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

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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468 thoughts on “What Do You Wish Someone Had Told You Before Renovating Or Designing Your Home???

  1. 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!

    1. 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!

  2. 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 paint/tile stickers/worktop ‘wraps’ – and will end up falling apart and looking terrible and being a complete nightmare to remove.

    Re the flat finish plaster thing – that must be a US thing as all UK plastered walls are flat finish (unless very dated e.g. swirly 1970s plaster) and it’s not that hard to patch – you just need a bit of filler and some sandpaper and patience. However, lining paper does NOT fix minor bumps in plasterwork and is not worth the effort of putting up, and you should just get the walls skimmed again if you need it even though it costs more!

    Sanding the floors is always worth it and looks beautiful, no matter how awful the boards looked to begin with! Plus oil is much easier and more forgiving than varnish to apply, can be patched easily, and has a lovely natural finish that brings out the wood’s character.

    Bathroom showpeople will tell you that you have to buy the whole suite from one place or the whites won’t match – this is bollocks. But the Ikea sink you got for £40 will scratch drastically in a way you never realised porcelain was capable of.

    1. 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. (???)

      1. 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…

      2. 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?

        1. 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!

      3. 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. 🙂

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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’.

          1. 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.

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

          3. 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.

        2. 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.

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

      2. 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!

      3. 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!

      4. I am very curious how much they are charging, though. its very easy to access in CA and Portland but its way more expensive and not just anyone can do it….. I would love to compare quotes – a hand trowel finish (like flat but with hand done enough to be forgiving) to flat. Even my contractor here, 3 rd generation and been doing it for 40 years was like ‘we can of course do flat finish but it will take three times as long and cost you three times as much’ so i’m curious if you guys are just paying more without knowing this less expensive option (that is NOT spray texture).

        1. I live in Kansas and only know flat walls. We are moving and building in Colorado (all the model homes we saw and he said most homes have the knockdown walls – is what they call it)and I mentioned it and he said if I wanted flat it would cost, yes, 3x more… Wonder why all of Kansas does the flat.

        2. In the Northeast, I believe we get a flat finish because we are only doing a Level 2 finish and then primer and paint overtop. It sounds like elsewhere if you want a flat finish, they are going all the way to Level 5.

          I don’t think I can post pictures, but this what drywall in the Northeast looks like the step before paint.×536.png

          Definition of Level 2: Seams coated with mud & tape, wiped, screws coated & wiped
          Definition of Level 5: Level 5: Everything from Level 4, plus a thin coat of mud applied over all gypsum board. 100% coverage.

          Level 5 has the whole wall covered with joint compound? That is not the norm here. Even the most basic DIYer can patch holes with a Level 2 finish. Northeast people, back me up?

          1. @Christina, I 100% think you are right. Most new builds/new drywall is mudding seams, nails etc. I have a 100-year-old house with plaster walls and finding anyone these days who know how to work on them is getting increasingly hard. I’ve definitely had folks encourage me to rip out areas and start over with drywall.

    3. 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. 🙂

      1. 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.

      2. I don’t think its considered hard, just more laborious therefore way more expensive. Now I need to edit this in the book as regional, but i’m still curious that i’m right and that the price difference is big.

    4. 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.

      1. 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!

    5. 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.

  3. 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?

    1. Kirstie, that happened to me! I used it based on Ginny’s recommendation in her living rom which did NOT look purple then in my room it did. and we had to repaint (to strong white). it was 100% the light (I think). xx

      1. You are completely right. The same white that looks beautiful in your friend house can look dirty/smoky in your living room. White tends to get darker with time, specially if you have a fireplace. Always test white on spot and let it dry befor deciding.

        Also, thick and white curtains look much better than beige curtains. If you find nice and well priced cotton curtains, like IKEA Tibast, that are not white enough, add some bleach when you wash them.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

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

  4. 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 surprisingly annoying. And there are things like that all over but these two are the most noticeable.

    I think the contractors that they used were not particularly experienced with building whole houses or well versed with this kind of finishing construction, and it really shows. I don’t know exactly how to solve for that in an entire build/remodel, because that’s overwhelming, but like, when I’m spending that much money, I want everything to be placed in a considered way, not just randomly or with the assumption that centered is best, you know? And construction here is with plastered masonry walls and/or tiled bathroom walls so there’s like no chance of an easy fix.

    Also, the whole house was fitted with these magnetic door latches that absolutely suck. DO NOT use those in your build. Interior door latches/locks were not a technology that needed disrupting. Stick with normal-ass latches, trust me. They’re super fiddly and inconsistently/unpredictably hard to open (like sometimes throw your body against them to get them to open) and annoying and LOUD (like wake sleeping children in other rooms loud) with no discernible benefit over normal freaking door hardware, and I honestly don’t understand why they exist.

    I sincerely hope these gripes help someone!!

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

        1. now that is a cautionary tale. so much real estate dedicated to ‘luxury’ that actually creates so much stress. thank you for sharing. I feel like this is a special support group right now, sharing our stories and woes …. 🙂

          1. Actually, a blog post or something in the book about the luxury upgrades that don’t work or aren’t worth it would be great. There are so many things that you can get seduced into thinking is a great idea based on hgtv or whatever but that turn out to be unnecessary or impractical or really annoying in real life.

          2. I would absolutely read this blog post, if for no other reason than to feel good about my decidedly non-luxury reno budget, lol.

          3. agreed. I totally agree. and you guys are honestly writing it right now. there are so many ‘good to haves’ that truly aren’t worth the price tag.

          4. Ooh, yeah. I used to read apartment therapy and they would always ask designers and architects what fancy thing had they gotten that *didn’t* work and the answers were a treasure. Some of it was “know thyself” type problems, so now i know i will never have oil rubbed bronze even though it’s pretty. But some was straight up “won’t work no matter how much money you spend” and it was great to cross some things off the ” one splurge for the room” list.

            {my strongest memory from those was a positive though. it was actually a remodeled kitchen on the sister site. a chef with a friend who was a designer had opted for a for pedal to turn on her kitchen faucet in addition to the regular taps. at the time, everyone was getting those touch faucets. she said she didn’t regret it one bit, but plenty of her friends did regret the touch faucets which were failing after a few years. it’s on the list for when we redo our kitchen in the next 5 years.}

          5. INTERESTING. Yes I put in a touch faucet 8 years ago in a project and they since took it out. they couldn’t get it to work when they wanted and then it would randomly turn on other times. But a pedal faucet??? i want that! it sounds more mechanical than like computerized so i trust it more.

          6. We bought a house with a huge shower – way more room than needed for even two people and my 6’5” hubs was ecstatic about having a shower that “fit him”. I hated it. We only used one shower head and the tile was cold. Even with running it with the doors closed to create heat before getting in, was a waste of time and water. I’d like to know what the right size is now that we’re in a different house with a gut job scheduled in the future!

          7. In my prior home I had a shower that was cold because it was too big. I gutted the master bath in my current home and put in a shower that is 40″ by 60″. I like it.

        2. 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.

          1. 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!

        3. 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!

          1. 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.

        4. 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.

    2. YES. I toiled about where to put this stuff that is the most ergonomic and yes so that the towel, toilet paper, robe could fall at the length it needed to (to both look good, and be easy to grab). In the book we have measurements and height/placement suggestions for each of these.Sounds boring but I spent too much time on it in the past. Also agreed that sometimes we get convinced to use the ‘newest’ product which isn’t the best. if it aint broke …

      1. On rain style shower heads, the wider the shower head the less pressure. I prefer shower heads not wider than10 cm. Otherwise you spend a lot of water to get enough pressure.

    3. “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. 🤗

  5. 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.

    1. that is a great idea. ours generally line up but now i’m wondering if they do and its such a good ting to think bout. mat wells, never heard of that but of course that’s awesome. I hate a lose dirty mat. do you just replace them? is it at your front/back door? send pics! this is genius.

      1. Old houses in Aussie don’t have sub-floors. They’re thick, solid planks of wood floors… so a mat well would never ever be something we’d gouge into our solid wood floors! Yikes…just the thought of doing that to my lovely Jarrah floors! 😳

      2. I have them by front and side doors. I replaced a couple, but this time I bought one that is stiffer has more rubber around. Black or dark fray works well on dark floor. I am considering a runner too. But it works for my space as it is connected to the living room. Those plain entry rugs allow Living room rugs to stand out more.

    2. 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.

  6. 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).

    1. its true. the world needs to know. it doesn’t matter how good your painter is, what paint you use, how long you let it cure – it will chip. A lighter color is far less noticeable than a darker color and semigloss (and high gloss) chips way less than matte. but i’ve asked every contractor I know, the only way to not have chipped painted cabinetry is to “never use it” or “wait til kids graduate from high school”. We still want some and we’ll likely do it, somewhere but its good to know. you can however buy factory cabinetry that is white where they almost like melt it onto the fiberboard (like from home depot) and while the cabinetry is cheap it doesn’t chip (feels more like a laminate).

      1. We have that cabinetry with thick paint over fiberboard. It looks good everywhere except for the cabinet closest to the stove. Steam or heat from cooking caused that thick paint on door to separate. Now,
        that spot has a relatively big wavy piece sticking out which can’t be fixed. We might have to replace the whole door if we decide to sell. It’s not a big deal, but something to consider

      2. Oh how I wish I’d known this when we renovated our kitchen last year. Six months in and my beautiful (painted) cabinets are showing the wear.

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

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

      2. 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?

        1. 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!

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

      3. agreed. its great for photo shoots and maybe good for kids (or not – maybe they’ll move around too much? we like ours confined to a chair)….

      4. 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?

      5. 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.

    2. 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

  8. 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 back, and then you just hope that the 1 or 2 that make it out to your house actually get back to you with a reasonable quote and are available sometime in the next six months to do the work so you don’t have to start the process all over again?! If anyone has the magic formula on how to deal with this, I’m dying for some tips 🙂

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

    2. 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?

    3. 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)

    4. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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!

    4. 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.

      1. INTERESTING. i’m listening. I’ve never heard of this ‘ceramic one-house’ wall paint before. looking it up now

    5. 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 – we’re not trying to achieve magazine quality perfection. But not a day goes by where my husband and I don’t look at some part of our wall and sigh, because of the &#*^?@$ matte paint. 🙂

      1. 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.

      2. 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!

      1. 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

        1. 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!

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

    2. 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!

  10. 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.

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

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

      2. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        The Trump protesters (and it’s fine to disagree, but you should take the time to understand) believe that the rule changes that occurred to voting processes in 2020 (many of which occurred contrary to state constitutions) were rushed through without following Democratic processes and fundamentally changed the outcome of the election.

        At the end of the day allowing rioters to destroy countless cities across America set a terrible precedent and others are taking advantage of it.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

        2. “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.

      2. 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 tired of violence against them they just want to live their lives. There is a HUGE difference between the two groups. Intent matters. What happened matters.

        1. 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?

          1. 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.

          2. 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?

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

          4. 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, and the attempted kidnapping of a governor. But you cannot compare BLM with treason and sedition.

          5. 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.

        2. 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!?!

    3. 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.

      1. 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).

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

  11. 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…

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

  12. 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!

    1. 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!

      1. 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.”

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

  13. 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.

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

      1. that’s a really good point. I suppose if its your ‘phase one’ and you just want it to be better its a very short term solution, but latex paint is water based, right? it like never really lasts.

        1. The previous owners did a quick, cheap “paint everything white” to sell the house and put latex paint over oil paint on all the doors. Over the past six years of our living here the doors have started shedding and peeling all the latex paint as if they had a bad sunburn. It’s awful. Latex paint doesn’t bond to oil paint. This truth is seared in my brain now.

          1. You’re right. Nowadays, if I want to paint over oil paint with latex, I need a special primer first. Like Zinsser BIN primer. Works great!

    2. 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!

    3. 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!

    4. 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.

  14. 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:)

    1. we didn’t put in a broom closet in the kitchen up here and I didn’t realize it til afterwards – or maybe we did and made the choice not to – i don’t remember. We have close right off the living room (not far) and its ok, but our broom mostly just sits in the corner of our kitchen by our BEAUTIFUL water dispenser 🙁

      1. If your dispenser must be “out”take a look at India Hicks’ kitchen and drool over her rattan covered water dispenser!! Why can’t we find these in the US?

    2. 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.

    3. 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?

    4. 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!

      1. 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.

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

      1. 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!!!

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

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

      1. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

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

  19. 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 BEST CABINET and I wish I had put one in my laundry room, too!

    1. 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.

    2. 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. :/

    3. 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.)

    4. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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. 💕

    1. Thank you 🙂 One of our chapters is flow – what to do in what order because you’ll be so surprised what you have to have speced out so early (hard wired lighting, plumbing fixtures, etc).

      1. First Reno just finished. I specifically asked my contractor for a list of which items needed to be chosen first. He said he didn’t have such a list. I asked the designer I was working with who also didn’t have one. Suddenly, we need the plumbing fixtures tomorrow! (And of course, I hadn’t started looking at plumbing) I needed your book Emily! So glad you are writing it.

    2. 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.

    3. 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!

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. Oh these are both really good to knows. In Portland i’m assuming we’d need open lockers to help dry (but the idea of closed sounds yes, so much prettier. good to know.

