I get questions like this all the time… How do you decide on something super permanent for your home when renovating? Do you ever make a mistake or choose the wrong thing? What do you do when you make the wrong selection? I renovated or made an update to my home recently and don’t love the outcome- now what? If you’re wondering about the answers to these questions, you’re not alone. There are many big, stressful decisions that come along with updating and renovating your home. I’m a very confident person and designer, but I’m also human… everybody makes a mistake from time to time. This is how I handle and admit defeat when I make a mistake. I’m also sharing 5 renovating regrets I’ve experienced over the years! Click through to read all about them… maybe my mistakes will save you a headache in the future.
I bet you thought the #1 regret was going to be stacked laundry units, because of the intro image. WRONG! Haha. You guys know me better than that. These are the perfect height and I took photos for the big reveal to prove it, but it’s one of the most asked questions I get. I can totally see why you’d think I couldn’t reach the dryer, because my old laundry room sort of gave a weird optical illusion in photographs. I’m not a record-breaking tall person (I’m 5’6″), but the ceiling height tapers toward the cabinetry in the laundry room and makes me (and the laundry units) look gigantic. Not only did that make installing millwork a real headache, but it also made people think I couldn’t reach my dryer because of its proximity to the crown moulding, if I wasn’t pictured alongside it for scale. That’s one mistake I know better than to make, but I digress…
Humans are not perfect- that’s all there is to it. Even the most renowned designers have missed the mark once or twice. My point is this… if you’re renovating or making over a room and don’t love the outcome- it’s not the end of the world. The good news about homes and interiors is that they change, grow, and evolve with you. Even if something feels very permanent, you can always make adjustments and updates. Will it likely cost you more money time, energy, and money? Yes, but it’s not a life or death situation. Keeping that in mind, this is how I know if I’ve made a mistake…
My interior gut instinct is honestly pretty good. I can immediately tell if I like or dislike something right away. Sometimes people have to live with a room for awhile to determine that, but I’m one of those gals who just knows… I’m either into it- or I’m not. If it’s the latter, the worst part for me is admitting defeat. Emmett is my biggest fan, but also my biggest critic (and vice versa with me toward him). We push each other which helps us grow, but it’s also tough to admit when one of us is wrong. Sometimes I’ll feel disappointed in myself because “I should’ve known better”, but mostly I hate letting my partner down. As I mentioned, there are bigger fish to fry in life, so we move right along, but that’s step one for me- admit that I made a mistake.
Next, I figure out how to fix it (basically a do-over), make it better, or live with it. Those are the 3 options I give myself. Get creative- because sometimes it takes a lot of brainstorming to find a solution!
Trust me when I say, I’ve had some renovation regret over the years. Hopefully my mistakes will help you avoid similar situations in the future, or give you peace of mind knowing that even professionals and designers mess up… and that’s ok.
5 RENOVATION REGRETS
#1 – from our Ohio Bungalow // The Countertops … I’ll start by saying, this was the very first kitchen I designed. I had no idea what I was doing, I was young, and I followed trends like my life depended on it (bad idea, Sarah!) at that point in time. I’ll admit- that’s not a promising combination for a well-designed kitchen. Ha! I will say, the countertops were the only thing I regretted in this kitchen, but still- I wish I would’ve opted for natural stone instead of the basic quartz I selected.
This was also before all-white kitchens were a giant thing or trendy craze, but I think this space would’ve been SO so much better if I would’ve installed real marble countertops with lots of natural veining and movement. The look alike quartz was super boring and basic… quartz hadn’t evolved very far at this point in terms of mimicking natural stone. Not to mention, I chipped a giant hunk out of the corner the first week we moved in, by dropping a glass olive oil bottle right onto the corner of the eased edge. I just felt let down by the look, as well as the promised durability of “quartz being indestructible”. What did we do? We lived with them and I was happy… I just learned that I prefer natural stone. It was a good lesson for me, as a designer. Ready for a throwback photo? Emmett and I took this right after we finished the kitchen for a Design*Sponge feature. Finn baby was NOT having it.
#2 – from our Utah Rambler // The Bathtub … We renovated our one and only bathroom for the One Room Challenge and it was a fast and furious renovation. Having no toilet or shower to use will really motivate someone to get things done, FYI. The bathroom turned out absolutely gorgeous (see the reveal here), but I do have one regret in the space- the bathtub. We ended up keeping the original cast iron tub and had it reglazed or refinished (see that process here). It looked really nice, but after crunching the numbers, going through the process, and discovering how easily it became dirty with just a few scrubs in the tub, I regret going that route.
