This was a fun reader request post asking, “When is a room finished?” How do you tell? Is it ever really finished? Is the goal to create a finished space you won’t touch again for years to come? I’m diving into this question and am sharing my personal opinion. Click through if you’re interested to hear my thoughts on when a room is finished, my goals for finishing spaces, what that in-between phase is like, and how to determine when a space is actually done.
If you would’ve asked me this question a few years ago, I would’ve quickly answered, “A room is never finished!” While I still halfway believe that to be true, I’ve kind of changed my tune… it’s not so black and white in my brain anymore. I think the answer to this question is situational, dependent on your personality, home, and probably looks a little different for all of us.
Our previous home was small, ever changing, and I was constantly restyling things in an effort to scratch my creative itch. I only had so many spaces to play with because of our limited square footage. That’s exactly why I would’ve answered the question in that way- stating passionately that a room is never really finished because I was living in an ever-changing and multi-functioning environment. Sometimes rooms had two or three purposes. That house had to work REALLY hard for our needs at any given time and we were making the most of every square inch of our home. That was a good thing!
I think my goal is always to renovate a space with timeless architectural features, fixtures, and finishes in mind, knowing you can always make small updates as you see fit. In my previous home office, I actually designed the built-ins to ensure either a desk or a full sized bed could fit in the center space, already anticipating that room to someday change or multitask for us. Swap out accessories, update furniture as your style evolves or years pass, and change the paint the color if you get the itch to dramatically change a room you’ve previously renovated. As long as the “bones” are good, I feel comfortable and happy making easy adjustments and updates as needed.
Our current home is fun in an entirely different way, and my vision of “finished” isn’t quite the same. I can go weeks without venturing into a specific room (like a guest room) because our house is pretty large. Therefore my goal is to create spaces that feel more finalized and have longevity. In regards to spaces that we don’t use often (like guest bedrooms), I’d like those to be more permanent post renovation.
I don’t want to swap furniture multiple times in spaces we don’t use often, like a guest room. My mentality has shifted to planning and designing for the long haul in those type of spaces, hopefully saving us time and money. Therefore, these rooms feel more finished in my mind, and are less likely to change. Does that mean I won’t get the itch to swap furniture, restyle something, trade out some textiles, or find a vintage piece I can’t live without that causes me to shift things around? Of course not! You know me better than that, at this point.
In rooms we do use often- like our formal living room, for example, I swapped out three large pieces of furniture and an area rug. It’s already looking quite different and is a project I just “finished” only a year ago. Our house evolves with us- we needed to shuffle some furniture to our office building (because we’re finally adding a team member!), and setting up a creative work environment there has affected some of our main living spaces at home. My point? Circumstances change, your style evolves, and your home can be whatever you need it to be.
Some rooms in our home are “finished for now”, based on future plans, our savings account, and budgeting for long-term home goals. Take our basement media room for example, someday we’re planning to rework the entire floor plan to make better use of the space. I’m talking close in and move windows, relocate the basement kitchen to make room for a game table, and to better position our utility closet. It’s going to require a lot of planning, time, and money. It’s not something we’ll be tackling anytime soon. When that days comes, it’s going to be really amazing, but in the meantime- we gave the space a little makeover with paint, textiles, and styling. It’s “finished for now”, works for our current needs, but isn’t our longterm vision for this space.
I suppose my final answer is this… a space is as finished as you’d like it to be.
If crossing off your to-do list and ending with a room that is totally “finished” makes you happy, then consider it done. The only thing I’ve switched in our guest bathroom is the towels, and that was the very first space we renovated in our home. If ending a project bums you out, or you enjoy experimenting, being creative in your home, or your style or circumstances change- maybe you consider it “finished for now.” Maybe we don’t even need to label it? I call it done after we’ve renovated, but I also give myself the freedom to change it however I like, whenever I like. I guess in my mind, “finished” means the major renovation and construction components of a room are completed (the millwork, architectural elements, the flooring, the lighting, etc).