        1. For our cold/wet climate, we have open hooks and then a nearby closed closet. In the closets we added two outlets controlled by switches for boot warmers so they can stay plugged in but be turned on an off. After years of looking at my husbands boots on a boot warmer I’m excited for this! (the boot warmer is totally worth it! just excited to not look at it!).

        2. Perhaps there is a way to design open lockers behind a wall so you don’t see the hanging mess?

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

      4. 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.

      5. 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!!!

    2. 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.

  23. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. +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.

    3. Really? interesting. if anyone else can weigh in on this i’m riveted. it definitely cost us SO much money on the portland project and saved us so much on the mountain house.

      1. I live in Toronto Canada and smooth drywall is the default. I live in an old house. I think in some new developments they may use “popcorn” finish on ceilings and smooth would be an upgrade but I’ve never heard of not smooth walls.

      2. Yep, recently moved to Colorado having lived preciously in the Midwest and east coast. The walls (and ceilings) here have a textured finish that I’ve never seen before, and can’t say I particularly like as it kinda reminds me of popcorn ceiling, and makes painting harder. Not sure if this is “hand trowling” or not. We are about to start a basement finish project and the contractor mentioned it when I said I wanted to do wainscoting or board and batten on the walls, he said in that case you can just do a smooth finish on the drywall, which made me think the textured finish might be required typically? I’ll ask him next time we talk.

        1. It’s probably “orange peel” spray texture. (I grew up in suburban Denver.) It’s allllll over the mountain west and west coast via 90’s/early aughts sprawl. I think they thought it would hide imperfections, but it’s actually really hard to mimic the random nature of a spray texture, so you can always tell. Flat walls are so much prettier and easier to patch.

          1. Yes we moved from Philadelphia to Denver and I was shocked by the drywall here! When we bought a house, every single one had textured walls to a varying degree. “Less texture” was one of my must haves as our rental horrified me. It makes any kind of patching so much harder! I really think with all the transplants moving here someone could make a killing relocating a bunch of east coast drywall people!

      3. I’m in Nashville and never heard of hand trowel or orange peel. Everything is flat and not hard to patch.

      4. I grew up in Chicago and lived there for decades. Have lived in California for 10+ years. Never heard of anything called “hand trowel” before today.

        All our walls (in Chicago) were plaster over lathe or dry wall.

      5. I grew up in a home with smooth walls which was the norm in our area. Patching was frequent and taught to all as the offending party got to fix the hole from the bat or door knob or fist!
        Given enough time, smoothing and sanding, holes were undetectable.

        In Arizona, where we are now, there seem to be very few skilled plasterers and smooth walls are a significant upgrade from textured. ( an additional $1600 inFeb 2020 for an upgrade from textured walls to a 80/20. A level 5 smooth was $5000 +2 weeks additional)

        Beyond preferring the look of smooth walls, patches on textured walls from settling cracks to rage ‘in the middle of the night to kill the chirping cricket in the wall’ holes are nearly impossible to hide as the texture never matches. (Even tried the kits from home improvement stores. You really need a compressor and sprayer to fully match the texture.) You can fix the hole, but it is always apparent where it was.

        My vote? I’d rather pay upfront for a skilled job that can be maintained with inexpensive tools such as a trowel and sandpaper. Though, I suppose if you don’t have teenage boys it could be sixes.

      6. I’ve done a very large amount of flat finish drywall patching myself, and it’s really not that hard (28 year old woman here – and my mom taught me how to patch holes and stuff in flat finish drywall as a kid no older than Charlie). It takes patience and may not always turn out 100% perfect, but I promise it’s not that big of a deal. At my mom’s house, she ended up adding knock-down texture on the walls in a few rooms that had badly damaged drywall from wallpaper being installed directly over unprimed drywall, and my takeaway from helping her paint afterwards is that textured walls are a PAIN to paint – flat is so much easier and faster! All it takes to patch flat drywall is spackle (similar to drywall mud) for small holes and either a patch kit ($5-20 from a hardware store) or a piece of new drywall cut to the size of your hole for holes larger than an inch or two. It boggles my mind that in some parts of the US contractors want to charge an arm and a leg for something that a kid can do in other parts of the US – makes me want to tell them to put their big girl panties on and learn!

      7. South Florida here, ceiling textures are options (orange peel, knockdown and flat) and removing popcorn is a big thing and costs vary greatly on finish selected after removal…walls are typically flat and smooth. All drywall is finished and painted in garages, where in the north I was surprised that garages weren’t “finished” and painted by default.

    4. 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.

      1. 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.

    5. 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 better than something like popcorn ceilings!

    6. 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.

    7. +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.

    8. 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.

    9. 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 🙂

    10. 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.

      1. 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.

    11. 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.

      1. 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.

  24. 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…

    1. 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??

  25. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

      2. Interesting. I guess it depends on the trim color – if it stands out or not. ours in LA are the same white as the trim as opposed to the taupe of the stucco (although its surrounded by the green ivy so it would have stood out regardless). but you’ve got me wondering….

        1. My gutters are the colour of the roof (colourbond roof), the downpipes match the wall colour.

    2. 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.

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

    3. thats a great tip. I know very little about gutters (and honestly we aren’t doing a ton of exterior info in the book because its already 39076 pages long), but maybe its a great blog post – where to not save on the exterior (because I totally agree – it can cheapen your house a lot).

    4. 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.

  26. 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.

    1. Agreed. I’ve finally made that shift which is a lot of the book. I just want to be able to live without worry, knowing that we do a lot of wear and tear, and be able to clean easier (that wasn’t as much a priority before, but it sure is now:))

      1. I had contractors who just didn’t want to do the work so told me it couldn’t be done. Never again will I have a closed-minded contractor!

    2. 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.)

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

  27. 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.

    1. oh i LOVE THIS. i agree about cabinets but didn’t know the ‘secret stash’ in the closet. that’s genius. noted. xx

    2. 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?

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

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

    1. 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!!

      1. 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.

  30. “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).

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

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

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

      1. 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!

      2. 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.

  33. 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.

    1. 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:)

      1. 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.

    2. 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?

    3. 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!

      1. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.”

    6. 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?!

    7. 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.

  34. 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!) or make sense for your lifestyle.
    3. I am a very visual person, so if you are doing major changes in your house, I think it is helpful to use painters tape to mark out on the walls and floors where walls are changing and doors are changing, so you can see the actual flow of things. Similarly, in a kitchen or bath, how are shower doors going to open or oven doors and will that give you enough room for what you want to be happening around those things? Act out unloading your dishwasher or doing what you do in those rooms, so you can really understand how you want things to work.
    4. Make as many design decisions as you can before demo even starts! I am not good at making decisions on the fly (as may be obvious from my previous comments), and it is very stressful when a contractor is demanding you make a decision on the spot about where the light switches are going to be because the electrician is there now and it is going to cost him and you more if he has to come back. You can’t plan for everything, but you will save yourself time, money and agony the more you can do ahead of time.
    5. Do not underestimate the number of decisions that have to be made during a renovation and plan for your mental health accordingly! Remember how Obama said he basically had two suits because he had to make so many decisions during a day that clothing shouldn’t be one of them? Decision fatigue is real! Plan for it. And, hopefully, you are doing renovations to make your space more functional and beautiful, and that is an amazing gift!

    1. 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

  35. 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.

    1. 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.

  36. 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.

    1. 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…

  37. 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.

  38. 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 dim and it’s hard to figure out the right temperature (3000k? 4000k?) for your house. I prefer lighting with bulbs so I can change brightness and temperature. Plan for overhead light, task lighting, and ambient light. Under cabinet lights are awesome.

    Measure before you design. And then measure again. And then do it again in a different place. Things are never square! Even in new construction. Measure across at the top and the bottom of an opening. Shims and trim cover a lot. Appliances aren’t always the right size.

    Caulk really helps make things look better and finished. Spray foam can be very useful. Concrete isn’t waterproof.

    Make sure your chairs fit under your table. When you plan a kitchen, plan out where everything is going to go and then leave yourself extra room. If you have kids, they are going to want to see what you are doing, so have a space where they can sit opposite of the cooking instead of being in your way. If you always have a couch facing a TV, you’re going to watch more TV.

    If you want to keep a surface clean (like kitchen counters), then make sure it’s a surface that actually shows that it is dirty. If you don’t care if it’s clean or not, then pick a surface that hides dirt/stains/etc.

    Know where your main shut-off valve is and how to turn off electrical.

    1. 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. >.<

  39. 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.

  40. 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!

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

  42. 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!

  43. 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 was also moved forward 15cm. They forgot the overhead lighting should also be moved forward, or else you would always be chopping things in your own shadow at the peninsula, and the pendulum light over the table would be off-centre too. Because I was there, I spotted it and they adjusted accordingly.

    (4) You will always miss something. When that happens, console yourself with all the things you did catch! (see point 3 above).

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

  44. 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!

  45. 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!

  46. 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.

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

  47. 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!

      1. 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.

    1. 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.

  48. 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 if you want to. Thanks!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  49. 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!

    1. 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 :).

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

    3. 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 🙂

  50. We endorse the idea of double (or soundproof) insulation on interior walls and floors! We just moved into a brand new house in a “luxury” subdivision and the interior insulation is lacking. I just heard somebody upstairs flush the toilet … and then some! Have your contractor blow in the extra!

  51. One thing that has proved to be a lifesaver is knowing the quality difference between purchasing a faucet/toilet/light fixture/etc directly from the manufacturer vs Home Depot/Lowe’s etc. I didn’t realize until talking to a home builder that a lot of times big box stores often sell the home improvement equivalent products of a factory/outlet store, so often times you’re sacrificing quality (ie, Gap or Banana Republic make specific, lower-quality products for factory stores, and the same goes for the “name brand” products you see at some of the big box stores). It’s not for all items, and you can cross reference, but we were warned that you’re almost always better off paying for the nice fixture directly from the provider.

  52. If you can afford to, live in your home for a year BEFORE you renovate. You may have to then pack every up and move out for a few months but I PROMISE you’ll learn so much about what changes you really want to make after you experience it a bit first.

  53. I don’t relish the role of the contrarian, but we just moved into our new custom build house one week ago that has an open double shower. We have our house set at 68 degrees F in Wisconsin. I am a naturally cold person, and was expecting to need to add a glass wall and door to help me not freeze but wanted to live with it first to see before spending the $$$….and I’ve taken three showers and not experienced it being cold at all. I don’t think we’ll add it. It’s something that can easily be added, so I’d keep your advice but suggest waiting to at least use it a few times to see what it’s feels like in the shower without it before giving up the dream of an open shower.

    One big thing I wished I knew before we built – it’s SO MESSY. Put cleaning into contracts. Or expect to pay cleaners, or endlessly clean all the dust and debris yourself. In particular to drywallers – make sure they have a plan for keeping things clean! They can use shop vacs when sanding to keep things a lot cleaner. Our drywaller sub clearly didn’t and it has been a lot of work to make up for it. Luckily our HVAC sub adamantly refused to put in the HVAC system prior to the drywalling, so the majority of the dust was kept out of the HVAC system.

    Speaking of HVAC, try and place the furnace in the middle of the home – if there’s a basement, try and get it in the center. The house will heat more evenly. We didn’t do this because our HVAC team tried to get us to move it wayyyy too late after basement walls were already up and plans were too far along, but if they would have said something in planning/quoting I would have been able to design the basement differently. That said, our bedroom is the furthest away and I’m not cold at all in it. 🙂

    Drawers for the win! In every single lower I have drawers and love it.

    A lot of light fixtures at the box stores online sells out over and over again. We were building our home for 2 years (design to finish) and I had “final” lighting mood boards and plans at least 4 times – and then would have to start over again when the fixtures were sold out and no longer available. In the end, I think this was a good thing because I count all the early attempts as research and when it came time to really order, I knew what I wanted pretty clearly and what was a good price and just had to find something available and had multiple sources to go to – I ended up ordering from 4 different places. I have gotten a ton of compliments on the fixtures 🙂 so I think I did well there.

    Custom cabinets from a very local Amish cabinetry shop were only ~$4000 more than IKEA, and included installation and all the customization. FAR better value. Don’t let Amish fool you – my cabinets are not at all rustic – The Amish builder was fantastic and told me he could build anything I wanted. So I have my flat front full overlay non-selected maple (so they have some variation like hickory but it’s not as harsh) inspired by Emily’s Mountain House kitchen perimeters and pantry cabinets! My builder practically forced me to get the quote from the custom shop – I was certain it would be out of budget – but he was sooooo right. So it is possible that custom isn’t going to be the $$$$$ that you may be expecting; doesn’t hurt to ask. And also Amish =/ rustic! 😀

    Make sure you are visiting the site often. I went every single day, many days multiple times a day. I’m a project manager and couldn’t resist getting into all the details, but it was worth it. There are very, very few things that I’m regretting. Like, the only regret I can think of is that I wish I would have put the built in cabinet trash drawer right next to the dryer (emptying lint) instead of two cabinets away. That is a ridiculously small complaint. 🙂

    Finally, I wish I would have really understood how construction loans work – but from talking to our title company manager (the title company disperses the funds for the draws), there is a lot of variety in bank rules. Our bank is a more difficult bank to work with for construction loans. Because we kind of shared the responsibilities of the general contractor with our builder, we had to pay for almost all of the downpayment out of pocket and wait to get reimbursed when it was complete. So we were paying out of pocket for 50% of flooring, cabinets, countertops, tile, and 100% of anything purchased by ourselves like light fixtures, and didn’t get reimbursed for several months. That all adds up to a lot!! It would have been better to be prepared for that.

