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What Do You Wish Someone Had Told You Before Renovating Or Designing Your Home???

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We clearly aren’t a news source (and have no intention of being one) but we are Americans which means going on like Wednesday never happened felt well, UnAmerican. So this is how we feel. A. we are elated about Georgia and the historic Senate wins that hopefully mean that Biden and Harris might be able to really push through some of their solutions to help the environment, racial and economic inequality, and the pandemic and B. we are unbelievably disgusted by what happened at the Capitol, the hypocrisy of ‘law and order’ with how it was handled versus BLM protests and, well, everything about it. And finally, C. We are so thankful that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will officially be our next President and Vice President in 2 weeks!!

So while there is so much work to do in the fight for justice and the continuation of our democracy, we are a design blog that is here if you need a momentary breather.

I have a big question for you… As I’m researching for my book I’m texting, calling, and emailing a lot of my designer/contractor friends to get more inside information on renovations. I obviously don’t know everything (thus the impetus of this book), I only know my own experiences in renovations and you can’t really find this kind of stuff in typical textbooks or school. I have a LOT of them already included in the book from my experiences, but I would love to hear yours – what do you wish someone had told you before you renovated or designed? What are the ‘good to knows’ or ‘buyer bewares’ that you’ve experienced first hand?

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: styling to sell: how we staged our dining room and kitchen (with the changes i should have done years ago!)

Here are some examples:

  • Choosing a flat wall finish will cost you exorbitantly more than a ‘hand trowel’ finish on your walls because it’s WAY more forgiving. Every time you have to change anything with the drywall (move holes, etc) the contractor has to be brought in, whereas with ‘hand trowel’ finish a painter or even a project manager can usually patch it well enough.
  • Teenagers don’t like scooting in and out of dining booths (I still don’t know why but an architect friend, Annie Usher, told me that so confidently that I believe her). As we are designing my brother’s house, we were going to put in one and she was adamant that we’d regret it in 10 years (instead we are doing a bench with two chairs)
  • Large fancy two-person showers (like the ones with two shower heads) are actually SUPER COLD unless all shower heads are on or there is a steam shower. They are just too big to stay warm unless you live in Hawaii (or so says some of our Insider Community members).
  • Drawers are much more efficient and comfortable to use than cupboards on your lower kitchen cabinets (are we done with cabinets on your lowers except for like cutting boards, baking sheets and under your sink storage?)
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: inside all our (super organized) drawers & cabinets in the mountain house kitchen
  • Solid dark rugs (and solid light rugs) both show a lot of ‘mess’ with pets and/or kids (I previously thought dark rugs would be fine!). It’s textured and patterned rugs for the win – even if light, that are more forgiving.
  • Older folks (and a lot of men in my life) don’t love to sit on deep loungey sofas in the living room because they are hard to get in and out of, or to quote Brian “I want to be able to put my legs on the ground and not sit ‘criss-cross applesauce”. HAHAHA.
  • Know where you are placing the furniture before you choose expensive upholstery fabric – if it’s near a window you better check that it’s not going to fade (more poly blends, don’t), and maybe that hand-washed french linen should not be your choice.
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to make your smallest room, the coziest room in your home + sara’s tv room reveal

These and a million more ‘good to knows’ or ‘buyer bewares’ are in the book, but heck, I think we are just cracking the surface here. A lot of contractors and designers might not even know this stuff because maybe it’s newer technology or a newer style but they put it in or recommend them on your approval and then 2 years later you realize ‘well shoot, I wish I had known that’ (which is why I think it’s important as a client to let your designers know feedback – we can all learn!).

This could be about decor, renovation, kitchen/bath, literally anything that has to do with the home that you wish someone had told you… (and if we use it in the book or on the blog we’ll quote you so if you are a designer – or if you want credit in any way – make sure to give your info!) xx

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Zeke Ruelas | From: Modern Deco Kitchen Reveal

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Nina

I once stayed in a BnB with a fancy “open” double shower and I can confirm it’s way colder than a regular shower cabin. You know that feeling of dread when you have to walk out of your warm shower into the cold bathroom? Yeah now you are spending your entire shower in that cold bathroom, brrr!

Christa

This is usually true, but less of an issue in warm places like LA!

Tracy

This is also true with those showers that are ‘half glass’ – no door, just glass by the shower head. I stayed at a place in VT with one of those – rough choice for the climate!

Leila

DIY is cheaper, can be as good quality if you’re careful/skilled (though often you’re not, which is a whole other problem…), but takes up to ten times as long as hiring someone and that is a lot of evenings and weekends. It’s also classic for getting so far and then thinking that’ll do and never raising the energy to finish the last snags. Renovating kitchens – start with the walls and the floor. If the previous owners had wallpaper, get rid of it, as it will take one more coat of paint while you’re renovating and look lovely for five minutes but then start bubbling in the steam of cooking – at which point you’d have to hope and pray your new kitchen survives workmen trying to remove paper and plastering around your new units. Same goes for floors – always do them first and then install your new cupboards, unless you’re only planning to put some lino down. Also, painting existing cupboards is only a good plan if they are wood – never mind the tricks of getting special primer to paint over laminate – just cut your losses. Any kind of stick-on thing does not work – tile… Read more »

Rusty

Leila,
It seems in the US, the internal walls are not brick, whereas in Australia and from what I’ve seen, those in the UK, are brick internal walls… so the ‘plastering’ is a whole ‘nuther story and likely very different to what we easily do with our plastered brick walls. (???)

Shannon

I have this question too! Although we are in the US, we have an old house that has all brick internal walls and most have been plastered. I would love to expose some of the brick but don’t even know where to start with the plaster…

Jill Hurley

Typically in ireland and in many parts of UK and Europe, some internal walls would be block or brick (usually block) and others would be partition walls. When building, we “dry line” (dry wall) over the block or partition and then plaster. We never paint directly over the dry wall – although I understand that this might be fairly common in the US?

Jill Hurley

* Meaning we plaster over the dry lining (dry wall) and then paint.

YP

Unfortunately painting right on dry wall is super common in the US especially in rental apartments and some condos/coops which have been done-up builder grade! Interesting to learn the nuances across countries!

Nicole

Hi Rusty,
Houses built in Australia from the late 1970’s onwards are almost universally constructed with drywall, with mesh used to bridge the gaps and then covered with plaster. The plaster is sanded back to a smooth finish once dry. You’re right to say that we used to build with brick internal walls, from about 1940-1975. Before that it was plaster and lathe. 🙂

Lucy

I think flat walls must be a regional thing within the US as well. Where I live (Philadelphia) The standard is flat old plaster walls or newer flat drywall. I’ve never heard a contractor make an issue of it, it must be the norm for electricians etc to know how to do patches.

It’s definitely regional! Here in Minnesota all the walls are flat and I’ve never heard of another option unless you DIY the drywall in your basement and want a wall texture to cover your mistakes.

Jill

I can verify this! In Minnesota and my husband works with builders. One new company based in Texas built all their homes with textured walls and they don’t sell here! People walk in and say ‘huh, don’t like that’.

Eugénie

I live in Texas and textured drywall is the norm. Each house I’ve remodeled and asked for “level 5” drywall finish (flat), the contractor has had to find someone from the North East to do the job. We’ve had great work by tradesmen from New York and Boston.

Jessie

You dont need to go all the way to the northeast to find that – flat finish is the standard as nearby in Kansas City!

I’m also in Texas and can confirm. It makes wallpaper a bigger challenge if you want it, but patching holes is super easy.

DeniseGK

We had something similar done. Had to redo the ceiling of the master bath (black mold) and since all the ceilings were textured when we moved in, I took my chance. Requested a flat finish on the new “greenboard” (special kind of drywall) and they had to search for a guy. Luckily, someone had recently moved down here (MS) from way up north somewhere and he came in and did it. He was fabulous too. I was told that kind of “difficult” request takes at least 4 days by 4 contractor, but the Yankee did it in 2 days and 6 years later it still looks amazing. It was more expensive. Hope that guy is making bank here, as flat is starting to catch on. Everyone who used to think my ceiling was weird now wants one like it.

Same in AZ, all walls are textured.. and I hate it! Contractors actually charge extra for flat walls.

Jamie

I grew up in Chicago and out house was built in 1930. The walls on the first floor were all a smooth-ish plaster stucco with ornate plaster crown moulding (looked like leaves and berries with pie lattice over it). All the other rooms were flat plaster. Newer homes were flat drywall. In Arizona, where I live now, most homes are textured plaster over cinder block. I’ve grown to accept it, but you can never try anything different like a cool wallpaper.

Kelly

I live in Wisconsin and textured walls is the norm, whether it be sand in the paint, orange peel or knockdown.

Beth

Yep, it’s regional. I’m in New York and have never really heard of any alternative to flat walls – except for a few prewar tudor homes I’ve been in that have plaster walls that have a sort of rough finish to them. However, my brother and SIL moved to Portland OR, and it drives them CRAZY that everyone seems to think these rough walls are the norm!

Kelly P

Definitely regional. I’m an Interior Designer and when I lived in Michigan the standard was smooth walls. Since moving to Arizona the standard is either hawk and trowel or some other type of texture. I miss drywall guys who can do perfectly flat, smooth walls!

Anon

I live in the U.S. and have been filling and finishing holes on drywall my whole life…learned probably somewhere around 8 years old, and I’m not special! This topic keeps coming up on the blog and I have no idea why flat finish is considered hard by anyone. On the other hand, I haven’t learned how to match texture on non-flat finishes. Maybe the flat finish problem will be explained with pics in the book so we can see what she means. 🙂

Nicole

You have to apply texture for patching with an air compressor. Don’t attempt it yourself with the spray can stuff off the shelf. I’ve always assumed textured walls have become the norm because the drywaller can be sloppier, faster, and therefore cheaper. Any new house that isn’t custom where I live is textured.

anon

I grew up in the midwest and every house I lived in had plaster over lathe walls or dry wall with the seams puttied over. I never heard of “textured walls” before reading this blog. And I never heard of “popcorn ceilings” until I moved to California.

Popcorn ceilings are disgusting and I recommend people run from them like they are human-eating-zombies!

