘look’ I was going for.

Whitney Hawkins | Whit Speaks, A Southern Lifestyle Blog

About the Author

I’m Whitney Blake Hawkins, the lady behind the blog! I live in North Carolina with my husband and fluffy kitten, Joules. I'm the Art Director for Emily Ley, and by night I'm a design enthusiast working on our latest project: renovating our first home! I began blogging in 2010 and it’s my favorite creative outlet! This blog is by no means a full time gig, but instead a place where I can share honest reviews, pretty snapshots, and whatever else is on my mind.

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