I’ve shared plenty of room reveals over the years that have changed multiple times since posting that “finished” version of the space. That feels natural to me because I believe that our home grows and changes with us. I also currently live in a larger house where I’m more apt to restyle spaces we use frequently and leave spaces alone that aren’t as important (like guest rooms). Perhaps that is because I get bored and styling is a bit of a therapy for me? The spaces I see and use often are more fun to switch up and restyle from time-to-time because I like that creative change and challenge. Regardless.. what I’m trying to say here is: you decide when a space is finished in your home, and what that definition means to you.
I think a lot of people fixate on renovating a space and put unnecessary pressure on themselves to “get it right” the first time around because once it’s done- it’s done. The big elements definitely matter and it isn’t always ideal, easy, or within the budget to change those right away- but it can be done. Give yourself a little wiggle room for the space to evolve and change as you need it to- especially in small ways. That’s my philosophy anyway!
Ok- you know I want to hear your thoughts on when a room is finished in the comment section below! Are you the type of person that likes to switch things up? Or do you prefer to make updates or renovate with the intent to leave that room as is for years to come?
I was on a phone call with my mother last week and she said a crazy thing (well- I guess it sounded crazy to me). We were talking about window treatments, as I had just blogged about the ones in my home office. She wants to get new window treatments for her living room and said, “These window treatments have to be right, and if I’m going to spend money on them- they better last and look nice until I die.” I thought she was joking so I laughed, but she was serious! I was thinking, “WHOA… pump the brakes, lady.” That is a lot of pressure and kind of a bleak outlook, but everybody has different preferences and goals for their home. It’s your home to “finish” as you see fit. Interesting topic, right?! All of the reader requests and posts submissions have been really fun so far! I can’t wait to chat further and tackle more of your burning design and interior questions. What are your thoughts?
PeggiFebruary 3, 2021 at 4:43 am
Another interesting topic! So many of your points resonated with me. If your space is limited, changing needs might instigate a rearrangement. Hello guest room that’s now a pandemic classroom! On the other hand, if you have a large home, I can totally see wanting to consider infrequently used rooms as complete. Your budget and energy have other places to go! I also see the “finished for now” as a common occurrence. Just because funds don’t allow your dream renovation at this point, doesn’t mean that a room can’t be made beautiful and inviting. No one would look at your current basement media room and think it was unfinished. Obviously, we have to leave space in our plans for an amazing vintage find! Does that have to mean the space wasn’t finished? We might be putting too much pressure on ourselves. Your mom’s comment made me lol, but I could understand her point. Renovating and decorating is costly. If you are worried about “getting it right”, you would want to do it once and be done! In my home, I like to consider spaces done-ish. I want the satisfaction of crossing items off my to-do list, but I enjoy interior design too much to be faced with a completely finished house. I’d have to move!🤣💜
Thanks for another thought-provoking subject!
SarahFebruary 3, 2021 at 12:44 pm
Multi functional rooms have been game changers during the pandemic- like your guest room. I feel like it has forced us to look at our home in a different way, which is a good thing. As I was reading your comment recap, I was thinking to myself- I’m all over the place!! Lol! Maybe I don’t even know when a room is finished. It’s totally circumstantial for me. Finished is a tricky label! Done-ish has a nice ring to it… I think you’re onto something. Ahhh yes, my mom and her drapery dilemma- she definitely has a “do it once, do it right, finished project” mindset. I think it depends a lot on your personality, as well. You and I are in the same boat with this statement you made, “I want the satisfaction of crossing items off my to-do list, but I enjoy interior design too much to be faced with a completely finished house.” Preach!! That’s me. Haha! Hope you’re having a wonderful snow day.