My current rental bathroom has “orange peel tiles” which means I can’t use anything with suction cups in the shower. (If I owned this place I would rip out these tiles! And raise the shower head to adult height instead of 52 inches, and install an adult length tub, and rip out the hideous sliding shower doors and put in a curved shower curtain rod.)

I agree with the commenters who say this is some weird regional thing and that the “texture” is to cover up for lazy mistakes or cheap-o contractors want to do slap dash jobs.

Christa

Textured walls (orange peel) are definitely a thing in rentals in California. After WW2 a lot of people wanted to live in California and they couldn’t build houses fast enough. Applying texture with a hopper/sprayer was much faster than smooth coating, and probably seemed like a cool new look at the time. Orange peel can look perfectly fine if painted with matte paint in a soft white or neutral tone. It doesn’t do so well with dark, intense colors. Worse than orange peel is knock-down finish walls, which became popular in the late 60s-70s. It features heavy trowel marks, usually only on exterior stucco but sometimes it was done indoors, and it’s bad. To have walls smooth-coated can easily cost $5-10k!

DeniseGK

Popcorn goes in the mouth, not on the ceiling. Words to live by.

Beth

I live in upstate New York and have never seen/heard of textured walls here (I have seen them in homes in Tennessee and Texas, but never in this area). After reading a lot of the comments here, I do think this is a Level 2 finish (mudding the seams, not a full coverage coat)…and it’s very easy to patch. Not sure about the cost difference, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a contractor doing a textured finish here. I can say that when I see textured walls I definitely think “cheap” and “dated” and “ugly”. Sounds like it’s definitely a regional thing! I wonder if it’s not really more expensive here because it’s the norm and contractors are definitely expected to be good (and fast) at it, or they won’t be hired.

Kirstie

Paint colors and how they work with different lighting / different flooring. Despite testing multiple color swatches, our bedroom – painted Blackened by F&B – oddly looks slightly purple with our oak wood floors and drives me nuts daily. I’m well overdue for a re-paint to clean it up!

Rules of thumb with updating light fixtures, so it looks authentic to the style of the home, but also refreshed. What are the right sizes of light fixtures based on size of space? How far down should it hang?

Accent walls (wall paper, board and batten) – I’ve personally written them off as they don’t feel cohesive to the entire space for me, but are there times when they work?

EB

I just saw a product on Insta that is sample peel and stick paint squares with real paint colors–not sure how accurate they are, but sounds like they can be moved from room to room to test how light/time of day etc. will affect them 🙂

https://samplize.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiAouD_BRBIEiwALhJH6BAk_D-XEwdsOXSeT6qHrxT1gbXIv_7yJEbsQvCZ87OrxwfAZeWighoCg00QAvD_BwE

Kelsey

We used samplize in our house during our paint selection process, and loved it. If you can get a promo code, it can be close to the same cost as the paint samples.

Deb

I got three of these to try out on my front door. So glad I did because the color I was leaning toward looked way to green and the one I thought I would like the least was an absolute winner and the paint matched exactly.

Lorrie Elliott

Yes! All you have to do is look from one wall to another and it seems like a completely different color.

What a great post and upcoming book! I’ve never done a full-on renovation, but I live in a rental now that was newly renovated before we moved in, and there are a few things that are so extra frustrating that I’d love to save other readers from them. The main issue is that things like hand towels racks, toilet paper holders, and showerheads are placed *just off* from what would actually be the most user friendly. Like the hand towel hanger makes it so that the edges of a standard size hand towel have to hang kind of tucked between the sink and the wall, so it doesn’t dry well bc London, and it’s annoying to make it sit right after every use so it doesn’t hang into the sink basin and get wet/be in the way. The showerhead in one bathroom is perfectly centred in the smallish enclosed shower, which means there’s no way to slightly stick your head or body out of the spray while, say, shaving legs or letting conditioner soak in. In both cases if these things were shifted by just a couple inches they’d be perfectly placed, but having them slightly off from user-friendly is… Read more »

Oh also in our old house in a not-warm climate, we had a double master shower that wasn’t *too* cold, but the spray would get split between the showerheads in a way that made both ineffectively weak. I talked to a plumber about it and apparently this was actually just the prior owner having chosen shitty hardware, even though our homes water pressure each oils have been sufficient, which he had warned her about, as he happened to be the same plumber who had done the renovation (!). You apparently have to get special hardware that properly diverts the full pressure stream to make both showerhead is comfortable to use at the same time, and it’s slightly more expensive.

Ally

Also the owner of a very large (5’×10′) multi headed steam shower that we added on and have regretted for 22 years. To accommodate the steam feature (which we’ve almost never used!) the shower is fully enclosed and tiled floor to ceiling with a gap-less shower door. Talk about a constant horrible mildew mess! By code the door must open outward so we can’t even leave it open post-shower or it blocks a sink and drips onto the floor. And yes we had an architect on this project that didn’t function well from day one! I’m hoping for a lottery win so I can one day rip it out and start over!

Suzanne

Ally – I’m so sorry you’ve had bad luck with your steam shower. We’ve had ours for 12 years, and it may be the single best thing we’ve ever done in our home. Our shower door swings both ways, so we are able to keep it open. We also have a fan inside the shower stall, which we run after showering on a timer for 30 minutes to an hour. There is also a fan in the main part of the bathroom. We are in California, which generally has low humidity, so that helps, too.

Ally

We also have inside and outside the shower stall fans and always run both. Also when I don’t need to access my sink or can use my husband’s I leave the door open a lot. Still filled with mildew and daily regret!

Jenny M

Speaking of shower doors, is there a creative solution to preventing the drip onto the bathroom floor when you open the shower door? We’re in the midst of redesigning our master bath and wet bathroom floors are my biggest pet peeve. Currently we have a shower curtain and my husband cannot keep the water inside the shower, so I’ve insisted on a shower door. But in all the places I’ve been to, with shower doors, the water just drips down onto the floor when you open it to get out. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is enough room to have a door that opens inward as well plus we’re not sure if it would pass code in California. I feel like there has to b a solution that we don’t know of!

silly bee

Also in CA. We just put in a frameless glass shower door that opens in both directions. The installer should be able to tell you if you have enough space. You just need enough to get out.

Ashleu

Oh man didn’t even think about the mildew! Thx for sharing!

Morgan

Could you have a ventilation fan installed inside of your shower? There are some nice looking ones, and then you’d be able to get rid of some of the moisture after you shower without leaving the door open.

Rusty

“plastered masonry walls” are waaay easy to fill old screw holes, etc. Buy some ready made plaster/filler (we call it “bog” in Australia! Haha) and apply with the spatula. Let it dry completely. Lightly sand. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove dust. Paint! Easy peasy. 🤗

Dana

Lol. I’d read a blog like this for sure. “Normal ass” sent me.

Maggie

I think beautiful floors are so important when renovating and I have a thing about different floor surfaces being level. We sanded and oiled all our wood floors but in the bathroom we instead put in a subfloor at a lower level to the boards – I’m sure you all know this – so when tiled there is no step in floor levels.
I’m also a fan of mat wells. We routed out the boards across the width of the hallway for 1m from the front door and sunk in an industrial mat so it is flush with the floor. We have a chequerboard stained and oiled floor and the simple black mat is super functional and looks good.

Emily

Woah mat wells! What a great idea!

Kara

I too, am having my wee mind blown by this. I love it!

Rusty

I tiled on top of the original broken mosaics in the bathroom, to save time and money. The tiler roughed up the old tiles first so they’d grip the adhesive, etc. So, I have a little bit of a raised floor, maybe 1cm?
It’s no biggie and I’d definitely do this again.

Lane

I’m using those by the front door too. It
Makes the most sense and the size is good too

Teresa

Stained wood cabinets are much easier to keep clean and maintain than white painted cabinets. I have painted cabinets with both the expensive pro classic enamel paint and a gloss wall paint – both types chip easily and have to be touched up. I would choose stained wood any day over maintaining a paint finish on cabinets (my cabinets were already painted by a previous owner both times so repainting was cheaper and faster than stripping the cabinets and staining the wood).

Do not paint exterior concrete – especially in a humid climate. Painted exterior concrete in a humid climate becomes extremely slick and is a slipping hazard and any pollen/dirt will stick to painted concrete much more so than it does to unpainted concrete. Removing paint from concrete is an utter nightmare (several full days were spent using paint stripper and a pressure washer to remove paint from concrete patio and carport).

Asuncion

Imprinted concrete in colours that are not grey, specially red, looks ugly and cheap in a few years. Best is grey and cobblestone like.

Rusty

Ooooh, yes, painted concrete is a slippery back-breaking hazard!
However… concrete stain is a gift from the design Gods!
Easy to apply, doesn’t fade and lasts soooo long!
Note: you can’t stain over painted concrete.

anon

Thanks for that info. Was going to ask about staining the concrete. Since there appears to be so many accidental stains on my concrete patio it seems like it shouldn’t be too hard.

Melissa

There are special additives to add to concrete specific paint “SHARK SKIN” to increase friction and minimize slip on concrete. I’m in south Florida and painted concrete walkways, stamped or smooth, are pretty common as everything (weeds & grass) grows so fast, even in properly treated and placed pavers. Many resort/hotels/country club pool decks are treated with special concrete paints or with a textured spray “cool deck” and enhanced with pavers. Personally, I prefer stains, but there are non slip options for repainting or painting concrete safely.

Siel

I’m intrigued by the subject, but I must admit that the given examples weren’t very shocking. I love design but my first thoughts ALWAYS go to the practical side.
Personally I won’t even pair a dining table with a bench. Your back needs support when it’s sitting for a while.
Also feeling Brians comment on being able to touch the flour with your feet when sitting on a couch.

Hannah

I agree about bench seating! It looks good and might work better for tight spaces, but nobody enjoys sitting on a bench for more than 10 minutes.

Debbie

Also… tables with low hanging sides can be tight on the legs when sitting… especially in the case of lengthy post-dinner discussions with a glass of wine in hand. When sitting back more relaxed than upright to eat there needs to be space for your legs – even crossed at the knees!