    Again, this is specific to our lender – but it was something I didn’t even realize that we should have asked our lender about – how they determine completion and if they will pay draw requests. Some lenders are more easy about paying draw request than others. Our lender uses an old school percentage based completion percentage worksheet – old school like the pdf looks like it’s been copied/scanned a bunch of times – and we had trouble getting one of our draws approved because our initial downpayments for the plumbing/hvac (they would pay those downpayments) were throwing the entire percentage completion worksheet off. So we needed to be drawing say 40% of the total loan amount, but they were saying only 30% was complete, so they didn’t want to approve it. It was a huge headache. After I got that draw through, I made them send me the completion worksheet (the old school scanned PDF) and made sure that all future draws were right in line with it….although the completion % worksheet definitely had problems – like it didn’t account for major utility expenses at all, even though they were 7% of the total construction cost. I understand all of this a lot better NOW and in the future will never use a bank that uses this type of construction completion % worksheet for a construction loan.

  54. Also, you do NOT need a draining board. No draining board in the history of kitchens has been aesthetically pleasing, empty or full. They eat up usable countertop and as their sole function is to have stuff sitting on it draining, that’s what you do with them so you constantly have unsightly dishes ruining the look of your oh-so-thoughtfully designed kitchen. I didn’t put one in and as a result I never leave stuff to drain – I actually dry it up (twelve years in and I’m still astonished by this, but it’s true). You can get portable drying racks that you put up and take own, but honestly I just use a teatowel which I then hang up to dry because who would leave a wet teatowel permanently on their countertop? Not one visitor has ever noticed I don’t have one, either, even when they’re helping clear up. Do yourself a favour, leave it out.

  55. Having recently moved into a home in Portland (which needs lots of renovations) I’d like to say that finding a contractor, having that contractor come and look at the job, and then getting a quote is the most frustrating experience I’ve had to date. I’ve literally being ghosted by a least two contractors. Think twice about installing heated floors. We have heated floors in the main bathroom and kitchen, under ceramic tile. They only work in certain areas on the floor, which means that to repair/replace them, we’d have to tear up the entire floor. It’s just not worth the expense of having the little luxury of walking on heated floors for the few minutes you’re in the room. Slippers are cheaper 🙂

    1. For our new construction in Wisconsin, it took me 3 months to get back quotes from our builder and subs. And I was handing them a set of plans. So frustrating!

      Thanks for your comment about the heated floors – it reaffirms our decision to skip them! I just couldn’t wrap my mind around spending the money to put it something so irreparable.

    2. Absolutely with you on contractors – so frustrating! However, our heated floors are the best thing we did in our renovation and we regret not adding more of them! Perhaps this depends on your home? We are in a 100+ year old building in San Francisco that has very high ceilings, not much insulation, and no central heating/furnace, so warm floors are a key way we (try to) heat to our home.

  56. Find a color genius at your local paint store. Bring them your tile or fabric samples and see if they can help you coordinate everything. I’ve used my local paint store color genius to help me choose exterior and interior paint colors, and finalize paint colors and tile samples.

    One of the best things you can do for your kitchen is add under-cabinet lighting. Using smart plugs and making it Alexa-enabled is a game changer when you have messy hands from cooking.

    If you live in a cold climate heat those bathroom floors. You will not regret it!

    1. I agree that those who work in the paint stores have been so helpful in tweaking my color choice. I had a bathroom painted a turquoise that seemed to match my inspiration, but up on the wall, it was too bright. The color expert in the paint store found a color that had just a tiny bit of grey to tone it down, and it looks perfect.

  57. So many great tips and bewares here!

    My contribution is::
    ●Treat your tradies (contractors) well. They like you = they go the extra mile.
    ●Plan in environmentally friendly and passive solar changes. You’ll save $$$ and the planet. Gotta say it … THERE IS NO PLANET B.
    That means no garbage disposal, outdoor clothes drying space, a place for a composting system, LED lighting, solar panels and an inverter system (battery storage if you can afford it), windows facing the right directions and exclusion of windows for the same reasons, no inappropriate roof colours (light for LA to reflect the heat), and plan on choosing and installing energy efficient appliances like heaters, cooling, washing machines, etc, insulation everywhere you can squash it, soooo many more things….basically…. THINK FIRST AND CHOOSE FOR THE PLANET because it saves your hip pocket too!

  58. DIY can save you sooo much money. We learned how to tile ourselves, build custom built-ins (with help from the parents), basic plumbing and electrical for our house reno. There is a Youtube video for everything. Granted, it will take you ten times as long. We only used a professional for carpet, countertop and fireplace installation.

    I think it’s interesting how sometimes we think of “bad design”, others love it in their homes. My mom’s house is tan/brown everything and random accent walls and she loves it. Design is so subjective so do what you like, not what you think everyone will like when you resell.

    We have golden oak cabinetry and trim throughout our home and honestly, I love how low maintenance it is. I considered painting everything white but kind of saw the trend of oak coming back and I just think I’m on trend now!

    We decided to start our reno immediately after buying the house and I’m so happy we did. It allowed us to live in our previous apartment and not move our stuff for a couple weeks after closing. It instantly made the house feel like ours. We did the big stuff (kitchen countertops, flooring, paint in the main space) before moving in and it made things a lot easier working in an empty house.

    I tried a “faux marble” countertop paint kit over electric blue laminate and while it worked as a temporary cover up, I wouldn’t consider it a long term solution. It looks cheap and started chipping after six months. We are now replacing the vanity top with quartz! However, in a different bathroom I tried a white epoxy appliance spray on the vanity top (important to take off top and spray outside) and that has held up beautifully. I think it works because it’s a solid color and not trying to be a natural material.

    We accomplished our full house reno for about 20k in 10 months. Super proud of what we did!

  59. Put the laundry room on the same floor as the bedrooms – makes it so much easier to fold and put away clothes when you don’t have to drag everything up and down the staircase. You still have to go up and down when you change the load, but at least you are not doing it with a basket.

    When your renovation is at the finishing stage – tiles, floors, outlets, etc, make sure you are checking on things every day. The contractors I have worked with had the tendency to do what they have done in the past, not necessarily what I have asked them to do.

    Do a lot of research on what you want way before the project starts – I was surprised how soon the contractors needed the tub delivered for the bathrooms.

    Keep a very close eye on the budget!! and have regular meetings with your main contractor about money and where you are compared to what has been budgeted. They will not like it, but at least you know what is happening. The biggest anxiety about a renovation is when you feel like you are getting ripped off.

    And the most important part – put everything in a contract, never agree to anything based on a handshake and have a construction attorney lined up just in case!!!! You might not need it, but when you do it is very important to have someone protecting your rights.

    If you disagree with your contractor on how to handle an issue, have a home inspector come and give a third party opinion. They will only charge a couple hundred dollars, but it will be the best money you have ever spent.

  60. In the early stages of a major renovation and we’re trying to be very mindful of not making decisions as though technology will stop progressing. I’ve seen so many people splurge on the “latest” in lighting, sound, or home security only to have it be very outdated a couple years later (and hard to change out). We’re trying to make sure that each component of our systems can be replaced as easily as possible as technology improves over time.

  61. Ooh I love this topic, and will definitely be buying this book!!

    Those fancy rain shower heads are the worst!! We installed one in our shower, and I despise it. It provides zero shower pressure, it’s so hard to avoid getting your hair wet. It’s not efficient. I’d rather stick to a simple (and effective) shower head, and leave all the “bells and whistles” to a hotel to try once and a while.

    1. Funnily enough, my husband really wanted a rain shower so we went with one against my better judgement and I actually love it! We also have a handheld one on the wall, so there’s some flexibility, and it’s a long enough shower that I can step out if I need to.

      1. I’m happy you like yours!
        I use hair/face masks that need to sit for 5-10 minutes and I find it very difficult to use with the rain shower head. For me, my body is completely under the shower head, or I’m completely outside the water. I prefer the angled showerhead so I can keep my face/hair out of the direct flow of water if I need to, but my body stays warm. But all down to personal preference though; I’m glad you like yours!

  62. The best advice our architect gave us was to make the house we want and need based on how we live, versus trying to keep up with the Jones’ (neighbors). This helped us stay within our budget and while we didn’t add lots of square footage, we were able to splurge on a beautiful kitchen with Heath tile, a Wolf range, etc.

    Speaking of higher end appliances, an LED bulb in the range hood started blinking after just a few months. I emailed the company and they gave me a link to a $40 replacement bulb. Like cars, servicing more expensive appliances is costly.

    The grout in the tile backsplash behind the stove had grease stains that I’m trying to get out with a product that won’t damage the beautiful (and precious) tile.

    In general I wish there was a checklist to review before you sign off that the project is complete. I was wiping up the floor next to the island a few days ago and noticed for the first time that the toe kick there wasn’t done right. The GC wrapped up 10 months ago and it’s not a big enough deal to call him back. If I had a checklist maybe I would have caught the issue back then?

    Another list outlining dependencies to consider would have been helpful. For example, we moved the gas line in the kitchen and got a new gas hot water heater. In hindsight I wish we had also plumbed a gas line for an insert for the fireplace as part of that work. What projects go together that might save time and money if done at the same time?

    Our shower has two heads and isn’t cold! But it’s not a very large shower and it is fully enclosed so maybe that’s why?

    Something I always come back to is gratitude for our home and to not get too hung up on things being perfect.

  63. When designing our current home, I gave the kitchen a lot of thought (Obviously). Our most often used appliance is our coffee maker, but we didn’t want to have anything on the counter or visible as our floor plan is very open and not overly large. I designed a cabinet that sits on the counter and is deep enough to house our Miele coffee machine (already owned) and….added a pot filler inside the cabinet for easy daily use! We love it!!

  64. Test your lightbulbs before installing canned lights. I installed 8 canned lights last year and put in white but now I wish they were a softer white or yellow. I wish I would have bought different ones and tested them and then I could have returned the ones I don’t want. I now don’t want to spend money for a second time for 8 different lightbulbs. I have also spent the last 9 months organizing and have spent a crazy amount of money on storage solutions. I am organizing my linen closet and already spent $60 for organizational solutions. I would love recommendations on how to organize without a spending a lot of money.

    1. On organizing: You can use nice cardboard boxes inside drawers. Shoeboxes, jewelry boxes…the kind of boxes that are sturdier and hold nice items. If you want, you can go the additional route of covering the boxes with matching paper.

      Cold led lights make me absolutely *insane*! They are harsh on the eye and turn skin tone gray and zombie like. Personally I would spring for new bulbs even if you change them one at a time. I think you’ll be happier on a daily level. Remember to check the color temp. The lower number, the warmer the color. 1000-3000 are the closest to warm incandescent bulbs. (1000 to 2500 is my favorite). We just changed out 8 incandescent bulbs to led and boy are they bright! Thankfully we have a dimmer on them.

  65. Few things from living in our 1950s house and renovating the basement soon after we moved in:
    1. Small bathrooms: really think about the layout. Our toilet is right next to the door, and the door swings through where your feet are when sitting. Not a big deal for full grown adults/kids but as a parent of two small kids my legs are constantly being banged or I’m hitting kids legs when the door opens and someone is on the toilet – not pretty, but it’s real life! If only our sink and toilet were swapped, the space would work so much better for us.
    2. When updating electrical/planning light switches – walk through the space a few times envisioning how you will use it. Are there multiple entrances to a space so light switches should be at all entrances to be able to turn on and off lights? If no overhead lights, how will your furniture layout to connect a light switch to a lamp outlet. A contractor has to lay out outlets per building codes for spacing, but they can add more for minimal cost. How many outlets do you really need and where? It’s SO MUCH cheaper to do before the drywall goes up.
    3. Be the annoying (but not too annoying!) client to a contractor. Walk down the work regularly that it’s all matching up to your vision and what you discussed. Ask questions (with pictures if communicating via text or email!). It is their responsibility to correct things they have done incorrectly, but it’s much better for the overall schedule if they are caught and corrected early. My mom gained a foot in her laundry room by catching a recess that was framed out that wasn’t needed for her house’s HVAC design (townhouse construction but each unit was slightly different). I caught several small things that they were able to correct throughout the process rather than waiting until the end and adding time to when they were out of my hair and I could enjoy my space!
    4. Communicate your expectations for working hours if you are still living in the space but also be realistic. They probably can’t work around naptimes, but they can work around weekend events at your house (like my daughter’s 3rd birthday party), finishing each day by your dinner/bed time, etc.

  66. Ensure your doors swing the right direction when focusing on transition into the house. For example, our new house was built with a door from garage into the mudroom/laundry room, but it opens inward to the left, which blocks passage into the house until you shut the door. When entering with an armload of groceries and 3 large dogs greeting you, you are effectively stuck, pinned up against the washer/dryer, until all the animals are scrunched in next to you and you can close the door to get past into the kitchen. Terrible design that I hate every day. Brought it up with the builder and he said for them to have changed the swing of the garage door from inward to pulling out into the garage, they would have had to make a longer landing at the top of the stairs. Yes, so DO THAT! I even said why can’t you just install the door so that it opens to the right and then we would have a straight shot into the house. He explained that they would have to rip out the whole door jamb, blah, blah, and I would need to pay for that. Well, I am seriously considering having that done because it is the most inconvenient thing ever.