LexieFebruary 3, 2021 at 5:41 am
Wow, your mom’s comment really resonated with me. Sometimes I spend so much time researching a new piece for our home, like light fixtures, etc. I have such a fear to commit and spend money on something that I won’t like forever. My husband has to remind me, we can always replace it if we decide we don’t like it. I know that sounds wasteful, but it’s the only thing that will break me through my endless indecision sometimes!
SarahFebruary 3, 2021 at 12:39 pm
Did it, Lexie? She is the same way- which I totally get, because most home things are expensive. It’s a big investment and you want to make sure you “get it right”. My mindset is more like your husband’s… as we grow or if our style evolves, we can donate an item, sell it, or replace it. My goal is always renovating for the long term, but I also try not to put added pressure on myself and give myself some flexibility. It’s a tricky balance! Thank you for sharing :)
LizFebruary 3, 2021 at 7:01 am
I’m on team “a room is never finished” — although that may be because I live in a smaller space in an urban environment. As you mentioned, it’s fun and creative to work on your home continuously and I think updating your surroundings to match your personal growth makes total sense!
SarahFebruary 3, 2021 at 12:36 pm
Most definitely, Liz! I feel like our home will always evolve with us, but I also enjoy getting the majority of projects finished so I can have fun decorating and doing the fun stuff. Haha!
BrittanyFebruary 3, 2021 at 7:31 am
I think I’m a renovate and be done kind of person. Our last house we just kind of got it good enough to sell. Our new home we’ve been in almost a year and I’m still working on the first room. I’m taking your approach, Sarah, and doing one room at a time top to bottom. It’s fun, but the researching is exhausting to figure out how to budget and renovate because I want to get it right, and it takes a lot of time and mental energy-probably because I’m not a pro and I don’t have an endless budget. Ha! But I’m a wannabe designer and it’s fun too :) But I think there are other things in my life that I really want to grow in and give a lot more time to-like my quilting and gardening!-that I’d like for the house to be done so I can enjoy it and get on with other things. Also, thank you for your post on nude art. I had so many thoughts, but not quite the time to get them all down, but I really appreciated your take on it. Especially on how classical art affected the way you saw your own body. I’ve been thinking about my children-my 12-year-old daughter who already looks very womanly (even when so many of her friends don’t) and my young sons. I want to reinforce to my daughter that how God made the female form is very beautiful, and my sons to see that as well. In my head I was going to breastfeeding and a whole gamut of things. Ha! So, suffice it to say, your take on it really added to the discussion in my head. LOL!
SarahFebruary 3, 2021 at 12:35 pm
Renovating takes so much time, energy, and money, I can definitely relate to wanting a space to be DONE, so I can spend time doing other things. Haha! There’s definitely something to be said about getting your house to a point that feels good to you, and then focusing on what makes you happy. I also love your points on nude art, Brittany! Thank you for sharing :) It’s such a fascinating topic that comes with strong opinions. I’m definitely thankful it changed my perspective on body image. You’re an excellent mother for sharing that positivity with your kids. The body is a beautiful thing that works so hard for us throughout our life time. It’s pretty incredible! Hope you’re having a great week! xo
PaigeFebruary 3, 2021 at 8:40 am
“Done”, “forever”, or maybe just “long term” is the goal for most I think. I found when we had small children the needs of how our family used a home drove many decorating decisions. We moved many times over the years, and I have found recombining our treasures gives them new joy in each home. We take everything from our antique chandeliers to drapes. It really takes the pressure off when you buy what you love. They will always work in a different home. The best advice I ever got was from the former editor of Southern Living magazine. He said to buy the best drapes you can afford in the longest length (we have way too many options on length now to follow strictly) so that you can take them with you. I took our drapes to 3 homes, adding along the way and hemming them when needed, when we sold our home last fall the buyers insisted on all the drapes paying us separately for those and few other items. After 15 years, some of those drapes still looked like new. Knowing you can take them with you takes some of the pressure off the expensive commitment. Don’t leave what you love just because most people do or the real estate agent doesn’t know how to list the items that don’t convey with the house.