Rachel L

Speaking of white cabinetry, we once had a white shaker cabinet installed in a house we renovated and there was a lot of dust/grime that accumulated in the inside corners of that shaker trim. I think if you want white, you Should be warned that any cabinet trim will get a build-up in the corners. If you don’t like the idea of cleaning the grime, go with a flat panel or wood. Or maybe wood on the bottom, white on top?

Kim Scott

Also with white cabinets, ours are technically cream with a brown glaze that builds up in the edges so we don’t get the obvious grime build up showing like you are talking about. My deal with the light cabin is with 3 kids, any time they drop or spill anything you are constantly finding splashes on them. They hid nothing!

Colleen

Doesn’t even have to be white, we have black shaker cabinets and still get dirt in the corners that you can see.

Asuncion

Yes indeed

R Remington

I have four kids and love bench seating. You can pack a whole lot of littles on one bench 🙂 Plus, they’re harder to knock over than chairs. Bench seating is definitely lifestyle-dependent. We will upgrade to chairs once our littles become more responsible, full-sized humans. I hear that happens…eventually?

I will say that i actually love a bench for kids. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gotten after a kid for not sitting in their chair correctly – which usually ends with the child toppling off the chair, the chair falling over, and/or broken chairs. So while they’re little, we’ve put in benches with two actual chairs at the ends for the grown ups. It won’t be forever.

Rusty

I agree Siel! Good points!

Spero

I agree on the bench. I bought bench seating for my first ‘adult dining’ set due in part to the fond memories I had of the amazing kitchen nook in my elementary school house…it is not the same as an adult. Sliding is awful, sitting is uncomf, even the benches with backs aren’t great

Emily

Invest in the right stuff. Just like it makes more sense to splurge on a good pair of jeans or shoes than it does a trendy T-shirt, spend your money and buy the good stuff when it comes to flooring, moulding, all that permanent stuff. Don’t go cheap and then try to cover it up with a fancy throw pillow. To quote Dean from the My Tiny Estate blog, “a room should look good without any furniture in it”. Architectural details are important. If you’ve got them, flaunt them, but if not, seek ways to add character fitting to the style of your home. You can find some great how tos on this blog 🙂 Take some time to learn some DIY skills, but know your personal strengths and weaknesses and bring in the pros when needed. Ask your handy family and friends to guide you while you’re learning, watch some YouTube videos, there’s a lot you can and should learn how to do. Finally, I’m still looking for tips on how to actually get a contractor to work with you. Why oh why does it seem that it always involves calling 10 different tradespeople, having maybe 4 call you… Read more »

we use Sweeten for contractors – a real dream if you’re in an area that it services 🙂

Rusty

Chris loves Julia uses Sweeten too!

Rusty

I think the girst phone chat is pivotal.
Just like first impressions count when you meet someone, I’ve found (pretty much with all tradies), that first phone call requires some charm and me selling why they’d like to work for me… hope that makes sense?

Asuncion

The quality of tile flooring is very important because many heavy things can fall to the floor. Some porcelain floors are not real porcelain and can be easily broken in a kitchen just when a plate falls to the floor, which ruins completely the kitchen because ther is no easy solution.

Also, laminate floor can look cheap in a few years if not thick enough, and almost always you feel like you are floating instead of feeling a firm and stable floor under you feet.

But for many other decor items, the important thing is that they look expensive, not that they really are. Heavy objects tend to feel of a better quality than lighter ones (remember Jurassic Park). Generic art, as Emily always says, looks very cheap, same as Buddha figurines by the way (this is just my opinion)

Susan

I am a painting contractor. I prefer to work with people I already know, or who have been referred to me by someone I know. The best way to get a good contractor is to ask realtors you’ve worked with, friends, family, your local peeps on facebook etc. The really good contractors don’t advertise, and aren’t seeking work because they are already too busy so may not call you back without a referral. It’s taken me about 5 years to build up my pipeline of realtors, other trades people and repeat clients who send me to their friends and family. I work almost exclusively word of mouth through established connections.
That said, I have followed up 100% with every person who calls me within a day or 2 even if I don’t know them, because I have integrity and treat people how I want to be treated. If you have taken the time to call me, I will take the time to return it and help in whatever way possible. Maybe my experiences aren’t true everywhere, but it’s what I see here in the Midwest US.

Colleen

You hit the nail on the head! My husband is a contractor and he is the same as you…all word of mouth referral, no advertising, doesn’t prefer to do work for people he doesn’t know. He has a lot of repeat clients. He shows up when he says he will, returns calls and doesn’t gauge people with pricing (even his wealthy clients). I feel for people who don’t know anyone and don’t know where to start.

Emily

Thanks ladies! I too am in the Midwest, but I seem to be missing that typical Midwest hospitality 🙂 At least it sounds like I’m doing the right stuff – I’m only calling people who have been recommended to me, making sure I start convos with contractors with who recommended me, positively commenting on the work they did in that person’s house, etc… but I think I’ve just had a string of bad luck, plus I’m sure the pandemic isn’t helping matters either (contractors are BUSY right now, at least by me). Oh well, I’ll just keep on plugging away and hopefully find the right person eventually.

Heather

Never use flat paint if you live with kids. We loved the matte finish but could not clean it. If I wiped it down with anything – water, Magic eraser, etc, it would leave a spot and touch up paint never worked either despite being from the original paint can (I read it might have to do with different temps while drying?). Anyway, now I paint all walls satin or eggshell. Most people know this, but we thought we could get away with flat paint. We couldn’t.

Ventless gas logs will make your house smell like there is a gas leak. We’ve had them in two different houses. Don’t do it.

Don’t skimp on windows. Natural light is everything.

Erin Dae

I agree re: flat paint…but Behr has a new paint out (Behr Ultra Scuff Defense) that has a special technology in it that gives you the flat look but with the scrubbability (probably not a word, ha!) of a satin paint. I haven’t tried it yet but I do know some about the chemistry of it (I do NOT work for Behr) and it is definitely not just a marketing claim – it is a different technology than regular paint.

A.B.

White walls are a disaster with kids. Looks so bright and not as offensive with their colorful toys, but shortly after feels like no painting or renovating was done.

Rusty

I ONLY use Dulux in low sheen. Absolutely washable! I can’t fathom using mat/flat paint on walls! Ouuwwrrgghhh.
Lol… I may have been known to use a scourer once or rwice due to scruffy dawg messes!! Ha… it even takes that!

I use a new wall paint by Wise Owl, which is a ceramic one-hour wall paint – it’s flat and washable. In all transparency, I have an affiliate link with them (but I’m expensive they can’t ‘buy’ my opinion). I recently moved into a new home and painted my walls with it for the first time. It’s beautiful (same price point as F&B), so not cheap – but to get that finish whereby you don’t see the irregularities on a wall because of light reflection etc, is worth it.

Kate

We moved into a new build in March with flat matte paint, as well as a two and five year old… and it’s a DISASTER! The powder room is destroyed by water splashes, soap sprays, and little handprints anywhere they put a dirty hand or a wet clean hand. Also, you can see brown patches in the paint where their little bodies rub next to the sink in the spot by their stool where they typically stand when washing. The dog has a path in the hall where she likes to rub her body, and that path is now grimy. In the dining room, little slings of yogurt or drops from spilled milk that splash are forever ingrained in our walls. It can’t be wiped out. We’ve only lived here nine months and we are due for a repaint. And since we’re in an open concept new build, this will mean repainting every single wall and every single ceiling, because there is nothing but continuous walls throughout the house. Luckily we are pretty low key, since the kids are young and the rest of the decor is very child-oriented. We are practical and know everything needs to be durable –… Read more »

Eliza

Hot water with powder tide was a Miracle worker on my white walls (simply white by BM) and I have two toddlers and a large dog 🙂 check out gocleango in Instagram.

We are in the same situation. Our kids are older (elementary and middle school) and we have dogs, including a Great Dane. We’ve repainted one bathroom and our master bath ourselves already (been in the house 3 years) but need to wait to hire a professional for the main areas due to really high walls and open concept. It’s super irritating to be in a new build house that already needs to be repainted.

We also need to repaint our exterior already because we chose a semi-dark house color and the builder used super cheap quality paint. 🙁

Use high quality paint and never ever flat!

Cate

Don’t forget sound deadening materials between walls, floors, etc.

Rusty

Most internal walls here are single brick, so no space!

Jess

Hey Rusty curious about you saying a couple times that you have seen brick internal walls. I live in QLD and have never seen this – maybe it is regional? Maybe because houses here tend to be weatherboard or new build render? How do you even insulate brick walls or is the brick the insulation… interesting stuff

Liz

I’m from QLD and now live in WA… over here most builds are double brick and tile on concrete slabs. The outer walls are two separate layers of brick and internal walls are just a single brick wall which is plastered (not gyprocked). They’re not insulated as such but not a lot of noise carries through the brick and plaster anyway. I miss the beautiful queenslander style though!

Jess

Thanks Liz! So interesting how regional these things can be.

Rachel S

This is indeed my biggest regret in building my house, especially with mostly hardwood floors on each floor of the house.

Cheryl Luce

I think that is a great point and reminder! Thanks! We are redoing a guest bath–currently I can hear anybody using that toilet when I am in my study, below that room. Ick! I’ll ask my contractor about it!

KC

R.E. Your note.

I’m so sick of conservatives and liberals having completely different standards for each other.

Rioting is wrong no matter what. It’s the breakdown of our society.

But for some reason when some groups do it, rioting is “the language of the unheard” while other groups are filled with “disgusting” mobs.

At the end of the day – the ends don’t justify the means, no matter what your cause.

Riots this summer did hundreds of millions in damage to communities, families and small businesses (who were struggling from lockdowns) but were cheered on with bail funds and hailed as *mostly peaceful*.

It just sounds really hypocritical to be pro-rioting for causes you like and anti-rioting when you’ve “othered” a group of people you dislike for having different beliefs and perspectives.

DB

New Years resolution: Looking for Design bloggers who don’t try to interject their political beliefs into their posts.

StephanieZ

Bye Felicia! This is her blog and her words. Want something different, go somewhere else.

Irene

Ha, let me know if you find one who’s nearly as interesting as Emily and her team. I don’t share most far-left ideals, so I tried following several sweet, non-provocative design bloggers instead of EHD last year.