    1. I agree on the door swing direction. We have a door that swings to the right, but the light switch is on the right too, which means it’s covered by the door. So stupid. If the door swings open to the right, the light switch should be on the left.

  67. Definitely use drawers under cabinets. I’m an architect and did it 35 years ago and I would highly recommend.
    If you’re buying a cooktop and downdraft exhaust they need to be by the same manufacturer to fit in a 24” deep cabinet. They all vary by 1/4-1/2” and aren’t always compatible.
    IKEA Pax system is a GREAT closet system for a fraction of the cost of California Closets.
    Make sure to leave about an inch below the ceiling and the top cabinet in case the ceiling isn’t level from front to back. I put mine snug to the ceiling with flip top cabinet doors on top. They won’t open all the way because of the pulls and the cabinets won’t stay open bc I can’t get them to 90 degrees.
    I love my 3’ of open shelving over the DW for six of all my basic plates, glasses, bowls etc.

  68. I’m wondering how quality assurance is don for residential design. For instance, in a commercial project if a contractor’s work is not done correctly the architect can have them redo it, because it does not match the construction documents. When I look at my parents renovation, I see lots of errors and I wonder if they could have contractually made the contractor fix the poorly done work. How does EHD deal with work that is not completed per construction documents?

    1. I don’t know how EHD does it, but in commercial design there are specifications for every single possible thing telling the contractor EXACTLY what it is and how it is to be installed. These specifications are hundreds if not thousands of pages long and are more legally binding than the construction drawings.

  69. If you have a big family, put in 2 dishwashers and 2 washers and 2 dryers. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity! There is also no such thing as a too-large mudroom or too much storage:)

    1. this is excessive and clear overconsumption of both ressources needed to make the machines but also of electricity.

  70. I bought this great light when I renovated, my contractor put it in and the Halogen (#1 never again) (hot, hot, hot , expensive bulbs!) The light immediately blew out because #2 I had a regular switch and it needs a low voltage switch, (expensive, for me at the time) and contractor didn’t tell me. So 8 years later I’ve never changed it but it looks pretty on the ceiling. With light on it created the prettiest ceiling patterns. Anyway bottom line only use LED’s IMHO and know if you need low voltage.

  71. –Choose your GC first. We had to have some structural work done and had already contracted with an engineering firm (the same one we had evaluate the house during the buying process) before we landed on a contractor. We thought that would move things along, but it actually caused some communications issues about who was going to do demo and the order of operations, and ultimately resulted in delays. If we’d had the contractor in place first, they would have managed the engineer and been able to bid the job more holistically as well.
    –Contrary to what some have said, if you’re planning on renovating a new-to-you house, do it before you move in! I know many say “live there for a year,” but our new house wasn’t really livable (1970s carpeted bathrooms, anyone?) and we were fortunate enough to be able to do the bulk of the renovations before selling and moving out of our old home, which was a lifesaver.
    –Think about where you might want your electrical. I was very focused on choosing light fixtures but realized very late in the process that we needed an outlet in the pantry and had to get that added into the scope of work. I wish we’d also added an outlet inside the bathroom vanity to plug in ugly toothbrush chargers and that a couple of our outlets were just a wee bit higher or lower to accommodate furniture.
    –Details, details: We had our interior doors removed and painted during the reno and I bought new knobs but I didn’t think about the hinges! So they still have the old dingy hinges. Fortunately I’m the only one who notices but eventually I’ll need to change those out…
    –Yes to drawers in the kitchen, as others have said. Yes to a trash & recycling pullout–love it. Also love having a skinny non-drawer cabinet to hold all the sheet pans and cutting boards.
    –However, I didn’t realize that our downdraft cooktop would eat up most of the large cabinet under the stove. No drawers there as I’d hoped, and there’s a big vent running through the space. I’m still happy not to have a hood but I wish I knew!
    –This one’s obvious, but it will take longer–wayyy longer–and cost more than you think!

    1. Also: Communicate, communicate, communicate. I’m 5 feet tall. My GC is about 6’2″. I had to keep reminding him of that and even had to stop him mid-install of the floating shelves in the kitchen because I couldn’t reach them. By the time we got to the bathroom vanity and mirrors he knew to have me come in and test before he hung them!

    2. Yes to an outlet behind the master bathroom vanity! We put one in such that a strip could sit inside one of the taller drawers. I loved having my blow dryer and curling iron plugged in all the time. We’ve since moved and I wish I had it here.

      1. I put an “appliance garage” at one end of my bathroom counter, with an outlet inside, and a cabinet above. Hides all the hairdryers and cords–I love it. I think those cabinets are out of style in a kitchen now, but it sure is handy in the bathroom.

        1. I wish I’d thought about hiding one in a cabinet–I was moving from a ’20s bathroom with a single outlet and pedestal sink and was so happy to have a big vanity and multiple outlets that I didn’t really think, “hmmm, I’m not going to want to leave my ratty toothbrush out on my beautiful counter.”

  72. I wish I’d known that most (well informed, researched) design choices will look good in the end once everything is finished and caulked and there are baseboards, etc. I stressed so much renovating our first home about things being perfect, finishes going together, choices being too much or too white or too whatever. In the end it all looked beautiful but I wish I’d taken more risks. (Maybe this is actually advice about trusting your gut!)

  73. I wish we had cast a more critical eye on the lighting plans: placement, switches, quantity of lights, etc. There are some rooms that are lit up like the Chrysler building, others with switches in non-intuitive locations and more.

  74. 1. If you cook often, you need a full-size range hood. Most range hoods only cover half of the range (in terms of depth – they will cover the back burners), whereas most of the cooking happens on the front burners, which won’t be covered. We recently changed to a full-sized hood, and it made all the difference with regards to minimizing cooking smells and grease. Time and time again, I see kitchen designs even on EHD that don’t have hoods, and I always presume these designs must be for people who do not cook. Hoods are essential, in my opinion.
    2. Open shelves next to the stove will require constant cleaning if you cook. Same goes with art or mirrors (???) behind the stove.
    3. I don’t understand ranges that are in the center island. These typically have no or ineffective hoods, and I just think about the grease splatters that will end up everywhere because the range is in the center of the kitchen.
    4. Put thought into your outlet placement if you have the chance. We recently finished our basement, and had the forethought to install outlets for our TV so that they are directly behind the TV, and we don’t have to deal with seeing the cords.
    5. When doing external work (landscaping, patios, walkways, driveways), spend the extra money to bury your downspouts. This helps keep water away from the house, creates cleaner aesthetics, and minimizes water damage to whatever hardscape you are putting in.
    6. We redid our bathroom, and have a very large shower that has a glass panel. When we ordered the glass panel, there was pressure to go with the “crystal” version of the glass, which is more expensive – the non-“crystal” version has a slight green tint to it. We stuck with the normal glass, saved $700 and never noticed the difference. Frankly, it wasn’t even until we were in the business of buying the shower door that we realized the difference existed.
    7. Towel heaters require about 30min to warm the towel, so for it to work, you have to turn it on well before you take your shower. We have one, and never use it because we just don’t plan ahead like that.

    1. re #7 If you towel warmer is plug in, not hardwired, you can use a smart plug with a timer that will automatically turn it on/off ahead of time

  75. I love a cozy in-kitchen breakfast nook ideally with pleasant views into the back yard. No dining booths, please, a small round table and comfortable chairs are perfect.

  76. A tip I learned from a contractor experienced in ADA compliant /aging in place design is that the “walk in bathtubs” that have very high walls and a door that opens and closes are awful. People with mobility issues (target market for this kind of tub) are left shivering sitting there waiting for the water to fill or drain before they can open the door and exit. The much better option is a large shower with no raised transition. The floor just slants a bit for drainage and a wheelchair or walker can just roll on in.

    1. Sorry I missed this before leaving a related comment. Totally agree on the walk-in/roll-in shower.

  77. Consider accessibility options, even if you don’t need them now. There may be a time when you’d like to host an elderly family member or when you or a family member faces mobility options during an extended recuperation. Having a bathroom, including a walk-in shower with space for a bench and a hand-held shower head that can be reached and controlled by someone seated on that bench, on the main living floor is highly desirable as as is a means of entry from the car parking area into the house with a minimum of stairs. Depending on the area, light switch/doorknob heights may be set by code to be at wheelchair-accessible heights. If not, it should be considered anyway.

    1. I could have used a bench in the shower when I was pregnant and nauseated for months on end. We made due with a plastic chair.

      Also a bench or a ledge to put your foot on while shaving is super nice.

  78. Not a “genius” idea, but I have always keep a notebook with EVERYTHING we have done in the house no matter how large or small like a record of paint colors, new deck installation etc. and who the contractor, electrician was–I even note when our yearly furnace, AC, gutters etc. are serviced

    I have often been surprised (shocked is actually a better word) to find when something does eventually needs replacing or sprucing how long ago some of the original work was completed–yikes I could have sworn it was only 3 years ago!!!

    1. Not genius?! I’ve been reading these comments for about an hour and THIS is the one that made me say aloud, “oh, that’s so smart!” Thanks for the tip.

    2. We recently bought our house and have been doing this, too, although my system is a folder with the invoices from any upgrades or maintenance work. It’s good for my records, but also if we ever go to sell the house we’ll be able to show potential buyers that the house has been well maintained and updated. Many real estate listings in my area also state upgrade dates (“Roof 2011, patio 2015, roof 2018”) so keeping track of these things is important.

  79. Number 1 rule for me is to live in the space before buying “stuff” and renovating. The way you imagine using a space, will ultimately change after living there for a few months. I wait 6 months. I’m done wasting money on stupid mistakes that could have been prevented, if I had just waited a little bit. Really using your spaces for months, will give you the know how, to see how you will use your spaces best.

    When I bought my house years ago, I immediately bought a new couch. While I really liked the couch, it was ultimately just too big for the space. Even though I did the painter’s tape and boxes fill in for the space. If I had just used the couch I already had, I would have easily seen the one i wanted was just too big for the space. They were within an inch of each other in size. Such a waste of $2000.

    I changed up my kitchen a bunch. This was the one spot I thankfully didn’t do right off the bat. I changed the design at least 6 times before deciding exactly how I wanted it to be. Living there, helped me to realize the best use of the space. What I originally wanted, would not have been the best use of my itty bitty space.

  80. A real good place to start with layouts of everything is Cotton Eyed Joe: where does it come from, where does it go? Light, air, people, things. What direction does the natural light come from? If it’s the south (in our hemisphere) it’ll be direct and add heat. If it’s from the north, it’ll be filtered. I like lots of north facing light in kitchens for this reason. If air is coming out of a vent, what does it hit? In a house we lived in once, The air conditioning vent in the kitchen blew directly onto the gas stove, which meant we couldn’t cook with the vent open. (A safety hazard AND annoying.) People: when they enter the house, where do they naturally want to put things? If there’s no easy home for their stuff, that home will become the first convenient horizontal surface, which is sometimes a dining room table. We’ve all seen that mountain.
    Oh, and put outlets INSIDE things, like in your medicine cabinet, for toothbrushes.

    1. Thank you for the flashback to middle school dances with that Cotton Eyed Joe reference 🙂

  81. Discuss with your neighbors about landscape design ideas before making any changes. My husband cut down a grapefruit tree at our home in Florida because it wasn’t producing good fruit, and the tree was in a bad spot in our backyard. We later learned that this upset two of our neighbors because our tree pollinated their trees. Whether that was true or not, a discussion with them first would have been the polite and neighborly thing to do. We learned from it, though.
    Consider living in your home one year before a major reno. We currently live in an A-frame in the mountains of Southern California. The locals in our little mountain town really resent people moving into their town, and ripping the guts out of the older homes without understanding the lay of the land, and respecting the original design. They often move out after a few major snowstorms and the locals are left with a home that doesn’t really fit in with the others. Consider where the home is first, and work from outside in order for harmony in design. A wabi sabi home rarely offends.

  82. Really think through where your outlets, light switches, and thermostats will go and gang your switches whenever possible. In every house I’ve moved into, I’ve had to spend money moving light switches that seemed to be just randomly tossed onto the wall often right where your art would obviously need to go. A friend had her contractor install a new Nest thermostat and came home to find it beautifully centered above her living room sofa, on the only wall in the room.

    1. I’m going to piggy-back on this on!

      Set a timer to make sure you remember to periodically check on the work. I don’t why it is, but left to themselves, your contractor will pick the wrong spot for something. Even the things that seem the most straight-forward will somehow not be communicated. The back of the steps not painted, the trim and wall color reversed. You have to check on the work often and ask your contractor to run every step by you.

  83. Ask for extra nogs/ dwangs (wood between studs) if you know where u might want to hang artwork or TV. If u can take a photo at framing stage to see where studs are. Stud finders have never worked for me.

    1. Taking pictures of all the walls when they’re just studs and rough electrical/plumbing is a great tip! I wish I would have been intentional with this because we’ve referenced the pictures I do have a lot!

      1. If you are down to the studs, add bracing for grab bars everywhere you might someday need them: both sides of toilet, in the shower (horizontal), next to shower (vertical), by exterior doors that have steps. Then photograph them with a ruler next to them so you have measurements ready. Just in case — you never know when you are going to break a leg or get infirm or have balance issues. This reinforcement is cheap during construction and major hard as an afterthought.

