A renovation is a HUGE undertaking. It can shake even the strongest relationships and test even the most organized people. It's rough stuff. But I'm happy to report that ours is starting to feel like ancient history!
It's been over a year since we moved into our new home and more than six months since our frequent contractor visits have dwindled down to nothing. If you've lived through a renovation, you can relate with everything I am saying, but if not—just trust me… it's not all rainbows and gold hardware.
But I'm not here to write a novel about our renovation woes. I'm here to share the fun stuff—OUR REGRETS. And also those things that we don't regret. As always, it's a mixed bag! I spelled out my big picture mistakes here, but today I want to go into specifics on our different choices.
And I'll share some confessions about decisions I made based on Internet peer pressure—the absolute worst!!
That Turquoise Floor.
Let's start with the stuff people warned me I might regret! The decision to stain our living room floor a COLOR was a bold move. And, if you remember the whole story, the reason I chose it in the first place was because there was a stain in the middle(ish) of the room, and so the ultra light whitewash we did on all our other hardwoods wouldn't cover the stain.
And it's funny because I remember standing in the room thinking it would be great if we could just cover this with a rug or a sofa, but the placement was all wrong. Well, fast forward a year and half…. our sofa is TOTALLY covering that stain. So in hindsight, I could have totally just done the light stain.
However, I'm honestly glad we ended up with what we did. And even if we have to change it when we move (and we might now), it's just ONE room. It's not that hard to do and a completely fair trade in comparison to choosing dark floors for our whole home, which I just did not want.
There are things that you just don't know about yourself until you've lived with something. When we moved in, I was gravitating heavily toward a light, airy, very clean aesthetic. But still I was nervous to do white grout with white tile because I was afraid it would look dirty or age badly. My instincts said low-contrast, but the logical side of my brain said "dark grout no matter what."
Well, I ended up redoing (or recoloring) the grout in three spaces in our home. I just couldn't live with it. With the kitchen backsplash, there were just some sloppy lines that stood out in the gray grout (now they're basically invisible, and we did the whole thing with a white grout pen by the way!).
I also originally asked for gray grout on our marble floors in the kitchen, and after I saw it halfway in, I FREAKED OUT and had to change it. It just looked dirty to me. (I'll talk more about our new white grout in that high traffic kitchen below.) White was so much better.
This is definitely a personal choice, and I LOVE high contrast in other people's homes. But I will say that with tile, the craftsmanship has to be a lot more pristine. Especially with small tile (that comes on the mesh sheets), if the lines aren't perfect, the high contrast makes it stand out even more. It's one of those things where once you see it, you can't unsee it, and now everywhere I go I am checking out coffee shops and hotels' tile jobs. Haha!
Marble VS. Quartz Countertops.
This is a BIG one. The biggest.
I knew I wanted to do quartz countertops all throughout our home because they are easy to maintain and age well (if not perfectly). But marble was/is SO TRENDY.
Right before I ordered all our countertops, I read a blog post where an interiors blogger was dissing quartz because it "can't look real" and "isn't as pretty" as marble.
I couldn't get her voice out of my head. And when you're spending thousands of dollars on these big choices, it can feel like a very scary commitment. So I split the difference, and I got the more practical choice (quartz that kind of looks like marble) for our kitchen and the prettier choice (real marble) for our bathrooms.
The marble is prettier. 100%.
But those real marble countertops are probably my single biggest regret. For one, there were small marks and texture differences before we even moved in (thanks, contractors!). And over the past year, we've gotten a few more mystery stains.
Now I will say, they are small and probably not noticeable to 99% of people. I don't feel like we're going to have to replace them. I just feel like for me, personally, I'd rather not be constantly stressing about it.
Yes, they are sealed (like 3 times), but it's just a part of having real marble that small imperfections and wear will happen over time. Even from things as simple as water and soap! And I use a lot of face oils in my beauty routine. So I do feel like I'm constantly thinking about it, wiping the counters up, and checking under things for marks—haha.
I know so many people who have real marble and it's not perfect, but they LOVE it and it's worth it to them. It's NOT for me. In the future I will stay in my lane and just do the quartz. Even if it's not quite as pretty.
White Marble Floors.
OK, so we also got REAL marble floors throughout our kitchen, breakfast room and sunroom (a lot of square footage of high traffic living space). And we LOVE it.
I know you're thinking, "Lady! I just had to hear your long a$$ rant about marble counters, how can you love your marble floors?"
I still don't completely understand! Haha!
I think it's because they are lower to the ground. They do get small spots and texture differences over time. We use coffee, oils, lemon and red wine in our kitchen on a weekly basis (I think those are the really bad ones), and it's not a problem. We sealed them ourselves three times while they were still perfect, and now we use a cleaner with a built-in sealer. And the floors still look AMAZING.
But the white grout…. that's a different story!
The grout didn't age well in the kitchen. But we came up with a couple solutions, and now it's going great. The first solution is to do a yearly (or hopefully longer than a year next time) grout refresh with the Miracle Grout Pen. Those little pens really are a miracle for touching up grout!
The second solution we now use is that we tightened up our "no shoes in the house" habits. Now, just Jeremy and I keep to that. We don't ask guests to do it, but I do feel like it generally helps keep the house cleaner longer (which has been great for us since we don't have a house cleaner anymore!).
The verdict? I would do marble floors again. I consider them a lot easier to care for than countertops. Although now that my friend has been putting quartz tile floors into his flip houses, I am curious to try that as well!
Ask me again after I've had a kid for a year or two…. haha!
Painting Brick, Stone and Dark Wood White.
I'll sum this up quickly.
I firmly believe in decorating your house how YOU want to. When we looked at this home for the first time, I was madly in love with it, but I told Jeremy that I wanted to paint the dark stone fireplace and the exterior white. And that it was a deal breaker for me. He agreed, and since painting both those things, the house felt 100x more my style.
You do you! So many people don't do what they really want because they're afraid of resale opinions. But what if you knew that you didn't paint that brick you REALLY wanted to paint, but then the next person after you did??
Open Shelving in the Kitchen.
Every time I post a photo of my kitchen, someone asks me something about how hard it is to keep clean. I have learned quickly that open shelves really scare people!
I have to say—I don't get it.
I love our open shelves. Yes, it helps to have kitchenwares that match (ours are almost all white with a little natural wood). Yes, once a year I have to take everything down and scrub and wash everything including the shelves (which I LOVE doing). Yes, things can get dusty or a little greasy up top (we don't cook with that much oil and never deep fry, so it's not that bad— using our hood when cooking helps a lot).
THAT SAID, it's not a daily inconvenience. The stuff on the lower two shelves gets used so often that it doesn't have time to get dusty or anything. The stuff at the very top is what we use more for parties, so when I get it down, I give it a quick wash or a wipe if it's been up there a long time. Not a big issue.
Every single day our kitchen makes me smile. Every day. The other day I posted a pic of it right before we cleaned. And it's crazy because even when it's at its messiest, it is still pretty photogenic.
I love our kitchen, and I would totally do this design again in a future house… if it fit the house.
Well, that's all I can think of for today! Let me know if you have any questions about our renovation or how our choices are turning out over time. I love being open and honest with you, sharing the good and the bad. I learned a lot on this renovation! xx -Helen
Credits//Author: Helen Larson. Photography: Alyssa Rosenheck for domino magazine (aka—the shoot I will NEVER stop using in my blog posts because I love it so much!)