I disagree with some of Emily’s style opinions, too, and the substitutes I followed were more my style (lots of cabriole legs and hydrangeas). However — they just didn’t compare, and I no longer read them.

There is something intangibly magic about this site and its contributors that keeps me coming back whatever the posted topic.

Jen

BLM protests were mainly peaceful protests and consisted of many different types of people asking for police brutality to end. There were a lot of arrests and violence.

Wednesday rioters attacked the Capitol due to baseless claims that that Trump lost the election — at his urging. There were few arrests and an entirely different manner of treatment for the white rioters.

One group is simply asking for the right to live. The other is so entitled that when they don’t get what they want the only explanation they can fathom is that they were cheated.

This isn’t about having different beliefs and perspectives. This is about human life and allowing democracy to occur.

KC

Getting facts from social media doesn’t provide an accurate picture. Trump Events: there have been hundreds over the past 6 years and zero had dissolved into riots prior to this week BLM: hundreds of events, many were peaceful, but OVER 200 delved into violent riots that caused great destruction. Cities prepared differently for these events because of those facts (which you can call racist or a prudent use of government resources – depending on your perspective). D.C. passed an emergency order this summer that restricted police responses to violent protesters. Rules were still in affect. There weren’t many arrests because the police were understaffed and outmanned. They are now reviewing the footage and identifying perpetrators to make more arrests. According to the NYT thousands of BLM protesters were released without charges despite looting and rioting. The Trump rioters will not be released without charges. Again – the ends don’t justify the means. But in a civil society it’s important to ask why and put in a good effort to understand our neighbors. BLM protesters believe our justice system is fundamentally flawed and unjust and that our culture is racist – and enough has not been done to end this travesty.… Read more »

LouAnn

KC: I think you raise a good point about the severe damage of this summer’s looting (done by opportunistic criminals mostly, not by real protesters). but your point about voting changes that were “rushed through without following Democratic processes” jut doesn’t hold up. AT ALL. You are doing some selective reading there.

Fact: The voting changes that Trump and his supporters have been ranting about in Pennsylvania were approved in 2019 well BEFORE Covid, the changes were bipartisan, and were adopted by a REPUBLICAN dominated state legislature in Pennsylvania. Republicans had months to object/sue, etc. They didn’t object until Trump lost. You’ve been fed misinformation and you haven’t bothered to question it.

KC

Hi LouAnn, thanks for reading my comment and looking at the points.

You may have missed, but I wrote “Trump protesters … believe”. You are correct that I have not done in depth reading on the subject and am not an expert on the cases.

My point was just that we tend to denigrate people we disagree with as ridiculous, stupid or evil – without attempting to understand their grievances which creates more polarization. I am not interested in defending their argument.

Also, from a preliminary Google search there were several lawsuits filed before the election:

Carson v. Simon was filed before the election, a New Jersey lawsuit, Donald J. Trump for President v. Way, was filed before the election (the governor used executive orders to change the voting process, is that a precedent we’re okay with?), Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, was filed in October after a separate court decision changed election procedures and Scarnati v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party was filed in PA before the election as well. There were several others as well.

K

“Trump Events: there have been hundreds over the past 6 years and zero had dissolved into riots prior to this week.” This is simply untrue. Also, many BLM protesters have been assaulted by pro Trump supporters who are carrying firearms and threatening people. The amount of Trump rallies where people are carrying firearms is ridiculous and downright scary.

liz

Jen- Well said. To compare BLM protests to the domestic terrorism we experienced this week is to truly be ignorant of the issues at hand. Violence, vandalism and looting are never acceptable. but there were literally hundreds of protests this summer where nothing violent or illegal happened. Those large protests where violence occurred only a small percentage of the participants were the criminals that did something wrong. And those criminals should be arrested just like all rioters who broke through barricades this week. But in the BLM protests there were hundreds of peaceful protesters arrested who did not commit any criminal activity. And in Wed protests there were hundreds who did who were not arrested. This is white privilege at its finest. The protest this week a much larger percentage, in comparison to all of the protests this summer, of the rioters turned violent and broke the law when they pushed past barricades and broke into the capital to try and impede an important official government activity. All protesters whether they broke any laws or not had the intent of interrupting or stopping a government duty. The intent in the BLM protests was simply to let people know they are… Read more »

KC

See above. A much smaller percentage of Trump events (1) led to rioting vs BLM (200+).

“Protesters didn’t attempt to stop government duty.”

Literally LAST NIGHT a mob of antifa from Portland descended on the suburb of Tigard, where they tried to break inside the local police department.

Other government buildings/people destroyed during BLM protests:

– Burnt down/heavily damaged: Minneapolis Third Precinct, Minneapolis Fifth Precinct, 2 Minneapolis post offices
– In total, Minneapolis had 150 buildings (businesses, community locations) heavily destroyed with almost 2 dozen burnt to the ground
– Portland – Multnomah Building, which houses county government operations, was heavily damaged by hurled rocks and fires, police precincts, federal buildings were also attacked
– Portland – protesters occupied the East Precinct for weeks
– Dallas, 5 police officers were gunned down by a BLM supporter at a BLM protest

Not a full list.

But question – why is destroying government buildings worse than small businesses?

Kris

Oh—-the Portland East Precinct was not occupied for weeks, and the Multnomah building on Hawthorne was not heavily damaged (though it was damaged). I don’t condone the damage to businesses, etc, but I think spreading lies is worse.

KC

Apologies, it was Seattle Police Department, East Precinct, not Portland, that was occupied for weeks (June 8 – July 1) in CHAZ.

Also, maybe ask without accusing people of lying?

Dd

The East Precinct in Seattle wasn’t “occupied” either. It was abandoned, but not occupied.

Tracy

Hi, KC. The stated intent of the Capitol rioters was to overturn an election they lost, interfere with the peaceful transition of power (one of the most important tenets of a free democratic society), and physically intimidate, harm and threaten elected lawmakers. All this over debunked conspiracy theories promoted by a president whose ego prevents him from admitting this wasn’t even a particularly close election (as even Mitch McConnell noted). The fact that an ill-organized group like this (viking horns? body paint?) was able to break into the literal seat of democracy is a national security humiliation that tells other countries we are weak. It encourages our enemies, plain and simple. The fact that the Confederate flag flew in the Capitol for the first time in American history is repellent and grotesque, and is an image that will only encourage the further growth of white supremacy that’s already flourished under Trump’s encouragement. The fact that ALL this, ALL of it, was encouraged and promoted by the President of the United States is unconscionable. There is zero equivalence with BLM. Zero. Better to compare BLM with the “no-mask” conservative protests recently, where there was plenty of violence, governors hung in effigy,… Read more »

Cheryl

It’s become very tiresome to listen to the sad list of buildings “destroyed” when in comparison we’re looking at issues where actual human lives were destroyed. Brown people have been subject racism for far too long in this country. That is the conversation we can’t afford to turn away from. Looking at the fallout and assessing damage to inanimate objects is truly baffling.

Rusty

And…where were the national guard (not sure if that’s what they’re called – Australian here)… I read that they weren’t approved to go in, by Trump, for several hours? WTF!?!

Rusty

Cup of Jo has this covered….

Elisabeth

KC is tired of “different standards,” but doesn’t mention how those protesting police murder of unarmed Black people were beaten and sprayed with tear gas and rubber (and actual!) bullets, while white nationalist terrorists in the actual Capitol building were allowed to go home scot-free. That’s some wild intellectual and moral dishonesty right there.

LouAnn

This is the real issue. Too many of the rioters at the capitol were allowed to walk out of the building without consequence. It was appalling to see them treated with such kid gloves. Meanwhile this summer protesters outside the White House were teargassed because Trump wanted to talk to a nearby church for a PR stunt.

I do agree, however, that too many people on the left rationalized the looting from this summer. Yes there were mostly peaceful protests but the damage from the looting was massive, illegal, inexcusable and ruined people’s lives (black and white).

Tricia

There’s a difference between people who break into an Apple Store during civil unrest and trying to overthrow the seat of government when you don’t like the result of an election and the President encourages you to do so.

One is trespassing. The other is treason.

Tracy

If you can’t tell the difference between violent intimidation of duly elected lawmakers, the murder of a capitol police officer, the physical damage to the seat of American government, and the outright humiliation and horrible precedent to the country that was this riot (what, are we all supposed to try and physically overthrow the government now when we lose? Are we to abandon the peaceful transition of power, key hallmark of democracy, because the president doesn’t want to admit he lost by a far greater margin than others in recent elections? What message about our vulnerability does this send to our enemies?) – all encouraged and incited by our PRESIDENT … and … property damage of retail establishments and violent clashes with white supremacists during protests against institutionalized murder … Yeah. There is just no equivalency there, at all.

I live in a 1929 home and when We first moved in, we changed out most of the beautiful brass door knobs in our upstairs with brighter brass knobs (it was the 90s). I regret that decision now, and of course got rid of the original knobs. There is one closet with the original knob still. Be careful of removing classic for trendy. I am happy with light fixture switches, but those door knobs…

Rusty

Yesssssss!!!
I nearly painted over the stained wooden details (plate/picture rails and some formal door frames and doors), but I’m soooo glad I decided to live with it to get a feel for them. I love them now and they’re original bearly 100 year old features!
Always, always, restore original features. Always.

Jessie

I think the key I’m hearing in your comment is IF you remove original hardware or other pieces, SAVE IT. I’ve seen some episodes of remodeling shows (including Bargain Mansions, which takes place in my hometown) where they go into old houses and end up finding a treasure trove of original doors, windows, lighting, hardware, etc stored in the basement or garage. The mindset of whoever removed it originally decades ago was that it belonged with the house, and so they kept it, and now it allows the renovaters to bring some of those original finishes back into the house. Part of me thinks this probably applies regardless of the age of your house – as I’m swapping out doorknobs in my house, which was built in 2000, I definitely haven’t saved the builder basic junk I’m removing (so much brushed nickel), but in 60 years would someone find that “antique” hardware cool? Maybe!