  84. My parents’ home and my former home both had huge tubs with jets. Neither house had enough hot water to fill the tub in one go, which was always very disappointing.

  85. Often, wood floors cannot just be patched and matched. This adds time (to redo the floors) and significant money to the project.

  86. We renovated our kitchen last year before we moved into our house. We had a great contractor and a good experience. At the same time, my parents were doing a more minor kitchen renovation in the house they live in and did not have a good experience. I realized that it was a huge blessing to NOT be living in our house at the time of the renovation. My parents didn’t have a great contractor which was the problem but between both renovations I learned that contractors often have to deal with a lot of crap that comes up. And some days things move VERY slowly. It’s actually great for your sanity if you don’t have to witness those things day in and day out (if you have a contractor you trust at least)! Popping by every other day or so is much better for your mental health than having to watch all the ups and downs and ins and outs of the work and subs, etc. Of course all this depends on how great your contractor is!

  87. We’re almost through Phase 2 of a three-phase full house renovation, so I’ve definitely learned a LOT:

    1. If you’re moving walls, make sure to consider HVAC. I have a feeling a lot of people in the next 20 years will be un-open-concepting their homes, so this is an important consideration.

    2. When shopping for a fixer-upper, look at the basement/attic space! If you plan to do major renovation, especially related to plumbing, it’s far harder and more expensive if you have a slab or crawlspace, or if the basement is finished you may have to tear down the ceiling to access plumbing. Attic space mostly matters with electrical. Our sunroom doesn’t have an attic over it and I (dumbly) chose not to put in an overhead light when walls were already down. Now that I want one, we’d have to tear down part of the ceiling and wall turning it into a much bigger project.

    3. Related, think of every spot you may potentially one day maybe want lighting. Make sure your electrician is aware – sometimes they can go ahead and build in the box so it can be accessed later when you buy that wall-sconce or at least tell you if you need to go ahead and do it now (see #2).

    4. TAKE PHOTOS OF THE WALLS OPEN! It’s so helpful to be able to visualize where the studs, electrical components, plumbing components, etc. are.

    5. If your house is old, assume all previous owners were…creative…in their solutions to issues, which will make life harder if you don’t intend to replace entire systems (plumbing, electrical). On a related note, many, many contractors will refuse to re-plumb houses that have cast iron plumbing because it’s very physically difficult work. Keep that in mind.

    6. I’ll ditto that big showers or showers with no door are COLD! Also, keep in mind that pre-made shower pans only come up to 36″x48″ I think. Anything larger or different proportions will require a custom shower pan which is significantly more labor costs. Oh and last thing about showers: put the controls opposite of the shower head so you don’t have to duck out of the spray of cold water.

    7. Never, ever let someone else (i.e. your contractor, designer, project manager) sign off on the final order of kitchen cabinets without you seeing and agreeing. Despite having detailed mockups, a list of cabinet dimensions and details, our contractor seriously messed up our kitchen cabinets and we had to pivot or delay the project another month.

    8. Embrace your house’s character! Our living room and kitchen had really good quality 60s wood paneling. The grooves/widths vary rather than the current trend of equal planks, but we decided to embrace it and keep it as the “backsplash” of the kitchen (painted). It gives the kitchen so much charm and saved us thousands on product/installation.

    9. Changing the floorplan of a house is a big headache if you aren’t planning to gut the whole thing. In addition to the obstacles presented by HVAC, electrical, structural load-bearing and plumbing, consider floors – if you’re moving walls you’ll either have to blend in hardwood and refinish ALL of it, or you’ll need to replace all the floors. If you’re living in the home during the renovation, that means you’ll need to remove all furniture for 3-30 days while the floors are being refinished. (Also, in my previous home I had a horrible floor refinishing experience where the smell was so strong we pushed move-in for a month and didn’t bring my dog in for another two weeks, and yet there are still (adorable) puppy paw prints in the finish, so I strongly do not recommend traditional stain/poly but one of the more natural methods instead).

    10. Oh! Also keep in mind that if you have an older, pre-1978 house, everything will cost more because of the risk of asbestos and/or lead paint. For example, replacing the windows requires lead abatement. I got quotes where just that portion ranged from $2,000 to $5,000, on top of the windows and installation. Replacing old vinyl flooring with asbestos tiles added $2,000 and it was only 140 sq ft!

    Okay I’ll stop at 10, but honestly I cannot wait for this book! I’ve renovated three houses now and have learned so much. In the first it was mostly cosmetic (gutting the powder room and installed all new floors, which we DIYed; hired people to paint the exterior and replace the AC units). The second was big but straightforward projects that I hired out (windows, roof, floor refinishing) and a few smaller projects (resituating closets which required floor touchups, DIY built-ins, etc.). Third house is a doozy. We’ve finished phase 1 which included gutting and rebuilding the sunroom and adding walls to turn the former formal living room and dining room into two bedrooms with a front hall. We’re in Phase 2 now which is floors, kitchen, electrical. Phase 3 is rearranging the entire back of the house to create a larger primary suite. The number of floorplans I’ve created! Being decisive is a huge skill – be grateful if you have it 🙂

  88. What an awesome idea!

    I’ve designed and built two houses and renovated 8. Here’s my incomplete list:

    1. If you live in a “buggy” climate (as I do in Texas) when your walls are at the framing stage, puff diatomaceous earth into the wall voids before insulation. The result will be no bugs in your house without the use of chemicals.
    2, Have an electrical outlet installed in your broom closet for charging the cordless vac.
    3. Before finalizing kitchen plans, mentally cook your favorite meals in the kitchen, taking care to note what you want to have at hand and which direction you naturally want to move. Pay attention to door swing directions and potential obstacles.
    4. Avoid a kitchen with only one entrance/exit so more than on person can be in the kitchen without bumping into each other.
    5. Have specific plans for locations for trash, recycling, composting and dog bowls.
    5. Think through charging needs for devices (including electric toothbrushes and hair styling tools).
    6. Mentally open and close all doors paying attention to the swing direction, the view when open, the location of light switches.
    7. Plan a “drop zone” for backpacks and purses and groceries. Imagine the trip from car to kitchen with armloads of groceries and adjust accordingly.

    1. Another vote for the diatomaceous earth. I sprinkled that in my kitchen and pantry behind and under new cabinetry and before they set the stone counters. We didn’t get ants for ten years until they finally found a diatomaceous earth free path.

  89. I’m wondering about this piece of advice from my real estate agent: you’re not going to get a return on your investment for replacing the windows. Is she right? Our windows are from the seventies and single pane (so you can hear everything happening outside and they’re not very efficient in protecting us from hot or cold days). We want to replace them but 1) they’re big and expensive to replace plus there’s a lot of them 2) you have to get a permit to replace them first 3)a future buyer wouldn’t care/notice?

    Not sure if it’s worth it. Anybody know?

    1. I don’t know about most people but we definitely didn’t buy a house we otherwise loved with non-standard single pane windows because we knew the cost of replacing all of them would blow our budget. But one day we were walking around the neighborhood and popped into a million+ gut renovation open house just because. Basically the ONLY thing they hadn’t changed was replacing the single pane windows which we thought was crazy – but maybe no one else notices?

    2. We live in a turn of the century home in the New England–while we try our best to keep things authentic and original to the house, we have been slowly replacing windows (in same profile as originals) and I can tell you, they look almost identical but have made our drafty rooms much warmer, not to mention the views outside crystal clear!

      I imagine these renovations will not hurt ROI one bit.

  90. Something I wish I’d known before a refresh of our house is to either (a) make sure you have the existing trim color on hand for touch ups or (b) choose a new trim color to paint as you go BEFORE painting the walls (especially if textured).

    We moved into a 90’s house that needed paint from top to bottom. I’ve painted many of the walls, ceilings and the kitchen cabinets, but I left the trim as it was a warm white color and not terribly offensive (and still in decent shape). But as we have started redoing the bathrooms, a few of our renovations have required tweaks to the trim. The problem is, we don’t know the trim color and the previous owners didn’t leave any behind 😩. So I’m now faced with the question of whether to try to color match, choose a new color just for in our bathrooms, or go back and paint all of the trim in the house the same color. If I choose option two or three, I’ll probably have to try to freehand the trim (or find some really good painters tape for my lightly textured walls). Live and learn!

    1. The good paint stores can lend you a sensor tool, like a small cell phone size to scan your trim colour on a flat enough spot and then match it. Best of luck!

  91. Weird. I have two very large spa showers and both stay nice and toasty. Even during Colorado winters. I wonder what it is about them that keep the heat.

  92. If at all possible, make door casings 36 inches. You never know when a wheelchair, walker etc. might enter your life.

  93. Plan, plan and more planning! We spent a year and a half planning our new kitchen/bathroom/laundry renovation and addition before we even began tearing out walls. We actually visited showrooms, picked out absolutely every fixture, appliance, wall and floor surface before construction began. This process was fun and really enabled us to visualize what the finished project would eventually look like. Our project ran more smoothly, delays were avoided, and our final renovation was completed on time.

  94. Trust your gut. 15 years ago we remodeled our kitchen. We hired a wonderful kitchen designer that I selected based on work I had seen of hers in magazines. Although our remodel was a success, and I still LOVE my kitchen all these years later, she led me wrong on two counts. Her preference on two design elements did not match mine, and I made the mistake of following the expert’s advice. I wish that I had trusted my own instincts.

  95. I don’t understand the need to “flat finish” the walls that’s evidently the norm in some parts of the countyry. In the midwest, we have drywall put up, taped, sanded and then it’s just painted. There IS no ‘other’ finish needed and it looks just fine.

  96. Wish I’d thought of… adding electrical outlet to floor of great room before laying tile- now no place to plug in lamps!

    Did right… (1) double ovens and (2) elevated counter tops in kitchen. I’m 5’8” and husband 6’2” and WHAT A DIFFERENCE it makes.

    Lastly, I don’t have a banquette or bench but some family and friends do and I really dislike them. Attractive but just not comfortable for lounging or getting up/down or in/out when needed.

  97. That they’d be using FLAT paint on the living room walls! (Any cleaning tips??)
    Also which finishes are kid friendly, which finished are higher maintenance- like the less obvious ones (ex: dark countertops show water spots!)

    1. We deliberately have flat paint on our walls. I like the velvety way they look. We had two elementary aged kids and the walls have never gotten that dirty. But I’ve told them to not touch the walls unless it’s necessary. I use a melamine sponge, like Mr Clean Eraser. I also have a small touch up paint can. If you want to lessen the amount of work opt for finishes that are commercial or have high durability. Eggshell for the walls and semi gloss paint for trim, granite counters (still seal them regularly), outdoor fabrics like sunbrella or commercial microfiber (that can be cleaned with windex-no kidding!), washable rugs.

  98. OK, So I think this is one of the worst things I notice about flipped houses in my city. I look at craftsman houses and other old houses for sale online. I can’t say how many times I see a photo of a nice old dining room that now has a great view of a toilet from the dining table.

  99. What I wish I knew was how to BUY a house where the needed renovations would be easier and less expensive.

    We just renovated our kitchen and it was, naturally, far more expensive than we had expected it to be. It’s a small kitchen so we thought “how much could it cost?” Turns out, if your small kitchen has an awful layout and needs to be gutted, it can cost a lot.

    Now I look back at houses we didn’t buy, and the kitchens they had, and realize that they would’ve been so much cheaper to renovate because the layout was fine, or the cabinet boxes could’ve been reused, instead of starting from scratch. Some of those houses had higher sticker prices, but likely would’ve been a better deal overall because the cost of needed renovations would’ve been lower. Live and learn.

    So I guess my only reno tip is that, when shopping for a house, get familiar with the things that really jack up the price of a renovation and keep that in mind when you consider the total cost of the home you want to buy.

  100. If you possibly can, live in the space (even for a short time!) before diving in. Especially in *cold* or hot months. We moved into our house with plans to renovate ASAP, but even in the short time while we looked for a contractor, we found new things to work on (and deprioritized other things). One thing we moved up on the list was turning a converted porch *back* into a porch because the room was FREEZING (not insulated properly) and an energy drag on the home. If we hadn’t lived here, we wouldn’t have known!

  101. I wish I wouldn’t have spent $5000 on refinishing the floors! They didn’t look all that different and our small budget could have used that $5000 elsewhere. I wish someone would have told me it’s an old house—just keep the floors they won’t be that different!

  102. Don’t try to live in the house during a major remodel if you don’t have to! We have done three remodels and for all three we stayed in the house for various reasons (Mostly money. Actually, all because of money) and do not recommend this. First one was the bathroom…the only bathroom. Someone was doing it for us but it still took two weeks. We had to shower at my office and do our business in a Homer bucket in the backyard. Not pleasant. Worst part was that the cast iron tub original to the home was damaged. We couldn’t wait on getting it re-glazed, and couldn’t find a left draining cast iron tub that wasn’t two months out, so put in a crappy Americast tub and have regretted it ever since.

    Second time was a broken water pipe that had us ripping out our kitchen and the flooring in the kitchen, living room, and hall. Our house is 1550sqft, so everything from the kitchen and living room was moved into the other rooms. We had no space to do anything for almost three months and were cooking things in a toaster in our bedroom. Did I also mention I was pregnant at the time?

