June 6, 2016

Things I Wish I Had Done Differently: Home Renovation Edition

I may design homes for a living, but that does not mean I’m immunized against making mistakes.  Actually, I make the most mistakes when working on my own homes- mostly because I’m overwhelmed by options and ideas and make decisions on the fly instead of with careful consideration, as I do when working for someone else. “Ehhh, that’ll fit- we don’t need to measure” is a phrase that now gives me chills.

This weekend I began cataloguing some of the things I wish I had done differently in my renovations.  Most of them are from our first phase of the renovation right after buying our house, I think I had learned a lot by the second phase (still obsessed with my master suite).  But in life some of the best lessons come from examining your failures as to not repeat them again! So here we go:


1) My Kitchen Faucet

From the beginning Andrew wanted a pull down spray faucet with a single lever instead of the separate hot and cold handles.  I, of course, love the look of widespread handles and went that direction- beauty over function, a common designer downfall. Now with a baby (and after a couple years of use), I fear I maybe should have listened to Andrew. The issue still stands that finding an attractive single lever, pull down spray faucet is very hard- but there are some good options here, here and here.  This is tough to remedy now that we have four holes drilled in our countertops so I think I’m stuck for now. At least it’s pretty (and MAN do I still love my Blanco sink– the BEST!)

2) Chrome vs. Brass

Apparently I just blew it on the faucet. :)  I was scared to go with brass for my kitchen faucet and now I wish I had been ballsier and listened to my inner voice and not the other people who thought it was crazy to do a brass faucet. I’m glad I went for it in my master bath, because daaaaaammmnnnn do I love it. But trying to find a single lever antique brass faucet with a pull down spray is like trying to locate and capture Nessie. The only one I found that comes close is this one (aptly named The Henry), and it probably costs the same amount as a Honda, and still has a side spray.

Erin Gates Newton_378

3.) My Backsplash

I still love my white subway with grey grout but I wish I had done two things- 1) run the tile all the way to the ceiling around the doorway to the mudroom and around the window above the sink.  I also forgot to specify the spacing I wanted (assuming things makes an ass of–well, just me) and they did it way tighter than I had wanted. I wish I had said something and had them redo it instead of just feeling too guilty to ask them to make it right.

4) Not Speaking Up

Speaking of that, I also let a lot of the punch list items go because I was so sick of construction and just wanted all the workers out of my house. And now all those little things (a poorly patched ceiling, a busted baseboard, crooked light switches) really drive me crazy.  I’ll have them all fixed at some point, but I paid for them to be right and I should have stuck to my guns and made sure the details were all taken care of.

Erin Gates Newton_072 copy

5) Replacing the Tub and Shower Tile in the Guest Bathroom

When renovating our guest bathroom (at the time, our only bathroom) we found out our tile in the tub was a “mud job” which means the tile was set into concrete in the walls, which makes for a pricier demo and replacement. We also have a cast iron tub in there where is harder to get rid of. So instead we kept it and just had the tub and tile re-enameled. And now it looks like this (and also, my life is 90% baby toys):

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 10.21.40 AM


I SO SO SO wish I had bit the bullet and just replaced it all when the bathroom was gutted.  The plumber even said “are you SURE you don’t want to do this now?”  I don’t want to re-enamel the tub again because the fumes are brutal and with Henry around I’m more cautious of that sort of thing.  And replacing it will mean I have to redo the bathroom floor which doesn’t  really need to be redone. Bummer. Lesson learned. Sometimes spending a little more up front means you will save down the road. Rip the bandaid off once, people!

6) Grout Color Choices

OMG, never, ever do bright white grout on a mosaic floor like I did in my now guest bathroom (you can see some of it above- nasty). Yes, it looks so fresh and clean for like , the first hour its in, and then it turns dingy and dirty instantaneously.  Since it looks like I will be redoing this floor anyways, I will get a do-over on this bad choice. Light grey or beige is always a safe bet!

7) Perfect the Systems

One thing we’ve run into is that the old portion of our house runs on one central air/heat zone (after we added it when we did our second phase of the renovation, the addition is on it’s own zone and works great).  We were grateful that the existing ductwork in the old part of the house was wide enough that we didn’t have to redo it all for the new central system to work.  However “good enough” has turned into an issue in that the two upstairs bedrooms don’t get enough cool air in the summer because the system shuts off when the downstairs is cooled to the proper temperature.  I wish we had upgraded the venting when the walls were open or created an additional zone for the two bedrooms. Drat.  We’re looking into adding a smaller system to cool those two room but placing the condenser is turning out to be tricky and I don’t really want those big wall units because, well…design.

Luckily, most of the big ticket things we did- the floors, cabinets, counters, lighting, etc all still make me very happy!  And from making these mistakes I am a better designer for it!  What was your biggest renovating or decorating mistake?  Let’s commiserate!


Photos by Sarah Winchester, Michael Partenio and my stupid cellphone.

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