Emma

I loved your intro statement about Jan. 6th. I have lived in the DC area my whole life and work in DC (virtually now from MD). Like most Americans of all political persuasions, my heart broke on Wednesday and I hope we all learn the dangers of extremism from the siege. Democracy is about listening to people and compromise. You don’t always get your way, but you respect the process. Thank you for sharing the design tips too but I’m posting to thank you for saying we can’t just ignore what happened. We can learn from it though!

Michelle C

Agreed! I work in DC but now virtually from VA. It was so heart-breaking to see what was a protest turn not only violent but be incited by someone who is supposed to represent all of the US and it has impacted not only the country but specifically this region and a city without the same rights as most other US citizens.

Also, we’re about to kick off a substantial renovation ourselves and I’m so exited to see the suggestions! So far many are very helpful!

Thank you!

Rusty

I thought from mainstream media bith print and TV, that the RIOT was planned for weeks, on.ine and the aim was to take the Capitol building!?!?
I’ve NEVER seen it referred to as a “protest.”

Daria

It was definitely pre-planned. They ordered merch! With the date!! It was always intended to be a siege.

EL

You’ll probably end up spending some money/time fixing old “DIYs”… the previous owner of our home painted the tub with regular white, latex paint?! What a mess.

Sarah

The previous owner in our house painted our kitchen counters with regular latex paint too. WHY.

Rusty

I had this cast iron one re-done in situ for under $600 (cured with heat lamps). 19 years later? Still going strong and it’s used every day… the shower is in the tub!

EL

That’s our plan! Meanwhile, paint chips… 😬

The previous owner of my home thought himself quite handy. On the bright side, we have pretty decent, super customized closets and an awesome workshop. On the dark side, we have literally every single type of plumbing pipe that has existed in the last 70 years, lots of janky fixes to things, wrong materials used, unsafe practices (especially electrical) so it’s fun. Nearly every day our contractor tells us of another “creative” solution “the old man” did! ha!

Teresa

This! There are sooo many poor decisions by previous owners that we’ve had to undo and correct. One of which caused extensive termite damage to a wall. Be prepared to deal with terrible DIY jobs and really poorly thought out decisions by previous owners when buying a home that has been updated at all.

Faith Wilfley

Master bathrooms need a linen closet (either in the bathroom or right outside) and kitchens need a broom closet!
You don’t want to spend $100k on a beautiful new kitchen and then have to have your broom or vacuum sitting out, or have to go to another room to get it.

Also, my parents put in a cut-down in their countertops 40 years ago because my mom is petite and she loves to bake. She wanted a lower surface where she could roll out dough. It was beautiful.
I feel like they should have been kitchen designers:)

A.B.

I am thinking of adding a pull-out step (like you did in your bathroom) in our next house by the kitchen or bar sink for kids washing hands. With the added number of times needed for washing hands, we now keep a stool in our kitchen at all times and I daily crash up against it. A pull-out step could eventually just be tucked in permanently when not needed. And maybe there would still be room above it for some interior storage under the sink.

Rusty

Great points!
I find my kitchen counters too low! My best friend is tall and theyhad etra tall counters put jnto their new kitcgen reno.
I guess it depends on how long you plan to live somewhere?

Sheila

Interesting. I’ve never had a linen closet in the master bathroom nor a broom closet in the kitchen and would never have thought that!

anon

We had a broom closet in the kitchen where I grew up. My next home (for 20+ years) had a walk in pantry where I could hang up the broom and mop.

It’s so important to have a place to store your tools where you use them.

If I ever get a chance to design my own home.
1. no “unusable toe-kick” spaces. any area under a lower cabinet/drawer must have storage underneath. And no “soffit” space above a cabinet that for whatever unfathomable reason doesn’t go to the ceiling!
2. There needs to be a place for the upright vacuum cleaner.

Katie

Agree! And add a well placed outlet to the broom closet for a wall mounted cordless vacuum so it can charge. 🙂

Jessie

THIS! We have one of those cordless dysons and agonized over where to put the charger because everywhere we really wanted it didn’t have an outlet! It’s now in our laundry room, plugged into the same outlet as our washer and hung in sort of an odd place on the wall next to the washer because that was the only place that the cord could reach plus that there was a stud to screw it into. I really wanted it on the opposite wall of the laundry room, but not enough to spend a few hundred dollars to have an electrician add an outlet over there 😑 As we’re starting the process to build a house, we’re constantly talking about how we just need to put outlets EVERYWHERE because you just don’t know where they’re going to be needed with future technology!!!

Michelle

Choose how you want your floors to transition (ie: tile to hardwood, hardwood to carpet etc) before laying ANY FLOORING over your subfloor

Jenms

I wish I had known this!!!

Rusty

We don’t really do subfloor in Australia. By great majority, it’s concrete slabs and old houses have thick, solid floor planks.

Anon

If I got my way, sub-flooring would be a necessity.

I want a basement. Here in California they don’t do basements and it’s a huge waste of land/space.

I’ve told my partner when/if we build a house, we WILL have a basement. This is where all the utilitarian things go, like the laundry room, the water heater, the furnace, the storage, etc.

KATHRYN ELIZABETH SIEGEL

Beware of doing a small refresh if the options you are choosing will not match your eventual vision for the space. I picked countertops for a kitchen refresh that worked with my cabinet color, but hated the cabinet color and changed it a few years later. Now I’m stuck with countertops I no longer like! Better to save up and do it all at once, or be cognizant of what your eventual plan is so that you make choices that will work with your long term vision

Pick out all your materials. I mean everything, from the water barrier on the outside, to the windows, cabinets, etc. many contractors will use the cheapest and pocket the difference.

Rusty

Yessss! I’ve heard this from several people who’ve built new homes!

Brenda

Note from your opening sentence: Georgia’s election was on Tuesday but the fabulous results and the terrorist attacks were on Wednesday.

jill

Having built two custom homes and one major addition and remodel, these are my top tips: 1. Be considerate of your neighbors and make sure your builder is, as well. We had our builder relocate a porta potty to a less visible site. We were able to hide one between two pine trees. We sent an email to all neighbors ahead of the start of construction, asking them to contact US (instead of talking with our builder or subs) if there is a problem. We asked that there be no smoking, swearing or loud radios by our construction crew. Remember, you have to live with your neighbors long after the crew leaves. 2. If you can afford it, move out of your home during construction. I had a meltdown in the depths of winter while we were living in our home, our ONLY toilet backed up and, yes, I had to use the construction porta potty. 3. Specify EVERYTHING IN THE CONTRACT. Hours of work, brands, colors, sizes of everything from windows and doors to tile, carpeting, doorknobs, cabinets, light fixtures, switch plates and outlet covers. 4. Yes to drawers in the kitchen! My recycling/trash pullout cabinet is THE SINGLE… Read more »

Patty Blaettler

I had a neighbor whose contractors put their porta potty in my driveway. Nice surprise as we arrived for Memorial Day weekend to kick off the summer.

Emily

This is good advice regarding your neighbors. We had neighbors across the street whose construction crew during their house rebuild used to eat lunch in our driveway and leave their trash everywhere. Figured it out when my husband came home early from work one day. We also had several flat tires from debris left in the street during that time and watched the crew get paint on one neighbor’s car one weekend when they were painting the exterior. Brought all this up to both the crew and neighbors, only to be dismissed about it. Needless to say, never had fond feelings for our across the street residents after that experience. :/

Rusty

Such. Good. Points!
Especially the neighbour considerations.

Irene

Re: #1 – so right. Houses in my neighborhood are about 5′ apart, so I was happy when the neighbors to either side had considerate contractors who introduced themselves to me, apologized in advance for the inevitable mess and noise, and asked permission whenever they needed to set foot on my property. They both even asked to look at my survey map before putting in driveways, to make sure they didn’t accidentally pave on my side of the line. (I saw that Emily’s book isn’t concentrating on exteriors, but here’s a tip anyway: keep your survey handy and bookmark your zoning ordinances. A few of my neighbors had to tear down gazebos, fences, etc. after paying to have them built.)

Ditto the “write out everything in the contract.” The quote we got from the contractors was very general like “finish living room.” So I created an addendum with every single specific thing we agreed to as sub-bullets under his more generic things. Under “finish living room” I added: Install new baseboard and quarter round, install new crown moulding, caulk and paint all trim work, finish all new drywall and paint including ceiling, patch where ceiling fan was removed, install new ceiling vent.” It’s been very helpful because it’s basically the first “punch list” so we’re all on the same page.

Zim

YES!!!

Rebecca

We are finishing up a kitchen remodel and I’ve been planning for a bench at our new table. I told my two teens and they are insisting on their own chairs! By this point they’re adult-sized, don’t want to slide over or sit too close to anyone. Glad I didn’t go for the bench without talking to them.

Also, partly due to that conversation, my golden rule has become to design for yourself and your family. We started this kitchen reno well before COVID but will finish it soon. Much of our thinking was about ‘squeezing in’ as many friends and family as we can into our new space. It’s hard to watch this project conclude when we can’t even have people over and won’t be able to for quite some time. It saddens me to have my kitchen completed and not be able to share it. The flip side of that is to enjoy designing for the people who live here, and not worry too much about hosting a crowd.

jeanne ross

I have moved from Florida back home to Michigan during a pandemic. I just finished renovating my second kitchen. I had a great contractor, but I was my own designer. I still wish I had a slightly better grasp on what happens when. The flow of construction is so important to having things selected and ordered, sinks, faucets, knobs etc. My kitchen is finished, my shelves are styled, but now I’m kinda stuck on selecting paint colors for my house so the rooms are different, but flow together. I have a “pallet of colors I use, but walls are tricky.
I love your blog, thanks for the help. 💕

Rusty

Ooooh, FLOW and a flow chart, is everything for a smooth project. I had six different contractors working on this small cottage on a few days and it showed me how organised I was. Otheewise, I think there could have been fisty-cuffs between a few and likely a mini-meltdown by me.

Emily

Welcome back to Michigan! 🙂 If you’re in the metro Detroit area, would you mind sharing the name of your contractor? I’m prepping for my own kitchen reno and I’m on the hunt for a good contractor. Thanks!

Rachel

Mudrooms need lockers with kids. We changed out a large closet with 4 lockers – one for each kid and one “shoe closet” for the adults. We clean the lockers out periodically, but it is so easy to close the doors on the mess throughout the week. Those open mudroom photos are so unrealistic. I was concerned that we would give up much needed space but our designer (with older kids) persuaded me otherwise and it was the best choice we’ve ever made.