    Third time was supposed to be splitting our laundry room into a half bath and laundry closet. When construction began, they found an old doorway through the exterior brick into our bedroom. Suddenly the option of the wish-list attached bath became a reality. But this resulted in two months of walls getting moved, windows getting moved, and the cement slab being dug up to access the sewer line. There was a 5′ pile of dirt INSIDE my house for two weeks and a very tempting hole for the cats and kid to fall into.

    Literally do not try this at home.

  103. I found this out only after I had done what is “not recommended”. It’s a best practice to demo and reframe everything first and only order your kitchen cabinets AFTER demo and reframing is complete. That really is only feasible if you are not living through your renovation as not many people can pause a project for 10-12 weeks while they wait for cabinet fabrication if you are working with a custom fabricator. I would have been less annoyed about the change orders we had to do as a result of somethings that were revealed post demo, if I had been psychologically prepared and conscious of that risk I was taking by initiating the cabinet order after I was done with the architectural drawings.

  104. When constructing or renovating, leave at least 8″ between walls and doorways to leave space for a possible console table, floating shelf, or bench. We designed our new construction home and situated many of our doorways flush to the wall thinking we were being efficient with space. But frequently I wish I could slide a little console table just inside or outside the door, and there are no spare inches without blocking the passage.

  105. I really struggled with lighting for our renovation, both how many lights were needed and where to place switches so that they’d be logical and useful. We thought a lot about it and are so glad we did.

    Our original design plan had WAY TOO MANY recessed lights in our open living/dining area. I’m so glad I pushed back on that. We eliminated the recessed in favor of some sconces and just two overhead fixtures. I also combined lights on the same switch because I don’t like more than 2 (or 3 at most) switches on one plate. If you have to label the switches to keep track, it’s too many. For example, we put the island pendants and over the sink light on one switch. I’ve never wished that I could have just one of them on because we use them for the same function. If it’s a pass through space, make sure you put a switch when you enter and when you exit, so you don’t have to backtrack through the room on your way to bed or out the door. Put everything on a dimmer. In a powder room off a public space, have the fan go on automatically with the light. You can actually get a noisier fan for privacy vs. super quiet ones.

    Consider the door swing with your traffic patterns. We opted to have exterior door swing outward so that it would be better for the flow into our tiny mudroom space. Apparently it’s easier to break in if the hinges are on the outside of the home because you can remove the door, but you can get special hinges so that it’s secure.

    If you can create a designated mudroom area, do it. Plan on junk drawers and drop zones and build them into your design.

    I wish I had thought about window treatments more. They are so expensive and I’m terrified of making a wrong decision, so we’re literally using paper shades a year later after our renovation. Please put tips on window coverings in your book. I wouldn’t be surprised if I still have paper shades when it comes out in November. 😉

  106. Rain shower heads are really lovely in spa theory, but I’m convinced were designed by people who washed their hair daily. As a woman of color, every house I’ve looked at/Airbnb that I’ve stayed in that has a “luxury” master bath has a rain shower head. I wash my hair every 10 days. There is no way to avoid getting your hair wet and even a shower cap can’t save that. I just need them to go away. 🙂

  107. Stand on the carpet samples if you’re redoing wall to wall carpet. People think it’s all about the pad underneath, and certainly that matters, but if the carpet itself is plush and you have a nice pad, that’s when it feels really luxurious underfoot.

  108. Im sure I will benefit greatly from this book, but I’ll still share a few lessons from my recent (and only) remodel experience: #1 STORAGE! I didn’t plan for enough closets and regret it. #2 Lighting! The saying “begin with the end in mind” is appropriate here. I wish I had the end design of every room done (really done) so that I could plan for electrical to be run where I wanted unique lighting. #3 Trim work is SOOOOOOOOO important, but because it comes last it can be hurried or done on the cheap. Don’t do this!!

  109. 1. Window Treatments: We’re splurging on a bifold door to open up our space for more indoor-outdoor living. The problem? Because it runs flush floor to ceiling, there’s nowhere to install a window treatment because it folds inwards. Thankfully we realized it before we started construction and came up with the idea to recess a box for roller shades into the ceiling above the window..

    But that’s just one example of all of the awkward problems you can run into with window treatments – if you have anything but standard sized windows, you really need to think through how you’re going to cover them beforehand and budget for that.

    2. Bannisters + kids: My friend just built a brand new house, moved in and realized that the cool modern horizontal bannisters she picked out basically function as a ladder for her toddler to climb up and give her a heart attack. She now has to spend a ton of money childproofing them. If you have or are planning to have kiddos, be realistic about how your choices will grow with your family and ask other parents with slightly older kiddos for advice.

    3. Concrete tile: Everybody loves it – it’s the look of the moment. NO ONE realizes how hard/impossible it is to maintain (and how easy it is for a contractor to mess up). If you love a floor to look sparkling clean, do not get concrete floor tiles – they’re porous and even if you’re constantly cleaning and resealing them, they’ll look dirty.

    4. Sequencing of renovation for different rooms: I thought I’d have plenty of time to pick out things like light fixtures and other finishes in our kitchen reno. But you have to pick those first so that you’re sure you get the electrial in the right places.

  110. 1. I personally love hand held showers, but don’t see them in many new homes
    2. If you have an open concept, think about your lighting so that it doesn’t look like lamps plus showroom
    3. If you have a strong vision – don’t hire a designer. No disrespect to designers, but I knew exactly what I wanted and just ended up bumping heads with designer we hired
    4. Make a list of things you like and dislike about your current place
    5.Never assume something is “obvious”. It may be to you, but won’t be to your contractor
    6. My personal preference is drawers in the kitchen. I recently diyed them by installing elfa mesh drawers inside the cabinets and I am very happy about it
    7. Ikea has huge issues with inventory right now due to covid, so don’t assume you can get your PAX tomorrow
    8. If you have front loading washer / dryer, there are special stands that make them taller and double as storage – life changing
    9. Special laundry bins for different wash cycles (e.g, delicates, quick wash for workout clothing, etc)
    10. Don’t compare yourself to things you see on instagram

    1. I also love handheld shower heads and insisted on using them in my bathroom remodel. I bought high quality ones, so they were heavy and the holders were not well designed. After a few years, the manufacturer improved them, and I was able to replace them so that I could use it on the wall and in the hand. But good idea to test functionality if you can. Or get a fixed shower head and hand held with a diverter to switch between the two.

    2. Yes to the IKEA inventory issues. We ordered our kitchen shortly after Thanksgiving and we’re just now getting the final pieces (and that was just the boxes! We’re doing Semihandmade doors). It took a lot of constantly checking inventory, biting the bullet to pay the delivery fee a few times to get a cabinet or two, a number of trips to our local store, and a trip to a different IKEA three hours away. I knew what I was getting myself into so I was prepared and liked to think of it as a treasure hunt of sorts, but it was definitely a LOT more effort than when we did IKEA cabinets for our mushroom a few years ago. It’s still worth it because I’m paying a third of what I would have paid for custom cabinets and I can use that money elsewhere in my reno, but be prepared to either wait a year for stock issues to settle down or be ready to get your hands dirty.

  111. Our kitchen cupboards are deeper than the kickboards, so they “hang over” them a bit. At first I wasn’t sure why one would design it that way but it is so helpful in that you don’t have to clean your floors every 5 minutes… the crumbs and dirty scuffmarks need only be cleaned everyday or so and consistently visible!

  112. I wish someone had told me to get the spice rack built inside an upper cabinet door and not a lower drawer. It bothers my back so much that I put them into baskets in my upper cabinet and now I can’t even use the lower cabinet that was designed for them because nothing else fits there.
    I am so thankful that we did get the pull out drawers in the pantry and the lower cabinets. They will save you so much bending and time on your knees looking for wayward tupperware lids.

  113. 1. Marble floors in bathroom are all the rage but did you know they must be sealed before being installed . Also they are slippery when wet so probably not the best with children.
    2. When building a home if you are an empty nester think about a single level home or at least a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor.
    3. Everyone wants those fantastic looking single standing tubs. As you get older it is impossible to get in and out of without perhaps a ladder,
    4. You can never have enough electrical outlets.
    5. Drawers are so much handier than cupboards
    6. Last but not least / never under estimate a walk in pantry/ less cabinets needed in kitchen.

  114. Definitely laundry on the second floor (or wherever all the bedrooms are….keep it on the same floor, even if it’s just a stacked unit in a closet.).
    Cheap doors look and feel flimsy….upgrade those interior doors as best you can. Same with hardware. And that super shiny early 90’s brass/gold finish has got to go!
    Think about closed storage vs open bookcases – not everything is display worthy. If you have tons of open shelves, you need a lot of good looking things to put on them….
    Taller counter heights if you’re tall.
    Floor outlets in your family room/living room – takes some preplanning but it is SO GREAT to have table/floor lamps in the middle of your room without cords running all over the place.
    You get what you pay for 🙂

  115. Just personal things that come to mind that I haven’t seen posted yet:
    1: Install some electrical outlets with the usb port built in. So nice to be able to charge two things yet still have two plugs available.
    2: If you can, put deep drawers under your range for regularly used pots and pans.
    3: Dedicate an in cabinet spot for the trash can. So great having that out of sight
    4: Make sure to determine if your trim is oil based or water based paint. You can’t paint over oil based paint with water based unless it’s prepped correctly first
    5: If you are building a laundry room, make sure the area is deep enough to accommodate the dryer *and* the dryer tube.
    6: In warm weather climates, tent the house for termites and change the carpet (if you’re planning to) *before* you move in.

    PS: Emily, absolutely love your blog. Most generous, loving and inclusive design blog out there.

  116. Five years later, all the choices I made for my remodeled kitchen remain functional and pleasing. EXCEPT one–literally, the kitchen sink! 17″ front to back, 30″ side to side and 10″ deep. Stainless steel. Looks great. The regret? I picked an evenly divided double-bowl. At least once weekly, there’s a large pot, a skillet, a cookie sheet, a something that would be so much easier to clean if the sink were simply one open space.

  117. I don’t know how to avoid this, but beware of faucets that show water spots. I’m having that issue with both brushed and polished fixtures and these are a higher end brand. But my kitchen faucet–same brand–doesn’t. My advice is to figure this out before you buy and install.

    1. We have this problem, too. I found wiping the faucets down with a stainless steel cleaning wipe (I use Weiman’s) cleans the water spots and prevents them, even on the polished fixtures.

  118. It’s easy to put a heated floor in your bathroom but out it in your shower too! To avoid cold feet!

  119. When a client has a mudroom, I always suggest adding outlets (w a USB port) to each cubby so that their kids can charge their phones and laptops there instead of in their room at night. Even if their children are young when they are remodeling/building … the teen years come fast!

  120. My friend convinced me to put electrical outlets behind all of the toilets while we’re redoing the bathrooms, even though we don’t want to install bidets right now. And after I mentioned it to my architect, she said that they’re doing more and more bidets in recent projects. It’s so cheap to add an extra outlet while doing major work (especially in our case where the full baths are being built from scratch including drywall), just do it.

    1. This is an excellent idea. We have bidets in two of our bathrooms and so wish we had dedicated outlets put in when they were remodeled 10 years ago. And with tiled walls I think adding them would be difficult.

  121. The 2 BEST things we did in our kitchen remodel was adding a small prep sink in the island and having a pull out sprayer faucet at the main sink. My SIL does (did until Covid?) so much entertaining and it has always been a struggle to get to the single sink (which is often piled with big platters and such). We have a small prep sink directly across from the fridge and our big sink under a window next to the dishwasher. I am thankful everyday for that pull out sprayer and prep sink!

    The WORST thing we did was not carefully considering the range hood. Another commenter noted the sizing of range hoods is often inadequate – SO TRUE. Our hood looks nice but is super loud and has to be turned to the highest setting because the burners on our restored, vintage Wedgewood stove extend past the part of the hood that draws the smoke/steam/grease. Our backsplash, cabinets, wall and ceiling around the stove are not faring so well 🙁

    Oh, the other little GOOD detail was adding a 5″shelf at the bottom of the over fridge cabinet. We store the our largest cast iron pan and some big platters there under the the divided storage for sheet pans and cutting board, etc. We get so much use out of those five inches that would otherwise have been empty space over the sheet pans.

  122. Currently finishing a small remodel at my own home… now that I’m not only the designer but also the client, my relationship with the contractor is a little more, let’s say “loaded”.
    Important to establish early in a remodel what your expectations are for communication from your contractor, and how they will handle job changes as they arise (as they always do!) and always have a clear agreement about the schedule as well as the timeline for your own client decisions to be made!
    No one wants to be picking paint colors at random because you didn’t leave time to sample (and you always MUST sample!) or have tilers ready to do your shower walls but the plumbing valves accidentally were not ordered.

    Communication, and timeline.
    Establish them early!
    And keep plenty of wine on hand and try not to live in your house while it is being remodeled. It’s a nightmare. I slept on a pullout sofa that I shared with my 7 year old who kicks like a donkey for five weeks over Christmas too but it was better than sleeping in construction grit and dust.
    And moving home (even though the finish line is still a couple weeks off) is just that much sweeter when the bulk of the messy stuff is done.