SarahFebruary 3, 2021 at 12:31 pm
Amazing tips, Paige! For us it’s more about the renovation process and less about the decor, but this made me think of what a “finished” room might look like to those who aren’t renovating and are mostly investing in the finishes and quality furnishings. Thanks for the awesome pointers :) Have a great day!
Kristin RichardsonFebruary 4, 2021 at 6:00 pm
I learned long ago that even if I say a room is done, it’s not. My taste continues to evolve, as do my priorities. Unfortunately, my husband and son wish I’d be done for real. I guess they get tired of lugging furniture and rugs around for me all the time. In fact, went to get a couple rugs from our storage unit today to put in our Airbnb house. My son’s comment? “You have even more rugs? We’ve spent half our income on rugs I bet”. (We haven’t, and not HIS money anyway) But I love a good rug at a good price so sometimes I can’t resist.
SarahFebruary 8, 2021 at 9:39 pm
I can relate, Kristin! My husband always notices when I shift things around in our house. Haha! I am in complete agreement about rugs- you can never have too many ;) I’m a bit of a rug hoarder myself. Hey, whatever makes you happy!!
LaurenFebruary 13, 2021 at 8:58 am
10 years ago I would have said “when it’s done, it’s done, and we’re not touching it again”. Mostly because our last house was small, awkward, and room sizes were difficult to work with for various reasons. In that house, once the major furniture was found and in place, I was at a point where I didn’t even want to hear my families opinions, good or bad!
In our current home my style has evolved, my need for decorating is greater, and the spaces I have to work with are larger and more defined. I definitely have a different mindset renovating this house. Right now most rooms are in our phase-1. Some rooms like my primary bathroom, are in phase 2- updating items that aren’t major but coincide with our long term vision and goals. I look at it as though we’re updating *some* of the bones. Eventually, there will be a phase three of some rooms which will entail reconfiguring layouts and almost gutting. The only room that in my mind should feel “finished”, is the kitchen. I think that has more to do with the cost of renovating a kitchen than anything. When we tackle that room, I imagine the only thing that will change over time is styling pieces and towels, haha!
In this season of life my children are growing and changing over time, as will their abilities and needs. As they get older it becomes easier to have a more decorated home (remember, children of the corndog 😆). I’m anxiously awaiting their need to touch everything to subside so that we can actually have finishes that are more custom, like drapes or a custom made couch. I just noticed this week that my dining room table has a supporting beam that my son has completely loosened with his feet while doing his schoolwork everyday and I don’t think we can repair it. (I hate it anyway, so out with the old, lol).
Done-ish…that’s my official opinion! I’m not the type of person that is comfortable saying “I want it to look like this forever”. I actually spit out my coffee over your mom’s drapery comment! My mom said the exact same thing about renovating her bedroom, and added “ I don’t want to do anything if you’re going to change it when I die”. Like, what?! 🤣😂 And of course my brain is saying “just wait lady, just wait”. 😂🤣 I know I’m late on this post, and I apologize if I rambled. 🤪 Have a wonderful weekend!
SarahFebruary 15, 2021 at 9:26 am
I feel that and I love the idea of phases- especially for larger homes. I’m with you on the kitchen- that definitely feels like the most permanent renovated space in our home- and baths. Tile is a tough, expensive change. I am cracking up about your son loosening the dining table support while doing his schoolwork. HAHA! Kids are the funniest, and hey- what a great excuse to get a new set. Lol! Done-ish… I like your philosophy. Our moms are the same when it comes to decorating. We are SO different. Haha! Not rambling at all- thank you for sharing, as always!!! xox
Gracie ThomasSeptember 18, 2021 at 10:37 am
Absolutely love the paint color in your kitchen! Do you mind sharing the color?
SarahSeptember 19, 2021 at 8:43 pm
Thank you so much, Gracie! I share more about the color in this post: https://roomfortuesday.com/color-matching-our-kitchen-cabinets-painting-tips/