JLMP

Lockers are awesome but if you live in a cold/wet climate you need some open hanging too. Snow pants will not dry in a closed locker! A friend spent $$$ on a beautiful mudroom with closed cabinetry and can’t use it in the winter.

A.B.

Also a “sport” locker – a small enclosed space in the garage with a drain for gear that drips or needs to be cleaned and smells (hockey, football, swim). It doesn’t fill up an interior space – I cannot wait for this.

Rachel

Fair point. We have a bunch of hooks that are open with a “boot tray” underneath that we hang stuff on it when its wet – bathingsuits and snow pants, etc.. When they are dry they go back in the lockers.

Amanda

Yes, consider your climate and unique needs. Like we were thinking about getting closed storage for shoes in our entryway, until we realized that our climate is pretty wet and our shoes need a place to dry in the open air. Closed storage can be pretty but not always the most functional. A mix of closed and open storage generally works best for those of us in challenging climates.

If you’re designing storage, we’ve learned to lay out everything you need to store and use that when deciding how much and where to put closed/open storage, as much as possible.

Brenda

I live in Canada which is ALWAYS cold and MOSTLY wet, and when I renovated my mudroom, I used perforated metal sheets on the doors of my closet cupboards so that the air could circulate around everything, but I don’t have to look at it. I love it. I also installed a ceiling hung drying rack to put the really wet stuff. You raise it up on pulleys. I think in England, they call it a “sheila”. Best thing ever!!!

Lane

I think it’s about having a routine and not buying too much stuff. I lived in a 700 sq ft condo growing up amd there was never clutter. The entry way had a wall coat rack/hooks, shoe mat, closet, mirror. There was never a mess even when we had guests. Get rid of stuff and you’ll be happier. It’s nice to have a bigger and well organized entry space, but a mudroom can cause clutter just as well.

Emily

I think we discussed this in the comments on another post but the drywall finish thing seems to be a West coast thing? Here in Virginia/New York no one even talks about drywall finishes as far as I’m aware – it’s all flat and smooth and patching doesn’t seem to be a problem. I’m not sure what the difference is.

Eleanor

I agree. I live in the Northeast and the default is flat and smooth walls, Only here and in other design forums where I learned there are actually level 1, level 2,… finish levels. I had to google what these levels are. I have not tried taping drywall but filling in holes with a spackling compound and keeping it smooth after painting is not really that hard.

Jill

+1 Same in Chicago/Midwest. There is no such thing as flat finish v. hand trowel. It’s all flat and patching is not a big deal. In fact, my husband and I do it ourselves frequently. You can buy a patching kit.

Alexis

I remember another post about drywall finishes and was just looking for it yesterday! Couldn’t find it. Here in Louisiana no one talks about drywall finishes either and everything is Orange Peel texture. I asked Shavonda @sgardnerstyle her opinion as she was working on refinishing walls in her son’s room, and she said it seems more based on the age of the house than the region it is in. Which makes sense that older homes were built with lath and plaster. But I think the post here was discussing new builds and renovations. I ask because I am removing wallpaper and plan to paint in 60% of my home (the main living area) and am debating over going with the same orange peel texture that is in the back of the house or going flat and smooth.

So I think some discussion of wall texture would be worth a mention in the book. Also, placement of electrical outlets and switches. Our bathroom outlets create a real problem when hanging a mirror, and my average sized 6 y.o. still can’t reach some of the light switches with out a stool.

Cass

The age of the last drywall renovation definitely plays into the choice of texture. It’s likely more of a multi-faceted thing than just the region you live in. Old walls aren’t likely to have orange peel texture because it wasn’t a thing at the time the walls were done. If most of the houses in an area are old, textured walls still won’t be used in renovations because people aren’t used to them. However, cheap, fast suburban houses built by national builders in the last few decades are likely to go with the easier, faster option. If those are super common, like in the (relatively) newer cities in the west, textured walls are more common and will pop up in renovations as well.
I’ve moved a ton and lived in several regions of the country. The age, quality of build, and neighborhood type played more into this (and many other) materials decisions than just the region alone.

Jennifer

Hi, we moved from Washington, DC to Portland, Oregon five years ago. My partner and I are lifelong East Coasters (Philly, Boston, and NYC in addition to many years in DC) so our move to Oregon was our first time living on the West Coast. When we were house hunting and even living in our temporary rental, the first thing I noticed was the textured painted walls (I think our realtor called them “orange peel” instead of hand-troweled). I had never seen them before as all our time on the East Coast, our walls were flat and never gave it another thought. In the 50+ houses we looked at, they were all hand-troweled walls. I asked if it was a climate thing–like whether they fared better in a wet, damp climate for most of the year. The realtor didn’t know. But all to say, we did buy a house five years ago and then moved within the area three years later, and both houses had/have hand-troweled walls. They bothered me a lot in the beginning but I got used to them, and also we didn’t want to put the expense and effort into making them flat. All in all, definitely… Read more »

Kel

It’s totally a regional thing. I’m in Michigan and flat smooth walls is the standard…and I’ve successfully drywalled and mudded almost every room in my home, with no prior experience, and just a small amount of learning curve. A patch job should be something anybody can handle if they are willing to spend a little time learning how and getting the proper tools.

Katie

+1. We just had drywall finished in our new construction house and have a flat and smooth finish, and a few patches needed to happen (an outlet and light moved) and can be done by a patching kit. Our drywaller told us that smooth finish is easier for homeowners to maintain because they don’t have to worry about matching a texture when patching, and this makes sense to me.

Lane

I think they are talking about a smooth gypsum coating all over, not just the seams. It creates a beautiful surface especially if they do a smooth paint as well. I think they did it in the past when installing plaster walls. Drywall is paper like on the exterior with a bit of texture. Gypsum is completely smooth and cool to the touch. I know it’s a standard in some countries. Drywall is a good surface. I have nothing against it.

Alexa

I also live in the Northeast, and don’t know what a ‘hand trowel’ finish is? I admittedly don’t know much about construction, but around here all I’ve ever seen is the usual flat drywall + tape + mud process. I also don’t understand the contractor needing to be brought in every time you move a hole? We patch holes in our own walls all the time, and are even planning to move a light switch soon and patch with a small bit of drywall ourselves. It seems to me that patching textured walls would be harder, as you have to replicate the texture. But again I’ve never had textured walls nor constructed a home so really have no idea what I’m talking about 🙂

Julie S

I’m in California but previously from the midwest, have considered this deeply, and yes, it seems that west of the rockies you get textured walls more often than not. Take your pick of orange peel, knockdown, or skip trowel/hand trowel. No one just tapes/muds the seams of drywall and calls it done – there is always some extra layer applied whether it’s more mud scraped on with a trowel in either smooth ($$$) or lightly imperfect ($), or orange peel stuff sprayed on from a hopper. I believe it’s to hide inferior finish work on the drywall! They just do it differently out here.

Jessie

That’s really interesting! Yes, we in the midwest just mud and tape the seams, then prime the drywall. Contractors here don’t add a coating of drywall mud over the whole wall. Once it’s primed and painted, it does usually have a very subtle texture, but it’s mostly from the knap of the roller while painting, and the more times you paint the more texture there is. If a west coast contractor’s idea of smooth finish is to coat the whole wall and then sand it to perfection, then yes it would cost more because of all the labor, but why is it that the only options out there seem to be that extreme or adding some other texture all over? Either of those seem like a lot more work and cost than just smoothing out your seams and calling it a day! Texture around here is usually used to hide very sloppy seam covering or damaged drywall, so if you see it anywhere, it’s usually apartment complexes and commercial buildings.

Teresa

SE Texas here – orange peal and knock down texture are definitely the norm. I asked for flat/smooth texture in the master bedroom and our contractor mentioned that no one usually does that here. I think a lot of the reason people do wall texture here is because of our expansive clay soil and immense rainfall amounts (60+ inches per year) causing slab foundations to shift/crack and pier and beam foundations settle/sink (to which usually results in cracks in the drywall around the windows and doors). Most homes were built in the 50s and 60s with drywall not plaster and lath walls. The wall texture hides a lot of damage from expansive soils, tree roots causing foundation damage etc. This area is also usually 10 yrs behind Houston stylistically so that probably has something to do with it as well.

Deb

I lived in Texas 25 years and I believe you are correct about the foundation problems and why the walls are not smooth coated.
Hiding the cracks is easier with orange peel surfaces. I have attempted to hide a spot on a wall where my dog would roll over in his sleep and plant his feet on the wall. Apparently I didn’t do a good job because when I got ready to sell the house my contractor called and said…hey there is a wall that looks a little rough in the bedroom….I am just gonna fix it and repaint the room. Lucky for me it was just part of his service and he didn’t charge me any more money. They don’t make many like him.

Erica

A whole chapter on what to look for in a home buyers inspection would be very helpful for first time renovators. I learned so much from my first house.
Also funny renovation issue I didn’t notice until it was done. I updated all the sconces in our living room to match. I didn’t realize that one of the sconces was not attached to the light switch and could only be turned on with a switch on the light. Our new sconces did not have switches. So the only way we would turn that sconce on and off was by buying a bluetooth lightbulb! We’ve since sold the house and I wonder if the new owners have discovered this quirk…

Jeannette

Oh my gosh yes! I wish we had a good home inspector! So much that wasn’t told to us or was mistaken on the report. We found this out when the night after we moved in (in February in PA) the heater died. After a few night of emergency calls it was finally taken care of. So many other issues too. BTW drywall is flat in PA too, flat paint is terrible to clean and why do people paint over wallpaper??

Kj

Think long and hard about where your gutters and downspouts go. Complicated rooflines make for ugly gutters. Don’t default to the standard K-shaped gutters that everyone uses because they are cheap. Your home might look better with half-round or box gutters. Gutters should generally match the surface they are on, they really aren’t supposed to be a contrasting accent.

Kara

And garage doors. I hate seeing a builder-grade garage door painted the trim color. Why? Why would you want to accent the garage door?