    Also, never do an open shower if you live in a climate that gets below 50 degrees unless you’re A) a sadist or B) keep the heat in your house on 80 degrees
    Pretty rough to shave your legs when they’re goosebumped!

  123. Be sure to install porcelain tiles, not ceramic. They chip and look terrible. Also, small tiles in the shower creates lots of grout lines and are a real pain to keep clean. Big tiles in the shower a better way to go. Reduce the grout.

  124. Tell you cabinet maker what kind of sink you are putting in your bathrooms. We had a cabinet replaced in our powder room/half bath and didn’t tell him it was a vessel sink. It’s way too high for kids even with a pull out step built into the toe kick of the cabinet.

  125. Pay extra for durable kitchen countertops. We cook, spill red wine, have kids that color on bar, etc. Porous surfaces are too stressful for the type of living we want to do in our home. Marble is gorgeous but I need to be able to squeeze a lemon when cooking and not have a panic attack!

  126. Design and construct for how you live and not how you think you will live.
    You may think you may have lots of visitors, but most likely not as many as you get. A blow up mattress will suffice vs. a dedicated room.

    When you start to see lots of something ( i.e white painted houses, dark blue/dark grey houses, brass light fixtures/ hardware, run in the other direction! It will scream the year you decorated. Think white kitchens and brass 1980s. I almost feel if West Elm is showcasing, it is on the tail end of the curve.

    My big give: Invest $ in couches. My preference is couches without lose back pillows. They last longer, look better longer, and frankly, are more comfortable- especially for the males.

    So, design to your tastes and needs. Blogs, Magazines, etc. are guides not gospel. Trends come and go- wait 10 years and your interior will be trendy again!

  127. Grout lines
    Tile guys and contractors play it safe. Playing it safe = big grout lines. If you want thin modern lines, have that conversation upfront. They may prefer a certain tile to achieve your vision.

    Be the expert
    Don’t expect the plumber to know how far the tub should be from the wall, or how high the slide bar should go. Do your research and be ready for everything so that you’re not making 8am decisions on the fly.

    Paint swatches
    You can’t trust em. And if you’re not buying samples, google the swatch to view it in action on similar projects.

  128. We did a major renovation in 2012-13 that was incredibly stressful. I regret investing that much — should have focused on paint/finishes/design and skipped changes that require framing, roofing, electrical, plumbing, etc.

  129. If you use a garbage slide out, make sure it can be open at the same time as the dishwasher. For example, not either or due to a 90 degree angle. I was shocked at how often I want to access the garbage/compost/recycling while cleaning up the kitchen.

  130. First off – totally agree about the showers. Two going at once just doesn’t work.

    Second – when we built 30 plus years ago our electrician would come by, check on progress and chat. In the chat he’d ask “So when will the roofing be done?” We thought he was just being sociable. No. He couldn’t do his work until they were finished. Seems obvious enough, but we weren’t catching it. (We acted as the general contractor even though we had no prior experience.) Knowledge of the order that things need to take place would be good.

    Third – make sure that the subcontractors actually do what is on the plans. Our architect carefully thought out the placement of every outlet, etc., but the electrician just put things where they usually go.

    Fourth and final – make sure that the contractors you use are truly willing to do smaller jobs. Ours was a whole house but the electrician (CLEARLY we needed a different one!) would just have someone drop by during small breaks in time between his larger jobs.

    Hope this helps!

  131. Mostly I wish I had thought about what it would be like to clean my newly renovated house. For example, countertops are like cars, there are only a few colors that don’t look dirty all the time. A natural stone shower is beautiful but stone is delicate and a swinging glass door is very hard to clean. I wish we had thought to add a hand held shower head!

  132. 1. You can DIY YouTube lots of projects, just take the amount of time you estimate to finish and double it.

    2. Electrify everything. Air seal. Insulate. Ventilate. Efficient windows. Get solar.

    3. Changing out door knobs, door hinges, base boards, fixtures, light switches, caulking are relatively easy but make a huge difference.

    4. If you have a 90s style house with drywall and wood, look for empty cavities in walls and corners to create built in storage.

    5. Add readymade ikea cabinets to the laundry room or office to create tons of hidden storage. They are easy for beginners to install… but see tip #1.

  133. I wish someone told me to not jump the gun on buying all the pretty decor items and art before renovating and figuring out the furniture layout – take it one step at a time, and then think about decorating. It would have save me so much money and time spent on the phone trying to return things because it doesn’t fit in the new space anymore.

  134. Oh my goodness! 12 months into a full on-to the studs-Reno, we are still about another 6 weeks out.
    Things I wish I knew earlier:
    1) ditch the timeline during a pandemic
    2) once you actually make a decision, post research (like deciding on windows, cabinets, tile) it still takes weeks for the order to happen. Measuring, subs …
    3) no matter how much planning and design, there will still be hiccups, mistakes and problems to solve
    4) where to spend more, where to save (ie: custom stairs vs. Stair kit, slab v concrete, stucco options, windows, kitchen appliances. I think we did well but it was a lot of research.
    5) budget help! Even with a contractor and designer there was still so much unaccounted for at the beginning of the project. Those line items really add up!
    Your blog has been a life saver for suggestions on windows and other stuff.

  135. Oh my gosh… a million lessons learned after several renos!!! Big one…. do not start until everything is ordered!!! Product delays held up A LOT in several projects, and many custom items require lead time. Didn’t think about that when I was starting out. A few more…

    Highly recommend outlets in cabinets, and on the side of kitchen counters/islands. So handy in the kitchen and bath (in cabinet allows you to keep your hair tools plugged in, which is amazing).

    In a bath, light coming from the front is most flattering (as opposed to overhead or high mounted sconces)

    Combining projects saves so much money too (for example, having the tile guy come once for multiple bathrooms or kitchen/bathrooms saves $$$)

    Wallpaper removal costs an ungodly amount of money, and if it was applied improperly or on top of plaster, ripping out the wall to replace with Sheetrock is the faster and cheaper option rather than stripping the paper and needing to repair the walls after.

    Omg so many more but these are a few good ones.

  136. Black and white (especially white) tile on the kitchen a d bathroom floor always shows a lot of mess.

  137. Plugs: put them in every room, on every wall! There are never too many, and you never know what you’ll need when you move furniture around !
    Ceiling light placement : they seemed like a « whatever, we’ll make it work » when we renovated our house. And now it’s a nightmare to figure out how to place the furniture with those « not exactly in the right place » lights.

  138. Agree on lower drawers but beware the too wide drawer! The trendy ones that are half the length of your counter top or whatever. Super annoying to work in the kitchen when you have to keep telling people to move so you can open a drawer even several feet away!! More width standard drawers but deeper to fit stacked pans or boxed pantry items are easier to work around.

  139. This is a hard one to put into words, but just because you think something should cost $X doesn’t mean it does.

    I work for a GC and I swear half of our job is explaining why a service costs what it costs. For example the “paint” you think is so over valued is because it’s not just “paint”. It’s the filling and sanding of all nail holes in the trim, 3 coats of primer on your raw drywall and trim, and two coats of your selected colors of paint. All that labor adds up!

  140. We renovated\gutted our old New England carriage house on 2004 ish. I wish someone had told me we didn’t need upper kitchen cabinets. We have plenty of storage, and they distract from the other features. Huge regret.

  141. Before a reno, always know which rooms you want and need – not what you think should be included. Eg. Pointless having a formal dining room if you never use one, but you desperately need an home office. Work out what spaces you need and include them in the reno.

  142. If using a general contractor or a design build firm, ask about the subs! We did a beautiful renovation on our home using a design build firm that we loved – except the HVAC! Not sure why they chose the subs and equipment they did, but in the years since when we’ve brought in our preferred heating and cooling maintenance company, they are left scratching their heads on the hvac choices that were made.

    I was so diligent in reviewing and signing off on every external choice made, but I truly did not care or know how to care about the internals. I’ve got a beautiful kitchen that’s too dang cold in the winter and a great house that sounds like a wind turbine when the AC is running in the summer.

  143. I hired an architect for a house addition and regretted it. Next time (hahaha), I’ll work directly with the contractor from the beginning and have more faith in my own ability to make layout and design decisions. The contractor kept saying, “You can do this!” but I didn’t feel confident. I also spent more money than I had to remodeling a tiny existing bathroom with a designer because I didn’t think I could select products and colors. Now that the bathroom is done, I know I have the skills to work directly with the contractor and skip the middle man. Your money goes a lot further.

  144. A quality subcontractor is always happy to come out and look at your job to recommend things. I am a glazing subcontractor, and I can’t tell you how many times my techs have shown up to measure a shower enclosure and there are awkward layouts, expensive notches for fancy tile, brittle tile that will crack without extra backing, etc. We’d much rather advise you early on – you can even email a sketch and we will give you an approximate price and advise any changes. I had a designer last year literally use a “mock up” of a futuristic hinge that 1) was not even a real thing, and 2) would be impossible to create anyways! The contractor was able to change the design before there were any huge cost over-runs.

  145. Just regarding the wall finish. I’m not from the US, so I’m not sure if your advice does apply to all of the US, but where I’m from a textured wall finish is a more expensive option. Patching a wall with a smooth finish is something that you can DIY and sand yourself quite easily. Fixing a spot on a textured wall is trickier. Unless you mean something different to textured wall by trowel finish?

    One thing I have learned is that dark painted walls can be a nightmare to clean. Any bit of lint on your cloth stands out so trying to rub off a scuff mark is a disaster.

    That and think about the height of your ceiling if installing a rain shower …

  146. I could read tips like these all day long! We have a deep couch that we love to lounge on and watch TV but I know when guests come over, they are not comfortable…I’m always telling them to put pillows behind their back. But I don’t know if I’d ever get a “regular” couch because we like to lay when watching TV.

  147. I wish I had known how expensive new windows were when we bought our historic house! Or that finding people to repair things well would be so hard- especially for repair vs tear out an new. Workers don’t want to take small jobs and it’s sometimes easier just to teach yourself how to do DIY than to find some good help!

  148. We finished a major kitchen+ remodel this year so here are a few that come to mind:
    – When cutting costs (because your budget will balloon), make sure you preserve some of the unique elements. (So thankful our designer encouraged us to pay a little extra for a curved edge island – it’s amazing.)
    – When planning drawers / shelves / cupboards, really take inventory of your stuff and think about where it’ll all go.
    – Plan around dishwasher loading / unloading. What will the flow be in putting away your most commonly used items? (Love that I barely have to move when unloading the dishwasher, despite a big kitchen.)

  149. Love diving into the comments below! First time home (apartment) owner here.
    – always get three quotes. I learned this serving on my sorority’s house management board and this rule should apply to all things.
    – painting – Yes you need to prime unless you are going from white to another light neutral or a darker shade. It doesn’t have to be artistically beautiful. Just give the wall a coat.
    – make a list before going inside a Home Depot/Lowe’s and stick to it. Do not wander. You will end up losing your entire day and also your sanity. Avoid weekends (:
    – the rug size planner somewhere I saved from this site is wonderful – please make sure to include something like that!
    – when moving or upgrading your space one room at a time is a great way to save money. Do not be pressured to do it all as you could rack up quite a bit of debt & anxiety. The only exception to this rule is choosing and purchasing paint colors – if you want a cohesive home choosing similar shades/palette brings cohesion to the home (different colors are especially jarring in apartments). I’m sure I’ve seen this tip here but recently saw this on Wit & Delight. You also will have less wasted paint. No one likes half full gallons sitting around.

  150. Can someone write a list of where to start? If you’re doing it piecemeal (like we are). Windows first? Floors last? Definitely all the bathrooms? No, no, kitchen first?

  151. Dark hardwood shows every dust mite and crumb. We have dark hardwood floors, we love the colour but we also have 3 kids under 8 so…there is a lot of mopping and vacuuming required to keep the floors looking clean. We should have gone with medium brown or something lighter definitely

  152. I removed all phone Jack’s thinking I would never get a landline (and cable line, I stream everything and wasn’t planning on getting cable TV). I didn’t even think I would need either for INTERNET!!! 🤦🏽‍♀️

  153. So many things I want to add:

    1. Scale is the one thing people usually get wrong. Understanding how to mix scale of big pieces and delicate ones, different sizes of tile, door openings, window sizes – scale is key to getting a finished look.

    2. Plan the work, work the plan. If you change the plan in the midst of construction you will blow your budget and your timeline.

  154. We upgraded to mid-tone maple floors because I didn’t like the heavy graining of oak floors. I regret this decision as the lack of grain is not forgiving at all – you see every dent, scratch, dust particle, scuff mark, footprint etc. It is so much harder to keep maple floors looking good. I’ve had oak floors in the past and the grain would hide actual gouges from dropped items. Perhaps this isn’t such an issue with lighter maple floors or ones that have a completely flat finish.

  155. If you’re buying in more regulated states like Ca and plan to do ANY renovation or landscaping, visit your local Building and Safety and Regional Planning offices! These folks like face-to-face time and can let you know just how many hoops you’ll have to jump through to put in that privacy fence, move an electrical outlet, or put up new drywall — you’ll be surprised just how many things require permits and inspections.

  156. Light-colored grout in your shower floor will discolor. We had picked cream grout to match the color of the tiles (which looks stunning), but maintaining the color takes weekly cleanings. I understand much better now why hotel showers typically have dark gray grout … much easier to maintain.