We could’ve purchased a new tub for around the same price that would’ve been easier to clean, would’ve looked a little more updated, and would’ve saved me time and energy airing out the house the week after. In this scenario, I didn’t begin regretting this decision immediately, but 4-5 months after… Emmett and I both agreed we would’ve taken a different path if we had a do-over. What did we do? We lived with this one. It still looks great- it just required frequent cleaning, and time spent immediately after making our house smell fresh (and not overtaken by fumes) again.
#3 – from our Ohio Bungalow // The Living Room Paint … Choosing the wrong paint color is a very easy and a common mistake, BUT- it’s also a simple fix! I’ll never forget Emmett’s face when he walked into our pink hued living room. I had the day off work and decided to “surprise” him and finish painting our living room. Our move-in day was just around the corner and we had been working tirelessly on this reno. Against my better judgement, I was in a time pinch, and picked a paint swatch from my local Sherwin-Williams store on a whim (at the store- right then and there). I didn’t even look at the swatch in the space (who was I?!). I made a decision in about five minutes, thought it looked like a pure, neutral white, and ordered two gallons. I started painting and thought it looked a little too warm, but blamed it on the morning sunlight. As it dried and I finished the room, I knew I screwed up BIG time.
It dried with a pastel pink undertone and it looked like our living room was a soon-to-be nursery for a little girl. Here I had graduated with degrees and class completion in color theory and I couldn’t even choose a paint color! Emmett came home, bursted out laughing, was a little mad (because our budget was depleted), and still teases me about picking the right paint color to this day. What did we do? I ordered a swatch (like the designer in me KNOWS to do), pinched my pennies, made a better choice, and painted the space a beautiful, clean white. Sometimes a do-over is necessary. You live, you learn.
#4 – from our Ohio Bungalow // The Bathroom Vanity … I had a lot of trouble finding a bathroom vanity for our first home. I showed photos to Emmett, outside contractors, and nobody seemed confident that they could build what I wanted. Obviously, our skillset has matured with age and Emmett would gladly tackle a project of that caliber today, but I basically ran out of time for this one. That led to a frantic trip to IKEA, where I grabbed a basic double sink vanity. Knowing what I know now- for the price I could’ve came up with an amazing option… vintage or new, for the same dollar amount. I didn’t have resources, I didn’t do research, and I settled. I also made an impulse buy, which is never good for home fixtures. I brought home a bulky IKEA vanity and swapped the faucets. It was the lazy route, and it sort of worked. It was our first house and I was fine with it.
We had plenty of storage, it served a good purpose, and it looked ok… but just ok. What did we do? I painted it twice before I felt happier with it. As I mentioned, I swapped the faucets, and I tried to add charm and character elsewhere. I don’t think it looked bad and I have nothing but love for IKEA- I just didn’t execute my vision and that was disappointing.
#5 – from our Ohio Bungalow // The Bifold Doors … Lastly, another project from our first home. I was hell-bent on creating a similar bifold door to one I had previously clipped from a magazine. I finally convinced Emmett to help me build them for the guest room, we went to a whole lot of trouble to do so, they looked great, and for some reason- looking back, I wish we would’ve just purchased a similar or better option. I’m pretty sure we didn’t save any money and I now know there are plenty of affordable and beautiful bifold doors on the market that would’ve made me even happier.
I also did a terrible job choosing the hardware for those doors. I have no idea what I was thinking with those agate door knobs. Haha! It’s clear they need a long, skinny appliance pull or something, right? Regardless- we lived with them. I loved them for a long time, but I would definitely do it differently today. I was so much happier with the closet doors in our rambler home.
I know that was kind of a trip down memory lane- especially for those of you who have been following from the very first house! It’s interesting to see the difference, the growth, and I can almost see my confidence and aesthetic growing stronger with every project. I feel like I finally came into my own, while inhabiting and renovating our previous house. I experimented, I ignored trends, I kept it classic, and stayed true to myself. I can only hope that mine and Emmett’s growth and exploration continues in our current home. We both feel so happy here and I can’t wait to make it our own! My bet is that we’re going to get attached to this one and not want to leave- Emmett isn’t convinced yet. Regardless, the next few years renovating are going to be FUN. I’m sure there will be victories and mistakes.
It’s true that you become wiser with age. More life experience means more learning. I know I’ll continue to make mistakes along my journey, but that’s ok- as long as I learn from them. I try to keep that positive mental note in mind! I’m not the type of person who will make the same mistake twice, and I think that’s even more impressive than nailing something from the very beginning.
Would you be interested in seeing my top 5 proudest design moments in renovating? Or maybe even Emmett’s? How many of you have had renovation regrets? It’s totally normal friends- you’re not alone!