Kara

ETA I have nothing against builder-grade garage doors, that’s what I have! It’s just the same color as my house so it doesn’t stand out.

Brigitte

And take into consideration where the water is directed if you have neighbors close by. My next door neighbor’s gutter spout directed his water runoff on my back porch and consequently into my basement causing my basement to flood if we had a heavy downpour. It was eventually fixed but how close you are to your neighbors should be taken into consideration.

Jenms

It’s also illegal in many places to divert your stormwater runoff to your neighbor’s property

Shanna

Gutters- Heads up if you’re buying new or to renovate: If the house has leaves clogging the gutters, you may have to pay someone to clean the ones that are not easily accessible, perhaps multiple times a year; which is costly and not realistic when they can fill up in a weekend. I have some where it’s too dangerous to get to, and the yard is too uneven to use a very tall ladder, so I have waterfall coming off them, when it rains hard enough. I live on the west coast for reference.

Kelly

For me, the biggest frustration to get over was that just because you can envision something, doesn’t mean that it can always be done. Whether it be budgetary constraints, logistical ones, or even structural, you are not going to get everything that you initially wanted the way you wanted. The process ends up being like a huge moving puzzle that you’re constantly shifting and figuring out. Sometimes it’s an easy shift and other times it requires weeks or months of figuring out. After going through the process a few times, and adding kids and pets to the picture, my primary focus now is always on function first and then figuring out the aesthetics second.

A.B.

There will always be a bad surprise. Electrical, plumbing, HVAC, roofing – something behind the walls won’t be right and it will cost WAY more than you planned for. Try and prepare an overage for this and know it won’t be going to something pretty. (“I’ll use our contingency money for new sofas!” Won’t happen. It will be used for something boring and maddening.)

Rusty

I reckon it’s akin to the Tango dance…. slow… slow…. moody… fast, fast, fast…..slow…..

Kj

Always run all of your flooring under every cabinet and into every closet. It allows you (or future owners) the option of moving things around without having to redo all the flooring (so wasteful). Having the same flooring in closets allows a “secret stash” of matching flooring if needed in the future to fix/patch anything. Always buy an extra box or two of your flooring (or extra carpet). It’s a pain to store but might come in handy for future repairs.

Teresa Shourds

About to begin my kitchen remodel in a few weeks – a couple of people have noted this “run the flooring under the cabinet” deal but if I want to change out my flooring in the future – won’t I have to rip up all the cabinets to do so? Or are we just assuming that by the time I want to redo flooring, I’ll want to redo cabinets?

Christina

I think it’s more about if you want to redo/move the cabinets, you don’t have to redo the flooring as well.

Eleanor

The exception to running floors under cabinets is if you have floating vinyl planks – experts say they should not go under cabinets. I think if glued-down, then it is okay.

Naomi

On this same note, buy an extra box or two of any tile you install. You never know when some might chip and needs to be replaced. This is very true for bathrooms if you might ever want to switch out fixtures. You might chip or break the wall tile.

Amy

This is true, but taking up flooring in the closet is a GIANT pain to have done. It doesn’t feel like a secret stash, more a very last resort.

I sort of disagree, we want to change flooring but its under our cabinets and it’s very annoying.

Kate

Don’t use expensive items like custom window treatments as your chance to add color/pattern. When you hate them a year or two later you’ll be stuck with them unless you have no budget / don’t mind the waste.

Rusty

Yep. I did this with an enamel sink in the 90s. Loved it for a hot second, thdn….meh!

Brigitte

In an older home when installing new ceiling lighting that uses LED lighting know that you will need to replace the old dimmer switch. I did not know you need a special dimmer switch that works with LED lights or the LED light flickers or does not turn up to its full force until a new dimmer switch is installed. So if you are installing new tech in an old house make sure the new tech is replace from beginning to end.

Ellen

Omg. I think you just saved my life. Our lights have been flickering like crazy since we changed all the fixtures when we moved in and I’ve made jokes about the friendly ghost that haunts our house… thank you!!

Brigitte
Olivia

We had this issue too after we installed a new Wemo dimmer in a certain room–in our case the dimmer was compatible with LEDs but we actually needed to switch to a different brand of LED. So if you have a dimmer switch that is a certain brand, google what lightbulbs it is compatible with.

“No new projects”…until the other ones are finished. I have exposed drywall in EVERY room of my house, and we keep telling each other that we will not start anything new until the other ones are done. We try our hardest to live by this, easier said than done, but that would be my mantra for any renovation. Get the kick plates in, get the light switch covers on, do those last touch ups, do it all before you move on. And always allot like half the extra time for any project (self or contractor run).

Rusty

Hahaha… sorry, but so true. It could happen so easily.
Soooo glad my interior walls are all brick!

Patricia

I’d urge going neutral on surfaces that will be around for a long time (and are expensive to change) and have fun with accessories and paint colors that can easily be changed. So think long term on hard surfaces like backsplash and counters.

Sara

These are also based on my own personal experience. If you’re renovating a brand new home, I would suggest (if possible) living in it for a while before you start. We recently gutted and renovated an entire home and though we are happy with the end result, there are some things that I would have changed after living in it for a bit. Also, it would be helpful to work ‘junk’ areas into your design like the kitchen counter that always has random stuff on it, the junk drawer in the kitchen (almost always inevitable), the key/wallet/mail drop-off areas by entrances, and space for boots/shoes/jackets/ etc. I would suggest trying to be mindful of how those spaces could be dealt with in a more intentional way. Oh, and if you’re going to have an open-concept kitchen, you could look into ways of how kitchen mess/pile-up could be visually concealed when eating. It’s not as enjoyable sitting at a table eating, while essentially sitting in your kitchen mess. Just some thoughts.

Cate

Would love to hear more about hiding kitchen mess in an open conception kitchen/dining area.

Kim

We are about to redo our open concept kitchen. Our peninsula is raised on the side closer to the dining room (our stove backs onto the dining room, so we have a full 24” deep counter, and then a step up to the peninsula w/ bar stools under) which I hated when we first moved in, our now we’re going to keep it the extra height because it hides the view of all the dirty dishes on the kitchen counters!

Ann

I urge a return to the old fashioned but far more useful raised eating bar instead of having the island all the same level. A bar raised about 12″ from the counter offers great hiding from kitchen chaos while still allowing people to sit and be part of what’s going on. Kids love the elevation. And the cook is not off in a corner alone. Also if you have your sink on the island, the raised part hides dirty dishes, controls a lot of spray. Just allow decent sponge passage between the raised part and the flat part so you can clean behind the faucet easily.

Kj

Never install a storm door. There is no storm door in the world that will ever look good. The tiny amount of money you might save from energy or in reducing maintenance costs is not worth cheapening your curb appeal. Your storm door might also end up warping your front door.

JLMP

I have a storm door that I know is not pretty but I like to keep the main door open in the spring/summer for light and air flow through the screen. Sometimes function wins:)

Rusty

Never even heard of a storm door?!? Is that a snow country thing??

Roberta Davis

yes! In cold climates (where I grew up) there was a screen door (for the warm weather) and then the screen was replaced by a glass panel for winter. Seems most people don’t have these nowadays, though. Just the main door. But when I was a kid, people always left the door open with just the screen door shut, to allow air to pass through. Same thing with the windows. There were screened panels that were replaced by glassed panels for winter- to help insulate. But now no one has storm windows, The screens are just there permanently and most of the windows have double or triple panes, so no need to to a difficult task of switching them out every season.

SB

I have a storm door on the front and back doors. I love the one on the back because it allows me to leave the door open and use the screened area to air out the kitchen, but the one on the front is a nightmare! It opens out and the front door opens in, so you have to time it just right to avoid getting hit by one or the other when you use it. Plus, when UPS/FedEx leave packages in front of the door, we sometimes have to go out the back door to move it just to be able to open the front door! But, we haven’t taken it down because we assume the storm door is needed to protect the front door from rain, sun, temperature changes and there is no porch overhang to protect it. Is there any way around that?

Sara

I respectfully disagree on this one. From a functionality standpoint, with a dog and small kids a storm door is highly necessary. Keeps the dog from running out, allows in some sunshine, and allows the kids to come in and out without having to make sure they close the front door. In the winter it definitely helps keep out some of the cold since we have an old, original front door!

Kj

I’m not talking function. I’m talking looks. You guys can have storm doors: it’s your house, own it. But come on, nobody is going to say they look good.

Sheila

Having grown up in an area with sub-zero winters, buggy summers and no AC, I’d find storm doors a necessary evil if I ever returned to that climate. The nicest ones I’ve seen are a single glass panel that allows the full main door to be seen and lets in plenty of air when switched over to a full screen.

Amanda

Oh no, I would say the opposite. It must depend on where you live! Storm doors aren’t sexy but they are so functional – I need the light and air flow that ours provides in the warmer months, and winters are brutal here so the energy savings are significant.

Whenever I see people selling a house without a storm door, I always think “that looks nice but is so non-functional.”

Emily

Ugh! This has been my dilemma recently! I’m replacing my front door and trying to decide if I should get rid of the storm door. I like the function, but hate the look. Trying to decide what emotion will end up winning out. Why can’t they make cool looking storm doors?!

Kara

Maybe there’s a dutch door option that has a screen on top?

Vivienne

Alaskan here! The light is so precious (I live in Anchorage) in the winter, that I open my front door for periods of time during the day just to let what little light there is in through the storm door.

Elizabeth

Oh my gosh, I am so excited to pore over these comments and take notes, as we are planning for a major renovation. I wish so much that your book was coming out sooner, but it would be so great if you were able to give more tips in the near future! Having done several renovations and having worked for a contractor, I have some thoughts: 1. If possible, I think it is very helpful to live in a house before you do any major work to it. What is important to you and how you flow in your house may play out differently than you think. 2. Also, if you are not living on site (which is ideal in my opinion, although I haven’t been able to afford that, thus far), make sure to check in on progress as often as possible. Not only does it keep the project moving, but things can look very different on paper than in person. The sooner you catch something you don’t like, the cheaper and easier it is to change. Architects and designers are humans too, and sometimes they make decisions that just aren’t practical or necessary (no offense architects and designers!)… Read more »

Rusty

Grrrreat tips!