  157. We put in a large two person, two wall mounted shower heads with no door and I love it! We live in North Carolina so winters are short, but we have not noticed a difference AT ALL in terms of shower warmth and I tend to run cold. We did put a heated floor in the non-shower portion of the bathroom and it’s lovely. Big disagree on that one, we’ve had this layout for about four years and it makes me happy every day.

  158. When I put in a shower in a former half bath, I got several tile estimates. Every one of them included schluter, those metal edges on the end of tile (Blech). I didn’t want metal edges. Finally, one creative installer said, ‘no you don’t have to have schluter. I can cut fresh pieces of tile to finish the edges, I’ve put clear nail polish on tile edges before to give them a glossy, finished look, there’s tons of creative ways to get the look you want.’ Don’t just take what installers say as gospel until you talk to a few people. All those previous unimaginative, old fashioned installers knew how to do was schluter when design, trends and options change endlessly. Jennifer Nelson, home and renovation writer.

  159. Pocket doors. We have an efficient house plan and did WAY too big of doors (36”) and should have done pocket doors. Now we have beautiful, solid wood doors that take up way too much space in our rooms.
    Also, never do barn doors on any room you want to be able to be private (bathrooms or bedrooms). They just don’t seal out sound and light the same way a door jam does. We put one on my daughters room and it has affected her sleep with the light and sound.
    Consider counter heights in the bathroom for how tall you are. We have a tall family and did a really beautiful custom vanity that is on the short side of standard especially since we are tall people.
    I love our tv storage solution in our master. Since we hate TVs (like how they look in a room) we built in a shelf into our closet (it’s across from the bed) and can easily cover it with the closet doors when they are closed.

  160. Do not put beadboard in your bathroom. It gets icky pretty quickly and is very hard to clean well.

  161. When we remodeled our master bath we put in an open shower, so no way to access the shower handle without getting sprayed with cold water, not a fun way to start every day. I suppose if you are into Wim Hof this would be no problem. Should have plumbed the handle to be accessible outside of the shower. Ugh.

  162. Cameras
    I love this idea.
    I just put 8 nest cameras up on the job site, I put them on clips so they can get moved when needed.
    Everyone knows you need to be on site as much as possible.
    When one of the 20,000 decisions come up, instead of the GC on his phone, talking and trying to show you the issue, now I get the wide angle and can zoom in. Plus if at my desk can see on my desk top, whilst talking.
    Other advantages.
    – Can see things almost instantly if they are doing a different vision or quality to the drawings, so can be stopped and remedied sooner.
    – If on a T & M contract, you see instantly what is happening at start times, breaks, how many guys on site etc, plus they work differently too!
    – There is enough tough things it is great to get some highs/satisfaction really seeing it happen. I usually have on one of my screens whilst working and have quick glances thru the day.

    Soft close
    Soft close pocket doors feels like a dream. I also like to make pocket doors 2 inches taller so you definitely don’t get light gaps or see the roller connection. (Factor into design if it has paneling for proportions.) Plus I like the wood painted black so you don’t see unfinished wood and harder to paint after.
    -On drawers, visually better underneath not to the side.

    Plant lights
    Led white plant lights (not the full spectrum color for living environments) on a switch with timers, in places where you know you will have plants and want them to thrive. (Yes this means furniture plan first).
    Some of my favorite places.
    -For my kitchen counter for big herb pots, I have open shelving above, with built in LED plant light strips and dots concealed underneath.
    -Built into the shelves on my bookcase, however only only up to about 4ft height where you can’t see light when seated.
    Under upper cabinets.
    -Wall arm lights that move on adjustable height bracket design fir when the plant grows, with shade to conceal either 3x miracle bulbs or small commercial greenhouse light.
    -A counterbalance pendent light, that again gives you flexibility as plant, tree grows.
    -I have decorative fireplaces, where I had electric put on for 4ft long concealed T5 grow lights. Rosemary and other plants grow great there.

    Make as many of the 20,000 decisions before you start.
    Having as many decisions/assumptions closed, it makes the remaining decisions easier as less “open” factors to consider.
    Plus decisions get tougher and sometimes more expensive when you have to remove items that have longer lead time, by going with in stock items.

    -I ask for 6ft “whips” of wire at all points of extra wire length
    -I also like certain buttons on my switches, in particular near the front door.
    Welcome (Foyer light and paths to the main rooms)
    Grand Welcome (When I want all lights on, plus it makes me smile)
    Vacation. (All off, and solar shades down)

    Or at bedsides.
    Good night. (For the whole house off, and black out shades down)
    Or for the bathroom, like to include, heated floor and hardwire heated towel rack, and put on light switch near door.

    Plumbing piping
    -Get the largest pipe width for your fixture, Eg I have seen plumber try put on 3/8 inch pipe, (to save money) when a shower head had a 4/8 inch capacity, there by reducing water pressure, and really not saving himself that much money.
    -If you have long runs btw your risers and fixtures, and you have limited inches of floor depth, you can do a 3 inch pipe and pitch at 1/8 inch every ft, (which will get you further with less floor depth) instead of getting a 2 inch pipe and pitch at 1/4 inch every foot.

    Clarity in scope of work.
    -Clearly written down the scope so all trades know where one scope finishes and the next trade starts.
    Eg After the drywallers tape are they plastering over the seams or is the painter doing that in his prep?
    -Ask the experts trades, what am I missing, can you see a way to get the same visual and quality result, for less $? With the above, I had missed the architect had put in plastering seams and coating drywall, which where behind 3 paneled wood rooms, ie not needed.

    If you can document the process with notes/photos, it will give such a blast when you look thru it down the track.

  163. The most important thing to know about a renovation is that IT WON’T BE DONE BY CHRISTMAS!

    It’s a fatal ambition. It’s the renovation equivalent of being on your last week on the job before retirement.

  164. In the middle of a number of cosmetic upgrades to a new (to us) house and about to jump into a significant remodeling project, so this is incredibly timely.

    Based on previous work we’ve done/overseen, here are my top dos/donts:

    #1: you WILL regret working with any contractor who presented you with a plan that was much cheaper than competitors. There is a reason they are cheaper and it’s usually because they cut corners on things like permitting, qualified labor, cleanup, etc. Quality work costs money. If you are looking to save or really can’t afford to contract out with a quality contractor, either wait or DIY.

    #2: dark wood floors look beautiful right after they are finished and then are a complete nightmare to keep clean and dust free. Also be sure to think about the softness of the wood you use – my parents found out the hard way that the wood they selected didn’t hold up well to high heel shoes and occasionally clumsy people in the kitchen dropping things.

    #3: upgrading the lighting can change an entire room (and be prepared to find out that previous owners cut corners on electrical work)

    #4: if you are doing any reno projects yourself – it probably makes sense to get a credit card through either Home Depot or Lowe’s, whichever you frequent (don’t know if other stores offer…). This is assuming you always pay balances in full – We would have saved a lot of money through their incentive programs if we had started charging to the store card from the beginning …. the six million trips to pick up little items you need really add up. Sure, we got some airline miles, but overall I think we would have come out ahead with cash saved.

    #5: if you entertain a lot or have a large family – two dishwashers. They get way more use than a double oven.

    #6: save the instructions for the stuff you buy (all of it – furniture, lighting, appliances) and store it in one place – can’t count how many times we’ve benefited from going to back to figure out how to re-assemble or disassemble something. Also the next owners will be so happy to be able to program or figure out how to use things easily – but note if you don’t save or can’t find….most manuals are available as PDFs online.

  165. There are 74M+ people who voted for Trump and not everyone one of them is worthy of being dismissed as you have done gratuitously in your email. I am a kind, big hearted, pro-gay rights, pro-animal rights, pro-choice voter who voted for Trump. Can’t we not agree on politics and still have some relevance in your world? I will never, ever read or support your work again. I just don’t know what you gained writing such a rude, toxic, dismissive email on a design blog.

  166. I wish I had ordered fabric samples of my living room chairs and then practiced getting stains off of it to see if it would be easy. And I will never assume that sunbrella outdoor fabric for the inside will be easy to get stains out of again! Though if you have any hacks I would love to know!

  167. I wish someone had told me that tearing out our nearly all-white kitchen and moving to stainless steel appliances and dark granite countertops would suck all the natural light out of our kitchen. For someone who likes a light-filled room, this really threw me. Thankfully we went with a medium-light tone cabinet which kept the kitchen from becoming a cave.

    Also, am I the only one who hates all those clear glass shower doors shown in every bathroom these days? Absolutely no privacy (from those rogue “gotta use toilet now” infiltrators) and such a beast to keep clean! I love my patterned glass shower door. Best decision!

  168. When remodeling or building, don’t move in until you’ve done everything (if you can). My dad told me this when I moved into my newly remodeled house. When I sold it a few years later, I still had projects unfinished. He spoke from experience. My parents built their house 35 years ago, and there are still projects they haven’t gotten around to that they’d planned to finish after the moved in.

  169. Take a video of all your walls at rough in electrical and plumbing stage!! BEFORE SHEET ROCK! We have done this on both builds and refer back often. Sheet rockers are bound to leave an outlet covered or you might wonder just where that plumbing stack is hiding. Another great tip that was shared with us was to add blocking for towel bars, tp holders, curtain rods….anything that might need extra hanging strength. So much easier when you hit a stud while hanging heavy items. And don’t forget to record all of those spots with a video! 😊

  170. I wish I had known to seal (front, back, edges) the scribed MDF apron cabinet-front surrounding my farmhouse kitchen sink. Water inevitably drips down the front of the sink when a certain someone (to whom I’m married) washes/cleans up. Over time, water drops damaged the MDF, which made the paint bubble. Eventually I will have to replace…and the paint will not match the rest of the cabinets. So I will have to have all cabinets re-painted. Caulk could have helped delay this process too. When I replace it, I will order an extra cabinet front, have them both scribed-to-fit, and painted (at the same time) as a backup replacement for the future. It’s cheaper than a new husband.

  171. I would go back and tell myself to not put beadboard in my bathroom. It gets grimy and is impossible to clean well. At least wainscoting has less grooves to try to keep clean, but really I would stick with flat panels.

  172. This post and comments are gold mines of wisdom. I can’t wait for the book! I will read it with highlighter and sticky notes in hand! 🙂

    We bought a 1951 ranch house with good bones 3 years ago but it hadn’t been updated at all (except to replace baseboard heating with central heating, which is excellent). I originally wanted to overhaul right when we moved in but…life…so, we’ve taken on projects piece by piece and I’m so glad we did. It has given us time to really see how we use the space and what our long term needs are now that we have a baby and pets to consider. The updates we’ve made have not been what I originally envisioned. They are better.

    There is a major kitchen/mudroom/bathroom reno that will need to be done all at once and my husband and I constantly review each others proposals of the features we want, down to placement of specific cabinets in the kitchen to accommodate our “flow.”

    I think all the planning will pay off. My plan is to really sit with the design plans for a while once we have them finalized to make sure we’ve got everything we need.

  173. We did a full renovation of our home (north Texas) in 2019. We utilized an interior designer (who is also a dear friend) and I think that was the #1 tip I would share. If you don’t think you can afford it, you’re wrong. The time and frustration she saved us along with her relationship with our GC are priceless. Not to mention the intuition they had about things as we went along that they just took care of and we didn’t have to stress about was SO valuable.

    The second thing is to be honest with yourself how you will use your space. We live in the country and have 10 dogs in our house. We can NOT have nice rugs or carpet or all white walls or whatever else thing. I know there were “trendy” things we considered that we didn’t do bc of our lifestyle. Again, our designer helped a lot with this.
    I do wish we had gone with hardwood kitchen cabinets rather than painted and I think in 5 years I want to update and convert to hardwood at least on the bottoms. The dogs have been REAL excited to try to open the garbage cabinet, and it shows.

    The open concept vs having spaces conversation is also very individualistic. I imagine that if we did our reno now some people would caution us to not remove the three walls we took out, but we live on 10 acres and have numerous outbuildings. We aren’t “trapped” inside our home even when quarantined. We look forward to entertaining in our open space when it’s safe to do so. It absolutely made our home feel bigger and utilizes the space much better.

    Lastly, my pet peeve is when people tell me they are doing something in their reno bc it helps the resale value. I mean, don’t go waste money you don’t have to do something you love that will make your house unsellable in the future, but by all means make your home a space YOU will love living in. So many people made comments and asked questions about things we did and how it would effect our resale. I. Don’t. Care. About. Resale. Yes, we put in some loud and beautiful foxhunting themed wallpaper that possibly no one else would ever want, but I LOVE it every single time I see it. No, we didn’t use lots of white subway tile bc it’s a neutral, we used it bc it looks fabulous in the space, was affordable, and is easy to maintain.

  174. We used a design/build contractor when we did our down-to-the-studs remodel. Because we didn’t want most of his standard components, we supplied the fixtures/fittings. Getting a rough time & action calendar would be great to avoid last minute scrambles. The house is 100+ years old & has beautiful Douglas fir subfloors. Instead of spending the extra to install hard wood, we thought the contractor had repaired the subfloors to eliminate the squeaks. They were then refinished. The floor is beautiful but the creaks & squeaks have gotten so much worse – there’s no sneaking around this house! Make sure you have the subfloor repaired correctly and consider the wear & tear that will show on soft-wood floors.

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