Gabrielle

Totally agree about the advice about to knock over as MANY decisions as possible in advance.

It also helps other open decisions when you have more variables locked down. Rather then I think this?….will it go with that ? Or that which isn’t selected yet.

Aim to knock over say….84,000 decisions in advance of starting, so you only have 6,000 during the renovation 🙂 whilst also following up people, chasing deliveries and writing checks.

And it is so worth it and one on my greatest loves

Jeffrey C

I think bathroom soundproofing is not discussed enough when doing renovations, particularly if you have a very small space where rooms flow into each other.

Pros and cons of insulation types in various walls.

Rodent-proofing your home as a renovation consideration, particularly in spaces underneath kitchen cabinets that may be easily accessible by mice, et al, from crawlspaces below. It is amazing how easily mice can dash in and out of the small spaces often left below baseboard trim.

Really considering sun angles/penetration when placing windows, porches/awnings, et al. We have an entire south-facing wall of floor to ceiling windows and doors. Working with the contractor to test very angles for the roof on the adjacent porch allowed us to select the one that maximizes interior heat gain in the winter, but prevents heat penetration in the summer.

Sarah

Bathroom soundproofing!!! We have a powder room right off our main space. When you’re in it and run the exhaust fan, it sounds like a jet engine, so you think it would be fine.

Not so; from the main space, *everything* is audible. Including ripping the toilet paper. (Let alone everything else…)

I call the powder room “the politest fiction” and run the tap when I use it and anyone but my nuclear family (i.e. husband and small kids) are around.

Sabrina

Use sound deadening insulation on the ceilings between floors if you are able to. We didn’t do this in our last house and the noise from kids playing upstairs / downstairs echoed throughout.

Kim

I do wish our house had better sound insulation! You can hear everything between floors. And sometimes you can even hear the basement from the 2nd floor through the ductwork…

Renee

I wish I would’ve done more research on the best type of flooring for my family. I did engineered hardwood and with two dogs it is scratched up so badly in many spots only two years after installation. Feels like a very expensive mistake.

Read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them. You can do more than you think you can. We’ve done a ton of DIY and been able to do really extreme things (like taking the roof off and putting it back in.) But make sure you are doing it right. Read building codes and make sure you fully understand a project before taking it on (and then you’ll still find yourself stuck). Almost anything can be fixed if you do it wrong, but it can be inconvenient and expensive. A lot of these comments are about how things look–but it’s way better to focus on how things function for you and your family. Worry about things like condensation, mold, drainage, leaking, vapor barriers, bugs, mice, water pressure, freezing pipes, ventilation, erosion, weep holes, etc. If you own a home, know what materials you have and what’s behind your walls. Structure and waterproofing are two separate things and both must be addressed. Have a backup heating system if you live in a cold climate and you can. Get more insulation. Recessed lighting can be really harsh and not give great light, particularly if you have low ceilings. LED light fixtures are often too… Read more »

Rachel

We found out that our main water shut off valve is in our crawl space. On the opposite side of the house as the access well. >.<

Carla

Be aware than when you take down wallpaper, anything can be behind it. Like black mold. I was happy I had a professional take mine down because he was about to extract the wall and put up a new one the same day.

Blake

Well thought out electrical!!!
Enough outlets in the right locations, including hidden in cabinets drawers shelving built ins etc, wiring that doesn’t link too many lights together, and boxes for overhead lighting and sconces, etc. Our bathroom has all three lights on one switch so it’s either full blast glare or dark.

Also, soundproofing insulation in walls between rooms! And insulation for exterior walls for heating/cooling that also is soundproofing. The heater in our house is on the other side of the wall from our bedroom and if we leave it on at night it wakes us up when it fires on!

Counter heights in kitchen and bathrooms- make them work for you!

LYNN KENNEY

Black granite (or dark wood floors) show every speck of dirt and dust. Don’t do it!

Becky

Completely agree! Ten years ago, we had dark hardwood floors installed and I hate them so much! They show every. single. thing. Even after I’ve just cleaned them!!! I can’t wait to refinish them.

Kim

We had slate kitchen floors in our kitchen growing up. They were the worst! In addition to showing *everything* they were so cold in the winter!

A.B.

DO NOT move in until everything is done. Contractors will lose any incentive and you will start living around whatever isn’t finished. It’s so frustrating to wait that extra time, but make yourself!

Herselfindublin

I did a renovation on a 50 year old house, and my takeaways were: (1) Don’t expect yourself to be a neater/tidier person once you move in. Make the “proper” place for something be the easiest place. For example, I put up a small coat-rack on the wall at the bottom of my stair (shallow hooks, so you don’t get six-feet deep of coats). But the staircase had a newel post at the bottom, which was a single step closer to the door. I knew that even though the coat-hook was one step away, I would always hang my coat on the newel post because it was easier. So I got my builders to saw off the newel post. Now I always use the coat-hooks. (2) A pull-out bin in a lower cabinet in your kitchen is the single best thing you will ever do for yourself in your home. And the smaller the kitchen, the better an idea it is. (3) Visit your building site every single day to make sure nothing has fallen through the cracks. My builders had to build out a wall to make it level enough to hang cabinets, but that meant the peninsula unit… Read more »

A

Totally second seeing the project every day. We just lived through our kitchen gut and there were sooo many decisions the crew would’ve made without me (and probably not to my taste) if I hadn’t been working from home because of COVID! But it’s nearly done now and I am so happy with everything.

HKW

Agreed on this! I wasn’t onsite for ours but our contractor was posting regularly enough on Instagram that one day I came dashing home to have him move the floating shelves in the kitchen!

A few based on our recent renos- 1. In a tiled shower, consider shower drain placement based on where you’d stand. Ours is centered, which means I always have part of my foot on it and I wish it was just 2 inches off-center! 2. If you paint wood paneling in the summer, it will contract in colder weather. Now I have tiny lines of the old paint color in between boards of my wood ceiling to touch up. 3. If you happen to have a house with retro metal cabinets- keep them! They are easy to reconfigure, soft closing, and keep everything out- even reno dust!

When designing a kitchen, drawers hidden by normal doors (mine was IKEA) are INFURIATING! I wanted the kitchen to look as clean and streamlined as possible so I went doors all the way around the bottom and covered our drawers with a door. Now I have MAJOR regrets. Same goes for the PAX closets!

Susannah

I lived in an apartment once that happened to have a full length mirror attached (built in?) to the outside of the bathroom door, so that when you swung the door in, the mirror faced the vanity mirror. This turned out to be ideal for seeing the back of my head when straightening/styling my hair. Every house I’ve moved into since, I make sure there is a swinging door adjacent to my vanity so that I can put a mirror on it and have the same effect. It’s important that at least one of the dueling mirrors swings so that you can get the right angle to see the back of your head.

Sarah

I have been known to put up unnecessary medicine cabinets for this reason. Ikea makes a cute metal one with a swivel-y mirror.

Karen

Those spinning racks in corner cupboards are useless! Just do a shelf! Also if (like my kitchen) you hace 2 of them then put the access on the other side so its not a corner!

A

Haha I have the opposite opinion! I love the lazy susans in our corner cabinet.

Deb

I love the lazy Susan in my corner cabinet too. Maybe it depends on what you use it for. I have spices and baking extracts etc
in mine and it makes it so easy to get out
the items I need when baking and then put them right back away.

Ann

I love the lazy susans in the two corners of my kitchen that have them. They are the kind where the cabinet front is attached to the turntable, so everything swings about. It is SO easy to use, stores a ton of stuff (pans, casserole dishes, serving dishes, whatever), and I almost never lose anything off the back while its turning. I can’t see having to open a hinged door and then rotating the turntable; having it all of a piece is the bomb.

Roberta Davis

The one thing I regretted after a major reno (before I went to design school), was not getting the placement of the dining chandelier right. My contractor asked me where I wanted it, and I gave him a not-well-thought-out answer, with the result that the light was off-center no matter which way we turned the table. Now- I realize that with ceiling-installed light fixtures, it is important to have a reflected ceiling plan (which is the same as the floor plan but shows what is on the ceiling instead of the floor), to show where all ceiling light fixtures should be installed. And I should also have done a floor plan with the furniture so I could tell where I wanted that chandelier to be relative to the table. Layer the ceiling plan over the floor plan to determine the placement. More thought given- or as they say- pppppp- prior planning prevents piss-poor performance! I am a designer (not in business currently, but do have a degree in it and worked as a commercial designer) but it would be cool to be cited in your book! 🙂 send me an email to get my info [email protected] if you want to.… Read more »

Herselfindublin

Good point, it’s always worth having an idea of your furniture and where it will go. Not just for lighting but outlet and door placement, too.

HKW

I actually did a cutout of our dining table (on wrapping paper) and put it in the new space to make sure it would fit and to mark the location of the ceiling fixture. Floor plans are great but sometimes seeing it in real life is even better.

Kel

1. Soundproof bathroom walls. We insulated around our bathrooms and laundry and it was the smartest decision.
2. Solid core doors. We are going to end up replacing half of our 2 year old hollow core doors for solid. Now that we have kids in the house we realized it would have been much smarter to invest in solid doors for soundproofing in the first place!
3. Kid friendly or really durable finishes….even if you have no plans for kids! We designed and splurged on some items such as a custom wood island/dining table, design-y bathroom finishes, matte paint in our kitchen, etc with the plans for no kids and most likely selling to an older couple with no kids living in the home. Imagine our horror when, now that we are unexpectedly guardians to two teenagers, our nice furnishings and custom finishes are slowly being damaged by kids. We’ve had to replace a couple items for functional purposes and repair other finishes the kids placed years of wear on in less than a month. Wish I’d listened to my dad a couple times when he questioned our choices for practical future use!

Jenni

100% yes to the solid core doors – we are planning on doing these when we start renovating our house. Or at least for the master :).

Alex

Soundproof bathroom walls – I couldn’t agree more! This is especially true for powder rooms near kitchen or places where guests congregate.

Emily

Yes to the solid core doors! Made the hollow door mistake when we replaced doors when we first bought our house. We’ll start gradually replacing them this year, starting with the bathrooms and the suddenly very much in demand office doors. There are some design decisions that shouldn’t be made by a 25 year old 🙂

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